Summery: What if Artemis had given Orion a year? A year to do what he needed to do to seperate himself from the world. And what if Orion didn’t stop at a year? What if he took control and lived his own life – wife, kids – in Artemis’s body? What if his family didn’t know that Artemis existed – nor believed the evidence when it was right in front of them? What if Artemis became The Alter?
Normally, my dad was always a caring, loving, and generally happy person.
Towing Mom gently behind him, he had always been the perfect father figure for me. He placed bandages on my cuts and scrapes, hugged me when I cried, and tucked me in every night. He seemed so grateful for everything, like he would never experience it again if he didn’t do it now, and lived life to its fullest. He always dressed casually, even at night, replacing his comfortable pants for even more comfortable pajama bottoms, but he always kept the same shirt that he had worn that day. He changed completely in the morning, though; new shirt, new pants. A fresh start.
Mom was a lot like him – around most all the time, a careful, hovering mother, who was always concerned about her children, and loved them and her husband to bits. She presented us with gifts, kissed us constantly, and positively doted on us. She always called my dad by his first name, Orion, and he called her Carly. Kara, my ten-year-old sister, and I always loved our parents. They were just perfect.
Until the Alter.
It had been a normal Saturday for our family. We went to the movies, then the park, then came back home for dinner and dessert. Usually it was brownies, but that night we were stuffed with cookies in our beds. Mom and Dad both crawled off to their room, while Kara and I drifted off into a blissful, carefree sleep.
But a slamming door woke me up.
I sat up abruptly in my bed. Kara was still fast asleep across the room, so I made an effort to tiptoe as I crept to the door. I cracked it open and peeked out into the hall. I saw Dad leaving the room, a strange expression on his face. His eyes were half-closed, so it almost looked like he was sleep walking. A furious worry gripped me.
I followed him silently down the stairs and out the door. As I passed he and Mom’s room, I noticed that she was still in dreamland. I wondered if he was really asleep still, or awake and sneaking out.
He led me outside, pushing open the back door and emerging into the rain. The drops spattered on the porch. I didn’t go out into the storm, instead standing in the doorway and watching him.
Turning to the side, I noticed him blinking in confusion. He slowly raised his head to the sky, and his eyes widened. I could see the blue one only. He stretched his arms out to either side and then closed his eyes again. I thought I saw a single tear fall from his eye.
He started shaking, mouth opening and sobs escaping. A wordless shout of joy came from his lips, and then he folded his arms in and started feeling his face furiously. He couldn’t seem to get enough of himself, running a slow, nervous finger along his brow, his cheek, his nose.
“Yes,” he whispered, and then blinked as if shocked by his own voice. “Yes…” He closed his eyes once more and sighed. Another tear fell, but it might have been just a raindrop.
Then he seemed to see me, standing there in the doorway with concern draw over my face. He just stared at me for a moment, taking in my face hungrily.
“Faye…” he said softly. It was different then usual. More like a question then a statement. Like, Faye? Is your name Faye?
I shrugged. “I’ll go to bed. I just heard you get up, that’s all.”
“So it is Faye. Hm.” He turned back to the night. “I would have preferred…Elouise, perhaps. Or Jasmine.”
I didn’t move, freezing in mid-turn. “What?”
He just chuckled, and then laughed louder. Relishing in the sound. Laughed again. “I know what Orion means now,” he sighed sadly. “Not knowing what is real and what’s fantasy. Knights in shining armor. Dragons.” He snorted, and then laughed again. “Controlling my words again is a relief, believe you me.”
I stepped forward, leaving the door wide open. “Excuse me? Dad? This isn’t funny.”
He slowly shook his head. “No,” he murmured thoughtfully. “It isn’t. I am…happy. Truly happy. I could skip, if I really wanted to. But I don’t skip.” He smiled a vampire-like smile that I had never seen him wear. It made me shudder and step back a few steps.
“Then what do you do?” I asked in a low voice. “I mean, I’ve seen you skip before.”
His face instantly darkened and he wouldn’t look me in the eyes. “That wasn’t me,” he whispered. “Not really.” He bowed his head. “Giving him a year…it was too much. I couldn’t…I couldn’t fight him off. I almost died.” His voice cracked. “I was almost lost.”
“I…I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I stammered. “What’s going on?”
“I’m not your father, Faye. Do you understand me?” His voice was cold then, cold and bitter. I felt my heart break with worry.
“Then who are you?” I demanded. I almost shouted. He winced.
“My name is Artemis Fowl the second,” he whispered hoarsely. “My father is Artemis Fowl the first. My mother is Angeline Fowl. My bodyguard is Domovoi Butler. His sister is Juliet Butler. I have two brothers named Myles and Beckett. One of my closest friends is Holly Short. I am not Orion.” His voice broke again, and he straightened.
By that point, I was totally and utterly lost. “What…?” I croaked. “Who are you?”
“Artemis Fowl the second,” he said, more firmly. “This is my body, and Orion does not belong here.” He cast a glance at me.
“No…” I mumbled, groping for something, anything to say. “No, really, Dad. I’ll tell Mom that you’re fooling around. She’ll be mad.”
He sighed and shook his head. “We’ve never met,” he said calmly. “This should be interesting.”
“What? But you-”
His eyes grew fiery, and he grabbed the wedding ring on his ring finger. He yanked it off and threw it on the ground. Stomped on it. But it was solid gold, so it didn’t crumple. He hissed, “D’Arvit,” under his breath. Then looked at his foot in awe. Like he couldn’t believe he had used it. It had listened to him.
I could only stare, eyes welling up with tears. This had to mean that he was divorcing. What else could it be? But why? He definitely wasn’t sane at the moment, talking about being some character named Artemis Fowl, not Orion, and finally being in his own body. What was that supposed to mean?
“I am not married,” he spat, clenching his fists once he had recovered from his amazement. “I was going to propose, but I didn’t-get-to!” He was almost roaring then, eyes wild and furious.
Footsteps thundered on the stairs. The door was still open, and Kara and Mom burst through, taking in the scene. Dad, his wedding ring lying in front of him, sopping wet from the rain and abandoned. Me, gaping and crying at the same time.
“Orion,” Mom sobbed, seeing the ring. “What are you doing?”
His eyes flared up. “That is not my name,” he snapped. “It’s Artemis. Artemis Fowl the second. Never call me Orion again.”
Kara’s eyes were wide and scared. “Dad,” she whispered.
“I am not your father…” He seemed to grasp at air for her name. “Ah…Kara, I believe. Yes. Kara.”
Mom started really crying. “She’s your daughter, Orion! What’s wrong with you?”
He set his jaw and stepped threateningly forward. “My – name – is – Artemis. Not Orion.”
His words echoed around the backyard, and seconds later, a crash came from the kitchen. Dad’s eyes turned suddenly hopeful, and he rushed past Kara, Mom, and I, back into the house. We followed him, shaking with the worry of what we’d find.
And we saw him standing face-to-face with a giant of a man.
He was just plain huge, with gray hair, black eyes, and a good height of probably six foot five. Maybe more.
“I heard…” he said in a surprisingly gentle, soft voice.
“Butler,” Dad whispered, and embraced the man. I could tell then that he really had been crying. There were red streaks along his cheeks, trailing in straight lines down his face.
Mom was positively gaping. “Who…who are you?” she got out to the large man. He tenderly pulled away from Dad and met all of our eyes.
“Domovoi Butler,” he grunted. “Artemis’s bodyguard. I was…well, off duty for a while.”
Dad smiled, eyes welling up with tears. “I know you never see me cry, old friend,” he managed, wiping his eyes. “But I haven’t been…myself for years.”
Butler’s eyes darkened. “Decades, Artemis. Decades.”
“Yes. Decades indeed.”
The man wrapped an arm around my father again. “Why don’t we take a seat? Catch up for a while?”
“There’s nothing to catch up!” I sputtered, gesturing widely at Dad. “He’s…he’s fooling around with us! Haha, April Fools!” My voice was nearly a snarl at the end. “It’s not funny, so cut it out.”
He wouldn’t look me in the eyes.
“What? I’ve caught on to your plan, then?”
He sighed. “No. But I have only told you f-” He trailed off, and then more firmly, “Four times that I am not your father. Nor am I married or ever have been. I am sorry to disappoint you.” He walked off to the couch, his bodyguard just behind him. I marveled at how I had never even known this man – this giant – existed, but yet he was standing here in our house. Living here the entire time.
“Artemis,” Butler started to say, but Dad just held up a hand.
“No, no, forget about catching up,” he said briskly. “I’m going to my room. Contractors of the Atlantis Complex only.” He paused on the stairs. “And Holly.” Then he continued on his way up, leaving Butler shaking his head with worry, and the rest of us in tears.
We all stood there for a second, unsure of what to do. Then Butler sighed and went over to the couch to sit down. The original goal.
“I missed calling him that,” the giant man mused, leaning back against the couch. I heard several clicks and sliding sounds coming from upstairs, accompanied by a slamming door, and then the same noises, but in reverse.
Mom urgently wiped her eyes. “Whatever joke you’re playing on us,” she said thickly. “It’s not funny. Maybe it would have been, if it had stopped outside. But…but we don’t even know you, and here you are in our house.”
He looked up at her. “They say the servant is never appreciated,” he replied after a moment. “But Artemis appreciates me, even if Orion doesn’t. Or you three.”
“What do you mean, ‘the servant’?” I asked.
He raised an eyebrow. “You had soup for dinner tonight,” he answered with precision. “Potato soup with celery, onions, and a sprinkle of cheese. I made the cookies. I made dinner. And lunch, breakfast…all your snacks.”
I felt my eyes widen. “I thought Dad made…” I trailed off uncertainly.
Butler shook his head. “It has always been me. Artemis couldn’t cook if you gave him another million. And neither can Orion.”
My throat constricted. I knew we were rich, but…another million?
“How much money does he have?” I managed.
“Possibly richer than Bill Gates. Maybe the same.”
Mom looked like she would faint. “He always did the calculating,” she remembered. “He wouldn’t let me anywhere near the numbers.”
“That’s Artemis and Orion coming together, you see,” Butler told us. “Artemis normally can’t bear to be anywhere near any number that’s not five or a multiple of five. Orion is free of that, but apparently not the paranoia. I think Artemis was still in there somewhere. His behaviors leaking through.”
Blinking, Mom whispered, “But…this is all a joke, right? My husband is just teasing us or something. I’m sure.”
“Artemis doesn’t joke.”
I immediately got furious. “We’re not talking about some fictional character named Artemis!” I roared. “We’re talking about my dad. He’s always been my dad, and that’s not changed now! His name is Orion, not Artemis! It’s always been Orion, and it always will be! Somehow he arranged this whole thing! Probably to teach us a lesson on being grateful for what we have! I bet he’s giggling up there, just tickled at this whole thing!” Just the thought made me want to cry.
Kara actually did start crying, holding onto my Mom and sobbing her heart out. Butler looked sympathetic, but he didn’t move to do anything.
“I’m really sorry, you three,” he said quietly. “But I have to be here for Artemis. He’s my principle, as well as my friend. I can’t let anything happen to him, and I certainly can’t let Orion take control. Mr. and Mrs. Fowl have been waiting for years for their son to come back. I can’t break their hearts again.”
“They’re Orion’s parents, right?” Mom sniffled. “We met somewhere before, just for a few minutes.”
I could tell that Butler was holding in aggravation. He did it well. “They aren’t Orion’s parents,” he corrected briefly. “They’re Artemis’s.”
“Imaginary people don’t have parents,” Kara mumbled miserably, peeping out at Butler with a single eye.
“They can if you imagine they do,” I replied to her. But it was more to Butler, who just looked at me.
“I know it’s hard for you to understand,” he said slowly. Like we were idiots or something. “But even though you’ve known a man named Orion for all these years, he was only masking someone else. The real owner of his mind and body, Artemis.”
“You’re insane!” I screamed at him, leaping backwards, practically into the wall. He was instantly on his feet, which made me jump again. He was fast for such an old man.
Kara screeched when Butler reached into his suit and pulled out a gun. Mom staggered to my side, hands in the air, pulling Kara with her with even louder shrieks.
Footsteps pounded on the stairs, and I saw Dad flashing to stand beside Butler, hands immediately on his arms, lowering the gun. I noticed that he was now wearing a suit.
“Butler, what is going on?” Dad demanded, still pushing the gun to Butler’s side. The giant man slowly raised his other hand and pointed right above my head.
Dad’s eyes widened, and he whispered out of the corner of his mouth, “Holly?”
“Artemis!” someone cried above me, and a shimmering form shot out from over my head and slammed into my father.
It was like Dad was hugging an invisible – if glittering – object in his arms. “Holly,” he murmured. “I thought I’d never see you again.”
Slowly, a short, slim figure clad in black speckled into view, molecule by molecule. A girl, wearing a solid, gleaming black helmet. I could only see her back, and my father’s suited arms wrapped around it. She quickly whipped her helmet off, revealing cropped auburn hair, and extremely large, pointy ears.
Mom, Kara, and I all gasped in unison.
“I thought I’d never see you again, either,” she said in a voice thick with tears. She pulled away from Dad, pausing to just stare at him. Taking in his face; his eyes.
As if he didn’t want to interrupt them, Butler asked quietly, “Is Foaly here for the happy reunion?”
The girl turned towards him, and I could see half of her face. It was a pretty face, I thought, if small and angular. I saw a single light blue eye, and her lips formed into a sad smile.
“No,” she replied regretfully. “He’s trying to tune into the cameras, though. Any minute now.” She looked up at Butler for a moment. “You’ve gotten old. And you pointed a gun at me.”
He gave her a wry smile. “That’s what happens to us mud men, Holly. We get old, and we get careful.”
Tears welled up in her eyes and she embraced him as well. He seemed just plain monstrous compared to her. “I missed you both so much,” she said quietly. “But I didn’t expect to cry.”
Dad spoke up. “I don’t think Foaly will be joining us,” he informed her with a slightly pleased expression. “Orion and I fixed the security system the other day. Let’s just say the Fowl house has sufficiently adapted to the People’s security breaching habits.”
The girl named Holly laughed. “You mean Foaly’s security breaching habits.” She hugged him again, hard. Then she swiftly pulled away to look curiously at him, and I could see her other eye. It was hazel. “When you say you and Orion…?”
“I mean Orion, with a great deal of tutoring and anger from me,” he explained, bowing slightly. Butler chuckled, and Holly squeezed Dad’s shoulder.
Mom stuttered wordlessly for a moment, and then finally managed to say, “Somehow you’re all in on this…this conspiracy.”
Dad raised an eyebrow.
“Orion and you,” she spluttered on uncertainly. “Would be you and yourself. Right?”
Holly shrugged. “Technically, yes. Multiple Personality Disorder. Artemis and Orion. Artemis being the singular personality, and Orion the one hanging on by his fingers. It was switched around for a while, though.” She smiled sadly and then fully turned to us. Just like Dad’s, one of her eyes was brown, and the other blue. But on opposite sides, like they had switched eye colors in only one eye.
“Multiple Personality Disorder?” I growled at Dad. “Why didn’t you tell us…or…or Mom?”
His eyes narrowed. “Oh, excuse me. I was busy trying not to die inside my own head. When was I supposed to explain? I never had a chance! I don’t even know you!”
Mom blinked back tears, sniffling. “Orion-”
He snarled at her, and Holly’s eyes lit up with a warning. She firmly gripped his forearm, her knuckles white. “Why don’t we have a formal introduction?” he asked, his voice bitingly sarcastic. Mom actually winced. Holly released his arm as he jerked it away and held his hand out to my mom. “Hello. My name is Artemis Fowl the second. Not Orion.”
Mom’s eyes filled with hysterical tears. She held out a trembling hand. “Carly F-…” She faltered, catching a glimpse of his fiery eyes. “Carly Fowl.”
“I don’t recall us being married.” He didn’t release her hand, but he didn’t actually shake it either.
“Carly James,” she amended in a hushed, injured whisper. The tears suddenly spilled down her cheeks. “Ori-Artemis, who are you really?”
He politely tugged her hand off of his, but he was clearly fuming. “Perhaps we should sit down and talk. My parents will be pleased to know I’m back, so we should probably call them.” His eyes then flashed wistfully. “Myles, Beckett, and Juliet as well.” He meandered to the couch, sitting at the same time that Butler and Holly did, on either side of him.
Mom slowly took Kara’s hand, and then mine. We walked carefully to the armchairs in the living room, stepping fearfully around Holly’s abandoned helmet, which still sat on the polished floor.
Butler magicked a few glasses of water out of some hidden compartment. There was a gust of air as a small door shut, and he passed out the water to everyone. Mom, Kara, and I didn’t touch ours other than to put them on the coffee table in front of us. Dad and Holly however, drank gratefully.
“Ice cold,” Dad praised. “You have worked magic, my friend.” He smiled sincerely at Butler, and took another long drink. “I haven’t had water in almost twenty years.”
Holly leaned into my father, her eyes sorrowful. “We know, Arty. And we’re all sorry.”
He sighed, leaned back against the couch. “It’s not your fault. You did not make the choice.”
“Wait,” I puzzled. “So you – Artemis – haven’t been…alive…for twenty years?”
“I suppose you could put it that way,” he sighed. He took another sip of water.
“How did we get here?’ Mom whispered after a long, ear-ringing silence. “Orion and I married happily for years, and then you three come along. We fight, we scream at each other.” A single tear traced another red line down her cheek.
I knew he was my Dad for sure when he twitched. I could see the look in his eyes that said he wanted to wipe that tear away; banish it to the far reaches of the earth. And I knew that this Artemis character was definitely a fake.
“I was fifteen when Orion made his first appearance,” Dad murmured, cradling his glass and looking quickly down at the floor. “I was obsessed with THE PROJECT, my plan to save the world.” He smiled wryly. “Meanwhile, I was quickly developing the Atlantis Complex. My many…not so legal or friendly operations finally got to me. The guilt, and the fours were quite overwhelming. As well as my alternate personality pushing for control at every moment. It was extremely frustrating. But not just for me; for Holly, Foaly, Butler, and my family as well.”
Holly closed her eyes as if reliving the moment. But I knew it was all an act; no one but Dad would ever look at my crying mother that way. And that wasn’t about to change now.
“What happened next?” Mom whispered, tears once again welling in her eyes.
Holly actually rolled her eyes, opening them and laughing angrily. “We had to save the People. Again.”
“Orion actually saved our lives,” Dad murmured. “Holly was possessed, and I was supposed to be. But Orion took over, and…” He trailed off unsurely.
“We all nearly died,” Butler added. “For the seventh time in a row.”
Dad’s eyes grew intensely apologetic. “I’m sorry, my friend. If I hadn’t kidnapped Holly, this never would have happened.”
Mom’s eyes widened. “You…you kidnapped her?”
“Yes, he did,” Holly replied. “And then I saved his life.”
“I saved you a few times,” he argued, setting his water down. “There were quite a few explosions and time travel incidents. I recall myself being quite useful.”
“You recall present you being useful. Past you was just an irritating problem.”
“Again, my fault.” He frowned at his water. “Although I believed I was a miracle at the time.”
“At ten or fourteen?”
She nodded pensively. “It seemed like it. But you’ve improved since then.” She smiled slightly.
“Have I really, Holly? Think about it.” He put his head in his hands. “I nearly killed myself by giving Orion control, and no one knew if I would ever return – not even myself, although when we were fixing the security system I had my hopes. After all, he was letting me talk to him.”
“You and Orion are the two most parinoid people I have ever met,” Butler mused. “Besides me or Juliet. But our job is to be paranoid, so that isn’t ever an issue.”
Dad glanced up, frowning again. “You’re job was. You don’t have to protect me anymore, Dom.”
“Dom?” Holly laughed. “Since when have you called him that?”
“Since now,” he retorted.
Mom silently wiped away another tear, turning shamefully away from the rest of us. This time, Dad saw, but didn’t move. Holly, however, frowned guiltily.
“Listen, Mrs. Fowl,” she blurted, “I’m sorry. I know you miss Orion…but Artemis belongs here. He doesn’t.”
That’s when Mom cracked, I think. Her pupils dilated sharply, and she held herself tightly, as if trying to keep everything inside of her; with her. “Artemis Fowl doesn’t exist!” she screamed, and raced up the stairs. Kara whimpered and went after her, her legs working double-time.
Dad watched her leave and then put his head in his hands. He started shaking violently, like he was having some sort of attack.
“There are quite a lot of them, Holly,” he rasped, glancing up just for a moment before paling. “Quite a lot.”
She bit her lip. “I know, Artemis. I don’t want to shock you…”
“Neither do I.”
Butler chuckled weakly. “You don’t want to handle a gun, either. But eventually you’ll have to.”
Dad shuddered, and I could hear his teeth chattering from across the room. “No guns, please,” he requested, trying to keep his quivering contained. “You all know I can’t even hold them right.”
“But yet somehow your alter can,” Holly mused, but cut herself off when she saw him flinch. “Calm down, Arty. It’s no big deal.”
He shivered again. “You can’t see the fours,” he pointed out nervously. “If you could, you would be jumpy, too.”
“I’m not calling you…oh, forget it. I’m calling Myles and Valerie over first, alright?”
Dad looked up, eyes darkened with bruise-colored bags, as well as bewilderment. “Valerie?”
Holly’s expression was one of extreme sorrow. “Myles’s wife.”
Dad dropped his head back into his hands, but then began massaging his temples immediately after. “Of course.”
I was feeling immensely awkward, itching to see if Mom and Kara were okay, but also wondering what would happen when Uncle Myles and Aunt Valerie arrived. I couldn’t believe Dad was pretending not to remember the wedding – and Valerie, too, to boot. He had liked her when they had met, and he had heartily approved of Uncle Myles’s choice. But thinking back on it, I remembered my uncle looking sick as he talked to Dad, refusing his company when it was offered, and turning his back on our family afterwards. I wondered if he even remembered us.
“Were you there?” Dad asked as Holly began reaching for the phone. She stopped and tilted her head.
“At the wedding,” he clarified, still insistantly rubbing his temples. “Were you invited?”
Holly’s arm slowly lowered, and her face became extrordinarily gentle. “Your mother told me I could come. I only came to see Myles say ‘I do,’ and then Trouble sent me out on another idiot mission. Your brother can really pick his ladies,” she added with a laugh, “I didn’t think he had it in him.”
“He is too much like me,” Dad sighed, shaking his head. But he was smiling slightly. “And a handsome devil, too.”
Holly outright grinned at that. “You two could be identical twins. Beckett should be the oldest, don’t you think? He and Myles look nothing alike.”
Dad nodded thoughtfully now, removing his fingers from his temples. “What is she like, Holly?” he asked. “Valerie, I mean.”
The girl shrugged, looking uncertain as she stood by the phone. “From what I saw of her, she’s a good enough woman. Pretty, smart, funny, nice…all the goods. Myles is lucky to have her.”
Dad smiled tightly. “It sounds like it.” He glanced at her. “Go ahead and call, Captain. We’ll only be hanging on your every word.” He cast me a vampire smile I had never seen him wear. It scared me to death.
“Why don’t you call him?” she suggested, walking over and handing him the phone. “He is your brother, after all. Right?”
“Of course, Holly. I am not an idiot.”
“We’re well aware, mud boy.”
He smiled a little at that, and took the wireless phone with good grace. He only started to look a little apprehensive when he had punched in the numbers and was listening intently to the dial tone, fidgeting in his seat like he had ADHD or something. Finally, there was a click, and he took a deep breath.
A voice that sounded like nothing but a whisper to me crackled through the phone. “Fowl residence, Myles Fowl speaking.”
Dad was holding his breath, I saw, his eyes alight with hope.
“…Hello?” Uncle Myles demanded. “If you’re selling something, I don’t want it.”
“Don’t you have caller ID, Myles?” Dad asked, chuckling a little. “I thought I taught you better than that.”
The line was silent. I wondered if it was dead for a moment. Then finally, “Artemis?”
“Yes, it’s me,” Dad sighed. “Long time no see. I heard you got married. I hope she’s not a drug addict, or mother will kill you personally.”
My uncle was quiet for a few minutes, then he managed, “I think Mum would have killed me at the wedding if Valerie was on drugs. I’m sure my wife will be offended when she hears.”
“You make a good point. But you haven’t beaten me all these years. Don’t think you have now.”
“I don’t know about that,” Uncle Myles breathed, and then he started shouting to other people on his end of the line. “Valerie, pack clothes for a few weeks for you and the kids! We’re paying a visit to Fowl Manor!” Then he was talking to Dad again, breathless. “You are at Fowl Manor, right?”
“Where else would I be? Again, Myles – caller ID.”
“I’ll be there soon,” my uncle promised, taking a ragged breath. “My god, Arty…I…”
“We can talk when you get here,” Dad said gently. “I will see you shortly.”
“Call Beckett,” his brother added.
“As soon as we’re finished.”
“And Mum and Dad, too.”
There was a long silence again, and I thought I might burst from the anger growing in me. They must be good actors, I thouht furiously. Good actors with a plan. No way they’re winging this. I bet they scripted the whole thing.
“…I…I love you, Artemis.”
Dad just smiled, closing his eyes and leaning back. “I love you, too, Myles.” Then he laughed. “Now, there is a sentence I never thought would come out of my mouth.”
The line went dead.
Butler was grinning broadly, obviously holding in a good deal of excitement.
“Well,” Holly piped up. “Only three more calls like that, then?”
She, Dad, and Butler then burst into open laughter, of the kind I had never seen before.
The kind of true friends.