Title: Concerning Birthdays and All Things Fowl
Rating/Genre: PG-13. Friendship/Family/Humour.
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Artemis Fowl II, Holly Short, Angeline Fowl, Artemis Fowl Senior, Beckett and Myles Fowl, Mulch Diggums. Mentions of Butler, Juliet Butler, Foaly, N°1 and Trouble Kelp. Platonic Artemis+Holly (or ambiguous Artemis/Holly, depending on how you wish to read it).
Warnings: None, except for Artemis' two left feet and a single nightmarish instant of a hairy derrière.
Summary: In which Angeline decides to celebrate Artemis' twenty-first birthday the traditional Fowl way - complete with folk music, merry-making and Irish step-dancing - and Artemis feels like weeping. Hilarity Ensues.
A/N: For Digi, who is always willing and the first one to read all my stories. This was inspired, in part, by the LOTR song, Flaming Red Hair and by a Tumblr headcanon post about how Arty's parents would be great Irish step-dancers (while he failed miserably at it, lol).
I have loved this series for a good ten over years and after finally finishing The Last Guardian three months ago, I suddenly feel an awful hollowness in my heart, as if I've just lost a terribly close childhood friend. So this fic is a tribute to my favourite children's book: to Artemis and Holly; to Butler and Juliet, bless their faithful hearts; Mulch, Foaly, Julius, N°1 and all of LEPrecon; to the fabulously wicked Opal Koboi and her unfortunate henchmen; to Myles and Beckett, and Angeline and Artemis Snr. But most of all, to Eoin Colfer, for giving us eleven (twelve?) wonderful years of Artemis and his magical adventures :')
Artemis never was very opinionated about parties, except that if you were going to put in that much effort into planning and arranging one, you may as well make certain that it would be a grand one. So it came as a mild surprise when his mother Angeline had decided that for her eldest son's twenty-first birthday, they were going to celebrate it the traditional Fowl way: a small private ceremony which would consist only of family and the closest of friends. And of course, the kitchen help and catering, and possibly a live band (even private parties had to have some entertainment, after all).
"Not that I hardly mind, given the less-than-sober types we tend to end up with at big events, but a private ceremony, Mother?"
Angeline smiled at her son, her pretty long curls swishing behind her as she hung up a string of colourful paper streamers over the makeshift tent erected on the lawns behind the Manor. She and Juliet had spent most of the morning putting up the paper streamers and various sorts of other decorations between the trees in preparation for Artemis' birthday the next day. The twins tried to help to at first, only to be forcefully removed by Juliet, as Myles had decided that offering critique of the decorations counted as 'help' enough ("I dare-say the effect of the streamers would increase tenfold if it were aligned twenty-seven degrees more to the right,") while Beckett kept trying to eat the streamers ("Yellow's definitely my favourite; it tastes a whole lot sweeter than blue!").
"Now I know you're more used to the grand ballroom parties your Father and I used to have in the Manor," Angeline said, securing one end of the streamers to one of the tent's metal rods. "But I thought that it would be nice to have a change and have something a bit more cosy. A casual affair, if you will."
Artemis eyed his mother suspiciously as he helped tie the other end of the streamer. "When you say casual, you do mean relaxed and unconcerned as opposed to T-shirt and jeans, correct?"
Angeline tapped a finger to one side of her chin, as if she were considering his question.
"Mother... Mum, please."
"But that T-shirt has such a nice, hip drawing on it, Arty."
"I'll roll up both sleeves and wear penny loafers."
When his mother still looked unconvinced, Artemis grew desperate.
"All right, I'll consent to wearing black jeans. That's casual enough, surely."
Angeline brought her hands together and smiled, her eyes twinkling in delight. She leaned up to her son – now a full head taller than she was – and ruffled his hair affectionately, before pressing a quick kiss to his nose. "Don't worry, my dear. The Fowls have always been known to throw marvellous parties, and this will be one of the best ones, getting back in touch with our roots and all."
The next day, Artemis was contentedly sipping at his glass of Romanée-Conti, dressed in penny loafers and a baby-blue button-down shirt, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, as promised. His fringe needed a bit of trimming; a few loose strands of dark hair fell over the ridge of his brow. Normally he would have combed and styled his fringe to sit neatly to the side. Casual, he'd reminded himself, gazing into the mirror as he dressed himself in the morning. So he'd left the fringe to its own devices and only ran the comb over the sides and the back twice. He did however, forego the jeans at the very last moment, choosing instead to wear black chinos pants. With luck, his mother wouldn't even notice the difference until the party was well over.
Midway through the party, the hired live band switched from the soothing, mellow strings of Vivaldi to something entirely folksy – beginning with the sharp blare of Uilleann pipes and the booming thumps on the Bodhrán, and flanked by the tin-whistle, the tempo gradually picking up as the mandolin, banjo and the fiddle followed suit.
Artemis was in the middle of figuring out the tune when a movement caught his eye, and he looked up to see his father walking towards the centre of the square. Instead of calling for the guests' attention for a speech, as Artemis anticipated he would, Artemis Senior nodded and bowed shortly at the musicians, before he abruptly broke into an dance – the traditional Irish step dance. The younger Artemis stared, blinking incredulously as his father continued dancing to the music, his feet moving and swinging easily, explosively, almost as if he had two bio-hybrid artificial legs instead of just one. Before long, a number of guests had joined him and soon the square was filled with a group of frolicking revellers, tapping and twirling their feet about, their faces flushed with excitement, their steps never missing time.
His mother certainly hadn't been jesting about the getting-back-in-touch-with-their-Irish-
"Arty!" Artemis Senior called out cheerily over the music as he twirled in circles, hand-in-hand, with his laughing wife. "You must dance with us!"
His son only gazed back aghast, as if he had just been instructed to jump into a muddy puddle wearing his best Armani suit.
"Father, I don't dance," Artemis said, shaking his head adamantly.
"Nonsense!" His father cried out again, his feet a whirlwind of movements. "Everybody dances, my boy. Look, even Butler is enjoying himself."
Artemis opened his mouth to protest, only to have Butler and Juliet cavorting by his line of sight. Clearly enjoying themselves, just as his father had pointed out.
Angeline glanced at him, inviting him over with her pleasant smile. "Arty, come. You must join us, please." She winked at him, the tiniest hint of a smirk in the corners of her lips. "It's Fowl tradition."
Tradition. Artemis cringed inwardly, and felt like weeping. But because he loved his darling mother and did not wish to disappoint her, he set aside his drink and walked towards the square.
Theoretically, it was simple enough: arms held straight down to his side, legs swinging forwards and back, feet tapping in time to the drumming beats. Like a pendulum, Artemis thought. Or like a punctilious school master marching about stiffly, akin to having a wooden cane straight up his– well.
Artemis scrutinized the line of dancers, studying their movements carefully. Surely with his remarkable powers of observation, he would be able to mimic the steps close enough. Mind over matter, yes, and who had a more ingenious mind than Artemis Fowl the Second?
He tried the first few steps, channelling all that brain power and willing the nerves and muscles in his legs to move in the exact manner he'd watched the dancers. Not only did he manage to successfully kick himself once in the thigh and twice in the shins, he also almost kneed himself in the chin and sent a Gucci penny loafer pin-wheeling over the buffet table, before tripping himself in a tangle of legs and landing on his bottom with a thump and a breathless oof!
It would seem that his feet were not as nimble as his wits, after all. Lord of the Dance, he was not.
Artemis Senior's voice boomed over the rhythmic Bodhrán beats. "Come now boy, you've got put some spirit into it. Dance like your feet are on fire!"
If I did that Father, Artemis thought wearily, I would no doubt only succeed in knocking over the candles and by some foul twist of fate, set everything else but my feet aflame.
Imagine the field day the press would have: Artemis Fowl the Second, newly appointed CEO to the Fowl Conservation Project, burns the family manor down to cinders in a laughable attempt at the Riverdance. That or he would be effectively pegged as the ruthless son deranged enough to murder the entire family in a selfish bid to seize all assets for himself. Both would be equally mortifying ways to make the headline.
Somewhere to his right, over the sound of cheery pipes, fiddles and the mellifluous trill of the tin-whistle, he could hear snorts and giggles.
"You need to move faster, Arty!" Beckett chuckled as he circled by past Artemis' line of vision, feet tapping perfectly in time to the ridiculously fast-paced music. Right beside him was Myles, a heavy frown etched upon his brow as he concentrated on the steps. Fortunately for young Myles, though he was cut from the same cloth as his deranged eldest brother, he seemed not to have inherited Artemis' two left feet as well.
"Artemis simple-toon," the twins exchanged smug grins as they mouthed their brother's old nickname, before dissolving into squeals of laughter once more.
Artemis let out an articulate sigh of defeat. "I give up. No more frolicking in the fields for me, birthday or not."
He retreated from the square, running off in the direction where his loafer had been sent sailing to. He found it lying on its side in a patch of wild daisies, and after dusting it off and rubbing it clean with a silk kerchief, he placed it back on his foot. Deciding that he wanted to stretch his legs and walk for a bit, he set off towards the meadows of the Fowl Estate and soon, a grove of ash trees came into view. The ground below the trees was covered with orange roses, some spiralling midway up a tree trunk or two. The old Berserker's Gate was still a long away off from the lawns behind the Manor, but the roses – his fairy roses, as Juliet liked to call them – had begun to spread all over the estate over the years, dotting the greenery with the burnished glow of orange.
He came to a stop beneath the nearest tree, sitting down a patch of grass beside a small cluster of blooming roses. The sky above was a bright blue canvas, streaked with wisps of cloud. A gentle breeze had travelled from the far end of the meadow, rustling the leaves and the roses beside him, ruffling his hair with its crisp, cool touch. As he sat gazing at sky, he felt something soft and warm brush against his left cheek, a ghost of a tiny hand touching his face.
He blinked once, twice, before he noticed the slight shimmer of light in the airspace in front of him.
"Holly," Artemis said, lips curved into a smile as the small elf unshielded and materialised into view. "You came."
Holly landed neatly before him, the wings of her Hummingbird whirring to a halt, glistening like the translucence wings of a dragonfly in the sun. "Commander Trouble found all the racket and commotion from the Fowl Estate... troubling. I was asked to take a look, just in case."
Artemis quirked an eyebrow at that. "No rest for the wicked, eh, Captain?"
"You would know all about that now, wouldn't you, Mud Boy?" Holly smiled wryly, winking up at the boy...
No, not a boy, she thought silently. He's a young man now.
"Touché," Artemis dipped his head, acknowledging her point and Holly couldn't help but laugh, just as Artemis leaned forward, throwing his arms around her lithe frame as he tried to lift her in a friendly hug. Despite his valiant efforts (not to mention his attempts to hide the strain of physical exertion on his face), he could barely lift her three inches off the ground for more than a few minutes. After much huffing and puffing on his part, Holly sighed and hopped upwards to circle her arms around his neck and shoulders instead.
"Of course I came, Arty," she said, embracing him tightly. "Besides, it wouldn't do for me to miss one of my closest friend's birthday, especially when your mother personally sent out invitations."
Artemis' grin grew wider. "Well, I'm glad that you could make it. Though..." Here, he glanced past her as they broke from the hug, as if she had somehow magically managed to hide a whole throng of fairies in the shadows behind her Hummingbird wings. "I had expected more company."
He kept his tone level, as if he was merely voicing a simple observation, but Holly's sidelong glance told him she'd detected the tiniest hint of disappointment in his voice. Artemis Fowl the Second, disheartened simply because his fairy-friends didn't show up for a birthday party? How much things have changed these few years.
She offered him an apologetic smile. "Foaly messed with Trouble once too often, so now he's being made to suffer the repercussions."
"Oh? And what has he done this time to incite the Commander's ire?"
Holly was on the verge of breaking into another laugh before she stopped herself and nudged Artemis lightly with her shoulder. "Actually, it all started when you hacked the communications receiver in Trouble's helmet and hijacked the speakers so that it would play that strange human song about his name."
"In my defence, I didn't realise the helmet had been issued to the Commander." Artemis twiddled his thumbs, the very picture of innocence. "It was meant to be a prank on Foaly, having the helmet blare out the song at the most inopportune moments before his superior. To get him in trouble with Trouble, so to speak."
"And I'm pretty sure that you'd just attempted a terrible pun there" Holly said, crinkling her nose petulantly at him. "Anyway, it was bad enough that Foaly thought it was a great idea to blast the song whenever Trouble enters a room, but he'd done it so often last week that it stuck as an ear-worm for the newly-initiated Recon officers, some who then stupidly hummed it whenever the Commander walks into the vicinity."
"Ah," Artemis said, steepling his fingers. "That is troubling indeed... er."
"The Commander finally lost it when N°1 began humming the song during last night's briefing, wondering aloud why it was so familiar. Then, he caught sight of the look on Trouble's face and began reciting out the lyrics... and well, you can already guess what happened next." Holly paused, lifting a finger to brush at the flowers bobbing gently in the breeze. "He threatened to cut off all of Foaly's funds if he and N°1 didn't remove all traces of the song from the LEP systems by the end of the day, so that's why they aren't here right now. They might show up later, though," she added, glancing over at her friend.
Artemis chuckled despite himself; he'd never intended for such a simple prank to have gotten so out of hand (all right, no, it'd be entirely untruthful if he said he didn't think this was one of the best prank he'd unintentionally pulled on the centaur).
"Oh, and Foaly texted me just before you got here. He asked me to deliver this message for you."
Before Artemis could ask, Holly lifted up her helmet that she'd earlier rested on her lap, and flicked the green button on the side. A bright beam of light flashed from the helmet's visor to the space before Artemis and Holly, projecting a green holo-image of a miniature Foaly swivelling in his chair.
"Hey birthday boy," a warbled version of Foaly's voice came over the helmet's speakers. It did not sound any less smug than the original. "I'd much rather be delivering this to you in person, since the one thing I enjoy more than mocking you is to embarrass you in public. Though I suppose you do that well enough by yourself. Nice dance moves, by the way; I'm sure swear toads could do better."
Artemis pinched the space between his eyes wearily.
Holly placed two fingers against his hand reassuringly. "I'll ask him to delete the recording, unless he wants a 2B pencil tucked neatly into his horsey behind. It won't incapacitate him, but it would hurt enough for him to agree."
The holo-image warbled on. "But since some, ah, unexpected things cropped up at work, this will have to do for now."
There was a short pause, followed by a crackling noise in the background that slowly morphed into the soft blare that sounded like Uilleann pipes surreptitiously playing a very cheesy rendition of Happy Birthday To You. Artemis felt a horrible sense of dread rising from his gut just as holo-Foaly cleared its throat and continued in a deep, theatrical voice, as if it were reciting a dramatic reading of a play:
"May your pockets be heavy,
your heart ever be light.
May you always have a friend or two,
to brighten up a lonely night.
May you live long and prosper,
die a happy soul therein.
and may you rate a mansion in heaven
… if they even let you in.
May you never falter when faced with doom,
And your heart stay truest of true.
but more importantly, through the gloom–"
The holo-image lifted its gaze to stare straight into Artemis' eyes, one arm raised in a four-finger salute.
" – May the Fours always be with you."
The music ended abruptly, and holo-Foaly attempted a caper, clacking its hooves together before winking out of existence.
An awkward silence descended between the two.
Artemis sighed, the ever-suffering prodigy of the series.
"Holly, what, pray tell, did I just witness?"
"A birthday wish. Or just a really bad attempt at a joke."
They both dissolve into peals of laughter then, their voices resounding over the meadows. They sat like that for a moment, in comfortable silence before the sound of music and voices drifted from the party, carried forward by the breeze. Artemis turned towards the voices, straining his ears as he tried to make out the words.
It sounded as if someone had, quite literally, crashed the party. And from below the ground.
"Stay back, Angeline! We're not certain what we're dealing with here." Artemis heard his father's deep tenor booming over the music. He felt his heart skipping a beat, his fingers gripping a stalk of rose instinctively. It was almost silly, to be so easily unnerved by the dreams that haunt him at nights, but memories of Opal Koboi and the ensuing trail of destruction she'd always brought with her was still fresh in Artemis' mind.
"Odd...," Artemis Senior's voice continued on. "It looks exceedingly like a very hairy derrière."
"Oh," Angeline Fowl sounded more surprised than afraid, and that immediately set Artemis' fears at ease.
In fact, he already envisioned what was certain to unfold next. The 'hairy derrière' – which was really a lump protruding out from the ground – would shudder, shaking off clumps of dirt from its side, before it suddenly twisted and turned around, revealing yellow slabs of picket-fence-like teeth and the furry, bearded face of Mulch Diggums the dwarf.
"Hey, watch it, Mud Man," came the unmistakable drawl that belonged to the one and only Mulch Diggums. There was a loud chuffing noise, like noise from a blaring trombone, except that it was really flatulence and the crowd gasped in justifiable horror.
Artemis and Holly exchanged pained expressions as both were visited by the exact same image: Mulch climbing out of the hole he'd just blasted out of, before dusting off the back of his posterior in an almost reverent-like manner.
"This here would be the finest behind in all of Faerie and the lands of Ériu. Ladies would kill just to catch a glimpse of it and here I'm being generous and showing it to you for free."
"En garde, foul creature! You shall harass neither my wife and my family, nor the grass on which they tread upon!"
"Uh, I'm quite sure the 'foul' creature here would actually be you, Mister Fowl."
"Ah, the impertinence! How dare you dare spout such brazen accusations upon the name of Fowl!"
"Timmy dear, I believe that's one of Arty's fairy-friends that you're threatening with a banjo there."
The situation seemed almost too ludicrous – too absurd – all at once, that Artemis couldn't help but feel immense affection for them all: his dearest mother and his father; the twins and their endearing proclivity for mischievousness; Butler, bless his faithful heart, and his sister, the impassioned, kind Juliet; and in moments like this, even Mulch.
These people are my home, he thought, the slow electric tingle of realisation in every fibre of his being filling his chest with warmth.
But most of all... Artemis exhaled slowly, softly; the fondness growing ever more within him as he rested his gaze at the elf sitting beside him.
Once, long ago, he had decided – they had decided – that things worked better this way. They both knew and understood each other, cared for one another. Almost, almost as if they were both two parts of a soul, two halves of a single beating heart. And because their hearts were so close, tangled and strung together as they were by all the trauma, all the laughter, all the the adventures they'd share, and yet their worlds so apart all at once, she had decided – they had decided – it worked best this way, hurt less this way.
He knew it was a lie of course. When he had finally passed on in this life, sixty, seventy years from now? She would still grieve for him as a friend, as much as she would a lover, a life-mate. And she knew that he knew this; it would not have hurt less, it just wouldn't hurt more.
But the time for that had passed for them and slowly, tentatively, like two people falling out of the sky and learning to walk all over again, they moved on from that awkward, subtle in-between-ness of emotions that was midway past camaraderie and friendship, but still not quite ardent romance (at least, not that he could really tell; he had no true experience of romantic love yet).
Now he was happy and content with what he shared with her. Holly was his best friend, his partner-in-shenanigans, his benefactor and he loved her dearly, fiercely, just as he did in his final moments before Bruin Fadda's spell took hold and killed him. Artemis felt his left eye twitch slightly – a phantom tingle in the exact spot where Holly's hazel eye had been in his old body.
(In another time, another place, perhaps. If only, if only.
... If only)
They sat quietly in the shade for several moments, the sweet scent of roses wafting in the breeze around them.
He finally lifted his blue eyes to meet Holly's mismatched ones. There was curiosity in her tender gaze and Artemis didn't miss the masked concern in the way she playfully nudged her shoulders against his, before asking, "What's that devious mind of yours up to this time, Arty?"
And he only shook his head, as if to clear away the haze of thoughts, a tiny grin lighting up his features now as he offered an arm towards her.
"I was just thinking," Artemis began, before he faltered, wondering, for the barest of moments, if he should even ask. He decided to push through with it anyway.
"May I have this dance? For old time's sake."
He'd expected her to snort and roll her eyes, steeling himself for the whirlwind of acerbic jibes about Orion that was sure to befall him. Maybe even a hard punch or two.
Holly's eyes widened by a fraction, her eyebrows quirked upwards in surprise. But then her lips curved into a smile and she chuckled softly, darting a glance over at the where the music played and the Fowls, the Butlers and the rest of the guests were still merry-making and dancing.
She took his hand, lacing her fingers with his, her eyes – one blue, one hazel – bright with memories.
"For old time's sake." She planted a soft kiss on his cheek, before the Hummingbird wings whirred to life and she rose to the air, pulling him back up to his feet once more.
Artemis laughed then, his voice dancing in the light breeze, the warmth within his chest blossoming as he squeezed Holly's fingers softly.
They walked, hand in hand, towards the party where Angeline and the rest stood waiting.
- Since The Last Guardian finished off with a really open-ended ending, I'm just going to take creative liberties and it's my headcanon that Artemis' family finds out about the existence of The People and that even his father knows about Artemis' adventures with them. They are also quite acquainted with Holly and understands that she's a very close friend of Arty's.
- I assume most are familiar with Riverdance and Lord of the Dance, but basically, they are both Irish dance musicals featuring traditional Irish step-dancing.
- The scene about the human song playing over Trouble Kelp's helmet speakers is based off this post. Yes, the joke about that Taylor Swift song and Trouble's name never gets old for me, LOL.
- Let's also pretend Arty's birthday wasn't almost two months ago and this fic isn't frightfully late /sobbing.
- I hope you've enjoyed reading it. This was tremendous fun to write :')