Artemis came to slowly, groggily: a rare thing for a girl who was raised to be an assassin. The first thing she noticed, in a far-off way, was that she was upright; the second was that she was falling, and none of her muscles seemed to be capable of movement at the moment. She felt a brief flash of alarm, but then two warm hands gripped her upper arms to stop her descent. Someone was saying her name.
"-temis! Artemis, hey, you okay?" The voice was so gentle and full of concern that it took Artemis a moment to place it; when she did, she forced her eyes open to confirm the source, and found herself staring at a red lightning bolt on a black-clad chest. Her eyes traveled up past black spandex, an angular chin, and pale, freckled cheeks to find green eyes looking down at her with relief.
"Wally?" she croaked.
He nodded so fast it almost looked like superspeed. "Yeah, that's me."
Artemis said the only words that came to mind: "I'm... alive."
Something that sounded alarmingly like a sob tore itself out of Wally's throat, and Artemis found herself squeezed tightly against his chest. "Yeah," he choked out. "Yeah, you are." A million possible responses to this scenario ran through her head, many involving violence, but Artemis found herself relaxing in her teammate's grip instead. She still felt sort of weak and shaky, and anyway she kind of liked how his arms felt wrapped around her back like that, a warm barrier between her and the rest of the world. She almost protested when Wally pulled back to look her in the face. "Don't you ever do that again," he demanded, his voice hoarse with emotion. "Never, you hear me?"
This was getting way too intense. "I didn't know you cared," Artemis joked weakly; Wally just made a strangled noise of pain and crushed her to him again.
"Artemis!" The two of them looked up as M'gann flew over and threw her arms around the archer from behind. The rest of the team followed shortly after: Robin and Kaldur each took one of Artemis' two remaining sides, while Conner simply stood off to the side looking awkward and... guilty? Huh; weird. "I'm so glad you're okay," M'gann sniffed.
"You must never do that again, Artemis," Kaldur said sternly; his voice wobbled a little.
"Yeah," said Robin with a weak chuckle. "That's why we get traught, remember? So we don't get dead." Conner was silent, but Artemis didn't mind. She knew he wasn't one for emotional displays.
All of a sudden, the young archer was struck by the realization that these people cared for her. Up until this point, she had always figured she was the most emotionally expendable member of the team: she had joined late, under less-than-desirable circumstances, and Artemis knew her attitude didn't tend to endear her to people. But she didn't have to have been there to see what "losing" her had done to the group; she could read it in Wally's tight grip, Robin's trembling body, the downward slope of Kaldur's shoulders, and M'gann's tears soaking into her parka from behind. Even Conner wasn't half as stoic as he thought he was right now: Artemis could see the relief in his eyes, lurking somewhere behind the guilt. Artemis felt a new weight of responsibility settle on her shoulders: she couldn't leave these people behind. She had something to live for now, something more than just the shattered remnants of a criminal family and a mother who had spent most of Artemis' childhood in jail.
It made her feel grounded.
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
A throat cleared nearby; they all looked to the source of the sound. "I am sorry to interrupt," said Martian Manhunter, "but there is still a world to save." Reluctantly, the teens pulled apart. Robin handed Artemis her spare bow, which he'd been carrying on his back; she wondered briefly what had happened to her old one, then dismissed the thought. A bow was a bow; they were weapons, not friends. For the first time, she looked around: they were in a large, red-lit room (what was it with aliens and red lighting?) filled with rows upon rows of upright pods. Some were empty, including the one she had occupied a few minutes ago, but most contained people. Artemis squinted at their faces; most of the captives she could see appeared to be civilians.
"Right," she said, "so what's the plan?"
"Robin, Superboy, and Miss Martian will plant explosives on the central core of the mothership," said Kaldur. "The rest of us will free the hostages and make sure they all make it outside. If we are lucky, perhaps we will find the League quickly and they will be able to help; either way, we must work quickly to be sure that no one is left behind."
"Asterous plan," said Robin.
"Miss Martian will keep us in telepathic contact so that Robin will know when it is safe to detonate the explosives. Go!"
A few days later, as they all trudged back to the Cave after a long day cleaning up debris, Wally asked Artemis out on a date. To her surprise, she said yes.