A really familiar kind of pain.
That kind of pain that everyone said was "natural".
Artemis tried to ignore it, not think about it.
She zeta-beamed to Mount Justice and realised that the trip did not help her current situation, but made it much worse.
She breathed in and out while massaging her lower abdomen.
Just two hours of training, she could take it.
There she was, in the training room with the whole team, Miss Martian, Superboy, Rob, KF and Aqualad, all there, taking turns to spar.
She would normally excuse herself from training if she really felt too bad, but Artemis could not let this chance pass. For once Batman was there to watch them train, to evaluate them.
The pain seemed to have clouded her mind, she felt lightheaded, but she knew she could still take it. It was just pain, like every month.
Breath in, breath out.
Within the first thirty minutes of training she found a way to deal with the situation. Instead of fighting in close combat, whenever she was asked to spar, she would run to a high position from where she could shoot arrows until his teammate was defeated.
It worked in her first fight with Kaldur as he was not expecting her to run off like she did. It also worked with Connor somehow, who was stopped by a Knock-out gas arrow (the ones Artemis used for training were weaker than the normal ones so Superboy would be up again in five minutes or so). Megan was harder to beat. Artemis knew that if she used Flame Arrows Megan would have to give up, but that was not the point of this training. Not every enemy would have this weakness. Also, it would have been really cruel to use that on the martian, just as much as using Kryptonite on Connor. In the end she stopped her teammate with a group of foam arrows that immobilised her.
She knew she was doing better than she normally would. For her this was a real battle, she felt the pain in her lower abdomen and felt like she was in the middle of the battlefield, fighting to survive.
She was fighting with all she had. Or at least she thought so.
Until it was time for one of her best friends to spar with her.
He was Batman's partner, therefore, he (and probably Batman too) knew something was wrong with her.
Their fight was the longest one by far. No arrow would hit the Boy Wonder, who just jumped and somersaulted while letting his typical laugh eco in the room.
When Artemis was starting to run short on arrows, she knew she had to stop. She still had to spar with Kid Idiot, and she'd need those arrows against the speedster, so instead of wasting them on Boy I-Do-Not-Stand-Still, she decided to start close combat.
And boy was that a bad idea.
She didn't even know how it happened but Robin was nowhere to be seen and suddenly he appeared from above and threw her to the floor, finishing their fight.
Robin had a small worried smile on his face, like he knew something.
And Artemis knew he knew that she was in pain.
I mean… Batman's partner, right.
They stood up and Batman scolded Rob and Artemis for playing for too long instead of finishing the fight earlier and for using too many arrows.
While Superboy and Kaldur fought, Artemis tried to breath in and out. One fight to go and the training would be over.
Robin, who had already finished his training, said he wanted to leave first. Batman allowed it and Rob wasted no time. However, in his way to the door he stopped for a moment besides KF and said something to his ear. Wally seamed flustered by the closeness ("God damn it, you don't need to be Batman to know he likes you, Rob, come on!" thought Artemis) but then his face became serious. He nodded and Rob left the room.
Wally then used his superspeed to leave too and returned like two minutes later, earning an angry glare from Batman, but he let it slip.
She would have liked to know what happened but the pain, that seemed to fade a bit with the adrenaline, had returned stronger than ever and she felt like throwing up.
Breath in, Breath out.
Her turn arrived too early.
KF was already waiting for her to spar. Their fight was the shortest. Artemis was in such pain she couldn't take it anymore and Wally seemed to know that because he only run, took Artemis arrows and bow and then the fight was over.
But Artemis wasn't taking that. She might have been in intense pain, but she was not going to let Kid Idiot toy her around.
KF stood there, already thinking he was the winner, when Artemis decided to attack with a kick. Wally was fast, but his movements were quite predictable, so she just had to aim a kick at a certain place, recover one of her arrows in the confusion, and throw it to the part of the floor where she knew KF would run to. And it was an Ice Arrow.
Wally's movements became horribly clumsy and the fight was over as Artemis got her bow and arrows back and shoot a foam arrow at the poor speedster.
And this way, her training was over and she was able to leave while it was Megan and Kaldur's turn to spar.
The first stop was her room where she showered and changed into more comfortable clothes. Once she was done, she let out a sigh. She wanted to go home, but she knew she had to wait for everyone to finish training and then hear Batman's review.
She decided to give up and take the strongest pain killers she could find. She went to the kitchen and found, to her surprise, that there was a glass of water with a pill beside it that she recognised as Ibuprophen. There was a note:
I know, Batman knows and Wally too (I told him to go buy the pills).
We understand. If you feel that bad, you can tell us. We are a team and that crap, if one of us is not at their 100% we cover for them. So, if you ever feel this bad, tell us, we'll cover for you (even though you clearly don't need it, but you know, emotional support and that stuff).
She didn't know how to react. Too much pain to think. She just took the pill and went to the sofa, where she found one of his best friends watching the TV. She just throwed herself besides him and grunted.
Rob passed her a blanked, chocolate and a heating pad. Then, without saying a single word, he put an episode of one of her favourite series and then drank his soda in silence.
"Rob, you are the best friend a girl could ask for"
"Barbara trained me" he laughed.
The pain seemed to be fading for a while, so Artemis decided she could spend her time talking to Rob, now that they were alone.
"Soooo… When are you going to tell Wally?"
Rob chocked with his soda and grabbed his sunglasses, making sure they stayed in his face while he coughed.
"What-What are you talking about?" He tried to laugh off.
Artemis rolled her eyes. Then the pain intensified. She pressed her knees against her chest even tighter than before and breathed in and out.
Rob didn't comment and just waited till the girl could talk again.
"You like him" she said with difficulty trying not to use her diaphragm as It'd make the pain worse.
"I already told you I am not going to tell him ever"
"Come on, get a clue, he likes you too!"
"But it's not that easy. Batman's protégée and that stuff, remember?"
"And what? He already knows your ID, which I don't, and Batman is Batman, he has seen this coming from the very first time Wally stared at your bottom."
Robin seemed to blush and tried to protest, but Artemis just cut through with a mischievous grin.
"Of course, that's not evidence enough, as everyone stares at that master piece… I guess that's why Batman made you wear a cape…"
And the Boy Wonder got even more flustered. Artemis laughed and her whole body suffered from it. She tightened even more her grip on her knees and closed her eyes, feeling the pain.
"You okay?" asked Rob.
"No, but don't worry, it's normal, it'll go away eventually"
"If you need something, let me know."
"Okay, I need you to tell Wally…"
"That he is a really good friend for running away in the middle of a training session to buy Ibuprophen. I already know that" Said Wally appearing.
He sat beside Artemis, on the opposite side of the sofa from where Robin was still trying to hide his blush and forget the comments Artemis made about his butt.
"How are you feeling?"
"I'll survive, thanks for the pills"
"You know it, friends and stuff, right?"
Artemis pain was getting worse. She took the pills too late, now she'd have to wait a while for them to kick in.
She moved in the sofa between her two best friends. They ended up with Artemis laying down in foetal position with her head on Robins lap and her feet between Wally's feet, that he had put up in the sofa, his back resting on the arm rest.
Both boys tried to comfort her talking, making jokes and caressing her ankles and her hair.
That's the situation the rest of the team found when they entered the room.
Artemis was having an especially painful cramp and Rob rubbed her back comfortingly.
"What's wrong, friend, are you feeling unwell?" Asked Kaldur.
"Do you want us to call a doctor?" Added Megan.
"Don't worry, she's fine" said Robin.
"How can you say that when she is clearly in pain?" said the Atlantian disconcerted.
"She'll be fine, it's normal." Explained Wally.
"Normal? What's normal? What condition can cause this much discomfort and still be normal?" questioned Megan.
"I'm on my period" murmured Artemis, her face buried in Robin's stomach.
"Your what?" asked Megan.
"She is on her period, that is the regular discharge of blood and mucosal tissue from the inner lining of the uterus." Superboy Started, reciting the whole Wikipedia page about periods. "The menstrual cycle is the regular natural change that occurs in the female reproductive system that makes pregnancy possible. In most women, various physical changes are brought about by fluctuations in hormone levels during the menstrual cycle. Many women experience painful cramps, also known as dysmenorrhea, during menstruation. Pain results from ischemia and muscle contractions. Some women also experience emotional disturbances starting one or two weeks before their period, and stopping soon after the period has started. Symptoms may include mental tension, irritability, mood swings, and crying spells. Problems with concentration and memory may occur. There may also be depression or anxiety. The bleeding usually lasts around 2 to 7 days…"
"Wait, you are bleeding? We have to stop it!" exclaimed Megan.
"It's normal to bleed." Pointed Superboy.
"I do not understand" added Kaldur.
"Aaaahhh… I can't believe this… Wait… Megan, martians do not have periods?" Said Artemis sitting down.
"Well, not this way, we can control our reproductive system at will"
"You've got to be kidding me! Am I the only period-haver on the team? Where's Zatanna? I hate this…"
And then Robin and Wally lost it.
They started laughing so hard Rob's shades almost fell. Almost.
Once they calmed down, with tears in their eyes, both of them hugged Artemis while Wally said:
"Just think of it as an illness that this badass archer here with her high pain tolerance endures every month."
"Also, don't piss her off, it's really painful and she's dealing with it and with training and all."
"If we can do anything to help you, tell us" said Kaldur.
After that awkward talk, they all sat in the sofas and talked. They enjoyed their team bonding time until Batman arrived.
They reviewed footage of their fights and everyone looked different at Artemis after knowing the condition she had been fighting in.
"And with this, you are all dismissed. Artemis, I'd like to talk to you for a moment."
She followed Batman to the zeta-beams.
"I know you weren't in your best condition today. I understand that you might be uncomfortable talking about it with me, but If you ever need help, know that you can ask Black Canary anything and she'll be glad to help."
"I know, sir"
"Also, you did a really good job today."
And with that Batman left.
"Daaaaamn, she got a -good job- from Batman" whispered Wally from where he and Robin where spying.
"I've only got one of those like… three, maybe four times in the last four years. I salute you, Arty." Said Robin while making a salute in Artemis direction.