Prompt from the Crayola Challenge: Color-Peach, Random-Old photograph, Emotion-Hope.
We'll Survive You
A/N: Fortunately, I was listening to the perfect song when I got the prompt. I encourage readers to open up a new tab, go to youtube, type in BC Jean "I'll Survive You", and listen to that on repeat as you read the story. I believe it fits the tone for this fic. Believe me, my own heart strings were tugging when I wrote this.
Artemis felt exposed to the world in the tiny space she was in, closed off...yet still exposed. Her body shuddered from the force of quiet sobs. She was on her knees, her hands too weak to even hold herself up. They just clung to the racks above her bowed head. It hurt, god, it hurt too much.
I love you.
Those three words had been her downfall. She had believed him, not at first, but she had fallen for him just as he had fallen for her.
I won't leave you, Artie, I promise.
Lies, those were just one of the many lies that he told her as he had combed her hair after nights of exchanged, endless, loving caresses. Now he was gone, out of her grasp. Once...just once, would she love to hold him again, to inhale his scent, to touch her lips to his. He had become her weakness from the very moment she realized her heart would beat faster at the mere mention of his name, or when they shared glances, or brushed past each other in the hallways.
I hate you, you know that?
Funny, I think I love you.
Blond hair cascaded past her face. It was the only way to obscure the sight of packed boxes in the small closet. Her eyes were squeezed tightly in a weak attempt to stop the flow of tears escaping and running down her face. Her lips were slightly parted, and only opened wider when one breath got particularly hard to take. The fingers that clutched the shelf overhead tightened their grips to try and distract her from the throbbing pain, the beating, pulsing pain inside her chest, something that had not left her since then.
There was a soft knock on the door and a muffled, "Artemis?"
"Go away," was her immediate response. She did not care if her voice was hoarse and cracked when she spoke.
There was a sigh and the sound of the doorknob turning echoed within the closet. More of a reflex than an actual move, her foot kicked out and held the door closed.
"Artie...let me in."
She shook her head against her arm as if the person were in there with her and saw. "No."
A light thump indicated the person had rested their head against the door. "I understand, Artie. I loved him as much as you do now."
"Hah, love?" Her tone came out harsh and she chuckled darkly, "Now? Who says I love him now? Who says I ever loved him?"
"...You know you don't mean that..."
"I do mean it! I mean every word I say! Hell, it doesn't matter! None of it mattered, now that that lying bastard is gone! He told me he wouldn't leave me because he loved me! Now that he's gone, he broke his promise..." She trailed off, her voice broken again, "So...that must mean he never loved me at all."
"Artie...listen to me. He loved you with all his heart. I saw the way he looked at you when you didn't realize it. I saw the way his eyes sparkled and lit up when he spotted you in the room. I heard the way he said your name with that disgusting, dreamy, love-sick tone of his whenever we talked about you. There is no denying that he loves you."
Her head swiveled towards the door and she spoke vehemently towards it, "Then why did he leave? Leave me, you, the team."
The other person sighs and taps the door gently, "...I don't know..."
"See? Nobody knows! One day he was just all effing fine and dandy-" speaking too much with a dry throat had her coughing immensely, "...the next...nothing...just...gone..."'
Her eyes welled up again. She let go of the shelf to hold her face and pressed the tears back into her eyes. The leg that she had kicked out retreated closer to her body. "Why am I such a fool? I had thought that I had gone through so much as a child, I should at least be selfish just this once and let myself fall for someone. Idiotic, stupid, I'm so stupid..."
"You're not stupid, Artie. You do deserve it. Everyone always has a chance at love. You're not an exception."
"That's the thing, I don't-didn't deserve this. I wouldn't have gone through all that happiness just to come back to this feeling of loneliness, of being ashamed of myself, of being lost without someone to be there to tell you what to do."
"It's better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all."
"Bull-fucking-shit! Whoever came up with that saying was delusional. What is love when you can only have a handful, a grasp of it when cruel fate is just going to snatch it away from you?"
"But...compare now to how you were before you fell in love. You never had the experience. You never felt how nice it was to have someone you loved wrap their arms around you and hold you to them. You never experienced the fireworks that erupted every time the two of you kissed. You never experienced the way he whispered something into your ear gave you shivers. And lastly, you never had the memories of being with someone you loved to hold on to."
Artemis trembled at each thing they had said until she had begun to sob again at each said memory that she pictured in full detail. The door had opened just enough to let that person step inside and close it again. Muscled arms wrapped around her crying frame, and pressed her head to a warm chest. She pushed weakly to get herself away from them. It was humiliating to have someone in here to comfort her, especially when he looked worried enough to seem like he cared for her well-being.
"Artie..." His raven colored hair was in disarray, probably from combing his hand through it too much. His arms tightened around her to hold her closer to him.
Slender arms wrapped themselves around his neck and tugged at him so she could be cradled in his lap. For a strong girl like Artemis to hold it all in until she exploded from the grief and broke her down to a sobbing mess tore at his heart.
It seemed like hours that they stayed in that position. Her sobs had reduced to shuddered breaths to random hiccups.
"You feeling aster?"
"Hell no," she mumbled into his chest.
"That's too bad...I'm taking you somewhere."
There was a minute protest when he stood up with her in his arms. "Robin!"
He ignored it as a protégeé of Batman would, and quickly made his way down the hall. Up the stairs they went, then a left, and a sharp right. He walked out of the Mountain and onto the beach. The sun was still up fairly high, and beating down on the depressed pair.
"I hate it, why is the world against me when it knows I'm suffering."
"I'm not against you." Robin replied softly as he made his way up a special cliff that over looked the harbor.
"No! Damnit...I...why did you bring me here? You liar, you just said you weren't against me." She struggled out of his hold and stumbled to her knees. Her hands clenched as she stared out at the harbor.
He took her hand as a way to grab her attention, "Do you remember what this spot is?"
Her face crumbled and looked as if she were about to cry again, "This was where...he proposed to me...and the last place I had him to myself...Wasn't this the place where you confessed to him too?"
She wanted to expect the soft smile he had on his face disappear. She wanted him to get angry and storm off and leave her alone. She wanted him to hurt as much as she was now, but to her amazement he still held his smile and looked out at the water.
"Yeah...this was where I confessed to him," he chuckled good naturedly, "He gave me props for finding this spot...I remember him coming to me to ask if he could use this place to propose to you."
For some reason, her tears started to come down her face. Silent droplets rolled down her face, but it wasn't for her this time.
"Why? Why did you let me take him away from you? I wouldn't wish this sense of longing for someone else."
Robin reached over with both hands and cupped her face. His thumbs swiped at her cheeks gently, to wipe away his tears. "I could see that he loved you more than he would ever love me. He only loved me like one should for a best friend."
"Rob...I don't care that Toy Maker is in prison now. All I want is for Wally to come back. That beam was supposed to be for me. Not for you...me...He should've pushed you out of the way. You were closer to him. At least he would have you if I had been zapped away."
"Artie," he murmured before putting a hand in his pocket and pulling out an old photograph of the three of them. A red headed man, a blond woman, and raven haired man dressed in civilian clothes. "This was his favorite photo of all of us. The two people he loved the most in the world. It would only be right that he pushed us out of the way. You knew he would gladly give his life up for ours."
Her fingers touched the photo she had thrown away earlier that day. It had been -was her favorite too. "We don't even know if he's dead or not...That beam wasn't supposed to make a person disappear, it was supposed to kill...but there's no body, no trace, only the scorched spot of where he vanished into thin air. I don't know if I can live through life without that knowledge...I don't know if I can live through not knowing if he is dead or alive..."
"Don't...don't think like that. Wally wouldn't give up his life if he would've known this was how you would react. He knew, he hoped that you would grieve for him a bit then move on and find another person that would love you as much as he would. There's hope for the both of us, Artemis, but especially for you."
He pressed a kiss to her forehead to console her even more. It was difficult to see her like this, it was foreign to see this broken Artemis.
"We'll get through this Artie, we'll survive through this."
...Two years later...
Her hand was pulled along in front of her, gently. She was currently blinded and being guided by him. After six years of knowing him, and two years of really knowing him, she had become happy again. He had been right...there had always been hope for her to get out of that rut she had been two years ago.
"We're here," he whispered softly into her ear, just before the blindfold slipped off her face. Her light blue eyes blinked slowly to adjust to the orange tinted sky. There was a sharp intake of breath when she realized she was standing in the spot where Wally had proposed to her...
"What are we doing here, Dick?" She scanned the horizon, the harbor, him. It had been too long since they had been here, and her eyes lowered at the memory of Wally.
Dick tilted her head back up and she had an eyeful of intensely dark blue eyes. "Hey, you're not gonna cry on me again, are you?"
She scoffed and playfully jerked her head from his hand, "Me? Cry? Who said anything about crying?"
"Good, for a second I thought I was going to have to get you out of here, emotional wreck."
Oh, that cheeky grin he had on made her want to give him one good, solid punch. "Emotional wreck? You're the one that cried last night because I wouldn't give you the last slice of pie that Megan baked."
Richard rolled his eyes before looking over his shoulder and called, "Damien!"
The boy strolled out from behind the trees, "Tt, I don't understand why you had to include me in your insolent love games, Grayson." He held out two peach colored roses to them disdainfully.
"-Thanks Damien." He gracefully took the flowers and winked at Bruce's heir.
"Tt, whatever, Grayson." The young boy sauntered off as Artemis looked after him with amusement.
"Tim's watching him, so he'll be fine."
Her face softened at the words and she fingered the nude colored petals lovingly, "Of course. You always find a way to make sure he's safe...So what is this all for?"
"Well...today kind've marks the..."
"The two years since he..."
"Yeah...I know this may sound cheesy," he looked sheepish for a moment before leading her to the edge and sat down with his legs to dangle on the edge of the cliff. She followed his example. "We haven't been here since then, and I felt this left a bad lasting memory for Wally. I thought we could come here and change that. Tell him that we're..."
Artemis took one of the roses to study it, peach, these were the types of flowers Wally had left around for her all those years ago, but now they held a new meaning. She bet Richard didn't know she knew what they meant in these new terms.
"If it helps, I have my wallet with me." He carefully slipped out the photograph they had decided to keep. The same one that he had used to console her.
"Well, that's going to be weird with the two of us in there." She replied lightly, taking the picture with her other hand.
"Just go with it."
Her blond hair fluttered in the breeze that started to pick up while she stared at his red locks, sparkling green eyes, and grinning face. "I...uh...Hey Wally," she started lamely, unsure of what to say, "it's been a couple of years, hasn't it?"
Richard nodded to her in encouragement, "I'm not going to lie and say I haven't been crying over you. It was worse in the beginning...you should know. That horrible break down in the closet back at the old mountain...and on here too should be proof enough, but I've gotten better since then. A lot better.
"Wally, you always had a great sense of judgement when it came to people, even if we had such a rough start. Having this guy as your best friend..Di-Robin...man, it's been so long since he's been called that, was there for me when I needed you the most, and honestly, he's been there when I didn't need him the most.
"You know that cliché thing about stories when the hero dies, leaving his best friend and his girl behind only to have them fall in love as the years go by while they comfort each other in their loss? Yeah...Rob and I fell in love. I think it was around the time where I decided to stop killing myself...He stopped me enough times not to do it anymore. I also think it was because he picked up on your horrible way at flirting with girls...but I guess, like before, I fell for it. I want you to know that I love you, Wally...wherever you are, I will always love you deep in my heart. There's something about having that first love that will never go away. Robin and I love you, but I guess we formed that last link together to love each other. Who would've thought Rob was actually bi and not gay, huh?"
"Uh, Artemis...I don't have any gender preference. I'll love whomever I love."
She smiled in a way to tell him to shut up and stay quiet so she could continue. "So...you're probably guessing why we have roses here...Well, if I know my color right, peach represents innocent love mixed with wisdom, but I thought those were for dreams."
"They're like pink roses, to show gratitude and closing the deal...not that I'm saying we're going to forget Wally, but to show how much we've grown from that experience. It's just a way of representing closure."
She brought the flower up to brush her lips to the petals and then brought the old photo up to her face and kissed Wally's photoed self. She threw out her arm and the rose slipped out of her fingers. Gravity pulled it down to the water below them.
Dick took the photo back and smiled serenely at it. "Hey dude, I just wanted to say that I'll take care of her for you. I know how you used to worry over the stuff she pulled, saying she did things much worse than our teenage shenanigans. She has yet to prove that. As far as I know, we're the best at what we do. I hope you're doing alright wherever you are. I know you can take care of yourself, so there's no need to worry over that. I once thought there was only room big enough in my heart to actually love just one person, I mean I have different compartments for different types of love, but I always thought you were the only one whom I could love like that. Apparently, I was wrong. Yeah, the hacker thought wrong.
"Remember those times when you used to rant and rave, sigh and wonder at all the little things that made your heart stop about her? I understand, bro. Boy, do I understand. The way she laughs, it's like one of those little music boxes that any person would enjoy, it's unique in it's sound and joyful to listen to. Her lips, they're just like this rose, a simple shade of peach. They're plump and moist. I could kiss them for hours and not get tired of it. Her eyes...these eyes of hers...they won't let you get away with anything. She knows when you're trying to hide something, which makes it damned difficult to surprise her, but they help when she tries to hide something. It's like a blue tinted glass that gives you a glimpse of how she's truly feeling.
"I could go on and on about what I love about her. She's just that amazing, and I was happy to let you date her. I wasn't aware of just how amazing she was back then, but I knew. I miss you, Wally. Nothing will never change that...unless, of course, you decide to reappear. Artemis and I know that you won't come back, but we still hope. I love you, man."
Richard copied the small ritual she had done before. The both of them watched the rose touch the waters and meet up with its partner. They sat there, stared out at the sun sparkled waters with a perfect calmness that surrounded the both of them. His hand searched for hers until they were clasped before he turned to look at her.
Her head turned to look at him, and her breath caught at the way he lovingly gazed into her eyes. "Hmm?"
"I love you."
"I love you too, Dick."
A/N: I hope you guys enjoyed this little bittersweet fic as much as I've enjoyed (and cried) through writing this.