My first Young Justice fic, oh me, oh my. This pairing doesn't get enough love 'round these parts, nor anywhere, really, particularly LJ, where all the gay, kinky – er, quality fics are! Yeesh. I decided it would be an okay idea to try to fix this problem by listening to too much 80s music and then writing my own jumble of idiocy to throw in. And HOLY LORD, THIS THING BLEW UP. 4,000 words later, here we are!
My boyfriend says this fic is stupid and pretentious. I hope you don't think the same.
CHEESY CHEESY CHEESY. You know how much I dig the cheesy.
I ship these two. So hard. Don't even get me started on the Artemis hate. You guys must be pretty dim if you actually think she's the mole; I think the only thing she is right now is a big fat red herring. You want my guess for the mole? That robot thing Superboy got in episode nine. YEP.
IT WILL BREAK MANY HEARTS.
Disclaimer: I screwed the canon even more than the show did. I don't own a blasted thing.
Wally West does not, by any stretch of the imagination, miss Artemis Crock.
He would like to make it abundantly clear that rooms do not feel empty and cold without her. He would also like to establish that there is no conceivable way that Super Smash Brothers Brawl seems pointless without Samus Aran's aptly-operated form blasting him off the screen at every turn, nor is there the slightest chance that he sometimes walks by the old room that had often been blocked by a closed door with the frivolous, aching hopes that maybe she'll be sitting there, obsessively adjusting her precious bow. That would be completely absurd, because Artemis is – was – infuriating and smug and acerbic and overly confident and self-absorbed and apathetic and pretentious and moody and everything else that he despises in a girl.
Never mind what Robin says. Robin is thirteen, and therefore an idiot. Robin is Batman's sidekick, and therefore emotionally incapable. Robin is his best friend, and therefore not to be taken seriously. Wally does not associate with people who can be taken seriously.
Wally West does not feel betrayed. He had never found Artemis to be particularly trustworthy to begin with, nor had he ever come even vaguely close to accepting her as a confidante, teammate, friend, acquaintance, or person. He insists that he is not even close to being as hurt as M'gann is, or as disappointed as Kaldur is, or as silently angry as Superboy is, or as overwhelmed as Robin is. Rather, he is a bit surprised by the fact that everyone's so damn upset, because he certainly isn't. No, sir. Not one bit.
Wally West does not remember the way she smelled. Fuck no. He is not at all privy to the fact that the shampoo she uses makes her hair carry the scent of pine needles (what a stupid thing for shampoo to do, anyway). He never once paid attention to the way her eyes glinted whenever he made a particularly good joke, despite the fact that she resisted smiling. He does not fondly and dolefully recall her soft, throaty chuckle; he does not stop watching ninja movies because of her, and he definitely, one hundred percent, does not punch a dent in his bedroom wall in anguish.
Wally West is happy as a clam. Honest. He couldn't be happier. Artemis Crock is off to fight for the other side, with her stupid smirk and her stupid arrows and her stupid backflips and her stupid comebacks and her stupid saunter. If anything, he's immensely pleased: now he can beat her up and insult her and kick her and knock her unconscious and throw her off a cliff and not get in trouble for it; rather, he'll be congratulated, hailed as a total boss. He'll be doing both teams a favour.
Please ignore the way Wally's eyes dull when Artemis' name is mentioned in scattered corners of conversation. Pay no mind to the way he wipes his nose with the back of his hand, to the way his gaze flickers downwards, to the way he never once says anything against her, to the way he leaves the room when the team starts trying in vain to explain her motives so they won't feel so terrible, so she won't look like such a bitch. These are all merely tricks. He's being clever. After all, if he acted happy straight away, people would give him sour looks. They would glare at him. They would think he is insensitive and rude.
Wally West is not insensitive, nor is he rude, nor – and he'll say this again; pay attention! – is he at all sad that Artemis left. He definitely threw her arrow away, beaming at the space it freed up on his souvenir shelf. It is certainly not sitting under his bed, gathering dust. Why would it be? Why would he keep something like that? Not in the hopes that she would come back and get it, being the anal, fussy arrow-collector that she is. He is practically spitting on her dignity by discarding one of her weapons on the floor. She's probably so pissed right now, lurking in the shadows with a dour expression, and nothing pleases him more.
M'gann's voice is demure and cautious as it drifts out from the doorway to Wally's bedroom. He turns, setting his barbells down on the floor as he eyes her with disinterest.
What the hell? He has never eyed M'gann with disinterest.
She is standing awkwardly in a point between the hallway and the door, picking at her skirt, lips folded together in thought.
"That's my name, babe," he says as he flashes her a smile. "It sounds so much nicer when you say it."
A smile twitches across her cheeks, and her eyes glitter for a moment.
"May I come in?"
"Do you even need to ask?" He cocks an eyebrow and throws an arm out in welcome. "Entrez-vous, mademoiselle."
"Artemis spoke French," M'gann blurts out instantly, hands now balled into nervous fists. Wally freezes.
"Uh. Yes. I guess she did," he mumbles, trying to sound like he doesn't care and failing with flying colours.
M'gann nods affirmatively, taking a large step forward to enter the room completely. She spares a glance at the pile of smelly sweatshirts and socks directly to her left. She fiddles with the folds of her skirt again, biting her lip apprehensively, her cheeks flushed. The red against the green is jarring.
"I had just wanted to," she whispers, then clears her throat and her voice is a little more audible, "to tell you that I… Superboy and myself… are…"
Wally doesn't need her to finish her sentence it trails off into fretful silence. He loosens a little, in something that could be incorrectly interpreted as disappointment, his eyelids lowering slightly.
"Okay," he says simply, with no trace of malice. M'gann's head jerks up, her brown eyes glistening with gratitude, and grins warmly. Wally cannot find her to be vindictive in the slightest. M'gann and Superboy. Superboy and M'gann. It sounded fluid – no awkward bumps or pauses.
Wally West is definitely not a vague semblance of relieved when M'gann tells him about her and Superboy. He is definitely not happy for them, and he cares a great deal. He is absolutely, completely heartbroken and absolutely, completely jealous of Superboy, because M'gann is absolutely, completely adorable and kind-hearted and—
"It is all right to miss her." Wally is startled from his introspection by M'gann's hushed, sympathetic tones. He swallows, breaking eye contact, and the Martian girl tilts her head empathetically, looking at him with something equal to pity. "Everyone does."
"Don't know why," Wally retorts breezily, turning away from her to resume his activities with the barbells. The sweat gathering on the back of his neck is definitely from physical effort, and not at all from the topic of conversation. "She totally turned her back on us. Told you she would."
"You have not been listening," M'gann interrupts emphatically, and Wally almost looks at her with surprise, but forces himself to keep staring as neutrally as possible at the wall. "Batman has said—"
"Batman said this," Wally snarls. "Green Arrow said that. Artemis this, Artemis that. Poor baby Artemis; she didn't know what she was doing; she had to—"
"She did," M'gann insists, and it's the closest to angry that Wally has ever heard her be.
"Don't even pretend she's on our side, M," Wally grunts as he lifts one barbell, then the other. "If she's got even you fooled, you must be dumber than Supey."
What M'gann does is something very close to not dignifying that with a response.
"She will be back," she tries hopefully, her voice brightening. "I know she will. She will… sure show them?" She glances at him in hopes of confirmation on whether or not this phrase is correct. He nods stiffly.
"She won't," Wally snaps. "Quit kidding yourself."
M'gann's brow furrows. "You are being very unpleasant, Wally."
"Yeah, well, sue me for it, beautiful," he replies as flirtatiously, and then falters. Beautiful. He never, ever called Artemis that; not even once. Definitely not. Ever. Stop asking.
M'gann straightens and immediately leaves, her feet pounding against the floor as she strides viciously down the hall. Wally doesn't blink, but instead throws one barbell at the floor, where it makes a crack in the foundation beneath the bright red carpet.
Before you get any ideas, it is definitely not because of Artemis. Because, as you may recall, Wally West indubitably, unquestionably, conclusively, unequivocally does not care.
His communicator bleeps quizzically at three-twelve in the morning sometime in October, waking him instantly. He grumbles and swears and puts his pillow over his ears, gritting his teeth, but the device does not cease its tirade. After a moment, he grunts and snatches it off of the bedside table, squinting peevishly at its illuminated screen.
His jaw tightens. His eyes widen. And his heart, well; it certainly doesn't abruptly stop beating or anything.
Wally drops the communicator. It clatters to the floor, and suddenly, the beeping stops. Not because it is broken; not because it suddenly turned off. It simply stops. The call stops.
Wally does not sit up until daybreak with his head in his hands and his protuberant eyes staring at the carpet. That would be stupid. No, Wally simply turns right the hell over and goes back to sleep without a moment's hesitation, because that is how Kid Flash rolls, and, he keeps reminding himself, they are supposed to be the same person.
Wally West does not feel sad. That is an outlandish thing to suggest; what are you, an idiot? Wally West does not cry. He does not hang his head. He does not grimace or sniffle or whimper. He grins and bears it because, hey, it's life, and if you can't be happy, what can you be?
Robin is the first to make this mistake. He is the first to fall prey to the delusion that Wally is somehow despondent about her abrupt departure, and that he must go out of the way to comfort him about this matter. Wally has tried to make it as clear as possible that he is practically dancing in the streets about Artemis' absence, and only hopes that it will be as permanent as that self-satisfied expression that had always been on her face.
"There's a lot you don't get, dude," Robin says darkly one evening when he finds Wally pacing around on the roof, kicking rocks into the harbor. Wally grumbles noncommittally.
"What do you care?" he snaps with a sigh, stuffing his hands into his pockets. "I couldn't be happier."
Robin snickers, and the loud pfft that comes from his mouth is a clap in the wind. "Yeah, right."
"I'm serious," Wally insists. He bends down to pick up a particularly large rock and throws it as hard as he can out over the still water.
"This is a pretty bad act you're putting on, man," Robin snorts. "Definitely whelmed."
Wally throws his head back in jocular exasperation. Robin smirks, but it doesn't last; his features grow serious again after a moment. The mask seems tight over his face.
"Bats told me a lot," he whispers conspiratorially, circumventing the area cautiously as though fearing that the Dark Knight will come creeping out of the shadows and take away his Playstation. "I mean, like, I can't repeat any of it, but… she's not what you think she is. Seriously."
"Oh, go away," Wally hisses, fed up with being treated like there's something he's missing. The situation is very explicit to him: Artemis is a hag, a backstabber, and a cheater at Super Smash Brothers Brawl. How else would she have always been able to beat him? "I'm not stupid. She's a traitor. Unless Batman's a blatant liar and the Shadows are idiots, that's what happened. She betrayed us. Big deal." He shrugs in the most bored way he can manage. "I knew it would happen."
"Your voice is cracking," Robin points out slyly.
"Haha, no, you must be hearing an echo of yours," Wally bites back. "My little broski's growing up so fast. Next thing you know, that Babs chick'll have her panties in a knot because you didn't ask her to the dance on Friday."
"What?" Robin pales. "Babs? No. What? Totally not." He pauses. "There's a dance on Friday?"
Wally nods slowly with a pointed leer.
And then, in the flutter of a cape and the burst of a breeze, Robin is gone, and the topic is dropped. Wally would not have it any other way. He sighs, leaning back on the balls of his feet, and the maritime breeze ruffles his hair idly. He exhales, and a jet of steam puffs out into the air.
Wally thinks. Wally thinks that maybe, maybe, he misses Artemis just a little bit, but only because there's nobody to argue with anymore. But no, he tells himself after a heartbeat of a second – he does not miss Artemis. That would be gross. You only miss somebody if you love them, or like them, and Wally would like to make one thing crystal clear here: he hates Artemis Crock.
(She is a total crock.)
Kaldur's vague attempt at "big brother comfort" comes straight out of left field for Wally. This is perhaps why he does not deny anything – he is too taken aback. Taken aback by what? The audacity? The suddenness? The truth of it?
As the team disperses after a debriefing with Batman after a mission that has ended in many bruises and sprinkled groans of pain whenever a body part touches anything, Kaldur takes him aside. He's too exhausted to run anywhere, and usually he's the first one out. He must be off his game.
"You have seemed… distracted as of late," Kaldur states evenly, his steely gaze focused eerily on Wally, scrutinizing him. The speedster fidgets under the Atlantean's stare.
"Nah, not hugely," Wally explains as breezily as possible; that is, not breezily at all. "Probably just the cold weather. I hate it when it gets cloudy."
Kaldur nods pensively, brows deepening. Wally gulps.
"This is not, by any chance, due to the absence of Artemis?" Kaldur suggests cautiously, arms folded, all business.
Wally lets out an incredulous scoff.
"Give me a break!" he exclaims. The words are so overused by now; he can hardly stand saying them. "The only thing that could make me happier would be if you'd let me go take a nap." He starts to walk off, but Kaldur's hand flashes out and grabs his wrist, yanking him back. Wally yelps.
"Do not attempt to avoid the question," Kaldur orders, his voice smooth and straightforward. Wally droops as he realizes he cannot very well get out of this one. "I have had M'gann keep… an eye on your thoughts. And you are distracted, as I have said. You are attempting to convince yourself that you do not miss Artemis, when, in fact, you do, and very much so." His expression has not even vaguely changed. It's creepy. Wally would ordinarily have been insulted by the fact that M'gann has been probing into his mind, but somehow, he doesn't mind very much. He has had a feeling that she has been doing as much for a while. "This is a bad thing to be concerned about, especially because the brunt of your attention should be focused on assignments and the tasks at hand. It is fruitless to think of her at this time."
"Fruitless?" Wally sneers. "What, is she coming back or something? If she tries, I'll deck her." Kaldur's eyebrows go up in astonishment. "I will."
"I was under the impression that you considered it to be philosophically unacceptable to hit a girl," Kaldur says, gaze darkening again. Wally puts his hands in his pockets and looks away defiantly.
"I totally do. But Artemis Crock is not a girl; she's a harpy. I have no qualms about punching her in all the places it'll hurt," he growls, and he's absolutely certain that he means it, because why else would he say it?
"It is disrespectful to speak that way of a teammate, former or otherwise," Kaldur warns him. Wally snorts derisively.
"Please. Like she could even come close to the honor being called a teammate. That chick was a double-crossing shrew from the second she was born, I'll bet. She was definitely one when she showed up here." His lower lip goes out in something peculiarly similar to a pout. "Like anybody even wanted her to—"
"That is beyond the point," Kaldur interjects firmly, and Wally looks up at him sheepishly. "Do not permit yourself to dwell on the disloyalty of Artemis. The denial you are cycling through seems extremely exhausting."
He puts a hand on Wally's shoulder and squeezes it. Wally resists the urge to squirm away. Kaldur is frowning unyieldingly at him.
"We have other things to worry about at this time," he says. "Artemis Crock is the absolute least of our worries. You will see that soon enough, but only if you stop being an ignorant, stubborn child. I would have thought that this would have taught you something about your feelings toward Artemis, but apparently, I was incorrect in my assumptions. You remain the same, ever the resentful one. We have all accepted her departure with no animosity, and we have received an acceptable explanation for it, yet you continue to avoid hearing these excuses, instead choosing to cause conflict both with yourself and your teammates. I am only going to tell you this once. Do not disappoint your team again."
Wally bristles, but Kaldur is already out the door by the time he starts to open his mouth in a retort.
He resigns to talking to the empty room instead.
"Disappoint my team? Disappoint my team? Speaking of crocks!" He wheels on the door that Kaldur just exited through, hands fisted at his sides in fury. "Like you know anything, Gills!" He storms out in the direction of the sparring room, hissing and spitting like an offended alley cat. "Feelings toward Artemis. Like hell I've got any of those! I hope she trips and gets one of those stupid arrows up her ass!"
It is high time that Wally West admits something.
He wishes Artemis would come back.
He wishes that empty seat at the dinner table would be filled again.
He wishes that he could play ping-pong with someone who isn't as inept as Robin or terrified as M'gann or unnecessarily strong as Superboy.
He wishes that ninja movies wouldn't make him grit his teeth and leave the room anymore.
He wishes that Artemis would come back.
He wishes that he could understand her. He wishes that he could accept her, that she would swoop in and tell him all her secrets, that he could have made her feel just a little bit more welcome, because he is very likely the one she is thinking about the least at this moment. He is probably the one she is gladdest to get away from.
He wishes that he could apologize.
(And, though he is not aware of this, in her cold room in the cold bunker below Sportsmaster's home base, she wishes she could apologize, too.)
Superboy, of all the damn people in the world, is the one to get Wally to admit it out loud. This surprises Wally immensely, more than talking to Kaldur had. He and Superboy very rarely communicate directly, much less about anything as touchy-feely as feelings. Half the time, he's convinced that Superboy has no feelings at all.
The taller, huskier boy towers over Wally, his chiseled jaw clenched. Wally can see a muscle twitching near his earlobe.
"You're pissing me off," Superboy says simply, knuckles cracking. Wally cocks his head.
"Okay. Thanks for the memo. Care to throw in a footnote of why?" he asks sarcastically, hands on his hips.
Superboy's glower is ferocious, and Wally resists the instinct to cower.
"Don't screw around. You miss her."
Wally is astounded that he says what he does next.
"Yeah. Okay. Sure; a little. Please leave all my limbs intact."
"Artemis is a double agent," Superboy growls, his tone drawn tight with frustration. "Batman's told us a hundred goddamn times, but you've never been there because you can't be bothered, right? Better not admit that Artemis is anything but a deceptive hellcat."
Wally is dumbfounded. He had never thought that he would hear the words double agent and Artemis in the same sentence.
"She. Double. What?" he burbles. Superboy squints, and Wally can tell that it is taking every effort on the part of his companion to resist the urge to punch him all the way to Pluto.
"She's on our side!" The last bit is roared so loudly that Wally is almost blown out of the room, and he puts his hands over his ears, doubling over.
"Holy balls, Supey!" he yells, glaring at the square-chested boy opposite him. "Cool your jets!"
"God, you're such an idiot," Superboy snarls, his hands clenched so tightly that Wally's sure they'll cave in. "If you had just stuck around to listen to Batman for once in your life—"
"Look, brainiac. Artemis has to make it look like she turned her back on us so the League of Shadows will think she's on their side. She's providing intel to Batman about everything they do, even about Ra's al Ghul. She used to work for them, but she wanted to turn over a new leaf, and the whole time she's trying you're acting like you've got a rock up your ass—"
Superboy punches the wall – it does not respond to his fury, but does yield to it, breaking around his fist – and stomps deafeningly out of the room, repeating something very similar to "asshole, asshole, asshole" under his breath with each rhythmic step.
"Yeah, you'd better run!" Wally shouts long after he's gone.
And then – and yes, he is willing to admit this – he feels like, as Superboy so eloquently put it, an asshole.
Wally West definitely does not risk his life upwards of a dozen times when they invade Sportsmaster's base to get her back when her jig is up. He does not fight off twenty men to reach her cell. He does not receive a bloody nose and a broken wrist from any of them. He does not put himself in the path of one of Sportsmaster's goons' guns to protect her. He does not get that bullet wound in the shoulder for her.
Wally West does not slow down for anybody. He could have just kept running. If he ever had to slow down for somebody, he would not have come even close to imagining that it would be Artemis Crock. He would not have foreseen that she would be kneeling beside him on the ride back with something close to tears ghosting down her cheeks. He does not smile adoringly at her, and he does not say anything even remotely similar to "I missed you, beautiful."
Because Wally West is not the sort to admit that he was wrong. Wally West is as tenacious as he is quick, as confident as he is obnoxious. When Artemis comes back, nothing really changes. They still bicker, but it is with a subtle fondness now. And even with the omnipresent threat of a now-very-angry League of Shadows lurking over Happy Harbor, Wally West feels invincible. He feels like he can run around the world and not get tired, which, granted, he probably can.
Artemis teases him. He mocks her. They fight, they fume, they shake hands (and hug once, only once, but don't tell Wally you know this), they make up, and Wally is definitely not happy to have her back, and he is irrefutably not starting to think that there is perhaps something besides belligerent loathing between him and Artemis, because she smiles at him now, and she doesn't really smile at anybody else; she just smirks. And Wally does not – does not – does not – feel special.