PLEASE READ BEFORE YOU START: First of all, this is not going to be a normal story with a normal plot. This will be a series of one-shots in chronological order that build upon each other, focusing on moments of interaction between Wally and Artemis as they become closer friends, and perhaps something more. Love isn't always black and white, yes or no. Love isn't a lightning bolt of realization; love is a gradual fire that grows from a single spark, and whether that fire is powerful enough to create passion, or is stopped by a torrent of water, well, only time can tell. In addition, Wally and Artemis are only 15, and who truly knows what love is at that age? So come join me on this journey and see where the wind will blow these two.
When I outlined this entire story, I was unaware of Artemis's eye color because I was confused over how the show portrayed them, and how the tie-in comics did. When I later found out there's canonically grey, it was too late to change some of the scenes. I try to emphasize the grey more often, but sometimes there are flecks of blue.
Secondly, when I outlined this story, Wally's birthday episode hadn't aired. Therefore, I made his birthday in April, and Artemis's in November. Please don't message me about these things because I will ignore and delete them. Thank you!
Thirdly, the dates correspond with the dates on the show. There are many chapters that reference certain episodes, like "Homefront", and "Insecurity". So I guess head's up.
Rated T for language and minor adult innuendos.
Inspired by "It Only Takes a Moment" by EmaniaHilel, a Teen Titans fiction focusing on the relationship between Raven and Robin, and hands down my favorite piece of writing on this site.
Disclaimer: I do not own Young Justice D:
A Lingering Feeling
n. The first appearance of daylight in the morning; The beginning or rise of anything.
v. To begin to grow light in the morning; To begin to open or develop
August 20, 6:02 EDT
The first thing Artemis noticed when she gradually woke was the smell. It wasn't an unpleasant odor; it was actually quite comforting. It smelled like a swirl of lavender and vanilla, mixed with the scent of rainwater on stone. However, this is what bothered her. This wasn't what her room was supposed to smell like. Her room smelled like the pine from her bed-frame, and laundry detergent—default smells that could never be evaded or changed.
The second thing Artemis observed was the darkness surrounding her. The window in her bedroom faced east, and no matter which way she turned or how tightly she shut her eyes, the morning sun would always find a way to sneak past her defenses and fill her senses. Even the curtains of nighttime couldn't shroud against the brightness; the street-lamp from outside her window never relented its fluorescent glow that trickled through her blinds like an annoying cold draft.
And lastly, Artemis became aware of the sheets around her. They were the softest cocoon of warmth she had ever felt in her life. Her sheets back home only served their purpose as being night-time insulation—nothing more, nothing less.
Finally, after noting these differences, alarm surged through her, but Artemis remained calm. Years of training had taught her "she who panics first, dies first". She leveled her breathing, and gazed through the darkness, using her ears to listen for the faintest noise, while she willed her mind to remember…
"Batman will debrief you all in the morning. In the meantime, I suggest you all stay here for the night, as there is no point in going home at such a late hour." Red Tornado finished his message, and turned to walk away…
"Ahem. You never said what happened to you when you put on the helmet."
"Energy from the thing rewrote my brain's beta-waves. I was bio-scripted into becoming Doctor Fate for a few minutes. No big."
"Wait. You're still claiming there's no such thing as magic? If that's how you feel, why keep it at all?"
A relieved sigh escaped Artemis' lips and she chuckled to herself. It was always disorienting at first to wake up in a different area. She sat up, and the lights in the room automatically flickered on, revealing a fairly large stone room, with her bed in the center. She looked down at her sheets and lightly glided her fingers across. She leaned over and picked up her watch from the nightstand, and peered at the time. It was too early for Batman's debriefing, but to go back to sleep seemed like a waste of time since she was already awake. She slid out of the bed and headed for the closet. Even though she, Robin, Wally, and Kaldur didn't live here, they each had a designated room, and a closet filled with clothes, reserved for impromptu over-night stays like this. Artemis reached for a shirt, when her eyes fell upon something else. For a second she hesitated, and then her hand changed its course and picked it up. Why not? she thought. It was always something she had wanted to do ever since coming to Happy Harbor.
Minutes later, Artemis stepped out onto the beach, wearing an emerald halter-bikini set and holding a towel under one arm. The sky was clearing from the nighttime rainstorm, but as she walked, she could feel the cold and damp sand crumble between her toes. She spotted someone sitting alone a distance away, with his knees drawn up to his chest as he faced the sea in deep contemplation. Artemis smiled and made her way quietly towards him, her footsteps as delicate as a jungle cat's.
"Isn't it a bit too early for life-guard duty, Bay-Watch?"
Startled, Wally whipped his head around at her voice, but then just grumbled when he saw it was only Artemis. "Isn't it a bit too early to be out of your tower, Rapunzel?"
"Ha, that's actually a good one!" Artemis laid down her towel on the sand next to him and sat down. She followed his gaze towards the gray line between sea and sky. She stretched out her legs in front of her and leaned back on her elbows. "Couldn't sleep?"
"No, actually, I'm sleepwalking," replied Wally sarcastically. He glanced over and finally noticed what Artemis was—or actually in this case, wasn't—wearing.
"Great," she replied in the same tone. "Since you won't remember any of this when you wake up, I can technically ask you anything."
Wally shrugged, but remained silent, not because he was trying to be difficult, but because he was trying to figure out why the hell Artemis was wearing that right now next to him.
"Like, what actually happened to you when you put on the Helmet of Fate," continued Artemis.
Wally found his voice with great difficulty. "I told you," he replied. "I was bio-scripted into—"
"Wait," Artemis pushed herself up and turned to face him, "so you remember nothing of the incident? You just put on the helmet, and then it felt like you were...well, sleepwalking?"
Wally slowly moved his head and gazed back into her eyes. It puzzled him how they always seemed to change color. Sometimes they looked like ice, and sometimes they appeared almost black, but right now they were a clear and questioning gray. "Annnnd why do you want to know?" he asked.
"Just curious," Artemis sighed and leaned back down, this time all the way onto her back with her hands folded on top of her abdomen. "It's not every day that someone you know becomes Doctor Fate…It's kind of like asking someone back from the dead what the after-life is like, you know?"
Wally remained quiet and stared off into the sea, his eyes following the continuous forming and crashing of each wave. "I watched him die," he finally answered in a low voice. "He just…died…right in front of me…I tried giving him CPR, but he was already gone."
Artemis shifted her head to face Wally, but he had leaned forward so she found herself looking at the back of his yellow shirt. His honest admittance startled her. She would have believed herself to be the last person on the team he would hold back any qualms about exposing his inner thoughts and emotions. It had only been twelve days since they met, and on the wrong foot at that, and yet here he was, making her the first person to hear his true thoughts about his experience with Kent.
She bit her lip and looked back at the sky. "I'm sorry…" she said softly, not knowing what else to say to something so raw.
Wally wasn't sure what was prompting him to be so transparent with the girl next to him—the same hot-headed girl that seemed to make it her personal mission to argue with everything he said. Maybe it was just the somber topic, or the fact that he just had to talk to someone—anyone. But he also knew that for some unknown reason, past all the bickering and rolling eyes, he found it easy to talk to Artemis, and continued to voice more of his thoughts.
"And that's why I'm out here so early in the morning. I kept having dreams—nightmares—about him. I couldn't get the image of him dying out of my head, and each time my mind would replay it, the scenario would be different, and a lot more…" His voice trailed off and he fell back into silence.
Artemis didn't respond, but continued to stare quietly at the silver-blue sky above her, lost in her own disconcerting thoughts. I know exactly what you mean, she pictured telling him in her mind, unable to find the resolution to voice it out loud.
"I've never seen anyone die before," whispered Wally, his voice barely audible over the murmuring of the waves. "Like, I didn't even know him, you know, but when he fell down and became still, it…it was—"
"Like feeling your soul suddenly detach from your body, and there isn't anything in the world except you and them."
Artemis gave a little start, having realized that she had just voiced her thoughts out loud accidentally. She nervously glanced at Wally, and found him staring quizzically back at her. A million excuses darted through her head, but she couldn't think of one fast enough before…
"Yeah," Wally agreed, still looking over his shoulder at the archer. "It does feel a little bit like that. How…?"
Artemis turned the opposite direction to hide her face. "Where I come from, y-you see a lot of that…" She focused on the small mounds of sand within her vision, tracing their gentle slopes and valleys with her eyes and imagining them as dunes in the Sahara.
Wally turned back and rested his head on his bent knees. He had a feeling she had more to say, but had no desire to voice them, and for once he didn't taunt her.
Finally Artemis spoke again, breaking the silence with her soft voice:"'Life is a great sunrise. I do not see why death should not be an even greater one.'"
"I never thought you to be the philosophical type, Rapunzel."
"It's a quote by Vladimir Nabokov. And are you going to keep calling me that from now on, Bay-Watch?"
Wally ignored her, and continued to gaze towards the ocean where the yellow rays of the sun reached out from the gates of daybreak. "Why couldn't death be a great sunset then?"
"I suppose it could be if you don't believe in an afterlife."
"Tch, not really…" He paused and his thoughts lingered on Kent's conversation about "ascending". "Actually," he finally admitted, "I don't know anymore." A hush fell between the two again, before Wally continued, "And I wish I could say he's in a better place, but his soul is still trapped inside the Helmet, for who knows how long…"
Artemis raised an eyebrow. "And you know this because…?"
"Um, when I put the Helmet on, I got um, sucked inside of it?" He wasn't sure why he ended the statement with a question, but maybe it was because it sounded extremely odd saying all this out loud. "Kent said his soul remained inside since he spent so many years with the Helmet on. And when I was inside, I could see everything, and feel everything. " He winced, remembering. "I could only take the Helmet off after Kent made a bargain with Nabu that he would stay inside, instead of me." Wally paused. "And it makes we wonder if that decision was too selfish of me."
Suddenly he felt a warm hand on his shoulder, and turned around to find that Artemis had sat back up and was looking at him concernedly. "I think Kent knew what he was doing," she said. "And you did the right thing. You saved the world from Klarion and Abra Kadabra."
Wally managed a small smile. "Well, I can't believe I'm saying this but, um, thanks."
"No prob, Bay-Watch," returned the archer. She removed her hand from his shoulder and returned her attention to the scenery before them. "You know, I've never actually seen a sunrise on the beach before."
"It's calming," the speedster pointed out.
She feigned a gasp of surprise. "You, calm? Is that even possible?"
And to her amazement, Wally didn't retaliate with a witty comment of his own. He instead just kept his eyes on the sky-line, and Artemis joined him in observing the breaking of dawn. Remnants of the night's rain-clouds drifted lazily through the steel-blue sky, like haggard creatures worn out from battle, only seeking to retire in their heavenly beds of blue. The jade-green sea was calm, and moved in its eternal dance of inhaling and exhaling waves. Birds began darting around, calling out their good-morning's. Far off, from the edge of the sea, the golden sun climbed higher, reaching its triangular rays out from beneath the gray clouds and outlining them with its rosy light.
"There goes your twin brother Apollo in his chariot," Wally teased.
Artemis snorted. "If only I had a dollar for every time I heard that."
The two fell silent again, and to the waves and birds. A warm breeze brushed past, and it carried a trickle of the scent of sun-block to Wally. Finally he spoke up, breaking the stillness between them. "Um, so…what are you doing here so early?"
"I thought I'd go for a swim," Artemis answered, nodding at the water.
Oh right, D'UH WALLY, that's why she's wearing…that, he thought, mentally giving himself a slap. "Um, why don't you just swim in our pool?" he asked pointedly.
"Why swim in a pool when you have an ocean? Swimming in a pool is a false sense of freedom," she elaborated. "You twirl and glide effortlessly and weightlessly…but in the end you're still enclosed by four concrete walls. It's like an underwater hamster wheel. This—" she gestured towards the sea, "—is the real deal."
"Well, except for the fact that you can't swim too deep or far out."
"I could if I wanted to." She stretched out her arms against her legs and lowered them to grab the soles of her feet, holding her pose.
"Chyea, and then I'd have to go wake up Kaldur to find you, and hell hath no fury like a groggy Atlantian."
"But I won't. I could, but I won't, and that's the thing. The sea gives me choices that a pool couldn't." Artemis slowly rose back up, and began stretching her arm muscles.
"There are sharks too," he pointed out. "Great Whites, Tiger Sharks, Thresher Sharks…"
"I guess that's the price for freedom—or for anything worth having in life," she mused, bringing one arm and then the other against her chest too loosen up her shoulders. "Nothing good ever comes without a chance of sacrifice…" She put one hand behind her, and twisted her back, hearing and feeling the satisfying popping noises. She turned around and repeated in the opposite direction. "Hmm, you almost sound like you don't want me to go swimming in the ocean."
Wally brushed her off. "Tch. What gives you that idea? Like I care what you do around here."
Artemis lied back down on her towel and started doing crunches. Wally happened to glance over at her abdominal muscles, and reminded himself to never stop working out if he wanted to get on her level. "Let's see," said Artemis between her sit-ups. "Telling me not to swim too deep…or too far out…and to watch out for sharks…Are you going to remind me to put on sun-block next?"
Wally scoffed and jerked away. "Ugh, no way am I falling for that stupid flirting trick."
"What!?" Artemis stopped and sat up quickly, and then glowered when she realized what he had meant. "Wally, sometimes I just want to punch you."
The speedster stuck out his tongue at her. "You can't touch what you can't catch."
Artemis narrowed her eyes. "And for the record, I already have sun-block on."
Yeah, I can tell, Wally was about to say, but stopped himself. "The water looks cold," he said instead.
"Just because it looks cold, doesn't mean it is cold," stated Artemis. "And besides," she turned and gave him a small smile, her eyes now a light blue, "you never know unless you put your foot in, right?" She stood up and executed a perfect back-bend, and swung her legs through the air until she was on her feet again.
Wally raised an eyebrow. "Show-off." Suddenly, a hand was in front of his face. He looked up and saw Artemis stretching out her palm.
"Come on," she said, wiggling her fingers. "Let's go swim."
"Let's?" he repeated, taken aback.
"Well, I need to use something to distract the sharks away from me."
"Ha, very funny," Wally took her hand and stood up. "You mean you're too scared to go swim alone."
Artemis snorted. "Good luck trying to find something that scares me."
He crossed his arms and cocked an eyebrow. "Challenge accepted."
"Whatever Bay-Watch. At least I'm not the one wearing Batman boxers."
Wally looked down and inwardly screamed. In his hazy post-nightmare condition of hastily wandering out towards the beach for some fresh air, he had forgotten to put on any pants (or shoes, but that was unimportant). In any case, he had expected to be alone anyway. But the sun now clearly illuminated the grey bat symbols against the black background of his boxers' fabric. Great, just great, he mentally kicked himself.
"Batman? Really?" Artemis cocked an eyebrow and tried her hardest not to laugh. "Isn't that sort of a betrayal to your mentor?"
Wally looked back up at a grinning Artemis and gritted his teeth. "You…this…I can't believe…"
"Tell you what fan-boy," she replied, her blue eyes twinkling with mirth: "You swim with me, and I'll keep your peculiar wardrobe choices a secret."
Wally huffed. Maybe he should have stayed inside that Helmet after all. Artemis grabbed his wrist and tugged him towards the waves.
"Come on, Wal-man, time for you to get this party start—" She paused, before emphasizing the last syllable, "—ed!"
"This is so not fair!" But he reluctantly followed Artemis and her vice-like iron grip. When the first wave of water hit his feet, he repeated himself again in an agonizing cry. "This is totally not fair! The water is ice-cold!"
"Is not!" Artemis shouted back. "It's fine, you big wuss!"
"Are your neurons dead?!" He yanked his wrist from her grasp, and turned around, but before he could take one step towards the safety of drier (and warmer) land, a wall of cold hit his back and nearly knocked the air out of him. He whipped around and found Artemis submerged up to her stomach, laughing. She stuck out her tongue and quickly splashed him again.
"Arg!" Wally brought his arms to his face, but he felt the stinging cold all the same. "You're a dead goddess, Artemis!" Ignoring the sudden temperature change, he charged through the waves at her, and would have caught her if she had not slipped under the water at the last minute. He paused, and then scanned the surface. Sure enough, Artemis surfaced a few yards away.
"You sure don't live up to your name, Kid Snail!" she called.
Wally smirked. "Oh we'll see about that!" He plunged into the water (Holy mother of ….! It's cold!) and propelled his feet in her general direction. The same principal of super-speed worked on land and in water. He reached out his arms and crashed into her torso, pulling her beneath the waves with him. Artemis kneed him in the chest on instinct, and he let go. Both rushed to the surface and inhaled gratefully. Artemis coughed and smiled at him, her breath coming out in fast little bursts through her cherry lips.
"See?" she said between gasps of air. "The water…isn't…that cold. All you needed…was a bit of…motivation!"
Suddenly Wally's eyes widened and he pointed a finger behind her. "SHARK!" he yelled.
However, Artemis remained unfazed. "I told you," she said with a bored expression, "nothing scares me. And plus, you really thought I was going to fall for that stupid trick?"
Wally lowered his hand and raised an eyebrow at her. "Nothing scares you huh? Scary movies? Haunted houses?"
She shook her head. "You know what I did when I saw 'The Grudge'? I fell asleep."
"Challenge accepted," said Wally again. He would have crossed his arms too, if they weren't needed for keeping him a float.
Artemis let out of sharp bark of laughter. "Well if it's you parading around in Green Lantern boxers, then I'll pass."
"Not everyone is obsessed with the color green like you." He quickly reached up to brush a stray wet strand of red hair from his eyes. "In case you haven't noticed, it's all about the color red."
In response Artemis flipped around and kicked a spray of water at his face as she dove underneath the dark blue waters. Wally recoiled and gagged in repulsion.
"Ugh! This water tastes disgusting!"
Artemis, of course, did not hear him, and continued to streamline through the water, closing her eyes and using only her ears to listen for the swirling and collapsing of waves, and felt the cool smooth water roll past her skin. Soon, a series of heavy splashes behind her alerted her to the arrival of a certain speedster, most likely bent on revenge. She surfaced and turned around just in time to see a foamy ripple, and had about a millisecond to mentally groan before she was quickly yanked under the water again. A stream of bubbles rushed past her and tickled her face. She tried to follow their upwards path, but a pair of powerful arms held her steady. Behind her, she could vaguely hear the water-clogged laugh of Wally. She twisted to the side and elbowed him sharply in the abdomen, and he let go. When they met on the surface, Wally found Artemis looking coolly at him.
"You never learn, do you?" she teased.
Before he could retaliate, M'gann's voice appeared in their heads. "Hey, Wally and Artemis! Where are you two? Batman's here and is about to start in five minutes."
Wally shot a glance at Artemis that clearly stated this little battle between them was nowhere near over. "On our way, Meganlicious," he replied in his usual jab at appearing suave. Artemis looked up at the sky in exasperation and started towards the shore.
When they reached dry land, Artemis grabbed her towel and, to Wally's surprise, offered it to him first. He looked at her dubiously. She huffed and put her free hand on her hips. "I'm not always a bitch, you know."
Wally threw up his hands in front of him. "I never said that! But I don't need a towel, not when I can do this!" He took a few steps backwards and held out his arms, and in a second a small tornado replaced his image. Artemis quickly shielded her eyes from the flying sand, but the winds subsided almost as rapidly as it began, and was replaced with a cursing Wally rolling on the sand, holding his bare feet gingerly.
"And that's why I offered this to you," said Artemis, shaking the towel free of sand and draping it around her shoulders. "But on the bright side," she added as she wrung out the water from her long blond hair, "you just had a nice foot-scrub."
He narrowed his eyes, and stood up. "For the record, I blame you."
"Whatevs Kid Pedicure," she replied with a grin as they made their way back to Mount Justice. "Did this, or did this not, clear your mind of what was bothering you earlier?"
"Ha, and I thought you were just using me as shark fodder." He ruffled his hair in an attempt to dry it, but only succeeded in making it even more haphazard looking.
Artemis kept her grin, and continued to goad him. "What shark would ever dare harm you when you're wearing the all-powerful Batman boxers?"
He just scowled silently at her.
August 20, 8:00 EDT
If The Team and Batman thought it was unusual that Artemis and Wally were forming a puddle of sea-water and sand around themselves during the debriefing session, no one said a word. If they also thought it was strange that every time Artemis would exhale sharply or pretend to cough, Wally would elbow her in the arms and grumble, no one said a word either. But in place of exchanging words, there were plenty of perplexed stares and raised eyebrows, and unbeknownst to Wally and Artemis, M'gann had telepathically linked herself up with Kaldur, Robin, and Superboy.
"Um, does anyone know what Wally and Artemis were doing this early in the morning? Don't worry; I didn't link them up."
"I am not too sure if I want to know..."
"Me neither, Kaldur. And geez, KF must be freezing! At least Artemis has a towel around her."
"Oh! Should I bring him a towel? I can levitate one from the bathrooms, I think…"
"…Is Wally wearing Batman boxers?"
"What? They just look like plain black boxers to me, Supes."
Thanks for reading! Please review and let me know what you think!