These things always wind up being longer (and more stupid) than I intend for them to be. Er. OH, WELL. YOU GUYS DON'T SEEM TO MIND.
Disclaimer: These dorks aren't affiliated with me in any way. Like, ew. Several of the lines are taken from When Harry Met Sally. Wonderful script, wonderful movie. See it. It's 2 AM. I'm tired as balls. Excuse all cheesiness that may follow.
Also I have no idea how Scrabble scoring works as I have never played it. FORGIVE ME.
"You see? That is just like you. You say things like that, and you make it impossible for me to hate you. And I really hate you. I hate you."
— When Harry Met Sally
"I've been doing a lot of thinking," Wally said almost belligerently, "and the thing is, I love you."
Artemis could have gone into complete catatonia right then and there and honestly been more comfortable than she presently was. She froze, her hand poised halfway over her head, in the middle of removing her mask. Wally was staring at her resolutely, his brows deep with severity, and she had to resist every temptation to laugh, because he frankly looked hilarious.
"What." There was no questioning inflection at the end of the word. It came out short and flat, like a brick. Wally's shoulders went subtly rigid.
"I luh," he grunted. "I like – no – yeah. You. Bluh."
"Wow, um," Artemis couldn't help the wry amusement in her tone, "good to know you can maintain your eloquence even in the face of disaster."
"I don't like repeating myself," Wally retorted, folding his arms, and suddenly he seemed extremely juvenile – well, more juvenile than any run-of-the-mill fifteen-year-old could possibly be. Artemis had to suppress a snort again. His hopeful frown tightened into a simple glower. "Did you not hear me or something?"
"No, no," Artemis said quickly, waving a hand. "I heard you just fine."
Wally was watching her expectantly, and she felt the humiliating urge to balk a little, to creep into a dark corner and stay there for the rest of her life, forever content with stringing bows she would never use if it meant never having to look him in the eye again. His jaw became set, and his mouth thinned. If Artemis didn't know any better, she'd think he actually meant what he was saying.
"And?" he barked after a few moments of silence, and Artemis blinked, dumbfounded.
"How about you love me, too?" Wally blurted out a trifle too loudly, and Artemis winced, because there was no way in hell that Superboy hadn't heard that, no matter where he was, and he was probably telling the others right now, and M'gann probably wanted to come and watch so she could understand human courtship methods, and Robin was probably rubbing his hands together with wicked glee, and Kaldur was probably totally indifferent but it didn't matter because he knew, and oh, God, Wally looked so pitiful, gazing at her with all the rampant hope of a child asking a parent for a kitten. She chewed her lip without thinking and it hurt a little.
"I, um," she mumbled, pulling her mask all the way off at last, wringing it in her hands apprehensively, "I don't—"
"You don't?" Wally yelped, and Artemis threw out her arms in denial, shaking her head vigorously.
"I don't know!" she finished emphatically, and the imminent coronary that seemed to be descending on Wally a moment ago diminished. "But… no. No, of course I don't. I mean. Love is, uh, kind of a strong word there, Wally. Like, you know what it means, right?"
Wally bristled defensively.
"Of course I do," he retorted. "How dumb do you think I am?"
"Rhetorical questions. Cute." Artemis couldn't help herself. She really couldn't. When one gets used to jibing at another person, there's not really any going back. Banter is a practice that attaches to a partner and never leaves. She almost pitied Wally for a moment, but then she remembered that he was absolutely and undeniably insane (and obnoxious), and that semblance of pity abruptly passed.
"Answer me," Wally demanded, and Artemis was taken aback: she'd never heard his voice sound so firm, not even when she used to secretly listen to interviews with him at night on the shoddy radio her father allowed her at the bunker. She felt the tips of her ears grow hot.
"What the hell, Wally? How can you expect me to answer that?" she snapped, and suddenly she was angry: what right did he have, coming out of nowhere like this and throwing all expectations and impressions she had of him straight out the nearest high-story window? What made him think that he was so worthy to tell her something like – like that, when just this morning he'd made it abundantly clear that he thought she was an unsightly shrew with, and she quotes, "a weird mouth?"
This was probably a prank or something. A trick he and Robin had thought up after a game of Brawl – some obscene way to humiliate her further, as if having to deal with being told that she was nothing more than a worthless replacement ever since she'd shown up wasn't enough. She stood up straight, hands tightening into unintentional fists as she scowled ferociously at Wally, and threw her bow and quiver to the ground beside her feet.
"Any way you want," Wally was saying, but she barely heard him.
"Don't think you're fooling me for a second, Wall-man," she hissed, sounding altogether similar to a territorial alley cat, growling and spitting. She strode forward until she was mere inches from his face and jabbed a finger into his chest. He flinched. Mission accomplished. "You think you're funny, don't you? Well, I don't. Nobody's laughing."
"Artemis—" Wally started to protest, face darkening in confusion (and a bit of remorse), but Artemis didn't give him the chance, shoving him viciously in the shoulders, causing him to stumble backwards.
"Nobody's laughing!" she shouted, and then she swept up her weapons in one motion and stormed out of the living room, heading for her designated quarters, which she only used for storage. She needed to pick up more arrows. She thought that, for a brief second, she sensed Wally starting to follow her, but when she dared to glance over her shoulder after reaching the door labeled "Artemis," it was clear that he was nowhere to be found.
She bit down hard on her lower lip as she opened the door, changing out of her uniform with no mental commitment to her actions, operating on routine.
"Please," she sniffed quietly, when she was sure no one could hear her, "You couldn't love anything if it gave itself to you forever, not unless it was a damn pizza or something."
Amidst the subsequent missions and relaxed Friday nights, the only sign that Wally had ever had that conversation with her was when they would spar and he would try so hard to hit her that he'd stop paying attention to strategy, and she'd flip him over backwards without trying, and he would pretend that he didn't care by refusing to speak to her unless absolutely necessary.
She didn't mind, she kept telling herself. She'd spent months begging the heavens that Wally would conveniently shut up around her, and now he finally was. There was finally something to be happy about.
"Did I do something to offend you, Artemis?" he snarled with every piled-up hint of loathing one day after she had purposefully skipped over him during a team game of Scrabble with hot chocolate.
"Of course," Artemis said, trying to keep on an air of casual joking for M'gann, who was smiling obliviously. "You are a human affront to all women, Wally, and I am a woman."
Wally opened his mouth as if to spit out a vitriolic retort, but Superboy interrupted him.
"That's a good reason," he muttered bluntly, and arranged his letters carefully on the board.
"Tension," Robin read aloud, eyes crackling with mirth behind his sunglasses. "Twenty points for Supey!"
Superboy looked far too satisfied to have won a mere game of Scrabble.
Artemis had never heard her name screamed with such distress as she did at the moment when Sportsmaster shot an arrow into her torso. Not only that, but it seemed to have been uttered by none other than Wally.
She realized only then, as she stood doubled over with her hands clutching the offending intrusion to her midsection, how funny a name Wally had. Wally. Waaall-e. Like the cute little robot and the initially cold but eventually embracing EVE.
It didn't hurt terribly. She knew straightaway that it was probably a superficial wound, and Sportsmaster had given it to her in a nonthreatening place on purpose, just to show her that he had power over her, the same way he had power over her mother. She didn't mind, she realized as she crumpled to the floor. She'd be fine because screw Sportsmaster. He had a stupid name anyway. Not like Wally's because Wally's was cute and she passed out.
M'gann later told her with a conspiratorial grin after she had been patched up that Wally had paced so feverishly around her bed that he had worn a trench in the floor. Artemis had been wondering why her space in the infirmary had been surrounded by deep grooves, sectioning it off like an island.
Wally gave no hint of this, however. When she greeted him upon her return to Mount Justice following her "sick leave" (she hated the term), he had given her one glance, an acknowledging nod, and returned to his Carl Sagan book. Artemis was awfully good at pretending not to be hurt.
(Robin hit him hard upside the head with a Wiimote. He did not respond.)
Now it's Artemis' turn.
Wally is curled up on the concrete surface of the warehouse floor, shaking, bleeding and the Joker's standing over him with a crowbar and cackling gleefully and Robin's shrieking with rage as he lunges at him and Superboy's charging and M'gann's eyes are glowing a fearsome white and Kaldur's gathering water swords in his hands, but that doesn't change anything; that doesn't change the fact that Wally's on the floor and it's her fault because if she had just listened to Kaldur and shot at the Joker when she was supposed to instead of arguing with Wally as usual—
"Always did hate them gingers!" the Joker cries, voice cracking with delight, and he has time for a well-aimed kick to Wally's gut before Superboy smashes into him, sending him rocketing into the opposite wall with a crunch. This doesn't seem to faze him, because they can still hear him giggling in the hole that was made on impact, but they don't care, gathering around Wally in a clamoring oval.
"Is he dead?" Superboy demands frankly, never one to veil ominous statements with prudence. M'gann cringes visibly at the thought.
"Nah." It is Robin who speaks, shaking his head without even checking Wally's pulse. "He's okay."
"Better believe it," a blood-and-spit-garbled mutter burbles up from somewhere on Wally's person, and Artemis feels like she can cry with relief, but she doesn't.
"Wally!" she shrieks, and all heads turn in shock to her except his. "What the hell were you thinking, running straight at him like that? Are you insane or just stupid? This isn't Captain Cold or Klarion or something; this is the Joker, and he's totally fine with killing you! Don't you get that? Hell, he might not even need to; I will! It'd be easy, going by how much of a huge moron you are, and—!"
"Artemis," Kaldur interjects, tone low with warning, and she immediately stops. That's one thing she's learned since she joined the team, she supposes: her place.
When they finally have enough of a hold on themselves to group together and converge on the Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime is already gone, leaving a note that says, Next time you'll laugh harder. Guarantee it. Robin looks seconds away from brutally murdering something, but he doesn't, and they all promptly board the bioship, carefully loading Wally onto a bunk in the back. M'gann brings forth bandages and an IV drip and all manner of inordinately helpful things, bless her heart, and soon the dreadful hanging feeling that they will all lose something quite dear to them disintegrates with each of his even breaths.
Everyone else is in their seats except for Artemis, who deigned to stay in the back with Wally and – and keep an eye on him; yes, that's it. Unexpectedly, he grabs her hand, and she gives a start – it takes all of her self-control not to draw away.
"I've been," he croaks, "doing some th-thinking, and…"
"Don't talk, numbskull," Artemis murmurs, brushing fingers over his mouth. He grins blatantly and she withdraws, rolling her eyes.
"And I figured," he plows on, "that I had the right idea… that one time." Artemis knows the exact time. There is only one of those times, a nameless imprint on both of their memories. "Because, hey, I'm never wrong, right?"
He lets out a breathy chuckle, eyes sliding distantly to the ceiling.
"Wrong, right," he giggles, and Artemis scoffs at him. "Funny."
"Wally," she whispers firmly, "get some rest."
His head turns back toward her, and his eyes are focused now, glittering adamantly while he holds onto her hand. She feels herself growing hot as he scrutinizes her.
"I don't care what… I don't care what you did before you showed up." He swallows. "It's like… it's like there's no point in… talking with anybody else, or fighting with anybody else, because – like – nnngh." He winces, clutching his abdomen, and Artemis has to resist the compulsion to give him a hug.
"Are you all right?" she asks, sounding entirely too concerned.
He nods lightly, and continues. "M'gann's cute and all," he grumbles, and Artemis stiffens resentfully. "B-But… you." And loosens again. "I seriously feel like – like you're. A spitfire."
"A spitfire?" she repeats skeptically.
"Yeah. The spitfire," he tries to elaborate, but consciousness is clearly leaving him. Before he slips into sleep, Artemis has the chance to hear one barely whispered word: "Mine."
Damn it, Wally.
You say things like that and you make it… impossible for me to hate you.
And I really hate you, Wally.
I hate you.
Artemis hardly has the ability to wear a dented path in the floor just from walking on it excessively, but she feels close to it that night while Wally sleeps in the infirmary and she strides in circles, hoping that her mother will be all right for one night without her. Her gaze shifts to Wally, and she comes to a soft halt, fingers hanging loosely from her palms. She can smell that atrocious deodorant he uses all the way at the edge of the bed, but somehow, it's the nicest thing she's ever smelled – nicer than Christmas trees, nicer than bonfires, nicer than root beer… nicer, admittedly, than the way a summer morning smells at sunrise, the way it smells when she wakes up and feels compelled to get out of bed and run until even the skies are lagging behind her.