I love Artemis. I love her so much. She's my favourite. Of all time. Ever.
This really came out of nowhere. Like, I literally wrote it because of a piece of music. The visual was so vivid I had to get it down on paper. If you'd like, listen to "At the Edge of the Universe (Silence=Space)" while you read. You can find it on Youtube.
There were stars. Artemis could see them, somewhere, in a far corner of her consciousness, flickering indolently like tears, burning with ethereal sadness.
She felt the sensation of falling slowly as if through space, and the ends of her hair extended far out in front of her, dissolving into sprays of stardust. Her eyes were nearly closed, but something kept them open – a desire to see, to understand. It was not, as she had thought earlier, fear. She knew where she was going now. She may as well enjoy the ride while she still had it.
Oblivion didn't seem so bad, she thought to herself, gaze sliding quietly to her fingertips. They were curled from lack of use, reaching carelessly toward the deep, infinite indigo through which she was floating downwards, and she tried to take a breath, but nothing came of it. She found she didn't need air. She was happy the way she was – sinking senselessly through space with the sound of the universe swaying around her.
It was beautiful.
She closed her eyes.
At the sound of the muffled, echoing mention of her name, her eyelids lifted minutely. She imagined that she was sighing even though no sound came out.
"Artemis, don't do this. Come on. Come on! Get up!"
The voice was shouting now, though it still seemed to be light years away, an indistinct murmur somewhere beyond the edge of the realms. Still, there was desperation in it. Anger. Perhaps tears, now, forming involuntarily.
Artemis was sure that she'd heard it before. Somewhere. But she couldn't place it. There was no need. After all, there wasn't any going back. Nothing mattered anymore. She was content.
"Please get up. Please."
It was growing softer, as though reality was coming down on it, and Artemis wanted to feel sorry for it. She wanted to be sad, to understand its pain. But she didn't.
"I'm sorry for everything I ever said. I was being dumb – an idiot. I'm an idiot. There – there, I said it! See? Now you… now you have to…"
A vague imprint of a frown came upon Artemis's serene features.
Don't cry, she thought in a whisper. Her voice seemed to drift away from her, toward the other, and her fingers twitched empathetically. Please don't. It's all right. It was supposed to end this way, you know? You couldn't have avoided it. I know you wanted to, but… it's not the way this is going to end. Just accept that. I couldn't have stayed. You all didn't trust me anyway. This was what you wanted; this was…
Raindrops seemed to be floating away from her, above her, glittering and clear. She blinked, a slow movement, like a moth resting.
Are those… mine?
"Artemis, please. Just this once, do what I tell you to. Come on. Please get up. Get up."
"No. No, just give her a minute. She's just trying to freak me out. She'll get up in a second; just watch. Come on. Arty?"
Artemis's face seemed to loosen around a pulse of a smile, and her eyes closed again. She remembered that voice now. She'd been given a hint, after all. Wally. Wally West.
"Maybe if you weren't such a lousy shot, we wouldn't be having this much trouble!"
"Oh, right, Baywatch, like you're the big expert when it comes to not screwing things up."
"Quit calling me that! I'm doing fine for myself, which is more than I can say for you!"
"In your dreams, Wall-man. Your only advantage is having such an ugly face."
"Take that back! This face makes the ladies swoon!"
"Well, that's because you're not a lady. See what I did there?"
"Oh, for the love of—WALLY, LOOK OUT!"
She leapt. Her bow fell forgotten from her hands. Stupid, stupid, stupid idiot; what did he think he was doing? That goon was right behind him. The gun was aimed right at his back. Right—
The chaotic vestiges of the memory bled out into foamy black, and Artemis's eyes opened once more. It was growing darker. Night was falling more intensely upon her, and she thought perhaps she could sense moonlight, miles above, refracted as if by the surface of the ocean. Things were whispering around her. Arms were extending. Quickly, dissonantly, a flash of red hair. And then—
It came in a burst of cold, like she'd fallen into an unheated pool. It startled her so greatly that her eyes flew wide open, her back arched, her head was jerked back, and just like that, she gasped. Suddenly there was air in her, coursing wild and free through her limbs and her heart, and the whispers stopped. The stars, the moon – they vanished. Gravity seemed abruptly to come back for her, and she was being pulled, disruptively, downwards, as though a rope had been tied around her waist and someone was yanking on it. Her hair tumbled across her face. She was panting, heavily, blatantly, and with a great, back-cracking thud, she hit the ground, in all its cruel solidity.
Her eyelids ripped themselves apart from one another and she drew in a loud, ragged breath, shuddering, spluttering, and there was pain, a pain she had just been free of, and she felt hot, and heavy, and grounded, and helpless, and, with no forethought or care, she began to cry. It was noisy and hoarse and without pause, and her cheeks became damp in moments. She wanted to scream. What was this world, this world of guilt and sensation?
"She—" A voice, cracking, disbelieving, rang over her head. "She's—she's alive!"
A clamoring mass of vocals began to cluster around her ears, crawling over the surface of her body, and she wanted to cover her ears, but her arms were aching and leaden. She didn't stop crying, however, and soon they stepped off into bewildered silence.
"She's… she's crying." The tone was soft, demure, feminine. M'gann, something said in the basement of Artemis's memory. She didn't respond.
"Hey." This was the one that had come to her in the serene abyss. It was quieter than it had been then, almost concerned. "Hey, Artemis; it's all right. Kaldur's coming. We're going to get you on the ship and into the med bay. Just hold on. Just…"
There were tears wrapping themselves around it, and the sentence faded. Out of the confusion, a hand touched her cheek. She whimpered.
"It's me. Hey, it's me; right here. It's Kid—it's Wally."
"I thought you wanted her to stop crying, not do it harder," a light, pubescent snark came from her left. She would have smiled if she didn't feel so terrified. Her left side was burning. Her ribs boomed with pain.
"Where'd it hit her?"
"Lower left abdomen. Went all the way through."
"How can she be—?"
"The sound of my beautiful voice, obviously!"
"Shut up, Kid." A new voice this time. Low. Adamant. Strong. "Where the hell is Kaldur?"
"I am here. The ship is outside. Step aside and let me take her to it."
"No." Wally. "I'll… I'll get her."
"Very well. Don't dawdle. Come. All of you. Quickly."
Artemis felt herself being lifted and cried out in pain. Well, she could feel it. That was a good sign. Hopefully no paralysis.
"Shhh." The arms came beneath her gently, carefully bringing her off the ground. "Quit whining, you. Wimp."
The terror, the sheer incomprehension, that had previously been causing her tears seemed to morph into gratitude and relief as the arms wrapped around her shoulders and upper legs, and, with what strength she was willing to let go, she lifted her left arm and clenched the smooth fabric covering her carrier's chest, pressing her face into his shoulder. He seemed to ease into her.
"I'm gonna give you hell for this when you're better, I hope you know," he said fondly. Artemis could feel him inexplicably shaking as he began to walk gingerly. "Never gonna let you live down crying."
"C…" She managed to speak, throat dry and sore. He stiffened, leaning his ear down toward her lips. "C-Creep. Sc-scumbag. M… meathead."
His cheek was faintly touching hers, and she felt it rise with a grin.
"Truer words never spoken, beautiful," he said, and Artemis, exhausted, slept.
"It's all your fault, you know," she told him later, as she reclined cantankerously on one of the beds in the Cave's med lab. He looked up, surprised, from his copy of Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life.
"What?" he asked. "Didn't hear you."
"It's all your fault," she repeated tensely. He blinked densely at her. She sighed. "That I came back. I could've kept going. I was almost there, but then I heard you, and—"
"What're you talking about?" he whispered. She glanced up at him, finally, and took in his blank expression, the freckles dusting his nose, the uncombed mass of ginger hair sticking out around his face.
"Nothing, Wally," she murmured, sinking downwards, feeling suddenly, inexplicably tired. The tight bandages around her torso itched. She rolled over, away from him. "Nothing at all."
She tilted her head infinitesimally over her shoulder to show that she had heard him. He seemed to take a deep breath.
"Hope you made the right choice."
After a moment, she nodded.
"Yeah," she whispered. "I think I did."