One of my Tumblr fics! I post tons over there that I don't here or on LJ; there's a link to my Tumblr on my profile. This is the second version of a fic request I wrote for the amazing Cloaks and Daggers, in which she asked what Wally and Artemis were doing alone together before the beginning of "Revelation." The other version's on Tumblr; I'm not posting it here because I don't want to spam you guys.
Oh, boy, this thing blew up; I NEED TO LEARN TO BE CONCISE ABOUT THESE KINDS OF THINGS.
By the way, macaroni-and-grilled-cheese sandwich with truffle oil? Pulled that out of my ass. Then tried making it. It was amazing.
Hope you like it, Cloaks!
Everything is always a competition with this girl. Wally can't stand it (mostly because he gets bored of winning). There's always a who did this better or who has more or who runs faster or who can jump higher or who can take down the biggest number of henchmen in a fight or who can punch harder or who can eat more or—or—damn it; he's losing count.
Granted, right now, it's not the competition he so much minds. The only things he minds, really, are as follows: one, they are in a small space, and he doesn't like small spaces. Two, she isn't hesitating to goad him on, though her motivations in that department may not be entirely for mocking purposes. Three, she smells far too good for it to be legal. And four—
Wait. He should probably backtrack a little, for the sake of comprehension. He's getting ahead of himself.
He hadn't expected that she would be able to conjure up a contest in the middle of his afternoon sandwich-and-sundae building session in the empty kitchen. He'll never understand how she manages to get around so quietly in those ungainly Doc Martens of hers, nor how she can sneak up behind him without him hearing the swelling presence of her smugness, or something.
He had just been putting the finishing garnish of Black Canary's truffle oil onto his macaroni-and-grilled-cheese sandwich when she had come sauntering in, looking disturbingly attractive in the dark jeans and leather jacket that she so often sported around the Cave (not that he'd ever admit that, because it might upset the sandwich).
"What was your first kiss like?" she demands bluntly, one hand on her hip, the other propping her body up on the marble countertop. Wally splutters and whirls around to gawk at her.
"You heard me, Baywatch. Unless you've got ginger hair growing out of your ears now, too."
Wally glowers at her. Nobody insults the hair and gets away with it (except, approximately ten times per day, her).
"I'm not going to answer that," he retorts stubbornly, chin jutting defiantly out at her. "That's private information."
"The problem is that you probably don't have any information to give me," she says with a smirk, and Wally goes rigid at her audacity.
"My first kiss was awesome, thank you very much, and—"
He stops himself, appalled with himself for giving away that much. She's watching him with an expectant, sickeningly innocent smile on her face, putting her chin in the hand on the counter.
"Don't stop there," she says slyly, and Wally wants to just take his hand and physically wipe that self-satisfied expression off of her face. "It was getting good."
"Why don't you tell me about your first kiss, then?" Wally grumbles, narrowing his eyes at her. "We can trade."
She throws her head back and laughs (and her tongue shines soft and pink).
"Cute. Sorry, but swapping stories was something I gave up at my last game of truth-or-dare."
"I dare you, then," Wally says, not even quite noticing anymore that his stomach is growling toward the sandwich beside him. "Can't turn down a dare or you're chicken."
"I was born cheap." He pauses. "Wait. No. That came out wrong."
She snickers. "Sounds right to me." She straightens herself, no longer supported by the edge of the counter. "Anyway, no. If we're going to talk about first kisses, you're going first."
"Me?" he exclaims indignantly, pointing to his chest. She rolls her eyes hugely.
"Do you see anyone else in here, genius?"
Wally's lips curl in tenaciously and he turns his nose up.
"No," she says evenly. "You."
Wally can practically hear Robin at that second: NO U.
"Fine." He lets out a rough exhale, tightening the cross of his arms defensively, looking away from her in an attempt to conceal the gratuitous flush attacking his cheeks. "Sixth grade. There was this girl – Georgie Welch. She was like two inches taller than I was and had really short hair; y'know, she liked wrestling with people, playing baseball, eating worms, that kind of stuff. Anyway, I liked her for a while, because she—"
"No backstory," Artemis interrupts rudely, putting up a hand to halt him. "Just kissing."
Wally flounders at her for a moment before gathering himself back together and attempting to keep himself from collapsing in mortification at the questions she is asking – no, that he is answering.
"W-Well," he flummoxes. "That, frankly… cannot be described in words."
Artemis lets out a loud, noticeable snort at that, which causes him to turn red in indignation.
"Give it a shot," she urges him mercilessly, and he sighs.
"It was, uh, it was summer. Just when school was ending. And there was this old shed that all the first-graders had painted in the spring; nobody used it, but it looked nice. And anyway, I told her to meet me there after school, and she did, and I kissed her."
"She gave me a black eye," he responds frankly, shrugging. He can feel a phantom pain on his left eye, as if it has just been hit, throbbing dully.
"Besides the understandable reaction on her part."
"It was – I don't know." He can't believe he's telling her this. "I mean, I was twelve, so hey, sky opening and everything! And she tasted like cherries. That I remember. Because I was surprised. I was expecting her to taste like steak or tan bark or something."
Artemis wrinkles her nose.
"I hate tan bark."
"Me, too," Wally agrees hurriedly.
They each cough. Clear their throats. Eyes dart around evasively.
"Your turn," Wally says in an attempt to cut through the palpable silence. Artemis cocks her eyebrow at him.
"Third grade," she ripostes as though reciting boring data for a science project. "Tony Corlliss. Underwater, during a swim lesson. I gave him a bloody nose."
"Underwater?" Wally blubbers in astonishment. "Isn't that, like, the stuff chicks always pine for?"
"Ugh, I don't know why," Artemis grumbles, pulling a face. "It's so awkward. Water gets in your mouth and nose and you're both wearing goggles and look stupid and… ugh. It's weird."
"Third grade, did you say?" Wally prods her, stunned. "You were eight for your first kiss? You didn't even have the class to wait until you hit the double digits?"
"Unlike some people, Wally, I have always looked good."
"…You're saying I look good now?" Wally blurts out far too excitedly, too complacently. Artemis grimaces.
"This is why we can't have compliments, Wally."
"You must have quite a track record," he says, changing the subject, finding himself far too interested in her kiss repertoire. "Unless everyone ran away the second you hit nine."
"Oh, no way." She smirks. "I've had plenty since then. Want me to count 'em?"
Unfortunately, she takes his baffled silence as a yes, and raises a hand to count off fingers.
"Noah Gibson in fourth grade, Sheldon Shepherd and Andy Curtis in fifth – spin the bottle – hmm, didn't kiss anyone in sixth grade because I got sick of it; then there was Atsushi Hanamura in seventh grade; he was an exchange student – and, um, in eighth grade there were three, I think, on a dare to see how many boys I could get away with kissing in one day; I forget their names, Joey or Johnny or something stupid. And at the homecoming dance my freshman year at Gotham North I got to second base with Martin Kaznyk, but he breathed funny, so—"
"Holy crap," Wally says, and no two words could sum up his feelings more accurately. "You're… you're almost frightening, Artemis. How many guys is that?"
She glances at her fingers one more time before holding up two hands, one finger away from ten. "Nine, counting Tony. But I might have missed a few."
"You're joking," he croaks. She looks far too proud of herself for it to be anything less than infuriating.
"Nope," she replies with feigned bubbliness, tilting her head coyly at him. "Nine boys and, okay, maybe Deirdre Miller in freshman year, but I was just curious—"
"I—I almost can't believe you. Almost. But then I remember you're an affront to the dignity of mankind."
"Hi, pot. My name is kettle. You're black." She leers at him before he can dredge up a half-witted retort. "I have an idea."
"If it involves buying a file cabinet to store information about all the boys you've kissed, then I think that would be a good investment. Good thinking."
"Let's see if we can't outdo each other's first kisses. Right here, right now."
Wally's jaw nearly hits the floor.
"Excuse me? I almost didn't hear you over the sound of how absurd that is."
She will have none of his snarking, however, and strides adamantly forward to grab him by the collar and drag him toward the pantry.
"I'll bet you twenty dollars right now that you won't be a better kisser than any of the boys I've traded spit with," she challenges. Wally looks fiercely up at her as she tosses him into the pantry, follows, and silently closes the door.
"You're on." He pauses, only then noticing how indescribably dark the pantry is. "As soon as I find you." He sniffs the air. "And as soon as I get my hands on that box of Cap'n Crunch."
And this is how Wally found himself backing Artemis Crock against the herbs and spices shelves, feeling the furtive surface of her tongue on his lower lip. Another contest. Who can kiss better? Is that even the question at hand? He can't think about things like that. He's dizzy. The walls are turning, warped and unstoppable, around him, and Artemis's palms on the back of his neck are the only thing anchoring him.
He doesn't know if he's breathless because he's in a small space or because Artemis's hand reaches up to fist into the clumps of red at the nape of his neck. She's tugging, and her teeth graze his lip, and he can't help the fact that his eyes are shut, because maybe he'd like to fall asleep like this, holding her.
She breaks away, to his vexation, and he can see vague imprints of her face in the darkness as she smirks up at him.
"Sheldon didn't slobber," she says frankly, practically, as though she's analyzing his behavior.
"Georgie didn't ram her teeth into mine."
"That's right. She just slammed her fist into your face. Would you rather I do that?"
"Shut up and keep kissing me. I need more data before I come to a conclusion about your performance."
She shrugs – the dimness gathers around the motion. He finds himself sighing, almost longingly, at the seamless grace in which the dark frames her figure.
"Just let me know when you want to stop," she says, trying to sound as bored as possible, as if this is just for his benefit.
He reaches up and finds her face easily in the pitch-blackness, and cups the side of it, tracing her adamant jawline with his thumb. She leans into it, and he gravitates a bit too close to her in the wrong direction, and feels her eyelashes race over his cheek when she blinks.
"Whoa," he says, shivering – it tickles. "Do that again."
He can feel her skeptical frown.
"Weirdo," she mutters, but does it anyway, and it feels peculiarly nice, this knowledge of her closeness, of the fact that she is alive – her eyelashes are just as soft as they look, curling down across a swatch of his skin like a line of feathers.
"Are you going to kiss me again or do I need to paint a bullseye on my face?" she jibes, and he moves his thumb to see if it can chance upon the surface of her lips, and it does.
"Gotcha," he says, and leans down. She is somehow shorter without the bulky combat boots of her costume.
He feels as though Artemis, in her unyielding, ferocious envelopment of his mouth, is about to spit fire into the curving space of his palate, and he's not quite sure how her jacket wound up on the floor, but he hears it rustle when she throws it there. Her white cotton t-shirt feels incredibly soft against his palm, snagging in the callouses he's developed from pull-ups. She reaches up and runs her fingers through the strewn locks on his head as though it's something she's wanted to do for ages, and when she touches his face, it's as though every freckle can feel her, every hopeless inch of sunburnt skin on his nose. His right hand moves down to her hip, and she lets out a murmured sigh when his fingers lightly touch over a bit of exposed skin. He can feel the contours of her bra at her back. The shirt seems so loose on her, so paper-thin, but he doesn't disturb it.
He pulls infinitesimally away and starts to say, "Sheldon still the best?" but she grabs the back of his head and pulls him back down to her, catching his mouth expertly, the way a cat might catch a moth in the night. The swollen surfaces of her lips part, and he accommodates her, meeting her tongue with his own. She sags fluidly forward; he holds her up, and she melds to him, the crook of her elbow brushing the side of his neck as she reaches up to trace through his hair again. Wally is a man of science and always will be, and though he knows in his head it isn't possible, he swears that at any moment his and Artemis's senselessly beating hearts will come together and form one, the way two opposing waves crash and dissolve into each other in a storm.
Cataclysm. That was a word on his vocabulary test the day before. He had answered, noun – a large-scale, disastrous event, but suddenly he realized that he'd been wrong – what he should have written was simply, unequivocally, noun, verb, adjective – Artemis.
It's hot in the pantry, and Wally can hear his and Artemis's breaths rattling off the walls and rumbling down to the floor; she is so real in his arms, so desperate and urgent and relentless and dare he say perfect – he wants to make her satisfied, to give her what she seems to be digging for behind his teeth with her frantically twisting tongue. He feels weak. Dizzy. And for once, it's not from claustrophobia. He realizes something terrifying, then; something that makes him understand the gravity of this situation, this moment of holding Artemis against him and kissing her deeply and feverishly:
He isn't… wow. He isn't hungry.
"Team." Batman's gruff voice cuts through even the walls of the pantry from the intercom outside. "Report to mission room in two minutes."
No, no, balls to you, Batman. Wally West can stay here as long as he damn well wants, because this may be the only chance he'll ever have to grasp the saturated, pine-scented presence of the girl who dresses in dark green and calls him stupid; this may be the only day he will ever kiss her in this way, ever kiss her at all. This is just a bet, he remembers. A contest.
And – he'll be honest – he isn't sure who's winning or losing anymore.
But – he'll be honest again – he wouldn't mind losing every race for the rest of his life if it meant getting to do this to her one more time; if it meant hearing the softness of her contented moans echo down into his throat. He can do this forever, the same way he can run forever, if he dreams it hard enough. But—
The taste of her (almonds, cinnamon gum), the feel of her (wintertime), they are gone, in a lurching tug like a receding tide, and next thing he knows, he's gaping wordlessly at an empty wall, and hears the pantry door open behind him. He turns, squinting against the sudden strip of light.
"Artemis, you…" He can't finish. He doesn't even know what he was going to say.
She nods, considering him, and the sudden muted glistening in her gray eyes is something Wally can almost define as tenderness.
"You're not so bad yourself," she whispers, and then straightens her shoulders, and the Artemis he's known for nearly a month is back, bellicose and snappy and tough-as-nails. "All right, Wall-Man. Get your brain up off the floor; we've gotta go." She points threateningly at him. "Just pretend we ran into each other in the hallway. We did not see each other until…" She checks her watch. "Ten seconds from now."
He is about to nod in a failed attempt to show that he can vaguely comprehend what she is saying when a thought descends on him like a piano from a fourth story window and he gasps in horror, dashing past her and back into the kitchen.
"Pig!" she snarls after him, but when she's sure he can't see her, she raises her fingers to lightly touch her lips and smiles, sentimental, nostalgic, filled to the ends of her hair with the warmth of a bonfire.
"Boys ain't got nothing on you, West. God, never thought I'd hear myself say that."
She shakes her head, and heads toward the mission room. Wally meets her halfway, smelling of macaroni-and-grilled-cheese on rye, and the two don't speak, not even when Robin and Kaldur give them perplexingly knowing looks as they enter.