A collab with the incomparable missmelon12, who had many shit-losing incidents during production but managed to pull through in one piece. The prompt is mine. All of the talent is hers.
We don't own any of the characters in this story. This is a nonprofit work of fanfiction.
She's only just stepped out of her room when she runs into Kaldur, who takes one look at her attire and smiles.
"You are going swimming?"
She nods, adjusting the towel that's around her neck, and tries to conceal her disappointment at being spotted. It hadn't entirely been a part of her plan to be seen by one of her team members on her excursion down to the beach at this odd hour, but it doesn't surprise her that it's Kaldur who stopped her. After all, she is fairly certain by now that Atlanteans must be incapable of sleep, because every time that her insomnia draws her out at night, he's creeping around, invading her privacy.
He is watching her wordlessly, his milky eyes unnerving and still. She shifts uncomfortably from one foot to the other, picking nervously at the ends of the towel as subtly as she can. After a moment, he blinks, slowly, which seems to prompt a new wave of talkativeness.
"Would it be forward of me to ask if I may accompany you?"
That's it. No wavering inflection, no underlying hint of – of that which often lurks in the underlying hints of boys' sentences. His voice is calm, constant, like the sea.
"No," she says, and surprises even herself. Because this little swim was kind of supposed to be just her. Alone. With her thoughts.
She turns on her heel and continues down the hallway and he falls into step beside her. She tries her best to pretend that he's not there, that she is walking alone as she always does, but he doesn't seem to be in the mood to allow her that much.
"I have noticed that you venture out to the beach often," he says. She shrugs indifferently.
"It's nice this time of year," she tells him in lieu of a proper answer, hoping that it will be enough to satiate his inexplicable desire for conversation.
He nods. "The ocean often calls to me at this time." He sighs.
"I," Artemis begins dubiously, giving him a look. She doesn't even know what he's talking about and decides that he's probably just saying it for the sake of keeping the conversation going. "I can see how it would. I guess."
For the few brief moments that it takes them to reach the exit door that led down to the beach, Artemis has the ridiculous idea that she and Kaldur will be able to make their way out of the Cave in peace. She realizes as she hears a rush of wind behind the two of them that she needs to stop being so stupid.
"Heyyyy, my two favourite killjoys!" Wally greets them boisterously, and Artemis feels her teeth grind together of their own accord. "Going out for a little midnight stroll?" A pause – she can feel his eyes roving over her attire. "In a bikini?"
She's about to answer, loudly, with some kind of angry retort about how stupid he is or maybe about why he's so interested in what she's wearing and – why is he, anyway? – but Kaldur speaks up first.
"We were going swimming; do you care to join us, perhaps?"
He looks between them, a grin spreading across his face. "Yeah, sounds fun."
Artemis tightens her grip on the towel, sending an unnoticed glare Kaldur's way. Every fiber of her body is palpably tempted to order Wally to turn the hell around and go back to bed (assuming he sleeps anyway), but the redhead is already trotting along beside Kaldur with a stupid-looking grin on his face. She sighs. Maybe Wally's jabbering powers are weak to water.
They've just reached the door and Artemis believes for a second that maybe, just maybe, this already increasingly awkward situation will not escalate in discomfort, but, destroying this mad hope, a mischievous cackle slinks out from directly to her right. She whirls around. Robin is standing there, grinning wickedly behind his sunglasses.
"Oh, good." Artemis says, unable to contain her cynicism. "The Boy Wonder has joined our party."
He smirks and turns her way, no doubt taking in her bikini just as Wally had done.
"Yes," she replies, shrugging past him to open the doors, "I was going swimming." And her agitation must really be showing through because Robin quirks a brow and glances over at Wally.
"What's with her?"
Wally only shrugs and follows her and Kaldur out. "Don't know. You coming?"
Robin falls into step behind his friend, adjusting his shades. "Sure, why not?"
Artemis whirls on the three of them, her ponytail leaping over her shoulder with the force. They all seem to notice her hostility and straighten immediately.
"Should I just go and wake up everyone else while we're at it? Have a nice big party?" She practically sneers at them, and they blink unresponsively back at her. She is beyond tempted to start having countdowns to when the next team member will come waltzing in.
As though the universe is slapping her in the face, Artemis hears two entirely different sets of footsteps (one thunderously cumbersome, the other meek and dainty) approaching from the hallway to the bedrooms. She can tell by the way that Wally immediately starts grinning lasciviously that, yeah, the world definitely hates her, because those footsteps belong to the last two members of the team.
She lets her shoulders slump in defeat as they come into view. "Great; I suppose you guys want to go swimming as well?"
Megan's entire face lights up and Artemis almost can't bring herself to be mad anymore. Almost."You guys are going swimming?" She smiles and tucks a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "Sure! We'd love to join you! Right, Conner?"
Conner frowns and looks less than enthused about joining them. Artemis has a brief moment of hope that he'll turn down the invitation but then she remembers that the world does, in fact, hate her. "Yeah, sure."
"Spectacular," she says without the slightest hint of sincerity. Naturally, the sarcasm goes directly over everyone's heads, and she supposes she doesn't have much of a choice anymore but to just go along with it. With a resigned sigh, she exits through the open doors, and everyone trails out after her.
She imagines as they're all walking in a line down the precarious path to the beach that they all must look a bit silly, a bit like a disjointed train, especially with Conner holding onto M'gann's elbow to keep her balanced in the sand. As the trek continues, Artemis finds herself having an increasingly harder time being angry at any of them (except Wally) for deciding to join her – at least this way, if she's caught in a riptide, there will be someone around to make sure she doesn't drown horribly. She's had enough of nearly drowning, thank you very much.
She doesn't initially notice that everyone in the group is wearing pajamas or something similar. It's only when they finally reach the beach that she realizes that she's the only one among them wearing clothes suitable for swimming. Beside her, Wally laughs and tugs his shirt over his head, tossing it to the sand like he's Superboy or something. And Kaldur has disappeared ahead of them and she can barely see him in the dark and he's—
Oh god he's naked. She can't see anything, but there's definitely a pile of clothes next to him. She's extremely grateful that the darkness is there to conceal the infuriating flush creeping up her cheeks as Dick follows suit with a snicker; then, hesitantly, so does Conner. Artemis barely refrains from suppressing a strangled noise as M'gann happily makes her "clothing" fade off of her body and frolics after the boys into the water.
Artemis is left to stare after them stupidly, mouth hanging open in shock.
The ironic thing is, on every single one of her trips to the harbor at odd hours of the night, Artemis does precisely what her teammates are doing before her eyes. Tonight wasn't supposed to be any different, but she had realized – no, thought– that once Kaldur stopped her, this routine was out of the question. The fact that the entire team had joined her had been an anomaly, but not as noticeable as the one occurring in front of her. She notices, offhandedly, that Robin's skinny little naked form is absurdly white in the moonlight.
Finally, she manages to conjure up a coherent sentence.
"W-why the hell is everyone getting naked?"
Wally grins at her from the water. "I think the better question is why aren't you getting naked?"
She doesn't even know how to respond to that, much less to the fact that the entire team is still freaking naked.So she settles for opening and closing her mouth mutely.
Dick pops up beside Wally, wearing dark goggles that Artemis doesn't even know how he found, and waves enthusiastically at her. Superboy is off by the rocks with M'gann looking at what appear to be tide pools, and off in the distance, Artemis can see Kaldur stroking effortlessly through the waves.
It's with a defeated sigh that she finally reaches back to toy with the string of her own suit, hesitant and still unsure. The sea air whips frigid and brisk against her bare skin and she pauses, shivering. In the water, the Team is watching her expectantly.
She grits her teeth and finally pulls the string, letting her top fall. Her first instinct is to cover herself but she takes a deep breath and slips her fingers between the waistband of her bikini bottoms and slides them down her legs instead. She kicks them aside and she's fairly certain that Wally is the one that just whistled at her. And she's definitely not blushing. At all.
"Slowest Girl Alive!" Wally calls tauntingly and Artemis, just to spite him (and maybe because she wants to, just a little), strides forward and into the water. It's freezing, and she gasps, crossing her arms.
"Whose stupid idea was this?" she shrieks.
"Yours," Robin replies, nonchalantly. "You do this every night, right?"
Wally smirks. "Naked. Every night."
Artemis tries to refrain from making an indignant noise and fails.
"How long have we known?" M'gann inserts cheerfully from her perch by the tide pools. Superboy blinks expressionlessly.
"Since about forever," he says. "You're not very good at sneaking out quietly."
"Those ninja movies obviously haven't been very helpful," Wally quips. Artemis would dunk him, but she's too busy shivering in the cold water.
"Why didn't you say anything?" she hears herself asking, and it's kind of a stupid question, because obviously they aren't just going to approach her and tell her they know she goes skinny dipping during her bouts of insomnia.
Robin shrugs. "I dunno. Seemed like something you wanted to do alone."
"Not really," Artemis blurts out before she can stop herself or even register what she's saying. "I mean, I – I don't mind. Necessarily, just—" She turns a glare on all of them. "You guys are trolls."
They're all beaming at her in agreement, even Kaldur, who has since swum over to meet them, and the water's starting to feel a little less cold as Artemis finally sinks to her knees in the sand, letting the bay rise up to lap around her chin.
Somehow, being naked in the harbor at two in the morning with her equally nude team isn't as awkward as she would imagine it would be. Wally and Dick are going at each other with loud splashes and raucous laughter; M'gann is showing Superboy how to tread water (another thing the genomorphs could never have taught him); Kaldur is smiling warmly at her from a few feet away, and maybe this isn't too bad; maybe she won't mind not being able to do this alone anymore.
This fic is dedicated in loving memory of melon, who tragically passed away due to excessive loss of shit on October 25th, 2011 in response to unknown circumstances. Her incoherent wheezing and intricate personal language, melonspeak, will be dearly missed.
A moment of silence, please.