She's about to leave, has her mouth open to give them some gentle line about needing to get home to her mother, but she sees the flash of panic on Megan's face and instead hears herself saying, "M'gann, is it all right if I bunk with you tonight? I'm beat."
"Of course," the Martian girl replies, not bothering to hide her relief. "Come on, I'll get you some pajamas."
It might be her imagination, but it looks almost as though Wally's tense shoulders have dropped a bit, and Robin's mouth is a little less tight. For once it's not Megan Connor is watching leave the room; the slight tilt of his head and the way he always manages to subtly keep her in his peripheral vision gives her the impression he's been listening to her heartbeat.
Holy shit, she'd died.
Artemis doesn't think about it. Doesn't think about the raw fear in Megan's shouted warning, the split second in which she knew her arrow wouldn't save her even as she nocked it. Doesn't think about that horrific moment of impact- like the dreams she's had of falling, falling like her mother did, the sick snap of her spine and the way she screamed-
"Here," and Megan's pushing something into her hands. Artemis takes it automatically. "I think they'll suit you."
The archer takes one look at the bundle in her arms and groans. "Ruffles? Seriously?"
"I can- I can get something else-"
Artemis cracks open an eye. "Hey, relax. Ruffles are fine. They're just, you know, not the sort of thing I usually wear."
Megan gives her a small, shy smile. "I think they'll be pretty on you."
Artemis gives her an uncertain smile back.
She actually had worn things like this once, pretty things; Paula had always liked dressing up her blonde baby, putting her in dainty little dresses and fixing her hair. By the time she was done little Artemis had looked like a porcelain doll, all blonde curls and dark almond eyes, pink cheeks and a rosebud mouth; older women had cooed over her when they'd gone out, salespeople had smiled, strangers complimented her mother on what pretty girls she had.
Father hadn't liked it.
Father wanted calluses on her hands and ice in her eyes, wanted her to be strong and fast and fierce. And she became all those things, but not quickly or well enough to suit him; Artemis was never ruthless the way he wanted, was never able to be like Jade.
He never had forgiven her for it.
Artemis shoots upright, a scream strangling in her throat, hands grasping for a weapon, any weapon, why the hell wasn't there a weapon ready at hand-
Her head whips around, then realization dawns. Oh. It's because she's not in her room. Then what-
The Martian is throwing off palpable dread, sweating and gasping in the throes of a nightmare. Artemis uneasily notes that she's starting to levitate slightly.
"Hey, M'gann." Artemis shakes the other girl's shoulder. "M'gann, it's not real, wake up!"
Megan snaps to consciousness much as Artemis had, eyes flying open, already halfway up by the time she realizes what's going on. She takes one look at Artemis and starts crying in earnest, and even though Artemis is anything but touchy feely she gathers her friend to her. "Hey, c'mon, ssh. It was just a dream."
"It was- so real-"
"I know." Artemis soothes. "But I'm here now, I'm alive, see? I'm right here."
"You weren't." M'gann chokes. "You were there one minute and gone the next, and Artemis, you can't do that, don't ever do that, please, please, please don't ever die."
"I can't promise that," Artemis murmurs into the auburn hair, "but I'll do my best." She huffs a little, amused but not really. "I had no idea you would've reacted like that."
Head buried in the archer's shoulder, M'gann confides, "I wouldn't have, either, especially when I knew it wasn't real. But you- you're important, Artemis. I have twelve sisters on Mars, and none of them are anything like you. You're my- my Earth sister."
"What are they like?" Artemis asks, genuinely interested. M'gann spends so much time trying to acculturate to Earth in general and the US in particular that they haven't learned all that much about Martians, especially for having one on the team (and, a good deal of the time, in their heads.)
M'gann pulls back slightly, and starts to talk.
Connor is up early the next morning, as he usually is; and he wanders into the kitchen, as he usually does.
Megan isn't there.
She's usually making breakfast when he gets up, or wanders in within a few minutes of his arrival. It's... nice. Homey.
He eyes the stove, but the last time he tried to help Megan in the kitchen he'd wound up setting a pan and half the counter on fire. Connor very carefully doesn't wonder if Superman's a good cook, and pours himself a bowl of cereal.
The girls still haven't showed by the time he comes back in from Wolf's morning run, and Connor hesitates in front of her door, listening.
He can hear himself- his heartbeat, his respiration. He can hear Wolf, steady beside him. Connor focuses his hearing, not quite pressing his ear against the door.
Two heartbeats, the strong sound reassuring. Two breathing patterns, one sigh, the rustle of fabric as someone stretches.
He retreats to the living room, satisfied.
Connor hadn't mourned yesterday, not like Megan had. He wasn't rattled, not like Wally was. Was it because he was a clone? Was there something wrong with him? He couldn't fly, he didn't have heat vision like Superman did...
But, no. Connor thinks back. When he'd seen Artemis get vaporized- he didn't feel anything. Megan had screamed and cried, Wally had been angry, but Connor was just numb. And, he realizes, he wasn't the only one. Kaldur and Robin both clung to their self control with the same relentless discipline. And all of them have been trained for just that sort of situation; the G- gnomes had only revealed their fondness for Superboy when everything had gone to hell and they could afford to do so. All the rest of the time, they'd been busy cramming as much information into his head as would fit.
M'gann floats into the kitchen, wiping at her eyes and yawning. He tilts his head back to smile at her. "Morning."
"Morning," she returns, grinning. "What do you want for breakfast?"
He shrugs. "I already had some cereal."
"Breakfast?" a sudden wind yelps happily, and Wally, dressed in his civvies, is suddenly in the kitchen. "Oh, please yes."
M'gann laughs. "What would you like?"
"Everything." he says, and when she laughs Wally tells her, "No, seriously."
"Waffles." Megan decides, and starts mixing batter.
Shuffling footsteps sound from the hall, and Connor and Wally both look up.
It's the first time they've ever seen Artemis like this, with her hair and her guard down. It's apparent why she keeps it in a strict ponytail; the blonde is all over the place. Her dark eyes are slitted open just enough to see where she's going, and even though the pajamas cover more than her costume does, the ruffles on her tank top and at her ankles give her an unfamiliar appearance; Artemis is always undeniably female, but never softly feminine like this.
Megan smiles. "Artemis, would you like some waffles?"
"Mmph. Coffee," the archer grunts, glaring balefully at the unfilled pot.
"Here, I'll get it. Why don't you sit down?" Megan bustles over, glad she'd read the instructions for the appliance.
Artemis makes her slow way into the living room and plops down on a couch; Wolf, sensing an opportunity, rests his huge head on her stomach and is rewarded with a lazy scratch.
"Nice pajamas," Wally smiles.
She actually growls, and Wolf snaps to attention, yellow eyes unblinkingly trained on the resident speedster in a very predatory way.
He holds up his hands. "I'm being serious!"
"Oh, they're mine," Megan tells him, eager to defuse tension. "Aren't they pretty? And they're very pretty on you, Artemis. You can keep them, if you want."
"No thanks." Artemis replies, eyes drifting shut.
The zeta tube flashes, and an instant later there is an abrupt occurence of Robin on the back of Artemis' couch. "Morning!" He, too, has foregone the uniform, if not his shades. The boy lifts her feet and sits down without the slightest hesitation, grabbing a game controller on the way. "Hey, Wally, wanna get your butt kicked before lunch?"
"In your dreams, bird boy!"
Somehow a controller winds up in an indifferent Connor's hands as well, insincere insults fly fast and furious between the other boys, and Wolf maintains his vigil beside Artemis, who resumes scratching behind his ears.
Megan smiles at them as she pours batter into the iron, and the aroma draws out Kaldur, who joins her at the counter and offers his assistance. Megan politely declines but he lingers, watching their teammates, a small smile playing at the corner of his mouth.
"I find that I have an increased appreciation for what we have built here," he murmurs, and M'gann laughs her agreement.
They'll be fine, are fine; because what more do they really need, than each other?
A/N: Holy crap, I'm writing again. Not sure I'm entirely satisfied w/ this, but if I wait to be entirely satisfied I'll never stop tweaking it.
I'm going off the premise here that Artemis and Miss M are going to be more tired than the boys; Artemis because she was in a coma longer, and Miss M from the emotional upheaval of the previous day. Being put through an emotional wringer can be as utterly exhausting as physical exertion. I also wanted to show Artemis starting to trust her teammates more after seeing how her death affected them; a sort of emotional reciprocity. Too much too soon to be realistic? Tell me what y'all think.