Requested by geekyartchick on Tumblr. "Say You Like Me" by We the Kings inspired me to finish this monster!
OKAY, NOW ONTO SERIOUS STUFF, LIKE HENGILAS AND AULD ACQUAINTANCE.
Wally has decided that he wants a cheeseburger forthwith.
Unfortunately, the slow-moving line inside McDonald's doesn't seem to want to consent to his wishes. He has been fidgeting so impatiently with the crumpled five-dollar bill that he'd found stuck to his Physics homework that it's turned softer than the fabric of his shirt.
He stands on his tiptoes to try to see over the heads of the six or so customers in front of him and growls, tossing his head back at the sound of a vacuous-sounding girl asking what the difference was between "hamburgers" and "cheeseburgers."
His stomach rumbles like it's in the middle of an earthquake and he almost cries.
"Order number seventy-seven," a voice calls from behind the crowd to his left, and he jumps at the sound of it – the all-too-familiar, husky, contemptuous lilt of it; the deadpan snark of it.
If he didn't know any better (and he does; he does know better – oh, god, please let him know better), he'd say it was Artemis.
He looks wildly around, crouching in paranoia, hands automatically balling into fists, prepared to fend off any sudden murderous pouncing. How had she found him? The dastardly harpy!
He would pay further terrified attention to this, but something else manages to thankfully distract him – his eyes are mercifully ensnared by the rather fetching posterior of one of the cashier girls, who is currently at the heating station, putting together orders. She stands on her tiptoes to reach for a french fry container, and Wally smirks at the view. Her long blonde ponytail, popping out from her uniform cap, trails down to her hips. Her sinewy, muscular legs stretch becomingly out from the khaki shorts, which, incidentally, accentuate her ass(ets) very nicely.
You can't blame a guy for appreciating aesthetics. And after all, the Wall-man has good taste.
She finishes up with the fries and turns around, and—oh, no. That face does not complement that beautiful bod.
If there was ever any face that would eradicate beauty so violently, it was Artemis's. Which, coincidentally, this girl seems to have the gall to possess.
"YOU!" Wally shouts with an extremely undignified crack in his voice, pointing a stiff, accusatory finger at her. Several befuddled stares are shot his way, but he's too catatonic to notice.
Artemis (he supposes it's high time he admitted it was her) gives a start, nearly dropping the tray she's carrying to the cash register for an impatient-looking soccer mom. Her head jerks up and her eyes go straight to his, and the sight of him practically causes her to lose her grasp on the tray again.
"You," she responds in a low snarl, and Wally straightens.
"How dare you show your face at this fine establishment!" It's meant to come out as a Gandalf-like bellow but sounds altogether more similar to Shaggy Rogers. "What—how—?"
"I work here, Kid Sherlock," she snaps back, handing the order to the soccer mom and muttering an additional, disturbingly cheerful, "Thank you, come again!"
Wally crowds his way past a herd of Little Leaguers and cuts right in front of the next customer at Artemis's station, slamming his hands down on the counter with a dramatically raised eyebrow.
"Work here doing what? Turning good-intentioned customers to stone?"
"No," she hisses, sending apologetic looks to the glowering patrons shuffling over to the other line. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she murmurs to them before returning her vitriolic glower to him. "And if you don't mind, Wall-man, I've kind of got some people to feed."
Wally waves his crumpled five-dollar bill in front of her face, causing her to go cross-eyed. "I count as one of those people! Look! Money!"
"If you want my advice, idiot, don't waste your money on—" She freezes and glances over her shoulder. Wally follows her gaze to see a paunchy man with a discerning eye folding his arms at her in passing, and can only assume by the sheer quality of his clip-on tie that he's the manager. "On—on—anything else! Because here at McDonald's, everything's made with all-American love!"
Wally would be laughing until one of his lungs burst if it weren't for the fact that he still wanted that cheeseburger.
"I want a number two," he declares cantankerously, slapping the fiver onto the fake marble counter. "Extra-large Coke with that. And two orders of fries. And maybe two other cheeseburgers."
Artemis purses her lips at him.
"Five dollars is not going to pay for the whole restaurant, Wally, if that's what you're trying to pull. But I'll see if we have an extra kitchen somewhere."
"Hey, come on," he pleads, waggling his eyebrows and nudging her. "You can't, uh... give a discount for teammates?"
"If we had a discount for Pigheaded Morons, I'd be sure to let you know," she snips back, punching a few numbers into the register. "Ugh, why are you even here? Don't they have McDonald's in Central City?"
"Yeah, but it's not as good." He pouts. "Plus, the average box of fries has six more here than in Central."
Artemis's face goes completely deadpan.
"I don't know whether I should be impressed or depressed that you've actually figured something like that out."
"The former. Obviously." Wally folds his arms. "Now are you gonna get me my burger or not?"
Artemis opens her mouth, doubtlessly to deny him, but the manager clears his throat audibly and she winces, forcing a jagged smile onto her face.
"Of—course," she ekes out through gritted teeth. "Uh, sir. What can I get for you today?"
"That's more like it." Wally grins complacently. "And just for your benefit, I will deign to repeat my order. I'll take a number two with an extra-large Coke and two orders of fries."
Artemis rolls her eyes hugely and prods at the register. It dings.
"That'll be $4.89, please," she chirps, and Wally coughs down a guffaw.
"See? Just enough cash to buy myself a feast." He slides the bill towards her and she pinches it delicately between her thumb and index finger as if she is handling nuclear waste. "Now chop-chop, babe, I haven't got all day."
Artemis startles him very suddenly by grabbing him by the collar and yanking him roughly forward until their noses are a mere twitch apart. There is imminent murder in her eyes and Wally wishes it was being directed somewhere else.
"I may be letting you off easy because the manager's watching me, but I swear, when we get back to the Cave, I will end you."
"Is that supposed to scare me?" Wally squawks.
"You are a smart one," she growls, and releases him. Cheerfully, she flounces over to the hot counter and calls, "number two with double the fries!"
"This had better be the best cheeseburger I've ever had, for what it's worth."
Artemis scowls at him before adding, "And make sure to burn it!"
For the record, Wally only stays until closing time because he wants to annoy her. A wide array of eclectic persons filter in and out of the pinging doors until it's pitch-black outside, the Gotham smog rendering the sky starless. Eventually, the doors have been locked and Artemis has started mopping the floors while Wally sits cross-legged on a booth table, yawning periodically.
"Why are you still here," she grumbles flatly.
"This is gold blackmail fodder, that's why," he replies gleefully, leaning back on his palms. "And since I don't have a video camera or any sort of recording device, my own amazingly good memory will have to do."
Artemis promptly stops what she's doing and strides toward him, brandishing the mop at his chest.
"You can't tell," she snarls threateningly, "anyone. Or I swear, I will personally render you sterile."
"What's stopping me?" he boasts with a pompous smirk, challenging her.
"Wally." He pauses, blinking in astonishment at the uncharacteristic desperation suddenly plastered all over her face. She lowers the mop as if withering. "Please. Please don't tell the Team."
Wally flounders wordlessly at her for a moment, trying to process an appropriate reaction for this sudden mood whiplash, and feels an agonizing flush creeping up his cheeks at the pitiful look in her eyes.
"Did you hear me?" she prods huffily, frowning.
"Sorry; it's just..." He shrugs. "I've never seen you have feelings before. Don't do it too often; it's bad for my heart. Uh. Health."
The expression of distressed vulnerability abruptly departs from her features, pushed off by the rolling of her eyes and the quirking corner of a disgruntled sneer. She mutters something bitterly under her breath and returns to her mopping.
Wally fidgets on the table, picking at his cuticles. Artemis moves the mop around with spasmodic ferocity, her forehead tight with a pinched glower. Wally scratches the back of his head sheepishly and glances away.
"Your secret's safe with me," he finally says earnestly, and she pauses, going still. "What do you need this job for, anyway? I mean... fast food? That seems like more of my gig."
Artemis considers his question for a moment, and Wally can immediately tell that she's trying to decide whether or not to answer.
"We—I need the money," she fumbles out after a moment, knuckles whitening as she clutches the worn wooden handle of the mop. "It's not a lot, especially because it's only part-time, but... it's something."
"Oh." Wally shuffles, struggling as he often does with this sudden friendliness between him and the belligerent archer. "And is it – uh, well, is it okay? The job."
"Not for what they pay me," she shoots back immediately, wiping the floor rhythmically. "I'm on my feet for five hours a day and get no tips, and the customers can be total jerks most of the time, and I never get to see my friends anymore because I don't get home until like eight at night, and it's just..."
She stops, sighing. Wally can see some loose strands of gold wavering over her forehead with the breath.
"I..." Her shoulders sag in exhaustion, and Wally frowns at her. "Every day here sucks. I can't stand it. But it... it pays. I have to keep telling myself that."
Wally regards her in silence as she finishes her cleaning, gazing with deep pensiveness at the floor as she bustles back into the custodial closet to restore the mop and bucket. She comes back out after a few moments in her normal clothes, uniform folded neatly in her arms. Wally's unimpeded view of the sparkling floor is disrupted by the appearance of two high-heeled black leather boots, and he sighs, following the legs up to the face with an unimpressed expression.
He snorts. Artemis seems to have forgotten to remove her cap.
"I didn't know you liked the hat that much," he quips dryly, and she looks startled, hand shooting in disbelief up to her head. With an annoyed huff, she yanks the cap off, and her hair rustles with the freedom, shining in the fluorescent lights.
"I'm going home," she tells him bluntly. "Unless you want to spend the night in the kitchen, I suggest you do the same."
"You want a ride?" Wally blurts out, because he's sure it wouldn't be too much trouble, carrying her home – good practice, good exercise, he rationalizes.
She blinks owlishly at him, rendered momentarily speechless, before permitting the quirked corners of a warmly appreciative smile to curl into her cheeks.
"No, thanks, Wall-man. I can make it on my own."
"At this time of night?" Wally asks. "Are you sure?"
"Yes. I've done it before, and I don't even want to think about what I'd do if something happened to you," she snarks, feigning dramatic concern.
Wally rolls his eyes.
They approach the glass exit doors, and Wally pushes it ajar for her, stepping outside and propping it open with his back, beckoning for her to come out with a flourish. She gladly accepts his chivalry, stepping out into the cold night, breathing loudly through her mouth to smile at the stream of fog that emerges into the glitter of the darkness.
"Hey, look," Wally says before he can register the words, and she turns expectantly to him. "I'll come by. I'll make things easier, or whatever – at work, I mean. I'll visit. Every day after school. For a little while." He raises his hand in a solemn vow. "Promise."
He so hugely expects her to make some snippy remark about how that would only make things harder or how bored are you, even or don't bother, Baywatch; I can handle myself. But instead she raises her eyebrows cautiously at him, as if trying to convince herself that she's heard him right, and – Wally is shocked. There is a full, genuine smile on her face now, and she nods, one eyebrow quirked mischievously.
"Hey. It's your funeral."
They linger anxiously beside each other for a moment, eyes locked, before Artemis clears her throat and jay-walks over to the other side of the street, ponytail whipping out behind her as she jogs. Wally is about to leave when she waves good-bye to him from across the street and calls, "But hey, Wally – thanks. Thanks."
He beams at her, raising his thumb in encouragement.
"Anything for a mortal enemy!" he replies, and she scoffs with a fond smile before pulling up the hood of her peacoat and striding down the sidewalk. Wally doesn't leave until he sees her round a corner and go out of sight, at which point he sighs and rockets away. He's fairly certain that he was whistling a tune while he ran, but he can't remember for the life of him what it was.
No one ever said Wally West couldn't keep a promise.
His after-school hours begin to be plentifully spent in the McDonald's on State Street, enough that his mother is prompted to start demanding why he doesn't get home until nine o'clock each night. It isn't until he's been frequenting the place for two weeks that he realizes something he should have ages ago: how great of a spokesperson Kid Flash would be for the business.
He has to stifle rampant bursts of laughter as he zips toward Gotham, a gleeful yellow-and-red streak. He doesn't stop until he has zoomed up to Artemis' cash register, leaning suavely on the counter, red insignia gleaming. Artemis' gawking face ought to be immortalized in stone.
"Hey, babe," he drawls, pushing his goggles off of his face with his thumb. "Can you get me the usual?"
"What are you doing?" she hisses, sending terrified glances at staring customers as if to say, I don't know him; I just work here.
"I may be the Fastest Boy Alive, gorgeous, but I've got places to be. The usual!" he finishes with a flourish.
She flummoxes, but finally manages to get enough of her motor skills back to furiously punch a few numbers into the register and call out his order to the kitchen.
"Put it on my tab," he says smoothly. A couple of her coworkers are poking their heads around the corner from near the kitchen, and he grins. "Wait, hold on. Saucy winks for the ladies."
He clicks his tongue at them and nods suggestively, waggling his eyebrows. They squeal and wave coyly back. Artemis looks sick.
His order is ready within moments, and he snatches the white paper bag and large soda out of her hands before she can think to charge him for it.
"You light up my life, babe!" he exclaims, tapping her nose playfully before tugging his goggles down and saluting her in farewell. "See you, uh, tonight."
It isn't until he's about four blocks away that he allows himself to laugh until it hurts.
Artemis stands gaping at the counter for several minutes, and she supposes that she has her spontaneously appearing coworkers to thank for her loss of complete catatonia. Dimly, she feels someone excitedly jostling her elbow, and manages to yank herself out of her rigor mortis to process the fact that Jamie is chattering into her ear.
"Omigod, Arty, you know Kid Flash?" the girl squeals. Her brunette friend, Brigid, clutches Artemis's shoulder.
"Don't call me Arty," Artemis deadpans instinctively, attempting to shrug off Brigid and failing. "And no! No, of course I don't know him. Why would I know a pig like that?"
"Uh, he knows you, missy," Brigid chirps, waggling her eyebrows.
"He called you babe," Jamie swoons. "And – and gorgeous."
"He probably says as much to his own reflection."
"And what was all that about seeing you tonight?" Jamie squawks, clapping her palms together. Brigid gasps loudly and histrionically, causing Artemis to grimace.
"Oooh, yeah!" Brigid agrees with relish, nodding hysterically. "Are you going on a date with Kid Flash?"
"Are you, like, his Mary Jane, or something?" Jamie sighs longingly, clasping her manicured hands at her chest and batting her eyes at the ceiling. "Ohh, my gosh, Arty, that is sooooo romantic."
"Hey, if you strike out, give him my number." Brigid shoves a slip of paper into Artemis's stunned hand. "Ugh, I gotta run; the fries are burning."
"Text us the deets!" Jamie giggles, dashing off after Brigid. Artemis doesn't have the energy to mention that her cell phone hasn't been soiled with either of their numbers.
She chews Wally out that night when he swings by at six for a milkshake, hoping that her rage will deter him. It doesn't.
She admits that she has to admire his tenacity. Every day at three o'clock precisely, Kid Flash comes bursting into the eatery, each time growing more and more brazen in his flirtations, each time causing Jamie and Brigid to grow a little closer to gelastic fits.
"Anyone ever tell you you've got the prettiest face in all of Gotham?"
"Afternoon, milady. Come here often?"
"Light of my life, babe! How's tricks? Can I get a kiss with those fries today?"
Despite her increasingly violent whacks to the back of his head after-hours, he does not relent, and eventually she just starts rolling with it, humoring him with wry smiles and kind shakes of the head. She grows to be a symbol of public envy, the elusive and mysterious object of Kid Flash's affections, and is constantly asked by girls of all ages what it's like to know such an amazingly cute guy.
"It's about as fun as swallowing maces," she snips back dryly every time.
Wally's shenanigans are mostly harmless, and they stay that way until one Friday afternoon when it's five o'clock and he still hasn't shown up. Artemis refuses to believe that she's actually worried about him, and she's only compulsively looking out the windows into the street so that she can get a fair warning if he's about to come barrelling in.
"Do you think he's okay?" Jamie wails.
"He's probably out fighting crime or something," Brigid mutters.
"Or he's found another girl," Jamie sniffles, suddenly grabbing Artemis by the shoulders with comical intensity and throwing her head back in mourning. "Oh, say it isn't so! Artemis, if you ever need any one to girl talk with, I am so here to help you get over that creep."
"I don't need any help!" Artemis groans, pushing Jamie off. "You guys are ridiculous! I don't even like W—Kid Flash; he's the most obnoxious—"
Cutting her off is the sudden rush of air-stealing wind that can only be affiliated with one hyperactive speedster, and Artemis' entire heart sinks in relief at thtte sight of Wally, doubled over and panting in front of her, yellow uniform dirtied.
"Where have you been?" she exclaims, forgetting to feign unfamiliarity.
Wally, gasping, lifts his head to look at her incredulously.
"What've you got your panties in a knot about?" he wheezes, feebly straightening up. His face grow suddenly sly, and he leans close to her with a smug grin. She bats his face away with a huff. "Oh, babe. You were worried about me."
"She totally was!" Jamie shrieks dramatically.
"Shut up, Jamie," Artemis snarls before turning her attention back to Wally. "For your information, Kid Bozo, I was only worried about the possibility of overstock. What are we supposed to do with all the extra food we get for you if you don't show up to eat it?"
"I was busy," he defends, looking genuinely hurt.
"For two hours?"
"Uh, yeah!" Wally shouts, throwing his hands out. "Fighting—somebody! And, uh, look, can I just get a shake? My muscles are getting sore."
"Ugh, fine," Artemis grumbles, striding to the milkshake machine, ignoring the gleeful titters of Jamie and Brigid and the lecherous laughter of Wally as he converses with them. The sound fades as she rounds the corner behind the counter, and the sight of them is now in her blind sight.
She sighs and whips up a strawberry shake for him (she hadn't needed to ask him what kind he likes). The machine whirs loudly, drowning out any snatches of conversation that she may have caught onto.
The cup fills with cold pinkness and Artemis crams a lid onto it, flicking off the contraption with an uninterested sigh. She starts to return to the three of them with shake in hand, and Wally's cracking up about something.
Just as she's about to go around the corner again, she freezes at the sound of the speedster's words.
"Yeah, you have to be pretty desperate to work at a dump like this," he's saying, and Jamie and Brigid are giggling. "I mean, when I first saw Artemis here, I was like, 'damn, how badly does she need money?'"
"Oh, probably super badly," Jamie tells him conspiratorially. "And like, she hates this job."
"We hate this job," Brigid corrects her.
Wally chuckles, and Artemis catches a glimpse of him running his hand through his hair in an attempt to look suave. Brigid and Jamie completely fall for it.
"Well, I can't blame you, ladies. I'd hate a job if I had to share it with the likes of Artemis. But that's just between you and me."
Brigid bats her eyelashes at him. He milks it for all it's worth.
"Our little secret, yeah?" he continues, nudging at her chin with his right hand, and she shies away, smiling coyly.
Artemis' grip tightens on the shake. Suddenly her heart is like a gong striking, loud and reverberating and causing her whole self to shake, and she's striding forward with the shake still clenched in her hand, and everything in her vision is pulsing and blurred, though from what, she isn't sure.
Damn, how badly does she need the money?
Wally's in front of her, out of nowhere, and she guesses that she's reached where the three of them are standing and chatting, and he grins at her.
"You are an angel!" he cries, and makes to take the cup from her.
Her eyes flash and he halts, but doesn't have the time to react before she rips the lid off of the cup and throws its contents all over him, mouth hard and tight. Brigid and Jamie gasp theatrically.
Artemis doesn't give him the chance to look up from his now-pink chest, smashing the cup onto the floor and storming out into the drizzling night, throat dry and lumpy. She isn't sure which direction she's walking in, but eventually she winds up home, and is being given appraising looks from her mother due to her still-worn uniform.
I'd hate a job if I had to share it with the likes of Artemis.
"Artemis, where are your clothes?" her mother demands, but it isn't harsh; it's soft, concerned, and she rolls forward a little to place a hand on Artemis'. The girl's fingers twitch away and she breathes deeply to calm herself, forcing a smile onto her face.
"Nothing, Mom," she assures her, leaning down to kiss her mother's bewildered forehead. "I'm just tired. I'll—I'm going to bed. Yeah. Okay?"
"Sure," Paula Crock mutters, but Artemis is already gone, flopping face down onto her bed, and every part of her is still hot with inexplicable hurt, like she's been given a bad sunburn.
She groans into her pillow, and the sound is muffled, before punching the thing repeatedly, pretending that it has freckles and green eyes.
Secrets. Secrets. Your secret's safe with me. Our little secret, yeah?
Remind her to never change her opinion about Wally West, inconsiderate philanderer extraordinaire, again. Oh, well. At least he probably got two girls for the price of one! She should be congratulating him.
Kid Flash is quite suddenly absent from McDonald's. Monday comes and goes, and Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – the manager even nudges her while she's ringing up a high school teacher to ask her where their mascot is.
"Like I know!" she had snaps back, and the manager squints threateningly at her before bustling away.
Jamie and Brigid aren't talking to her, either. The two girls avoid her at all costs, but not out of disgust or contempt; their faces are constantly imploring and ashamed, but Artemis couldn't care less about what they will or won't say to her. She goes about her business as she had for nearly a month before Wally had stumbled in that first afternoon, and there's some sort of relief to it, like she's been granted a reprieve from looking after a two-year-old.
The restaurant definitely doesn't feel empty or incomplete without his disgusting belches ringing up the walls, and there certainly isn't the smallest surplus of French fries at the end of every day. Artemis eats them all while she mops in the fluorescent silence every night.
The Team hasn't had missions all week, so she doesn't see the redhead at the Cave, either. She hasn't had the time to drop by the Mountain lately anyway, because she's saving her time for assignments from Batman. There's no time to breathe during the week, not like there used to be when Wally would lie back on one of the dirty tables and tell her jokes about a species of bird known as the tit.
Not that it's a problem, mind you. Artemis is fine. As stated before, Wally's disappearing act is a wonderful relief to her, and she couldn't be happier.
She gets one text, just one, from him on her phone on Thursday night while she's polishing the milkshake machine.
October 9th, 2011 7:19 PM
is there a statute of limitations on apologies
She doesn't reply.
It's a Friday when the doors are pushed open and a rush of wind bursts into the waiting line, causing Artemis to give a start and look instinctively up at the entranceway. There's Kid Flash, but the breeze is not from his speed; rather from the blustery weather outside. He seems to have walked here, if his even breathing and lack of a sweat are any indication.
Artemis deigns to give him a second of hateful eye contact before returning to her customer. He walks forward, getting into line behind the four other people she's supposed to serve, paying no mind to the stunned stares he's receiving from all of the patrons.
Artemis coolly deals with each of the customers, handing off their orders as they come, and it's several minutes before Wally finally approaches the counter.
She regards him coldly.
"What can I get for you today, sir?" she asks crisply, hand poised readily over the number pad on the cash register.
He says nothing. He's just – he's just looking at her, with his head slightly tilted and his eyes uncharacteristically earnest and his fingers resting hesitantly on the absolute edge of the counter.
"Sir?" she prods him again, unnerved.
"I'd start out this conversation," he finally says analytically, "by saying I was sorry, but that seems kind of boring."
"Sorry for what?" She blinks innocently at him, but he does not reciprocate the gesture.
"You know how I can get sometimes, okay?" he murmurs, leaning forward ever-so slightly. "They were just – they were girls, for Pete's sake. I was just trying to impress them, you know? And—"
Artemis drops the act.
"That's no excuse; now what can I get you?" she whispers the first part and firmly states the last. He bristles.
"The—" He swallows. "Usual."
"One Usual, coming right up." Her voice is brisk and breezy, as uncaring as it would be with a stranger, and Wally's gut twists.
She returns to the cash register and taps a few keys.
"$4.89," she recites. He hands over five dollars.
"Keep the change," he mumbles. She does so.
"Is there something I can help you with, sir?" she growls, glancing apologetically at the impatient customers gathering behind Wally. "If not, please go wait by the—"
He surprises her by reaching rapidly over the corner and grabbing her face on either side with both of his scarlet-gloved hands, tugging himself forward until he has one knee on the counter and his lips are on hers.
Artemis hits him. Not terribly hard, but enough to get him to jerk away, eyes protuberant.
"Don't do that!" she hisses. "We're in public! Get off of me! Get—ugh!"
She shoves him bodily onto the other side of the counter, glowering at him.
"Grow up, Wally," she snarls.
"You already made me do that," he retorts angrily.
"Order number sixty-three!" the cook bellows. Artemis hardly hears him.
"I what?" she demands, knuckles tight.
"You made me grow up," he repeats testily. "In what, like, a week? Man. If I'd known getting a milkshake thrown on me would get me to figure all this stuff out—"
"What stuff?" People are staring.
"Everything!" he yells, arms out in exasperation. "I've just been realizing that I'm kind of a jerk! That I was kind of a jerk. To you. But that you were—I don't know. Different? Like, you won't let me get away with noth—with anything. And I—"
His eyes had wandered to his feet during his incoherent monologue, but now they're back on hers again, and her breath hitches in her throat.
"I guess I like that more than I thought I did," he finishes clumsily. A pause. "Now can I get my burger or not, babe?"
"Oh my gosh, true love," Jamie swoons from the burger grill.
Artemis stares at him for a long while, and her gaze does not cause him enough discomfort to look away, because he holds hers for as long as she does his, eyebrows deep with thought and nervousness.
"Order number sixty-three," the cook echoes tetchily. "Artemis. Order number—"
"I know," she interjects, finally tearing her eyes away from Wally's to snatch the tray from the heating station. She drops it onto the counter with a clatter.
"There you go," she ekes out. He moves to open one of his food-or-whatever compartments, but she puts a hand up to halt him. "I'll put it on your tab."
"Artemis," he says cautiously. "If you want to go back to fighting, we can—"
"I'll," she interrupts. Her heart is tight. "I'll, uh, see you tonight."
She smiles, then, and winks at him, pushing the tray forward.
And, judging by the rampant grin that brands its way onto his face, this is all the confirmation he needs that he has not completely and permanently mucked all important things in his life up.
Impulsively, he leans over the counter again and plants a kiss on her forehead, snickering at the indignant noise she makes, before snatching up the meal and zooming out the door at his usual speed.
The restaurant applauds. Save me, Artemis thinks as she puts a hand on her forehead. My stupid life has turned into an eighties movie.
(The thing is, Wally's tab just keeps growing and growing over the months, and only when Artemis quits her job in November does he even remember that he has one to begin with.)
("Money can't buy happiness," he says during a combat session when she brings it up.)
("But it can buy you your life," she says, and kicks him across the room.)
("Didn't buy you," he retorts, picking himself up with a grin.)
("That's because I'm way out of your price range, Wall-man.")
("You wound me.")
("Get a room!" Robin yells with a cackle, and their indignant retorts are scrambling and indistinct as their teammates burst into raucous laughter.)