Requested by yjfanvids on Tumblr. This made me especially happy because I am a French major and French is my life. Now with your daily dose of sap!
Translations at the end of the story.
Elle me dit, c'est ta vie.
Fait ce que tu veux, tant pis.
Un jour tu comprendras—
Un jour tu t'en voudras.
Artemis is minding her own business, frankly. She and M'gann are sitting side-by-side on the couch with a plate of burnt brownies between them, watching the newest episode of Hello Megan! on CCN. Artemis has been trying to keep from gagging at the dialogue for the past few minutes, cringing with every line delivered by the wooden male lead actor.
It isn't bad, to be honest. She likes having these little half-hour TV sessions with M'gann on Friday nights – it's comforting, in a demented way.
Then Wally shows up, and everything is ruined.
She's suddenly acutely aware of him standing next to her, facing her, with his hands fisted at his sides and a comically resolute expression on his freckled face. She slowly and dramatically turns her head towards him and lets it loll back.
She quirks an eyebrow.
"Yeeeesss?" She sings sarcastically.
"I need you," Wally blurts out very loudly. M'gann jumps and Artemis almost copies her.
She circumvents the room skeptically, as if she'll find the person who's pointing a gun at him. When it becomes clear that she, Wally, and M'gann are the only ones present, she turns her gaze back to the speedster with incredulity.
"What?" she hisses, eyebrows high. Wally's mind seems to fumble around for a second before he salvages some scrap of coherency.
"Your help," he appends with terrified haste. "I need your help. With…" He grimaces as if this civility is causing him great pain. "With my homework."
Artemis's dumbfounded heartbeat slows with relief, and she feels her shoulders loosen.
"Oh," she grunts. She glances over at the television screen, now displaying a commercial for something called the Wonder Bra, which M'gann seems to think is absolutely sensational.
"I want one!" M'gann squeals.
Artemis ignores her.
"Kinda busy," she growls at Wally, jerking her head toward the Martian.
Wally looks like he's just stepped on a nail.
"When this is over, then?" he all but begs, eyes brimming with desperation. Artemis sighs enormously.
"Yeah, sure," she agrees monotonously, turning back to the television and crossing her arms. She can't imagine what Wally West, self-proclaimed genius of all trades, could conceivably need her help with.
He waits at the kitchen table, noisily plowing through a few sandwiches with nauseating gusto. The episode ends on a dramatic "TO BE CONTINUED," backed by a swell of strings, and M'gann seems somewhat distressed.
"Oh… my… gosh," she breathes, then grows louder. "Oh my gosh!"
"We're watching Criminal Minds next time, okay?" Artemis grumbles (with a smile).
M'gann gasps and clings to the pillow at her chest, eyes owlish.
"Oh, but Artemis, it's so – unhappy," she whimpers, and Artemis pats her back.
"And extremely unrealistic!" Wally shouts from the kitchen through a mouthful of Oreos.
"No one asked you, Wally!" Artemis yells.
When she turns her gaze back to M'gann, the Martian girl's face shines with a knowing smile. Artemis balks.
"What?" she demands. M'gann giggles – a tinkling, silver tremble in the air.
"Nothing," she assures her, still chuckling behind her hand. "You should probably go help Wally."
"Ugh, yeah, I guess so," Artemis groans, heaving herself off the couch and stretching. Her shoulders pop and crack in rapid succession.
"Will you be here for dinner?" M'gann asks hopefully as Artemis heads reluctantly toward the anxious-looking Wally.
"Probably not," Artemis replies. "Sorry, Megs."
"Okay," M'gann calls halfheartedly.
Artemis reaches Wally, who is sitting on the island by the stove with a rapidly thumping foot and an antsy expression. She grits her teeth and folds her arms.
"All right, Kid Genius, what's the problem?" she demands.
He slouches grumpily, stuffing his hands into his pockets.
"I already told you," he grumps. "I need help with my homework."
"This may come as a shock, Wally, but specificity can come in handy once in a while."
"Just—" Wally looks around circumspectly. "Just… come here."
He ends the sentence by putting his arms forward and twitching his fingers toward himself in beckoning. His ears are a bright scarlet.
Artemis's eyes go wide.
"Just on the off-chance that I decide to let you carry me, where, exactly, do you plan on taking me?" she snaps, suddenly paranoid. He rolls his eyes.
"To my aunt and uncle's apartment. All my stuff's there." He huffs and gestures more adamantly for her to come toward him. "Look, I promise I won't drop you."
Artemis considers him for a moment before shuffling cautiously toward him. He grows exasperated very quickly and, when she's within reach, reaches forward and sweeps her up before she can do so much as yelp.
"Wally!" she squawks, flailing. One of her thrashing arms whacks him in the chin and he groans. "Put me down!"
He does no such thing.
"Hold on," he growls.
He rockets off, and she has no choice but to oblige him.
If Wally smells like burned firewood, if his skin is warm and humming, if his chest is rising and falling against her ribs, if her forehead is pressing into the crook of his neck, Artemis doesn't notice. It feels as if he's screeched to a halt just a moment after he'd taken off, and Artemis jerks with the roughness of his stop, thankful that she managed to avoid whiplash.
"You need to get your brakes checked," she snips as she wrestles herself out of his arms. He's pouting at her and she returns the expression fleetingly before turning to take in her surroundings.
She guesses that the door in front of them is the door to his room – evidence to support this includes the two road-like signs tacked onto it that respectively read "Warning: Hearts Will Be Stolen Once Door is Opened" and "Clothing Optional Beyond This Point," along with assorted Flash stickers. Without a word, he shoulders her aside and nudges the door open with one sneakered foot, shuffling inside. She follows him dubiously and freezes in sheer disbelief at the interior.
An entire shelf is devoted to limited-edition Flash and Kid Flash action figures (and—wait, is that one off to the left her?). Off to the left, the inside of his closet is stuffed full of scarlet and yellow sweatshirts and – is that a Batman hoodie?
His quilt, rumpled and covered in scattered mismatched socks, is bright red and patterned with Flash insignias, and his sheets are mustard to match. His bedside table (the part of it that she can see under all of the candy wrappers and half-empty milk glasses, anyway), houses a warmly lit crimson lamp and… an autographed picture of Kid Flash.
"You autographed a picture of and for yourself?" she deadpans, picking her way over the terrain of dirty clothes and empty plates to examine the frame.
"Yeah," he exclaims as if it's absurdly practical. "I show it off at school."
"'To the coolest dude I have ever met in my life ever. Your brother in swag, Kid Flash,'" she reads aloud flatly, punctuating the end with a gag. "Wally, you… you're on a whole other level of ridiculous."
"You're just jealous that I have an autographed picture of Kid Flash." He beams, hands on his hips. "I can get you one."
"Let's just get this over with," Artemis mutters, putting the photo back in place with one more purposeful grimace. "What do you need my help with?"
When Wally doesn't answer right away, she cocks an eyebrow at him, mouth thinning. A somewhat horrified frown comes upon his face, and Artemis can practically hear his steam-powered brain creaking around. He opens and closes his mouth several times as if attempting to start sentences and failing miserably. Just when Artemis is about to lose her patience, he settles on something.
"Now, uh, look," he scrambles with nervous speed. "It's – we're all required to take a foreign language class for three years or we can't graduate, and – Spanish was full, okay? And I really didn't want to take Greek, because, ugh, a whole different alphabet? And – and I'm a science guy, you know? So I'm not – a prodigy at this kind of stuff, and—"
"Oh, my God," Artemis gasps as Wally's unintelligible rambling turns to clarity in her head. "Are… you taking French?"
Wally makes a face before flatly answering, "Oui."
Artemis tries not to laugh. She tries so hard. But alas, in a moment, she is doubled over with peals of it, clutching her abdomen, all but weeping hysterically all over the burgundy carpet.
"Oh. Oh, God," she wheezes. Wally is pouting, ears red.
"You're fired!" he snaps, which only makes her guffaw harder.
"Ohhh, man, Wally," she finally giggles, straightening back up and wiping tears from her eyes. "Haha. Oh. This is just perfect."
"Robin told me you were good at it," he grumbles, sounding bitter.
"Yeah. I'm fluent." Artemis attempts to take a deep breath to regain her composure but it is hiccuped apart with leftover chuckles. "I'm in AP at Go—at school."
"Right." Wally's eyes are focused stonily on his feet, which he is shuffling indecisively.
"So… what do you need help with, exactly? Irregular verbs, or…?"
"Yeah, those. Also, uh, tenses… we started subjunctive last week and I've flunked like every—"
"Subjunctive?" Artemis interrupts, astonished. "It's only the second semester of your first year and you're already learning subjunctive? That's the hardest tense to learn; you shouldn't even be hearing about it until, like, at least the end of your second year."
"Madame Morhange is kind of…" Wally circles a finger around his temple and makes a cuckoo whistle. "She's a native, and she thinks it's best to learn all of our tenses at once."
"All of them?" Artemis exclaims. "Present and passé composée and futur simple and conditional and subjunctive and imparfait and—"
"Yes," Wally cuts her off almost desperately. "All of those." He pauses, sighing. "We're learning direct and indirect objects, too. And like, I don't even remember how to say my name!"
"Je m'appelle…" Artemis supplies automatically. Wally blinks, and his face screws up comically in excessive concentration.
"Uh… je… mah-pel Wally West."
"Wally," Artemis says softly. "I don't know how to tell you this, but gargling marbles does not do any favors for your pronunciation."
"My French is fine!" Wally protests indignantly, sounding genuinely wounded.
"No," Artemis tells him frankly. "It really isn't. It is a far, far step from fine."
"I didn't ask you over so you could insult me, Blondie. I need a blitz study session on everything French before the test on Monday and you're my only hope."
"Am I?" Artemis says slyly, and Wally visibly bristles.
"Don't get any ideas," he grunts, shaking his finger at her. "You're expendable."
"Uh-huh," she snorts. Wally huffs.
"Are you hungry?" he barks. "Because I am hungry. I will go get food."
Without even waiting for an answer, he rockets out of the room, causing the harum-scarum papers on his floor to flutter into the air. Artemis blinks in his wake before rolling her eyes and crossing her arms, sending warning looks at everything in the room as if making it clear that she will murder anything that attempts to interact with her.
"Wallace! Good grief, where is that kid?"
She jumps, whirling toward the doorway with an automatic combative pose, only to be met with the gangly form of Wally's uncle, Barry, who is staring at her appraisingly.
"Oh." He puts his hands in his pockets and gives her a once-over that makes her flush. Up until now, she'd forgotten that she is still wearing the white ribbed tank top and navy shorts that she'd been lounging around in at the Cave.
"Hi," she deadpans, bowing her head.
He stares at her.
"I'm." She gesticulates. "His tutor."
She gestures lamely toward the kitchen, and Barry nods pensively at her, doing a poor job of concealing his amusement.
"Yep. No doubt about that." Without taking his eyes off of her, he tilts his head back out into the hallway and calls, "Hey, Kiddo, who's the babe?"
Artemis hears a strangled yell from two rooms down and suddenly Wally is back in the room, arms laden with hot dogs and potato chips and a few boxes of raspberries.
"Uncle Barry, get out!" he shouts, brandishing a banana at the man. "I will cut you!"
"I hear you, I hear you," Barry declares with hands raised in surrender. Before he strolls down the rest of the hallway, however, he pretends to get misty-eyed and wipes an imaginary tear from his face. "They grow up so fast. Use protection!"
The noise that Wally makes could have been made while he was being run over by a car and Artemis wouldn't have known the difference.
"You will not live long enough to breed!" he snarls at the empty doorway. Artemis knows he'd be shaking his fist if his hands weren't full.
She shrugs and plucks a box of raspberries from his hoard, shooting him a smirk.
"He seems nice. A quality that apparently doesn't run in your side of the family. Are you even related, or did they just find you in a box labeled 'Free Idiots?'"
"Ha, ha." Wally elbows her, the corners of his mouth turned down dramatically. Artemis, in spite of herself, laughs.
"Okay. Uses of the subjunctive tense. Go."
It's been nearly four hours since Artemis had first shown up at Wally's place, and the speedster has already gone through three dinners. Artemis can't believe the nonchalance with which Barry and Wally's aunt Iris bring in plates of food every thirty minutes.
It's grown dark in the city, and rain clatters down on the roof.
Wally's green eyes glint with concentration and he takes a deep breath, staring determinedly at her elbow.
"All things subjective. Usually first-person. Sentir, vouloir, falloir, désirer, préferer, être necessaire. Not used with penser or croire except in the negative. Describes a will, need, piece of advice, or a desire. Uh, uh, emotions. Feelings. Wants. Opinion. Doubt. Also using subordinate clauses with negative or indefinite pronouns."
"Was, were, used to. Storytelling."
"Basic past tense. In storytelling, used to describe sudden occurrences. The Vandertramp verbs and reflexive verbs are conjugated with être, but all others are conjugated with avoir."
"Conditional, obviously. If I were to do this, then this would happen. Usually… uh…" He freezes, brain stumbling. "Usually… the 'if' is simple future, and the 'then' is conditional tense."
"Yep. And futur simple?"
"Put together regular stems with avoir endings. Je serai, ils seront. Alternatively, you can use the conjugation of aller with the infinitive of any verb, but only in conversational stuff."
Artemis does little to conceal the astonished look on her face. Wally sits up regally, looking far too complacent for it to be anything less than mildly irritating.
"Uh, not… not bad, Wally." Her bewilderment carries over into her voice, and Wally flashes her a toothy grin. She scowls. "Okay. Give me examples of each."
Wally looks momentarily panicked, but quickly recovers, counting off the tenses on his fingers.
"Subjunctive. Il faut qu'on ailles. Imparfait. J'avais dix ans. Passé composé. Il est né or il a pris. Conditionnel. Si je te remercierai, seraient-les choses differents? And – and, uh, simple future. Je mangerai en six minutes."
Granted, his accent (if there even is one) leaves much to be desired, but Artemis doesn't have the heart or energy to nitpick.
"All right. Two more things. Conjugate être and avoir in the present tense and come up with sentences for each."
Wally groans, gazing at her pitifully.
"Woman, you're worse than Napoleon himself," he whines, and she shakes her head hugely.
"The sooner you get this done with, the sooner you can eat," she snarks, and at the sound of the word "eat," Wally's face gives way to an unbridled grin.
"Game on! Let's see… Je suis, tu es, il, elle, on est, nous sommes, vous… êtes, and… ils and elles sont. Then avoir is j'ai, tu as, il, elle, on a, nous avons, vous avez, and ils and elles ont."
He chews his lip as he awaits her verdict, and she nods approvingly (but with no bias, of course).
"Not bad. Sentences, please?"
"J'ai le… béguin pour toi," Wally ekes out tightly, squinting at her.
Artemis's breath hitches in her throat. Béguin. Béguin. Where had she heard that stupid word before? It didn't matter, she supposed – he had conjugated the verb right.
"Annnnd… let's see. Je suis le garçon plus genial dans le monde."
Now that she understands. She scoffs and reaches over the bed to smack him upside the head. He squeaks and attempts to shield himself.
"All right, Wall-man. You pass. The rest you can figure out on your own before the test, I'm sure."
She stands up from the foot of the bed and dusts herself off, flicking stray gumball wrappers out of her lap and tossing Wally back his pen. He catches it, gaping at her in awe.
"I didn't think it was possible for anyone to actually make me understand French. Like, at all," he admits, and Artemis can't help but leer at him over her shoulder.
"Proving you wrong is my specialty," she retorts breezily, tossing her twisted ponytail back over her shoulder so that it trails down to her hips and sways. She can feel his eyes on it and tightens her lips awkwardly.
"Oh, really?" he teases, and suddenly he's at her side, blocking the doorway with one arm against the frame. Their faces are extraordinarily close, but Artemis isn't about to point it out. "You'd think that you'd do it more often, then."
"I save it up for the good days," she replies with a quirked eyebrow. "Well, now that you're a whiz at français, how would you feel about letting me go the hell home?"
"I'd feel just fine with that. On one condition." Wally waggles his eyebrows and Artemis feels a nauseating sense of foreboding.
"I can tell you no right here and now or I can give you a rain check." She tries to duck under his arm, but he's too fast for her, blocking her way once again with that self-satisfied grin that makes her want to punch him in the freckled nose.
"French is supposed to be all romantic, right?" he persists. "Like, je t'aime and je t'adore and all that. Teach me some French pick-up lines. I need some new material for picking up the ladies."
"Wally, you couldn't pick up ladies with a crane. But if you insist…" She frowns and barely bites her lip in concentration. Wally cocks his head at her expectantly.
"Well…" she mutters after a few moments of compilation before locking eyes with him again (which synchronizes with a fresh red tint to the tips of his ears). "A lot of them you can just sort of make up. Like… les lumières plus claires de Paris habitent dans tes yeux or tu es le soleil, le brouillard, les étoiles qui éparpille partout mon cœur or pendant la nuit, je pense de ton visage et j'imagine que nous sommes oiseaux dans le ciel or…"
"Jeez!" Wally interrupts her with wide, askance eyes. "How much time do you spend coming up with this garbage?"
"You asked!" Artemis yells furiously, wanting to wrench his nose off of his face and grind it into powder. "Beggars can't be choosers, Wall-man."
"I told you to quit calling me that," he grumbles. She, without hesitating, shoulders him roughly aside and exits his room.
"And I told you to quit calling me anything, at all, ever. So we're even," she snarls back, and it bounces bitterly off the walls. "And you're welcome for all the help!"
There is a brief moment of silence. Wally counts down mentally in his mind and, the moment he reaches zero, Artemis is back in the doorway, begrudgingly pouting at him.
"Ride home?" she growls. "You'd better be fast enough to keep me completely dry."
He beams pompously, bowing with a flourish and extending his arms.
"Avec – uh. Wait. Oh! Avec plaisir, mademoiselle."
"Il n'y a pas de plaisir ici, imbecile. Il n'y a jamais de plaisir qu'est près de toi."
Wally presses into his temple with one finger to cue the telepathic link with M'gann, which carries all the way over to his hometown.
"Mount Justice, table for two."
"I ACED IT!"
Wally's unimpeded yells give Artemis a headache for weeks, and the fact that he's acting like his success is all his own doing isn't helping much, either. He continually uses some of the lines she taught him on M'gann, who misses the point entirely with cheery obliviousness and floats happily away, leaving Wally slumped under an imaginary rain cloud.
The knowledge she dispenses to him is not put to waste, however. Wally, despite all evidence to the contrary, is surprisingly keen-minded, and remembers all of the idiomatic phrases she teaches him with ease. Granted, he only uses them on other girls, but she doesn't care. The less noise she hears coming out of that idiot's mouth, the better.
One night, she's asleep on the couch, lulled into dreams by the ever-faithful No Signal station. Wally walks by, on his way to the kitchen for a midnight snack, and stops at the sight of her, approaching the back of the loveseat.
He props his head up on his elbow and grins sleepily at her evenly breathing form, eyes half-lidded and content.
"Salut. Ma petite biche culottée. Je pense que tu eeeeees…" He pauses, thinking, and hastily brushes some of her hair off of her shoulder. "Que nous avons un rapport amour-haine. Mais ce ne me dérange pas, parce que…" He contemplates further. "Parce que c'est trop tard de changer mon avis de vous. J'ai tombé amoureux de toi."
He leans down toward her ear, smirking.
"Mais quand je me reveillerai demain, je vais te déteste, je sais. Prepares-toi."
And Artemis is prepared, as always.
Elle me dit, c'est ta vie.
Fait ce que tu veux, tant pis.
Un jour tu comprendras—
Un jour tu t'en voudras.
She tells me, it's your life.
Do what you want; whatever.
One day you'll understand—
One day you'll want to.
Sentir: to feel
Vouloir: to want
Falloir: collective need
Désirer: to desire
Préferer: to prefer
Penser: to think
Croire: to believe
Être: to be
Avoir: to have
Je serai, ils seront: I will be, they will be.
Aller: to go
Il faut qu'on ailles: Someone needs to go.
J'avais dix ans: I was ten years old.
Il est né: He was born.
Il a pris: He took.
Si je te remercierai, seraient-les choses differents?: If I thank you, will things be different?
Je mangerai en six minutes: I'm going to eat in six minutes.
J'ai le… béguin pour toi: I have a crush on you.
Je suis le garçon plus genial dans le monde: I am the coolest guy in the world.
Je t'aime: I love you
Je t'adore: I adore you
Les lumières plus claires de Paris habitent dans tes yeux: The brightest lights of Paris live in your eyes
Tu es le soleil, le brouillard, les étoiles qui éparpille partout mon cœur: You are the sun, the fog, the stars that scatter through my heart
Pendant la nuit, je pense de ton visage et j'imagine que nous sommes oiseaux dans le ciel: At night, I think of your face and I imagine that we are birds in the sky
Avec plaisir, mademoiselle: With pleasure, miss
Il n'y a pas de plaisir ici, imbecile. Il n'y a jamais de plaisir qu'est près de toi.: There is no pleasure here, idiot. There is never pleasure when you're around.
Salut. Ma petite biche culottée. Je pense que tu eeeeees…: Hello. My cheeky little doe. I think that you are…
Que nous avons un rapport amour-haine. Mais ce ne me dérange pas, parce que…: That we have a love-hate relationship. But it doesn't bother me, because…
Parce que c'est trop tard de changer mon avis de toi. J'ai tombe amoureux de toi.: Because it's too late to change my mind about you. I've fallen in love with you.
Mais quand je me reveillerai demain, je vais te déteste, je sais. Prepares-toi.: But when I wake up tomorrow, I'm going to hate you, I know. Prepare yourself.