NOTICE ABOUT THE NOW-DELETED CHAPTER 11: I decided to remove it, since it was a venture into actual super explicit smut, but upon feedback and my own instincts, decided it didn't really fit with the rest of the ficlets here. Since FFN doesn't do M or NC17 fics, if you wish to read it, it's found at (remove spaces): an-ime-goil. tumblr (dot com slash) post/43552315815/f-i-c-on-your-back-but-not-how-youre-thinking
Genderbent!Traught. I tend to think that one of the things that would be affected if Artemis were a boy is that her relationship with Sportsmaster would likely involve more physical blows.
Sorry for the hiatus - grad school apps and finding a job, boo.
Apollo's wearing a hoodie with the hood as far over his face as possible. Rachel didn't even know he owned hoodies, given 'Pollo's propensity for white tees under faux-leather jackets. It's nothing more than an inane observation on Rachel's part as she watches Apollo crossing the far end of the hangar, until Wally drops the wrench on his foot. Apollo turns towards the loud cry, and that one second is enough to disclose the true purpose of the hoodie.
"Dude, what happened to Apollo's face?"
Wally glances up, still rubbing his foot with a wince on his face. "No idea. He got pissy when we asked, so M'gann made the tactical decision to retreat after giving him an ice pack."
"Rough patrol...?" Rachel wonders, and Wally hums something non-committal from inside Sphere's interior.
As soon as Rachel's sure her help with Sphere's maintenance isn't required anymore, she heads into the den. The floppy tip of a hood peeks over the top of the couch, and Rachel crouches, sliding forward unseen to pop up behind the couch with a casual 'boo!'.
Apollo's whole body twitches in surprise, iPod slipping from his hands to fall on his stomach. Rachel's lips twist into her usual smirk until Apollo looks up, popping out an earbud with a scowl, and then her mouth goes dry. She swallows back the wince just barely, keeping the smirk firmly in place though it doesn't stop her from clamping down her jaw as she surveys the mottled bruising lining the entire left side of his face.
"Pretty nasty bruise you got there," she says casually, eyes flickering around his face to tally up the damage. Two areas of concentrated bruising, one at the side of the eyebrow ridge, a right hook most likely, another just below the cheekbone— a powerful uppercut or a fall against a hard object. Some swelling under the eye, caused by pooling of the blood from the eyebrow ridge hit. Green discoloration already present, which dates the injury to 16-20 hours at least. "What, did a B-grade thug get the drop on you?"
Had that been what really happened, Apollo would have probably flushed and made himself a wide open target for teasing. Instead, Apollo's lips curl apart into a nasty snarl, eyes narrowing, and that's enough to alert her to the fact that maybe it's not work-related. "Fuck you."
Rachel knows better than to take Apollo's verbal lashing personally, but the bared teeth and mottled dark half of his face remind her of Two-Face and the resulting flinch is completely involuntary. She still has nightmares about him sometimes.
Apollo's face immediately twists into guilt as he scrubs a hand over his uninjured eye. "...Sorry."
"It's fine." She drops her eyes away from his face and drapes herself over the top of the couch, her knee touching the top of his thigh and her fingers almost brushing his shoulder. She softens her voice. "You don't have to tell me, I was just worried." She should probably feel a bit of remorse at how easy it is for her to use the guilt card on Apollo, but it's not her fault that it's the easiest way to get him to open up sometimes.
Apollo's quiet for a long while, thumb circling his iPod's wheel aimlessly. Then he turns on his side, facing away from her, shifting until he's comfortable. The silence hangs long enough to make her think that maybe he really didn't fall for it this time. Rachel wiggles her fingers in the wake of cold air where his shoulder used to be and traces the shape of his broad back in the air. He looks smaller, somehow, with the harmless cloth of the hoodie hiding his golden hair, reminiscent of abused kids in depressing movies she studiously avoids.
"Dad decided to make a little visit last night," Apollo finally says, sounding resigned. "Came home and found him in the kitchen, arguing with my mom. And I mean… he's never hit her. They respect each other, kind of. But I haven't really seen them together since I was nine, you know? So I have no clue if they ever even loved each other, or if they were forced to get married by the L – lame rules they lived by." He sighs, shoulders hunching up a bit, and Rachel's fingers ache with the urge to reach out and rub his back. "I got pissed at him, 'cause he was upsetting Mom, talking shit about my sister and being an asshole. Then he tries his little mind games on me, and I guess I got cocky."
His voice lowers, as if talking more to himself, and Rachel imagines a faraway look to his eyes, the same one he always gets when there's a mission involving Cheshire. "I'd forgotten how strong he was. Thought I'd gotten good enough over these past few months to get back at him."
"You will be," Rachel says. He will, she knows it.
"Not soon enough." He curls in on himself, wrapping his arms around his stomach where Rachel sincerely hopes there isn't another patch of bruises. Rachel presses her face against the cushions, feeling ashamed by the fact that she can imagine the scene in her head with far more clarity that Apollo meant for her to know. She knows what Apollo's kitchen looks like, can hear both Sportsmaster and the former Tigress's voices, has a few ideas about the kind of things they might have said about Cheshire, and it's not hard to assume that Sportsmaster would rather Apollo came back to the League than play hero with the enemy.
The silence lingers like cold morning fog, punctuated by the ending of the distorted song coming from the discarded earbuds. Rachel fidgets, as much out of habit and discomfort as to remind Apollo that she's here, to keep him from withdrawing. When that doesn't draw any reaction out of him, she prompts. "Then what?"
Apollo grumbles. "Nothing. I got him away from Mom. He talked shit about my life choices as usual. Fucker got a few punches in without me being able to even see them." There's the soft sound of a cushion being hit. "Dammit."
Rachel doesn't know what to say. Apollo's obviously okay - bruised and upset, but alright. 'Sorry' doesn't do much. And, she doesn't want to be dishonest and ask twenty questions about his family situation as if she doesn't know perfectly well that his dad is Sporstmaster, but she doesn't want to come across as unconcerned either. She's not sure what to say that doesn't tip her hand in either direction.
"But your mom's okay?" she finally asks.
"Yeah. She's just…" Another sigh, and Rachel didn't think such a simple sound could be so painful. "She hasn't had it easy, you know? And when she first came back from – the hospital, she wanted my dad to stay with us. Keep what was left of our family together. And the jerk refused. He chose work over us! And I fucking hate it, and she pretends she's okay with it, but then he shows up and throws it all back in her face as if everything wasn't his fault in the first place, since he's the one that—" Apollo stops abruptly, as if realizing just how loud his voice had gotten. It's rare to hear him divulge so much information, but then again, maybe Rachel isn't the only one who feels like they have gotten closer lately. His arm rises towards his face, but Rachel can't see anything from this angle. When he speaks again, his voice is back to his resigned croak. "Didn't mean to air out dirty laundry. He just makes me so mad."
"I don't mind… It's good to let it out sometime." She can't deny she's also glad that he let himself vent to her.
Apollo huffs out a laugh. "Don't get used to it. I'd rather not talk about it any more, if that's okay."
One of those obnoxiously poppy radio hits starts squeaking out of the headphones, and Apollo shoves his thumb at the fast forward button as if afraid Rachel will make fun of him. Which at another moment she might have, but she's not really paying attention. There are things that surveillance cameras and archive files can't express, and Rachel suddenly realizes that even her factual knowledge is skewed. The picture crystallizes into a different structure: Apollo's dad in the kitchen, taunting his mom about his sister following the exact path his mom had feared, ridiculing Apollo for wanting to help people instead of working for the League, disrupting whatever peace Apollo and his mom might have had since her release from prison. It sounds messy and painful.
Apollo's head is turned her way, dark eyes glancing cautiously at her from under his hood as if worried that maybe he did go to far.
"Like I'd think of you any differently just because your family has issues like every other family," Rachel mumbles and shoves his head back around again and pulls his hoodie off instead.
"Relax, 'Pollo, just wanna play with your hair."
Apollo mumbles something that sounds like well-deserved suspicion, but Rachel just wiggles her fingers underneath Apollo's ponytail and tugs it off. As soon as her fingers hit his scalp and begin combing through his hair, Apollo sighs, but this time, it's a light, pleasant sound. She decides that her position is rather too lonesome for her liking and rolls over to fall into the wedge between Apollo and the couch, wiggling around until she's comfortable.
"Uh, Robin. Are you, uh, sure you want to do that?"
Rachel sweetens her voice, twirling a single finger along a random path on Apollo's scalp. "Is that your way of saying 'please don't give me an awkward boner'?"
Apollo makes a strangled sound, pretty much what Rachel imagines a dying cat to sound like, and buries his face in a cushion.
"You're completely insensitive, you know that?"
"I'd rather call it charmingly blunt, but tomatoes, tomahtohs." She makes herself comfortable against his back, though he's rather too large to spoon properly, but at least he's warm and his hair smells good, like peaches and a trace of Gotham grime. She resumes playing with his hair, glad that from this angle she can't see any of the purple-green stains under his skin. "Besides, you know cuddling is my guilty pleasure."
Apollo sighs in mock-suffering, chest expanding against Rachel's and making her feel pleasantly cocooned. Still, everyone knows Rachel's a sucker for touches and hugs, albeit a bit more playfully-displayed than M'gann, so he doesn't protest the proximity any more. This time, the silence is comfortable, an ellipsis instead of a stark period.
Without thinking, she throws an arm over his side, about to squeeze him a little closer. Then she stops, sliding her fingers under the hoodie's pocket and pressing lightly against his stomach and the abs she can feel under the cloth.
"Did he hit you there too?"
Apollo nestles his arm over hers, hand slipping into the pocket to lie on top of hers. "It doesn't hurt."
Not that it makes her feel better, really. She presses her cheek against the nape of his neck and continues playing with his hair, scratching the crown of his head idly as she wonders what good it does to know so much about him if in the end she can't help him. Then again, maybe this is good enough for now.
Some time later, Rachel's foot is begging to rotate her ankle or jiggle her leg, but she figures enduring the itch to move a little longer is worth it when Apollo's breathing finally evens out and his face and shoulders slacken.
In the end, the warmth and rhythm of his back expanding and contracting against her chest lulls her to sleep as well, fingers still tangled in his hair.
Any feedback is appreciated, since Apollo and Rachel are... different but similar to Artemis and Dick.