A progression fic, and I got... too happy writing this, lol. Enjoy!
EDIT: Fixed a couple awkward sentences, Artemis speaks French so the restaurant is now Italian, and THEY'LL LAUGH ABOUT IT SOMEDAY at the end.
Third Time's the Charm
The first time Dick asks Artemis to the homecoming dance, Artemis is in the middle of taking a bite out of her homemade sandwich. She sputters, covering her mouth to keep bits of ham and cheese from splattering the table in front of them, and gives him a weird look as she takes a swig of water to clear her throat. Sure, she and Dick have been hanging out a good bit—he's probably the closest thing to a 'friend' she has here— but homecoming? She's not sure they're really friends enough for that.
"Nah, no thanks." She shrugs and takes another gulp of water. "Homecoming's not really my thing. I don't have a dress, and no offense, but you're both younger and shorter than me, and that can make a girl feel awkward about dancing."
"Oh." Dick looks down at his plate and looks crestfallen enough that Artemis realizes that his indifference when asking her was maybe just a bit forced. She feels like a jerk and almost reconsiders just to erase the disappointment on his face. But a pity date sounds cruel, and she doesn't do pity as a general rule.
Dick Grayson just isn't dance-date material. His slicked-back hair is kinda dumb, his humor's bizarre, he's a bit of a know-it-all and Artemis just can't envision herself with someone four inches shorter (she feels shallow thinking that, but heels would just make them look ridiculous together). She also doesn't have money to buy a dress—their washing machine just broke the other day, and her mother has been griping about where to find a new one at a cheap price.
"I've got other plans that night anyway," Artemis says, picking up her sandwich again. Black Canary's coming back from a month-long mission that night, and Artemis is itching to get some feedback from her about a new move she's been practicing. "Sorry."
"No big," Dick says with a bit of a lopsided smile and his shoulders drooping. He stabs a piece of his baked potato and pushes it back and forth in roasted pine-nut hummus, the special side today. He's trying to be all nonchalant, but Artemis is willing to guess by the way his other hand fiddles with the corner of his gilded lunch tray that he's probably at least a bit chalant.
"Do you want some of my crème bruleé?" Dick asks after a while, pushing his tray towards her. Dick doesn't seem to like eating sweets all that much, and Artemis adores sweets, especially this ridiculously fancy stuff they serve at the cafeteria— damn rich bastards— so he usually ends up offering her half of his dessert. But she can't today. Not after turning him down like that. So she shakes her head.
His eyes narrow and he sneers. "So, it's gonna be like that, then?"
Artemis blinks. "What?" Then she catches on and glares. "No, there's no 'like that'! I just felt bad turning you down and then taking your dessert too!"
"I said it wasn't a big deal." Dick rolls his eyes slightly. "It doesn't change anything. So if you want my dessert, take it."
Something tickles the back of Artemis's mind. Perhaps it would have occurred to her later tonight in her bed, covers drawn to her chin as she reflected on the happenings of the day. But seeing the way he glances at her, she realizes that maybe they really aren't 'friends' enough for this after all.
"Did you… did you ask me as a friend, or as…" she doesn't finish her sentence, slightly breathless and dazed with the possibility. Dick stares at her and his mouth falls opens, clicks closed, and then his features fall back into the slightly haughty smirk she's used to. He rests his elbow on the table and leans his cheek against his hand. A small dimple forms right between the knuckle of his pinkie and the corner of his mouth as he grins.
"That's for me to know and for you to find out."
"Heard a senior asked you to homecoming," Dick says by way of greeting when Artemis reaches her locker. Dick already has his calculus books tucked neatly under his arm as he waits for her to get her own, playing with a random screw. He always has odd bits of machinery on him, though he won't ever tell her what they're for, other than 'secret Wayne weapons for world domination'. With what she's seen and heard of Bruce Wayne in the year she's known Dick, she wouldn't put it past them to actually have a secret stash of weapons hidden underground. If Batman has a Batcave, why can't Bruce Wayne have something similar?
"Psssh, Geoffrey Reynolds is a douche. I wouldn't go with him even if he were the archery team captain."
"Our team captain was considering asking you too," Dick says with a smirk. Artemis gapes.
"No way. Bernard? Seriously? Imagine how awkward that would make team practice. I'd be in the middle of an equation, think about dancing with him, and lose the point." Artemis shuts her locker and hoists her bookbag further up her shoulder. Dick turns, looking back expectantly, and Artemis falls into place next to him. "Wait, what do you mean was considering?"
"I persuaded him not to. I don't think he's your type."
Artemis raises an eyebrow. "Oh really? What is my type then, Mr. Grayson?"
"Oh, I don't know. You seem to have a thing for that Superboy."
Artemis blushes. "I do not." Anymore.
"You so do. You were talking to Babs about how hot you used to think he was."
"Yeah, like, a year ago." Conner's always been easy on the eyes, but Artemis hasn't thought about him like that in ages. "I mean, I think he's with that Miss Martian on the news. You know. The media keeps talking about them as an item."
"What would that stop a fangirl? It's not like you'd be able to steal Superboy from Miss Martian, right?"
"… Right. Of course." Man, half of her conversations with Dick feel almost too close for comfort to her secret identity. She doesn't know what it is about Dick, but he always manages to say something that has her running for excuses. And the worst part is that he knows it and just cackles in evil glee whenever he makes her uncomfortable.
"But I digress," Dick continues, holding the door to their calculus classroom for her, "I think your type is more… swift of mind, just this side of somber, calm under pressure, dashing good looks, lean and agile… a natural leader."
Artemis rolls her eyes and takes her seat, dumping her bookbag next to her. "Are you attempting to describe your ideal self, Dick? You might wanna start working on that, 'cause you've got a long way to go." Honestly, the one that comes to mind at his description is Robin, not Dick.
"Aw, c'mon, not even the part about dashing good looks? Or lean and agile?" He pouts and takes the seat next to her, making sure to bump her in the shoulder as he does.
She laughs. "I can probably concede the lean and agile part."
Dick waggles his eyebrows. "Then I know one lean and agile gentleman who would be honored to take you to homecoming." He takes her hand and winks at her. "Would you go to homecoming with me, Artemis?"
She laughs in a mixture of pleasure and surprise. She finds it funny that here they are again, a year later, but with the conditions so completely different. "Are you asking me as a friend or as more?" She's teasing him of course, tilting her head coquettishly and batting her eyelashes at him in mockery of half of the over-done plastic girls in this academy. This time, they are friends enough for this.
Dick grins. "That's for me to know and for you to find out."
That makes her laugh harder, remembering how baffled and peeved she'd been at his evasive answer the year before. "God, I felt so bad when I turned you down last year."
"Then it's a good thing you can make up for it this year, right?"
Artemis smiles, genuinely happy. "Yes. It sounds like fun."
Artemis refuses Dick's offer to pick her up, so the first sight they have of each other is as she's heading towards their table at La Strada, feeling self-conscious in a place where using the wrong fork is tantamount to insulting someone's mother. Dick had given her a quick dinner etiquette lesson the week before and promised to let her know if she's about to commit a faux-pas.
The group, consisting of Babs and a few other classmates, is already seated and chitchatting around an elegantly set table, complete with candles and fancy potpourri, as she approaches. Dick catches sight of her and his face slackens, lips parting in surprise, before he shakes his head as if to clear it.
"Wow—Artemis," he says, eyes wide, as he stands up to draw her chair out for her. "You look… you look…"
Artemis raises an eyebrow and trades an amused glance with Babs. It's not often they're able to catch Dick without his pithy two cents. "Spit it out, Grayson."
Dick looks like he's trying to swallow a particularly large wad of gum. "Lovely. You look… lovely," he finishes lamely, as if he'd been about to say something else.
For some stupid reason, she blushes anyway, even though she knows he's obligated to say something nice. Dick might be mischievous, but he's always proper and polite. He would never point out that her dress is cheap, an emerald-green strapless dress wrapped like cellophane around her body and barely reaching mid-thigh. Cheap, but she's also lucky that she has a body that will look good in just about anything. Her mother straightened her hair, leaving it so thin and sleek it had felt foreign when she'd ran her fingers along it. Once straightened, it was manageable enough to wrap into a bun atop her head, and her mother had glowed with pride as she pulled a few strands to curl and leave hanging around her face. Artemis had to take a second look in the mirror when her mother had been done with her hair and makeup, running her fingers over her blood-red lips and the dusting of green along her eyes. She had felt foreign and beautiful and powerful in a way completely different from when she holds her bow and arrow.
"Thanks," she mumbles, taking her seat and letting him push in her chair, even though she could very well do it herself. Be a lady, her mother had said in parting, kissing her on the forehead. "You look great too. Though I see you couldn't leave you hair unslicked just this one time?"
He grins. It's a long-running joke between them. She always complains about his stupid hairdo and he always replies enigmatically, 'We'll laugh about it someday, you'll see'. She's still waiting for that day.
Dinner goes by with minimal embarrassment on her part. Dick orders for her, because she has no idea what any of the menu items are, and the Italian doesn't help at all. Artemis keeps stealing glances at Dick in his black tuxedo—well-fitted, enough to show the widening of his shoulders even as he retains his lean acrobatic build. She has to admit that as far as eye-candy goes, Dick is a pretty good choice for a best friend. Dick skates through the idle conversation as easily as he always does, even though Artemis knows how inane he finds most talks about sports or fashion or Gothamite high society. Artemis is no longer bothered by the fact that the most she can do oftentimes is just listen, though the crazy conversations she and Dick get into — this time about Gotham villains— help pass the time until they leave to go to the hotel where the dance is being hosted.
Artemis feels like she's floating on air. She's at homecoming with a date, just like a normal girl. Tonight, her family history doesn't matter. Tonight, the scar she recently acquired on a mission lies hidden under her dress. Dick is being particularly solicitous, and for once, Artemis is perfectly happy to accept his chivalry: the way he holds her coat, gets her almond-cranberry punch and caviar, guides her carefully by the hand through the crowd and leads her confidently through the obligatory opening waltz.
"Just follow me," he whispers in her ear as she fumbles through the steps in the hazy lighting. "Relax, you have to let me pull and push you. It's teamwork. You're good at that, right?"
She nods, risking a quick glance up from her feet to look at his face and almost trips again when she finds herself nose-to-nose and in the direct path of his eyes. They catch a stray ray of light from above, glowing crystal blue for a dazzling moment.
"When—" She stops, dazed, and he gives her a quizzical look and leads her away to avoid bumping into another couple. He's almost her height—a couple of inches and they'll be even, and this is considering she's wearing heels. "When did you get this tall? You were a shrimp last year."
Dick laughs, and with his arm around her waist and her hand on his shoulder, she feels it completely, a warm chuckle that ripples through her as well, sending goosebumps along her arms.
"I guess sometime when you weren't looking," he says softly, just looking at her, hand pressing gently to sway her back and forth through the movement of the waltz.
"Oh," she says stupidly, and looks back down at her feet, trying to remember the steps for herself, even though he's doing a good enough job of leading her that despite the fact that she's not doing the right steps, they're flowing smoothly in and out between the other couples. The lights are so dark that everyone else morphs into shadows moving to the same rhythm. One, two, three, one, two… three. The music suddenly slows, enough that she realizes it has bordered into romantic.
She stiffens, and he squeezes her waist once in question, but she shakes her head, refusing to look up. This close, her chest keeps brushing against the lapels of his tuxedo, and his cologne fills her head with smoke, making her close her eyes for a moment. His body is warm, his hold on her sure and comforting, and she wonders now if she accepted as just a friend or if there's something more. It makes her feel nearly guilty, because the one she's been thinking of lately is Robin. Though it's not like either one will work out. Too many secrets to keep from both of them…
"You okay?" he asks, bending his head closer so that his lips accidentally brush against the shell of her ear. Both of them draw back with a start, Dick laughing sheepishly and ducking his head. "Sorry."
"It's fine," she says immediately and allows herself to lean her head against his shoulder, letting the music sweep them back and forth like a lullaby. Maybe she can hope. He wraps his hand further around her waist and pulls her in a little closer, other hand still holding hers and swaying gently in the air.
"I was just thinking," Artemis begins. She swallows, nervous, even though she has never felt safer and more secure in the dark than with his arms around her and his warm breath against her neck. "I was just thinking I'm really glad I came."
Dick breathes out slowly and squeezes her hand. "Me too."
Artemis scrubs the last bit of shampoo from her hair and stands a moment longer under the hot spray, letting the heat relax muscles made cramped by too many hours spent doing surveillance. She breathes in the steam coating the very air, glad she used her own shower instead of the ones in the locker room downstairs. The steam never accumulates enough in there, and she loves the humid heat wrapping around her like a glove when she steps out, wrapping a towel around herself.
She goes to the mirror, ready to grab a comb and begin the long process of untangling her hair, and stops short.
There's a message written on the mirror, and Artemis's eye twitches, part amusement, part irritation, because really? This is what Robin wanted Wally to make an anti-fog pen for?
She rolls her eyes even as the corner of her mouth twitches upwards. Her eyes flick to the sides, a silly confirmation that she really is alone in her bathroom at Mount Justice, and then she thinks, oh what the hell, and lets her lips pull into a full smile.
"You know, you didn't really need to sneak into my bathroom like a total pervert to ask me that," Artemis says as she enters the living room, plopping down beside Robin. He grins unrepentantly and snakes his arm around her waist, automatically pulling her closer. She leans against him and reaches up to wrap his bangs around her finger. "When is it? I didn't pay attention to the flyers."
"About a month from now. October 15th." He leans in to sniff her hair. "Mmm, you smell good."
She hums thoughtfully. "We'll have to let Kal know that we won't be able to make it to training that night."
He yawns and then nudges her. "Hey, we should go out and get you a new dress. Maybe something blue this year."
"I can use my old dress, you know. I don't need a new one. And I hate shopping."
He nuzzles her cheek, sunglasses lifting slightly so that a hint of blue peeks out and whispers, "Let me coddle you a bit. Get you something cute for your senior year. It'll be fun." He leans back and takes in the blush that has begun heating her cheeks, and even with the sunglasses, she can feel the mischief in his eyes. "Besides, I don't think you'd fit in last year's."
"Why not…?" Artemis stares at him with her eyebrows furrowed. She grew a bit, sure, but she also gained weight accordingly and thus remained at the exact same size. If he's trying to call her fat… well, then he has an ass-kicking waiting for him during their next sparring session.
"Your boobs got bigger," Robin says with a cheeky grin and waggles his eyebrows in a move he must have learned from Wally. She grabs the nearest pillow and smacks him in the face. His laugh is muffled under the material.
"I can't believe you turned out to be a bigger perv than Wally," she laments, but he reaches around the pillow to grab her wrists and push her back to lie on the couch as he plants his knees on either side of her hips. He's now a few inches taller than she is, and has filled out so that his arms are finally thicker than hers. "Perv!" she repeats, sticking her tongue out at him.
"That's not what you say when I do this," he says, voice pitched low as he knocks the pillow to the floor and snakes his hand under her shirt to brush his fingers along the ridge of her abs. She lets out a shaky sigh because damn, her stomach's her weak spot and he knows it.
A rush of limbs and red hair zips by to raid the kitchen cabinets and then disappears, screaming, "Eeeeew, PDA, get a room guys!"
Robin sits up to yell down the hallway, "Either we make out or eat your snacks, KF! Take your pick!"
"Er, as you were!"
Artemis facepalms. "Is he ever going to stop teasing us? He leaves M'gann and Conner alone now."
"Entertainment value with us isn't quite over yet," Robin says sagely before settling back down over her. "So," he continues, leaning in to so that his lips hover over hers, not touching, just letting their breaths intermingle. She looks up, able to see through his sunglasses at this distance, but reaches up to take them off anyway, tucking them into her shirt. She can't ever get enough of his eyes, even with all their hours together in school.
"So?" she murmurs back, letting her fingers trail along the lines of his cheeks and jaw. He closes his eyes and tilts his head into the touch, and she smiles. These are the smiles that he brings out in her, shifting muscles that aren't used to such exercise.
"So. You haven't actually said yes." He begins mouthing her neck and she wriggles a bit and moves her head to the side to give him more space to work with. His hair tickles, but she resists showing any indication of it.
"As if it's not obvious what my answer is?" she says breathlessly when he nips her. "I don't have to say it."
"Yes, you do. I want to hear it."
"You are such a dick."
He grins and raises his head. "Why yes, I am."
She lifts her head to peck his lips but he jerks back at the last second, still grinning smugly. She mock-glares.
"And a tease."
She rolls her eyes and finally gives in. "Yes, I'll go with you to homecoming."
Robin looks at her, and his face breaks out into a slow, brilliant smile before he finally presses his lips against hers in a sharp kiss, squeezing her shoulders. She pulls back for a moment.
"As long as you promise to not do your stupid slicked-back hairdo."
They laugh about it.
Hope you enjoyed it. By far the sappiest thing I've written in years, God, what are you doing to me, Rob/Art...