Sweet lord, this thing BLEW UP, everybody! About a week ago, I was doing a little ficcing in G-Docs and an anonymous visitor requested a fic in which Wally asks Superboy for girl advice. And, uh, this happened. This was supposed to be done for Wally/Artemis week. I'm a bit late, but!
I guess about halfway through the story I lost sight of whether I wanted it to be a comedy or not, so it's got a bit of both I guess!
Many thanks to all the anonymous users who chatted with me while I wrote this, and to Cloaks for being awesome as usual. Okay, this story's so long that I don't need an author's note this big so I'll just let you read it!
OH. I almost forgot the most important part! Aside from being written for that anon, this a present for my best fandom friend, Julia/Jncera. :) For providing her helpful nerdage and also for being there when I was down a few weeks ago, for sticking with me through all of my dumb jokes and goofy flailing, and for those CUPCAKE SOCKS. I love you, dearest. I hope you like this.
I came down on a bottle rocket;
found my heart right where I locked it.
Last night like rain on chalk;
it's gone like money in my pocket.
— The Weepies, "Keep It There"
Wally West had always prided himself on being able to decipher generally everything. Sadly, Artemis Crock was not everything.
Wally had also always prided himself on never having to ask for help from anyone. No physics problem nor calculus equation was too difficult for him to plow past on his own terms, and even the inscrutable species known as semicolons had succumbed to his mastery of all things in existence. But, again, Artemis was none of these things (he could draw somesimilarities between her and semicolons – both of them were frustrating, strange, and largely useless), and maybe that was why he decided to throw in the towel on figuring her out.
It was a vicious cycle, really: He would think he had her totally pegged; she would proceed to pull some sort of personality trump card that would throw all of his inferences on her out the nearest window; he would fume; she would smirk; he would find it bizarrely attractive, and then would hit himself, or ask Robin to hit him, and remember exactly how much he despised her every molecule.
Tonight, he was at Stage Five: finding her bizarrely attractive. Not only had she decided to swipe his goggles following their latest mission (and remind Wally not to try running straight at Count Vertigo again) and teasingly call them a "souvenir," but she had also thought it would be great to walk around the Cave in a pair of sweatpants and his Flash t-shirt. His.
And her hair was braided. It was diabolical.
She was currently sitting between Robin and M'gann on the couch, intensely immersed in a round of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Robin, as Young Link, was dominating the fight, and M'gann's Peach was dashing aimlessly around, tumbling off the edge of the stage of her own accord. Artemis, who had chosen to dress Zero-Suit Samus in green, was fighting toe-to-toe with Robin, and the score was close. And Wally didn't know what to do with himself except stand in the kitchen and gawk at her with his spoon of ice cream halfway to his mouth.
It was when said ice cream started melting that he knew it was the last straw.
Superboy was in the gym when Wally found him, stumbling in and grabbing him by the collar of his shirt.
"Help me," he moaned, loosening his grip and slowly, lamentably descending onto the floor on all fours.
Superboy turned his attention away from the enforced punching bag he'd been attacking and raised an eyebrow at the prostrating speedster, raising an eyebrow and wiping his forehead with the crook of his elbow.
"What?" he grunted, frowning skeptically.
Wally raised his head pitifully.
"Look, Supey," he said sadly, clambering to his feet with his shoulders slumped. "You're the only dude I can turn to in this dump who knows a thing about the female species. And I've got a problem. A female problem. Well, no, I mean, the problem is a female, like, the noun, not the adjective, and—"
"What are you talking about," Superboy asked, deadpan.
Wally swallowed, attempting to gather his thoughts (which were behaving similarly to jumping beans, clattering against the corners of his skull). Finally, he inhaled deeply before speaking – rapidly.
"So there's this lady that I know and you know me I normally have like zero trouble with the ladies but she's driving me insane because my ice cream melted and it's horrible and you and M'gann have that thing at least I think you have a thing I dunno based on the fact that I saw you guys making out I'm guessing you have a thing but you seem super-informed on this crazy stuff because of said thing and just oh god help me help me I don't know what to dooooo," he wailed, falling down onto the floor again.
Superboy stared down at him in consternation, his eyebrows high and his mouth tilted in bewilderment. Wally was all but weeping on the hardwood floor, his head hanging miserably. After a moment of silence, and after waiting for Wally to stand up again with no success, he cleared his throat and cautiously nudged the speedster's elbow with his toe.
"Leave me to mourn alone," Wally murmured sorrowfully.
Superboy's eyes went on a cynical spiral
"I'm not leaving," he growled. "You're the one who came in here to talk to me, genius."
Wally finally looked up at him, doing nothing short of pouting before he finally drew himself back up to his feet and pointed an accusatory finger at him.
"Hey, when a bro comes to you for help, you give it to him without a moment's hesitation," he declared. "We talkedabout the Bro Code, Supey." He abruptly took on an expression of panic and wilted. "Don't tell me you already forgot."
Superboy rolled his eyes again and walked over to the towel rack.
"No, I didn't," he grumbled, swiping a towel out of the pile and wiping the sweat from his face. "Like you'd let me."
"Okay, good. Don't scare me like that; seriously," Wally scolded him, trailing in his wake.
"So, uh," Superboy said hesitantly (as he often did when he was speaking to Wally), "I honestly couldn't even tell what you were saying a second ago, so can you run it by me again?" He scowled. "In ten words or less?"
Wally straightened, shoulders going stiff, and blatantly tried to keep his words at a normal speed. He raised one hand, counting off on his fingers.
"I. Need. Some. Girl. Advice," he recited carefully. "You. Understand. Girls. Please. Help."
Superboy let out an uncharacteristic snort to punctuate Wally's sentence.
"Me?" he asked skeptically. "Understand girls? Where'd you get thatidea?"
"Dude, you have a girlfriend," Wally exclaimed, throwing his arms out. "And she's a total babe." At the appearance of a dangerous glower from Superboy, he hastily appended, "A babe I will in no way pursue!"
Superboy frowned, confused.
"So..." he mused, and it began to dawn on him. "You... want me to... give you advice?"
Wally grimaced as though Superboy had just mortally wounded him.
"Tragically," he said, "you're my only hope."
Superboy's eyes widened and he blinked blankly down at Wally, astounded.
"You," he repeated. "You, the Wall-man, are... coming to mefor advice."
"Don't rub it in, Supey," Wally grumbled, folding his arms and glaring down at the floor. "Look, I just figured... you've got a girlfriend, so you must know more about girls than anybody else around here. Robin wouldn't know a girl if she did a fan-dance with a lettuce leaf on the table in front of him, and Kaldur's way too busy being stoic or whatever to pay attention to stuff like that, and he'd probably just try to teach me some kind of weird Atlantean courting ritual, and let's be honest, ew. No wonder he's single." He threw his head back with an enormous groan, slapping a hand to his forehead. "I can't believeI'm saying this."
"What do you even want to know about girls for?" Superboy asked, brow furrowed. "I thought you were... an expert, or whatever. Don't you always say—?"
"I know my motto, Supey, but it doesn't apply here!" Wally snapped. "This – this girl, this infernal female, is – an anomaly! So I figured, maybe I'm short on some knowledge that guys with girlfriends have, and you've got a pretty great track record, so..." He clasped his hands at his chin. "Help me?"
Superboy considered him for a moment before shrugging apathetically and tossing the towel into a nearby hamper, heading for the exit.
Wally followed him attentively.
"Is that Supey-speak for yes?" he demanded, and Superboy huffed.
"Yeah, sure, whatever," he grumbled. "What d'you want to know?"
"Anything," Wally replied immediately, desperately, and the look in his green eyes was so pitiful that it nearly caused Superboy physical pain. He winced.
"They, uh," he grunted tersely. "They like... pretty things."
"Really?" He sounded genuinely astounded by information that Superboy honestly thought was the most basic on the planet.
"Um. Yeah." He coughed. "And, uh, flowers."
Wally frowned, retreating into thought with one hand hovering pensively on his chin. Superboy knew that look. It usually appeared shortly before Wally built some kind of model rocket and shot it into the kitchen.
"And stuff," he added purposefully, hoping to rouse Wally out of his ponderings. Wally blinked as though startled and pounded his fist into his palm resolutely.
"I have a plan," he declared histrionically.
"Oh no," Superboy muttered.
Wally didn't give him the chance to continue, however, dashing down the hallway leading back to the living room so quickly that a gust of wind burst out in his wake, blowing Superboy's hair harum-scarum.
What was that about? M'gann's voice jounced up in his mind through their private link and he shook his head in exasperation.
I dunno, he answered, cramming his hands into his pockets and lumbering toward the kitchen. But I seriously hope it doesn't happen ever again. Ever.
When it comes to pretty things, Wally West is hardly an expert. Unless it's pretty girls, but he can hardly give a pretty girl to Artemis as a gift. That would be creepy.
He's sitting in his room at the Cave one night, taking notes on a bacterial growth he's been studying in his Petri dish. It's late, and mostly everyone has gone to bed, but he can't sleep (for reasons he'd rather not dwell upon for the sake of his own sanity).
M'gann chooses that exact moment to float silently in, bobbing around behind him for a good few seconds before excitedly speaking.
"Ooh, what is that?" she asks cheerfully, and Wally, having not heard her come in, yelps and throws his pen in the air in terror. M'gann's smile fizzles. "Oh – oh, I'm sorry, Wally! I forgot! No floating! You'll sneak up on people when you float. Hello, Megan!"
She slaps her forehead in self-deprecation as Wally attempts to restore his heartbeat to normal.
"I-It's all good, Green Cheeks!" he croaks, clutching his chest. He recovers quickly and flashes her a grin that makes her smile weakly as she telepathically lifts the fallen pen from the floor and floats it back into his hand. "Thank you, babe! And this..." He gestures to the Petri dish. M'gann bounces over to get a better look. "Is just a little bacterial growth I've been cooking up! All in a day's work."
"It's so pretty!" M'gann squeals, marveling at the glimmering green growth beneath the glass.
If light bulbs could literally materialize over one's head, the space above Wally's at that moment would house enough to blind a continent.
Artemis was seated at the island in the middle of the kitchen, her feet dangling over the edge of the tall stool, begrudgingly slurping on the contents of a container of Cup Noodles. There was gauze wrapped tightly over her upper arm and her hair was braided, again. A gray sweatshirt was hung across the back of the chair.
Wally loitered awkwardly in the doorway, concealing his offering to her behind his back, and chewed nervously on his lower lip. He wasn't sure exactly how long he'd been standing there, but he was fairly certain that it equated to the time needed for her to come in from her shower, scour the cabinets, find the Cup Noodles, and microwave them for three minutes.
Normally, it didn't take him that long to stroll into a room and interact with the opposite sex. But leave it to Artemis to be an aberration.
"Are you gonna stand there all day, Wall-man, or did you come here for something?" she growled suddenly, prodding suspiciously at the contents of the styrofoam cup with her fork.
Wally went rigid, standing up straight as if at attention. Curses. He'd been found out.
"I, uh, just came in here to – eat!" he eked out stiffly. She finally turned her head towards him and raised one eyebrow, unimpressed. There was a noodle dangling from her lips that he tried desperately to ignore.
"Funny; I've never seen anything stop you from doing that before," she said sarcastically, returning to her food with apathy.
"Well," Wally argued lamely, "I mean, you're here. I'd prefer to keep anything I consume in my stomach."
Artemis rolled her eyes with a sneer, and Wally could tell immediately that he had once again said entirely the wrong thing.
"I brought you some bacteria!" he blurted out, far more loudly than he had intended.
Artemis choked on her noodles. Wally took the opportunity while she was coughing to force himself to stride into the kitchen and stand at the other side of the table. She recovered quickly and shot him a look of incredulity.
"Excuse me?" she said flatly. Wally blinked innocently at her.
"And it's pretty bacteria, too," he added with pizazz, as though it was a special bonus to the whole affair. "I've been growing it in my room!"
Honestly, Wally would have preferred amusement or ridicule to the expression that was currently stuck on Artemis's face. She was leaning slowly away from him, palms flat on the surface of the island, frowning dubiously.
"Did M'gann put something in those brownies she made for you this morning?" she inquired cautiously. Wally beamed senselessly at her.
"Nnnnot that I'm aware of!" he replied enthusiastically. Artemis didn't seem convinced.
"Uh-huh," she said, scooting the stool out and hopping off of it, taking the cup and the sweatshirt with her. "Well, um, enjoy that bacteria of yours. I'll just be at the other end of the mountain, pretending this never happened. Kay?"
With that, she turned sharply on her heel and began to stalk toward the hallway, pulling the sweatshirt on. Wally, in a moment of panic, zipped forward and grabbed her wrist without thinking.
"Hold on!" he exclaimed. Her head whipped murderously around and he laughed nervously, releasing her. "Uh, please."
"Okay, what is wrong with you?" she asked incredulously, pressing a hand to his forehead. "Do you have a fever or something?"
Oh, boy, do I, Wally thought weakly.
"Yes!" he replied. "Wait, no! Here!"
He thrust the Petri dish toward her from behind his back, holding it directly under her nose. She glanced down at it, startled, going momentarily cross-eyed from the closeness before pushing his arm lower down to get a better look at what he was holding.
Her eyes went instantly wide and her eyebrows rose considerably.
The contents of the Petri dish were a bright, almost metallic green, crawling across the surface in shimmering lines, almost like moss. The colors shifted when she tilted the dish beneath the fluorescent light, flashing and fading like glass. Wally thumped his foot nervously.
"Wow," she finally said, and it sounded altogether more similar to an admission of defeat than a comment of admiration. "That's... bacteria?"
"Yep!" Wally cried happily as she carefully took the dish from his open palms. "Escherichia coli grown on EMB Agar by yours truly!"
Whatever wonder Artemis may have possessed was instantly eradicated by that sentence. Her eyebrows dropped until they were practically horizontal across her eyes and she looked up at him dully.
"That's... fascinating," she decided, handing the dish back to him. Wally drooped miserably in response, shoulders sagging. "Thanks for the show-and-tell. You've been a... delight."
One of Artemis's primary virtues was her crippling inability to lie. However, this did little to enthuse Wally as she gave the dish (and him) one last skeptical look before resuming her trek to the hallways.
"Ack – wait!" he squawked, grabbing her wrist again. She huffed and wrenched herself out of his grip immediately, turning back to him with her hands on her hips, looking drastically tried for patience. Wally gulped and held out the dish to her again, attempting to wrestle some seriousness onto his face. "Didn't you hear me when I said it was for you, she-devil?"
Artemis's features loosened in something equal to light surprise.
"I, uh..." she mumbled. "I thought you were joking." She hardened again. "What're you giving it to me for? Hoping I'll be contaminated?"
"That would be a great bonus, yes," Wally riposted without thinking. "Wait, no!" He backpedaled hastily. "Because it's green! Like you! I mean, like your costume!"
"I think we need to get you a one-way ticket to the med bay," Artemis quipped. "Or Arkham Asylum."
"Very funny," Wally pouted. "I'm trying to be nice and this is how you repay me?"
"Wally, you're trying to give me bacteria," Artemis retorted.
"But it's pretty bacteria!" he defended, pointing a finger in the air for emphasis. Artemis groaned and threw her head back, looking to the heavens as if in hopes that they would grant her patience.
"That's great and all, but I'm not really big on the pretty," she riposted curtly. "Especially not when it's... you know, some kind of prokaryotes."
"Well, these aren't exactly prokaryotes—" Wally started to say, but Artemis threw her hands in the air to silence him.
"Please spare me!" she begged him belligerently, sighing. "Is this some kind of a joke? Did M'gann put you up to this?"
Wally stared dumbly at her.
"Um," he said slowly, "not... directly..."
"I knew it!" Artemis yelled, pounding a fist into her palm. "Ugh, I am so going to get her for this. I told her not to manipulate the weak-minded; it's—"
"Do you want it or not?" Wally demanded very suddenly, feeling his stomach tighten uncomfortably.
He fixed his gaze adamantly with hers, still holding the Petri dish in his upturned palms as if it were a delicate artifact. She returned the expression for the briefest of moments before exhaling in something like defeat, reaching forward and snatching it from his hands.
"You won't shut up about it if I don't, so I guess I don't really have a choice," she growled, placing it carefully in the pocket of the oversized sweatshirt (again—his. Where was she getting these?).
He grinned satisfactorily at her, which only seemed to make her more annoyed.
"But you're still a geek," she snarled. "And you're still weird. And if you try something like this again, I won't be so nice. Got that?"
"We'll see about that," Wally bandied back confidently.
Artemis shook her head at him and continued her journey to the living quarters with her hands fisted at her sides. Wally watched her go without looking away.
She paused in the doorway on the other side of the living room and put one hand on the frame, looking back over her shoulder at him with an unreadable expression.
"What's the occasion?" she asked hesitantly.
Wally gulped. He hadn't calculated the possibility of having to explain himself.
"Uh, to – celebrate how much I – hate you!" he babbled back thoughtlessly. "I mean, wait, no, I withdraw that! To celebrate how – blonde your hair is! No! Six more weeks of winter! No! Wait! Give me a minute! Tooo..."
Artemis was already gone, and when Wally finally came up with a straight answer, the only one who heard it said to the wall was Robin, who had been lurking in the background and eavesdropping the entire time.
Wally didn't give him long to cackle before leaping for his throat.
"You said they like flowers, right?" Wally demanded desperately of Superboy, who had been asleep on the couch only moments ago. Superboy let out a strangled yell of surprise and instinctively punched the air, narrowly missing Wally's nose. "Whoa, calm down! I'm unarmed!"
"What do you want?" Superboy growled flatly after he had regained his composure, sitting up on the couch and crossing his arms grumpily.
"I need more – uh, advice," Wally eked out painfully, one eye tightly closed. Superboy sighed enormously, dropping his head into his hands. "The bacteria was a failure. Well, not a failure; I mean, she took it, but she didn't exactly fall into my arms or anything—"
"Why don't you just tell her you like her?" Superboy grumbled, glowering up at Wally pointedly. Wally straightened under his glare and glanced around surreptitiously as if thinking he'd find the answer plastered onto the wall.
"Because… that… would…." Wally struggled with the words, fiddling with his fingers. "Beeeee… too forward! Uh, it would be embarrassing! She wouldn't understand! She'd blow me off!"
"You know, I think you have a higher chance of being blown off if you try to tell her you like her by giving her bacteria; I'm just saying," Superboy huffed, reclining back on the couch again.
"I never even saidI liked her!" Wally protested clumsily. Superboy let out an uncharacteristic snort of laughter.
"You said you didn't know what to do about her," he said. "That sounds like liking someone to me."
Wally's cheeks reddened considerably.
"Plus, after the exercise—" Superboy started to say.
"Okay, no; line officially crossed right there," Wally interrupted harshly.
Superboy softened and sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. He was starting to get a headache.
"Just – yes, they like flowers, okay? Leave me alone," he growled, throwing a hand in the air for emphasis.
"Thank you. You're my savior," Wally declared histrionically, and Superboy was about to yell at him to go away, but he'd already zipped out of the room toward the zeta tubes, leaving a gust of wind behind in his wake.
"No running indoors," Superboy mumbled wearily before rolling over to sleep.
It took Wally considerably more time than he had intended to figure out exactly what kind of flowers to get for Artemis.
He cycled through so many different types and spent so much time hovering around the florist's shop downtown that he was sure that if he had to look at anymore flowers, he would turn into one himself.
He went through a great deal of painstaking research at that shop – such a great deal, in fact, that the florist herself was past the point of patience.
"Oh, look, the lovelorn botanist," she called out sarcastically when Wally shuffled in for the sixth time that weekend. "You gonna buy anything this time?"
"Possibly," Wally replied distantly, investigating the lilies. "Anything new, babe?"
"Don't start with me on that 'babe' stuff; I'm twenty-seven," the florist huffed. "Anyway, we just got a new shipment of tiger lilies; they're on your left."
Wally hardly heard her. His attention had been irrevocably caught by the vivid orange petals exploding out from a black tub near the tulips. They were adamant and bright and they seemed so beautifully aggressive – and he realized that a thing so like Artemis could not be passed up.
"I'll take these," he exclaimed far more loudly than he'd wanted to, and he accidentally super-sped up to the counter with the entire bundle of flowers in his arms. Thankfully, the florist had had her back turned.
She whipped around at the sound of his shouting, her eyebrows high.
"All of them?" she asked incredulously. Wally gave a short, decisive nod, but most of his face was obscured behind the blossoms.
After a pause, the florist shook her head and sighed, taking the tiger lilies and carrying them over to the sink, snipping the ends of the stems off and preparing to tie them into a bouquet.
"You must be really nuts about this girl," she muttered dryly. "Wish my boyfriend paid this much attention to me."
"Yes on the nuts; no on the boyfriend," Wally corrected her hastily.
She looked considerably surprised, but said no more.
Wally found her in her room, shockingly enough.
Out of all of them, Artemis probably spent the least amount of time at the Cave. Usually, she would go home no matter how late they returned from a mission. The only person who could ever convince her to stay was Robin, and it was often after a little "private talk" by the zeta tubes.
For a while after the exercise, she'd spent every night there, but eventually, she stopped.
She spent so little time at the Cave, in fact, that her room was largely bare. She was sitting with her back to him, lit only by her disk lamp, in a white tank top and sweatpants with her hair braided again. She was hunched over, resting her feet on the legs of the swivel chair, scribbling something into a notebook and periodically checking a paper beside her.
Wally gulped, clutching the bouquet for dear life. He didn't know where he mustered the strength to use words, but they were coming out, so he rolled with it.
"Do you like flowers?" he barked. "I like flowers."
"Fascinating factoid of the day," Artemis muttered cynically without turning around. "I feel so much closer to knowing the secret of life now that you've told me you like flowers."
Wally ignored her, walking cautiously in until he was behind her, peering over her shoulder at the papers on her desk.
"Whatcha workin' on?" he asked nonchalantly. Her shoulders tightened, possibly out of frustration, but she let out a grumble and answered him.
"French homework." She dropped her pen down and scratched at her head, stretching. One of her errant hands bumped into the bouquet and she jumped, finally turning around to look at him, only to be met with a thick arrangement of tiger lilies.
"What the f—"
"Flowers," Wally announced, extending them to her. "Fresh outta the florist's. Well, I dunno, fresh out of wherever the florist gets them from. Where dothey get them from? Is there, like, a flower store somewhere, or—?"
"Yes, Wally, and that flower store is called the florist's," Artemis deadpanned.
"Well, does the florist have a florist? Do they have to pick them themselves? This is a serious logical question." He paused, realizing that he was rambling, and shoved the flowers closer to her. "They were the angriest looking flowers there, soooo... for you!"
Artemis's expression burst into one of shock, her eyes round and her eyebrows furrowed. Wally made his best attempt at a flourish and wound up accidentally smacking the bouquet.
"Whoops," he mumbled, looking genuinely surprised. Artemis still hadn't reacted, which prompted him to ask, "Do you want them or not? I got these for you out of the goodness of my—"
Artemis turned sharply around, picking up her pen in one stiff motion and bending over.
"Give them to M'gann or something," she said snidely. "I don't like flowers. It's stupid trying to keep them from dying, and I don't like seeing them turning all brown."
"They're not forM'gann," Wally explained evenly, shocked at his sudden eloquence, such a stark contrast to his babbling with the bacteria. "They're for you, and—"
"I don't want them," Artemis interrupted quietly.
"But they're pretty!" Wally protested.
"Just – I don't want them!" she snapped. Though the light was feeble, Wally thought he saw her cheeks reddening. "Now leave me alone! I'm working."
Wally sent a dejected glance at the flowers before turning around sharply on his heel and striding out of the room without a word. A few moments after he was gone, Artemis stopped writing (nothing) and dropped the pen, lifting her head to stare at the wall. She closed her eyes, her forehead tight, and lightly rested her fingers on her temple, sighing.
"Moron," she whispered. "I'm allergic to lilies. And you're not allowed to do this."
She dropped her forehead onto the surface of her desk, sighing.
"You're not. You're not."
Wally showed the flowers to M'gann with a dull and distant expression, and she smiled gleefully, finding a vase for them and setting them on the kitchen table as a centerpiece.
By the next morning, they were gone. The only person who didn't have a good idea of where they'd been taken was Wally, who hardly noticed their absence anyway – not even when Artemis spent the next week or so sneezing without reprieve.
"You asked for movies. M'gann likes this one," Superboy grumbles cantankerously as he tosses the DVD onto the coffee table.
Wally marvels at it – at the image on the cover of a dark-haired young man in a drooping brown coat holding a boom box above his head.
"Say Anything?" he asks, reading the title curiously.
Superboy nods distractedly, already heading down the hallway toward the gym.
"Mostly, if it was made in the eighties, girls like it," Superboy grunts, voice echoing. "It's really corny, though. Just warning you."
"I can get back into corny," Wally mutters to no one in particular. He hops off the couch and pops the disc into the DVD player without a moment's hesitation.