Notes: The original YJAM prompt for which this was filled was: Artemis finds herself falling for/dating Dick and Robin—two totally different people in her mind. Dick/Robin likes her, but, well, she's trying to choose and getting all broken down about dating two people (she's such a cheater!) and Robin/Dick doesn't quite understand why. Fluffy angst? Please bear with me if it doesn't seem all that romantic at first; this was my first project of this length and planning, and I'm sorry if it seems like I stumble.
Before beginning, it's important to note that I outlined this before the airing of Misplaced; the setting is therefore an alternate reality which kicks off right after Secrets, and in this 'verse we'll have to assume that Robin and Zatanna are not as flirtatious in Humanity.
The soundtrack of Mount Justice is made of three or four tracks, all of them fairly unique, but still similar enough that they can blend together. No matter the event or occasion, there is always a layer in the rhythm of the headquarters of Robin's tell-tale snicker; of M'gann's gentle voice; of the steady base that is Kaldur'ahm, keeping the team together no matter the situation in which they find themselves. Though the music may alter itself in volume and style, the instruments remain the same, and the constant banter between Wally and Artemis is just another unchanging addition, something that, for the most part, they've all learned to live with.
The last part does exist, however, and there are times that it evolves from banter into argument, times when Wally drives Artemis not up the wall but into a stunned, angry silence; it's then that she's a responsible person, so she shuts her eyes and nods her head and resigns to tell him that she's going to train some. Wally sees his mistake and tries to apologize, and Artemis accepts it, tells him it's fine, but her mood is sour and her fingers are itching for a bow and an arrow so she says she'll see him later and brushes past his shoulders, tense and to herself, and as far as she knows there's no mission tonight so she can go lock herself up and train until late, until Wally leaves or until her fingers bleed.
She supposes, as she notches three arrows and aims for the moving targets, that she can't exactly blame him for not getting along with her as readily as the others or catching the subtleties of her limits like all the others thankfully have, but it still frustrates her that even here, she has to prove herself even farther. Okay, sure, so lately Wally's teasing has gone less from suspicion and more to a desire to annoy her in friendliness, but that's exactly the point: he annoys her, pisses her off, and usually she can handle it and she'll laugh a little afterwards when she's alone, but that's just not the case today. She's really not in the mood to deal with stupid stress; she's got enough of that in all three statuses; as a hero, as a daughter, as a student.
Archery, Artemis finds, is something that awards her a different status all together; so as she pulls back the string and releases the ammunition, knocks out six targets when she's only three arrows, she feels her heart laugh and she allows a smile. Sometimes she's not a student or a hero or a daughter; sometimes she's an archer. Sometimes she's just Artemis.
She's hit with a tidal wave of rushing adrenaline, and suddenly she's on the move, her feet carrying her almost without thought as she notches her arrows and, running, aims for target after target. She can't miss any, won't miss any; once she's on the move she just goes, because the greatest escape is the place where she is now, the state of mind in which she's occupied and concentrated and happy with herself. Arrow after arrow, target after target, Artemis is Artemis and she feels okay, better than okay; she feels good, great, knows who she is and doesn't know at the same time—but that's fine, too.
Artemis is in the perfect state of mind when she stops and steps back and aims at the last target, the elusive troublemaker that's the most difficult of them all, and she pulls back on the string and she lets her shot fly.
There's an echoing snicker and a boy on a grapple flies by and her arrow's path's no longer true, is disrupted and confused, lands three feet away from the intended point. Artemis scowls and looks around furiously for the flying troll wonder that is Robin, but she—of course—can't find him, so she calls out, "Okay, really? That was the first time I've been anywhere near close to getting that one." Her entire mood surely soured once again, she growls and turns her back to the target, removing her now empty quiver and angrily throwing it to the ground.
Robin's laughter echoes again, this time closer, more reserved. A moment later he appears in front of her, the arrow in his hand as he plays with the tip. His smile is sheepish when he speaks, "Sorry, Artemis. Couldn't resist." He twirls the arrow around and offers it to her, but she's evidently in no mood for Robin's antics and she pushes passed him, in the direction of the showers, because she's covered in sweat and it didn't start bothering her until the second downturn in her mood. Robin frowns. "Hey!" he complains, running up to her and walking in pace once he's reached her, "They said you weren't feeling great, so I came here to get you concerted again. Seriously, I'm sorry I messed you up."
"It's fine," says Artemis, and she knows she's being difficult and a little unfair, but she generally finds being cold easier, finds that creating a barrier is the easiest way to prevent the anger she feels in the first place. It's not something she likes to do, and she's been slipping lately, but… it's foolproof. Right?
Robin puts a hand on her shoulder, and she stops. "No, it's not," he says, and when Artemis regards him disbelievingly, even ventures to wonder silently if he can read her mind, he explains, "You know we're not just a team, right? You're our friend."
She… She knows.
"And since you're my friend, you don't have to worry about my trusting you," Robin adds, and he shrugs, no trace of a smirk or laughter on his face when he continues, grimacing, "Though you might have to worry about me getting upset when you are."
That's what finally manages to cut through to her core. Artemis feels a strange sensation in her chest that she can't explain, a comforting warmth that's at the same time embarrassing, and she turns to face the thirteen-year-old properly, unsure if she wants to speak or even if she has something meaningful to say—what is it, she wonders, about Robin that makes him so different, so unexpected? How does he manage to hit nails right on the head even when he can't see them, shouldn't even know they exist?
(It probably has something to do with being a Bat).
She guesses she's supposed to say something now, a 'thank you' or a grunt or something else, but it's hard to say what she's feeling, and he tilts his head to the side quizzically, looks bizarrely cute as he does it, boyish charm prevailing. Artemis has always thought of Robin as… well, Robin, the Boy Wonder; an enigma and a legend in Gotham and sometimes it's easy to forget that he is just a boy, that he is thirteen, especially because he's got the insights and abilities given to him through Batman's tutelage and (evidently) more. It's easy to forget that he's human and superpowerless like she is (unless unyielding charisma can be called a superpower), easy to forget that she even knows him personally—if she can say that—because she remembers days in Gotham where she'd hear about what Batman and Robin accomplished the night before and she'd silently cheer them on, shaking in bed under the paper-thin covers, remembers a time when Robin was unreal to her.
Maybe, she thinks, looking into his mask, there's a part of him that still is.
She sighs, feels her resolve melt around her, and there's this tension in her shoulders that she didn't even notice that disappears.
"Thanks," she mutters, and she looks to the ground (because his mask is intimidating, and she never knows if she's looking into his eyes or not, and she feels a little embarrassed anyway). There's a pause, hanging in the air with the grace of a traffic accident, and she hesitates, but then asks quietly, "How long were you watching me, anyway?"
Robin's frown makes way for thoughtfulness at her inquiry before quickly progressing into a grin. "A while," he admits, shrugging, and he scans the area and the targets, as though he's mentally recounting Artemis's progress, but backwards. He points one of them out. "Wally told me you were upset when I asked where everyone was, so I came to find you and you'd just gotten really into it. So I just watched you for a while." He lets the idea that he saw her sink in, waits for her reaction—which comes in the form of embarrassment she doesn't even know why she's feeling, because she knows she was awesome—before he adds, modestly, "You were amazing, by the way. I've never seen GA with that much raw concentration, passion, or energy. You'd put Roy to shame."
"Is there a reason you're showering me with flattery?" Artemis asks suspiciously. Her thirst begins to catch up to her, and she jerks her head in the direction of the cooler so she can get a drink of water.
He follows her, snickering. "I'm cajoling you."
"…Some of us aren't human dictionaries, Robin."
He shakes his head to himself and his shit-eating grin is ever present, and he rocks back-and-forth on his feet, playing with Artemis's arrow behind his back, like he's about to ask his parents for something, and he's been a good boy and kept up his grades and everything, so can they please, please just get him that new video game for Christmas?, and he goes, "Artemis, can I convince you to make up or make out with Wally already?"
Suddenly Artemis is choking on her water, and Robin stands alert in case of an emergency, like her dying at the very idea of kissing—never mind making out with—Wally. The episode passes with some difficulty but her eyes are wide and she's no longer upset or sad or conflicted, just extremely confused, and she turns to Robin and exclaims, "Where the hell did that come from?"
Robin holds up his hands defensively. "Just saying! You guys have this tension and I bet Wally hasn't noticed it, either. Does the phrase 'can cut it with a knife' mean anything to you?"
Artemis is appalled at the very thought of sharing anything close to a 'tension' with Wally, and stutters out, "W-We do not! Wally's too—too Wally for me to have anything with him!"
Robin laughs and motions for her to calm down, saying, "Alright, relax, if you say you have nothing, I believe you."
Artemis slumps her shoulders. "I doubt that."
"Hey, friends, remember?"
"Friends," Artemis repeats, nodding. Past her choking she gets another cup full of water, and offers Robin the same; he accepts her offer and they wind up sitting on the bench with their drinks, silence the only sound, though whirling thoughts keep them plenty occupied. Artemis can't help but run on a train of thought that starts with Wally and heads into life, to love and to boyfriends, to Gotham City; the silence isn't uncomfortable—they both seem to be thinking—but there's a layer of sadness added onto Artemis's exterior when she realizes they're both Gothamites, and he doesn't—or, at least, shouldn't—know that.
"—Artemis?" Robin breaks into Artemis's stupor, and he's looking at her inquisitively, like he's been trying to catch her attention for some time now. Her head jerks up. "Lost in thought?"
"Sorry," she says, "I was just thinking about what you said."
"About Wally." A moment's hesitation, and then: "…Even if he wasn't obnoxious, I don't think I could date him. I kind of… I've always thought I'd want a boyfriend from G—home." She pauses, wonders if she should continue, wonders why she's telling Robin this, when she could just as easily talk to Zatanna about her thoughts later today. But Robin's a good listener, and it feels good to tell someone something personal for once, and he's her friend, so she trusts him, too. "Like… there's nothing wrong with having a long distance relationship, but I'd really like someone close by. If I did have a boyfriend, and I don't need one, but if I did, I'd just like someone nearby. If I could just… crash with him on a stressful night, or if I could just… know he's there. Even if he is the fastest boy alive, even if he wasn't annoying beyond all reason, Wally's too far away from me."
She stops, immediately regrets speaking, wonders what she even said. She's breaking her own policies now; opening up leads to issues. It's something she's been taught since before she can remember.
Still: "…Does that make any sense?" she asks him.
His expression is unreadable when he goes, slowly, "Someone from Star City, huh?"
It catches her off guard for a moment and she's all confused, because what does Star City have to do with anything, but at the sight of Robin's mask she remembers the existence of her own, and she goes, "Yeah. Home."
Robin grins. She's getting tired of his grins, wary of what comes after them, and Robin heaves himself up with a dramatic sigh and stretches. "You've thought about all this?" he asks, and he looks bewildered, leans in close to her so there's a domino mask all up in her face, examining her up close. Artemis rolls her eyes and pushes him away, but he ends up in a totally unnecessary backflip to regain his balance. Typical.
He chuckles. "So, if I was from Star City," he starts curiously, a stress so obnoxious as to scream I know, "…any chance I'd be a candidate?"
There's a beat.
Then: "What? Am I on a game show or something? Robin, you're too young for me!"
And for the second time that day she regrets saying it the moment it leaves her mouth, because she sees the flash of annoyance, how for a moment the boy looks absolutely put out; it's gone as quick as it comes, however, and the boyish grin returns, with a new light that highlights his youth and—she sees it now, how did she ever even miss it?—the insecurity he holds behind it.
She snorts. "Are you even allowed to date, Birdbrain?"
Robin grimaces. "You know, hasn't actually come up. Not a conversation I'm looking forward to."
That makes Artemis laugh, a true one that fills her with the fluttery beginnings of a good mood.
"Hey," says Robin good-naturedly, spotting the improvement in her state and leaping to capitalize upon it, "Miss M was baking a fresh batch of cookies when I got here." He offers her his hand to bring her to her feet. "You want?"
"Sure," she says, and accepts his hand; he pulls her up and there's an arrow left in her palm when she lets go, and before she can say anything he's running down the way to the kitchen, laughter echoing in his wake.