She stops getting texts from Dick. She stops sending them, too, and it's this weird sort of absence in her life that she didn't realize was ever even a presence. It's like one second she's walking down the street and the next she sees something that she wants to tell him about, so she whips out her phone and she's halfway through sending the message when okay, friends, hits her and, sure, friends text each other all the time, but it's just not something that they're doing anymore.
She misses it. She misses him. But it's like there's this wall there and it's got a door that she can walk through but she's not sure the key quite fits, and she's too afraid to try it. She still talks to him when they see each other in person; she still talks to Dick in math class and she feels like it's forced but he's all natural, she still talks to Robin and he's still a troll and he's still Robin, but they're just not quite as open, their jokes at each other's expense are almost painful, and there's this lingering feeling of so now what that prevails, and she knows he's waiting for her to text him just once and say I'll see you there tonight, because the address is still inked on her hand and she thinks about it twice every minute.
Hah. That was probably his plan when he wrote it.
She keeps asking herself why she doesn't go there, why she doesn't at least type in the address on Google and write down the directions for whenever she finally comes to her decision. The answer is simple enough: she doesn't really know what her decision will be and what form it will take, doesn't really know how to sort through her thoughts. Day after day she tries to settle down and come up with what to say to him about this, about them, but she's always distracted by something else and she just goes on living in limbo, acts like she never had a boyfriend (or two) and never had a crush (or two).
But she did have a crush, and she does have a crush, and it's in the way her heart does little flips when Robin does little flips, it's in the way it does little jitters when she first hears Dick's voice when he joins the girls at the lunch table. It's in the way she knows that no matter what she decides—whether she'll date neither or she'll date one or she'll date both—she'll still having feelings for him and there'll still be a spark in her head whenever she hears either name.
It's when she's studying for a test in Algebra II when it happens.
She's going through her notes because she can't remember anything about parabolic equations for the life of her (because, hey, they covered that section a month or so ago, how is she expected to remember something like that now?), and she's sketching out a graph again to see if she gets it when she turns a page for the answer and sees pen where there should be pencil. She blinks at it and squints at the writing and then she remembers what it's from, because who else would scribble hi artemis! 8D in the margins of her math notebook but Dick Grayson? She smiles, remembers her struggling with her classwork and him being done with his, remembers him trying to distract her just because he likes seeing her riled up, remembers her drawing unoriginal doodles in his notebook as revenge.
She remembers that day and she wants him to remember, too, and that's when Artemis stares at the back of her hand, pushes away her study materials, and pulls up Google.
Somehow she should've known this is where she'd end up when she read Gotham Heights, but when she's standing outside of the black gates, she's still trying to deal with the idea that she's been invited here. That she's actually going to go inside. That Robin lives here. When she called him—texting, she thought, wasn't going to work this time around—he sounded all too anxious, but Artemis swallowed and asked if he was home and he sort of paused because it took a moment for him to register her question and believe that she actually asked it, and then he said, "Yeah."
And then there was hesitation because she wasn't sure if she was supposed to continue or if he wanted to say something else. She started to talk at the same time as he did, then he started to talk at the same time as she did, and then they both stopped and cleared their throats and Artemis said, "You first."
"Okay," said Dick, "Do you want to come over for lunch?"
And so here she is, standing in front of the gates of Wayne Manor, a building that's definitely more than twice the size of the entire building where her apartment is, and all she has to do is ring the bell and this entire ordeal will be over; she'll talk to Dick and he'll talk to her and there won't be any more awkwardness or confusion or miscommunication, just the two of them and their honest thoughts about each other and what they're going to do about them.
Artemis breathes and rings the bell. She's hoping that Dick'll come to let her inside and not some sort of doorman or something, because she doesn't really know how to talk to those kind of people, but she's not lucky and Dick doesn't show up; instead, when the gates creek open and she takes a few cautious steps into the property, she's met with the familiar face of the man from the limousine the other day.
"Hey," she says, "I know you!"
The man nods, and if she remembers right he had this awesome British accent—"Master Dick is waiting for you inside, Miss Crock, if you'll follow me."
"Just 'Artemis'," she corrects, because whoa, does that sound weird coming from this guy, and he nods his of course and she follows him inside, all the while taking in the front of the manor, the gardens and the bricks and the fountain, the driveway and the door and the windows and the everything else. She spots what she thinks is a church and a graveyard somewhere off to the left, and the permanency of the estate hits her, the idea that Wayne has been on this side of the world, in this city, for so much longer than Nguyen hits her; and the idea that Dick is Grayson, Dick is Bruce's ward, hits her, too.
That's kind of what separates people that know me from my friends, a voice echoes in her head, and she smiles.
"I can't tell if it's weirder that I'm having lunch with Bruce Wayne or I'm having lunch with Batman," Artemis murmurs, and Bruce chuckles. It's kind of… unnerving to have lunch with him, especially after all the disrespect she threw at the Batman, and she wasn't even expecting him to be there anyway; she assumed it would just be her and Dick. She looks for help to Dick, who shrugs and is, of course, no help at all.
"Dick tells me you had some trouble figuring it all out," says Bruce in good humor (weird), and wow, okay, she glares at Dick because hey, not only do you refuse to help me out in this situation, but you talk about me to Batman?
"And after all that yelling, too, Masters," says Alfred matter-of-factly, refilling her glass with water and picking up the now empty platter of pasta to return to the kitchen. Artemis takes a sip of the water, which proves to be a bad mistake when she starts choking at Alfred's next words—"I was afraid you wouldn't speak for months"— and she glares at Dick again because hey, wait, you yelled about me with Batman?
Dick snickers. "He's right, though. I mean, I was dumb, too, but I was totally obvious about it. Are you sure you haven't contracted split-brain?" he asks, turning to her. "Your corpus callosum is intact, right?"
Artemis predictably has no idea what he's talking about, and pushing her empty plate to the center of the table, says, "…Corpus what? Split-what?"
Bruce shakes his head at Dick's question and sighs, setting down his own drink. "Split-brain doesn't work like that, Dick."
Dick grins. "I know. Just checking." He wolfs down the rest of his food, downs it all with his water, and wipes it away with his sleeve before sliding his chair back and jumping down. "Okay, Artemis! Now that you're acquainted with the family"—he looks pointedly at Bruce, who raises his eyebrow questioningly, and Alfred, who nods, composed—"won't you join me for the grand tour?"
Artemis jumps down beside him. "Sure?" she asks, because she doesn't really think she has an option. Dick beams and beckons her to follow him out of the dining room and back into the entrance hall, and he starts up the stairs and that's when his constant, consistent, and kind of creepy smiles dwindle down a little and his pace slows down so they're in step.
Here it comes—
"So…" starts Dick, "Did you, um…"
And there it is. And… she's ready.
"Look," she says, and they stop and they look at each other and she swallows. "Just… be clear from now on alright?" He cocks his head to the side and she smiles. "I would say no more games, but you're no fun without them."
And his eyes widen a little and his face brightens a little and he tries to hide his excitement and he largely fails. "You mean—"
"Yeah," she says, shrugging. "I thought about it. And you. And us. And, yeah, you kind of make me feel, like..."
"Asterous?" he offers, hopeful.
"Asterous," she confirms.
And he grins.
"I swear on Bruce's nose I won't cheat on you with my super attractive alter ego," he says. And then he thinks, adds: "Or Wally."
"You swear on my what?" comes a voice from below, and the two of them aren't really surprised to see Bruce standing there, because hey, he's Bruce, but they weren't exactly expecting him, either.
"Nothing!" Dick cries, and he takes her by the hand, their laughter echoing as he leads her up the stairs.
to GREEN ARROWESS
/Split-Brain Syndrome./ The result of the severance of the corpus callosum; an interference between the communication of the two sides of the brain. Patients may see their boyfriend in their left visual field, but not recognize him; alternatively, they may see him in the right visual field, but be unable to speak to him logically. Exceptionally rare, Split-Brain Syndrome cannot be contracted, but it may seemingly manifest when one fails to notice extremely important details about their significant other. (SEE ALSO: Bubble Tea tonight? Batman's treat~!)