Never Stop Running


She didn't know how she came to this. She didn't know how she came to taste her blood invading her mouth. She didn't know how she came to be so weak. She definitely didn't know how she came to be lying on the cold pavement, a figure pinning her, a demented mask staring down onto her with its twisted smile and wild mane of ink-black hair. As the figure raises their right arm, a serrated knife in hand, a beam of moonlight alighting the tip, she reaches up. Her slender fingers grace the smooth white jaw of the mask, and she can feel a hot breath moisten her nails. The raised arm trembles. She digs beneath the mask, pulling it from the face of the figure. The features of the figure are familiar, with an aristocratic nose, high cheek bones, angled dark eyes... A small smile ghosts the figure's feminine lips. The mask falls lifeless from her numb hand. The figure is pleased to have come to this. The knife cuts the air, a shrieking whistle, foreshadowing the arc into-

Artemis screams, jerking awake. She fights her sheets, throwing them from her tangled legs, and then comes to her senses. She breathes heavily, salt tainting her tongue, a hot sweat glazing her skin. She blinks furiously, dusky moonlight spilling through shuttered windows across the room from her. Abruptly, there's a silhouette. Like someone is steadily turning the dial on volume, a harsh, concerned voice rises and is directed at Artemis.

"Artemis? What's wrong?"

A cold hand, a shockingly cold hand, touches Artemis's elbow. She starts, turning from the hand, and looks up, her pale hazel eyes wide. The dim lighting provides enough to give shadows to Megan's sharp features, accentuating a melancholic expression. The alien girl kneels beside Artemis's bed, taking the frightened archer's hand. Artemis looks back to her moonlit room. She can see Kaldur standing where he originally burst into the room, a broad outline, Robin at the foot of her bed, Wally in the doorway, a hand upon the doorframe and Conner just behind it, looking in.

"Artemis," Megan says softly. A gasp responds.

"Was it another nightmare?" Wally's question isn't soothing, but angry. All turns to his rigid stance in the doorway.

Artemis is too traumatized. She swallows, a painful experience, and Wally paces into the room. He wears a pair of low-riding sweat pants and a wife-beater, his auburn hair rustled from restless slumber. A single hard spring green eye looks down on Artemis, lit by the light from the window. Her unresponsiveness could only be her last stand against not appearing vulnerable, these nightmares having stripped just about every defense. Wally crouches beside Megan, touching her shoulder tenderly but with intention. Megan nods and hesitantly turns to Artemis, placing a gentle kiss on her temple. Her hand leaves Artemis's as she stands, and she walks slowly to the door where Conner takes her into a protective embrace. Gradually, the room empties, fleeting glances thrown at the last two at the bed. The door shuts noiselessly, the room bare but the slants of glowing illumination on the carpet.

Wally rounds the bed and crawls in beside Artemis without invitation. She watches; her lips parted to take in shallow breaths, her eyes still large and teary. Wally wears a frustrated appearance, his eyes narrowed and threatening, his lips pursed like in determination. He doesn't mean to come off as irritated. It only reflects the helplessness he feels inside against the terror that awakes Artemis every other night. No matter how many times she screams and thrashes in her bed and the team rushes to her, hearts jumping into their throats at the thought of her being murdered in her sleep, he will never stop running. It's instinct to come to her aid, no matter the consequences. This time, Wally will do something even if he can't fight the nightmares directly.

Wally encloses an arm around Artemis's shoulders, pulling her to his thick chest. She melts against him, setting her hand on his collarbone, and buries her nose in his warm neck. He smells nice, like clean laundry and freshly mown grass. In return, Wally leans down to nuzzle the crown of her head, smelling her light coconut-scented shampoo. He takes his other hand and touches her bare thigh, pulling her legs in his lap so she is turned all the more into him. She curls up against his side as he leans against the bed's headboard. Her breathing is still alarming, like they are getting caught in her throat. Fear often constricts every muscle in one's body, and Wally can feel taut muscles in the curve of her shoulder and in the slope of her legs. He begins to trace lazy patterns on the smooth skin of her hip. The arm against his ribs folds up, cradling in front of her, hand in a fist. Reaching around her shoulder, pressing her closer to him in response, he takes her fisted hand with his and breaks it open, twining their fingers. He can feel a residing quiver in her palm and squeezes, pushing the nerves away. Wally does everything he can to care for Artemis, wanting the nightmare to wane away with the night, to let Artemis alone and to sleep peacefully. If he has to, Wally will sleep with Artemis every night, and as long as it takes. He plants an affectionate kiss on her heated forehead, lingering a moment and then moving to rest his cheek atop her head.

An hour passes, later into the night. Artemis loosens, becoming comfortable in Wally's guarding arms. She no longer shakes. With the passing of time, Wally's trailing fingertip on her hip has reached her knee, still creating patterns upon her pale flesh. He still has his head upon hers, but it has slouched down as Artemis's face nuzzles deeper into his shoulder. Listening carefully, Wally makes out level breathing, and smiles at knowing she is asleep, safe and sound. He kisses her head again and pulls her legs carefully closer, and then drags a sheet over them. He adjusts the pair of them just a little so that pillows support their backs. He leans his head back against the headboard. In a matter of moments, he falls asleep, dreaming of nothing but what Artemis could be dreaming, now that she can sleep without fear.


A/N: I can never imagine these two being closer than just in a comforting, enamoring moment like this. But I liked it. :3

R&R prego!