So this is going to be the end of Keeping Up and it's been an amazing journey. I actually found a bunch of half-chapters in my files but I'm going to save them - and who knows I might update this story again if things don't go crazy. Hopefully now I'll be able to finish up my other stories as well.
For those of you that have been with me throughout this journey thank you so much for your reviews and taking the time to read it. It means a lot to any author, me included. So let me thank you all once again.
DaisyDoodle: I thought it was a funny line too. It seems both fun and terrifying at once. Thanks for the support.
Kamil the Awesome: The mysteries of the universe. It's not much but it's more, so I hope you enjoy.
Samian: Thanks so much my good friend :)
purplestar: Thank you so much. I really hope I can get some more writing done soon and that you'll continue to support me.
geekdad: Thank you so much. I do enjoy AU universes since Season 2 kind of killed me. You make a fair point about that parallel and I really enjoy writing these two characters so who knows what might happen. Your sincerity and encouragement is greatly appreciated. You are awesome. :)
Guest: You're welcome mystery person. You're welcome.
Hockeygirl28: Nightwing is a fun character to write and get the way YJ turned out poor guy needs to have some fun. Thank you so much for the review.
Opaul: I live in my own little fantasy world where the ending never happened. Shivers. I hope you enjoy this chapter too, I ended on a happy note.
Veniqeu: Awesome name. Sorry no more sequels but have another squeal worthy chapter.
sunflower13: Fair question not quite sure myself…mmmm (wiggles eyebrows). Thank for the review.
Irenerb: Thank you so much. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
Thanks to silent reviewers.
Disclaimer: I do not own Young Justice or its characters.
Wally tapped his feet restlessly against the ground. One of the greatest disadvantages of being one of the fastest men alive meant you hated waiting – waiting was just, ugh, terrible. Wally winced cracking his knuckles. This was too much like before. It was only a few years ago when he had disappeared into nothing but an infinite realm of speed only to reappear months later to teary eyed confusion – mostly confusion as opposed to teary eyes because everyone was hell bent on beating him up.
It hadn't helped that he had been naked.
In the Arctic.
No. That was not exactly the highlight of his manly history when Bart, Jay and Flash had been able to create a speed fuelled tunnel that somehow breached the empty void of space he'd been existing in and pull him out in nothing but his birthday suit. It wasn't his fault his uniform hadn't made the trip.
They still didn't completely understand what had happened to him, and it didn't help that he didn't remember. Everything when he had been in the "other" space had been a blur – literally – but he had come back faster than before. He was able to finally vibrate through solid objects and match pace with his Uncle. But the novelty had worn off mighty quickly after the poking and prodding and Barry telling him he was retiring and passing Wally the mantle. Him. Flash. Wally was barely getting the hang of returning to normal life. He wasn't even sure what normal was anymore.
But he had taken the mantle. Not only because it had been in dream since childhood but because Barry had asked him. It meant something to the both of them that he wear the uniform.
But, most importantly, Artemis had taken him back. In fact she had been the one who asked the least questions. (Did he see Elvis? Or was there really a light at the end of the tunnel?) No questions asked Artemis had welcomed the now Flash/Wally back into real life. But time had moved on she was Tigress, although she did take up her old identity at his insistence and she had new partners, ones that didn't include him.
"Wow," drawled Bart beside him. "Bored much, cuz?"
"Oh shut up." Bart just rolled his eyes dramatically. As much as Wally appreciated his futuristic cousin who shared his love for junk food right now he had bigger priorities.
"Pretty sure there's a city we're supposed to be protecting." Bart commented his feet falling in tune with Wally's patter against the ground. "Hero-stuff."
"Pretty sure I'd be thrilled if you disappeared into the future at any moment." Wally returned to leaning "casually" against the railing of the Watchtower, ears pricked for the telltale warning of a zetatube activation and the particular alarm of a certain archer's designation.
"Man, this is total moded," moaned Bart. "Just because you weren't assigned as partners..."
"It was a mutual decision," stated Wally adamantly gripping the railing a bit more tightly.
"You're acting like a total baby." Wally sighed, squinting out at the expanse of space.
"It's just," he's never really talked to Bart since they became partners. Barry used to tell him everything. Everything. But it's different with Bart he's never quite sure if the brat will spoil it or do something equally stupid. "I ran for so long and so fast it seemed as if time had ended." Bart doesn't say anything and merely sends him a quizzical look. "I realized things change. They change so quickly. Artemis, you, me one split second and our lives changed." He squinted harder at the inky blackness. "And I can't forget that because the minute I do I'll have to start running again."
"You," and Bart wore a look of both awe and a tiredness that betrayed just the kind of life he had led before arriving in their timeline. "Sound old."
"Wise," emphasized Wally ruffling his compatriot's hair, "but I don't know the future." Bart shrugged mirroring his earlier posture and staring out at the Earth.
"Don't think my timeline quite matches up anymore. Besides Batman made me swear never to use any of my knowledge of sports stats for ill-gotten gains."
Recognized Artemis B07.
Wally was gone so fast even Bart couldn't follow him.
"Blue's right," he murmured a smile coming to his face. "Wally's whipped."
"Just a little overtime." Wally chuckled before frowning his eyes scanning the superficial wounds on her body and trying to ignore the blood that was trickling down from a cut beneath her right eye.
"Our reservation is probably cancelled," he glanced at his watch. "Three in the morning, yeah, definitely cancelled."
"Probably," she snorted examining her equipment. "Guess the cafeteria will have to do."
"Romantic." He quipped sarcastically.
"Use your imagination Wally," she smiled sweetly. "Pretty sure it's about as ingenious as you and me hanging out on the couch to watch Celebrity Hockey."
"We don't stay on the couch…for long." Flash smirked wiggling his eyebrows.
"Ugh, adults. So feeling the mode cuz." Wally blinked having forgotten the brat known as Bart was still present.
"Well then go away." He snapped.
"Will do!" cheered Bart turning tail to escape. "Catch you later, Wall-man."
"Doesn't that kid have curfew?" asked Artemis lightheartedly as she watched the young man go.
"He just can't get enough of me," said Wally rubbing his knuckles against his chest proudly. "I'm that good."
"You just can't catch him, can you?" queried Artemis adjusting her gloves.
"Looowww…" he moaned leaning back against the wall. "Let's remember who's the Flash here."
"That's true, in the flesh and all," she joked.
"Okay, that naked thing got real old back in 2016," he griped crossing his arms, "it's 2020 don't you have some new material?"
"The classics Wall-man. The classics." She smirked lightly before reaching up and pulling his cheek towards her to kiss it briefly. "Sorry for being late, babe." Feigning annoyance Wally crossed his arms.
"I'm thirsty and hungry. And hungry." Artemis rolled her eyes at his needy tone; even so a happy little smile was present on her face as she followed him down the corridor towards the cafeteria.
"I get it. I get it. Look I just have to hit the showers," she swatted his arm at the elated grin that lit up his face. "Alone you pervert. This is the Watchtower."
"Clearly you are not familiar with the etiquette. Let me enlighten you, if there's a mask on the knob it's safe to snog."
Artemis quirked an eyebrow shaking her head. "You're ridiculous." She laughed. "Even if it is true." She pressed a hand to his chest as he took a large step towards her. "I'm showering. Alone."
"You're no fun." He pouted.
"But Wally," said Artemis holding her hands out, "think of all that unguarded food in the cafe. Think of getting the best seat in the house. Think of the dishes you could dirty in the time it takes me to take a mere shower. Besides you said you were hungry."
"I'm not sure whether I love you for just giving me permission to act like the pig or if I'm annoyed at you because it's working and I'm actually considering not seeing you naked."
"Well you weren't going to see me naked either way," she commented pulling out her hair tie and running her fingers through her hair – which she knew for a fact drove him wild.
"Gosh," he groaned as he followed her lithe digits through her blonde locks as they trailed against her neck and repeated the exotic motion. "You're killing me here."
Artemis sent him a knowing, devilish look before turning down the hallway towards the changing rooms. For a good minute and a half he considered the scenarios if he chose to chase after the woman of his dreams or trudge in the opposite direction towards food – some of his ideas combined the two – but Wally had the distinct feeling that Artemis was in no mood for him to be risque. He'd just have to make do with food he decided heading towards the cafeteria if he was lucky, which he probably wouldn't be, they'd have started preparing breakfast for the morning shift.
Meandering along Wally absentmindedly thought about how to revitalize their 'date' night. Missions, jobs and social lives had made it nearly impossible for them to have any truly intimate moments for over a month and it was seriously starting to get to him. It also didn't help that his little tête-à-tête with Bart had reminded him of one of the topics that had been plaguing his mind more and more recently. His bout with almost death had taught him not to wait around, to grab hold of the things he wanted and live life to fullest and yet…It wasn't that he hadn't thought about it or voiced the topic – on numerous occasions – but…marriage was just a title. Just someone telling you it was official, him and Artemis had already been together for years. He knew she wouldn't say no but...
"Whatever it is Dick the answer is no." He eked out as his supposed best friend appeared beside him. Wally was no longer shocked by the instant appearance of the hero, already used to it from their younger days.
"Now how do you know I was going to ask anything," grinned the man. "Pretty presumptuous of you."
"It's three in the morning if you aren't with one of your "partners" you're bothering me." He elaborated with air quotes before tacking on good humoredly, "you dog." Dick shrugged dismissively.
"To ere is human." Wally rolled his eyes as they walked into the basically deserted cafeteria.
"So guessing date night didn't go as planned."
"Didn't even get off the ground." He grumbled filling a plate with, hopefully fresh, food. He might not have been able to go on his date but at least he could do couplely things like share food. "You think this is edible?" He asked vaguely holding up a few slices of over burnt, at least he hoped it was, toast.
"For you or Artemis?"
"Point taken." He stuffed one into his mouth.
"Classy." Wally just chewed.
"This really sucks. The universe is conspiring against my love life."
"It's probably Batman."
"You know that Batman is the centre of the universe." Wally pointed an accusingly finger at Nightwing. "Why are you here anyways? You evaded my question."
"I'm here because I am."
Wally sent him a deadpan look. "Dude, you suck." Dick just grinned before turning to walk away.
"Almost as much as your love life," he called over his shoulder as he practically skipped out of the cafeteria.
"What was he talking about?" asked Artemis as she walked past Nightwing who high-fived her. "I was under the impression you loved me." She feigned hurt clutching over-dramatically at her bosom.
The redhead chuckled lightly shaking his head before grabbing her hand with his free one guiding her towards one of the more secluded tables.
"There's no one here." She pointed out as they arrived at their usual spot.
"Why do you think that is, you crazy night time vigilante?" He joked as he sat down and Artemis, bless her, automatically settled in his lap. She shrugged staring down at the plate of cold food, brooded for a moment before turning in his lap. "Artemis, what –" But the words died in his throat as she straddled him, long legs bracketed his, hips sliding forward across his lap till he could feel the heat of her skin all over. "What about the food?" His breath hitched as she sunk against him, lips kissing the corner of his mouth so close he could taste the shower on her.
"I gave you enough time to eat." She murmured finally closing her lips over his, hands gripping the sides of his face as he reciprocated, arms coming up to press against the small of her back and urge her closer.
"Babe," groaned Wally as Artemis pressed against him in all the right ways. "I don't think we're going to make it back to Planet Earth tonight…if you keep doing that..."
"Is that a promise?" she asked seductively a grin playing along her lips as her hands roamed lower against his torso. He took in a sharp breath as her fingers made their downward descent.
"Mmmm?" She quirked an eyebrow hands stopping, which was worse then when her hands were moving. "Yes Wally?"
"Room?" he panted. His mind was a cloudy haze of options and fully peeked with anticipation – he needed her to tell him what she wanted. And fast.
Wally blinked awake bleary eyed and confused as he stared at an empty bed. "Babe?" He hissed into the quiet of their Watchtower quarters. He felt a tremor of trepidation creep up his spine as he rubbed desperately at his eyes trying to bring the darkness into focus. "Babe?" For a horrified moment he thought he had been sucked back into the 'Speedforce' as his Uncle sometimes joked when he lost focus on something, but the fear gripping him passed when he spied the light seeping in under the automated door's frame.
"Thank God." He whispered rolling over and padding towards the door. He doubted he could ever handle being that alone again.
"Artemis you awake?" He asked striding towards the woman sitting cross-legged on the ground.
"I'm asleep." She responded gruffly rifling through the files and albums before her.
"So you are awake." He grinned casually slumping beside her before squinting over her shoulders the words swimming before his eyes. "Why are you awake?"
"I told you I'm asleep." Wally kissed her shoulder, burying his nose in the hair at the nape of her neck.
"Whatever you say, babe," he murmured tiredly. "Is this stuff really more important then quality time with your amazing vibrating boyfriend?"
Artemis snorted reshuffling the papers. "It is."
"Really?" He asked, curiosity piqued as he squinted more astutely at the random mass of papers before him. He reached over her to grab one of the albums lying in her lap. Scrawled across it in black Sharpie was the word Souvenirs.
There he was smiling, naive, sixteen year old in its dusty pages posing goofily with all of his souvenirs in the Mount Justice trophy room. He vaguely remembered doing it one dull day on a dare from Artemis. There he stood rather proudly wearing Cheshire's mask, pretending that the cyber eye was his (hanging exaggeratedly out of his eye socket), zooming around the room wearing his medical bag, suckling the sippy cup dramatically, pretending to stab himself in the heart with Artemis's melted arrow.
"I forgot all about those," he breathed wistfully turning the pages. "Good times."
"They were," affirmed Artemis. "Still are." He shrugged. In some ways there was a certain glamor to remembering when he was younger and so eager to prove himself, so eager to please and help and be the boy who saved the world – and now he was the man who had done it.
Seemed almost silly now.
"Penny for your thoughts?" asked Artemis leaning back against him fingers gliding along the veins in his wrists.
"Canada doesn't have pennies." He commented idly. "Discontinued 2013."
Artemis rolled her eyes hands coming to rest over his. "Still applies."
"Why are these pictures here?"
"On the Watchtower."
"Oh." Artemis looked down at her lap almost ashamed. "It was too hard. Having them around; and then when you came back, well, I never bothered to move them."
"Oh," he mouthed dumbly. It hadn't been easy for Artemis. Nothing about the undercover mission or his death had been easy. While he was stuck in the infinite space of limbo with no concept of time or reality she had been very much trapped in a reality where her boyfriend was presumed dead. She had to attend his funeral, she had to tell his parents, she had to move on. She hadn't even been Artemis for twenty-four hours before she lost him. He thought he had it bad when she was undercover, he could only imagine how she felt – not actually knowing whether he was dead or alive; never having closure.
"Today's our anniversary." She mumbled quietly. "You came back today four years ago." He knew that – that was the whole reason he had desperately wanted to go out tonight and relax but, hey, this alternative hadn't been so bad either.
"Good or bad thing?" She rapped his wrists sharply. "Ow!"
"Good. Moron. Amazingly, wonderfully, good." Wally pondered this rather bizarre turn of conversation for a moment just quietly watching Artemis as she settled down in his arms.
"So someday," said Wally casually, because he was in his boxers and she was in an oversized t-shirt, "do you think we'll get married?"
Artemis stiffened then softened in his embrace. "Is this your way of asking me?"
"Maybe. I mean I'm not talking right now. Five, ten year plan here."
"Why not right now?" Wally froze. Artemis scrambled out of his grasp and walked towards the windows that ran along the opposite wall of their quarters. "There's nothing out there." She gestured vaguely to space before her. Wally opened his mouth to correct her because – duh Martians – but wisely closed it when she sent him a sharp look of warning for interrupting her metaphor. "All that exists is the here and the now. We're just floating. You and me, treading water, trying to navigate through life." She paused. "When you came back. You said you were tired of waiting."
"Well yeah," he responded dumbly. "But marriage is a crazy big step." He spread his arms wide to emphasis.
"We've been trapped in spells, had our memories wiped, been hunted down by criminals, nearly killed on multiple occasions, fought robots, magicians, clones, our mentors and God knows what else and you think marriage is scary."
Wally pouted standing up. "It is. But if there was ever one thing I was sure of in my life is that I want to be with you."
"Good." The blonde stated nodding her head. "Then let's."
"Let's what?" grinned Wally already having a sneaking idea where she was going with this. One of the wonderfully delightful things about his witty archer was that when she got something in her head no matter how crazy or impulsive she'd follow through. Besides, they were practically married already, had the dog and everything.
"Mom's gonna be pissed."
"Your mom?" she challenged jokingly as he came up behind her. "My mom's a trained assassin who wasn't invited to her eldest daughter's wedding. Or the birth of her grandchild."
"To be fair Jade kidnapped us, dragged us to Vegas, tied us to a pew and forced us to be witnesses. 'Guest' wasn't exactly how I interrupted that ceremony. I had to sign the document with a pen in my teeth."
Artemis rolled her eyes. "They didn't kill you for eating the whole wedding cake."
"I missed my Trig final and nearly didn't graduate high school. The cake was the least they owed me." Artemis snorted. This was one of those conversations they'd had a thousand times before but it was nice, it was familiar and as Wally wound his arms around Artemis's waist so they could stare out at the universe together he couldn't help but think it was perfect and that no matter what it took he would make this, them, last forever.
"So," said Artemis catching his eye and wearing a huge smile that mirrored his own while holding up two matching golden bands, "shall we?"
"Where'd you get those?" questioned Wally staring dumbfounded at the rings. He had her engagement ring back at the apartment, he'd had it even before the Arctic Circle, but he never bought any wedding bands.
"A detective helped me out. Got your ring size and everything." All of a sudden his friend's seemingly random appearance made a lot more sense – and that high-five. "I wasn't going to wait around for you forever."
"I was going to ask!" Wally bristled at the jab to his pride. "It's a big moment. I was waiting for the perfect moment."
"So you were never going to ask?" Teased Artemis easing out of his embrace eyes alight with the stars reflecting from the universe.
"I was," protested Wally childishly as he followed the back-pedaling woman to their bedroom.
"So is that a yes?" Wally ran a hand down his face as he stared down the simultaneously annoying and truly brilliant Artemis Crock. "What could go wrong?"
Wally groaned and shivered remembering the last time they had shared those words. "Don't say that. You are officially banned from saying those words."
Artemis rolled her eyes impatiently as Wally came to stand before her. "Well?"
"I've always loved Vegas."
Well…adieu. That's it for this story for now. It's been a lot of fun and I'm so happy for all the positive reviews and feedback. Please review, critique, and comment - everything welcome. :)
Just for my own curiosity I'd love to know, which one-shot was your favorite?