Still in Germany...will get back soon so I can thank all the awesome reviewers!
Thanks to silent reviewers.
Disclaimer: I do not own Young Justice or its characters.
Well this is a fine mess I've gotten myself into, thought Artemis bitterly. She was huddled behind a warped piece of metal flicking her last match and lighting a trail of gun powder leading to a bomb she had devised using C-4 and dynamite in order to blow the hatch off the door to the bomb shelter she had hurtled herself into when the building had exploded.
Bracing herself for the explosion she wrapped her arms securely around her midsection protecting the innocent life growing within her. That was the other part that overly sucked about this mission. Getting pregnant. What was she a horny fifteen-year-old teenager? How could she have forgotten to use a condom? She just had to see Wally on his birthday and she just had to fall for his let's-have-sex-screw-the-consequences puppy dog pout; it had already produced two munchkins why did she never learn. The satisfying boom brought a small smile to Artemis's face as she slowly crawled among the debris to finally escape into smoky, dirty daylight.
At first she had patiently waited for the inevitable Justice League rescue but when after fourteen hours nothing had happened Artemis had grown alarmed and decided to take a closer look at her surroundings. Lead. To her horror she had discovered she was in a lead bomb shelter, whether that made sense or not was beyond her but this was a third world country and the shelter was old. Figures, she'd be in the only portion of the building that the Supers' impervious gaze couldn't scan.
Stumbling out into the dizzying light she cursed silently at her misfortune – she was hungry, tired, dehydrated, and possibly suffering from a concussion all things that did not add up to a happy ending. Coughing violently she realized that she had just walked unprepared into a group of scavengers from a local, poverty stricken village who looked at her disheveled form crawling from the debris scandalized.
She was barely coherent the events of the past twenty-eight hours catching up with her as she stumbled towards the group praying they were peaceful. Reaching the startled individuals she struggled to form syllables – she'd always been adept at learning languages but for the life of her she could not remember one word only managing to grabble a weak, "Hee..lllp..." before collapsing in a heap at their feet.
Artemis woke with a jostle and sprung upwards moaning at the pain that seared through her limbs and head, hissing a pray that she had memorized by heart, "Wally." So she was unprepared when a cup of cloudy water was thrust beneath her nose by a matronly woman, who clearly had mistaken her hoarse whisper for her husband as a request for water – but either way she was parched so she'd settle for the water. Gulping down the beverage greedily she turned towards the woman gratefully only to meet her inquisitive gaze which was fixated on her abdomen. There was no way at six and half weeks that there was any indication of the child inside her but clearly this woman was the elder or midwife of the village because she simply cradled her arms together muttering the word, "Bebe" in an atrocious accent. Artemis merely nodded mutely to confirm the wizened, prophetic lady's question.
She moved her head astutely before tending to a small fire in the corner, dishing a sluggish gray substance from a pot before offering Artemis some gruel.
"Er... no thanks," she said eyeing the offering suspiciously, "Tôi phải về nhà." I have to go home.
The woman shook her head recognizing the words while simultaneously latching onto the blonde's arm to stop her from standing. "Bebe." She repeated emphatically before asking a question Artemis hadn't even begun to consider, "Làm thế nào?" How?
Artemis groaned realizing her predicament. The woman was right. Anything remotely useful at the Shadow base had been obliterated in the explosion. (An explosion that was supposed to kill her as well.) She had no money. No communication device. The most technological item in the isolated village was the wheel – the wooden wheel. She had no mode of transportation. She now had an innocent life growing inside her. It was the middle of winter and her clothes were threadbare. She was screwed. The nearest town with any sort of device to contact the League was twenty-five days away... on foot. Stupid Shadows, she inwardly cursed, Always choosing secluded destinations with no back up plans, bloody brilliant. Wonder why they never win.
The woman still held a vice like grip on her arm and Artemis looked at the hand nervously. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea, she knew nothing about this lady she should have bolted for it when she had a chance.
"làm việc." Work. The woman enunciated. Artemis gaped at the lady. Was she suggesting what she thought she was suggesting?
"Bạn sẽ chăm sóc cho tôi. Nếu tôi làm việc?" You'll take care of me. If I work?
"Vâng." Yes. It was better than nothing and a whole lot better than starving to death or freezing in place. Artemis tentatively placed a hand over her stomach closing her eyes she whispered to the baby, "We're going to be okay."
A year and three months had passed. Wally rubbed his eyes tiredly as he hovered over the sink – dishes only half done. Being a temporary single dad was tough. There never seemed to be enough time in the day. Between "managing" the children (because really why did their superspeed and his obnoxious attitude have to kick in at exactly the same time), work, and heroing he barely had anytime to think which was okay except the minute those two walking hurricanes went to sleep he had all the time in the world to lie awake dwelling. He'd just lie there for hours staring at the empty, cold space on his left – sometimes he'd walk down the hall to check on the children and accidentally clatter something that would startle them awake. He really needed an outlet and he had eventually found one after one of his insomniac strolls around the house but he'd exhausted that option last night when it was completed; so now he needed to find a new project or return to his endless cycle of depression.
He was startled from his thoughts, however, when the sound of the front door being shoved open followed by a loud thud reached his ears as someone fell in the foyer. Glancing at the clock he realized that M'gann had volunteered the pick the kids up from school but it wouldn't be let out for another thirty minutes that meant a stranger had just broken into his home. Racing out into the hallway he was shocked rigid at the sight that met his eyes.
There lying on the floor blonde hair up in a ponytail, thin and scruffy but alive; was Artemis West and if the physical attributes didn't cinch it her swearing most certainly did. No one had quite the same eloquent way with cuss words as Artemis.
"Where's the damn carpet?" she hissed as she examined the wrist she had most likely used to break her fall.
"Artemis?" Wally croaked hoping she wasn't some figment of his imagination. Artemis's head snapped up and her expression softened instantaneously,
"Wally? It's you." He was on the floor beside her in milliseconds hugging her and kissing her and harshly whispering that if she ever decided to go on any life threatening missions again he would personally tie her to their bed.
"That's awfully kinky of you Baywatch," she quipped gently elbowing him away, "I didn't think you could handle that kind of hardcore stuff." His well planned, sexually laced retort was interrupted by a small snuffle and a muted cry and he watched enthralled as Artemis instinctively reached behind her into a baby carrier he hadn't even noticed pulling out a small squirming pink bundle.
"Shhhh, there, there. Home safe and sound see. Just like I promised." The bundle seemed to calm and Artemis fondly stroked it before turning to Wally.
"Do you know?"
"Batman told me," he gulped he had been thrilled to have Artemis back but...but to have his child too, breathing and alive, it was so overwhelming.
"How'd that go down?"
"He actually sent a very nice fruit basket after I tried to claw his throat out." Artemis snorted shaking her head.
"So what happened to the carpet?" she asked keenly noting that Wally's entire focus was on the little girl in her arms.
"Oh, the boys superspeed kicked in. After the first couple of full body rug burns I thought it might be a good idea to get rid of it."
Artemis groaned, "You are so dealing with them when they slip on the hardwood and go careening into a wall."
"Uh huh, dear, whatever," he muttered the jumbled phrases, "Can I hold her?" Artemis smiled passing the baby expertly into his arms. His whole countenance lit up.
He cradled the child with tears in his eyes brushing his nose along the baby's forehead before running his finger over the contours of her tiny, pudgy face, "I thought you were lost." He whispered reverently. The baby began wriggling and a tiny fist shot out cuffing him on the nose.
"Ow. You've been spending too much time with your mother," he chastised the child, "Don't worry Daddy Wally will get you all adjusted so you can interact with normal society." The little girl's eyes opened revealing a pair of startling blue irises that pierced his own taking his breath away. "What's her name?"
"Haven't thought of one?" Artemis said tiredly leaning heavily against the wall, "Figured you'd want your say."
"Oh," he looked at his daughter quietly in awe of her existence.
"No..." he responded lamely, "How old?"
"About six months."
"How?" he whispered, "I mean I'm...no words can describe how happy I am that you're back but I thought she might have been a lost cause, a causality of the explosion."
"It wasn't easy," grimaced Artemis allowing Wally to sit beside her on the floor, "After the explosion I had to blow my way out from underneath all that rubble – it was a lead shelter by the way if you're going to go all protective husband and beat up the Super duo. After that some villagers found me and well I couldn't travel in my condition so for my entire pregnancy I was confined to the village doing chores and odd jobs in exchange for board and food." Wally knocked his shoulder against hers urging her to continue, "After nameless there was born, au natural by the way. God there is no amount of torture anyone can inflict on me that will ever compare to that pain." He could see she was trying to make a joke but he just felt guilty for not being there.
"I stayed for another four months collecting supplies and earning a bit of money till a passing trader picked me up and brought me to some boat docks somewhere in Taiwan. That took a month because he had to stop in every single little hamlet that didn't know what a toaster was. Then I was stuck on a boat for a month. Once I arrived I immediately contacted Batman who zeta-beamed me here half an hour ago after a very long boring and wholly unnecessary debriefing. Building went boom. Shadows escaped. The End." She illustrated the last part with her hands.
"What?" sputtered Flash finally looking away from the girl's face to his wife's, "Batman knew you were here!"
"Calm down Kid Frenzy. It wasn't ideal but I think he just wanted to make sure the baby and I were healthy enough to travel. We look pretty messed up." Artemis pulled self-consciously at her hair after that statement before sighing,
"We better get the crib set up or little no name is going to have no place to sleep tonight."
"Uh, actually," began Wally embarrassed, "I kind of took care of that." He stood offering Artemis his unoccupied hand so she could stand from the floor. Her eyebrow was raised skeptically as he continued to hold her hand and guide her upstairs. Pushing open the door to the guest bedroom Wally lead Artemis inside and she gasped.
Wally had converted the room into a colorful, bright nursery. There was a changing table, crib, toys and a rocking chair but what really captured Artemis's attention was the wall opposite her that had been painted to depict a field of flowers.
"You painted this?" she whispered in awe looking from Wally to the intricate mural on the wall.
"I tried to keep myself busy. I had a lot of pent up energy not being used," he muttered blushing, "I mean the activity's really not much fun when you're not around. You do know how to tucker me out." He waggled his eyebrows suggestively. She inhaled sharply at the innuendo and turned to walk further into the nursery.
"I wouldn't have blamed you," she said seriously running her fingers along the edge of the crib but not looking at him, "I mean I was considered dead..."
"I would never, ever do that, Arty." He practically hissed angrily, "Ever. Nothing could ever induce me to." A smile ghosted her lips.
"I just wanted you to know I wouldn't have blamed you. Even I thought I was dead there for a while."
"I didn't believe it for one second," he stated proudly coming to stand beside her.
"I can see that," she joked, "Language of flowers much?" Her eyes were trained on the vast collections of lilies that adorned the walls. She knew Wally knew lilies meant hope, faith, remembrance, and motherhood because he had once read a book on floriography just so he could give her a different flower for each of their dates and major milestones (she had them all pressed between the pages of an old encyclopedia in their bedroom). Most of the other flowers in the masterpiece held similar meanings of love and hope. God, Wally could be so cheesy sometimes but she loved him all the more for it.
"Hey," said Wally carefully his eyes trained on the bundle in his arms, "Let's name her Lily." Artemis came to stand beside him as their daughter stared at the strange red haired man curiously,
"What do you think, Lily?" cooed Artemis and the baby hiccupped and giggled before a smile settled on her face.
"Well there you go," smirked Wally, "Another West is born."
"And there will be no more for quite a long time," said Artemis sternly, "Are we clear?" Wally nodded infinitesimally distracted with tickling the happy gurgling baby in his arms. God, the only thing that could make this moment better would be if the boys were here.
Quickly glancing at the clock he realized the two rascals would be arriving home any minute.
"Come on let's go greet the little guys and scare the living daylights out of them," chirped Wally feeling happier and lighter than he had in a year. "Barry and Richard will be home from school in a few minutes." As he began to gently push her out of the room she looked at him mischievously, exhausted but content.
"You do realize I expect you to paint every room in the house without complaint, Michael Angelo." Wally merely grinned rolling his eyes as he helped her down the stairs still holding Lily in his free arm.
They'd barely made it downstairs when the front door slammed open with so much force it swung so far back on its hinges that the doorknob made impact with the wall. Two blurs hurtled themselves at Artemis causing her to fall backwards right on her rump from their combined velocity as the Barry and Richard hugged their mother.
"Guys," choked Artemis soothing the crying boys, "Shhh, it's okay." Wally beamed as he again knelt beside his wife pulling everyone into an awkward family hug. Unbeknownst to anyone M'gann was distractedly examining the sizable dent that was now in the wall muttering hurried apologies,
"Oh, Wally. I'm so sorry they just took off. I don't know what got into them," she sighed turning around to suggest she make dinner tonight as an apology when her eyes fell on the family reunion.
"Artemis! Artemis! Oh my goodness! You're alive!" the green skinned girl was giddy with excitement hovering off the ground shifting back and forth between door and the family nervous about interrupting the intimate moment. Finally, Wally just opened his arm out so that she could also join in and she vaulted herself into the hug. Unfortunately, she squeezed a bit too close to Wally distributing the cargo he carried.
The child wailed. M'gann's eyes widened shifting between Wally and Artemis distractedly.
"You, it," she tried to articulate before finally settling on, "Can I hold the baby?" It was a tentative question but Wally nodded passing the child into her waiting arms. M'gann had no children of her own – even if she wanted them she can only spawn with a white martian and the likelihood of finding a male one was very slim (especially given the fact that Conner would probably annihilate any male that came within five feet of her). So she held the baby with rapt attention and care while the two blonde haired children crowded around her peering at their sister terrifying the child if her whines and cries were any indication.
"So you didn't die?" asked M'gann.
"Well I'm here aren't I?" laughed Artemis leaning on Wally and tugging her children away from the bundle; that Richard had decided to start poking. M'gann looked remorseful and bit her lip.
"I'm sorry I didn't believe you Wally and that I tried to ease your pain." Artemis doesn't need to say anything. She understands what has just been suggested and it's a harrowing thought. Wally merely nodded to signify his acceptance of her apology pulling Artemis tighter against him.
"Well," said M'gann cheering instantly, "I must go and tell everyone about your return!" She placed the child in Artemis's arms and stood. "This is so wonderful Artemis!" With that she's gone and Artemis sighed.
"Alright then if you two munchkins can behave I'll let each of you hold your sister Lily while Daddy goes and makes dinner." The two boys smiled enthusiastically while Wally whimpered,
"But I've made dinner for the last fifteen months! It is so your turn!"
Later that night when everyone was tucked into their bed Wally managed to trap Artemis's hand in his under the pillows beneath their heads. Richard and Barry were snuggled between their parents and Lily was sleeping in her crib after the boys had insisted that their sister sleep as physically close to them as possible – which meant Wally had to drag the crib down the hall and maneuver it into the tight corner of their bedroom. They stared at each other in the darkness Artemis clasping his hand just as firmly in a vice like grip as she gingerly traced the features of her sons' faces.
"What, Baywatch? I'm trying to sleep here."
"I just wanted to make sure." His grip tightened.
"It's over Wally," she whispered she couldn't kiss him because of the two bodies in her way but she grinned at him triumphantly. "Over." Wally knew that the life of a hero was a hard one. He knew that there were sacrifices and hardships but he'd endure them all for moments like these and he most certainly would never let go.