Disclaimer: I do not own Young Justice
Artemis becomes speechless. The growls of the beasts encircling them are quickly drowned out by the thudding of her heartbeats. She refuses to believe the words that had just dragged themselves out of Roy's colorless and cracked lips.
"What?" is the only word she can utter. It comes out as a hiss of disbelief.
Roy turns and coughs, and spits out of a clot of blood. He faces her again and explains as fast and sure as he can.
"When and where the wall breaks has not been mere coincidences," he says, his voice straining barely above a hoarse whisper. "The first line crumbled away after Robin died. The area about an arrow started to give way after I injured my foot, and is now disappearing with the more blood I lose."
Artemis remains unconvinced.
"What about the part with the goddess?" As soon as the question is in the air, she knows his response. He was always so logical, and now she hates him for it.
Roy shakes his head and winces. He coughs again and more blood splatters the rocks to his side.
"You don't need that part to break away. The hole will be big enough already."
Artemis still wants to argue; to distract him away from the nonsense of her…committing murder. What about the rest of the poem? Her eyes dart down to the stone wall—which now holds a small breach into a dark void—and then travel across the snarling and drooling monsters slowly advancing towards them. That's when she realizes there is no more to the poem.
The engraving isn't a riddle; it's a gravestone marking.
A gravestone marking for two of them so the third may live.
"I'm not going to kill you!" she professes, twisting back and dropping to Roy's side. A surge of resolve fills her until her eyes flash black.
Roy closes his eyes, trying to block out of the crescendo of claws against gravel. He calculates the pack is only sixty seconds away from reaching them.
"I'm dying anyway," he mutters.
Artemis pushes away the caustic sting behind her eyes and her knuckles turn white.
Roy's eyes fly open and he suddenly grabs Artemis's last arrow from her quiver and shoves it into her hand.
"Do it, Artemis. At least do it so I don't to die like Robin," he pleads, his sad eyes snaring around her heart.
The biting behind her eyes finally gives way, and Artemis finds herself choking back tears.
"You're not dying!" she practically yells.
Roy inhales sharply and reaches to turn her bow towards him.
"Make it count…" he whispers.
Make it count… make it count…
A deluge of memories inundate Artemis's mind: Roy's teasing, his fire lighting her eyes and voice, missions where they would spend whole minutes glaring silently at each other… and his gentle tending of the wound on her palm, the warmth and strength of his arms wrapped around her, the smell of cinnamon—always the smell of cinnamon…
She stands up, notches the arrow, and aims it at Roy. His eyes soften into longing, and the corner of his lips turn slightly upwards.
Artemis inhales sharply and holds her breath. She pulls back the arrow and feels her compound bow take the force from her arms as she reaches the end of the draw length. Her eyes travel across Roy's body—from the dirt streaks on his gray cheeks, to his mud-covered and torn jacket, and finally on the glistening red mass of his injured leg. She couldn't lose this; she couldn't lose him. Not when she finally…
Roy nods at her, and exhales slowly.
But then with a quick twist, Artemis fires her last arrow at the nearest beast and flings herself on top of Roy. She grabs the back of his head and kisses him.
"I'm making it count," she murmurs into his lips.
And then she feels something yank her backwards into blackness, and the last word she cries out is his name.
Artemis wakes up on a stiff bed, and with a jolt, finds herself staring at Batman, and—
"Robin!" she gasps, sitting up. "You're…you're alive!"
Her exclamation is met with a lopsided smirk.
"I was never dead," Robin replies with a knowing shrug.
Artemis frowns, and looks around her. She's back in the Cave. She's back home. And she's alive.
"What-?" she begins, and is interrupted by Batman.
"Training exercise for survival skills," he explains flatly, "as well as teamwork and mental capabilities. We temporarily erased your most recent memories to make the exercise more effective."
Artemis narrows her eyes and looks down, slowly and finally recalling how Batman had noticed the animosity between her and Roy, and had wanted—
Her head jolts up.
"Where's Roy?!" she frantically yells.
Robin's eyebrows twitch in surprise and he gestures to the door.
"In the other room," he says, "down the—"
Artemis lunges from the bed and runs past him before he can finish, yanking the door open and running down the hall to the only other room.
She finds him sitting at the edge of his bed, holding his head in his hands while Martian Manhunter stands quietly next to him. At the sound of Artemis's entrance, Roy looks up but is immediately knocked backwards into his sheets as she leaps at him.
"Artemis! What are you—"
His question is interrupted by the crash of her lips against his, and then they're both lost in a daze of passion. Martian Manhunter suppresses a grin, and silently leaves the two to their business.
When they finally pull apart, Roy smiles up at her and smoothes back her hair.
"Why didn't you shoot me?" he asks.
Artemis returns the smile and tilts her head towards the palm of his hand.
"Because," she answers, "living is different than just surviving."
Roy chuckles and pulls her closer.
"I still think the goddess did shoot an arrow so swift," he whispers in her ear, "—straight through the heart."
Artemis bats him away and laughs at his nauseatingly cheesy remark.
"So what kind of strange effect do I have on you?" she asks.
"I don't know, but I do know I don't want to run away." He kissed her on the nose. "Not now." And then kissed her on the lips. "Not ever."
Thanks for coming along on this journey with me! I hope you enjoyed reading this story, because I definitely had the time of life writing it. Thank you all for the support and reviews!