Well it is the long awaited conclusion. I can't believe I received over a 100 reviews for this story THANK YOU SO MUCH! I'm not sure how happy I am with it but I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. A huge shout out to thebestoftherest for the suggestion about Wally getting captured.
Now let me thank all the people who have put up with the wait and kindly reviewed my story.
oncloudnineandthreequarters: Thank you so much for the kind comment!
Samian: Why thank you! I love thanking my reviewers! I hope it plays out how you expect. Ominous music plays.
Mad3lina: Thank you so much for the compliment. I always worry I don't give my characters enough depth or exclude key parts of their personalities. It's nice to hear that I met your expectations.
Cerulean Apocalypse: Yeah I guess I was kind of vague on the whole "invade the sub" thing. I just feel that eventually the team is going to get fed up with chasing the villians and proactively locate them (which I alluded that L'gaan knew where they were in chapter 2/3). L'gaan thinks he's in love with Alice. Through the subtle interactions in chapter 1 and his interest in helping her in later chapters he's developed a crush on the person who took care of him, Florence Nightingale Syndrome. At least that was my reasoning. Well yeah not happy ending in terms of Artemis's feelings but yay Spitfire are back together happy. I'm glad you liked the interaction with Icicle Junior. I just hope you like the final chapter because I'm kind of on the fence about it... Thanks for your wonderful long review :)
Anonymous: Don't cry anon. Please have a tissue.
Weegie-Queegie: Thank you so much for your lovely review! I'm glad you enjoyed Cameron he's a really interesting character to write because clearly Greg and Brandon gave him a back story that doesn't get a lot of attention which I feel it should because he's just one guy on the wrong side. :)
Anonymous: I hope dreams. I really don't want to be the kind of person who gives reviewers nightmares that's like Scarecrow evil and don't even have to use a noxious gas. Thanks for the review! Have a tissue.
A2ID: Thank you so much!
olympic girl 21: I tried to update I really did but some many things got in the way. I hope you like it.
Lady Imara: Thank you so much!
anonjon: Wow. Not sure how to respond to your powerful burst of emotion. Huge hugs of gratitude. Unfortunately every story must come to end and I feel this is the time for this story. Thanks as always for your awesome reviews!
j9162: Spoiler - Wally gets the girl or better yet Artemis gets the guy. Thanks for the lovely review :)
thelastfangirl: Ah yes the monogramed tissues. I wonder what the monogram would say. Spitfire or bust. Spitfire forever. ovp you suck. Perhaps something elegant like read at own risk. :) Thanks for the lovely review.
LavendarGooms: Thank you! Thank you! For pointing out my grammar mistakes. This is what happens when you write in the past tense all the time and then write a present tense story grammar issues. That sentence you told me to rewrite I was staring at that for like a hour going how do I fix this? When I get a chance I will try and fix all my mistakes and I'll bet money I've made the same mistakes in this chapter. But thank you so much. I need a grammar fairy. :)
Mr. Wartburg: Thank you so much. I'm not sure how much you'll like the end...I like some parts, hate others but I leave it for the reviewers to decide. :)
Jazbez: Yes I was inspired by the trailer. Not sure how I feel about Artemis being Tigeress but at least we're finally getting to see our favorite couple in action. :) Thanks for the lovely review!
Ms. Mary-Mac2: Ah yes. Wally. Where do I begin he is totally awesome but he chooses the worst times to be stubborn. Thanks for reading.
Irenerb: Thanks for the kind review!
I Dance The Merengue: Oh boy, not even fluff covered duct tape will help. Now I feel really bad. Will chocolate help because there will be chocolate in this chapter. Oh I know spitfire momentsthat will definitely help. Please don't suffer alone. There's an entire fandom here to support you. Thanks for the review :)
sunflower13: That's an awful lot of angst. Maybe I should reconsider my writing because it continues to get more and more depressing. Thanks for the review :)
randommonkeyz998: No the dream won't come true. Even I'm not that depressing...at least I hope not. Worry not. There is a spitfire ending. Thanks for reviewing!
My Own Mayday Parade: Thank you so much for the lovely compliment. I'm glad you enjoy my writing so much! Thanks for the reviewing as always you are so generous with your words.
IronicVegnead: They will get together...don't panic. There's a way's to go but we get there in the end. You can't separate our duo. Thanks for reviewing!
Wolf Skater: I'm working on a time machine to reverse time so you'll know the ending before you read the feel inducing chapter 3. So I hope everything will go alright once you've read this chapter and your heart has been reanimated. Thanks for the review :)
Cambelle: Nah my writing's not getting better just more sloppy. Thanks for saying I explore Artemis's character well but I'm not entirely sure I've captured her. Thanks for the reassurance.
SpitfireChick: No Artemis will not die cue dramatic music our pairing will survive. Thanks for the review :)
Thanks to the silent reviewers!
Inspired by the song: Swallowed by the Sea by Coldplay (awesome Spitfire music video to the song by MusicalChaos05)
Disclaimer: I do not own Young Justice or it's characters.
When the Earth meets the Sea
Artemis and Kaldur bide their time. There's really nothing else either of them can do. Beyond that cryptic note Dick sent a week ago they've received no news about the impending ambush. They have yet to decide if that's a good thing or not. In an attempt to somehow alleviate the possibility of a sea battle Kaldur has begun to organize nightly training sessions on the shore of an island not too far from their co-ordinates. With their luck the team will attack them underwater anyways despite these measures but maybe they'll get lucky and the confrontation will happen on one of these cool, crisp nights where Artemis spars and attempts to maneuver in her armor while Cameron silently watches, frozen eyes glinting in the moonlight.
Cameron has been watching. A lot. Vandal and Sportsmaster left him behind – apparently something about him needing to be educated in thinking and strategy and she knows this bugs him because he hates being treated like a child. She isn't sure what to make of her father. Nobody has killed her yet so she'll have to take that as a sign – good or bad she doesn't know. Icicle Junior is not exactly social with the other soldiers (because he's awkward and lanky and spends most of his time pissing people off) but he does manage to sidle in with the crowd that hangs around her taking an unnecessarily sincere interest in Gard. To be clear this pisses her off. Because even though he's "evil" he's the one being more honest at the moment when all he could ever do is tell her lies before.
It's like a heavy weight has settled on Artemis's shoulders and a phlegm has collected in her throat because she can't shake the dread that has gripped her psyche with iron-like claws.
She doesn't want anyone to die. Not that her friends were actually capable of taking life – but there are causalities in war. Always causalities.
There's a line she's treading that won't allow her to sway either way. She knows what side she belongs on but she knows both sides. How Kaldur manages to keep his priorities in check she'll never know. She thought this would be easy – heck, a vacation from school and Wally and the mundane routine her life had become. Sign her up for boring.
"Plant your feet," she calls across the beach as she watches Gard spar, "Throw him off balance! Use your agility and size to your advantage. Do something." She doesn't know why she's helping improve the soldiers. She can't even begin to fathom why she thinks this will somehow make her actions acceptable; somehow make up for her betrayal.
"Sportsmaster says hello," states an icy voice beside her as Cameron stands beside her. When had he gotten so tall? He stands a good foot above her and though she's not afraid of him her blood chills at the sentence.
"How polite of him." She sighs tugging at her hair, "Am I really that obvious, even after all of this?"
"You can't just simply erase yourself."
"Thank you Confucius. Why didn't daddy dearest rat me out?"
"Don't ask me that," is his sharp reply, "You're the enemy."
Artemis laughs hollowly, "Guess so, huh? But at least I'm not the loser that got ditched."
Cameron says nothing arms crossed, squinting at the fighters until he finally says, "You're not doing them any favors by training them. That won't take the edge off. They'll feel like you trained them to lose."
Artemis bristles, "I am not! I'm…I'm trying to help them!"
"They won't see it that way."
Artemis lets a frown mar her features and then a grimace. She isn't going to cry; but she feels the telltale prickles at the corner of her eyes. She isn't going to let the hopelessness of this situation overwhelm her or Cameron's actual apparent ability to make sense affect her resolve.
"What do you know!" she spits out recalling missions where he left her behind or those times where they sparred and he froze her to the ground; the icy tendrils keeping her firmly in place while he beat her. "I'd hardly call you a pacifist." That's when Artemis decides she doesn't want to listen to him anymore. She doesn't want to be confused or hurt – she doesn't want to have to admit that he's right.
So she turns on her heel and storms away. Runs away like a coward from this labyrinth of doubt and confusion she's created. She has bigger problems to deal with than Cameron's cryptic messages and his veiled threats. Well not veiled but blatant. Cameron's not smart enough for veiled. She looks at the sea as it laps at the shore. The air hangs heavy with salt and she can't bring herself to even dip her foot in the water to give up the small reprieve she's won where she's not surrounded by water and floating in an ocean of self-loathing.
Artemis stares without seeing at the waves and attempts to memorize the feeling of air and dirt and sand. She sees the submarine base floating on the waves cresting over the swell and feels nauseous at the thought of returning to it. She runs her finger along the cool plastic of the rebreather staring at it. This simple device is the only thing keeping her from drowning. The only object that separates her from death. She squints at it and pulls her arm back in the action to fling it into the waves but she stops and drops her hand back to her side. She'll need it. She has to wade out then swim to the ship. Perfect.
A hand is placed on her shoulder and she turns around sharply to face the expression of a startled Gard.
"We have to go back now." He gestures helplessly to the ship and Artemis's expression hardens. "It's not that bad," amends Gard.
"I know that," grinds out Artemis staring at the horizon. "I know." She shoves the rebreather into her mouth and stomps forward into the crashing waves. Gard just watches for a moment before following her as well as both of them sink into the darkness.
It's foggy when the team attacks (thankfully on land during training.) All Artemis can see is gray mist so thick it's palpable – it feels like she's fighting in soup. She wouldn't have half as much trouble if she weren't weighed down both physically and metaphorically by the Black Manta armor.
Then there's Kid Flash. His bright costume piercing the gloom like a welcome lighthouse beacon.
He's all keen and eager eyes valiantly scanning the crowd and chaos to find her. His eyes look at every neck and his fists land softer blows than normal as he searches for her or maybe she's just deluding herself and he's gotten soft. But he won't find her she concludes; she's right of course. Soon his countenance darkens and his brows furrow beneath that ghastly yellow mask and his hair looks just a little bit more fiery – because she likes to think when he's angry his hair changes color; even a little bit. Every twitch of distaste and annoyance that crosses over his face she reads greedily basking in the presence that she can never touch.
All of a sudden there's a back pressed against hers and she shivers at the immediate coldness that radiates from the frame instead of the warmth she longs for and remembers.
"Keep your eyes on the fight," Cameron clips knocking back Beast Boy who'd been charging at her in the form of a cheetah. "At least make it convincing. Come on." If Artemis wasn't surrounded by pandemonium she'd turn around and show Cameron just how good of a fighter she is but all of a sudden everyone is converging on them – Beast Boy, Bumble Bee, Blue Beetle are approaching the duo from all sides – it's the B-brigade and not only in name.
"You're going to have to actually fight them," hisses Cameron freezing Garfield's feet to the ground, "You're a bad guy."
"Thank you for the update," grinds out Artemis pulling her guns out of their holsters while firing at the mob converging on them. She winces slightly when she catches Garfield in the shoulder. She isn't sure what's more alarming – the fact that she doesn't feel remorse or the fact that he continues to charge at her in the form of a rhino undeterred by the gaping wound. So much for his childhood innocence.
When she's not on their side she doesn't have to hold back like she's always had to on the side of Justice – she's no longer thinking of the consequences of her actions. Instead her entire being is focused on getting the job done (even if death is the outcome.) Her and Junior easily dodge the lumbering creature causing Garfield to careen into Blue Beetle. A few well aimed shots knock Bumble Bee's stingers away and she has no way of escaping when Icicle freezes her wings and then her hands and feet the ground. Karen was never very good at hand to hand combat anyway as Artemis uses the butt of her gun to knock her out.
"Wuss move," quips Cameron.
"Can it." They easily deal with Blue Beetle and Beast Boy. The fog is thickening and it's maddening. She doesn't see the blade till it makes a terrible screeching sound as it runs against her armor. Cheshire in all her glory emerges from the mist, Artemis thinks for a moment she might have actually materialized like the real Cheshire Cat.
Artemis's stitches ache terribly and she can feel them straining. The sloppy work tearing through the skin they're supposed to be mending as she's forced to flip backwards to avoid a nasty kick. Two missions in a row against her own sister; who has no idea who she is. Just perfect. At least when she wasn't wearing the armor she was able to match Jade's agility move for move but now she's burdened with its cumbersome weight. She senses Jade's knife scratching and digging into the armor and she suddenly feels like an unfortunate mussel about to be cracked open.
She kicks Jade viciously away and she isn't sure what hurts more; the stitches she feels burn and twist and tear or the lump that's forming in her throat and the weight that's settling in her chest as Jade lands heavily on some boulders and she hears the telltale snap of an arm breaking. She hears a howl of anger from Roy as he barrels at her but she simply sidesteps him and he's too preoccupied with reaching Jade to deal with her. Jade's staring at her; not angrily but sadly and her the lump hardens to the point where her eyes are watering and she can't breathe – because now they're even and they know it.
It's then that Artemis turns feeling the intense burning stare of an all too familiar set of rampant green eyes bore into her – it pierces through the mask, through the metal, through her flesh, and through her bones. They're dark and harsh and calculating and Artemis shivers at the look because she knows it so well – has missed it so much. It's as if everything has slowed down as she spots Wally standing solid and hard and rigid in the middle of the chaotic battlefield as fights rage on around him. He's just standing there staring at her for what seems like forever. Shit. Then he moves.
There is a ferocity to how Wally fights – it's primal and needy as he weaves towards her. There's anger too. Boiling just beneath the surface of his countenance. Wally always hated being tricked and this, hiding, this is the ultimate betrayal. He stops short in front of her and Artemis in her gear feigns ignorance bringing her arms up as if to attack him and solidifying her stance.
"Oh no you don't," growls Wally literally plucking her from the ground, "We're not playing anymore games." He takes off with her still securely trapped in his embrace and Artemis flails against his steel-like arms digging her fingers into the fabric of his suit pointlessly.
She wobbles unsteadily on her feet when he drops her back on the ground and the armor shifts around her completely throwing her off balance. They're on the submarine somewhere because it's the only place that would have metal walls that are this cold, and cruel and unforgiving. The Bioship was always warm and it hummed with life morphing to suit the team's needs. It was warm.
She draws her guns but their knocked away by a blurring fist. She takes a fighting stance but her hands are quickly pinned above her head by one of his large, warm palms while her knees are pressed against the wall by his knees.
Act Artemis, she screams in her mind, act!
"What the hell are you doing!" she screeches, "Let me go you neon prick!"
"Is that anyway to talk to me Artemis." He seethes. How could the armor have failed? Oh right it's still her in the armor. She would smile at the fact that someone, especially Wally, still recognizes it's her even behind all the facades and lies if it wasn't for the fact that she was now utterly screwed.
"I don't know what the hell you're talking about."
Apparently that was the wrong answer.
She feels the helmet get torn away and she stifles a gasp as the rough pull tugs forcefully at her hair. Then she's no longer looking at him through the obscured, narrowed maroon field of the mask but her eyes are greeted with vibrant red and neon yellow and she squints painfully at the bright colors as his green eyes bore into hers.
There's hurt there too lingering under his flirtatious facade. Wally's hurt. Wally's unhappy and Wally and unhappy just don't go together because he's so bright and full of life. Wally's injured in a heart breaking lost sort of way and Artemis knows it's her fault. Everything's always her fault.
It's completely unromantic when she kisses Wally, or more specifically, when Wally kisses her. It is literally his face colliding with hers desperately no forethought or planning lips just mashing uncomfortably against lips (heck missing lips too.) Their teeth clack together painfully.
It's their first real kiss in two months and of course he has to ruin it. It's worse than that time with Clayface and all the muck and his defense was he was trying to be romantic because apparently sneaking into her bathroom while she was showering and smelt like sewage was the height of romance. Artemis was more inclined to believe it fulfilled some sort of sick fantasy of his or a bet. Probably a bet –Wally is just that incredibly stupid sometimes. He probably hasn't even thought about the consequences or what he's going to do after he had whisked her away to who-knows-where.
"Wally," hisses Artemis angrily disentangling herself from his arms. She's pretty sure he's mauled her face enough. "What are you doing, you idiot?!"
Wally looks dumbfounded for a moment as if confused about what she's asking him.
"You're the one who hid," he ripostes panting, "Talk about hitting a guy when he's down. You wouldn't even let me see you." Artemis shakes her head fruitlessly repeating the mantra, 'It was right. I was right. I hid to protect him.' If she stops believing in that she'll have no tether left to cling to.
"Wally," she spins so he's the one pressed against the wall and her hand is placed firmly against his chest, "This is a battle. Not a rescue mission. We're," she pauses for emphasis, "Enemies."
Wally rolls his eyes straining against the hand attempting to reconnect their mouths.
"Sure," he slurs.
"Wally I'm serious."
"So am I!" he says angrily. Grabbing her wrist he turns the tables quickly again having her pressed tightly against his body, hands pinned against her sides, nary a breath of space between them. He doesn't want her to disappear because she's there and solid and physical and pressing against him in all the right places. "I think of you and everything is okay."
Artemis's eyes snap up to meet his.
"But it's not enough to think about you anymore." He places a hand on her left breast above her thundering heartbeat. Perhaps in any other situation she'd knock his hand away and chastise him for being a pervert because what kind of sick person cops a feel while they're on a mission. But the heat that she's missed so dearly is radiating from his palm and spreading across her body seeping through the cold, rough armor. "Come home."
It feels like Artemis's tongue is swollen as she struggles to formulate syllables with the useless muscle. It isn't helping that locking her eyes with Wally's reverent, smoldering gaze is making her weak at the knees and her head spins slightly. He presses further grabbing her thighs and hitching her up against his body so that they're pressed so tightly together she can hear the hammering of his heart and feel the thrumming of his muscles through the too tight spandex.
"Come home," he demands again angling his head so that he can graze his teeth along her earlobe. She shivers and tries to frown but, God, is it hard. How can you possibly manage to be stern when your insides are melting like butter under the ministrations of an incredibly horny and sexy man?
This feels wrong; and not because she's bad and he's good but because it's Alice and Kid Flash making out in some room while there's a war raging on outside. She feels like a traitor letting her emotions run rampant like this but clearly Kid Pervert has no qualms about ditching as he fumbles with the cumbersome armor.
"How the hell do you get this stuff off?" he whispers lowly tugging at the unyielding black metal. "It's like a fucking chastity belt."
Artemis struggles again to clear the haze that has settled in her mind from Wally's ministrations. For a moment she considers letting Wally just have his way with her. Just press the inner button that will release the armor and let him ravish her. It would be nice, hot even because she's horny and neglected but it wouldn't be right. But whatever inner turmoil is boiling beneath her surface is cut short when the room they appear to be residing in takes a massive lurch to the left as an ear-deafening explosion takes place outside. Artemis and Wally are thrown clear across the room and land in an uncomfortable heap on the floor with Artemis straddling him. Wally gives her this cheesy, lecherous smile as his hands situate themselves on her hips grinding them together.
"I'd love to take credit for being able to make the Earth quake at my presence," he smirked, "But I think we probably should move."
"Wally I can't go with you," states Artemis slowly as if talking to a child, "My mission means I stay."
"That's why I'm taking you prisoner."
Artemis snorts. "Sure. That's believable." Before blinking at his solemn expression, "You're serious."
"Of course!?" squawks Wally indignantly.
"That was your brilliant plan? You'd take me prisoner and then what how would you get rid of Alice without killing her? You justice types don't do that. I can't just be two people for the rest of my life." Wally kind of frowns at the phrase justice types but it sounds natural flowing from her lips and that scares Artemis.
"Artemis I'm not leaving you again," he states stubbornly pressing his fingers deeper into the fabric of his suit and tightening his grip. "This is insane. You can't be a martyr anymore. You can't do this. It's tearing you apart." A hand moves up fleetingly brushing the sweaty bangs that are obscuring her vision away.
Artemis's breath catches as she gazes down at Wally. No wonder she loves him. She wonders what he sees. Is she still beautiful in his eyes or is she nothing more than an illusion produced by a pendant?
The space jerks sharply forward and they slide across the floor and bang into the opposite wall. Artemis's eyes widen. The base is diving! They're sinking back into the abyss of the ocean and Wally's still onboard!
"You fucking idiot!" She doesn't know if she's yelling it at herself or the man groaning beside her. There's only one option now. "Well lucky you. We'll get to use your inane plan."
"Huh?!" But he's hardly uttered the comment when she locks his hands behind his back in a pair of handcuffs from her belt and presses her knife to his throat.
"Stand up," she hisses in his ear.
"If you wanted to be kinky you just had to say," says Wally standing and shrugging as Artemis harshly pushes him towards the door. She wonders if he's trying to suppress his laughter given his shaking shoulders.
"Be quiet and shut up. You're on my turf now." This is going to so ruin her credibility. You don't bring survivors back to base.
She kicks the door open and drags her prisoner out into the hallway. If she can just get him somewhere, anywhere, where no one will find him maybe he'll live to see another day her stupid moronic speedster.
"Alice?" questions a smooth voice that although confident shudders with a terrified emotion beneath its coolness, "How?"
Artemis chalks this up as one of the worst day of her life as she turns to face Kaldur, Black Manta, and a collection of crew members who clearly were not prepared to see her stumble out of a closet with Kid fucking Flash as her prisoner. Thankfully Wally has actually made it look like they were fighting.
"I caught him trying to sneak aboard and chased him."
"To a closet?" sputters Kaldur and she appreciates how dignified he manages to make it sound when he knows what Artemis and Wally tended to get up to in closets at the Cave.
Artemis thinks she hears someone in the background say, "Again?"
Black Manta has remained silent simply appraising the situation and Artemis does not find his inquiring gaze the comforting in the least. What is she going to do if he orders her to kill Wally? Please, she begs in her head, please.
"A most impressive catch Alice," the man begins, "Our employer will be most happy to have a healthy individual to experiment on since we lost our last viable specimen. Confine him to a cage."
Black Manta nods and continues forward but not before placing a hand on her shoulder, "You do me proud. You shall be compensated for your commitment." Artemis didn't know what happened. She didn't know why they retreated. She didn't know why Kaldur looks so forlorn. She didn't know why her father hasn't ratted her out. She didn't know why Black Manta was proud. She didn't know why Wally looks so happy. She didn't know anything. All she can do is shove Wally forward, twist one of his arms uncomfortably and pray to whatever God is listening and scream at those who aren't for this messed up, mixed up nightmare to end. She wants to go home. She wants Wally to go home. She wants Kaldur to go home. She just wants and wants and wants.
"You have got to kidding," groans Cameron walking beside her as she leads the prisoner toward the holding cells. Wally just bristles slightly and shifts his hands against the cuffs. Even though she told him, he was never really okay with her having previously dated Icicle Junior.
"Oh it's daddy's little failure," taunts Wally.
Icicle Junior narrows his eyes, "You're both a pair of idiots."
"Cam," she states warningly.
"Alice," he ripostes before turning down a hallway, "The Shadows are watching."
"The Shadows are watching," she mimics sarcastically, "God I hate Cameron with a brain. I wonder if I accidentally hit it back into place."
"So you two on friendly terms?" queries Kid Flash but she feels his muscles strain through his torn uniform and sees his fists clench.
"It looked awful friendly."
"How about I gouge your eyes out so you don't have to look anymore?"
He tsks, "Testy testy."
Artemis desperately wants to ask him what he was thinking. Why did he have to go and do something so stupid? How are they going to get out of this mess? She can't talk to him though, not really, because people will hear her and her voice will echo along the empty metallic corridors broadcasting a delicately crafted plan that has just gone up in smoke. So instead she's forced to be sarcastic to bite unmercifully at him when she really just wants stroke the inside of his hand with her fingers and breathe into the crook of his neck so that she can feel him shiver from her ministrations.
It's not like this dance is new to them. They fight so often they're old hands at this game of witty, snippy banter but now there's no promise of afterwards of quiet apologies and fleeting touches now they'll both be forced to stew in their own miserable words.
"You're a moron."
"I'll take that as a compliment." Artemis doesn't trust herself not to hit Wally – then again hitting him might just earn her bonus points and make her feel better to boot. But she doesn't want to hurt him which is both aggravating and frustrating as she pushes and shoves him towards the bowels of the ship until they reach the brig.
"Because I'm feeling generous I'll put you in the cell we kept your little goody-two shoes friend." Wally grimaces as if repulsed by the idea of residing in a cell once occupied by L'gann and she can't really blame him. It reeks of fish. But so does everything else – you just have to get used to it.
She forces him inside and uncuffs him to she can place his wrist in the shackle and as added measure she uses the cuffs on his ankles; Dick taught her that one.
"Heard you can't even vibrate your molecules. Pathetic. You aren't even worth capturing if you can't do the same things as the Flash." She regrets saying it but instead of bristling like usual or loudly saying 'being a hero is about merit not mettle' Wally's eyes just glint at her through his cowl before he utters,
"Don't believe everything you hear. Not all of it is true."
She almost says his name it stands on the precipice of her tongue ready to fill the space between them because is he insinuating that he's finally mastered it? Artemis knows how badly he wanted that skill how he drove himself to exhaustion trying to attain the ability to pass through solid objects. It's the best news she's had in so long and she wants to share it with him. Wants to bask in his accomplishment and kiss him as a reward but the word stops. Here his name can't be spoken because it will mark the end or the beginning of something she can't let happen – not just yet. Not now. So she bites down on her tongue and tries to stop her eyes from shining and stares cold, hard, and uncaring down at the speedster.
"Yeah right. His new little sidekick runs laps around you." And she turns and walks away because that is the final blow. That is as far as she can take it before they both break.
Why was she assigned hostage feeding duty? Oh yeah, her prisoner, her problem. She wouldn't feed Wally if she didn't know just how much he needed the food because she's so unbelievably pissed off at him now that she's decided it isn't her fault they're both in this mess.
"Welcome back, babe." Grins the idiot from his seat on the floor.
"I really hate you right now."
"And yet I still continue to be enraptured by your presence," smirks Wally leaning against the wall, "Gotta say you're one good looking villainess."
"I'll stab you."
"I doubt it." Artemis narrows her eyes waving the bucket of seafood just outside his reach.
"Don't test me mini-Flash if I don't feed you; you'll be virtually useless." Doesn't she know it. When had she become a person who would withhold food from Wally?
"Nah. I can overcome anything with my favorite girl by my side."
"Heard she was dead."
Wally shrugs, "The people you love. The people you know better than yourself; that you have this unfathomable, unbreakable connection with never really die no matter how hard they try. They're always with you. She's with my right now beautiful and bright."
"Pretty poetry but it doesn't bring back the dead," she sneers externally but kind of melts inside at Wally's words because he's actually being sweet in a non-perverted way which is extremely rare for him. She should tie him up more often. Oh yes, that's going on her to-do list.
"Have a little faith babe the good ones can't hide forever and it's impossible for them to change." She slams the bucket down.
"Don't fucking lecture me. People change. They...they can't just not. I'm evil. You're good. Period."
He just laughs, "You're more than just evil. Don't doubt yourself at least aim for pure evil. Keep the bar high."
Artemis snorts. God only Wally could make her feel better about this whole miserable situation.
"You're dumb," she whispers and Kid Flash gets up and hops slowly towards the bars or as close as he can get before the chain on his wrist grows taut and then all he can do is reach out his left hand so his fingers brush against the inside of the bars. Artemis feels as if a wave of convalescence washes over her entire being in this one beautiful magnificent moment. He grins,
"Now about that food…"
"Hope you like sushi," she quips waving the bucket foolishly. Wally pulls a face.
"Not a big fan of fish. You guys heard of deodorant. Puh-ew."
Alice has to feed the hostage every second day and although she knows (can see) Kid Flash is getting weaker she still relishes these few opportunities to be with him. He tends to exercise a lot; hopping around (since his ankles are still cuffed), sit ups and push ups. It's kind of sick actually. The fact that she likes the idea of him being caged up and completely at her mercy forced to rely on her whims and fancies. It's like he's hers and nobody else's; not his Uncle's, not the Flash's, not the team's, not his pals' but hers alone. It's like a part of her, the gaping void that Wally existed in, is filling and mending. It isn't so hard to breathe anymore because in his own way Wally is setting things right in her psyche.
Well some things.
She can't help but wish there was another way for father and son to get along than over a communal interest in evil or hope that somehow none of this will end with her betraying anyone. There are so many things she's done wrong in her life; she doesn't want this mission added to the list. All Artemis really wants to do is escape but no matter how hard she tries there is no escape. She can't seem to escape the looming Shadows that surround her, or the torments of her mind, or the nightmares that Wally will literally waste away in that cell.
Kaldur tries to be comforting in the few moments he can get her alone; preferably in his quarters because the closet scandal appears to embarrass him significantly. Tries is the operative word because all his assurances and comforts are hollow and his words fall flat. It's during one of these meetings, it's on a Wednesday she thinks but there's no way to keep track of time in this place and she's stopped trying, that Kaldur finally acknowledges just the level of mess they've gotten themselves into.
"We have a number of problems."
Artemis looks up from her position on the bed scoffing, "No kidding."
"Kid Flash has been captured."
"His own fault."
"Artemis," sighs Aqualad harshly, "That hardly matters. My father has informed me that both you and I will be in attendance when in three days time the Light arrives."
"Wait are you saying…"
"Our mission might conclude? Yes. Apparently they will be arriving by helicopter so when the sub surfaces to collect them an ambush will occur courtesy of Nightwing."
Artemis smiles heartily. Grinning from ear to ear, "That's fantastic news! How is it a problem?
"Sportsmaster is returning with them."
Artemis stiffens at the name but beyond that gives no other indication that it bothers her.
"Then there's the fact people are asking questions."
"Questions?" she can't seem to shake the feeling that she's about to hate the next words from his mouth.
"About your attachment to Kid Flash." Artemis bolts up on the bed accusingly pointing a finger at him.
"You're the one who made me his nanny!"
"But not his company. People are talking Artemis."
Artemis let out a frustrated groan, "Let'em talk. They're too afraid of me to do anything."
"That's not the point." Kaldur actually looks angry. His eyes are narrowed with displeasure and his lips are firm. "If you or Kid Flash want to leave this ship alive I suggest you stop fraternizing with the enemy."
"Kaldur! Listen to yourself!"
Kaldur pinches the bridge of his nose, "Someone else will be feeding the hostage from now on."
"Kaldur! This is preposterous I –" Kaldur slams his gloved fist against the table.
"Someone else will be feeding Kid Flash. Clear."
"Clear," snarls Artemis eyes narrowed, "Like crystal."
Artemis spends the next three days pretty much locked in her quarters cursing and swearing and spitting fire and brimstone at anyone who dares disturb her bitter solitude. She doesn't trash the room, she doesn't smash the necklace, or destroy the armor or the rebreather she just lays there in contemptuous anger only leaving to train or to be debriefed by Kaldur and Black Manta about the upcoming visit. Kaldur's father has yet to tell them who was arriving or even why they were coming. She could only assume with dread it was to collect Wally but Kaldur or no Kaldur, plan or no plan there was no way they were getting Wally in their clutches. She'd see to that.
Artemis isn't so much surprised as mildly annoyed when Kaldur comes to collect her to meet their guests. The air is heavy with foreboding but a giddy excitement tinges the tense atmosphere because they're so close to going home. So close. She's been giving him the cold shoulder and he's been as stoic as usual but as they climb up to the higher decks she places a hand on his shoulder stopping their ascent.
"Sorry. I'm just tired. But I've got your back always Kaldur'ahm."
Kaldur sighs, "I am as well. We are our only allies we cannot squander that connection over a petty disagreement."
Artemis nods elbowing him, "We've always got Kid Idiot as back up."
Kaldur smiles, "I think he's more useful tied up."
They both chuckle lightly before the reach the door that will take them outside; into air, into the end. Artemis turns towards Kaldur who's already reaching for the handle.
"No matter how this turns out you were a great leader and friend."
"As were you."
It's very anticlimactic when they walk out onto the slippery deck. No dramatic music plays announcing their arrival or signaling the swell in suspense. There's no one there to greet them expect Black Manta who stands sternly in the middle of the deck head thrown back as he squints at the sky. They join him looking up into the inky blackness speckled with stars but she catches Kaldur a couple of times just looking at him.
But all too soon the rasp of distant helicopter wings punctures the silence and they're forced to move back to allow the aircraft to land. Artemis isn't at all surprised to see her father piloting the helicopter. But she takes careful note of the people who disembark. There's Vandal and Klarion and his horrid little cat who's even worse than the Lord of Chaos himself. There's Lex Luthor and Queen Bee who clasps fully onto the billionaire's arm as her heel slips on the wet metal. So really all they've done now is confirmed who's part of the Light but none of these people are the mastermind – just peons. Artemis's heart and stomach clench at the daunting thought that she might have to go back to the sea because this information isn't enough. It won't be enough to free her from her mission. But then a hulking mass of metal and armor and man steps out. It's like she's staring into a buff, supercharged Blue Beetle only this thing's armor is black and every step he takes causes reverberations to shake the ship. He could snap her like a toothpick and if he has all the fancy features of Blue Beetle's suit he could do more than just snap.
But before words can be exchanged another door swings open and Wally's shoved on deck by Icicle Junior she briefly sees a wave a relief wash over his features at the sight of her. Someone has put a gag on him, in addition to his other bonds, which kind of annoys her because that is so her department. She realizes he must have been shocked when she stopped coming. She wonders what he must have thought for the last three days. They probably weren't nice things; terrible tortured thoughts fueled by his vivid imagination. She'll kiss his boo-boos better later.
Klarion sends a malicious grin towards the redhead, "Ooooo look who decided to join us." His cat meows in response and he frowns, "Yes, yes. I knooooow." He whines. "No killing him...yet."
"Killing?" questions Kaldur carefully, "What are you speaking of?"
"It's simple really," responds Sportsmaster shrugging while stepping forward and knocking Artemis's arm while gesturing at the prisoner.
Artemis blanches not quite sure what she's just heard but not liking it at all. They were so close…so close. "What."
"It's quite simple, baby girl," sneers the criminal his eyes sparkling with malice behind the mask and voice dripping with condescension because he's the only one that gets the sick joke, "Kill him. He's more valuable dead than alive."
"You're not the boss of me," she snaps eyes turning to meet Black Manta's but there is no comfort there. Only disappointment and mistrust at her refusal. They're black like coal, his eyes, and she feels their emptiness and hardness graze her.
"Do as he says Alice." Artemis flounders gaping down into Wally's startled green eyes. The sea roars in her ears as the flyer bobs up and down on its black wings puncturing the surface of the water as everyone stares at her; and Artemis makes a decision.
"Where do your loyalties lie girl?" questions Sportsmaster arms folded as he stares at her; appraising her.
"This is insane," hisses Artemis turning her back to Wally and stepping backwards, "Kill him. You'll paint a permanent target on your back."
"Oh geez," jokes Sportsmaster dully, "Like that's never happened before."
Artemis frowns, "How long have they known?"
"Since your little sparring match against Junior, here." Her father laughs, "You really didn't think I wouldn't recognize the fighting style of my own daughter. Baby girl you insult me." He gestures to Black Manta and the other Light members, "Now they wanted to kill you right away but I said she's probably seen reason like Black Manta's son. Probably finally realized it's no fun playing the good guy. Now you just have to tie up this one loose end and you're in. Although we are disappointed that Kaldur did not actually have the nerve to kill you I can't help but appreciate the opportunity to see your bloodlust again. So kill your lover and end the charade."
Artemis feels it. How couldn't she? After hundreds of missions on the bioship she can easily feel its presence hovering just above them in camouflage mode, she can even feel M'gann's panic as she looks down at Wally and Kaldur although there is something darker lurking just beneath her concern which frightens Artemis. They can hear everything and she can feel everything across the psychic link that has never truly left her mind.
"Oh I'll end it," says Artemis catching Kaldur's eyes over Sportsmaster shoulder. She can see his resigned expression but he nods anyway. "Wouldn't want to disappoint." She spins on heel and faces Wally who scuttles back in shock as she draws her gun, cocks it, and aims it dead center in his forehead as she purposefully strides forward to tower over him.
"Ooooo," chirps Klarion gleefully clapping appreciatively, "I like her. Shoot him! Shoot him!"
Wally is sending her this morbid pleading look with just a hint of sass lurking beneath the surface because the fucking idiot knows she couldn't shoot him in a million years, unless he had messed with her arrows then all bets were off.
"Have a nice trip," she says jokingly before she swiftly kicks him in the face sending him over the side of the ship before whipping around and firing at the assembled Light members. She hears a loud splash as he hits the water.
"Kaldur. Go!" She roars as he rushes across the deck and dives over the edge to help him get out of the chains.
"No! No! No!" cries Klarion erecting a barrier, "You stupid girl! Hey muscles kill her!"
The bulky black Blue Beetle impersonator steps out a demented smile on his face as he charges her and Artemis evades his body at least until his arm swings out and his punch throws her across the ship. Horrified Artemis turns to see his arm morphing into a plasma gun and she automatically ducks into the doorway Wally had exited through in attempt to get some sort of cover.
She needs to get off the ship. NOW! Because she's pretty sure she's just blown her cover sky high. She lets out a string of curses as Beetle Boy grows wings and starts to fly towards the doorway clearly intent on ramming her down but he doesn't make it. Instead he crashes to ground with a thundering crash causing the whole sub to quake. There's ice on his wings. Junior.
She's running now. She can't go out on the deck and dive off too many enemies – with weapons. She's not surprised when Cameron falls into pace beside her.
"What the hell are you doing?"
"Saving your dead ass," shouts Cameron turning and icing the floor as a precaution. "
"Well it didn't ask for saving."
"Fine next time I'll let it get squashed," pants Cameron slowing slightly as they turn a corner, "God where'd you learn to run so fast?"
"I didn't realize sex transferred super powers."
"For the record I can outlast Mr. Fast."
Cameron makes a face as he peers around the corner, "Eww mental images. They're coming by the way." Automatically the pair switch places as Artemis takes the offensive and begins firing down the hallway halting the assailants' progress; they've done this so many times before it's intrinsic. She wonders if that's sad or an accomplishment.
It's then that a door whooshes open on their right and Gard literally sticks his head out between them.
"What's going on?!" yells Gard body half out the door as Artemis fires down the hallway, "Why are they chasing you!"
"Get back in your room," barks Artemis gruffly changing the bullet cartridge with deft fingers when she hears the empty click.
"Now!" She shoves him backwards with her foot and he falls on the floor the door sliding shut, "Ice it."
"ICE IT!" Cameron frowns but freezes the exterior of the door sealing Gard inside. "Thank you moron."
"This is so stupid!" chokes Cameron, "Just...you..."
"Yes I know," she pants throwing away her gun as she hears the empty click echo again through the hallways. She's run out of ammunition. "I have to get out of here."
"So you're idea was to go into the ship?"
"Don't question me now," she states running again, "I don't have time for you to be a dumbass."
Cameron purses his lips annoyed and grabs her elbow, "This way."
"Oh yeah why should I trust you."
"Do you have any other options?" he asks dragging her through a maze of hallways and Artemis is relieved that the shouting isn't quite so loud anymore. They've lost their pursuers. For now. Icicle gives a victorious grin. "Thought so." Dumbass.
She has a vague idea where they're going and the blood pounds and rushes in her ears as they make their way further into the ship. When they skid to a halt in front of the cargo bay Artemis knows she isn't going to like this.
"What are you even doing here?" blurts Artemis because she has know. Has to understand why Cameron is trying.
"Trying to get this door open."
"Not that. They left you to spy on me."
Cameron laughs hollowly shoving her into the cargo bay, "Whoever said I got ditched? I stayed behind. I volunteered."
"What?" squawks Artemis confusedly, "Why?"
"Because clearly you're too stupid to realize that you can't escape. It doesn't matter where you go, what you do, or how much you try to hide the Shadows, the evil that is part of me and you won't let us simply escape; even after death."
"I care about you too."
"Friends," offers Artemis because that's all she can give and all they'll ever be ever again.
Junior blinks and a crooked smile lights up his face as he nods and reaches out a hand to shake hers, "Friends, Crocksie."
"Ugh if you ever call me that ghastly nickname again I'll castrate you friends or no friends." It's then that she realizes where they are. She knows a cushy escape pod would be too obvious and too easy to shoot down. But the current situation she's presented with actually makes her reconsider taking her chances as a sitting duck. It's an air lock chamber, well more specifically a water lock chamber. Why does this stupid scenario ring a bell. Oh right.
"Got your rebreather."
"Did I mention how much I hate this plan." Cameron plucks the device from her belt before she can even reach for it and shoves it between her lips. He just grins cockily while Artemis sends him a glare.
"Good luck." There's no time for heartfelt good byes or thank yous as he steps outside and seals her inside. All she has time to do is nod resolutely before the door behind her opens and she's flushed out into the unyielding water.
It's fucking freezing.
The cold Atlantic, Pacific, whatever the hell ocean she's floating in permeates her clothes unmercifully and Artemis forces her eyes open and struggles to swim. She can't tell which was is up, forward, or down and she poetically wonders if somehow she's drowning in the night sky because all she sees in every direction is black. She wasn't wearing her armor; she hadn't been since the blow up with Kaldur but now she's really wishing she was because the human body won't survive long in these tepid conditions.
She bites down harder on the rebreather and follows the bubbles towards the surface or as close the surface as she dares to go – she knows the range of the Manta soldiers' guns. She's not in calm water yet. Oh dear Lord please let water metaphors not be a permanent thing. So when she can vaguely see the outline of the moon wavering at the surface of the murky water she begins to swim away.
It's not the best escape. It leaves a lot of problems behind. But no one died. No one will die. They won't kill Cameron. There's nothing they can do to him that compares to what his father has already subjected him to so he's safe. The ship didn't sink and no soldiers fought. There are no casualties of this battle, but they haven't won the war.
No one even knows the truth about her, excluding the Light. It's about as close to a happy ending as she can hope to have. Although Wally will be bitching about the bruise on his face the next six months. She still isn't happy about the way things have ended between Kaldur and Black Manta. They're back to being enemies; father pitted against son. It's heart breaking and sad. They're really not better than children. The only silver lining is she's glad she managed to screw over her dad one more time that's like an extra bonus.
Artemis won't ever be able to forget what's happened on that ship. What she's learnt about herself and about the other side – the side she's been fighting all her life. The side where her friends became enemies. The side that ripped her away from her life and her love. The side she doesn't think she can fight anymore. There are good people there, nameless people who take the fall for the real criminals because they fight for the justice they believe in. It's the little people who suffer not only under their boss's authority but also through the cruel judgment of society.
Artemis feels her body slowing down the cold water taking its deadly affect. She doesn't know how far she's swam or in what direction but she doesn't want to die here. She can't die here. She won't die here. She still has to see Wally and apologize for smashing her boot into his stupid face.
Then Artemis feels it something's grasping at her ankle and she looks down but all she sees is a dark hand and naturally she struggles and consequently her rebreather gets knocked out of her mouth and she can't reach her second one because she's struggling upwards trying to get away from the shadows that are trying to take. The shadows that want her to pay for her crimes.
"Let go! Let go! LET GO!" She screams the bubbles billowing into her line of sight as the hand reaches upwards in a mock act of placation. Then she blacks out.
Artemis coughs and looks around groggily as she's drug onshore. She can see both Lagoon Boy and Wally some distance away arguing about something. It's probably stupid. Wally's soaked. His uniform plastered to his body and dripping water as Artemis sputters on the beach her eyelashes heavy with soggy sand. How'd she even get here?
"Breathe Artemis," encourages a steady voice beside her as she heaves. She feels like she's swallowed an entire ocean. Then the voice, which she realizes belongs to Kaldur, moves away and both Wally and L'gann are running towards her but Wally gets there first, obviously, and without a moment's hesitation rips the charm off her neck and stamps it defiantly beneath his foot while hoisting her up into the air. She hears gasps escape from almost everyone who has converged on the scene as her true form materializes before them and Wally hugs her close unwilling to relinquish his hold on her.
"Warn a guy next time before kicking him in the face. Kaldur had to give me the kiss of life."
"Should I be jealous." Wally laughs before going quiet in unison with the stupefied team. Kaldur, Artemis notes has been pushed to aside and is being watched menacingly by Superboy and M'gann. There's going to be a very long explanation later.
"You're an idiot," he states finally laughter tinkling at the edge of his voice, his eyes shining with unshed tears, "Come on Alice it's time to leave Wonderland." Artemis is about to comment she can't really go back because Wally has so viciously stamped the charm out of existence beneath his foot. Looking down in the narrow space between their pressing bodies she can still see some residual yellow glimmers mixing into the glorious sand. Sand. God she had never been more happy to see mundane, stupid sand. Which for years was nothing more than something to walk upon that got everywhere and she could never manage to get it all out of her shoes and hair but now the grainy ground was so dear because she knew what it was like without it – to only have cold metal to greet your feet for unending mornings.
"We're going to have a garden, Wally," she plants her hands on both sides of his face and leans her head down and kisses him. Now that's romantic.
"Anything, babe," he murmurs between her nips and soft caresses.
"On rainy days we'll play in the mud and plant flowers."
"What's a little mud?" he whispers shifting her in his arms so he's cradling her like so many years ago on the floating Watch Tower after another daring mission. So much for finesse and subtly in their reunion. Artemis pulls away and presses her face into the crook of his neck. Peeking over his shoulder she can see the confused, disappointed, and angry looks of former teammates and friends. She can see L'gann tense and frowning. His feelings have probably been hurt in some irreparable way but she can't, won't care at the moment, as Wally begins to shower kisses along all the available skin of her neck occasionally marking her – he nudges piteously at her collar with his nose because his hands are occupied with roaming the landscape of her body (at least what he can reach without dropping her.)
"We'll live near a beach and never go swimming content to just sink our toes in the sand," she hums.
"I could live my whole life without seeing sea water again," is the crass muffled reply she receives as Wally burrows further practically purring against her skin. It's only when Wally sets her back on her feet and everyone is now huddled tightly around them gaping in shock and touching her, touching her to check if she's real and there, that Artemis manages to peek again at L'gann. Poor little fish boy. She has no idea how to make it up to him. Someday she will.
When Dick pushes through the crowd and hands her a chocolate Oscar statue she laughs but she returns it to him. It doesn't belong with her because not all of what she did was forgivable and none of what she did was an act.
Wally of course whines he wanted the chocolate.
Things are different now. Not that Artemis expected them to remain constant or the same. They've changed. They've all changed. Her and Kaldur stand at the edge of celebrating party – foreigners and pariahs among their own friends as they watch them celebrate success and recall adventures neither of them have partaken in. It's frightening to feel so out of the loop – a loop she was once a part of not so long ago.
But as she feels Wally's warm fingers doodling indescribable shapes against her palm (although they suspiciously feel like hearts) as they lean against each other just outside the circle of heroes. She realizes, startled, it isn't her loop to be a part of anymore. She left that life behind. They both have. She's where she belongs and she won't be leaving anytime soon. It took her an awfully long time to get there after all.
"Hey Wally," she asks nudging him with her shoulder.
"Let's unretire," she feels Wally stiffen beside her before turning towards her with the most serious glower she has ever seen. He's just so cute she could kiss him. His response brings a smile to her face because he tells her exactly the answer she wanted to hear reminding her for the thousandth time that day why she loves Wally West.
"Not in a million years."
Thanks for reading I hope you all liked it and thank you for your support. Reviews are welcome. I'm not sure how happy I am with this chapter but I hope everyone enjoyed it and you don't feel like the ending is too rushed.