Man's Best Friend

By TheLostMaximoff

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. R/R.

It doesn't take long to get back to the apartment. Nothing really takes long when you're as fast as me. I open the door and step inside to the empty and dark apartment. My fingers fumble for the lights and I flick them on as Kent comes to greet me. I can hear the sound of his feet hitting the floor as he scampers towards me. He's an old dog that I got from a rescue shelter and I doubt he moves as fast as he used to. He's a good pet though and Artemis is crazy about him even though she won't admit it. She always said she was a cat person but I think she likes Kent all the same.

"Mom's not going to be home for a while, boy," I tell him and I can see the look of dejection on his face as he turns and shuffles away.

I try not to think about what Artemis sent herself into. I trust Dick with my life and I know Kaldur can watch her back but I still worry. Dick's not as smart as he thinks he is. He thinks he has all the angles worked out and he's been right so far but sooner or later this plan is going to crash and burn. Artemis is caught in the middle of it now and when it falls down she'll be the first one to get crushed. So what great part do I get to play in all this? All I get to do is just sit and watch. No, I have an even worse job than that. I have to lie to everyone and tell them she's dead. I can play hero and save the day but playing the grieving boyfriend, not so much.

Before I got back here, I made a phone call to Art's mom. I wanted to keep up the lie but I told her the truth instead. The others might be okay with lying to people they care about but that's not my style. Plus there's the fact that I actually respect Art's mom just as much as my own. She understood. She wasn't happy about it, of course, but she got the picture. I haven't worked up the nerve to tell Conner or M'gann. I don't even know what I would tell them. I can't imagine how they feel.

I sit on the couch and stare at the lifeless TV in front of me. Kent hops up and sits next to me. My hand absently scratches his head and he whines. I know how he feels because I miss Art too. It's just the two of us now though and we're going to have to pull it together until she makes it back home to us.

"I miss her too," I tell him.

I feel empty inside. It's like our apartment is too quiet now. I never told her this but I love Art way more than I let on. I miss her so much. I miss the way she'd always remember what I would forget while I was rushing around. I miss how we'd get into arguments for no reason and then make out afterwards. I miss the way she looked when she would roll over in bed and be the first thing I saw every morning when I woke up. She always made me feel like a hero even when I wasn't wearing a mask. Some hero I am. My girlfriend is in danger and I can't help her.

I'm going to go crazy. Sure, it's going to help me sell my part but seriously I'm going to lose it. I get up from the couch and go into our bedroom. she made the bed before she left. I never pictured her for the housewife type but Art's full of surprises. I guess she picked up a lot of stuff from having to take care of herself all those years. God knows her dad wasn't going to do anything for her. The bed looks too big now that I know I won't be sharing it. Is this really what it's like when someone you love dies? Is this what Aunt Iris does every time Uncle Barry runs off to save the day? God, Artemis isn't even really dead and I still can't stop thinking that she is.

I turn away from the bed and look at the dresser and the little, red box on top of it. I open it up and stare at the engagement ring inside. When I was younger, I never pictured myself as the type to settle down. I mean what girl could keep up with the Wall-Man, right? I was stupid then, always running into things without thinking. Guess I'm stupid now for waiting because maybe if I had proposed to her, Art wouldn't have gone in for this undercover routine. I could always see myself settling down with her. Ever since I kissed her for the first time five years ago, I could tell she was the one that was going to catch me.

I put away the ring and see Kent has crept into the bedroom and is sitting at my feet. He may be old and grumpy at times but when I saw Kent for the first time, he reminded me of my friend Kent Nelson, the man who was once Dr. Fate. He told me a long time ago to go out and find a spitfire of my own, someone who wouldn't let me get away with anything. I thought maybe he was talking about M'gann but I was just seeing what I wanted to see in her. Artemis was the person he was really talking about because she doesn't let anybody get away with anything. So how is it that I could let her get away with doing something so stupid and dangerous as this? If Kent Nelson could see me now, he'd probably smack me in the head and tell me to go after her. Who says the girl has to be the spitfire?

"C'mon, boy," I tell Kent. "Let's get something to eat and then figure out how to survive without her."

He walks with me into the kitchen and I try to busy myself with something. People say that dogs are man's best friend. Maybe so but honestly I think they're a poor substitute for the girl that you're madly in love with.