Thank you for all of the kind reviews. To the two anon reviewers:
Keepmovingforward: I'm glad you love it. :)
Paxton: Well, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I don't know...I just don't like it very much. Such is the life. Thank you for the encouragement, though.
And to the rest of you, thank you so much! Love you all!
I really like this chapter. Actually, I love this chapter. However, I did have my issues with it. Originally, it was in present tense, until I decided that it would mess up the flow of the story as a whole (because the rest of it is in past). And then I said 'Oh, well I think it feels better in present' but ultimately left it the way it was (the way it is now). So anyway...enjoy the chapter!
Reviews are welcome...
Starving artist- Will write for reviews.
P.S. Also, bonus points if you can guess the two fandoms I honor during this. Hint: They're both tv shows/cartoons.
Except…she didn't. She breathed, but inhaled a foul-tasting liquid instead (just what is that, anyway?). She (what was her name again?) vaguely noticed that her body was swimming frantically, trying to determine which way was up (which way to the surface? Which way?)
And then she broke the surface of the water (was it water?) and desperately breathed in the sweet, sweet oxygen. There were voices surrounding her (voices screaming, grunting all around her, disorienting her further) and she couldn't see where they were coming from. Her whole mind seemed disconnected from her body.
And then she was being carefully lifted out of the not-water into soothing, comforting arms, cradled back and forth ("It's alright, Artemis. You're going to be just fine. Just breathe, okay beautiful?") while she sobbed brokenly, trying in vain to connect the pathways in her brain.
She wanted freedom. She wanted to get out. She struggled wildly in the grip of her captor ("Artemis! Please, calm down! Please!") and he (for it was a he) was crying too, she realized, but in a disconnected way that didn't evoke any emotion in her. She didn't stop struggling. Then she was free; the arms circling her had vanished.
She ran. She didn't look back, she didn't know where she was going (she didn't even know her own name, though she thought it might be the name that red-headed boy shouted), and she didn't have a clue where she was. She just needed to get out.
She stumbled blindly down a maze of corridors and locked doors (she sensed somehow that it always seemed to be this way with her life) until she found one that was open. She slipped in and sunk to the floor, holding her knees (still half sobbing, half laughing hysterically).
She didn't expect to wake up. She remembered that much. Her thoughts seemed scattered. She couldn't focus on any one thing (fragments raced through her mind at a break-neck speed, only confusing and terrifying her further).
"Alice is in Wonderland. Can she come back?" She had no idea where this had come from (or even what it meant). Suddenly, she was babbling aloud to herself.
"Goodbye…no, that's not right? What's the other one? I'm sad. Will be sad…no, was sad. Why was I sad? There's a word…I'm…I'm…it's that word! The one that I am but I shouldn't be…something happened, and I'm not…I shouldn't be…agh! What's that word? No, don't get emotional, Alice…Jade. Wally. Where's Wally?"
"I'm right here, Artemis."
She squeaked, frightened, and quickly scooted back into the back corner of the closet (for that's what the door had been; a small, empty closet). The red headed boy was at the door, kneeling on his knees and looking at her.
They stared at each other in silence for some time (him in emotional turmoil, she in a petrified, speechless state with disjointed memories and emotions swirling through her head) before he spoke, softly and with an emotion in his voice she could not identify.
"It's alright, Artemis. I'm here. I'm not going to hurt you. I just want to talk with you, okay?"
His eyes (so green, like an emerald) stared at her with such sad intensity that she looked away. Those were the eyes of someone who had lost something precious, the eyes of someone whose soul had been irreparably hurt. The eyes of someone broken (wasted away to nothing, no laughter or joy in those eyes).
Artemis (she had deduced by now that her name was Artemis, though how she came up with Alice she still cannot understand) nodded hesitantly. The boy (Wally, a voice whispered in her mind. His name is Wally) started to talk then, words tumbling from his mouth like he couldn't control them (and he probably couldn't, she later realized).
"I'm…I'm going to tell you a story, okay Artemis? Okay. So, once there was a girl, an amazing, wonderful, annoying, snarky, irritating, gorgeous girl. She fought crime with her Team, the people she called her family. She had an amazing boyfriend that loved her to the ends of the earth and back.
And one day, the Team went on a mission, and the girl died. She got caught with a lucky shot to her stomach, and her boyfriend, her friends, her family, had to watch and cry as she bled to death on the floor of a cavern, reassuring them that she loved them and that she didn't blame them. And she died."
Artemis nodded along with this tale, memories swimming to the forefront of her mind. She now remembered lying on the floor (gasping for breath, the burning pain in her stomach) with the Team (her family) gathered around her, crying and assuring her she was going to be alright, that they could get her help in time (they couldn't, of course). She didn't tell Wally, though, and let him continue with his story.
"The Team spent months grieving for y…her. They brought her body back with them and gave her a funeral, simple and private. And they went back to missions. But it wasn't the same. The girl's death had touched them all, wounded them down to the core. Her boyfriend, a speedster, even considered retiring. He just couldn't do it anymore.
And then one day, when…the boy was visiting his love's grave, he came on a devastating sight. Someone had desecrated her grave, had dug up the coffin and made off with her body. The team was shocked. They were angry, irate, furious, enraged. They were emotionally devastated by the fact that their sister, their friend, had just been stolen away as though she were nothing more than a possession.
They searched for her. The whole Le…gion of superheroes searched for the fallen heroine's missing body, with few results. Then, one day, six and a half months after the girl died, six months after she was laid to rest, one of the heroes had a breakthrough, and found out that villains had raided the girl's grave and had taken her body for the purpose of bringing her back to life so she could serve them.
The heroes could not let this happen, so they sent m…the boyfriend to stop it. They didn't really want to send him, because they thought he was too emotionally close to the issue, but he begged and pleaded with them and they finally allowed him to go with the rest of the team. They broke into the complex, and while the rest of the team was occupied with taking down the goons, the speedster went off in search of the monsters that took his girlfriend's body.
He found them, but he was too late. They had just dumped y-her body in the Pit. He managed to take down all the villains and rescue his…breathing girlfriend from the Pit. She…was alive, living and breathing and talking and…sobbing. And then she ran off, confused and only half-functioning, and her boyfriend had to find her."
"That's…that's one of the saddest stories I've ever heard," She muttered, before a word clicked in her head.
"That's the word I was looking for! That big, complicated word I couldn't find!"
"Alive. Wally, I'm alive!"
He let out a breathy little laugh and swept her into a hug, tears streaming down his cheeks as he clutched her to his chest.
"Yes you are, Artemis. Yes you are."
(And later, when they returned and everyone broke down because she was alive, and Artemis had fully regained her memories and sanity, and the Team and the League and her mother didn't let her out of their sight for about a month, Artemis and Wally agreed it was for the best that they retire. Artemis couldn't handle going back to the superhero gig right now, and Wally needed to be beside her and wanted to support her. So they moved in together and started college. And the rest, as they say…is history.)