I'd been wanting to write something set during Performance for a while, so here it is.
The Time for Confession is Near
As soon as it becomes clear that Robin's legs aren't doing more than just barely keeping him upright, Roy kneels down and Artemis helps Robin onto his back. She gently brushes off the stray flakes of ash and rusted metal marring the black of his cape and hair, ignoring the way Roy's jaw slacks, mouth falling open as if he wants to say something.
"Thanks, guys," Robin says, the words a feathery sigh nearly lost to the roar of the fire hissing and spitting behind them. Roy's teeth click as his jaw springs back up, and he hoists Robin to a more secure position before standing up and heading to where Conner waits with M'gann.
Artemis walks behind and watches Robin's face wilt until his lashes finally brush his cheeks.
The sky is a pregnant smudge of gray, threatening to drop a torrential flood upon them. Artemis wishes it would snow, but the cold is barely enough to counter the layer of sweat on her skin, borne of exertion and the scorching heat of the explosion.
Snow is the only thing that makes her feel clean and pure, and it's almost pathetic how much she looks forward to it. In Gotham, it soon becomes a yellow-brown slush of pollution, and she ends up feeling dirtier after the initial heady rush. Here, there's the chance that it will pile up untouched in the surrounding grassy clearings.
They slip into their train compartments through the windows they left purposely unlocked. Roy hands her Robin while he climbs in and Artemis waits, marveling at how lithe and compact Robin's body is, his arms folded over his stomach, pale face tucked against crease between her shoulder and breast. Roy sticks his head out, motioning for her to pass him through the window and Artemis holds him out carefully. Robin mumbles lost syllables but doesn't wake.
By the time she's slipped through herself, Roy already has Robin laid on the bunk. Their uniforms are dirty, but the bed has probably seen worse in the long life the thin threads speak of, so she doesn't say anything. Robin seems completely comfortable with the lumpy mattress, flopping over and making a short sound that strikes her as oddly endearing. She realizes she's staring when Roy kneels to tug Robin's boots off one by one. She jumps into action and flicks on the lights and a metal contraption that spews out inconsistent puffs of heat, then opens the rickety drawers in search of sleeping pants and a shirt.
Roy's hands hover over Robin's leggings and he glances back at Artemis.
"I'm going to change him, so if you would…"
Artemis barely resists rolling her eyes. It's obvious how little he understands the team. "Do continue. Not like we haven't done that for each other plenty of times." That's actually not fully true– undercover work like this is on the rarer side. They usually get to change in and out of their costumes in the comfort of the locker rooms at Mount Justice. Still, they've all seen each other in underwear more than a handful of times at this point, and it's not like any of them have any reason to be self-conscious about their bodies, as far as Artemis can tell. Sometimes the scars on her and Robin make her stop, but as the only non-metas, no one asks. Hazards of the job, simple as that.
She does wonder if she's the only one who finds her pulse rising at the sound of cloth slipping off skin.
Robin's eyes squeeze open at that moment, staring blankly at them for a bit before he begins to sit up. Roy pushes him back down but Robin bats his hand away, running the tips of his fingers along the edge of his mask as if to check. He looks around him, blinking a few times as if to orient himself, eyelids slow and sticky, and Artemis is about to start getting worried when he opens his mouth.
"De-brief tomorrow," he finally says. Artemis chokes back on a laugh because of course that's the first thing Batman's protégé would say. She nudges his bare toes with the tip of her boot and the corner of his mouth quirks upward as he wiggles his toes.
"Not much to debrief tonight anyway," Roy says, eyeing them with a raised eyebrow.
Robin rubs the covers under his hand, and Artemis can tell he's running through the mission in his head. He turns to her. "How's M'gann?"
"Conner has her. I'll go check on them now." She drops his sleeping clothes next to him and puts a hand on his shoulder. A shoulder that always surprises her with how bony it is despite the corded muscle wrapped around it. "Get some sleep, Boy Wonder. Scared the shit out of us with your falling act today."
The fact that he doesn't supplement his smirk with any sort of smart-aleck quip is indication of just how tired he is.
She looks both ways down the dark train hallway, making sure no one is there. It might be a circus train, but even her uniform would draw unwanted attention. She taps the door to her and M'gann's compartment in quick code to let them know it's her, then eases the door open.
Conner hasn't bothered turning on the lights, but she can make out his dim silhouette cradling M'gann. Their hands are linked over her chest, and his other one is running through her hair. Artemis usually wants to stuff her face with sea salt or something to combat how sugary sweet they are as a couple, but she has to admit that sometimes she's a bit… jealous. It must be nice.
"Well, don't you two look comfy," Artemis says, opening one of the top compartments. She shrugs off her quiver, stows it away, and runs careful fingers down her bow to check for any damages caused by the fire before stowing it away as well. "How's M'gann?"
"I'm alright," M'gann murmurs, opening her eyes. They glow dimly in the dark. Artemis isn't sure why sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. Maybe they always do, like J'onn's, but she keeps it under check usually.
"Fire hit her strong," Conner says, squeezing her hand.
"It was a bit sudden," M'gann admits. Artemis sits across from them on her bunk, stretching until her back lets out a serious of popcorn pops. By this time her eyes have adjusted enough to the darkness that she can tell Conner is looking at her. She tilts her head, and he takes the cue.
"Is it alright if I sleep here tonight? To stay with her?"
M'gann shakes her head. "You don't have to, Conner."
"Sure," Artemis says. M'gann and her share a compartment, as do Conner and Roy. Robin had requested to be the odd one out and sleep by himself, which had surprised Artemis. But then again, there were a lot of things about this mission in relation to Robin that were surprising her. "Though that means you owe me one for sticking me with Red. Mr. Suspicious there just keeps giving me the evil eye."
"He's simply worried." M'gann closes her eyes, and Artemis holds back from saying something about healthier ways to show worry. She supposes she shouldn't speak— her way of showing worry is skulking in the background and making sarcastic comments to hide it.
She changes out of her uniform and leaves the two of them talking quietly among themselves.
Artemis can't sleep. As if it's not awkward enough that behind her back— and she hates leaving her back exposed to anyone, but opening her eyes and seeing him watching her was even more uncomfortable— is the guy that's been hounding her and sniffing much too close to her secrets, she keeps replaying the last mission with Roy.
She can't get their stupid kiss out of her head. Roy had denied they were going out, and certainly hadn't been enjoying that kiss Jade forced him into— it was mostly a show to freak Artemis out, though Roy wouldn't know that had been Jade's real intent. But, while Jade is the type to twist things until they're nothing more than skewed reflections of reality, there's always a base for her claims. It makes her angry, that Roy dares accuse her of being suspicious as if he's not having more than shady dealings with a criminal. But she's afraid, because messing with anything of Jade's —and that kiss was a claim, if nothing else— is a sure way of pushing Jade into revealing her secrets. She's not willing to risk that.
She resists flinging her covers off in frustration, instead lifting them so that not even the whisper of cloth over skin can be heard. She swings her legs off the bed, watching the curve of Roy's bare back. The muscles don't shift more than for easy breathing. Artemis wasn't taught by a criminal in vain.
She hops off the train, shrugging a jacket on, and wanders through the circus grounds— the back yard, as she heard Robin call it, the section away from the public's eye. There are a few dim lanterns set up, enough to illuminate the scraggly trails between the crates of equipment, but not much more. The shadows morph into blurry silhouettes, rimmed with a dim glow of light, and Artemis walks carefully, wary of the metal stakes driven into the ground. She'd ran into one the night before, cutting her ankle on the sharp, flattened edge of the nail-head. Robin had taken one look at her ankle and laughed knowingly. "Stake-bit already?" he'd said, and Artemis had stared uncomprehendingly until he'd explained that it was apparently a common occurrence.
She takes a thin lock of her undone hair and begins braiding it out of anxious habit. Jade used to practice on her when they were bored waiting for their parents to come back from their latest heist.
Thinking about the last mission with Jade reminds her also of her father's visit afterwards. She feels… trapped. Trapped between who she wants to be and who he says she is. She knows shadier ways of dealing with and manipulating people, she knows about dishonesty and how easy it is to abandon people and fight for herself above all else. She knows more than twenty ways to kill a man instantly with her bare hands, and three times that amount with weapons. Those lessons are embedded in her subconscious, seeing the examples drive her parents' choices since she was born.
But that's not who she wants to be. She tries so hard. Every time she fights, she purposely holds back from using moves that were ingrained in her, near reflex. She spars with Canary all the time, memorizing her non-lethal moves. She never wants to be like her father, abandoning her mother in prison, valuing the game, the 'life', more than his own family. She wants to be as honest as she can, but that requires pieces of herself she doesn't know how to give quite yet. Most of all though, she wants to help people. She wants to know that there is a little girl out there whose childhood is intact because she saved her father. Maybe it's ego. But she just wants to be able to stand proudly and say that her life has meant something to others.
Lately, it feels like everything is working to prove her wrong.
She's got three braids by this point, and she scoffs and tosses them back over her shoulder, wrapping her arms around herself to quell the urge to keep her fingers nimble and busy. Tics, her mother calls them. Always with a disapproving frown and a short slap at Artemis's hands. She won't acknowledge the anxiety that incites them. She enters the back stage tent, curious as to how it must look in the dark. Her eyes adjust until she can see the faint shapes of clothes racks and the glint of a mirror here and there, but she walks with her arms outstretched anyway, making her way in the general direction of the back door and the circus ring beyond it.
The circus is… fascinating. But it's exposed. Little privacy, people who've known each other all their lives. A completely different world, with language and customs she doesn't understand. The only things familiar to her are the dependence on optimal physical condition and the deception and suspicion that run rampant between 'outsiders' and 'insiders'. There's always someone trying to wheedle you in the circus.
She pushes past another flap, into the waiting area for the performers. Here, the light that barely outlined the edges in the previous room becomes a warm twilight, emanating from the lone lantern in the center of the ring beyond the doors. The shadows are deep and engulfing, but Artemis has never been fearful of the dark. If anything, she's always preferred the solace and cover of dark to the exposure of light, and the golden flicker of the lantern makes it all the more comforting.
The sound of a wet breath, a sniff, makes her posture go rigid. She slips back into the shrouded corner, pulse spiking as she scans the shadows for the source. It would not do to get caught – aside from it being a rule that the ringmaster stressed heavily to them, it would probably arouse suspicion if members of the new troupe were found wandering around at night.
Another noise, this time a dry slide, cloth against a smooth surface and her eyes snap to the direction of the sound to find— there, against the wall next to the doors leading to the rings, the angles of a little cubicle. The inside is hard to see with the glare of the little rectangle cut through the wall, letting light pour in a straight beam that catches clouds of dust. But she can see the pointed tip of a foot and the vaguely familiar outline of a body and she steps forward cautiously, about to speak—
Her jaw drops. "Robin?"
Sure enough, the figure shifts and Robin's features come into the yellow light, lidded blue eyes looking far too dull under the light, skin only a shade darker than his white acrobat's mask.
"What are you doing here?" he says, and when he turns his head, the light glints off his cheeks along a path running along the side of his nose and into the corner of his mouth—
Artemis stops, taken aback. Robin cries? That's not – that's not allowed, it can't be. She ducks her head reflexively in an attempt to grant him privacy and pretends to untangle one of her braids as she sifts through her options. Shit, she's no good at this—does she leave him alone? She'd been planning on wandering by herself, but now that she's found him, she doesn't want to be alone anymore. And she doesn't want to leave him alone if he's upset. But she doesn't know how to comfort people The closest thing to comfort she ever got was, Suck it up, baby girl.
The tear tracks are only faintly damp, not recent, so he may not realize that she's seen them. In that case, maybe it's best not to acknowledge it. Or should she? Fuck, how does she face villains and death everyday but one of her best friends crying makes her panic?
"I should— I should be asking you that," she says, tossing her hair back over her should and taking what she hopes is a nonchalant step, keeping her eyes trained on the rectangular hole in the wall. Through it, she can see the entire ring and the empty stands. "You should be sleeping that cold off."
Robin shrugs and slumps backward, face sliding out of the light and back into the shadows. He brings up his legs to his chest to make room for her, and she hesitates for a moment before sitting, her back against the other side of the little wall cubby, facing him. She can feel her hair catching on the grain of the wood and stretches her neck out to loosen it. Their feet are interwoven, pressing against each other like four little sardines in a tin. She nudges his ankle.
"Are you – um, you know, not that you're dying, obviously but just, how— how you feeling?"
There is the barest hint of white in the shadows as he forces a smile. "Wow. Awkward much?" His voice reminds her of dragging something across pebbled ground. Maybe she should have left him alone with whatever it is that's weighing him down.
Instead, she digs her chin into her crossed arms and grumbles, "Shut up."
He chuckles once, but the sound crumbles into nothing. It's quiet for a beat before he says, "I'm okay. Couldn't sleep well. Thought a walk would be good."
"Oh." Artemis relaxes a bit. "Me too."
Robin doesn't respond, staring through the hole in the wall. His eyes absorb the little light filtering through, the inside rim glowing icy blue like husky dog eyes. For some reason, the shape of his eyes seems familiar to her, and she's been trying to place it throughout the mission with no luck. Though she can't see his features perfectly, his shoulders are slumped against the corner like a wilting sapling, hands curled limply over his bony knees. It makes her uncomfortable to watch him like this, so Artemis follows his gaze, watches the lantern in the center of the ring flicker back and forth, sending an uneven glow throughout the tents, slipping past the seats where a silent ovation is all that stands. The light doesn't reach the very top of the king pole, and the folds of the tent look ready to give at any moment with darkness sitting heavily on them.
"Never would have noticed this little cubby if you hadn't made a noise," she offers after some time.
"Yeah…" Robin closes his eyes, and the absence of those two pinpricks of light reminds her of a firefly blinking off. "It's meant to be out of the way. To watch the performance from backstage."
Now that she thinks about it, she remembers a child standing here earlier during the performance, watching his parents' act through the little window. A sudden image hits her, borne out of Robins' matter-of-fact tone and all the other half-clues she's been trying to make sense out of throughout the mission, as fruitlessly as trying to catch leaves in the wind. "You used to do this, didn't you? When you were a kid?"
Robin's eyes snap open immediately, and the change in his breathing is immediate, exploding in the otherwise silent air. "What?"
Artemis huffs, feeling at once defensive because she's not stupid, and embarrassed that she's broached a topic she knows full well is supposedly off limits. "C'mon, you knew exactly what kind of routine would get us in without a question, you run through the procedures here without batting an eye, and knew how to work the weird handles on the shower. You know what all of the equipment's called, and I'm betting it's not just 'cause you researched it. You're totally in your element here, Mr. It's-okay-I'm-an-acrobat, and for fuck's sake, you toss around words like 'gaffer' and 'gav' and 'dik' like they're nothing. I'm sure you tried not to, but you slipped a few times. That's not English."
"It's—it's Romani," Robin says, and he looks a bit dazed.
"Oh, that's Romani?"
Robin still looks like there's a stuck cog in the machinery that is his brain. "How did you know it's not just circus slang?"
Artemis grimaces. "My folks, um… worked with some circus people at some point, so I recognized it."
"Your folks, huh?" Robin's tone twists immediately into something much more familiar to her—mischievous. She bristles with discomfort, even though it's nice to see that his humor is improvingx, even if it's at her expense. "Pray tell, how did they ever end up working with carnies?"
"I was young, I don't remember," Artemis snaps. "Can we get back to the whole thing about you speaking Romani?" Now it's Robin's turn to stiffen, and Artemis hurries to add, "I'm not trying to pry. It's just… obvious this circus is pretty important to you."
"I know. I know, I just—" It's so rare to catch Robin off guard and without an instant riposte. She feels a bit guilty, and maybe she should lay off him when he's clearly tired and sick. But at the same time, she's enjoying what she's learning about him, and it's not like he's said anything that would compromise his secret identity yet. She's nowhere near the detective he is.
(Months later, when someone at Gotham Academy drops a comment about 'that circus freak, Dick Grayson', all the clues Artemis had been trying to snatch from the wind fall to the ground, completing the picture, and she'll wonder how she didn't see it sooner).
Robin sighs and leans his head against the wall, deflating. "Guess I couldn't hide it, huh? The circus… reminds me of my childhood, let's leave it at that."
She wonders if that's why he was crying earlier. Artemis nods and turns, putting her legs down on the ground to stretch them out, slipping a finger inside her shoe to hold the arch of her foot as she stretches. Robin mirrors her, uncurling and shifting to lean against her. She's startled by the cool touch of his ear, followed by the heat of his cheek against her shoulder. He's sweating, even in this cold. Her first instinct is to lean away, unused to the weight and the warmth of another human being tucked next to her so willingly, but then she remembers. He's thirteen, sick and far away from home and his parents. She can offer him this comfort at least.
"…Secret identities suck," she finally says.
He chuckles sleepily, his fine, spindly hair tickling her skin with the movement. "Make you a deal," he mumbles. "I tell you mine if you tell me yours."
She stops, and the world tilts sideways as she considers it.
Letting go of her secret. Putting it out there. There's— she's. She's thought about it a lot lately. Too many close calls. The shame of being discovered, instead of coming clean on her own terms. The relief that she so desperately wants. The ache, nearly constant now when she's with the team, of wanting to join them, wanting to be open and honest. She craves their approval, their wholehearted trust. She craves acceptance and support so fiercely that it knocks the air out of her at night, in her bed, and makes her choke on tears she won't let fall over something of her own creation.
Sometimes at her old school, Artemis would see the basketball team. The track team. The orchestra or drama club. And something about the way they knew each other so well they finished each other's sentences, the inside jokes they bandied about, the instant support and the quiet moments—she was always jealous. It's ironic, really, that someone as independent and headstrong as Artemis longs so desperately for a connection to others. A safe network. A place where she feels valued and can add value. She doesn't even know what to label it but it claws hungrily at the delicate tissue inside her chest, tearing it into strips every day. This team is the closest she's ever come to satisfying that hunger.
Does she take that final step? She's considered it. After the Louisiana mission and Wally's accusation, it hurt so much to be branded as petty and jealous to the point of putting a mission at risk. The loss of respect was almost enough for her to pull Kaldur aside to explain. Almost.
There's a tugging sensation on her arm.
"I was kidding, I swear."
A shiver runs through her as she snaps out of her mental debate. Robin starts to pull away, probably trying to give her some space now that the mood has soured, but Artemis's arm snaps out instinctively to pull him back. Her cheeks burn, and she drops her arm immediately.
"Sorry, just— spaced out."
"It's okay," Robin says quietly. "Sorry I brought that up."
She glances at him and barks out a short laugh. "You're apologizing?" After she'd brought up the subject in the first place? She shakes her head. "I was just surprised." She pauses, and swears the way Robin rubs his head against her shoulder was meant to be… comforting. She swallows and pulls at the hem of her shirt. "I want to."
But she can't. She's just not ready to open herself up like that. Not yet. Even if it's Robin.
"Whatever happens, 'Mis— just know you're our teammate. Nothing's ever going to change that."
Her lungs expand so much she doesn't know how to let the air back out, feeling lightheaded at the sheer conviction, the simple belief with which he says it. He jabs her side with his pointy elbow.
"C'mon… I know we keep adding new people to the team as if there was a sale on sidekicks, but it's true."
Artemis has to crack a grin at that. "Glad your humor's back."
"Um, I mean… you seemed a bit upset earlier."
"Oh." His face falls a bit, but then he just twists his lips. "Yeah… You usually make me laugh."
Her heart flutters like a piece of paper in the breeze, and she's pretty sure a thirteen-year-old should not be making her this flustered. Judging by the sudden heat wave, her cheeks must be burning, and she hopes the darkness obscures it.
"You… it always surprises me that you're two years younger than I am—"
"One and a half."
"—because I think of you as an equal. Or honestly, a lot more."
Robin appears startled at the admission, floundering for a split second before replying, "It's all field experience. Got four years of it. You'll get there too." He tucks his face further into her arm as if embarrassed, and isn't that amusing, both of them blushing like toddlers. It's the blanket of dark, making her feel safe enough to confess all but her biggest secrets.
It's more than that, but since she doesn't have a word for it, she'll just keep quiet. Her heart rate's back to normal, and the chill of the air is finally getting to her, but Robin is so warm and comfortable against her side that she doesn't want to move just yet. Maybe she'll sit here, and hope that years from now she can still remember the tender throb of vulnerability and the warmth of acceptance, the comforting weight of a teammate anchoring her senses in the near dark.
When her eyelids droop for the first time, forcing her to snap her head up in surprise, she realizes she's lost track of time. She glances to her side. Robin's head is slumped precariously on the edge of her shoulder, his hair covering his eyes, but his mouth is slightly open under the curve of his nose, and his breathing is slow and even. She quirks her arm once. No response. He needs his rest, but he needs it in bed, so she reaches out and rubs Robin's other shoulder. He groans softly, brows furrowing.
"Robin, c'mon," she says gently. She never knows whether to feel protective of Robin because he's just so damn little, or whether his larger-than-life attitude and experience make him seem almost untouchable. Right now he just seems little and fragile, and she gets the urge to hug him or pet him, or scratch him behind the ears and see if he purrs. He's just so… well, cute. She's pretty sure he'd be insulted if she told him that. "You need to get back to bed," she says instead, holding him by the shoulders to keep him from falling while she stands up.
He blinks blearily up at her, head wobbling as if his neck can't hold it up at a right angle, and mumbles something that sounds like reluctant agreement. He wraps his hand around her wrist and uses it as leverage to stand up. She watches him with a frown, notes the shaking of his knees and the way his breathing suddenly stutters.
He makes a small noise, and maybe she should be worried if he can't even pull up the strength to be coherent. He takes one step, and she's not sure if he's aware that he's still clutching her wrist.
At the second step, his legs give out completely.
"Don't worry, I gotcha," she says when he mutters something breathlessly against her collarbone, panting. "Just get on my back, and I'll carry you, 'kay?"
She sits him back on the cubby and kneels on one knee in front of him. She sweeps her hair as best as she can off her back and over one shoulder, and he slumps more than lowers himself against her, arms wrapping loosely in front. There's an awkward moment as she essentially gropes him trying to hoist his unresponsive body onto her back.
"Sorry," he slurs. The warm puff of breath against her cold earlobe makes goosebumps run down her skin. "Dizzy."
"No worries," she manages, hyperaware of his wiry frame wrapped around her. He's terribly light, which isn't surprising considering his height and build, but it's as if she expected his personality to make up for all the space it takes, making him seem bigger and heavier.
There's a sudden rustling sound from afar, and instinct takes over, making her duck behind a clothesrack. She holds her breath between the ruffles of a skirt and the musty leather of a jacket, and the lack of movement tells her Robin's doing the same thing. Whether it's actually a person or just a rat, she'd rather not stay and find out. If they get caught, it puts their credibility at risk. She tightens her grip on Robin and slips out the way she first came in.
Her jaw starts chattering within a few seconds in the night air. She picks her way through the crates and path carefully, keeping one ear trained for any other rustling sounds and another on Robin's breathing. She can feel the tremors running through his body, but she can only go so fast in the dark with the threat of loose nails and circus equipment lying about.
"Your hair," he suddenly says, and she tilts her head slightly as she maneuvers around a crate.
"What about it?" There's a lot of it, that's for sure, but she tried to move most of it out of his way. It feels too impractical, too… mature and ladylike. She'll be glad to have her ponytail back.
"S'nice like this," he mumbles and buries his face into it. She has absolutely no response to the feel of his nose against the nape of her neck.
"We- we're almost there," she says instead, staring at the ground. He hums something, lips vibrating against her ear and making her suck in a breath. What is this, she wonders. Every action of Robin's discomfits and thrills her at once, and she can't tell if it's Robin himself, or simply the proximity of another human being.
She's hoisting Robin higher up, getting her left arm further underneath him while she uses her other hand to grip the handle bar of the train, when a speck of white flutters down past her vision. Her eyes widen and she lifts her head, breath catching because—
"Robin!" she cries, forgetting to keep her voice down. "It's snowing!"
Robin lifts his head, and they stare up at the gray sky pouring out soft flakes to descend upon them, like shaking off flour from a blanket. The ground is cold enough that the flakes begin accumulating immediately, a thin layer of white materializing over the crates and the circus tent, the window ledges on the train and the branches of the trees around them. The tips of her fingertips are going numb, and there's a trickle of water running down her forehead where the snowflakes are melting against her skin, but she can't help it. She's transfixed by the snow, feeling for the first time in years like she belongs with it. She feels clean and pure for once, accompanied by Robin's patient weight on her back. He lifts a hand from around her neck and reaches out to catch a few of the flakes and they both watch them melt on his palm. She can't remember ever feeling this peaceful and connected to nature in the presence of another human being.
"I love snow," she says, blinking to keep the flakes from falling into her eyes. "It's… beautiful."
"Yeah," Robin murmurs, head leaning against the back of hers. "Beautiful," he repeats, and she's so focused on staring up at the sky that she doesn't see where his gaze is pointed.
The moment breaks when Robin shivers, and Artemis gives a guilty start. "Sorry, got caught up in it. Let's go in."
She pads down the corridor and slips back into his compartment with hardly a sound and bends down next to the bed to let Robin slip off her back with a soft groan. He curls up, teeth chattering, as if he can't muster the strength to get under the covers, so she pulls them out from under him and drapes them over his shoulders, adjusting his pillow as well.
"Thanks," he mumbles, eyes falling closed. The white mask is still on, but he's not going to take it off in front of her, so she leaves it be.
"Of course," she says, and gives in to the temptation to run her finger through his hair, swiping it off his forehead, surprised to find small scars even there. His alabaster skin is marred by a few shiny flecks of scar tissue and the occasional freckle – one right underneath his right eye, and another in the middle of his cheek. She looks at his fine, pointed nose and the delicate eyelashes at the end of his bruisable eyelids, and the thin, slightly parted mounds of his lips and something rises in her, sudden and overwhelming, and she doesn't know what to do with it.
She straightens up and takes a step back, twisting her hands into the remnants of her braids because otherwise, they'll want to keep touching his face and the sliver of shoulder visible under the covers.
"Goodnight," she whispers, but Robin's already asleep.
She opens and closes the door as if the air is thick and capable of absorbing all of her sounds, fingers lingering on the doorknob.
"What are you doing?"
She jumps, eyes wide as she turns to find Roy standing behind her, eyebrows digging so deep between his eyes that they hide under the mask.
"P-putting Robin to bed. We took a walk." She hates that she sounds unsure, but her heartbeat is hammering in her throat and she keeps getting flashes of Robin in her mind – a callused palm, foot, or the dainty point of his chin— and it's distracting.
"A walk? In the middle of the night?"
"We couldn't sleep," she snaps.
Roy's still glaring at her, and she has to acknowledge that were she in Roy's position, she would find herself suspicious as well. Even so, she needs to make sure he understand at least one thing.
"No matter what you think of me," she says, standing straight and leveling her gaze at him, "I would never hurt Robin."
He scoffs as he brushes past her, but it sounds almost surprised. The door to Robin's compartment makes the barest click as it opens and closes. In the silence that follows, she realizes that it's not just that she would never hurt Robin. It's that she would do anything for Robin. She would give her life for him if need be.
The question, then, is would she reveal her family history to him? The more and more she gets to know him, the closer she gets to that breaking point. She has a twisting feeling in her gut that the moment is getting close.
That was 6000 words of nothing. Sorry...