Disclaimer: DC, Grandon, and all the owners and creaters have all the rights to everything.
Mr. and Mrs. Grayson
Heels clicking against the concrete steps, Artemis made her way up to the sixth flight of her apartment building. The elevator was under repairs for only a day, but her skirt-suit and pumps made it hard to climb six stories comfortably.
The pencil skirt restricted the movements of her legs, and each step made her more tired and irritated than she already felt after a drawn-out day at the office and an afternoon of interviews. She was in the process of finding a new occupation; hopefully a job that would let her wear jeans and casual wear to work.
Was it too much to ask for a workingwoman to be able to get home without digging blisters into her feet? At the third story, she gave up and took off her heels, dangling them in her fingers as she continued her hike. Her bare feet padded softly against the stairs.
Hair falling out of place because of the unexpected exercise and humidity, she arrived at her destination and faced a door with a steel number nailed to its surface. For some reason, rooting around in her sturdy leather purse made her think of finding her keys and unlocking the doors of past homes. Of the off-campus condo at Palo Alto. Or the tiny apartment her mom had barely been able to afford with her government disability checks.
A girl who had lived in apartments, dorms, or condos (which were not proper houses, no siree) all her life, Artemis had always secretly wanted a house of her own. She dreamed of a nice neighborhood that wasn't a suburb and a building with two stories and high ceilings. Or better yet, a stately English manor like Alice Liddell's place in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
At the present, her and her husband's jobs didn't pay well enough for them to afford anything more than an apartment like this one, so her dream home or estate would have to wait.
She jiggled her key to the left when the lock didn't respond, and after she applied a bit more pressure to the doorframe, it swung open.
The lights in the entry hall, den, and kitchen were on, so she knew her husband must have already come home. The den, the kitchen, and dinning area were all in one room, furnished according to a mix of both occupants' tastes.
Artemis had picked the carpets, selected the lamps and lighting, and painted the walls (a Navaho white for the kitchen, and a nice dusty orange for the den). Her husband had bought a long upholstered couch that wasn't as attractive as it was comfortable and insisted on decking out the kitchen with the best refrigerator, oven, stove, and appliances their shared savings could buy. Artemis insisted that the purchase was wasteful; she couldn't cook anything besides the basics. However, he had pleasantly surprised her by secretly taking cooking classes, pulling out a few old family recipes, and making her a delicious dinner the night after the kitchen was finished.
Leaving her purse and shoes by the door, she glanced around and spotted her husband in the kitchen. He was sitting with a cup of coffee in hand and his back turned towards her.
Her bare feet made no noise against the new floorboards or the kitchen tile as she gradually made her way behind him.
"Well, well, well." She brushed her hands across his shoulders, leaning in to whisper, "Look who's home early, Officer Grayson."
Dick jumped, spilling some of his coffee on the counter in a splattered brown puddle.
She chuckled in her raspy, jazzy voice, enjoying her natural ability to sneak up on a man who had no weak spots. Eight years had gone by since she had left the Team, but she still had it.
Recovering from the surprise, Dick spun around in his chair.
"Well hello to you too, Mrs. Grayson," he said with a goofy grin and gave her a welcome home kiss.
While his larger hands still cradled her face, he took a moment to notice the disheveled state of Artemis' hair. He had always been fascinated with it. Even though the honeymoon was over and normal husbands would have stopped noticing every fluctuation in their wife's blonde mane, Artemis liked how he tucked a stray lock behind her ear with awe and loving reverence.
"How did you manage to get off work?" she asked, putting a hand over one of his.
"Convinced Malloy* to switch rounds with me. Which means I'll have to leave for work at 6 AM…" Artemis groaned at that particular piece of news, "but I wanted to get home early to help you out with dinner tonight. The lasagna and garlic bread are in the oven, and I tossed a salad."
"Oh, thanks," she said with sincerity, giving him a grateful peck on the cheek, "I was planning on going to the grocery store and getting a pre-cooked chicken for our guests, but they'll love your mom's lasagna."
Artemis peered over Dick's shoulder onto the kitchen island, and Dick's gaze followed hers, focusing on the spilled coffee still splashed across the countertop.
"Let me get that," he said, standing and walking to the sink to grab a roll of paper towels.
She simply leaned back against the counter, watching as he rubbed the table clean and dry. It had taken a while for her to get used to having someone willing and able to take care of her (Wally, bless his well-meaning heart, was often more trouble than help and forgot more occasions than he remembered).
"How did your two interviews go?" he asked.
"Badly," she said, frustration carving a frown between her cheeks. "I don't think I'll get either job."
"That's no good." Collecting the pile of soiled paper towels, he went over to the trashcan, pushed the lever with his toe to open it, and deposited his coffee-scented baggage inside. "Well, at least you still have a position at the company."
Artemis gives him a withering look.
"Alright, yes, your job sucks ass and your boss is a megalomaniac. However, because of the recession, a lot of people don't even have jobs right now. You're lucky you didn't get laid off like the rest of your coworkers."
"So says Mr. Exciting Detective who fights crime every day."
"And fills out lots and lots of boring paperwork," he added. "You'll find a better job soon. You're a capable person with a good resume, and might I add, your salary is several digits higher than mine, Miss Second in Command of Marketing at the Wayne Blüdhaven Branch."
After she had gotten the Wayne Enterprises job, she had interrogated Dick about her acceptance, expecting that he had pulled the same stint as he had when they were children, and she had gotten a scholarship to Gotham Academy from Bruce Wayne, his guardian.
"I can get a job myself," she had said in an angry, clipped tone, "I don't need you and Bruce to babysit me or give me Wayne family perks. My coworkers are going to think I slept with you to get the position!"
Dick had held his hands up in surrender and told her he had nothing to do with it, causing Artemis to storm out of the room. She hadn't 100% believed him until Bruce had confirmed that he was not in charge of hiring employees in Blüdhaven, and his associates had taken her because they thought she was qualified. Returning home, she had tried to apologize for her reaction to Dick, but he would hear nothing of it.
"You just have trouble believing what I tell you all the time: you are a powerful, smart, capable woman. What company wouldn't want to hire you, and why would you need me to get you where you want to go?"
"Why haven't you taken off your uniform yet?" She started untwisting the navy tie from around Dick's neck, reaching to unbutton the collar of his button-down shirt. "You've been here for…what, an hour, and you didn't think to change?"
He usually got out of his police duds as soon as he entered the house, mostly because he preferred more comfortable clothes, and his uniform made him feel like he was still at work. But on some occasions, stains of blood and dirt and who-knows-what had marked the fabric during the day or night, and his clothes needed to be immediately thrown in the wash.
Smiling in spite of himself, Dick pressed his nose and forehead against hers (in that annoying, cartilage–smushing way that reminded her of heated breathing, the bedroom wall at her back, his lips at her neck, and his body pushing against hers).
"I know you like it," he teased as she finished unbuttoning him.
After two years of marriage and Dick's daily gimmicks, Artemis' once-effective eye roll and signature glare had been rendered obsolete. Rather than hide the fact that, yes, she thought her husband was charming even when he was being cocky about how attractive she thought he was in uniform, she let him see her wide lips smile. Her lidded gray eyes tilted up to meet his.
"We have guests coming," she reminded him, roughly jerking his shirt sleeves off his rounded shoulders. The white piece of clothing dropped to the floor in a heap. Dick grinned because he knew a fourth of the battle had already been won.
"Tell them I burned the lasagna again." He teased the collar of her suit jacket and watched her gaze roam over his white under-tank and across the planes of his body.
"Pft, you're too cheap to let good food go to waste," she said while pulling one arm out of her jacket. Dick moved to take the garment completely off her, not breaking eye contact as he laid it carefully on a chair behind him.
"Then…we both came down with colds. Yours just turned into pneumonia. I'm nursing you back to health."
Artemis hooked her fingers through the belt loops of his pants and tugged him towards her. Raising herself up on her tiptoes, she pressed her full mouth against his. His head bent down to meet her kiss, and his strong arms picked her up by the waist, depositing her to sit on the kitchen counter. She wrapped her legs around his middle, bringing them even closer.
"Dick, I think I'm rubbing off on you too much," she said in between kisses.
Her nimble fingers tangled themselves in his hair and carved tingling paths across his scalp. Dick shivered as Artemis gave the sensitive hairs at the nape of his neck a tug, dragging her tongue across his lower lip. His mouth opened in a sigh, but before he could deepen the kiss, she pulled away.
The smile on her face was wicked as she whispered in his ear "You're turning into a horrible liar," sliding one hand down his ass and giving him a hard grope.
"And is that such a bad thing?" he asked as he yanked her blouse off one shoulder and applied his lips to the exposed skin, tracing her collarbone with open-mouthed kisses.
Feeling the texture of his tongue against her, she bit back a moan as he slowly worked his way along her neck and up to her mouth. "Yes…and…no?"
"Then how about you come up with a better excuse."
"Alright. It's settled then: you have pneumonia."
Dick smiled against her lips, assured that he had won her over.
Alright, she could admit that her husband was very…persuasive. In fact, he had almost convinced her that she should give her houseguests a call (with a raspier-than-usual voice to make the pneumonia more believable), when Artemis heard a beep, beep, beep.
The oven timer was going off, meaning the lasagna was finished. Which also meant their guests should be on their way about in 10 minutes.
"Maybe we should tell them we burned the lasagna instead."
"…hm? Why?" he mumbled, deaf to the beeping alarm behind them.
"Dick. The oven."
His blue eyes widened and flickered to the flashing "00" on the oven timer. "Shoot!"
Leaving his wife, Dick raced to a drawer and jerked out two oven mitts, running to save his lasagna from certain roasting.
From the other end of the house, the doorbell rang.
"I'll get it." Artemis made her way to the entry hall.
Setting down the piping hot dish of lasagna, Dick hurriedly snatched up his shirt, buttoned it back up (because what would their friends think if they came in and saw his clothes on the kitchen floor?), and called after Artemis, "You might want to, um, fix yourself first!"
Stopping a moment to adjust her hair and top, Artemis opened the door.
"Well, you two are early…"
"Arty!" Wally greeted Artemis with a bone-crushing squeeze. "It's good to see you!"
At his side was Artemis' favorite 5'4" magician, and Wally's seven-month girlfriend. Zatanna smiled as she presented Artemis with a glass rectangular container covered in foil.
"I brought dessert. Warm brownies from a box mix."
"The best kind," Artemis noted and stepped back from the doorway. "Why don't you guys come on in? Dick is still wrapping things up in the kitchen."
Her two ex-teammates followed her back into the house, where Dick had just pulled the garlic bread out.
Still wearing oven mitts on his hands, Dick hugged his two old friends. "It's great that you both could come! How was the trip?"
"Eh, just same old Zeta tube," Wally said. "Lucky for me, I can use them if a League member," he nudged Zatanna meaningfully, "is escorting me."
Always the observant one, Zatanna eyed Dick's untucked shirt and the wrinkles in Artemis' top with suspicion.
"We weren't interrupting anything, were we?"
"Huh?" Artemis' eyebrows furrowed in confusion, until she saw Zatanna's face.
"Ahhhh…interrupting? Of course not!" Her voice went up half an octave as Dick tried not to bring a palm to his face. "You both are always welcome here!"
Wally being Wally, he didn't catch the hidden meaning of Artemis and Zatanna's exchange and looked down at Zatanna in puzzlement. Giving her boyfriend a side-glance, she just sighed in reply and prudently moved on with the conversation.
"How about I help you set the table, Artemis."
"Okay. The forks are in the top drawer to your left."
"I'll get the drinks," Wally offered.
Between the four of them, they had the food out and the table ready in ten minutes.
Sitting down beside his wife and across from Wally, Dick asked, "So what have you two been up to since the last time we saw you?"
Up until a point, the evening passed without incident between the four old friends. They laughed; they swapped stories, and as per usual of the last seven years of their lives after everything had changed, they talked about everything except what was most important to them. However, the unanswered question of the night that Artemis and Dick were waiting to hear answered was why had the couple come in the first place?
The Grayson's had extended the offer of dinner to their friends months ago ("a Team reunion" as Dick had put it), but Zatanna and Wally hadn't responded to the invitation until last week. Dick suspected that their friends were planning something, but Artemis wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt.
After a short lull in the conversation, Wally decided to open the can of worms.
"Still in the vigilante game, I see?" he said casually.
Artemis sputtered into her wine glass, and Dick gagged on the brownie he had been eating.
"Oh, no, no! We've been taking it easy like you told us to. I get my superheroing kicks through the police force, and Artemis saves the world every day from…" Dick struggled to come up with a proper excuse while Wally glared him down, "…egotistic corporate goons by use of fear, intimidation, and effective marketing strategy!"
"Uh, yep." Artemis attempted to play along. "That's what I do. Working every day to make the Blüdhaven corporate world a safer, saner place."
The Grayson couple wore matching strained grins. Wally sighed.
"Dick, don't lie to me," he said, ignoring the fact that Artemis hadn't been completely honest with him either. "Artemis was never this buff when she was living with… when she was temporarily retired."
Ouch. Why did he have to reference the years they had lived together? It had been seven years since they had broken up, and although she was sure Wally had let the comment slip on accident, it still didn't sit well with her. She wanted to rub her temple in frustration, but Wally knew how to read her, and she didn't want to give away how much his statement had affected her.
"I've been working out for this…triathlon I'm running with in-town friends."
Zatanna scoffed. "You hate running long distances."
Dick and Artemis found themselves stuck in a corner between their two glaring friends. Artemis leaned over to whisper something in Vietnamese to Dick.
(Should we tell them?)
(I don't think we have a choice in the matter.)
(Shit, Wally is going to have our asses for this.)
(You know I love it when you talk dirty in another language to me.)
She switched over to French. "Oui oui, tout sonne mieux en français."
"Geez, will you guys stop flirting in gibberish?"
Although Wally had technically learned some Vietnamese in college, like many things he considered unimportant, he had instantly forgotten all of it after the break-up.
Artemis grabbed herself another brownie while Dick acted as spokesmen.
"Fine. Yes, we have gone on a few excursions, but only on the weekends, okay? It's kind of our Saturday date night."
"It goes along with our language immersion schedule," Artemis said, throwing in some truth to make Dick's lie more convincing. "On Tuesdays we only speak Spanish. Wednesdays are French, and Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays are Vietnamese."
"Sundays and Mondays are our days off," Dick added. "We can either speak English, or I try and teach Arty one of the languages I know and she doesn't. We're working on…Japanese right now."
"Konnichiwa," Artemis said with a strong Vietnamese accent.
Wally looked from the married couple to his girlfriend beside him. She gave him a sad nod, and his eyes narrowed into slits as he turned to face his friends again.
"As fascinating as your weird couple activities are, don't even try to pull a fast one on us. Zatanna knows you're lying."
"I'm sorry," she apologized. "I didn't want to use the spell, eil a ro ytsenoh si yas yeht tahw fi wonk em tel, but we heard some rumors about vigilante activity in Blüdhaven, and we couldn't take any chances."
"But Wednesday is French immersion day…"
"Dick, I knew that. We're talking about the choice you've both decided to make," Zatanna said and then ground her teeth against her bottom lip. Artemis fisted her hands in her lap. "Batman's decision was final, and even though you're not wearing costumes, that doesn't mean the Justice League won't punish you for your actions. Wally and I came first to warn you before the League found out. We're trying to help you."
"But it wasn't fair!" Artemis fumed. "Okay, I indirectly caused a League member's death when I went undercover, but Dick didn't do anything wrong!"
Dick closed his eyes. "Artemis…"
"He was just trying to help, and if you haven't noticed, his plan saved the world. What right does the League have to tell us to stop saving lives? What right does Batman…"
"Artemis." He put his hand on her arm, quieting her. "I lied to everyone. You were just following my orders, so if anyone should have taken the sole blame, it was me."
"No, Dick, that's not true…"
"He's right," Wally said. "Your interference may have caused Captain Atom to die because we couldn't get to him in time before he went nuclear, and Kaldur had to shut him down, but Dick was the mastermind behind it all."
"Without the information Kaldur and I had uncovered, you wouldn't have known about the Light's plan at all! You wouldn't have known that they were going to capture Captain Atom and turn him into an atomic bomb!"
'Betrayal' was written in the stressed lines around Artemis' mouth and forehead.
"And you of all people, Wally, have no right to accuse Dick. You knew what he was doing! You were right there with me, planning with the rest of us."
"I had already decided to stop being a hero, so the League left me alone," he snapped, "and in case you have forgotten, Kaldur died because of him."
Wally's face had turned an angry blood-red color that rivaled his hair. Zatanna had stayed silent and motionless for the majority of the conversation, but now she looked from one person to another with a distraught expression on her face. Dick's gaze was fixed on the ground, shadows accentuating the lines of his face and covering his eyes in darkness.
Artemis saw her husband's distress, knowing Dick had blamed himself for everything for so long. Wally was just heaping coals on Dick's burning guilt. A twisting rage filled her chest.
"No," Artemis ground out through her teeth. "Kaldur died to save. Us. All."
"Please," Zatanna pleaded, putting a hand gently on Wally's shoulder and shooting a beseeching look towards Artemis, "this happened seven years ago. I know you all haven't talked about it, but we're friends. We need to learn from our mistakes and forgive each other."
Wally's face softened at his girlfriend's touch, and he sighed. "You're right. I'm sorry, guys. I'm just scared and worried about both of you."
To Artemis, it felt like they had turned back the clock eight years, back to the time when Wally had encouraged her to move in with him and leave the team. More confident than she had been in the past, she finally had the strength to be honest with her friend.
"Wally, choosing a normal life was your decision, not ours. You can't make up our minds for us, even if you want to protect us. And we can't force ourselves to be like you, even though we love you."
Feeling the sense of déjà vu as well, the speedster lifted his head. Maybe Artemis' connection to Wally hadn't been as strong as the bond she now had with Dick, but she could still read him decently well.
His up-angled brows told her he remembered. The worry-lines on his forehead said he wished he had acted differently when Dick and Artemis had started dating, two years after Wally had broken up with her. He wished he hadn't been so angry then, even though they had forgiven him for his mistakes.
"You two have been good for each other."
His mumbled compliment told her he approved of their relationship, even though Dick and Artemis' shared love of saving the day drove them into a dangerous world where Wally couldn't follow them.
"Thanks buddy," Dick said, putting his arm around his wife. "That means a lot."
Artemis' mouth stretched into a knowing smirk, and Wally looked away in embarrassment. Gut-spilling statements of emotional honesty were not his specialty. Zatanna smiled with her eyes squinted like a satisfied cat, patting her boyfriend on the back in a silent, 'Way to be emotionally mature, babe.'
Seeing that their conversation was in all respects finished and that it was past the time for them to head for home, Zatanna rose from her seat.
"I think we should go now."
He stood up, following her example. "Yeah. That's probably a good idea." The speedster nodded curtly at his two friends. "Stay safe."
"We'll try," Dick replied.
Wally started for the door, but Zatanna hung back.
"You're free to make your own decision on whether or not you want to keep doing hero work in the dark," she said, "but like Wally said, we came here because we care about you, and we are worried about you. All of us are worried about you, including M'gann and Conner. So factor all the people who love you into whatever choice you make."
Without waiting for their response, Zatanna left the room.
Getting up from her seat, Artemis began silently collecting the dishes. Dick amassed the wine and water glasses beside her, and eventually they shuttled everything to the sink.
While Dick washed and his wife stacked the dishes in the dishwasher, she said, "Maybe we should keep off the streets, Dick. At least for a little while."
Dick twisted the wineglass in his hand beneath the flowing water. "Do you think we can really do that? Just…stop? Just like that."
Artemis recalled the sensation of wind whistling in her ears as she dived off the side of a skyscraper. The tug as Dick grabbed her waist, aimed his grappling hook, and pulled her up to the next rooftop. The thrill of success, of a job well done.
"No," she said in a small voice. They were addicts, justice-obsessed adrenaline junkies with all the skills of the Dark Knight and a trained assassin. She now saw they were just as trapped in their respective roles as the super villains they faced and she had once dreaded she would become. The League could take the costumes off of the heroes, but not the hero out of the man and woman.
It was ironic that of all their Teammates, Artemis and Dick had the best chance of having a "normal life" because of their lack of meta abilities, but they were the ones that couldn't let go. Even Conner and M'gann, despite their awesome powers and alien ethnicity, had gotten back together and successfully settled down. They even had children.
Her open vulnerability touched a cord in her husband's heart, and he switched off the faucet and wrapped her up in his arms.
"Hey, hey. It's going to be alright." His slightly damp hands rubbed her back soothingly. "We'll figure this out. Wally and Zee won't say anything, so we'll have some time. We can make this work."
His wife nodded and then grimaced. Ugh. She could feel her eyes swelling up, and Dick's shirt was slightly damp. This physical discomfort was one of the many reasons she hated crying and rarely allowed herself to do it.
"We can move away and change our names," he suggested. A thought came to mind and he grinned. "How would you feel about being…Mrs. Harry Dick?"
"Shud uuup." She sniffed loudly, embracing him in return.
They stood there like that for a while, just holding on to each other as if they could stop time and keep things from changing. They had made a life for themselves in Blüdhaven, days of Dick patrolling the city and Artemis managing things at the office and nights in black clothing, covertly bringing Blüdhaven's criminal rings to justice. Artemis wasn't willing to give that up so easily, and she knew Dick felt the same way.
"You know," she said, determined to find a positive side to their situation, "good things have come out of this. If the League hadn't exiled us, we wouldn't have found each other and fallen in love."
Leaning back to get a better view of her, Dick placed his hand on her cheek and rubbed his thumb across her wet cheekbone.
"I've always been in love with you."
*Gannon Malloy is a member of the Blüdhaven Police Department in the Nightwing comics.