For redbrunja for the first day of my 12 days of ficmas. I opened request slots on Tumblr and LiveJournal so that, once a day for the first twelve days of December, I'll be posting a requested fic for everyone who got one.
Brunja asked for "Artemis/Wally; Thanksgiving at the Wests'."
The song mentioned toward the end, by the way, is "You Make My Dreams Come True" by Hall & Oates. Look it up at your own risk because it is catchy as hell.
"Okay, so," Artemis says with the end of her pencil between her teeth, without looking up from her open Geometry textbook, "Explain Thanksgiving to me in two sentences or less."
Because of her sudden outburst (or, okay, unexpected mumble), Wally misses a punch on his DSi and loses the boss fight, letting out a groan. He drops his arms lamentably into his lap and lets his head fall back.
"What?" he half-moans, and Artemis taps the pencil against the edge of the coffee table impatiently.
"Thanksgiving. Explain. Concisely," she expounds tersely. Wally finally recovers from the digital emasculation enough to frown perplexedly down at her.
They're in the Cave's living room, him splayed out on one green couch and her sitting cross-legged on the floor beside the coffee table with textbooks and review sheets spread out haphazardly in front of her. Her hair is tied aimlessly in a bun at the top of her head, held in place with another pencil. She's been working at studying for her Geometry exam for the past hour and a half, punctuating the silence with the occasional question that he easily answers (without straying his attention from the console in his hand, his tongue clenched between his teeth in concentration).
She lets out a huff and lets the pencil go limp in her hand, quirking an eyebrow up at him. He fidgets sheepishly under the attention, closing the DSi and setting it aside on the arm of the couch, putting his free hands behind his head and stretching.
"Well, it's, uh," he says brilliantly. "It's – okay, are we actually counting sentences here or was that just an empty threat?"
"Counting," Artemis replies bluntly, flinging a disgruntled frown at the page on the Pythagorean theorem. "Totally counting."
She puts the pencil between her teeth to flip between pages with more dexterity, and Wally forces his eyes away from the tip of her tongue peeking past the incisors.
"Okay," he says, and takes a deep breath for thought's sake. "Okay. Basically you eat lots of delicious food with your family and the people you love, and there's pie."
Artemis's eyes skeptically flick up in his direction. "Pie?"
"Pie," he confirms with a nod. "And like – good tidings, or something. Well, no, that's Christmas, so I guess – mediocre tidings?"
"So if it's supposed to be a family thing," Artemis sighs sharply, "why did your family invite me, a non-family member?"
Wally finally has the focus to stare bewilderedly at her for more than a passing second, and she looks, of all things, sheepish. Her cheeks are a bit pinker than they'd been a moment ago, and she's tapping the pencil rapidly against the edge of the table, beating out a frantic rhythm that fills the silence.
He hadn't really thought about anything like what she'd just said, honestly, mostly because he'd been ecstatic about the idea of his mother inviting Artemis over for Thanksgiving dinner in the first place, but now that Artemis has mentioned it, he's starting to realize her position.
"'Cause we want you to be there?" he offers, because he's not about to tell her the truth, that she might as well be family since they've been going out for almost a year and that is a Big Deal, not that he's saying it out loud at the risk of looking like an enormous sap, which he is.
"Yeah, but why?" Artemis demands again with a large amount of frustration.
Wally blinks at her, momentarily speechless.
"Uh... because you're cool, and you're my girlfriend, and I didn't want you to be lonely, and Uncle Barry didn't want to miss a prime opportunity to embarrass me in front of you?" he suggests again, and not a single one of them is a lie.
Artemis furrows her brow, folding her lips in with demureness he hadn't thought she'd possess in the first place.
"Not really used to this kind of stuff," she mumbles, sounding embarrassed, of all things, and finally Wally starts to get it.
"Did you evercelebrate holidays when you were younger?" he asks in astonishment.
Artemis gives him a withering look that answers the question all on its own, but she still offers up a reply anyway.
"Nope," she says, popping the last consonant. "Mom never really got the hang of the American stuff and Dad was always allergic to fun, so. Kinda shielded me from the cheer."
"Well, I'm an expert on the cheer," Wally declares, sticking his chest out with pride and jabbing a thumb at himself. "And it's genetic."
Artemis makes a noise somewhere between a snort and a sob.
"Super," she deadpans.
"Babe," Wally assures her after kissing her in what she's sure is the most blatant public fashion imaginable on his porch, "It's not the League of Shadows. It's my family. Chill out."
"I'm perfectly chilled, thank you," Artemis grinds out through chattering teeth, shifting from one foot to the other out in the snowy night air. She would have worn Jade's old parka from the surplus store if this wasn't supposed to be a holiday dinner. "Open the door, oh my god, I'm going to die."
Wally rolls his eyes (and he's got on an anorak, the bastard) and goes for the doorknob, but just before he can grab it, the door swings open and there stands Mary West, in a sweater that matches her hair.
"Whoa," Wally exclaims, frozen in place, one hand still hovering. "Are you psychic?"
Mary narrows her green eyes at him and the expression, as usual, reminds Artemis too eerily of the one Wally makes whenever he loses to Robin at Tekken.
"Maybe I'm just sensitive to the sound of your poor girlfriend freezing to death out here," Mary retorts, stepping aside to unobstruct the route. "Now for Pete's sake, let her in."
"Thanks, Mrs. West," Artemis says gratefully, shooting Wally a dry look. He rolls his eyes hugely and steps inside behind her.
Artemis is used to West-Allen family functions. They're warm and kind of loud and normally involve omnipresent music that can almost always be danced to, and there's usually a lot of food. Before Mary even closes the front door, Artemis can smell the turkey. She has to fight the urge to start salivating.
Wally doesn't seem inclined to such prudence.
"She's been in there since like six this morning," he mutters, nodding to the kitchen with raised eyebrows. "I'm expecting ambrosia, honestly."
"So easy to please," Artemis quips sarcastically, shedding her trench coat and hanging it on one of the hooks beside the front door.
She can hear Barry recounting something in the living room, probably to Jay, and she thinks she can discern the back of Iris's head in the kitchen. Frank Sinatra is playing on the stereo.
"We're so happy to have you, Artemis," Mary whispers to her as she bustles by, fondly jostling Artemis's arm in passing. Artemis smiles at her and hopes it comes off as grateful instead of terrified.
She's met Wally's whole family before. They'd had a barbecue in early April and that had been when she'd finally drawn up the courage to introduce herself, four months after she'd first kissed their son; three months since they'd actually started dating. They're all kind and friendly and comfortable with loving one another, something she still hasn't quite gotten used to, even after being around Wally West for almost a year.
She's not scared of them, exactly. She likes them. She's more scared that, sooner or later, they'll find it in their best interests not to like her.
"Where's your dad?" she asks Wally over her shoulder as the two of them slip into the kitchen to get sodas. Wally produces two cans of Coca Cola from the fridge and closes the door with his foot.
"Prob'ly in the garage," he replies, opening his until it hisses. "I think Joan wanted to see the table he's been working on."
"He's working on a table," Artemis asks rhetorically, pulling the tab back and forth until it breaks off. "Hopefully not the one we'll be eating on."
"Please, Artemis; how gauche do you think we are?" Wally scoffs, tossing his now-empty can into the recycling bin next to the sink. "We've got visiting royalty, okay; we gotta polish up."
Artemis elbows him for laying it on so thick and he sniggers. Just then, Barry seems to materialize behind them, grinning like he's just won a bet. (Which, judging by the inexplicable five dollars in his hand, he has).
"Told you she'd come!" he calls to Iris, slipping the fiver into her back pocket as she strides by with a pot of mashed potatoes.
"Right," Iris snorts, setting the pot down on the counter and breezing past them again.
She waves to Artemis and beams and Artemis does some sort of half-salute half thumbs-up and she feels like an idiot even though she shouldn't because these are the nicest people she's ever met.
"Hi," she finally gets out when Iris has gone into the living room to refill the hors d'œvres tray.
"Okay, time-out," she hears Wally mutter beside her, grasping her by the elbow and steering her toward the exit into the hallway. She can hear Barry making jocular protests about being abandoned, but none of them really register with her.
She lets him lead her into his room (figures), which is unusually clean for the occasion. He flips the light switch on and gently closes the door behind them before turning to face her, folding his arms across his chest.
"Sorry," she blurts out, and it still manages to sound aggressive even though she really does mean it.
"What're you nervous about?" he demands, though not without sincere worry. "It's my family, Artemis. You knowthem."
"I know," she says. "I know I know them. But that's not the issue; the issue is they..."
"They what?" he prompts her when she trails off with a perplexed frown.
"I don't know," she mumbles. "I lied. I don't know. I don't know what it is; I just feel like I shouldn't be here."
"We invited you!" Wally exclaims as though that settles the matter, throwing his arms out.
"I got that much!" she barks, so sharply that it makes Wally's arms drop down again. She sighs apologetically, dropping her head.
"You're getting the crinkle," Wally says.
She scoffs. "The what?"
"The crinkle," he repeats, stepping closer to her. He illustrates what he's talking about by pinching the area between his eyebrows until it folds slightly.
Artemis stares at him.
"Crinkle gone," Wally declares triumphantly, grinning (and she can see all of his teeth, white, and smell the spearmint). "Nah, but it's – y'know, it's what you get right over your nose when you're mad at me, or starting to think I'm crazy, or—"
"I get it," Artemis mutters, switching her eyes to the floor.
Wally puts his hands in his pockets.
"Babe, they love you," he insists gently.
"Barry didn't think I was even going to come," Artemis argues mulishly.
Wally snorts loudly.
"Well like... honestly, none of them did," he tells her carefully, and her head jerks up. "But not in a bad way!"
He tentatively pulls her fingers into his and holds them there, ducking his head to meet her eyes whenever they start to stray.
"They just figured you didn't, uh, that you don't feel comfortable around them," he explains. "And they understood that. Obviously they were a little bummed, yeah, because they like you, I solemnly swear to you they do; they never shut up about you – but like, they respected that maybe you wouldn't want to come. And now that you're here, it's... They're – we'rereally happy. Because you're awesome and kickass and gorgeous, and you make me look like an idiot, so they think you're basically the best thing since sliced bread and they want you to stay forever."
"You didn't need to cram in any compliments, Wally," Artemis sighs, wrestling back her smile.
Wally's face falls.
"That's all you have to say?" he practically squawks.
Artemis responds by grabbing his face on either side and kissing him, holding him there as she pours every "thank you" she can muster into it. It's swift and concise and when she pulls back, and grabs his wrist to lead him back out into the living room, she's smiling.
Halfway through dinner, Artemis is convinced that Mary West has been bestowed with miraculous powers from some deity somewhere, because Mary West has shelled out two helpings to her even out of the whirlwind five to six ones for the three speedsters at the table.
Also, said helpings are debatably the most delicious food she's ever had. More miracles. The table has been arranged so that all of the pairs are facing each other; Joan, Artemis, and Iris on one side and Jay, Wally, and Barry on the other, with Mary and Rudy at opposite heads. It's tight and familial and cozy.
"So tell me, Artemis," Iris says aside to her in a conspiratorial tone, "Have you actually gotten to the point yet where you can stomach watching them eat?"
Artemis snorts and gravy almost comes out her nose. She and Iris look at the men opposite, who are shoveling turkey in at an alarming rate (except for Jay, bless him, conditioned to eat just one notch above normally after decades of Joan's diligent training), and have to hold in their guffaws, doubling over.
Artemis likes Iris.
"I try to carry a bag around with me just in case," Artemis quips through her sniggers. It makes Iris giggle.
"Hey, Kid, I think the ladies are laughing at us," Barry mutters to Wally, shooting suspicious glances at the chuckling Artemis and Iris.
Wally glances up from his concentrated efforts to get all of the dressing into his mouth in one go. At the sight of Artemis making such a valiant effort to contain herself that it's bringing her to giggly tears, he softens.
"I also think you're oozing sap out the ears," Barry adds plainly, starting to return to his food.
"And I think you suck," Wally sings back, digging his elbow into Barry's side.
"Boys, behave," Jay chides them, winking across the table at Joan, whose eyes crinkle together with her smile.
"Anybody want more?" Mary asks over the din. "I don't want Rudy to have more leftovers than he deserves."
"Even on national holidays she wounds me," Rudy laments, clutching at his chest (and the line, and the action, are reminiscent of Wally, Artemis thinks; it makes her grin to herself).
"Me!" Wally shouts, raising his hand. Jay wrenches it down.
"This is a family dinner, Wallace; not Chemistry class. Honestly..."
"Oh, give it a rest, Jay; he's a growing boy."
"That's what I keep telling the grocer," Mary quips, passing the mashed potatoes down the line. That gets a laugh out of everyone.
"At least he brings in the ladies," Artemis says dryly, raising her eyebrow at Wally. He lifts his index finger to his throat and draws it in a line.
"At least there's that," Mary says warmly. Artemis glances up at her and she winks.
"It's great to have you here, Artemis," Barry adds, flashing her a winning smile.
"Great to be here," Artemis tells them, and she means it.
Wally nudges her foot under the table with his.
Mary decides to save the dishes for the morning. Barry pulls out an old Hall & Oates record, keeping in the tradition of always having dance-worthy music at a speedster family gathering.
Artemis leans against the wall with the last of her can of Coke and watches them all dance. Jay and Joan manage to make swing dancing look plausible with rock music, miraculously. Mary and Iris laugh through their steps, hands linked, and something in Artemis's chest pangs at the sight of two (sort of) sisters being so happy with each other.
Barry and Rudy watch them go from their spot next to the stereo. Artemis gulps something down and crushes the empty can in her hand, staring at the floor.
Two sneakered feet appear in her field of vision, the same red one with the same white stripes and the same mustard stain on the left laces. Her eyes trail up again to find Wally grinning at her.
"Sulking again?" he teases, shifting over to stand beside her.
"No," Artemis mutters, setting the ruined can down. "Just getting why these kinds of things never really worked in my family."
Wally falls silent. The song cuts to an end and Mary and Iris applaud each other, and hug, and Artemis's throat seems to harden.
The next one picks up, and Artemis recognizes the full sound of the bass and the synthesizer immediately. Barry whoops and grabs Iris at the waist and hand, leading her into the center of the room, and Mary, sparkling smile and all, extends her arm to Rudy, who links his with it graciously.
"Oh man – oh man, I know the words to this," Wally exclaims, stepping forward again and starting to swing his hips and snap his fingers. "Uhhh, what I want, you got to fire around the handle, we're gonna make some candles—"
"Nice try," Artemis interjects, folding her lips in to keep from giving him the satisfaction of laughing. She's caught him dancing alone in the Cave's kitchen enough times to familiarize herself with his enthusiasm for eighties songs.
"The handle in the game, what I got full stop of hot the dreams that scatter—"
"Wally!" Artemis exclaims, letting out a guffaw that practically doubles her over.
"Instead of raining on my parade over there," he says to her over his shoulder as he twists away, "why don't you quit being a sourpuss and dance with me?"
"A sourpuss," Artemis repeats incredulously as she strides forward to join him. "You disgust me."
"I know." Wally grins and grabs her hands, swinging them from side to side, and she, in a dazzling loss of dignity, lets him. "You make my dreeeeams come true!"
"You're a brave girl, Artemis!" Joan calls to her as she and Jay go swaying by. Jay, even in the process of twirling her, nods sagely.
Artemis laughs, and Wally dips her. Her ponytail hits the floor.
"I think this can be our song," Wally decides.
"I'm gonna barf if you pick us a song," Artemis tells him. He grins complacently down at her, and she smacks him lightly on the cheek.
"Too late," he says, and he pulls her up, and Artemis finally decides to let it go.
Mary insists that Artemis stay the night because they're going to have a turkey sandwich feast for brunch in the morning, and Artemis doesn't really want to say no, so after she calls her mom and endures good-natured quips about shared beds and that poor Wally boy having to take the floor, she takes the couch and pulls Wally's old blanket up to her chin and doesn't even think to be embarrassed about wearing an old pair of Flash-themed pajamas.
"You blend right in," Wally says to her when he pops in to bid her good night.
"Yeah, I'm already being assimilated," Artemis mutters with amusement, rolling over to smirk up at him as he leans on the back of the couch, decked out in blue flannel and tousled hair and a smear of toothpaste in the corner of his mouth. "Next thing you know I'll be having dance parties at the drop of a hat."
"No, Artemis, I mean it," he tells her, smiling. "Practically one of the family now. You passed the Hall & Oates test, so..."
"Thanks," Artemis murmurs before she can even think on it. "For having me. It wasn't as ridiculous as I thought it'd be."
"You're welcome," Wally replies genuinely. "Thanks for coming."
"You're welcome," Artemis shoots back at him before shifting away again. "And good night."
She hears Wally shuffle away and the lights go dark with a click, and then he's gone. She can hear Barry and Iris talking to each other down the hall and she's pretty sure Jay is the one who's snoring. It's a different symphony than the sirens and shattering glass in Gotham.
Wally's door closes. Artemis shuts her eyes.