It was past midnight when Artemis and Doug returned to her apartment. They were exhausted, the adrenaline rush of four days of hiking and base jumping finally taking its toll. To add to their delay, the Lear Jet Bruce had donated needed some unexpected maintenance and delayed their arrival by hours.
Artemis unlocked the door and the three security bolts above them and walked into a pitch black room. Her light timers should have come on hours ago, and all she wanted was a bath and some sleep. She dropped her bags and searched for a switch when the light on her desk turned on with Dick Grayson sitting behind it. Suddenly Artemis realized the room was full. Doug walked in beside her as the door slammed behind him and Conner stepped in front of it, blocking the archer from leaving. Doug became very uncomfortable as accusing eyes lay upon his girlfriend.
"What the hell are you all doing here?" She angrily demanded not one bit happy about the intrusion.
"We broke the code Artemis, we found the source."
She began to sweat as all eyes rested solely on her.
"It's you." Dick started solemnly.
Artemis glanced around, seeing all exists blocked. It was a nervous habit drilled into her by her father. He'd be so disappointed she had allowed herself to be trapped so easily.
"Me? Are you fucking kidding?"
"Don't say anything else babe," Doug jumped in, his lawyer instincts taking over, trying to protect his girlfriend.
She glanced at the sad disappointed looks on all her teammates faces, all except Wally who wouldn't look at her.
She immediately snapped at Tim and the speedster. "You guys made a mistake. You haven't left the lab in days and you're exhausted, you must have missed something!" She pleaded.
"We ran it five times," Tim coldly stated. "It came from your laptop."
She began to shake, maybe in fear, maybe in anger. Conner and Kaldur stood side by side, flanked by Megan and Barbara. Tim placed the laptop next to Dick and he promptly spun it around to face the archer.
"Dick look at me," she pleaded pulling out of her boyfriend's grasp. Frantically she stood in front of him eye to eye. "There's got to be another explanation. You know me. I'm not some kind of spy!"
Wally had remained silent for as long as he could and finally approached the archer. His look was crushing.
"We know you're not, but he is."
Wally reached down at hit a key and her private vacation pictures appeared on the screen.
"He gave you the screen saver as a surprise didn't he? Installed it and surprised you with it. You were probably so happy with the gift you didn't think twice about it."
Artemis's fists clinched, a powerful anger beginning to erupt from her eyes, holding back the tears. She began to shake when Wally gently took her hands.
"We ran it so many times hoping we were wrong. I...I'm so sorry."
She pulled away reluctantly from the speedsters hold and grabbed her boyfriend by the collar.
"You played me. You sought me out and set me up. Everything was a lie, every god damned bit of it. Every vacation, every experience, everything you and I shared was all bullshit. You played me and I let you. Your name probably isn't even Doug is it? Say something you bastard!"
"I'd like my attorney now please," he smiled smugly.
"I don't know what the hell you're smiling about. The FBI is downstairs waiting," Dick smiled matching his smugness "They'll give you your counsel, not that it's going to do you much good. You pissed of the wrong man, one who happens to have an army of attorneys on retainer 24/7. My guess is you'll be ratting out your buddies before they get you to your detention cell tonight."
"Conner would you escort this sorry piece of shit downstairs for me please? Tell King Faraday I'll be down there in a few many to formally request charges be filled."
"With pleasure," he growled and maybe for the first time the man code named Doug Martin began to get nervous. Scenes of broken bones and elevator shafts began dancing through his skull. He couldn't get in FBI custody fast enough.
"Conner wait!" Artemis called out. She stepped into her bedroom and came out with a small box. "I meant to give this to you during our trip." She opened the box and inside was two gold arrows shaped cuff links. A very expensive gift she had wanted to share with him after all the time she had put him off due to her unrelenting schedule.
Conner had his arms secured when Artemis motioned for him to be released. She reached out and handed him the box and he smiled as held it in his hands.
"You shouldn't have," he arrogantly sneered. "If they offer conjugal visits, you need to look me up."
"I don't know how much you're going to feel like it," she evilly grinned and with a speed that even impressed Wally, she kicked the man in the crotch with the strength of a NFL punter. Before Doug could drop to his knees, she grabbed his face and head butted him, breaking his nose, and possibly his front teeth. Everyone winced as blood began to gush from one or two of the orifices on his face.
The savageness of her blow even stunned the archer as she wobbled back before Wally caught and supported her. He always had a tendency to do that when she needed it she thought.
Conner grabbed the broken man and dragged him to the elevator, banging his head on the door frame and adjoining wall.
"My bad," he shrugged and the door shut behind him, however the sound of flesh and blood making contact with steel and mortar continued until the elevator arrived.
Artemis wiped the blood off her forehead and eased herself from the speedsters grasp to address her boss. "Dick let me grab a quick shower and change of clothes; I want to ride with you the FBI field office."
"You know you don't have to right?"
"Ohhhhh yes I do. Don't freeze me out on this...please."
"I wouldn't dream of it," Nightwing replied. He knew this was personal, and he pitied whoever Doug Martin really was, he was going to wish he had never met the blonde; Artemis would make sure of it.
Dick wasn't surprised when he received the email from Artemis requesting time off. Demanding would be a more appropriate term, but it didn't matter. He would give her all the time she'd needed. Thanks to the head-but she had given Doug, she re-aggravated her concussion and Nightwing threatened her that the team would hunt her down and lock her in the watchtower if she tried to go patrolling. Beating the hell of some perps would have felt good, but it would only be a temporary fix.
Artemis had not left her apartment in days. She had ignored everyone's phone calls and texts. Politely but firmly asking Megan for some space, threatening to tell everyone what she saw her and Conner doing at the Christmas party if she tried fazing through the wall. She even told Dick to fuck off three times before grabbing her bow when he tried to enter in through the fire escape. Everyone had made an attempt, everyone but Wally, and despite wanting to be left alone, that made her kind of sad.
She was sitting on her couch in the dark when the latest batch of knocks arrived. She ignored it just like the others, but the knocking was persistent, perfectly timed to be as annoying as possible.
She walked to the door.
"Who is it?" She snapped
"Wally now is not really a good time."
"I know, but I'd like to come in anyway."
"I don't want to be a bitch Wall man, but I'm going to tell you the same thing I told Dick."
"He told me, don't worry. Look I'm not going to stay, but if you don't open the door there is going to be a big mess out here.
She growled reluctantly and opened it.
Wally was greeted with the vision of a very irritated Artemis in pair of grey sweats, Stanford sweatshirt, with her hair in a ponytail samurai style and the glasses she refused to wear because they made her look in her words too geeky.
He hoisted up to plastic bags, one with a gallon of cookie dough ice cream and mint chocolate ship in the other. Wally knew it was supposedly an ancient Vietnamese cure for depression and self-loathing, or at least that was the story Artemis lied when she was feeling down. The perfect mixing of the two flavors in one bite released a chemical that eased away all the doom and gloom she told him. He wanted so badly for it to work now.
"Is that what I think it is?" She hoped.
"Yeah. Figured you could use some about now. Let me go put it in the freezer than I'm out of here."
Artemis closed the door and Wally placed the frozen treats into the cold compartment.
"Give it about 10 minutes to get solid again and then go to town."
He looked at her unreadable grey eyes and decided there was one more thing she needed.
Wally took her in his arms and hugged her as tight as he could. She sat there cold and unmoving, resisting the gesture before crumbling and dissolving into his shoulder.
There were few people in the world she could cry in front of, and the man holding him in his arms luckily was one of them. It made the speedster sad thinking he had been the cause of so many of them.
"Men just suck Wally," she sniffled, tears beginning to dampen Wally's shirt
"I know. We really do." He said sincerely. "I'd give anything to make this go away. I mean it. You don't deserve this."
They stood there for minutes, Wally holding her, running his fingers through her hair cradling her.
Finally he released the archer. "You're going to be ok. I promise. It's just going to suck for a while. Once you testify and they lock that creep up, you'll feel better."
"I know," she sadly replied. It was ironic that the person who had probably hurt her the most, outside of her father, was the one she wanted to be with the most. Karma what did I ever do to you? she wondered.
"Look I better go. Everyone is worried sick about you. Try to return their calls and let them know you're all right. Ok?
"Ok," she smiled. "And Wally….thanks."
"Hey, what are friends for." He gently placed his hand to her cheek and brought her eyes to his. "I know you're never going to believe this, but it wasn't your fault. No one blames you. It honest to god could have happened to any one of us."
"They should blame me. I'm the chief of damn security Wally, and I never saw it coming. You have no idea what it feels like to be played like that."
"Sure I do."
"When?" she impatiently asked, tapping her foot waiting for an answer.
"6th grade. Betty Larson. She asked me to be her boyfriend so that Josh Charles would get jealous and ask her instead. Man I hated that guy."
Despite her herself, Artemis let out a laugh and quickly covered her mouth. "Poor baby."
"No kidding it stunted me emotionally. Set me back…how old am I again?"
Artemis smiled. "Thirteen or is it fourteen, I can't remember."
"It's nice to see you smile. Ok well my work is done. Ice creamed delivered, smile received, and a promise to call the guys soon right?"
"Right," she grinned.
"I'll check on you in a few days ok? And if you run of cookie dough I'm a phone call away. Speedy deliver at your service."
He stepped out the door but a strong hand took his momentarily, impeding his progress
"Maybe you could….um stay awhile. I mean I do have two gallons of ice cream"
"Nah I better not, but it was nice of you to offer."
"Ok well I was going to put in the first season of Battlestar Galactica, but I know you must be pretty busy, with that nonexistent social life you lie about."
Everyone had their weaknesses. Superman had Kryptonite, Martian Manhunter had fire, and Wally West had food and sci-fi.
"Come on kid stomach; grab a cushion I'll get some bowls." She handed him the remote and returned from her kitchen with spoons only, opting for them just eat out of the containers. Wally realized at that moment she must be very depressed.
They sat silently, engrossed in the story that they had already watched together three times together over the years, quietly scooping the ice cream in front of them.
Artemis decided it was finally time to mix the two flavors and release the ice cream's magical healing powers.
"Hey!" Wally protested as she scooped a huge chuck twice as big as the spoon out of the speedster container.
"Quit yapping, I can't hear the dialogue. Plus their mine anyway. A gift if my memory serves."
Wally begrudgingly nodded and Artemis smiled victorious
"Hey this is the part where the hot blonde clone gets naked, do not fast forward this part like you always do."
"God you're a pig," she giggled, elbowing him and fast forwarded it anyway.
Wally pouted, but she noticed the sly smile cross his lips. "Fine, I've seen prettier blondes naked anyway."
They both stared straight ahead at the screen as Artemis began to smile an evil grin.
"What was his name?" she snickered.
"Nice." He replied. "Just served it right up there and you hit it out of the park, that's the Artemis I remember," and light hardily shoved her back.
Artemis did her double scoop maneuver and prepared to take a bite as she studied the contours of Wally's face. He was concentrating on the show, never knowing he was being judged. She was amazed at how much she could still see the teenager she fell in love with in him, while marveling at the man he had become. For just a moment she lost all memory of the fighting, the ugliness, the break-up. She just remembered the watchtower, the good times.
She took the spoon she was about to consume and pushed it to Wally's lips.
"No thanks. Mixing those two is disgusting. Give me just plain old vanilla any-day."
Artemis was not going to give up and Wally finally relented and took the spoon in. Flavor exploded in his mouth, but it wasn't the ice cream. It was her. Her taste. He could taste her lips, her tongue, the sweetness of her breath. She could have given him the just the spoon with nothing on it but her, and he would have been in heaven.
His forehead began beading up with a nervous sweat as he returned the spoon back to her.
"Not bad," he smiled nervously.
Artemis took the spoon and stuck it back in her mouth, licking the remnants left by the speedster off and smiling back, clearly enjoying his discomfort.
This dance continued as they both nonchalantly fed each other, pretending to be engrossed by the program until the ice cream was gone.
Artemis got up and put the second disk in and sat down a tad closer to Wally then before. As the credits rolled Wally spoke directly ahead never glancing at the archer.
"Did you love him?"
She contemplated the question for a time. "No. I really liked him, but not loved. I could have never shared my secrets, my dreams with him. Despite being a grade A douchebag and a thief, he treated me pretty decently."
Wally nodded and continued watching.
Finally Artemis found the nerve and repeated the question
"Did you love her?"
"Who Wally asked?"
"That Linda girl. The one from your vision."
Wally rubbed his chin pretending to be deep in thought.
"Desperately," he sighed. "She was my everything."
Artemis swallowed hard and nodded, disguising her hurt, but quickly becoming annoyed at the smile of the speedster's face.
"What?" she asked irritably
"Her name wasn't Linda. Linda Park was a research assistant back at Stanford. This girl from my vision, her name started with an A, ,art something like that."
They both looked back at the TV, Artemis felling a burst of joy in her heart.
"So..." she couldn't fight the next cheesy line." I was your ninja wife huh?"
Wally shrugged. "Who knows, you have to look in your own shattered mirror to figure that one out."
He placed his hands on hers and reached over and gently kissed her lips. Nothing powerful, nothing intrusive or passionate. Just sweet. Sweet like him.
Doug had hurt her, there was no doubt she would feel the pain for a long time. They had never been soul mates, but kindred spirits. Even if it hadn't turned out the way it had, Wally was something Doug would never be, Wally was a hero. He was her hero. From the day they met she knew it was true even though it would be months before she could admit it
The second episode began and Artemis rested her head on the speedster's shoulders.
"Jai is a stupid name by the way," she smirked.
"I'll tell Mr. Garrick you said that, anyway it was your idea."
"Yep," who's stupid now?"
"You are as always," she grinned.
Hours later, the first season was over and Wally got up and stretched. "This was fun; I need to bring ice cream over more often."
"Yes you should," she grinned. "I have seasons two and three too."
"Sounds fun., but I better take a rain check." He got up and pulled the archer to her feet and kissed her gently on the cheek. "Good night Artemis. I'm really sorry about Doug."
"It's ok, but…thanks. You really cheered me up." She hesitated momentarily. "Maybe when the Doctor and Dick give me the all-clear we could go…you know patrolling together."
She saw the blush immediately cover his cheeks and she knew the arrow she launched had once again hit its mark.
"I'd like that, I'd like that a lot," he grinned. "I could patrol with you several times; maybe make it a regular thing."
They both laughed, but the memory they shared of their rooftop rendezvous both intrigued and excited them.
"You know Wally it's late. You could always stay here. My couch folds out to a queen, and that's where your ass would be, "she smiled. "Because Artemis Crock is not easy."
Wally smiled back and touched his forehead to hers. "You are absolutely right about that. Artemis Crock has never been easy, that's one of the things I've always loved about her."
"Good. I'm glad that's out of the way. Now tell me more about this mirror thing. What did our alleged kids look like, I pray to god neither one had your hair."
Wally sighed as she snuggled into him. The TV never turned back on that night