A/N: I figured there had to be some kind of event that spurred Artemis to accept Nightwing's proposal. This is my take on that event. :P
No One Will Die
The man bursts into the library and shouts, "Nobody move. Stay where you are and no one will die."
Artemis looks up from her laptop and bites back a groan. Great. She has a French paper due in an hour and class in forty minutes, and now there's a holdup—literally. Students are screaming and cowering beneath their tables as four more men block the exits and fire warning shots into the ceiling, but she just calmly closes her laptop and fishes out her cell phone.
It takes less than a minute to text Wally.
Hostages in the architecture library. Don't freak.
A girl is crying into her boyfriend's shoulder a few feet away. The men effectively cover the few exits, running their sights over the cowering crowd, while the Ringleader—the one who'd shouted—peruses their haul.
Wally texts back: WHAT?!
Her phone rings a moment later and she immediately silences it. Two assault rifles swing her way and she ducks her head and pretends to look distraught, when all she really wants to do is slap Wally upside the head.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN?
Hostages. Architecture library. Call someone. I'll figure something out.
His response takes a moment.
Stay where you are. Don't try anything, Art. Please.
His concern would be touching if she weren't indignant at the implication. Like she can't handle this situation on her own, like she needs Kid Flash rushing in (literally) to save the day. She rolls her eyes at the table and turns to Ringleader.
He's talking on the phone with someone. Her eyes shift left. None of the men have masks. Artemis frowns. They don't care about hiding their identity, and that usually means they aren't planning to keep anyone alive.
But what the hell could they want with a dozen college kids? The place doesn't exactly have anything worth taking. This isn't even the main library—it's a specialty one further from the center of campus.
Her mind flashes back to the news reports, stories cropping up about people who stroll into a classroom and kill everyone, just for fun. Fear clenches her gut, and she draws a steady breath to dispel it.
That isn't what's happening here. If it was, Ringleader would have shot first and yelled later.
Her phone buzzes again. Wally.
I'm coming. Don't move.
She glances at the door, at the very deadly gun held by a mustached man. No way is she letting him throw himself into this situation. He'll do more good outside, coordinating with the police.
She texts him that, and his reply takes a moment.
Are you insane? We can take them out.
They outnumber us.
… How many?
Five, counting the head honcho.
He doesn't text back.
"Girlie," Ringleader snaps, and a second later she's hauled to her feet, her arm in his death grip. "What the hell are you doing with that phone?"
"Checking the weather," she replies, glaring at him.
"It'll be raining blood if you don't hand it over," he growls. His gun sways on the strap around his neck, a black reminder of his position over hers.
Her phone buzzes again. He snarls and knocks it from her hand, digging his heel into the screen. It cracks, the plastic grinding under his boot, and Artemis wrenches her arm away from him. "You're in a room full of college students," she can't resist saying. "I guarantee every person here has already texted someone."
Ringleader slaps her across the face. She winces, cheek stinging, as he yells, "Collect the phones! All of them, you hear me? Or I shoot her first."
He stalks away from her, and the couple hiding a table over glare. "Nice going," the guy whispers, pulling his girlfriend closer. She's trembling in his grip, and Artemis has to remind herself that not everyone has been trained like she has.
Normal people are scared in a situation like this.
She's just annoyed.
"I'll handle it," she mouths back, thinking about Wally and how irrational he'll be when she doesn't reply. She probably never should have texted him. He'll get himself killed coming after her. But if he hasn't broken in already, maybe he's listening to her after all. The thought gives her hope.
There are still two men guarding the doors, but the other three are busy grabbing people's backpacks and phones. She counts the hostages. Fourteen, including a librarian. Three of the guys—seniors, probably—look like they could hold their own, but there's no way to know if they have combat training. She can't rely on them.
She hears sirens outside, and Mustache Man grips his gun tighter, slipping away from the glass doors. Ringleader signals and says, "Everyone together in the middle of the room. Now!"
Artemis looks for some kind of leverage. She has a knife in her backpack—just in case—but she'd have to get close to use it. While they're preoccupied, she slips it into her boot, which is good, because a moment later Mustache Man kicks her bag away.
She's tempted to take him out. He's close enough now, but she can't handle him without the others firing on them both.
Damn, she'd forgotten how nice it was to have a team.
A moment later, the power flicks off. Ringleader shouts at his team to stay alert, yells at the hostages to stay put, and Artemis smiles darkly. She does have a team, or at least a partner. Wally's outside helping how he can.
Now she just has to get her bow.
It's only a little dark, really, since it's midday outside and there are a few windows in the place. Still, Artemis takes advantage of the confusion to slip around Mustache Man and dart between the nearest bookshelves. There are only five rows of them pressed back against the far wall, since this is mainly a study area.
She scales the nearest bookshelf and takes advantage of the bird's eye view. Ringleader has already noticed her absence.
"Where's the bitch?" he says, waving his gun around. "Well? Where is she?!"
"S-She ran over there," the girlfriend says, pressing closer to her guy.
Artemis bites back a growl. She knows they're scared, but shit, a little camaraderie would be nice.
Of course, to them, she's just the jerk who abandoned everyone.
"Find her!" Ringleader yells, and Mustache Man and his baseball cap friend dart into the rows. Artemis presses lower to the top of the shelf, hiding in the shadows, while Ringleader turns to a third crony. "Get the power back on."
Baseball Cap is getting closer, and Artemis knows it's only a matter of time before he looks up. She squints at the ceiling and finds an air vent a few feet away. Opening it would be too loud. Unless… unless she creates a diversion.
Lucky for her, there are a thousand books just waiting to be thrown.
She bides her time, counting the seconds until Mustache Man walks beneath her. Then, she kicks a dozen books off the highest shelf, smirking as they crash onto his head. He yelps and falls, and she leaps across the shelves to the air vent. Her movements topple the shelf where she'd been standing, and it, too, hurtles on top of Mustache Man.
The resulting commotion gives her a nice cover, and she kicks the air vent off and hauls herself inside.
Shots ring out, and Artemis freezes, praying they didn't just start picking off hostages.
Then a bullet rips into the air duct, and she knows they found her instead. She shimmies further inside, hauling herself away. The bullets pepper the duct, and a moment later one shoots past her leg, slicing her calf open.
She bites back a yell—damn, that hurts—and keeps going.
She crawls until she sees another air vent opening into a new room. She pauses for a moment by the grating, listening intently, but the place is empty. She chews her lower lip, trying to ignore the pain as she lowers herself into the office.
She finds a spare tie in the drawer of the desk and ties it tightly around her leg. She can still feel blood soaking into her sock, staining the knife she has hidden there, but it's not a major concern.
Not when someone jiggles the door handle, anyway. Then she has other things to worry about.
Artemis leaps onto the desk and closes the air vent, giving the screws a bare twist before ducking behind a file cabinet. It's a poor cover, but she prays they'll look up instead. She fishes the knife from her boot and grips the slicked handle, barely letting herself breathe.
The door is kicked open. It's just Baseball Cap, and even though he sees the closed vent, he still empties an entire clip into the air ducts. Artemis covers her ears, the knife pressed against her cheek, smearing her blood there.
Then it's over, and Baseball Cap takes another step into the office, squinting at the ceiling. Artemis waits for him to get closer, but he doesn't move. He glances around the room, huffs, and turns to the door.
She strikes. Her movements are swift, despite her injured leg, and within a second she's swept his feet and pinned him to the ground. She doesn't waste time; she slams the knife's handle into his skull.
It would be easy, she thinks, to dig the blade into his heart, to make sure he won't get back up.
Instead, she closes the door and stuffs him inside the coat closet, a metal cabinet with a poor lock. She doesn't kill people anymore, not since she left the bad guys. And definitely not since she left the good guys.
Funny how her life has changed.
She turns to the window, a portal to the outside world. Her leg aches, forcing her to limp around the desk. The window isn't locked, but it only opens about three inches. One of those suicide-prevention ones, she supposes. Not like they're on the ground floor or anything.
"Wally," she hisses, desperate for him to hear her and terrified that she'll be heard. She keeps glancing over her shoulder at the door, keeps waiting for Ringleader to burst through, gun blazing.
But a moment later there's a gust of wind, and then Wally's standing before her. For a breath, they just stare at each other. His eyes are wide with shock, and she presses her forehead against the glass.
"Hey, Baywatch," she says, swallowing a laugh. Always a sight for sore eyes.
He looks alarmed, and she remembers too late the blood smeared across her cheek. "Shit, Artemis, what happened? Are you hurt?"
He's frantic and she hastens to reassure him, lying through her teeth. She needs him alert for this, not panicking over her health. "No, I'm fine, it's not mine."
She feels bad, but only for a moment. His expression visibly relaxes and he reaches under the window. His arm is too big, but his hand fits. She grips it as he says, "Hold on. I'll break the glass."
"No," she replies hurriedly, squeezing his hand, holding him there. "Don't. They'll hear us. You have to humor me here."
"Humor you?" Now Wally looks annoyed. "Artemis, you got away, and now we have something to work with. If I break the window, they'll come to investigate, and we can kick their asses. Move back."
She doesn't let go. "They have hostages, Wally. Maybe two of them come to check it out, and maybe they don't, but either way, you only need one person to start firing. Then all those people die."
He pauses, gritting his teeth in frustration. She lets go of his hand and he pulls back to pace, muttering darkly. She taps the glass, and he looks at her again, green eyes flashing. Artemis smiles, and his expression relaxes a bit.
"Hey," she says. "We can do this, but I need my bow. I can take them out once I have that."
"Won't they start shooting then too?"
"Not at the hostages."
"That's what worries me," he grumbles, kicking the dirt.
Artemis grips the windowsill. Every second he takes arguing with himself—with her—is another second Ringleader could use to hurt people. She thinks of the couple, huddling against each other, and firms her resolve.
"Wally. I need it now."
He looks at her, his expression conflicted, but at her stern gaze he pinches his nose and glances at the sky. "Okay, okay. Just stay here. I'll be back."
"Thanks," she replies. Then, like they always did on missions—after they became a couple but before they quit that life—she says, "Love you, Wall-Man."
He stops, clenching his fists, and manages, "Love you too, babe. Don't get killed."
Then he's gone, vanishing in a puff of dust.
Even with his speed, it'll take him a few minutes to find her bow. She doesn't exactly use it every day, not anymore. But she might as well use this time. Artemis walks back to the metal cabinet and yanks the door open, still brandishing the knife.
Baseball Cap is still unconscious, so she pats his cheek with the flat of her blade, "Wakey wakey. Come on, time to get up."
He groans, and she presses the blade against his neck. His eyes shoot open and he stares at her, stunned into silence. She leans closer, holding one of his arms with her free hand. "There we go. Keep quiet, or I slit your throat."
He doesn't speak.
"Good," she says, pleased he didn't call her bluff. Villains these days. "Now, care to fill me in on your plan?"
She pulls the knife back just enough that he can speak without cutting himself. His eyes flicker down, but he stammers a reply, "W-we're just the distraction."
"What?" she says sharply. He doesn't respond, so she presses the knife to his neck again. "What kind of distraction?"
Baseball Cap swallows, "The engineering lab. A theft—"
His eyes flicker left, and he stares. Artemis suspects Wally is back with her bow, but she's gotten what she needs anyway. She knocks Baseball Cap unconscious again, and he slumps against the cabinet, partially hidden by a pantsuit. She locks the door on him and turns to her boyfriend.
Wally raises an eyebrow at her as she steps back to the window, forcing herself not to limp. She winks at him and says, "Interrogation. He'll survive."
"Your family really did a number on you," he remarks drily, sliding her bow through the three inch gap. She shoulders her quiver next and runs her fingers over the fletching of an arrow. Her leg is throbbing, but she feels the familiar rush of excitement. She's equipped and ready to take down some bad guys.
Just like old times.
"Something's happening at the engineering lab," she says, testing the bowstring. She looks up and meets his gaze, grey battling green. "This is just a diversion, and I can handle it now. Get down there."
He folds his arms, "The police can deal with that. I should be in there, with you."
"Police can't get there fast enough. Come on, Baywatch. Or are you too rusty?"
That lights the fire in his eyes. He sees right through her, she knows, but he forces a grin and boasts, "Babe, I never get rusty. You should know that."
"Prove it," she winks. "Meet you here in twenty?"
"You got it."
He kisses two fingers and presses them to the glass, and then he disappears.
Artemis nocks an arrow and goes hunting.
There are still three men left, including Ringleader. They're milling around the hostages, glaring at the flashing lights outside, shouting the occasional threat. But they don't seem in a hurry to attempt anything, and it's obvious no one else has been shot yet.
Artemis drops silently from the air vent, biting her tongue when pain shoots up her leg. She crouches low and adjusts the tie, noting that it's nearly soaked through. One more thing to add to her list of problems.
They didn't bother pulling Mustache Man from underneath the bookshelf, and she hopes he's not dead. Then she draws her arrow and aims at Ringleader, because once she takes him out, the other two probably won't fight.
She looses the arrow.
It explodes on impact, wrapping Ringleader in fifteen feet of solid rope. He crashes to the ground and his lackeys swivel towards her, firing a hail of bullets. But Artemis has already dropped between the two bookshelves, limping away from her last location. She rounds another row and looses two more arrows.
One full of goop at the nearest man.
One burying deep in the assault rifle of the other.
Goop Man drops, immobilized by thick sludge. The last man standing tries to fire, but her arrow does the trick. The gun backfires, and he screams as debris lodges in his body.
"They're dropping like flies," she drawls, staggering forward.
The hostages are screaming again, and a few of them are watching her in terror. She recognizes the look, and wielding a weapon like she is, she can't say she's surprised. She holds up her bow and says, "Hey, hey. I'm one of the good guys. Let's get out of here."
They don't need any more encouraging. As a stampede, the crowd surges to the door. She hears a helicopter flying around, the police yelling on loudspeakers as the hostages escape. It all sounds very official, and she's suddenly exhausted with the whole lot.
She hobbles out a side door to avoid attention, her leg throbbing, and waves away the police officer running towards her.
"I'm fine," she says, but then he's slapping cuffs on her and reciting her rights, and Artemis decides that she's been out of the hero game a long time if she's really not recognizable. How many other blonde girls use a bow in battle, huh?
"What's happening at the engineering lab?" she demands, cutting him off just as he gets to the part about an attorney.
He blinks at her, then narrows his eyes, "Why, is something supposed to go down there?"
"Something already has, Einstein," she retorts. "Kid Flash just ran over there to stop it."
"Back already," Wally says, and suddenly he's standing right next to her, looking remarkably unremarkable in his hoodie and jeans. Artemis pulls away from the police officer, who's openly gaping at him and his sudden entrance, and throws herself against Wally. He wraps his arms around her immediately, pulling her close.
"Get some men to the lab. They're already gone, but maybe you guys can figure out what they stole. Let me know if we should be worried," he tells the cop. His words are light, but his tone belies his concern. "And hey, this is my girlfriend, and she saved every person in there. Care to undo the cuffs?"
"She's a suspect," the cop says, although he doesn't sound too sure anymore.
Artemis rolls her eyes and leans against Wally. He's strong and her leg is hurting and she's missed her class and her essay deadline, and now all she wants to do is go home and sleep. He looks down at her and balks when he sees the tie fixed around her leg.
"Art, what the hell? How long have you been hurt?" he demands. He kneels beside her and unties the knot, brows tight with worry as he studies the wound.
"Since they shot me, probably," she replies, smirking at her joke. Her smirk turns to a gasp as he prods the area around the wound, and she swats his hand away. "Shit, Wally, I'm fine. Let me be."
Wally rounds on the cop, who's just standing there watching. "Well? Get me a medic! And the keys to your fucking handcuffs, while you're at it," he says, glaring daggers.
The cop hands them over, looking mortified, and runs around the building.
"What happened at the lab?" she asks, choosing to ignore that little display.
He unlocks the cuffs, and then he returns his attention to her calf, gently pushing her pant leg up to see it better. "Nothing. I got there, and they were gone. Place is a mess. I came back."
Wally draws a breath, "One scientist dead, yeah."
"Shit," she whispers.
"Hey. You couldn't have known. Don't beat yourself up. I mean, jeez, look at what you prevented! You saved lives, Artemis, just like always," he grins at her, but she can tell it's forced for her sake.
She doesn't feel like smiling either. "They wouldn't shoot anyone."
"They wouldn't shoot anyone, Wally. They herded everyone and waved a lot of guns, but they only fired when I tried to escape. Not when I stood up to Ringleader. Not when they realized we'd all been texting the outside world. Not when the cops came or anything."
"You stood up to—" Wally chokes.
Artemis waves him off. A paramedic is running towards them, followed by the rookie cop, but she ignores them. By the street, Ringleader is pushed into a waiting squad car, and Artemis's brows furrow as she watches them drive off.
"They wanted to get caught," she realizes.
"Why?" Wally frowns, following her gaze.
"I don't know."
Then the paramedic is beside them, asking her questions and studying the wound. Artemis is too busy answering them to speak with Wally anymore, but he's a constant presence as they walk her to an ambulance and stitch up the wound.
Artemis sends him a smug grin when they tell her she doesn't need a hospital.
He sends it back when they remind her to get plenty of rest.
It's not until they're back at home, done fielding calls from worried relatives and old teammates, that Artemis says, "I bet we can track those guys. Once the police realize what's missing from the lab, I bet we can find it."
Wally pulls a blanket over her legs and sits at the head of the couch, settling her on his lap. "Sure we could, if we weren't, you know, retired," he replies, shaking his head. He gropes for the remote and flicks on the TV.
It's a newscast of the Stanford Shooting, as they're calling it. Artemis watches as the couple she'd been beside speak into a microphone about the horrors of it all. They call her a martyr, a crazy fool who somehow saved them all, and Artemis smiles a bit.
Wally, however, scowls and flicks her arm. "Oh no you don't," he says.
"What?" she replies, annoyed at his tone.
"Don't pretend like you didn't enjoy this. I know that look."
"I got shot, Wally. I didn't enjoy it."
He rolls his green eyes at her, "Sure, sure. Except you totally did. You loved being the hero, and you loved the adrenaline rush, and you loved torturing me by being so reckless." He feigns hurt, wiping fake tears from his eyes, and she slaps his arm.
"Oh, stop it," she says affectionately. But she smiles at his words.
That makes him sober, and he narrows his eyes, "No, Artemis. I'm not kidding. We're retired."
"I didn't say anything."
"You're thinking it."
She looks up at him and replies seriously, "So are you."
He rubs his face with a hand and looks back to the TV. The weather's on now, and Artemis remembers Ringleader's sneer as he threatened to make her blood rain. She's itching to find out why, why they hauled a bunch of innocents into a building and let themselves get caught while a theft happened across campus.
She wants to know. She wants to be Artemis again, Green Arrow's protégé, patrolling the streets of her city and taking down bad guys.
She didn't realize how much she missed it until now.
Wally is looking at her like she's already gone, and that pains her, however true it is. They got out of the hero business for a reason—they both wanted to live to old age, to see their kids and grandkids grow up in a normal life, a life where crime isn't their source of employment.
It's a good dream. She just wishes she didn't have to sacrifice so much to get it.
Still, they're in this together. She leans up to kiss him and says, "I'm done, Wally. I promised back then, and I'll keep the promise. You and me, just two civilians living their lives."
He relaxes and kisses her again. She can feel the desperation in his grip, the desire in his lips, and she feels utterly normal.
This is how it should be.
Cities away, Dick Grayson watches the evening news and pauses on the Stanford Shooting. He glances sideways at a picture of their team, the old team, and studies the blonde woman in green.
An idea starts to form.
A/N: The recent (and not so recent) school shootings have been terrible, and it scares me to see how many people focus on the gun issue and not the mental disease issue regarding them. This fic is dedicated in part to the heroes of those tragedies, and I pray to God we can avoid them in the future.