I'm pretty sure we all miss Wally. Artemis most of all, but I also think she's stronger than a lot of people give her credit for.
I also think she and Richard have an astounding love for each other, even if it is only friendship.
Artemis rolled over onto her side, feet tangling with the sheets as she spent another night hurt and restless. God, did she wish he were here. Reminders of him were everywhere. She was so tired of his presence, but invigorated by it. When she was at her loneliest, she would imagine that he'd walk through the door, or surprise her on missions. Her eyes burned. She blinked rapidly to deter the tears and reached for his maroon sweatshirt, his favorite. It smelled of him, no matter how many times she held it, no matter how long she pressed her face to it. Chives.
She had learned German and Irish family recipes from his mother so he could have a taste of home on special days. Orange Cake with orange icing was his favorite of her homemade desserts, even though she tweaked the cake with cinnamon. She had made him mashed potatoes seasoned in garlic and dill, and roast beef the day before he…ceased.
It had been two years since then.
The worst part was that she could never kneel at a grave for closure, or visit it when she was lonely. She could not properly say goodbye.
Her sister, kindly enough, had Roy build an altar where his picture was placed and where her family would pray for his rest each time they visited. It had been a long time since she observed the customs, and felt a little strange to start now, but it was perhaps more than appropriate. Her mother had suggested leaving his favorite dishes on the altar as an offering to his departed soul, and they burned incense for one hundred days after his death. She appreciated it. Her family was growing little by little.
And now. Now she had to adjust to life without him, after nearly six years of making room for him in it. She kept making too much food on reflex, enough for maybe eight people, often causing her to eat leftovers for days. Occasionally, Zatanna would stop by to help her get rid of it - or Jade and Lian and Roy, inhaling the food and filling the space of the apartment that had grown too big for her. She needed to go out. She could not bear to leave the apartment to someone else, could not bear to stay in it. The walls pressed on her, the absence of him wore at her and there were entire days of calm bitterness.
Acceptance that he was gone. She knew it in her heart and in her mind. She told herself every day. Death was not an end, but a beginning, and hopefully he would rest well. But her body, her body is a product of training and habit. Her legs were used to circling the table once so she could hug him from behind before eating. Her hands were used to reaching for him under the covers. Her body was used to being the big spoon when they were sleeping. Her lips were used to smiling at the spot he occupied on the couch. Her eyes searched for him as soon as she woke.
And the amount of times she addressed open air, turned to the side to tell him a funny story, was painfully frequent.
Oh, god. Wally.
So, it was time for her to distance herself, once again, from the home she was unable to leave. She rolled out of bed and strolled over to her cellphone. She tapped a finger and slid it across the screen. Who would she call? Who would answer? Zatanna on a mission with Constantine, currently . She had not heard from her in days. She never knew when Jade would show up, and Kaldur was too kind, with a big enough heart that his warmth sometimes smothered her. Though they still remained close, she missed sometimes the connection she had with him in a sea of criminals. They were both so alone in that time, and she was especially alone now. No, it was best to leave him alone tonight. He was busy leading the team, anyway. And she stopped being a part of it. Her fingers slid down the contacts list indecisively. And then they stopped.
Dick. Nightwing. Robin. Richard.
She could meet him. He was working Bludhaven, currently. She could go elsewhere. Leave the town for the night. This was doable.
She walked slowly, glancing as passing storefronts with windows covered in iron grating, surprised at the state of the city. It was warm for a spring night, and the stars were obstructed by clouds and light pollution. Not that that bothered her. She preferred it that way, she sometimes thought.
Her boot-heels clacked as each step was assured and the leather of her jacket was a weighty comfort. She could see why he felt he needed to help the city residents. The homeless were scattered around the tracks in the downtown and the pain was practically audible. Maybe Dick needed a distraction after Wally had…ceased. A change. A new identity just as Tigress was hers. She decided to quicken her pace, as she was supposed to meet him at Bonefish Grill within a few minutes.
She soon came upon the restaurant a large fish skeleton topping the doors. How pleasant. Finding his table wasn't difficult, as he was taller than everyone in the restaurant. She still wondered at how much he had grown in the past few years, toned as ever. He stood to greet her as she made her way over and he kissed her cheek. "Artie. It's good to see you."
She shot him a semi-nasty smile, looking down at the menu. "Don't call me that." They were really gunning for the crab cakes and Mahi Mahi here, weren't they? She happened to catch him looking at her, frowning a little, eyebrows furrowed. "What?"
"You haven't been sleeping well, Artie."
So the circles under her eyes were not that concealable after all. She would have to get a refund on the foundation. "I haven't been sleeping, Dick. And please don't call me that," she corrected him. He would never listen to her, she knew. He listened to no one.
"I'm here. We're all here for you," he said, so gently, assuming that she was referring to Wally's….
"I know." But she had no wish to trouble them. She had accepted his death a long while ago. She was sure of it. "Look, can we just eat? I'm starving."
The meal was delicious and the friendly outing had been refreshing change of pace. She refused herself a lot of simple pleasures lately and was happy to indulge for the few hours she was with him. He walked her out of the restaurant after she paid (he was on a cop's salary and she insisted, as thanks), both ending up enjoying a stroll and wandering for a little while in Melville Park, before going back to his apartment.
He told her stories of the days when he belonged to Haley's Circus, and of the joy he felt high in the air among skyscrapers. They spoke of Wally and he told her when he had first met the speedster, and how much the guy had irritated him, and how much he grew to love him just as she had. He left the windows open while they talked and ate ice cream. It was probably out of habit, that he did so, she thought.
Artemis deposited her empty bowl into the sink, watching the leftover cherry flavoring drip into the drain. "It's been great, but I think I should…" Go home? Go where? She took a breath considering. If she went home, she would spend yet another night without Wally. The night would be filled with restlessness and agitation in an over-sized bed.
Dick looked down at her. It irked Artemis how short she truly was in comparison. Only six years ago he had been a tiny Robin. Now he was a giant. "Spend the night." He was smiling - that calm good-natured grin, with that shaggy black hair waving slightly in the breeze.
Her expression turned stern. "What are you propositioning?"
"I don't know." His hand took hers, thumb running over the back of her hand slowly.
She whispered, "You're my best friend. You were his best friend." That seemed important. He was Wally's best friend. Her breath came quick and she had to fight that inevitable pull one feels in a moment of heat and familiarity. She knew what would entail.
"I still am. I can be both." He had both of her hands now. She found herself irritated by the way she was reacting. His eyes were kind, as if he knew how she was afraid to go to her own home. "Artie."
"I wish you wouldn't call me-" her words caught in her throat once his lips touched her skin.
He began by kissing the corner of her mouth. She surprised herself when her fingers skimmed his back, inviting him closer; his muscles were hard and his breath smelled of crab meat and steak and hollandaise. His meal must have been delicious, she thought and a breathy laugh escaped her.
"What?" His arms slipped around her waist and he held her, tracing small circles on her lower back.
"I wish I had tasted your food when we were in the restaurant."
"That's what you're thinking about?" Laughter hovered about Dick's features. She was unsure if he were exasperated or amused or both. But he lowered his head and kissed her neck, the tip of his tongue swirling lazily on her skin. Her skirt was being lifted, slow enough to let his palms brush her thighs and she sighed. She needed this.
They ran naked into the bedroom in a playful manner, with a tweak of the nipple or a slap on Dick's ass. He grabbed her quick and spun her facing him, touching her and rubbing until she was wet enough to slip a finger inside. He kissed her as she went limp in his arms, enjoying the feeling of him stroking her over and over until she found herself grinding on his hand. And the expression on his face became smug when she pushed him onto the bed and climbed atop, teasing the tip of his penis before allowing him to push into her. Any tension she had left seeped out of her limbs and she let go and luxuriated in the movement. Every time their skin met her need grew and whispered "Harder" and he flipped her on her back, her legs over his shoulders and pounded, sucking her tit all the while.
A ball, a knot built in her midsection and if he kept hitting that place the spot—
A high keening noise escaped and she tensed and for what felt like an hour her mind became clouds and air - little shocks of electricity ran through her and her eyes stopped seeing and she just could not stop shaking. She was slightly aware of his sigh and of the way he collapsed around her, but it was unimportant.
Artemis stared dazedly at him as he, limp now, pulled out and lowered her legs. She reached up for him. He paused, smiled and kissed her deep and long, and she could feel his contentment wash over her. Dick rubbed her back with her snuggled into the crook of his arm until she fell asleep.
She slept peacefully for the first time in months.
She was woken in the morning by the smell of food and the sound of metal things clattering against metal surfaces. Her face was stiff from drool and she was cocooned in blankets like a caterpillar. And she was sure she recognized the voice that was singing quietly elsewhere in the apartment.
Dick. That was Dick. He's singing.
She rolled off the mattress and walked down the hall a little ways, naked still, to find him clad in jeans carefully attempting to flip a piece of toast with an egg frying in a hole in the middle.
"…I want to be what you always needed. Then I hope you'll see the heart in me – I don't want another pretty face, I don't want just- Artemis! You're awake."
"Didn't know you were a fan of Jesse McCartney, Boy Wonder."
"Jesse and I go way back, actually." He snorted, then dumped the browned egg-toast things onto plates, using diced strawberries as a garnish. "Want some eggy-in-a-basket?"
"This a family recipe?"
"Kind of," he brushed a hair back from her eyes. "Alfred taught me. Want to wear my shirt?"
"Sure, thanks." She wandered back into his room, picking her way around discarded articles of clothing and bed-sheets on the ground from where she had unwrapped herself.
She chose a button-down, checkered and blue, and splashed some water on her face before walking back into the kitchen to enjoy breakfast. The cool morning air was nippy on her exposed legs and bottom, but it was refreshing, like sucking in air after eating peppermint candy. Dick pulled out a chair for her at the chestnut table by a window. The sounds of the city awakening and busying itself floated in. She struggled for a bit with the food, as the egg dripped out of the "basket" as soon as she bit into it, and thus spent an exasperating amount of time chasing the yolk around the plate with the olive oil-soaked bread.
Dick looked on, amused. "Do you need help?"
"No." She indignantly stuffed the last of it in her mouth. "More please."
Dick got up to light the stove. "So last night was fun," he said as he pour olive oil onto the pan. "I'd say you were pretty traught." There was a crack as the eggs fell into the circles of bread.
Artemis scoffed, but sobered quickly as she patted her mouth with a napkin. "Thank you for seeing me. For all of this."
He turned to her, keeping the eggs-in-a-basket within periphery. "I wanted to see you. I enjoy hanging out with you."
She stood to lean against him, so she could look into his eyes, so he knew she was sincere. "I didn't talk to you sooner than this because I was busy. Being Tigress. I was adjusting. I barely even talk to Kaldur now. Roy and I only talk because of Lian, I think. And I've fallen out of touch with a lot of people and Raquel is married and…"
Dick cupped her face and his voice was so soft as he said, "You don't need to explain yourself to me, Artemis. I know how it feels to be uprooted." He kissed her nose and she wrinkled it with annoyance, before turning back to the stove. "Missed you, though."
"I missed you, too. I'm glad we're still friends."
Dick laughed, ginning widely. "Me too, Artie."