I should have done this a long time ago...
Artemis jolted from her sleep as Wally's voice whispered around her. Frantically, she looked around, a flash of red and yellow assaulted her eyes, but she dismissed it quickly. Her mind was playing tricks on her. Wally was dead. Had been for months. Get your shit together, Crock. He's never coming back.
Shivers ran over her skin as she blinked back the tears. Closing her eyes against the images of him in his stealth mode costume as he swung her up in his arms and kissed her for the first time. Sobbing quietly to herself, Artemis mumbled, “No kidding...” before she drifted back into a Wally filled sleep.
*** *** ***
As the sun came up, Artemis dragged her lazy ass out of bed. She had to go meet the rest of the team. She still had a role to play, maybe not as Artemis anymore, but as Tigress. It was still an important role anyway. Nightwing would be pissed if she showed up late again.
Even though he knew what she was going through, seeing as how he lost his best friend, he still wouldn't accept tardiness. She rolled her eyes and managed to get herself into the bathroom without any incidents.
She looked at her reflection, surprised she didn't even really recognize herself. Though, if she were honest, she shouldn't have been all that shocked. In the last couple of months, she'd stopped finding reasons to groom or care for herself decently. Bags were evident under her eyes from too many sleepless nights. Her once bright golden hair now lacked its usual luster. Her flawless skin she had once upon a time was blotchy and it wouldn't kill her to try to cover it up.
But she just didn't care anymore.
She had all but given up.
Only dreams of Wally kept her going.
That and the closeness she felt to others when she was out saving the world.
She kept telling herself that eventually the pain would subside and she could get on with her life, but some part of her felt that that was a lie. Some part of her felt as though she would never be able to move on. Some part of her blamed herself for Wally's death and for that she would burn in purgatory forever.
As she stared at herself, she couldn't help but remember that day. The playful banter between her and Wally as they joked about going to Paris when the world didn't need to be saved. His joke that the world would always need saving. She had only rolled her eyes, thinking nothing of it. She remembered Wally leaving her side to join his uncle and cousin. She remembered thinking that he was stupid because he was only trying to prove himself. She remembered regretting that thought the second it entered her mind, because she knew the truth; he had nothing to prove, he was only doing what all superheroes do. Save the world. She remembered hurrying to the Arctic with Nightwing and the others to be there. She remembered watching the electrifying beams hit Wally as he tried to keep up. She remembered the smoke clearing after the speedsters stopped running. She remembered searching for Wally. She remembered her fear, her pain, the death grip that was on her heart, the lump in her throat as Barry told her that Wally loved her. She remembered-
NO! Stop it! Please, god, just stop the pain!
Tears streamed down her face as she sent her fist through the mirror. She couldn't look at herself anymore. Couldn't put herself through the emotional suicide anymore. She had work to do.
Wiping her face clean of tears with the back of her hand, she toughened her resolve. Wally was right about one thing, she thought as she brushed back her hair and donned her mask, the world would always need to be saved and she would always be there to do make him proud.
*** *** ***
“Batgirl, Wonder Girl, Bumble Bee, Miss M and Arte- Tigress, you guys are team Alpha, Miss M will take point. The Joker is, as always, wreaking some kind of havoc on Gotham City.” Kaldur didn't even crack a smile at the clown's usual behavior. “Our Beta team will consist of Superboy, Blue Beetle, Beast Boy, Lagoon Boy and Robin, who will be on point for your team. You boys are going to see what Poison Ivy is up to in Star City. Nightwing has sent the information to you already. Safe trips.” Kaldur nodded his head once as he watched The Team disassemble and go to their positions.
He felt Nightwing's presence behind him before he even heard him. Batman would be proud of his prodigy. “Dick, I thought you were still on your 'leave'?” Kaldur put it in quotations because Nightwing hadn't really stayed away the way he had planned. He'd been silently giving out all the intel The Team had gotten a hold of. The only one who knew he was really here was Tigress.
“I'm tired of not really being part of this team. I took my time to mourn Wally and did some investigating. Quite frankly, I don't understand what I found and I need The Team's help- most Artemis's and yours- Oh, and Batman. But that's beside the point. I'm just- I'm back, okay?” Dick shook his head and smirked, “Just stay whelmed, alright? Everything is good.”
Kaldur couldn't help but smile at Dick's usual saying, “If you insist, Nightwing. Please let the rest of the team know that you're back, they would be happy to know.”
Dick nodded once and excused himself to his old room. He needed look over the information he had gathered over the amount of time he was gone. Something was there, but it just didn't make any sense. None of it did. But he would make sense of it.
That's what detective work was all about. That's what all of his training with Batman had been about. And he'd be damned if he didn't put it to good work. He had to find his best friend. He just had to; he couldn't be without his best friend anymore.
*** *** ***
Artemis came back from the mission a bruised mess. Apparently, Joker's henchmen turned out to be better adversaries than any of the girls anticipated. She stretched her aching arm and popped her back as best as she could. She couldn't wait until she could get home and unwind. Maybe she'd even splurge and take a bubble bath.
She smiled at that thought; though it wasn't because it sounded like a nice idea. But because it was one of the best memories she had of Wally. They had come home late from a mission one night and he had run home ahead of her, ever the speedster, and drew her a warm bubble bath. With her consistent pestering, he had joined her in the warmth and they had made love in suds. Her eyes swam as images of his red hair dripping wet as he kissed down her body.
Blinking furiously, she banished those memories quickly. Not right now, Crock. She shook her head and continued into the Justice League head quarters, her mind on one thing. Nightwing. He was officially back and she needed to talk to him.
As she walked up the steps, a shock of red hair caught her eyes and she turned toward it, her mind immediately going to Wally. But one look around and she was sure she was losing her fucking mind. How could a dead person be running around now? They couldn't be. It was just stupid, wishful, hopeful thinking and she needed to let it go.
Shaking her head again, she focused her mind on moving her feet.
Dick Grayson was her first and main concern right now.
*** *** ***
Why can't she see me?
I've talked to her earlier this morning.
And just now, I ran right in front of her.
But she still can't see me.
Can't hear me.
Or at least she thinks she's just imagining me.
Please, Artie. I need you to see me, hear me, feel me.
I need my spitfire to save me.
*** *** ***
“Hey, Artemis, I can't believe it took you this long to come find me. How you been?” Dick's easy smile always put her at ease, but this time she didn't care for pleasantries. She wanted to get down to business.
“I've been fanfuckingtastic, buddy, I imagine you're doing the same. Can we just talk about what you found if anything?” Artemis dropped her orange and blacked stripped mask onto the overstuffed bean bag, Dick had since he was a Robin when he first joined The Team.
He rolled his eyes at her, “I don't see you in months, and you can't care to say 'hi'?”
She only glared, “Fine. Hi, Dick, how's life treating you?”
He smiled, “Not too bad actually.”
A long moment of silence followed before he continued, “Oh, okay, fine. Ready to over it all?”
She gave him a look that perfectly conveyed 'no shit, Sherlock' before sitting down next to him. “Do you think you found anything of use?”
He shrugged, “I don't know, maybe. I'm not the big science nerd Wally was.”
Another moment of quiet but this was in honor of their fallen comrade's name actually been spoken. When Artemis finally spoke, her voice was raw with unshed tears, “M-maybe Impulse can help us with all the- science-y shit.”
His words said he agreed, but his tone contradicted those words to the max. Artemis knew this whole Wally thing was killing him just as much, if not more, as it was her. Tentatively, she touched Dick's shoulder, wanting to reassure him. She felt him tense and gradually relax under her hand.
Glancing back at her, he mumbled, “Thanks...”
His voice caught at the end of the word. Knowing Dick Grayson, Batman's prodigy, the great Nightwing, was crying over the loss of his best friend, caused tears to sting her eyes as well. She wanted him to know he wasn't alone in all this. Slowly, she bent and kissed his head, “It'll be okay...”
He reached up and grabbed her hand, holding it tightly in his own, “Thank you, Artemis.”
“What's going to be okay?”
The disembodied voice startled the two heroes. Separating quickly, Dick hid the intel he had gathered hurriedly. They turned to see none other than Impulse staring inquiringly. “Uh, what, Bart?” Artemis slyly brushed her hand over her eyes, vanishing unwanted tears.
The young speedster tilted his head, watching them as though they were a new species he was studying out in the jungle. “I said, 'what's going to be okay?'”
Artemis completely blanked on what to say, but thankfully she was with the clever Nightwing. He cleared his throat, ever calm, and looked Bart in the eye, “Batman's a little disappointed about my absence, I have yet to tell him I've returned. Artemis, here was just keeping me whelmed about everything.” He gave that easygoing smile and Bart instantly relaxed.
“Oh, okay. Well, good to see you're back!” the redhead smiled and sped off.
The archer looked to her friend, “Nice thinking on your feet, there buddy.”
Nighwing smirked, “You have gotten rusty these past few months I see. You used to be faster than me.”
Artemis gave a weak smile, “But never faster than Wally.”
Nightwing rested his hand on her shoulder and pulled her in for a hug. “We'll find him.”
The blonde sniffled, “Come back to my place tonight, we'll talk about everything there.”
Dick nodded and rocked his friend.
Feeling suddenly cold, Artemis pulled away from Nightwing and looked around for the abrupt chill. Her eyes clashed with Wally's. His bright green eyes staring back at her, filled with pain. He reached his hand out as though to caress her cheek-
“Artemis!” Nightwing's voice pulled her away from the now blurring image of Wally. “Artemis! Can you hear me?”
The archer opened her eyes to see Nightwing's worried face over hers. The back of her head was throbbing painfully and her chest felt constricted, “What happened?”
“You just...fainted. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, yeah I'm fine.”
*** *** ***
Why is he holding her?
Dick would never do that to me...
I did leave her all alone and him, too.
But they shouldn't be...touching like that.
Stop touching her you dick!
I feel the tears burn my eyes, betrayal hurts.
Please don't forget about me, Artie.
*** *** ***
Night had fallen, a storm was brewing; lightening flashing through the sky as the thunder rolled heavily through the heavens. Artemis's house shook with the rumbles and when a knock came at the door, she jumped. Though she knew it was only Dick, she was still jumpy from the atmosphere.
She opened the door quickly and she smiled in a greeting to her friend. “Come on in and make yourself at home.” Dick passed her, and she closed the door behind him.
He turned to face her, “I know you're not going to like this, but we have to be around Wally's stuff.”
She blinked, “What do you mean?”
“Artie, did you move all of Wally's stuff out of your guys's bedroom?”
“Not all of it. I, uhm, I still have some of his belongings in my room, but most of it is in the spare bedroom. When we moved in together, he, uh, he had a lot of things and put it in there. It was his own little world to escape to when we were fighting. I didn't touch it.” She tried desperately to keep her voice even and the tears at bay.
He nodded and took her hand, “You haven't gone in there since he left have you?”
She shook her head, “No,” she muttered.
“Well, there's a first time for everything.”
“Yeah,” she murmured.
Dick sighed and let Artemis lead the way down the hall, a small bag in hand. He felt that if he sat in the room with Artemis and they looked through Wally's things, he'd be able to find something that would help him make sense of what he had found.
He couldn't have lost his best friend. Not yet. Not forever.
*** *** ***
They're holding hands...
What's Dick got?
What's in it?
What are they doing in my souvenir room?
No, no, that's good! I know I left some research in there about other dimensions.
THAT'S what they're doing!
That's what Dick is holding.
He found something, but needs help.
I've got to try again to get Artie's attention. To get Dick's attention.
It's time I got out of here.