This started as a drabble for Ranty (TheRantDragon) over skype, but I ended up really liking it and things got out of hand, haha. So I'll be posting this in chapters because it ended up being a decent length. I expect I'll post a chapter every other day.
I hope you all like it!
The pills rattled in the cup as she strolled across the linoleum. It was that time of day again. She'd yet to decide if it was her favorite time or the worst time. Ever since her dad had gotten her this job she felt as if she was on edge. And not only because she was working in a freaking insane asylum. Oh. Sorry. "Mental Hospital". Except she didn't think the patients were getting medical care here, so the term hospital didn't really fit. But she'd taken it anyway, she needed money to pay for her college classes, and there was her nearly absentee father with a job offer. One of his associates needed help at Arkham Mental Hospital. She took the job because she needed the money. But she kept in mind that her father and all of his associates were never to be trusted or taken at face value.
There were always whispers in the corners. Locked doors with mechanical whirring behind them. Men in scrubs who carried restraints instead of stethoscopes. It had been three months and Artemis was certain that nothing was as it seemed. But money was money, so she'd kept her mouth shut and doled out medicines like a good little helper.
But it was that time of the day where her resolve to sit back was tested. She could handle the black haired boy in room B13 who raved about clowns and clocks. She could handle the girl in B11 who spent all day in her bathtub. But in room B03 there was a boy whose green eyes and desperate words gnawed at her. And day after day as she brought his drugs, she continued to wonder what was really going on here.
She balanced the cup of pills in her elbow as she pressed the keypad on his door, waiting for the green light and the resounding "click" of multiple thick locks retreating before she shouldered the door open. He was awake, as usual, and grinning widely as his eyes set on her.
"Beautiful! I missed you!" He rejoiced, grinning at her from his desk where he was scribbling chemical equations. Wally West had bright red hair and the greenest eyes Artemis had ever seen. He was also extremely attractive, one of the reasons she'd first given him the time of day, with a sharp jawline and a smattering of freckles over his pale cheeks. His diagnosis was "delusions of grandeur" but Artemis always thought that he was the most reasonable patient she'd met. He scrambled from his desk as she said her hellos, dropping the cup of pills on the scrap pieces of paper before he got to her. He was tall, maybe half a foot taller than her, and the first time she'd met him she'd been tense as he neared, but she'd learned by now. He just wanted to hug her. His arms wrapped around her frame and he squeezed her jubilantly. She returned the hug carefully, although not as enthusiastically. As much as he was tall, the boy was thin, gaunt even. Despite the piles of food that were brought into his room every day, far more than any other patient, he still looked frail. She feared that if she embraced him too tightly he'd break underneath her grasp.
Wally finished his hug and grabbed Artemis's arm, tugging her over to his desk so he could show her what he'd been working on. Artemis didn't indulge her other patients. She didn't take the time to get to know them, or talk to them. But Wally West was a chatterbox with a big smile, easy on the eyes, and who spoke to her like he would a friend. And Artemis didn't have a lot of friends. She'd wondered once what made him see her differently. She'd seen him interact with some of the other assistants, some of the doctors on his bad days when he took a swing, yelled and raved and spit out his pills in a fit of frustration. He had a mean right hook and a glare to be reckoned with. He treated everyone else like they were imprisoners. But he'd always greeted her with a smile. So she'd asked once.
"Wally," She'd interrupted him explaining the equations used to calculate mach speed.
"Yeah, Arty?" He smiled, grabbing a chip from the bag she'd brought him from her own lunch.
"How come you're so nice to me? You aren't nice to anyone else," Artemis spoke slowly, worried she might break the strange friendship they seemed to have.
Wally seemed to muse on the question for only a moment before his blinding grin returned, "Because you're not like the rest of them. You have a hero's heart. Like me," He finished, as though it explained everything. It didn't, but Artemis didn't press any longer.
"What are you calculating today, Wally?" Artemis smirked, looking over the chicken scratch of equations all over the papers. She picked one up and her eyebrows rose. She recognized this from her biochemistry course at Gotham University. A chemical equation for making the chemical compounds used in particle accelerators.
"I'm going over the stoichiometry involved in how I got my speed," He answered casually, stepping over to grab the cup of pills she'd brought. Other patients got the little mouthful cups of pills. Wally West got a whole slew of big pills and lots of vitamins, you had to use a drinking cup to bring him his medicine.
Artemis just nodded as he mentioned his speed. Despite the reason for him being at the hospital, she tried to avoid talking about it as much as possible. If only because it reminded her why he wasn't sane. He was convinced that he could run at the speed of sound. Although he never showed any physical ability to do so. If it weren't for that, Wally seemed perfectly sane and coherent to her.
In fact, sometimes she snuck in her college homework and he would help her. He loved science, and he seemed to love helping her as much as she loved getting her homework done. She knew he was smart, a genius even for remembering as much as he did without having access to any materials for the year he'd been in the hospital. But the accelerator compounds he'd scribbled. That was strange. Because the particle accelerator had only been invented in April. She remembered because it had been all over the news. But Wally had the science for it scribbled here in his hospital room. And he'd been locked up since June of the year before.
So how did he know these things?
"What did you do before you came here, Wally?" Artemis asked, realizing suddenly that she had no idea. Maybe he had been working on that project? Maybe when he lost his sanity it was how he got stuck on the idea of super speed. The particle accelerator.
"Uh," The redhead sat down, frowning as he concentrated. Oh, right. The drugs they kept to suppress his delusions also floundered a lot of his memories, "I know I was in school, and I had a job. A secret job," His face scrunched up as he tried to dig through his thoughts. Artemis stayed silent, letting him think. "No one could know about my job. But I know that I..." He closed his eyes and hummed, "I helped people,"
Well it wasn't much help, but Wally smiled, pleased that he had remembered, so Artemis smiled back at him because his dumb grins were kind of contagious and adorable.
"Did you do okay on that french test?" He changed the subject.
"Yeah I got an A, no thanks to you," Artemis snorted.
Wally laughed, "No Way! I totally helped!"
"The test was on conjunctions! You only know food!" She pointed out.
"Food is very important," Wally insisted, looking all for the world like he was speaking a psalm. Then he tilted his head, curious, "Did you bring me anything today?"
"Why would I bring you anything. You're a human garbage disposal it doesn't go anywhere," She rolled her eyes.
"Artemissssss" He whined, looking very much like a puppy. What a dork.
"Do you even know how much food I waste on you?" Artemis shot back, reaching into her back pocket and grabbing the protein bar she'd brought him. He grinned and tore into gleefully.
"Do you even know how much homework I've helped you with?" He repeated, speaking around a mouthful of food.
Then her watch beeped. She'd run out of time, she had to get to her other patients or risk the wrath of her boss, Hugo Strange. Wally frowned when he heard the noise as well, he knew what it meant.
"Alright West, you need to take your meds or I can't leave," The blonde sighed.
"I'm totally cool with not taking my meds and you not leaving," He shrugged.
"You know that isn't an option," She responded, growing serious. She'd questioned Hugo about Wally before. Wondering if he was really insane enough to be held at the hospital. She'd nearly lost him as a patient for that, "If I can't get you to take these then I won't be the one bringing them to you anymore. Which means you won't see me at all," Artemis didn't want to voice it, but it would also mean that she wouldn't get to see him either. And she really did enjoy spending time with him.
Wally nodded dejectedly, reaching for the cup with a hesitant hand. Artemis watched silently as he worked through the bunch, swallowing a few at a time until there were none left, "Happy?" He deadpanned. Artemis pursed her lips, feeling awful. She knew he hated taking them, how confused he got. Most of the time his distaste for them were the reason for his outbursts.
"I'm happy that I'll get to come see you tomorrow," She finally told him, gaining a small smile from the redhead. God, he made her such a sap.
Artemis stood, grabbing the empty cup and staring at the particle accelerator equations once more, "Can I take this?" She asked on a whim.
"If I get a goodbye hug," Wally smirked. Artemis rolled her eyes but obliged him. He always got a goodbye hug anyway, even though he didn't always remember it. She suspected their embraces were the only human contact that he got, and it made her all the more willing to let him have it, if only because he seemed to crave it so much.
He held on to the hug longer than she did, but time was running short and Artemis really needed to get to Tula in B11. So she pulled away and carefully folded up the equation to stick in her pocket.
"I'll see you tomorrow Wally," She told him, unlocking the door with the keypad once more. Wally waved and sat back at his desk, a sad smile on his face.
"Artemis did you do this?" Her teacher asked with awe. The blonde shook her head, glad that she'd waited until the end of class to talk to Dr. Corver; the other students had left the lecture hall and in five minutes, new students would start filing in. Mrs. Corver was her biochemistry lecture professor, a kind, brilliant woman. It was her that Artemis had brought Wally's equations to.
"Someone...I know did this," She started, trying to decide how to phrase what Wally was to her. Because 'mental patient' didn't seem like the right way to go.
"This is incredible," Dr. Corver breathed, pulling her glasses down from her head to peer closer at the scribbles, "I mean, I've seen equations like this, but none so elaborate,"
"They're equations for the particle accelerator in Central City, right?" Artemis cut in, reaching out to circle a few choice chemical compounds with her finger. Her professor nodded absently.
"Yes, however…" She dropped off, blinking numerous times as she processed them, "Not, exactly," Her finger was following the letters and numbers, working out their purpose as she read.
"How so?" This had caught Artemis's attention. This is why she'd brought the equations out of the hospital. It was so strange that some boy had conjured up such advanced chemistry without a thought.
"I can't tell, exactly," The professor mused, "But these are more theoretical than factual. The equations used for the particle accelerator were based on reactions between compounds, molecules, and electrical energy provided by the machine," She took one of the pens off of her podium and circle a series of chemical reactions near the bottom right corner of the page, "But these. These are theoretical reactions between compounds, molecules, the citric acid cycle, and the neurological impulses of the human body,"
The teacher might have said more, but Artemis froze. She knew enough about chemistry to tell her where it was going. What these equations were saying. But maybe...No. She had to be sure.
"So what, theoretically, would this kind of reaction create?" Her words caught in her throat, her mouth dry. This was all too surreal.
Dr. Corver gave a small breath as her eyebrows furrowed, "I suppose this would theoretically create a particle accelerator out of the human body. Speeding up all body processes, possibly, or who knows what else,"
Artemis knew what else. She found herself reaching for the paper, suddenly, inexplicably protective of it. Of Wally. Dr. Corver seemed hesitant to relinquish it and she spoke up as Artemis tucked it away in a pocket once more.
"I would love to meet whoever wrote this," She said wistfully, "To study this a little more,"
"They don't live in town," Artemis shot back quickly, backing up to make her leave.
The woman nodded, noting her hesitation, but then spoke up again, "You know, there's a guest speaker coming to the physics classes next week, maybe he could tell you more about this. I think he's worked a little on the particle accelerator,"
That got Artemis to stop, halfway to the door.
"His name is Adam Strange. He specializes in Zeta Beam research but he might be of some help," She smiled. This is why she liked this teacher, always being helpful.
"Thank you, Dr. Corver," The blonde told her, sincere.
This was proof, after all, that maybe Wally West wasn't as insane as she'd been told.
"Wally, how did you get your super speed?" Artemis asked him. It had been three days since her talk with Dr. Corver and she couldn't get it out of her head. Wally was currently making an origami fortune teller for them to play with since she had managed to take her lunch break in his room. Although her boss was probably unaware of the fact. Wally made another careful fold in the paper before he answered.
"I blew myself up," He told her nonchalantly.
Artemis almost gagged on her apple slice, "What?"
"The chemical reaction that gave me my powers kind of, well, supercharged me. But I couldn't drink the chemicals or inject them or anything. The solutions were largely harmless on their own, if only a bit volatile. It was only when they reacted explosively that the correct charges and ions were created. A bolt of lightning would have done it nicely, but I didn't have one handy," He shrugged, "So I just let them blow up and...Tada!" He grinned, revealing the finished fortune teller as he finished the story.
It was ridiculous. Ridiculous theoretical science. But Wally had a way of explaining it that made it sound just so...feasible. She had to remind herself that while the science might be correct, she'd yet to see any superpowers. But while it was still insane for him to think that he had super speed, it wasn't nearly as crazy for him to think that if he'd been working on experiments to create it.
"Okay pick a weapon," Wally told her, scooting his chair closer and holding out the fortune teller in his hands. Artemis smirked but leaned towards him to play. There were four choices. Sword, bow and arrow, hammer, and gun.
"Bow and arrow," Artemis decided, pointing to the leaf of paper. Wally hummed and moved the flaps of the fortune teller a number of times, Artemis didn't bother counting. Finally he landed in one position and paused to grab a large mouthful of sandwich. The blonde rolled her eyes and ate another apple slice.
"Okay," He mumbled, his mouth still full of sandwich, "Pick again,"
There were two choices, Einstein and Darwin.
"Darwin," She snorted. Of course, he had to fit science into this thing somehow.
"Good choice," He commended, taking his hands out to carefully open the flap, "And your fortune is…" Wally paused with a grin, "You are one of a kind!"
Artemis smiled, feeling a flush come to her cheeks. She covered it up by slugging the redhead in the bicep, "That's not a fortune, you dork!"
"If you don't appreciate my fortune telling than I won't tell you your fortune anymore!" Wally threatened with a laugh.
"You haven't told a fortune at all yet!" Artemis defened. Wally threw his hands up in mock frustration. She was still laughing when her watch went off again, the response was instant. Wally's face fell, "I've got to go, Wall-man," Artemis sighed, collecting her trash from her lunch and his off of the desk.
"I'll see you tomorrow, right?" He questioned hopefully.
"No, I'm not scheduled tomorrow. But I'll be back the day after that, alright?" The blonde gave him a smile and he managed to give her a half-hearted one in return.
"Yeah, okay," He sighed, standing up to give her a bone-crushing hug.
"Don't give them any trouble while I'm gone, alright?" She joked, returning his hug and wishing that she couldn't feel his bones standing out so easily under his skin.
"Aw, what's the fun in that?"
It had been three days since she'd been at work. And Artemis was starting to feel a bit antsy, a bit worried. She'd told Wally that she would be there the day before, but her Mother had needed help with her ratchety dishwasher, so she'd called in sick to go assist her. The blonde shifted her ID card in hand as she clocked in, wondering who she would have to deal with first.
"Artemis!" It was Harley, one of the psychologists. She was rushing towards her and she looked rather flustered, "Finally you're here! We need your help in B wing!"
Artemis's heart dropped but she nodded and followed the woman without complaint. It was a short run, most of her patients were in B wing so she always came into the building through the closest entrance, "Who is it?" She asked, a little breathless from the sudden sprint.
"It's West. B03. He's having a fit, escaped into the hallway," Harley explained curtly.
Oh God. Not Wally.
The blonde could hear the commotion as they drew closer, a lot of scuffling and yelling.
"What did you do to her!?" Wally's voice carried down the hall, "WHAT DID YOU DO?!"
Finally they turned the corner and Artemis could see the situation. There were probably a dozen people in the hallway outside of Wally's room, all surrounding the redhead, trying to grab him. A few had syringe pens, likely filled with a sedative. One man had a grip on Wally's arms but the redhead doubled over and flipped him like he was nothing. When another reached out Wally ducked, grabbing the man's arm in two places and tossing him over his shoulder without a blink. His face was red with rage and his hair pushed back and wild, he was far from the man she was used to talking to every afternoon. But somehow it seemed natural to him, the way he was fighting off a slew of men without thinking twice, his movements precise and practiced.
"She's here!" Harley called out, catching the attention of a few of the orderlies trying to subdue Wally, "Artemis is here!"
Her? Wally was yelling for her? Artemis almost stumbled as she made the last stretch towards the redhead. Well if they wanted her help, Artemis was perfectly fine with stopping the attempted beatdown on Wally.
"Wally!" Artemis called out, skidding to a stop and running into a nurse on the edge of the fray. She pulled on the man's sleeve and tried to step past him.
She could see Wally falter in his defense, following her voice, searching for her. It gave the others enough time, one grabbing Wally around his shoulders while another stepped up and emptied the syringe into his bicep. Artemis gave up being polite and shoved people out of her way as she pushed to him, Wally looked terrified, his eyes wide his limbs shaking. He registered the syringe being pulled out of his arm and he jerked away from it, trying to rub at the spot.
"Wally!" He turned to her voice again, his face filling with relief as he spotted her. Artemis stepped up and reached for him, for his shoulders, wanting to calm him, he grasped her forearms in response, searching her face with strained features, "It's me, Wally. Calm down," She spoke gently, the orderlies still buzzing about around them.
"You're okay?" He asked, his voice hoarse. Who knew how long he'd been yelling. Artemis nodded, reassuring him as she watched his eyes begin to cloud from the sedative, he blinked it away, "You weren't here, you weren't-" Wally mumbled.
"I know, but I'm here. I'm fine. Everything's okay," Short sentences, keeping it simple. His rage was calming, she knew, but his muscles were still tense, his attention sharp.
"It's not okay," Wally reiterated, his green eyes drilling into her, "You can't trust them. I'm not supposed to be here," His speech was fast, and growing faster, it almost felt like his body was humming with energy wanting to burst from his skin, "You can't trust them. Youcan'ttrustthem. Youcan'ttrustthemyoucan'ttrustthemyoucan-"
The drugs were starting to take effect and Artemis kept hold of him as he swayed on his feet, his eyes glassy, still trying to watch her, still trying to tell her. Two male nurses caught him as he finally fell, his body losing the battle with sedatives.
His lips still moving as he lost unconsciousness.
"Artemis" Harley caught the blonde out of her stupor with her voice and a hand on her shoulder, startling from the touch.
Artemis swallowed a few times, her mouth dry as she watched the men carry Wally back into his room, the door closing behind them, "What happened?" Her words felt weak.
"Let's talk in my office," Harley offered, drawing Artemis away and guiding her down towards the woman's room. Artemis had been there before a few times when Harley wanted updates on some of the patients. It felt small with all of the decoration, the whole office filled with circus paraphernalia. Honestly it kind of creeped Artemis out but she felt so distracted it didn't even register as she stood numbly around the decor.
Artemis was gently pushed into a bright red cushy chair before Harley took a seat behind her desk, "What happened?" The blonde tried again.
"The assistant who took your shift yesterday wasn't familiar with the patient," Harley spoke with a clinical tone.
Wally. Artemis wanted to correct her. His name was Wally.
"They were unaware of his distaste for his medication and he was able to trick them into thinking that he had taken them, when in reality he had not," She continued, her voice impassive, "The delusions returned. This time they took the form of some sort of hero. He believed that we had harmed you and that he needed to save you,"
Harley was silent for a moment and Artemis let it sink in. It made sense, in a way, he didn't get his medications and he had a delusion of grandeur, like he always does. But his words were still ringing in her ears.
"You can't trust them"
"Artemis, do you know why he would have such a fixation on you?" Harley's lips were pursed and Artemis abruptly felt on the defensive. This wasn't just a debrief, this was an interrogation. If Artemis wanted to continue to have Wally as her patient, she needed to downplay their relationship. It wasn't safe for them to have the person who brought him his meds be his friend, it was too risky that he could convince her that he didn't need to take them.
"I am a constant part of his routine," She started confidently, her words chosen carefully. She tried to keep eye contact, "Sometimes I will bring him more paper or pencils if he runs out. I believe he thinks I am his friend," The words felt like acid in her mouth. Like a betrayal. Wally was her friend. Even if it was unconventional, "I had told him that I was scheduled to work yesterday, but my sudden disappearance, in line with the loss of his medications likely had something to do with his choice of fixation,"
There. Clinical, detached, and logical. Artemis held her breath that it would take.
Harley nodded and seemed to accept the reasoning, "He seems to trust you, for whatever reason," She frowned and Artemis found it odd. Wasn't a patient's trust a good thing to have? "We can use that to make sure he keeps up with his medications and to reduce his outbursts,"
Artemis nodded obediently.
Harley checked her watch, "He will likely wake from the sedatives after the next hour. Make your rounds quickly to your other patients first and then please visit him afterwards. Keep him pacified,"
Her orders were strict and clear, so Artemis nodded with a "Yes, Ma'am," before leaving the office and taking a breath of relief.
For now, at least. She could be the buffer between Wally and the higher ups. She could be some sort of ally to him and keep him out of trouble. She could try to protect him.
And maybe when he woke up in an hour she could convince him to protect himself.
Artemis was sitting next to Wally's bed, watching him with a scowl. She wished that she didn't have so many questions. About him. About this hospital. She glared at the empty cup on his nightstand. The nurses had evidently given him his pills while he was unconscious. It wasn't the safest route, but they were likely desperate to keep him under control.
What had she gotten herself into?
"Nggh…" Wally moaned, scrunching his eyes up as he came to. He tossed a bit in his bed, still struggling with consciousness.
"Wally, wake up Wally," Artemis coaxed. His features eased and he finally opened his eyes.
"-Mis," It was a grumbled statement, but Artemis still nodded.
"Hey there knucklehead. You've had quite the afternoon," She tried to smile but it came out as more of a grimace.
Wally sat up with a huff, rubbing his arm where he'd been given the sedatives, "Yeah I, I kind of remember," He frowned, thinking, "Wait. You were hurt?" Wally was suddenly wide awake, looking the blonde over, searching her for injuries.
"No! No I'm fine, Wally," She gave him a small smile, "You got into a bit of an...altercation with the staff. You didn't take your medicine yesterday,"
That seemed to catch his full attention, his eyes sharp like they'd been earlier. The medicine must not have come to full effect yet, "I don't want to take my medicine," He declared forcefully, "It makes my head foggy and I don't trust them," Wally growled the last statement and Artemis felt her heart clench with the familiar phrase.
"Who is them? Who don't you trust?" She pressed. She was past the point of stepping into the flames, so she figured she might as well burn for a while.
"Them!" Wally rose his voice, "Everyone here! I'm not a patient I'm a prisoner! I don't belong here, Artemis!" He was leaning forward, looking outraged, but Artemis had no fear that he would lash out at her. Though she couldn't help but wonder why.
"Why do you trust me?" She asked simply, although the truth of the question dug deeper. With her likely criminal father, and a checkered past of her own, Artemis wasn't used to trust. She didn't understand how this paranoid boy could possibly feel as though he could place his faith in her.
"I told you before, you have a hero's heart," Wally spoke, certain of himself, "You can see what's going on here, I can tell. This isn't a hospital, Beautiful,"
Artemis opened her mouth to respond, how could it not be a hospital? She'd worked here for months, she would know if it weren't.
"Artemis if this is a hospital then why isn't anyone getting better?"
Dun dun duuun!
And before anyone mentions it, yes I am VERY aware that as just hired help Artemis wouldn't legally be able to bring a patient their meds. You have to have at least a registered nursing license for that, even CNA's can't deal with medications. But the story wouldn't work with it any other way, so it had to be this way.
I'll post the next chapter (what day is it today? Friday?) on Sunday.
Please leave a review and let me know what you think!