It's eight a.m. on a Monday and guess what Artemis is doing? Starting her new job on a sad gray rainy day.
She's been fighting the idea of working there for days, but rent won't pay itself so she had to suck it up and take it like an adult. She had an excellent scholarship at college – the only reason she was able to do it, anyway – but it required her to live very far from home so she had to pay for all of her expenses, and the restaurant she worked in had closed off a few weeks ago.
So now, there she is. In a coffee shop. Could it be worse? No. For starters, she hates coffee. Put a lot of cream and fill it with sugar and she might drink half a cup, but the pure black substance? Eeew. If she's being honest, its smell usually got her sick.
Second, she knows for a fact that coffee shop customers are the worst. She works in the morning so she is positive that half of her clientele will be grumpy office workers that need to caffeine to wake up. And no matter how grumpy these customers might be, she has to be polite and kind and smile brightly at them, the owner had said. Ugh.
So, yeah, a coffee shop might not have been the best idea she's ever had. But it did pay more than any other place she'd looked for and it was really close to the university, so she really had had no choice.
The shop had opened only a week ago, so everything was fairly new and there weren't any usual customers yet.
"Uh, good morning." She says when she enters the store and sees that the redhead that is the nephew of the owner – Wally, isn't it? - is behind the counter.
"Good morning!" He says cheerfully. That's a thing about him, apparently. He's always smiling. Ok, so she'd met him only once before and for like fifteen minutes on the day she took the job and went to discuss shifts, but she doesn't remember him not smiling through all of that. "Would you like some coffee?" He offers when she moves behind the counter with him, putting on her apron. The way he speaks tells her that he might be a little high on caffeine already and she wonders if his uncle knows how much he's gonna to pay for his nephew's free access to the beverage.
"No, thanks." She replies wearily, taking a step to the side so she doesn't smell it. Her stomach has been bothering her since the night before and the last thing she needs is to smell more coffee than necessary to mess up her new job.
He raises his eyebrows, intrigued. "Okay, then." He moves to sit up and gives her a weird look.
"I don't really like coffee, ok?" She says a little rudely because he's looking at her like she's crazy and she's not having that. "It makes me a little sick".
"You did know this was a coffee shop when you signed up, right?" He says it like a joke, but something in his tone just doesn't sit right with her. Like he really doesn't think she should be there at all. She doesn't like it.
"Yeah, well, I don't have an uncle that owes a business for me work at, so." She shrugs and goes to the back to put on her apron and cap, and totally misses the flash in his eyes as her words hit him.
They don't speak to each other the rest of the morning.
"Hello, guys!" Megan says when she enters the shop exactly at midday. "Am I late? I hope I'm not late!"
Artemis is about to reply when Wally moves really fast towards the girl and gives her a lopsided grin. "You could never be late, beautiful, you're the life of the party."
If by party he means the three of them currently alone in the shop, ok. And, yeah, she had almost forgotten that during those fifteen minutes she'd seen Wally he hadn't stopped smiling because he was shamelessly flirting with the other redhead barista.
What as idiot.
"Well, now that you're here, I can leave." She says loudly calling both their attention.
"It's so sad that my shift starts right after yours ends." Megan said with sincerity and a pout. Usually Artemis wouldn't give it much attention, but Megan is just so… adorable? It's hard not liking her.
"So sad." Wally repeats ironically and Artemis gives him a death glare. It goes unsaid that they hadn't actually talked since the first interaction in the morning.
"We'll find time to talk later." Artemis promises with a – surprisingly not forced – smile. She really does need more friends and Megan seems to be the kind of person to be friends with anybody.
If she can stand Wally, Artemis definitely has a chance.
"Okay, have a good day, Artemis!" Megan waves as she puts on her apron and goes behind the counter.
Wally just turns around and so Artemis does the same.
It's been three weeks and Artemis can honestly say that her favorite days are Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, because while her shifts are everyday in the morning, Wally's are all day on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and as he annoys her to no end without even trying, she's glad for the three free days she has.
During those days, the full-time shift is Zatanna's and that's also a good thing because she came to really like the brunette. They had good conversations but could both stay quiet when needed as well.
Today, unfortunately, is Monday again, so she has to deal with Wally. At least there are lots of customers as soon as it opens so she can focus on that – the bigger the smile, the bigger the tip, and not even Wally can mess up with her finances.
"Good morning, sir, how can I help you?" She asks in an extra cheery voice and tries not to sound fake.
"Good morning." They guy responds with a smile and it gets easier because kind customers are nice to deal with. "A mocha and a bagel, please." He says all that without taking his sunglasses off and Artemis can't say it doesn't bother her a bit. "Also, is Wally there?"
She stops dead. The first nice customer had to be a friend of Wally's. "Yes, he's in the back. He'll be right here, uh…"
"Dick." She raises her eyebrow and can see why they're friends. "It's short for Richard." She nods even though it's ridiculous and proceeds on making his order.
"Dick!" She hears Wally exclaiming happily as soon as the back door opens and she can't help but feel really annoyed at that, for some reason. "What are you doing here?"
"Thought I'd visit the 'super amazing coffee shop that Uncle B. just opened seriously Dick it's been two weeks are you ever gonna stop by' that you mentioned. It's nice."
Artemis hides a small smile at that as she puts the lid on his cup.
Wally looks affronted. "It's not nice Dick, it's awesome. Do you want something?"
"Thanks, but Artemis already got my order." Right on cue, she offers him his drink and his bagel. "Much more efficient than you." She can't help but feel that he winked under his sunglasses and she enjoys way too much the offended noise that comes out of Wally.
"Don't you even." Wally acuses pointing a finger at him as he walks over to a customer.
Dick just smiles at that. "He's not really fond of people ganging up to mess up with him." Artemis just blinks. "I'm really fond of that, though."
She laughs. So maybe meeting his friend isn't so bad.
It's been two weeks since she met Dick and he's a constant visit there. She's sure he only goes there to goofy with Wally, because he rarely goes when the redhead isn't there, but it's good, though, she has company to prank the boy and he tips very well.
Today, of course, she's in the middle of throwing a leftover bread at Dick for helping Wally make a joke at her - how dare he – when Roy comes in.
She straightens up immediately, but he's seen. Wally clears his throat and Dick moves away a little as the oh so lovely manager glares at them. Well, at her.
"What is this?" He asks her and she doesn't really know how to react. She can't risk her job but she was just throwing food at a client.
"Uh, relax Roy." Wally moves forward and tries a smile. It surprises her that he's defending her. "It's Dick, so, you know."
Dick grumbles offended, but complies. "Yeah, Roy, I started."
Artemis is a bit confused at this.
Roy makes a face, like he just ate something spoiled, but nods to the guy. "Nice to see you, Dick."
"You too. It's been a while."
Ok, Artemis is really confused.
"Roy is an old friend." Wally says when said guy goes to the back. "He's… difficult. Hasn't been around much. Uncle B. thought he might need a chance and gave him the job."
"That's nice of him." She says, even though she's not sure it is. It's not like Roy likes her, and it's not like she likes him either, so. "Uh… thank you." She says, finally. Like it or not he may have just saved her job.
He shrugs, embarrassed. "Nah, it's fine. I know Roy isn't exactly the nicest person around here."
"That would be you?" Dick jokes, then, breaking the atmosphere.
Wally smiles charmingly and bows a little. "The one and only."
And Artemis laughs at that, genuinely. Wally is a lot nicer when Dick is around and he might not be as bad as had thought.
"Megalicious!" He exclaims, then, when the redhead girl appears.
It's been almost three months since the coffee shop opened and it's fair to say that Artemis knows almost every employee. They change shifts a lot for personal reasons, so she has had chances to work with Megan a few times and know her better. She has met Conner, the grumpy but kind evening barista, Raquel, the explosive but fun Sunday one, and Kaldur, the vice-manager that is actually there more often than Roy.
So when Wally says he convinced his uncle to give them all a free day for a get together, she is surprised that it sits right with her. If she's honest with herself, she likes all of them – including Wally, even if it makes no sense – so it doesn't sound so bad. Maybe she has made some new friends.
On Saturday morning she meets half of the gang in front of the coffee shop. The others are a bit late – something that always bothered her, but she tries not to show - so they wait a while. Soon Wally comes out of the shop still yelling something inside. "You got it, Aunt I, but I gotta go, bye!" He looks around and smiles excitedly at all of them – by now Artemis can pinpoint exactly how many cups of coffee he's had considering his behavior, and she can certainly say he's already had two. "Everyone here? All right, then, let's go!"
He doesn't say where they're going, explaining it's a surprise, but the fact that he advised them all to bring beachwear leaves pretty much just one option.
As they expected, he takes them to the beach.
It all ends up being a lot better than she thought it would be. Everyone is at ease with each other and she is certainly more open to all the jokes and the stories they tell about their lives.
They sit in the sand in a circle and she learns that Megan lives with her uncle and that Conner has two cousins and that Dick – who Wally dragged with them – has a redhead girlfriend.
She then tells them that she used to live with her mother back in Gotham and that she doesn't know where her sister and father are and everyone is sympathetic and nice about it. It's the first time she has ever talked about her family with anyone and it feels nice. Wally smiles comfortingly at her, and she'd be lying if she said it didn't confuse and calmed her out at the same time.
To break the mood, though, he has the brilliant idea of going for a swim.
She's not ready for what waits her when he takes his shirt off.
She averts her gaze, pretending she didn't notice nor care about it, but she can feel the way Zatanna stares knowingly at her. On a whim, then, she gets up and takes her shirt off. She runs to the water and passes by Wally on the way, but doesn't stop. When she reaches the sea she turns around and looks at him.
It's unnecessary to say that she's greatly satisfied as he trips at this and falls face on the sand.
They spend almost the entire day on the beach. It's a hot day as one would usually expect in California and they're all glad to have a day out with friends.
Wally still flirts mercilessly with Megan, but something is different. Usually the girl doesn't mind, instead pretending she doesn't notice, but now it almost seems like she's uncomfortable. At some point she decides to go take a swim and not five minutes later Conner joins her. Wally is buying food at the time, probably the only reason she doesn't join her immediately, and Artemis watches as the two figures meet each other on the water.
Even in the distance, though, she sees it.
"Are… are they kissing?" She asks loudly at the entire group and soon all heads are looking at the water.
Dick actually raises his sunglasses to look better and then comments. "In the very least, yes."
Wally drops to his previous place, then, a hot dog in his hand. He doesn't say anything and no one asks it either.
Artemis looks at him, sitting across from her, and it's clear he's upset.
And, for some reason, now she's upset too.
It's been almost a month since the beach thing and they never talked about it. The first time she sees him after that he seems to be completely fine. She even wonders if she'd imagined his face then, but the most plausible explanation is that he was simply surprised.
Their relationship has changed a little since that day, though. She knows about his family and his life and he knows about hers. They both go to Stanford, but weirdly enough never met there. He's double majoring in Physics and Chemistry and when he found out one of her majors was Biology he thought that fact was incredible, because together they form a science trinity or whatever nerd thing he'd said.
They still argue and fight frequently, but she's noticed how they don't really need a third person to have a real conversation now. They talk about their friends, about school, about the things they like, and maybe – maybe – he's a lot nicer than she ever expected.
On Friday the day starts with a heavy rain. They had two to-go customers as soon as they opened, but the shop has been empty for almost an hour. Relying on the fact that she probably could, Artemis goes to the back and gets her material. She has a chemistry assignment to finish and she might as well try to finish it now because chemistry simply isn't her thing.
Wally is pacing around – he just can't stand still and she calculated he's had two cups of coffee – and then he stops behind her. She pays no attention, but soon she can feel he's looking at her paper behind her shoulders.
"Cal I help you?" She asks him, bothered by the proximity.
"Well, no, but I can help you. The first two questions are wrong."
"What?!" She exclaims and gets several papers to check it out. "But… here it says…"
"Well, yeah, I know. But you didn't consider this factor." And he shows the part of the problem she hadn't seen.
"I can help you, really. I'm a TA so I'm used to it."
Artemis thinks of saying no, but the shop is empty and she needs the grades and he's majoring in chemistry. She'd be stupid not to take advantage of this.
"Oh right, if you don't mind, I really need help. This course is mandatory in the biology major but I just don't get this stuff."
He sits by her side, then, and gathers her papers and books. He reads the problems and asks her what she understand from them and how she's solve it. He gives her insight on things she doesn't know and facilitates the concepts she has problems with. It takes them an hour – two customers interruptions included – but she finishes her assignment and Wally assures her that it's 100% right.
"If you get anything less than an A+, let me know. I know all the chemistry professors and I'm sure I could sort it out." He offers her kindly and she can't help the smile that covers her face.
"You're such a nerd." She covers it up with a joke.
He gives her a side grin. "Nerd is being obsessed with Star Wars."
And he's a million percent the type of person that would be obsessed with Star Wars, so she just stares at him waiting for him to break.
"Which I am." He complies with an eye roll.
She shrugs. "That's all right. I am, too."
That gets a reaction out of him. "You are?!"
She laughs as she puts all of her stuff away. "Yes, Baywatch. Why so surprised?"
"I don't know. We never really talked about it. What is your favorite movie?"
And then they talk and discuss everything there is to be discussed in the Star Wars universe. They talk about the not-new trilogy and the trailer for the new movie and the fact that they're excited and can't wait to see it in the cinema. They discuss the accuracy of the science shown in it and they move to other sci-fi stories and it's easy and Artemis is confused, but glad.
One customer comes in at one point, but it doesn't break whatever it is that's surrounding them. They continue to talk after the woman leaves and they're sitting side by side on one of the tables and Artemis wonders if it's normal that as Wally speaks she thinks about kissing him?
A lock of hair falls on her face, at one point, and he makes the mistake of putting it back behind her ear. Something stirs inside of her at that and all she can think about is how it's been easier and easier to talk to him and how today's been great and how he looked at the beach. He heart is hammering on her chest and without a second thought she moves her hand to his face and starts approaching him.
He looks shocked and maybe a little scared at this, but just as her mouth is about to touch his, his watch beeps announcing it's midday.
They break apart at that and he looks at his wrist. Without saying anything he just gets up and moves to the back without spending her a glance. She doesn't even have time to think about how this hurts her, because in a minute Megan is opening the door and greeting her happily.
She doesn't pay attention to it. She just grabs her backpack and leaves without saying goodbye.
"It's gonna rain." Artemis complains looking at the gray sky above them. She is mad, so mad, and to be honest she doesn't know why. She just wants to be mad at something – to be mad at him – and thankfully he gives her the chance by being late. She's just so angry.
"Will you chill out? We are going, just give Wally a couple more minutes to get here." Dick replies even though he is looking at this phone.
"He's already fifteen minutes late! We would be there already if he could just be on time for something in his life for once!" She's angrier by the minute and she refuses to address it, even internally. This is not about what might have happened two days before, no. This is about Wally being an idiot and she absolutely hating him.
"He forgot something and had to back home to get it." Dick sighs looking at her. "Just wait a little more, no one else seems to mind." He points to all of their friends that are behind her and, sure enough, they seem all involved in their conversations and not worried at all about Wally's delay.
"What could he possibly have forgotten? It's a street festival. He won't even need money, we all know you're paying for him." She crosses her arms, annoyed.
"I don't know Artemis, but he said he's on his way."
"Why can't we just go without him anyway?"
"We can't just leave Wally behind, Artemis. We're friends and friends wait for the others."
"We are not friends!" She nearly yells and she can feel all of their friends turning to her as she says it, just as Dick's eyes grow a little bigger. "I am not his friend, he's an annoying, self-centered, overbearing idiot that I'm forced to work with for three mornings a week and it already feels too much! So if I want to skip on the 'opportunity' of spending even more time with him on my break, then well, sue me!"
She is angry. She is angry that he's always flirting with Megan, she is angry that he seems to never take things seriously, and she is beyond angry that he almost kissed her two days before then ran away and pretended it didn't happened. She is just angry and even though most of what she said is bullshit, she feels good just crying it out.
And then she hears his voice.
"I…" His voice sounds shaky, weaker than she ever remembers it being, and as she turns around and finds him there, her own voice fails her. She doesn't know what to say and she immediately regrets every word, but she simply can't find it in her to tell him that. "I just wanted to give you this." He offers her two pieces of paper and she glances briefly at them before noticing that they are tickets to the private Star Wars session that is happening a week before the release date. "Uncle Barry has this friend and he got me two tickets and I thought you might…" His sounds out of himself as he speaks, not once meeting her eyes. "But you can just keep both and take a friend with you. I gotta go."
And before she or anyone else can say anything, he turns on his heels and runs on the opposite direction.
She looks at the tickets in her hands and feels a little sick. He knows she's as much of a fan as he is and of all the people in the world he wanted her to go with him. Maybe that's why he hadn't said anything after the almost-kiss, maybe he had this planned, maybe-
She's torn out of her thoughts when she hears Dick clearing his throat behind her. She looks up and finds all of her friends giving her mixed looks.
"Oh, Artemis." Megan says like she pities her and it's officially the worst because she hates being pitied and also because she doesn't deserve it. She is the asshole.
She needs to fix things before it's too late.
"Should we…" Kaldur starts suggesting but doesn't finish his sentence, unsure of what to say.
"I need…" She doesn't know what to say either and looks hopelessly at all of them.
Dick touches her shoulder. "Can you drive?"
"Here, you can take my car. I'll send you a text with our address." He gives her his keys and points to where his car is parked.
"Thanks Dick, thank you so much. I-" She wants to say she'll owe him one, but he just pushes her.
"Just go and fix this. We've all been waiting for way too long."
She wants to reply to what he said, but she doesn't really want to think about what he was implying. So she just sprints to his car and gets in.
She really, really hopes she can fix this.
Artemis gets there before Wally does. She knows that because she knocks and screams like crazy before she realizes all the lights are out.
She sits down on the front door and waits. She's determined to not leave until he gets there because Dick is right, they need to sort this out. This stupid dance had gone on for way too long.
After an hour she starts to get worried. She wants to text him, but she's afraid that if she says she's at his house he won't come. So she waits for another hour and considers calling Dick so he can check on Wally and see if he's alive, but right when she's about to, the redhead appears on his bike.
She gets up and tries to clean her clothes, even though she knows he wouldn't spare her a glance. He notices her when he's merely feet away.
He stops dead on his tracks. "What are you doing here?" His voice is hard, but he doesn't sound angry.
He sounds sad.
"I came to talk to you." She answers nervously. That's a first.
"Is there seriously anything you didn't say yet?"
She sighs. "Come on, Wally, you know I didn't mean that."
"You seemed pretty sure about everything to just be saying it out of the blue."
"That because that was true. You were all of that when we first met, you can't deny it."
He chuckles humorlessly. "Are you kidding me? I was nothing but nice to you and the first thing you say to me is that a spoiled kid who just got a job because his uncle gave it to him?"
She's taken aback by that. "What?"
"Whatever, Artemis, I don't care. Just let me get inside."
She takes a step back and covers the door. "No. We are going to sort this out."
"There's nothing to sort out."
"Yes, there is! I'm mad at you, okay, that why I said those things, but I didn't mean it. I don't hate you and you know I don't."
"Why would you be mad at me?" He sounds honestly confused and she just can't believe it.
"You must be joking."
"What? I didn't do anything!"
"Exactly! Look, it isn't fair, I know. But I thought… I thought that maybe you liked me, too. And it was wrong of me to assume that, but you didn't have to run away and then ignore me. You could've just acted like an adult and said to me that you weren't interested."
He blinks at her. Once. Twice.
"Who said I…" He cuts himself off and runs his hand through his hair. "Let's get inside."
"Uh, okay. Yes."
Artemis moves out of the way and Wally opens the door. She half expects him to just shut it with her outside, but he steps away and invites her in. The house is a lot cleaner than she expected and he tells her to make herself comfortable.
He sits by her side on the couch and she's painfully aware of his proximity. He takes a deep breath and she looks at him.
"You're mad because I ran away after we almost kissed." He says it as a statement, but his voice makes it sound somewhat like a question.
"Of course I am, Wally, are you serious right now?"
"I panicked!" He explains as he throws his hands in the air. "Suddenly you're there getting closer and closer and I was sure you were out of yourself."
"You panicked?" She repeats incredulously. "Ok, so you panic and you go hide in the back. And then what? Forgot my number? Lost your phone? Didn't get my message?"
"I'm sorry." He says tiredly as he covers his face with his hands. "I was embarrassed. Embarrassed I ran away and embarrassed that you would just apologize and say you didn't like me like that and I just. I panicked, ok, I'm sorry."
They stay silent for a few moments and it's so strong they can feel it. Finally, Artemis breaks the ice.
"So I guess we both made mistakes and we're both sorry. Right?"
"Yeah, I think so." He looks at her again and neither one of them can look away.
"So maybe you'd still like to go to the Star Wars session?" She tries with a small smile.
"I'd like that."
And before silence can fill the room again, Wally moves a little bit closer.
"One more thing, though."
His hands move to her waist and start bringing her closer. "I should have done this a long time ago."
She only has time to say "no kidding" before his lips are on hers.
She doesn't really mind.
It's Monday and her shift is almost over and Wally is obviously whining that he doesn't want her to leave. He's a lot clingier than she'd imagined, even though it actually suits him once she thought about that.
When the movement is slow, like today, he'll use any possible excuse to kiss her even though she's always telling him that they shouldn't and that Barry would be mad at them. He'll just use it to tease me later, Wally replies.
The clock strikes midday and in a few minutes Megan is there and Wally follows Artemis to the back to kiss her goodbye after she picks her stuff.
"I love you." He says when they part.
She smirks and can't let this opportunity pass.