One last mission; that's how it was sold. It was bold, different, dangerous. How could she say no? What could go wrong?
In the end...everything.
Nothing would ever be the same again.
How could she have been so stupid? She could practically hear the cackle of her dead father's voice ringing in her ears.
"You got sloppy baby girl, now you're payin' the price"
The pain had gone from tolerable to excruciating. With nothing left to defend herself with, she was helpless. They'd taken everything; her weapons, her communicator, her clothes. This late in the game there was no hope for extraction. She was screwed and she knew it. So did they.
The demons in white huddled over her; checking the levels of whatever toxins they were shooting into her veins, poking and prodding like she was some kind of lab rat.
The deafening ringing in her ears drowned out their questions, their ruthless interrogation, but if one of them was stupid enough to got close, perhaps she could pull out the needle in her arm and stab one in the throat, using the rubber tubing to choke out the other.
"Goddamnit!" she screamed, nearly doubling over as she struggled to sit up, but her torturers quickly grabbed her arms and shoulders, driving her back down to the gurney. She was too weak to fight back; she knew it and they knew it. It was the first time in her life she'd felt so vulnerable, so defeated.
As the haze settled and the tears burned at her eyes, she searched the room again in vain. He promised he'd never leave her again, that he would always be by her side.
The pain returned, more intense than before, an unearthly scream escaping her throat. She couldn't take much more.
Suddenly a door swung open to her right, as a clueless red headed physics teacher walked into the maelstrom, a half chewed Big Texas Cinnamon Roll falling from his mouth.
"Wally you son of a bitch, where have you been!?" she demanded, gritting her teeth as the next contraction brought forth a new wave of pain, even stronger than the last.
"I just went to the bathroom and the vending machine!" the speedster pleaded. "You were fine like five minutes ago!"
"Do I look fine jackass?"she growled, swallowing hard as the contraction passed.
"Just in time Mr. West," Dr. Schlecter smiled as the nurse placed the sterile gown around him. Wally knelt down, wiping the perspiration from his wife's forehead with a cool damp cloth.
"Actually you look beautiful," he replied kindly, taking her hand and gently kissing it.
Artemis smiled weakly, so happy and relieved to have him by her side. Sometimes it just didn't seem real.
It had been the most unlikely courtship in the history of courtships, but she wouldn't have had it any other way. Not just any guy travels back in time to save the day and get the girl...twice.
After years of false starts and broken hearts, she'd finally discovered the man of her dreams in the most unlikely of places, right under her nose. He was her spitfire, he was her everything...or at least was until he opened his mouth and put his foot in it like he was so prone to do.
"I bet you wish you'd gotten that epidural now," he grinned.
Wally West...moment killer
She snarled, grabbing the collar of his shirt and dragging him down to her eye level. "That's...Not...Helping!"
"My bad," he winced, carefully prying her grip from his shirt before she went for his throat. God she was strong.
"Ya think!" Artemis growled loudly, bearing down as a new wave of pain began to crest.
Everyone...EVERYONE, told her to get the epidural, that she'd thank them for it one day, but oh no, that's not how the Nguyen's did it.
There would be no anesthetic or pain blockers. It was going to be a natural birth or nothing. That's the way her grandmother had done back in the old country, that's the way her mom had done it, and that's the way her sister had done it, but knowing Jade, she'd probably lied about it just to get one over on her sister.
Once a Crock, always a Crock.
Wally dampened the cloth again, patting her forehead futilely, not knowing else want to do. He wished now he'd paid more attention to the breathing exercises in their Lamaze class.
Her hair was soaked, her face bright red.
"Babe, are you ok? You don't look so hot."
"Why don't you try squeezing something the size of, not one, but two watermelons out of an opening the size of a lemon and see how hot YOU look," she snarled.
"Ouch! I'd need to call my mom more often!"
They knew they were having twins even before the first ultrasound; it seemed to be the speedster way, but they both agreed not to find out the sex, wanting to add a little mystery to the miracle of life.
The doctor leaned in, easing Wally out of the way "Artemis, it's time. I need you to do one more push. As hard as you possibly can."
It sounded like combination of a snarl and a scream, with some colorful profanity mixed in, but it the end it produced the desired effect. After a second that seemed to hang in the air forever, she heard the sound of two little voices starting to cry.
"You did great," Schlecter smiled at the her. "Congratulations mom and dad, you have a healthy baby girl...and boy"
As the two twins took their first breaths, the speedster and the archer grinned from ear to ear, knowing they'd made the right choice in not finding out. Good things come to those that wait, and now they had the best of both worlds
"Sorry for all the profanity doc."
"I've heard much worse," she replied, gently patting her on the shoulder. "You were awesome."
"You mean we were right?" Wally interrupted.
The doctor winced. "I uh...think I'll let you two hash that one out. I'll be back to check on you in a while. Congrats again mom and dad."
As the nurses took the twins away to dry and put them in warm blankets, Artemis laid back in her pillow, letting out an exhausted and well earned sigh.
"I can't believe we did it."
"We'll you can't have one without the other, chicken and the egg babe."
"God you're such a dork," she chuckled.
Moments later their nurses returned with the twins, handing Wally his daughter and Artemis her son.
"They're amazing. You're amazing."
"Yeah I am," she smiled. "I guess you helped a little."
Wally chucked, leaning down to kiss his wife
"Wally don't! I'm gross."
"Never," he smiled, gently placing his lips on hers. "Way to go mom."
"You too dad."
They held the twins for over and hour, alternating back and forth, memorizing every inch, every freckle, until finally they were taken to the nursery to allow the exhausted archer to rest.
Once Artemis was asleep, Wally tiptoed out of the room, making his way down the hallway to the glass window where his daughter and son rested behind.
They were perfect in every single way, and if he thought he was desperately in love with them before he'd ever met them, this moment was unquantifiable.
To say this was a journey would be a gross understatement.
Life - Death - Life. Future - Past - Present.
He'd traveled back in time on a shaky theory and a guess. Risking everything to save the world again because he was the only one who could. In some ways, going back had been the easy part.
The moment he stepped back in the cave, no matter how familiar it seemed, everything was different. He was different. He wasn't the girl chasing, carefree, class clown anymore. He now had the fate of the world resting squarely his shoulders. He couldn't share it, he couldn't show it, he couldn't ask for help. He had to go it alone.
Get in, get out, stay out of history's way.
No matter how much it hurt, the lies he told, the trust he betrayed, the love he lost; to save the world, that was the cost. The life he once knew was gone forever.
And yet here he was now. Was this a life not yet lived, or a new life altogether? Through time and space they'd found each other again. It wasn't the same, it would never be the same, but in some ways it was even better. He no longer cared about what he'd lost, he'd earned it back in spades.
He was a husband, a teacher, a hero, and now a father. Fate had finally dealt him a winning hand.
Yet it was still a little bittersweet. This was the kind of moment his dad would have lived for. Rudy West had been a fantastic father, he would have been an even better grandad. It would be up to Wally to make sure his children knew who their grandfather was and how much he loved them even if they'd never met.
On the other side of the family; Lawrence Crock...well that would be a discussion for another day.
His father had no superpowers or abilities. He wasn't bulletproof, he wasn't a brilliant detective. He didn't command the oceans, or wield a power ring. He didn't break the sound barrier in his sneakers. He was so much more powerful.
In and out of costume, Wally had known a lot of father's in his life, but Rudy West was still the best dad a kid could hope for. He was Wally's hero.
A tear streaked down his cheek at the memories of the father. God he missed him.
Through the glass, his daughter stretched and yawned, followed moments later by her brother. Their competition had just begun. Suddenly he felt a warm hand on in his shoulder as Artemis rolled up next to him in her wheelchair; hospital policy until they went home.
Wally wiped the dampness from his eyes, taking her hand and holding tight, never letting go again.
"Penny for thoughts," the archer smiled.
Wally leaned in, resting his head in her shoulder.
"I guess they want us to finalize the names huh?" he asked
"They said we can't take them home without them. Kind of defeats the purpose of the last nine months. They have to have something to put on the birth certificates."
"Well you know I've always liked..."
The archer quickly interrupted. "Before you even start, we are not naming either of them after Conner's dog."
"But Wolf West has a..."
"Stop it," she scolded playfully.
"Ok ok," he chucked. "Well Rudolph's off the list. There's name no way I'm burdening our son with that one. That name ends with me."
"Well he's not going to be a Lawrence either," she added.
"Dick?" Wally suggested before they both broke into laughter. "Yeah he'd never even make it through pre-school with a name like that."
"Wally focus," she chided.
"Right right. So I'd still really like to use a family name if we could."
"Me too, your side not mine. Was there anyone really special in your life when you were a growing up?"
"Well my aunt was like my best friend when I was young."
"That's kind of sad," she teased as the speedster's brow furrowed. "Just kidding."
"Ok Smartamis. What about for a boy?"
The archer scratched her head, working through the mental list of names for the thousandth time. "James, Joseph, Jonathon, Jacob, Jackson. Something with the letter J in it. I really like how that flows."
"That's it. You're brilliant."
"Wait, what?" she asked.
Wally ignored the question, grabbing a pen and paper, quickly scribbling down the names and handing them to his wife.
Artemis read them and smiled. "They're perfect."
A few minutes later, the moms had finally arrived together. Housewife and supervillain, two people who'd adjusted to a new normal. An unlikely pairing who'd become close friends and family. Wonders never cease.
Back in their hospital room, Mary and Paula anxiously waited, both grinning from ear to ear when the speedster and the archer entered with the twins.
"Moms..." Wally smiled proudly.
Artemis followed."We'd like to introduce you to your new grandkids. Jai and Iris West"
Wally smiled to himself. Maybe Karma wasn't such a bitch after all.
Author's Note: I know it's been a long time, and I didn't really expect to add anymore to this story, but a little "safer at home" quarantine gave me some time and inspiration I wasn't expecting.
I know a lot of people don't like subbing Artemis for Linda, but for the intents of the story, it just worked for me. Also I blatantly stole a line from the movie Looks Who's Talking. Credit where credit is due.
I hope everyone is staying safe and big prayers for those who have suffered and to a return one day to normalcy. If you all end up liking this, I'll try do do more. Take care.