Why did he do it? What was he thinking? Why didn't he at least have the courtesy to say goodbye?
Did he know he was going to die? Deep down he must have, he was too intelligent not to. What were his last thoughts? Were they of her? Was he scared? Those questions still haunted her to this day.
He never declared his intentions, but when she turned to the empty space and heard the Zeta announce his departure, her heart was never the same. He was out of his class, but had to do something; he couldn't sit back and watch. That was never his style. He knew adding his kinetics to the other two speedsters would close the rapture, but he would be the weak link. She knew that he knew that, and she hated him for it.
The tears that flowed down her face in the Arctic would return at the oddest of moments, and she despised it every time.
There will always be a world to save. Had those really been her last words to him? How pathetic she cursed.
"As a hero?" Bart asked hopeful, standing at the Memorial of the Fallen.
"As a blond," she replied, unsure to which direction her loyalties would eventually fall. That was the most honest answer she could come with at the time. Anti-hero had a nice ring to it.
She moved out of Palo Alto within the month. She had been away too long, and without him it wasn't a home anyway. The West's kindly took in the dog, more than happy to take something that Wally loved.
There had been several private memorials, but no press release, no moment of silence, just an empty grave in the Eternal Gardens just outside of Central City. The Reach and the Light had taken his life and hadn't even had the common decency to leave a body behind to bury.
Home she thought. What a stupid word. There was never such a thing as a home, not for her at least. She had kidded herself to think they would ever have had a chance for a quiet suburban life with two kids and a dog. That was his fantasy, not hers. She had been pushed, pulled, and drug all over the globe by two world-class assassins that should never have procreated. If home was where you lay your head than sure, she had had lots of them, just not for more than a couple of weeks at a time, a few months at most.
It was idiotic of him to think he could recreate his adolescent life with her in it. That the morals, values and love he had known since childhood would be something she would ever truly buy into, that she could ever become the wife and mother he wanted and deserved. She was all about the rush as, the thrill. The thing she would never let go of until her dying day, now she didn't have to, there was nothing holding her back now.
He wanted to retire, not her. They had both been devastated by the loss of Tula and Jason. He wanted out, she wanted him. There was only one solution, only one true course of action.
Once she tasted civilian life, she had to admit it was intoxicating, being away from the constant grind of endless missions and operations, and just having the chance to be…normal. She could never have imagined what that true freedom tasted like, the joy and bliss of being in a committed loving relationship, just the two of them alone.
She loved Wally so much it hurt sometimes; she became addicted to that pain. She had her reservations when they moved into together. She was certain it was going to be a mistake. That this would be the first step in finding out they were not meant for each other, but once again Wally was right, he usually was.
Domestic bliss would be an overstatement, but they worked. Like a puzzle, their pieces just slid into place. Not always perfectly, but with the right amount of pressure and coaxing, they always made it fit. They were good like that.
She knew something was missing though. She would lay awake at night watching him sleep and try not to be resentful. He looked so warm, so peaceful, so content, but she still longed for something more. Had she fought him on it, he would have relented, he would even have joined her, but she couldn't ask that of him, not to the person who had given her everything and asked for so little in return.
Nightwing's call had hurt him deeply, but her response crushed him. If she could turn back the clock, she would lie to herself and say she would have said no, but without Tigress, or Kid Flash for that matter, there would have be no home for them to return to. Not for them, not for anyone. She laughed bitterly at the irony that no matter her choice, it would still have ended up with the same outcome.
There will always be a world to save she told him, if only she had more time with his lips under the Eiffel Tower, just a few more moments alone. She never would have thought in million years that it would be their last kiss.
She couldn't stay with the team; hiding silent resentment while they celebrated and reveled in their success. After all they had been through and sacrificed, the team deserved their moment of happiness and triumph. They'd saved the world and millions of lives, while she was left to quietly mourn the only person she'd ever loved.
How dare they without him.
Their friend, their brother, had died saving everyone. Sacrificing himself so they would live, and now they had moved on with business as usual. The whole world should have stopped and mourned, but that was the immature child in her, pouting and stomping her feet as if someone had taken away her toys. She wanted to share in their happiness; she really did, but that emotion didn't exist in her anymore. She had risked as much if not more, this should have been their time to celebrate and get lost within each other, and yet she stood alone at the Hall of Justice as dignitaries and heads of state got in line handing out thanks and medals. The team swelled in pride as their sacrifice had finally been acknowledged and rewarded. They basked in the moment.
How dare they indeed.
She was honestly relieved to watch Nightwing walk away. It satisfied her in a sick way to know that he suffered like she did. They may never forgive us had become not forgiving himself. Perhaps if Wally had been called in sooner, if he had not let his and the speedster's relationship slip as far apart as it had, maybe he wouldn't have had to die, maybe the Reach would never had made it as far.
Perhaps...perhaps….perhaps. It just didn't matter anymore.
She was so god-damn mad, but she never truly blamed Wally and never would, it was just the price you pay when you put on the mask, but the thing that would always haunt her was the knowledge that he didn't want to anymore. He didn't put on the yellow and red to save the world, he did it for her.
Artemis moved back to Gotham and found a small apartment only a few subway rides away from her mother. Her new place couldn't be more different than her Californian abode, it had to be.
She did take an online course; she would eventually get her degree, for him, not for her. She would probably never use it, but it had been so important to Wally. It was the least she could do.
Was she a hero? Was she a villain? She never truly knew or cared, probably something in between. At first she tried to keep in touch with her old team, but rarely did missions with them anymore. The archer finally understood the appeal of being solo like Roy had.
She remained close with Dick, their lives and choices more in synch than either would have expected. The teenage smirk and cackling laughter was no longer present in the man she saw every few weeks. He knew of her more violent activities, but chose to look away, as she did for him. They would still come together from time to time to confess their sins, but rarely spoke of the man they loved. It was, and would always be too painful and they both knew it had to be. Maybe one day it would be easier, where they could laugh and smile and reminisce, but they'd been wrong about so many things.
She lived in a constant state of loneliness and it numbed her, just as she wanted. Anger and hatred were useful tools, and there was always a multitude of deserving targets in the crime ridden cesspool she know lived. The world had all but forgotten him, aside from a scattering of teammates and family.
School friends would learn at a reunion someday that he died in an auto accident. The hero known as Impulse would fade into the background, while a slightly smaller and faster version of Kid Flash would continue to fight beside some of the world's greatest heroes, one day soon becoming indistinguishable from the original as he grew and matured, those West family eyes and their beautiful shade of green always present behind the mask.
He had been gone more than a year and a half, but the loss felt exactly the same to her as the day he left her. He wouldn't recognize the person she had become, hardly anyone did. When a sister like Jade said she worries about you, it's plain to see the dark path ahead.
Through back channels she was aware Deathstroke was on the hunt for her, but she didn't know if it was as a partner or a target. It didn't matter to her; death no longer carried the fear it once had. The two assassins had actually grown close during their time on the sub and had made an excellent team. Slade may have been furious at the way he'd been played, or impressed. That would be one of the topics sure to come up when their paths eventually crossed.
The roads were packed as her cab traversed its way across town. The perpetual overcast Gotham sky was illuminated by the seasonal heat lightning, casting its sparse shine across the filth of the city. It seemed to have done nothing but stormed in the godforsaken town since she'd moved back. Hopefully she wouldn't need a ride back, it's not like she would have the time to call a cab if all was successful. But if didn't happen tonight, she would walk her way back home, begging for someone to jump out from the darkness. Her anger would become their pain, something she didn't mind sharing.
Author's Note: This is primarily a T rated story, with a few paragraphs of Mature related material here and there. I will warn readers at the start of a chapter if there is any content they need to avoid. Consider this just your average fan fiction disclaimer. I hope you enjoy.