Title: Scooby-Dooby-Doo Ain't Got Nothin' on You
Summary: Little is known about Artemis. So when she starts acting odd during a mission briefing, Robin and KF set out to prove their theories, win a bet, and pull off a successful mission.
Author(s): TheBlueFoxtrot a Samba and DreamRabbit
Prompt: ULTIMATE COLLABORATION CHALLENGE! – short shorts.
Disclaimer: After much consulting and debating, I will admit that technically, I, Blue, for the most part, in accordance and context to the laws of reality and the facts of life verbatim do not in any way, shape, or form that can be physically, chemically, or naturally proven own D.C characters or short shorts in any noteworthy capacity. This fact extends also to my co-author, DreamRabbit. Although I can't be too sure about that second item…
When Batman was briefing the team for a mission, the only person who talked was Batman. It wasn't a rule exactly, it was just... common sense. Everybody knew that. Even Wally. Questions could be asked and comments were allowed, but everyone usually waited until the end. One also did not move, and breathed quietly. That part was the intimidation factor.
That was why Artemis's squeak was so easily heard and seemingly echoed in the high-domed room. The sudden exclamation from Artemis brought a surprised look from the rest of the team. The Dark Knight gave the impression of asking a question without moving a solitary muscle.
"Sorry, I meant... where in Spain are we going?"
Batman turned back towards the computer screen outlining the parameters of the team's mission. "Madrid."
Artemis very visibly flinched, as if someone had dumped a bucket of cold water on her, and her eyes went wide.
"Your target is this man:" Batman continued and pushed a button, displaying the image on the screen changed to one of a reasonably fit man in his early forties wearing a fine suit, with a swarthy complexion and a broad toothy smile. "His name is Philip Ambrosio. Officially, he's just a prominent local businessman. Unofficially, he's the head of a criminal cartel responsible for almost all of the cocaine and heroin in the country. He spends a fair portion of his drug money on buying politicians and bribing police chiefs. That along with his occasional staged shows of philanthropy has made him both politically untouchable and extremely popular in the region. So popular in fact, that he is known locally as 'King Philip' –"
The civvie-clad archer made a sound of disgust and distress, something like a strangled whimper. Batman stared at Artemis. His expression didn't change in the slightest, and yet, somehow, the whole room suddenly became much tenser.
"Is this going to continue to be a problem?"
To her credit, she stared right back and said simply,
Batman continued to hold her gaze until she blinked then went on with the mission briefing.
Next to her, Wally couldn't help but grin a little and cast a speculative glance Artemis's way. What was wrong with Roy's evil 'replacement' today? The noises she was making couldn't even be described. The last thing hadn't even been a word! Just a sound. And the look on her face! That irritating gaze of smug confidence? The sneering curl at the edge of her upper lip? The small annoying smile she usually wore, that one that just seemed to scream 'I'm smarter than you'? Gone, gone, and gone. Instead, she looked pale and dismayed. Vulnerable. Perhaps, even a little...afraid.
It. Was. Awesome.
Then again, she could be sick with something. Something gross and contagious. Wally found himself seriously hoping for the former rather than the latter and edged away from the disturbed girl, ever so slightly.
"Recently, he seems to be trying to take his cartel international. But France is Inter-gang territory. Bodies are starting to pile up in the streets of continental Europe." The picture changed. Crime scene photos. Wasn't that a pleasant view to start the day with? "Philip was always a big player, but strictly a national one. He knew that his resources weren't big enough for a crime-war. Something has given him the confidence to take on some of the world's most dangerous criminals. His recent boldness leads us to believe that he has acquired this."
The picture changed again. Suddenly the screen was filled with an image of an intricately carved figure of a fox, rearing upright on two legs, almost dancing. Light glittered from every facet of the figurine; its entire body seemingly carved from one piece of precious stone.
"The `Zorro Azul.`"
"The what?" Wally mouthed to Robin.
"Blue Fox." Robin mouthed back.
"Sapphire," Batman corrected. "It's not confirmed, but Morgan Le Fey is believed to be the one who crafted it, or at least commissioned its creation. Somehow, it was stolen from her by her enemies and lost. Later, it turned up in history during the Crusades in the Fifth Century but quickly disappeared again. It's effectively priceless, but that's not why it's important to us. It's reputedly a magical talisman of the highest potency. Creativity in solid form. A transmutation stone. Supposedly, it can change anything its reflected light shines upon into anything its owner desires."
Wally automatically opened his mouth to say something about this outrageous nonsense – nevermind he had Fate's helmet collecting dust on a shelf –, but found Robin's hand covering it, allowing him only an easily ignored,
"It's a threat that the league cannot ignore. If the Zorro Azul has resurfaced and truly possess this ability, we need to know. Unfortunately, he lives in a secure compound, manned by his own private army." Batman continued. "However, one of his 'charitable' endeavours is his patronage of a local school for... gifted children. He throws a fund-raising dinner for them once a year at his mansion and all of the children are brought in to perform for the attendees. This gives us an opening. The dinner is tonight."
The picture changed again. It now showed two teenagers. "You will be attending the dinner as students from the-"
"If we have to dress like that, I'm going AWOL," Superboy stated, flatly.
At that moment, he spoke for everyone.
It was awful. Wally stared in horror. No wonder a criminal was a patron of the school. Those clothes were a crime against vision. He wanted to look away, but he couldn't. He was strangely fascinated that something just so wrong on so many different levels could even exist, even as he felt tears spring to his eyes. A forest green blazer. With horrid lace ruffles and cuffs in lime green. Equally green shoes. And the worst part of all was the very tight, very orange, very short... shorts.
"The dinner is smart-casual. No uniform required."
"So it is a reconnaissance, to determine Ambrosio's possession of the talisman?" Kaldur asked for confirmation.
"Reconnaissance only," Batman emphasized.
"But –" Robin began.
"Avoid engaging and revealing yourselves as anything other than average teenagers. Absolutely nothing else. Do I make myself clear?"
It was a generalized question, but everyone recognized the pointedness of it to a certain bird. Despite that, they all answered affirmatively. Wally thought he might have cast a sympathetic glance Robin's way, but his eyes stayed glued to the on-screen horror. They were just so…short.
He'd absently noted that Artemis didn't seem surprised by that appearing on-screen. She'd tensed, like she was preparing herself before they appeared.
How odd. Seemed like the gang had a mystery on their hands. And just because he was boss like that, and had an over-active imagination, Wally had devised a theory while Batman finished up the briefing and fully convinced himself it was Gospel truth by the time they'd been dismissed to change into their uniforms.
Apparently, they were leaving immediately.
Wally and Artemis were the only two not in uniforms, so they were headed down the hall when Megan's voice stopped them. Although, she'd only addressed Artemis. Wally was just being nosy.
"Artemis," the archer turned to face the Martian girl, "are you okay?" Megan asked, unable to keep the concern from her voice.
The blonde's gaze quickly skimmed over the others before returning to Megan and plastered on a belated and fake smile.
"Me? I'm perfectly fine. Never better!" She answered, with a broad obviously fake smile. "I just…skipped lunch." With that, she turned away, and strode confidently forward.
Straight into the wall.
"Are you ok-"
"I'm fine, I'm fine!" Artemis repeated, hurrying out of the hall, holding her nose.
After an awkward pause, Megan breached the silence, turning to the others, and asked,
"That was a little odd, wasn't it?"
"Odd? That was downright weird." Robin chimed in. "She's been acting off since the briefing started."
Kaldur nodded. "Indeed. She seemed very unsettled."
"Oh, I know why she's acting so strangely." Wally said, smiling.
He folded his arms in triumph, and waited for the guys to ask him to share his wisdom.
Nothing. Not a single movement from any of them recognizing he was even there.
"I said, I know why she's acting so-"
Robin sighed. "We heard you Wally. We're just not listening."
Wally made an appalled face. "What? Why?"
"Because you're going to be wrong."
"What? That's- You don't even know what I'm going to say yet!"
"So? You're still going to be wrong."
"You don't know that!"
Megan opened her mouth to speak, but Kaldur touched a hand to her shoulder and shook his head. Best to just let these two finish their debate, rather than interrupt. Hopefully, if they did it now, it wouldn't interfere with the mission. Just next to him, Superboy watched the interaction with something like exasperation.
Robin turned to face Wally, crossing his arms casually. "Okay. Fine. I'll bite: Why is Artemis acting so weird?" he asked with faked, half-hearted enthusiasm
Wally grinned. "Okay. Let's look at the facts. Did you see the way she looked when Batman mentioned this `King Philip` guy? She looked crushed, right?"
"... Right" Robin conceded.
"I mean, I've never seen her look like that before. She looked like a puppet with its strings cut, or a balloon with all the air let out, or-"
"We get it," Superboy cut him off, "What's your point?"
Rolling his eyes toward the Superman clone-child, Wally returned to the main point, pausing for dramatic effect.
"King Philip? He... is... Artemis's Father!" Wally paused, allowing the others a moment to bask in his brilliance. "So, what do you think?"
"I think you watch too much television," Robin confided, reaching out to pat Wally on the head, "Good try though. Completely unfounded in reality, but still. You followed that train of thought straight to Nowhere."
"What!" he jerked back, "But-"
"But nothing! Dude, that was the stupidest thing you've said all day. It's so ridiculous! Why would you even think that? I mean, just because you don't know who some ones parents are, that doesn't make them super-villains! You don't know why Artemis is acting like she is."
"And I suppose you do then, huh?"
"Of course I do. Isn't it obvious?" Robin sighed the sigh of one very much surrounded by people of lesser intelligence. "Look. Fact one, she didn't just start acting weirdly when she saw the crime lord. She started much earlier. From the very moment Spain was mentioned. Two, it intensified. She started out just unsettled, but by the end, she was walking into walls. And thirdly, she's trying to keep it from us, but she's also trying to act like it's 'okay'," the quotation marks were almost an audible thing, "All classic signs of J.L.S."
"J.L.S?" Wally asked in disbelief.
It was one thing to make up words, and another thing entirely to start throwing around initials all willy-nilly.
"Jilted. Lovers. Syndrome."
Wally burst out laughing. It was a long time before he could talk, but he eventually got a few words out between desperate attempts to breath. "So... dumb... can't... breathe."
"It makes perfect sense," Robin defended, "You said so yourself. She looked crushed."
"Key word in that: Crushed. Her first crush. He left her. It still hurts. No wonder she's not acting like herself."
"Okay, there is no way in hell anyone would have ever been stupid enough to date Artemis. Admit it Rob, your theory is lame."
"No, it isn't. Your "Darth Vader" theory, on the other hand…"
"Gah!" Wally threw his arms up out of frustration.
That smug, little, know-it-all! If the jerk wasn't his best friend, he'd strangle him.
"Meg!" Wally suddenly rounded on her.
"Eep! I mean, yes?"
"Who do you think is right? Me or Birdie Boy?"
"Oh, that's original, Speedy. I so haven't heard that one before."
As Wally glared at the deliberate name jab, Megan shot Kaldur a questioning look. He was too busy massaging his temples, as if attempting to stave off a massive headache. She then looked to Superboy. He merely shrugged indifferently. Turning back to the two boys in an awkward staring contest, as no one could actually see Robin's eyes behind his mask, she cleared her throat to gain their attention.
"Um, I think that…you're both right?"
"What?" they simultaneously asked.
"Well, I think that it's possible that her father could be a villain, and her boyfriend could have worked for him. Then maybe she didn't want to be a bad guy anymore and tried to talk her boyfriend into staying with her and being a hero, but he refused her. Then they could have had this huge fight, and really hurt each other, but what really hurt them is that now they're on the opposite sides of the law, and one day, they'll have to face each other. And only one of them is going to walk away next time. According to my studies of human culture, it seems more likely that you're both right!" she concluded brightly.
By the end of it, the boys were all staring at the Martian girl like…well, like she was a Martian.
"I take it back, what I said about you watching too much TV, KF," Robin apologized, "My bad."
"Yeah, well, compared to... " Wally tried to find the right word for what he had just heard that didn't offend Megan. "... That your 'Woe is me, I'm a weepy archer' theory almost makes sense. Almost."
"I'm right. And you know it. It's as simple as that." Robin replied. "There's no shame in admitting that you're wrong. I mean, you should be used to it by now."
Wally smiled slowly. Which was bad. Wally doing something slowly, that is. He had an idea, which was also usually bad. Suddenly, he knew the way to settle this once and for all.
"Rob, I think it's time you put your money where your mouth is."
"That…is actually really gross. Why would I want to put money that millions of people have touched where my mouth is?"
"Sure it does." Wally continued, undeterred. "If you're so sure, you should be prepared to back it up. Unless you'd rather just admit you're wrong right now."
"I'm not wrong!"
"Then come on."
"Wally, I'm not going to engage in some juven -
"Well, I guess I'm right then!" he loudly interrupted. "Since Robin's too scared to man up and defend his beliefs. Too scared! Yup. Like a little kid."
For a moment, Robin looked like he was going to punch the red-headed teen.
"...Fine! What's the bet?"
"Not just a bet," Wally grinned. "A slap bet."
"What's a slap bet?" Megan asked.
"It's a bet where the winner of the bet slaps the loser as hard as he possibly can," Superboy answered.
The group gave him questioning looks. No one dared if that was something he'd learned or if that was genomorph'd information. If the latter, that was just weird.
"So pick who's going to be commissioner then get dressed already. We're wasting time," the pseudo-Kyrptonian groused.
Both boys immediately turned to Kaldur. He looked at both of them sceptically and sighed.
"If I say no, you will do this anyway," he stated this, knowing for a fact it was true.
The two could only shrug helplessly.
"Nailed it in one."
Kaldur sighed. "Very well. I will be your... bet commissioner. But what happens if you are both wrong?" Kaldur asked, looking confused.
Wally waved his hands dismissively. "Doesn't matter. Isn't going to happen, and I'm not going to be wrong. But I guess...What do you think, Rob?"
"It's gotta be something we both have to do. If on the off chance neither of us is right, you decide, Kaldur."
"Fine," the Atlantean agreed uncertainly, "Wally, I think you should go change clothes now. We will be leaving soon."
"Gotcha. Be back in a –"
"Don't say it!" Robin warned.
Wally took a quick step away from him before saying,
And running down the hall.
A/N: Don't worry. It's not over. We're just getting started :)
Oh, and calling it the Blue Fox was not my vanity. It was the Rabbit's idea. Now I have to come up with a way to work a rabbit in here...