A very, terribly, atrociously late birthday fic for the one and only Cloaks and Daggers. Have I ever told you that your name rocks? 'Cause it so does. I hope you like it!
Stand disclaimers apply.
The apartment was a major step – fifty foot drop – down from his room with Oliver in terms of luxury. His kitchen/living room/dining room area could have easily fit in his old bathroom. Not that his kitchen/living room/dining room was terribly small. Though it was, he'd just had a huge bathroom.
But he was fine with his space. Because it was his, rather than what Ollie had given him, bought and paid for at least three more months. The walls were thin, the A/C system was iffy, and the front door got stuck sometimes. He could easily sleep through his neighbors screaming matches and parties, he had a fan, and he rarely came through the front door anyway. Whether that made it just a level above a dump was beside the point. Because it was his dump.
Just his. No roommates. No cat or a dog. Not even a fish or a fern or anything.
So that should mean he should walk into his apartment through the fire escape window, and not have random people in it. More specifically, he shouldn't have a teenaged, blonde-headed, archer-ette flopped out on his couch and watching his television with her feet propped up on his table.
His tone almost sounded bored, maybe tired, but also with an edge to it. This intrusion…disturbed him. Artemis let her head loll back on the couch and looked at him.
"Well, hello to you too, Roy Joy," she deadpanned. "You're out of orange soda, by the by."
Roy seemingly ignored the comment as he stalked round to the front of the couch, directly in front of Artemis. She was dressed civilian, he noticed. Her shoes kicked off to the side. Presumably, she wasn't here to be hostile.
Frankly, he didn't really care why she was here.
"Get out," he bit out each word, like he had a razor between his teeth, "of my apartment."
She blinked, lips pursed. Then she leaned to the left, aimed the remote at the tv, and shut it off. Her hand patted the cushion next to her.
"We have things to discuss, and you're gonna give my neck a cramp if I have to look up at you."
Roy crossed his arms and shifted his weight. Otherwise, he didn't move.
"Am I going to have to forcibly remove you? Don't think I won't."
She waved her hands flippantly. "I'm shaking in my socks. Listen here, Roy Joy –"
"Don't call me that."
"I don't really want to be here, but for the sake of my sanity, I have no choice."
"Yeah, well, I don't really care about your sanity either. It's not my problem."
She smiled in an entirely unpleasant way. "That's just the thing; I'll make it your problem. Believe me when I say, I can become a serious thorn in your side."
Roy considered the teen girl for a moment. Considering her history, which he'd made it his business to look into, she might actually become annoying. At that age, even he could have done some major damage. And she already proved she could by even being here.
How did she even know where to find him?
"More like a tick," he countered.
"Whatever you say, Roy Joy."
"I'm not Wally; I'm not on your little team, and I'm not going to take your crap. Got it?"
"Crystal. Now about Ollie –"
"No." he added a definite shake of his head and a downward slash of his hand. "I'm not talking about him. Especially with you."
"Not only are you going to talk about him," Artemis smirked. "You're going to talk to him."
"I seriously doubt that."
"Roy. The man is drawing correlations with your relationship to the freaking London Bridge!"
He stared at her for one confused minute because really, that sentence made no sense.
"'London Bridge Is Falling Down'? Heard of it? Play it when you were a kid? Queen's already a few screws loose, if you ask me. Your attitude is so not helping him."
"It's not my problem."
"Is that all you can say? It's not your problem? I guess you're just too busy with your whole 'I'm a one-man army' routine then, huh? Just too busy to give a damn about the guy who taught you what you know? You're a selfish waste."
"Shut up!" he roared at her.
"No!" she snapped right back, coming to her feet and stabbing a finger at him. "You're going to learn I'm a very talkative thorn, Roy Joy, and you're not getting rid of me easy."
"You think your little attempts to threaten me are going to do anything? You must be delusional." He sneered at her. "Besides that, if you get in my way, I can't promise your little secret is gonna stay that way."
She shrugged. "I don't care."
"Yeah, right," he snorted, his tone derisive and unbelieving.
"Yeah, right!" Artemis insisted, completely his opposite. "I haven't known Ollie as long as you, but he's been good to me. You're hurting him. If I have to risk myself to help him before he does something stupid because of your stupid, fine. No risk, no reward, as the old man said."
Roy considered her a moment. Her eyes didn't flinch away from his. She didn't hold herself in an overly tense fashion. Her breathing was level. She seemed truthful.
"If you're not out of here by the time I've changed clothes, I'm throwing you out the window."
He turned from her, completely dismissive, and walked into his bedroom. When he re-emerged, she was gone. The only physical evidence that she'd ever been was his absence of orange soda in the fridge and the lingering scent of some flowery perfume. Of course, there was also the memory of her blazing eyes and hard voice threatening him.
With a flippant scoff, Roy sank into his couch, taking the exact spot Artemis had sat. If she actually thought she could get him to do as she 'ordered', the girl was an idiot. He turned on the tv and absently flipped through the channels.
It was…consoling, in a way, that Ollie had found a loyal, little sidekick that would stick up for him like that. But the kid didn't get it. She had no idea what she was talking about. He couldn't talk to Ollie. Because…because he honestly had no idea what to say.
The red light on his answering system was blinking. Expecting it to be either his contact or another message from Dinah, he pressed the playback button and listened as the computer recited its usual message. He walked the short distance to his kitchen and pulled his carton of orange juice out of the fridge and began to take a long drink directly from it. His timing was decidedly bad as her voice screamed at him through the machine.
"Roy! You stupid jerk!" At this point, he'd sprayed the juice onto the fridge and was torn between glaring at it and the machine, "Do you have any idea what this guy is going through? Dinah won't talk to him, Batman doesn't care, so you know who that leaves him with? You know who he calls at three in the freaking morning moaning about how he misses you and he misses Dinah and Batman's a douchebag? Just guess! I swear, if you don't call that man, I will rip out your –"
The machine beeped, ending the girl's tirade. Roy rolled his eyes in annoyance as he continued to wipe up the mess he'd made. The answering machine continued to play to the next message.
"I wasn't finished!"
"You have gotta be kidding!"
"I don't make idle threats, okay? I make promises! And I am demanding you, Mr. Authority Issues, to call Ollie, man up like the man you claim to be, and talk to him. You fix this now! I do not want to have another girl* talk with that man. Fix this!"
The machine beeped again and told him that was the end of his messages. Scowling, Roy tossed aside the rag he'd used to clean the mess and stalked over towards the machine. His finger hovered over the button to delete them, but he hesistated.
"You're pathetic," he sighed to himself, carding his fingers through his hair.
However, he didn't know if he meant Ollie, Artemis, or himself.
The next week, whenever he returned to his little apartment, he never had less than seven messages on his machine. Four were usually from her. Sometimes she screamed and cursed at him. One time, she went off in what he thought to be Vietnamese. He wasn't too sure. Other times, she spoke calmly, retelling her conversations with Ollie and throwing in an insult there and here. Quite a few times, she told him about her day: Wally was a moron, Robin was insane, Megan was way too happy, Superboy was hot, and Kaldur'ahm was liable to snap and strangle them all; she wouldn't blame him. Things like that. Also, she was seriously thinking about blowing up her school. One time, she left a recording of Barney songs with a parting shot of,
"Roy Joy is a bastard!"
Cute, he'd thought. The boy didn't know she was just getting started.
The week after that, he received a letter, a poem actually, that rhymed 'castration', 'worthless dog', 'cowardly, sniveling frog', and other lovely verses in actually very artistic ways. He had to admit; the girl had a lyrical talent.
Two days after that, all of his soda was gone again. That was when he started to get annoyed.
That same night, just when he sent one of his trick arrows flying at the guy he'd been tracking for weeks, a black arrow intercepted his, splitting it in two just before it hit. That drew no less than two dozen armed guards' attention his way. It was while he was running for his life, dodging bullets, and firing arrows that he decided:
He was pissed.
Monday found Artemis in that most hated establishment of all children throughout the ages: high school. It gave her no comfort that thousands of other kids had to endure the similar experience she was going through now; because she didn't really care about them. There was barely enough room for her on her proverbial plate. She had no time to sympathize.
Her transfer to Gotham Academy was as she expected. As a scholarship kid, the trust fund babies found it beneath them to associate with her. The few that did had rubbed Artemis the wrong way in that they spoke to her in a decidedly condescending manner that she took offense too. So she'd made it a point to offend them right back.
With the attitude she had compounded with the fact she didn't even want to be there, it wasn't all that surprising that the blonde girl spent her lunch period eating at her table alone for fifteen minutes before wandering off to do…anything else.
Today, she decided she'd wander outside for a while. She stayed to the gravel path, not straying onto the perfectly manicured lawn. Trees that she should probably know the name of for a certain test next period shaded the way. Birds sang, the sun shone, and it was a nice day. If she didn't count the little princesses sitting around the stone fountain that were pointing and whispering very loudly. She thought she should try to enjoy the day anyway.
Then Roy stepped into her path, and she wondered what took him so long.
Smiling falsely, she strutted towards him. He was dressed down in 'civvies', and it made her wish she could wear her own clothes rather than this preppy uniform. His jeans and T-shirt were making her extremely jealous. So she'd make him annoyed. An eye for an eye and all that.
"Why didn't you just call me, Roy Joy?"
"I thought I'd treat you to a more personal visit."
"Oh, please," she smirked. "You just thought you'd try and intimidate me by proving you can track me down. But we both know you have better things to do than harass me, right?"
He glared at her, but she read the truth of her statement in his eyes.
"You should get shades like Robin. It would make you way harder to read."
She continued to walk and didn't even look back to see if he'd follow. If she had, she'd have seen the look of outraged frustration on his face. The girls at the fountain saw though and continued to watch the red-haired, hot guy that was hounding the loser, new girl.
"You're really irritating," he told her.
"So I'm told. But you didn't come all the way to Gotham to tell me that."
They kept walking silently for a while. He seemed to be gathering the words from somewhere while she merely walked. It's not like she could read his mind and help him along. Plus, she enjoyed watching him squirm a little. She got that smidge of sadism from her daddy's side.
After an eternity, when she thought he would just keep walking with her until class time, he spoke up.
"I talked to Ollie."
She waited a good two minutes.
"We have an understanding. One that involves you not stalking me."
"I didn't stalk you. You're just predictable."
"I am not predictable."
"Keep telling yourself that."
A bell rang, signaling a warning for straddling students. Artemis gazed miserably toward the school and started to walk that way.
"See ya around," she waved absently.
Before she got too far, he caught her hand, and she looked over her shoulder at him.
His look seemed to be a glare, but his eyes held a teasing glint to them. "I know I better not."
"That depend entirely on whether or not I get a call from Oliver."
"I think he'll be a little distracted with Dinah tonight."
Artemis slipped her hand out of his and gave him an almost affectionate pat on the cheek.
"That's my Roy Joy."
He smacked her hand away. "I can really understand why Wally doesn't like you."
That Monday went down as the best Monday in her young history.
"Nice work, Artemis."
"Well, Dinah, it was your plan."
"Yes, but you pulled it off very nicely."
"I know. So about the use of your bike..."
A/N: * That line is a slight reference to the previous story 'Dance over the Broken Bridge'. Just slight.
I honestly never have any idea what I'm going to write when I sit down to write. I think that's one of the reasons I like it so much.