A/N: Since I totally love YJ and have read so many great YJ fanfics, I decided to write one to return the favor :) Hopefully I succeed in entertaining some of you who have entertained me! I will admit now though that I don't follow any of the DC comics and so any background that might be used has been gathered from the internet. So please bear with me on that. This is basically my "what part is Artemis really playing" theory. I haven't come across any other stories that use this theory so I figured I might as well share it. Though we haven't seen ep 10 yet (come on June 3rd already!), I'm kind of basing the start of this after "Targets" with the assumption that the team will interact with Red Arrow during that ep (and then it can be assume that this skews into AU). That also means my time stamps might not coincide with the ones that will be in that ep. Okay, on with the story :)
Update 6/21/2011: Episode 10, "Targets" is now available on youtube (despite still having yet to air on network tv, go figure). I watched it yesterday and, though I'm happy my time stamps are on target (no pun intended lol), the bases for this story technically doesn't match up since, when I wrote it, I was under the impression that most of the members of the YJ team would be present on the mission (namely Kid Flash and Artemis), but they were not (only Aqualad helped Red Arrow actually, KF and Art weren't in the ep at all, much to my disappointment, although I wasn't surprised since they had a lot of screen time in the last ep). However, I found a way around the fact that KF didn't actually interact with RA in that ep that would keep the basis for this story intact. Therefore, I've since updated this chapter to reflect that. It doesn't really change anything, just makes it flow with canon better, which helps me sleep at night lol Okay, read on!
Disclaimer: "I don't own Young Justice, DC Comics, Warner Bros., and Cartoon Network have the rights to it. I'm just having some fun :)"
Rated T for some language, suggestive themes, and descriptive violence.
Italics mean thoughts
Oh what a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive . . .
Chapter 1: Damaged
September 10, 16:38 EDT
If there was only one word Atremis could choose to describe her teammate Wally West, a.k.a. Kid Flash, it was insufferable. Oh sure, there were a slew of other adjectives that could be used to describe him: incorrigible, annoying, irritating, the list was practically infinite. But if she had to choose just one it was insufferable, hands down.
Artemis stabbed an arrow into the rocky side of Mount Justice and pulled herself further up the steep slope. The others were down the beach, spending their Saturday afternoon enjoying the unusually warm September weather. She decided to do something a little more productive than "play in the sand," as Megan had suggested. That something ended up being to free climb the 100 foot mountain that encased their headquarters with nothing but two sturdy arrows of her own making. No safety rope, nothing. She wanted to do it completely on her own.
That was how she was supposed to do things: alone.
She was raised with the idea that the only person she could ever really count on was herself. True it made for a lonely upbringing, but it was one of the things that had made her so tough, so independent. Though it was a productive way to spend the afternoon, the silence left her mind to wander, and she didn't like that the current topic was her relationship issues with one Kid Idiot.
No matter what she did she couldn't win it seemed. After their recent mission in Bialya, even though Megan had restored their memories, she actually thought things might be different between her and Wally. At the time, with no memory of the last six months, Wally couldn't remember his dislike for her based on her "replacement" of Speedy, now Red Arrow, Green Arrow's former sidekick. Without that to go on, he was actually nice to her . . .
More than nice, he'd even called her beautiful, twice.
Of course, being called "beautiful" by Wally wasn't really anything special. Though it clearly showed that he thought she was at least attractive physically, he threw compliments like that around to all kinds of women on a daily basis. Heck, the object of most of his flirting was an alien girl with green skin! Based on that, one could go so far as to say he didn't have very high standards. So it wasn't really surprising he called her "beautiful" when he thought she was a complete stranger. No, what was strange was that, when Megan finally found them roaming around the desert, he'd tried to make clear to Artemis that he had no prior relationship with the green-skinned sweetheart, acting as if it'd kill his chances with the archer, as preposterous as that was.
As much as she hated to waste time thinking of it, she couldn't help wondering if her relationship with Wally would have been drastically antithetic had they met differently. Originally he met Megan first and had immediately taken a liking to her. In the desert, he'd met Artemis first and he had seemed interested in her instead. Although to be fair, the whole Red Arrow issue was of no consequence either due to amnesia. Was he really so fickle that he'd try to attach himself to the first girl he came across? Or would he have taken a greater liking to her if it hadn't seemed like she took Red Arrow's place – a spot he didn't even want – on the team?
Artemis wasn't sure which case it was. One thing she did know was that the amnesia incident did prove one thing: that they could get along, really well in fact. But more so it proved that they could downright trust each other, even when they didn't know a thing about the other. She was angry with herself for that.
Artemis gritted her teeth as she pulled the arrow in her left hand out of the rock wall and viciously thrust it in again, a foot higher than before.
How could she trust Wally so easily when, at the time, she didn't even know him? So what if he said he was a good guy? Considering his costume didn't even match that of Kid Flash's, the person he'd claimed to be when she came to in that decrepit shed, she had nothing but his word to go on! That shouldn't have been nearly enough!
And yet . . . it had been.
There was something about him that made her feel safe, like she was in good hands, like there was no reason not to believe what he told her. It completely went against all of her training to go with him so willingly, but she had anyway. Of course, it worked both ways. Despite the fact that she'd flat out suggested their predicament was a test from her dad, a test most likely meant for her to kill him, Wally still took her with him and stuck by her without a second thought. Their time in the desert with amnesia had been short, but it had left a big impact. Whether they liked it or not, they'd bonded out there in the sand dunes under the hot sun. That's why Artemis was certain their relationship was going to be different. She didn't expect them to suddenly be the best of friends or anything, she wasn't stupid, but she did expect something. And for a few days she thought she had been right.
And then, a few days ago, the team found out that Roy, Mr. Red Arrow himself, bit off more than he could chew, resulting in him contacting Aqualad for help. Only Aqualad and BAM! Wally was looking at her like she was nothing but a replacement again. It was like he blamed the fact that Red Arrow contacted Aqualad alone, rather than the team as a whole, on her status as a member, and it made her blood boil! It almost seemed like he'd forgotten he was supposed to be mean to Artemis in order to be loyal to Roy, and Red Arrow's lack of interest in calling Kid Flash for help reminded him of that. The worst part was that Artemis couldn't even fully begrudge him for his loyalty since it was such an admirable quality . . .
"Argh!" Artemis growled as she slammed the arrow in her right hand deep into the mountain in frustration.
She was right below the peak. Her slender fingers scratched for a hold in the solid surface, and with one more heave, she managed to pull herself atop. She knelt there, head down, muscles burning, hands and knees on the rough ground, panting. She needed to stop thinking about this. It was all irrelevant anyway. Wally's acceptance of her, or lack thereof, was completely inconsequential to her own mission. As long as her position on the team was believable that's all that counted. She wasn't there to make friends or develop a deep comradery with teens who experienced the crucible of combat with her. She sat down on the jagged mountaintop, one leg straight, the other bent up, one elbow resting on her knee as she stared at the evening sun's reflection in the ocean water below.
No, it wasn't about her or her feelings at all.
Her spot on the team was about the greater good. Because of that, she was better off not spending the day bonding with the others as Kadlur had wanted. They were better off not getting personal with her. Thanks to her father and her bitter past, she was never going to be good for anyone. She was damaged, probably beyond repair. She carried the scars of her father's "love" as proof. Getting to know them better wasn't just bad for them, it was bad for her. She already liked her teammates as it was, even Wally to some extent, and the more she liked them the harder it would be when the jig was up.
Back on the beach, Wally stood up from the ground and brushed the sand from his cargo shorts. Everyone had agreed to call it a day and head back into headquarters for dinner. As the team made their way toward the mountain, Wally noticed Artemis sitting at the very top, her signature blonde ponytail gently blowing in the breeze coming off the ocean. He wasn't the only one who noticed.
"Somebody should go retrieve Artemis," Kaldur suddenly broke the silence, his eyes on the figure atop the mountain as he spoke.
"I nominate Wally," Robin quickly said.
Wally threw him a scornful look and said, "Dude! Why do I hafta?"
"Because you're probably the reason she's up there in the first place," Robin stated matter-of-factly, a smirk planted firmly on his face.
Wally grumbled but headed for the back of the mountain all the same. That morning, as a training exercise, Black Canary had paired him with Artemis to spar in hand-to-hand combat. Wally, self conscious of the fact that Artemis typically fared better when super powers weren't used, had said he didn't see the reason in practicing with her when she was nothing but a replacement anyway, to which she replied "bite me" and stormed off. Black Canary proceeded to reprimand him in front of the rest of the group, telling him that Artemis was part of the team now and that he either needed to get on board or get off, before she dismissed him entirely. His words had been a little out of line, even he knew that, but it didn't make swallowing his pride and apologizing any easier, so he'd spent the greater part of the day avoiding her instead. Not that she'd sought him out or anything.
He ran a hand through his unruly red hair and sighed.
The worst part was that it really bothered him. Ever since their mishap in Bialya, upsetting Artemis didn't give him the satisfaction it used to. He'd even go so far as to say it made him feel bad. The Artemis he'd met in the desert grew on him instantly, but there was one crucial difference between that Artemis and this one: to his knowledge, the Artemis from the desert hadn't taken Red Arrow's place on their team. It was amazing how that one fact made a world of difference. Because that was taken out of the equation, he felt no animosity towards her whatsoever when she woke up in that shed. She was simply a mysterious and – he hated to admit it – beautiful teenager around his age. And so he'd been nice to her, she'd responded in kind, and together they had tried to make sense of their situation. After their desert escapade, Wally couldn't help feeling closer to her. He'd carried her around for the better part of the day and had even taken her hand in encouragement when Megan needed to enter their minds in order to restore their memories.
But getting his memories back meant remembering that she was the team's archer rather than Roy and that left Wally feeling torn between his old ties to Red Arrow and his new bond with Artemis. At first, the new bond was winning out, but Roy's disinterest in asking him for help when he was up against the League of Shadows solo in Taipei only made him feel like Red Arrow thought of him as a disloyal friend. Because of that, he felt guilty that he was beginning to like Artemis as a team member and even as a person. That led to him calling her Roy's "replacement" straight to her face and it most likely weighed in on her decision to spend the afternoon on her own. He was sure she wouldn't admit it, but he knew his comment hurt, he saw it reflected momentarily in her stormy, sapphire blue eyes before she turned away from him. He had a feeling her new reaction to his old comment was tied to their time in Bialya, similar to how her reaction made him feel bad.
At the base of the mountain, Wally looked at the top determinedly as he dug his feet into the sand firmly. Suddenly, he sprinted straight for the rocky face of the mountain, sand springing up on either side of him from the force, and his body was instantly vertical, his speed fast enough to defy gravity. With ease, he covered the traitorous terrain in a matter of seconds and found himself next to Artemis, who was standing with her back to him.
Hey!" Wally announced loudly as he suddenly appeared next to her.
Completely caught off guard, Artemis let out a startled gasp and spun around quickly in surprise. Her shock increased as she felt her entire body tilt, her foot slipping off the edge of the cliff.
"Whoa!" Wally shouted as his hand lashed out in a blur and securely latched onto her forearm. He gave a swift tug and the archer softly fell against him. He reached his other arm around her to steady them.
"That was a close one," he said before pulling back from his teammate enough to look at her face, which was pointing down at the ground. "You okay?"
"I'm fine," Artemis mumbled as she shrugged out of his grasp. After all that climbing, she didn't have the energy to fight with him. "What are you doing up here?"
Wally's hand found its way to the back of his head and he sheepishly replied, "Kaldur sent me to get you. The team's headin' in for dinner." As he looked at Artemis he realized she had no equipment on her. He glanced around the small peak and saw nothing but two arrows lying on the ground a foot away. With a shake of his head he said, "Seriously? You climbed up here with nothing but two measly arrows?"
"Yeah, so?" she shot back, her arms crossing over her chest defensively.
"So, you didn't think about how you were going to get back down?" he asked with a smirk. And she called him stupid . . . "Tell you what, if you ask nicely, I might just be willing to bring you down," he offered, his voice smug.
Artemis waved him off. "No thanks, I've got it covered."
Before Wally could utter a rebuttal, she turned away from him and ran towards the edge.
"No, wait-" he began, a hand stretched out towards her, not truly believing what she was about to do.
Disregarding his words completely, her feet hit the edge and she sprang outward gracefully without sparing him a glance.
"Artemis!" Wally cried, eyes wide, as he watched the tip of her blonde ponytail disappear over the jagged cliff.
Before he could think better of it, he sprinted to the side and dove head first, following after her, gravity immediately pulling him downward the moment his feet left the stone. He wasn't clear as to what catching up to her would accomplish, he just knew he had to reach her. He figured it was the hero in him.
Artemis closed her eyes, reveling in the feel of the cool wind on her skin. She felt so alive, so free. If only she was free like this for real . . . She'd give anything to truly be liberated rather than the prisoner she was to circumstances that were beyond her control.
Wally sped towards Artemis. His heavier weight made catching up to her easy. As soon as she was within arm's reach he grabbed her, scaring her out of her wits for the second time in mere minutes. She hadn't been expecting him to jump after her!
"What are you-" she began, but her voice was muffled when her face made contact with his cotton covered chest. With his momentum still going, he held her close and rolled over so that they wouldn't land on their heads.
Their clothing and hair whipped about in a frenzy as the wind howled past them, ringing in their ears. Eyes watering, Wally gritted his teeth and tightened his hold on the archer as their bodies slammed into the ocean together. The watery landing was rougher than it would have been otherwise since they didn't fully break the water with their feet, and the resulting force was great enough to snap the elastic band that held Artemis's hair in a neat ponytail at the nap of her neck, causing her ample blonde locks to fan out in the chilly water. Despite having plunged into the ocean, Wally did not relinquish his hold on her. Together they broke the surface, spluttering. He immediately towed them towards the shore until his feet could at least touch the sandy floor, then he turned Artemis to face him, his fingers gripping her tone biceps, her long, thick hair floating around her. Half a head shorter than him, she had no choice but to let him hold on to her to keep her above the water.
"Are you crazy!" he suddenly yelled, his face not far from hers, the waves causing their bodies to bob up and down as they lapped at their chins. "What, are you trying to kill yourself or something?"
Artemis coughed some water out of her lungs before saying, "Don't be so stupid! It's called cliff diving! It's an actual sport! You're the one who made it dangerous. If you had tilted us anymore, we could have been seriously hurt when we hit the water!" When he had nothing to say to that she continued, "Besides, so what if I was attempting to commit suicide! What's it to you!"
"Because I care about you, that's why!" Wally shouted more forcefully then he intended, his fingers squeezing tighter around the flesh of her upper arms as he gave her a firm shake.
The waves continued their gentle roll, still moving the pair around slightly as they went.
"No you don't," Artemis said in a quiet voice that sounded oddly hollow to Wally. Her voice was devoid of conviction. It was as if she were simply stating a fact. "I could disappear tomorrow and you wouldn't lose a wink of sleep over it . . ." she trailed off looking anywhere but at him.
"That's not true and you know it," he whispered, the angry tone that colored his voice a moment ago gone.
"It is if it meant that Red Arrow would join the team in my absence."
Wally heaved a laborious sigh. After all the comments he'd made concerning his preference for Red Arrow since he met Artemis he couldn't blame her for her words.
"Look, I know I didn't exactly roll out the welcome mat when you joined the team but . . . I . . . you . . . argh!" Wally cut himself off with a frustrated groan.
Why was it so hard to talk to her? Handing out snide remarks and bickering was a piece of cake but actually having a civil, serious discussion? Impossible. He stared at her intently, watching as a bead of water slid down her flawless skin from her wet hairline and rolled along her slender jaw where it dropped off and mixed back in with the restless ocean water surrounding them. Her beautiful golden hair, free of its usual ponytail, was draped over her slim shoulders, something he'd never seen before but realized he liked. She really was an attractive girl.
Artemis blinked her eyes in confusion at Wally's sudden silence. Uncomfortable with his stare, she finally cleared her throat and said, "Uh . . ." but trailed off, not sure what to say herself.
Wally immediately shook his head, his cheeks slightly flushed from the direction his thoughts had taken. Thinking of Artemis as "attractive" was the last thing he needed.
"So, cliff diving's actually a sport, huh?" he said stupidly, unsure where to go with the conversation anymore.
Artemis rolled her eyes. "Yes, it's a sport," she reiterated. "There are actual competitions."
"And you've trained for this sport?"
She shrugged her shoulders as best she could with Wally's hands around them. "A little," she answered, purposefully being vague.
"Did your dad teach you that too?" he asked suspiciously.
She grimaced at his words. So he hadn't completely forgotten what she said about her father back in Bialya. It didn't seem like he really believed her ninja movie excuse either, although he'd thoroughly enjoyed teasing her about it for days afterward. She tried to shift away from him, but he tightened his grip in response, not allowing her to put more space between them.
"I asked you a question," he stated, not willing to drop the topic.
"And I'm telling you it's none of your business, so back off!" she hissed, her eyes purposefully looking away from him.
Wally shook his head in disappointment. Why did she have to be so difficult?
"How can you expect us to trust you if you won't tell us anything about you?" he snapped at her. She was infuriating!
"That's not fair!" she argued back, her dark blue orbs locking with his light green ones defiantly. "You don't know a thing about Robin, not even his real name, but you're best friends with him! I don't hide my face when I'm dressed in civilian clothes, I don't even use a code name on missions like the rest of you! You know I live in Gotham City and you know I'm Green Arrow's niece! Why isn't that enough?" Softening her voice some, she added, "You didn't have a problem trusting me in Bialya when I was a complete stranger. Even after I said I was probably supposed to kill you, you stuck by me anyway. Why could you trust me then but not now?"
Wally didn't respond and Artemis, finally fed up with him, placed her hands on his chest and pushed as hard as she could, breaking his hold on her. Wally's eyes widen slightly in surprise at her reaction. He'd grown accustomed to having her in his space and the sudden absence of her body so close to his left him feeling oddly disjointed.
A melancholic look entered Artemis's eyes as she said, "You don't have to like me or be happy about my presence on this team, but you do have to work with me so just deal with it for now. In the end, if you really are the good guy you claimed to be when you found me in that shed, you'll understand the part I play on this team," she finished before turning on him and swimming quickly for the shore.
Wally watched her go in the dying light of the setting sun. He just had to work with her for now? Was she planning on going somewhere? That simple thought left an emptiness in the pit of his stomach that he refused to acknowledge. And what was that about him eventually understanding the part she played? Her cryptic words were confusing and caused an uncomfortable feeling to settle over him. Feeling worse than he did after their bout in the training room that morning, Wally headed for the shore.
To be continued . . .
A/N: This chapter is kind of a trial run to gauge how well received my ability to write YJ stories is, so comments and constructive criticism would be much appreciated :) If it gets good feedback, I'll upload chapter 2 soon (it's already done) and keep going. I'm really trying to keep the characters in-character as much as I can while fleshing them out a bit more so hopefully they don't seem OOC. Unfortunately we only have 9 eps to go on since CNs being crazy slow with this show. Please let me know if they do seem OOC though so I can work harder on it. I don't know how long this will be, but I pretty much know where I'm going with this for the most part. However, suggestions are always taken into consideration and worked in if I can find a way to do so :) Guesses as to where you think this story is going are always fun to read too lol