A/N: I'm sorry it's been months. Since updating the last chapter I had two actual funerals to attended and I just didn't have it in me to write about a fake one :( Plus I'm working overtime right now like you wouldn't believe and do little more than work, eat, and sleep . . . It sucks. Your reviews and pms did encourage me to sit down and push myself to give you an update though, so thank you so much for the constant encouragement! I was seriously blown away by the positive feedback chapter 19 got! I do want to clear up two points that were made in reviews that some of the rest of you might have had but didn't vocalize:
1). Batman, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Red Tornado know about both Artemis's double agent mission AND her mark and they are the only members of the Justice League in on this. It's a "need to know" kind of issue, so only those dealing directly with Artemis have been brought in. It was mentioned in the narration in chapter 4, but that was forever ago so I thought I'd reiterate that fact.
2). Kaldur and Roy's phone conversation. Some might feel like Kaldur asking Roy to join the team so soon after Artemis's death wasn't right, but that's not exactly what he was doing. Bringing Roy into the story was part of the point of the phone call, but it was also to show Kaldur dealing with losing Artemis. For one he's still the leader and needs to think about the Team and it's needs, but he's also feeling guilty over losing a member and sadness at having lost a friend. So he did what most people do: He called his best friend for a level of comfort and reassurance. Kaldur did say to Roy in the last (2nd to last?) S1 ep that Roy is his best friend on the surface (while Garth is his best friend in Atlantis). And Roy did call Kaldur alone for help when he was in over his head in Taipei in ep 10. But they're still boys, so Kal isn't going to just straight up call Roy and start crying. Instead he calls to tell Roy what happened (he should know after all) and to make sure the Team has an archer they can count on, when really he just needs to talk to his friend right now, to know that he can count on Roy. Of course that's not to say Roy won't be helping out . . .
Disclaimer: "I don't own Young Justice. DC Comics, Warner Brothers, and Cartoon Network have the rights to it. I'm just having some fun :)"
Note: For those who can't remember what's going on in this story between long updates, I've put a recap of the entire story so far up on my profile.
Rated T for some language, suggestive themes, and descriptive violence.
Italics mean thoughts
"Italics within quotes" mean telepathy
Sometimes you have to Lie to find the Truth . . .
Chapter 20: Ashes to Ashes
October 31, 07:00 CDT
I woke up
Wished that I was dead
With an aching in my head
I lay motionless in bed
I thought of you
And where you'd gone
And the world spins madly on . . .
Wally slammed his hand down on the snooze button of his clock-radio with an irritated snort, abruptly thrusting his room into silence once more. It wasn't as if he'd actually gotten any sleep the night before, rendering the need for an alarm clock completely moot. It was seven a.m., but instead of popping out of bed and rushing to get ready for school like he did every Monday morning, he rolled over onto his back and threw his arm over his eyes in an effort to keep the tears he was tired of shedding at bay. There would be no school for him today. No, today held its own unique brand of torture.
Today they would bury Artemis.
Just thinking about it made Wally's heart constrict painfully as his breaths grew shallower. Unable to stand the dark thoughts, he yanked the covers from his body and stumbled from his bed, the lack of sleep hitting him hard. He staggered to his desk chair where his mother had laid out a fresh Kid Flash costume for the service. Artemis had been a hero and she would be buried as one. As such, the mourners in attendance would pay their respects as the heroes they were as well, just as they had for Kent Nelson. (1) It was the highest honor they could give her. It didn't seem like enough to Wally though.
Then again, nothing would.
When the doorbell rang 15 minutes later, Wally was sitting on the edge of his bed, washed and dressed in his costume of red and yellow, numbly staring at the carpet of his bedroom floor. His mother pushed his door open with a light knock.
"Honey? Your uncle is here."
Wordlessly, Wally rose to his feet. As he passed by Mary, she placed a hand gently on his shoulder. She didn't have to say anything for Wally to know how sorry she was for his loss, for what he was going through. He paused for only a moment at the contact before he moved on, his mother's hand dropping from his shoulder. When he reached the end of the hall he saw Barry – suited up in his red Flash uniform – standing in the small foyer near the front door.
As soon as Wally was close, Barry spoke. "Are you ready?"
"I'll never be ready."
"Kid, I . . . I don't know what to say . . ."
"There's nothing you can say," he replied coldly as he hit the lightning bolt on the center of his chest, turning the bright red and yellow into black and grey. His stealth costume was more appropriate for the occasion. Without another word he walked out into the crisp October morning.
Barry turned to look at Mary and Rudolph – who had joined him in the foyer – a helpless look in his eyes that was mirrored in theirs.
"Barry, do you think he'll be okay?" Mary whispered, her voice thick with sadness for the suffering of her only child, a suffering she could do nothing about.
Barry scrubbed his hands down his masked face with a heavy sigh. "I wish I knew."
x x x
October 31st, 8:25 EDT
The small onsite chapel at the Gotham Memorial Cemetery was already teeming with heroes in costumes of every color by the time Wally and Barry arrived. They were talking quietly among themselves, or silently standing over the open casket near the front, paying their final respects to a comrade who'd fall in the line of duty. Wally immediately spotted his own teammates standing together not far from the casket, each one clad in the stealth version of their costume, apparently sharing the same idea Wally had. Without a word, he walked away from his uncle to join them, and together the team of five approached the coffin. With every step he took, Wally felt apprehension, thick and heavy, seeping into his bones and spreading throughout his body. He knew Artemis was gone, but this . . . this would make it so very real, so final.
As soon as his eyes fell on the figure resting in the coffin his composure cracked and he let out a shuddered breath, his heart stuttering to a stop. Even in death, Artemis looked fierce yet beautiful in her green uniform, but gone was the fire she always carried that made his heart race. It'd been extinguished, snuffed out as though it'd never existed.
He still couldn't fully wrap his brain around the fact that the team had lost a member, or that the League, or at least a few of its heroes, had put Artemis on a dangerous mission alone and with no real back up. The thought sent a fresh wave of anger through him and he tore his gaze from the figure in the coffin to glare hatefully at Batman and Green Arrow, standing across the room talking quietly with Roy, to his surprise. Wally suddenly stomped away from the casket and out of the building, unable to stand the sight of their fallen comrade any longer. Megan watched him go, her heart aching for the redhead. She felt a heavy hand grip her shoulder, and she knew it was Conner without even looking. Instead of relishing in the contact, she brushed his hand away and floated after the speedster. Conner let out a sigh and turned his gaze back to Artemis. He couldn't blame Megan for her rejection; if he'd gone on the mission as planned he might have been able to save Artemis. But he'd ignored his responsibilities, and now they'd never know if his presence would have made a difference in the outcome of their mission, if his presence would have been the difference between life and death for the archer. He took a deep breath through his nose and his eyebrows scrunched in confusion. He took another whiff, and again he smelled . . . nothing. Conner had never been to a funeral before, but thanks to the G-gnomes, he knew what entailed in an American burial. The organs would be removed and the arteries would be filled with a chemical called formaldehyde to preserve the body. The chemical substance was known to have a pungent, irrigating odor, yet despite his superhuman sense of smell, Conner couldn't smell the scent of harsh chemicals or decay. If he didn't know any better, he could have sworn Artemis was simply in a deep sleep.
Kaldur nudged Superboy from behind and he looked to see a line of heroes forming to pay their final respects. He glanced one more time at Artemis's still form before moving on, Kaldur and Robin in tow.
Outside, Wally was blankly staring out at the rows of tombstones when the absolute silence that blanketed the graveyard was shattered by the sound of the chapel door opening and closing behind him. A female voice softly called his name. He didn't bother to respond, and a moment later Megan came to a stop by his side.
"Wally," Megan tried again. "Please, talk to me."
Wally let out a tired sigh, his eyes never meeting hers. "What do you want me to say, Megan? That I'm okay? That any of this is okay? Because it's not, and it's never going to be."
"You're right, it's not okay, but it is our reality. We don't have to be okay with it, but we do have to accept it."
Wally shook his head. "I just . . . I can't believe I couldn't save her, Megan . . . If I'd just been a little stronger, or if-"
"Don't do this to yourself, Wally," Megan pleaded. "No matter what you come up with, it won't change the outcome of what's already happened. You can't blame yourself."
"I don't." He saw a worried look in Megan's eyes and added, "And I don't blame you either." Wally's eyes suddenly hardened. "But I should blame Connor," he said, voice harsh.
"No, if he'd come on the mission like he was supposed to, then Artemis would probably still be alive. With his super hearing he would have heard me yell for help, and with his super strength, he could have easily pulled you both back up onto the cliff. Instead, you're here and Artemis is gone."
"You're right, he should have been there, but even if he had been, we don't know for sure if it would have changed anything."
Wally opened his mouth to respond when the door creaked open once more and Kaldur leaned out.
"It's time," he said quietly before retreating back into the chapel.
Megan silently took Wally's hand and with a heavy sigh, he let her lead him back inside and to the casket. As the pallbearers, it was their job to move Artemis to her final resting place.
x x x
"We've been here all morning," Cameron complained. He threw a withering look at Jade as she leaned against a tree filing her nails nonchalantly. The pair was stationed on a hill in the back of the Gotham Memorial Cemetery and had been for a couple of hours. Earlier that morning, Jade had barged into his room on Infinity Island and knocked him out of bed with no instructions other than to get dressed and follow her. "Are you gonna tell me what's going on, or what?"
"If you must know," Jade drooled, her eyes still focused on the long nail of her index finger as she moved the file back and forth, "we're waiting for my sister."
Cameron stopped his impatient pacing, confused by Jade's words. "Your sister?" he repeated. "Artemis?"
"She's the only one I've got, now isn't she?" Jade looked out across the cemetery and abruptly stopped filing. "Speak of the devil, here she comes now."
Cameron turned and saw a cortege of superheroes solemnly making its way through the graveyard led by Black Canary, five sidekicks carrying a casket behind her. He didn't see Artemis, however. "Where? I don't see her . . ."
"Sure you do," Jade replied, brushing a leaf off her shoulder. "She's the one in the casket."
Cameron felt the air in his lungs leave in a rush at Jade's words. He and Artemis hadn't been close for a couple of years now, but they'd been close once when they were children given how their dads had been partners in crime for a time. He'd even just seen Artemis not that long ago at the Star City prison. (2) How could she be dead? And why was her funeral being held by members of the Justice League?
Jade dusted off her hands and shoved off from the tree. She stared at a particular figure in the group for a moment longer than necessary before saying, "Come on, let's go."
"Don't worry, we'll come back later tonight."
"Why? The funeral's taking place now," Cameron said. Isn't that why they'd spent their whole morning sitting in this cemetery? So Jade could see her sister's funeral? So he could too given the connection he and Artemis had? "Why would we come back later?"
"To dig her back up, of course," Jade answered simply. Cameron visibly blanched and Jade rolled her eyes as she turned away. "The only reason we came was to make sure everything is going according to the plan."
Cameron's confusion only grew at her words. "What plan? What the hell are you talking about?" he asked trailing after her. This was shaping up to be the strangest Halloween he'd ever had.
x x x
Black Canary led the way with Artemis's mother Paula. The team was behind the two ladies with Artemis's dark mahogany casket in their grip, the rest of the mourners trailing behind them in the procession. Despite the fact that Conner could have easily carried the casket by himself, the rest of the team helped anyway. Artemis had been their teammate and their friend; it was their job to guide her to her final resting place. Conner and Megan held one side, with Wally, Robin, and Kaldur on the other. The sky was cloudy and grey, but with a few words whispered backwards and a wave of her hands, Zatanna parted the clouds far enough to shed a beam of light on the coffin, the lacquered surface shining brightly in the light.
Black Canary suddenly began to softly sing a melancholy song as she marched, catching Wally by surprise. He knew the heroine had a serious set of pipes, but he had no idea they could produce such a beautiful sound given the deafening, migraine inducing screech of her canary cry. He concentrated on her voice and tried to forget the heavy weight of death he helped carry through the cemetery.
I remember tears streaming down your face
When I said, "I'll never let you go"
When all those shadows almost killed your light
I remember you said, "Don't leave me here alone"
But all that's dead and gone and passed tonight
Just close your eyes
The sun is going down
You'll be alright
No one can hurt you now
Come morning light
You and I'll be safe and sound
Don't you dare look out your window, darling,
Everything's on fire
The war outside our door keeps raging on
Hold on to this lullaby
Even when music's gone
Gone . . .
Just close your eyes
The sun is going down
You'll be alright
No one can hurt you now
Come morning light
You and I'll be safe and sound . . .
All too soon, they'd reached the freshly dug grave, empty and waiting. Together the five teens placed the coffin atop the mental contraption sitting over the dark hole that would lower the casket down. Black Canary's voice drifted off and all was silent for a moment before a middle aged man with white hair and glasses stepped forward, a weathered Bible clutched between his fingers. His figure was draped in a black cassock with a cincture around his waist and a red stole draped over his shoulders declaring his role as a pastor. He cracked open the worn Bible and began to read.
"We have gathered here this afternoon in God's presence as family and friends to remember the life of Artemis and to commend her soul into the gracious care of our Lord and Savior. We come together in grief, acknowledging our human loss. May God grant us grace; that in pain we may find comfort, in sorrow hope, in death resurrection. We could tell and retell all of the wonderful aspects of Artemis and her life. And it's a good thing that we have these memories. They will be with us forever.
Yet, there is a more important aspect about Artemis's life that I would like to emphasize-an aspect worthy of celebration: her role as a hero.
At this time we are reminded of the fact that we all are mortal, we all have to die one day. Let it be known, however, that cowards die many times before their deaths, but the valiant never taste of death but once. Artemis was as courageous as they come. She'd put her life on the line many times for mere strangers, and in the end, gave her life to save that of another."
Out of the corner of his eye, Wally saw Megan lower her head, eyes cast on the ground. Robin also glanced at the Martian and was surprised to see her eyes, though sad, were dry. He chanced a glance at Artemis's mother and was again surprised to see her eyes dry as well despite the burying of her daughter. Even if she had been a Shadow assassin at one point, she couldn't possibly be that heartless. And he knew Megan thought of Artemis as a sister. He didn't know what their lack of tears meant, but he knew it meant something.
"So, say not in grief that she is no more, but say in thankfulness that she was. In the face of the mystery of death, and given the testimony of Artemis's life of heroism, let us therefore evaluate our own lives. Let us be reminded of the things that are truly important, and continue to put our fellow man before ourselves. Heroes like Artemis are a testimony of the grace and goodness of God. Almighty God, into your hands, we commend the soul of Artemis, while we commit this body to its resting place. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. Amen."
The pastor closed his Bible and the caretakers moved forwarder and released the mechanism that let the straps supporting the casket unwind, lowering Artemis into the ground. Wally wordlessly watched her coffin vanish beneath the earth. Being a logical man of science, he'd never put much stock in the thought of a higher power or an afterlife. He'd never hoped to be wrong more than now. He stood there long after the coffin disappeared and most of the mourners had dispersed, until his uncle finally placed his arm around his shoulders and led him away.
x x x
October 31st, 22:09 EDT
Artemis awoke with a start as she typically did, gasping for air to fill her long empty lungs. She sat up in a rush and her head smacked into something thick and solid, her body immediately falling back against the soft silk fabric she'd been lying on. She tried to put a hand to the tender spot on her forehead, but her arm was stopped by a hard wall, draped in the same silky fabric she was resting on. She dragged her open palm along the fabric as the reality of her situation crashed into her. She was lying in a coffin, enveloped in darkness.
She was buried alive. It was one of her greatest fears.
The memories of the past few days trickled back to her, and she wondered how long she'd been lying in the ground, how long she would have to continue to do so until the Shadows came for her. She tried to stay calm and collected, but the thought of being stuck in an air tight box under six feet worth of dirt was enough to rattle anyone's cage, and she felt the stifling fingers of claustrophobia begin to squeeze her throat and tear at her heart. Just when she didn't think she could take it anymore, she heard muffled voices and the dull thud of metal hitting wood. There was a pause before the sounds grew louder and more succinct, and suddenly it stopped all together. Artemis reached a hand out to touch the lid of her casket but pulled it back sharply when it began to lift on its own. The first thing she saw was the moon, bright and full above her, grey clouds idly drifting past it. Then a familiar face leaned over the edge of the hole, a bright smirk on his ice blue face.
"Cameron?" Artemis questioned, eyes wide. A second later Cheshire appeared behind him, standing in full costume.
"Welcome back little sis," she said.
She sat up quickly, and Cameron reached his hand down. "Happy Halloween, Artemis. I gotta say, outta all the Halloween's we've spent together, this is definitely one for the books."
She glanced at his chilly fingers for a moment, before she wrapped her hand around his and let him haul her out of her own grave.
Jade glanced at the tombstone. "Artemis Crock. 1995-2010. Beloved daughter; honorable hero. How touching," she cooed. "And a total lie." Artemis glanced away while Cameron brushed the dirt from his pant legs. Jade finally turned to the pair and said, "Let's go you two. Ras al Ghul is a very busy man, and he has big plans for the both of you." She led the way out of the eerie graveyard, Cameron trailing behind. Artemis glanced at her headstone and empty grave one last time with a shiver.
She'd died a hero, and had risen as a Shadow.
To be continued . . .
(1) In issue 11 of the tie-in comic, they show Kent Nelson's funeral in Salem (assumedly Massachusetts) on August 21st (two days after the events of ep 7, Denial). All the heroes are shown in costume.
(2) In issue 13 of the tie-in comic, Artemis is placed under arrest as a ruse to have her encounter Icicle Jr., who is being detained in a Star City prison for his involvement in the July 4th ice attack, in the hope that she can get some intel out of him based on the fact that they know each other through their fathers.
A/N: Ugh, that was a very heavy chapter. Hope I did her funeral justice.
The song at the beginning is The World Spins Madly on by The Weepies. The 2nd song used in this chapter is Safe and Sound by Taylor Swift feat. The Civil Wars. It played during the credits in The Hunger Games.