Disclaimer: I don't own Young Justice or any of the characters
Artemis was fairly used to being picked on for her name. In retrospect, it was sort-of ridiculous. Seriously, whose mother names them after a Greek deity from a civilization that thrived a thousand years ago? Paula Crock, that's who. That being said, at only ten years old, Artemis had cultivated a tough skin. It took a lot to make her respond to something so trivial as petty insults, however, if it came to a fight, she was always ready for it.
Her twin, however, was a different story. Athena (clearly, their mother had had a thing for mythology when they'd been born) was tenderhearted, like their mother, and she favored her Vietnamese coloring as well. All raven hair and softly-curved eyes, Athena was kind and easily upset, which is why when she was entering fourth grade and a trio of girls decided to make her their new target while on the playground, she didn't know how to respond.
"Well, well, would you look at the charity case," one of the girls, a freckly redhead tittered. Growing up in the slums of Gotham, the Crock sisters didn't have lavish amounts of money like the aristocracy that ran the city, but their mother had scraped enough together to get them into one of the fanciest grammar schools in Gotham. On a scholarship. How, the girls weren't old enough to care.
"Hello," Athena said brightly, not realizing that the girl's words were meant to sting. "Would you like to swing with me?" she asked, gesturing to the three empty swings.
"Psh, right." Redhead scoffed. "Like we'd play with you. I heard that your family is so poor that your mom had to practically beg Headmaster to let you and your thug sister in."
"No..." Athena said uncertainly, finally understanding that the girls weren't interested in being her friends. And what had they meant about her sister? Artemis, a thug? What did that even mean? "We applied and were accepted."
"That's not what I heard." Redhead trilled. The other two girls giggled maliciously.
"I think you heard wrong," Athena said tentatively. The girls stared.
"Wrong?" The girl to the right of Redhead snapped. "Listen up, Athena," she paused. "And what kind of name is that anyway?"
"The name my mom gave me?" It was more of a question.
"Oh, right. Sounds like your mom ran out of ideas. Or maybe she just wanted you to sound like a freak. What, was daddy not there to help her pick?"
Redhead leaned forward conspiratorially. "Were you a mistake?"
"Oh you poor dear," the girl tsked unconvincingly. "Athena, the mistake!" Without hesitating, the other girls took up the cry: "Athena the Mistake! Athena the Mistake!" A crowd formed, a group of jeering, laughing, struck-up rich kids who didn't want or need a reason to belittle a student who had less than they did.
Overwhelmed, Athena panicked. "Artemis!" she cried shrilly over the cacophony.
Even from across the playground, even masked by at least thirty unkind voices, Artemis could recognize her sister's voice. Immediately, she barreled across the wood-chip-covered ground and dove straight into the mob of fourth-graders, baring her elbows and shoving anyone who got in her way to the ground.
In contrast to her sister, Artemis was fair-haired and pale, her Vietnamese heritage showing only in her distinctive stormy-gray eyes; and unlike Athena, who was somehow oblivious to the hard life they lived, barely making the rent for their pathetically small apartment, Artemis knew that in their part of the city, the way to survive was through aggression, and by taking advantage the violence that always followed. It was an unusual philosophy in this place, the playpen for the wealthy businessmen and women to send their children, especially for a girl as young as Artemis, but it was what she lived by, and Artemis knew what she believed in.
"Get out of my way!" Artemis snarled, knocking a protesting boy in the school's mandated blue suit on his butt. "Move!" Finally, she broke into the very center of the circle where Athena sat in a disheveled heap, crying silently. "Who did this to you?" she whispered urgently to her sister. Athena, never one to want to hurt somebody, even if they'd hurt her first, said nothing, but Artemis noticed her eyes dart to the three girls standing in the innermost ring of the circle, the ones who'd started it all.
"Oh look, here is the thug herself to the rescue!" Redhead cried with glee.
"Did you do this to my sister?" Artemis snarled, coming face-to-face with the girl.
"What if I did?" Redhead laughed. "What are you going to do about it, Scholarship?" Without thinking Artemis cocked her fist and sent it flying right into the girl's freckled nose. Redhead screamed as if she'd been shot and clutched at her nose, trying to staunch the flow of blood. Someone – Artemis didn't see who – punched Artemis in the stomach, then the face and she knew that there were going to be vicious black and blue marks as memoirs of her first schoolyard fight. She fought back as hard as she could, shielding Athena from the churning mass of bodies as best she could but Artemis still heard her sister's occasional cry when a blow missed Artemis and landed on her instead.
After what felt like forever, after Artemis was battered and bloody but still fighting, some authority figure, maybe a teacher, possibly the vice principal, broke through the turmoil and tore Artemis away from the fray, Athena being dragged behind her in her sister's ironclad grip.
Apparently, the penalty for fighting was a week's suspension, as Artemis found out in the Headmaster's office a half-hour later. For both parties, whether they instigated the fight or not, whether they threw a single punch or not.
"That's not fair!" Artemis protested. Athena sat quietly. She hadn't said a word throughout the entire meeting, just stared at her hands meekly, wishing her mother was there. Mrs. Crock wasn't able to leave work, so she couldn't be there to defend her daughters, though she promised that they'd be duly punished when they got home. "She didn't do anything! Those girls were the ones who started the fight, that redhead and those two blondes!"
"Do you mean Missus Tate, Jones and Andreson? I've already spoken to them and they promised that it was your sister who started the verbal joust." Artemis wondered briefly if the man was even British, but going by his pretentious use of the world "joust," she doubted it.
"What, because their daddies' oh-so-generous donations are what fund your ridiculously overpriced suits?" Artemis spat out before she could stop herself. Her mom had always said her temper would be her downfall. In this case it seemed that she was right: the Headmaster's face darkened.
"That is none of your concern, Miss Crock, and if you don't want to be suspended for two weeks, you will learn to hold your tongue. In accordance with Gotham Grammar Secondary School's protocol, both you and your sister will not be allowed on school grounds for one week. My decision is final." He looked pointedly at Artemis, his tone indicating that the discussion was over.
Artemis grabbed her sister's hand and they left the office together. Athena tried to be invisible as they walked down the hall, hoping that if the other students didn't notice her, the whispers wouldn't reach her ears, but Artemis met all of the narrowed eyes with a deadly glare of her own. Nobody dared approach say anything to Athena, not with Artemis protecting her. They all knew that the scary Crock twin fought her way through a mob of people and held her own when they'd turned on her. Now, she had a reputation. Now, she was a fighter.
"Artemis, con gái, why did you have to start a fight?" Paula Crock lamented when she got home from her dismally low-paying job.
"I didn't." Artemis said stiffly, tired of explaining. Athena had been dismissed to the small bedroom that the twins shared, and had gone willingly, knowing that Artemis and their mother were going to have it out... again and she didn't want to be around when her sister exploded. "They started it. I finished it."
"Con gái, I did not raise you to behave this way," Paula said, shaking her head, her Vietnamese accent becoming stronger as she got more and more emotional.
"On the contrary," a voice sounded from the doorway. Paula's head whipped up, her eyes wide, mouth forming a shocked O, and Artemis could only stare, for once not having a clever comment. "I think that's exactly how she should've been raised. My daughter's a fighter, Paula. She is her father's daughter." The man in the doorway was tall and imposing, at least six feet tall, with honey-colored hair that Artemis noticed matched her own. He was smiling in a self-satisfied way, the way someone would smile when a racehorse they've bet on rides its way to the winner's circle, like they knew it would happen all along, but the smile didn't reach his eyes. They were her eyes, Artemis realized. Steely gray and hard, made to convey great anger and hatred, or no emotion at all. The man stepped into the shabby apartment and knelt down in front of Artemis, so that they were eye-to-eye.
"Hiya, kiddo. My name's Lawrence Crock. I'm your father."