Disclaimer: Don't own but AM SO FREAKING HAPPY THAT TEHRE ARE NEW EPISODES!
Author's Note: This is it, my last thank yous for this book: GrayAreas, xstoriexluvrx, Bookcrazy101, Keepmoveingforward2 (oh and this has always been a red/Artemis story, even from the beginning...just to clear things up for you!), Darkness Bandit, Allie, and Warrior-Wolf1! You guys are amazing!
Author's Note #2: This chapter is dedicated to Darkness Bandit, whose birthday was this week! Happy birthday and ENJOY!
Author's Note Numero Tres: OMG I cried so hard writing this chapter...
When Artemis finally showed back up at Oliver's place – after making plans to meet with Red for a real date later – she was still angry. And still worried. She wasn't worth anyone getting hurt over her.
"Hey, let's go." Artemis said, not waiting to find out what the mission was.
"Artemis." Oliver said, looking stricken. His comm was hanging limply from his hand.
"What?" she asked, suddenly scared. She'd never seen him look so shaken up – never. "What's wrong? Talk to me!" Artemis insisted when he didn't answer.
"Robin," he said finally. "They have Robin." For a second, Artemis didn't care. So what? Robin was a big boy, with big boy secrets, he could figure it out on his own. She had, for two entire days. In the next, however, Artemis berated herself. She didn't wish what happened to her on anyone – not even Robin.
Especially not Robin.
"Let's go get him then!" Artemis said, fired up. Lies or not, Robin was her go-to-guy on the team and Dick Grayson was the only kid at Gotham Academy who didn't think she was a thug and a punk. They were one and the same – and they were both her friends.
"That's not it." Oliver said, his face ashen. Artemis was suddenly struck: was this how he had looked when she was missing? "They wanted him to bait you."
Me? Artemis thought angrily. Didn't the Shadows have anything else to do than make her life a living hell? The world didn't revolve around her! And why use him as bait? Taking Robin was a sure case to get the Justice League all up your ass, not her.
"Are they stupid?" Artemis voiced aloud. "Robin equals Batman, not me."
"He wasn't the only one." Who else then? Artemis wondered. "They got your mom." All at once Artemis's world ground to a horrible, halting stop.
"M? tôi?" Artemis asked, her voice raspy and small, collapsing onto the couch, her legs unable to hold her up any more. My mom? No... "Nh?ng ng??i kh?n m? tôi?" Those bastards took my mom? Artemis jumped up, anger, fury quickly replacing anguish. "I'll kill them! I'll kill them!"
"Artemis, I can't understand you. English, Leia, English." Oliver said, trying to use the nickname to soothe her.
"I will kill them. They can hurt me, they can hurt Leaguers but the cannot hurt my mother! Where are they?" Artemis demanded, her eyes burning holes into Oliver's. The senior archer was horrified that the Shadows would go to this length – he wished that they would just leave Artemis alone! She was just a kid, for the love of God!
"Artemis! I don't know what you're saying to me! Talk to me!" Oliver couldn't help but feel disconcerted by the trapped look in Artemis's eyes – she hadn't looked at him like this since she'd been brought to the Hall of Justice against her will and had broken out of the holding room that she'd woken up in.
"I'm going to kill them." Artemis said, finally in English. "I will kill them all." She wasn't angry anymore, she was cold. Emotionless. Dead. Dead and determined. Oliver saw something shatter behind her eyes , something that should not have broken, ever. And honestly, it scared him. "Let's go." Artemis said with a cold determination.
"No, you're not coming." Oliver said, making a snap-decision.
"You can't stop me." Her voice was hard.
"They want you, Artemis, and they're not going to get you – not when I can help it." Before Artemis could move, before she could fight back or protest, Oliver had loosed an arrow and shot it into the floor right between her feet, emitting noxious fumes that left her choking and gasping as the room swirled around her...
When Artemis woke up her head was spinning and it hurt like hell.
Damn, she thought when everything came back to her. Not angrily, not hurt. Just damn. She should've seen his use of the chloroform arrow coming, especially since she invented it. Artemis tried to get up, but found that she was tethered to the desk with one of Batman's handcuffs around her wrist. And there was a note:
Don't pick this. Oliver mandated via his messy, sprawling handwriting. Artemis contemplated the handcuffs, looking at them in a clinical, detached way that was so, so different from her usual, fiery take on everything. Ignoring the message, Artemis snapped the handcuffs off with a quick twist of her wrist – what, you really think that after the last time she had been caught in those that she wouldn't figure out how to get out of them?
Rubbing her wrist, Artemis took a little black box out of her utility belt and switched it on. She'd never had to use it before, but there was a first time for everything. Oliver had told her when she'd become a hero that there were tracers in all of their suits, should they ever get lost or – in Robin's case – captured, so now, all she had to do was lock onto Robin's signal and follow the rest of the Leaguers to wherever he and her mom were being held.
"Signal found." The tracking device said, a red light blinking before the coordinates showed up on the screen. Artemis looked at the location, coolly registering that she'd been there before: her father had "interrogated" a man in there. In front of her. Calmly, Artemis grabbed her bag and armed herself, then moved out.
"What's the plan, Obi Wan?" Artemis asked into her comm when she arrived outside the building.
"You picked the cuffs." It wasn't a question.
"Did you expect me not to?" Artemis replied. She didn't wait for a written invitation to go in, but instead shot an arrow into the wall and climbed up into a third story window. She knew here the captives would be held.
"A guy can hope. Artemis don't do anything stupid, alright? We have it under control." Green Arrow paused, slightly wary. "Just go home, okay? Go home."
"Not a chance."
"But – " Artemis turned off her comm, not caring what he had to say anymore. She knew now that they weren't in the building yet. Which meant that she was the only one that was going to do anything without a three-hour strategic session.
Her mom didn't have the strength to last that long.
Making sure that she had every weapon on her as humanely possible, Artemis picked her way through the stacks of empty crates, careful not to make a sound as she opened a door that lead out onto a catwalk, high above the main area of the warehouse. Artemis perched herself on the railing and peered down to the scene unfolding some fifteen feet below her: Sportsmaster was standing in front of Robin, his face dangerously close to the young hero, who was being held up by his arms...which were held above his head, chained to the ceiling. Paula Crock was tied to a pole, her arms forced behind her. She was slumped and limp, held too high for her unusable legs to hold her up, but still conscious, Artemis could tell by her pitched, rapid breathing. No one who was knocked out hyperventilated.
It didn't look like Sportsmaster was going to give Robin a respite any time soon... Artemis needed a distraction.
"Hey Ollie, make some noise." Artemis breathed into her comm."
"Dammit Artemis, are you inside the building?" GA demanded.
"Give me a distraction or I'll blow something up and that will really diminish the likelihood of Robin's survival." Artemis delivered her ultimatum and switched off again. She was going to give them three seconds. One...two...thr –
A ear-shattering BOOM resonated from the outside of the building and even from her high vantage point, Artemis could see the sadistic gleam in her father's eyes, the evil smile that lit up his entire face.
"Looks like your friends are coming to get you." Cheshire purred, stalking out of the shadows. "Let's go give them a warm welcome, shall we, old man?"
"Let's." Sportsmaster agreed, grinning. Artemis waited until she was sure that they were gone before lightly stepping off of the railing and plummeting to the concrete floor, stopping herself with her grappling gun only at the last second. Eh, she thought, she really didn't need the gun. Fifteen feet wasn't that high up. Not enough to kill her, anyways.
For a second, Robin didn't even seem to see her, his eyes milky and unfocused.
"Hey. Bird Brain!" Artemis whispered. No response. "Hey, talk to me." Artemis said, lightly slapping him across the face. In an instant, Robin's face animated, coming back to life.
"Artemis?" he rasped, then his voice hardened, becoming angry. "What the hell are you doing here? Get out, it's a trap!"
"Robin, shut up." Artemis said icily. "If they find me here they'll kill you – hopefully before I do. I know it's a trap, why else would I come in alone. Now be quiet." Robin's mouth opened and closed soundlessly, shocked into silence. Who was this girl and what the hell had she done with Artemis? Artemis wasn't cold and clinical, she was angry and emotional. At least she was human. This Artemis-clone didn't even seem to have that much in common with his teammate. Robin remained silent while she made quick work of unchaining him.
"Thanks." Robin said, rubbing his shoulders. Arms weren't meant to bend that way.
"Don't thank me. I got you out first because I need you functional." Functional? What the hell did that mean?
"What's your plan?" Robin asked, because clearly she had one, though it seemed like it was convoluted and dangerous. More like the old Artemis, without the sarcasm.
"The plan is for you to get my mom out of here and not get shot. Can you do that?" Artemis asked, her tone condescending.
"And that leaves you to..."
"I'm going to kill them both." Artemis said, her voice so matter-of-fact that it sent chills down Robin's spine. Something was wrong with her, something was completely, totally wrong. She'd flipped some kind of switch in her mind. He thought that she'd had no sense of self-preservation before but that was nothing on the way she was acting now.
"Oh are you?" a smug voice echoed through the warehouse. "Kid, for someone trained by the best, you are damn predictable sometimes."
"I can only assume that the best means you." Artemis said calmly, turning to Sportsmaster with her arms crossed over her chest. In another world, she could've been in a kitchen, having a fight with her dad about GPAs and boyfriends. Artemis didn't look like she was gearing up for a fight, but Robin knew better.
"Someday that mouth is going to get you into trouble, Artie." Sportsmaster snarled.
"Not today." Artemis, faster than she ever had before, whipped a smoke bomb from her belt and smashed in down into the ground.
"Get my mom out of here," she mandated.
"No." Robin protested. "You can't do this alone."
"The entire League is outside." Artemis reminded him. "I can handle myself. Get her out and don't get hurt." Artemis saw the reluctance in Robin's eyes but she didn't care. The Shadows had finally gone too far. She was going to make them pay.
"Where are you, kiddo?" Sportsmaster's voice drawled through the fog. "If you think it was bad before, you've got another thing coming. I'm not holding back this time."
"Then neither will we." No! Artemis thought. This was a break in her plan that she wasn't prepared for.
"And who's this?" Sportsmaster asked, sounding almost parental. "It wouldn't be my girl's new boyfriend, now would it?" Red, get out of here! Artemis thought, her icy shell cracking somewhat. "Red Arrow, is it?" Son of a bitch. He knew.
"No, that wouldn't be it." Artemis said loudly, shooting an arrow in the direction of her father's voice. Now she remembered why smoke-screens sucked – she couldn't see a damn thing!
"Artemis! Con gái! Get out of there!" Well, now that her plan was shot to hell...
"Robin!" Artemis shouted. "Get her the hell out of here! Now!"
"Well isn't that sweet." Of course. Cheshire was right behind her. Artemis whirled, knives in hand, only to be met with a clang as her weapon bounced off of her aunt's three-pronged knife.
"She's...your...sister...you bitch!" Artemis said, every word punctuated by a clang, blocked by Cheshire.
"Family has its limits. But you know that, don't you Artie?" Cheshire took a step out of her niece's ranger, grinning. "You wouldn't join us, and look what's happening because if it. Soon your mother and your friends will all be dead and you'll be ours. See how you like it then." Artemis stopped, letting Cheshire gloat for the moment, smiling, waiting for her to attack, then...her knife entered her aunt's stomach with a wet thunk and Artemis ripped off her mask with her free hand.
Jade's eyes were wide, shocked that Artemis had managed to get her at last.
"I know that better than anyone." Artemis whispered, twisting the knife in her aunt's gut then wrenching it out. Jade crumpled to the floor, unmoving.
Artemis whirled back toward the fray, energized by her victory. The smoke was clearing – Artemis couldn't see her mother anywhere, which meant that she was hiding or safe, but Robin and Red were both battling it out with masked goons who seemingly appeared from no where. And they were losing badly. Artemis was about to jump in to aid her friends when the door crashed in from the outside and the League poured in in a flood of Spandex.
Sportsmaster swore from the other side of the warehouse, then took a handgun from his belt, aimed and shot.
No. It was happening all over again. The anger, desperation, everything that Artemis had turned off returned with a vengeance, filling her, boiling her blood. Artemis was in motion before the bullet made it out of the barrel, her feet pounding on the concrete. She had to make it. Artemis shoved Robin out of the way, spinning to put herself in front of him.
Suddenly everything went quiet. Artemis's mouth opened, but if she screamed, she couldn't hear it. It felt like someone had punched her in the chest wearing iron knuckles. The room tilted, and then she was on the ground. Artemis absently wondered how that had happened. She didn't remember falling down. She looked down at the rosebud of red blooming on her green top. How very floral. But besides the rose of blood, there was no color that she could see...it had been leeched out of her world.
As soon as the sound had ceased, it came back again, in full volume, making Artemis's head spin.
"Artemis." Robin's face was above hers, his eyes haunted behind his mask. "No, don't do this!"
She was dying, Artemis realized that now. Wasn't dying supposed to hurt? Artemis wondered. She didn't feel anything. "Grayson...don't beat yourself up over this." Her voice was small. "You've got to be a pretty special kid for two Crock sisters to die for you."
"No, Artemis you're not going to die." Robin said stubbornly, tears trekking down his face.
"That was a 9x19mm Walther P99 German semi-automatic pistol." Artemis said calmly. "I'm dying." Her breath was coming shorter now. "Sorry I was such a bitch...I don't care if you're Robin or Dick Grayson...you're still...my friend..."
"Artemis?" Oh no. No, Artemis didn't want Red to see her like this.
But selfishly...she still wanted to see him.
"Artemis!" The sound of her boyfriend's anguish ripped through Artemis's heart, doing more damage than any bullet could. Red knelt down next to her, taking her hand in his. "Oh my God," he said, seeing the state she was in.
"Red..." Artemis gasped, her voice quiet. "Sorry we never...got that date..." she had to pause, catch her breath. "I wish we...had more time." With the last of her strength, Artemis lifted her head up and gently pressed her lips to his and he kissed her back passionately before Artemis had to break away. She wanted a memory of that last kiss. "Take care of Oliver for me...and my mom..." Artemis gasped, coughing up blood. "I...I love...you guys..." Artemis couldn't speak any more, but she found that she didn't want to. There, making her way through the crowd of villains and heroes doing battle was someone she had been missing – the piece of her that had been missing.
"Hey, sis," a voice Artemis had only heard in her dreams said, a little sadly. Artemis closed her eyes and smiled herself, her mouth still in the shape of her last word:
END OF BOOK 1