I am not the least bit pleased with the ending of this one. As soon as Artemis leaves History class everything is lame, but I had to get this done so it wouldn't be rotting in TextEdit forever.
Requested by crunchydill on Tumblr.
I claim no ownership to or affiliation with Artemis Crock, Richard Grayson/Robin, or Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, nor with Young Justice.
Of all the words that Artemis had predicted would describe the start of her second month at Gotham Academy, "bizarre" hadn't even crossed her mind.
Granted, the onslaught of distinctly unamusing texts from Wally (including such sparkling gems as "I'm so hungry" at 8:34 AM, "No, seriously, I'm damn hungry" at 8:35 AM, and "artemis oh god i'm going to die. of hunger." at 8:37 AM) hadn't exactly gotten her off to a favorable start. It was a Monday, which was a bad omen in and of itself, but contact from that squirt was hardly helping the matter. She managed to drag herself through her early morning Chemistry class (Wally would have been helpful if he hadn't been dying of hunger) and had half of her attention dutifully devoted to AP French third period. She couldn't recall what transpired in Pre-Calculus, but she presumed it was something tremendously boring, so it was all right that her memory was failing her.
Morning break rolled around, and Artemis found herself standing at her locker with her forehead resting against it, growling to herself. She was many things – a crack shot, a skilled essayist, a great gymnast, a decent cook – but able to remember the combination to the most basic of high school staples was not one of them. She let out a few choice words and banged it with her open palm, which just caused her to swear some more.
"Having trouble again?"
She jerked her head to her right to glare at the source of the voice in case it was someone unsavory, but it was just Barbara Gordon, staring at her with a raised eyebrow and a poorly suppressed smirk. Artemis and Babs, as she liked to be called, knew each other through orientation, which the freshmen and sophomores had inexplicably attended at the same time. Their mutually cynical natures had allowed them to bond, and truthfully, she was the closest thing Artemis would allow herself to call a friend at the School for Snobs.
"No," Artemis replied with a sarcastic giggle. "No, totally not! Not – having – trouble – at – all!" She punctuated each word with a punch to the locker.
"That's not going to help," Babs said, no longer making any effort to contain her smug grin. "Let me."
She pushed Artemis out of the way (which ordinarily would have warranted a well-aimed kick to the back of the knees, but Artemis didn't want to add "get expelled" to her to-do list) and took the lock in one dainty hand, turning the dial left and right methodically before tugging on it, causing it to click apart. She swung the metal door open with a proudly straight back, beaming at Artemis over her shoulder.
"Uh. Thanks," Artemis muttered before shoving Babs aside in a bit of not-so-poetic justice, pulling out the snack her mother had packed her and her American History textbook. What should have occurred to her several minutes earlier did just then.
"How did you know my combination?" she asked with too much bewilderment and not enough hostility. Babs shrugged, winking.
"Call it intuition. Anyway, bell's gonna ring, so you'd better get on your merry way."
She gave Artemis a sardonically coy wave before vanishing in the crowd with ninja-like skills, and Artemis frowned after her, peculiarly not disconcerted by the redhead's knowledge of her locker combination. She didn't even know it, for God's sake.
Just as Babs had predicted, the bell drilled through the halls, and Artemis groaned as she bit into the apple from the paper bag and, clenching it between her teeth, scrambled across the building toward History, to which she was three minutes late. Her teacher gave her a discerning look through his laughably dated coke-bottle glasses and she surreptitiously slinked to her seat in the back.
Just as she was sitting down, she felt her phone vibrate adamantly in her pocket, and she ground her teeth with limited patience as she set her bag down and pulled out the device.
Wally, of course.
"please send food"
Just as she finished reading it, her phone lit up with another new message.
"or, alternatively, help"
She sighed, rolling her eyes, and opened her textbook, flipping idly through the pages with no chosen destination. The phone buzzed.
With a barely-hidden groan, she snatched it violently out of her lap and shoved the unlock button up.
"if help is a cheeseburger"
She slammed her thumb into the "reply" button and furiously typed back, "Wally, LEAVE ME ALONE. I'M IN CLASS."
"class? we don't need no stinkin' class"
"That's good, considering you don't have any."
"if i wasn't starving to death i'd come up with a crushing reply"
Artemis shook her head, not allowing the tickling hint of a smile to disrupt her poker face as she stared unseeing at her rambling teacher. She put her chin in one hand, holding her pencil to a blank notebook page in the other, and exhaled torturously.
"Many would assert that MacArthur readily defied the orders of Truman when he confronted China in the wake of its defeat, but, truthfully, the Joint Chiefs stated that they believed that MacArthur had merely… stretched the limits of his orders, not overstepped or violated them. Truman took their advice the wrong way, however, and…"
"Just makes you wanna be a historian, doesn't it?" A snarky whisper emerged from Artemis's left, and she blinked, glancing over to see none other than Dick Grayson sitting next to her. She constantly forgot that she was in a class filled with freshmen because she was a transfer student, and he was not making it any easier with his penchant for following her around.
"Shut up, Grayson. Listen to the lecture," she hissed, and he let out a breathy chuckle.
"Oh, right, Crock. This coming from the most attentive listener in the Gotham Institute for the Deaf."
"That wasn't even funny, Dick."
"Miss Crock! Mister Grayson!" They both jumped at the sound of their names spoken so sharply, and stared guiltily up at their professor, whose lips were pursed as he squinted disappointedly at them. "Would you care to share your conversation with the class, or may I continue?"
At precisely the same time Artemis said, "no, go on," Dick exclaimed, "We were just discussing the overreaction of Truman in response to MacArthur's actions."
"Oh, really?" The teacher didn't seem convinced. "And, uh, what exactly did you conclude?"
"Guy was definitely not feeling the aster in that situation," Dick Grayson said, and Artemis's head whipped around so sharply to look at him that her braid flew over her shoulder. He glanced at her, winked, and sank back into his seat in satisfaction.
"Thank you, Richard, for your… trademark abuse of the English language." The teacher sniffed. "Now, where was I? Ah, yes. MacArthur's final address to Congress in 1951…"
"What did you just say?" Artemis whispered fiercely, feeling her cheeks losing their colour as she spoke. Dick grinned at her, causing his unnervingly icy eyes to twinkle.
"Just answering the question," he told her happily, and promptly opened a new page in his notebook to begin doodling what looked like an angular bird logo. Artemis gawked at him for a few good seconds before the teacher's frequent looks sent her way forced her to send her attention elsewhere.
The remainder of the period was mostly uneventful save for a brief lull in the lecture when the teacher told a girl to spit out her gum, and Artemis found herself unexpectedly surprised when the bell rang to release her and her classmates. She haphazardly packed up her things, grunting as she hauled her weighted-down bookbag over her shoulder. She heard a light, prepubescent snickering from from beside her and turned to glower at the source.
"Something funny, Grayson?" she started to demand, but her sentence dissipated when she saw that the desk was empty. She looked up wildly, but the eccentric kid was nowhere to be found.
Was everyone at this school trained in the ways of… oh, she doesn't even know; Batman? It was ridiculous. And yet, oddly, she wasn't even shocked anymore when someone she'd just been talking to suddenly vanished from sight.
She didn't even give heed to the class's discussion in English, but she forgave herself because they were only talking about All Quiet on the Western Front, which she frankly hated. (In hindsight, she thought that night when one of her absent classmates dared to e-mail her asking for the paper topic they had been assigned, she probably should have been listening.)
The dining hall was crowded and buzzing with activity, and Artemis tried to forge her way through the snobbery permeating the air and find a place to eat her food as quickly as possible. While the scholarship had indeed covered all of her tuition and supply funds, it had failed to include a meal plan, but Artemis didn't care, because frankly, she wasn't in the mood for "Authentic New England Clam Chowder" at the moment, and there was something about her mother's leftovers that let her briefly forget the several hours she had to go before she could return home.
She spotted Babs across the floor, sitting alone at one of the tables in a corner against the nearest window (the entire north and west walls of the dining area had floor-to-ceiling windows), and approached her with relief, weaving easily in and out of the hordes. She was stunned to see that, when she finally reached her destination, Babs was no longer by herself: Dick Grayson was sitting cheerfully next to her, wolfing down a salad.
Artemis grimaced and sat down across from them.
"Hey, young'uns." She saluted them sarcastically and started rummaging through the crumpled paper bag that held her lunch. Babs acknowledged her with a nod, which Artemis was perfectly content with, but Dick set down his fork resolutely and fixed a serious gaze on the archer. It took her a moment to notice, but when she did, she froze, allowing her mouthful of cold cơm tấm to loiter unswallowed in her bulging cheeks.
"What?" she demanded, but it came out a bit more akin to whmff.
"Don't call me a young'un," he ordered, brandishing his fork at her as though this was extremely serious business.
"What would you prefer I call you, Grayson?" Artemis snorted after swallowing the fried egg.
"Uh, definitely not that, either." Dick's frown tightened and he folded his arms, doing nothing short of pouting. Babs smirked at him. Artemis followed suit.
"How about Dickweed?" she suggested with a laugh, and Babs snickered behind one hand. This half-hearted insult didn't seem to faze Dick.
"How about… Dick Grayson, The Boy Blunder?" Babs asked with a glittering in her eyes that Artemis couldn't decipher. "You do kind of look like that Robin dork…"
"I like the sound of that!" Dick said with a wicked expression. "You can call him Robin One, and me Robin Two."
"Like Thing One and Thing Two," Artemis interjected, staring at the two freshmen with a slightly weirded out expression.
"You okay there, Crock?" Babs asked without the slightest hint of actual concern.
"Yeah, you seem a little nonplussed," Dick agreed, leaning toward Artemis and regarding her with scrutiny that caused her to tilt backward. "Maybe we oughta fix that. I hereby decree that by the end of lunch, Artemis Crock will be beyond plussed!"
"Oh my goodness, Dick, the inventors of prefixes are rolling in their graves."
"Isn't it ironic that the word prefix in and of itself contains a prefix? That's kind of lazy."
Babs shook her head and turned her eyes to the ceiling fondly before returning to her sandwich. The remainder of the meal passed in relative silence, and every time Artemis glanced up at Dick, she noticed him sending furtive glances at Babs's shoulders and hair. They grow up so fast, she thought, and then the familiarity of that thought struck her: hadn't she just said that to Wally a few days ago when Robin had been fawning over Zatanna?
Babs was right. Dick Grayson did bear a bit of a resemblance to Robin. If Artemis slapped a mask on him right then and there, they might have been identical, especially in their mutual disdain for prefixes or any other basic grammatical tool.
Babs said something and Dick laughed, a light, throaty chuckle that Artemis could have sworn she had heard before, maybe on TV. Or maybe Robin and Dick Grayson were long-lost cousins, or something.
Ordinarily, she would have presumed that the boy across from her was Robin, but she told herself that it was too obvious: the sidekick of the world's greatest detective would hardly be that carefree about his secret identity. That sort of high-profile stupidity was reserved for the likes of Wally, who, coincidentally, it seemed, messaged her right then. She slid her phone open.
"what are you eating. tell me so i can dream about it."
She couldn't help letting her expression grow just a little bit less stoic, and rapidly typed a reply before leaning down to stuff the remainder of her bag lunch into her bookbag.
"Another dazzling lunch with—" she started to snark out, but found herself once again staring at an empty space when she came back up. Both Babs and Dick had vanished.
World's greatest friends award goes to…
Unbeknownst to her, both Dick and Babs were spying on her from behind the window of the closed cafeteria doors, giggling discreetly to themselves.
"Dick, don't you think maybe we should go a little easier on her? Bats would kill us if he knew we were even talking to her." Babs glanced sideways at her sniggering companion, who was rubbing his hands together with relish.
"Nah, we can't quit while we're ahead! And besides, Batman can't kill us; it's bad for his image. The kindergarteners would never forgive him."
"Do you ever actually plan on, I don't know, not trolling her for five seconds?"
Dick shrugged, straightening his tie. "Plans are for squares. Oh, crap, she's coming this way. Evacuate!"
They both dashed off in different directions with identical giggles echoing in their wake, and when Artemis finally stepped out into the hallway, all thoughts of the eerie similarities between Dick Grayson and Robin were replaced by pondering the best way to efficiently cut off Wally's fingers to get him to stop sending her meaningless text messages.
To be honest, the latter made her head hurt a lot less.