Author's Note: I honestly have no idea how I've never read a story in which Artemis cuts her glorious blonde hair before. Not one. I thought that the idea would have been done before, but I have literally never read one. I would probably cry if it happened in the show because I love it so much, but I think it would be awesome if she cut it in a badass way.
I wrote this in an attempt to do that and to also kind of expand upon Artemis' past a bit more, if only in the form of several memories. I don't know…I just love Artemis and all things Artemis-centric, okay? It came out kind of weird though. Sigh.
Enjoy! And please review!
Disclaimer: I do not own Young Justice or any of the novels/films mentioned in this fic. The closest thing I have to owning YJ is a Robin t-shirt.
"Hold still! Do you want your hair braided or not?"
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"
Six-year-old Artemis Crock ceased fidgeting as her older sister scolded her for the umpteenth time that evening. Jade grumbled and pulled a lock of bright blonde hair tighter than necessary into the delicate French plait she had spent the last few moments sculpting with patience. She mumbled an apology as the younger girl winced, and with a sigh, dropped the braid, deciding to start anew.
It slowly unraveled over her petite shoulders and cascaded down her back; winding and twisting in soft waves of yellow. Thick and healthy, it had yet to be marred by flat irons, curling barrels, and harmful dyes; products that would later be used often in her adolescent years, for sure. It shimmered gold as several pieces moved and fell from their elaborate twist in the dim light of their parents' quiet apartment. Jade gently ran her fingers through the mass of feather-soft locks, grazing her sister's scalp with short, rounded fingernails, and separated the hair at the crown of Artemis' head so that the braid was completely dismantled.
While Jade had inherited their mother's exotic and sharp features, with dark almond-shaped eyes, thick lips, and olive skin, Artemis seemingly took more after their father. Her eyes were lighter in comparison, a deep gray that appeared almost blue in some light, with more rounded features and fairer skin. They were pretty little girls, complimented by numerous friendly cashiers in the line of the grocery store several blocks away and in the nearby park by the occasional mother who stopped to speak to their own. Though they almost always received the same words of flattery, typically the topic inevitably changed to the thing that really set them apart: their hair color.
"My, you girls just seem to become more and more beautiful every time I see you! Oh, Paula, Lawrence will be chasing the boys off with a bat before you know it. And that hair! Artemis has such lovely hair! She'll thank her daddy when she's old enough to appreciate it. I've seen girls go to the end of the earth with bleaches and highlights to get her natural color with no such luck…"
Artemis slowly pulled away from her sister's hands and turned to look up at her from her position on the floor in front of the living room sofa. Jade fiddled with a strand of her own black hair, eyes blankly staring at the window to the shady streets of Gotham. Artemis glanced in the same direction, seeing nothing but the dull brick surface of the building across the street. Childishly, she wished that her parents would come home from wherever it was they were, for she found the eerie silence of the empty apartment (except the occasional hum of sirens from the street) disturbing, despite Jade's best efforts to comfort her. The two had already read the entirety of their tattered copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland twice since their mother had kissed them goodbye and left with their father the day before.
Artemis nudged Jade's knee, and her attention turned to her. The girl's usually cold and calculating eyes became seemingly warmer and softer at her sister's worried expression.
"Art?" Jade tucked a strand of hair behind her sister's ear with a rare gentleness.
"Yeah, Jade?" She leaned her head against Jade's folded legs.
"Don't ever cut your hair, okay?" Jade paused and fanned Artemis' mane over her shoulders wildly. "It's too pretty."
Artemis blinked before nodding against Jade's calf.
"I won't," Artemis promised, and Jade bobbed her head up and down with content.
"Good." The hard edge returned to her eyes. "Now go turn the VHS player on and rewind Alice in Wonderland. It should still be in there. Then sit back down. I want to try a Herringbone braid on you."
Artemis bounded off the floor to play their favorite movie, before sitting back down to have her hair plaited.
She contently sipped her apple juice as Alice followed the white rabbit down to Wonderland, Jade secured her braid with a brightly-colored elastic, and the night stood still.
Tears stung Artemis eyes as an unyielding force pulled her to the ground by her ponytail. Her bow fell from her grasp and slid precariously to the edge of the building the team was currently battling upon.
Or rather, had been battling upon. Upon the arrival of Sportsmaster, the seemingly simple robbery at Wayne Tech the heroes had been sent to investigate had become increasingly more difficult.
Her gaze fell to Superboy, currently fighting several henchmen, M'gann, lying unconscious only feet away, and Kid Flash, who had been restrained by some of Sportsmaster's other lackeys. Aqualad was out of sight, but the sound of his calls from the side of the building he currently hung from rung in Artemis' ears. Robin hadn't accompanied the team on the mission due to business with Batman back in Gotham, and the archer found herself resenting the Boy Wonder for not travelling to Philadelphia with them.
Her captor pulled more tightly, and Artemis' head jerked backwards. Her father's cruel eyes stared from behind his mask straight into her own. Mockingly, he jostled her ponytail back and forth, garnering a growl from Artemis as her neck and scalp ached with the movements. He chuckled before clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
"Tsk, tsk, tsk…this is quite the predicament you've gotten yourself in to, isn't it?" Again, he pulled and the elastic in Artemis' hair became looser and his grip harder.
Artemis breathed out angrily and said nothing as a masked enemy emerged from the mass with an intimidating-looking weapon and approached M'gann's lifeless form. Her head was pushed down to look at her wounded teammate and her father's voice rang out.
"Kill them all! Starting with the Martian." He lowered himself to Artemis' level, hair still in hand. "And you, my dear, may watch," he cooed before raising himself up again. Artemis snarled and closed her eyes after she attempted to squirm from his grasp.
"So, M'gann, all you do is wind the hair around the barrel, and let it sit for a few seconds," Black Canary instructed, eyes focused on the task at hand. "Then, you can feel the hair – go ahead, touch it. Is it warm? No? Alright, give it a second – and you unravel it when it's hot. Try again. Alright, so just let the curl fall. There! See?"
M'gann gasped in wonder as one long curl sat atop Artemis' seemingly endless straight mane. "Yes! How pretty! Can I try?" Canary smiled and nodded as she handed the girl the beauty tool.
"Careful not to burn yourself." Artemis glared at the team's current den mother in the mirror she currently sat at. "Or Artemis."
"I won't, I promise!" The Martian went to work, gently winding another lock of hair around the curling iron. Artemis attempted to lean away as the heat produced by the instrument breathed against her scalp threateningly, and M'gann pulled away a fraction of an inch. The archer sighed with relief before turning her attention back to Black Canary.
"M'gann can change her appearance to anything she wants! Does she really need to learn how to use a curling iron? And does she really have to practice on me?" Artemis jerked away clumsily as the iron nearly touched her ear.
"Sorry, sorry, sorry!" M'gann apologized as she continued on.
"Now, now, Artemis. Haven't you ever heard of team-bonding?" The older woman chuckled as her fellow blonde made a face. "Besides, you have such pretty hair. It would be a waste not to play with it!"
"And, Artemis, I bet Wally will think you look very pretty when I'm done," M'gann sang as Canary's grin grew larger.
"Like I care what that idiot thinks. Just hurry up, please. Have you seen my hair? This is going to take forever. I feel like a Barbie Styling Head."
The memory was interrupted by another jerk of Artemis' head. She barked out a grunt and Sportsmaster chortled at her displeasure.
"Didn't your father ever teach you that long hair is completely impractical for missions?" Artemis whipped around to face him with a glare, despite his firm grasp on her thick locks.
As the henchman readied the weapon and aimed at M'gann, Artemis screamed and, again, attempted to break from Sportsmaster's hold to no avail. She screamed once more, this time in frustration, and slumped over, turning her vision to the ground. Her eyes landed on an arrow spilt from her quiver only a bit more than arm's length away, and her breath hitched. With one final lunge, her fingers clasped around the arrow; a simple, sharp-headed piece of equipment, and she smirked.
"No," her voice low with anger seethed. "No, he never did. Maybe he was too busy being an ass to take her for a goddamn haircut!" Then, in one single motion, Artemis raised the arrow behind her, and sliced clean-through her mass of blonde hair, just above the elastic holding it in a ponytail.
She jumped up as Sportsmaster lost his balance from holding her hair so tightly and he dropped what was attached to her head to the ground. Artemis bolted to her bow, and once it was safely in her grasp, fired an arrow at the henchman that threatened M'gann. He dropped the weapon as the arrow exploded and engulfed him and the rest of the lackeys nearby in thick polyurethane foam.
The sound of ferociously loud propellers caused Artemis to turn back to where Sportsmaster stood just moments before. He hung from the rope of a helicopter piloted by a familiar masked villain, whose painted Cheshire grin smiled back at her tauntingly. Her hair, now loose and quite a bit shorter than before, whipped around her defiant face wildly in the wind.
As the helicopter flew away, Artemis touched the ends of her hair, which fell just above her shoulders.
'Sorry, sis. I guess we both ended up breaking our promises, huh?'
Artemis snapped out of her musings just as Superboy had defeated the remainder of the henchmen, pulled Aqualad to safety, and went to M'gann's side. Kid Nuisance was up and about as soon as the lackeys restraining him were taken down, ran to where Artemis had been held captive just moments before, and scooped up the cluster of blonde hair.
"Souvenir?" He joked unsurely, holding up the ponytail.
Artemis made a face and rolled her eyes. "The idea of anyone holding onto my hair is creepy enough as it is, Baywatch. But you add a whole new level of sketchiness to the thought."
"Fine! I didn't want your fur anyways!" He tossed it aside and instead grabbed a mask of off an unconscious henchman's face to add to his collection.
"Artemis," Kaldur's voice called from his position beside Superboy and a now-awake M'gann. "Your sacrifice saved our team from defeat." He gave her a rare yet warm smile. "Thank you for giving up your hair to do so."
"Yeah. Thanks," Superboy sheepishly responded with his eyes downcast. "If you hadn't of saved M'gann, I don't know if I'd have gotten there in time."
"Oh, Artemis, it's all my fault! If I had just dodged that blow then you would have never of had to cut–"
"It's okay!" Artemis chuckled and ran a hand through her bright gold hair. Damn. That was going to take some getting used to. "It's just hair, guys. It'll grow back. And now, I can donate it to be made into a wig or something. Besides, it was getting really impractical at the length it was at." M'gann still looked guilty. "Really!"
"Yeah, completely stupid to keep it that long. You're right," Kid Flash agreed nonchalantly, snacking on a candy bar from his cupboards. "What were you thinking?" Artemis responded with a glare and a slightly obscene gesture with her middle finger.
"Enough, you two," Aqualad scolded and the two teenagers huffed. He then turned to the rest of the team. "This should be an interesting mission to debrief with Batman."
Artemis nodded as her hair brushed against her cheeks.
As interesting as debriefing the mission with the Dark Knight had been, it didn't compare to adjusting to short hair for Artemis.
Following the team's return to base, Batman and his young partner were found awaiting their arrival. After discussing the events of the mission (including the arrival of Sportsmaster), the Caped Crusader pulled Artemis aside and asked how she was faring after coming face-to-face with him, with what was almost concern present in his voice. She had nodded, confused, and grew even more disoriented after he commended her for cutting her hair to a more practical length; a 'smart decision.'
Black Canary had then steered her to the locker room and trimmed her blonde strands to an even length.
"There." Canary placed her scissors down. "All set. I really do love this cut on you. It shows off your features so nicely." Artemis snorted. "Honestly." Canary then leaned down and placed her head next to Artemis' to look at their reflections in the mirror. A smirk crossed her features. "And look. Your hair is still long enough for us to curl."
Artemis groaned and rested her head on her folded arms; wishing her hair was still long so that she could hide under it.
Her morning routine had become shorter, no longer having to brush through the mane of wild bedhead that greeted her each time she woke up and then wrestle it into a ponytail. She received compliments from numerous classmates at Gotham Academy, many of which were from a freshman with bright blue eyes who seemed oddly familiar. And hell, during missions and training, with the absence of her heavy ponytail, she felt weightless.
She had grown used to the cut over the past few weeks, and as she sat at the coffee table of Mount Justice reading a novel about a girl with daddy issues (she could relate), a large birthmark, and an affinity for geocaching called North of Beautiful, she found that her hairstyle was the last thing on her mind.
That was until; she sensed the presence of a certain speedster. Artemis looked up from her reading material, tucked one of the panels of the book jacket between two of the book's pages to keep her place, and set it on the table.
When he said nothing in response to her inquisitive gaze, Artemis raised a brow. "What?"
Wally put his hands up defensively before falling on the couch behind her, in an all-too-familiar position for Artemis. She turned around to face him.
"Nothing, nothing…Jeez," he sighed. Artemis narrowed her eyes and placed her book back in her lap, opening to the page she left off on last. He then unwrapped a chocolate-embellished granola bar produced from his pocket and noisily began eating the treat.
Artemis slammed the book shut in her lap and snapped at him. "Why are you even here?"
"You're in the middle of the living room! If you want quiet then go to your own room!" Artemis exhaled and turned back to her book, attempting to ignore the speedster's stare on her.
"Why do you keep looking at me?"
Wally began to respond hotly, but then hesitated. "I was just going to tell you…I think…I think your hair – it suits you."
Artemis' next retort died on her tongue and she deflated. She was quiet for a moment, pensively thinking, before a strand of hair tickled her neck and reminded her that Wally was still in the room. She glanced down at the text on page 247, and smiled a bit.
"Yeah. Yeah, I think it does too."
Author's Note: …I don't even know what this is. It just kind of happened. Like, I was trying to get over Writer's Block, so, umm, I pumped this out. Yeah, it was stupid. But I hope you liked it.
I recommend North of Beautiful to everyone, by the way. It's one of my favorite stand-alone novels and I find it extremely inspiring and well-written.