I don't own Young Justice. This was written for a prompt on the anon meme, asking for a fic that takes Artemis's Home Front line ("If I surrender, I die with the others") and reassigns it to a new character in a new situation.
He is the odd one out, even now. They all have their wards, but Ollie has his replacement, that Artemis girl, and it occurs to Roy that perhaps it's a good thing that there are seven of them and only six of the League here in the Cave – not to say that the six couldn't destroy their wards plus one in a matter of moments, but the split second it took them to realize that there actually was a spare in the mix had given him a chance to get the hell out of there, and though his heart aches to have abandoned them all, he knows it was his only choice. Hesitation would have meant death for them all. At least now, his disappearance has forced the League to delay the executions until they can find him.
"No loose ends," Batman had growled.
Truth be told, Roy has no idea what he is doing, or what the fuck is going on. They had been in the middle of Wally's birthday party when the zeta tubes had flashed a strange color, and without warning, their mentors had materialized in their midst. But instead of congratulating the speedster, or even waiting to be acknowledged, they had simply attacked.
Artemis had been the first down, an arrow in her side and a cry of pain on her lips; at the same time M'gann had screamed and fallen to her knees, clutching at her head as the Martian Manhunter stood over her. Whatever had been going on was internal and apparently very, very painful; she had slumped unconscious almost immediately. The boys had reacted variously – Roy had leapt up and into the rafters and out of there as fast as he possibly could, while Wally had rushed for Artemis, only to be tackled sidelong by his uncle; the last thing Roy had heard had been the sickeningly quick, repetitive noise of fist on flesh. What had become of Kaldur and Conner he hadn't seen; when he'd turned to take one last glance, he'd just seen Robin standing motionless in the shadow of the Dark Knight, shoulders slumped, eyes on the floor.
And now he's up here somewhere in the inner workings of the Cave and he knows they will find him soon, it's just a matter of when, but the longer he's out here the longer they'll wait to hurt his friends. Time is everything now.
But what can he do with it? He's useless up here – he has no way of calling for the rest of the League, or of even knowing if doing so would do any good. What if they are all like this? What if whatever has turned their mentors against them has everyone under its thumb?
That would be more fun, wouldn't it?
The voice in his head is androgynous and musical, and unquestionably alien. Roy freezes in place, as if listening harder will tell him where it is coming from, though of course it's in his own damn mind.
But no, I like being able to focus on this one delightful little scene. And it will be even more fun to see how the others react when it's all over.
Who are you? he demands.
No one, the voice sing-songs back. Some people used to call me the Puppeteer, but I feel I've…outgrown the moniker. You can call me whatever you like, Roy, I'm not fussy.
How - why are you doing this?
You're a nosy boy, aren't you? says the voice scoldingly. If you MUST know, it was getting so very tiresome, watching the incompetency of all your Earth villains. It's just not a fair fight you see. Your little League can team up against those poor unsuspecting baddies, but they can't ally with each other – a matter of principle, you see. So I thought I would…level the playing field a little bit. Bump a few shoulders. Rub a few people the wrong way. So far it's going marvelously, don't you think?
So this is all just entertainment to you? Roy rages, his grip on his bow tightening. Why don't you come down here and watch it in person, then? Too scared?
In his head, the voice laughs, a horrible, emotionlessly amused sound.
Oh yes, I'm positively quaking. Because although my powers are great enough to let me take control of the likes of Batman and the Martian Manhunter, I would never be able to do that to byou/b, Roy dear, you're much too strong-minded. But really, let's be serious now. I won't be playing your little game. It's much more fun to watch you play mine from a comfortable distance. You do know you're playing my game, right, Roy?
Roy grits his teeth in frustration.
So do it already, he challenges. If it would be so damn easy, just do it. Control my mind.
Oh but that's no fun, the voice clucks disapprovingly. You misunderstand me, Roy…but I'm always misunderstood, so don't feel too special about it. I don't want to destroy the Justice League. As I said, I'm interested in a level playing field, so killing you all would be no good either, and then I'd have to be so very involved, playing all the parts myself, when I'd much rather make a few directorial gestures and sit back to watch the show, you see. I'd just like to eliminate some of the unfair advantages, and I thought to myself, how positively bdelightful/b would it be to have some of the key players kill off their own little protégés? It's such an elegant solution when you think about it. It gets rid of you lot – you're an advantage in and of yourselves – and when I release their minds and they see what they've done, the scene will be positively enthralling, a real heartwrencher. So you see, Roy, why I've come to have a little chat with you. You're delaying my show. And I don't really appreciate that.
Roy doesn't know what to say because he doesn't know where or who or what he's fighting and anything he does will be futile because the thing can read his damn mind.
You're sick, he finally grits out.
I'm not, though, really, says the voice, and he can hear it yawn, as if this conversation is growing awfully tiresome. I keep the balance in the world. Isn't justice about balance? Aren't are you just aaaaall about justice?
That's not justice, he snarls. That's …
Look, Roy dear, as much as I appreciate your artistic input, I'm beginning to get quite bored with your constant contrarianism, the voice interrupts. I will make you a very generous offer, just this once, because I like you. You've got spunk.
You've killed my friends and turned the greatest men in the galaxy against themselves, Roy snaps back. What makes you think I'd take any offer from you?
Because you don't have a choice.
And as if to prove the point, Roy suddenly feels something in the back of his mind light up as if it's on fire, a burning pain just inside the base of his neck , and before he can even scream he is unconscious. When he comes to, he is in a new location, a narrow hallway he's never seen before, and there is a deep gauge in his left arm, and on the wall opposite him is written in his own blood, "YOUR MOVE, ROY."
Hope, and further deliberation, seem pointless after that.
What's the offer? he asks, closing his eyes and pressing his hand against the wound. It's still oozing fresh blood.
If you're a good boy and go talk to the grown-ups, I'll let them get back to their busy little crime-fighting lives.
He had thought it would be something like that. Still, the thought makes him retch inside. But what choice does he have? He is going to die tonight, one way or another. At least this route lets him choose it for himself.
So if I surrender, I die with the others…but you'll release them. The League members you've bewitched.
That's the gist of it.
Roy stands up; blood from the wound in his arm runs down his wrist and over his hand and drips from his fingertips onto the floor, but it's a moot point. It will all be over soon enough.
Now that his fate is set, that his feet have only one destination, Roy's mind has hundreds. He can't keep a thought in his head long enough to follow it to a conclusion, except the one that weighs down atop all the others: I'm going to die. He thinks of his childhood, of his training, of his nights on patrol with Ollie, of the first time he met Robin and Wally and Kaldur, of his stint as a lone ranger, of his failures and his accomplishments and the fact that this will not be a heroic death except in that he is choosing to approach by his own free will instead of letting someone else drag him to the scaffold. But of course he couldn't have let that happen. If he is going to die, he is going to live his last few moments of life for himself, with the people who matter most to him. He only regrets that by the time Ollie will be able to understand him again, it will be too late to say any of the many things he never got around to saying.
He walks into the room and expects to be accosted immediately, but it is as if they have been waiting for him; no one even gets up to greet him. His would-be teammates are in various states – Wally is huddling on a corner of the couch, his face a bloodied mess, his body trembling violently. His eyes are glazed and he seems already gone, which is perhaps why they have not restrained him like they have restrained Conner, who has been bound to a pillar with several lengths of thick steel wire. Artemis has collapsed against a wall, eyes half-shut as she continues to bleed from the arrow wound in her side; M'gann is beside her, trying to staunch it with her cape, but she too is silent and dead-eyed. Robin sits stiffly on a chair, staring at Batman with an unreadable expression. Kaldur sits beside him with his hand on the younger boy's shoulder, and on Roy's entrance, looks up and over at him. As his eyes track over the wound in Roy's arm and the look on his face, he seems to come to terms with something. Then he greets him with a solemn nod and a regretful smile, which Roy returns.
It is all relatively swift.
The Martian Manhunter simply turns to look at his niece and she collapses soundlessly, her form shrinking and reforming into what Roy can only assume is her true shape: small and green and lifeless now. Aquaman approaches Kaldur, who rises and tries to say something –
"My king, it has b– "
But Orin cuts him off with the Atlantean blade in his hand, thrusting it into his ward's stomach with all the strength and precision and control Roy has seem from Kaldur himself. Kaldur stiffens for a moment, then he slumps against his liege, who lowers him down and then digs the knife in deeper, pulling it up in a careful gesture. Kaldur twitches for a moment, then is still, face down on the cold floor.
Superman does not bother to kill his clone himself, which Roy finds particularly bitter. True, he cannot touch the Kryptonite ring to accomplish the task, but delegating it to Batman seems especially cruel in these last moments. Conner roars in pain when the stone comes near him, and again when Batman delivers a blow to his abdomen that would normally leave no trace, but he falls silent and closes his eyes as the next few rain down, then slumps in his bonds, a trickle of blood running from the corner of his mouth and the color draining from his whole form. As usual, the Dark Knight is methodical, efficient, and utterly silent through it all.
Batman then breaks Robin like a rag doll and it is over so fast, Roy doesn't even have time to believe it.
Ollie is advancing on Artemis as Barry chokes the life out of his nephew, who struggles for only a moment before giving in. Slowly, his legs stop jerking, his fingers stop their frantic scrabbling against the Flash's chest, and he goes limp. Likewise, Artemis doesn't make a sound when the arrow buries itself in the wall behind her via her heart, just stares at Roy for a split second before her head lolls to the side and she is gone.
Roy can feel Superman approaching him without even looking. And he knows it's ridiculous, but some part of him is furious that even now he won't get the recognition from Ollie that he knows he deserves, not even in death, but before he has too much time to think about it, the Man of Steel is wrapping his arms around his weak human frame in a sort of twisted hug that gets tighter and tighter by the second until Roy can't breathe, can't see, can't think, can't feel the snapping of his ribs as they splinter and break and pierce his lungs and end it all.
In the soft black that happens in the split second before the true black, someone is clapping.