I don't own Young Justice.
The Bechdel Test
"So, what's life really like on Mars?"
She hadn't realized how long she'd been waiting for someone to ask her that question until Artemis asked it. And somehow, it didn't matter that the archer seemed to be asking out of bored curiosity, slouched out over the couch at the end of a long training day with a soda in one hand and a bowl of peanuts in the other. It was enough that she'd even thought of it.
"It's…well…it's very different," M'gann tried to explain. How did you put it to an Earthling, who had only ever thought in her own head, only ever seen through her own eyes? "We don't…talk."
Artemis raised an eyebrow and popped a peanut into her mouth.
"Do you mean like you don't share anything with each other? Like dysfunctional Earth families?"
(Not like she had room to talk, there, but hey).
"No, no, not at all," M'gann hurried to say. "The exact opposite, actually. We don't talk because we don't have to, because it's all just…there. You feel everything everyone around you is feeling, all the time, and…and you don't have to ask."
"So, no secrets on Mars," Artemis summed up.
"No," agreed M'gann."
Artemis pulled a face and took a sip of her soda, thinking that over.
"You must think we're all pretty messed up, then."
M'gann had to laugh, to try and ease what she expected was going to be tension, but Artemis seemed perfectly on board with the idea that the rest of the team was full of neurotic self-hoarders. The archer just shrugged, offering the peanut bowl to M'gann.
"No secrets, huh," she mused, watching her green friend accept the snack. Then a soft smile crept onto her face. "I think I might like that, actually."
"A little more, if you don't mind," said Dinah, eyeing the glass.
There was a twinkle in Diana's eyes as she emptied the bottle and set it aside.
"That bad," Dinah agreed, blowing out a long breath as she put her feet up on the table and picked up her glass. "Sorry. Do you mind?"
"It's seen worse."
"I don't want to know."
Diana chuckled and sipped at her own glass, leaning back in her chair and eyeing her teammate over.
"You look beat. I thought you were just training the kids today."
"I was," Dinah groaned. She took a sip, then a swig. "Don't get me started."
"I think I already have."
"You really want to hear this?"
With an amused smile, Diana nodded.
"That's the point of these dates, Dinah. Thursday night…what did you call it?"
"Wine and bitch," Dinah laughed.
"Yes, well. I've supplied the wine. Now you supply the bitch."
Dinah nodded gratefully, eyeing her glass as if unsure there would be enough to get her through all this.
"The new girl and Flash's kid try to sabotage each other every minute of every exercise, Superboy's bastard has daddy issues worse than his own daddy and seems allergic to advice or leaning in any shape or form, Aquaman's little soldier boy has yet to recognize sarcasm or anything even resembling humor for what it is even once, the Bat brat is an insufferable little know-it-all as always, and the Martian has no idea how to turn off her empathic abilities and shut any of it out so she absorbs it all and ends up worse off than all of them. Oh, and Ollie's reject prank-ordered pizza to the Cave. From Domino's. Said something about it being kid's game stuff. I'm not even kidding."
She tipped her glass, downing the rest of the wine in one go, then reached for the second bottle.
Diana raised an eyebrow, a smile tugging at the corner of her lips. Fumbling with the corkscrew for a moment, Dinah happened to look up.
"What are you looking at?"
Completely unfazed by her teammate's hostile tone, Diana tilted her head to one side and hesitated for a second. Then she said:
"…you like them, don't you?"
Dinah looked up sharply as she snapped the top off the new bottle with her bare hands, the glass splintering. Pouring herself a fresh glass from the jagged neck, she made a face.
"Dammit," she sighed. "That obvious?"
Diana raised her glass.
"That obvious," she nodded. "Cheers."
The difference between a hero and a crimefighter was a tricky one, mostly rooted in the gut. For example, Artemis recently met Wally's aunt Iris, and though she was no crimefighter, not even a normal one like a policeman or a judge, she was a hero in Artemis's eyes (and not just because she had to put up with Wally). She was strong and brave and kind-hearted and Artemis tried not to think it, but as she fell asleep the night after they meet, she found herself wondering what it would be like to have a mom like that…
On the other hand, Superman might have been a crimefighter, but when Artemis saw the way he talked (or didn't) to Superboy, she had a hard time thinking of him as a hero.
It was just after seventh period, last class of the day, that she got a chance to explore the distinction herself. She shouldered her backpack and hopped the last row of desks in her hurry to get out of the classroom – a girl could only take so much Gotham Academy in one day, and the uniforms and the gossip and the wealth were grating on her nerves. Time to get back home, time to get in her real uniform, time to kick a little butt. Homework could wait.
She was halfway down the hallway when something caught her eye – a small bunch of girls, gathered tightly around the lockers. In their center, her back pressed to the cold metal, a tiny, bespectacled first-year was looking terrified as one of the others emptied the contents of her backpack onto the floor.
"Organic Chem? Trig? Advanced Russian? God, you're a little nerd, aren't you?" one laughed, nudging the textbooks with a foot.
"I don't know, I think we still have something to teach her," another grinned, cracking her knuckles. "Maybe a quick course in upper-level dork rehabilitation?"
The first-year looked like she was about to start crying when Artemis grabbed the shoulder of one of the bullies and spun her around.
"Hey, how about I teach you a lesson instead?" she said, eyes narrowing.
The girl threw her hand off.
"You trying to start something, new kid?"
"No," Artemis said. Dammit. This was boring. This was child's play. "I'm ending something. Leave her alone."
The gang – four girls, all third- or fourth-years – turned on her, advancing menacingly. Seizing the opportunity, the first-year bent down hurriedly to stuff her books back into her backpack, but hesitated as she looked up at Artemis with big, scared eyes. Behind the bullies' backs ,though, another girl, a redhead with calm blue eyes, knelt down and quickly pulled the littler one to her feet and whispered something in her ear. The first-year nodded and scurried off.
"I don't know if you're just not familiar with how things are done here," said one of the bigger girls warningly, stepping towards Artemis, who didn't move an inch, just folded her arms across her chest. "But there's an order at Gotham Academy…"
"…a few rules you need to follow…" another picked up, closing in on Artemis's other side.
"…a few people you should show some respect," a third finished, and she made as if to grab Artemis's bookbag from her shoulder.
In a split second she was on the ground with a bloody nose, and Artemis was glaring challengingly at the rest of them.
"Do educate me," she invited, sarcasm dripping from her voice.
"Watch your back, new kid," one of them snarled as she helped her friend to her feet and they all hurried away, whispering amongst themselves. Artemis shrugged her bag up on her shoulder and headed for the exit. Well, that was likely to make school a bit more interesting for the next few weeks at least.
As she walked, the redhead from before fell into step beside her.
"You make a habit of going for the bad guys?"
"Well, good. Gotham Academy needs more people like you," the other girl grinned, extending her hand. "My name's Barbara. We should hang out sometime."
Hanging out. God, that was a novel concept. But…why the hell not?
"Artemis," she said, shaking Barbara's hand and giving her a rare smile. "That sounds like fun."
"The cheerleading squad?" Zatanna said, wrinkling her nose as she sat on the floor of M'gann's room, painting her toenails purple. "Really?"
"What's wrong with cheerleading?" asked M'gann. She didn't take her eyes off the toenail-painting process, though; it was too crucial an Earthling process to be missed. She had never seen it in the flesh before.
"Nothing, it's just…I don't know, I guess I think of cheerleaders as being kind of annoying," the young sorceress shrugged with a short laugh. "Like, who wants to join a club whose purpose is just to cheer on another club?"
"I don't think that's our only purpose," M'gann objected. "The Bumblebees have their own meetings and parties and functions and things. And a lot of people come to games just to see us perform."
"I bet they do," Zatanna laughed, blowing on her big toe to help dry it. M'gann frowned.
"There's nothing wrong with being a cheerleader," she argued. "I thought it would be a good way to learn about Earth girls, you know? What they talk about, how they behave around each other, what they do for fun."
Zatanna slid her right foot out to let it dry, then pulled her left in close and rolled up the bottom of her pajama pants so she wouldn't get any polish on them.
"I don't know," she shrugged. "Cheerleading just seems like something you do for other people, because it's what they expect you to do, not for yourself."
"Can't you do it for both reasons?"
Zatanna looked up curiously. Floating off her bed, M'gann drifted to sit next to her friend on the carpet and took the bottle of polish from her.
"Like painting your nails," she continued, examining the bottle. "Why does anyone do that?"
"For fun," the younger girl shrugged. "And because it looks nice, I guess."
"Exactly," said M'gann.
"The fun is for you, but the looking nice is for everyone else. Unless you spend all day looking at your toes, I guess."
Zatanna laughed, taking the bottle back and starting on her other foot.
"All right, all right," she relented. "You can be a cheerleader if you want to be. But if you start inventing chants for this team, I swear I'm never joining. Ever."
" 2-4-6-8, Artemis is really great! " M'gann sang teasingly.
"1-2-3-4, do that again, I'm out the door," Zatanna shot back, sticking out her tongue.
Grinning, M'gann leaned back against her bedspread to watch her friend finish off applying the polish.
"Do mine next?"
"All right, ladies, let's get down to business," said Dinah, taking a seat at the head of the table. "This has gone on long enough, and it's high time we did something about it. I hereby officially convene the Emergency Conference for Female-Bodied Crime-Fighting Costume Redesign."
M'gann fingered the edge of her cape.
"I don't see what's wrong with mine," she said uncertainly. "Can I be excused?"
"A skirt is impractical as part of any superhero costume," Dinah replied flatly. "It's bad press if you flash a bunch of schoolchildren when you're busy pulling them from a burning bus. So unless you plan to stay in your stealth uniform for the rest of your crime-fighting days, you will keep your tush in that chair, young lady. Martian. Lady-Martian. Whatever."
"Hey, the Batgirl costume isn't that bad," Barbara argued. "It's certainly not any worse than Robin's."
Dinah eyed the girl up and down. Skintight, yes, but the fabric was practical, and the girl's work did depend on freedom of movement. And the cape…well, with her situation, she supposed she couldn't fault the extra stealth either.
"All right, all right, you can go," Dinah relented, rolling her eyes. "But the rest of you are staying here, and you're not leaving until we come up with some sensible uniform solutions."
As Barbara smirked and left the table, the others – Diana, M'gann, Artemis, Zatanna, Kara, Shayera and Mari – shifted uncomfortably in their seats.
"Shayera, okay, I get that you have the whole accelerated healing thing going on," said Dinah, focusing on Hawkgirl first. "But showing all that skin is totally unnecessary. We have the technology to create moveable, breathable, durable stretch fabrics. If you covered up your shoulders and arms, you would save yourself so much recovery time."
"I…I have been wearing this costume since 1961," Shayera frowned unhappily. The others exchanged confused glances, but let the odd comment pass. "But…I…if it is…I suppose…"
"All right, good. Next," Dinah interrupted. "Diana. You block bullets with your bracelets. Do we need to discuss this further?"
Diana mumbled something under her breath at which Zatanna, seated next to her, giggled.
"Didn't think so. And you," Dinah said, rounding on the girl. "Magical girl. Put some damn pants on. You're thirteen."
"You heard me," Canary growled, then turned to Artemis at her own side. "That goes for you too, young lady. Cover up that midriff or you'll find it full of bullets one of these days."
"But – " Artemis protested, hesitating. "But Ollie designed this costume for me…"
"He what?" Dinah demanded. "That…oh, for the love of…ugh." She shook her head. "We'll have words later."
Artemis slouched back in her chair, folding her arms over her chest uncomfortably. Black Canary turned to the last two women in the room.
"Kara, Mari, repeat with me, now – Kevlar, not cleavage. Safe trumps sexy."
Supergirl and Vixen mumbled something that might have been that, but it was hard to tell.
"Diana, you should feel free to join them," said Dinah pointedly.
"Oh, as if you do so much better," Diana objected, gesturing to her teammate's own getup.
"We're not talking about me right now," Dinah shot back airily. "Anyway. Meeting adjourned. When we come back next week, I want to see a thorough redesign of everyone's uniform, and we can all exchange pointers."
There were mutters and whispers as the women all pushed in their chairs and shuffled for the exit.
"Don't forget!" Dinah called after them. "Thursday is the first monthly Make Them Wear the Fishnets Day!"
"I don't think Conner is going to like that much," M'gann muttered to Zatanna as they left.
"Whatever," the magician shrugged. "Truth be told, I don't much either."
"Whoa whoa whoa, we are not discussing this further," Wally protested, grabbing the popcorn back from Robin and hugging it to his chest defensively. "All I'm saying is that yeah, okay, she's kind of hot, but she's still really annoying and pushy and irritating and I would never…"
"Wally's got a cruuuush~ " sang Robin gleefully.
"I do not!" Wally gasped, affronted. "Dude! That is not what I'm saying, you're not even…"
"Wally and Artemis, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S – "
"Are you thirteen, or six?" Wally interrupted, aiming a kick for his friend and missing; Robin dodged nimbly out of the way and stuck his tongue out, perched on the arm of the couch now.
"Awww, Wally, you look so disgruntled," Robin grinned. "You should – "
"If you're about to say I should look gruntled, I will end you," Wally threatened.
Robin's face fell.
"If you feel that way, why don't you just tell her?" Conner asked, clearly somewhat bored with the whole thing. "What's the worst that could happen?"
"Well for starters, she'd probably kick my ass, or worse, just laugh at me and…and I…hey, hold up, hold up! I just told you, I don't even feel that way!" Wally looked mortified. "Stop jumping to conclusions!"
"Kid Flash, your face is quite red," Kaldur pointed out seriously. "Are you feeling all right?"
"Oh my god I hate you all," Wally groaned, burying his face in the couch.
Conner took the opportunity to swipe Wally's abandoned popcorn bowl.
"It's really not that complicated," he shrugged.
"I'm getting love advice from a two-month-old clone," muttered Wally, his voice muffled by the couch cushions. "What has my life come to?"
"A two-month-old clone with a much more successful love life than you," Roy pointed out, returning from the kitchen just then and plopping down next to Kaldur on the other couch, two cans in hand. "Beer, Kal?"
Wally pulled his face out of the couch to give Roy a murderous look.
"Oh, as if yours is so much better," he shot back.
"How would you know?" Roy challenged, cracking open his beer and raising an eyebrow as he took a sip. "You know, there are benefits to the whole solo act thing…like having your own apartment…"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, I so do not want to know this," said Robin, plugging his ears.
"You can't pull the whole cooties thing on me, little bird," he said. "I heard you got along perfectly well with a certain little sorceress not too long ago…too bad you both have mentors who will personally maim and kill and kill you again if you so much as think about doing anything about it."
Robin let loose one of his signature laughs, but there was something strangled about it.
"Aaaha, let's change the subject!" he suggested, clapping his hands together. "Kal, how's your love life these days?"
Kaldur gave a thin smile, tapping one webbed finger against the side of his beer thoughtfully.
"It is…quiet," he shrugged. "There was someone, but…she is with another."
The other boys gave him sympathetic looks, none quite sure what to say.
"Even heartbreakers get their hearts broken sometimes, huh?" Roy finally said, clapping his friend on the back.
Kaldur gave a grateful smile and opened his mouth to reply when suddenly the zeta-transporters flashed white.
Recognized: Artemis, B-07. Recognized: Miss Martian, B-05.
"Hey guys," M'gann said cheerfully, floating into their midst. "What's up? What are you talking about?"
"Strategy stuff," Robin said quickly. "You know. Stealth tactics, team exercises, that kind of…"
"Hand over the popcorn," Artemis interrupted, plopping down on the couch between Wally and Conner and forcing both of them to move to make room for her.
"Kaldur, I'm surprised at you, drinking while you're having an important team discussion," M'gann teased as she drifted over to sit on the arm of the couch next to Conner; his arm automatically slipped around her waist.
"I ah…" Kaldur said haltingly. "Atlantean physiology…it is...different from humans? Beer clears my mind."
Roy snorted, finishing off his own beer.
"Can I clear your mind further?" he offered, standing up and holding out his hand for Kaldur's empty can.
"I will come with you," said Kaldur quickly, rising in relief. The two of them disappeared into the kitchen.
Artemis turned to glare at Wally. "Why's your face so red?" she asked, mouth full of popcorn.
"I um," Wally stalled, the gears clearly whirring behind his eyes. "I…was ah…running around, demonstrating something for a very important strategic move and I um, I just…you know, got a little out of breath. A little red in the face."
Artemis raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah, okay, sure" she yawned, turning back away. "Someone turn the TV on. I'm bored."
Wally jumped at the opportunity and hit the remote, the screen flickering onto some cheesy Friday night melodrama. With a sigh of relief, he sank back into the couch, trying to ignore the fact that Artemis's leg was barely four inches from his own, and that Robin was making lewd gestures behind her head and grinning wildly at him.
Forget magnets. Fuckin' girls – how did they work?