Disclaimer: Oh though great DC nation we all love and adore, please do not strike a lowly fan such as I for writing such a story. I take no money for it, and put no claim on your wonderful world. Hire me if you will, but I shant take credit for your awesomeness.
Some language, more than I'd normally write, but all of it's within character, else wouldn't have it.
Oh, FYI, this piece makes references to earlier fanfics of mine, particularly 'Hostages' and 'Bird-sitting', plus a very vague reverence to 'Kids' via mindset of people in and/or around the league in reference to Robin. You can get away without reading most of mine, but I do recommend 'Hostages'. This really is a follow up on it.
School had just ended for the day, and like everyone else, Artemis rushed into the hallway. Unfortunately, this time she wasn't fast enough to get out the door first. Besides, she had to get the last of her homework out of her locker. Being on a superhero team didn't exempt her from normal high school activities.
As she slammed her locker shut, she spotted Bette Kane flirting with the lead quarterback. 'Even she's getting a hot boyfriend,' Artemis thought in envy. Realizing the truth about M'gann and Conner still stung, despite the time since the discovery. Wally was still in denial, and truthfully she couldn't bring her self to talk to M'gann about it. It hurt seeing the two of them together like that, but she didn't know which hurt her more: the fact that they were together or that M'gann hadn't told her about their relationship directly. They were BFFs, weren't they?
'Gah, if Robin wasn't still a kid, I'd go after him!' Frustrated, Artemis hit her head against her locker then turned around to lean against it. Robin was cute, he had potential, but really he wasn't her type. Way too immature and had a daddy complex for certain. 'Man that kid's lucky to have Batman as a dad. Much better than my evil idiot one.'
Irked at herself for thinking about her old man, she screwed up her courage and proceeded to exit the school. She tried to ignore the couples around her, even the ones that didn't exist. 'I need to get a guy.'
As she exited the school, she spotted her bus leaving its stop. "Hey wait—Ah crap. Just what I need." Glaring at the ground, she proceeded toward the stop, if only to occupy her time. It'd be twenty minutes until another bus came, at least one headed in the direction she wanted. May as well wait and get her homework done.
As she crossed the street to her bench, Artemis spotted a squad car coming up to the school. She rolled her eyes briefly as the commissioner stepped out of one side and cheerfully met his daughter outside the school gates. They hugged in greeting, but that wasn't why Artemis wanted to groan. Ever since the hold up last month, the commissioner and several other parents picked up their kids with more protection than necessary. Barbra Gordon may have been used to seeing squad cars, but Bette was being picked up in one of three hummers.
'At least Grayson still has his freedom.' Idly she looked across the street, spotting the boy billionaire slipping into a coffee shop. Despite claims that Bruce Wayne was paranoid and a bit protective over his ward, he didn't stop Dick from having his fun. Dick stayed within eyesight of the school gates and Artemis was certain his phone was in hand in case he needed it, but other than that he seemed to act like any other teenager without a care in the world. Wayne still picked him up (often late) but in a nice car, not something the military would use. Man that kid was lucky.
Artemis took out one of her textbooks and started doing her assignment, pushing everything but the next bus from her mind. She looked up briefly when a Lexis buzzed past her and then a second time when she heard tingling of the coffee shop's door. Neither would have mattered to her if it weren't for the black SUV jolting past her.
It slammed to a stop and both side doors slid open with a snap, attracting Artemis' gaze. She saw the back of the van and realized it had no plates before she heard the gun fire. People screamed behind her field of vision and she dived to the side to avoid all possibility of being shot. She kept the van in view though, then gaped in horror at what was happening on the other side of the SUV.
Dick Grayson's cup and iPhone crashed to the ground as three men covered in black grabbed him and dragged him into the van. One had a rag over Dick's mouth and nose, but the crazy kid kept writhing and fighting for all he was worth. He was still struggling when the three men had him in their getaway vehicle.
And just as sudden as this scene started, it stopped. The men pulled back in their weapons and both doors slammed shut. The black SUV jolted into drive and left them all in the dust.
Artemis slowly pushed herself off the ground and to her knees, looking around best she could. She dreaded looking behind herself but did anyway. She closed her eyes, pained by what she saw.
"Call an ambulance!" Commissioner Gordon told his junior officer as he ran to a fallen man's side. An older gentleman also tried to help the large man. Several other people were injured, mostly in the arm or leg, but this man had to be the main target.
Bruce Wayne clutched his leg in pain, though it looked like he was shot in the chest a few times. But this was a paranoid man. Underneath his regular suit and tie, a Kevlar vest rested over his vital regions. He was lucky he was prepared. Still, what shocked everyone more was what came out of his mouth.
The chauffer looked around, alarms sounding in his head. Gordon didn't look but instead ripped off Wayne's tie to use it to stop the bleeding. "We'll find him in a minute. Right now you need medical attention. Where's the school nurse?"
"I'll get him." Barbra ran as fast as she could into the school to get help, passing several more injured. The patrolman left his car, dragging out the medical kit as he raced to his boss's side.
"Why aren't you going after the van?" Wayne demanded, struggling against the officers trying to help him.
"I called it in," the patrolman started, unsure himself. "Montoya said she was in route."
"You should have gone after them!"
"Wayne calm down!" Gordon shoved Bruce back to the ground, securing the makeshift bandages best he could. "You'll lose your—"
"I don't care about my damn leg! You need to—"
"Master Bruce! Nothing will be solved if you do not receive medical treatment!" The three men looked up in shocked surprise at the chauffer. The stern glare on the old man's face seemed to rein Bruce's fury instantly. "I will find Master Richard. You focus on your leg, and take all medical advice given to you. These men are just trying to do their jobs."
Wayne seemed to bite back everything he was about to say before. "Right Alfred. Of course. Please find Dick."
"Naturally." With that, Alfred darted towards the coffee shop just as Barbra and the school nurse came out of the building. He crossed the street and spotted Artemis staring at a cell phone and coffee cup on the ground. He instantly recognized it then grabbed the girl by her shoulders. "Did you see what happened? Did you see a young man come out of this shop?"
Dumbly Artemis nodded, horrified and filled with self loathing for doing nothing. "They took him. They took Dick Grayson, three of them, and stuffed him in the van. They covered his face. He fought back but it was three of them. The gunfire didn't stop until they had him. No plates."
Alfred's face lost what color it had left but he retained his composure. Gently he let go of her then placed a hand on her back, guiding her to the Commissioner. The sirens of ambulances were coming closer, and this girl was a key witness. "Please come this way miss. I'm certain the police will want to hear everything you know."
Artemis couldn't stand it. She couldn't stand being helpless. She couldn't stand not trying to stop them earlier from kidnapping the kid. She couldn't stand telling the commissioner and his daughter what happened. She felt like she deserved it when Barbra yelled at her for doing nothing. She didn't want the Commissioner to defend her. She knew she couldn't take telling Bruce Wayne what happened, especially when he tried to jump out of his hospital bed for the fiftieth time to look for his ward. The look on his face though was the worse. He didn't blame her, she could tell that much, but the pain of not knowing what was happening to the kid—his son—was killing him inside. If her own pain and shame for not doing anything during this attack wasn't so overwhelming, she'd have felt envy watching him fight to leave the hospital to save the boy he loved so much.
Bruce Wayne had to be heavily sedated to keep him there overnight, and his butler seemed to have mixed feelings about it. Vaguely Artemis heard how "Master Bruce" would hate them all in the morning for this, but it was necessary for the recovery of both boys. Artemis found it a little funny that this Alfred referred to both Dick and Bruce as boys, and that he took full control of the situation once his employer's back was turned.
Artemis stayed around the cops and butler in the hospital for a while, trying to hear everything she could about the case. The black SUV had no plates and the brand name was ripped off so she couldn't ID it that way. Pursuing officers lost it after an intense fifteen minute car chase, and was found again an hour later, dumped at a factory thirty minutes away. It was clean of prints but a note was found along with a double sided coin.
2.2 million dollars cash
24 hours from shooting
in front of the kid's coffee shop
or Wayne loses an heir
"It's gotta be Two-Face," Barbra interjected before one of the detectives pushed her out the door. Artemis had to agree. A double sided coin and using 'two' in ransom demands was just like that demented monster. This was a job for Batman. Only he and Robin could solve this case without any casualties. She half expected to see a pieces of Batman's cape or to be interviewed by Robin as a key witness by now, but nothing happened. It was nearly three hours, three precious hours, since the shooting/kidnapping and there wasn't a sign of the dynamic duo.
'Where are they? Are they already on the case?' Artemis hoped that was the case, but you'd think they'd check the facts first, wouldn't they? Unable to wait for them a second longer, Artemis left her seat in the hallway and searched her bag for a communicator. She pulled into a bathroom, checked it was empty, then took a stall to make a private call. She put the earpiece in and tapped it to activate.
"Artemis to Robin, come in Robin." She kept her voice low just in case someone came in. On the other end was nothing. Not static or even a busy signal. "Robin, come in please!"
Frustrated, she tried another approach. "Artemis to Batman. Come in please! I have vital information on the Grayson kidnapping."
"Where are they?" She gripped her head in frustration. She couldn't sit still like this. Grayson, she owed her life to him. He stepped between her and a gun last month. Only her team would have done the same. She stopped to realize she owed Mr. Wayne too. He gave her the scholarship to go to Gotham Academy. She was there when Dick was taken and did nothing. She owed it to them both.
She had to do something.
Determination took control over her as she left the bathroom and tapped her communicator again. Vaguely she heard the butler telling the police the ransom could be met within that amount of time, but it was likely whether Dick lived or died depended on a coin toss.
"Wally. Come in Wally."
"Wally here! Whazzup beautiful?"
"It's Artemis." She tried not to smirk as she heard Wally cough up whatever he was eating. He obviously didn't realize which girl was calling him. "I need you in Gotham, now. We've got a case."
"Whoa whoa, wait, Gotham? What are you doing there? That Batman and Rob's territory, and they're pretty territorial."
"I can't get in contact with them and I witnessed the crime just three hours ago." Artemis gripped her bag tightly as she rushed out of the hospital. It wasn't far from her place thankfully. She could run there, change into her gear and be at the Zeta-beam exit within twenty minutes.
"That's a lot of help." Wally was purposely being difficult. He popped a chip into his mouth. "What's the crime? And why didn't you just call Rob? Why are you in Gotham anyway?"
"I tried calling Robin first! He's not picking up." She gripped her bag tightly as she started running down Gotham streets to home. None of them were even or safe in the evening. "Look I wouldn't call you if I wasn't desperate, but I think you're the only one who can help. It's a kidnapping, and I'm not sure how to hunt the bad guys down."
That seemed to get Wally's attention. "Who?"
"No, who was taken?"
"Dick Grayson, Bruce Wayne's ward. Wayne's been shot and sedated too. That's how they got the kid. They shot people on one side of the van and took the kid through the other."
"Man that's sick." Wally's tone became serious and Artemis could hear him moving quickly around his house. "Rob told me Two-face favored two part plans and was brutal, but I didn't think he'd be much of a kidnapper."
"He does it on occasion, but very rarely is it a kid in broad daylight." She turned into an alleyway and leapt from trashcan to low wall, hopping over it and landing with an 'ugh' on the other side. Her apartment building was nearly in sight. "There's a Zeta-beam site not far from me. Point 2469. I use it to visit my cousin. I'll see you there in fifteen minutes."
"I'll try to call Robin. Maybe he'll pick up."
"Do that. Artemis over and out." She tapped her earpiece once then glared in determination, dashing through her building's doors. Fifteen minutes. The kid already waited three hours. He'd only have to wait fifteen more before help would come his way. She only prayed it'd be enough.
Kid Flash surveyed the crime scene best he could without being spotted by the Gotham PD. Sure they were used to vigilantes looking over their work, but nothing quite as brightly colored as Kid Flash. Artemis hung back in the shadows, feeling again the trauma of watching that day's events. To keep her mind off of her feelings, she asked KF if he managed to get Robin.
KF shook his head, frustrated. "He usually picks up unless he's babysitting or at school. All I got was a dial tone. I think his phone's broken."
"Robin baby-sits?" Artemis took a step back in surprise. The boy wonder, one of the most liked and revered members of the superhero community, baby-sits?
KF chuckled. "Yeah, apparently. A neighbor of his and Bats insists. Kinda funny, but he seems to like it." After a minute, he walked back to Artemis. He shook his head. "The place is picked clean. The tire tracks are common and the cops got all the shell casings. The only thing I can say is that your vict likes lots of cinnamon and sugar in his coffee. How old is he?"
"Um, thirteen I think." She looked away trying to think of what to do next. "I think I heard the cops say the SUV was ditched about thirty minutes away from here."
"So the cars a dead end."
"Ransom note in the car with a double sided coin is what I heard. Hence Two-face." She looked over KF, hoping he'd have all the answers. "So where do we go from here?"
Kid Flash gripped his chin thinking. Thanks to his experience with his Uncle, the forensics officer, detective, and Flash of Central City, he knew more about investigations than most kids his age. Robin could best him in probably half of it, but Wally had more of a scientific mind. He was the one who knew how to make an EMP wave, not Rob. Rob was more tactics and computers. This part of the investigation is where the two of them would be equals.
"Well if it's Two-face, we should look into him. Find out what he's been up to and where he's hiding these days. Maybe if we got Batman—"
"I couldn't get him," Artemis reiterated. "I'm pretty sure we're on our own for this one."
"What about your uncle?"
Artemis took a mental step back, realizing Green Arrow might be able to get a hold on Batman but at the same time no one trespassed on Batman's territory. She really didn't want to bring him in on this. This was her fight, her debt to pay. Instead of talking about her 'uncle', Artemis turned the tables on KF. "What about your uncle? Did you tell him where you were going tonight?"
Kid Flash didn't say anything for a moment, then rubbed his head awkwardly. "Point. Alright then, no league today. But if the time limit reaches ten hours, we're calling them in. A kid's life is on the line."
Artemis nodded. That gave them ten of their own and even a way to ensure the kid's safety. Ten hours. Could they manage it in ten hours? 'If the Gotham PD can't and we can't, I sure hope the league can.'
"The fact we can't call Robin or Batman kinda scares me though." KF scrunched his eyebrows in thought. "Why would they ignore us? Especially for a case in their city?"
"We can ask them later." Artemis thought over what they knew and decided to throw out ideas. "Okay, we know Two-face is behind this. And he has thugs to help him so… we need to find where he hired them, right?"
"Good place to start." A smile started on KF's face. "In Central, Flash goes to a rouge bar to shake up some information. Know any place like that around here? I mean you visit this place a lot more than I do."
Suddenly Artemis was grateful for her imaginary cousin. The perfect excuse for knowing anything about Gotham. She looked down thinking for a bit. Her dad did go to a bar on occasion. A few of them in fact. Which one would Two-face go to?
Then it hit her. "Double Dare."
"It's a bar near the harbor, the bad part of the harbor that is. About ten miles from here."
"Alright, let's go then." Without asking, Kid Flash picked up Artemis and started running.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" Artemis hit his head enraged. "YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW WHICH WAY YOU'RE GOING!"
"Good point. Lead me, unless you want to waste more time."
Artemis grimaced, knowing he was right. She looked around briefly, gathering her bearings before pointing a direction. "Turn left here, then right after two blocks."
He must have run for twenty minutes taking directions from Artemis every few blocks. Gotham streets whined too much for clear directions, but they managed to find the place quickly enough. They stopped in a nearby alleyway to figure out how to get the information they wanted. Going covert could get them what they wanted, but the possibility of someone knifing them for asking was pretty high. Going in costume would get them shot, they were certain about that. Gotham wasn't a friendly city, particularly in the bad parts where thugs gathered to drink.
"Okay, I really don't want to go in there," KF pressed, "but I'm sure we'd fair better if we went in together at the very least."
"Or we could go for a third option." She pointed to a pair of twins headed to the bar. They didn't seem like the pleasant sort, but twins going to Double Dare had to be connected to Two-face some how.
KF grinned, their thoughts matching for the first time. Within two minutes both men were in their alleyway, pinned to the wall by arrows. To add emphasis that they meant business, KF punched the wall between the two's heads and smiled darkly. The speed of his punch left a hole in the concrete. Artemis kept an arrow notched.
"So boys, heard from Two-face lately?" Artemis gave her best evil smile to the men as she asked. Kid Flash stepped back to watch, giving them intimidating glares. Both had set their costumes to stealth mode, making them scarier than usual.
The two men though were doing their best not to be intimidated. "Nope. Never heard of him. How about you Floyd?"
"Two-face? What kid of name is that? Sounds like a cartoon character to me Earl."
"Look you two," Artemis growled, "I'm not in the mood to be cute tonight. We can play it easy or play hard. You don't want hard."
Both men looked like they were holding back laughs. "Pfft. Please chicky. You're no Batman."
"Too cute to be Batman. No way you could scare us into anyth—watch where you're pointing that thing!"
KF couldn't hide his shock as Artemis pointed her arrow at one of their privates. A cruel smile came back on her lips. "You know what, I'm so much not Batman that I can't remember what kind of arrows these are. Gas, net, grappling, explosive, it gets confusing after a while. But at this distance, I don't think it matters much. Now talk, before you become a eunuch."
She drew back her bow a little further back to make her point. One of them was ready to snap. "Now, where is Two-face keeping Grayson?"
"I… I don't know! Neither of us do!"
"Wrong answer." She drew back her bow fully, ready to fire.
"Wait! Wait! I think he's working out of Club 22 these days! We did a job for him a few weeks ago! Gun running! He had us drop off the guns there!"
"Semi-automatics?" Behind her, KF was reaching for his communicator to ask Kaldur where Club 22 was. Artemis kept her glare on the two miscreants.
He nodded emphatically. "Yeah, ten of them! But that's all I swear!"
Artemis gave them an untrusting glare, then looked over to KF. He nodded briefly, verifying the place's existence and getting it's location at that moment. After one more glare, she slowly lowered her bow. "Fine. KF, let's go."
"What about them?" They started walking out of the alleyway, the men still pinned to the wall. KF wasn't used to scare tactics nor leaving people on walls.
With one swift movement Artemis turned around and shot an arrow at them. It opened into a net, pinning the two of them into place. A smirk grew on her face. "We'll let the cops handle them. They're accomplices to a shooting and kidnapping."
After a moment, KF asked what he was too scared to say around the men. "Were you really gonna take off their…"
Artemis gave him a sneaky grin but said nothing as he picked her up to run again.
'Note to self: don't get Artemis that mad at me.'
Club 22 was abandoned like many of the theme villains of Gotham's hideouts. It shut down after it couldn't pay its debts, and those debts were to Rupert Thorne. In fact, the whole block it stood on was empty except for the beggars and junkies. Hard times hit this area worse than others, forcing businesses to either depend on the local mobs or to close down.
It gave Kid Flash the willies. "How can Rob stand this place? Half of Gotham is rundown and filled with scum balls."
"That's why Batman works so well here." Artemis circled the building to see if there were any lights on but found none. "The people are hopeless and the bad guys get scared easily. This isn't a bright city like Central Kid. It's dark and dirty."
"Then why does anyone live here?" KF slid down his goggles to find any heat signatures and only picked up rats. Ick. "All clear."
"Because its home. Because some people feel they can make a bad place good again. Because of the hope Batman and Robin, and Gordon even, give for a brighter future." They found a hole in the boards and slipped inside to search it.
"A brighter future? Here?" KF slipped his goggles back up and turned on the flashlight mode on them.
"You just won't get it." She looked around, particularly at the dust on the ground. There were signs of people in there not too long ago, maybe within the past two days, but none for the past few hours. "Sometimes things are darkest before the dawn. We just have to make the sun come up ourselves. That's what Gothamites believe, and that's why we stay."
"You're right," KF admitted, "I don't get it. Ooo! Food!"
Artemis jerked around to see KF dash to a pile of chip bags. Most of them were open, but crumbs and a few extra chips fell out easily enough. He ate them quickly and searched the rest of the bags for more.
"Why are you eating from the trash?" She gave him an are-you-kidding-me glare before spotting something halfway burned next to the pile.
"Waste not, want not. Hey!" KF objected loudly as Artemis reached for the burnt paper and brought it to the light. "Whazzat?"
"I don't know," she said, scanning the page. She could almost make out words but the ink was wearing away. The format though, "It looks like a shipping manifest. Can't read where to or from, or even what."
"Maybe it has to do with those guns the twins sold them." Kid Flash shuffled through the trash, hoping to find more clues. He too found some burnt papers, each of their ink barely readable. One of them was completely written by hand. "Or not. Look at these."
Artemis looked over his shoulder, trying to read what she could. It was near impossible. "Isn't there some way to transfer the ink onto another piece of paper? A good one? Like on Sherlock Holmes?"
KF grinned. "Yes there is! We just need a few chemicals and we're on our way. Got a lab?"
Artemis gave him a sidelong look at first, then remembered a place. "Does a school count?"
Gotham North's security was as bad as Artemis remembered it. They easily snuck into the science rooms without anyone the wiser, and no one would disturb them for several more hours. Their self appointed deadline was five hours away, not bad all things considered, but most kidnappings became dangerous after three hours.
Carefully Kid Flash mimicked the ink transporting procedure they saw on Sherlock Holmes and waited for the results to show anxiously. To occupy time, KF asked Artemis how she managed to see the abduction.
Awkwardly she answered, trying to keep the truth hidden best she could. "I was… waiting at a bus stop so I could visit my cousin. It happened right in front of me. The other side was shooting and I wasn't in costume so…"
"Ah, I see. So this is partly guilt then. For not stopping it."
Artemis shifted her feet. "A little."
"And you thought of me after Bats and Rob and not M'gann because…"
"Does it matter?" Of all the things for Wally to bring up right then, did it have to be M'gann? Her mixed emotions about the martian girl still bothered her, and right then Artemis didn't want to think about her. "I called you and obviously it was the right choice. I don't think any of the others could have helped like you have."
KF stared at her in surprise, then smiled appreciatively. He swung his feet beneath him for a bit, then hopped off the table they sat on to check on the papers. Artemis followed him, anxious to leave her old school. "Did it work?"
"Perfectly. Take a look." Kid Flash grinned as he showed her the manifests. Some were gun orders, others were specialty items like the unmarked SUV and a specialized suit. There were also rough drafts for the ransom note and one with a well marked plan written on it. This one was the hardest to read because of how burnt the original was.
"Is that a two?"
"Think so. If I'm reading this right, it says 'Pier' something 'B2'. That sound familiar?" KF looked over to Artemis who looked down in thought. 'B2' fit Two-face perfectly, but pier? What pier? There were a lot of piers!
KF could see her struggling with this so he took a step back and tried to think logically. "Okay, how about a different angle. You're a bad guy. You just kidnapped someone incredibly valuable. You need a place the cops won't find inside 24 hours, a place Batman won't look. What kind of place would it be?"
"Some place abandoned," Artemis started, "a place the neighbors won't fink on you. It'd have to be out of the way or a needle in a haystack. But a pier…"
Her eyes widened as it dawned on her. "The ghost pier!"
"It's practically abandoned and the people who do live there are trying to stay under the radar. Harvey Dent used to push for the cops to come down on the place when he was DA."
"And that matters… why?" Obviously Wally didn't learn everything about Gotham's famous crazy theme villains.
"Because Harvey Dent is Two-face! Half his face got burned off and he went nuts."
"Whoa." Kid Flash blinked in pure surprise. "Gotham is really messed up. Where are you going?"
Artemis was already headed out the window, determined to head out immediately. "Pier Warehouse B2, or some other B2 at that pier. You coming?"
"Naturally." He grabbed the papers and rolled them up to fit into one of his snack holes on his wrists. Souvenir.
It was nearly one am when they made it to the pier and found a building with a weathered B2 on the side. A single light was on and, judging by the heat signatures KF was picking up, a dozen men were waiting inside. One was smaller than the rest, and tied to a chair.
"Wow," KF raised his goggles, amazed. "We really found them all on our own."
"Thought we couldn't?" Artemis looked around for an entry and found just the right sized one for her and to start shooting arrows from. "Okay, we need a plan here."
"Besides calling Batman and telling him what we know?" He gave her a side long look. "We could be screwing things up for them you know."
"Take a look around Wally! Batman's not here and I don't think he's coming." Frustration filled her again. She couldn't sit back much longer. They found Grayson and Two-face. It was time they saved him.
"Just let me check one more time. I don't want to screw this up and end up with a corpse on our hands." Artemis bit back a retort as KF hailed the batcave once again. "Kid Flash to Batman. Batman, are you there? We found Grayson and Two-face and are ready to take them down. Are we good to go?"
"This is so stupid…"
"Um… who are you?" Artemis jerked her head around as a confused KF started talking to someone who wasn't Batman on the other end. "Okay, I get you know Batman and Robin personally but really, can I get Batman now? We've been trying to get in contact with the two for hours and…" He paused for a bit then nodded. "Yeah, we found Grayson. But where is Batman? Where's Rob? He hasn't answered my calls and he never…" He paused again, longer this time, then gave a grim nod. "We're at the Ghost Pier, Building B2. Send them over. We should have him free by then. KF over and out."
"What was that about?"
Kid Flash huffed out, slightly confused. "Apparently it's not a duo, but a trio. They're got some older British guy helping them behind the scenes. He says 'they're both in positions where they can't fight tonight, despite wanting very much to help'. He also said to 'proceed with caution' and that he'll 'send the police over for backup'. We're on our own."
"They can't help?" Artemis couldn't believe her ears. The knights of Gotham couldn't help? What happened to them? Were they hurt? Judging by KF not going ballistic, Robin couldn't have been hurt, could he? But a position where they couldn't even make it to the com-link to tell them what to do had to be bad. "Well that's just peachy."
"Okay, you ready to go?" KF looked at her, a confident smile on his face.
Artemis took out an Arrow and smirked. They already had a plan in their minds. "Bring it."
She took the shot. Within an instant the whole room was cast into shadow then filled with smoke. The men inside jerked around, bringing their guns to waist level to start firing as needed. Unfortunately KF was faster than they were. Quickly he punched each of the thugs in the gut and took the ammo out of their guns. Artemis slid in the room during the confusion to get to Grayson.
The kid was duct-taped to a chair, his mouth sealed shut and his uniform a mess. Taking a look at his bonds, Artemis could tell he continued to fight these men. The kid was brave. Course she already knew that. Only brave people or complete idiots threw themselves between a person and a gun. And he had, for her.
Now she was going to get him out of there. "Hold still," she muttered in his ear. "We're going to get you out of here."
She could see his outline jerk in surprise at her voice, but she chose not to respond. She only had a few seconds before the smoke cleared. Hopefully by then KF had all the gunmen taken care of. Maybe even Two-face.
Luck wasn't with them in that sense. Before they knew it, a second light turned on, blinding them temporarily, then Two-face appeared, a double barreled gun in one hand and a coin he kept flipping in the other. Ten feet a way, he pointed it at Artemis. "Not another move girl, or you'll be breathing through your back."
Artemis whipped around, aiming her crossbow straight at the man's chest. "Try it," she growled.
Kid Flash's voice triggered both their shots, but neither teen was hurt. KF somehow managed to run into both Grayson (still in his chair) and Artemis, dragging both out of Two-face's line of fire. Two-face himself received a bolt in the shoulder. He called out briefly in pain, then wrenched the shaft out.
Off to the side of the room, KF put down both his passengers, huffing out in exhaustion. "You okay?"
Artemis nodded but Grayson still had the gag on and made angry noises towards them. "Oh."
Without a thought KF ripped off Dick's gag, and the boy winced in pain. "Gah, a little less painful would have been nice."
"That's gratitude for ya." KF gave Dick a sizing glare, not impressed by him very much. For some rich brat, he was very well toned.
"Free my hands and I'll take care of the rest," Dick started, keeping his voice level. Artemis could tell this kid was putting up a brave front again. He was sweating bullets in this cold place and his eyes had a wild look in them. Getting kidnapped this time seemed worse than being held hostage a month or so back. As she worked on his wrists, Dick looked around wildly. "Where's Batman?"
"Couldn't make it." KF looked back to the commotion in the room. The men were getting their guns again, ready to kill.
Artemis finally managed to rip off the last of the tape, then stood tall to draw her bow. Dick winced again then started rubbing his wrists, slight horror coming to his face. "Couldn't make it? How couldn't he—"
"Talk later, escape now. There's an exit about twenty feet to your right. Take it. Your dad's worried about you." The kid looked up to her, fear clambering to his face for a moment before he gulped and started working on his legs.
KF darted forward, punching as many bad guys as he could, knocking the air out of them. Artemis gave cover fire, knocking out guns and pinning men to near by objects, giving the kid enough time to free his legs from the chair. It didn't take long and within a minute the kid jolted out of the chair and behind some crates. Instantly Artemis joined the fight, hurting what was left of the men while KF took apart their guns.
In the commotion they lost track of Two-face so Artemis didn't see him come up from behind her, pointing his gun at her head. KF saw it only a moment before the psychopath was about to fire. "Artemis!"
Behind came a loud crash, jolting her around. Two-face fell to the ground unconscious, pieces of a wooden chair falling around him. Dick Grayson came into view when he hit concrete, the remains of the chair in his hands. He breathed heavily, signs of rage on his face as he glared at the man. He looked like he was holding back quite a bit more than he wanted.
Within moments, Grayson straightened and dropped the chair, his breathing getting under control. He looked at the two and tried to smile. "You have no idea how long I've wanted to do that."
"Wow, that was cool," Kid Flash muttered without thinking.
"Yeah…" Artemis breathed out. Twice now this kid saved her, and here she was trying to save him.
The police arrived about five minutes later, and Gordon practically flew to the kid's side, checking him over. Artemis and Kid Flash hid on another rooftop, watching to make sure everything turned out okay. KF insisted they stick around for the best part but he wouldn't elaborate when she asked what that was.
"You'll just have to wait and see," he insisted, grinning. They watched in anticipation as Gordon asked the kid the standard questions and the kid gave some answers. They didn't want to be known, so they told the kid to say 'Batman and Green Arrow saved me'. He seemed fine lying about that, but he called KF 'Flash Kid' in response. Wally was starting to not like the kid.
Still they waited on the rooftop as the men and psychopath were put into squad cars and prison vans. They waited as a medic checked Grayson over and wrapped a blanket over his shoulders. They watched Gordon put the kid in his car and drove off.
"What the… what happened?" KF gaped at the slowly emptying lot, confused to no end. "Where are they?"
"Where are who? What was supposed to happen?" Artemis gave him a swift annoyed glare. It was nearly two am and she had school in the morning. She needed sleep.
"His parents," he insisted. "They didn't show up. Every time a kid gets kidnapped, his parents show up and—"
"His parents are long dead," Artemis stated flatly. "And his legal guardian is in the hospital, sedated last I heard. Kept trying to go after him."
"Does it matter?" She gave him an odd glare. What did he care? The kid was safe after all. Case closed.
"You wanna see the best part of this or not?" KF gave her a determined glare, forcing Artemis to give a resigned sigh.
"Gotham North General. It's about a mile from the Zeta-point. Not that it matt—WALLY!" Kid Flash picked her up and hung her over his shoulder within a few seconds, then ran faster than before towards the hospital. "What the hell are you doing?"
"Why does it matter?" She couldn't take this anymore. She wanted to go home, get some sleep, pray her teachers didn't ask for her homework that day. Not go chasing after Grayson's father in a hospital bed.
"Nevermind, I'llfigureitoutwhenwegetthere." He spoke so fast Artemis could hardly understand him. Still, within minutes they were on top of a roof across from the hospital. KF set her down there and grinned. "Berightback."
"Wally!" She started to object, but found herself yelling at open air. "Ah great! Go ahead and abandon me you speeding idiot! What's so great about this part you won't even tell me about!"
"Youjusthavetoseeitforyourself." He was back within a minute, holding a bag of pretzels and a pair of binoculars. A grin grew on his face. ". ."
"What on earth are you saying?" Her temper couldn't take anymore of his quick speech.
"Quit talking so fast! You're giving me a headache!"
KF paused. "Ah. Forgot there a moment. Okay, just get ready to see the best thing on Earth okay?"
"Which is…" Her patience thinned more and more by the moment. Best thing on Earth was a very broad term, and she doubted they felt the same on whatever was keeping her from going home and to bed.
He grinned and pointed down to the street. Desperate to get this over with, Artemis looked over the building's edge to the street below. Somehow they made it to the hospital before Gordon's car did, and as soon as it pulled up, Dick Grayson was out of it, running inside. For a kid who had been taped to a chair for half the night, he sure was lively. Confusion grew on Artemis' face. Was that what he wanted her to see? Grayson going to the hospital?
KF tapped her shoulder, a smirk on his face as he handed her the binoculars. "Look over there, where Mr. Wayne is."
She took the binoculars just as he pulled down his goggles. Apparently it had a zoom in function too. She settled it on Wayne's room and saw he was awake. Not very happy either. The determined unpleasant glare on his face reminded her very strongly of Batman. 'Remind me not to get on Wayne's bad side,' she thought before he started trying to leave his bed again. The nurses of course tried to stop him, and even his butler looked like he was going to insist he stay, but the man could not be detoured. From the neighboring window Artemis could see an orderly coming towards the room.
The orderly was cut off though by a very quick Dick Grayson. He ran into that room and stopped in the doorway. Both he and his father looked at each other for a moment, one very still moment, then the kid ran straight into his arms, holding onto each other for dear life. Their faces filled with relief, a painful joy, and a gratitude they knew they could never thank someone enough for. From this distance, Artemis could almost swear she saw Wayne crying. The kid definitely was.
Warmth filled Artemis as she watched. She saw before her a bond she only had with her mother and remembered clearly again how she felt when she returned to her. She remembered how alone she felt without her mom, and how wonderful it was to have her again. She could only imagine how much worse it was to nearly lose someone entirely, and how wonderful it would feel to get them back. Before her was something more valuable than any price a ransom could pay.
Next to her, KF smiled broadly. Wayne held tight to his boy and wouldn't let go. Grayson didn't want to leave either. Knowing that the other was alive and safe would never be enough between a parent and child, especially after something like this. They had to see each other, feel the other's presence. And once they did, everything would be right in the world.
"Now aren't you glad we stuck around?"
Artemis nodded, a serine smile on her face. Slowly she put the binoculars down, giving the two their privacy. Kid Flash said this was the best part. He was right. After seeing this, she felt her debt was paid, maybe even with interest. Seeing those two together again warmed the heart and gave her more hope than ever before.
"Yeah. It was definitely worth it.
END / Artemis' side.
A/N: Okay, originally I was going to go back and forth between Artemis' side of this and Dick's, but I couldn't find a way to sneak Dick's POV in when Artemis' was just too freaking good! Yes I support WallyXArtemis, but only because the ultimate KF love interest isn't in the series, nor is she a hero. I'm not talking about Jinx. ImpulseXArrowette was really cute in my opinion too ya know. =P
In my opinion, if you combined Artemis, Wally and Robin together, or just made them a separate team, they'd be the ultimate CSI/NCIS group, taking down bad guys so easily it'd make Gibbs jealous. Wally's the science geek who can fight and come up with wacky ideas that save the day, Robin's the experienced hacker, fighter and infiltrator, and Artemis would be an awesome interrogator/tough girl who sees things in a plainer light. You always need someone like that around. The rest of the team… let them chase capes. =P
Dick's side is next, and it's more trauma and humor than adventure. Also gonna have more Bruce dialog. I kept what they said to each other a secret after all. *evil grin*