Title: Midnight Days
Rating/Warnings: T for mentions of torture and sexy things.
Word Count: 2,947
Character(s): Artemis Crock, Lawrence Crock, Jade Nguyen, Roy Harper, Wally West, Dick Grayson, Zatanna Zatara, M'gann M'orzz
Summary: "She's missing," Batman says. He shakes his head, pulling away from them. And from the looks on their faces—his friends, his mentor—he knows they're telling the truth.
Disclaimer (if applicable): I do not own Young Justice and if I did I would show it every day. Also, Neil Gaiman's Midnight Days is not mine, either.
Author's Notes: This is based loosely off of Neil Gaiman's Midnight Days quote. It's been in my head forever and I've wanted to write it, but I haven't had inspiration or time, but here it is. I hope you like it! Written for missmelon12 on tumblr. Love you gurl~
When we hold each other, in the darkness, it doesn't make the darkness go away. The bad things are still out there. The nightmares still walking. When we hold each other we feel not safe, but better. "It's all right" we whisper, "I'm here, I love you." and we lie: "I'll never leave you." For just a moment or two the darkness doesn't seem so bad.
-Neil Gaiman, Neil Gaiman's Midnight Days
"So I'll see you later," Wally leans over the console of the zeta beam, grinning at his girlfriend, who leans over the opposite side.
"If you're lucky," she teases, pressing a kiss to his lips. Wally's hand comes up, fingers dancing across the delicate skin on the back of her neck. She pulls away with a smile, then murmurs, "See you around."
"Y-yeah," Wally nods, standing back with his hands shoved into his pockets, smile on his face.
"Out a little late," the voice murmurs in her ear, and she braces herself for the oncoming hit, but one never comes. He clucks his tongue in her ear, venom seeping through each word. "I'm sure you know what happens to girls when they're out after curfew?"
Her heart pounds and she grits her teeth when his strong, firm grasp wraps itself around her throat and squeezes. "I suppose I'll have to punish you."
Instincts kick in as soon as he begins pulling her, and Artemis lashes out, attempting to scream, draw attention to herself. No one is around, though. Nobody hears her scream.
She tries to elbow him, but he takes the appendage, twisting it painfully behind her back, while his hand releases her throat, only to stab something in it.
Something blurs her eyes, gives her a headache, and she slips from consciousness.
"You won't hurt them." She says. "You can't."
Sportsmaster stalks forward, and Artemis shrinks back, attempting to stop the vibrating in her pocket by sheer will. But, as one would guess, she doesn't have that kind of luck.
"Now, now," He's long since removed his mask, blonde hair falling against his forehead as he leans forward, gripping around, and pulling her phone from her tights. "Who is this?"
He reads over the message—no doubt from Wally. Artemis' breath hitches as he reads it aloud, pitching his voice high in a mock imitation of her own. "'Arty, I hope you sleep well. Love you.' How cute," he grins, texting back. "Wally, I've got a big test coming up, so I won't be able to see you for a few days. Love you too. Xoxo." He pauses, eyebrows furrowing, before glancing at her. "Too many x's and o's? Ah fuck it, send."
Her phone is shoved into his pocket, and she shuts her eyes when his hand comes up, touching the same place Wally did earlier. It doesn't feel the same—never feels right when her father is near her. But this feels wrong.Awful, dirty.
"I hope what we do this week," he's saying now, fist connecting with her face, her eye, she muffles a yelp, "gives you a nice preview to what I plan on doing to your friends."
"What's up, Bats?" Robin crosses his arms, eyeing his mentor. Normally, Wally would laugh at the way Robin takes it like a champ when Batman glares at him, but he doesn't see Artemis. It's not strange for her to miss a mission or two, they've all done it, but Batman said the whole team would be here.
"Have any of you been in contact with Artemis at all this week?"
Something stops in Wally, and he immediately steps forward, glaring, "I spoke to her three days ago. She's—she's preparing for a test or something. She said she'd be AWOL for a few days."
Batman glances at Black Canary, who steps forward slowly, arms held in front of her. "Artemis' mother contacted Green Arrow last night. She hasn't heard from her daughter all week, and Artemis mentioned staying at the Cave. M'gann said she hasn't seen her since Sunday night."
Panic races through Wally, and his heart quickens. " She's—she's fine. Her mom obviously misunderstood—"
"Wally." It shuts him up completely when his uncle steps forward, hand on his shoulder. "She's missing."
He shakes his head, pulling away from them. And from the looks on their faces—his friends, his mentor—he knows they're telling the truth.
So he runs.
She trails off, blood and other fluids dripping from her mouth. He laughs, a low, hollow thing that takes her insides hurt. He picks her up by her hair, tugging painfully on the already-sore locks. She lets out a small whimper, but he disregards it. It's been four days since he'd taken her. Four days since he'd texted her mother and told Paula that she was staying at the Cave. Four days since she'd last heard Wally's or M'gann's or Zatanna's voice.
"Whuddya want from me?" She manages between gritted teeth, and he tosses her to the floor. Artemis falls in a boneless heap, her father standing before her, steel-toed boot in front of her face.
Lawrence Crock takes out his daughter's cell phone from his pocket, grinning.
"Would you look at that?" He grins, eyes bright. "Your little boyfriend is wondering how your studying is going. Doesn't he know how intense you get when you're studying? I'll just have to remind him…" he types something in reply, clicking send easily, dropping the phone and crushing it under his foot. "Look, no more distractions."
"S-stop," Artemis cries, blinking against the puddle she's lying in. It's her own blood. "Please let me go…"
He's gone for the night; Artemis pulls herself from the ground, ankle screaming in pain as she balances on it. Her head pounds, and her eyes sting, and she just hurts too much. There is hair on the ground, large chunks he'd cut from her hair. She hates him.
Artemis knows he's most likely watching her, waiting for her to get to the door so he can send a shock through it, or push it open and—and come back in—
She shrieks when the door opens, falling back on her hands and ass, wrists protesting as they hit the ground with a jolt. Her body is on fire, and she turns on her knees, crawling away from him.
"—ait!" A voice cries—one she knows, but can't place—and Artemis freezes, heart pounding, tears blurring her vision. Footsteps edge toward her slowly, quietly, and she turns slightly, just enough to see fiery red hair and strong, sculpted arms. She cries in relief, painful sobs erupting from her.
"Holy fuck," he whispers, sliding his hands along her back, pulling her into his arms and lifting her from the dirty, soiled ground.
She shudders against him, "H-how did y-y-you know…?"
"A cat told me," Roy tells her, and she can feel him walking away from that room.
He paces before the briefing room door, straining to hear inside. But Conner had admitted to not being able to hear in, so Wally wonders why hewould be able to. Roy had left almost as soon as he'd dropped her off, muttering something about calling tomorrow to check up on her. Wally hadn't cared too much about what Roy was saying. His eyes were on his girlfriend.
His feet are starting to ache, and he really does believe he's wearing a hole into the ground, because he's definitely been pacing for two hours. M'gann reaches out, touches his shoulder with a careful hand, and Wally pauses. "Yeah?"
"This isn't doing any good." Her eyes drift to the floor, and she frowns. "We should wait until they're finished talking to her. Maybe wait in the rec room?"
"Yeah, KF," Robin agrees, tilting his head down the hall. "She'll still be here when they get out."
"You don't know that," Wally protests, because he can't take the chance again. Not again. "I'm staying here. You guys go on ahead."
"Wally," Zatanna snaps, crossing her arms. "She's back. She's fine—"
"Fine?" Wally asks incredulously, eyebrows furrowing. "I'm sorry, but did we not see the same girl? She was—she was covered in blood, Zatanna! Herblood. Don't tell me she's fine when you have absolutely no fucking idea if she is."
"Hey," Dick shouts, stepping forward, glowering at his friend. "She's only trying to help. We are only trying to help. So don't act like such a jerk."
"Whatever," Wally mutters, running a hand through his hair. "I'm. I'm sorry it's just been a long week."
Megan steps forward, hugging Wally to her. Green hands run through red hair, and she sighs. "We know, Wally."
It takes another half hour for Batman, Green Arrow, Flash, Red Tornado and a few other members, along with Artemis, to leave the debriefing room. Artemis steps forward hesitantly, blank look on her face. Wally sees the blood immediately, dried and crusted along the side of her face. He's sure there's more when he glances at her tattered clothing; his guess is correct. Wally wonders why they haven't cleaned her up, but the way she flinches when one of the mentors step toward her, even Black Canary, makes him see why.
"Wally." Barry steps forward, nodding for Wally to come toward them, and he does so quickly, speeding up to his girlfriend and uncle. His fingers twitch to hug her, bring her to him, but she flinches when he stops before her, and Wally decides to hold off on the hug.
"Wally." This time, it's Green Arrow speaking, stepping forward, hand touching Artemis' shoulder carefully. Her jaw works, but her gaze stays on the floor. "Would you mind watching her tonight?"
"Watching her," Wally stares at his mentor, then back to his girlfriend. "Is she not going home?"
"It wouldn't be safe," Batman informs Wally, and the redhead nods, understanding what they're saying. Her father could be waiting for her. Wally turns to Artemis, ignoring the gazes of his team and the mentors, holding out his hand. Artemis' eyes fall on the freckled appendage, before her eyes land on his face. She steps forward, the blanket around her shoulders tightening with her grip.
"C'mon, beautiful," he whispers, taking her hand and intertwining their fingers, pulling her along to the showers. "Let's get you cleaned up."
She follows along, limping slowly, and he can see that she's favouring her right foot. Bile rises in his throat, and he almost hopes she insists on showering alone. Wally doesn't know if he wants to see the damage her father inflicted.
Almost too soon, they're in front of the washroom door. Wally peeks over his shoulder, but she won't meet his eyes. That's okay, he thinks, but his heart hurts.
"If you want to… to shower alone, I totally get it." He turns to her. She looks pale, and her eyes meet his. With a small shake of her head, Wally nods, stepping forward cautiously. "Do you need help…?"
Her head shakes, blonde hair tumbling forward over her shoulders, and she manages to tug her shirt loose. Wally turns away, fiddling with the water, turning it on and watching the steam rise. He doesn't know why he's nervous, but he is. His heart is pounding in his chest, and his palms are sweaty. They've showered together before, so he doesn't know why it's a problem now.
Turning back around, he sees that she's managed to get her torn t-shirt and bra off. Her breasts have scrapes and bruises scattered across them, her stomach as well. His own stomach does a flip-flop, and he watches as she attempts to get her jeans off around her swollen, twisted ankle. His hands move on their own accord, resting just below her breasts as he manoeuvres her to sit on the toilet so he can pull the jeans off for her.
Different smells assault his nose, and he realizes with a small shock of horror and anger that she hasn't had the use of a toilet in over a week. So she'd had to…
Her eyes are on the ceiling, mouth turned down in a frown. Wally knows mentioning anything would do more damage than good, so he helps her stand, and helps her into the shower.
As soon as the hot water hits her skin, she lets out a breath, and Wally exhales too, stepping into the spray along with her. The dried blood turns a murky brown and runs down her face and hair, leaving a puddle on the ground below them. Wally allows her to stand in the water for a few minutes. Her eyes close and her shoulders aren't tense anymore. His eyes trail over her body, across her chest. He takes note of each cut, scrape and bruise that decorate the tanned skin. Her legs aren't as bad, even her ankle isn't as bad as it was.
When he looks back at her face, Artemis is watching him, steely grey eyes watching him with a look of caution. Wally reaches around her, taking in the way she shrinks back, but he only moves to grab the shampoo and conditioner.
"Cupcake flavour," he teases, popping open the shampoo, squeezes a gracious amount into his hand. "Do you mind?"
She shakes her head no, and closes her eyes as his hands massage the shampoo through her hair, careful of the cut across her hairline. He works his way through the tangles, fingers straightening the hair easily. He could go faster, get the shower over with, but he knows she doesn't mind getting her hair washed, and he's not sure she'll want company when this is done.
He doesn't pause his massaging when she leans her forehead against his chest, eyelashes blinking slowly against the sensitive skin. Her hair has been cut in places, making it uneven. It makes his cheeks heat and his jaw tighten. She loves her hair.
He realizes after a moment that he's been working on the same piece of hair for a few moments, and he quickly moves back, pulling Artemis under the spray completely. The soap washes from her hair with the help of Wally's fingers, and she sighs, the colour returning to her skin.
"Are you alright?" He murmurs, adding conditioner to her golden locks, working it through. "I need to—to know."
It's grey meeting green then, her eyes dull and dark. She shrugs, muttering, "Fine."
But he knows she's lying.
They're toweling off a while later, and he wraps her tightly in two towels, one around her hair, the other tight around her body. He's got his towel around his waist, and he contemplates speeding them to his room.
"Would you mind?" He's holding his arms out, ready to lift her into them. She swallows, eyes tightening, before she nods. "Sure."
He lifts her up quickly, speeding from the room, towel falling from his waist, hers from her hair. They stop outside his room, and he punches in the code, hoping nobody comes by to see his naked ass. The door slides open with a whir, and Wally steps through it.
She stands in his room, and turns to him.
"Wally…" Her voice breaks, but her eyes are dry and her face is calm. "I'm tired."
Wally nods, moving toward her slowly, leaning forward to press a small kiss to her forehead. She holds her breath, squeezes her eyes shut. But her shoulders aren't tense, and her eyes open soon after he pulls away. Sighing, the redhead sits her down on his bed, ignoring the fact that his bedspread is probably getting wet from her hair and towel. He reaches into his drawers, pulling out pyjama pants for both of them, and a shirt for her.
"Do you need help?" He asks her, pressing the pants and shirt into her hands, eyes trying to meet hers. She sneers, split lip cracking again, tiny droplets of blood dripping down her lip. She wipes at it angrily, shaking her head. "I've got it."
He nods, backing away from her and turning around, working his boxers and pants on. When he turns back around, she's pulling the shirt on, wincing as it hurts her shoulder. He moves forward to try and help, but she pulls away from him, glaring.
"I can do it."
Wally's eyebrows furrow and he backs away with his hands held out in front of him. "Sorry—I was only trying to help."
"Yeah, well I don't need any," she snaps, pulling the shirt down over her breasts with a huff. He knows she's angry. She must be. Has to be. Her tired, dull eyes meet his, and she holds out her hand. "Can we sleep?"
Another nod, and Wally moves toward her, stopping quickly to switch off the lights. He hears a panicked noise, and speeds over to her, grasping her shaking hands in his.
"Shh, shh, I'm here, okay? He's not—he won't be back. I won't let him take you again." Wally tugs her farther up on the bed, moving the blanket and sheets around so they can get comfortable. Once under, she grips his arms, pulling him as close to her as possible.
"Did you look for me?" she whispers, warm breath against his chest, and he can feel the moisture pooling on his pillow from her hair. "Did you know I was missing?"
"I—" He pauses, because he did look, really, but he had no idea at first that she was missing. And he should have known. Should have at least been suspicious. He doesn't know what to say.
"I figured." Her voice is watery, empty, and she presses closer to him. "Don't let me go again, okay?"
Her breath quickens, and he can feel the sobs building inside her. So he kisses her one, two, three times, eyelashes brushing against hers, skin pressed against her shirt, and he nods.
"I'm not letting you go."