Title: Keep Prying Eyes Away
Rating/Warnings: T for gore and mention of abortion.
Word Count: 2,368
Character(s): Artemis Crock, Wally West, Paula Crock, Lawrence Crock, Jade Nguyen, Billy Batson and the Gang.
Summary: You're young and it's hard.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Author's Notes: Alright here is the chapter I've neglected! I finally got some inspiration. This is supposed to be the end, but I extended it and decided to make it four parts instead. There isn't a lot of fluff in this one or idk maybe there is? But anyway, there are mentions of abortion, but only like one thing, so if you're not comfortable with that, I'm sorry. There isn't much here, but hopefully it's enough to hold you all off for a while!
(you're sixteen and you've made it this far)
Her legs are sore, her arms are tired, and she's happy the day is almost over.
The clock on the opposite wall ticks on by, 8:15, 8:30, 8:45. It's not until nine o'clock that she allows herself to feel relief. Artemis grabs her things from the back, says good-bye to her friends, and leaves MacDonald's smelling like French fries and ass.
She knows she doesn't have a mission tonight, and since she's been forbidden from patrolling Gotham and she doesn't have a way to Star, she'll suffer through a long, awkward dinner with her mom while Paula tries to make conversation and fails, and then Artemis will go into her room and stare at the ceiling for eight hours until sleep finally takes her away.
Except, knowing her mother and knowing that she's trying, Artemis will likely walk in to a birthday cake sitting on the kitchen counter, icing melting off because their air conditioner broke and the house is always too hot even in the winter. It'll sit there decorated in colours she hates and a flavor she can't stand and she'll have to sit through it because she owes her mom that.
But to her surprise, the house is not filled with small balloons and a piece of shit cake her mom threw together. It's filled with a Team and a wolf.
(Which is weird since mom is so allergic to dogs.)
They yell "SURPRISE!" At her, and Artemis fights back the stinging in her eyes and the heat on her cheeks. She pretends like she isn't wearing her grungy McDonald's uniform and that her hair isn't a mess.
Everyone is smiling, even Wally, and Artemis can't help but smile back. Her cheeks feel looser than they have in weeks, and the weight on her chest is gone for the moment.
"Artemis," her mother calls, and Artemis turns to see a grin on her face, arms held out wide. This seems like a dream, or a trick of her imagination, and she doesn't want to believe what's happening, but she can't help it. Artemis walks to her mother, dropping to her knees and hugging her mother tightly, smelling like fries and cheese.
The night goes nicely and they all sit around and watch scary movies on Artemis' piece of shit TV, and for a little while they're like normal teenagers doing normal teenage things.
But then someone is knocking on the door and Paula is answering, letting out a small noise that only Conner and Artemis hear.
Artemis turns quickly, ignoring Wally's hand on her thigh. And her heart stutters.
"Where's the birthday girl?" Jade grins with a smile Artemis remembers waking up to. A smile that walked out of her life and never looked back.
The Team is turning, staring at the woman at the door, and maybe they don't recognize her as Cheshire, but they see something and it unsettles Artemis. It makes her so nervous that she wants to puke.
Standing, pushing away from the couch, Artemis walks towards her, frowning. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm bringing presents," she says like this is obvious and a normal thing, but it's not and it's strange and why is she doing it? "Now can I come in? I need to talk to both of you."
"Artemis?" M'gann asks, and Artemis turns, mustering a small smile at her friends.
"I'll be back in a minute."
Paula leads the way to her bedroom, allowing Jade and Artemis to go first. The door shuts behind her, and Artemis turns to her sister, arms crossed, Vietnamese falling from her tongue, "What are you doing here?"
"Bringing presents," Jade says again, mimicking Artemis' tone. She's speaking Vietnamese as well, and Artemis can't help but be grateful for that. The last thing she needs is Conner to hear them.
Paula is staring out the window, mouth pulled tight. Lines around her eyes seem deeper, and Artemis watches Jade stare at them. "Also, a proposition."
"What?" Artemis asks because a proposition from Jade can mean two things, and both aren't good.
"Well I don't know what it is," she snaps, hands on her hips, the cards in her hand bending. "But dad sent it, so you know it's not good."
"Don't tell me you didn't look at it."
"Girls," Paula interrupts, shooting them a glare. Jade stiffens, and Artemis can even feel a shiver run up her spine. She's only seen that glare once in her life, the first time dad hit Jade. Paula had been so angry that she'd kicked him out for a week,
"Whatever. Here," she shoves the cards into Artemis' waiting hands, scowling. "I'll see you around, kid."
Instead of leaving through the window, Jade turns, pulling open the door and exiting out into the hall. "Happy Birthday, Artemis."
With a shaking hand, Artemis drops the box onto her dresser, deciding she'll leave it for later.
Wally is the last one to leave that night, which surprises Artemis because she was under the impression that he hated her lying guts. Which is totally okay, because he maybe has a right to be?
He corners her in the kitchen when she has her back turned. Artemis knows he's coming up behind her. She can feel the shift in the air, the slight footsteps on the tiled floors. It gives her goose bumps when he breathes against her neck.
She doesn't face him.
"Should you be leaving?" It doesn't sound angry or annoyed. Almost afraid and Artemis wants to kick herself or hell, kick him for making her into this weak little girl.
Hands rest on either side of her, knuckles losing colour as Wally grips the counter tightly. He doesn't seem angry, but she can't be too sure. She contemplates turning around, but he's flush against her, and she just-
"I was wrong. All that stuff I said—it wasn't right."
"How do you figure?" She asks, because Wally isn't forgiving and he can hold grudges almost as well as a thirteen year old girl.
He doesn't speak for a long time. Almost too long and Artemis would be terrified of what he's about to say, but she's tired and just wants him to get it over with.
"Someone told me once that holding grudges only hurts the people you love," he says finally, and Artemis can hear him swallow. It's unsettling; the way his voice wavers and how his hands clench and unclench against the counter. "And it hurts you in the process. So maybe I overreacted, and I know you probably hate me but I don't-…I don't hate you. And I think maybe you should know that."
And here she goes with the teary-eyes. Artemis thinks maybe turning around his a good idea now, but she can't bring herself to do it. Not with him right there, apologizing and forgiving and being so fucking un-Wally.
"God you really know how to be dramatic, don't you?" She laughs, cheeks heated and palms sweating. Turn, turn, turn girl.
She turns, coming face to face with Wally. He's smirking, eyes bright, cheeks matching hers. "I'm all about the drama. Wait—that doesn't sound right—"
"It's alright," she says and smiles and kisses him.
The package Jade dropped off has a little note on the cover with To the Birthday Girl written on it. Little hearts outline the birthday girl part and Artemis burns it with a lighter.
Inside is where the goods are. There is another little card, with the words; I can kill them faster than you can find a new boy, doll. And pictures of Wally sleeping.
When she was little Artemis decided she`d never fall in love. She watched her mom cry herself to sleep over a man that probably didn`t love her and she watched her father betray that same woman.
Artemis saw Jade`s many conquests and her downfalls and too many abortion clinics. Love is too hard. Love isn't kind or nice or wonderful. It`s a pain in the goddamn ass, and if she's lucky she'll never have to suffer like her mother or Jade.
(Falling in like with Wally isn't as bad as love, she decides).
Billy is probably the most adorable little kid she's ever met and both she, M'gann and Zatanna deem him King of Mount Justice.
It's basically a big fuck you to Batman, who had claimed Billy couldn't be a part of their team since he had League duties, and although Billy cringes when Artemis tells him that, using harsh language, his cheeks darken and he hugs her.
She thinks maybe Wally is a little jealous now that they're kind of maybe dating and all she does is hang out with Billy, but she doesn't mind. Billy reminds her of her in some ways. He's slightly lost and maybe a lot sad under his happy smile.
"They treat me like a child," he tells Artemis one night while they're on a mission. He's holding back a branch for her so she can walk forward, and Artemis sighs.
"You should let them, Billy; you're only a kid once."
"You sound old," he murmurs, hovering at her back.
"Sometimes I feel like it."
Wally's hands are smooth, which is strange because maybe he uses too much hand lotion (she's seen that creepy ass stack of lotion in his bedside table!) but she likes it because hers are calloused and scarred, and it's a nice contrast.
When he runs those hands down her sides, teases the edge of her jeans, dipping lower, she especially likes them.
Batman says, "I'll deal with it," and allows Wally to stay at the Cave until Sportsmaster has been arrested.
Artemis feels relieved, but if he can find Wally there oh god, he can find him anywhere, right?
M'gann gives Artemis her white hand, red eyes huge and long red hair tied up in a high ponytail that rivals Artemis'.
"This isn't even me," she whispers, gritting her teeth, holding back her tears. "I hate not being me, Artemis. I hate talking out loud and I hate being Megan. I want to be me."
Artemis knows and she hugs M'gann because that's what sisters do.
Sometimes when she's fighting, that familiar bloodlust hits her so hard that she aches for blood on her hands and in her mouth and staining her face. She wants to hurt something so badly that she loses control for a moment.
Wally questions her one night. They'd snuck into the showers and were cleaning themselves up from the previous mission. Blood and mud are staining her hair, and Wally runs his fingers through her tangles, occasionally pulling too hard but Artemis doesn't say anything.
"You're like…I mean, it's amazing, beautiful, actually," he laughs and runs his fingers down her sides, missing the glare she shoots him. "But it's really terrifying."
"I'm sorry," she mutters, turning to him and resting her forehead against his shoulder. He's got a few scrapes on his chest and legs, but other than that he's fine.
"Don't be." His hands tighten around her and she thinks he knows her more than she knows herself sometimes.
It's late one night when her cell phone rings, and for a minute Artemis thinks Wally ate before he went to sleep again and now he's too hyper to fucking sleep, but the number is unknown, and gets a sinking feeling in her gut.
She answers hesitantly, staring at her ceiling. "Hello?"
There's a cough, a sputter, and maybe something dripping. "Hang up," the voice rasps, and she recognizes it as Jade's.
She doesn't get a chance to say anything else, because someone speaks over her.
"We're going to play a little game, Artemis."
"He has my sister," she yells, eyes blazing and hands curled into fists. She's never wanted to hurt someone as badly as she wants to now. Her father is torturing her sister. He's killing her.
"I understand that," Batman answers her calmly, hands clasped behind his back. The Team is behind her, and her mother is next to her. Paula is holding the arms of her wheelchair so tightly that Artemis thinks she'll break them. But she hasn't said a word, and Artemis needs her to. She needs her to say something because maybe the adults will listen to her.
"But it's obviously a trap, and you going there will only result in more bloodshed."
"So what?" She yells, stomping forward so she's toe-to-toe with Batman. There are gasps around her, but Artemis ignores them. "So I let her die, is that it? I let my sister-the only one I have—die because you think it's too dangerous? I don't know about you, but I'm not going to let my sister die because you fucking said no."
Batman's glaring now, mouth turned down in a frown.
"If it were any of them," she jerks her head to the League members that had shown up, "you'd do it. You'd save them. But because it's her—because it's Cheshire—you're going to let her die. You'll let him kill her."
He doesn't say it outright, but she knows that he's thinking it. He agrees with her.
Tears don't sting at her eyes like she thought they would. She's not sad, she's pissed off. How can he do this? How can he—
"You're no better than him," someone says, and Artemis turns stiffly, eyeing her mother.
Paula is shaking, her eyes sharp and angry. "You're going to hurt them just like he did."
Batman steps away from Artemis, cape billowing slightly. His frown is a scowl now. "I'm not risking this Team's life to save an assassin."
"Then Artemis won't be risking her life to work on this Team," Paula says almost cheerfully, angry eyes turning to Artemis. "Come on, Artemis. We're going home."
Her friends gape at her, and the League members are frowning. And Billy just looks sad.
Artemis feels that familiar bloodlust rise in her stomach and she wonders what it would be like to choke the life out of her father.