The hell of it was, she hadn't even been in costume.
When Artemis didn't show up for her first class that day, Dick was intrigued, but not particularly perturbed. In all honesty, he was a little surprised she'd taken to Gotham Academy with as good grace as she had.
When she didn't make it to lunch, his focus sharpened.
When she hadn't made it by the end of the day, and no classmates had mentioned anything about her, okay, yeah, he was a little concerned. He'd have to wait until nightfall to drop by the little apartment, but luckily they had a training session at Mount Justice before then, so he could drop some clever comments so vague that she'd try to take his head off in frustration during sparring, and that was always fun.
But she didn't show.
He wasn't the only one to notice; Aqualad frowned, Kid Flash bounced impatiently, and M'gann wondered aloud where she was.
And when she didn't answer her communicator, okay, yeah, he was definitely perturbed. But at least he wasn't the only one.
"Already on it." Batman reported when contacted, and Robin was the only one to hear the tightness in his voice. "Miss Martian, have you picked up on anything unusual from her lately?"
The girl thought about it, and frowned. "Not... really. She's been a little irritable lately, but not much more so than usual. Not that Artemis is always irritable!" she added hastily, feeling bad about talking about an absent friend.
"Actually, she is." Wally piped up.
"Not when she's laughing. At your expense. Which happens on a regular basis," Robin pointed out. As the others snickered, though, his eyes met his mentor's, and Robin couldn't bring himself to join in.
The Batman had no leads.
The world's greatest detective had no leads on one of his friends.
No, Robin wasn't laughing.
For six years, Artemis had waited for her mother to get out of prison. For six years, she'd endured training with her father, waiting for her mother. For six years, she'd waited to reunite her family. What was left of her family.
Her mother hadn't been home a day before Artemis realized that Jade had been right. It really was every girl for herself... and that rule was necessary because of her father's presence. And when she heard her mother give him her ultimatum already knowing what the answer would be, splitting the family in the way Paula had never before been able to bear, Artemis realized that it wasn't anger she was feeling (not at the situation, anyway,) or sadness.
It was relief.
Her father had trained her, true, but it wasn't out of love. The more she thought about it, the more certain Artemis was that her dad was completely incapable of the emotion- or that his version of it was so twisted as to be unrecognizable. No, he was training her so she would be of use to him. The Sportsmaster did nothing out of love.
Not like Tigress, who took the fall- in all senses of the phrase- on that last disastrous hit. Not like Tigress, who in six years of prison had never breathed a word of what she'd done or what she knew to the authorities. Not Tigress, who had sacrificed six years for a man who'd abandoned her.
Artemis had had six years to think about her mother's choices, six years of the one person who'd ever looked out for her with no ulterior motive locked away.
So in the months and weeks before her mother came home, Artemis read. Read about paraplegia, the complications. She knows what pneumonia can do.
When Paula got a cold, couldn't stop coughing, Artemis was determined to knock it out early. She listened to her mother's protests, let Paula boss her around a little and brush off Artemis' attempts to take care of her, because the ex- criminal still felt guilty about six lost years. And Artemis could understand that, but she wasn't about to let her mother run herself into the ground out of pride.
Paula wasn't the only one in the house capable of emotional manipulation.
It was just going to be a quick trip to the corner store, after her mother had gone to bed and wouldn't make a fuss. Yes, it was Gotham, and it was night, but Artemis knows how to handle herself. Grabbing some cough syrup and drops would only take a few minutes.
She knows as soon as she starts waking up that it's bad.
Her head is craned back, held in an uncomfortable position by her hair. Her arms are behind her, pulled as close her backbone as they'll go, and the muscles are already screaming. Her legs are tied to separate legs of the chair, and thankfully nothing is pulling at them; but it feels so wrong, so vulnerable, to be sitting with them parted.
It only takes a second to realize her arms have been restrained with her own long blonde hair, and Artemis can't stifle a groan.
This never, ever ends well.
She can't see anything in the pitch blackness, but a creepy chuckle wafts over to her.
And with that one sound, her blood freezes in her veins. That isn't Robin's boyish giggle.
The only person who makes that sound is-
"Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!" he laughs in her ear, and she can't keep herself from a hoarse shout. The blade traces lightly over her exposed throat. "What a pretty, pretty princess. I'm gonna dress you all in red and make a present of you."
"Joker." Artemis says aloud, and it's not flat like she wanted; her voice is shaking.
He slides around in front of her, and she can just make out the garish, pale face, his teeth bared in his signature grin. She closes her eyes, but opens them again, because even if she can't see it's worse if she has no idea where he is.
He presses a little harder, and the knife scores a shallow line across her skin.
"Let's see you smile." purrs the Joker, bringing the blade up. "Smile pretty for the camera!" He flourishes, and spotlights come on.