Hello again! I have yet another story in the works for Young Justice! I hope everyone likes it. Whelp, here we go!
Robin dragged his newly polished black Italian leather shoes along the seemingly endless halls of Mount Justice. He wore a custom made black suit accompanied with a white dress shirt and a dark green tie. His eyes were, as usual, hidden with a pair of brand-new black Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses, and his utility belt was shoved into the pocket of his jacket. After calculating it, Robin came to the conclusion that the outfit coast more then a thousand dollars – barely putting a dent into his guardian's wallet. However, there was one other piece to Robin's outfit that didn't coast him a thing. On his left wrist was a small silver chain. On this chain, he had fashioned a small charm from a piece of Artemis's arrow fletching. This particular arrow, however, was tremendously important to him – for it came from Artemis's last arrow. The last one she would ever shoot.
At the young age of 15, Artemis had been killed on the team's most recent mission. And this time, it wasn't an exercise. It was real, and the team could see and feel every moment of it. That was three days ago, and today was her funeral.
Before the actual ceremony and burial, the team had arranged to meet at Mount Justice – all feeling it would be appropriate to arrive and be together. After a few minutes of silence, Wally had slipped out of the common room and disappeared. A few minutes after his leave, Robin followed suit and slipped out of the room himself.
During his walk along the empty corridors and hallways, that last thing on his mind was how badly his shoes might get scoffed up as his he continued to drag his feet in such a fashion. What was really pressing on his mind was the mere memory of Artemis death.
It was a cold night in the city of Niagara. Cheshire and a few nameless members of the Shadows were attempting to assassinate some scientist who was on her vacation time. The team didn't know why, but Batman had instructed them to stop her, so they did without question. It was in the middle of battle that Robin himself had just finished defeating his opponent. It was only a moment later that Artemis had pushed him down to the ground without any warning or context. The next thing Robin heard was a gun go off. The next thing he saw was Artemis's body, falling over the edge of the railing, and into the falls. At the sight of her fall, the Shadows vanished while the team was distracted, never to return for the rest of the evening. When it was clear, Kaldur safely made his way to the base of the falls, jumping into the cold water and conducting a search for her body. Robin remembered it being the longest hour of his life. Waiting in a terrified state for Kaldur to re-emerge.
And when he did, the team saw a sight that would haunt their dreams for the rest of their days. In his hands, he held the bloody, wet, un-hinged, lifeless – Artemis. She was one giant bruise with cracks, cuts, protruding bones, and gushing organs and blood. The sight caused M'Gann to vomit, and then cry insanely. Robin and Superboy also fell to the ground, with weak legs, in tears. Wally screamed his lungs out over her dead body, further drenching her in his salty tears. She was gone and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
As Robin continued his walk, he felt the tears returning to his eyes. It had been three days since the incident, and he personally felt as though things were getting worse as apposed to better. This being the first death of the team, Batman gave them as much time as they needed off knowing that all of them were suffering Artemis's death. But what was hurting Robin the most was the guilt that had swelled up inside him. If only he had moved faster or been more aware of his surroundings, Artemis would never have had to push him out of the way. If it weren't for him, she would be alive still.
Robin halted his trudge just as his feet were about to turn yet another corner. As if dealing with the death of a friend wasn't enough, he know had to live with a heart full of shame. Everyone (even Wally) had told him that he wasn't to blame. But that wasn't enough for the young acrobat. A child – only barely in his teen years – and he couldn't shake the feeling of the fault that was slowly expanding in his mind.
Robin leaned the back of his shoulder against the chilled wall of the corridor. In the end, it wasn't his fault. But as a young boy, it defiantly seemed that way. Letting his knee's give in, Robin felt his body slowly slide down the wall till his backside came into contact with the tiled floor. And there he sat. He sat still for a few moments before he buried his face deep into the palms of his rough hands. Robin had dealt with death before, and was used to the feeling of loosing someone close. But with every passing person that Robin held close to his heart, he could only feel bits of him deteriorating away with them. His mother, father, family, now Artemis - all gone. And there was nothing he could do – nothing he could have done – to save them. After a few more moments of heavy sighing, Robin peeled his face from his hands and gently wiped his nose. He had promised himself that he wasn't going to cry today. Not because he wasn't completely broken on the inside, but because of the pending idea that Batman would be displeased with him if he saw him tearing up. "I hate this," he murmured to himself. And for the first time in his young, hero life, it was true. He hated the feeling of guilt, the feeling of eternal sadness, and the feeling that one day – it would all just happen again. No one lives forever – and with all of the dangerous stuff he and the rest of the team do, everyone was going to die. Maybe not right now, or in the next few days, but all of them were on the accelerated path to being eternally doomed. And if it wasn't Robin, he would be left to deal with the guilt there after. He knew that he would move on eventually, but with the idea in his heart, he only felt yet another bit of his soul shred itself up.
Using the wall behind him as support, Robin picking himself up from the ground and continued to slump along the hallways. As he turned another corner, he saw the he was right in front of the spare bedrooms. These rooms were dedicated to Kaldur, Robin, Wally, and Artemis if they ever needed to stay in the mountain over night. Connor and M'Gann had their own, permanent rooms since they lived there. Robin remembered all of the nights where he and Wally would pull small pranks on Artemis. Or at least try to pull pranks on Artemis. She was always too quick or too smart to fall into one of their plans. Robin always loved that about her. The way she could 'out-ninja' him, they way to could foil his own seeming bulletproof plans, her brains in general. Brains that got both him and the team out of many problems were now lost forever.
He sighed some and took a step forward. Ever so quietly, he approached the door the led to Artemis's room. Turning the knob ever so slowly, he carefully pressed on the wood door, pushing it open and letting the light from the hall filter into the dark room. But to his surprise, he wasn't alone. Sitting one the bed adjacent from the door was the young speedster. His suit was a very dark grey with a simple white shirt and tie that matched Robin's. His shoes were also black, but purchased from a run-down store at the mall. Around his left ring finger was a small silver ring. Attached to it was another piece of the arrows fletching. Every member of the team had one. Wally sat with his legs hanging over the edge of the bed and his feet planted on the floor. In his hands he clutched the upper half of Artemis's costume, his eyes fixed on the mask that was connected to the shirt. His eyes were sad and on the verge of tears. His lips trembled as if he wanted to say something to the now ownerless mask – like it was itself a person – but couldn't find the right words. When the light from the hall shone on his face, Wally looked up to Robin, then back to the mask.
"I miss her, man," said Wally, he teeth refusing to be unclenched.
Before the end, Wally and Artemis were just on the verge of finally becoming close friends. They were almost there, just a few more nice words and one less argument. Yet deep in Wally's heart, he had always wanted more. It wasn't until they were becoming closer that he finally started to gather the courage to tell her how her felt. But as fate would have it, Artemis was taken from him before she ever knew how he felt. And it was that feeling of regret that killed Wally inside.
Robin propped himself up against the doorway to his room and nodded in agreement. "We all do," he reminded.
Wally stared at the mask a little longer. Then, he leaned forward and planted his face right where Artemis's should have been. A few stifled whimpers could be heard, followed by a very soft "Why?"
Robin crossed the room from the doorway to the bed and took a seat next to Wally. He didn't say anything, he just wrapped his arm around Wally's shoulders. He sat there, next to the sobbing Wally in silence. The half hug that Robin gave Wally was one of great importance. It was the unspoken bond between them that comforted the other in times of need. Their deep and trusted friendship was what helped them. This time, they needed it more then ever. One of the brothers joined by bond had lost a close friend. The other had lost their first love. But the hug did seem to work as moments later, Wally removed his face from the mask and set the uniform to the side. "She'd probably laugh at me if she saw me this way," he joked lightly.
Robin let out a single chuckle in agreement. "She'd probably beat us both for acting like a bunch of babies," he added. Wally repeated Robin's motion of understanding, but then returned to a solemn stare at the ground. Robin sighed again and stood from the bed. Extending his hand out to Wally, offering more than just physical support. "We should probably get back,"
Wally glanced at the hand and hesitated. He then scanned around the room with his teary eyes. He didn't want to leave it. It was strange but he felt some sort of connection to the room. It belonged to Artemis, and was therefore the last connection he had to her. He could come back to the room anytime he wanted, but he did not have the courage to depart from it just yet. However, the stronger part of him instructed for him to get off his ass and follow Robin out of the room. Taking the acrobat's hand, the speedster pulled himself from off the bed and straightened out his jacket. "You're right, we should,"
The ceremony was small to say the least. While both of the Justice League and the Young Justice team were at full attendance, Artemis's had no other family other than her mother. There were a couple of other families there as their children were friends with Artemis at her old school, and both Batman and Paula agreed that the list of attendees should be short. It was slightly overcast that day with just enough clouds in the sky to give the city of Gotham a grey aura. It was just the beginning of September and fall had started early. Golden and brown leaves from the bare trees lightly danced and swirled around in the light breeze. The graveyard itself also had a few stray petals from the flowers around the tombs fluttering about. M'Gann thought the site was almost beautiful – the way the leaves and flowers mixed together so nicely. In her heart, M'Gann felt that Artemis would have really enjoyed it – but she would never see it. The pastor stood with his hands resisting on the small gut of his stomach. He was a fairly elderly man with a horse voice – he also kept wheezing during the prayers.
M'Gann wept softly as the pastor spoke his holy words. While this was her first 'earth funeral', she thought she'd honor Artemis by wearing a tradition Martian funeral outfit. It was a long bronze dress with sleeves that draped down right to her wrists. The dress hung from her shoulder and started right around her neck, leaving her completely covered up. Over top of the dress was a mesh veil that lay right on her head, and ended at her feet. M'Gann didn't care that some of the other girls in the crowd were teasing her about her strange outfit. This was what was worn on Mars, and M'Gann was going to keep it that way for Artemis. M'Gann had also attached a piece of the arrow's fletching to a pair of silver studded earrings that she secretly swore she would never remove after this day.
Kaldur also wore a traditional outfit. As an Atlantean custom, Kaldur wore a pair of black spandex pants and navy blue spandex turtleneck. The turtleneck outlined where his tattoos would be with silver fabric. However, he paired his outfit with a human blazer in order to avoid any suspicion from the non-super guests. Around his neck hung another pieces of the arrow's fletching on a silver chain.
Superboy was dressed in human wear (courtesy of Robin). He sported a simple black suit and a black shirt to go with it. His dress shoes were also custom made, as his feet couldn't properly fit into anything at the shoes stores. For the part of the fletching that was given to him, he attached it to a silver armband that he wore around his left bicep.
But the mentalities of the team did not lay with what they were wearing. They laid with the sixth member of the team – the same one that was currently shut away in a casket.
Artemis had gone down, once again, sacrificing herself for the team. She put herself on the line so that Robin could be saved. No doubt she was the strongest of them all, willing to give up her life in an instant if it meant protecting her team. Indeed that was the mentality of any superhero, but at this young age, Artemis did it without hesitation, without question. She was a true warrior – one that, to the teams, would never be forgotten.
Wally had spent the whole ceremony with his eyes glued to the coffin. The pearl lilies and scarlet roses that were arranged on top of the casket made it all seemed so – fake. Artemis was under there, but out of sight. This made Wally feel worse. He wanted to see her just one last time. However, the way her body was completely ruined provoked her mother to keep the casket closed.
Her mother, Paula.
Paula sat in her chair only mere centimeters away from the coffin. The dress she wore was simple and black as to match her shoes. Over her small shoulders she wore a thick black shall to keep herself warm from the cool breeze. She sat still and calm, but her face said otherwise. The look in her eyes gave away her broken soul and damaged heart. The last decent person in her family was now gone and she was all alone. To Wally, she seemed at peace, but he knew better. She was lost and scared with no one to care for her in her fragile state. Of course Batman had offered her to be cared for by a home nurse whom he would pay for. Paula accepted but knew it would never be the same.
"Before we burry this young lady in the ground where she may rest with the lord, does anyone have a few words to say?" asked the pastor.
Small murmurs spread amongst the crowd as Oliver Queen stepped forward. Everyone was shocked that the former mayor/billionaire of Star City would want to say something about a middle class teenaged girl. Despite this, Oliver stepped next to the coffin and gently placed a hand on the cover. Paula didn't seem to notice him, as her eyes also remained on the casket in which he youngest daughter laid.
"I didn't know Artemis for very long," began Oliver. "And I only met her a few times around Star City," he passed for a moment to stifle back a tear. "But when I did know her, I knew her to be one of the strongest girls I have and will ever meet. She had the courage of the lion. And yet, a warm heart. She would have never admitted it, but she cared for each and every single person in her life," he paused again to hold back sob that was trying to escape from his throat. "From her mother, Paula, to all of her friends. She would have done anything for them, and took no shame or regret in her actions. Artemis may be gone now, but the memory of her bravery will stay in my heart for ever," Olivier got down on one knee and rested his head on top of the casket. "Thank you, Artemis, for the bravery that was stronger then you will ever know," he whispered.
The team was shocked at his beautiful about Artemis. Each word that Oliver Queen spoke hit them directly in the heart and comforted them. Particularly Robin. After hearing Oliver speak, he felt a small tear come to his eye. He could never forgive himself for Artemis's death, but Oliver was right. Artemis wouldn't have had it any other way. And for Robin – to be respected that much by a girl he had only known for less then a year – it meant the world to him that this young heroin would want to lay down her life to protect his.
And then it was time. It was time to lower the casket into the ground. It was time to say goodbye to Artemis forever. A group of men shuffled to the front of the crowd, and began lowering the coffin into the earth. As the coffin descending down the six foot tunnel path, Wally could feel his heart sinking with it. The pain to see her leave this world caused him more strife then anything else he could have remembered or imagined. And it wasn't just Wally.
The whole team felt their hearts rip within their chests. And Kaldur couldn't bear it. He couldn't help but feel as though he let down the team. As leader, everything that happened that night was because of him. It was his plan of attack that they followed, and then got Artemis killed. It was his job as leader to ensure the safety of all of his fellow teammates, and he failed them. Like Robin, he too bear the guilt of having caused Artemis's death. But unlike Robin, he couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. He couldn't see himself ever moving on or getting over Artemis's death. Kaldur let the tears drip from his eyes and onto his cheeks. The guilt had already consumed his mind, and if he didn't shake it, he could be lost to it forever.
M'Gann used Connor as support for her weak legs. The sight of her first and only 'earth-sister' being lowered into the ground practically destroyed whatever was left of her peacefulness. Over the past few days, she had been continuously balling her eye's out, but today, she whaled in agony louder then ever before. To her, it wasn't fair. It wasn't fair that Artemis had to be taken for such a small and simple mission. It was nothing compared to what they did in the past. Yet as a result, Artemis was gone.
Connor reacted differently from everyone else. As he supported M'Gann, he felt different. When he knew he should have felt sadness, he felt fear. Fear because he couldn't feel anything. Looking at the faces of his permanently damaged teammates, he noticed that he was perfectly fine. It was the same reaction as when he lost everyone in the training exercise, only this wasn't in his head – it was real. Artemis was really gone and their weren't any second chances. Yet he still felt the same peacefulness as before. For this, he was angry at himself. He wanted tear through his own skin and punish himself for it. But he new he couldn't, so he stood still, and kept his expression neutral as always.
Once the coffin hit the bottom of the six feet deep pit, the crowd began to disperse. First, the guests left and were followed by the Justice league. The Young Justice team lingered with Paula. But when she felt ready to leave, Kaldur, Connor, M'Gann, and Robin all accompanied her. Then, there was only Wally.
Here Lies Artemis Crock
1996 – 2012
"Crock, eh?" said Wally as he stared intently at the tombstone. "That's a stupid last name," he chuckled. But the joking didn't make it an easier on him. Seeing her last name for the first time on her tombstone killed him internally. Upon her death, he realized that he knew almost nothing about her. Her first name, age, and where she was from. That was it. And he even got her location wrong. He learned today that she wasn't from Star City, but Gotham. He didn't know what her favorite colour was, he didn't know if she liked animals, and, up until today, he didn't know her last name. But to him, the most important thing he didn't know was her feeling about him. Wally knew that he liked her, but he didn't know if she liked him back. And now he would never know.
Wally looked to his feet. He noticed a small stone resting between his feet. It was smooth on both side and shaped to look like a triangle. He used the tip of his shoe to kicked it to the side. "I miss you Arty," said Wally solemnly. "I know you hate it when I call you that. But there's not much you can do about it now," he said, forcing a giggle. But once again, it didn't work. The jokes Wally tried to make didn't help him. Artemis's death still hurt. "I don't know if you knew this. But we were going to get married someday," Wally blinked a few tears back. "And then you could have had a better last name. Artemis West. Had a ring to it, eh?" Wally sniffed as more tears streamed from his watery eyes.
Then Wally felt something. Something welling up inside of his stomach. It was four words. Four words he had always wanted to say to her before she died. The words continued to well-up, and began to climb up his throat to the tip of his voice-box. The words then rolled off the tip of his tongue and fell out of his mouth without thinking. "I love you, Artemis" he whispered. Any other day, and Wally would have tried to hold the words back. But today, as he stood opposite of Artemis's tombstone, staring down upon her grave, he let the words escape from his lips freely. And when they did, he hated himself a second later. If only he had half the courage of Artemis, he would have told them to her when she was alive. But his stupid teenaged male ego got in the way, and now, it was too late. "I'm sorry I couldn't tell you earlier," he said in broken words. Wally's face began to turn the colour of his hair as more tears spilled from his eyes. "This isn't fair… it isn't fair!" Wally's voice began to elevate in rage. His lower body was starting to give in and let his body drop to the ground. The sound of the sobs increased as he cried out to the heavens. In all honesty, he would have given anything to have Artemis back. But he knew it didn't work that way. So all he could do was cry. Cry out his sorrows into the world and hope that somehow, Artemis could hear them. Then, when they were reunited in the afterlife, they could be together once more – if such a thing existed. For Wally was still a man of science, but in this crucial state, he believed in anything.
He continued to cry into the cold wind, when he felt something on his shoulder. Cocking his head to the left and over his shoulder, he saw it was a hand. A hand that belonged to Kaldur. Looking further beyond Kaldur, he noticed the rest of the still living team standing not to far behind. "Wally, we must return to the cave,"
Wally looked back to the grave. He could hear the obvious sadness in Kaldur voice. This was hard for everyone, but Wally couldn't leave the grave just yet. "Artemis would want for us to re-group. We must respect and honor her memory,"
Wally looked to the tombstone once more. Then, he slowly turned on his heels and followed the rest of the team back to the mountain. As he departed from the grave yard, he secretly made a promise to himself that day that he was always came back and visit her. "Till next time, Arty," he said under his breath.
Meanwhile, hiding only a few meters away stood a figure. Being hidden by the bare branches and shadows of a large oak tree, the figure stood and watched the young teenagers vacate the grave yard. As the wind blew stronger, strands of the newly dyed bright orange hair whipped in front of the figures grey eyes. The hair had also been cut to about shoulder length, as the figure couldn't stop fidgeting with the ends. With a black trench coat covering the slender outline of the figure and dark sunglasses covering its grey eyes, it bit the bottom of its lip to keep from crying. "I love you too, Wally," said the figure. "And I'm sorry it has to be this way," With that, the figure pulled the hood of the coat over its head and disappeared into the city streets. Only hoping that it's overall plan would work out.
Who could this mystery figure be? Find out soon!