Well. I've finally given in to my inner ten-year-old boy and decided to write something for the Young Justice fandom, which I discovered thanks to my lovely younger brothers, and have been following religiously ever since. Spitfire caught my eye immediately, but only after Friday's episode have I finally been spurred enough to write an episode tag, because seriously, protective Wally is the most adorable thing EVAR.
Disclaimer - Ha. If I owned it, Aqualad and M'gann probably wouldn't have any screen-time, what with all the lovely Spitfire that'd be going down . . .
The thing was, Artemis had always had a problem with competition. She was the kind of girl who would throw temper tantrums in preschool if her artwork didn't get pinned to the bulletin board when someone else's did.
Of course, Artemis never went to pre-school. She trained. But sometimes she would play school with her teddy bear under her tented bedroom sheets, and then all of her paintings got hung up, no matter what, and they were all positively dripping with shiny gold stars.
Jade was a big first grader and Jade brought home papers with stickers - gold stars and orange happy faces and one time even a cheerful red apple - all the time.
Except for that one time when Jade wrote an essay, in her painstakingly perfect first-grader handwriting, about what she wanted to be when she grew up. That time the paper came home with an official-looking white envelope enclosing a letter from the teacher requesting that Jade speak to a guidance counselor as soon as possible.
That time Daddy grinned and ruffled Jade's hair and told her 'good job.'
Jade had beamed and Artemis had chewed at the end of her long Rapunzel braid, curled up in the corner of the ratty couch that smelled like sweat and stale apple juice, jealous as anything.
Jade did swords, and when she whirled and twirled and jabbed and parried with her blades shining like the sharp silvery-gray of her eyes, she was something lithe and graceful and feline, only far more menacing than the goofy Cheshire cat that hung on the bedroom wall.
Artemis knew that she could never compete.
So instead she found a bow, and soon she had a grace all her own, taut and seamless and understated.
The thing was, Artemis wasn't very good at sharing the spotlight.
When she joined the team, she was only a replacement. Her spotlight was corrupted by the echoes and shadows of the one who had stood before her.
Wally had had no qualms about pointing out her alleged inferiority in every way, and that was why his quiet reassurance in the humming silence of the bioship had meant as much as it did.
Finally, finally, Artemis was a person all her own - not her father's blonde-haired minion, not the Justice League's charity cause, not her mother's chance at redemption, not Roy's replacement - and in that moment she loved Wallace West with something more fierce even than the hatred she maintained for her father.
But it went away. Because Roy had that grace, too. Roy's arms were striated with corded muscle, and the way he moved was liquid and understated.
Roy was competition.
Jade found an equal in Roy. She taunted him and undermined him with her too-large smile, but she watched him like maybe she was acknowledging a worthy foe.
Artemis was still only the little sister with the fairy princess hair, the one who tripped and stumbled in the sizeable boots she had been left to fill.
And it wasn't fair, because this was supposed to be her chance at redemption, at freedom. The thing about wearing a mask was that not only did it hide your identity from civilians, it gave you a sort of strength and invincibility that plainclothes did not.
As a little girl she would dress in an old, too-long lilac prom dress of her absent mother's, her sole piece of dress-up clothes. She would cut and staple a paper plate until it fit her head like a crown, glittering with waxy, crayon jewels, and tramp around in her spit-shined faux-leather Mary Janes.
Under such a disguise she was not Jade's-younger-sister or Daddy's-little-archer. She was Princess Artemis and she could hold her head high.
Behind her cowl she was not the-girl-from-the-slums or the-lonely-daughter-of-two-master-criminals. Eventually she even stopped being the-girl-who-replaced-Roy.
The problem was that her past kept cropping up in her present, and it seemed that even her future was clogged with that strong-jawed, blonde man in the hockey mask. It was inescapable.
Artemis was good at hiding. Sometimes as a child she'd even won against Jade in hide-and-seek, even though her father had never congratulated her on this. Hiding, he'd said, was nothing to be proud of.
But Artemis had hid, behind that mask, behind Wally's hard-earned trust, because Dad's opinion stopped mattering right around the time Mom got home from jail.
But it looked like she'd just lost the game, and now there was nothing left to do but start running all over again.
Dad chucked Artemis under the chin with his beefy, calloused finger and vaulted out the window with that easy grace that did not seem compatible with a man his size.
Artemis stood at the window and pretended she was that little, blonde-haired girl of yesterday, watching her Daddy fall and fall, only she couldn't seem to summon that same feeling of fear that had swelled in that little girl's round eyes.
Sportsmaster landed on his feet and strode away, mockingly saluting his daughter in the window like a fair-headed knight giving his attentions to his lady.
Artemis slammed the window closed so forcibly that the pane of glass in the cheap, wooden frame rattled alarmingly. She sank onto her bed, the covers wrinkled from her father's thick-set form, and let herself plummet into numb despair.
The Cheshire cat on the wall grinned mockingly, knowingly, and before she even knew what she was doing the poster was in shreds on the floor. A slash of red trailed its way across the calloused pad of her fingertip like a river cutting through the desert.
It didn't hurt, not really, but Artemis cried anyway.
The wooden bedroom door was locked firmly, and Paula Crock sat in her wheelchair, helpless. There was a key, but it was tucked away on top of the refrigerator, at a height that the handicapped woman had no access to.
Huntress would have kicked in the flimsy wooden door with a single scissoring of booted legs, striding into the room casually, sexily, menacingly.
But Paula Crock had stopped being Huntress the moment that she stopped feeling life in her once-able legs.
A real mother would have opened the door with a few simple, soothing sentences. The daughter would be teary-eyed, flushed and tousle-haired and in need of comfort, and the mother would be able to heal all wounds with an understanding embrace.
But Paula Crock didn't consider herself a real mother, because every time she touched her daughter's smooth face with her age-worn hands, she remembered the way that blood had felt on her hands, and how its presence had made her laugh that same light-hearted, care-free laugh that she sometimes heard from her dark-eyed daughter now, especially when relating stories of the escapades of a certain 'Kid Flash.'
And so Paula slowly rolled her way back to the kitchen, and eventually managed to procure a tub of ice cream from the freezer.
She left the half-eaten gallon outside her daughter's door, and called a goodnight before rolling her way off to bed.
She briefly considered accompanying her 'good night' with an 'I love you,' but a sudden flash-back of a strong-jawed, blonde-haired man with a boyish laugh telling her something similar made her change her mind.
Maybe a real mother would have, but if Paula Crock was sure of one thing, it was that she would never be a real mother, not while there was still blood on her hands and murder in her heart.
She went to bed.
Wally West couldn't sleep.
This wasn't anything out of the ordinary, actually, because there were plenty of nights where that electricity that buzzed down his spine refused to quiet, and his fingers would twitch and his muscles would ache with disuse, and eventually he would have to run.
Today wasn't one of those days. Today it was Wally's mind that refused to still.
He was angry.
Oh, Wally was fiercely, ragingly angry, because he'd been duped, he'd been made a fool of - in front of Roy, no less! - by some silly, selfish, insecure blonde girl with attitude problems.
After all, he was a superhero! Kid Flash was supposed to be better than this, damnit!
He'd been so determined to hate Roy's replacement and for a while he really, really did. Only then she stopped being Roy's replacement and started being someone entirely her own, and when she died in a flash of brilliance whiter than the snow, it was her name he shouted, it was her he mourned.
And when Roy came back, Wally found himself positively disgusted with the older boy's immature assumption that Artemis would forever and always be nothing but a replacement.
He'd defended her. He'd told her he trusted her. And then she'd gone and blown a mission, blown his stupid little heartfelt reassurances, for her own freaking glory.
Wally ran a little faster, a little harder, until even the dimmed lights of the far-off city had blinked out, devoured by the dark tunnels of his speed.
It was on nights like these that Wally was torn between the fear and the desire to run and run and never stop, until the world was standing still around him and his sheer speed turned him into something like dust that would scatter in the wind and travel faster than he ever could.
It was stupid and clichéd and romanticized, but even Wally had a fragment of imagination inside him somewhere, although that certain, foolish bit was to be suppressed at all causes.
It had a way of making a fool of him when he did exercise that bit of light-hearted fantasy, because before you knew it, he'd start believing in things like loyalty and selflessness and friendship.
Which all blew up in his face, leaving him burnt and battered and shell-shocked, the moment Artemis saw a possibility of personal gain.
And the truth was, while Wally had no problem blaming everything on stupid, selfish Artemis, there was that tiny, irrepressible part of him that pitied the gray-eyed girl with the fairy-princess hair that made her look so much more breakable than she was.
And that pity was what had gotten him into trouble in the first place, because it had made him see Artemis as a girl, as a human being with legitimate fears and insecurities, not just a badass robot with a snarky voice-box.
Then he'd started doing crazy things like protecting her, from the bad guys, from Roy's accusations. He'd pulled her up from the ground and held her hands way longer than he should have.
He could still remember the warmth of her long-fingered hands in his.
Wally grit his teeth and picked up speed. He was really soaring now, probably breaking every record he'd ever set, but that all seemed so freaking unimportant right now in face of the truths he was running from.
The truth really sucked, and as of now Wally really only had two options regarding how to deal with said suckish reality - face it or run away from it.
But it wasn't much of a choice at all, not really, because Wally had always been so good at running.
His feet pounded the earth and the night tunneled around him in dark, encompassing swirls, so Wally set his jaw and embraced that silly little touchy-feely nonsense in side of him.
He'd never been much for playing pretend as a child, but these days it seemed to be all he was doing, hiding behind the jokes and smiles and attitude like a knight wielding his shield.
If he closed eyes tight enough, he could almost make-believe that he'd get the same happy ending that those fairy tale knights fought so valiantly for.
Sportsmaster smiled to himself as he strode down the street, his shadow trailing behind him, as though even it could not keep up with his long-legged, decisive pace.
He turned left at the end of the street, studiously avoiding stepping into the faltering light of the dwindling lamppost, and began to whistle.
The sharp tune cut through the night air like a blade, his heavy footfalls keeping time to the music like the beat of a metronome.
Artemis had gotten taller, but Lawrence did not give it a thought.
Of course she had grown taller - she had grown older, had foolishly rebelled as all teenagers do, and was now coming to her senses like the level-headed, low-maintenance girl he had raised in that same darkened apartment.
There was no room for sentimentality in the unfaltering, fast-paced tempo that the strong-jawed man lived his life by, nor would there ever by any time for reminiscence.
Lawrence checked his watch in the brief flash of passing headlights before quickening his pace. He had lingered a moment or two longer than he had anticipated, it seemed.
He cut across the deserted street and hastened head-long into the shadows without another thought.
There were important things to be done.
Lawrence Crock glanced back only briefly before turning into the alleyway and allowing his eyes to adjust to the dark.
Then, smiling to himself, Sportsmaster pulled on his mask and disappeared into the shadows.
So, tell me if you liked it. If I get enough positive feedback, I may be more likely to write more for the YJ fandom. Otherwise, I'll go back to my homies over in the NCIS section. (If any of you actually read this, don't worry - Tiva will always be my OTP. But this HAD to be written, else I would've gone nuts.)
So, really, review - even if you're just going to tell me I stink. Even though, y'know, I'd kinda prefer nice things.