I actually wrote this back in mid-March and published it on Tumblr. Figured I'd bring it to FFNet now that it's finished. There'll be a part two if enough people want it; don't worry.
I just remember being inspired by the last episode of Teen Titans. The concept seemed interesting, so I rolled with it. Plus, the idea of tormenting my Tumblr followers with deathfic was way too good to pass up.
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership to nor affiliation with Young Justice.
Artemis Crock is dead.
They all remember seeing it. They all remember her silhouette pitching backward off the edge of the Gotham City skyscraper, her gray eyes wide with shock, as Sportsmaster pulled her down with him. His demise, apparently, had been one that could not go unshared.
Wally remembers it the most clearly. He remembers her hand slipping from his, sweaty and scraped and shaking, and he remembers, indistinctly, leaning forward as if to follow her before Conner's arms hooked under his shoulders and dragged him away scrambling and shouting. He hadn't seen her hit the ground, but M'gann had gone to look over, and she had vomited a little — strange white stuff, practically transparent. He remembers the bloodstain on the sidewalk the next morning.
He remembers the movement of her lips, frantic and incoherent and quivering, as she had uttered a single syllable up at him before letting go and falling, arms spread wide, past the rain-scattered fire escapes.
He remembers screaming, raw and chest-cutting and bone-bending, with his eyes shut so tightly that his head felt as if it would split in two.
And as for the rest of them, they remember that the rain stopped. They remember the last of the evening sunlight coming in through the clouds and turning the shadows of the street to indistinct gold. They remember thinking it wasn't fair. That it had never been fair.
Wally wants to remember Artemis's death in more detail, but all he can see when he closes his eyes is sunlight, slicing up through his skull and blinding him.
Artemis Crock is dead.
She should at least have the human decency to stay that way.
Artemis Crock is dead.
Conner makes an inexplicable trip to Belle Reve Penitentiary in order to relay this information to Cameron Mahkent, whose uncanny bluish skin and frost-bitten lips and pale eyes grow more pallid.
"I heard," he croaks out. His white hair is fine, and the sunlight from the false ceiling shifts through it eerily. "Are they…" He swallows, and Conner sees a tear start to race down his cheek before turning into a powdered trail of ice. "Are they sure?"
Conner nods. He remembers the look on Cameron's face when he had told him about the Team, about the belligerent archer named Artemis: there had been a warmth to him, the excitement of summer, that Conner had never seen before.
Cameron exhales slowly, and it fogs up in front of him. He closes his eyes.
"Is it weird," he says quietly, "that I'm… okay with it?"
Conner, enraged and hurt, turns to leave.
"Yeah," he growls, low and deep.
"Wait," Cameron chokes. Conner pauses at the bars, his eyes aligned with the metal lines, and doesn't turn around. "Is there – going to be like, a funeral?"
"Yeah," Conner grunts.
"Can I…" Cameron swallows something down, wringing his hands. "I guess it would kinda be some kind of violation to let me come."
Conner's shoulders loosen.
"I'll see what I can do," he mutters, and leaves.
Artemis Crock is dead.
At the insistence of the League, a service for her is held in the Gotham City Cemetery. The grass is green and moist and whispers beneath everyone's feet, a soft contrast to the bare-boned and leafless trees twisting up from the earth, to the gravestones, like immaculate teeth, and the tombs on the hills. The sun is white and frigid in the blanched air, looking as if it is prepared to drop from the sky at any moment.
Wally's hands are numb, and his breath streams out of him in clouds, but he feels hot and weighted in his black suit, tugging at the tie intermittently. Conner, Roy, Kaldur, and Dick look as uncomfortable as he is, all dressed in the same suits, their eyes distant behind their sunglasses. Batman had made everyone wear a pair for the sake of secret identities, not that they were really necessary in the first place, seeing as how the service was restricted to League affiliates and Artemis's school only.
There had been some kind of a press release vaguely detailing Artemis's "vigilante" work, and the story in the papers had been that she'd been shot and killed by some mugger, whom the police had apprehended and whose identity would not be released to the public. The explanation for the attendance of a large number of Justice League members and sidekicks was that they had known her, that they cared. Her friends don't seem particularly fazed either way. Their faces are all blank.
Gotham North had made it mandatory that all students attend the service to "honor her memory," or something to that effect. Regardless of specifics, the entire Team is standing in a line parallel to a small plot with no coffin – (she had been cremated) – and they are all dressed in black, wearing dark sunglasses, with their heads bowed at varying angles.
Wally feels like he's going to be sick.
Artemis's mother is seated at the head of the group, beside Batman, with her eyes closed and wet around the edges. Her shoulders shake vaguely every now and then, but otherwise, she is silent. She speaks for a few minutes, but it is quiet and the wind blows it apart and Wally can't hear any of it. Dick, at one point, gently elbows him and catches his eye, his expression desperate and lost. Wally nods to him and nudges him back.
"…And we were proud to know her and impressed with her bravery and selflessness," Batman finishes, hands folded behind his back, head inclined toward the ground. His cowl seems starker in the crisp morning sunlight. "We live in a world that is always in dire need of those who put others above themselves. Artemis Crock was a credit to this world and to heroes."
It is all so typical, Wally thinks cynically, jaw clenching. Batman's words echo horribly in his temples like empty pans, banging and clattering, and he wants to run. He wants to run more than he has ever wanted to in his life.
M'gann is crying softly beside him with Conner's hand in hers, and her long-sleeved black dress flutters around her apple-green knees in the wind. Zatanna, ebony hair tied conservatively in a high bun, pulls at the hem of her sleeveless one, and her blue eyes blend seamlessly with it like stones in dark water. Her father stands beside her with the Helmet of Fate under his arm. Nabu had let him remove it for three days.
Batman steps aside and looks to the Team. They had been told that they would all be required to speak. Wally had been prepared to throttle Batman for such a command, but Dick had held him back. The urge is returning now, causing his arms to pulse.
(He thinks he can see Icicle, Jr., of all people, lingering on the outskirts of the crowd.)
M'gann sniffles and steps forward, her dark flats sinking into the grass, and faces the others. Her brown eyes are glistening. Wally can't watch. He hardly even hears what she says; his ears feel pressurized and thick and sore, and his mouth is so dry that the wind stings it.
M'gann's small voice trails off, and she nods to herself for the briefest of moments, smiling sadly, before stepping backwards and retreating into the line of them again. After a moment's stretched pause, Conner makes a stride forward and halts, turning toward the silent crowd, hands fisted at his sides.
He glowers at the grass for a long time. A muscle in his jaw moves when he swallows, and his forehead is taut, and his eyes seem raw and unseeing.
"She was my friend," he finally ekes out, and they seem to be all the words he needs, because he walks away immediately after saying it, still not looking up. M'gann presses her forehead into his shoulder. The fabric of his suit jacket dampens rapidly.
Zatanna is next, and she talks softly about secrets and trust and Halloween and pulling all-nighters watching ridiculous soap operas for laughs; Kaldur's low tones recount a veritable ballad, eloquent and even; and then there's Robin, seeming so small and unassuming in his finely tailored suit, hands in pockets, dark hair shifting.
"I've never really..." He sighs, pushing his hair out of his face. "Been all that good at this kind of stuff. And I should... have some experience by now, but... I don't." He leans back on the balls of his feet, looking towards the sun. "I didn't know Artemis for that long, really. But – in the time that I did, I concluded that she was pretty amazing." He shrugs. "I know all this stuff probably sounds totally empty by now... and it kind of sounds that way to me, even, but – I guess it's times like these when telling the truth is the only thing you can really do. It's better than doing nothing. I guess what I'm getting at is that Artemis was someone who... knew who her friends were, and looked out for them, and regularly tormented them to show that she loved them." Scattered laughter. "What, I'm right, aren't I? I know I am!" There's that signature cackle of his, relieved at the amusement of the others. He stills, digging his toe into the dirt. "I dunno. I'll miss her, I guess."
The last bit is so small, crackling up into the cold, and Dick straightens his shoulders and retreats without another word.
Everyone's eyes, then, turn to Wally.
He stares back at them, unmoving, for a moment, before his limbs lead him up to the front of the gathering. The wind barrages his face, skirting up beneath his sunglasses and stinging his eyes, whipping through his hair with viciousness. He swallows, and it is dry and uncomfortable; he knows that there have to be some words in him, somewhere, but none of them are materializing, and he gazes at the attendees with a blank expression.
"Um," he finally says, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. "Everybody's – been saying how Artemis, like, changed their lives and was so amazing and always made them smile and all that jazz, but... am I seriously the only person here who was afraid of her?"
Everyone laughs, fondly, freely – even Paula Crock smiles far too broadly for it to be feigned, glancing gratefully over at him. Wally, chest beginning to burble with newfound confidence, inhales before continuing.
"Like – seriously," he continues, hastening, strengthening; "All she ever did was kick my butt in training and jack my snacks and whack me in the head – I think I have a permanent Artemis-hand-shaped indentation in the back of my skull! I need to have a doctor check it out! – and basically make me feel like such a loser, but... at the same time, she... she made me feel, um..."
He lowers his head, chewing his lip – its chapped surface is rough underneath his teeth.
"Like I was tolerable, I guess," he mutters, mouth quirking up into a smile. "And – y'know, we did dangerous stuff; all of us do dangerous stuff, and she was always the one kicking danger in the face and laughing at its pain. And, you know, kicking me in the face and laughing at my pain, but let's not get into specifics..."
More laughter. Paula Crock abruptly reaches over and clasps his hand, jostles it gently and gratefully, and releases it.
"Artemis had this way of, like, making you feel like it was totally okay to be you, y'know? Which I guess probably stems from some kind of weird soft side she was secretly hiding – don't tell her I said that; she'll kill me – but she... made you feel like you were worth something. Like she'd risk everything for you if you were cool enough. I don't know if I was cool enough since we basically hated each other's guts when we first met – seriously, how many of you know the Baywatch Story? – but... um, I..."
His voice, very suddenly and unexpectedly, breaks, cracking out into the wind. Everyone goes quiet, and Wally bites his tongue and his vision starts to swim.
"She was, uh..." He closes his eyes tightly, grateful that no one can see them. "Robin's right. She was amazing. I think that sums it up pretty accurately? You know, amazingly awesome, amazingly annoying, amazingly insane, amazingly brave, all of that crap..." He winces. "Well. Not crap, per se, but I'm veering into the corny here—I—I—"
He needs to finish this. He needs to.
"Ugh. I'm sorry. Basically, she was my friend." That's good enough. "She was my friend. She was my—and I'll miss her. So much. Yeah."
That last bit feels entirely insignificant and needless – it's hardly fair, Wally realizes when he returns to the line, that the only words anyone really means anymore are the ones that no one believes.
"Artemis Crock is dead," Artemis says to him in the crowded hallway, her gray eyes nothing short of bewildered. "I read about it in the paper."
Maybe it's presumptuous of him to call her Artemis. She looks exactly like her, but her hair barely rakes past her shoulders and her shoulders are more loose, softer, and her eyes are just a little bit lighter, and her voice is less hoarse.
"I don't think I know you," she tells him, frowning. "But, um, I have a class—"
"No – wait." He steps forward, and she steps back. He halts. Artemis would never step back; she would stand with her chin rebelliously tilted and her eyes flashing in hostile beckoning. "You know me; I know you do. I'm Wally. Come on. I'm Wally."
"I seriously have never seen you before in my life," the girl says, and her voice is tight and teetering. "But, like – I obviously can't be who you're looking for, because she's dead. She was one of those... vigilante people, right? Probably had it coming, then."
"No – no, she didn't have it coming; that's—" Wally's throat closes around the words and he exhales sharply, trying to keep his eyes on hers, searching wildly for something he can't find. "Artemis, you don't have to do this."
"My name isn't Artemis," the girl says firmly. "It's—"
"Don't," Wally interjects desperately. "Come on; you don't have to pull this with me. You don't! You don't have to pull it with any of us! We... Sportsmaster's gone; Batman and the League took care of him, and... and what about your mom? What about your—"
"I don't know you!" the girl shrieks very suddenly. Wally falters, ribs clenching. Her eyes are adamant and scared and entirely devoid of what he's so sure he'll see in them – a flash of recognition, of regret, of something akin to an apology. A group of students strides by, bumping into him, and he stumbles aside, still staring at her. A bell rings. She evens her breathing, straightening.
"I have a class," she murmurs, and turns to go.
"Wait!" Wally's hand spasms out and clasps her wrist, halting her. "Don't lie to me! Don't lie to me again! Please!"
The girl, seemingly at the end of her tether, turns sharply around and slaps him across the cheek.
"Look, I'm really sorry about what happened to your friend, or about the fact that you were lied to, or whatever... but you need to let go."
The stinging sensation on his face, red and white and spreading into his very skull, dulls at the sound of her words. He gazes wordlessly at her, one hand covering his cheek. Her eyes look moist.
"Whoever she is," she whispers. "You – Wally, right? Wally, you need to let her go."
Wally's breathing is ragged. There's that familiar sheen forming in his vision, distorting the silhouettes in the hallway, dimming the fluorescent lights.
"I—can't," he whispers, ashamed and disgusted with himself.
A bell rings again. The girl lingers for the briefest of moments before stepping forward, tilting her head into his field of vision. He catches her gaze, and it is horribly, genuinely sympathetic.
"I'm sorry," she murmurs. "I have a class."
"Yeah," Wally croaks.
"Well..." She swallows something down, closes her eyes.
There is a long and fraught pause before she speaks again.
"Bye," she says.
Wally's head jerks up, shocked, but by the time his vision comes into focus again, she's already gone.