ovp A/N: Okay by some miracle last night Janelle and I were both in the document and entered a state a nirvana which allowed us to produce this entire chapter in like two hours - sure I put off assignments but it is all in the name of Young Justice so it's all good. So we hope you enjoy it as much as we both enjoyed writing it and throwing ideas around. If we're being really optimistic - like really, really optimistic - we'll hopefully have this story complete before the end of the hiatus but now that we've said it our lives are going to inevitably get in the way. But as usual we'd like to thank all the awesome people who reviewed you make all this hard work worth it. Thanks to: YJ-Lover, Guest, wereguardian, violingirl56, SakuraJade, Brit, randommonkeyz998, SnowWhiteAppleSauce, Opaul, Gracie-Geek, bluepianos, andy-ninja girl, IndigoM9851, My Own Mayday Parade, yuna, Guest, Guest, Guest, j9162, .Roared, YJ, Irenerb, and Sally Fantastic. Thanks to all the silent reviewers as well.
intrajanelle a/n: Oh gosh. I can't believe this is almost finished. Just the epilogue left. Ah I hope you guys enjoy, thanks for all the reviews, support and constant asks on tumblr requesting for us to finish this. It's because of all of you and ovp that the nose knows is finally drawing to an end.
disclaimer: IF OVP AND I OWNED YOUNG JUSTICE THERE WOULD BE SO MANY SHAMPOO REFERENCES so I think it's safe to say we do not own it in any way shape or form.
"Pudding!" squeals Harley throwing herself into Joker's arms, "You're here. You're here." She lets loose another cackle before sending the huddled group of teenagers a half crazed look. "Oh what shall we do with them?" She cries gleefully, "Tell me something naughty and I'll do it."
"We're screwed. Game over." Wally states in his head and then,"Well? Isn't someone going to tell me I'm wrong? Hello? Earth to overly optimistic teammates?"
"We have failed." A tsunami of regret floods through his mind in unrelenting waves, whether it's Kaldur's doing or M'gann's he's not sure, but Wally fights the torrent of emotion.
"Are you people serious? It's a minor set back."
"The antidote is crushed." Conner grunts.
"But not gone. She still knows," Wally argues, "She still-" before he can help himself his eyes are falling on the lollipop crushed on the floor. It's sitting between where the Joker is standing, silently, with Harley draped on his arm, and where they're cowering. Conner is still holding Sportsmaster back while the rest of the group remains huddled around Kaldur. "Five second rule," Wally whispers in his mind.
"What?" M'gann asks, looking at him confused.
"Five second rule," he says aloud before turning to the others, "if food falls on the floor you can still eat it. It's dirty but it isn't inedible."
"Wally don't tell me you're hungry-" Conner begins to growl but Wally cuts him off.
"The lollipop is fine, better actually. It's cut in half so we can give one half to Robin and one half to Artemis. It's still-"
"Oh the optimism of the young," a slithery voice rings across the gymnasium and Wally spins to face the Joker, half-surprised he was even speaking aloud. The Joker is walking toward them, slowly, like a zombie, dragging his feet across the rubble. He's brushed Harley off him and she follows along behind, eagerly jumping to be seen over his shoulder, a wide smile lighting her face. "It's too late, far too late. The little birdie has fallen from the nest, the archer girl is crushed under my toe, the big Bat will fall."
He's halfway across the gymnasium now and crouching, reaching downward for something half concealed in darkness and Wally sees a flash of red. He knows that red; red, corn-syrup, a lollipop.
"No," Wally whispers and his feet carry him forward before his mind can process what he's doing.
He's running, running so quickly the world has blurred around him into dark hues and shadows and barely discernible obstacles of debris (how he doesn't trip or fall in the rubble he has no idea) but in the blink of an eye he's reaching right under the Joker's nose for the two halves of the broken lollipop and snatching them from wrinkled hands.
"Wally!" M'gann screams but it's too late, Wally is dashing backward, barely turning before he gets a face full of large bloodshot eyes, the Joker shouldn't be able to move that fast, and an arm reaches out and drags him against a thin chest. In desperation Wally throws the lollipop pieces in the air watching as M'gann snatches them with her mind and levitates them to safety.
"Well, well, well, what do we have here?" the Joker muses, unsheathing a knife from his wrist, "You come to play?"
"Go!" Wally shouts, briefly wondering just why supervillains like grabbing him around the neck like this. "You have to get the antidote to the others, just GO."
"You're so stupid," Superboy says, throwing Sportsmaster aside and the man spends a minute rubbing his sore skin and glaring at the Kryptonian before standing on his own. "We aren't leaving you here." Conner appears ready to charge forward but Kaldur places a firm hand against his chest and M'gann earnestly pulls at his shoulder. They can't risk anyone else getting caught - Harley's still there and just as crazy.
"Let him go, Joker," Kaldur says, stepping forward.
The Joker merely cackles while Harley dances around him in perverse circles. "But I haven't had a chance to leave my mark on him. Let's see, he's got a nice face, good cheekbones, like his mentor. Maybe just a little scar-" the Joker whispers before dragging the blade along the skin under Wally's cheek.
Wally doesn't scream, he's proud of that fact alone, he steels his jaw and wishes the tears away as the blade strokes fiery lines along the curve of his cheeks. And then the maniac drags the knife downward leaving jagged curls of pain along the side of his neck, his knife easily slicing through the fabric of his costume and slipping dangerously close to his jugular and Wally finds it hard to be strong when Harley begins laughing maniacally cooing about the pretty color of his blood.
He could just vibrate like he did with Sportsmaster but he has a sick feeling that if he did so the Joker would simply shove the blade straight through his throat, and the whimpering sound M'gann is making across the room isn't helping as much as making him want to cry as the Joker carves even deeper lines along his collarbone.
"You aren't as fun to carve as my birdie," the Joker says disheartened as if he's on a bad playdate.
"Well then let him go you creepy clown," a voice whispers before suddenly Wally is being pulled upward out of the Joker's grasp and the Joker is falling forward, held down by a single, black combat boot.
Wally turns slightly to see Sportsmaster holding him by the nape of his neck, right where his cowl connects to his uniform - he feels suspiciously like a lioness with her cub at least he hopes so because then that would make him the prey, the man looks at him and seems to raise an eyebrow behind his mask, before placing him on both feet among the rubble.
"Don't expect special treatment beyond this," Sportsmaster growls, poking Wally hard in the center of his chest, "Get that antidote to Artemis and we're even and Flash boy," Sportsmaster seems to pause, staring at Wally with narrowed eyes, "If I hear you are dating my daughter you will be hearing from me again. Real soon."
Wally stumbles backwards as Sportsmaster gives the Joker a last good kick to the head knocking the man unconscious. Harley shrieks angrily but the criminal simply clubs her aside with a massive punch when she tries to jump him, leaving her whimpering on the ground. Wally briefly muses at the thought of Crocks and their terrifying habit of kicking people between the eyes, before he watches stupefied as the masked man dashes backward through the doorway and disappearing into the night.
"Wally?" M'gann says, flying forward and placing a hand on his shoulder. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Wally croaks, glancing from Harley who is hovering around the fallen Joker snivelling and the the broken lollipop in M'gann's left hand. "Can we please go now? I'd really rather my friends not die while we're sitting here crying over a few cuts and bruises."
"I will call Batman for-" Kaldur says, gesturing to the two psychopaths lying among the remains of the gym, "M'gann and Wally, get to the bioship, quickly."
Okay so, Wally has to admit, M'gann was right to fuss over him on the way to the Watchtower. She had wanted to stop by Mount Justice for medical supplies to clean his cuts, which he'd had none of. They had to get to the Watchtower quickly, they were almost out of time as it was, but thankfully they'd had some Band Aids and peroxide on the Bioship, hidden under Artemis' seat. Wally had a sinking feeling that she used them to bandage her own cuts and bruises after missions and he'd never even noticed.
But anyways, M'gann had bandaged him until there were so many Band Aids along his neck and the right side of his face that his skin was hardly visible and it was a good thing too because when they pulled into the loading bay the first person to run out to greet them was Uncle Barry. Who fussed more than M'gann.
"Wallace Rudolph West, when your mother sees you neither of us are going to hear the end of it and-"
"UNCLE BARRY," Wally cuts in with a wave of his arms. He has shoved the broken lollipop into his Uncle's hands ordering, "Take this to the med bay, stat."
"Is this-" Barry begins to whisper but Wally simply nods and Barry is off in an ironic flash.
"Will they be -" M'gann wonders aloud, her hands clasped in front of her. She bites her lip apprehensively.
"Fine," Wally interjects, watching after his uncle's trail of light, "They'll be totally fine. I promise."
After waiting outside the med bay for four hours Wally is starting to get nervous. Maybe there wasn't enough for two? Maybe he's sitting there only to be told the gruesome news that only one of his friends is alive but he can't let himself think like that. That would be giving up. He looks up and down the corridor - waiting for a sign.
Superboy and Kaldur had arrived awhile ago and sat beside them silently, Superboy drawing little circles on M'gann's palms as she whispered something in Martian, some kind of prayer. Kaldur wasn't speaking but he was sitting with his head bowed, his hands pressed against his water bearers and Wally has a feeling he is praying as well.
Wally wants to pray, to someone, but that's the problem when you don't believe in anything outside the realm of science. There is no one to go to with problems and regrets. Fortunately for Wally, there is one thing he believes in. So he bows his head and prays to Fate. He's pretty sure he can hear Kent Nelson laughing.
"They're awake," Black Canary says and Wally looks up so quickly that his vision spins so he can't be sure if BC is crying or not.
"Can we-" M'gann says, shooting up from her seat and hovering a few foot above the ground.
"One at a time," Black Canary says, raising a hand as all four of them step forward at once.
And then M'gann is kind of crying, tears slipping past her cheeks, and Wally hears himself telling her she can go see Artemis first and she grabs him in a hug that squeezes that last breath out him before disappearing beyond the med bay doors. Superboy clamps a hand on his shoulder and tells him then that he can go see Robin and Wally nods and walks a little too quickly after M'gann and into the room at the end of the hall that BC gestures to with a flick of her hand. He doesn't get a glimpse inside Artemis' room, which is the next one down, but it can't be much different than Robin's.
Robin, who is sitting up in bed with a laptop, looks up at Wally with a wide grin as he enters.
"To what do I owe this honor, dude?" Rob says, closing the laptop and gesturing for Wally to sit in the chair by his bed.
"I- are you okay?" Wally asks, sitting numbly and staring at the faint bruises on Robin's pale skin.
"Peachy," Rob says, "How about you? I heard you had a run-in with the Joker."
"He was great, hey, we should switch villains more often. You take Captain Boomerang, I take the Joker?"
Robin laughs and Wally feels a bit better, more convinced that his friend is alright and not dying but he still can't unsee Robin foaming at the mouth and convulsing on the floor of the training room and his eyes harden at the very thought of his friend not sitting here in front of him, laughing.
"You are so not whelmed, dude," Robin says in a whisper, "Go see Artemis."
"Huh?" Wally says, looking up at Rob and the boy has a look on his face that is far more serious than any thirteen year old should wear, "I'm not-"
"Listen, I know you're concerned for me, because we're buds. I know that. You don't have to prove it or anything, I think the fact that you let the Joker take a knife to your face is more proof than I'll ever need. I also know that you have something you need to ask Artemis before something else gets in the way, like a nuclear bomb or something, knowing you two," Rob laughs, "So go on loverboy, enough with the denial it's getting old. Besides I don't want to sit here looking at your distraught face all night when I could be hacking in the Watchtower mainframe to get the Celebrity Hockey channel on my laptop."
"You sure you're okay?"
"GO," Robin says, jerking a finger at the far corner of the room, "or I'll have Batman eject you."
Wally turns hesitantly and for the first time notices Batman standing in the corner, completely covered by his cape. He's not even blinking. Wally gulps and nods as he stands from his chair and Batman nods slightly in return.
In the hallway he dashes straight into M'gann.
"Wally." She smiles and she's wiping tears from her eyes, her eyes glistening with relief. "She wants to see you."
"Really?" Wally asks hesitantly.
"Well, she said 'tell the boneheaded speedster to get his ass in here before I march into the hallway myself' but yeah, I think that means she wants to see you," M'gann says and she pushes Wally gently into the doorway before turning into Robin's room herself.
Wally stands in that doorway for about a minute and a half because Artemis is reclining on her cot with her eyes closed and a small smile forming on her lips and he just wants to live in this moment for awhile, reveling in the fact that she's alright.
"You gonna stand there all day, West?" Artemis says with her eyes closed and Wally can't even fathom how she knew he was there but it must have something to do with assassin parents and ninja like senses because he's stuttering, "yeah," and closing the door behind him as he rushes to sit next to her.
"It took you long enough," Artemis says, opening her eyes, and she's smiling a little still and even though her skin is pale and bruised and not its usual sheen of sandalwood he thinks she's beautiful, and he should probably tell her that before something else happens to put either of them in mortal danger.
"M'gann told me you got all scratched up facing the Joker, were you-" But Wally interrupts because he's full to the brim with emotion and exhaustion and he just needs to let it out.
"Okay wait I have to say this before you get buried alive again or poisoned or blown up or shot; gun or otherwise because I think it's safe to say you won't be going near any needles anytime soon -"
Artemis interrupts, "You're rambling."
"Right. Right. Okay," he looks around nervously, "So before any of the aforementioned horrors happen to you again - which by the way is statistically impossible but you have the worst luck like ever - I mean honestly who defies statistics?"
She deadpans, "The point Wally, before I slip into a coma again."
"Not funny," says Wally, "will you, and I mean you, Artemis Crock, go on a date with me before you quite possibly implode from not having your life threatened within the last three hours or I die for not asking."
"Could you be any lamer?" Artemis smirks.
"That isn't a no is it?" Wally presses eagerly leaning a little closer to the bed.
"It isn't a yes either," she points out twisting the sheets between her fingers and staring at her hands. "I mean. God, you and me. You asking me out...seems a little sudden."
"Not from my perspective," states Wally, leaning back on the legs of his chair, "To be fair it will technically be our second date. I just want to, you know, ensure you're still living when it happens."
"Dinner at my apartment doesn't count especially when it ends the way things usually do between us," she frowns flexing her fingers, "This isn't a good idea Wally. We tend to produce exothermic reactions whenever we get together."
"Babe, speaking my language is more of a turn on than a deterrent."
Artemis rolls her eyes brushing loose bangs away from her face as she attempts to hold back a smile. To the untrained observer the almost-smile would be indiscernible but Wally can see it in the way her eyes shine and in the slight quirk of her lips and the quiver of her shoulders.
"You're stupid. Incredibly so." She grins pulling at her left earlobe, idly fiddling with the earring hanging there.
"Stupid is as stupid does," Wally whispers, staring at her fingers before reaching forward and snatching the one hand that isn't fluttering across her bruised skin as if to determine if she's still all there.
She stares at their entwined hands and Wally himself is fascinated by their fingers as Artemis's dance against the inside of his palm instead of pushing him away as he'd half expected her to. When did they reach this point? He wonders vaguely. It's comfortable.
"You know," she begins slyly peeking at him from beneath dusty eyelashes, "You've been using my shampoo. I smell it. That's how I knew you were in the doorway."
Wally's face burns as he debates dropping her hand and running or just sitting put and allowing himself to suffer this rather pleasurable ordeal; because leaving means letting go of her hand and he's not quite ready to do that.
"Your shampoo?" says Wally airily, "Why would I be using that?"
"I have theories."
"Theories," emphasizes Wally leaning closer, grinning, "I think we should first focus on the question, why have you been smelling me?"
Artemis responds cool as a cucumber, "You started it," and Wally balks, pulling at his collar.
"You're not playing fair."
"I'm infirmed. What's your excuse?"
"I've been up for the last forty-eight hours trying to track down the antidote and race it here in order for you not to die." As if to prove his point he thrusts his face impossibly close to hers and peels away the bandages that were painstakingly placed there by a distraught M'gann on the Bioship as she tried to cover up the damage, "See? Injured in order to save your sweet ass. Got it from the Joker himself."
"It's half healed," she says teasingly, but he can hear the concern underneath her humor. It really shouldn't make him smile. He can see her trace the crude cut with her eyes. It may not look impressive now but she can imagine it was quite deep and quite painful - Speedsters may heal fast but the pain isn't any worse.
"Does it hurt?" she asks carefully her digits tightening around his. "Does the Flash know?"
"Nah and yes. I wouldn't want to be Joker in that interrogation room." he shrugs but she spies some yellowing bruises peeking out of the collar of his uniform - there's a distinct hand print around his throat.
"Yeah it appears to have become a running gag to throttle the mini-Speedster," he pulls his cowel up self-consciously, "But nothing I couldn't handle." Artemis frowns looking not very pleased with his answer.
"I've been told my dad was there," she says faintly before her voice strengthens, "Why?"
This brings a whole wave of unpleasant memories back because he basically knows he's going against the express wishes of a murderous, possibly insane, convict in asking out Artemis but, hey, what could Sporty do that was worse than tonight? "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
"Try me," she responds seriously.
"He came to save you."
"You're right. I don't believe you." She turns her face away from his, her ponytail slapping him. "My dad. Save me. Right. I'd sooner believe Batman dressed up in Wonder Woman's costume." She pauses, however, milling it over and then says with barely concealed hope, "Really?"
"Yeah," says Wally sheepishly, "And he warned me not to date his daughter or he'd find me and do horrible things to me."
At first Artemis seems amused by this news clearly picturing the numerous ways her father could torture him, because she would know, and then it clicks and she sees her eyes narrow and glares at him. "Wally," she says in a scarily even voice, "What do you know?"
"Know about what!?" he tried to say indifferently but it came out as a cruel squeak.
"Wallace." The pleasantness that was her hand encasing his turns deadly as the fingers clamp around him and his joints let loose a painful groan at the pressure.
"Ease up! You're going to break my hand." The grip tightens even more. Wally is incredibly thankful Artemis is bed bound because he's pretty sure that his hand breaking would be the last thing on her list to do if she actually had control over all her faculties. "Okay! Okay! I know you're his daughter - alright the whole team knows you're his daughter." Artemis's grip slackens and her face goes deathly pale so quickly he's worried she's fainted. She just clams up eyes moving across his face almost pleadingly.
"How?" she finally musters before angrily, "HOW!"
"The team...well Sportsmaster kind of shouted it during the skirmish...and me."
"And you?" she questions. He's surprised she hasn't let go of his hand, then again it's her only available torture device as she digs her nails into his tender skin. "How did you find out? Because you're way too calm for someone who just found out. People, namely you, freak out when they find out."
Wally sighs focusing on the bed spread instead of her eyes because he never actually considered the consequences of finding that classified information on the server or how he was going to explain it when this situation arose.
"The server," he mumbles, "I saw it on the database server. Just so you know Batman is totally bias. Me, average? Pssh, as if."
"You spied on me."
"Totally accidental. There was an open door and a computer screen," he pushes his fingers against her hand, "I didn't mean to. Honest."
Artemis quirks an eyebrow but appears satisfied as a small smile melts onto her face. This is one of the things he likes about her - how easily she can forgive. Again she sniffs the air seemingly satisfied.
"So you were about to give me an explanation about why you're using my shampoo?"
"Which returns us to the main point. Yes, I used your shampoo because it has hypnotic proprieties that I'm working on cracking but I first have to build up an immunity to it. Besides I wanted to ask you out and not look like crap."
"Showers don't cure creep," Artemis groans smiling slyly, "You're serious, aren't you?"
"Like the dead," Wally amends, "Okay poor choice of words."
Artemis sighs shaking his hand off, "If we're going to do this -" Wally's head perks up at the words because he took the hand-letting-go ploy as a bad sign, "We have to take it slow."
"I can do slow."
Artemis snorts, her fingers tracing the now puckered scars along the skin of his collarbone, "Not likely."
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