A/N: Slight Jason/Artemis. Done for YJ Headcanon's prompt on Tumblr.
20. After Jason Todd joined the Team as the new Robin, he formed a fast friendship with Artemis. She was a part of the mission against the Joker that Jason was killed on, and guilt over his death caused her to retire from the Team.
It had been a stupid move. Communication had been down ever since M'gann had been knocked out early in the mission and the enemies had a jammer blocking all radio frequencies. There was no way for anyone to alert other members of the Team if there were trouble. There was no way to call for back up.
They shouldn't have gone in the room.
But Jason was nudging her, "Come on, Art. We can do this. We can't just quit because we won't get back up. We can get out of trouble. I know we can," he smiled at her. The boy was determined—she'd give him that. Sure, he had a lot of stuff to learn, but he wanted this more than anything. He loved the thrill of doing this hero-ing business.
The new Robin was young but eager for any new challenge this life would throw at him.
He gripped her arm and dragged her over to the door, "Come on. We can just tell the Team that we got lost while searching for a way out."
"I don't know, Robin. Something doesn't feel right."
"Pft, it's your Asian paranoia. Calm down, Art. It's not like there could be anything beyond that door that we can't handle."
He was wrong.
She should have known better than to let a new kid—a freshman—talk her into doing something so risky. Maybe it was the way Jason acted so confident about everything that made her forget protocol and Nightwing's words to keep Jason safe at any cost.
The moment they opened the door, there was a rush of thugs. They would have been fine. They should have been fine, but there was the moment when Artemis was overwhelmed—no, she wasn't whelmed at all. Too many people were surrounding her; they knew that she was a veteran to this hero-ing business and to take her down first would be smart.
They were swarming her, and it just didn't mix well with her long-range tactics. They were forcing her to do a medium of fighting she just wasn't as comfortable with. Her blind spot was exploited and she felt a knife slice into her lower back. She cried out before they managed to start beating her. She couldn't block. Why couldn't she block? Every hit seemed to hit in a weak point that she didn't know she had. Soon she was on her stomach being held down by some of the thugs.
"Artemis!" Jason cried out. She watched from the ground as he tries to break free from the ring of thugs that were surrounding him. He was punching everywhere now just trying to get out to help her.
It doesn't take long for the thugs to get a firm grasp on Jason and force him to kneel on the ground with his arms held behind him.
A laugh echoes through the room, and Artemis feels her blood run cold. "Artemis!" Jason cried out again and struggled in his bonds.
"Oh, shush, Bird Boy. Blondie isn't gonna fair too well with you screaming."
All Artemis can do is watch Jason's face.
The steps almost seem to echo on the cold concrete ground. Artemis tries to not pay attention to it. She tries to think that the Team will save them. Communication may be down, but people would search for them.
Nightwing would search for them.
And if rumor of the Joker were heard, Batman would search for them.
All Artemis had to do was wait. Someone was going to save them. Someone was going to find them—someone was going to find them before it's too late.
Something tugs on her hair and she gets her face ripped off the ground. Her neck was wrenched. Her eyes look with the man who did it. Immediately, she knows that if someone doesn't get here soon, that her and Jason were—
"It's the little, blonde archer! Isn't she adorable Bird Boy? Too bad she isn't going to be that way for too long!" The laugh that follows and the smile that was directed her way made Artemis scared. She hasn't felt this scared since…ever. Everything was predictable. There was usually an outcome that could be seen, but with the Joker there was the unknown factor that scared Artemis. She didn't know what was going to happen.
Her face gets smashed into the pavement numerous times. She can feel herself losing consciousness. It doesn't stop her from keeping eye contact with Jason.
Jason's face was twisting every time Artemis hits the ground. Finally, it seems he's had enough, "Stop!" he shouted.
The Joker paused in his beating to look at Jason. "What's up, Bird Boy? Don't—" smack "—like—" smack "—watching—" smack "—Blondie—" smack "—take—" smack "—a—" smack "—well—" smack "—deserved—" smack "—beating?"
Artemis could feel the blood dripping down her face. Her nose is no doubt broken, her lip is probably split in multiple places, and her she's pretty sure she heard her cheekbone crack. Thankfully, the ground was just cement and there was nothing to get implanted in her face.
Jason was whimpering as he looked at Artemis. Artemis saw the resolved look in his eyes. The hard-set, stubborn look that she has seen on the determined boy's face numerous times, but it was different this time. It was accepting. Accepting what he was about to do, "Robin, don't."
"Stop hurting her. Beat me instead. Please. Just stop hurting her," he begged.
Artemis wanted to shake her head, but her head was being held firmly in place by the Joker's grip in her hair. "Huh, continue beating Blonde Beauty or have a go on the stupidest little bird… I'll go for the love sick Bird. See ya, Blondie," he dropped Artemis one last time and lets her hit the floor with a final thud.
He seemed so content as he strolled over to Jason, but he paused midway. "Hmm," he turned around again to stare at Artemis, "I think it would be better to watch you react once you realize what I did to the precious, little Bird."
A swift kick to the face knocks her out.
Artemis goes in and out of consciousness constantly during the next couple hours. Every time she hears the distinct noise of something metal hitting flesh. Jason. She wants to move, but her arms and legs are tied up. There's also a ringing noise in her ear that just won't go away.
One time during the slips she manages to open her right eye and sees the gory sight in front of her. Jason is crumpled on the ground with the Joker standing over him. Swinging. Again. And again.
Every hit seems to break something else. She wants to cry out. To alleviate the beating like Jason did for her, but all she can do is groan. Her words aren't working. Why can't she call out for Jason?
This is all her fault.
She shouldn't have let Jason talk her into this.
She can barely open her eyes when she wakes up. Her face is so swollen that it is worse than that one time her M'gann fed her strawberries and didn't know that she was highly allergic. Her right eye won't even open, but she managed to open the other.
The room is the same as before except there are no thugs anymore. It takes a while before she can realize that someone is untying her hands. She immediately tries to struggle, but the person shushed her. "It's okay, Art. Bruce is gonna come get us."
Artemis didn't understand what he means by that, but goes with it. "Jay…?" she tries, but her voice is so hoarse that it barely comes out. The ringing in her head also wasn't helping anything.
"It's me," he assured her. He finished with her hands and moved around front to help her up. It didn't do him any good because he just fell over in the process.
"Jay," she whispered and fell down to the ground to help him up.
But she just didn't know how.
Every part of him was covered in cuts. His uniform was ripped in so many places, and he just looked broken. He curled up on the ground like he was trying to hold himself together.
This was her fault.
"Come on, Jay. We gotta find the Team and get you help," she tried to tell him. She didn't know where or even how to help him up—it seemed like if she touched him anywhere he would break.
The boy tried to prop himself up with his arm, but cried out in pain. "Broken arm…" he muttered.
Broken everything, she wanted to tell him but held back. She carefully wrapped her arms around his chest and lifted him up onto his feet. It was hard ignoring the moving ribs underneath her touch. How long had she been out? How long had the beating gone on? "Come on, Jay. It'll be alright."
Every step Artemis was basically holding him up and Artemis was pretty sure that she herself had a concussion from getting her head slammed into the floor one too many times. The ringing in her head wasn't going away and her vision had started to get black spots every so often.
Artemis had to fix this.
Her hand rested on the door. It was locked. "It's okay, I can picklock it."
Her hands were shaking horribly. It was getting to point where doing such a simple task of picklocking the door was suddenly irritating. "Art?"
Artemis looked up at Jason. He wasn't looking at her; instead he was looking at a pile of boxes in the center of the room. On top of them was a bomb. The red numbers ticking down from six.
"It looks like you're Asian paranoia was right, Art," he gives her a weak smile before pushing her down against the door…shielding her.
"Jason, what are you doing?"
"I'm not gonna make it, Art, but maybe you can. Bye, Art."
The explosion knocks her out immediately.
The next thing she knew, Artemis was on a cot in the infirmary. She can't register anything else besides that fact. There were bandages over her left eye and she couldn't move at all.
She groaned and tried to sit up. Her whole body was stiff. It took a while and quite a bit of effort, but she managed to sit herself up. Everything in the room was blurry. She tried to focus, but there must have been something wrong with her right eye. The explosion must have…
She tried to look around the room. He had to be there. He had to be in one of the other cots. He had to. Nothing was comforting in the room. It was empty. Every cot didn't have anyone in them. It was irritating. Where was everyone? Where was Jason? It took a while, but eventually she saw someone enter the room from the other side. Her sight was still blurry. She couldn't tell it was Black Canary until she walked up to besides Artemis' cot.
"Artemis, it's good to see you're awake," she cooed softly. Her hand went down and stroked Artemis' bandaged one. Black Canary was like a mother to her after these couple years on the Team—Green Arrow filling in as a sort of father figure also. It was nice to see her. At least she was here.
"Jason?" she asked, her voice was hoarse from the misuse.
Black Canary's brow furrowed, "No, it's me Dinah."
Artemis rolled her eyes and shook her head, "Where's…Jason?"
"Oh sweetie," she mumbled and sat beside her on the cot and began stroking her hair softly. "You should get some rest. I'm sure Nightwing and Batman are the ones you should talk too."
Artemis wanted to protest, but to be honest; she was exhausted even though she had slept for who knows how long. Black Canary helped ease her down on the bed. It didn't take her long for her to fall asleep.
It takes another good while until Artemis wakes up again. Her head is still ringing just as bad as before, but it seems that her sight was mostly back. It was also easier to move—although, there was a weird stiffness in moving. There was a sort of resistance when she propped herself against the hospital cot.
The Team had been waiting in the infirmary of the cave. Black Canary had finally announced that they were going to be taking Artemis off of the sedative, and that she would be waking up shortly. Their whispers were soft and harsh as they talked about how to tell Artemis what happened.
Of course, they nominated Dick to explain what happened to Jason.
It only seemed right, after all.
Artemis' eyes focused onto the Team; they were huddling on a couple of the hospital cots that were pushed together. All of them looked fine, except it seemed Wally had a broken arm. Artemis can only snort at that.
M'gann saw her first and let out a little squeak of joy and flew to Artemis' side, "You're awake!" she grasped onto Artemis's bandaged hands.
"Jason?" she asked. The Team didn't expect anything else.
They all looked at Dick, "He died, Art."
Artemis didn't really expect anything else. It was more of the fact that it was sinking in that she was never going to see him again. Ever. Jason had become her friend fast when he joined the Team—it also helped that the kid was her old neighbor. The already established friendship managed to grow even more now that they were working together constantly.
Her and Jason were friends. Were.
Now all she could think about was how she wasn't going to see him graduate, see him grow out of the Robin persona, see his futile attempts at going to college, see him be the little brat he was.
M'gann pulled her into a hug and just held her, "It's okay, Artemis."
It took Artemis a while, but she finally put her arms around the Martian as well, "M'gann, it's all my fault."
"Don't blame yourself."
"You weren't there. He—he—sacrificed himself."
Artemis felt M'gann freeze underneath her hold. "What?"
"The Joker was going to beat me first…and then Jason said—said to beat him instead," it was almost as if she froze in that moment. All she could hear was Jason crying out to save her and then his whimpers as he got beat.
It was too much.
She pushed M'gann off of her and just sat in the cot. "Then he shielded me from the explosion," she admitted. The Team was silent as they digested the information. Meanwhile, Artemis was staring at her arms that were marred with burn marks. Jason died and all that happened to her was that she got a little beat up…it was just so wrong. Artemis has never felt so disgusted with herself in her entire life. She could have done something. Anything.
But the only thing she managed to do was lay on the ground unconscious.
She was just so disgusted.
"I…I think I'm done."
The Team immediately snapped their attention to her. "What do you mean, Art?" Wally asked and tried to take her hand, but she snapped it away.
"I should have been able to do something…anything, but I didn't. I should have been able to do something. He's dead. And I'm alive…he's dead and it's all my fault. I should have been smarter. We were supposed to escape the compound, but I made a stupid mistake and Jason's dead now.
"Maybe if I had powers…I would have been able to save him. Maybe if I hadn't been so stupid I would have been able to save him. The thought that such a stupid mistake got him killed…I don't want that to happen again. I don't want to cause anyone else to die. If I couldn't save just one person, then how am I supposed to save anyone else? I'm done with this Team…with hero-ing," Artemis told them.
The expression on their faces was a mix of sadness and just pure and utter dejection. "Artemis, don't make such a rash decision—"
Artemis cut Wally off, "It's not a rash decision. I had all the time in the world as I watched Jason get beaten to death because of me," she paused and tried to collect herself. Looking up at the rest of her Team did happen to help her with the decision because all she could think about was what if she had caused one of them to die? Were they next?
Artemis always thought that being a hero meant you could prevent this kind of stuff. That being a hero meant that you would save people. Being a hero almost made you immortal, or at least took away a sense of mortality.
But now, Artemis knows different.
Never in her life has she ever felt so mortal.
It's years later.
Artemis was back in Gotham to help her mother out a bit, but otherwise she was living in Palo Alto with Wally. Everything was fine, though. Her mother wasn't extremely sick; it was just a cold that turned out to be a bit worse than usual. Otherwise, she would be fine.
Artemis took her newly boiled tea and went to her room to go to bed for the night. Her door still squeaked just as loud as when she had lived there before—she really had to get some oil to fix that. The room was pitch black as she walked through the room over nightstand and put the tea down. Her hand reached out to turn the lamp on when she gets that feeling. It's really indescribable, but she just knows that she's not alone in the room.
The slight sound of breathing, her ajar window…
She turned the lamp on and launched herself at the intruder, whom was just lying on her bed like he belonged there. She pressed the stranger against the wall and started to choke him with her arm.
Until she got a good look at his face and fell back onto her butt.
"Jason?" she clearly enunciated both of the syllables and stared at the younger boy.
"I like the new hair, Art."
In that moment, she didn't care if he was a clone or a robot or whatever the fuck he was. All she cared about was that, that was Jason. Jason was alive. Jason was sitting in front of her. Jason was smirking at her like the little idiot he was.
Artemis basically pounced on him and just held him not bothering to ask any questions and just enjoy the fact that he was alive.