Young Justice -:- Identity
Summary: A group of mercenaries try to pull off an ambitious kidnapping, but only succeed in taking Artemis Crock and Richard Grayson. With the world watching Bruce Wayne, the League is helpless to act. Can the two young heroes save themselves without betraying their secrets?
Setting/Spoilers: Set ten months after the end of season one, starring the original team minus Rocket and Zatanna (imagine that they're off-world or something...) with vague references of things to come in season two
Pairings: Not really a shipper, so just the canon pairings. Established Spitfire, some Supermartian (on the rocks...) and a tiny hinting of pre-CheshirexRedArrow. There's a lot of scenes with Artemis and Robin, which I've written as good friends, but you could probably see some Traught if you want
Genre/Rating: Angst/Hurt/Comfort, T for blood, violence and other fun stuff :D
Disclaimer: If I owned Young Justice, there wouldn't have been a stupid time-skip!
Author's Note(s): My track record for completing fics hasn't been all that good lately, so this is my first attempt at finishing before I even start posting. I thrive on reader input though, so I'm updating daily in the hopes that if someone comes up with a great idea or points out a major flaw, I can still change things as I go. I wrote this as a really long one-shot that I've divvied up into parts, seven parts total.
As I've said, this is set post-season one with the original team. Only Wally knows Robin's civilian ID. I know that Dick Grayson has a tendency to get kidnapped a lot on fanfic, but I'm hoping that this is an original take on the idea.
"It's going to be okay…"
Well, that was a lie. Artemis could tell that much from the strange colour of the liquid oozing between her fingers as she prodded the wound. His body was so warm she could feel the heat radiating from him, feverish sweat glistening on his exposed skin in the harsh light. Finally she found what she was looking for, her thumb and forefinger closing around the warped lump of metal.
Her patient groaned and writhed weakly, having long ago lost the strength to scream.
"Shhh…" Artemis hushed, though it sounded more like begging to her ears. She blinked back tears at the pain that she was causing, wishing that there was another way – wishing that this had never happened in the first place. "It's okay, Grayson, shhh… shhh… you're okay…"
Dull blue eyes flew open briefly, and Artemis bit back a sob. He was looking right at her, but his eyes were so unfocused that he couldn't see her through the haze. The damn kid was still conscious, feeling every torture that she inflicted as she tried to help. His eyes squeezed shut again, his whole face contorting with pain as she ripped the bullet out of his abdomen. A yell tore from his throat and clawed at her heart. "I'm so sorry… oh God, I'm so sorry…"
She clamped one hand over the wound that was now bleeding afresh as she grappled with their supplies with the other. A first aid kit had been oh so generously provided, once it had been picked clean of anything remotely useful of course. She barely had what she needed to perform the patch-up job that she was currently struggling with. A set of vague instructions and a measured dose of what she could only assume were antibiotics were included in the kit – clearly whoever had captured them didn't want them dead just yet, though they weren't concerned enough to provide any professional medical help.
Who the hell had captured them? What did they want? Why wouldn't Richard stop bleeding already!?
Artemis forced herself to pause for a moment and take a deep breath. She was panicking. Though understandably so, it wasn't exactly helping her at that moment. She balled her free hand into a tight fist to stop the shaking, and then with a clearer mind, went back to work.
She had only been conscious for about ten minutes, though her awakening felt like hours ago now. Her head had hurt, the pain thumping behind her eyes and leaving her mind in a foggy mess. She had blinked up at the unfamiliar ceiling, shivering in the cold that bit through her thin shirt, trying to figure out what had happened.
Then she had heard a whimper.
Their accommodations consisted of a small, bare brick room with a single metal door and a lone bulb flickering above them. Exposed pipes ran up the walls, some of them warm enough to cause condensation to form but most of them cold and unused. Two cots had been pushed against opposite walls, made up of rigid aluminium frames and a thin stretch of canvas for a mattress. On one 'bed' she found herself, on the other was a sight that she'd never forget.
Richard Grayson, a sophomore kid that she barely knew, lay curled on his side with his back to her, his body shuddering violently. That was when Artemis' memory came flooding back to her like a sucker punch to the gut. The library… Mrs Foley… the kidnappers… the gunshot.
Her legs barely co-operating, Artemis staggered the two foot across the room, ignoring the vertigo that strove to send her plummeting. Gently, cautiously, she had rolled Richard onto his back, shocked to find him so warm in a room so cold. What shocked her more though was the dark red blotch that stained his white school shirt.
He had woken at her touch, and in his delirium had attempted to push her away, to defend himself. The kid was a fighter, she'd give him that much. She had shushed him like a child and stroked his dark hair to try and calm him down. Maybe he had recognised her voice, or maybe he simply realised that resistance was pointless, but his struggles had finally ceased.
Artemis had had no idea what to do next – what could she do? Sure, the 'training' she had received from her father had vaguely covered first aid – she'd patched up her sister a few times – but this was way beyond her skill set, even with supplies…
It was then that she had noticed the first aid kit propped against the foot of his cot, with its cryptic instructions and mostly pilfered supplies.
Artemis didn't want to be responsible for saving Richard's life – she didn't even know if she could – but there was something so familiar about him, something that pulled at her protective instincts. This kid who had randomly snapped a picture of them together on her first day, and then had seemed to go out of his way to avoid her ever since. This stranger. But when he had briefly met her grey eyes through a haze of pain and fever, he had given her a look of such trust; not a look someone with her background received often, and she had known that she would do anything to help him.
Somehow, they were friends. She was sure of it.
"Are you sure that this is wise?"
Recognise: Batman 02. Recognise: Martian Manhunter 07. Recognise: Green Arrow 08.
"Whatever it takes," Batman replied evenly, though it didn't take Martian telepathy to know that the Gotham vigilante was angry. The three Leaguers stepped into the main hall of Mt. Justice as the light of the zeta tubes dulled behind them, leaving them in the glow of the circular floor pad. Instantly the computer sprang to life and several holo-screens materialised as if sensing the Dark Knight's sour mood. "Team, report to the training room."
"It's already been three hours," Green Arrow muttered, uncharacteristically nervous, as they waited for the young justice team to assemble. "No ransom, no demands. This is no ordinary kidnapping."
"Which is why we need no ordinary team," Batman explained as he began calling up the relevant data on the holo-screens. "They were taken in civilian ID in a very public way. As far as the world is concerned this is a normal, high-profile kidnapping, which is not League business. Direct involvement could raise questions that we don't want to be answering."
"I agree," Martian Manhunter nodded, his red eyes flickering over to where the teens would enter, "However there is no way to involve the team without them asking those very same questions. You yourself have always been so guarded of your identity…"
A blur of red and yellow streaked across the room, effectively cutting the Martian off. Kid Flash smiled eagerly as he took in the three heroes. "Have we got a mission? Sweet!"
Batman did not reply and Green Arrow just shifted awkwardly, though the excitable speedster failed to pick up on the tense atmosphere. Thankfully he was quickly joined by Aqualad, Superboy and Miss Martian, the latter of which studied the gathered Leaguers with a concerned expression. "What's going on?"
"Isn't it obvious?" Kid Flash grinned. "We've got a mission!"
The team looked to their elders, and Batman took that as his cue. "Three hours ago, a group of armed gunmen attempted to kidnap ten students from Gotham Academy…"
Kid Flash paled considerably, which Batman didn't fail to notice. Perhaps his protégé had already spilled his civilian ID, against his orders? "A-attempted?" the red-head asked.
"They were working in tandem with a teacher who we believe was being blackmailed," Batman continued, pulling up a photo of Miranda Foley, the Academy's Political Science teacher. "When she was proven to be no longer useful, she was executed. This, along with the efforts of two students, created enough confusion for the majority of the hostages to escape. However we believe that the kidnappers still succeeded in capturing their intended target."
"Who?" Kid Flash asked, his voice quieter than usual as if he already knew and feared the answer.
Batman tapped a few keys and two new photos appeared on the holo-screens. It took everything the Dark Knight had to keep his voice level as he read the names. "Richard Grayson and Artemis Crock."
"Wait… Artemis?" Superboy asked, blinking at the photo. "As in our Artemis? Who's the other kid?"
Batman didn't know whether to be relieved or annoyed that the clone hadn't made the fairly obvious connection, but he decided to go with it. He wouldn't reveal Robin's identity unless he absolutely had to. "Richard Grayson, the ward of billionaire Bruce Wayne who happens to help finance the League. He has asked for our assistance in finding his son."
"But the League doesn't handle kidnappings," Kid Flash added. "Which is why you can't act. Not without revealing Artemis' ID as well."
"Which is why we are bringing in the team," Green Arrow picked up. "Artemis is not from a wealthy family, she's at Gotham Academy on a scholarship, not a trust fund, meaning that she's not exactly the usual kidnap victim. That with the fact that Richard is connected to the League through Wayne, though that could be a coincidence, has led us to believe that this was not a normal kidnapping."
"It is an attack on the League," Aqualad concluded. "One that you cannot be seen to retaliate to."
"Exactly," Batman agreed. "This is a mission to locate and rescue your teammate and a civilian. Covertly."
All four teenagers nodded gravely, understanding the responsibility settled upon them. It took all of the self-control Batman had not to get out there and find Robin himself, but he couldn't do that without revealing their identities – and the consequences of that. Alfred was holding off the press and Commissioner Gordon at Wayne Manor for now, but it wouldn't be long before Bruce Wayne's absence was noticed. He had to trust that the young team was capable of doing this on their own.
Kid Flash stepped forward, looking determined. Batman was glad in that moment that Robin had trusted his best friend, as now the speedster fully understood the stakes. "What have we got to go on?"
The three adults shared a brief look before Batman typed a few more commands on the holographic keys. "The school's security cameras captured the kidnapping…"
"Which they do not need to see," Martian Manhunter said lowly. The whole League had seen the footage; it had left them devastated and frustrated at their inability to act. "The attackers are masked…"
"Understanding their tactics and abilities is important," Batman interrupted. He met the Martian's gaze and held it. "We need them to understand the whole situation."
Particularly the part where time was running out fast for a certain bird.
Mondays were always the same: monotonous American History followed by a one-sided dodge ball game in Phys Ed; the soft drone of Shakespeare in English Lit, a bit of a challenge in Calculus, all rounded off avec un peu de français ennuyeux.
Dick sighed as he stared out of the window. Sometimes he wished that something, anything, could happen to break up the boredom. Maybe an Arkham breakout… or another crazy-cold Ice Villain enforced snow day… or maybe even a good ol' fashioned kidnapping – they never failed to brighten his day! He rolled his eyes at his own sarcastic thoughts and tried to force himself to pay attention.
"…anybody?" Madame Ford was saying, looking hopefully at the rows of students spread out before her. No one appeared to be biting though. Dick didn't even know what the question was, so naturally, she just had to pick him as her victim. "Richard?"
"Uh… what?" Dick answered sensibly. Madame Ford sighed, looking both disappointed and resigned to her fate of teaching a bunch of privileged kids who had absolutely no desire to learn.
"Don't ask Dick, miss," Devon Wynters, a kid in a letterman jacket slouched at the back of the class piped up. "Circus Boy can barely conjugate English!"
Dick resisted the urge to let his head drop to the desk in frustration. Only in Gotham Academy could the jocks use words with more than two syllables to insult you – even if they did struggle to find newer material than 'Circus Boy'. It was annoying that Dick beat up guys far tougher than Wynters on a regular basis, and yet he still had to just sit there and take it as the class erupted in laughter around him.
The joys of a having a secret identity.
"That's enough, Devon," Madame Ford attempted to regain control of her class, trying to draw their attention back to the French language. "Now, can anybody tell me…"
Dick tuned her out, knowing that he wouldn't be picked on again – at least Devon had done him that small favour, however unintentionally. His thoughts strayed to the team and he wondered if Batman would have a mission for them tonight. Probably not, he thought derisively. It's a school night. Can't be out late saving the world when there's a pop quiz in the morning!
It's hard to keep school in perspective when you're a teenage crime fighter.
A soft, hesitant tapping at the classroom door brought Dick back to the present. Mrs Foley, his Political Science teacher, popped her head through the door and gave his bedraggled French teacher a small smile. "Sorry to interrupt, but I need to borrow Richard for a moment."
Dick raised his eyebrows. What had he done now? He was pretty sure that he had handed in his assignment… hadn't he? "Sure," Madame Ford nodded. "He's all yours."
Mrs Foley beckoned him towards the door, and Dick reluctantly got to his feet. He figured he'd be back soon, so he left his bag and books and ignored the curious looks he was getting as he left the class behind. "What's this about?"
"Oh, nothing to worry about, Richard," Mrs Foley tried to reassure him, but there was something off about her tone that put Dick on edge. "We've just got to go to the library. Mr Pritchard is holding a meeting with a few select students."
"Meeting?" Dick asked. He noted the way that his teacher never met his eyes, and her pace nearly doubled at his curiosity. "What kind of meeting?"
"Just a council of sorts," Foley replied, waving a hand as if to ward off any more questions. "To discuss some upcoming events at the school."
"Okay…" Dick muttered, entirely unconvinced. Every instinct told him that something was very, very wrong – but what choice did he have? "Could you be any more vague?"
Foley laughed nervously, but didn't answer. The nearer they got to the library doors, the more skittish she was becoming. She kept twisting her wedding ring on her finger and Dick noticed that she was sweating despite the coolness of October. "Mrs Foley," Dick said more forcefully, aware that they were less than half a corridor away from the library. "What is going on?"
"Nothing Richard," Foley snapped. "Come along please."
Dick was pretty sure that following Mrs Foley was the last thing that he should be doing, but this woman was still his teacher, no matter how weird she was acting. And apparently, they were going to see the principal. How would Dick explain that he'd knocked out the older woman and run off if this was really just a meeting? I'm sorry, but my teacher was acting like a Super Villain? Yeah, that would go down well.
So Dick steeled his nerves and went against every instinct screaming at him to run. Within moments they reached the doors, which Foley knocked on in an odd rhythm. After a pause they were opened to reveal Gotham Academy's oversized library, and a large masked man who definitely was not the librarian.
Dick really wished he had listened. Running away was looking like a very good idea right then.
Before his feet could fulfil his wish however, the masked man grabbed his arm in a grip strong enough to make Bane jealous. Dick had a brief moment to think Oh crap before he was yanked forcefully across the threshold and shoved into the atrium of the massive space. Foley followed the big man with quick light steps, just about missing the door as it was slammed closed. The man glared at her through the slits cut in his mask. "What took you so long?"
Foley stammered incoherently, unable to form a complete thought while pinned by his gaze. Dick took the opportunity to get his bearings. Gotham Academy's library was bigger than the city's public one, its tall stacks of books spreading out in a maze in every direction. The entrance hall was one of the few open spaces, a circular expanse lit from above by an ornate dome skylight – only the best for Gotham's elite after all. The front desk was currently unmanned, leaving the space empty aside from the three of them. Dick would have run – there were plenty of hiding places – but he could tell from the masked man's posture that he was well trained. He might not have been looking at him, but Dick knew that if he tried to move, the man would be quicker.
"Whatever," the masked man grunted impatiently. He gestured at the door. "Go get the last one. No delays this time."
"Y-y-yes… c-course…" Foley practically bowed as she backed up towards the exit. "R-right away…"
Through the black fabric of the ski mask, Dick could see the man's features twist into a smile as he turned his cold eyes on the teenager. Dick got the impression that he was being sized up like a piece of meat, the man silently totting up the ransom he could swindle from his wealthy guardian. It was the same look all the bad guys gave him, usually about ten minutes before Batman swooped in and bashed their heads in. This wasn't the first time he had been kidnapped.
"Move," the masked man (El Jefe, Dick randomly decided to name him) instructed, steering Dick by the shoulder as they headed deeper into the library. They turned a corner and followed a corridor of bookshelves before the library once again opened into one of the many reading areas. Encased on three sides by books, the square space was invisible from the main door, preventing them from being discovered by any visitors. The fourth wall consisted of one-sided glass windows and a door that led to the parking lot. Usually, it was locked for security reasons. Dick doubted that it was now.
The couches that were normally in the middle of the space were pushed back against the stacks, creating enough floor space for the group of hostages. There were eight more students beside himself, and Dick recognised each and every one of them. He could actually recite each family's net worth from memory. They were the children of the richest of the rich of Gotham, their wealth equalled only by his own as the 'Crowned Prince'.
It was a bold plan – why only kidnap one rich kid when there's a whole school full of tantalising ransoms to choose from? But Dick had a gut feeling that there was something more going on here. This was something a bit too ambitious for a mercenary. Or even a group of them…
El Jefe pushed Dick towards the others and then turned to one of his comrades and switched dialects. Unfortunately it was a language that Dick didn't speak, so he settled for reading body language and their vocal tones as he dropped on the floor beside Bette Kane. The elder teen passed him a concerned look, but Dick could see the fear in her eyes so he ended up giving her a comforting smile instead. He doubted that it was the first time she had been kidnapped either.
There were five masked men in total, all armed and prepared for war. They wore black uniforms that lacked any markings or identifying symbols underneath TAC vests that looked well-stocked enough to put Batman's utility belt to shame. Three of them had semi-automatic guns clipped to their vests, P90s if Dick had to guess; and they all had pistols in thigh holsters and combat knives in their belts. That was a lot of firepower for a kidnapping at a school… just what kind of resistance were they expecting from a bunch of privileged teenagers…?
El Jefe, the one who had so kindly greeted Dick at the door, kept glancing over at him as if worried that he would start trouble. But that made absolutely no sense – he was the smallest kid there and he knew that there was no record of Dick Grayson knowing self-defence on his Wikipedia page. (Not that he'd ever checked his wiki page of course…) Unless the guy somehow knew that he was Robin, which was unlikely, there was no reason for him to be seen as a threat.
Unless he wasn't a threat… but a target.
Dick looked over at the other students who were mostly being ignored. They were all gathered together; in the school that they were being kidnapped from, waiting for Foley to collect one more kid. Why? The collective worth sitting there right then was worth more than twice a king's ransom. Why risk the chance of being discovered for one more kid when the richest in school were already there? It had to be the stupidest plan ever.
The odd rhythm of taps sounded from the library main doors and El Jefe headed out to pick up the last hostage. Dick heard an outraged shout that carried through the stacks followed by the final slamming of the door.
"Hey! Let me go!" yelped a voice Dick recognised instantly. He sat up straighter and watched as El Jefe returned with Foley in tow, and a tall, blonde-haired girl struggling in his arms. "You are making a big mistake! Let me go so I can kick your ass!"
Oh yeah, this had to be the stupidest kidnap plan ever… or the cleverest attack against the League for a while.
Everything fell into place and made a heck of a lot more sense to the teenage vigilante. It was all one massive ploy – the highest profile kidnapping in Gotham masking the capture of one/two (depending on whether or not they knew who he was) heroes in civilian ID. The League would know that Artemis at least was the target, but they wouldn't be able to act without revealing that fact to the world. Dick didn't know who had hired the mercenaries, but whoever it was, they were smart.
But he was smarter.
"Hey!" Dick jumped to his feet and crossed his arms across his chest, looking every bit the conceited trust fund brat. "What kind of a kidnapping is this? I mean – I get why you grabbed us, but what's with the charity case?"
Artemis stopped fighting her captor to glare daggers at him. Dick was pretty sure that if she were loose right then that she would be attacking him for that comment, but he'd apologise later once they'd gotten out of this. Bette stood up beside him. "She's a scholarship student," she explained bravely, and a little more politely, though Dick could still feel her shaking. "She can't afford the ransoms our families can."
"Sit down," El Jefe growled menacingly. Bette obeyed as the other masked-men held their weapons ready, but Dick stepped forward, drawing all attention to him.
"Why should I?" he asked indignantly. Artemis shot him a warning look, but he didn't need it. He was all too aware of the amount of firepower currently aimed at him. He rolled his eyes, feigning more confidence than he felt. "You clearly don't know what you're doing. I mean, you were doing well with the whole lots of rich kids thing, but then you just had to go and ruin it." Dick turned to Mrs Foley and internally winced at what he was about to say. "Did you pick up the trash by accident?"
"Why you little…"
"Enough!" El Jefe snapped, cutting off whatever Artemis was about to say. He drew his pistol and levelled it at Dick, loosening his hold and attention on Artemis. The archer then realised what Dick was doing, her eyes widening in surprise. "Sit down before I put you down you little runt!"
Dick smirked. "Well you just failed Kidnapping 101. You can't get a ransom if you kill the hostage."
"Y-you s-said you w-wouldn't harm th-them…" Foley stuttered, her eyes flicking between the tiny teenager and the massive mercenary.
"And you really believed that?" Dick asked Foley, completely ignoring El Jefe's instructions. His grip on Artemis' arm was barely there; his rage was so focused on the spiralling situation. Dick saw the archer slip into a ready position out of the corner of his eye, and he could feel the stares of his classmates on his back as they watched the powder keg burn.
Foley turned on El Jefe with a coward's confidence. "Wh-why do you w-want Crock?"
"Does it matter?!"
"I think it's pretty relevant," Dick added helpfully.
"SHUT UP AND SIT DOWN!"
"Make me." Dick challenged as he stepped forward. El Jefe forgot about Artemis entirely and closed the distance between himself and Dick, using his considerable height and bulk to overshadow the teenager imposingly.
"Err… Boss…" one of his men warned. The other four gunmen had gotten closer, closing ranks around their little group.
"How'd you like to eat a bullet, brat?" El Jefe asked, pressing his pistol in Dick's face.
Everything happened at once. As El Jefe squeezed the trigger, Dick pushed his arm up, clearing his face of the barrel just as the bullet left the chamber. He felt the bullet graze millimetres above his head, the boom of the shot deafening in such close quarters.
Artemis meanwhile launched herself at two of the men at the same time, the move taking them completely by surprise. She grabbed the P90s hooked to their vests and flipped up and over their heads, dragging them to the floor with their own weapons.
"NO!" screamed Foley as the weapon discharged and hurled herself at El Jefe. She hooked her arms around his meaty neck just as Dick was shaking off the ringing in his ears. The mercenary twisted round for Foley and grabbed her by the hair, making her yell in pain. Dick instantly dropped and took out El Jefe with a powerful leg sweep, reaching up and grabbing the larger man by his gun hand; pulling him forward instead of backwards so that he didn't squish the elder teacher.
He rolled out of the way before El Jefe could land on him or recover; but then he found himself being hauled up by another one of the goons. The mercenary grabbed him by his tie like a hangman's noose, holding him at least a foot off the ground. The knot tightened painfully, cutting off his oxygen. As his vision blurred he was vaguely aware of Artemis trying to beat her way through the bad guys to reach him while yelling at the other students to run. Mrs Foley was trying to scratch El Jefe's face off, but with a cruel back hand he sent her sprawling on the floor.
He then took his pistol and put a bullet in her head.
Artemis let out a shocked cry that gave one of the masked men an opening to punch her in the gut and double her over. She recovered quickly enough though and kept fighting, but these goons were well trained. They wouldn't stay down.
Just as Dick's vision was going grey and tunnelling to a pin prick, the last of the hostages finally fled from their alcove in the stacks. Now he could fight.
Dick grabbed the arm holding his tie, leveraging himself up so that he could swing a double drop-kick down on the goon's face. He was ditched rather ungracefully onto the carpet where he kicked the man in the shins and then rolled away, gasping. He clawed the tie away from his throat and ripped it off, coughing as his lungs sucked in air greedily. The world was spinning dangerously around him, but he pushed himself back to his feet and barrelled into the guy about to punch Artemis in the face.
Now all they needed to do was get out of the library. The gunshots would have alerted the school's security by now. It was nearly over.
"Get down!" Artemis yelled as she shoved them both to the floor. Wood splinters and obliterated books rained down on them as automatic gunfire shredded the bookshelf above them. El Jefe shouted in the other language and the shooter abruptly stopped. The two teens rolled back to their feet and watched their captors warily. The five masked-men now stood between them and the exits.
Muzzle flashed in response. The lone security guard never stood a chance, his Taser falling unused to the ground as spurts of red appeared in his uniform.
The two teen heroes simply reacted. As one they leapt at the gunmen and tried to wrestle their weapons from them as the sound of more of the security came running towards them. Two on five was never going to end well however.
One of the guns discharged accidently and Dick flinched at the sound. He twisted the weapon hard to the right and was rewarded with the snaps of multiple broken fingers. He then swung the butt of the gun into its owner's jaw, dislodging at least a few teeth.
"That's enough, runt," El Jefe said in a surprisingly calm voice, grabbing Dick by his shirt collar. "Wouldn't want to cause any more damage."
Suddenly, Dick became aware of a burning sensation in his gut. He glanced down to find a growing red stain spreading across his white shirt. He blinked as he staggered backwards, not quite able to comprehend what had happened.
He'd been shot.
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