Author's Note(s): Hello people! Sorry for the delay on the upload today, I had trouble getting to a computer!
Thanks to all who sent me the lovely rotten tomatoes in response to my tiny cliff hanger last chap, they were all very tasty. Unfortunately, this is the last part of this adventure, and as such, there are no more cliff hangers to be had. Alas, I shall miss my recommended five a day.
So for the last time, Enjoy!
Artemis felt as if she were floating on a fluffy white cloud. It was warm and comfortable and all the pretty colours that danced before her eyes made her feel as if she were a child watching some very quiet fireworks. It was all very nice and everything, but it wasn't long before she got bored.
Just outside of her soft, bright prison, she could see a lot of very uninviting darkness. But inside it was getting exceedingly dull, and out there in the unknown… well… she had always been an adventurous type. With some effort, she pushed out of the clouds and felt herself tumbling through the blackness. Gradually, she became aware of having an actual body, mainly through the sudden explosions of pain.
Her head thumped viciously as if a full brass band was warming up for the main event. Her chest hurt, feeling as if every breath she took wasn't of air but of lead, making her lungs feel solid and heavy. Her throat burned, her limbs ached and she could feel an accumulation of bumps and bruises all over her body. But it was all nothing compared to the pain in her ankle.
The fall through the darkness seemed to go on forever, the pain growing with every mile she got closer to the end. She was really beginning to regret leaving the clouds; they were far nicer than this terrifying drop into the abyss.
Eventually, finally, she could see the light at the end of the tunnel. She hurtled towards it at high speed; a small part of her concerned about the fact that she was about to be squished, but most of her just grateful that it was almost over. Inches away from impact she was swathed in blindingly white light and then…
"Artemis?" A warm voice cut through the pain. "Can you hear me?"
Wally? Artemis thought, relief and the assurance of safety blasting away the light and allowing her vision to gradually clear. She blinked sluggishly, turning the fuzzy shapes that greeted her into clearer outlines. She took in the ceiling and then tentatively turned her head to the side where she knew the voice had come from. She saw the green eyes first, full of concern and looking exhausted, before the freckles and red hair came into focus. "W-Wally?"
He grinned at her, and she felt as if she were melting in his eyes. She had a vague recollection of being incredibly cold, but it felt so very far away as she was wrapped up in his gaze. He then backed out of her line of sight, making her panic for a moment, before he returned with a cup of water. He held it out to her, pressing the straw to her parched lips. "Here."
Gratefully, Artemis sucked in a mouthful, feeling as if she hadn't had a drink in days. She promptly choked and immediately Wally was there, lifting her into his arms and rubbing her back in soothing circles. She rested her head against his shoulder, her hand automatically reaching up to grab the front of his shirt. They stayed like that for a while in silence, just glad to finally have one another back and safe.
Artemis felt herself beginning to drift off again, but she didn't want to go back to the darkness or the fluffy white prison. She wanted to stay with Wally. She forced her eyes open and focused on the corner of his lips that she could see from where she lay against him. "W-what happened?"
She felt Wally sigh beneath her, reluctant to relive something that she doubted could have been fun for him. But he told her the story anyway, bits and pieces of her memory starting to come back to her. She remembered the fight at the school, waking up in the cell and finding Dick. She recalled escaping, her short ride on the water flume of doom… washing up on the river bank. The last thing she remembered was waiting in a cold cave, holding Dick as he fell very still and quiet in her arms.
"Grayson…?" Artemis asked tentatively, looking up at Wally worriedly. He wouldn't meet her eyes. "Is he…?"
"He's alive," Wally replied, though he didn't sound overly certain. His grip round her waist got a little tighter as if he were afraid to let go. "Uncle Barry came in while you were sleeping to let me know that Dick was stable, but he wouldn't tell me anything else." He looked down at her and tried for a smile. "You know who he is, right?"
Artemis smiled back. "It took me long enough, but yeah. I know he's Robin. It's so obvious once you know. I can't believe I didn't see it."
"That's what I said when he told me," Wally said fondly, and Artemis realised why her boyfriend looked so tired. He had known from the very beginning that it was his girlfriend and best friend missing, and probably would have had to play along with whatever cover story the Batman had come up with to protect Dick's identity from the others. Though judging from the fact that they were in Mt. Justice now, she suspected that that charade was over. Wally seemed to follow her train of thought. "The team figured it out too; though they didn't seem overly bothered by the fact that if Robin is Dick Grayson then Batman is Bruce Wayne. I don't think they actually know who Bruce Wayne is."
Artemis furrowed her brow as that part of the puzzle finally clicked. She rolled her eyes at herself. "Oh, duh."
Wally laughed softly at her. "It's okay, babe. We'll blame your slowness on the concussion, the hypothermia and the broken ankle."
"Broken ankle?" Artemis asked, propping herself up a little to see the cast that wrapped around her left foot. "I didn't know that it was broken…"
"Yeah, a hairline fracture," Wally explained. "Running for your life and taking a refreshing swim didn't exactly help it much, but there's no permanent damage. BC's more concerned about the chest infection you caught from hanging out in the cold so long."
Ah, so that's why my chest hurts so much. Artemis smirked slyly at him. "Nothing some chicken soup and some shared body heat can't fix."
Wally crooked a brow at her and she snuggled against him. "Was that a hint about my future enslavement by any chance?"
"Hey, when you broke your arm last year you had Captain Marvel waiting on you hand and foot," Artemis pointed out with a slight pout. "I fully intend for you to repay the favour, to me."
Wally stroked back her long hair and pressed a kiss to her forehead. "Anything you want, babe."
"Richard Grayson and Artemis Crock were recovered from their kidnappers four days ago by a security team hired by Bruce Wayne once it became clear that he would be unable to gather the demanded ransom amount in time. Both teenagers are currently being treated for their wounds at Gotham Memorial and doctors are confident in their full recovery. The families ask that you respect their privacy during this trying time. Thank you."
Bruce Wayne sighed in relief as he watched Commissioner Gordon back away from the reporters that were screaming random questions at him. As always, the theories of the press had been wild following the last video streamed on the internet and the abrupt silence from the police that followed. But it appeared that the world was buying the story that Bruce had cobbled together on half-truths and faked paper trails.
He picked up the remote and flicked off the small TV and returned his attention to the little bundle tucked into the bed beside him. Dick was so very still, but the comforting rhythm of the heart monitor and the subtle whisper of the oxygen mask assured him that his son was indeed still alive.
Two days after their rescue from the forest in Colorado, once it had been determined that Dick was stable enough to travel, Bruce had arranged for both teenagers to be transferred to Gotham Memorial to play out their recovery as civilians. Reporters from every paper and news channel on the East coast was camped outside, waiting for a glimpse of the billionaire and his ward, but that was just a part of the life that Bruce had to put up with. If it preserved their identities and kept Dick safe then the invasion of privacy was fine by him.
He leaned forward in his seat and stroked the dark hair away from Dick's face. He brushed his thumb over the cut on the boy's cheek, wishing that he could see his son's bright blue eyes. Dick was still so very pale and hadn't woken once, not even four days later, which worried Bruce to no end. His son's small frame was buried under layers of blankets, several tubes and wires snaking out from underneath and leading back to the oppressive machines. Dick was fighting a severe infection from the bullet wound and had managed to catch pneumonia from his exposure to the cold. The doctors were worried about brain damage caused during the two times his heart had stopped, but Bruce refused to acknowledge that possibility. Dick was a fighter, he would be okay. He had to be.
"Master Bruce?" Alfred asked cautiously from where he had appeared at the door. Bruce glanced over at him to find the butler studying his youngest charge with worried eyes. He then noticed that Bruce was looking at him. "Mister Kent called. It is time for the meeting, sir."
Bruce sighed again, this time reluctantly. He stood and then bent down to place a kiss of Dick's forehead and then walked over to Alfred and took his proffered coat from the butler. He looked back at his son, not wanting to leave him, not when he had only just got him back.
"I will stay with him, sir. He should not be left alone after the ordeal he has been through," Alfred offered as he moved further into the room. He handed over the car keys and Bruce smiled at him gratefully. "The Rolls is parked by the side entrance that has yet to be discovered by the parasites."
"Thank you, Alfred," Bruce nodded, not quite able to take his eyes off of his young ward. "If… If he wakes…"
"I will call you immediately, sir," Alfred promised. "And I will inform the young master of his poor timing; picking the one moment to wake up and stop worrying us when you were not keeping a vigil by his bedside."
Bruce smiled. "I will be back as soon as I can."
"I am sure Master Richard will understand the importance of this particular gathering, sir."
"I'm fine, Mom," Artemis assured her mother. The blonde archer was sat up in her hospital bed, her broken ankle propped up on several pillows and a tray of food straddling her lap. The chair by her bedside was pushed back against the wall to make room for Paula Crock's wheelchair, which she had then parked right next to the gurney so that she could prop her elbows on the thin mattress. "You can stop staring at me, any time now."
"I almost lost you Artemis!" her mother cried indignantly. "I thought for sure… once I saw that video… I thought that you were gone."
Artemis sighed regretfully. "I know, Mom. I wish I hadn't put you through that, but it wasn't like I had a great deal of choice. I didn't ask to be kidnapped."
"But we both know why you were," Paula replied, her gaze dropping to her hands, guilt clouding her features. "Your sister contacted me, not long before the last video was broadcasted. She told me that it was your father who had engineered the kidnapping. I am so sorry, Artemis."
"It's not your fault," Artemis said reassuringly, and then she turned away, stabbing at her jello with a spork vehemently. "Besides, for him it was just a job. It was his employer that targeted me."
Paula glared at the blankets as if they were an enemy that needed beating with extreme prejudice. "Yes, an employer that we still do not know the identity of nor the motivations, who also knows your real name and family."
"Gee, Mom," Artemis said sarcastically. "That's exactly what I wanted to be reminded of while I'm bedridden and crippled and basically defenceless."
Paula blinked and then looked up and met her daughter's eyes. "I'm sorry, you're right. I'm just worried about you. I never wanted this life for you, and the fact that you have chosen the right side and fight for your friends… I am so proud of you Artemis. Even the thought of losing you… I could not bear it."
"Mom, you're not the only one that's worried right now," the blonde teen replied. "I've got the whole League looking out for me and the team are always watching my back…"
"And Wally," Paula added, with a raised eyebrow. Artemis flushed a deep shade of scarlet. She had been keeping her and Wally's relationship a secret from her family, not wanting to jeopardise what she had with the Crock/Nyugen curse. "I see the way that boy looks at you. The way he's been watching over you these last few days. He's a keeper."
"I know," Artemis replied, her gaze growing distant. Wally was currently spending a little time with Dick whose room was just down the hall. She wished that she was allowed to get up and see the little troll too, but she was strictly forbidden from putting any weight on her broken ankle. She realised then that she was daydreaming and looked back at her mother who was smiling knowingly at her. "What?"
"I'm just glad that you're happy, Artemis," Paula replied. "After everything our family has put you through… You deserve someone as good as him. And with Jade pursuing that nice speedy boy… it gives me hope for you girls."
Artemis smiled, and then did a double take. "Wait, what nice speedy boy?"
"We combed the entire facility, several times over," Superman explained as he gestured at the holographic display in front of him. "There was nothing to lead to the puppet master behind this, and the mercenaries we managed to capture could only name Sportsmaster as their employer."
Around the large round table all the gathered members of the League shared uneasy looks. No one was happy about the lack of information on the man behind the curtain – if it were even a man. Someone smart enough to keep themselves completely undetected as they uncovered the League's secrets and pulled all the strings was not an enemy to be taken lightly. Batman glared at the hologram pensively through his cowl, trying to focus on the meeting even as his thoughts were elsewhere.
"Have we been able to track down Sportsmaster for questioning?" Wonder Woman asked, leaning forward and propping her elbows on the table top. "It would appear that he is our best lead."
"That is the plan," Superman replied, gesturing at Martian Manhunter and then glancing cautiously at Green Arrow. "Once we have caught him J'onn has offered to search his mind for any information, however…"
"Roy's been in contact with the assassin Cheshire, who was the one able to track Sportsmaster down during the kidnapping," Green Arrow continued. "They claim that Sportsmaster is a dead end, involved purely to distract us from whoever is really behind this."
Wonder Woman raised an eyebrow. "Maybe we should be talking to Cheshire rather than just trusting her word like Red Arrow."
Green Arrow averted his eyes from the Amazonian princess and Superman cleared his throat. "Well, we are trying to track down Cheshire as well, but so far we have had little luck with either."
"So what now?" Flash asked the question they had all been thinking. "Are they targeting the team to get to us? Or should we consider all of our secret IDs compromised?"
"For now we're on high alert," Superman answered. "Take all precautions to protect your civilian lives and everyone in them and keep an eye out for each other. It is likely that this villain will come after us through our protégés, but we won't let that happen again."
Batman felt the big blue Boy Scout's eyes look at him in concern and forcefully dragged his attention back to the room. All of the currently assembled League knew of his and Robin's real identities, and most of them had known the first sidekick since he was nine. They were all worried about their youngest hero and as silence settled they all gave Batman sympathetic looks. This was not productive.
"How are they?" Wonder Woman asked, breaking the stillness.
"The team is coping well, considering," Black Canary replied. "And Artemis will make a full recovery. Everyone is anxious to know about Robin though."
Instantly the image of Dick, small, still and fragile in his hospital bed flashed across Batman's mind's eye and he clenched his hands under the table. He wasn't sure if he could trust his voice when he spoke. "He's stable."
Superman met his eyes through the cowl for a moment, understanding passing between them, and then the Kryptonian stood. "We will continue to investigate and keep watch over the team. Meeting adjourned."
Batman vanished from his seat, his disappearance only announced by the unavoidable voice of the computer as he zeta-beamed to the batcave. In moments he was transformed back into Bruce Wayne and then he was breaking all the speed limits between the manor and Gotham Memorial. The side entrance was still free from the press and he quickly snuck back in and took the elevator up to the fourth floor.
As he stepped out into the stark white corridor, he almost walked straight into Alfred. The butler blinked in surprise and then held up the cell phone Dick had bought him a few years ago to 'modernise' him. "I was just about to call you, sir."
Bruce panicked and sidestepped the startled Alfred, running the ten yards to Dick's room and shouldering open the door. He took in his son's still form and the doctor hovering over him, his heart feeling as if it would explode in his chest. And then he was met by the most beautiful blue eyes he had ever seen.
Dick was going stir crazy.
He had been out of the hospital for two weeks now and had not been allowed to leave the confines of his bed. He was still vulnerable to catching infections after his bout of pneumonia, so he had been allowed little to no visitors to break up the boredom. And after a small incident involving a computer, the Pentagon, and a very angry phone call, the Boy Wonder had been banned from all things technological as well.
He dropped his head back against the headboard and glared up at the ceiling. Couldn't he at least have the TV back? It wasn't like he could hack anything with that! Well, he probably could if he hooked it up to a few other things… Dick was pretty sure he could MacGyver up a pretty awesome super computer actually.
Okay. That's probably why they've taken all your toys away.
He had read every book in his room and had then snuck down to the library when he was sure Alfred wasn't looking. He had even done the catch-up homework Barbara Gordon had bought over during one of his rare visits from the outside world. But now there was nothing else to do, and as much as he loved Alfred and Bruce, Dick was a social creature and he needed to actually see other people. He was pretty close to pulling a mission impossible and shimmying down the drainpipe just so that he could confirm that the rest of the human race still existed.
Dick knew that it had been a close call for him. From what he could remember (which wasn't much past the first ransom call, and even that was hazy) it had not been a fun experience. He had felt terrible and weak for the following few weeks afterwards, when usually he bounced back from injuries quite quickly. It freaked him out, how close he had come to dying (and apparently had done so, twice) and for a while he had been incredibly thankful for Bruce's overprotectiveness. He had needed to feel safe. Now though…
Well, now he needed social interaction. Before he lost his mind completely.
Dick perked up when he heard the manor's doorbell ring loudly throughout the house, echoing down the empty halls. He listened intently as he heard Alfred's shoes clip-clop on the wood floors and then the door was opened and Dick heard muffled voices. Familiar voices. And then two sets of footsteps were climbing the stairs and heading straight for his room.
"Oh thank god!" Dick exclaimed as his door was swung open and Artemis and Wally were standing there, grinning at him. "Please tell me that you're real and not a figment of my desperate imagination!"
Artemis laughed at him as she limped across the threshold on her crutches, Wally following a step behind. "They've got you under house arrest, huh?"
"I am actually going insane," Dick replied, and then squinted at the bag slung over Wally's shoulder. It was suspiciously square shaped and flat. "Is that a… is that a laptop…?"
Wally nodded with a sly grin and then dropped the computer bag on top of the bed covers. Dick scrambled for it, pulling out and booting up the technology that he had been so cruelly deprived from as Artemis was helped onto the bed next to him on his left. She fluffed up his pillows to get her self comfortable and then sunk back and leant her head on his shoulder. With a sudden burst of speed that sent Dick's homework scattering, Wally ran to the other side of the bed and threw himself on Dick's right. "Alfred told us about your tech ban when we rang up to check if we could come over."
Dick turned to his best friend and made his eyes mock-water with tears of joy. "Have I ever told you how much I love you?"
Artemis lightly slapped his arm. "Careful, he's my boyfriend."
"I saw him first!" Dick joked as Wally wrapped him in a sideways hug and poked his tongue out at his girlfriend. Artemis just rolled her eyes at their stupidity as the two boys cracked up with laughter. It felt good, but at the same time it pulled at the still healing bullet wound and Dick ended up wincing, hoping that it went unnoticed. He gestured at the cast on Artemis' ankle that was covered in colourful drawings and well-wishes, mainly done by M'gann. "How's your ankle?"
"Fine," she shrugged. "More annoying than anything else. What about you?"
"I'm good," Dick replied automatically. Both Wally and Artemis gave him that look of complete disbelief and he sighed. He knew that he still looked terrible; a little too thin and way too pale (but in his defence, he hadn't seen the sun in what felt like forever), but honestly, he was way better than he had been. "I just feel tired a lot, but I'm fine, really."
Neither of them looked convinced, but thankfully they let the subject drop. Wally leaned forward and grabbed the laptop from Dick's grip, making the younger teen pout like a two-year-old at him. "I actually brought this for a reason you know," Wally said as he tried not to laugh at Dick's expression. "I thought we could Skype the team as Bats is being mean and not letting anyone visit."
"Cool," Dick's frown flipped into a smile, and then he furrowed his brow in confusion. "Wait. You know how to use Skype?"
Wally glared at him as he opened the programme. "I'll have you know that I was the team's hacker while you were out of commission. I accessed the GCPD network and all of the city's traffic cameras."
Dick raised an eyebrow at him. "Did you happen to use those shortcut programmes I showed you?"
Wally shifted on the covers and then smiled in relief when M'gann, Kaldur and Connor appeared on the laptop screen. "Oh look! The team!"
"Hi!" M'gann said excitedly, leaning the closest to the camera as if that would somehow get her nearer to them. Kaldur smiled behind her and even Connor looked pleased to see Dick conscious and not likely to imminently drop dead. "How are you feeling, Robin?"
Dick blinked, before remembering why he wasn't worried about the fact that he wasn't wearing his sunglasses. Back at the hospital, he vaguely remembered talking to Wally (or really, being talked to while he focused on staying awake and breathing), the speedster telling him that the secret was out. At first he had been worried what the team would think of him being a billionaire's ward, but then he decided that they probably wouldn't care. He hoped. "I keep forgetting that you guys know."
M'gann looked at him worriedly, as if she had done something wrong. "It's okay though, right? You don't mind?"
"What? No! It's great," Dick replied quickly. "I've always wanted to tell you guys, it was Bats that said I couldn't." He turned to Artemis who was still leaning against his shoulder. "I can't believe you didn't figure it out earlier, though. We've gone to the same school for over a year now."
Artemis lifted her head to glower at him. "You are a skinny little mathlete, not exactly someone I would pick out as Robin."
"Point taken. That is kind of the point of a secret ID after all," Dick replied with a shrug and then turned to address the laptop. "So what's been happening outside my new prison anyway?"
Kaldur and M'gann proceeded to fill Dick in on the new procedures the League had implemented to keep the team safe now that they knew that some big bad was hunting them down, with or without masks, and Connor grunted occasionally in agreement. This whole thing had gotten everyone shaken up and the mentors a little overprotective. Once Dick was brought up to date, Artemis nudged him in the side and glanced up at him curiously. "There's something I've been wanting to ask you…"
Dick looked at her warily. "Uh, ask away…"
"How do you know how to shoot?"
"Huh?" Dick said dumbly. "Why do people keep asking me that? Bruce, Alfred and Babs asked me as well and I don't have a clue what any of you are talking about."
That earned him worried glances from all five of his teammates. "You don't remember?"
"Remember what?" Dick asked frustrated. "I barely remember any of what happened. Apparently that's normal considering everything. If anything, it should be worse. Why do people want to know where I learned to shoot anyway?"
"Because you kinda shot two people," Artemis informed him, and Dick gave her a completely horrified look. "In the kneecaps!" she hurriedly added. "In the dark. It was some very impressive marksmanship. I would have struggled to do that with a bow."
"Oh," Dick said. "I really don't remember that."
"It'll come back to you, dude," Wally said reassuringly, putting his arm around his best friend's shoulders. "But seriously, how did you do that?"
Dick sighed. "It's not really that big a mystery. I travel by grapple line a lot, which is essentially a gun that I have to fire with extreme accuracy, at night time, in Gotham, unless I wish to plummet to my very painful death. Using a firearm is essentially the same principal, minus the grapple line."
"Oh," Artemis muttered, a little dejectedly.
"Were you expecting something cooler?" Dick retorted with a smirk. Artemis rolled her eyes again and gave him a mock punch to the arm. "Any other random questions anyone feels the need to ask?"
"Yeah, how rich are you?" Wally joshed teasingly, poking his tongue out at the billionaire's kid. It was Dick's turn to roll his eyes.
"Master Richard," Alfred announced as he appeared in the door frame like a ninja. Wally raised his eyebrows at Dick and mouthed the formal title. Alfred noticed the speedster's spaz attack. "Is something the matter?"
Dick resisted the urge to face palm. "No, Alfred, just bad timing is all. What's up?"
"I thought it best to warn you that Master Bruce will be home shortly, and you are still meant to be forbidden from all technological devices," Alfred explained with a nod at the offending laptop. "It might be wise to make the computer scarce, sir."
Alfred vanished as quietly as he came; leaving Dick alone with the webcam audience, the cripple, and the crazy speedster that was currently miming Alfred's syntax and bowing ludicrously. Dick smacked him upside the head. "Stop that! I don't know why you are making a fuss – you've known for ages!"
"Yes, but it is so much fun to watch you squirm, Master Richard," Wally retorted in an almost perfect British accent.
"You know what," Dick sighed resignedly. "Suddenly I'm not craving social interaction so much."
A/N: Thank you SO much to everyone who has read/favourited/followed and/or reviewed this story! I love you all and you're comments have made me so very happy. Special mention has to go to YJFanYeah for the two double reviews, the latest of which had me laughing hysterically for a full ten minutes! :D
So, I didn't completely kill Dick/Robin is this fic, but I do have a few story ideas rattling around my brain and you know how I love my cliff hangers, so keep an eye out for future fics if you're interested!
Thank you for reading!