FREAKING READ THIS FIRST! OR ELS! O_O
I DONT OWN THIS! This was posted by an author a long while ago, but she DELETED IT!
DO NOT COMMENT OR ANYTHING! NO REVIEWS! Not unless you are RoyalVictory! I will only remove this if she agrees to repost it! SERIOUSLY! Its too much of a master piece and my FAVORITE AU of all time!
ONE AGAIN! .REVIEW.
-Of Anti Damsels and Wannabe Heroes-
Everyone knows I'm in
Over my head
Over my head
With eight seconds left in overtime
She's on your mind
She's on your mind.
The music blasted through the dimly lit club. Artemis felt every bump and drop of the heavy beat in her skin. It echoed through her, causing goose bumps to erupt on her skin. It pounded through her, giving her a headache just behind her left temple. Multi coloured lights swung around, trying to induce a feeling of excited frenzy to the club.
She sent a flirtatious grin at the men at her table before turning back around and rolling her eyes. The blonde blew a stray hair out of her face. She was working the rush shift in the nightclub, which was also the shift that held the most creeps. The fact that it was a weekday just increased the amount of douche bags in the club. They strutted around, hitting on her and other female patrons, wearing too low v necks and sporting ridiculous hair styles that must've taken an entire bottle of hair gel to support. Not that it was just the males, but the women too. They ran around in too-tight dresses and too-short skirts, begging for attention. It made the young waitress a little sick. But if Artemis was honest, she would say she didn't really mind too much. More douche bags means more drunk guys and more drunk guys means more tips. Hey, you gotta make a living somehow and it's not going to happen off a lousy waitress salary.
Artemis slipped her way through the dancing patrons with cat like grace, her tray tucked under her arm. She dodged various limbs as they and their drunken owners swung out wildly. A few sober clubbers hovered at the edges, waiting for their drinks to arrive so they could fix that. The club wasn`t classy by any means - which was understandable with the literal name 'Filth' – this also explained the, to put it lightly, adventurous taste of the men and women on the dance floor. A priest would have a heart attack here. Well, with the exception of Father Bradley from the church on Sixth Street. He was currently doing something rather exoticwith a girl who seemed to have lost a fight with a can of orange spray paint a few feet to Artemis's right.
Artemis Crock was your typical 25 year old woman who was trying to juggle two minimum wage part time jobs, rent, friends, and family. She had been taken in by her uncle, Oliver Queen, when she was just eight years old. Her father had been a drunk and was both emotionally abusive and physically abusive.
On a particularly bad day he decided to go on a bit of a joy ride. He had ended up crashing. Her mother and sister had died in the crash along with him after he forced them to come along. The only reason she hadn't been in the car was because her sister had hid her in the closet when their dad went on his drunken rampage. Artemis would never forget the look she had as she shoved her in and said, "We're playing a game, kid. You're Alice and dad's the red queen. You don't wanna lose your head, do you?" Artemis had shaken her tiny head. "Good. Stay here. I'll be back soon." Artemis had asked which character Jade would be. Jade had grinned hugely, "The Cheshire cat." Then she had closed the door. And true to her character, she had disappeared. Just like the Cheshire cat - leaving little more than the memory of a smile.
But Artemis tried not to think about that. It made her heart hurt a little. Made her feel weak. And if Artemis hated anything, it was weakness.
Everything had gotten a lot better when she moved in with her uncle in Gotham. He used to live in Star City and still frequently went there to do business. He had moved to Gotham because he didn't want to pull Artemis out of school. He didn't want to make everything even harder on her. Oliver, or Ollie as he was frequently called, wasn't her biological uncle either but Artemis's mother's second cousin by marriage or something like that. Because they didn't have any other family he was made godfather for both the girls and didn't hesitate in taking her in. Oliver was a good uncle. Artemis looked up to him and thought of him as a father figure.
She reached the bar and was greeted by her bartender and friend, Kaldur'Ahm Kailani. He was often considered handsome with chocolate colored skin and blonde woolen hair. Black, eel-like tattoos snaked up and down his muscular arms and soft, sea green eyes that looked down on Artemis. If Artemis was tall, Kaldur was huge with at least a whole foot on her.
He smiled warmly as she moved towards him. Kaldur was like the big brother she had never had. He moved to Gotham from some country Artemis had never heard of before a few years earlier. Kaldur had gotten her the job at the club when she realized one part time wasn't going to cut it.
"Three house drafts for table sixteen's tab, please," Artemis said. He nodded and turned around to get them. While she waited, she fixed her ridiculously low cut tank top. It was a deeply cut black v neck that displayed the club logo across her stomach. The loose jean short shorts completed her work uniform.
Artemis felt someone move beside her and looked over to see her other friend, Rocket. Her real name was Raquel but she preferred Rocket ever since she got the nickname in high school. Artemis didn't quite know how she had got it, and she wasn't entirely sure she wanted to. Rocket had short black hair with gorgeous brown eyes and had three silver earrings in each ear. She wore the same outfit as Artemis with a bright fuchsia jacket that would've looked horrid on anyone but her. The color seemed to work somehow on Rocket. She grinned at Artemis.
"Hey, girl. When do you get off your shift?" She asked.
Artemis check the clock on the opposite wall, a little discouraged to see it was only one a.m, "I have another hour and a half. What about you?"
"Kal and I get off now. Took the short shift cause we both still need to get presents for Megan tomorrow."
"You mean you need to get your present. I got mine last week," Kaldur had returned with the drinks and was smiled lightly at her before turning to Artemis, "Do you wish us to stay until you're finished so you don't have to walk home alone?" He said 'us' because he and Rocket were roommates, and had been for about a year now. They only lived a few blocks up the street but they also happened to live in the complete opposite direction of Artemis's apartment.
Rocket shrugged, "I don't mind."
Artemis loaded the drinks onto her tray and shook her head. "I'll be fine. I can take care of myself. Besides, I'm not making you wait around this hell hole for me. Go home. Sleep." For Artemis, she couldn't think of something more embarrassing than having to be walked home. She hadn't been kidding about the taking care of herself bit, either. She had taken a variety of martial arts since she had been nine. She had seen her uncle practicing it in his home gym once and she knew immediately she wanted to learn it. So, he had paid for lessons and taught her on the side. Along with fighting skills, he had taught her archery, something she had fallen in love with just as fast. She had once asked why and how he knew all this stuff. It's only natural for a girl to get curious when her uncle has a full out archery range in his mansion. All he had responded with was a wink and a "How about some ice cream, Shortbow?"
"You sure?" Rocket asked, placing a hand on her hip. Her head was tilted to the side.
"Positive. Go." Artemis lifted up the tray to her shoulder and sent them one more smile before turning around. She weaved her way back into the crowd and to the men's table to deliver their drinks. They grinned.
"Thanks, honey. So, what are you doing after your shift?" Artemis let herself roll her eyes, her twenty dollar tip securely in her pocket.
"Not you." She replied with her usual snark. The man looked offended and Artemis had to physically restrain herself from rolling her eyes again.
It was going to be a long night.
An hour and a half, seemingly endless flirting, and about two hundred dollars worth of tips later, Artemis was finally free. She grabbed her jacket and purse from under the bar, punched her card out, and left.
Only the bitter air and the slight breeze remained from Gotham's dying winter. It wasn't cold out, just enough so she could see her breath rise in front of her. She had grown up in Gotham her whole life and like any other Gotham resident, she would only admit to being cold with six feet of snow on the ground. She stuck her hands in her jacket pockets and began to walk down the street, her long ponytail occasionally brushing against her back. She turned into an alley adjacent to a blinking street lamp. Her heels clicked against the ground audibly. Soon, she heard other footsteps approaching behind her. Okay, she thought, so other people walk this way at night. Stranger things have happened.
She pretended to not hear them and continued walking. She counted three sets of footprints and judging on the sound of their breathing, they were probably men.
"Hey, hot stuff. What're you doing outside alone?" Definitely men. Artemis ignored them as she kept walking but when she approached the alley exit, another man appeared. She turned at the last second down another alley, as if that had been where she was going all along.
"Hey, blondie. Wait up, we just want to have some fun." The tone of his voice set off little alarm bells in her head. Somehow, she didn't think her idea of fun was the same as his. But she didn't speed up her pace. There was no way she was letting these sleazebags think she was scared (which she wasn't).
Artemis was suddenly very aware of everything around her. A total of four sets of footsteps behind her. How she hadn't been to the gym to practice any of her martial arts or acrobatics or even to go on a treadmill for at least a couple months. How she is positive she had no idea where she was. How she still didn't have pepper spray, something very common for any female Gotham citizens. Even after all her uncle's badgering.
She turned again but to her dismay, she hit a dead end. She turned around to face the men who were following her. The leader was obvious. He wore a thick gold chain around his neck and carried a thick cloud of a mix of alcohol, deodorant, and what Artemis guessed was supposed to be cologne. He had no hair on top of his head just some that circled around the sides. She guessed he was the one who had spoken earlier. The one to his right was enormously round, so much so Artemis wondered where he bought clothes so big. His head was bald and so shiny that the weak light from a far off street lamp reflected off it. He was the one who had tried to corner her from the other side of the alley. The other two were small and rat-like, sporting huge noses and badly-trimmed mustaches. Their hair was a grayish-brown color. They looked so alike they must've been twins. Artemis placed all the men in their early thirties to late forties.
"Where you running to, hottie?" She refused to dignify that with a response so she said nothing, choosing instead to glare him down.
"Okay tootsie. Here's the deal. You give me a nice kiss and you can go." The one with the necklace said. Fat chance, thought Artemis. Even if he would let her go with only that, she wouldn't. There was no chance she was moving within a foot of him.
She stood her ground and tilted her chin a little higher, daring him to approach. Just as she hoped, they took the bait. The first to reach her was the rat- like ones. She dodged their fist before planting one in one's stomach and the other in the other's face. They both fell and she moved forward, not realizing she was surrounding herself. She caught the fat man's meaty fist and twisted it, forcing him to turn and fall to his knees. She aimed a kick to the leader's shoulder but missed when it tightened suddenly from misuse. Her foot landed on a glass bottle and slipped. She fell onto her hands and knees but didn't recover fast enough. She was grabbed from behind by the rats. Her purse lay just a few feet away on the ground, against the alley wall and out of reach. Her phone sat inside uselessly.
The leader laughed and the rest joined in. He tried to trace his finger down her cheek but she turned her face away.
"Isn't that cute? She's still fighting. You know, blondie, I love the fighters. They're always more fun," The leader taunted. But the fight wasn't gone from her; like he said, she's a fighter. Artemis whipped her head back and spit, nailing him in the cheek. His eyes flashed dangerously as he wiped it off then looked at his hand, as if he couldn't believe what just happened. He raised his hand to hit her and Artemis lifted her chin, too proud to shy away.
"Didn't your mother ever tell you to never hit a woman?" The man froze and turned around. Artemis knew this was her window to escape – it wasn't like some hero was going to swoop in and save her. She silently thanked the idiot civilian who had made the distraction. For a second, she felt bad for the guy. He was probably gonna get beat up as soon as she made her escape.
She stomped on the man to her left's foot then jammed her elbow up his ribs. He released her arm as he doubled over and Artemis threw her fist into the other rat's face. His hands left her arm and flew up to his nose when she heard a satisfying crunch. She turned to see a smelly hand come down and knock her to the ground. She rolled with it though, because that's what you do. She sat up, ready to deflect or dodge any more blows but there was no point. Instead, she saw a red clad hand offered down to her. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the other men. It looked like they had been tied up with their underwear.
Artemis brought her attention back to the hand. She followed it up a muscular red arm to find a well toned runner's body. He wore a skin tight red suit with yellow lightning bolt accents. Green eyes sparkled behind the cowl that hid most of his face.
He grinned, "Hey, beautiful. I'm the Flash. You okay?" She knew who he was, of course. He was The Flash, one of the two she suspected running around. One in Central City and very recently, one in Gotham. It wasn't hard to figure out there were two and the blonde was surprised the tabloids hadn't picked up on it yet. He was fast, but not fast enough to be in two places at once. She figured it was only a matter of time before someone said something. Artemis wasn't positive why he was in Gotham. Because, well, Batman. And secondly, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Nightwing. The city was becoming just a little crowded with heroes. It made some sense he was here, though. Crime in Gotham has spiked recently. It was at an all time high with more and more idiots deciding they needed to don a mask or purposely put themselves through some freak accident in order to have an excuse to turn evil.
She knew Flash. And she knew his- no, their- game. They were flirting maniacs. And that annoyed the crap out of her.
Artemis eyed his hand before tilting her chin up. She got up herself and he retracted his hand awkwardly. They stared at each other for a moment, Artemis with a look of defiance and Flash's grin only fading a little.
"Thank you." She managed to force out. His eyes lit up and he began to talk.
"No prob, babe-"
She cut him off, "But I had everything in control."
His grin widened a little, "Sure thing, babe."
She cocked a hip and placed her hand on it, "I'm no damsel in distress. I can take care of myself."
"I can tell," he looked over at the two men she had taken down. He must've tied them up with his super speed because Artemis didn't see him do it, "That's too bad, beautiful. I wouldn't mind saving you."
"Don't get used to it, red."
"Just remember, I'll always be your hero."
Artemis snorted, "Do you know how corny that sounds?"
"It might sound corny, that doesn't stop it from being true."
"Hate to break it to you, Flashy, but I don't need a hero. Like I said, I can take care of myself."
"So I'm guessing you don't want me to walk you home?"
"In that case..." He was behind her in a blink of an eye. Her hair tumbled down from her ponytail and he was suddenly in front of her again. He held up the black hair tie.
"Hey! Give that back!" She tried to grab it but he held it out of her reach.
"Sorry, gorgeous. Souvenir. Goodnight." He disappeared in a streak of red with a flick of her hair and a wink.
Artemis huffed and left the alley, ignoring the muted pleas of the thugs on the ground. She only stopped once to kick the one with the gold chain. For good measure, she told herself. It only took her about ten minutes to figure out where she was then an additional five to trudge to her apartment building, up the stairs, and into her room to collapse on her bed, not bothering to turn on the lights or close the curtains.
What she didn't realize was a certain speedster watched as she made her way home. He fiddled with her hair tie and smiled to himself before heading back to get the police to pick up the thugs.
She's got you high, and you don't even know yet
She's got you high, and you don't even know yet...
She was built with a brain and some swagger
A little scream, little cry, little laughter
She's a ten, I'm a joke in my own mind
But she still loves to dance with my punch lines.
Artemis woke up to the sound of off-tune singing and groaned before prying her eyes open. She lifted her head to look at her blinking digital clock. 9:00 a.m. She groaned louder. Her head fell back onto her black sheets. She thought about going back to sleep but she decided it would be better for her to get off her lazy ass.
She groaned one last time, more for the hell of it then anything, before sitting up and scrubbing her face with her hand. She stood up onto the hardwood floor and caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. She cringed.
Her hair was a tangled mess and the previous night's mascara and eye liner was smudged. Artemis had forgotten to open her window last night and when she didn't, her room got unbearably hot. Her entire body was covered in a thin sheen of sweat and her clothes felt tight and claustrophobic. She went to the wall to fix that, unlocking and pushing up the window. She poked her head out and leaned out, resting on her elbows. The black fire escape's stairs blocked part of her view of downtown Gotham. They had a corner apartment so both her and Zatanna had a window and fire escape, even though they were across the hall from each other. But what she could see was amazing. The streets were buzzing with people and cars. Drivers honked their horns as they inched forward in the rush hour traffic. Artemis could hear people yelling in the little alley market down the street and dogs barking at all the excitement. She could see and vaguely smell the polluted air. Good old Gotham.
Artemis pulled herself back inside and walked to her dresser where she exchanged her uniform for an over sized t shirt and basketball shorts, dropping her clothes into a plastic laundry hamper. She left her room, making a quick pit stop in the bathroom to wash her face and brush the tangles out of her waist length hair.
The blonde padded down the short, white hallway; the hard wood floors refreshingly cool on her bare feet. She noticed something lying on the floor outside her roommate's room, causing her to stop and examine it. She rolled her eyes then continued down the hall, past a closet before she reached the end. She walked through the living room, past the second hall to the door, then into the open kitchen. Her roommate, Zatanna Zatara, stood behind the counter, singing at the top of her lungs and dancing in place as she made breakfast. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Zatanna had long black hair and startlingly blue eyes. She had a shorter but slender build and was currently wearing a cyan colored spaghetti strap and black panties. Only one of her feet wore a sock, something she did because sometimes only one foot got cold. Artemis didn't get it either. She had been her best friend since high school and Artemis's roommate ever since they left it.
Her father was a single parent, raising her alone after her mother had left her on his doorstep when she was just a baby. Zatanna currently ran her father's magic show and shop while he was away for some magic convention. When he came back she would go back to working full time at the shop and to designing new toys and gadgets for it. That was her main role at the shop, making new little toys and tricks for it. It had started out as a hobby but when her father found one of her prototypes and they had sold like crazy at the shop, she was hired as official toy-maker.
That's the thing about her family. They're all magicians and damn good ones too. Zatanna's great great great great uncle was Zachariah the Magnificent. (Artemis had never heard of him but her best friend had assured her he was magnificent.) She knew every trick in the book, and learned almost twice as many from her father. The downside of having an amateur magician as a roommate would be that she enjoys pulling pranks; that and the fact that Zatanna's pet rabbit, Tibbar, was also quite the escape artist.
Zatanna stopped singing to turn around and grin at her roommate. It had a bit of an edge to it that Artemis didn't miss. "Morning, Artemis."
"Morning Zee," she responded as she moved to the fridge. She smirked to herself as she pushed past the milk, "Morning, Dick."
Artemis looked over her shoulder to see Zatanna's boyfriend, Dick Grayson, stand from where he had been hiding behind the couch. He wore a navy coloured shirt and red boxers. He smiled guiltily.
"Good morning, Artemis. May I say you look lovely this morning?" Artemis rolled her eyes at him. She had grown up with Dick, ever since she moved in with her uncle. Dick's adoptive father, Bruce Wayne, and her Uncle Ollie did business regularly. On top of that, they were also good friends. Artemis and Dick had become very close by default; it was like they were siblings. Dick was two years younger than Artemis at 23 but had been in the same grade at school as her because he was some kind of genius.
He had jet black hair and sea blue eyes, and was only a couple inches taller than her. Aside from a few exceptions, such as Artemis and Bruce, he could charm his way out of almost anything. He almost never got in trouble for pranks and such in school. For example, once he organized a whole flash mob in the halls during class. Not only did he get off from detention, but he got some kind of award for student leadership. Go figure. He had a habit of taking out the prefixes and occasionally the suffixes of words; like aster and whelmed. It had been annoying at first but it had eventually grown on Artemis. Dick was one of the best hackers she knew and had a degree in some computer technology stuff. But, he worked as Bruce's apprentice at Wayne Enterprises, doing what exactly Artemis wasn't sure.
Artemis had introduced him to Zee when he was a freshman. He immediately fell head over heels for her while she remained oblivious. When she had first introduced him, he had literally tripped over himself to talk to her. It took him almost ten years to build up the courage to ask her out. He had finally done it about a year ago and they had been dating since. She didn't think she'd ever seen either happier.
Artemis moved to sit at the small wooden table that sat half way in the kitchen and half way in the living room. Zatanna set it for three with plain white dishes and metal utensils. She placed the stack of pancakes she had made in the center and sat between the two.
"You guys working today?" Dick asked between bites.
"Yep. I have to be there in an hour or two." Zatanna answered.
"I'm at the restaurant today," Artemis said. She was about to ask for him to pass the maple syrup when a knock rang out at the door, interrupting them.
Zatanna jumped up. "I'll get it!" Dick followed close behind saying, "Zee, you're in your underwear!"
He caught up to her as she ran down the tiny hallway that led to the door. Artemis turned back to her food and leaned over to get the syrup herself. She poured it generously over her pancakes then picked up the paper. She heard the bolt click and the chain hit the door. Artemis ignored the sounds of the door opening and the muffled voices. Zatanna walked in with an impish grin on her face.
"Artemis, is there something you want to tell me about last night?" She rocked back and forth on her feet like an excited child.
Artemis looked up at her slowly and quirked an eyebrow, "What? Uh, no?"
"Huh. Well someone's here to see you from last night." She said the last two words meaningfully, like they were supposed to imply something at more than face value. Artemis sent her a blank look. Zatanna sighed, but kept her grin. She slid into the chair next to her, "I want all the details."
Artemis's eyebrows knitted together. "Details of what?"
"Oh, just go."
Artemis rolled her eyes but stood up cautiously. The only people she could think of were the men she met in the alley. Maybe one had escaped Flash and followed her home. She thought about the bat she kept in the hall closet. She could probably get to it if she was quick. But when she turned the corner she found the red door was angled with Dick leaning on it. He talked with whoever stood there, making it impossible for her to see who it was.
Artemis took it as a good sign that he wasn't unconscious or bleeding on the floor. While Dick was in really good shape and he was actually quite the impressive gymnast, she was pretty sure he couldn't hurt a fly. Because, well, Dick was probably one of the biggest nerds she knew and skilled gymnasts weren't exactly fighter material.
Dick must've heard her because he stopped talking and turned to look at her. He flashed a grin that couldn't mean anything good. He moved to go past Artemis and down the hallway. As he passed her, he whispered, "Nice job."
She swallowed her comeback when her curiosity won out. She knew Dick wouldn't willingly leave her alone with someone he didn't trust or a stranger but she was still cautious as she approached the door and opened it. She lifted her eyebrows. Artemis found it wasn't one of the goons from last night but instead the wannabe hero.
Now they were in full light, she could see more than just the obnoxious color of his uniform and the general outline of his fit figure. She could see the lower half of his face was pale and had exactly three bright red freckles on each cheek. He had a square jaw and she could see the prominent outline of his abs through his uniform. But the thing that struck her the most was his eyes. In the dark they were an evergreen color but now, in the light of the hallway, they appeared to be bright emerald. They betrayed the smile his lips were trying to hide.
Artemis realized she was staring and snapped herself out of it with a quick mental slap. She shut her mouth (she wasn't sure when it had opened a little) and moved into her defense stance, cocking a hip and crossing her arms.
"What are you doing here? Do I have a stalker now?"
"You know, I'd thought you'd be thanking me by now."
"Thanking you?" She laughed, "How'd you even find-" But she was cut off when he lifted a large black bag. Artemis eyed her purse with malice, then Flash, then back to the offending bag. She reached for it but he held it out of her reach. His smile had broken onto his lips. It was teasing.
"So, Artemis Crock, huh?"
She glared and reached for the purse again. He held it a little farther away. Artemis glared then stomped on his foot. He jumped up and Artemis took his momentary distraction to snatch her purse from his grasp.
He rubbed his toe with one hand, leaning on the wall with the other. He looked at her and grinned painfully, "You play dirty."
"It's not as bad as wearing a full spandex body suit in public."
He stood up straight and smirked, "Don't pretend you don't like it. I saw you ogling me."
She felt a blush grow on her cheeks. "I'm the one checking you out? Please. You couldn't keep your eyes up last night. And now you can't look away from my legs." She was more than pleased when he turned as red as his cowl. He put his arm on the doorframe. It was so close it almost brushed the side of her head. The Flash leaned forward. He tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear, his hand lingering to trace his spandex clad finger slowly down her jawbone.
"Can you really blame me, beautiful?"
Artemis rolled her eyes and pulled her head away. "Do you use that on all the girls you think you save?"
He laughed. "Think? You know, I've never met an anti-damsel before." Artemis's face heated up for reasons unknown to her. "And no, I've never used that on another girl before. You're the first."
She snorted, "I'm flattered."
He laughed and gave her a wink, "You should be. See you later, beautiful." And he was gone.
"I wasn't done yet!" But she was yelling at thin air. She huffed and retreated back into her apartment, dropping her purse on the little table by the door. She was still mad at it. She sat at the table next to Zatanna and began to take her anger out on her pancakes. Zatanna raised an eyebrow.
"Care to explain what happened last night with The Flash?"
Artemis rolled her eyes, "Not particularly."
"Aw, come on."
Artemis sighed heavily. "He just showed up when some assholes cornered me in an alley. But I had everything under control," she insisted.
"He saved you? That's adorable!"
Dick walked in then. He had showered and was now wearing a tailored suit minus the jacket. He was attaching a watch to his wrist. The raven haired boy had somehow tamed his hair, as he always did when he went to work. A knowing smirk slipped onto his face, "Artemis was saved by Flash? What was his award?"
Zatanna's jaw dropped. "I hadn't even thought of that. The damsel always awards the hero." Her smile became sly.
Artemis rolled her eyes again, "Okay. First off, I had everything under control. I didn't need his help. Second off, I didn't award him with anything. Nor should I be subjected to awarding him. Third, I'm no damsel." She paused. "I'm an anti-damsel and he's a wannabe hero. End of story." She rammed some food into her mouth while the other two chuckled and exchanged looks.
"Whatever you say, Artemis," Dick said as he grabbed his jacket. "I've gotta get to work. I'm already late. See you tonight at Megan's." He gave Zatanna a quick peck on the cheek and nodded at Artemis.
Dick turned down into the hallway and Artemis heard the door open then close. Zatanna waited a whole three seconds before she opened her mouth to say something but Artemis cut her off. "Nothing happened. Nothing. I swear."
"Really? Because I hear Flash likes to take souvenirs." Artemis sighed.
"So he took a hair tie. Big deal." Zatanna smirked and stood, victorious. She gathered her and Dick's plates then turned back.
"One more thing. How'd you know Dick was here anyway?"
"Your bra is in the middle of the hall. The lacy black one. Do you guys ever make it to the bedroom before you lose at least one article of clothing?" Artemis teased; thankful the topic had been changed.
Zatanna had the grace to turn pink but laughed anyway, "You should see his place. There's clothing everywhere. He doesn't have to worry about roommates."
Artemis covered her ears, "Ugh! Gross! I don't need to know that!" Zatanna just grinned. Artemis got up and hurried to the bathroom.
The room was small and had a fat white tub with an attached shower. The shower curtain was powder blue, as was the rug and toothbrush holder. The handles on the sink drawers were black. Everything else was white. She closed the door and turned on the shower. Artemis washed her long hair quickly then hopped out and wrapped a towel around herself while she brushed her teeth.
She left the bathroom and Zatanna went right in after her, holding the clothes she would wear to work. Artemis got to her room as the shower started. She walked over to her dark brown dresser and pulled out some clothes. Artemis put on black short shorts and a green tank top then pushed her wet hair into a loose braid. She went outside again and dumped all her laundry into a waiting basket. She eyed it and decided she would have to do laundry soon. A long time ago the roommates had established that Artemis would do all the laundry and Zatanna all the cooking because they were hopeless at the other person's task. It was a rather good system, actually.
Artemis turned into the small living room, passed the old brown couch, then the fat black TV, and walked straight to her little wooden easel. Artemis loved to paint. She had painted for as long as she could remember. After her parents died, her uncle had only encouraged her to do it more. It helped her relax and get past her family's deaths. Back at her uncle's mansion she had an entire art room just for her. The walls and high ceiling had been completely covered in paint and little stands held her canvases throughout the room. The floor was hard wood and a few desks lined the walls, all holding different brushes and paints and other various supplies. One wall was just a huge window. It looked over the sky line of Gotham and had a magnificent view of the sunset. Here, she settled for a corner with some tarp spread on the ground so as to not spill any paint on the floor. But it didn't matter where she painted; as long as she had the paints, a brush, and something to decorate. Her easel faced out one of the two windows in the room, so she still had a terrific view of the downtown Gotham sky line, filled with sky scrapers and glass buildings. Currently, a painting that included Wayne Tower and city hall as seen from the roof of her building sat on her easel.
The shower stopped and Zatanna came out of the bathroom a few minutes later in skinny jeans and a black t shirt. Her hair was dry and pulled back into a ponytail, her face holding a very small amount of natural-looking makeup. "Hey, I'm off to the store. Meet back here at seven to get ready?"
"Sure. See you." Zatanna left and Artemis glanced around the messy apartment. She should probably do something about it. She took out the broom.
Her shirt stuck to her back from the water from her hair. Her hair dripped onto the floor, annoying her to no end. Usually, she had a shower before she went to bed so it dried as she slept, but she had been too tired last night. When she had finished sweeping, she had to drag out the mope to clean up the water that had dripped from her hair. Sometimes, she hated having such long hair because it constantly got in the way and it was pain when it was wet. But, her father had hated it. He always told her having long hair was stupid and that she should cut it short. That's what mattered.
Artemis did some odd jobs around the apartment which including sweeping, moping, cleaning her paint brushes, and taking out the garbage. At about noon she gathered all the clothes into a white plastic laundry basket and put it in the hall by the door so she would remember to do it. She changed into jeans and a t shirt then brushed out her now dry hair and put it up in its usual ponytail.
Artemis grabbed her bag and was about to leave the apartment when she spotted a small, white fluff ball in the laundry basket, tucked into Zatanna's sweat pants. She sighed and picked up Tibbar. The rabbit squirmed in her grasp, its ears flopping around. She scratched its ears and brought it up so she could look at its face. An ear flopped in front of his face and his nose twitched. Artemis couldn't help but smile at the tiny animal. She cradled the struggling bunny to her body as brought him to Zatanna's room. She walked around various books and prototypes for the shop. She pretended not to see the empty condom wrapper on the top of her roommate's blue garbage can as she put the bunny in its plastic cage and made sure the door was locked. The cage was about two by three feet. The bottom half was black plastic and the top was white metal bars. The ground was covered in wood shavings and had a small black food dish and water bottle that hung on the side of the cage. Tibbar bounced around then looked up at her with wide innocent eyes. When he realized she wasn't about to let him out he hoped into his little plastic castle. Artemis slipped a few treats between the bars of the cage. Tibbar hoped out and grabbed them up, nibbling at them. Artemis double checked the lock. She wasn't sure why she did it. The seemingly innocent creature would find a way out sooner or later.
She left the apartment, sure to lock the door and move the bolt home, and then took the stairs on account of the pancakes she ate. She took the bus to the restaurant, putting her stuff in a locker in the back and grabbing an apron and a tray. The restaurant was about average size, a chain restaurant by the name of Ronnie's. The walls were painted a camouflage green and the booths were a bright blue with white tables. The dark red carpet was stained and had little designed grooves that caused a constant tripping hazard. Artemis wasn't sure who designed the restaurant, but she was pretty sure they were color blind.
It being one o'clock, Artemis made it to the restaurant during the last leg of the workday lunch rush. The restaurant wasn't really popular but it was clean and served wonderfully greasy food in the middle of Gotham's business district. It was bound to attract a crowd of hungry workers. She got right to work. As she filled up drinks, she saw her friend Conner Kent. He inclined his head as greeting and Artemis returned it.
Conner was tall, not quite as tall as Kaldur but pretty close. He had midnight black hair and pale blue eyes. He had broad shoulders and a muscular build. Conner was the strong, silent type, always brooding about one thing or another. Him and Artemis were gym buddies, but they had both kind of veered off it in the past few months. Whenever Artemis was upset over something she would go straight to Conner and they'd go to the gym to spar it out. At times, Artemis felt like she related to him most; more so than even Dick or Zatanna.
She returned to work but only got through about fifteen tables before Ronnie's became deserted, save a few elderly people nursing the 99 cent refills on tea and coffee. She collected her last customer's payment and put it into the register at the front. Artemis moved to the back of the kitchen where she found Conner and his long time girlfriend, Megan.
The two had been dating since they had been juniors in high school, a year above Artemis. Despite the slight age difference, they had become friends when Artemis got moved up into Megan's Spanish class. Megan Morose moved to Gotham from western Canada when she was sixteen. She had hair the color of a dark dawn that fell a few inches past her shoulders with eyes that were just a few shades deeper. She had freckles that splattered across her face and was on the taller side, only a few inches shorter than Conner. Her face lit up when she saw the blonde.
"Artemis!" She smiled hugely and ran to give the blonde a hug. At first, the girl's over affection and enthusiasm had bothered Artemis and made her a little uncomfortable. But she eventually got used to it, even a little fond of it. Not that she would admit it.
"Hey, Megs. Conner." Artemis said in greeting.
"Artemis." Conner said as Megan returned to his arm. When Artemis had seen them together when they first started dating, she wondered how someone who was so sullen could date and love someone so bubbly. She soon realized, however, they were pretty much perfect for each other and balanced out one another flawlessly.
Artemis looked back at the auburn-haired girl, "Happy Birthday!" She noticed a new necklace around her friend's neck. It was a turquoise teardrop on a silver chain, resting on her collar bone. "What's that? Birthday present?" Artemis asked even though she knew what it was. A week ago he had asked her to come with him to pick one out. But that was their little secret. Conner and Artemis had decided it was better that way. Megan nodded excitedly and Conner blushed. Well, his face turned a few shades darker which was pretty much blushing for Conner.
"Good job, Conner. It's beautiful. But I thought we were exchanging presents tonight?"
Conner nodded a bit stiffly, "We are. I got her something else too." Artemis nodded.
"You guys working tomorrow too?" Artemis asked.
"No. We have the day off." Conner said. "I'm just going to go grab a coffee. Anyone else?"
"Please." Artemis said.
"Okay," Megan smiled. Conner walked off. The girls watched his retreating back.
"That was really sweet of him. Getting you that necklace I mean." Artemis said.
"I know. It's so pretty, too. I have a feeling he must've had help picking it out." Megan sent her a sideways glance. Artemis was saved from answering when Conner came back with the coffees.
Artemis took a sip of hers and almost gagged, "How much sugar did you put in here?"
Conner looked down in his own cup, "About nine." Artemis put her cup down.
A small yellow light blinked on the white wall behind them and the most annoying buzzer sounded, signalling a customer's arrival. Artemis glanced at it and said, "I got it." She looked back at Megan and Conner, "Eight o'clock, right?"
Megan smiled sweetly and nodded, "Yeah!" Conner inclined his head at the same time. The buzzer sounded again and Artemis waved her hand.
"Yeah, yeah. I'm coming." She sent one last smile at her friends then turned around and pushed out the faded white door.
They were all busy for the rest of the day with the pre dinner rush then the dinner rush. Artemis got to snatch a few quick words with Megan at one point and stand silently with Conner at another but otherwise she didn't see them.
When 6:45 finally rolled around Artemis exchanged her sticky tray and purple apron for her jacket and purse. She walked back to her red brick apartment building. She bypassed the elevator, as she usually did, and ran up the six flights of stairs. She pulled her key out of her purse and had to fiddle around with the door for a bit before it opened. Zatanna poked her head into the hall.
"Hey. How was work?"
"Boring. Tiring. Repetitive. What about you?"
Zatanna nodded and continued while Artemis kicked off her shoes, "Yeah, me too. Dick came by though. Said he was going to bring some friend tonight. He's told me about him before. They've been internet friends for forever or something and he just got a job at Wayne Enterprises. Some kind of scientist, I guess."
Artemis ditched her stuff in their tiny hall closet and walked over to her friend. Zatanna was holding a skirt in one hand and some dress pants in the other.
"I think his name's West. Wendell, maybe? It starts with 'W' I know that for sure. Hmm.." She followed Artemis as she headed for her room and sat on her gray queen sized bed. "William. Wade. Wallace. Wally! That's it!"
Artemis laid down next to her. She snorted, "Wally West? That poor guy."
"Well at least his name wasn't made up by his parents." Zatanna said. Both girls laughed and Artemis pointed to the clothes she had set down next to her.
"What are those about? Aren't we just going to Conner and Megan's?" She sat up.
Her roommate nodded her head impatiently, hairs that had escaped her ponytail fell around her face, "Well, yeah. But that doesn't mean I can't look nice for this guy. He is some big wig scientist after all."
Artemis rolled her eyes, "You have a boyfriend, Zee."
"I know that. But that doesn't mean I can't make a good first impression. He is my boyfriend's best friend." She paused, "So what are you going to wear? You're single."
Artemis sighed tiredly, "I've told you a million times. I'm not looking for anyone right now. I just need to get through the next few years then I'll think about dating. I just don't have the time."
"Years?" It was Zatanna's turn to sigh. "Sweetie, you need to get laid." She paused. "You could borrow Dick for a while. He has a great ass."
"ZATANNA EW." Artemis yelled. She shoved her laughing friend so she rolled off the bed. Zatanna stood.
"I'm kidding, I'm kidding. Don't get your panties in a wad. Like I'd share that ass with anyone." Artemis was about to launch a pillow at the still laughing magician when she wandered over to Artemis's closet. Her raven haired roommate began picking through it. Artemis stood up a little reluctantly and shuffled over to Zatanna.
"What are you doing?"
"Looking for something for you to wear."
"I was planning on wearing this." The two girls looked at her coffee stained t shirt and jeans. Zee shook her head.
"No, you aren't. How about this?" She held up a black mini skirt.
Artemis eyed the skirt, "That's funny." Zatanna glared and held the skirt a little higher. Artemis glared back, propping a hand on her hip.
This would take a while.
A long, loud hour later the girls had come to a sort of middle ground. They both wore dark wash jeans and flats. Artemis had donned a forest green v neck and Zatanna had grabbed a deep red, loose tank top. Artemis's hair was up in its usual ponytail while Zatanna chose to keep it down. She didn't say it but Artemis knew Dick loved it when his girlfriend's hair was down. Artemis thought it was kind of sweet, even though she wasn't really a fan of sweet.
Zatanna grabbed her black pea coat and Artemis grabbed her black leather jacket. Both girls snatched their purses off the little table by the door as they headed out. At Zatanna's insistence, they rode the elevator down then they took a cab to Megan and Conner's apartment.
Their building was only a little nicer than the girls', with the same red brick and crappy elevator. They lived on the ninth floor in room 9d, just left of the elevator entrance. The hall had white scuffed walls and floral carpet. The girls walked down the hall, both holding presents for the birthday girl. The dark mustard coloured door had a clumsily taped, shiny sign on it that said Birthday Girl in fancy pink lettering. Zatanna knocked some kind of weird beat on the door. Artemis raised an eyebrow. Zatanna just smiled. The door was soon answered by Rocket. She smiled at them both and greeted them with her signature, "Hey, girls!" She wore knee high boots over black jeans and a loose black top. Her usual touch of fuchsia was on her waist in the form of a thin belt.
"Hey, Rocket. We the last ones to get here?" Zatanna asked as she stepped inside and dumped her stuff in the already jammed hall closet. Artemis did the same while Rocket shook her head, her little earrings clinking together.
"Nah. Dick's not here yet, neither is his friend. We're all in the living room, come on." They followed her down the hall and into the cozy room. It had two big, plush couches that occupied most of the space. A circular wooden table sat crammed in the corner and a TV sat opposite the couches. Kaldur was seated on the smaller of the two couches and Rocket went to go take a seat next to him. Megan and Conner were both sitting on the other couch, Megan leaning on her boyfriend with his arm around her.
She spotted her friends and squealed, jumping up to hug them both and say hello. As soon as she had finished she sat back down and curled into Conner's side again. Zatanna sat on the couch in the middle and Artemis sat next to her.
"Do you guys want anything to drink?" Conner asked.
"I can get it. Have any beer?" Artemis asked.
"Yeah, it's in the fridge. Help yourselves." Megan said. Some kind of fruit spritzer sat in front of her on the coffee table, next to a beer that Artemis guessed to be Conner's. Rocket and Kaldur both held bottled beers.
"Hey, Art, you wanna grab me one of those fruity things?" Zatanna asked as she pointed to Megan's drink. She nodded and went to get them. She found both in the fridge and popped the caps on the edge of the counter, something her uncle taught her when she turned twenty one. She heard someone knock on the door. Artemis left the kitchen and yelled down to the living room.
"I'll get it." She carried the two drinks and went to the door. The person knocked again and she opened the door. Something, or someone rather, hit her and they both went crashing to the floor. Her back hit the floor, her head following soon after. Her eyes were tightly shut as she groaned.
She heard Dick say, "I told you not to lean on the door you idiot."
She opened her eyes and found herself looking at the most amazing green eyes she had ever seen. They were bright emerald and painfully familiar. Artemis snapped herself out of it. "Wanna get off me, slick?" He quickly scrambled off her and offered her his hand. She looked up to see his face and found a pale and freckly man, probably about her age, with vibrant red hair. She eyed his hand for a moment before tilting her chin up and standing on her own. She had dropped the drinks when she got hit but by some miracle they hadn't broke; they just spilled all over her.
Artemis looked down at her now soaked shirt. Great. She looked up at the guy in front of her. "Nice move, Baywatch."
"What?" He asked. She pointed to his shirt which said "LIFEGUARD ON DUTY" in big bold letters with a life preserver. "Oh."
"Who's there?" Megan had come around the corner and saw the state of Artemis's shirt. Her eyes flickered between Artemis's shirt, the floor, and the redhead. Her nurturing side must've won out because she rushed over the Artemis.
"Why don't you go to the bedroom and we can get you a shirt? I'll be right there once I clean this up." Artemis huffed but did as she said. She stomped down the hall as she listened to Megan introduce herself.
"Megan, right? Happy birthday. I'm Wally West, Dick's told me a lot about all of you." But that's as much Artemis heard until she turned into the bedroom.
The king bed was pine with dark blue comforter. A window was on the wall behind the bed and there were two bedside tables. Both held lamps and clocks but they had different personal items. The two sides of the room varied greatly. One side held the closet and had pictures of everyone all over. A small flower sat on the bedside table along with a few bracelets and a little box. The other side of the room was rather Spartan, even the bedside table. It only held a book and a picture of Conner and Megan.
Megan came in soon after. "He feels really bad," she told her as she disappeared into the closet. She came out again with a black tank top. "I'm afraid this is all I have that'd fit you."
"Don't worry about it, Megan." Artemis took off her shirt and handed it to Megan than put on the tank. "Thanks." Megan led her out and they went to the living room, Megan dropping off Artemis's shirt on a hall table on the way.
When they got to the living room everyone was seated and discussing their workdays. Megan took the spot next to Conner leaving the only available spot next to Wally. He stood up when he saw her.
"I'm really sorry."
Artemis shrugged, "Whatever. Just don't lean on any more doors."
Wally cracked a smile. "I'm Wally West. I just moved here from Central City."
"You're just as beautiful as I pictured. Right down to the eyes." Wally told her. Artemis felt her face heat up.
"Keep it in your pants, Casanova." She warned him and sat down. So did Wally. He handed her a beer and Artemis raised an eyebrow at him. She opened the cap with the coffee table edge and drank from it anyway.
Zatanna launched in a story about this little kid that always came into the shop. He wore a cape and a top hat every time and always carried a bag full of magic tricks and toys. He always needed help with one or the other. Today she had tried to teach the kid to pull flowers out of his sleeve to impress a girl in his class. Once the story ended, Kaldur stood.
"I think now would be a good time for cake. Artemis and Dick, would you mind assisting me?"
"Sure, Kal." Dick said. Artemis nodded and stood, placing her beer on the table. The duo followed him into the kitchen.
Like Artemis, Kaldur had a rather surprising gift. He loved to cook and bake. No one had expected it when he had announced his talent, but it made sense with his general patient and level-headed nature. He worked at the club and at a deli to save up for culinary school. He was close to his goal and would probably be able to enroll for next fall, only a few months away.
He had made the cake and it was huge. It had taken both Dick and Kaldur just to maneuver it out of the fridge. It was iced white with pain staking little flowers and butterflies. In loopy handwriting it said "Happy Birthday Megan." Kaldur told them it was the kind with vanilla and little rainbow bits throughout – Megan's favourite.
"It's awesome, Kal," Dick said.
"Thank you." Kaldur said with a smile. Artemis knew he loved getting compliments on his baking.
She got the candles and they put twenty six throughout it, dodging little decorations. Dick lit the candles then held the door while Artemis and Kaldur lifted it. Megan's eyes lit up when she saw it as they placed it in front of her at the brown wooden table.
"Oh, Kaldur. It's beautiful!" Kaldur smiled at her.
"Make a wish!" Zatanna told her excitedly. Her arm was around Dick's waist and his was draped across her shoulders. Rocket held a camera, ready to take the picture when she blew out the candles. Conner stood behind her, a slight smile on his face. Artemis stood off to the side with Kaldur and Wally on either side. Megan seemed to think for a moment before she blew out all twenty six candles. A bright flash erupted from Rocket's camera. Everyone cheered.
"What'd you wish for?" Artemis asked, a smile gracing her face.
"Well, she can't tell you. Then it wouldn't come true." Wally teased lightly. Artemis rolled her eyes.
"I'll go get some plates and forks." She said. Wally followed her.
They walked into the kitchen and Artemis pointed out where the forks were while she got the plates. When she turned back around, Wally was studying her.
"Do I know you from somewhere?" Artemis asked. Wally looked startled.
"No. No of course not. Why?" He stuttered. He sounded nervous.
Artemis raised an eyebrow at his suddenly strange behaviour, "You seem familiar."
He gained a sly grin. "Wait. You're right."
Artemis smirked triumphantly, "I knew it. Where-"
"I'm pretty sure we met last night. In my dreams." Wally smirked at her, probably wondering at his own cleverness. Her smile dropped.
Artemis left the kitchen with Wally on her heels. Kaldur cut the cake and handed out pieces. He handed one to everyone except Wally, who requested four. They all dug in.
"This tastes like heaven." Rocket sighed. Kaldur looked flattered.
As they ate, Artemis found herself next to Wally again. She eyed him and he said, "Are you a magnet? Because I seem to be attracted to you."
"Your pick up lines are getting progressively worse."
"Do you know karate? Cause your body is kickin'."
"As a matter of fact, I do know karate. And tae kwon do. And jujutsu. And kickboxing."
"Impressive. So you're some kind of ninja or something?"
"I know how to hold my own, if that's what you mean. I also know how to stop guys from hitting on me." She looked at the little paper plate with his remaining three pieces of cake, "Think you have enough?" She asked sarcastically.
He looked down at it and shrugged, "Fast metabolism," was all he gave as an explanation. "So, painter, huh?"
"You're a painter." When she scrunched her eyebrows he looked pointedly at her hands. Artemis looked and sure enough, there were multi colored paint smudges all over them. She looked back at him and nodded slowly. "Yeah. I'm a painter. But not professionally."
"You any good?"
"I'm alright, I guess. What do you do?"
Wally nodded, "I'm a scientist. But no offence, you probably wouldn't understand."
Artemis narrowed her eyes, "Try me."
"I work in the biochemistry specializing in neurochemistry research."
A smug smile worked its way onto her face. "That's the specific study of neurochemicals; I believe that includes things such as neurotransmitters and other molecules like neuro-active drugs, for example dopamine and serotonin. These all relate back to our neuron function and our central nervous system, right?"
Wally raised an eyebrow, "Impressive. How do you know all that?"
Artemis shrugged, "I like to read. But I'm afraid I've really only dabbled in the sciences. I prefer languages."
"Really? How many languages do you speak?"
"A few. I'm fluent in English, French, Spanish, and Vietnamese. I know some German, Italian, Mandarin, and Japanese. What about you? You speak any foreign languages?"
Wally grinned, "I'm afraid I only got as far as high school Spanish."
"We're going to open presents now." Conner said. Zatanna came and dragged Artemis to the living room before she could protest. They sat on the couch and added their presents to the slowly growing pile. Dick sat next to Wally on the other couch with Kaldur and Rocket joined the girls. Megan took the armchair and Conner sat between her and the presents.
Conner handed a blue tube shaped present to Megan. She announced it was from Kaldur and opened it. She pulled out a beautiful little plant. It was the color of the sea and had a small painted bulb full of water on the bottom.
"It's a flower from my home. It lives in small lakes and streams, so you must keep the bulb filled with water." Kaldur said with a smile. The gift was kind of perfect for her because, like everyone else, Megan and Conner were working at the restaurant so they could save up for something. Megan had wanted to own a little flower shop all her life. Conner wanted to help in any way he could, so he started a little savings account off to the side – all out of his own pocket. Megan didn't know about it, but Artemis had figured it out. She only knew because she ran into him at the bank when he added part of a cheque he got from work to it. Artemis thought it was very kind of him to do that. It reminded her that despite his usually hard exterior, he nursed a soft spot the size of Russia for his little Canadian.
Next she opened Rocket's gift, which were gift cards for her favorite restaurant and her favourite clothing store. Then she opened Zatanna's little gift. She peeked inside and turned cherry red. She looked up, "Zatanna!"
"What is it?" Conner asked.
"Gag gift," Zatanna grinned while Megan tried to keep it away from Conner. Finally, Conner stood and picked up his girlfriend. He took the bag and turned it upside down. A very lacy, black bra and matching thong fell out. Conner flushed to match his girlfriend. Dick and Zatanna openly laughed. Kaldur, Artemis, Rocket, and Wally all tried to hide their own laughter behind their hands. Megan stuffed the offending gifts back in their bag and set them aside with the others. Conner handed her the next present, from Dick. Both their faces had faded to a rosy pink. Dick had given her a home spa kit complete with a face mask, scented soap, bath bombs, and some nail polish. Next she opened a gift from Wally which consisted of three big, different bags of candy.
"I wasn't sure what to get you. Sorry." Wally said.
"Don't be sorry. I wasn't expecting anything from you, anyway." Megan said with her usual cheer, "Conner, do you want to put these on the table for me? We can all share them."
Conner nodded and opened the bags then set them on the table. Kaldur reached forward and grabbed a handful of jelly beans.
The next gift was from Artemis. It was a medium-sized rectangle that was covered in loose, pink wrapping paper. Conner handed it to Megan and she smiled at Artemis before carefully pulling off the paper and folding it. She put it inside the blue bag that sat next to her carefully, as she had with all the other presents. She turned the canvas over slowly and gasped. It was a painting of the four girls, a copy of a picture Artemis had taped to the back. It was from just a few months ago, when they had all had a girl's day out. In the picture were Artemis, Rocket, Megan, Zatanna, and Dinah Lance, Artemis's surrogate mother. Dinah had been dating Artemis's Uncle Ollie on and off for as long as she could remember. Even though they fought frequently, Artemis could tell it kept the passion alive. Especially since they always made up in the end.
Dinah was very close with all the girls and had taken to mentoring Zatanna and Artemis, giving them a female figure to look up to. When Megan moved to Gotham from Canada, she had gone to live with her Uncle Jon and with her mother a hundred miles away, Dinah had stepped up to the plate.
The picture had been taken in a photo booth so all the girls were making funny faces. Zatanna and Artemis were in front, Zee was making the rock-on symbol with her hand and she had stuck her tongue out. Artemis was mid eye-roll but was laughing. Megan was behind Artemis and making a heart at the camera with a smile. Dinah was between Artemis and Zatanna and was faking surprise as she got kiss on the cheek from Rocket, who was behind Zatanna.
"Aw, Artemis. This is adorable! Thank you so much," she smiled hugely as they passed around the painting.
Conner stood up, "I have something else for you. I have to go get it." He said. He walked off to the direction of the spare room. He soon came back holding a tiny white and grey fluff ball. The baby husky squirmed around in his grasp and Megan squealed.
"Can we keep her?" Megan sunk onto the floor as Conner sat beside her. He carefully put the restless puppy on her lap and it leapt up to began to lick her face. She laughed and that only egged the puppy on.
"Him. He's a boy. I got him from the pound. His name's Wolf." Conner told her. Wolf was finished with licking her face and was now chasing his fluffy white tail. Zatanna had left her chair to coo at the dog with Megan while everyone else watched the over active puppy.
Wolf jumped out of the girl's grasp and leapt onto the couch. It sniffed around Rocket then went in the open space between her and Artemis that was previously occupied by Zee. The dog sat back with his bum in the air. He wiggled his bottom before leaping onto Artemis's lap. He began licking her face and she tried to pull away. As he attacked her, she turned her face away. A smile had broken onto her lips and she was laughing. She caught Wally's eye and saw him smiling.
Artemis finally wrestled the pup off her and he raced back to Megan. She smoothed out her ponytail and picked up her beer, taking a sip of it. Her cheeks felt warm and despite her efforts to pull her hair back, she felt little wisps of hair fall around her face.
Wally stood up casually and wandered over, taking Zatanna's spot.
"Alright, you guess? That painting was more than alright. It was awesome." He said, taking a drink of his own beer as he looked at her.
To Artemis's great annoyance, she felt a blush grow on her cheeks. That happened all too often around this boy, and she had only just met him.
"Speaking of paintings, isn't your show tomorrow?" Zatanna asked, apparently overhearing him.
Artemis nodded, "Yeah. It starts at seven. Are you guys still coming?" A chorus of 'yes' and 'of course' rang out. Artemis smiled.
"Hey, Wally, you should come." Dick's face a gained a grin that told Artemis he was up to no good. It was uncanny how alike his mischievous smile looked compared to his girlfriend's. Artemis opened her mouth to argue. Wally grinned as he interrupted her.
"I'd love to. Where is it?" Artemis face palmed.
"I can just give you a ride." Dick told him. Wally nodded. Dick turned to Artemis, "Speaking of getting cars, you need to borrow one?" Because he was adopted son of Bruce Wayne, he had access to Bruce's car collection, and that meant he probably could lend Artemis a car for the show and Bruce would never know.
"No, I'm good. Uncle Ollie's gonna drive me and Zee." Artemis replied. Dick nodded.
"Do you mind if I turn on the television? I would like to see who won the basketball game," Kaldur pitched in. Conner nodded and tossed him the remote. Kaldur thanked him and turned on the television. He flipped to the news channel but instead of sports highlights, it was breaking news. The LIVE symbol flashed in the corner as a woman with long brown hair in a grey suit began reporting.
"This is Jane Michelson, reporting for Gotham News. A new super villain is robbing Gotham City bank. He goes by the name of Stone Eyes." The image cut to muscular men dressed in all black. They were being led by a man in a black trench coat and a black fedora hat. Suddenly, he looked straight at the camera. He was wearing sunglasses, which he tipped down to reveal completely solid grey eyes. The camera fizzed and cut. The image went back to Jane Michelson. "That footage was taken just ten minutes ago. When he looked at the camera, it turned to solid rock. Anyone he looks at straight on without those sunglasses becomes stone. We are unsure at this time if he controls it, or if it is out of his control. We have lost three security guards to him so far. He holds fifty people in the bank and is demanding not money, but a good fight. Please, Gotham heroes. Come to our aid, as you have so many times before. This is Jane Michelson, reporting for Gotham News."
The news showed more shots of the villain. Suddenly, Wally and Dick both stood up.
"You know I completely forgot. I have to get home. Now. Because of – a reason. Um. My stove. I left it on. Shit." Wally said suddenly. His mouth had set itself into a grim line and his eyes were determined.
"I'll give you a ride," Dick followed him out of the room with a similar expression and giant strides, but only after pecking Zatanna quickly on the cheek. Six pairs of eyes followed them out.
"That was weird." Rocket said bluntly.
Artemis added, "They're weird."
Everyone laughed. Rocket gave her a high five, "Preach."
The sports came on and everyone listened intently. The Gotham Panthers had won the game, much to the delight of everyone, especially Kaldur. Conner went and got another round of beers for everyone. By the time he had come back there was another breaking news update.
"This is Jane Michelson reporting at Gotham News. I am with The Flash and Nightwing, who came to save the day from Gotham's newest villain, Stone Eyes. Tell me, Nightwing, how did you do it?"
The super hero looked a little annoyed. Artemis didn't blame him though; he just took down some crazed super villain. The poor guy was probably tired. "We just want the public to know that while we secured the rest of the hostages, Stone is still on the loose. We don't want anyone to approach him. We'll get him soon, we'll promise the Gotham citizens that," Nightwing was calm, his demeanor serious. He reminded Artemis a little of his mentor.
The Flash spoke up, "Well, gorgeous, we'd also ask anyone who has been through a tough time or traumatic experience that you don't turn to violence. We ask that you seek the help of a friend, or better yet a professional. It's better for everyone in the long run, babe."
Nightwing whispered something to Flash and he nodded in response. Then, Nightwing turned on his heel and walked away. The camera followed as he leapt onto a dumpster and used a batarang attached to a rope to swing onto a building, casual as can be. He was then lost to the dark skyline of Gotham. The reporter looked a little lost for a minute before she quickly recovered.
"Flash, one more thing before you run off on me. Do you have a message for any girls out there?"
Flash laughed and made to move his hand as if to run it through his hair, but stopped when he realized it was covered by his cowl. "That's cute, babe, but you know I only have eyes for you."
"Oh, come on Flash. There must be someone special."
"Well, there is one girl. She's absolutely gorgeous and she's intelligent but I don't think she likes me very much. You might call her an anti damsel. So if she's watching, hey beautiful." He winked at the camera. Artemis froze. She couldn't believe he just said that. On television.
Zatanna gasped, causing almost everyone in the room to jump, "You called yourself that back this morning! He's talking about you, isn't he?" Artemis was a bit lost for words and couldn't think of anything quick enough so she just shushed her.
Jane Michelson grinned, "So, who is this anti damsel?"
"Secret. Don't wanna get her in trouble cause of me. Gotta run, babe." Flash said before zooming off.
The smiling reporter looked proudly into the camera, "This is Jane Michelson reporting for Gotham News."
The camera cut to the anchor men and women and Megan burst out the question Artemis knew at least a few other people were thinking.
"What does Zatanna mean he's talking about you?"
Artemis slapped her face into her hands while Zatanna explained. When she had finished, she looked very proud of herself. Artemis was slowly getting more and more annoyed with the hero and her roommate. She knew her face must've resembled a tomato.
She sighed, "Nothing. Happened. He came to help me when I was attacked in an alley last night but I had everything under control." She paused and checked the time. 11:37. Thank goodness. She leapt up, trying but failing at not looking eager. "Well, it's late. Zee and I had better get headed home."
"Do you want us to walk you? We could bring Wolf." Megan told her. Obviously, she was worried something would happen again.
Artemis eyed the now snoozing fluff ball, thinking the worst it would probably do is lick someone to death. She shook her head. "Nah, we'll be fine. We can take a cab. Goodnight!" She grabbed her roommate's hand and dragged her out the door.
As promised, they took a cab back to their apartment then they both trudged upstairs. The roommates went straight to bed, both a little buzzed from the beers. Artemis changed into an oversized t shirt and shorts then cracked her window. She flopped into the charcoal bed spread eagled. She stared up at the ceiling, thinking she would think long and hard about her day. Instead, she fell asleep. Who could blame her? It'd been a long day.
The sun goes down
The stars come out
And all that counts
Is here and now
My universe will never be the same
I'm glad you came