Here's the next chapter. I'm sorry that it took so long to post but I got sick and well it wasn't really a good time. I pretty much was reduced to only reading books for entertainment as I had become super sensitive to light during that time. That being said I got a lot of reading done.

Anyways, I just want to thank my Beta again and all the awesome people who left me reviews. THANK YOU! You guy and girls all rock.

The next chapter will hopefully be up in a few weeks. I wish I could say that it would be up sooner but my time to write is going to be rather limited. That being said, I will do my best to get the next chapter posted as soon as possible. Similar to this chapter, the outline is pretty much done for the next one. I just have fill it out now. However, I hope my making this chapter super long will at least make up for it... So enjoy!

Disclaimer: I do not own Young Justice, Robin, Barbara Gordon, Artemis, or anyone else who may appear in this story who isn't one of my own creations. Shawn is mine though! That I can claim. Anyways, it would be incredibly cool if I did own these great characters. And I am most definitely not getting paid for this... A payment in reviews would be absolutely lovely. I know you're out there. Please review, or drop me a line if you have a question.

NOTE- Set during The Usual Suspects, after Auld Acquaintance, and well after that the timeline is officially mine do with as I please! YES!

Chapter 9

(All The Right Friends In All The Wrong Places)

Mount Justice

December 30, 15:51EST

I can't believe it, the archer thought. The shields, the powers, his father (well his second father), they were all tied to Lex Luther. Superboy was a product of his DNA, just like me.

She looked around at the others. The team still visibly shocked by Superboy's revelation that they all failed to notice her flinch at the mere mention of Santa Prisca. Her hands shook at her sides as she forced them to still, stretching each finger out in an attempt to rid them of the uneasy tremble that plagued each digit. She could not believe that this was happening, and yet, here she was playing the fool when she too was just as guilty.

Her burden, no her sin, was in her blood and, just like Superboy, she was powerless to do anything about it. No matter what I do. No matter what the cause, I will always be judged by the sins of my father, by the sins of my family and for that, they hold me down. That part of her that she fought so hard to conceal would always be there like a black mark. A shame that no amount of good on her part could ever repair as it made her weak. Her secret: a vulnerability that left her open for attack on all sides. An easy target she thought.

Artemis felt her blood boil at the very idea of it. A target? A victim? A liar? She fought hard to stop herself from shaking her head in disgust as she mentally listed off her sins. Yes she was those things and so much more, but her secret, it did not define her. She was a good person. She was a hero. She was a member of a team, for whom she would gladly give her life. No, the archer was not her family and from now on she swore that they would finally be free of them.

She looked at Superboy and understood that her shame was not all consuming. She, like he, could break the bonds and be forever free of this burden. All she needed to do was confess and hope that her team, no her friends, would be as understanding of her plight as she was of his. I am not a product of my DNA she thought. I am not my family and they are not I. They have to see that. They have to… I hope.

The blonde squared her shoulders, took a deep breath, and then blew it out. It was now or never. It was time to come clean. "Uh, listen. Superboy is not the only one suffering from bad DNA," she dejectedly confided. The blonde's head hung low as she turned away from her teammates and walked over to the computer. Her hands shaking again as she entered the names of the three people who, if things went badly, would be her downfall. Slowly, the three images appeared. For a second she hesitated hitting the button that would reveal the identities of her family and felt her shame increase tenfold at her insecurity. It has to be done she whispered and hit enter. "My mother is Huntress, an ex-con. The rest of my family aren't even ex," she sadly admitted. "My dad's Sportsmaster. And he's sending my sister Cheshire to fly me to Santa Prisca too.

"That's why…"

"Yeah," she quickly interrupted unwilling to hear the rest of what Wally was going to say, the sorrow in his voice already almost too much for her to bear. "I was so desperate," she pleaded, "to make sure none of you found out."

"I knew."

Artemis felt her heart stop at his words as she looked up at the team's youngest member. He knew? Robin knew?

"Hey," the boy wonder smiled. "I'm a detective. But it never mattered," he sincerely added as he looked her in the eyes. "You aren't your family. You're one of us."

All her fears and her anxieties over being rejected because of who she was melted away in that instant, she looked at her friends, her teammates, and felt relief as she closed her eyes and sighed. I am not my family she mentally said again and smiled. I am not my family.

When she opened her eyes Robin nodded his head at her. His small gesture, though unnoticed by the others, was something the archer would never forget and would always be thankful for. Beside him, KF was positively beaming. He walked up to her and placed his hand on her shoulder, giving it a light squeeze as she looked at him. "So who's next?" He jokingly asked as surely this day of shocking revelations had to have met its quota.

"I am," a soft voice added.

Wally held up his hands in surrender. His smile fading away as he looked at the solemn looking Martian with shock, "I swear I was kidding."

"Queen Bee has been blackmailing me," she said. "She wants me in Santa Prisca too."

Artemis listened to M'gann's confession and, like before, felt an immense understanding of the situation her friend had found herself in. She was afraid. She was afraid of being rejected not because of who she was, but of what she was. All this time she had been actively hiding her true self from the team because she didn't know if we could accept the truth.

I'm so sorry M'gann the blonde mentally voiced hoping her friend could hear her over the link. When M'gann had transformed in front of them, Artemis immediately felt ashamed by her reaction. Her fear was unfounded and unfair. She's your friend her inner voice berated. She, like Robin and Wally, had stood by your side and had given you the benefit of the doubt for so long and now you're doing the one thing she feared the most.

M'gann please listen to me. I'm so sorry she pleaded over the link as she watched her friend turn away in fear and wrap her arms around herself. This was our entire fault she thought.

The archer held no doubts about that: this was their fault. M'gann would have never been in this situation if she hadn't thought that they would run in fear of her. After all this time and she still felt removed from the group and I did nothing to stop her from pulling away. Artemis remembered how crushed M'gann was after the failed mind-sharing event, her friend hiding her face in her hands while she sobbed from the table beside her, as she did nothing to support her. We did nothing in your moment of need and because of that we let you down.

The memory of Captain Marvel consoling M'gann as the team did nothing but watch burned in the archer's mind. We should have been there for you she thought. We should have done something and for that I'm so sorry. Please, I cannot be the only whose realized this?

"M'gann do we truly seem so shallow?"

Artemis felt her head whip over to Kaldur and in that moment she felt relief. The strength and comfort she had found in Robin only moments before she now saw in the Atlantean. Thank god, she sighed.

"I couldn't take the chance," the Martian sorrowfully answered as her arms tightened around herself. "Being a white Martian among the green on Mars, I endured constant rejection. I couldn't face that from…"

"From me," Superboy concluded.

Artemis watched as Superboy walked up to M'gann and took a hold of her hand. The two said nothing but the deep look of understanding that passed between the couple said everything. He accepted her and for M'gann that meant everything. Artemis knew of the trip to Qurac where the team encountered and saved a woman named Marie Logan and her son Garfield. She knew that while there the team discovered that M'gann's appearance and mannerisms were based on a character from a less than heard of TV show.

The archer had also read about her friend's reveal of her true Martian form while out on the mission. That bit of information though enlightening did not shock her. She had worked alongside the Martian Manhunter occasionally and to find out that M'gann looked just like him was of no real shock. She was still the same person and even though that form had turned out to be just a facade the fact remained the same. M'gann was still her friend and nothing would change that. White or green, M'gann would never face rejection from herself or from the team, for she was one of them and that was all that mattered.

It wasn't long after that that M'gann had transformed back. Her tears were no longer of shame but of joy as they fell from her cheeks. Connor's arms wrapping around her as she sank into his embrace. A bright smile on her face as the weight of her fears finally uplifted as she stood among her friends for the first time and felt unafraid of being rejected.

When the team finally dispersed Artemis stayed behind. I have to know she thought as she eyed Robin typing away on the computer. His back turned to her as she moved to stand beside him. "How long?"

The boy wonder just grinned and said, "After you joined the team."

"Why didn't you say anything?" She asked. He had known for that long and yet he hadn't said a thing. Her mind reeled at the prospect of his knowing and one fact above all others demanded her attention. Red Arrow had been on a witch-hunt this whole time and yet Robin had never once outed her for whom she was. Why?

Robin simply shrugged and said, "You were one of us."

The archer felt her eyes widen at that. The way he said it, he made it sound as if that was all that ever really mattered to him. "But you hardly knew me," the blonde replied. Her voice nearly incredulous as she contemplated what he was saying. How could he have trusted me? He didn't know me and he certainly knew that I was lying about whom I was. So why did he help me?

When she looked at him she immediately turned away and placed her hands on the computer. Her head hung low as she leaned against it. Her shame for having tried to deceive him and the team rearing its head again upon seeing that same look of understanding on his face. "I lied," she whispered. "To you, to the team."

"Hey," he said with such warmth that it caught her off guard. "We all have our secrets," he continued to say as he placed his hand and her arm. She looked up at him then and gave him a look that read somewhere along the lines of seriously?

"Ok, ok," he laughed. "Some of us have more than others, but the point I'm trying to make is that it's about trying to keep an open mind."

The blonde couldn't help but smile at that. It seemed to be a recurring theme between them and oddly enough it was fitting. "Thank you."

"We are who we choose to be Artemis. Who we were before, it doesn't define us," he honestly replied. "You're one of us and you have been for a long time."

Gotham Academy

January 12,12:45 EST

"Is he doing what I think he's doing?" Asked Artemis as she watched Shawn walk across the courtyard toward a girl they all knew was named Annie. For days Babs and Dick had been trying to convince Shawn to talk to the girl and now it would seem that all their hard effort had paid off.

Babs looked up from her book and upon inspecting the scene before her answered, "I think so."

"Should we be worried?"

"No. I think he's got this," the redhead replied as the two watched Shawn tap the girl on the shoulder. She turned toward him and immediately smiled as her eyes settled on the origami crane the copper-haired boy had presented to her.

Artemis chuckled at the sight. "Wow. Didn't think he had it in him."

"I think he had a little help," Babs jokingly remarked, her head tilting to the right, as she looked straight at Dick who was watching the whole event from his spot beside the pillar. On his face a huge smile could be seen even from where they were sitting.

The blonde felt herself smirk at the sight as she continued to watch the two with interest. Shawn's talk with the girl had apparently gone according to plan, as she laughed at some joke unheard by them all. Her smile lighting up her whole face as she clasped her hands together and leaned forward. Her short dark haired swayed forward as she towered over him. The girl was a good foot and half taller than him but at the moment the look on Shawn's face made him seem infinitely taller. He seemed genuinely happy and that was in itself enough to make Artemis like the girl.

Annie brushed a stray dark hair out of her eyes and accepted the crane before leaving a chaste kiss to Shawn's cheek. The blonde could see from her perch on the table that his ears had turned bright red. "So?" She casually asked as her attention turned to Barbara.

"So what?"

"Have you asked him yet?"

"Asked who?" The red head questioned unenthusiastically, hoping to sound as uninterested as possible while she continued to try and read her book. She knew where this subject was headed and she really didn't want to talk about it.


Babs turned the page in her book. She refused to acknowledge whom the blonde was referring to. "I have no idea who you're talking about.

"Black hair. Blue eyes. Good with computers." Artemis listed off as her head tilted up to the sky. The warm rays of the sun shinning down on her as her hair moved gently in the breeze.

"You're going to have to be more specific," Babs calmly remarked.

"You know, trying to change the subject isn't going to make this stop."

Babs looked up from her book. "I'm not…" She stopped. She could practically feel the skeptical look Artemis was giving her. She groaned then, her frustration reaching the tipping point as she closed her book. "No."


Babs turned and gave Artemis an irritated look. "How about you? Have you asked anyone?" She questioned in a particularly hostile tone.

Artemis just grinned and waved her hand. "Dances aren't really my thing."

"Really? Now that's not shocking," she deadpanned.

"Still trying to change the subject."

"Fine. I haven't. Happy?"

Artemis looked down at her friend from her spot on the tabletop. Her expression losing its smugness as she nonchalantly replied, "I couldn't care either way."

"Then why do you keep bugging me about it if you don't care?"

"Do you?"

"What?" Babs asked in exasperation.


Barbara was about to snap back but stopped, the serious intent of her friend's question having caught her completely off guard as she sat there in silence. Do I care she thought? She looked up at her friend and was surprised by what she saw. She looked liked she truly cared. Her expression no longer teasing as it had been just moments before and then she shook her head. "You really got to stop doing that?"

"You still haven't answered my question," the blonde casually pointed out, happy to see that her friend was finally catching on to her ruse.

Babs sighed. "No. I… No," she said weakly shaking her head again.

"So you don't?"


"Then that's a yes?" The blonde smiled at the intriguing turn the conversation had taken. So maybe she hadn't learned after all, she thought. Babs had once again fallen back into her trap.

Babs's eyes narrowed as she looked back up at Artemis. "No," she quickly stated. Her irritation rising yet again at the joy her friend was having at her benefit. "You know what, I'm not saying anymore."

Artemis just raised a solitary eyebrow in response and silently studied the girl sitting before her. Her friend's annoyance only lending credence to what she had been thinking from the moment she had met the so called duo that was Dick and Babs. "You don't have to," she matter-of-factly stated. "I got all I needed to know."

The silence between the two was practically palpable as Babs's irritation about the conversation and its subject left the air feeling thick as she glared at Artemis who, at the moment, appeared entirely too smug about her little victory. An act that forced Babs to turn away as her anger mounted. She replayed the whole conversation in her head and couldn't believe that she had fallen for it… Again, she might as well add as she thought about it. Of all the people that I had to go and be friends with they just had to be the two most adept at getting under my skin. Babs sighed as her eyes fell upon the very subject of which this conversation was about.

Across the way Dick was adamantly talking to Shawn, probably congratulating him on a job well done, as the boy seemed successful in his venture to ask Annie out to the upcoming school dance. Her normally stoic friend, seemed to be walking on air, or at least to Dick and Babs he was. The small smile on his face and the pink tinged to his cheeks giving the quiet boy an air of life that was hardly ever visible before.

Slowly the redhead exhaled the breath she had been holding as she watched the two. The anger she felt breaking into pieces as she watched them. Her eyes settled on a certain raven-haired boy who had come to mean so much to her over the last several months. Even now after all this time she could still not deny that she did in fact care. Not so much about the dance she mentally corrected even if it would be nice to go for a change. No she cared about him. She cared about their friendship, and she cared about the way that they complemented each other, but most of all she the loved the mystery around him. He was so different from everybody else that it was of no wonder that she had fallen so hard without ever realizing it until it was to late. They were only just what they had always been and she would never risk that. She looked away from him and whispered, "I haven't found the right time."

Artemis gave her a curious look. "I'm sorry what was that?"

"I'm not saying it again."

"Suit your self. Though, if you ask me, now would probably be a good time."

"I'm not listening," Babs said in a singsong voice.

"Point completely missed," the blonde mimicked sarcastically as a devilish smile crept onto her face.

"Good time for what?"

"What?" Babs nearly shouted. Her blue yes glued to the sight of a confused Dick and Shawn who were now standing right behind her.


"Ask Babs," answered Artemis with a bemused expression.

Dick looked at her and then down at Babs. Her face stuck somewhere between irritated and embarrassed. Her cheeks flushed pink as she quickly hid her face in her scarf. All that could be seen above the sea green material was her furious ice blue eyes. "I missed something, haven't I?"

Artemis shrugged at his question and simply said, "Nope." Her smug grin directed directly at Babs.

Barbara narrowed her eyes to stilts in response to the blonde and then turned away. Her back turned to all of them as she angrily mumbled into her scarf. "Babs?" He gently asked as he moved to stand right in front of her. His hands buried deep in his pockets as he leaned forward and looked her in the eyes. "Babs?"

She sighed into her scarf. Now or never I suppose she mentally told herself and spoke up. Dick tilted his head at her and she felt herself deflate even more at the thought of having to ask him again. "I was wondering if you wanted to go the dance?"

Dick looked momentarily stunned by her words. "The school dance," he said to be clear.


"With me?"

"Yes." Is that so hard to believe, she thought.

"Is this a date?"

"No!" She said with such force that Dick almost felt the need to laugh. She was so nervous, he thought.

"So its a not a date?"


His face fell at her words. "Then I'm confused."

"What? Why?" She asked. She had not been expecting that. Did he actually think that this was a date? When did this happen, her mind mentally screamed as she studied him.

"Why isn't it a date?" He quipped. His eyes alight with joy at the sight of her confusion, which quickly schooled itself to an almost impassive mask.

"You're joking with me aren't you?"

"Maybe," he laughed as the act earned him a raised eyebrow from his friend. "Ok I was. But in answer to your first question I'd love to go to the dance… With you."

Barbara gave him a skeptical look. "Really?"


Babs smiled at his answer. The school bell ringing in the background as she said, "Its not a date."

"If you say so."

"Its a non- date," she reaffirmed. He just shrugged his shoulders and then offered his hand. Babs took a hold of it and pulled herself up, swinging her backpack over her shoulder as she walked away with him. Her book held securely to her chest as she looked back and waved to her remaining friends.

Artemis watched the two as they disappeared behind a corner. She held out her fist and felt a solid bump as it connected with Shawn's. "Ok. I am impressed," she said to him. Shawn just looked at her and nodded his head. His plan had worked and the two remained completely unaware of their secret scheming.

Gordon Residence

January 22, 18:10 EST

"Six o'clock."

"Got it."

The room was completely overrun with enemy combatants. Each step taken throughout the facility had led to one bad room after another. Their enemies began to constantly flank them as they proceeded to the rendezvous. The remaining members of their squad already at the breaching point waiting for them.

"Doorway on the left."

"Take it on my count. Three. Two. One," he shouted as he cleared the corner, sweeping the room in one fluid motion as they continued forward.

"Frag out!" The second voice yelled. Behind them the force of the explosion forced their enemy back. The monstrous beasts growled in frustration at the loss. "I'm running out of explosives."

They rounded another corner and stepped into a large cavernous room. Their teammates were already waiting for them at the end of the room as they held off the hordes of attacking monsters in front of a large marble door. "Great."

"Nah. This will be fun."


"Come on this'll be easy," he confidently answered and barreled forward. Unlike his teammate, who ran with abandon toward the enemy, he moved with purpose. His path led him around the side of the largest group of beasts. He ducked and covered as they came at him. He dodged and attacked, placing explosive charges along the stone columns as he moved. Each one strategically placed in order to maximize the blast.

"Get down!"

He threw himself to the left and rolled. The offending creature having collapsed to the ground beside him with a large gaping hole in it's back. "Time to go!" He called out, jumping to his feet.

"On my way!"

The two ran. Each cutting their enemies down as they raced to the end of the room. The remaining beasts all chasing after them as they converged on the line held by the team.

"Duck and cover!" He commanded as they both scrambled over the line. In his hand a detonator beeped red until his finger flipped the trigger. The small light turning green before the whole room was shrouded in dust and blood. By the time it cleared the whole squad was facing forward.

"That worked?"

"Was there ever a doubt?"

His teammate gave him a skeptical look.


They both turned to face the others. Their squad looking no worse for wear from what they could see. Behind them the marble doors had been opened. "Time to go," he said as they funneled into the next room. "I need these doors closed!"

Outside the door another swarm of creatures were already charging toward the door. Blasts of fire and acid shot through the room as they neared.

"Sir they won't close."

"Hold the line!"

"You two provide cover fire."

"No!" He yelled.


"You'll kill everyone."


"Do you want to win this or not?" He asked.


"You, work on closing the doors," he said as he pointed to one squad mate. "You cover the civilians," he ordered the team's heaviest hitter who swung his weapon around and walked off.

"That can't be right."

"Do you want to do this?" He asked.

The other sighed and begrudgingly said, "No."

"Ok then. You. You take alpha squad here and reform the line. Nothing gets past that door. And you, you're coming with us," he finished and then lead his team further into the labyrinth.

"That worked." James Jr. stated.

Dick just gave him a lopsided grin as the stats for the level pulled up on the screen. His characters having leveled up four times as the game listed out his kills, accuracy, and creativity points. Next to his chart, Barbara's little brother's character leveled up one rank. His accuracy rate much lower than that of his own score. That being said, the one thing that mattered the most to him was the completion score in the corner. The score was based on the number of artifacts and data-pads found but also on the your ability to keep all your teammates alive. In this round they had found all available discoverable items and had given out the right orders in order to ensure the lives of their squad.

"Awesome," James Jr. said.

Dick just shrugged his shoulders at the praise. The game had been a fun way to pass the time as he waited. Babs had disappeared upstairs some time ago and he had yet to hear from her. He supposed that at some point he may have to go and rescue her but right now saving the galaxy with her brother seemed more appealing than fending off her mother.

He had been at the Gordon residence for the last couple of hours. His suit already on and amazingly not crinkled as it had been hanging in his school locker all day. The ride home with Babs and her mother had been entertaining. Her mother was constantly telling him stories about her daughter while Babs looked like she was desperately trying to sink into whatever hole that would take her as far away as from this moment. By that time they pulled into the driveway, Babs had bolted out of the car. Leaving her mother to lead him to the living room before she too bolted up the stairs.

It was here where he found her brother playing the game. On his first round through he had only scored a forty seven percent completion rate and Dick couldn't help but give pointers the whole time he tried to play through the next round. Soon enough he had been given a controller and was added into the game. They flew through the levels and James Jr. gained a much-needed boost to his overall numbers as they played.

"I've never had the whole team survive," the younger Gordon said as the front door to the house could faintly be heard opening over the dramatic music from the game.

"I'm not too late am I?" A voiced that belonged to the commissioner asked.

From his spot in the living room Dick could see Mrs. Gordon walk by. The clicking of her heels echoed down the hall as she headed towards the front door. Seconds later she appeared in the doorway and stared at her son. "Ok mister, fun times over."

"Awe… Mom do I have to?" James Jr. whined.

"Yes" she replied. "A deals a deal. You get to play your video games until your father gets home."

"But mom we're saving the galaxy here! I can't quite now." He pleaded. His attention turning to Dick with a look that practically screamed help me out.

Dick looked at the boy then up at his mother and casually added, "The fate of the world is in his hands."

"Well the fate of the world is going to have to wait until after he finishes his homework now come on."

The boy gave a dramatic sigh and reluctantly turned off the game. He stood up from his spot on the couch and headed towards the doorway. His mother ruffled his hair as he walked by. Followed seconds later by Commissioner Gordon walking in. He stopped by his wife and kissed her on the cheek before taking a seat in the lazy-boy chair to the right of Dick.

"Behave." Mrs. Gordon warned as she pointed to her husband, giving him one last firm look before disappearing out of sight.

From that moment on the two sat in silence. It had to have been at least eight minutes since Mrs. Gordon left the room. Meanwhile Dick looked everywhere but at Babs father, who was currently starring at him with such intensity that it made him slightly uncomfortable.

"So this is where we have that really awkward conversation isn't it?" He jokingly asked in an attempt to alleviate the tension in the room.

The elder Gordon's just continued to look at him from over the top of his newspaper. His face impassive as he grumbled, "Mm-huh."

Dick felt his eyebrows move up in response. The Commissioner lifted his chin up slightly as he continued to read his paper. The light provided from the table lamp reflecting off his glasses, making it harder for the teen to read him. He's probably doing that on purpose Dick thought. He could still hardly believe that this was actually happening. On any other night the commissioner would have welcomed him into the house without any of this hostility but now it was different because it was a date. Scratch that, it was not a date he mentally reminded himself. It was a non-date as Babs had repeatedly said to him but apparently her father thought otherwise. Dick shook his head and lightly chuckled at the hilarity that was the situation that he had found himself in before looking away. "Yeah," he drawled out. "This is exactly how awkward I thought it would be."

The commissioner just turned the page of the newspaper he was supposedly reading. His glasses still reflecting the harsh light from off the lamp continued to leave the teen without confirmation that the elder Gordon was glaring daggers at him.

"Dad!" Babs exclaimed as she walked into the room. Her hands busily working to smooth out her wine-red dress as she moved. Her eyes narrowed in on her father as the two stared each other down. "Really?" She asked in such a way that Dick knew that she suspected that he was undergoing another one of her father's silent interrogations.

"I haven't done anything sweetheart." He answered while folding the newspaper shut. He then placed it on the small end table and smiled warmly at the sight of his daughter. "You look beautiful."

Babs's expression softened at that. "Thank you, dad," she replied.

"There you are."

Her mother suddenly appeared in the room. She immediately walked up to her daughter and begun working on her hair. "Will you stand still?" She asked as Babs tried to pull away.

"Its fine."

"Honey. I only want you to look nice for your date."

"Its not a date," Babs corrected in such a way that Dick knew she had been saying that way too often recently, the annoyance in her voice clearly audible as he noticed her father chuckle.

Unseen by her daughter, her mother just rolled her eyes. "Sure it isn't. Now stand still. I'm almost done," she added as she pulled Babs hair back in order to pin it. "Jim, get the camera."

"Mom," Babs whined.

"There. See, was that so bad?"

"I think she looks lovely," Dick answered as he smirked at his friend. Barbara just narrowed her eyes at him and he responded in kind by winking at her.

"Thank you, Richard," her mother said in a pleased tone.

Somewhere further inside the house the commissioner shouted, "Got the camera."

Barbara palmed her face in face in her hands, mentally wishing for something, anything to stop this nightmare from continuing. Dick laughed from his spot on the couch and moved to stand beside her. "Hear that? He's got the camera." He teased.

"I'll get you for this. Do you realize that?" She muttered under her breath as she resurfaced from behind her hands.

Dick just leaned in towards her and grinned. "I wouldn't expect any less."

For a few brief seconds Babs felt it again. Her heart beating faster as she took in just how close he was to her. His smile, it made her feel the familiar flutter of butterflies in her stomach as she eyed him. Maybe a date wouldn't be so bad she thought as the corner of her lips turned upwards and then… A flash interrupted everything.

"Oh that's perfect. Tell me you got it?" Her mother cried.


"What?" She answered as she looked up from the camera her husband was holding. "Oh my little girl is going to her first dance."

"First dance?"

"Please stop," Barbara begged, unable to look at the teen standing beside her. She just knew that he was having the time of his life watching her squirm.

"I got it!" Her father proudly exclaimed, tilting the camera so that his wife could get a better view of the screen.

Please let this end, Babs thought as her gaze shifted from Dick to her parents and just when she thought that things couldn't get any worse a sole sound became her very salvation. "Oh look at that," she awkwardly chimed in as the doorbell rang once more. "Our ride's here."

"One more picture."

"No time. Got to go," Babs called out to her mother as she grabbed Dick by the hand and led him towards the door. "Mom. Dad. Don't wait up."

Her mother smiled at the pair. "Have a nice date you too."

Barbara sighed. Her shoulders dropping as she stopped just outside the front door. "Its not a date," she maintained in an strained voice.

Her mother just gave her a skeptical look. "Whatever you say, dear," she voiced in a saccharine tone.

Totally feeling the aster Dick thought as he watched Babs shift through a myriad of expressions ranging from embarrassment, to anger, and finally annoyance in the course of a couple seconds. "I'll have her back by 11:00 sir," he said earning him another scathing glare from Commissioner Gordon. Dick swallowed nervously and corrected, "10:00?"

"Be nice," Mrs. Gordon admonished as she playfully smacked her husband's arm.

The commissioner just raised his chin and like before the light reflecting off his glasses made it hard to see that the man was probably still glaring daggers at him. Dick did his best not to fidget and then finally after a few seconds the elder Gordon smiled and waved at his daughter. "Have fun sweetheart."

"Ok," Babs answered as she pulled Dick out the door and then quickly closed it in a manner that was somewhat forceful. "I didn't think that was ever going to end."

Dick just gave her a bemused smile and said, "Wow."

"Don't you say another word," she ordered as she spun on her heels to face him.

The raven-haired teen just chuckled and replied, "After you," as he gestured toward the limo.

Babs rolled her eyes and walked down the steps. Beside the limo, the driver opened up her car door and she stepped inside followed a few seconds later by her non-date date.

Gotham City

January 22, 18:07 EST

The intercom was shut off and Artemis nearly growled in frustration as she looked through the gate at the high-end townhouse that belonged to the Sharp family. The very family whom she had been trying to speak to for quite some time as they too had vanished from the city nearly three months back. It was only recently that the blonde had become aware of the rumors that they had returned from whatever well paid hole that they had disappeared into.

Ugh. I failed… Again she mentally chastised. This was the third house on the list that Babs had given her and just like the other two she had failed to get any more information about what they suspected was going on.

Artemis turned and walked along the aged stonewall that surrounded the residence. The creeping of vines cascaded down the side as if frozen in mid fall as they clung to the stones. The few stones that were visible had a sort of green tint to them as the years had worn down the barrier to its current state.

As the blonde continued along the wall the wind would occasionally whip dead leaves across her path. The loud sounds of leaves crunching underfoot echoed harshly down the nearly empty street as she walked. The few houses that showed signs of life were visible just barely through the thick cover of trees as the faint warm lights from within shined through their empty branches. Only a scant few held strong against the bitter cold of winter in Gotham. Their leaves no longer vibrant green but instead a faded brown or orange.

Artemis sighed and pulled her grey jacket tighter around herself. Her arms now crossed over her chest in an effort to ward off the winter chill that had settled in her bones. As she continued down the sidewalk she looked up and down the street. Her dark eyes scanned the neighborhood one last time for life before quickly scaling the vine-covered wall in one fluid motion.

When she landed on the other side she made very little noise. Only the crunching of leaves announced her arrival in this back corner of the yard. Crouched down and alert her eyes and ears worked to recon the immediate area. After a few seconds of silence and no signs of anyone or any thing becoming aware of her presence the blonde stood up. Of course, she thought sarcastically as she brushed off her hands. It would be a maze back here.

All around her walls of faded green climbed high into air as she looked for an exit. She kicked the leaves at her feet aside to see a worn path that curved forward into a wall of shrubbery. She followed it forward and was surprised to see that the path continue forward. The sharp degree of the turn had practically made the exit invisible from where she had previously been standing. Ahead of her the path continued forward, twisting, and turning, as it offered up multiple different routes to take. One route opened up into a small pond that was beautifully situated between two large angel statues that faced out towards her. In each angel's right hand hung a golden lantern that shone brightly upon the water creating an almost outwardly scene. At another opening she found a large ornate stone bench that sat alone at its center.

This is going to take forever, the blonde thought as continued to follow what she considered to be the main artery of the maze. Her patience finally wearing thin by the time she heard the sounds of humming from further up ahead. Slowly she followed it around another couple of turns, each step making the sound increase louder and louder until finally she spotted another opening.

Cautiously she made her approach. Her back pressed firmly against the green wall of the maze as she carefully placed each of her steps to ensure that no leaves crunched as she neared the entrance. Artemis slowly edged around the corner. Her head just barley peeking out the other side as she spied the presence of another. Inside the clearing, a girl sat upon an old rope swing that connected to a large oak tree. The girl's back turned away from her as she continued to hum her sad tune completely unaware that she had a visitor. "Mallory?" Artemis asked in a cautious tone. Her voice soft and her posture relaxed in order to make her presence seem less intrusive or threatening.

The girl's head snapped up at the sound of her voice. Her whole body tensing as she turned her head to look over her shoulder. For a brief few seconds Artemis felt relief at her find and then quickly banished them upon seeing the scared green eyes of the frightened teen before her "Go away," Mallory whispered as her head quickly turned away as she faced forward again.

"Mallory I…"

"You're not supposed to be here."

"I know," Artemis calmly replied as she slowly approached the swing. "But…"

"Go. Away," the girl emphasized again. Her voice it was just barley above a whisper as she ducked her head allowing her platinum blonde hair to fall forward to conceal her face.

Artemis sighed as came to a stop to the right of the swing. From her vantage point all she could see of Mallory was the back of her head. "No. Not until we talk."



Mallory shook her head in response. "I… I can't."


From her position Artemis could clearly see the girl shaking as she held on to the swing. Her timid voice sounding so broken as she said, "You wouldn't understand."

"Try me," offered Artemis sincerely hoping that she did this right. She was never really good at being there for other people, and well she wasn't really open with her own feelings herself so being an emotional shoulder to cry on was definitely not one of her strong suits. Whatever had happened to Mallory, the teen had been left emotionally torn to pieces and the blonde knew that she had to approach this carefully or the girl could completely shut down.

Meanwhile Mallory continued to gaze down as she sat motionlessly on the swing. The breeze gently swaying her hair making what little light offered by the lights embedded in the ground giving it a shimmering appearance. When Artemis moved to stand in front of her she just turned her head to the side and continued to use her hair as a means of hiding her face. "Why do you even care?" She solemnly asked.

Oh crap, she thought. What do I say? "Mallory I… Um," she faltered as her mind tried to come up with anything that would sound like a reasonable answer. "We go to school together. At Gotham Academy," she nervously added feeling the need to smack herself over the lame excuse of a reason that she had just blurted out. Really? That was the best that I could do? Come on get your head in the game.

Mallory blew out a breath and said, "No."


The girl continued to look away from the blonde, "I said no." She repeated again. There was an almost worried tinge to her voice. A slight shaking quality that seemed to be building the longer they talked.

Artemis considered reaching out to her but reframed last second. Instead she simply said, "Mallory I just I want to help."

There was silence after that. The pregnant pause in the conversation left Artemis feeling like maybe this hadn't been such a good idea as she watched the girl. She could now visibly see the whites in her hands as she gripped the swing as if her life depended on it. The blonde couldn't help but compare the girl to the leaves she could still see clinging to the old oak tree. At any moment she could just blow away at the slightest shift in the winds and then she spoke.

"Help?" She asked sounding both incredulous and pained. The quiver in her voice becoming more pronounced with each passing second, "You think you can help?"


Mallory shook her head again. "You can't. No one can."

Artemis took another step towards the swing before firmly saying, "I know what happened." It was at those words that Mallory looked up at her. The look on her face nearly made Artemis take a step back as the overall shock of the sight before her rendered her momentarily speechless. Mallory, the once cheerful girl in the yearbook photo Babs had provided for her in the packet, was not the same person sitting here before her. Her long platinum hair had been concealing the extremely taught cheeks and red eyes of a girl that looked haunted. Her face pale and weary, as purple bruises under her eyes made them appear sunken in. How long had she been like this? How long had she been allowed to suffer like this? Artemis took a deep breath and unclenched her fists as she blew out her anger at the sight of what someone had done to this poor girl. She had to know what happened. She had to know how to fix this and with that she decided to lay her cards out on the table. "I know you were taken."

"What?" Mallory cried out.

The look of panic in her green eyes and the way her whole body went rigid at the reveal was the final piece of evidence Artemis needed. The reason why these people where removing so much money so quickly was because their kids had been held as collateral. Babs was right. Kids at Gotham Academy were being taken. "I know your parents paid to get you back."


"And I know that you're afraid and that you feel all alone in this but you're not," Artemis answered as Mallory looked up at her. For a few seconds silence passed between them but to Artemis she could clearly see the build of emotions clouding the girl's eyes until finally she broke. Sobs racked her body as she leaned down again to allow her hair to conceal her face. Her hands still gripping the ropes as she shook from waves of despair that had her sent adrift.

"I was leaving a party when they grabbed me…" She said through her tears. "They held me in the dark and I… I was so afraid."

Artemis waited until her sobbing began to stop and then calmly asked, "Did you see who they were?"

"No," answered Mallory who was doing her best to piece herself back together again. Her body was still shaking but her posture seemed more relaxed now as she tried to level out her breathing.

"Did you get an idea of where they took you?"


"Did you…"

"No! Whatever, you're going to ask its no. Ok?" She finished her voice no longer shaking out of fear but out of rage. She had been held in the dark for so long, both figuratively and literally, and now when presented with the truth of those terrifying days her sorrow turned to anger.

Artemis held her hands up in a placating gesture trying her best to help Mallory quell her anger. "Ok."

Mallory looked up at her. "You know what? I don't think I can talk about this anymore," she practically seethed.

Artemis stepped back. "Mallory."


The blonde took another step back, "Anything," she said as she continued to put more distance between them. "Anything you could tell me. Anything at all…"

Mallory shook her head, "Please. Just go."

The silence between them as Mallory glared at Artemis told the blonde that it was over. She stepped back one last time as she looked at the broken girl before her and wished that there were something she could have done to prevent this. We were too late she thought. I was too late. "Ok," she replied as she turned around and began walking away. "Ok, Mallory. I…I know I'm sorry doesn't cut it. Not after what you've been through but I hope you do find what ever peace you it is you're looking for out here."

From over her shoulder she could see the girl's expression begin to change. It was as if the air had been drained out of her as the wind continued to blow her hair across her face. Her eyes darting back and forth before she called out "Stop."

Artemis halted her steps and slowly turned around. The anger in Mallory had gone and it had left her completely fragile. The cracks in her psyche were once more becoming more apparent. "I need to tell you something. Something that I… " She stopped, her voice shaking hard as she fought to gain control.

"Its all right," Artemis gently stated as she walked towards the swing and then leaned down in front of her. The cold emanating off the ground sunk through the denim of her jeans as she listened.

Mallory began to violently shake her head. "No. No you don't understand. It's not alright!" she nearly sobbed. "I wanted to say something. I…I really did. They told me that I shouldn't. That it wasn't safe. But I… I can't take it anymore. I can't!"

Artemis waited as the girl once again began to try and hold off her emotional breakdown. "Tell me," she said as tears began to roll down Mallory's cheeks.

She loudly sniffled. "It wasn't just me," she sorrowfully admitted. "They took others too. They kept us in the dark, waited until our parents paid our ransoms and told us not to say a thing. That we were not to get anyone else involved or they… they would come back," she just barely whispered.

"Mallory I…"

"Stop. I need…" She sighed and then straightened up. "If I don't say this now then I never will and I can't… I can't live with this anymore. If I didn't say anything and something hap…" Mallory stopped and closed her eyes. Her hands finally let go of the swing as they placed them in her lap. Her fingers were interlocking in an effort to find some last reserve of strength. "I'm barely holding it together as it is."

"Ok," Artemis softly answered as she hesitantly placed her hand on Mallory's.

"I heard something. Something I know I wasn't supposed to but I was so tried," she confessed now looking Artemis in the eyes. "I could barley stay awake. And I think they thought I was already out."

Artemis tilted her head to the side as she processed this new information. "They drugged you?"

"I think so."

"What did you hear Mallory?"

Mallory looked down at the hand that rested on her own. "We were practice runs," she said more to herself as an effort to reassure her about what she was about to say.


"They were just using us. Getting ready for the main event," she sadly spat out.

Artemis lightly squeezed the girl's hand, "Mallory what did you hear?" She asked again trying to draw the girl's attention back to her.

"We're not who they wanted."

"Who is?" Artemis inquired. She had to know. She was to late to do anything for Mallory or the others but she wouldn't be too late again. She could still save whomever these guys were targeting next and with that last thought Artemis's world came to halting stop as Mallory finally answered her.

"Grayson. They said Grayson."

Gotham City

January 22, 18:33 EST

"You know you didn't have to get a limo right?" He asked his companion in the seat next to him.

Barbara just gave a small smile as she looked out the tinted car window and said, "I asked you to the dance. Its only fair I provide the ride."

"Still there is like a dozen different cars available at the manor."

"And Alfred would be driving anyone of them wouldn't he?" She countered as she brought her attention back to him.

Dick grinned. "That, you are correct on."

Barbara couldn't help but feel the corner of her own lips pull up higher, "I figured I'd spare you the embarrassment of another round of interrogation."

"You know you're dad really didn't like me tonight," Dick stated as they stopped at a red light. Outside the streets of Gotham were nearly deserted as most people probably felt the need to stay indoors on this cold January evening.

Babs grimaced at the memory of father when she entered the living room earlier. Dick wasn't kidding when he said that her father didn't like him and she knew why. "Yeah I noticed that."

"I think he thinks that this is a date."

"It's not!" She loudly said again. Really how many times do I have to say this, she thought. First there was Dick, and then her mother could not stop talking about her so called date to her father who no matter what she said didn't believe her when she said that Dick was just a friend.

"I know. I know," he surrendered in an effort to not antagonize her, "Its a non-date."

Barbara breathed in a sigh of relief. At least he was finally getting it. "Exactly."

Dick couldn't help but chuckle at that and was rewarded with a perplexed expression as she asked, "What?"

"Its probably a good thing we're not actually dating," He answered with a casual flip of his hand. "Or else he'd really be upset."

Barbara did her best not to cringe as she awkwardly laughed "Yeah."

"Thanks though."

"For what?" She asked.

"For looking out for me."

She smiled at that. Somehow we always come back full circle she thought. "Well someone's got to."

Dick just grinned and then looked out his widow at her remark. We really are something she mentally said to herself as she surreptitiously watched him from the corner of her eye. Again she felt that familiar flutter in her stomach as spied on him, using this silent reprieve to take in his whole appearance for the first time tonight. His outfit was black on black. The only color in his whole ensemble was the vibrant red tie that was tucked securely into his vest and somehow against all reason it made his blue eyes pop even more. She smiled shyly as she began to wonder if somehow this complicated relationship of theirs would ever be simpler and then she noticed him looking at her in the reflection of the window. Crap! Babs quickly turned away and felt her face begin to heat up as pink blossomed across her cheeks. Her hands restlessly sitting in her lap as she awaited whatever remark he was about to throw her way. Instead though, all she got was a wink and then they lapsed back into silence. "Thank you."

"For what?" He inquired as he turned to face her.

"For coming to tonight. With me... To the dance."

Dick gave her a sly smile and leaned in towards her. "You know I meant what I said earlier. You do look lovely."

"You're looking pretty dapper yourself," she replied rising up to his challenge as she too leaned in towards him. Turn about was fair play she thought. Only a few inches separated the two as they looked into each other's eyes. Surprisingly, the moment wasn't in any way awkward. Babs felt a rising of hope in heart and Dick well he couldn't believe that she hadn't pulled back or given him some sarcastic remark. The redhead watched the slightest shift course through his blue orbs. A look almost akin to confusion or even recognition passed within them and then a soft chime caught them both unaware. The two teens leaned away, both of them still unsure of what exactly had transpired when another different tone pierced the tense silence.

"I… I better get that," Babs lamely offered as she quickly looked away from him. In her small clutch bag her phone chimed again as she reached for it. The small electronic device showed a missed call on the front screen. Beside her she noticed that he too was reaching for his phone.

Babs quickly entered her four-digit security number and then ran her finger across the bottom of the glass screen. When the phone unlocked a text message from Artemis popped up: It read urgent. Urgent? Babs mind began to run through a million different scenarios in which this word applied and before she could find out why a flash of light momentary drew her attention up.

The sudden impact sent her slamming against the seatbelt, her body hitting the door before the safety device could lock her into place. Barbara's vision blackened as her head bounced off the glass pane to her right leaving her stunned. The roar of metal bending and crunching left a ringing in her ears. Her chest burned and her head ached as she tried to regain control of her breathing. She quickly began blinking her eyes in an attempt to keep her vision from fading as she vainly tried to focus on the teen sitting to her left. Dick was slumped against his seatbelt. A streak of crimson ran down the side of his face, the source of it hidden somewhere above his hairline.

"Dick," she weakly called. Her voice just barely above a whisper as she reached out to him. Her hand shook as it caught his arm. The fabric twisted in her grip as she pulled on it but it was to no avail. Dick did not stir, his head just lolled to the side.

Please be ok she thought when an unmistakable sound of a gunshot pierced the cold night air. Barbara froze at the sound. Her whole body tensing as she held her breath. Her heart beat wildly out of control as she heard the sounds of movement outside of the car. The heavy fall of footsteps drumming in her ears as the prickling of panic began to take hold within her. She couldn't move. She had to move. Snap out of it her mind yelled as she fought to overcome the encroaching darkness threatening to consume her very being.

"Dick, please," she urgently said again. Blood dripped off his chin and onto his jacket as he sat unmoving beside her. The only sign of life in him was the steady rise and fall of his chest. It was then that Babs saw a dark figure appear beside his door. She tried to scream but before she could a hand covered her mouth. She struggled against him as she felt him pull her towards her own door. She twisted and squirmed as best as she could but the effort was already having an effect on her. The fog around her mind thickened to the point of leaving her weightless in an empty expanse of darkness that slowly crept its way across her vision. Her world finally faded to black as she watched Dick get pulled out of the wreckage and into the night.

Wayne Manor

January 22, 19:02 EST

A beeping thundered throughout the large dark cavern. Its constant beeping creating an echo that alerted the sole presence in the room that stopped his dusting and looked up to the large monitor before him. The normal soft glow of the screen changed as a map of the grounds appeared before him. A sensor had been tripped and then seconds later a secondary window opened as a closed circuit image showed a figure in the mist moving. Then another light lit up on the map, followed quickly by another.

"Oh my," Alfred said as he quickly retreated up the stairs and out of sight. Behind him, another alert on the screen appeared on the map. Next to it the corresponding window showed a smaller figure running across the grounds. The computer instantly highlighted the object in the intruder's hands. The image enlarging as it scanned over the weapon until finally an image of a bow took center screen. The weapon's handler firing an arrow that instantly stopped one of the intruders before she ran up and kicked him in the face knocking him out cold.

The camera followed the subject across the house grounds, her path weaving across the field until she came upon another figure. It took only seconds for her to bring him down. Her trick arrow exploding in mid-flight before letting loose a net that captured the man. As she ran past him she grabbed another arrow and threw it at the ground beside the net. The instant it struck a green smoke dispersed into the air, rending her target unconscious. "Designation: Artemis B07," the computer sounded.

"Hey," Artemis called out to another figure she spotted out in the mist. He spun around at her voice and faced her. The man's eyes widening from beneath his black mask as he turned to flee, the gun in his hand blindly firing at her as he ran.

"Crap," she said to herself as she gave chase. Beside her the earth would occasionally blast up as a hail of bullets were still fired at her. The man's shot were wildly flying in every which direction as he ran.

Just up ahead another figure appeared in the mist. His silhouette was all she could see of him. And it just keeps on getting better she frustratingly thought as her eyes shifted from the newcomer to the man she was already chasing. Time to make a choice. She pulled up her bow and in one smooth motion had an arrow ready to fire when she heard a familiar voice.

"I wouldn't, if I were you," demanded a man with an English accent. In his hands the archer could see what looked to be a large gun, possibly a rifle.

The intruder stopped in his tracks. His back turned to Artemis as if he had completely forgotten about her in light of the new threat standing before him giving her ample time to sneak up behind him. She tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Hi." Her bow swinging up as it connected solidly with the man's head, cold clocking him.

The intruder flew back upon the hit. His body it impacted the wet earth with a loud thump. Artemis kicked his gun away before lightly prodding the man's side with her boot. He didn't stir. Good.

Artemis looked up to the sound of someone clearing his throat. Slowly he stepped out of the fog and the archer couldn't help but grin at the sight before her. In his hands the gun that he had been holding appeared to actually be some sort of coat rack. She sighed. "Jeeves, we got problems."

Alfred looked at the teen hero and then glanced down at the unconscious masked man. "Follow me," he said before turning away.

So this chapter was really long. It originally was two separate chapters but I combined them a long time ago in order to get to that prologue faster, which by the way is just around the corner!(Happy Dance time!) That being said some sections didn't make it through to the final cut which was sad but overall they did not have much of an impact on the story.

Now onto the song that inspired this chapter or at least it acted as my muse while I was writing it. The song was called the One Republic Melody by the Royal Sons. I highly recommend checking it out on youtube.

Now onto questions:

FuzzyBee013:There was originally a segment dedicated to Babs after performance where she asked Dick where he was for the holidays but sadly I had to drop it in order to move this story forward. As for your other question I would really like to cover all the episodes that were involved in the Invasion storyline but first I would really like to cover what I think happened in those missing five years. So basically what I am saying is that I really am considering a sequel to this story that is all about what happened between seasons 1 and 2.

Now back to the YJ comics, if there is any Dick and Babs shippers out there then you need to seriously get your hand on issue #25! Its worth it!

And if you are still reading this then you are truly awesome. Thank you so much for sticking with me and this story. I hope to have the next chapter up as soon humanly possible. Also, please review. It would really, really mean a lot to me if you did. So once again, PLEASE REVIEW!