Artemis has reason to believe that Robin(I), the Boy Wonder, attends Gotham Academy as well. All she needs is evidence. She enlists the help of none other than Dick Grayson to track him down. Trolling commences.
Inspired from the Young Justice TV series. I don’t own any characters.
It was after she ran into him for the third time at the telephone booth in the back alley that acted as a zeta-beam transport to Mt. Justice that Artemis began to believe a theory that had formed in her brain: Robin, Boy Wonder, went to her school. The first time this happened, the idea hadn’t even occurred to her. After all, Gotham was Batman and Robin’s city. It wasn’t so strange that he was there as much as she was. The second time, when she had raced over as soon as school had let out and after a particularly difficult week full of tests she had thought it strange that Robin seemed to be waiting for her to arrive looking almost as weary as she did.
“Mid-terms, huh? They’re a killer,” he had said with a sympathizing half-smile/half-grimace before entering the telephone booth without so much as asking why she was in Gotham again.
That comment had sown the seed of suspicion into her mind, but it hadn’t been the downpour that had caused it to sprout. It was that time of year for mid-terms and Gotham Academy wasn’t the only school in Gotham. It wasn’t until their third “coincidental” meeting that caused Artemis to truly wonder about Robin’s secret identity. Although, it wasn’t so much as them running into each other at the telephone booth again as much as it was what happened after they both had zeta-beamed to Mt. Justice.
When they both pulled a bag of lemon squares out, Artemis’ from within her quiver and Robin’s from inside his utility belt?
How the heck did he fit those in there and just what else did he have stored on him? Artemis wondered baffled.
“Made these in Home Ec,” they had said practically in unison. “Anyone want so what?”
They had narrowed eyes at the other’s lemon squares before assessing each other with twin scrutinizing gazes.
“So, Arty, you take Home Ec, too?” Robin had asked casually. Almost too casually.
“Yeah, ’cause I’m a girl,” Artemis had said defensively, leaving out the private details of her mother insisting her to take that extra-curriculum instead of Woodshop. “What’s your excuse?”
Robin didn’t even pause to blink with a response. “I get to be the Alpha Male in a room full of hormonal, pubescent females for a full forty-five minutes and when I ask my cooking partner if they would like me to coat their strawberry tart with my vanilla frosting, the teacher awards us a freakin’ ‘A’,” the little troll had the nerve to cross his arms and grin impishly at her. “Beat that.”
Artemis had clenched her lower jaw and was boring a hole through him by then, but not because he was annoying as hell (although he was). Because her Home Economics class had made strawberry tarts the other day.
Hmmm, strawberry tarts one day, lemon squares the next and both she and Robin took Home Economics? What about that mid-term comment she had all but dismissed from her mind? Plus the fact that she and Robin almost always bumped into each other at the telephone booth? Could it be possible? Could Robin attend the same school as her?
“Daaaaamn iiiiit!” Wally had interrupted her train of thoughts with a despairing moan as he had gripped his hair with his hands. “Why did I choose Woodshop over Home Ec? Whyyyyy?”
It was no use simply asking Robin where he went to school. He’d pull the “secret identity is crucial and Batman will bury you alive if I so much as hint about it” card.
Artemis was going to get to the bottom of this no matter how long it took.
Oh, and she had also decided she wasn’t going to take Woodshop next semester. She didn’t want to have anything in common with Kid Doofus ever.
She had arrived at Gotham Academy Monday morning with a determined obsession that proved powerful enough that even it didn’t go by unnoticed.
“Listen, is something bothering you?” Bette Kane asked her when they sat down at the cafeteria during lunchtime. “You’ve seemed distracted all day.”
Artemis winced. Now would be a good time to make up some lame excuse like “oh, it’s nothing, I just haven’t been feeling well today” or “I’ve decided to become a psychologist so I’ve been studying people’s behavioral patterns and social interactions”, but she really didn’t feel like lying to her new friend. Besides lying was what her father and sister excelled at. She didn’t want to be like them ever. She felt bad enough as it was not telling her team about her family background that was lying by omission.
Perhaps, she could spare a little bit of the truth on her theory. Maybe Kane could even give her a few pointers.
“Have you ever wondered on who the Dynamic Duo really are?” Artemis asked.
“Sure, who hasn’t?” Bette chuckled. “They’re our city’s famous super-stars. Everyone wants to know who is behind the masks.”
“Batman Batman would be hard to pin down, I guess. But Robin ” Artemis chose her words carefully. “Robin is a kid around our age, right?”
Bette had stopped her light-hearted chuckling. Now she was frowning slightly. “Yeees,” she said slowly. Her fingers on the right hand started to drum the table-top’s surface in a twitchy, unsteady rhythm.
“It’s just a silly notion I got into my head last night,” Artemis said quickly, hoping Bette didn’t think she was a fangirl or something ridiculous as that. “I mean Robin has to attend school just like the rest of us unless he’s homeschooled. But if he’s not… what are the chances he might be going here?”
Bette didn’t say anything for several seconds. Her expression had gone blank. Then the corners of her lips turned up ever so lightly. She seemed amused? “Yes, I suppose that would make anyone distracted if they thought long and hard enough about it. Robin, the Boy Wonder, right here at Gotham Academy in cognito. Why, he might be in this very room, this very instant,” Bette whispered breathlessly, leaning forward across the table until her face was a few inches away from Artemis’, “right under our noses.”
“I know right!” Artemis burst out excited that her new friend believed her theory. “I’ve been trying to figure out who fits Robin’s profile. You know: black-haired, athletic ” she broke off as Bette exploded into a fit of laughter.
“Oh no, no!” Bette gasped between giggles. “You’ve got it all wrong! Do you honestly believe that Robin, protégé of Batman, would be stupid enough to wander around under alias with almost the exact same profile as his hero identity?”
Artemis felt color creep into her cheekbones as Bette pointed out the flaw in her deductive process of elimination. “I guess that would be kinda stupid of him,” she admitted inwardly cursing herself at how long she had spent checking out all the black-haired boys in her classes. All that time wasted! (Although, she had duly made a mental list of all the hotties she had spotted).
“Totally!” Bette exclaimed. “I bet his civilian identity is the total opposite!” She tapped a finger to her chin as if sudden thought had just crossed her mind. “Hey, you know what? You should talk to Dick Grayson about your theory. I’m sure he’d be interested. He doesn’t mention it much, but the Boy Wonder is like his idol.”
“So he’s a fanboy?”
Atermis wondered how it was possible that even though Bette Kane with her blue eyes and blonde hair, possessing the looks of an angel, could learn to smirk so devilishly.
No wonder Bette was smirking, Artemis thought as she wrinkled her nose in distaste at the boy in front of her.
Dick Grayson had turned out to be no other than that freshman who snapped a photograph of her and him on her first day of school. “We’ll laugh about this one day,” she remembered him saying. What had he meant by that anyway?
“Hello, Crock,” Grayson greeted with a wave of his hand, obviously recognizing her as she caught him in the hallway when the final bell had rang after someone had pointed him out. “Did you come to confess your undying love for me?”
Artemis gritted her teeth as she heard the hearty guffaws of the students around them. Oh great, another amateur comedian who thought he was funny. Suddenly, the urge to discuss her theory of Robin attending their school had vanished. She turned on her heel to leave and then Grayson had skidded in front of her looking sheepish.
“Come on, I’m sorry. I was just joking. Bette texted me and said you had something to tell me worth my interest. What is it?”
Grayson sounded sincere and looked eagerly curious. If she really did want to find out if Robin went to Gotham Academy, she could use all the help she could get. She didn’t think she could take one more day of running into Robin at the telephone booth and him doing or saying something that she spent hours obsessing and wondering over. She couldn’t afford to be distracted on the team’s next mission. She had to know or it would drive her crazy.
“Not here,” Artemis said all-too aware of the crowd of students trying to their best not to appear like they were interested in their conversation. Glancing about, her eyes landed on a door labeled Music Room. Seizing Grayson by the wrist, she darted inside dragging him along.
“Woah there, Art-Crock,” Grayson said laughing nervously as she closed the door behind them. “I wasn’t serious about you confessing really. I would make a horrible boyfriend.”
“Oh, shut up, shrimp, you’re like four inches shorter than me!” Artemis shouted exasperated.
“Two and a half!” Grayson protested. “And height shouldn’t be an issue in the matters of love!”
“Well, you’re two years younger than me too so don’t worry! I don’t date underdeveloped, immature babies!”
“Actually physical age and emotional maturity-levels are two entirely different things that most people find difficulty in ”
“God, would you calm down?” Artemis yelled since it seemed Grayson had started to babble insensibly to cover up his anxiety. “I didn’t drag you in here to make out! Bette said you might be able to help me figure out if Robin went to our school!”
Well, that certainly appeared to do the trick as Grayson ceased talking abruptly and proceeded to gape at her quite astounded.
“Bette said ” he finally croaked out, shaking his head as if in disbelief. “Wait, why would you want to find out if Robin went to school here anyway? Heroes have secret identities for a reason you know. It’s for their own safety and so they can continue helping out those they have sworn to protect!”
“Wow, Bette was right: you really are a fanboy,” Artemis stated raising both her eyebrows at the passionate fury behind those words.
Grayson flushed red. “T-that I she ” he floundered. “What makes you think Robin would go to this school out of all the schools in Gotham?” he managed to say something coherently.
“Just a wild guess,” Artemis shrugged, deliberately leaving out the Home Economics variable that had been a key factor in her theory. As a normal civilian, she would have no way to know about that. Time to play up her role as a fangirl then. “Come on,” she smiled, tilting her head to one side playfully. “Wouldn’t it be really cool if Robin did attend here and we go to the same school as him? Of course, we won’t tell anyone if we uncover his secret identity. But don’t you want to know? Don’t you think it’d be fun if we found out one of our classmates is the Boy Wonder?”
Actually, Artemis already had her mind made up that Grayson wouldn’t even come close to seeing her top ten suspects list. No way was she letting him know Robin’s secret identity. She just wanted him to lead her in the right direction before she sent him chasing down a rabbit trail while she unmasked him herself. But until that moment came when they had closed in on the scent, she could let Grayson be her co-conspirator and partner. Now if only he would take the bait.
It was odd. Grayson was staring her down from underneath furrowed eyebrows as if he trying to make heads or tails of her. What on earth did he have to be doubtful of her about?
“You really do want to find out who Robin is because you don’t know who he is,” Grayson drawled out.
“And 2+2=4!” Artemis cried to hide her embarrassment. Jeesh, when Grayson put it that way, it sounded so stupid. “So does this mean you’ll help me?”
Grayson cocked a lop-sided grin. “Sure,” he said seeming to make up his mind. “Sure, I’m in.”
“So are there any possible candidates you can think of?” Artemis pressed.
“Well, I think it’s pretty obvious that any boy with black-hair could fit the profile ”
“No, no!” Artemis said, brushing Grayson’s proposal aside. “I’m onto Robin’s game! He can’t fool me. The black-hair is all a part of his hero facade! He’s the total opposite of what us civilians see!”
“Really?” Grayson sounded amused.
“Oh yes. I mean how completely dumb would he have to be to wander around in his alias with almost the exact same profile as his hero identity?” Artemis said quoting Bette from earlier.
There was a loud crash as Grayson tripped over a chair which cymbals rested on, sending them clattering to the floor with a boisterous din.
“Are you alright?” Artemis asked concerned.
“Ah, y-yes,” Grayson hissed through the clenched teeth of what looked like a particularly, painful smile. “And you’re right: that would be dumb of Robin.”
“I know I’m brilliant that way,” Artemis declared. “We’re probably looking for a boy who is blonde, nerdy, really pathetic in sports, surrounds himself with people interested in the same hobbies as him but which he excels at so they can all clap and stroke his fragile yet overgrown ego, and well, I guess in general a loser. Know anyone like that?”
If she didn’t know better, she would swear Grayson was trying to develop Kryptonian powers so that he could melt her with heat-ray vision by the way he was glaring at her. “Yeah,” he finally bit out. “The entire mathlete club!”
Oh, that’s right. Grayson was a member of that club. She had even seen the picture of him holding that enormous trophy hanging on the wall with the other gold-framed, crystal-glass encased plaques of honor. Well, this was awkward. But if there was one thing she had learned in Logics class, it was always best to grasp the bull by the horns
“So, who out of all the mathletes would you suspect to be the person that most fits that role?” Artemis inquired.
Grayson’s right hand was inching towards the edge of his uniform jacket like he wanted to reach something inside it. Artemis stiffened at the sight, her body tensing out of pure reflex due to years of training under her father, Sportsmaster, and all his vicious, assassination attempts games.
“Hello, anybody in here?” a new voice piped up suddenly as the door opened a red-haired girl stuck her head to look around.
“Barbara!” Grayson shouted looking relieved to see her. Artemis relaxed her posture as she watched his hand fall away from his jacket and wondered what she had thought he had been about to do. He was probably reaching for a cell phone. God, she was so paranoid!
“Oh, Dick, there you are, good,” the girl said stepping inside the room and walking over to them. “Your ride’s here and no one could find you. Alfred was afraid you had been kidnapped again.”
“Not today, unless you count Crock here,” Grayson grinned issuing a thumb at the girl beside him.
“Artemis, right?” the red-haired girl got her name correct on the first try. Gotham Academy must not receive very many scholarship cases if everyone recognized her on sight. “I’m Barbara Gordon. Nice to meet you.”
“Same here,” Artemis said shaking the hand that was offered.
“So what’s going on?” Barbara said glancing between the two.
Artemis had to hold back a smirk that threatened to take over her face. Barbara’s tone had been completely nonchalant, but her body language the manner in which she was gripping both her elbows by her palms and shifting her body weight back and forth restlessly indicated she was self-conscious and agitated. If Artemis had to guess the girl’s problem, it would probably be that she didn’t like the fact the she and Grayson were alone in the same room together in a now almost-empty school. She didn’t have to worry. She wasn’t interested in Grayson like that. In fact, in the short amount of time she had spent with the freshman, he had annoyed her more than anything else.
“Nothing’s going on,” Grayson shrugged. “Unless you count Crock thinking that Robin goes to our school and is trying to uncover who he really is.”
Yes, he annoyed her by doing things like that right there.
“That was supposed to be a secret!” Artemis yelled at him outraged.
“Well, actually, all you ever asked was if I wanted to help you figure out who is. You never said anything on who I could or couldn’t tell about it,” Grayson spread his hands out in self-defense.
“It was implied!” Artemis cried feeling a headache coming on. This searching for Robin thing wasn’t going as well as she had planned. It was causing more trouble than it was worth. After a whole day of scouting, what did she have to show for it? A club full of mathletes as her prime candidates. Wonderful!!
Barbara’s eyes had grown to the size of marbles. “You two are trying to discover who Robin is and you think he goes to our school?”
Artemis rubbed her aching temples. Why did everyone have to repeat something they already had heard? Was it so unbelievable that a teenage hero attended high school somewhere in the city and that this just might be it?
“Dick, you’re helping her?” Barbara sounded shocked. Maybe she didn’t like the idea of Grayson and Artemis working so close together.
“Of course, I am a Robin fan after all,” Grayson said clasping her hands behind his head. His blue eyes were twinkling full of mischief. “But I think she’s doing fine on her own. She’s even narrowed down just who the Boy Wonder might be to a handful of people.”
Barbara emitted a soft, near-inaudible gasp.
“Yep,” Grayson continued in that irritating, cheeky manner of his. “Now what character traits did you give him again: blonde, nerdy, really pathetic in sports, and surrounds himself with people interested in the same hobbies as him? In short, the complete opposite persona of how we see Robin, am I right, Crock?”
Barbara must have stared at them for a good five seconds with the most gob-smacked expression Artemis had ever seen in her life, like someone had dunked her in water, hauled her out by her hair and then thrown a pie in her face.
“That is the most ridiculous thing I have heard!” Barbara finally exclaimed.
“Really?” Grayson said delighted, stifling back what sounded like snickers. “Why is that?”
“Because,” Barbara said, her own blue eyes flashing coolly as she tossed a strand of red hair over her shoulder matter-of-factly, “If Robin is the total opposite of what us civilian see then it’s completely obvious that he’s really a girl!”
“WHAT?” Grayson shrieked, choking mid-snicker.
Whoa, brain-twister! Artemis thought as her mind reeled at the implications.
“Don’t tell me you actually believe her!” Grayson cried as he caught sight of her contemplative expression.
“If that is true…” Artemis said slowly. “This puts his and Kid Flash’s bromance that we see on screen on a whole different level.
Now it was Barbara who was snickering while Grayson wore the gob-smacked expression.
“ROBIN IS A BOY!” Grayson shouted futilely glaring at them both. “He doesn’t have, you know,” he pointed rudely at the front of their uniform vests that curved roundly, “trampolines!”
Grayson lay flat out on his back on the floor a split second later by wicked under-sweep of his legs courtesy of Barbara. Artemis had forgotten the girl was at the top of the school’s gymnastics club, but even she hadn’t seen that coming. Too bad Barbara led a sheltered, rich kids’s life and was more liable to run away screaming at the nearest villain who showed his face than to take him out. She would make excellent recruit material for the Young Justice team otherwise.
“You’re evil, Babs,” Grayson moaned as he picked himself up from his position on the floor, rubbing his bruised back piteously.
Then again, all the girl had done was catch Grayson off guard and that was nothing to boast about. A pre-scholar could probably make him cry.
“You can hide these trampolines under a binder-vest, genius. I’m serious. Just stop and think about it,” Barbara smiled wryly. “It all makes sense in hind sight, literally. Have you seen that butt she likes to show off prancing about in that Kevlar bodysuit? No wonder she keeps getting kidnapped or taken hostage. It’s a good thing the villains don’t know she’s a girl. See, her male identity is for her own protection!”
Grayson’s face had turned a bright tomato red and his hand had started that inching towards the inside of his uniform jacket again.
“Gonna stab us with a pen, Mister Mathlete?” Barbara smirked.
“You can do that?” Artemis said taking a defensive stance. God, these rich kids were either insane or horribly creative in their methods of promoting harm. At least her sister and father had the decency to attack her with a real weapon when they sparred.
“Mr. Grayson,” a haggard voice sounded over the school’s intercom suddenly, “Will you please report to the front entrance? Your chauffeur is waiting”
There was the sound a scuffle and the shrill pitch of the microphone before an older male voice’s rang out over their heads in a frantic tenor.
“Master Richard, I really must insist you leave the Music Room and its occupants at once. It is not befitting for a young gentleman to be alone in the company of two fine ladies without a chaperone!”
“Who the heck is that and how does he know you’re in here with us?” Artemis demanded as Grayson buried his flaming face in his hands and mumbled something like, “Alfred.”
“Master Richard,” the older man’s voice sounded again this time more reprimanding. “You have approximately two minutes to be inside the limo with your seatbelt buckled and ready to leave before I call Master Bruce and inform him of your youthful indiscretions.”
“I’m going! I’m going!” Grayson yelped as if the man could hear him making a mad dash towards the door and bolting outside, looking almost grateful for an excuse to escape.
The two girls stood in silence for a few moments before Artemis turned to Barbara.
“What was that all about?” she asked perplexed.
Barbara beamed widely at her and spread her arms out. “Welcome to Gotham Academy!”
“How was school today?” her mother asked as soon as she came home.
I’m surrounded by people who should be living in Arkham Asylum, Artemis thought even though she knew that was an over-exaggeration.
“Fine,” she replied. “I made another friend. Well, two, I guess.”
She still wasn’t any closer to discovering who Robin was, but now she had another problem on her hands.
Was Robin really girl?
“Don’t look now, but Artemis is totally checking us out,” Wally hissed in Robin’s ear.
“Dude, we’re sitting on the sofa playing video games and all she can see is the back of our heads,” Robin replied testily, his eyes shielded behind sunglasses never wavering from the giant screen in front of him as his hands fiddled with the game controls. “How can you possibly think she is checking us out?”
“She’s been staring a hole through us for the past hour,” Wally said turning his head to the side slightly to peer at the girl from the corner of his eyes, causing his player to die due to his divided attention. “And flirting. Quite badly, I might add.”
“Whoo,” Artemis’ voice said somewhere behind them. “Is it hot in here or is that just me? Hey, aren’t you two hot?”
“She’s not flirting, KF,” Robin sighed tossing the controls aside as he had won. “It really is hot in here. She’s been turning the temperature up in the cave two degrees every five minutes for the past half hour.”
“Is she crazy? It’s freakin’ summer!” Wally cried shooting the girl a baffled glance. “And if she’s so hot, why doesn’t she just turn the temperature back down? Hey! You can hack into the system to do that, can’t you?”
“That would be giving in,” Robin smiled grimly. Dick Grayson did not give in. He was going to sweat this out. Literally.
“Hey, you know what’d be fun?” Artemis spoke up enthusiastically. “Since it’s just the three of us here, we should spar and see how much our skills have improved since our last session!”
Robin crossed his arms, sunk further down into the couch and scowled. Just because Megan was off with her uncle J’onn learning more Martian telepathy, Kaldur was visiting Atlantis again and Superboy was off joyriding on his sphere-cycle, did not give Artemis the privilege to roast them alive. Besides, he knew exactly what the girl’s true goal was and he was not going to allow her to obtain it.
“Of course, since it’s so hot in here, I’d think you’d both be more comfortable sparring with your shirts off,” Artemis finished with a gleeful flourish.
So she was still trying to figure out if Robin was a girl. Damn Barbara, Robin cursed mentally, and Bette! Putting stupid notions into his teammate’s head!
His cell phone went off in the pocket of his civilian clothes with a ding indicating someone had texted him. He had barely pulled it out before another ding went off. Flipping the cover up, he read the two messages waiting for him.
kandykane: sup birdie? Ready 2 talk now?^^
babsgurl: lol u still mad? XP
Glaring, Robin typed up his own heated text and sent it to them both.
R_boy: Die, bitches, die! DX
“Come on, whaddya say? Spar? Yes or no?” Artemis asked coming up to stand behind the couch.
Robin snapped his cell phone shut quickly and stuffed it back in his pocket.
“I’ll take my shirt off if you take off yours,” Kid Flash grinned sleazily at her, waggling his eyebrows.
Robin should have realized something was off when Artemis didn’t take offense to that uncouth remark or even try to slug the speedster.
“Hahaha! What are you talking about? I’m fine with the heat! I love the heat! The heat is great!” Artemis ranted flushed as sweat oozed off her forehead in gigantic water droplets. “You two spar first bare-chested and I’ll fight the winner!”
By now even Kid Flash was looking uncomfortable. “Um, Artemis, maybe you should go outside for a swim and cool off? You look like you’re going to drop from heat stroke any time soon.”
Artemis’ eyes lit up as if electricity had hit her. “Yes, yes! That’s a brilliant idea, KF! It is hot in here. Why don’t we all go outside for a swim?”
Robin punched Kid Flash hard on the arm and got up, determined to stand his ground. Desperate times called for desperate measures. “Artemis, KF and I are not going to perform a strip-tease for you no matter how subtle you hint at it, so why don’t you go take a cold shower instead?”
“You little troll!” Artemis screamed at him, her face turning even redder in anger. “You wish I would have some secret desire to ogle your skinny-boned bodies! I’m not that crazy!”
“Crazy enough to attend school under the same first name as her hero identity!” Robin shot back without thinking.
Artemis’ jaw dropped and Robin resisted the urge to bang his head into a wall repeatedly. Oh, crap. The aster had deserted him completely today, hadn’t it?
“You do go to my school!” she shrieked pointing a triumphant finger at him. “I knew it! I knew it! Spill it! Who the hell are you?”
“Now, Artemis, come on, you know Bats has this over-protective rule about the whole secret id ” Wally tried to placate her.
“You stay out of this, Kid Dork! I’m going to uncover the truth even if Batman decides to skin me alive!”
“Whoa, you’re brave!” Wally breathed in awe.
Robin knew he was probably signing his own death sentence, but that still didn’t stop him from smirking devilishly and saying, “Don’t be taken in by all talk and no action. She doesn’t have the guts.”
That was it. Artemis had reached her final short straw. Gotham Academy had stuck its poisoned claws into her brain and the insanity had been contagious.
She hurtled over the couch in one giant leap and pounced.
She and the Boy Wonder went tumbling head over heels to the floor where they proceeded to roll about in tangle of flailing limbs. Her hands reached out immediately towards his sunglasses intending to rip them off, but her wrists were seized by a surprisingly strong, vice-like grip which yanked her arms over her head before a knee came slamming hard into her stomach. Even as Artemis doubled over gasping for breath, she still retained enough sense to grab the fleeing calf leg of her victim and tilt all his body weight off balance. He toppled over on his side, his shirt riding up as he did, exposing pale flesh and in a flash, Artemis was sitting on his chest, her legs locked around his head as she grasped the fabric in her hands to pull it up to see which gender he truly was.
Robin jerked his face to one side as he sunk his teeth into ankle, then slammed the palm of his hand under her chin in a teeth-rattling uppercut, wriggling his body free from her hold on him as the world spun dizzily about her. But she still didn’t loosen her grip on his shirt.
“What is going on?” Superboy’s voice sounded somewhere above their heads.
Oh, he must be back from his ride, Artemis thought almost calmly as she and Robin twisted and turned every which way, engaging in their own private battle-dance on the floor.
“Supey, don’t just stand there all useless! Help a bro out!” Kid Flash yelped anxiously.
“I do not understand. Why does he need help? Miss Martian tries to get me out of my shirt all the time.”
Artemis gave an elated shriek as she finally managed to tear the sunglasses off to reveal a mask? Really, he was wearing a stupid mask underneath the shades! Didn’t people trust each other anymore?
“Joke’s on you,” Robin wheezed breathlessly, the white eyes of mask narrowing in silent laughter.
Snarling, Artemis renewed her vicious tug of war contest on his shirt. Fine, he could keep his stupid secret identity, but dammit, she was going to find out if she needed to knock him out with either a knuckle-fisted right hook or a bitch slap next time he trolled her.
“Recognizing: 01 Batman. 06 Black Canary. 04 Green Arrow.”
“QUIT RESISTING AND JUST TAKE IT OFF!”
The Justice League heroes stopped as they entered the living room and stared at the scene laid out before their eyes: Robin on the ground with Artemis between his sprawled legs, both her folded knees clenched tightly on either side of his thighs to keep him pinned there, and her hands balled into fists lifting his shirt half-way up, with the boy’s hands wrapped around her forearms.
Stupid zeta-beam could have given more warning, Artemis seethed inwardly as she noticed the newcomers to their audience.
Well, the anvil had already fallen on their heads anyway. Better late than never. Artemis jerked Robin’s shirt up, taking advantage of the boy’s momentary distraction to reveal a flat chest and muscular abs and nicely-toned stomach. Okay, definitely male then.
“That’s cheating,” Robin protested feebly.
Batman crossed his arms and glared. A dark aura seemed to be seeping into the entire mountain from somewhere behind him. “I think it’s time we gave you all the Talk,” he said crisply.
Artemis arrived at her school the next morning red-eyed and exhausted from lack of sleep. Yesterday’s Talk had been by far the most traumatizing and humiliating ordeal she had ever had to endure out of all three talks she had before. Yes, one from Cheshire when she was eight, a second from Sportsmaster when she was twelve, and a third from her mother after she had regain custody of her to make sure her father and sister hadn’t warped her mentality on the whole issue and scarred her for life. Heh, too late.
But nothing, nothing had compared to the fourth one she had to sit through yesterday plopped on the sofa, squished between the arm-rest and Kid Dork who was squeezed between her and Superboy who had been placed strategically between Robin and the rest of them. It seemed Batman wanted to put as much distance as possible between his little bird and the girl who had been mauling him scant minutes earlier.
And all the while Batman had been throwing out his “touch-my-son-again-and-I-will-scalp-you-and-run-you-over-with-my-Batmobile-then-dice-you-up-with-a-million-pieces-with-my-Batarang” death-rays at her from beneath his cowl, while Black Canary had tried her best to breeze through the speech and their protests that they all had heard this before.
In the end, poor Black Canary had ended up punching Green Arrow in the nose when he had burst out laughing hysterically when Superboy spoke up confused and asked where babies came from naturally if they weren’t born in a pod like him. Then she had suggested quite red-faced perhaps she wasn’t fit to give Superboy the normal human Talk and that Superman would be a better candidate.
That’s when they had all nearly died of fright when Batman started to laugh. Yes, the Dark Knight had laughed, low, sinister, gravely and altogether creepily, and Wally had clutched her arm terrified and whimpered that somewhere a hundred puppies had died.
Artemis had thought Batman had sounded far too vindictively gleeful when he had called Superman up on his communicator and requested no, ordered that the Man of Steel report to Mount Justice for a matter of extreme importance. She thought might be special, one of the select few to ever hear Superman swear “usunuvabish” when he had been informed of his new duty. But then, Superboy had left with his reluctant “father” and it was just two normal humans and one speedster that remained. Black Canary had tried to pick up her speech where she had left off, but then Kid Mouth had started throwing out questions that included “vibrating” and “rearranging molecules” and Green Arrow had all but died laughing again.
“Hey, how do Atlanteans do it?” Kid Flash had piped up interestedly. “Do they lay eggs like fish or is it like us humans?”
“You do realize someone’s going to have to give the Talk to Megan before she and Connor make mutant martian-kryptonian babies, right?” Robin had dealt the final finishing blow.
That’s when Black Canary washed her hands of the whole mess and told Batman their mentors should handle each one of their protégé’s individually.
Artemis had watched as Robin and Kid Flash shared a victorious bro-bump-fist while they thought no one was looking.
“You’ve had the Talk before, right?” Green Arrow had asked in a pleading tone, holding one hand to his bruised nose and looking like tears were about to come streaming down from underneath his mask if she said no.
Artemis had nodded frantically and he thumbed towards the zeta-beam transport room. “Go, just go,” he had said. “Hurry while Bats isn’t looking.”
Artemis had jumped up and sprinted wildly for the exit, firmly believing that any second she was going to crash to the floor with a Bat-lasso around her feet or a Bat-dart sticking out of the back of her neck.
But she hadn’t. She had escaped through the zeta-beam to Gotham and raced home, where she proceeded to dive in to bed and huddle under the covers holding her breath, waiting all night for a large bat to break through her window and carry her off to her doom.
She had survived though. She was still alive and in one piece the next day. And that’s what terrified her. She was on borrowed time, she knew. The Batman was coming to get her.
“Gah!” Artemis yelped, jumping a little and clutching at her heart.
Dick Grayson stood in front of her grinning. “Still want play super sleuth on who at our school is really Robin?” he sniggered, just as annoying as ever.
“No,” Artemis snapped sourly. Batman was plotting ways to slowly torture her all because she had looked at his protégé’s naked chest. She had had enough of Robin-hunting, thank you very much.
“You’re not looking very traught, Crock!” Grayson said looking at the dark circles under her eyes.
“What?” Artemis said halting mid-yawn. Now her ears were playing tricks on her. She thought she had heard no, she was just more tired than she had realized, that’s all.
“Man, isn’t it an estrous day?” the boy exclaimed lifting his arms up to the bright, blue sky.
Then Grayson slipped on a pair of black sunglasses, curved his lips into a familiar impish grin at her, then turned tail and ran.
The frustrated howl of “YOU LITTLE TROOOOOOOOOOOLL!” could be heard echoing all across Gotham Academy’s grounds.
And if one listened hard enough, they could just faintly hear it followed by eerie, ringing laughter.