Nightmare Scenario: Chapter 2

Sitting in a random office in Mount Justice, Tim knew he was in a lot of trouble. It felt like he was a suspect in a police station waiting for an interrogation right down to the foggy glass window separating him from the rest of the team. He couldn’t see much, but he could make out some of the silhouettes and read their body language. The two easiest to distinguish were Bruce as he towered over everyone else and paced around and Dick as he leaned against a wall and watched silently. Later tonight Tim would have to find some way to make it up to his older brother for ruining his night; he hoped Dick was up for a movie night because it might be Tim’s last one for a while.

Tim sighed and made himself comfortable as the fight outside went on outside. It wasn’t really a fight, one person was doing most of the confrontation and yelling, but Tim would have to play his cards right if he didn’t want to end up grounded for the rest of his natural life.

Right now, he could hear Bruce yelling at the rest of the team demanding to know exactly how everything went down. Tim knew he had the footage from the bar, but Bruce wanted to hear it from everyone who had been there. He wanted to prod them about exactly how things went down and where they failed.

Hours ago, when he had been trying to convince Dick to bring him along, Tim had expected to come home to a lecture about playing Bruce and Dick into letting him go out with the older members of the team. He had thought it would be something about leading Bruce to thinking that they wouldn’t be going to a bar anymore but the arcade or ice cream or something more tame once he had asked to join in. This was a whole other beast.

He didn’t even know how to explain what had happened, how he had gone from sitting around a table joking with his friends to watching Wally and Donna try and fight off drunk girls a little too interested in him, but he knew that was what Bruce expected from him. Tim knew what all of Bruce’s shouting would be about. How did you let this happen? Why didn’t you call for help when you knew you would need it? How can I expect you to look after yourself if one night in a bar leads to three people in jail?

All of a sudden, the voices stopped and Tim could see the group breaking up. Most everyone went off to another room and it was only Bruce and Dick left. Dick got up from his position against the wall and went up to Bruce, probably giving him a comforting hand on his shoulder so he wouldn’t be as angry when he went to talk to Tim, but Bruce shrugged it off and made his way to the door.

For a quick second Tim debated pretending to be sleeping. Bruce would probably calm down if he saw that Tim was too tired to argue right now, but it would probably make him even angrier if, more likely when, he realized that Tim was only faking it. Instead, he let out a deep sigh, told himself to man up, and forced himself to calm down once he felt the footsteps stop.

Bruce was doing the same thing, trying to force himself to calm down before he confronted his son. The last thing he wanted was to lash out on the boy for something out of his control and only cause a rift between the two of them. If he had to be honest, the problem was mostly the fact that Bruce was still on edge from the meeting he had had with Jim earlier that day. If any of those girls had been carrying a gun this could have easily been a completely different story, one with an ending he was far too familiar with. He had already sat through the funeral of his parents, he didn’t need to be doing the same with one of his sons.

Stepping into the office, Bruce found Tim nervous and too afraid to show it, the fear only making him even more nervous. This wasn’t what he needed right now, to see his son afraid of him, but he could have died tonight if any of the girls had been carrying a weapon, he could have died this morning if he had been home and no one had been able to get to the woman in time. That’s what he needed to stress to Tim, that he could die or get seriously hurt and it was Bruce’s priority to ensure that didn’t happen. If he had to lock him in his door until he understood, so be it.

Tim tried to keep his gaze on the floor, he didn’t want to look at Bruce wrong and make him even more upset. If he was being honest with himself, he also didn’t quite know how to look at his father and not feel worse when he saw just how much he had hurt him by just being stupid.

Bruce paced around the room, trying to collect himself before he asked with no trace of emotion in his voice, “What happened?”

Against his better judgment, Tim responded just as devoid of emotion and with a slight edge in his voice. “They already told you what happened, Dad.”

Ignoring his tone, Bruce tried again with another question. “Did you do anything to provoke them?”

“Like what?” Tim was confused by what Bruce thought he could have done to provoke that kind of behavior.

He had never thought he’d be asking one of his sons this, but he needed to know what Tim had been thinking. “Were you flirting with them?”

Tim shot back in his chair. “Dad!” He didn’t know if it was just the topic or the fact that Bruce thought this was important enough to question him about, but Tim made his annoyance clear.

Shaking his head as he tried to not comment that Tim had no right to be upset, Bruce explained his curiosity. “Tim, you flirt with a lot of people and I need to know exactly what lead to this mess happening so that it never happens again.”

His voice slow rose as he went through the sentence and it only irritated Tim more. He knew why Bruce was upset but if he wanted to question anyone it should be those girls and not him.

Tim responded with just as much anger in his voice as he said, “Yes, Dad, I am 17. If it matters to you, no I was not flirting with anyone.” Feeling the need to make the point, he added, “Even if I was, it certainly wouldn’t have justified their behavior.”

Bruce begged Tim to understand, “Nothing would justify their actions but I need to know what happened, Tim.” Sighing as he turned back to the interrogation, Bruce asked, “What were you doing?”

“I went to the bar to get a drink.” It was only after the words were out of his mouth that he realized he had just opened up to a whole new line of questioning.

“What the hell were you doing drinking?” He had expected Tim to exercise some reason tonight but he might have been wrong about that.

Tim rose up from his chair fully aware that Bruce was disappointed. He didn’t like seeing his father disappointed in him, but he also didn’t know what to do other than raise his voice and explain, “I was getting a drink for Donna!”

Bruce paused the discussion for a moment as he decided on the punishment. “You’re grounded, Tim. No going out, no missions with the team, no leaving the Manor.”

Still hoping he could negotiate with Bruce, Tim went up to him and tried to reason with him. “Please, Dad-”

Not wanting to lose any ground, Bruce cut off any opposition Tim might have had. “This isn’t debatable, Tim. The way you acted tonight was immature and I would have expected-”

“But, Dad-”

Bruce spun around to look him in the eye and added, “Starting now. Gather your things; I’m taking you home.”

Tim took a step back and pleaded, “I don’t want this Dad. Please.”

Hearing the distress in the boy’s voice, Bruce began to feel guilty and sat down in a chair. Putting his head in his hand, Bruce sighed, “Tim-”

Tim knew he might not get a chance again, so he reminded Bruce, “We talked about this. I’m entitled to this part of my life.”

“You’re getting this part of your life.”

Shaking his head, Tim pressed on, “I’m entitled to a normal-”

“Oh please.” That was enough to make Bruce scoff.

Tim squinted his eyes and spat out, “Don’t ‘oh please’ me, Dad. You said-”

Pointing to the glass and the people who were more than likely listening in to everything they were saying, Bruce reminded Tim, “Everyone out there, and the League, is worried about you getting-”

He cut Bruce off and shot, “They should be worried about you dying.” To Tim they were getting worked up about nothing. There were much more pressing issues for them to lose sleep over.

“They are worried about me dying. I’m worried about me dying. But that is nothing compared to how terrified we are of you. You scare the hell out of the everyone, Tim, and you scare the hell out of me too.” Bruce didn’t know how their conversation, he refused to call it a argument because Tim had yet to present a reasonable argument, had turned into this but he was willing to explain the situation to Tim if it was too hard for him to understand. Seventeen was old enough to know the consequences of his actions. Bruce began again, “My getting killed would be bad enough, but that is not the nightmare scenario. The nightmare scenario, Tim, is YOU getting kidnapped. You go out to a bar or a party in some club, someone puts something in your drink you don’t notice and you get up to go to the restroom, somebody comes up from behind, puts his or her hand across your mouth, and whisks you out the back door. You’re so petrified, you don’t even notice the fact that there had been something in your drink and that you’re losing your balance and understanding of the situation. Then you’re whisked away in a car.” Waving his arms in the air, he went on, “It’s a big party with lots of noise, and lots of people coming and going. And It’s a half hour before someone says, ‘Hey where’s Tim?’ Another 15 minutes before the first phone call. Another hour and a half before anyone even THINKS to begin looking through airports and train stations.” A part of him wanted to stop and give Tim a break from the disturbing imagery, but Bruce needed him to fully understand just why he can’t have the same luxuries as everyone else his age. Him being uncomfortable right now was better than him being kidnapped a month from now. “Now we’re off to the races. You’re tied to a chair in a cargo shack, somewhere in the middle of Uganda. And I’m told that I have 72 hours to get 5 million dollars wired to the whoever-the-hell. So I’m on the phone pleading with someone saying there’s no limit to how much I’d give them if it meant they’d give you back to me, but the only answer I get is, ‘I’m sorry Mr. Wayne, but America simply does not negotiate with terrorists, period. There’s nothing we can do.’ So now we’ve got a new problem, because there’s no Batman, no Bruce Wayne, just a father who’s out of his mind because his little boy is in a shack somewhere with a gun to his head. DO YOU GET IT?”

With his arms crossed, Tim forced himself not to let his face break the same way his voice did when he checked out, “Yes. I get it.”

Bruce grabbed the back of the chair he had been sitting in and partially spun it into the wall. Sighing until he could feel the air become less strained, Bruce looked back at Tim and sincerely said, “I’m sorry I yelled, Timothy. Forgive me.” Walking up to him, Bruce embraced him and explained, “I want you to have your freedom and your youth. I want you to have common everyday experiences with boy and girls your own age. But don’t ever forget – my number one responsibility will always be to make sure that you are as safe as you can possibly be. That is something I can’t compromise on.”

Tim had never expected to see so many emotions from Bruce at once and he easily melted into the safety of Bruce’s arms. He would need to remind himself to embrace his father more often, but he could see why Dick was always so touchy with them. Looking up at him, he acknowledged, “You’re right, I’m sorry.”

One he felt that the hug had gone on long enough, Bruce pulled out of the embrace and lead Tim out of the room saying, “It’s alright. There’s no need to apologize.”

They both knew this was probably the best either of them could have hoped for, all things considered.

Looking down to the boy, Bruce knew in a few minutes things would begin feeling awkward and Tim wanted to ask if he was still grounded. To spare him the misery, Bruce decided, “You’re still grounded, but you can go come out here if Dick is with you. No going out on missions for the rest of the week and no going out in Gotham for the rest of the month.”

Feeling that the terms were fair, Tim smiled up at Bruce before going off to find the others. He still needed to apologize to them for ruining what must have been a rare day out.

Bruce went back to work and looked over the security measures, there was never anything as too safe, and if the Manor needed to update its detection mechs there was no reason not to do the same for Mount Justice.

As he ran some tests, Bruce debated whether or not to call Tim back and explain to him what had happened in the morning. It would help him understand why he had blown up on him, but a seventeen year old didn’t need that kind of stress, especially one with as much daily stress as Tim. Instead, he settled on telling Dick to get his opinion on the matter. fIf he didn’t, Bruce knew he would be the one sitting through a lecture from Dick about keeping him in the dark in matters that concerned his little brother.

Bruce gave the team an hour before he went in to collect Dick. It was long enough for them to talk amongst themselves and rotate apologizes, it seemed to be something they enjoyed getting off their chest. Standing in the doorway, he could see them watching a movie in one of the lounge rooms and Dick was in the center sitting beside his brother.

By now Tim was more or less tuckered out from the exciting of the day and he’s focusing more on not falling asleep than he is keeping up with the movie. Bruce stood watching just long enough for Dick to notice him. Dick came up with some excuse to leave the room, but even a groggy Tim could see that it was Bruce who was calling for him. He got ready to stand up and defend Dick from whatever Bruce meant to say to him, but Dick put a hand on his shoulder and assured him, “Don’t worry little brother. It’s probably nothing.”

Tim didn’t look like he believed him, but he trusted Dick and settled back into the couch to wait until he came back.

Dick expected no less from his brother, but he knew it was time he and Bruce had a private conversation. He didn’t think there was much left for them to argue about, Bruce had pretty much aired out everything he had to say before he went to see Tim, but even if there was, Dick didn’t think Tim needed to deal with it right now.

Following Bruce far enough away from everyone else to ensure no one would easily overhear, Dick found himself in the office Bruce and talked with Tim and hoped he wasn’t about to sit through a lecture.

Closing the door behind them, Bruce got straight to the point and asked, “Do you remember what I told you about the break in this morning?”

To be honest, Dick hadn’t thought much of it when Bruce mentioned it at breakfast and the most he could recall was, “It was some girl who was crazy or something. She tried to get in but the cops got to her before she could steal anything.”

That was exactly what Bruce and Alfred had decided to tell the boys, it was inconspicuous for them not to think too much of it, but Dick needed to learn the truth. Bruce bluntly admitted, “That was a lie.” Dick scoffed unsurprised, but he didn’t say anything as he waited for Bruce to explain. “The woman, Laura Craine, wasn’t trying to steal something. She had been checked into Arkham for a few years and released a few days ago. Apparently, Craine was under the impression that Tim had something to do with her hospitalization and decided to take matters into her own hands.”

Dick squinted his eyes and Bruce and asked, “What exactly was she expecting to do? I’m assuming it wasn’t to have a conversation with him.”

Mentally preparing himself for Dick’s reaction, Bruce stood firm when he said, “She had a gun, Dick. The-”

“She wanted to kill Tim.” Dick stared at Bruce for a moment before realizing, “That’s why you went overboard – because you thought this was somehow related and Tim was in danger of something.”

After all the years he had spent with them, Bruce was more than willing to admit that the boys were his weakness. “Yes, but I looked into it but couldn’t find anything to connect the two. I didn’t have much time between it happening this morning, waiting to get a report from Jim around noon, having to oversee the training and debriefing, and dealing with the incident at the bar, but from what I did see there wasn’t much. Alfred contacted me a few minutes ago that the BatComputer was finished downloading Craine’s file so I’m going to head back and look for any explanation. It’s probably too early to see her in the prison, but I’ll try again tonight.”

Considering the information, Dick asked, “How many years ago was she in Arkham? Did Tim have something to do with arresting her and she connected him to Robin?”

“I considered that, but she was in Arkham for a very long time. I think she was institutionalized when he was only five. You weren’t involved in her case, neither of us were, so it can’t be a case of mistaken identity.”

Dick pulled out a chair and took some time trying to remember if there was anything to connect the girls from the bar with this woman. “I don’t think the two are connected. The girls from tonight didn’t know they were talking to Tim; they just liked him. When Wally called him by his name they seemed a little confused.”

“Is it possible that they mistook him for someone else, someone who might have had to do with the woman going to Arkham?”

Trying to think back to what Tim had told him, Dick remembered, “Tim gave them a false name to throw them off. They might have gotten a little more touchy if they knew who he was.”

Bruce took out a chair and sat beside Dick. He had been standing up for a while but looking at the determination in Dick, he knew it would be awhile before a break was in order.

Dick seemed to have the same idea because he shot up from his seat and stretched out the tiredness that had been accumulating in his muscles ever since he had sat down for a movie. A few minutes ago he had been set on going to sleep as soon as possible, but now he had a new mission. Not wasting any time, Dick made his way to the door and said, “I’ll say goodnight to Tim and be back in Gotham in a little over two hours. I’m assuming you’ll be in the cave when I get there.”

Bruce nodded absentmindedly before recalling, “I grounded Tim. He’s not allowed to stay out here if you’re not here.”

Thinking for a minute, Dick decided, “I’ll tell him I have a date with someone in Gotham in a couple of hours so I can’t stay.”

Raising an eyebrow, Bruce asked, “You would schedule a date for four in the morning?”

Giving him a light laugh, Dick assured him, “Tim’s too tired to think about it too much.” Before he stepped out, Dick turned back to Bruce one last time. “I’m assuming you still haven’t told him the truth and want to until we have everything settled.”

Happy not to have Dick disagree with him on this, Bruce explained his reasoning, “It would be best not to give him any added stress.”

Dick seemed to accept it and waved a goodbye before going to collect his brother. He hadn’t moved from his position on the couch, but he looked ready to fall asleep anytime. Most of the team was either passed out on their seats or were willing to try and trek their way to their room, but Dick felt a second wave of energy as he entered the room.

As soon as he heard footsteps, Tim’s attention turned away from the movie and he tried to see if there was something wrong. He scanned his older brother to see if there was any evidence of an argument between him and Bruce, tensed shoulders, fake smile, or hair sticking up from the front as Dick ran his hand through it, but he saw nothing. Finding himself too tired to fully read him, Tim simply asked low enough not to disturb any of the team sleeping, “What was that about?”

“B was getting me up to speed on your punishment, that you can’t stay here unless I’m here with you.” Getting a bottle of water to hopefully keep his brother awake until they could gather his things, Dick called out from the kitchen, “I’m sorry, Tim, but I have a date in a few hours so I can’t stay.”

Tim stared at him until with a blank face before understanding. Taking the bottle and stepping out from the couch, he assured Dick, “That’s no problem. I just need to get some of my school stuff from my room, but it’ll only be a few seconds.”

When he got a confirmation from Dick, he sped off to get his overnight bag.

Knowing he had a few free minutes, Dick tried to find something for Tim to eat through the drive over. There was some iced coffee in the fridge, but he didn’t want Tim to have a hard time falling asleep and instead he settled for a sandwich and a bottle of juice. Dick would keep the coffee for himself, but he’d hide it from Tim in case he got any ideas.

He got everything packed just in time for Tim to come back with his overnight bag handing off his shoulder. Looking at the counter, Tim asked, “Did you make something to eat?”

“Yeah it’s about a two hour long drive so I didn’t want you to fall asleep on an empty stomach.”

The logic made sense, but Tim had to ask, “Why aren’t we using the zeta tubes? That would only be a few seconds.”

Digging the keys out of his pockets, Dick lead him to the garage and explained, “I had to go to Bludhaven just after eating breakfast in the Manor and I drove back here for the debriefing. I’d drop you off at Gotham and come back to drive back by myself, but I didn’t think you’d be up to calling a taxi from the zeta to the Manor.” Smirking down at Tim, Dick added, “My car’s more comfortable and I know you love sitting up front.”

Tim gave him a smile to show his appreciation, but followed it up with a groan as he said, “It would be so much easier if Dad would let the League install a zeta in the cave, but he’s too paranoid.”

Thinking back to their conversation from a few minutes ago, Dick felt a need to defend Bruce’s protective behavior. “He only wants to do what’s best for us, Tim. He might go overboard every now and then, but it’s always something in the front of his mind.”

Tim have him a curious look over the roof of his car before opening the door and settling in. He didn’t say anything about it as they pulled out of the garage, but once they were stopped at a red light he softly asked, “Is there something you aren’t telling me, Dick? You and Dad?”

Looking over to him, the first thing Dick noticed was that Tim didn’t look or sound upset. It was probably his lack of sleep talking, but Dick thought that he looked at peace as he played with the wrapper on his water bottle as he waited for an answer. Once Dick realized he hadn’t said anything to answer the question, it was a little too late and Tim had already come to his own conclusion.

Tim gave his brother a small smile before answering for him. “That’s okay. I trust you two, Dick. I would like to know eventually.”

Reaching over to ruffle Tim’s hair just to annoy him, Dick promised, “We’ll tell you as soon as we can, but we don’t want to freak you out.”

Tim was ready to drop the subject, but he needed to make sure Dick and Bruce weren’t being deprecating. “I could probably handle it, you know?”

“Of course you could, and we would never questioned that, but we want a little more information so we know exactly what we’re dealing with before we draw you in.”

Accepting his explanation, Tim reclined his seat until it was more comfortable for him to sleep.

Seeing him try to find a proper position, Dick told him, “I could pull over so you could sleep in the back. It might feel better.”

Waving his hand dismissively, Tim settled down and asked, “What kind of brother would I be if I made you drive for two hours alone?” Pulling out his phone to set an alarm, he didn’t trust Dick to wake him up, Tim explained, “I just need to rest my eyes for a few minutes. You’ll have my undivided attention after that.”

Smiling as Tim forced off his shoes and loosened the seat belt until he could curl up, Dick asked, “Are you sure, Tim? I wouldn’t mind letting you sleep.”

Tim stifled a yawn before giving Dick a quiet, “It’s no big deal.” Before he settled off to sleep, Tim felt the need to add, “Your sandwich better be worth it, Dick.”

Dick would have laughed if he thought Tim wasn’t serious, but he quickly turned his attention to seeing if he could maybe disable Tim’s alarm and give him time to sleep for a few more minutes. He would have done it, if he wasn’t sure Tim would have been annoyed with him for ruining his sleep.

When the alarm did finally ring, it took a few minutes for Tim to remember why he was in a moving car. The first thing he did was unwrap the sandwich and groan a greeting to Dick. They sat in silence, Dick satisfied with seeing Tim zone in and out every now and then until he took some of the water into his hands and pat his face until he was awake. As soon as he was sufficiently aware of his surroundings, Tim turned to Dick and asked with a cheeky smile, “Can you tell me now?”


Nightmare Scenario: Chapter 1

Having lost precious few hours of sleep from the previous night, Bruce was in a worse mood than usual. The family had been woken up in the middle of the night to the sound of the alarm system going off and while Dick and Alfred had been able to fall back to sleep when they had been given the all clear from the police, Bruce had to stay up and be on lookout in case there was a repeat. His patrol as Batman now included examining the grounds and halls of his home to make sure nothing and no one else had broken in. Finding absolutely nothing to answer the many questions he needed answered, Bruce envied Tim and the undisturbed sleep he must have been having with his friends.

The alarm had broken through to the GCPD and as soon as Bruce had made sure everyone else was safe he walked out to see officers fighting a body to the ground while making sure the person was not armed. Before he could go out and investigate, an office was ushering him back into his home and informing him it was the safest place for him to be.

He hadn’t had an opportunity to talk to an officer even when the excitement had dialed down and it was only when Gordon knocked on his door that Bruce knew he would have some questions answered.

Walking him into the drawing room, Bruce immediately got to business and laid out a map of the grounds of Wayne Manor on the table before them. He explained, “I have a general idea of what happened, that someone jumped over the fence and onto the grounds, but what else can you tell me?”

Pointing to the eastern perimeter of the estate, Gordon stated, “Your alarms on the grounds are here, here, here, here, and here. There are more along the top of the gate surrounding the property, but there was something that had chewed through the wires and that is why she was able to get into your backyard before anyone was aware.”

Mildly surprised, Bruce repeated, “She?”

Understanding his surprise, Gordon answered, “Yeah it was a girl this time.”

“It was a sorority stunt?” It had happened a few times in the past that one of the local colleges would have someone try to break onto the grounds but it was almost always a frat.

Shaking his head, Jim explained, “No, it was a mentally unbalanced woman in her forties.”

Sighing into his coffee, Bruce tried to make light of the situation and joked, “Trying to attack me isn’t necessary evidence of being mentally unbalanced.”

Unsure of how Bruce would react, Gordon clarified, “It appears from her statement that you weren’t the target. They were able to get her to answer a few questions and you weren’t brought up.”

Growing even more confused and wishing he had been in the room to ask the questions, Bruce asked, “Who was?”

Clearing his throat, Jim softly answered, “Timothy.”

Before Bruce could demand to face the woman, Alfred walked in and Bruce repeated what he had learned with an easy to recognize malice in his voice.

Getting a call on his phone, Gordon dismissed himself for a moment before walking outside to answer and left the two to discuss things in private.

Trying to find the will not to break everything around him, Bruce hissed, “She wanted to hurt Tim, Alfred. She wanted to hurt him. I’m going to have to vamp up the security.”

Aware of Bruce’s tendency to go beyond what was warranted, Alfred commented, “Master Bruce, I would remind you not to go overboard. Master Tim wasn’t even home.”

Bruce maintained, “Just because she wasn’t prepared doesn’t mean the next one won’t be.” Never before having had to question his son’s safety in their own home, Bruce felt the need to ask, “We shouldn’t tell Tim about this right?”

Alfred agreed, “No. There’s no need to stress the boy out.”

Walking back in and putting his phone back into his pocket, Jim declared, “They’ve began questioning her but it doesn’t look like she is willing to give too much up.”

Nodding his understanding, Bruce asked, “You’ll send a full report?” It would be a good starting point for his own internal investigation that he knew would be much more thorough than anything the GCPD would do.

Collecting his things and packing his bags, Jim answered, “Sure, no problem.”

Before he could step out Bruce had to ask a question that made a world of difference. “Did she have a gun?”

Pausing in front of the door, Jim turned around and said, “Yes, a hand pistol.”

Once he was alone in the room once again, Bruce looked down to the ground before gripping the desk behind him as he tried to fight off the memory of the last time he had lost his family to a bullet.

Dick stood before Batman in his office on the Watchtower and presented the report he had designated to Tim the night before. If he didn’t trust his little brother Dick might have looked over it, but he knew Tim wouldn’t risk something like that, especially when he expected Bruce to be tired from his own mission. The three of them had spent the last week on two different missions and in proper Bat fashion their first meeting was a discussion of the results.

Scrutinizing the papers in his hand, Batman only said, “Good job.”
Having lived with Bruce for so many years, Dick knew it meant ‘I’m happy with the results’ and had a hint of ‘I’m proud of you’ somewhere in there. He smiled at his father nonetheless and was ready to leave when Bruce asked, “Are you free tonight?”

A little confused with the question, Dick thought for a moment and said, “I don’t have patrol, but I was planning on heading out with a few of us.”

Nodding thoughtfully, obviously deep in thought, Bruce asked, “How has Conner been bonding with the team?”

They had all tried their best to socialize with the clone, but he was still a loner and preferred to sit by himself. If Dick had to admit to some progress it would be that Conner was growing somewhat comfortable around Tim. Dick sighed knowing they should be trying harder to bond with him and admitted, “He keeps to himself mostly, but we’ve been trying to get him to come out of his shell.”

Bruce told him, “I want you to bring Conner along.” He would never admit it, but he cared about all of his children’s friends and new that they would function better as a team if they could relax in each other’s company. Clark had made him go through the exact same struggle in the early years of the JL and it only seemed proper their sons do the same.

Raising an eyebrow at the idea, Dick laughed, “B, you know that we’re going out for drinks, right?”

Ignoring the look on his son’s face, Bruce said, “Yes I know and I also know that they serve food and nonalcoholic drinks. Just make him feel comfortable.”

Giving him a formal salute and taking the suggestion as a formal mission, Dick called out, “Yes sir,” before closing the door behind him to find Conner.

Before he could get very far, Tim jumped out and gripped onto his arm. Dick already knew he wanted something by the way Tim smiled up at him and somehow made his blue eyes a little brighter. Without even giving Dick a greeting, Tim asked, “Can I come with, Dick? Please, please bring me with you.”

Knowing that he would eventually give in to his little brother, Dick decided to enjoy his advantage as much as he could and asked, “What are you talking about?”

Pointing back to Bruce’s office, Tim explained, “Dad told me you’re taking Conner out and I want to join.”

Chastising him as a good older brother would do, Dick warned, “It’s not a good place for kids, Robin.”

Playfully swatting his arm, Tim argued, “Neither is Gotham. Plus, I’m older than him; he’s only like a year old.”

“And he’s already so much more mature than you.”

“I’m going to pretend that I didn’t hear that. Plus, if the idea is to make him more comfortable I’m the best choice considering I’m his closest friend.”

Feigning being annoyed, Dick conceded, “Fine, I’ll bring you along.”

Not at all trying to hide his happiness, Tim finally dropped Dick’s arm and made his way back to where he knew Conner would be. “That’s why you’re my favorite brother, Wing.”

Finding the compliment not at all as rewarding as Tim might have thought it, Dick reminded him, “I’m your only brother, Rob.”

Before Tim turned around the corner Tim said, “And that’s why I’ll do you a favor. I’ll invite Conner myself so there’s very little chance he’ll say no.”

“Thanks for the help, Babybird.”

There was a heavy fog of smoke in the air and music being played far too loud, but the group were focused on anything else. Roy, Wally, and Donna had joined the trio for the night and were excited for a chance to corrupt Dick’s younger brother considering that his protectiveness was somewhat legendary. As soon as they gave their waiter their orders, Dick having to veto Tim’s choices until he decided to order something suitable for his age, the group began talking about their last mission.

The discussion centered around who had beaten up the most people, and whether or not one of Ra’s’ ninja’s was worth more or less than Joker’s hired mercenaries, and they dutifully kept score of who had come out on top. Tim and Conner opted out of the argument, Tim explaining different social practices to Conner instead, until the group had come to an understanding and Donna had been declared the winner with Wally in as a close second.

With all their orders ready, the group was ready to dig in and Roy began by offering Tim a sip of his own drink, but one glare from Dick was enough for him to abandon the idea forever.

Everyone chuckled at the scene, but Donna groaned when she looked down and found her drink missing. Trying to find their waiter she explained, “He forgot to bring me my grasshopper.”

Across the table Wally joked, “Maybe she felt really stupid ordering it.”

Sitting back down when she saw the waiter on another table, Donna gave Wally an annoyed look before arguing, “The grasshopper is a completely respectable drink.”

Tim stood up and offered, “I can get it from the front.”

Donna stood up to assure him, “I’ll get it.”

Emptying out his pockets so that nothing would fall out from the incredibly small pocket, Tim explained, “I want to see how they make it.” Patting Dick on the shoulder he said, “I am starting college soon so it might be helpful.”

Once everyone beside Dick was done laughing, Wally called out to him, “Make sure they make it extra thick and green.”

Looking down at the pile that Tim had left on the table, Conner recognized a wallet, keys, and something completely foreign to him. Motioning to it he asked, “What’s that?”

Following his eye line, Roy answered, “It’s a panic button.”

“What does it do?”

Donna explained, “Bruce is a very protective father, and because he works very closely to the president every now and then Tim has some extra protection. That button will call in someone to take care of it.”

With a smile that gave away just how much experience he had with it, Roy promised Conner, “You don’t want to see it in action, it can get pretty messy.”

Turning to Dick, Conner asked, “Do you have one to?”

Dick patted his jacket pocket and Conner could see the outline of what he imaged to be another button. The idea was surprising for him, he knew that both of the brothers were competent enough to take care of themselves but he rationalized that they might not want to draw too much attention onto themselves. In any case, if it meant that Tim was safer he couldn’t fault it.

Seeing as he had the clones attention, Dick asked, “You having a good time tonight?” That was the whole point of the night no matter what his friends tried and he wanted to make sure he was on the right track.

Conner absentmindedly assured him, “Yeah. I appreciate it.”

Seeing him hunched over his water and avoiding looking at anyone in particular, Wally argued, “You don’t really look like you’re having a good time.”

Setting the bottle on the table to consider the best way to approach the topic, Conner asked, “Do you think they know I’m different from them?”


Motioning out to the other people in the room, he clarified, “All these people. Do you think they know I’m not…that I’m different?”

Pointing to Wally in particular, Dick assured him, “Conner, look who you’re sitting with. No one here is close to normal.”

“Yeah, but I’m still different.”

Dick offered his own words of wisdom and stressed, “Relax, Conner.”

Coming to the clone’s defense, Donna argued, “You say that with a sense of urgency.”

Trying to defend himself, Dick insisted, “I just want to make sure he’s having a good time.”

“You don’t need to keep pestering him about it.”

Not at all interested in the discussion, Conner looked around trying to find Tim and see what was taking him so long.

He was at the bar alone patiently waiting for Donna’s drink until a group of girls circled around him. Conner had been told not to use his hearing unless the situation warranted it, but he decided he should make sure nothing was going to happen to Tim.

One of the girls, a tall brunette, leaned over Tim’s shoulder and whispered a coy, “Hey.”

Tim muttered a dismissive, response but kept his attention on the bartender who was getting another order a few spots down. It shouldn’t be much longer, but he was more curious as to why anyone would name a drink ‘grasshopper.’

The brunette didn’t seem to understand what the tone of his voice meant and went on to ask, “What’s your name?”

A little shocked at the question, Tim turned to face away from the bar and asked, “What?”

She repeated, “What’s your name?”

Looking around at the three girls that had somehow cornered, Tim clarified, “You’re kidding right?”

A blonde from behind him smiled and repeated, “She’s just asking for your name.”

Tim took a moment to take in their stature. They were all about half a foot taller than him, one quite smaller than the others, and looked quite drunk. He could easily beat them, but he wanted to avoid making a scene if it was possible. Before Tim could decide whether or not to give them his real name, they came up with another idea.

“How about we guess your name?” The brunette looked particularly proud of her idea suggestion and the other two were quick to agree.

The shortest one beamed, “I bet we could guess it.”

Tim agreed to the idea if it meant he could buy some more time until Donna’s drink was ready and then walk back to the group. He stood patiently as the trio began shooting out random names for men.

Conner looked back to the others at the table and found Dick and Donna still having their argument while Roy was looking at something on his phone. He got Wally’s attention instead and pointed to the scene. Immediately recognizing that Tim might need some help, Wally got up to intervene and Conner followed on his heel.

Having decided that none of them really needed to know his name, Tim put an end to the guessing game and said, “My name is Kevin.”

He didn’t really like the way they repeated his fake name, but he perked up turned his attention to Wally and Conner when they showed up to save him.

Conner ignored everyone else and asked, “Is everything alright, Tim?”

The short one looked confused and asked him, “Why did he call you ‘Tim?’ You said your name was Kevin.”

Reaching in between the girls to grab him, Wally said, “Let’s get back to the table.”

Blocking Tim’s way out, the brunette stood up taller and asked, “What’s up ginger?”

Ignoring the scene, Conner tried again and asked, “Are you ready to head back?”

With them making a wall between Tim and his friends, Tim couldn’t get out. The brunette, they all assumed she was their leader, told the newcomers, “Hey, we’re just trying to buy him a drink and get him to lighten up. What’s your problem?”

Getting angry, Conner explained, “He’s 17. You’d have to take him cross country to buy him a beer.”

The blonde laughed until she say the angry look on Tim’s face and how he was growing tired of their little game. Not wanting to make the situation any worse, Wally tried again but this time the short one pushed Tim back against the counter to stop him from getting out of the circle he was trapped in.

Turning back to make sure Tim was still behind her, the brunette turned to Wally with a smug smile and asked, “Why don’t you go?”

Taking in a deep breath and reminding himself that he wasn’t in costume right now, Wally put on a false smile and advised, “Look you don’t know who this is, be cool”

The three looked between each other and mocked, “Be cool?”

The blonde called out from the back and asked, “What do you know about being col, Carrot Top?”

Back at the table, Roy noticed the unreasonably long absence of half the group and pointed out the scene to Donna and Dick. In an instant the light jovial tone was gone and they read the situation to see if it guaranteed them breaking out of their civies. Donna immediately got up to reinforce the others while Dick picked up the button from the table before following the others.

They got there in time to hear the brunette call out, “What are you doing here with him anyway because to to me you just look like a ginger faggot.”

Roy got up beside Wally and asked, “What’s going on around here?”

The blonde one badgered on, “Oh look, another ginger faggot.”

After Roy gave the three of them a quick, “Kiss me ass,” Donne called out to the person in the middle of this mess to make sure he hadn’t been hurt.

Looking down and wondering how he had gotten in the middle of this mess, Tim assured her, “I’m fine.”

Knowing he was too proud to say if he was in trouble, Donna turned to Wally.

He gave her the same blase, “Everything’s fine.”

Not liking being ignored, the brunette focused on Donna and asked, “You wanna go?”

She might have thought that she look intimidating with the way she waved her arms and puffed her chest, but to someone with as much experience as Donna she looked like a fool.

With the Amazon too busy trying to stifle her laughter, Roy looked at the brunet and bluntly asked, “What are you talking about?”

Turning her attention to him, she repeated, “You wanna go? Let’s do it right now.”

Hoping that the scene was not as bad as it looked, Dick broke in and asked, “How’s everything going?”

“Oh look, more fairy boys.”

A little taken aback, Dick knew he had to say something but the first thing that came to mind was, “Excuse me?”

With absolutely no hesitation, the brunette repeated, “I said more fairy boys.”

Looking up at the sky and not believing this would happen the first time he took his little brother to a bar, Dick muttered, “I can’t believe this is happening.”

The short one actually was not as dumb as she looked because she looked between Dick and Tim and realized, “I’ve seen these two somewhere before.”

Smiling at her, Dick promised, “You guys don’t realize it, but you’re having a pretty bad night.”

Just in time, three officers broke in with their badges in the air and announced, “Federal agents. Federal agents.”

Roy, Donna, Wally, and Dick immediately had their arms in the air and began pointing at the girls until the officers had them against the counter. The only noise in the bar came from the sound of glass breaking and groans as the girls were held against the counter while agents handcuffed them behind their back.

Turning enough to look Wally in the eye, the brunette growled, “I’m not done with you, Carrot Top.”

Even though he knew he had won, Wally leaned down and said, “My name is Wally, jackass, and it looks like you three are going to be spending the rest of spring break in a federal prison.”

The gravity of the situation seemed to have dawned on the trio as they stopped fighting against the hold of the officers and deflated. Most everyone turned back to their table hoping that their meal hadn’t gone cold and made sure Tim wasn’t hurt, but Conner and Dick stayed back.

Watching the three leave out the door, Conner turned to Dick and said, “Now I’m having a good time.”

Knowing that just might be the silver lining of the night, Dick curled his lips and said, “Well, my work here is done.”