Special thanks to Talia White 14 who help me with my English!
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Young Justice or anything famous.
│FEBRUARY 18, 13:02 EST
Dick Grayson adjusted his sunglasses before going out of his room in Mount Justice. He did not really like hiding his real identity from his closest friends, but he had to promise Bruce to keep the secret if he ever wanted to enter the Team. And he could not simply break his promise. Furthermore, he was afraid that his teammates would treat him differently as soon as they found out about his real identity. That if they knew, they would treat him like everybody else had been treating him since the day he had become the foster son of the famous Bruce Wayne. Everybody knew who Richard Grayson was, but few people knew Dick Grayson. Wally and Barbara were two rare exceptions. Two miracles.
Dick gave a long yawn. The night had been torture: the Joker had escaped once more from Arkham, and Bruce and he had searched Gotham all night in vain. The Joker had simply disappeared and the duo knew that their worst enemy just waited for the right moment to reappear and destroy everything that gets in his way. Finally, in the early hours of the morning, Dick received an urgent call from the Team. A villain was in Star City, and his assistance was requested. Only at nine o'clock did they complete their mission. As a result, the young man could barely squeeze four hours of sleep into his system to keep him going. And he still had to complete his project for biology before visiting Barbara that evening. Dick yawned again and stretched his muscles leisurely. Thinking of everything he still had to do exhausted him, but he had to do whatever was thrown his way. The Team counted on him for that.
Dick walked to the kitchen, his eyes still half closed, and made himself a very hot cup of coffee to (hopefully) keep him from falling asleep on his feet. How did Bruce keep going night after night of little to no sleep for all these years? Was he never tired? He turned around and almost emptied his steaming mug's contents onto Aqualad's clothes.
"Be careful, Robin!" Kaldur exclaimed and quickly took a few steps back. "I know you are tired, it is expected considering our nightly expedition, but there is no need to drop your guard entirely? To avoid a disaster, of course."
"Sorry Kal." The teenager mumbled and walked out of the room.
Without a word, the Boy Wonder took a seat on the sofa in the living room of the Cave, his cup of coffee clutched firmly in his hands.
"Tired Rob?" Wally laughed. He seemed as wide-awake as ever, an arm draped around Artemis's shoulders.
"The Boy Wonder finally shows us his weakness?" Added the blonde with a smile. "I wouldn't have thought it possible."
The young man opened his mouth, a snappy retort on the tip of his tongue, but the shrill ring of his mobile phone cut him off. He raised an eyebrow. Generally, nobody called him when he was with the team, or at least, not his civilian phone. He put his cup on the small table in the middle of the living room, took the persistent object out of his pocket, and looked at the number displayed on the screen. Barbara.
"I'm sorry guys, I have to take this, it's important" He excused himself and got up.
"Important? As in a beautiful-babe-important?" Wally said with spark of amusement and interest in his eyes while his best friend walked away with long strides. "You will introduce her?" Wally called at Robin's retreating back.
Dick didn't answer, but before he was out of earshot, he heard the unmistakable sound of a slap. It was followed by a loud groan of pain. Artemis could be really jealous sometimes.
"Babs? What's wrong?" Dick asked.
But the girl did not answer. All that the young man could hear was sobs, sniffing and shouts.
"Babs?" The young man repeated, panic bubbling up inside of him. "Are you there? Is everything all right?"
"D... Dick," a hiccup came finally.
"Babs? Are you OK?" The teenager paced frantically across the room.
"I... I didn't know who to call," the girl apologized pitifully. "But... But the Joker escaped from Arkham."
"I know, don't worry. Bruce and I are handling it." He tried to reassure her. "We're going to get him before he gets the chance to hurt anybody."
"No Dick," Barbara stuttered. "You… you don't understand. He... He came to my place."
Dick froze and for a moment, he forgot to breathe. The Joker had gone to Barbara's home. The Joker had gone to Barbara's home. The Joker had gone to Barbara's home.
"Barbara, where are you? What happened?" He pressed.
"He had a weapon, Dick." She sniffed and it felt as if a hand clamped down onto Dick's heart. "I didn't...wasn't able to do anything. Dick, I swear to you, I couldn't do anything. Dick, he shot at my father. He... the Joker said that it wasn't a fatal wound, that my dad would survive, but I had to do everything he said otherwise he'd kill my dad. Dick, I couldn't let him die. I... couldn't."
"Barbara, tell me what's going on."
"Dick, I… there's a bomb… and if I move from my current location… position, it will go off. It will destroy my whole building. Including me."
Grayson's legs became weak and he had difficulty supporting his body. His heart stopped for a few seconds. That son of...
"Barbara, is the Joker with you?" He asked and tried to keep his voice even to not frighten her even more.
"No, as soon as he activated the bomb, he left."
"All right, I'll come to you. Don't worry; I will be there in a few minutes." He lowered his voice and added sincerely. "I promise."
And he hung up. That son of a bitch shot the police commissioner and placed his best friend in danger. In danger of death. She could die because of this madman. He made the person that means the most to Dick, suffer, and for that, the Joker was going to pay. Dick only realized that he was out of his room when he suddenly looked up to see the entire Team staring at him.
"Hem... Rob? Is everything OK?" Wally asked concern clear on his face.
"... Yes. Why?" Dick asked nonchalantly, suppressing a scream. They do not need to know what's going on. It is your private life, Dick.
"Robin... Your phone." Zatanna commented.
A confused expression flashed across the young man's face. What? He looked down at his hand and saw that in his rage he broke the flimsy thing in half. Dick swallowed and delicately placed the on the table, next to his forgotten cup of coffee.
"Robin? Are you sure that everything is OK?" Aqualad asked carefully, worried for his teammate, as every good leader is.
"Yes, yes, everything is fine." The young man affirmed. "I just didn't pay attention to what I was doing. You know, with the lack of sleep and all that."
"Maybe you should go rest then?" M'gann proposed friendly.
"No!" Dick exclaimed with such vehemence that Conner stepped forward, ready to protect Miss Martian. "I mean… I have to go to Gotham."
"Now?" Artemis wondered aloud.
"Yes, I have something to do." He answered. "Something very important."
"Does it have anything to do with the chick that called you a few minutes ago?" Wally asked, leaning back against the wall. He wore a mask of casual curiosity but Dick could see that the redhead was burning with questions.
"A girl called Robin?" Conner asked, surprised.
"Yep, and our little Boy Wonder left the room immediately to continue the discussion in another room...which he locked." Wally confirmed with a tight grin.
"It was not…" Dick began but he was interrupted by the voice of Batman.
"Team, briefing room. Now."
Dick bit his tongue to keep from swearing. How will he get to Barbara to keep his promise if he was on the other side of the world for a mission? He sighed mentally. He had to tell Bruce, explain to him what happened and about Barbara's situation. Maybe, for once, Bruce would show a little bit of empathy and exempt him from this mission to save his best friend. Anyway, he had no choice. With or without the Batman's consent, Dick will get to Barbara, even if the act costs him his place in the team. After all, Barbara Gordon is worth it.
"Team, you are to get to Gotham as quickly as possible." Batman announced with his grave voice. "I am sure that most of you have heard about the only uncorrupted policeman in Gotham: James Gordon."
Dick inhaled sharply, earning a knowing look from Wally. Could it be possible that…? With a simple movement, his mentor revealed a photo of Commissioner Gordon.
"A few minutes ago, the Joker shot him." He continued and M'gann's hands flew to her mouth, her eyes widening. "Fortunately, his vital organs are unscathed, but he is currently in surgery.
"His daughter, Barbara, was also present during the shooting." The man answered and he revealed Barbara's photo next to James' photo.
"Is she hurt too?" Conner questioned.
"If we do not something and fast, she will be much more than hurt." Batman retorted, still as stoical as ever.
"What do you mean?" Artemis asked.
"The Joker placed an unknown explosive device in her building." Bruce explained. "The slightest movement will cause it to explode. We have seen bombs with similar designs and should be able to disable it, but with the Joker you can never be too sure."
A heavy silence followed this announcement. M'gann had tears in her eyes and seemed on the verge of having a stroke; Conner was more worried by the state of his girlfriend than by the mission. Artemis and Aqualad silently waited for instructions. Zatanna crossed her arms, waiting impatiently. Wally's mind was clearly moving a million miles per second and he kept shooting worried glances at Dick. For them, Barbara was only an unknown civilian to save. Nothing more.
"What do we have to do Batman?" Aqualad finally asked. "Deactivated the bomb?"
"No." The mentor immediately replied." It is too dangerous for you; the League will take care of it. Your mission is to assure that Miss Gordon does not make a movement."
"That's our mission?" Superboy growled. "Just listen to her snivelling, hear this kid complain and beg us for help?"
Only Wally saw the way Robin's hands clenched tightly into fists at Connor's inconsiderate words. If not for the sake of Dick's cover, Connor would have a broken nose at the least.
"Conner, you're being insensitive." M'gann berated him with a soft voice.
"This poor girl must be terrified. Please, keep your bitterness and opinions to yourself and do what you are told." Aqualad agreed
The clone didn't respond.
"You'll just need your masks," Batman concluded. "Your civilian clothes will make her more comfortable. Understood?"
"Yes," the teenagers agreed in unison.
"Then, may you have a good flight."
│FEBRUARY 18, 14:05 EDT
The journey was made in silence and fortunately, it was short. Dick could barely stay seated. As soon as the Bioship touched the ground, he ran towards the exit. The policemen moved back at the sight of the Team and took them towards the crime scene. Of course, Dick was able to walk to Barbara's apartment blindly, but he acted as if he was visiting the building for the first time. As usual, he pretended. He claimed to be someone he wasn't.
Barbara was in the middle of the room. A circle was drawn around her feet, and the young man guessed that it was the limited zone that won't activate the bomb. He looked at his best friend. Drops of blood covered her blue jeans, her red hair were as dishevelled as ever and there were dark rings under her perfect blue eyes. Obviously, to remain standing without moving was a tiring job. The policemen left them alone with her.
"Barbara?" He asked.
The girl raised her head suddenly, her eyes sparkling. Her best friend was finally there. But when she saw that he wore his dark sunglasses and that his whole team stood behind him, her look faded into a poker face, as if they were only unknown heroes, here to save her. And Dick didn't like that at all.
"I suppose that you're the great heroes that have come to my rescue?" Barbara sighed.
Wally sensed the tension in the room and tried to defuse it like only he could. "In flesh and blood, Beautiful. I'm Kid Flash, but you can call me-"
He was cut off by Artemis who gave him a violent blow to the back of his head before he could say something stupid thing and reveal his real identity.
"I am Miss Martian," M'gann continued calmly, "this is Superboy, Zatanna, Artemis, Aqualad, and I am absolutely certain that you already know Robin."
"We've met a few times." Barbara admitted without looking at her best friend.
Dick swallowed. Breathe, Grayson, breathe.
"You could say I've saved her life a few times." Dick approved slowly.
"Oh dude, if I knew that working in Gotham could make me meet girls like this, I would have signed on to work with Batman!" Wally exclaimed cheerfully.
The Boy Wonder refrained from striking his other best friend, but Artemis did not hesitate. Wally grumbled and rubbed the back of his head. Barbara emitted a small laugh.
"It is good to see you smile, Miss Gordon." Kaldur said. "In a moment like this, it is necessary to relax, to think of good things."
The noise of a stool being dragged erupted from the hallway. Conner entered and sat down with a bored sigh.
"What are you guys doing here? Shouldn't you be defusing the bomb?" The red-haired asked.
"Batman did not want you alone during this difficult time." M'gann explained.
"We are here to take care of you." Artemis added. "So that you can... keep calm."
Barbara raised an eyebrow. Dick knew what was going to follow. His best friend hated being treated like a damsel in distress. Being babied as if she was weak is a feeling that she hated more than anything in the world.
"I think that I can take care of myself." Barbara affirmed with a harsh note to her voice.
"A little of bit of moral support doesn't hurt, does it?" Dick prodded with a small smile.
"If your mission is to provide moral support, you'll have to do better Hunk Wonder. I am not even sure that you convinced yourself." She smiled.
The others looked at the scene, surprised. Only Wally knew that the two teenagers knew each other very well. The team only saw two unfamiliar people who were teasing each other like family.
"So, you admit it. The famous Barbara Gordon does need me to lift her moral." Dick shot back without thinking twice.
As soon as the words left his mouth, he cringed inwardly. He lost control. He totally lost control of himself, like every time he was with her. She was a danger to his secret identity. He couldn't pretend that he didn't know her. He couldn't not tease her or act like anybody that he wasn't. Not with her.
"Rob, can I talk to you for a minute? Outside." Wally asked, no demanded.
Dick gave a Barbara a brief of sympathy, before following Kid Flash outside of the apartment.
Wally closed the door violently behind them, and in his look, Dick knew that his best friend was really, really, angry.
"What the hell happened to you, dude?" He shrieked furiously.
"What are you talking about?" The young man asked coolly.
"What am I talking about? What am I talking about?" The older boy growled. "I'm the clown – the fool that can't keep his mouth shut. You're supposed to be the unshakable protégé of Batman, yet you're slipping out of your cover! What would Bats say if he was here?"
"Batman's reaction or opinion is the last thing on my mind at the moment." The Boy Wonder grumbled. "In case you haven't noticed it, one of my best and only friends in this crazy world is trapped in her apartment because of a madman I wasn't able to capture! And did you see? Did you see how her face fell when she saw the rest of the Team and knew that she was going to have to keep up a façade even though she must be going out of her mind with fear? If I want to be there for her, I need to be Dick Grayson, not Robin a stranger, simply here to rescue a civilian." Dick was panting lightly after his rant.
"I hope you're not thinking of telling the Team who you really are." Wally said, knowing what the answer was. Dick was one of the only people who knew who Wally really was too. They were best friends for a reason.
"Wouldn't it be simpler?" Dick asked dejectedly.
"You know you can't." Wally told him seriously. "You made a promise to Bats. Think about the consequences it will have on the Team."
Dick sighed and moved his hand through his hair.
"You are my best friend, Dick." The red-haired boy said. "I only want you to be happy. I know you. And I know that your real identity matters a lot to you. So... think about the consequences."
"I just want ... I know that my real identity is problematic, but it's just that I can't take all these lies anymore. To the Team. To Barbara. To everybody. You can understand that?"
Wally did not answer; he didn't need to, and reopened the door.
"Barbara?" Dick called as he entered the room again.
"Oh, hello Robin!" The girl said cheerfully. "And... Kid Flash."
"Your enthusiasm at the sight of me truly warms my heart, Beautiful." Wally joked, easily falling back into his role.
Robin plastered a smile onto his face. Barbara tried not to move too much, but Dick could see her legs shake slightly from standing so long. How long has she been standing here? Two hours? No, probably more. Bruce informed him of the fact that Barbara had to wait until one of her neighbours discovered the body of her father, to call for help and her best friend.
"Everything okay, Barbara?" Zatanna asked, who had noticed the tic too.
"Oh... It is just... A little cramp due to trying not to move." The redhead made a face. "It's nothing. Really."
"Do you want some water?" M'gann proposed friendly.
"No, I'm fine. Thanks." Barbara refused with a small smile. "Besides, you can't get close enough to me."
Zatanna murmured something incomprehensible under her breath and a bottle of water appeared suddenly in the other girl's hands.
"Who..." Barbara mumbled. "Well... thank you. Thank you very much."
The young women smiled at her. And Barbara emptied the bottle with a few gulps.
Hours crawled by. The sun left and was replaced by the moon. Nobody came. Nobody came to announce that everything was alright, or that Barbara could finally get out of there.
Then suddenly, Barbara's legs began to quake dangerously. Her face was pale as a corpse, and everybody could see that she probably couldn't stand much longer. Robin moved as close as he dared. The others followed him.
"What's going on?" Conner asked quickly.
"I... It's just..." Barbara closed her eyes. She tried to keep her balance. Those years of gymnastics helped her, but Dick felt a pang of despair shoot through his heart. He resisted the desire to step forward and hug her.
"Hold on just a few more minutes," Kaldur begged. "I am absolutely sure that the League is almost finished deactivating the bomb. Just hold on, everything is going to be fine."
"Get out." Barbara ordered. "Do you hear me? Get out before I blow everything up. Including you."
"But...-" Artemis protested.
"Get out of here!" Barbara exploded.
The Team looked at each other. Did they have to leave? Stay? They could not leave her alone, not in this situation, but were they all willing to die just for the sake of comforting one person?
"I'm going to stay here." Robin said. He looked his best friend in her eyes.
"What?" Everyone exclaimed, including Barbara.
"I stay here." The boy repeated. "I am going to stay here with Barbara, to support her, and you? You'll get out of the danger zone."
He was stubborn. He knew exactly what he was doing. His teammates looked at him as if he were insane. They were frightened, stunned, surprised. Dick clearly had his mind made up. He made his decision.
"You can't...-" Barbara began.
"It's over." A policeman came running up the stairs and interrupted her.
"Is it safe?" Kaldur asked.
The man paused before answering, then spoke really, really, slowly, "We are not completely sure, but we believe so."
"You are not completely sure?" Kid Flash repeated, his voice rising to a shrill screech.
"We can never be entirely sure with this kind of bomb, but the League says they are fifty percent sure that the bomb is disabled. Of course, there are still risks, but...-"
"We can't wait any longer." ended Robin. He shook his head and turned to his teammates. "Who knows what the Joker has prepared? Perhaps... With the Joker, we can expect everything. He is a psychopath."
An intense silence followed this announcement. It was broken by Barbara's panting breath. "Get out of here." She said again.
"Get out," Dick agreed, "I stay here."
"Rob, you don't think...-" Wally started, his mind racing, trying to find a way to save his friend.
"I know what I'm doing," Boy Wonder snapped and stared his team down. "You get out, I stay. Don't worry."
"Do what he says." A deep voice intervened.
Everybody turned around. At the door was Batman, who fixed his protégé with an unblinking stare. Dick observed his foster father, who was as imperturbable as ever.
"Get out," he repeated.
Nobody dared to respond. M'gann and Conner walked out of the apartment with a wave to their friend, Zatanna seemed close to tears and Artemis looked as if she was ready to argue, but then gave up and went out. Wally looked at his best friend. He didn't need to speak. Robin knew him well enough. Wally tried for a grin, which seemed extremely fake, and exited.
"See you later my friend." Kaldur firmly stated, and with a nod to Batman, followed the rest of his team.
Bruce stared at Dick, his face not betraying any emotion, before closing the door and exciting the building.
"What are you doing, you idiot?" Barbara screeched.
"I'm helping my best friend." Dick told her and took of his glasses, revealing his cornflower blue eyes.
"By committing suicide? Very smart, Grayson." The girl growled.
"Is it me or are you afraid?" He teased her. The young man smiled at his best friend.
"Wouldn't you be afraid if you were in my position?" The redhead asked softly.
"I have no idea."
"Wouldn't you be afraid if at any moment, you could blow up a whole building? A bunch of kids came to 'save' you, but all they could really do was risk being blown up too. You can't move a muscle and after a while it seems that every fibre in your body is screaming, screaming even louder than when the Joker tortured you. Your moron of a best friend decides to stay with you, and he considers that as a heroic deed, but he's just being an idiot who's allowing his feelings to interfere with his judgement on a mission. You'd be terrified." Her eyes were scorching.
Dick stared at her in surprise. She grew up and become stronger than he realized. He was extremely impressed.
"That's what heroes do, Babs." He answered. "They save people by doing reckless and yes, sometimes idiotic, things. Now, it's your turn to be the hero and do the whole stupid heroic deed. Move out of the circle and give me a huge hug."
"I can't, Dick." She shook her head. "If... If the League...If I killed you?"
"I'm sure that they deactivated the bomb. It's probably their attempt at humour, or something. Now, come here." He said sternly.
The tone of his voice was determined and that restored some of her lost confidence in Barbara. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes.
Outside, the people could not remove their eyes from the building. The tension was at its peak.
"You can do it, Babs."
Slowly, Barbara lifted up one foot. Nothing. A long sigh escaped Dick's mouth. Her joints howling, the girl put her foot out of the circle, her eyes still squeezed tightly shut. Her eyes flew open when she felt to arms envelope her in a tight hug. She wasn't dead. Her mind screamed a wordless echo in relief. She was alive
Barbara looked at the cursed circle, stunned by the fact that all her limbs were still attached to her body. Dick's arms tightened around her waist and for a moment she lost herself in the warm feeling of joy spreading through her body. She was alive and in Dick's arms.
She is alive. She is alive. She is alive. The one sentence looped continuously in the Boy Wonder's mind. He felt slightly dizzy with relief.
When the policemen and the League entered the room, all they saw were two teenagers in one another's arms.
Dick felt the full weight of Barbara's body leaning against his arms, and knew that if he lets go of her her, she would fall. She was exhausted. And he was too, but he slid an arm around Barbara's knees, the other remained firmly around her waist, and picked her up, carrying her bridal style.
Barbara had no strength to argue this, so relented and buried her face into the young man's chest.
"We need to get out of here. Now!" Flash commanded.
They followed the League and the policemen. The deafening hubbub of journalists and people that greeted them when they arrived outside made some of the Leaguers wince. The shouting crowds were pushing against the police to get a good peek at the heroes.
"Oh my god! Robin, you are okay!" M'gann, who stood near a police car with some of the other members of the League, exclaimed.
Wally exhaled loudly in relief and grinned at the sight of his best friend, alive. Everybody smiled and relaxed for the first time in hours. They were safe. Everyone was safe and sound, and the whole ordeal was finally over…
Everything happened so fast. The building collapsed in a dreadful explosion, causing flying debris and a gigantic cloud of dust. Shouts and screams erupted from the crowd. Wally flattened Artemis under him in a fluent movement, his speed saving them both from being crushed by a slab of concrete that flew over their heads. Conner rushed to M'gann. Kaldur and Zatanna took refuge behind a car. Dick protected Barbara with his body, turning her away from the collapsing building.
With wide eyes everyone watched the blazing inferno devouring the building in which they stood mere minutes ago.