Okay. This is the first chapter. Kind of just a setup, so you can skip if you want. I promise it gets both longer and better!
Dick blinked his eyes hard as he sat up in bed. His mouth tasted like sleep and bad breath. Instinctively, he checked his wrist computer with the press of a few buttons.
The room in Mount justice had always seemed a little strange to Dick, especially when compared to his comfier bedroom back at the manor. It was smaller here, a little less decorated. The only adornments were the small queen size bed in the corner, a mirror, and a metal symbol on the blank white wall. A single silver and gold R. Not real, of course, just spray painted steel.
The room was simply decorated, but neither Dick nor his teammates ever spent much time in their rooms anyway. Except maybe Conner and M'gann. But then, they did live there full time.
The only reason Dick had chosen to crash at the mountain was to get away. His Replacement was rooming too closely to him back at Wayne manor for his comfort. She was constantly…there. Always the smug, know-it-all grin stretched across her face, always so eager to please their-his--mentor.
The last straw had been dinner with Bruce and Alfred. He'd tried hard to ask his mentor about an upcoming mission, but the Replacement had taken over all conversation with her 'girly talk'. When he'd finally managed to catch Bruce's attention, the bat signal had activated, and they'd all rushed off to handle the emergency. The rest of the night had been spent babysitting her. Robin didn't know what had possessed Batman to take on a…a girl.
M'gann had been so excited last night when she'd heard he'd be staying the night. She'd invited the rest of the team for a 'sleepover' too. And, of course, they'd all agreed, not wanting to hurt the Martian's feelings. She was still recovering from the shock of having the secret of her species revealed to the entire Justice League. They were all recovering; Vandal Savage's hostile takeover of the Watchtower was still fresh in everyone's minds. The Replacement had contacted him right before their mission to infiltrate the League's base, of course. She always felt the need to make everything about her.
So, everyone had agreed to the sleepover. It was supposed to be a great way to 'recover' after saving the world. The girls all bunked together, probably to braid each others' hair and gossip. The guys, though, had each opted to sleep alone in their own rooms, an arrangement that Dick was infinitely grateful for. He could practically hear Wally snoring down the hall.
The time on his wrist computer told him he'd slept for about eight hours. Pretty much forever. He ran a check of the weather, scanned for any messages from Batman. Usual checks.
A little notification in the corner told him that his boss had sent him a brief message.
[Robin. You missed patrol last night. I expect you to take the north end tonight, and do another sweep down by the docks.]
Dick winced. He'd been almost sure that he'd remembered to ask for a leave of absence. That was what he got for sleeping in. He went on.
[I'm bringing Batgirl to Mount Justice this morning. Please try to maintain a little bit of decorum around your teammates. I'm well aware of the contention between the two of you, but this has gone on long enough. At least try to act like you can stand each other, at least around the other protégés.
Dick swore under his breath and put away the wrist computer. As he hurriedly pulled on his clothes and sunglasses, he hoped that he wasn't too late to warn his teammates.
Barbara stared at the bat computer's screen, absorbing all the last-minute info she'd downloaded on the Team. It was finally happening. Her training wasn't complete, per se. Bruce had made that clear enough. But it was…'sufficient'. She'd finally be able to work with the mysterious sidekicks of the justice league. Who knew? She might even make friends.
Not for lack of trying. She'd been secretly begging Bruce for this chance for months. When everyone in the League fell underneath Savage's control, she'd frantically contacted Robin for info on Batman. She wanted to help, to do something. He'd 'politely' suggested that she mind her own business and hunker down in the cave until the matter was resolved. And, since Batgirl didn't have the means to get herself to the Watchtower, she'd had no choice but to stay put.
Batman was typing in the coordinates for Mount Justice into the batcave's personal zeta tube. Bruce turned to Barbara and said,
"Are you ready?"
Babs cleared her throat, adjusting the strap of the gym bag that held her costume over her shoulder. "Bruce?" She asked, "Do you ever- do you think…"
He stared at her, and she felt warmth flood to her face.
"What if they hate me?" she whispered. Her eyes sank to the floor. Batman was at her side in three strides.
"What makes you think they would? If it's because Robin-"
"No," she interjected. "It's just…I'm not like them." Barbara sighed. May as well get it off her chest. "People…terrify me, Bruce. I'm too quiet and timid and…I've never fit in before. People just want to take one look at me and put me in a box, usually one I don't like. And…I've only been at this for a little while. They're all, like, professionals now. What if I screw up, and they all hate me?"
Her stomach was knotted up. There was an intense feeling of fear behind her sternum. Then, something wrapped around her shoulders and she just about fell over from pure shock. Bruce-the Batman-was hugging her.
"I know the feeling," he rumbled, "but these are good kids. You shouldn't have to worry."
She must have seemed unconvinced, because he paused and drew back, then smiled.
"It's alright to be nervous, Barbara. But you're a bat. People are already going to expect you to be confident. You're a leader, just by putting on that suit." He thought for a minute. "Pretend…pretend like it's another night of patrol. I've seen you with the criminals. Not one of them would ever be able to guess that you're anything but confident. The team won't know either. If you want to change before we leave-"
"No," Barbara said. " It's fine."
Bruce smiled, then pulled up his cowl, immediately transforming from kindly mentor to stiff and calculating Batman.
The zeta tube whirred to life and scanned them.
RECOGNIZED: BATMAN A-02