"You know, you really missed your chance there," Brown tells him.
Booster doesn't quite… see it. Sure, she's blonde haired, blue eyed, and good-looking, wearing a puffy green vest over a dark grey turtleneck, her long hair pulled back into a ponytail. But she doesn't look much like Michelle, or even him, except for ticking those same boxes on coloration.
But the DNA doesn't lie, and she's absolutely his ancestor, and someone's trying to kill her to wipe him out of the time stream, so…
"Sorry, what?" Booster asks, squinting at her. She's twenty-one, and honestly, Booster doesn't deal with people this age much these days, not since he realized that he was officially too old to flirt with them without wanting to lock himself up. The closest he can think of is Jaime, but Jamie is a good kid, a superhero, and a teenager, rather than a stranger, a civilian, and a college student.
"You're a time traveler, right?" She says. "And you're saving my life?"
"Oh! Right! The Terminator," he nods. "Come with me if you want to live?"
She gives him a disappointed look, but all he can really do is shrug at her. He saves people a lot, he's used that reference so often that it's basically dead to him, no matter how much Ted loved those movies.
"Anyways," she says, sticking her hands in her pockets. "So, like, not that I'm not happy not to be dead and all, but like… why?"
"Someone's trying to kill you to interfere with the timeline," he tells her. "I can't give you more details, but today, it's my job to keep you alive!" He gives her finger guns and his cereal-box smile.
"Wait, only today? So it's okay if I die tomorrow?" She looks alarmed at that.
"Uh, no," Booster says. "But they're only trying today."
"And what if they try tomorrow?"
"How do you know that?" She crosses her arms, and seriously, there must be something in the water in Twenty-First Century Gotham (besides Joker Gas, Fear Gas, and shed Killer Croc scales) because all Gothamites are like this.
"I just—I know, okay! I'm from the future, you have to trust me!"
"That's not a real explanation!"
"I'm a superhero!"
"I am! Booster Gold! I was in the Justice League!"
"I hear a past tense there, and also, weren't you dead?"
"All superheroes die at one point or another, you can't hold that against me!"
She pauses, and then unfolds her arms.
"You know what, that's actually fair."
"Thank you," he says, because he really doesn't want to have to explain the whole 52 thing to a college student.
She sighs and seems to unfold slightly.
"So why is someone trying to kill me?"
"Ah, uh," Booster rubs the back of his neck awkwardly.
"One of your descendants is important to the time stream, Miss Brown," Rip says, turning the corner. Booster sighs in relief, because even after all this time, people still tend to take Rip more seriously than him. To be fair, that's part of the package, but it still can be very frustrating. "These assassins hope that by eliminating you, they'll be able to prevent your descendent from being born."
Brown looks rather flustered by this. "What? Why?"
"It's a frequent strategy, unfortunately." He holds out his hand. "I'm Rip Hunter. Time Master."
"Uh, Stephanie. Brown. But I guess you already knew that?" Brown shakes his hand. "Uh, no offense… Booster? But um. I thought you were like. A reality TV star. Why are you involved here?"
"He owes me a favor," Rip says blandly. "It's dangerous for me to go out sometimes, and Booster… well, his force field is useful, if nothing else."
"Hey!" Booster protests, even though he knows Rip doesn't mean it.
"Can't you just… y'know, ask Batman to help me?" Steph asks. "Doesn't he get territorial?" Also, she could actually do something if Bruce was the one running the case, rather than some Twenty-Fifth Century Weirdo.
"Bats doesn't exactly have the equipment for this one," Booster says, clearly trying to boast, and absolutely proving he knows nothing about Batman in the process.
Unfortunately, this severely limits her options. She can't exactly go around telling this guy that she's Batgirl—Bruce would kill her, because she might not be as directly connected to him as some of the others, but any piece of the puzzle is too much of the puzzle. Not to mention, he doesn't exactly seem like the kind of guy who could keep a secret.
It's at this point in her thought process that the wall explodes, and killer robots come through.
Steph's first reaction is, in true form, to grab the nearest piece of rubble and chuck it directly at the robot.
Booster grabs her arm and pulls her behind him. "I swear to God, does everyone from Twenty-First Century Gotham have a death wish?"
There's a hint of an accent there, almost unrecognizable, but Steph has lived her entire life in New Jersey, and she knows Gotham vowels when she hears them.
"Wait, are you from Gotham?"
"Twenty-Fifth Century! Totally different!" He yells, before blasting another robot. "Stay close to me! I can expand my force field to look after you!"
… put her fate in the hands of Booster Gold, or defend herself, and potentially risk her secret identity?
Rip Hunter has produced some kind of laser gun from somewhere on his person, and is shooting at them, and Booster actually seems to be doing an okay job at holding them off.
Steph still punches one or two of them. It hurts her knuckles, but it makes her feel better about the batarangs sitting uselessly in her backpack.
"STEPHANIE BROWN MUST DIE. THE LINE OF CARTER MUST BE EXTINGUISHED," the robot declares.
"Good luck with that!" Booster yells.
"IDENTIFIED: BOOSTER GOLD. AKA: MICHAEL CARTER. EXTINGUISH."
"Well," Rip Hunter says, a moment later, as the sound of the latest explosion fades. "At least he's offered them a new target."
"Were you planning on telling me that you guys are my great-grandkids?" Steph says, sighing as she watches Booster be flung bodily across the lab.
Raw, pure, panic flashes across Rip's face, almost too fast for anyone to notice. "You're mistaken," he says. "Booster is descended from you."
"… you have your dad's nose," Steph tells him, flatly. "And your roots are showing."
"They're not," Rip Hunter says, just as flatly. "Twenty-third century dye jobs don't show roots." He sighs and runs his hands through the aforementioned dyed-brown hair. "My real name is a secret. The work I do… it's vital that nobody knows"
"Not even Booster?"
"Especially not Booster," he says. There's still that edge to him, but he's clearly calmed down slightly.
"Man, that must be weird," Steph says, shaking her head. "But don't worry. I won't say a word."
He looks at her, skeptical.
"By your own logic, letting it spill puts me in danger as well as… Booster," Steph points out, noticing that the fighting is dying down, so it's best to assume that eavesdropping is now possible. "It's in my own best interest to keep my mouth shut."
Rip Hunter scowls at her, but he doesn't say anything, even as Booster finally smashes the head of the last robot.
Rip is giving Booster that look which means that things have gone sideways and it's probably Booster's fault, but honestly, how was Booster supposed to expect an escalation from a regular assassination attempt to killer robots?
"How many greats are involved here?" Brown says. "Am I your great-great-great grandma?"
"Probably like three times that," Booster responds. "I'm from four hundred years in your future."
Stupid robots, giving him even more relatives in the twenty-first century. Daniel and Rose are more than enough, honestly. He's bad at remembering birthdays.
"Well, at least you're not a criminal! Told my dad that we could do better!" Brown flips her hair in a way that uncannily reminds him of Michelle, and grins widely.
… Booster makes a mental note to never tell this particular ancestor of his about how his superhero career got started.
"So… now what? I just… hang out until you figure out who's trying to kill me? Or until robots attack again?" Brown nudges the detached arm of one of the robots with her shoe.
"Unfortunately, we think whoever is targeting you has a biological lock on your DNA," Rip says.
"So… what?" Brown looks nervous.
"We're going to take you backwards in time. Somewhere you'll be easier to protect, and hopefully they won't think to look for you."
"… where? Or, I guess, when?"
"Don't worry," Rip says. "Booster will stay with you while I track down the threat."
Booster glares at Rip, but he's immune and always has been. This is why he shouldn't let Michelle take Rani to Six Rings without him! He gets stuck with babysitting duty!
Well, at least he's been handed a golden opportunity, pun intended.
Steph really should have lowered her expectations for a superhero team up when Booster Gold showed up to take a bullet for her.
Steph remembers hearing a lot about Booster Gold, a while back. She remembers, vaguely, seeing images of his funeral splashed across the TV, with a coffin draped in sponsorships. Black Canary had gone off at length about him once, and she wasn't alone.
It felt like almost every hero who she had ever met had a Booster Gold story—some time he'd sold out, screwed up, or just been a glory hound, chasing a headline or a payday.
And, to make matters worse, it's Stephanie Brown he's saving. And not because of her; not because she's done anything, but because of he's her descendent. He and Rip Hunter—who she's definitely heard about, Tim mentioned him when telling her about Bruce coming back from his time bouncing adventure—clearly don't know she's Batgirl. They don't know anything about her at all, and that stings.
She knows she's not important, not really. She's the fourth Robin, the third Batgirl, and Spoiler is a drop in the ocean of Gotham superheroes, let alone the entire world of superheroes.
But it still hurts her ego a bit, that her contribution to the time stream is apparently "has a kid, and then that kid has a kid, etc. etc., oh hey, a superhero."
Her expectations plummet even lower when she steps out of the rainbow-time bubble and sees herself standing in front of a car with a Rhode Island license plate.
"Are we in the 90s?" Steph asks. "You know I was alive then, right?"
"That's exactly why no one will think to check here!" Booster gives her a thumbs up.
Steph sighs. "Where are we, exactly?"
"Happy Harbor, Rhode Island," he says. "Home of the Justice League International!"
"Huh," Steph says. "Well, I guess that works."
He grabs gestures grandly for her to go in, and she does, slinging her backpack (with her costume in its hidden compartment, because duh, she has it with her) over her shoulder as she does so.
"Do I have a cover story? If you say girlfriend, I'll punch you, and not just because we're related."
"What! No!" He yelps, and he looks sincere enough in his yelping that Steph guesses that, at the very least, he's not that kind of asshole. "Uh, I'll say you… won a contest?"
"You'd be surprised. Besides, J'ohnn is out of town this week, so things are pretty quiet right now."
After he says that, Steph has no one but herself to blame that she's surprised when the door bursts open and Blue Beetle charges out of the door, being chased by Big Barda of all people.
He skids to a halt and beams, barely an inch in front of Booster with a gigantic grin on his face. "Booster! You're back!" There's a blur of motion, and then immediately Blue Beetle is hiding behind Booster. "Save me," he whispers.
Barda draws to a halt, glaring at Steph. "And who are you?"
"Uh… I won a contest?"
Barda turns to glare at Booster. "Again?"
Steph feels kind of obligated to help Booster out. He did save her life, after all, even if it's for the value of her genetic material and his own personal timeline, rather than for her sparkling personality. "It's really nice to meet you. I'm a huge fan!"
Barda blinks. "What, really?"
"Oh yeah! I've watched Mister Miracle's—" Steph pauses, remembering that Mister Miracle probably hasn't discovered Vine yet, because Vine hasn't been invented yet. "I went to a show of his ages ago, and I've totally been following your exploits since!"
"Huh. Well, at least you have good taste." She shakes her head. "Just don't let these two chuckle-heads drag you into anything too crazy."
"I'll try?" She'd promise, but knowing her luck, it would be a lie, and she'd really rather not lie to Big Barda, who is absolutely in the top ten of Steph's dream superhero team up list.
"Yeah, that's about as good as you can get," Barda mutters, before stomping into the same car that Steph had appeared in front of.
Superheroes drive mini vans. Who knew?
"Hey, nice to meet you, I'm Blue Beetle," Blue Beetle appears in front of her, shaking her hand eagerly, a boyish smile on his face.
"Inside," Booster insists, steering them both through the doorway. "What did you even do to Barda?"
"Nothing! Nothing at all," Blue Beetle denies. It's so strange, seeing Blue Beetle as an adult, rather than as the fun kid that Steph knows. "So, why are you visiting this time, Booster? Feeling nostalgic for the good old days again?"
"Not entirely," Booster says, gesturing towards her. "This is my grandma. With a couple of greats attached."
"I'm Steph, nice to meet you," she says, because hey, she's probably not going to team up with him, as shitty as that sounds. What with him being dead and all.
"… Stephanie Brown?" He says, blinking. He turns around and looks at Booster, then looks back at her.
"What, you know me?" Steph blinks, surprised.
He pulls off his mask, and she blinks.
"Oh! You're that guy! Uh… Ted!" She snaps her fingers, finally slotting all of the pieces together. "You were dating Babs!"
"And you're… Spoiler? Spoiler, right?"
"That's me," Steph says, grinning despite herself. She'd liked Ted, when she'd met him briefly. He'd been a nice guy… and she'd even known he was the Blue Beetle. Tim had been a huge fan, back when they were dating. He'd had a poster on the wall and everything, like the massive dork he was.
"Spoiler?" Booster mutters, staring at her.
"Aw, c'mon Boost!" Ted elbows Booster in the side. "I know she's a few years older than she otta be, but a Bat's a Bat."
There's a moment of pure panic on Booster's face. "No way, you can't be one of Bruce's kids—" Wait, he knows Bruce? "Because he's had my DNA on file for years, and there's no way he wouldn't tell me that I was related to one of his kids!"
Steph and Ted both stare at him.
"We're talking about the same Bruce, right?" Steph asks.
"Broody, no sense of humor, hoards secrets and orphans like a dragon?" Ted adds.
"Can't talk about his feelings if his life depended on it?" Steph is really getting into the rhythm of this banter, and Ted is clearly having as much fun with it as she is.
Booster facepalms and drags it down his chin. "I'm going to kill him," he hisses, glaring between the two of them.
"Did you really not think it was weird when I punched a robot?" Steph asks, honestly curious.
"You're from Gotham! Weirder shit happens!" Booster says, throwing his hands into the air. "This isn't my fault! I can't be expected to keep track of every single orphan Bruce adopts!"
"Technically, I'm not adopted. Or an orphan."
"That makes it even harder!"
"Wait," Ted Kord says, leaning forward. "Are you saying there are even more of you guys in the future? How many are we talking here? There's a betting pool, you know, about how long before he adopts the new Robin, I could cut you in—"
"Say nothing," Booster tells her, before grabbing Ted Kord in a headlock. "And you! Stop asking for hints!"
There's something almost soft in his face, as he and Blue Beetle rough house, and Steph feels something tighten in her chest.
Blue Beetle and Booster Gold were best friends. She's heard about this from a few different people. And everyone agrees—Booster Gold never was the same after Ted Kord died.
And here he is, laughing and rough-housing, years down the road, trying to act as if nothing is wrong.
Steph looks away. It feels… too intense. Too personal. Too much.
Ted and Booster knock over a lamp in the process of their squabbling, and Steph can't help but snicker. "You two are ridiculous," she tells them.
"Alright," Booster says, as his watch pings. "That's our all-clear, it's safe for you to go back to your present."
"Aww," Ted laughs. "Well, tell Babs that a young, sexy Ted Kord says hello!" He winks at her dramatically, and Steph laughs, even though she realizes that Ted never gets much older than this. He died not long after she did, only there was no Leslie to restart his heart, no Lazarus Pit, no Omega Beams.
He was just… dead.
Booster grabs her by the arm, only pausing for a moment to hug Ted goodbye, and then there's another flash of rainbow light.
"Did you ever try to save him?" Steph asks, softly, watching as Ted Kord's face fades out of her sight.
"Yeah." Booster says. "Solidified time. Can't interfere."
Steph looks away. "I'm sorry."
"Yeah," Booster says, softly. "Me too."
They reappear, but not in the strange lab of Rip Hunter's. But instead, it's in the most familiar place on Earth, the Batcave.
"Bruce!" Booster yells. "Come out and answer for your crimes!"
"Which ones?" Bruce says from right behind them, and only nearly a decade of training stops Steph from jumping five feet into the air. "Ah. Stephanie. I see that Michael has already dealt with the assassins."
"How did you already know about this?" Steph demands, pointing at him. "If you bugged me again, I swear to God—"
"It was unnecessary," Bruce says. "Rip Hunter came by and briefed me."
"Rip!" Booster yells, spinning around. "Did you know I was descended from a Bat?"
"What?" Rip Hunter says, having been lurking by the computer. "She's—"
"I'm Batgirl, pleased to meetcha," Steph says, pulling her cowl out of her backpack and pulling it on over her head for effect.
Booster and Rip facepalm in unison.
"Michelle," Booster hisses, which makes absolutely no sense.
Bruce just looks amused, that smug bastard.
"Don't forget that you were also Robin. And Spoiler."
"You were Robin?" Booster yelps, his voice rising to a, frankly, hilarious pitch.
"Sure was," Steph says, even though normally she tries to pretend it didn't happen, because boy, talk about awkward conversation topics.
Booster tries to say something, stops, and then points at Bruce. "You. Are. The. Worst."
"Probably," Bruce says, but he's smiling.
"Oh my God," Steph says, coming to a world-shattering realization. "You like him." She points at Booster, and then points back at Bruce. "That's not your tolerating smile! That's your fond smile! He's your friend!" She knows she sounds ridiculous, but she doesn't care.
"Well, it was nice meeting you, Grandma," Booster says, sticking a hand on. "We should team up sometime. Think of the merchandizing opportunities!"
It's exactly the sort of thing Steph's been told to expect from Booster Gold, but she can tell his heart isn't in it. Is it… an act?
"Batman, Inc. has very strict copyright rules about action figures," Bruce says, in the same, perfectly dry tone he says everything, but somehow, Steph can tell it's a joke. Bruce! Telling a joke!
"I'd like teaming up," she says. "Always good to have some more family members who haven't tried to kill you."
"Isn't it just?" Booster says, just as earnestly as she is. "Next time, I'll introduce you to Michelle and tell you about the time I stole the Batmobile."
"I allowed you to steal the Batmobile," Bruce grumbles.
"You didn't know who I was yet! Alfred shot me!"
Steph leaves Booster to it, and goes over to Rip, who's still lurking in the corner.
"So, you really didn't know?" She asks, tilting her head to one side.
He glances at her. "My records for the third Batgirl… use a different last name."
"Oh, now that's just mean," Steph says, but she's grinning. It's… nice, somehow, to realize that there are records of her, even if they're shrouded in mystery. She gets up on her tiptoes and kisses him on the cheek. "Look after him. And yourself, whippersnapper."
He glares at her, and then laughs and shakes his head. "Detectives. You always make things complicated."
"That's what we do," Steph says cheerfully.