Late hobbit style birthday present to you all.
As she waited on a rooftop with Green Arrow, looking for the arrival of Red Arrow, Black Canary let her mind wander a little.
Patrolling with a new member in Star City was a new experience, Dinah had decided, but it wasn't an unwelcome one.
It meant she had something else to team up with to knock Ollie down a couple pegs, or tease him. Roy generally made for good company, though Wally and Night teased him for being grumpy, and he was usually punctual. There were a couple awkward moments in the beginning where Roy had been expecting a punch or a kick that hadn't come. It was clear that while Roy was used to working with them, they weren't used to working with Roy.
It had led to a rocky start.
She hadn't enjoyed the vivid flashbacks she'd gotten to some of the times she'd babysat kids.
Dinah had made Ollie and Roy talk, and they'd done a couple sparring sessions.
A part of her couldn't help but look at Roy sometimes and wonder at the possibilities. He held himself with a confidence that spoke to his experience and to his skill. His grumpiness and general on edge demeanor made more sense when Ollie confessed that Roy had a young daughter he'd left behind. That talk had helped to lesson some of the barrier between Ollie and Roy, even if Roy insisted on calling Ollie, Oliver, much to Ollie's horror and Dinah's amusement.
They knew a little bit more about him - something had changed between their two inter-dimensional guests, and they'd gradually opened up about more information on their respective lives. Dinah and Ollie therefore knew that Roy had been taken in when he was a teenager. Dinah didn't know if Roy knew it or not, but there were little habits, ticks, sayings, and mannerisms that told her about the bond between the two of them. It was honestly really cute, and it made her smile.
Ollie seemed too caught on the fact that he'd had to guide Roy through his teenage years. That, more than anything else, appeared to scare Ollie.
Privately, Dinah thought it was hilarious, but she wasn't telling either of them that.
"He should be here by now," Green Arrow shifted.
She wanted to tell him he was being impatient, but he was right.
Just as she opened her mouth to agree, they caught sight of a flash of red on the horizon. As soon as she saw him, Dinah knew something was off, and it wasn't the scowl that clued her in.
No, it was the bright blue hair that did that. The blue was faded, as if he'd tried multiple times to wash it out, and streaks of red showed through the blue, which made an interesting end result.
Well, she supposed, at least the culprits used a hair dye that could easily be washed out.
Dinah had to look away to hide the smile that threatened to break out.
Ollie did no such thing, letting out a loud laugh.
Roy grunted out a greeting as he landed on the rooftop.
"Sorry for being a little late," Roy said, "I was delayed."
The scowl on his face would've done Batman proud.
"Did Flash and Nightwing have anything to do with this?"
"They're dead to me," said Roy bluntly.
She would be concerned, if it wasn't for the way Roy's lips twitched as he fought his own smile.
Dinah chuckled. "I see. Shall we start patrol then?"
Roy nodded gratefully. "Faster we finish the faster I can finish washing this out."
Bruce had realized how much he'd grown used to the presence of someone else until he'd been left eating his food alone at the Batcomputer, pouring over various leads and old case files. The soft blue light of the computer illuminated his face, and cast odd shadows. Despite the darkness, he was aware of the sound of footsteps behind him as Alfred came down.
The old British man did not grumble; it was beneath him.
But he certainly thought the theatrics of the dark Batcave were a little much, going by Alfred's long suffering sigh. Bruce withheld a smile.
"Hello, Alfred," he greeted.
"Might I suggest taking a break and resting your eyes, sir?" Alfred suggested politely.
The plate clinked with a soft thud as he set it down, and Bruce's stomach rumbled at the smell of food. The rice, beans, steak and broccoli looked delicious, but it was the one plate that struck him.
"Where's Dick?" Bruce asked Alfred.
"Master Richard notified me he would be working late, Master Bruce," Alfred said.
Bruce blinked. "Oh."
He stared at his plate. When he looked back up, Alfred's eyes were warm, and understanding.
Alfred smiled kindly. "Sir, you should rest."
Bruce nodded, knowing he had plans to do no such thing. "Perhaps another night, Alfred. I found a lead that I need to bring to our visitors."
"Good night, Master Bruce," Alfred said.
The old butler headed towards the exit of the Batcave, going back to the Manor above.
"Alfred," Bruce asked suddenly.
"Do we have any leftovers?"
Alfred's smile crinkled the corners of his eyes. "I had a feeling you might ask that, Master Bruce."
One short trip later, Batman prowled the hall ways of the Watch Tower, a large brown bag clutched within his hands. The lights of the hallways were uncomfortably bright but blessedly empty, and Bruce enjoyed the silence. Everyone was either sleeping, on missions, or patrolling their respective cities.
As he drew closer to his destination, he saw the light flooding out from room, the door wide open. The low murmur of voices and the chink of metal on metal reached his ears.
Everyone save for a few, that was.
Batman paused in the doorway at the sight of Dick and Wally working on the guts of the machine strewn about on a large table.
The projector had progressed, from what Bruce had seen, though he was wondering if they'd be willing to let him get a look at it.
"What are you doing still doing here?" Batman asked.
Wally jumped with a startled shout, sending a tool flying into a small pile of scrap.
"Why would you do that," he whined.
"Hi, Bats," Dick said, not even looking up from where he was hunched over the machine itself. "We're avoiding Roy."
His nose was practically inside the thing. Bruce eyed it curiously. Judging by the ash that had been mostly wiped off of their faces and the way their hair stuck up funnily, at least one thing had gone wrong, but the room was still standing.
Batman grunted, and set the food down on a clear spot. "Why are you avoiding Roy?"
"Ooh, is that food from Jeeves?" Wally asked excitedly.
His eyes narrowed in on the bag Batman was holding, and Wally put down what he was working on in favor of food.
Dick looked up in surprised. "Delivery?"
A little bit at a loss as to what to say, Batman nodded.
Wally tore into it eagerly. He grabbed the paper plates, and utensils Bruce had taken from the Manor, carefully pulling out one container and then a second one.
"Here," Wally gave the second container to Dick. "Thanks, B."
"Thanks, Bats," Dick said, digging into his own food.
Wally ate with equal gusto, and soon the food was both gone.
Alfred knew enough about Wally to give the speedster plenty of food. Bruce wondered if perhaps Dick had told Alfred any stories of his home. It didn't seem implausible, in fact Bruce was almost certain he had, but Bruce wasn't - interested? ready? - able to hear those stories yet. There was the timeline of his own home to consider.
It was tempting, certainly, and Bruce wouldn't deny that he was curious about his counterpart. Sometimes he looked at Dick and tried to imagine a smaller, more baby-faced version of the young man in front of him trailing him around, and it left Bruce absolutely terrified.
How had any version of him let a child fight Gotham's villains?
Batman had been strongly against having a partner or a protege of any kind when Wally had first told him about them, but the more he got to know Dick, the more he could see it.
Somehow his counterpart had raised an incredible young man, and it raised questions about himself Bruce was uncomfortable with. He'd long since resigned himself to being alone, save for Alfred, and as if to laugh in his face the universe had presented him with who was essentially his son from another universe.
Shaking himself from his thoughts, Bruce turned his attention back to the present.
"The third one is for Roy," Batman told them.
Dick shrugged. "Eh, he might come in. He's patrolling in Star City tonight with GA."
"Who you're avoiding," Batman pointed out.
There had to be a story behind that. It seemed like there were always some antics going on around the three of them.
"Ah," Dick winced. "Well, Roy's feeling a little . . . blue at the moment."
"He's not actually blue is he?" Batman asked, his voice and face entirely expressionless.
Nevertheless, he felt certain that Dick had picked up on some of his alarm.
"Nah, it's just his hair," Dick said. He snickered. "It's never looked better."
It was probably prudent to stay out of it unless Bruce wanted his hair dyed a different color. The press would have a field day with it, and Alfred would never let it go.
"I see," Batman said, though he most certainly did not see.
"I can eat Roy's food," Wally volunteered. "It won't stay good forever."
With a snort, Dick said, "I'm sure. Anyways, what else brings you here?"
"Data files," Bruce said. "They have been made accessible to you on your computer on here. After you ran your tests and made the connection between the energy signatures, the rest of the League and I did more research. We think they're why Luthor was about to find you."
"That was a terrible vacation," Dick muttered. "Zero stars, would not recommend."
Batman gave the young man an odd look as Wally burst into uncontrolled giggles, before launching back into his explanation.
"We found more energy fluxations here within the Watch Tower, picked up by the sensors," Batman explained.
He ignored Wally's small, "Wait, we have what sensors in the Tower?"
"You, Roy, and Wally all emit an energy signal unique to the three of you," Batman told them. "And the machine you're creating emits another one."
"Huh." Dick sat back in his chair, and rubbed his chin.
Wally blinked, before nodding slowly. "That . . . that makes a bit of sense. If we could tune them together - "
"We'll need to think on this," Dick mumbled, "do some calculations, talk to Roy."
The half-said sentences and the way both Dick and Wally could communicate without words was certainly impressive. It showed their years of experience working, and it was defintely impressive. Bruce was never telling Wally that however.
"Definitely," Wally nodded. He paused, before adding thoughtfully, "Does this mean we should stay in the Watch Tower full time?"
Dick sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Not sure."
These were thoughts that had already gone through Bruce's mind, including the uncomfortable realization that his identity might be compromised, but if that were the case why take Dick from the Watch Tower? No, Bruce felt certain that if Luthor or the others had discovered their identities, they wouldn't have been able to resist taunting them or making a move by now. Dick had been staying with Bruce for a while now, and so far it had been quiet. Bruce would merely have to double check and possibly tighten the security of the Manor. They could discuss Nightwing solo patrolling another night.
"I'm heading back to Gotham," Batman said, since he felt it would be counterproductive for him to remain.
Wally grinned brightly. "Catch ya on the flip side, B-man."
Dick smiled, then smothered a yawn. "Thanks again."
Bruce started turning around towards the door, wondering if he could sneak by Alfred enough to get a couple extra hours of patrol in. A thought occurred to him, and he paused before the doorway.
He hesitated, before saying, "I'll see you at the Manor for breakfast tomorrow. Roy and Wally are invited."
Alfred would be in a proper fit if he kicked Dick out now.
"Aw, man," Wally sighed. "I'd love to come but I sadly have work. Tell Jeeves I say hello."
Withholding a sigh, Bruce left.
"I can't believe you ate my food from Alfred." Roy thought about it. "No, wait, I can believe it, but I'm still mad."
Roy, Dick, and Wally were once again in the Watch Tower working on the machine, though by this point they'd already been there for several hours. At the moment they were taking a break and mostly just brainstorming ideas.
All of them were admittedly exhausted. Dick was having trouble focusing on the work in front of him.
Conversation was a welcome distraction.
"You weren't here," Wally said. "And it was delicious."
Roy grumbled something unidentifiable, but it was enough to make Wally laugh.
Dick's lips twitched upwards. "Still can't believe Batman brought us food."
"Green Arrow found it," Roy sighed. "He insists Bats copied the idea from him."
"Huh," Wally frowned. "I mean, he didn't? Unless he knew Green Arrow brought us food. Which he probably did. This Bats is significantly more paranoid than other Bats."
There was a time where Dick wouldn't have believed that, but he'd some strange things in all the years he'd been active as a superhero. Besides, after meeting the man and living this Bruce, he was sorta inclined to agree that his Bruce was more mellow. Or at the very least, more adept at acting like a human being, and considering he'd once seen Bruce, much to Alfred's disapproval, chug two puts of coffee black in a row after staying up three days in a row that was saying something.
"What do we do about this energy thing?" Dick asked, tossing his screwdriver up in the air and catching it. "Could we use it as a way to tune our machine to the correct dimension?"
"Correct dimension would be nice," Wally said, "I really don't want to meet another Evil Justice League."
Dick gave his friend a curious look, and tried to remember if he'd heard the full story behind that one. Had he? Wally had many adventures here as Flash, part of the Justice League, though he'd been hesitant to share some of them. He wondered if perhaps Wally had mixed feelings because this was the life he'd built after being stranded here.
"Someone smarter than us should probably be building this," he remarked to no one.
Roy snorted, before saying firmly, "I'm not being plugged into this thing like some battery."
Standing at his designated corner, Roy looked so very done with them that it almost made Dick feel bad. At least until he caught sight of Roy's faded blue hair, which made him start cackling again.
As if Roy knew what Dick was thinking he mock glared at the younger man.
"You'd make a great Energizer Bunny," Dick said, drumming his hands on his jeans.
He lounged in what had become his designated chair, his workspace relatively clear. The machine was coming along, and indeed it almost resembled something. He was impressed in spite of the scorch marks on the floor and the smell of smoke that would no doubt never leave this room.
"Nah," Wally chimed in, "Roy doesn't have enough pep in his step."
The redhead had taken a Brain Break, and was instead fiddling with some old possibly haunted radio he'd dug up from a void, or maybe the trash. Dick strongly suspected it might've been acquired from another Leaguer's room, but he wasn't one to ask. It could've been taken from the League's equivalent of a junk closet, where items up for grabs were stored for anyone's use. Regardless of how Wally had gotten it, it was now taking up space in their workroom.
And it was absolutely hideous. Based on this alone, Wally was determined to get it to work.
"I'd make a fantastic bunny," Roy narrowed his eyes. "But that's not the point here."
"Hypothetical energy bunnies aside," Dick explained, "it doesn't work like that. We can't just hook you up to a machine and tell you to hit a drum, or put you on a wheel and tell you to start running."
Roy crossed his arms. "That's a hamster. And if anyone's running, it'd be Wally."
Wally shrugged. "Done that once, dude. Wouldn't recommend running to another dimension."
Wally twisted some of the dials on the radio, and there was a burst of static. Dick flinched, and he looked down at the screwdriver he was fiddling with in his hands.
"Wouldn't recommend getting blown into another dimension either," Roy said.
That was one thing Dick wished he could remember better. He still had so many questions about it, but it was maddening being stuck in this dimension where it complicated his ability to investigate. He wondered if Batman had done any investigating. Would Bruce even know there was something more to investigate, beyond the surface crime? His heart ached as he thought of everyone back home.
He missed them.
To distract himself, Dick teased Roy, "Don't worry, we'd give you proper motivation to run on the hamster wheel."
Wally's eyes lit up. "I could threaten you!"
Roy snorted. "I'm glad the thought of threatening me brings you such joy."
Dick shook his head with a soft laugh.
There were still many things they were avoiding talking about. For one, the whole Red dimension concept. There was whatever Luthor was plotting, there was the tension between Wally and the rest of the Justice League, there was the homesickness all of them were undoubtedly feeling. Their own fears they'd never be able to return. All of it. The entire experience tasted a little bitter, but as terrible as its felt to say it, Dick was grateful that he wasn't here alone.
He was grateful he had Wally and Roy to keep him sane. He was grateful they'd found Wally.
A whoop from Wally interrupted his train of thought.
Sure enough, there was the faint sound of some unidentifiable song playing, though it was overshadowed by the static.
"You owe me five bucks," Dick told Roy.
Roy cursed. It was loud enough that Wally paused his celebrations long enough to look a them.
He blinked owlishly. "You guys bet on me?"
With no shame, Dick admitted that yes, they had in fact bet on Wally. Because as smart and as good at science as Wally was, occasionally all of that brainpower and focus was devoted to one thing: making something go boom.
Wally huffed. "Just for that, you guys don't get to choose the music."
He turned the dial some more, trying to get the signal stronger. Dick idly wondered what kind of radio reception the Watch Tower got in space. Surely it should be good? Then again, Batman and this world's Justice League might've done something to fiddle with the radio signal so it was stronger on the Tower. He knew at least some of the Leaguers liked music, and especially liked training with it.
Dick made a face when the cheerful sound of Christmas music made itself known, loud and clear through the speakers.
At least this was music they had chosen to play, and hadn't found accidentally while fiddling with the machine.
"Ah ah ah! No holiday music until after Halloween is over!" Roy pointed a finger threateningly at the pair of them.
"But it is after Halloween," Dick pointed out.
It was honestly scary just how quickly time was passing by, but that was a thought Dick would push to the back of his mind.
"Alas, another year in the Skeleton War gone by," Wally sighed. He placed a hand over his heart dramatically looking into the distance.
Roy stared at Wally. "You know, I'm happy I don't understand you."
"What's a matter, Roy?" Wally asked innocently. "Are you feeling blue?"
"That's it," Roy said, and he made a lunge for Wally.
Predictably, the speedster dodge out of the way with a yelp.
"You can't catch me!" Wally sang tauntingly, running out of the room at normal speed.
Roy followed in hot pursuit with absolutely no chance of catching Wally in a fair race.
Who said he would play fair, however?
Dick watched it all gleefully, and once again he found himself intensely grateful Roy and Wally were with him.
He'd pulled his cowl down but he was still in the rest of his Flash suit, staring out at the expanse of stars.
"Hey, Wally," Diana placed a hand on Wally's shoulders. "Are you okay?"
Her hand dropped from his shoulder as he turned slightly towards her.
It was a bit strange to be friends with someone he remembered was an adult when he was a teenager, but it helped that he'd had years to get used to it. It also helped that for all that they were the same people, they were distinct people, separate from one another.
Diana, this Diana, was his friend.
The Amazon was still geared up in her Wonder Woman outfit, and he wondered which mission she had come back from. There was a notable increase in natural disasters recently, and it had led to much of the League being sent out to help. Diana's armor had dirt on it, and she had some in her hair and on her face too, though it looked like some effort had been made to wash that off. She looked as tired as Wally felt.
"I'm good," Wally said, "Just looking. It certainly is a different view up here, isn't it?"
"Yes," Diana said. "It's very beautiful. I used to look at the stars as a child."
"Little different than me," Wally half-smiled. "I had a tendency to find trouble."
"That doesn't surprise me," Diana rolled her eyes, and teasingly said, "That's not much different than now."
Wally rolled his eyes. "Ouch. Okay."
"Besides," Diana continued, probing gently, "You had your teammates, did you not? I'm sure they kept you out of trouble."
Thinking back to some of their missions, Wally snorted. "We got each other in trouble as much as we got out of it."
She hummed softly, not saying anything. For a couple minutes they studied the stars, the shine of them in the black comforting. Wally wondered what worlds were out there, and what lives their people were living. He was aware of some of them, but the vast amount some times was almost too high to believe. Watching the stars made him think of late night dates with Artemis, both of them huddled under a blanket to ward off the chill and the bugs.
He thought of the Team, and late night camp fires. Superboy, with his textbook knowledge, had been very good at identifying constellations.
The stars were one of the few things that hadn't changed when he came here.
"We really were something, you know?" Wally asked suddenly.
Diana turned her eyes to him. She said nothing, but he knew he had her attention.
"All of us," Wally awkwardly shrugged, "The Team, that is. We really worked well together. You guys trained us well."
She frowned, and he knew what she was going to say before she said it.
"I don't like the idea of child soldiers," Diana's frown morphed into a disappointed scowl, "How could we let you risk your lives? You were children."
"We were children with abilities and skills, and the drive to help," Wally sighed heavily. "The truth of is all of us would've gone off on our own and done it with or without you guys."
"Your Justice League could've stopped you," Diana said pointedly.
"You couldn't have stopped us," Wally said, and the truth made Diana's disappointed expression fade away. "Artemis, she, well, she came to the League's attention because she was actually doing it by herself."
That was the truth, wasn't it? Short of locking them up or using other measures, the League wouldn't have been able to stop any of them.
He understood some of her anger, and frustration. After training younger Team members, after meeting Bart, Wally thought that he could get it. The Life, and all the danger, was part of the reason Artemis and him had left. He'd needed to feel normal for a while.
"I know other you wasn't happy when Batman took on Robin," Wally told her, "I don't know all the details, but I do know that."
Diana sighed. "I still don't agree with it."
"I know," Wally ran a hand through his hair. "But since you couldn't stop us you did the next best thing, which was prepare us. You supported us and trained us."
"A family," Diana said thoughtfully, "One made up of warriors."
Interesting description, Wally thought, but he realized it wasn't an inaccurate one.
"Please don't think none of you cared about us," Wally asked her. His voice wasn't quite pleading, but it was close. "I know none of you made the decision to train us lightly."
He didn't want to think about what it had cost their mentors, to let them go out as teenagers and fight some of the Rogues. Looking back now, in hindsight, he could see that Uncle Barry had tried his best to shield Wally from the worst of it, as all of the mentors had tried for their proteges.
"You love them," Diana noted.
"I do," Wally half-smiled, and thought of them. His thoughts went to Artemis, and his smile became a full one.
The admission didn't surprise Diana, and she only smiled wistfully.
"I know a thing or two about choosing between two worlds," Diana said softly.
He realized she must be thinking of her own family. Wally blinked, his eyes wide and startled.
"This is not a choice anyone can make for you," Diana looked him in the eyes, like she was searching for something. "Nor is it a choice anyone should take from you."
"I've been pushing it to the back of my mind," Wally admitted.
He ran a hand through his red hair again, and found he couldn't meet her eyes. Diana placed a hand on his shoulder again and squeezed it reassuringly.
"We're here for you, Wally," she said, "I hope you know that."
He looked back at her, and he found nothing but acceptance on her face.
"Thank you," Wally whispered, and pulled her into a hug.
Yeah so this was meant to be up earlier, but my mom was in the hospital for a little bad with gallbladder issues. She's fine now, but that caused some chaos, plus there were a couple days I didn't have access to my computer. It's all good now. I hope this chapter cheers people up or at least distracts you. I'm on ao3 as RingwraithBookworm, where this story is also posted. If ao3 is your preferred reading format, you can find this story there. I'm also on tumblr now as Ringwraithmd, so feel free to come talk to me.
This story is old enough to be a small child, but I'm finally wrapping up. There's a couple more chapters, idk the exact amount because any time I write it ends up longer than I intend, but I'm getting there.