Chapter Thirty-One: Priorities.
This is going up a little earlier than I had planned, for reasons I shall outline at the bottom.
Midnight had come and gone, unnoticed, and the teenage vigilantes had reitred to the penthouse, flushed with success, for the most part.
Garfield laughed as Wally led Starfire and Cyborg in a spirited rendition of "Blame it on the Boogie", complete with ridiculous dance moves. In the kitchen, Rachel shook her head despairingly, and turned away. Gar was about to make his way over to her, fully intent on insisting she take a more active role in the celebration (after all, it had been her reluctant suggestion) when he saw something that killed the satisfied buzz that had inhabited him for the past hour or so.
Dick was leaning against the wall, scowling, mask in hand, obviously deep in thought.
Oh yeah. He had to deal with that, didn't he?
With a reluctant sigh, he tapped the older boy on the shoulder, and gestured for him to follow. When Dick stood straight, Gar led him quietly to a small room, dominated by a desk and two chairs. Gar sank into the chair behind the desk, and gestured for Dick to sit on the other.
Gar took a moment to gather his thoughts. He hated being in charge, but who else would be? Of the original three, Wally had never been on a team, had never had to maintain a base, and Starfire (for all her many talents) was not one for planning, nor did she have any experience of the planet. Gar had been on the Doom Patrol for years, and had been taught how to think tactically. More importantly, he also had access to enough funding. For good or ill, he had been the one Waller had left responsible for Starfire, and he had been the one to create the team.
He just wished it had been someone else, that was all.
"So... what now?" he asked.
Dick looked up. "What do you mean?"
Gar sighed. "Star told me what happened, you know."
"Yeah." He sighed. "You should'a told us, dude."
Dick stared at him. "If I had, you wouldn't have let me anywhere near any of this. You'd have locked me up until it was all over."
Gar didn't rise to that. "Look, dude, I'm not gonna judge you about what you wanted to do. Grief makes us...a bit crazy. The point is, you didn't do it."
Dick shook his head. "Only because Kory was there. If she hadn't shown up..."
Gar snorted. "So it's wrong to rely on your friends some times? Look" he waved his hands, dismissively "this isn't really the point. Back to my question. What you gonna do now?"
Dick's eyes widened. "You mean..." he waved the mask in his hand.
Gar nodded. "By all accounts, you did good out there. We'd be pleased to have you, on a couple of conditions."
Dick's eyebrow raised, an unspoken question.
"Firstly, you gotta do what you're told. At least some of the time, 'kay? Sure, today was a great example of reality tearing plans apart, but you gotta follow the basic plan. The one standing exception is that if someone's in danger, then your priority is to save them first. If you're gonna ad lib, then tell us first, 'kay dude?"
"Alright. But what if your plan is terrible?" he asked, with a wry grin.
"I wouldn't put it past me. If that's the case, tell me. Point out when I've descended into the realm of fantasy."
Dick nodded. "Anything else?"
Gar nodded. "I want you to tell your mom."
"Seriously. I've seen guys try to hide their secret identities from their families. It never works. Do you really think that you can hide anything from your parent?"
"no buts, dude. You gotta tell her, or I will."
"Okay, okay," Dick said, harrassed.
Gar nodded. "last thing. Why? Why do you want to do this? Trust me, it's not all fame and fortune and punching guys in tights. When it all boils down, those things are just distractions from the basic concept. Every time you go out there in the costume, you have to be prepared to die for anyone. That's the job, making sure everyone else lives longer than you." His voice was calm, even, and deadly serious.
Dick was silent for a long time, as the truth of what he was signing up to sank in.
"I'll do it." His voice gained strength. "I don't want anyone else to suffer because of men like Zucco." His eyes locked with Gar's. "I want to help."
Garfield's features broke into a smile. "Welcome to the club, dude." He stretched his hand across the desk, and clasped Dick's.
"You know, you really need to think of a name," Dick said, with a smile.
Gar nodded. "Alright, that's your first assignment. Go out there, and get suggestions for a team name." He waved him towards the door.
"What about you?"
Gar shook his head. "Waller wants a report of what happened, and she'll have my ass if it's not in her inbox by nine tomo- today. Go on, I'll be out in a minute."
Wally breathed deep in the winter evening as he ran the late patrol. Things were going well right now. Dick was a member, and doing pretty well, they had a team name (his suggestion, "The Kid Flash Experience" had sadly been ignored) and all in all, things weren't going too badly.
He couldn't escape the nagging feeling that he was forgetting something, though. Something important...
The ground beneath his feet exploded in a flash of pink, and his hands snapped forward, breaking his fall. He looked to his left to see platform boots heading his way.
He stood, and shook his head. "We have got to stop meeting like this."
Jinx snorted, amused. "Why? Gets your attention."
"I'm flattered that you think me worth the bother."
Jinx waved her hand. "Yadda yadda, skip the pleasantries, you need to know this.
"Now, last week, I guess you were too busy to go check the docks, what with all the craziness that evening." Wally nodded, mutley, and she continued. "So, my charitable little self went for you; and guess what I saw?"
"I dunno, sonmething interesting?"
Jinx nodded. "It was kinda weird. I didn't see a boat or anything. There was just this rolling fog coming over the bay, and when it cleared, there were these five...figures on the dock."
"What did they look like?"
Jinx shook her head. "Couldn't see. They were all dressed like monks or something. They left, and I tried to follow them, but they gave me the slip." She didn't mention exactly how they had given her the slip; it would detract from the credibility of her story (and make her sound more than a little crazy).
Wally nodded, but there was something on his mind. "Why are you doing this? Why help us?"
Jinx paused. She hadn't come up with a satisfactory answer to that herself.
"I...I'm not sure. All I knnow is that these guys were bad. There was just...something about them that screamed danger, danger, Will Robinson. Whoever these guys are, I don't want them anywhere near me, and it seems to me like your merry band has the best chance of taking them down if they do cause trouble."
Wally nodded. "I'll look into it." As he turned to go, he looked back. "Oh, our merry band has a name now."
Jinx looked mildly interested.
"Yep. We're the Titans."
With that, he vanished, a yellow blur.
Jinx shook her head. 'the Titans'? She could come up with a better name in her sleep.
Okay, a day early, mostly because the picture for "Fissure" is nearing completion, and I wanted to reach this point in "Atypical" before I abandon it again.
Yes, you read that right. This story will not be updated until "Fissure" is complete. I was always going to pause here anyway, so no amount of pleading will get me to update before I finish "Fissure".