This is for Brendan. It's not a cuddle, but it'll have to do.

I own the people I own, I don't own the people I don't own.

Hot Cocoa and Puppies

**

Jimmy sat at the kitchen table at Wayne Manor, staring into his hot cocoa. Alfred made it with whipped cream, just the way he liked it. Marshmallows were so dumb. "It's not fair," he moaned again to Alfred.

Alfred pulled opened the oven and inspected the cookie sheet and it's contents. They were a warm honey colored brown and smelled quite nice, in Jimmy's point of view. "There is very little in life that IS fair, young man."

"I'm ten. I can watch the whole city all by myself."

"Not very likely. I can count all the months you've been doing this on one hand."

Why did his parents have to go away for their anniversary? Two whole days was more than anyone should ever have to spend with Bruce. The only solace he took was in knowing Mara was miserable too. Mara was watching Bludhaven all by herself, except for regular check-ins with Uncle Clark and Uncle Roy. She'd been furious when they'd told her about the arrangements.

And Jimmy knew she was getting the better version of the deal. Originally, dad had asked Lian if she wanted to come and 'hang out' with Mara and keep her company. They both loved Lian, but Mara woulda popped a blood vessel if he knew dad was doing that.

Then dad went and decided that they couldn't be trusted to not kill each other, so Jimmy had to go to Gotham, cause his sister was going to be home alone.

SO he'd run an electrical current through the door knob to his room. So it had shocked her and ruined her precious hair-do. Firstly, girls were too fickle. Secondly, if she'd been at work with the Bat, then she'd be all masochistic and say how she'd taken the shock and it didn't even affect her, she beat up a hundred guys after that. But since it happened at home, he hears shock, thud, and then "Daaaaaaaadddddd Jimmy's trying to kill me!" And thirdly-he hated her and she was dumb. That was no reason to send him to stay with the Bat.

Sticking his face over the mug, he licked up the whipped cream.

"A proper young gentleman uses the spoon," Alfred reminded him.

"If I don't get the spoon dirty, then you won't have to wash it?" Jimmy asked hopefully. Alfred should hurry up with the cookies already. Chocolate chips didn't need to be cool or anything. They were even better when they were all mashed together like melted crayons.

Alfred left the tray of cookies on the counter and walked over to him, picking up the spoon. "If it will make you feel better, Master James, YOU can wash the spoon when you are done."

Jimmy wagged his head and took the spoon, scraping the last vestiges of whipped cream off the top of the milky chocolate. "That's ok. Don't wanna. knock you out of a job or anything."

Alfred looked down at him skeptically. "I doubt I am in danger of that, junior."

Picking up his mug and drinking like he should, Jimmy smiled. Maybe forty- eight hours with the scariest guy in the known universe wouldn't be so bad with Alfred here to protect him. Maybe if he just hung out with Alfie the whole time, Mr. Scary would forget Jimmy was even here, and he'd live.

Dad was his pal, right? So why did dad do this? He could have stayed with Grandpa Jim. Grandpa Jim was cool, even if he did treat Mara like a little princess. Grandpa Jim wasn't scary. Why did his parents have to leave town? What if the whole world came to an end and the Justice League was needed. Then where would mom be? Mom wouldn't be there to help them.

And even worse, if the Justice League got called up, there was a frightening and terrible chance he'd have to go with Batman. He thought his dad liked him better than that.

Jimmy was a good kid. He got straight A's in school. He built good stuff, except for the stuff he used to torture his sister with, but most of that dad didn't know about. He was a good side-kick. He learned all the stuff dad taught him and then some. If the world was going to end, he wanted to be with dad, not Bats.

It was way cooler hanging around with the Titans anyways. Uncle Roy was funny, and one of Jimmy's all-time heroes. Aunt Donna filled him up with cookies and pinched his cheeks and said he was getting so big. And everyone else thought he was the cutest coolest sidekick in the whole world. Unlike when you hung out with the Justice League and they just ignored you. Mara liked being ignored. She was masochistic like that.

Bla bla bla, My name is Robin. I'm the leader of Young Justice and I spend all my time with the Justice League and Batman, and I have my head so far up my butt I coughed myself up last week. That was Mara.

"I wanna be a stand-up comic, Alfie. A real funny one," Jimmy said spontaneously. Chuckling at the thought of his sister coughing herself inside out.

"I'm sure you'll find respectable employment, sir," Alfred said as he set the cookies on the table.

Jimmy had a feeling that Alfred didn't think standup was acceptable.

* * *

Nighthawk sat in The Car next to The Bat. His foot twitched nervously in his boot as the car sped out of the Cave and into the night.

"I could stay home," he said again for the fifty-thousandth time. "I could play Oracle. I mean. what if the world comes to an end? Then what're we going to do."

"The world isn't coming to an end," The Bat said patiently.

"It could."

"Someone will call us."

"What if they don't?"

"They'll call," The Bat replied with confidence.

It was freaky. He never took his eyes off the road when he drove. He never looked at Nighthawk or even gestured his head toward him. Dad would at least glance at him from time to time to make sure he was behaving.

Maybe, when Bruce was young, and he was studying in the Far East, he met some crazy guy who was really an agent of the devil and Bruce sold his soul and he really WAS a bat now, or even worse yet, a vampire.

Cautiously, Nighthawk scratched his neck. Please, God, he prayed. Let the world come to an end.

* * *

Batman felt the boy fidgeting beside him. It was the young man's first time in The Car, and he was not even interested in the displays on the dash. From the time his sister could walk, she'd been trying to climb into the car and have a look. And this one-the one with the interest in electronics- stared intermittently at his boots and the door handle.

"I was going to upgrade the displays on the passenger's side tomorrow," he said casually. "You are welcome to help."

The young man fidgeted so badly he almost trembled. "Th-that's ok. Robin'll kill me. If I start doing her jobs."

"She has no say in the matter. If you'd like to help--"

"NO!" The young man said forcefully. "That's ok! I mean. Alfie wants to take me clothes shopping."

He never saw anyone want to get out of his sight this badly before. Not even a frightened criminal. The boy tolerated him at family gatherings and only visited his house to see Alfred. Bruce didn't know what more he could do. He'd even persuaded Dick to leave the boy with him for their anniversary.

That in itself had been amusing. The look on his son's face when he offered to take the boy and the subsequent sputtering had been worth the price of admission.

"You know, your sister comes out with me every night and she manages to survive."

"I know-sir," Jimmy said dejectedly.

Was it accurate at this point to declare himself a failure at family matters? He had conducted things horribly with Dick, had been the driving force behind Tim's burn out and subsequent 'melt down', he had one grandchild who was unaffectionate but overly attached and another who couldn't stand to be in his presence.

It shouldn't bother him, really. Nighthawk didn't 'belong' to him, per say. And yet. it did.

"I have a few cases of Robin's that you might be interested in. We can take a look in on her pet project. That should be all. It should be a relatively uneventful--" So much for that.

An alarm sounded in front of Robin's seat. "The left button'll let you scroll through the message." But when he looked, he realized he didn't have to tell him, the boy was already on it.

"Arkham escapee. Got out during transport to another facility," Nighthawk informed him. "Not a name I'm familiar with." The boy shifted in his seat uncomfortably. He wasn't used to dealing with the type of trouble that inhabited Gotham.

Batman glanced at the display. "Grinkoldt. Minor to say the least. Usually I let Robin handle these on her own."

The boy went pale. "Tha-that's ok. Dad said I should learn stuff from you. So. um. I'll do what you say. Sir."

This was going SO well, Bruce thought.

* * *

In general, Nighthawk liked heights. He wasn't afraid of them. He never had been. The family had appointed him the official Christmas Light Technician for the roof and the back lawn. That was even better than just heights. It was electricity AND heights.

He once scaled the inside of a cave in South America with dad and Uncle Roy- just because they could. It had been dark, rocky, musty smelling, and oh-so- cool. He'd parachuted into rocky hills in Japan once on a Titans thing, he'd taken multiple swan dives off buildings in the 'Haven-without a jump line.

So why was he so scared right now?

Oh yeah, right. He was on top of a bridge. On the TOP. Having cement beneath you was one thing. Water was something else. Not only would you be crushed when you hit the top of the water, but then they'd never recover your body because your squashed squashness would get washed away in the West River.

And how had he ended up there? Oh yeah. His non-partner told him to get up here with him, and get the psychopath off the top of the bridge.

So. He was on one side of the light, the Bat was on the other side of the light, and clutching the light was a psychopath in standard issue green Arkham uniform, threatening to throw himself and two puppies over. PUPPIES.

Nighthawk watched their long, hushpuppy ears flapping in the wind, just to keep himself from looking down. If he didn't go splat on this one, he wanted a puppy, and he'd bug dad till he got one.

"Can we do this over land so they can find my body?" Nighhawk asked finally.

Both Batman and Grinkoldt looked at him. Maybe he shouldn't have said that. Like what were they doing? They had no discernable plan. He and dad always just knew what to do. But he wasn't with dad. Shouldn't the Bat have a plan? Gotham people ALWAYS had a plan. SO where was the plan? Hello? Puppies in danger, Batman.

"You're not Robin," the guy said.

"And I thank God for that every day." Even as Nighthawk started talking, the Bat reached out with both hands, grabbing the puppies with one hand and the psycho-guy with the other. Briefly, Nighthawk wondered what the Bat was holding on with, if both of his hands were grabbing people and puppies. That was, until Batman and his bundle began falling towards the water.

For half a second, he wished he WAS Robin. That was, until he caught sight of a line flying lose behind the Dark Knight. Suddenly it snapped taught, and the group landed safely on the bridge below. When Nighthawk looked down, the Bat had the man tied up, and the puppies were scampering on the ground.

He took a deep breath of relief, and before he realized what happened, vomit was spraying out of his mouth. Thank God, Batman hadn't seen him do that.

Nighthawk looked below him just in time to see the wind pick up and slap his falling spew against the Dark Knight's cape. Jimmy smacked his forehead.

* * *

"So, uh, yeah. Totally. That's what happened," Nighthawk explained to his Grampy Jim uncomfortably. He left the part about the puke out. He leaned back into the shadow of the iron pillar of the bridge a little more.

"And where's your Bat?" Jim Gordon asked skeptically.

"Car." Nighthawk looked both ways. "Said it'd be a good learning experience?" the boy chirped.

"Right." James Gordon sighed. "At least the Animal Rights people'll be happy. The dogs're ok." He continued to look out at the police officers securing the man and putting him in the van. Nighthawk kind of wished he'd look at him, at least once.

"CANIHAVEONE?" Jimmy blurted out before he realized what he was saying.

"Ask Nightwing, kid. They're going to the Animal Rescue shelter. They'll be on the news tomorrow morning and half the city'll be wanting to adopt 'em, so I wouldn't hold your breath, though. And you don't need a dog."

Nighthawk's shoulder sagged. He might not need a dog, but he sure wanted one. And dad wasn't going to be back for another day and a half, and by then the dogs would be with people who wouldn't love 'em half as much as he would.

* * *

When Nighthawk got into The Car, it wreaked of pine cleaner. He wondered if Alfred knew Batman was stock-piling kitchen cleaners in the Batmobile. Batman did not look at him, speak to him, nothing. He just started the car.

Well, Jimmy thought silently, at least he's not giving you 'the look' or yelling or being mean or anything-but still-Jimmy wished Batman would do something. Just to let him know he wasn't on ignore.

Jimmy wanted to smack himself again. That's what he'd always wanted wasn't it? For the Bat to just. forget he existed?

"Uh. sorry for. um. You know." Puking on the Bat. You just puked on the scariest guy in the known universe and now he's going to put you through some hideous torture that'll probably involve disembowelment and eating your own intestines.

"There's something under the seat you might be interested in," the Bat said suddenly.

Slowly, Jimmy looked between his legs. Under the seat was a floppy-eared, hushpuppy mommy of the two puppies from the bridge. "We. we have to return her?" he asked suddenly. "How'd she get here?"

"There is no one looking for her. The two small ones were the only ones that turned up in the police report." He still never looked at Jimmy. He never took his eyes off the road.

"What do I do with her?" Jimmy asked cautiously. If he was like Mara, he'd offer the dog, then snatch it away.

"Well, if she's given to the shelter with the other dogs, she probably won't find a home."

That's usually what happened to the 'uncute' dogs, Jimmy thought. And this one was just uncute enough to be cute. "What if dad won't let me keep her?"

"He will," The Bat informed him with finality.

Nighthawk pulled the floppy-eared, fleshy, round pooch into his lap. If The Bat could scare dad into making dad let him keep the dog? Well, maybe that was ok. He needed to puke on Batman more often. "Wow. Thanks."

THE END