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Well, Not Exactly a Troll...

There it was again. He walked into English class a minute or two before the bell and immediately Jenna and Andrea stopped talking, blushed and began giggling as he took his seat. It had happened almost every day for a week and it was starting to get on his nerves since he had no idea why it was happening.

Self consciously he secretly checked his fly, tried to feel if his shirt was misbuttoned or maybe inside out after changing into and out of his gym uniform and thought that possibly that stupid piece of hair he could never keep out of his eyes was being weird again.

Everything seemed all right; he didn't know, maybe he'd said something stupid or they'd heard some rumor he'd missed. Taking out his book he mentally shrugged.

Whatever.

The next day he was sitting in the school library working on a computer, doing some research when he felt someone behind him, leaning into his personal space.

"Yes?"

"Do you have a pen I could borrow?"

"Yeah, sure." He handed over a spare Bic.

"I'll give it back as soon as I'm done."

"Okay." He turned back to the keyboard but the girl whose name he didn't know, didn't move. "'Something else?"

"No, I, I mean—sorry." She was blushing, her notebook held against her chest like a shield. She still didn't move.

He waited a moment but when nothing was forthcoming, "Excuse me, I have to get back to work."

"Um..."

"Yes?"

"I was wondering..." She trailed off, her face not looking like she's lain out in the sun about three hours too long. He waited. "I was wondering—it's probably stupid but, I, um..." She trailed again before seeming to gather her courage and finished in a rush. "Wouldyougotothepromwithme?"

It took a moment for him to decipher what she'd just said then, "Who are you?" He wasn't being unkind, he really had no idea who he was talking to.

"Mandy. I mean Amanda, Amanda Klein but everyone calls me Mandy and we're in the same biology class and I know you probably already have a date but if you don't I was hoping, I mean I thought it might be fun if, I mean if we went together then we could, you know, I mean, maybe get to know each other and—oh, God— I'm really sorry, this was stupid idea and forget I said anything and I won't bother you again and, oh crap, you must think I'm an idiot and I feel really stupid and..." She was, of course, close to tears, her face now almost an inhuman shade and her breathing close to hyperventilation.

She was about to slink away to eternal humiliation when Dick said a simple "Okay."

"But..." She was stunned into silence then, "Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why would someone like you go with someone like me?"

"Why wouldn't I?" This might be a mistake, the girl made no sense so far as Dick could tell.

"...Because you can do better."

"But what makes you think that you can't do better than me?" She was really quite pretty; not in Donna's or maybe Dinah or Diana's league, but still, not bad at all. And she was sort of sweet, all shy and blushing.

"But you're...Dick Grayson. You could go out with any girl in school."

"Yeah right." And now she had him intrigued, he wanted to know more about her. "I'd really like to go to the dance with you." A sudden thought. "You're not teasing me or setting me up or something, are you?"

"Wha? No, no! I was going to ask you weeks ago but I just thought that you must already have a date and so...Ohmigod, I'd love to—are you sure? I mean you can back out of you want, I'd understand."

"The dance is Saturday, right? I'll pick you up. What time does the dinner start?"

"Seven." She was staring at him with wide eyes, looking like she was wondering if he was kidding.

"Okay, I'll pick you up around six-thirty for the dinner and then we'll go on to the prom. Did you want to go to Dave's shore house for the after party?"

"Uh..."

That was okay. "We'll play that one by ear." The bell rang. "I have to get to English but I'll call you later; you're in the student directory, right?"

She nodded and started to hand him his pen.

He smiled at her, she was actually kind of cute. "Keep it. I'll talk to you later."

The dance was scheduled for two weeks later and Dick spent a good part of that time trying to figure out what happened.


"Dick? There's a stack of fan mail for you in the box." Donna smiled at him, teasing. "It looks like almost all of them are in pink envelopes with a lot of stickers and drawings of hearts on them, you heart breaker."

"Donna, c'mon."

"What? You know you have a huge fan base and you have to know that most of them are girls who dream about you."

"Your shoulders, your too blue eyes, your smile, your hands gently yet urgently caressing them..."

"Shut up, Roy."

"You really should at least send them a picture or something. It's rude to ignore them."

"But it's just so stupid, they don't care about us arresting criminals, they just want to...y'know."

"We should all have such problems, Boy Wonder."

"Roy, shut up."

"Seriously, you should answer them. Most of them are probably from kids and they'll be..."

Dick sighed, he'd had this same conversation just last week with Alfred when a couple of boxes of fan mail were handed over to Batman and stacked in the cave. He wasn't against replying but he didn't have time; he was averaging over three hundred letters a week, and those were just the ones he actually received. If he added in the stuff which was sent to the JLA for him or the ones which ended up at various newsrooms or police stations after some story about him—it was a lot.

He'd even checked out having one of those services answer the stuff for him until he found out that every letter they responded to would cost him—personally—almost three dollars each when labor and postage was factored in.

Cripes. Unlike Bruce, he wasn't made of money. He felt badly about it but most of the stuff was nothing. Really. There would be invitations to some birthday parties, old ladies who thought he looked too thin and wanted to give him a good meal and, the majority, would be from adolescent or teenaged girls looking to hook up...and most of those letters would have photos, mostly soft-core.

Thanks, but no thanks.

"None of them are for me, they're for Robin and he's a character. None of those people know anything about me and might not even like me if they ever met me. It's, am I the only one who thinks this, y'know, the whole thing of writing to total strangers you have some fantasy about—it's weird."

"'Making excuses."

He'd had enough. "Okay, moving on..."

In the event, he never did answer those boxes though Alfred, learning about the situation, made arrangements for a company to deal with them without the young master being bothered or knowing that the costs were picked up by Master Bruce.


He didn't get it, he really didn't. He didn't understand why girls followed him in the halls at school or why the fan-girls wrote him letters asking him to be their boyfriend if they'd never met him and just seen him on TV or read some stupid article about him somewhere.

Looking in his bathroom mirror, he saw nothing special. Dark hair neither long nor short. Blue eyes, but lots of people had blue eyes. Skin with his ethnic background hinted at if anyone cared enough to look, almost Mediterranean looking but with some of his mother's lighter tones and usually with an easy tan. He was on the shortish side. Bruce was six three; he'd be lucky if he ever hit five nine or ten. He'd certainly never hit six feet. His hands were seriously ugly from the trap and gymnastics, all those hours and years hanging on bars, all calloused and scarred. Ugly.

And he wasn't that interesting; he went to school came home to do his homework and then, as far as anyone at school knew, stayed in most nights unless he was forced to do something with Wayne Enterprises, attend some dinner or Board meeting to fly the flag for Bruce. Sometimes he had to attend some formal BS affair, complete with tux and society small talk. Boring.

Okay, maybe Robin was less of a bore but even he just worked out, went to school did his homework and then went on patrol when he wasn't working with the Titans. He was a grind, a goody-two-shoes, a professional boy scout. He had almost no free time and he kept to himself, almost never giving any kind of interviews or making comments or statements. He was a brightly costumed shadow figure people projected their own ideas on.

Laying in bed, unable to sleep, he went over it again. "Of course, that's a big part of the Dick Grayson appeal but that's just—it's bullshit." He was referring to Bruce's money which most people didn't realize was Bruce's and not his. Anyone who wanted him for the bucks was looking in the wrong place.

Sometimes he'd see or feel guys, classmates or whomever trying to suck up to him, too. No, not usually like they were hitting on him, but like they wanted to be his friend, like maybe they wanted to be him. Weird. Sometimes it was like people were jealous of him and that was—okay, he could sort of see it from the outside but if anyone looked just a little closer, well...

He just didn't get it.


The prom, that was an odd evening. Not a bad evening, but still—odd. He'd picked Mandy up a few minutes early, dressed in the new Armani tux which had been ordered a month or so before to make sure he was covered for the year's Wayne functions he'd be expected to attend.

He'd made a point of calling Mandy, getting to know her a little before they went to the dance. He'd taken her to a movie and a walk through the local park. She'd been shy but when he'd held her hand she hadn't pulled it away and smiled a little shyly.

Her parents had made a big deal about everything but, thank god, had kept it under a lid until they were ready to leave.

"Come on, stand a little closer so I can get you both in the frame. Okay, smile and..." The flash blinded them for a moment. "Just one more. And one, two three..." Flash.

"I don't know which one of you looks the best tonight. Mandy, sweetie, that dress is perfect and Dick, I don't think I've ever seen a more handsome young man than you!"

Oh, please.

"Dick, did you two say that you'd be going to that party at, oh what was his name? At...oh..."

"Dave's. It's at his parent's shore house."

"That's right, of course. I saw his mother at the market and she was saying that they'll be there and another couple so we shouldn't worry. There'll be plenty of towels and they've planned breakfast for everyone and brought in a kinds of cots and things." Of course there'd be chaperon's, this was Brixton and the parents were all paranoid.

"We'll call you if anything changes or anything."

"And you're taking the limo down that they've arranged so you won't be driving, right?"

Dick and Mandy both nodded. "Alfred is going to pick up the car and when we get back tomorrow he said that he'd give us rides. Home."

"Oh, goodness, that's sweet of him but Jim can pick you two up and drive you back. In fact, I insist, absolutely."

Whatever. "It's no trouble, really."

"I insist."

Sure, fine. "Okay, but let Alfred know, if that's okay."

"Of course, now you two get going and have a good time. Be careful—not that we're worried about Mandy if she's out with you, Dick; just remember that you'll be carrying precious cargo tonight."

God. He smiled, turned, opened the front door as her mother hugged and kissed her goodbye. She was a nice enough girl but—yeah.

Then when they got to the country club for the pre-dance dinner. It was like they were back in English class or something, with girls following him with their eyes when he went to the men's room. He'd even overheard a couple of them talking, "I can't believe that Amanda bagged , seriously?"

"So, she puts out."

"Yeah well, hell; I'd put out for that, too. He's gorgeous."

"And rich."

"And gorgeous."

"He's even nice."

"And he has the best butt."

"Oh, so the best."

"But Mandy? That's just so wrong."

"So totally wrong."

The dance itself wasn't much better as far as Dick was concerned. They shared a table with some school friends but somehow he and Mandy—okay mostly him—were the center of eyes and attention, even if they were just sitting out dance or two. Uncomfortable, Dick tried to make sure that they danced almost every dance so that he wouldn't have to deal with the looks and comments he couldn't help but hear.


Then there was the day Robin was caught in a strong rain storm while riding his bike to police headquarters. A picture of him, dripping wet and with his hair hastily pushed back after being squashed by his helmet was in the local papers then posted on the net. The new 'do' was immediately copied all over; wet look, some curl and a lot of mess.

Incredible.


The always much anticipated annual poll about superheroes was out. Superman, as always held the top spot of 'best hero' with Batman close on his heels. The JLA handily beat out the Justice Society and the Teen Titans whupped the Fantastic Four.

Superman won (again) as most personally popular hero. Then, in an upset, Robin won favorite junior hero by a huge margin. He also won 'cutest', best butt', 'hero I'd most like to date', 'least creepy' and 'best bod'.

"Dick, dude, you fixed the voting, you bastard." Roy slapped him on the back, laughing, and handed him a cold soda. "You buy the pizza."

Yeah, sure, uh-huh. "Why?"

"It's only fair, 'help the rest of us poor slobs heal the pain of rejection. And none of those cheap frozen things you tried to foist o us last time. I want eat in, actual made from real ingredients by real live people then baked in an honest to god pizza oven."

Feeling railroaded and not wanting to deal with an argument by either refusing or walking out, he agreed and twenty minutes later the Titans (minus Garth who was underwater) were sitting in their favorite booth in their favorite pizza place.

Waiting for their pies, two teenaged girls from the other side of the restaurant giggled and, clearly having gotten up their nerve, came over to ask for autographs, both handing napkins to Robin, completely ignoring the others sitting there. Good manners reluctantly in place, he smiled, signed his name and handed the papers back to the girls who left, clutching them to their breasts like the treasures they were.

A few minutes later their food arrived but Robin only had one piece, the evening out ruined as far as he was concerned. It wasn't that he minded having girls like him, mind you, it was just so—weird. And besides, Roy and Wally were better looking when you came down to it. And they had actual abilities, super-speed and Roy could hit any target with any weapon at any time—how many people could make that claim?

"Okay, stud, pay the lady." The waitress had their bill, simpering star-struck smile in place. Robin pulled out his wallet and gave her two twenties, leaving another ten for the tip.

Sure enough, the next day there was a blurt in the local paper about how "Ohmigod, Robin is completely gorgeous and he's a great tipper!"

Sitting in Titan Tower, Roy shook his head. "I swear, if he belched they'd think it was Mozart."

Wally picked up the TV remote. "Jealousy's a bitch, man."


He still didn't get it. He wasn't all that. He just wasn't.

Okay, he worked hard but, as far as he could see, his looks were average, his bod was okay but scarred up and he was usually sore from a fall or something. He was smart enough but not like, say Bruce. Maybe he could be charming when he really set his mind to it, but so could a lot of people.

He wasn't a complete troll but it didn't make sense.

Sighing, pulling the four phone numbers girls had sipped him that afternoon out of his pocket, he suddenly smiled. Of course, it beat the hell out of the alternative.

If he couldn't beat 'em, he might a well join 'em and, it might all be bullshit but, come to think of it, sometimes it didn't suck to be him.

7/4/10