Disclaimer: These characters aren't mine.
"Stay out of trouble," Wally West, aka the Flash, directed his daughter before being teleported back to Earth.
Irey West, aka Impulse, watched him disappear. A huge battle on Earth and she had to be dumped on the Watchtower because "it was too dangerous" and she "didn't have enough experience." Life wasn't fair. How was she supposed to get the experience if she was taken out of danger whenever there was trouble? Maybe having her dad as a mentor wasn't such a good idea. Perhaps Max Mercury would be willing to train another Impulse. He had survived Bart and from she had heard about Bart's younger years, well, she wasn't nearly that bad.
Pushing the thoughts from her mind, she looked around. At least he had dumped her at the Watchtower and not at home. Home would have been so much worse. At least here, she could still remain as Impulse. At home, she'd have to change and just be plain, old boring Irey. Being Impulse was so much cooler. She had been to the Watchtower two previous times, neither of which had been good experiences. The first time her mom had almost died. The second time had been during the crisis when almost everyone had been taken over by the anti-life equation. Neither of those times had allowed any time to explore, not that she had really wanted to. But now…exploring definitely seemed to be in order. Besides, she was a bit hungry. There must be a kitchen somewhere.
It was tempting to zoom around, but Irey had learned she missed a lot of the little details if she ran. Better to walk. Besides, who knew how long she would be stuck here. Looking up and down the empty corridor, she chose a direction and started to walk. She paused outside a room filled with television screens. This was obviously the Monitor Womb. Plastic Man sat in the center of it all. Two monitors were devoted to the battle below. Irey watched as two explosions occurred. She identified two red blurs – her dad and Uncle Barry. She also spotted Superman, Wonder Woman, two Green Lanterns and Power Girl. Altogether, she knew this battle was requiring the combined efforts of the Justice League and Justice Society. She was tempted to ask Plastic Man how everything was going, but he looked busy and she didn't want to interrupt him. Maybe later after she had a snack.
A little further down the corridor she found a large conference room, filled with chairs and a huge table. Each chair bore the insignia of a hero. She spotted the Flash insignia, sat in that chair and imagined what it would be like to be part of the Justice League. That wouldn't happen for years, probably never if her dad had his way. He still wasn't too thrilled that she had taken the name Impulse. She doubted calling herself Kid Flash would have made him any happier, never mind that Bart was currently Kid Flash. She suspected her dad would rather have her sit at home. Boring.
After fifteen minutes of opening doors and peeking into nooks and crannies, she located the kitchen. Rummaging through the cupboards, she found a bag of Oreo cookies. Grabbing a handful, she continued her exploration. Down the corridor, a doorway stood open. Irey peeked inside, expecting to find another empty room. Instead, a boy was hunched over a laptop computer. She recognized him – Robin, aka Damian Wayne.
"What do you want?" Damian demanded. Irey jumped. She didn't realize she had made any noise. "I can see you in the monitor's reflection," the boy explained.
"Oh." She walked over to him. "Did Batman dump you here, too?"
"I was not 'dumped' here."
"So, why are you here and not at the fight?"
"I chose to be here."
Irey rolled her eyes. "Yeah, right. Let me guess, Batman told you either the Watchtower or home and you chose here. Am I right?" Damian scowled at her. "I wish I were there," she said wistfully. "I know I could've helped." Damian raised a questioning eyebrow. "What? You don't think I could?"
"Pigtails don't inspire fear in criminals."
"Like your stupid hood does?" countered Irey. Irey knew the pigtails weren't one of her better decisions, not that she would ever admit that to anyone. Looking back, she should have probably just put her hair in a ponytail. Aunt Donna had done that when she was Wonder Girl. Since even someone as lame as Damian had noticed the pigtails, it was definitely time to reconsider her options.
Damian only glared at her before returning his attention to the computer screen. "Why don't you go bother someone else, West."
Irey stared at the boy. "My name is Irey or Impulse," she stated. "Don't call me West."
"Irey is stupid."
"Like calling people by their last names is brilliant," she countered. "Is that how you call your brothers? 'Wayne'? If everyone's together, how do they know who you're talking to?"
"No, I do not call them 'Wayne.' They are Grayson or Drake. More to the point, they are not my brothers."
"Of course they are. Mr. Wayne adopted them. That makes all of you brothers."
"No, it does not. They were mere moments of weakness for my father. I am the true heir. They are just impostors."
Irey stared at Damian in surprise. She would trade in Jai any day to have a chance at having Dick or Tim as her brothers. Dick had earned the title 'Uncle Dick' in their family. Had her dad been as close to Tim as he was Dick, she was certain Tim would have earned the same title. "Obviously, your dad doesn't think they're impostors. Otherwise, he wouldn't have adopted them and he wouldn't have let Uncle Dick become Batman."
"As I said, he had a lapse in judgment. Besides, Grayson is merely a temporary stand-in until I am old enough. I've already taken over the title of Robin."
"Yeah, but Tim is now Red Robin. He sort of moved up in the world. Kind of like Uncle Dick."
Damian's scowl grew deeper. "Drake was a second rate Robin at best," he snarled. "I beat him. He could no longer wear the Robin name. Even Grayson recognized that. Don't you have anywhere else to be?"
"Not really. At least not until my dad comes back." Irey unconsciously chewed the inside of her lip. She had a vague memory of hearing something about Damian fighting Tim. But wasn't it that Damian had played unfairly? That Tim had only defended himself? She knew if Tim and Damian ever fought fairly, Tim would clean Damian's clock, or at least she hoped he would. "So, why don't you like your brothers?"
"I told you, they are not my brothers."
"Fine. Why don't you like the two men who your dad adopted and who share the same last name as you and who look weirdly like you and your dad? I mean, Uncle Dick is pretty cool. I haven't really met Tim, so I don't know about him as much, but my cousin Bart thinks he cool." Irey watched in dismay as Damian slammed the cover of the laptop shut, grabbed it off the counter and stormed out of the room. What had she said? She followed him, grabbing his arm to get his attention. "Dam-"
Damian reacted swiftly and instinctively to the touch. Before Irey realized what was happening, Damian had grabbed her arm and flung her into the corridor's wall. Irey crashed to the floor, feeling a bit dazed. Damian wasn't yet done, though. She shook off the fog just in time to see a kick coming at her. She quickly rolled out of the way. "Damian! Knock it off! Ow!" Damian had grabbed one of her pigtails. Okay, she definitely needed to rethink the pigtails. "Damian, please, that hurts." She silently cursed the tears she could feel in her eyes.
As quickly as the attack had begun, it ended. Damian released his grip on her pigtail and took a few steps backwards. After a brief hesitation, he stepped forward and held out his hand. Irey eyed it suspiciously, but allowed him to help her to her feet. "I apologize." He turned, picked up the laptop and started to walk away.
Irey reached out to grab his arm, but stopped just before she did. She didn't want a repeat performance. "Damian, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have…I mean…I guess I don't see what the big deal is. I think it would be great to learn I had two older brothers. I mean think of everything they can teach you."
Damian paused, not turning to face her. "You are right. You do not understand."
"Then help me understand. Please?" Irey sensed Damian wavering. "I found some cookies in the kitchen and-"
"Canteen," he corrected absently.
"-whatever. There's probably some soda or water or something else to drink, too. Maybe we could have a snack and talk?" Irey silently held her breath. Something was obviously bugging Damian, something she had unknowingly caused.
After what seemed like an eternity, he met her gaze. "Fine."
They ate their snack in silence. Irey was uncertain what to say. She didn't want to say the wrong thing. More importantly, she didn't want to be slammed into a wall again. At the same time, though, she couldn't just let the issue drop. It wasn't in her nature. "So, can you tell me?" she finally asked.
"It doesn't matter."
Irey wanted to smack him this time. Why were boys always so difficult? Heaven forbid they actually admit they have feelings. "If I had to guess, I'd say you worry about where you stand in the family," she ventured. "I mean, sure, you're the true heir, the biological son. But Dick's been around for years. Didn't he move in with your dad when he was like eight or nine? And Tim's been around awhile, too. You're the newbie. They may not be true Waynes, at least not by blood, but they know your dad better than you do. That could be a little intimidating." Irey paused and glanced at Damian. He refused to meet her gaze, but instead continued to focus on the tabletop. She noticed his hands were clenched tightly. She ignored the warning sign. "I mean-"
"West, shut up."
Irey smiled inwardly. Outwardly, she glared at the boy. "I told you not to call me that."
"Iris. If I have to use your first name, it will be your proper name, not some nickname."
Irey let it drop, at least for now. She had won one battle. "So, was I right?"
"Maybe," Damian admitted softly.
"You don't have to prove yourself. Your dad will love you-"
"Stop while you are still ahead," Damian warned.
Irey stopped. She also grinned. Damian just scowled. "So, what were you working on?" She nodded toward the laptop. It was definitely time for a change in subject.
Damian smirked. "Ways to get rid of annoying speedsters."
"Ha, ha. What were you really working on?"
"Nothing that would interest you."
"Come on, what is it?"
Damian sighed. "My homework."
"Really? What is it?"
"What do you have to do?"
"I have to write a report on the Civil War. I had the report done, but Alfred read it and gave it to Grayson who demanded I do it again."
"Because I stated the cause of the Civil War was due to the fall of the Roman Empire."
"Oh." Irey wasn't too sure why Damian would have written about that. What did the Roman Empire have to do with the Civil War? That was probably why he had to do it again. "I had to write a report on it, too. So, what grade are you in?"
"None. I don't go to school."
"Then why do you have homework?"
"Grayson insists that I'm homeschooled. He says if I don't finish this report properly, I'll be grounded from being Robin."
"Would you like some help?"
The battle was over. They had won, but the cost had been high. Ten city blocks had been destroyed. Civilians had not only been injured, but also killed. It wasn't one of their better days. Wally leaned against the shattered remains of an apartment complex. While Irey hadn't been happy to be dumped off at the Watchtower, Wally was glad he had. She wasn't ready to see this yet. The area looked like a war zone.
A short distance away, he noticed his best friend, Dick Grayson, aka the Batman, resting on his haunches. Wally walked over. Up close, he noticed that Dick wasn't looking too great. His costume was torn and bloody. "You okay?"
"I've been better."
Heaven forbid a member of the Bat family actually admits they are injured, Wally thought. "Want me to run you back to Gotham?"
"Can't. I dumped Damian on the Watchtower. I need to go get him."
Wally smiled slightly. "That's where I dumped Irey. She wasn't too happy with me."
"Neither was Damian. I'm sure he'll make me pay for it. Be more rude and obnoxious than normal." Dick sighed, rising shakily to his feet. "I suppose I can't really blame him. I hated when Bruce did that to me when I was a kid."
"Yeah, me, too." Wally remembered hating Uncle Barry whenever Barry had decided a situation was too dangerous for Kid Flash. When he was younger, it had seemed to happen very often. As he grew older, it had occurred less and less. It had probably helped that he had been part of the Teen Titans and had proven he could handle himself in dangerous situations. Yet, as a kid, he just remembered desperately wanting to be part of the battle, to be able to show Uncle Barry and the rest of the Justice League that he was good enough to wear the Kid Flash costume.
They arrived at the Watchtower together. As Wally requested the computer give him the location for Irey, Dick did the same for Damian. The computer returned the same answer – canteen. Wally looked at Dick. "Good or bad?"
"Knowing Damian, bad."
Wally silently agreed. Had he known Damian would be on the Watchtower, he would have probably just taken Irey home. They started toward the canteen.
Eel O'Brien, aka Plastic Man, stopped them. "Ah, the two I've been waiting for."
Dick seemed to sag a bit. "What did he do?"
"What did who do?" Eel sounded confused.
"What? Oh, nothing. He and Impulse behaved overall. One fight, but they seemed to resolve it themselves."
"They had a fight?" Wally suddenly felt a bit anxious. Damian was, well, unique. The kid had been raised by the League of Assassins. He knew Dick was doing his best to make Damian "normal," but Wally doubted Dick really had a chance.
O'Brien smiled. "Yeah. I thought I'd have to break it up, but like I said, they resolved it on their own. However, given all the security Bat One installed, everything's on tape. Thought you two might like to watch it. Bat Two in particular."
Wally sensed Dick tense slightly. He followed his friend to a small meeting room. Dick quickly pulled up the file O'Brien had mentioned. They watched and listened. Wally paled when his daughter was flung against the wall. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Dick tense even more. Thankfully, Irey didn't appear to be hurt. And Irey had been antagonizing Damian, something she did on a regular basis with Jai. Wally didn't even want to try to count the number of fights he had broken up between brother and sister, most of which seemed to have been started by Irey. "Dick, Irey was-"
"It doesn't matter," his friend answered stiffly.
"Look, go easy on him. Irey was as much at fault as-"
"Wally, he could have killed her."
Dick's words sent a chill down Wally's spine. He had heard how Damian had almost killed Tim. In a rare moment, Dick had also admitted that Damian had killed in hopes of gaining Bruce's favor. That ploy had backfired, but it had proven Damian didn't hesitate to cross that line. For whatever reason, though, Wally felt the absurd need to defend the boy. "But he didn't."
Dick took a deep breath. He looked tired. Wally decided to risk venturing into territory that was decidedly dangerous. "Why is he still paired up with you now that Bruce is back? I mean, I thought you'd go back to being Nightwing. I know how much you hate doing the whole Batman thing. And if you had to be Batman, why not dump the kid with Bruce and pair up with Tim?"
"It's complicated." Wally remained silent, hoping Dick would elaborate a bit more. Surprisingly, he did. "Damian has improved a lot, as hard as that is to believe at times, especially times like now. Bruce thought it would be best if Damian stayed with me. I agreed. There're things I can do that Bruce just can't. And despite appearances to the contrary, Damian does listen to me…most of the time."
It made sense. Given Dick or Bruce, in Wally's mind, Dick was definitely the more stable of the two. "So, what Irey was suggesting…?"
"Is right on target," finished Dick. "Let's see what they're up to."
He and Dick paused in the doorway to the canteen. Irey and Damian sat at the table, heads together, hunched over a laptop. Remnants of a snack remained on the table. They had looted J'onn's Oreo supply. Wally made a mental note to purchase a couple bags to restock the canteen.
Irey laughed at something Damian said. Damian only smirked. Wally glanced at Dick. Dick shrugged. "Hey," Dick greeted. Two heads popped up. Wally immediately recognized what he called the uh-oh look on his daughter's face. She had been doing something she knew she shouldn't be. Dick must have recognized a similar look on his brother's face. Given the altercation they had viewed, Wally wasn't surprised.
"It's about time you got here, Grayson," Damian stated, shutting a laptop computer.
"What were you guys doing?" Dick asked.
Damian rolled his eyes. "Plotting ways to take down speedsters."
"Damian!" Irey stated, a hint of exasperation in her voice. "We were not. I was helping him with his Civil War report. I had to write one in school, too." Irey frowned and looked more closely at Dick. "Are you okay, Uncle Dick?"
Dick gave her a small smile. "I'm fine. Thanks for asking." He turned his attention back to Damian. "So, what's your report about?" questioned Dick.
"The Civil War. If you recall, you told me I had to rewrite it."
"No ties to the Roman Empire this time?" Wally frowned. What did the Roman Empire have to do with the Civil War? Dick noticed his confusion. "Damian's previous report surmised that the Civil War would have never occurred if the Roman Empire had never fallen. Because of the fall of the Roman Empire, England eventually became a super power which eventually led to America becoming a colony which eventually led to slavery." Wally felt sorry for his friend and said a silent prayer of thanks that his kids were normal, or as normal as his kids would ever be.
"Nope, it's about the Battle of Bull Run," Irey answered.
"Good." Dick shifted gears and adopted a bit more of the Bat persona. "We saw what happened." Both preteens seemed to pale slightly. "Care to explain?"
"It was nothing, Grayson."
"Nothing? You threw Irey into a wall! How is that nothing?"
"He didn't hurt me," Irey said quickly. "Really. It probably just looked that way. I was sort of pushing him. I should have stopped, but just ask my dad, I do the same thing to Jai all the time. Really, Uncle Dick."
Wally remained silent. He heard the pleading quality in his daughter's voice. Yet, it wasn't his – or Irey's – place to get involved. This was between the two brothers who were currently staring each other down. Damian was the first one to look away. "It was a misunderstanding," the boy muttered. "It won't happen again."
"It better not," warned Dick. "No matter, you're still going to be grounded." Damian only shrugged. "Let's go home."
"You, too, Irey," Wally added. "Time to go."
"Okay." Irey looked at Damian. "Sorry 'bout you being grounded." Damian shrugged again. "I did have fun. We should get together again. Maybe you could come over for a movie or something." Great, thought Wally, she wants to entertain the little monster.
Damian frowned and crossed his arms in front of his chest. Dick nudged him. With a deep sigh, Damian said, "Grayson will decide what is best for me." Dick rolled his eyes.
Irey was nonplussed. "Okay. Goodbye, Uncle Dick. 'Bye, Damian."
Dick again nudged Damian. "Goodbye, We-" Irey glared at him. "Iris," he corrected.
"Bye, Irey. Wally."
As Wally walked with his daughter to the teleporter, he sent her a questioning look. "Iris?"
Irey shrugged. "I refuse to be called West. He refused to call me Irey. He's a bit formal if you haven't noticed."
Wally smiled. "I noticed."
"I've decided to change my look," Irey announced.
"Yeah, my Impulse look. I think I'm going to get rid of the pig tails."
"Oh?" Wally decided to play innocent. He had heard Damian's comments about the pig tails, and he had seen Damian grab one of them. No doubt Damian's words and actions were having an impact.
Irey shrugged. "Well, I am twelve. Besides Damian sort of suggested it." She paused. "You know, underneath it all, he's not that bad. I mean, yeah, he's a know-it-all, kind of stuck up, very rude, but it's mostly just for show. And he's really smart. He sees things in such different ways. I mean, who would ever link the Roman Empire to the Civil War?" Who indeed, Wally thought. "Besides, he's sort of cute."
Wally paled and felt a hint of panic. She was too young to notice boys, wasn't she? But that didn't explain why she wanted to change her look. Was it more than just being a practical change? Was it because she thought Damian was 'cute'? Worse, why did she have to be interested in the boy who just happened to be raised by the League of Assassins and who had a superiority complex that rivaled Luthor? Okay, maybe he shouldn't have banned her from participating in the fight. Being on terra firma would have been much, much safer than the Watchtower…