Warning: Inappropriate jokes. Blame Mr. Stark's no-filter mouth.


Meeting adjourned, Agent Maria Hill waited until the eclectic group of 'heroes' a part of the Avengers Initiative left the ship deck before approaching Director Fury. "Sir."

"Agent Hill."

"Sir, about the boy…Anomaly One." Hill remarked, "We have agents standing by."

Fury regarded her coolly. "Loki is our first priority now."

"Yessir. And Anomaly Two? We have more than sufficient data to indicate that the appearance of Anomaly One and Anomaly Two was caused by the Tesseract." She pulled up the energy readings onto the computer screen.

Scrolling through the data, Fury considered the implications of the Tesseract being used as a dimension hopping portal by someone other than Loki and the Chitauri. Hill, who was privy to the details of the interrogation, knew that this would fit with the current information Anomaly One revealed. Anomaly One couldn't exist in their database if he never existed in the first place. However, he was also sure that Anomaly One was not speaking the whole truth and was hiding something…

After a long pause, Hill asked, "Is he a part of Loki's forces?"

"Who. Anomaly One or Anomaly Two?"

Both agents turned their attentions to the security footage of the locked interrogation room where Anomaly One was currently resting his head on the table, sleeping.


Standing in the 'nonexistent' blind spot to trick his captors to panic and enter the interrogation room? That was the oldest trick in the book. Then reactivating the electronic lock, breaking into the room beyond the one-way mirror and stealing away onto their computer system, allowing him to play with the security footage as he pleased? The little loop of him sleeping was certainly a nice touch, in his modest opinion.

Robin allowed a small eerie cackle as he displaced his current distraught ("Well, get traught or get dead.") with a little snooping.

Child's play.

He leaned into the cushy straight-backed chair, feeling a little guilty for knocking out the agents in charge of him and tossing them into his interrogation room. However, it was the only way to get secure access to their computer database without alerting the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization. It was better to save the hacking for now if he can get into their files through legitimate means.

"Let's see."

He typed in 'Justice League' and hit the 'search' command.

The computer processed his request and came back with a big, red 'ERROR' and 'ZERO RESULTS FOUND'.

Swallowing the sudden unease, he mentally chided, "You were expecting this Robin."

His left index finger rested on the letter 'b' before deciding he wasn't that much of a masochist and redirected them across the keyboard, typing in 'Pentachoron'; he waited for the computer to process the word when, again, 'ZERO RESULTS FOUND' was written on the screen.

Robin cracked his knuckles and went about his search another way. One word was shared by his captors – both S.H.I.E.L.D. and the original villain that brought him here – and he intended to find out what they were looking for. He knew it wasn't a coincidence and being trained by Batman as a detective didn't help his beliefs in whimsical notions like coincidences anyway.

'Tesseract'.

It was almost immediate. As soon as the word was entered, the computer green-lighted and mass amounts of data revolving the Cosmic Cube began scrolling rapidly down the screen

Jackpot.


"– Who let the kid in here?" exclaimed Tony Stark as he entered the built-in lab of the helicarrier.

Dr. Bruce Banner, who trailed behind him in the hallway, warned, "You're setting yourself up for that one there Tony."

"Ha ha. Funny." Tony deadpanned and moved in, discreetly palming a pair of scissors that rested on the nearest bench because this was S.H.I.E.L.D. territory and there was an unknown kid hanging around like he owned the place. "No seriously, when did you hire an assistant? I know they like to start young these days but this kid still looks to be in his learning diapers."

Bruce peeked over Tony's shoulder, eyeing the stranger inquisitively. What he saw was a scrawny scamp spinning on one of the laboratory stools; he couldn't help but zero in on the gelled black hair and stuffy clothing - a type of dress that would be picked on in public schools.

But there was something off about him that was setting him on edge…

The scientist shook his head. Focus. If only to annoy the egotistical billionaire in front of him because he certainly had enough anger to spare, Bruce clapped a hand on Tony's shoulder and quipped, "Oh. There really is another child in here."

"You wound me, Bruce. Right here." The man tapped the arc reactor mockingly with his right hand, left hand still conspicuously tucked away, unseen.

"That's like generating an electromagnetic field. It doesn't store emotions." The small boy offhandedly said before he stopped spinning in the chair and blinked at them with guileless azure eyes. "By the way, it's nice to meet you both, Dr. Banner, Iron Man."

Bruce's hands clenched the sides of his trousers nervously, wrinkling the material. The boy was definitely triggering his paranoia.

"Oh. A 'smart kid'." Tony took a few more steps towards the youngster in a casual manner. "You have a name?"

"My name's Richard Grayson-"

"-You're a Dick!-"

His lips quirked upwards in an almost acknowledgement.

Bruce sighed, "Don't mind him kid – Richard-"

"Don't be a prude!" Tony casually leaned against the cabinet near the computers. "But you know, billionaire playboys still have to draw some lines in the sand against off-colour male sex organ jokes."

"'Male sex organ'?" quoted Bruce dryly.

"Doctor! There's a child in here." Said 'billionaire playboy' deliberately sneered, "Fine, I meant tiny pe-"

Richard, small boy with a surprisingly loud voice, talked over their banter. "-I have a proposition for you, Dr. Banner and Mr. Stark."

There was silence. Proposition?

"-And we just nosedived into awkward." Tony shrugged and added, "From penis jokes to propositions – not that I haven't been propositioned by jailbait before but let's not. Please."

Before Bruce could initiate damage control, Grayson went into a digression, all innocent eyes. "A little birdie told me you don't trust S.H.I.E.L.D."

"You're saying it like it's a secret when it's not really one at all." Iron Man crossed his arms, unimpressed. "And don't tell me Fury sent you here to do his dirty work." Feeling the stare bore a hole into his head, Tony told off Bruce, "Hey. He could be a master assassin that Fury's setting on us like a mad dog."

With a soft exhale, the scientist decided to ignore his lab partner and asked Richard, "Did Director Fury leave you here with us, Richard?"

But Tony would have none of that as Bruce suffered through another diatribe. "First off, Doctor, you should be asking why S.H.I.E.L.D. would have an underage boy running around a top secret base of operations." Stark paused. "And besides that, Fury must have missed the memo saying that it was the Captain that's starting the babysitting club. Something about a good old-fashioned approved job." The unsuited Iron Man jabbed a thumb in Bruce's direction and stage-whispered at Richard, "And that career choice definitely can't be for this guy beside me. Crying kids make him rage."

"O-kay…Off tangent much?" The boy swung his legs out childishly as he drawled, "You're not my babysitters. I was curious about all of this-" Here, he paused long enough to wave at the surrounding area. "-so I came here."

"Curious." Bruce repeated in a neutral tone, trying not to sound defensive because it was just a prepubescent teen but failing miserably. "About what?" He couldn't help but notice how the kid was sitting between them and Loki's weapon.

"I like computers and that's like a prerequisite to hacking." The implications were there as Richard seemed to bounce in his seat, grinning. "So, you know, I was doing a bit of a look around in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s system – harmless stuff using legit-ti-mate ways – and saw you hacking into it with a rather neat but detectable program."

Bruce couldn't stop and filter the comment before it left his mouth. "…What happened to 'twenty minutes and we'll have answers'?"

The man with the mechanical suit of armor blurted out, "I'm me. With ten minutes to build the codes while playing agony aunt to a certain guy that goes green with anger."

His words may have been a bit strangled at Stark's unapologetic dismissal. "I – well - you - you have an ego." Dr. Banner crossed his arms, unwilling to believe that Fury was deliberately trying his patience by pairing him up with Tony Stark. "Detectable? Why not a flashy billboard sign?"

"Been there. Done that. Haven't you watched the news?" Tony grinned, "Stark Tower? A masterpiece added to the N.Y.C. skyline, thank you very much."

With a certain glint of mischief in his eyes, Richard, all groomed politeness, interrupted them to steer the conversation back on track, "Since the program was detectable, Mr. Stark's invasive codes were kinda impressive because the firewalls didn't kick him out."

"Only 'kinda'?" preened the billionaire.

Richard shrugged, "Well...Your program wasn't completely receptive to my...coding but it was fun directing it to run around the maze to dig out information. You were trying to find out the real plans for the Tesseract, right?"

Stark remarked, "And let me guess, you were too? Because that's a really amazing coincidence-"

"I kinda don't believe in coincidences…And Mr. Stark, you don't want to press the lockdown button." Richard grinned, perking up in his seat again. "You seriously don't want to press it. It includes a trap that'll gas us all to sleep."

"I wasn't-" But Tony was, noticed Bruce, because his right hand was hovering inches above the shiny blue button behind the computer console that would have had the lab in steel-door lockdown.

How did little Richard see him?

"And those scissors? They're safety scissors. Are you going to try and attack me with safety scissors?"

"Uh." Bruce gave Tony a well-deserved 'what were you thinking?' look and the billionaire gave him a cocky shrug.

"Totally whelming."

Grayson let slip an eerie, out-of-place cackle.

Naturally, the two older geniuses tensed perceptibly.

"…Just who are you?" Dr. Banner asked, voice laced with paranoia.

Stark tossed the safety scissors over his shoulder without looking. "I told you Fury sic'd a mini Black Widow on us!"

A voice from the hallway interrupted the Iron Man's semi-hysterics. "I found out what their original plans were for the Tesseract." New arrival Captain Steve Rogers stalked into the laboratory, only to stop short when he saw Richard sitting by – guarding – Loki's weapon with Tony and Bruce at the perimeter. "What's going on? And is that a kid in here?"

"Nice of you to join us Captain," sneered Stark. "You were saying? Tesseract?"

"Boy. In top secret ship." Steve retorted, glaring down at Tony. "Let's get the priorities straight first."

"Fine. Go ahead Doctor."

Dr. Banner took in a deep breath, not very glad that he was assigned the peacekeeper role. "Um. He was in the laboratory before we arrived." He leaned against the counter behind him, clasping uneasy hands around the edge. "He says his name is Richard-."

Tony corrected him immediately. "-Dick."

Richard scratched a cheek. "I actually prefer Dick."

"Dick, then." Banner breathed through his nose. "He's a hacker. Couldn't stop Stark's program in the system so instead he made it run around in circles."

"Okay…Who let you on this ship, Dick?" asked the Captain, in what Banner dubbed, his patient, 'I am Captain America: Hero' voice.

"Weeelll actually." Three pairs of eyes tracked him as he sat fidgeting on the stool. "S.H.I.E.L.D. kinda captured and subjected me to interrogation, so I broke out of their cage."

Tony's eyebrows rose. "Interrogation? What'd you do? Steal the tires off of Fury's best Hummer?" At the stares from Bruce and Steve – even young Grayson gave him a funny look – he defended himself, "What? Fury totally looks like a Hummer guy."

Dick cleared his throat trying to get back to the question at hand. "I kind of landed on the wrong side of a portal. You know. The Tesseract kind."

The three heroes paused, tension building because anything related to the Tesseract meant trouble.

"So you're extraterrestrial…" murmured the Doctor, practiced scientific eye giving the youth another look over.

"Dudes I'm human," corrected the teen quickly. "Really not your Area 51 material. Really, really. Mr. Fury already did the tests to prove this."

Steve prompted, "But you're telling us all this because…?"

"Because your boss obviously left you guys in the dark about what happened after the Tesseract blew the super secret facility sky-high," said the boy matter-of-factly. "And I have a proposition."

"Proposition talks again?"

"Stark." The joint reprimand from Bruce and Steve made him glower.

"I snooped through S.H.I.E.L.D.'s files thanks to Mr. Stark's little program." The tiny hacker allowed a smirk. "Let me join your Avengers Initiative."

"You're asking the wrong people. We're not the ones creating the exclusive fraternity club." Iron Man rambled, "And they're still ragging on me about how I don't play well with others anyway."

Steve snorted. "You don't."

Dick finally dropped the smile in favour of a frown. "But you're the Heroes." He had said it with a capital H.

Tony snapped back. "And you're a kid."

"Don't be an ageist-"

Captain America interrupted him. "Heroes. How're you so sure we're heroes anyway?" The uncertain words came out a bit more bitter than he intended.

Blue eyes pierced through them; there was a weight of heavy judgement. "Well if I fell out of a window from a sixty storey building would you save me?"

Their resident industrialist challenged, "That's all on you kid; why'd you stand so close to a window in the first place?"

Bruce sighed at Tony's answer.

"You shouldn't pose those kinds of questions to such a self-absorbed man," grumbled Steve crossly.

"Fine." Stark, exasperated, continued, "I mean, sure. Sure I'll catch you like you're a damsel in distress but you know that was a totally legitimate question."

(Heroes in denial. Great.)

Richard - Dick - (Robin) stared at Tony flatly. "So not feeling the aster."