Immediately post-Intervention. Jaime finally, explicitly explains that the Scarab is sentient. Awkward questions ensue.
Introducing Khaji Da
With Jaime out from the Reach's control, not much had really changed.
Except maybe Jaime's posture had improved. He stood a little straighter, and looked Nightwing directly in the eye when Nightwing greeted him.
And perhaps he smiled a little bit more when the others called him by name and welcomed him back.
And maybe he was a bit more focused…well, no, probably not. It with a pretty typical meeting, with Nightwing doing his best to ignore Jaime muttering to himself, and Bart nattering back.
Then suddenly Jaime screamed, "SHUT UP!"
He stood, fists clenching and unclenching, for a few moments. Nightwing waited patiently for him to recoil and rub his neck in embarrassment, the way he usually did after one of his outbursts. They all knew Jaime had a temper. They all knew he tended to mutter. Something was up with the kid, but he did good work, and you never wanted to pry too deep into somebody's personal life.
But Jaime stood, tall and clear, and said, "I have something to say."
His eyes darted left, and he shook his head and muttered, "No. I've been thinking about this." He looked ahead again. "I've been wanting to say this for a while. But I was afraid you would all think I was nuts. And then everything with the Reach started, and I was afraid you would think I was already brainwashed."
"But I just spent two months being a voice in the back of my own head, and I…I get it now," His eyes darted left again, and he spoke slowly and clearly, as if trying to make sure every word landed. "It sucks. It sucks wanting to get your voice heard and constantly getting shut down, and it sucks having to do really annoying crap, like all the time, ese, really annoying, to get attention. And it sucks…it sucks that I didn't just tell you guys in the first place." He took a deep breath. "The Scarab isn't just an artificial intelligence. It has its own personality. And it talks to me. All. The. Time."
The room froze for five seconds.
Then Bart sped up to Jaime's side and yammered at him, M'Gann's eyes began to glow as she prepared to probe Jaime's quite possibly schizophrenic mind, Batgirl looked to Nightwing for permission to hit Jaime with the tranquilizer she had kept on hand ever since he first started talking to himself, and Nightwing shouted for order.
"SHUT UP!" Jaime repeated. "YOU'RE ALL GREAT AND I LIKE YOU GUYS A LOT, BUT SHUT UP RIGHT NOW, I'M NOT DONE." He reached a hand up and touched the nape of his neck. "The Scarab is talking. It's his turn. He gets his say. THEN you can all start." He glanced left again. After a few moments, he continued. "I know it looks like I'm talking to myself. But I'm talking to the Scarab. I usually am. Sometimes one of you notices and thinks that I'm talking to you, but I'm not, and it's really hard trying to keep up with two conversations at once."
Bart flashed through five different expressions before settling on a slightly furrowed brow. "So, like, when I'm talking to you and you take those long pauses and then respond really quietly-"
"Yeah," Jaime nodded. "I'm usually not actually talking to you, hermano. Sorry." Bart's face froze in a strange half-smile, and Jaime frowned at him. "You okay?"
"Great," Bart croaked, his fixed smile twitching. "I'm just trying to remember every conversation I've ever had with you, and figure out whether or not I was just talking to myself."
Jaime smacked his own forehead. "No, hermano, it's not like that-"
"I mean, do you just tune me out?" Bart said, with a forced chuckle. "When am I actually talking to you? Am I talking to you now?"
"Yes! Wait-shut up," Jaime hissed.
Bart slumped into an expression Nightwing had never seen on him before, resentful and untrusting. "Sure, I'll shut up-"
"Not you! The Scarab! Khaji Da!"
Bart glared at him incredulously. "That's a serial number."
"It's his name!" Jaime snapped. "I mean, yes, technically, it's a serial number, but he said he wants to use it as his name!"
Cassie tilted her head to the side. "It's a he?"
Jaime's eyebrows shot up. "Yeah. I think…yeah? Why not?"
Cassie continued to stare at him. "Have you ever asked the Scarab? That's kind of a big thing to assume. You just assume it's a he."
"Well, he uses my voice, so-"
Jaime began to wilt under the collection of stares; he looked more like his old, awkward self. "He uses my voice…but without an accent. That's how I know whether it's my thoughts or his thoughts. Except for the times we agree. Which is happening more often, because he's learning how to think of other tactics than just shooting people in the face-"
"He tells you to shoot people in the face?" cried Beast Boy, delighted.
"He suggests it, and then I say no! That's how it works! I call the shots! Yes, I do!" Jaime snapped, glaring left again.
"Have you ever asked about its gender?" Cassie pushed in.
Jaime's face tightened. "How about this. I'll ask him right now, and tell you what he says, alright? How does that sound?" He looked around the room. "Would that make you all feel better? If I…FACILITATE a conversation between you all?"
Cassie crossed her arms. "Should be good."
Jaime looked left and gritted out, "Khaji Da, are you…what gender do you identify as?"
Bart rolled his eyes. "This oughtta be-"
"It's the Scarab's turn to talk," Jaime barked in a voice they had never heard him use before. Bart's eyes widened guiltily, and Jaime looked away, embarrassed. Bart began to say something else, maybe an apology, but Jaime held up a hand, stopping him
The room waited with baited breath.
After a moment, Jaime shook his head, and said, "You've gotta be kidding me, ese…"
"What did it say?" Bart demanded.
"He…it said it will have to get back to us on that….he's-its got to think about it," said Jaime slowly. "But if I'm sharing my body with a girl, then what…oh man," Jaime grimaced and rubbed his face. "TMI. Let's not go there." Suddenly he glanced left again and said, in a softer, worried voice clearly meant only for the Scarab to hear, "But tell me soon, 'cause if I have to call you an 'it', then it makes you sound like a thing, and the whole point of telling them was so that they'd respect you, ese."
Beast Boy rolled his eyes, "Well, of course we respect the extraterrestrial parasite-"
Nightwing put a hand on Beast Boy's shoulder and shook his head sternly, silencing him. The room waited while the Scarab responded. Jaime nodded, but didn't translate the response.
Nightwing sighed. "Okay, I think I get it. The Scarab is…its own person?"
"Yeah!" said Jaime, eyes lighting up. "Since he first…joined up with me, he's been learning so much. Like, he has a sense of humor now, and sometimes he says things that are, like, border-line compassionate, and he'll try using Spanish words-"
"And he'll talk in interviews?" Nightwing pulled up a few Youtube clips. "You've been doing a lot of interviews the past couple of months."
Jaime shook his head. "That was the embajador. The Negotiator. He talked…through me." Jaime wrinkled his nose. "And he made me sound like a dork."
Nightwing frowned. "Then how do we know he's not-
"He's not," Jaime said firmly. "The Negotiator doesn't understand skateboarding, or Saturday Night Live references, or why I bother listening to you, sorry, he said that and I was going on a stream of consciousness thing, really sorry Nightwing, I actually respect you a lot, but, just, ugh, forget it…" Jaime shook his head and reasserted his gaze. "The Negotiator is not Khaji Da."
M'Gann looked to Nightwing and shrugged. "So…what do you want us to do?"
Jaime sighed. "I have no idea. I just need you to understand that…sometimes I'm being weird for a reason. And sometimes I'm relaying information from him to you. I want to give him credit. That…that matters to me," He looked to Nightwing hopefully.
Nightwing and M'Gann exchanged looks. Jaime threw his hands up in exasperation. "Por favor! You've been working with me for months, come on, it's still me-"
"It's not that!" said M'Gann soothingly. "I think that's wonderful of you, Jaime, but just…logistically speaking. Are you asking me to put the…Scarab on the psychic link?"
Jaime glanced left, listening intently. The heroes waited patiently. Suddenly, Jaime shrugged. "Not compatible. He said. Basically. I'm translating. Paraphrasing. That just means…probably wouldn't work." Jaime scowled, and added under his breath, "And sometimes you're rude. I don't want you on the psychic link either, ese."
"Then how are we supposed to know who you're talking to?" Bart asked coldly.
"What, you mean whether or not I'm talking to you?" Jaime wheeled round on him. "Because I call you hermano."
Bart rolled his eyes. "You call EVERYBODY hermano-"
Jaime jabbed a finger into Bart's chest. "YOU'RE hermano." He reached with his other hand and patted the nape of his neck. "And HE'S ese. Got it?"
Bart ducked his head stubbornly, but everyone could see the gleam in his eyes. "Fine…"
"Communication is still going to be really cumbersome, and that bothers me," said M'Gann. "We can't stop in the middle of a mission to clarify who's talking."
Jaime shrugged. "I know. Time and place, I get it. But here and now, this? We have time."
Nightwing shook his head. "I just feel like we need something better than…Jaime, what are you doing?"
Jaime frowned at Nightwing, then at Bart. Then he tracked their gazes and frowned at his arm, encased in blue armor and raised high in the air like a third-grader with a question. "Ese, what are you doing?"
Jaime tilted his head to the left, listening, and then said, "Khaji Da says…that he understands that this is what humans on earth do to bring attention to themselves when they have something to say. And he is willing to play along with earth rules, so therefore you should all be too, and if you're not then you can no, no, I'm not repeating that, that is rude and unnecessary. Yes, I can, ese. I'm not controlling what you say! I'm just censoring you for the kids in the room."
"What's going on in here?"
Conner glowered from the back of the room, arms crossed over the red 'S' on his chest.
M'Gann muttered something containing the words "back", "date", and "jerk". Everyone in the room pretended not to hear.
Beast Boy pointed at Blue Beetle. "He's saying the bug-thing on his spine has a personality and it talks to him."
Conner raised an eyebrow. "Yeah? And you…what. You didn't know that?"
"Did you?" Nightwing asked incredulously.
Superboy shrugged irritably. "Yeah."
"How did you know?"
"I figured it out," said Superboy, with another careless shrug, "by paying attention. What, did nobody else notice the way he had conversations with himself all the time? Why didn't any of you just ask?"
The heroes turned to each other, shame-faced.
Blushing, Jaime stammered, "Look, I'm not, like, blaming anybody, or just-I just didn't say anything before because it seemed easier. And I know this is…not easier, but-"
"People should know what's going on," Conner cut him off. "You've got a right to whatever respect you or the bug feel entitled to. It's fine, Blue." He glared around the room. "Was that the whole meeting? Is that all I missed? I'm going to bed. Blue, you just got out from being mind-controlled and stuff. You need to rest. Go home and visit your family."
Jaime shoved his hands in his pockets and shrugged uncomfortably. Bart tapped his shoulder, and said in a soft voice, "I can go with you."
Jaime shook his head. "They've been dealing with a weird, fake version of me for two months. I need to break it to them easy." He glanced around the room. "Did you…did you guys notice? That I was…on the mode? For months?"
Nightwing winced at the break in Jaime's voice. "We didn't want to jump to conclusions. And we had to develop Zatanna's plan without the Reach finding out. So we couldn't overtly say anything. I'm sorry."
Later, as Mal and Nightwing pored over the screens, Nightwing suddenly announced, "He's a really good guy."
"Blue Beetle. Jaime. He's just…he's a really, really good guy. When you think about it. Even with his…temper and stuff."
Mal smirked. "And stuff."
"Like, how many kids get a sentient, psychotic alien parasite fused to their spine…and then worry about other people respecting the parasite? That's so…he's got his head on straight."
"That's what having your head on straight is?"
"I don't know," Nightwing admitted. "But he's a good guy."
"I didn't mean to be rude."
"I know, hermano."
"There's nothing in the history books about it being sentient."
"I'd never have had a chance to tell you guys if you hadn't helped me."
"...it really watches Saturday Night Live?"
"He likes Tina Fey. I get it if this bugs you."
"Does he talk to you about me?"
"What does he say?"
"He's getting to like you better now."
"Yes, you do, ese."
"What did he say?"
"He's denying everything. He's actually pretty shy."