Outside, Dick could see the beginning of a rainstorm, grey skies and dark clouds on the horizon, and raindrops hit the glass of the fortieth floor window in Bruce Wayne's office. He wouldn't have minded being out there, breathing in the smell of the air just before the downpour, or maybe stepping onto a rooftop high above Gotham to get a better look at the sky, feel the rain drip-drop on his face. But he was here, with Bruce, under a level five lockdown, and he was bored out of his mind.
"You couldn't have asked me to come over here on a normal day," he complained for the umpteenth time to the figure of his mentor hunched over paperwork and schematics on his desk. "No. I'm trapped now."
Bruce rubbed his eyes, shooting Dick a martyred expression. "Find something to entertain yourself with. I have a lot of work to do."
Dick sighed and went back to staring out the window. Lockdowns were never fun, especially in Wayne Tower, where even on a good day when everyone wasn't expecting a terrorist attack, the most fun to be had was sliding down the trash chutes and Bruce had all the little doors made littler so Dick wouldn't fit past them. This left his other option praying that whoever had triggered the alert would attack already. At least then he'd have something to do.
He was resigning himself to the dullest few hours of his entire life when the phone rang and Bruce pressed the speaker button, rubbing his eyes again as he said, "Yes?"
"Mr. Wayne," said a clipped voice in a tone of detached professionalism, and Dick perked up immediately, meeting Bruce's surprised eyes with a matching expression in his own. "My name is Aqualad. I have been informed by the Justice League that the plans you have been working on for the design of the defense of their new outpost is in danger, and so is your life."
"That is correct," Bruce said. "We've got the whole building under lockdown, Aqualad, I wouldn't worry about it."
"Nevertheless, my team has been tasked with your safety and the safety of the plans," Kaldur continued. Dick felt something like hope flutter in his chest as his friend continued, "We will be there shortly. I understand that you think your security is adequate, however we cannot leave that the only line of defense between these plans and the enemy."
Bruce looked like he was going to protest, his hand coming up to rub his eyes again, when Dick waved his arms above his head and shook his head, a smile starting to spread across his small face. After a moment, Bruce sighed.
"Very well, Aqualad," he said, and Dick punched the air in triumph. "We'll be waiting. Thank you."
"Thanks are not necessary," Kaldur said just before he hung up.
Bruce pursed his lips, glaring at the phone. "I'm going to regret this, aren't I?" he asked solemnly.
Dick gave him his most innocent smile. "Whatever are you talking about, Mr. Wayne?"
The team arrived a half hour later, stepping onto the fortieth floor from the elevator flanked by two security guards, and the first set of eyes he met was Wally's through his goggles. He winked and Wally stuck his tongue out, and Bruce stepped forward and said, "Thank you for coming. I appreciate the added security. I'm Bruce Wayne and this is my ward, Richard Grayson."
Kaldur nodded to them both, stepping aside and revealing his slightly damp team. "This is Artemis" —she gave two curt nods, her eyes just about glazed over in boredom, and Dick could practically hear her protests at the Cave when she heard of the mission, we have to babysit two rich snobs?—"Superboy"—he didn't even move, Dick didn't know what he was expecting anyway—"Miss Martian"—she beamed at Bruce and even gave Dick a small wave, which he returned enthusiastically and earned an eye roll from Conner—"Kid Flash"—he very subtly flipped Dick off and Dick felt Bruce sigh almost painfully—"and Zatanna," Kaldur added as the elevator doors slid open and Zatanna stepped into the hall, her hair a little wet, looking around with an impressed air about her. Dick didn't feel the smile on his face until he felt Bruce nudge him and he wiped it off.
"All the exits are secured," Zatanna said to Kaldur. "I've tapped them all. If anyone tries to enter or exit, I'll know."
"Good work," Kaldur said, and she smiled at him before taking her place by Artemis and glancing at Bruce and Dick, her eyes barely flitting over him. He felt almost insulted until he remembered he wasn't wearing his mask.
"You're welcome to any facilities you need access to, and anything my men can do to help, they will," Bruce said. "Make yourselves at home. I'll be in my office if you need me. Those plans aren't going to draw themselves out," he added, and Kaldur forced a smile.
"Indeed," he said. "We hope our presence will not disturb you."
Bruce nodded at his guards and they relaxed into their posts by the elevators. Dick practically pushed Bruce into his office and closed the door, leaning back against it and smiling at his teammates.
"Well," he said. "I guess we kids have the run of the place."
"Not really," Wally muttered just as Kaldur said, "Alright, team, spread out. Maintain radio contact at all times."
"You don't have to leave the floor," Dick protested as M'gann flew a little higher just the way she did before she shifted through a wall. "I'm telling you, there's nothing better than Wayne security. A bomb could go off on the floor underneath us and we'd be safe here. Mr. Wayne protects his office, some of his most valuable things are in there."
Kaldur nodded slowly. "If you say so. We will remain on this floor. Zatanna's enchantments should alert us to the presence of any intruders."
"Great!" Dick clapped his hands together once. "So, who wants to raid the lounge?"
Wally was beside him in an instant. "Let's go."
"Kid, we're here to work, not to goof off," Artemis said heatedly.
"Hey, someone needs to protect this shrimp," Wally said, tossing a hand over Dick's shoulder. "Come on, Richard, show me where the food is."
"Call me Dick," Dick replied happily, and he started down the hall to the lounge.
The moment he closed the door behind him, Wally zipped to the state of the art kitchenette that took up half of the lounge and opened the fridge.
"Dude, why did the League send you to watch Bruce?" Dick asked, collapsing onto the ottoman and putting his feet up.
"Heck if I know, they're probably expecting some heavy hitters, stuff security can't handle on its own," Wally said through a full mouth. He grabbed a Voss from the cooler and came to sit beside Dick, feeling around him for the remote before spotting it on the coffee table before him. "I mean, you and Batman, and the whole team? We're unstoppable. Still, how many times does the alert go up for Wayne Tower being under attack? This is a milk run."
"We get alerts like this every two or three days. But they're probably worried about those plans. At least you're here, I was going to spend the whole lockdown by myself, imagine that. Just imagine it."
"I'll tell you, though, Artemis about died when Kaldur briefed us on the mission. Went red and everything. Babysitting, she called it. I would've pitched a fit too if you and Bruce weren't the mission, I know you're gonna troll the shit out of everyone here."
"You know it."
Wally flipped on the TV and sat back, heaving a satisfied sigh. "Well, you know where I'll be."
Kaldur was standing watch over the west side of the fortieth floor, and Dick had to hack into the security cameras to get an eye on him, walking along the floor-to-ceiling windows, eyes wary and vigilant. Dick tip toed up behind him, glad that he decided to wear his lightest loafers today of all days, and stopped just inches from the Atlantian, whispering, "Boo!"
Kaldur spun around with his hands reaching for his water bearers, and he relaxed immediately upon seeing it was only Dick.
"You startled me," he said, then, quieter, "You are very quiet. Not many people can sneak up on me."
"I'm light on my feet," Dick said, beaming. "What are you up to?"
"Patrolling this corridor," Kaldur explained. They fell into step easily.
"So, you probably know Aquaman, right? I mean, you have similar names."
"Yes. He is my liege-lord."
"Interesting stuff. So you're both from Atlantis."
"Do Atlantians eat?"
Kaldur paused, glancing at Dick out of the corner of his eye. "What?"
"I mean, you have gills. Maybe you just eat what's in the water, like fish? Or do you eat food like people do? If it's with your gills, could you show me? Gosh, that would be just so cool."
"Aqualad." Dick lowered his voice until it was just above a whisper and placed a hand on Kaldur's arm to stop him. "I think you're really cool. I'm actually a pretty big fan. You're just so cool."
"Th-thank you, Mr. Grayson," Kaldur said, trying to smile.
"Oh, shucks. Call me Dick. All my friends do. We're friends, aren't we, Aqualad?" He didn't wait for a response. "How about that trick with your gills? That's how you eat, isn't it?"
"Perhaps another time?" Kaldur wormed his way out of Dick's grip and took a few careful steps back.
"Sure, sure." Dick jerked his chin toward the door that connected the west corridor to the north corridor. "I should leave you to your patrol. But if you think it's time for a break, we've got fresh sushi in the lounge just calling your name."
He turned tail and ran before Kaldur could put his horrified expression into words.
Conner was sitting on an armchair at the end of the corridor with his eyes closed when Dick found him and the clone cracked one eye open to look upon his intruder. Dick was surprised by how utterly done Conner looked, and that was with just one eye open. Both at the same time would probably blast him into another dimension.
"Superman," Dick said, pointing at the bright red symbol on Conner's chest.
Conner glanced down as though he had forgotten it was even there, then shook his head. "No. I'm Superboy."
"But Superman has that same thing on his chest, too," Dick replied, frowning. "Are you in disguise, Superman?"
"No, I'm not Superman."
"You look an awful lot like Superman. How can you explain that?"
Conner sat back and closed his eyes again. "I don't have to. Leave me alone."
"Wow, you're a lot more fun on TV," Dick said. He took a careful seat on the arm of Conner's chair and when he wasn't immediately pushed off, he settled into it and made himself comfortable. "You sure do look an awful lot like him."
"You do, you sure do. Let me show you, I have a lot of pictures of him, I'm a huge fan, you know." He pulled out his phone and quickly Googled a picture of Superman, shoving it into Conner's face. "Look at that, you're telling me that isn't you? I'm a kid, but I'm not stupid, Superman!"
"Look, if I was, I would tell you," Conner said, pinching the bridge of his nose. "I'm not him, I'm Superboy. Now, go away."
"At least give me an autograph, Superman," Dick pleaded, choking on a laugh. "Just one, come on, I'm a huge fan. I think you're just so cool, Superman. Do you think you could shoot lasers down this hall? Just over to that wall, come on, let's see."
"Superman, I want to ask you something," he said in a dramatic whisper. "Is it true that you and Batman have a... special relationship?"
"What?" Conner shouted.
"It's okay, I won't tell anyone."
"But you should keep it more secret, you make eyes at each other a lot, even though technically I can't see Batman's eyes, but that's not the point—"
Conner leapt to his feet and gave a murderous shout, one hand grabbing at the emblem on his shirt and tearing it clean off, his other hand pointing steadily at Dick as he yelled, "Shut up! Just shut up!"
M'gann phased into the hall through the window, glancing between Conner and Dick, her eyes wide.
"Superboy, what's happening?" she asked.
Dick started to cry.
"Oh, no," M'gann cooed, floating over to Dick and putting a soft arm around him. "It's okay. He just gets angry sometimes, that's all."
"He called me ugly," Dick wailed.
"You what?" M'gann pulled Dick into a hug and he winked at Conner over her shoulder. Dick thanked whoever was listening that Conner didn't have heat vision because then he'd be done for.
"What? No! He's—"
"And then he tried to hit me," Dick whispered, widening his eyes as wide as they would go. "He's so big."
"Conner!" M'gann turned to glare at him.
"I'm telling you, it's not true, he's lying. Little shit!" he screamed, and Dick let out a high pitched shriek and curled up into M'gann's embrace.
"Conner, stop that! I can't believe you'd be like this, he's scared, look at him! His father's under attack and there are strange people all around him, you have to be nice!" She patted Dick's carefully gelled back hair and gave him a strained smile. "I'm so sorry. Why don't the two of us go somewhere else?"
He wiped his crocodile tears and sniffled extra hard, and Conner groaned behind him.
"It's just a show, look at him!"
"That's enough, Conner. Come on, Mr. Grayson."
"Oh, call me Dick," he said, and he tossed a careless smile behind him at Conner as they turned the corner.
Conner's roar of exasperation could be heard all over the fortieth floor.
In his office, Bruce sighed so heavily, he thought for a moment that his lungs would collapse.
M'gann took him to Artemis, who had somehow removed the glass pane of one of the windows and was sitting on the ledge, her legs dangling over the void, rain splattering onto the floor around her.
"Oh, God, no," Artemis muttered as they approached. Dick gave her his camera-ready grin and earned a barely stifled grumble in return.
"Artemis, could you keep Dick company, cheer him up?" M'gann asked, passing him off to Artemis.
"No," Artemis said pointedly. "Take him. I have patrol."
"So do I!" M'gann said. She smiled at Dick and floated out the open window, coasting through the air for a while before vanishing through another window a few yards away.
Dick sat beside Artemis and crossed his legs, feeling tiny droplets of rain pushed by a soft breeze hit his skin. He beamed Artemis with another smile, to which she rolled her eyes, and he gave her a long, hard look.
"Take a picture," she said, shuffling a little away from him. "It'll last longer."
"Actually, I was just wondering if we'd met before," he said in a thoughtful tone, and Artemis stiffened.
"No," she said.
"Are you sure? Because you look so familiar, it's like, on the tip of my tongue. Maybe you were at a party or something?"
"Or maybe I saw you at school...?"
She quickly pulled an arrow out of her quiver and shoved it into Dick's hands. "That's incendiary. If it hits anything with enough force, it'll explode."
"Wowie!" Dick exclaimed, and out of the corner of his eye he saw her relax slightly. "This is really cool. Can we shoot it at something?"
"What? No. It'll explode, didn't you hear me?"
"Oh." He set the arrow down beside him and patted it fondly, then turned back to Artemis and said, "You look really familiar, you really do. I'm sure if we just checked some things off, then we'd figure this out. It's just killing me!"
"Look, kid, I've never seen you before, alright?"
"Okay, but I've seen you, and it's really getting on my nerves. Okay, checklist! Do you live in Gotham?"
Artemis dragged a hand over her face. "Listen, I'm not supposed to give out my identity to anybody who asks. It's a secret identity. Secret. Are we on the same page here or did I lose you?"
Dick snapped his fingers. "Right, right. Secret. Okay. Gotcha."
"Glad we understand each other," she muttered.
Dick allowed the silence that fell over them to stretch over three whole seconds before he said, "You know, the sexual tension between you and Kid Flash is astounding."
It took another second for his words to sink in and when they did, she turned to face him slowly, what he could see of her face that wasn't covered with the green mask so deadpan that he felt the urge to snap a picture. "What?"
"I'm just saying, you should probably do something about it," Dick said conversationally, pretending not to notice that she was clenching and unclenching her fists the way she did when she was trying to suppress the urge to hit someone. "It isn't healthy, leaving it all out there. Someone should say something. I could talk to him, if you want."
"No!" she said loudly. "What the hell—no!" She grabbed his shoulder and shook him, and his smile only got bigger. "You don't know what you're talking about. There is nothing going on between me and Wa-Kid Flash. Nothing. Don't let me hear you talking about this again, or one of my incendiary arrows might accidentally crash into your ass."
Dick gasped. "You won't hear a peep out of me," he said solemnly, and he hurried like hell down the hallway and around the corner.
Zatanna was the last on his list, and he found her sitting cross legged in midair, her eyes closed, a line appearing between her eyebrows as she concentrated. He smiled up at her.
"Do you use magic to make yourself so pretty or is that all natural?" he asked.
She didn't even open her eyes. "How original," she muttered.
"I'm glad you liked it, I've been working on it for a while. Maybe I would've come by sooner but your beauty is intimidating."
"I'll bet that's what you say to all the girls."
"You are all the girls."
"Oh, stop. I'm blushing," she said in a completely dead tone.
"And what a blush it is. Pink is so lovely on your cheeks, they should rename the whole color Zatanna."
"You sing such beautiful compliments, they should rename you Robin." She placed a finger on her chin. "Oh, wait."
He sputtered in indignation and she opened her eyes, looking down at him with an amused smile playing on her lips.
"How?" he asked.
"Are you kidding me?" She rolled her eyes. "Seriously, your sunglasses don't cover that much, and neither does the mask. I'd know that pinched little rich boy face anywhere."
He grinned up at her. "I'm flattered. Wait, what do you mean pinched?"
She just shook her head and closed her eyes again. "Go away, Boy Wonder."
He retreated into the lounge and just before he closed the door, he thought he saw her wink at him.
"Trolled everyone?" Wally asked, his arm elbow deep into a massive package of pretzels.
Dick sat beside him, grabbing a handful of pretzels. "They should lock us down every day."