Chapter Seven: Counters
I would like to thank Batzulger, IronOx, and Wswords for the recommendations. Thanks to everyone who reviewed, you’re all awesome. Enjoy! Fair warning this chapter has not been beta yet so please forgive the mistakes that I missed.Chapter Seven: Counters
He should have taken the time to compare notes with Dick, Tim thought as Elizabeth tucked her head underneath his chin. It would’ve allowed him to be better armed for the argument to come. Gently he trailed his hand down her right arm. Convincing Elizabeth to act in her own safety when the action warred with protecting those she cared for was like arguing with a brick wall—there was no winning the debate when the other side was content to ignore him. And, yes, he realized it made him a hypocrite.
Knowing that Elizabeth was safe and whole in his arms was reassuring especially after the conversation he had with Zatanna when he had been kicked out of the hospital at the end of visiting hours. He called her concerning Elizabeth’s case knowing that if anyone would have answers about the consequences of being trapped between two worlds or the effects of runic runes done in blood Zatanna would be the most likely candidate. Her answers weren’t reassuring, but Zatanna had been able to provide wealth of information along with several theoretical situations that could be spark from different scenarios. Tim fought the urge to shudder as he tightened his left arm around Elizabeth’s waist.
“They’re not going to be happy with you--” Elizabeth stated before failing to smother the emerging yawn, “when they discover you’re still here.” No, the hospital's staff wouldn’t be happy that he sneaked back in the room twenty minutes prior after being kicked out three hours ago, Tim thought as ran his hand back up Elizabeth’s arm, but their temperaments would pale in comparison to Bruce’s if they discover him in uniform with his cowl down.
“They have to catch me first.” Tim smiled, threading his right hand through Elizabeth’s hair before tucking a few stray locks behind her ear. “Since the nurses had just finished their rounds recently, we should have plenty of time if we not too loud to attract the cops’ attention.” He gently rubbed small circles onto her back and forced a smile to hide his worry when she yawned again. Why was she so tired? Elizabeth normally had no problem keeping up with him, well, in determination and stamina. Did the accelerated healing really take that much energy from her? “We do need to talk, Liz, if you’re able to stay awake for it,” he teased lightly. “I’m sure that was your twentieth yawn.” Please, Liz, Tim mentally pleaded, tell him that extreme fatigue was a normal outcome to rapid healing and his mind was jumping to false conclusions.
“What can I say?” She muttered as she snuggled deeper into his embrace. “You’re relaxing.” She glanced up at him, her eyes half lidded in tiredness and contentedness. Not good when Elizabeth’s sudden and continuous fatigue was one of the signs Zatanna warned him about that suggested the completion of several different type of rituals involving Elizabeth’s blood and reversal runes—none of them were good.
Tim wished he had talked to Dick after speaking to Zatanna. She had cautioned him be wary of any new objects in Elizabeth’s presence because several rituals used various items to tie the victim with the beneficiary, but Zatanna had been unable to narrow the possible selection of the items without more information. Were the details of the ritual among the subjects that Dick wanted to talk to him about? Tim ran his hand through his hair and Elizabeth frowned at him in concern. He hid a smile. She was getting very good at spotting his nervous tells he noted. “Chosen one.”
“Oh.” Elizabeth eyes widened as she frowned deeper. “That.”
“Yes, that.” Tim confirmed. Why was she afraid to open up about this? Previous bad experiences? Surely, being a mystically chosen warrior wasn’t any more odd or scary than being vigilante, a Meta, or an alien. “You barely mentioned it in the files that you gave me before you were shot.”
Absentmindedly Tim fingered the copper chain of her necklace as he pondered over other possible reasons. Had she been deeply conditioned against revealing the secret? Tim barely refrained from snorting before he frowned in concern. Liz seemed like someone who could resist regular conditioning techniques based on her stubborn, independent nature, but what if different techniques were used or was the cause peer pressure and expectations?
“I’m not sure what I know about it is the same in this life.” Elizabeth stated as she lightly smacked his hand that was playing with the copper chain of her pendent. He briefly smiled, amused. Did her aversion to be touched around her neck developed from her time fighting vampires in her previous life? Would it be uncomfortable for her to be kissed on her neck? Elizabeth tugged uneasily on the right sleeve of her navy blue sweater as she continued. “I couldn’t find a reference to it here.”
Would revealing what he had gathered together of her previous life help, Tim wondered as he suggested, “How about we compare notes and find out?” Or would telling her about the Chosen legend in this reality be better? Either choice had equal possibility of blowing up in his face.
“What have you pieced together about my first life?” Elizabeth questioned quietly as she pulled out of his embrace to study him. He could see the fear lurking behind the determination in her eyes as he met her gaze. How many times had she been hurt because of this subject?
“You were a warrior, but not always one.” Tim gently took her left hand into his and tenderly rubbed his thumb over her fingers as he pondered over the information he had. From what he had puzzled together from the doctor’s notes, Elizabeth either had been fifteen or sixteen when she was called as the Slayer. “In many of these fights you have been hurt and had lost some of those you care for.”
Tim frowned briefly before he squeezed Elizabeth’s hand in comfort. She had died twice and had to kill in the line of duty. One of the kills had been someone she loved. Had anyone tried to help her through the confusion, anger, and grief that these events must have brought about? Was she given time off from duty to deal with the emotions and to recover? “But it’s your own actions, Liz, that tells me that it was the people closest to you that has hurt you the most and I don’t think you allowed yourself to heal from it. Or perhaps, I should say that you weren’t given an opportunity to do so.”
Elizabeth scowled, yanking her hand away. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
He frowned, studying her eyes as they darkened in anger and hurt. Was she repressing to avoid dealing with this? “Dying and then being brought forcefully back to that other life when you were already living…” Tim shook his head. They had gotten off subject. He should let the matter dropped, Tim thought as Elizabeth glared at him, her lips pressed tightly together. But shouldn’t he at least let her know that she didn’t have to struggle alone? “I consulted a… friend…”
“When was this?” Elizabeth questioned, darkly.
Tim winced at her tone. He was pushing too hard, too fast into Elizabeth’s uncomfortable zones. It was either going to get him punched or put him squarely into the dog house. Possibly both. “Zatanna returned my phone call shortly after I got kick out of the hospital earlier this evening.” Tim explained. “Liz, she was shocked that you were still alive much less sane. According to her, they had to rip your soul from your body in order for them to take you back to your first life. The progress should have killed you here in order to fully restore there, but something got botched up and you were stuck in both.” Tim paused, clenching his right hand. “Over ninety percent of those trapped like that either go insane or kill themselves within the first six months. Yet, you lasted nearly a year before you managed to come back. The pain you had to be in—did any of them see what they put you through? Did they try to help you?”
Elizabeth glared at him for several moments before turning away while tightly clenching her hand around the blanket. “I don’t want to talk about this.”
Tim stared at her in concern for several seconds. Elizabeth was tensing like she was struggling to decide whether to fight or flee. She wasn’t ready to talk about it and pushing her would only succeed in being lock out of her confidence. Tim sighed. “Ok. We won’t.” He reached out and slowly began to pry her fingers open, holding tight when she tried to yank them away again. “Liz, please,” Tim quietly pleaded and slowly she relented, allowing him to hold her hands again. “We don’t have to talk about this until you’re ready, but please if you are hurting let me help ok?”
Elizabeth looked him in the eyes, her eyes softening in concern as she frowned and squeezed his hand. “This friend of yours really scared you with this information, didn’t she?”
Tim took a shaky breath, pulling Elizabeth back into his embrace, and burying his face into the crook of her neck. “Let’s just say it’s a good thing that your previous life friends are in a completely different world, because I doubt I could stop myself from giving them a piece of my mind or fist.” Elizabeth didn’t need to know about his request to Zatanna to find a defense to prevent this type of magic from working again, or that he already knew a couple possible ways to locate her first world. Not yet. Already he had several conceivable plans already in motion to deal with her past friends.
Elizabeth frowned. “Tim… they thought I was in Hell.”
“Not an excuse.” Tim countered fiercely, tightening his grip around her waist. He was a hypocrite. “They should have check.” With all the different ways he tried or nearly tried to use to bring Connor back to life after he had died, he could understand the pain and desperation to bring a love one back. But was that the force which drove them? In the end, Tim couldn’t go through with his plans to reconstruct Connor. Ironically, after Tim had surrendered to the loss of his friend, a situation with the Black Lantern’s rings had return Connor to life. Hoarsely, Tim whispered, “They should have check.” If Tim had done to Connor what “The Scoobies” had done with Elizabeth, he never would have forgiven himself.
Elizabeth gently threaded her fingers through his hair. “I’m fine.”
He snorted. “I think we need to get your definition of fine check.”
“It’s probably the same as yours.” Elizabeth countered. Tim smiled in amusement. He was positive that his definition of fine when concerning himself was worse than hers. Elizabeth raised an eyebrow at him and he responded by shaking his head. Frowning, Elizabeth commanded. “Out with it. What else did this lady told you that making you so worried?”
“Um, it might have something to do with what she said the strain of merging two lifetimes together can affect someone.” Tim replied as he studied the pendant around her neck. She hadn’t been wearing it before she was shot. She hadn’t owned it before being kidnapped by the Joker, either. He would have noticed it during his investigation of her room. It was expensive and unique looking. When did she get it? “The strength of will it takes to merge two lifetime’s memories, two personalities, different sets of fears, etc...” Tim narrowed his eyes in suspicion when he spotted the reversed Eihwaz rune. Something wasn’t right. Elizabeth wouldn’t be this careless about something that made an appearance in her visions. Right?
“Somehow, I don’t think I’m a regular case…” Elizabeth replied flatly.
“True.” Briefly smiling Tim slowly reached out to trace the necklace only to yank his hand back as she lightly smacked his hand. He forced himself not to frown in worry. She wasn’t normally this guarded over her jewelry. “There is a legend about the Chosen in this world.”
Elizabeth looked at him in curiosity. “Really?”
“It obscured, but the line was founded to push the invading army of demons from the world.” Tim lightly stated as he gently kissed her shoulder, pondering over Zatanna warnings. There was two different rituals that if the object was delivered by a blood relative would cause the target to accept it with very little questioning. It would explain Elizabeth’s casual and protective attitude towards a pendant similar to the one that had appeared in her visions.
Elizabeth frowned. “The demons weren’t here first?”
“No.” Tim answered. “They might have been runaways from your first world or from a similar world. I bet both worlds thought of the same solution of combining the essence of one demon with a young girl and forcing her to become their weapon.”
“And thus starting the tradition of one girl in all of the world with power to fight evil, blah, blah, blah. Force into duty. Always dying young. Each Slayer called upon the death of the previous.” Elizabeth angrily clenched her hand. “Almost everyone one of the girls was taken away from their family when they were just potentials to be train to follow the Council’s every order without question.”
Tim frowned, squeezing her hand. “You weren’t, right? You grew up with your family.”
“The council missed me until I was called.” Elizabeth smiled. “I got lucky. I got Watchers that gave a damn and realized the Council’s directives wouldn’t work.”
“One Chosen escaped the Council here too with the help from a person she trusted, her Shield. From what I gathered, it didn’t last long before the Council got their hands on her again. ” Tim stated, tugging on the necklace. “May I see this? It’s looks similar to the one you described of the in your dreams.”
Elizabeth frowned and clasped a hand over the pendent. “No.”
“Why not?” Tim raised an eyebrow, questioning. “Who gave it to you, Liz? It could be dangerous.”
“A necklace from Jeannie?” Elizabeth snorted in disbelief before countering. “It could end up protecting me. It wouldn’t be the first time a necklace had done so.”
Blood connection—damn, Tim thought as he forced a smiled while lightly teasing, “ready to admit that you needed my protection?”
“Who said it was your necklace I was referring to.” Elizabeth smirked at him. “There was another necklace that had saved my life before.”
“Uh huh. It wouldn’t happen to have a cross on it, now would it? I’ve seen your collection--pretty impressive-” Lightly he tugged at the pendant’s chain again before yanking his hand away as she smacked his hand. “Ouch!” Tim shook his hand giving Elizabeth a pleading look. “Please, Liz, let me look at it. It would put my mind at ease.”
Elizabeth glared at him. “No.”
“Alright.” Tim calmly agreed. When plan A doesn’t work, resort to Plan B. He raised his hands in surrender. “I’ll leave it alone.”
Elizabeth eyed him warily. “Good.”
He raised an eyebrow in challenge. He wasn’t that bad, then again, Liz was learning his underhanded quirks quite quickly. Slowly, tenderly he trailed his finger down Elizabeth’s chin before tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear. “I’m not so far into the doghouse to be banished without a goodnight kiss, am I?”
Elizabeth smiled warmly. “Not yet.”
“Good.” Tim whispered as he leaned forward to gently press his lips against hers. He threaded his right into her hair, slowly deepening the kiss while reaching into his belt for a sedative and quickly injected it into her neck.
Elizabeth jerked back hard. She stared at him with hurt and disbelief as she rested her hand against her neck. “What-” She started to accuse before her eyes rolled up and collapse unconscious.
“Did you take kissing lessons from Bruce?” Nightwing teasingly questioned as he sneaked into the room through the window while Tim caught Elizabeth.
Tim ignored Dick as he whispered to Elizabeth. “Sorry Liz.” Gently he gathered her into his arms before brushing the hair out of her face. “But I refuse to let this be the death of you.” Carefully Tim unclasped the pendant around her neck and placed into a side pouch on his belt to take it to Zatanna later for an examination.
“If you weren’t in the doghouse before,” Nightwing commented, leaning against the wall, “you are now.”
“That if she doesn’t end the relationship.” Tim replied, glancing down at Elizabeth in worry.
Nightwing shook his head and placed a reassuring hand on Tim’s shoulder. “I doubt it’ll come to that. She’ll be angry, sure, but she will understand.”
Tim shook his head. “It’s a betrayal of trust and she has been betrayed enough.”
“She not in her right mind either.” Nightwing countered. “She’ll recognize that. Have faith. She’s too stubborn to give you up lightly. Besides,” Nightwing continued as he shrugged his shoulders. “She’d already forgiven you for faking her parents’ death without her knowledge, placing a tracking device on her, and interrupting her every time she went searching for the Joker. I pretty sure she has a pretty high tolerance for your protective quirks.”
Tim stared at Nightwing accusingly. “You're just waiting for her to punch me, aren’t you?”
Nightwing smirked. “Pretty much,” he stated before turning serious. “We need to talk.”
“We do,” Tim agreed pulling his uniform cowl up before he standing and carefully adjusting his hold on Elizabeth in his arms, “but after we take Liz to the lair.”
“Um Tim, you sure that a wise idea?” Nightwing questioned uncertain. “Sure, she knows our identities, but Bruce isn’t going to be happy with this.”
Tim shook his head. “I’m taking her to my lair. Bruce can deal.” He ignored Nightwing’s smirk while taking a couple steps towards the window before he paused. “Dick, it’s the only place I feel she will be safe.”
“Uh huh,” Nightwing countered as he followed Tim. “And curbing her anger at you by showing her all the new fancy gadgets she can now play with has nothing to do with it.”
Tim smiled. “Strictly a side benefit.”
“Sure it is.”
“She’ll understand.” Nightwing stated again as he leaned against the doorframe and watched Red Robin gently tuck Elizabeth into the corner bed located in the med bay portion of his lair. One hour ago, Damian had woken up in the cave and had informed him about Morgan’s warning about dangerous pendant to Elizabeth. It was a similar warning that Brandt had hinted at during their fight. Nightwing had rushed to the hospital to remove the pendant only to discover that Tim had already realized the danger by questioning Zatanna about possible rituals that needed blood as the medium to write reversal set of runes.
“I hope so.” Tim sighed, lowering his cowl and ran his right hand through his hair. Tim was lost, scared, Nightwing observed, not of the relationship ending though the thought worried Tim. If Tim truly believed that ending the relationship would save Elizabeth he would do it in a heartbeat despite the grief Tim would suffer through.
Dick smirked lightly as he removed his mask. Luckily, his little brother wasn’t that naive otherwise he would have gotten punched by Elizabeth already. Elizabeth didn’t seem like a person who would allow danger to rule her life. “You’ll get through this.” Despite every precaution they took, they failed to keep Elizabeth safe this past week. The Hunter’s and Brandt managed remain three steps ahead.
“Every relationship has its own bumps.” He stated as he rested his hand on Tim’s shoulder. “On the bright side, you guys already have your biggest secrets out of the way.” Gently Dick squeezed Tim’s shoulder in comfort. “Just be honest with her.” What had Brandt meant by strengthening the bond between Shield and Chosen? Was there a mystical connection or was it about trust? Dick gave Tim a slight smirk. “Knocking her out without dire circumstances and planting tracking devices without her consent should probably be added to the do not repeat at any cost
Tim shook his head amused. “Is that all?”
Dick frowned in mock thought. “Faking a love ones death? Skipping out on a date without a truthful explanation? Nearly dying on her? Going undercover with an ex without informing her?”
“Speaking from experience there, Dick?” Tim questioned with a snort.
“Maybe.” Dick shrugged before pulling a small heart shape necklace from his pocket. “I was intending to return this myself, but I think you could accept it in her stead.”
“She’ll be glad to have that back.” Tim stated as he accepted the necklace. “If she not angry enough to throw it back in my face.” Carefully he clasped the necklace around Elizabeth’s neck, before he gently brushed her hair away from her face.
“You’re serious about her, aren’t you?” Dick questioned as he crossed his arms.
Tim looked up at him sharply. “I’m...” He shook his head. “I don’t know, Dick. We only had one date, but I know I care for her deeply. It’s different than how I felt for Stephanie or Ariana.” He ran his hand through his hair. “It less...” Tim shook his head again, frustrated with trying to find the words to describe his feeling. “More...”
“Less PG-13?” Dick suggested, smirking when Tim glared at him. “I get it, Tim, better than you do, I think. With the secrets out of the way, you guys have a good foundation for your relationship. Just take it one day at a time and see where it goes.”
“You’re still waiting to have the talk.” Tim stated flatly as he began to walk across the lair towards his lab.
“And here I thought we had already covered the safe sex talk.” Dick smirked, purposely misunderstanding Tim’s meaning and shrugged. “But if you have questions about proper applying your newly bought condoms, ask. I promise not to embarrass you too badly.”
Tim spun around on his heel, staring at Dick in wide-eyed shock for a few seconds before glaring at him. “Not the talk I was referring to and you know that.” Tim frowned. “Why were you going through my purchase transactions?”
“Not your statements, but your drawers.” Dick corrected. “I was trying to find where you hid your backup files on Elizabeth since you had deleted a handful of information off your computer.”
Tim rubbed his forehead. “I was going to tell you what I had gathered after I had talked to Liz.”
“Wasn’t sure we had the time to wait.” Dick countered.
Tim conceded the point with a nod before continuing towards his labs. “I bought them only as a precaution.”
“Generally what condoms are used for.”
Dick withheld his snickers as Tim blushed, embarrassed. It was awesome being an older brother. “I don’t even know if Liz and I will ever reach that stage in our relationship.”
“But you were thinking about it.” Dick contradicted with a smirk.
“Dick, shut up.” Tim ordered and Dick snickered.
They turned the corner, entering Tim’s lab and Dick’s eyes widened in surprise as he stared at the female uniform that lay across the table. “You’ve decided.” Dick stated as he circled the table while studying the bodysuit. It was almost a female version of his own uniform but done in a dark navy nearly black color. A silver colored Nightwing symbol emerged from a golden moon, centered on the upper chest. Dick raised an eyebrow at Tim while tracing Nightwing symbol on the new uniform. “Bruce isn’t going to be happy about this.”
“I know, but she won’t be his partner. She’ll be mine.” Tim replied as leaned against the wall, sighing. “No amount of discouragement is going to prevent Liz from this path, but I can keep her alive by providing a uniform for protection, training, and backup.”
Dick nodded, picking up the uniform for a closer look. “Nomex intertwined with a triple-weaved Kevlar-lined material?”
“I used your uniform specs to design it.” Tim explained with a slight smile. “Liz is light on her feet and agile. The material balance in mine or Bruce’s uniform would be too much of a hindrance to her.”
Dick flipped the uniform over. “No cape?” He asked, smirking.
“Does it look like I have a death wish?” Tim questioned back flatly.
Dick snickered and laid the bodysuit down. “What’s her code name?”
“You don’t mind that I’m using your symbol?” Tim questioned, hopefully. “I wanted to get your approval first before presenting it to Liz.”
Dick shook his head. “I owe you one for usurping your position as Robin with Damian over a year ago without consulting you first.” He leaned against the wall. “Besides, there more to using my symbol for Elizabeth than liking the design. Mine telling what you’re planning?”
Tim smiled. “That obvious?” He walked over to the laptop in the corner and punched in a command to pull up the current information on the Hunters of Twilight. “Even if we defeat the Hunters before Liz joins us in the night life, it would be wise to distance the connection between her and Red Robin.” Sitting down in the chair in front of the computer Tim looked up at Dick. “It’s unlikely that we’ll catch every member of this group. They view me as the Chosen’s Shield, her protector. Any female working with me is going to be a suspect, but if we alter the perception of who she is by connecting her strongly to you it might throw the trail off her.”
“Clever.” Dick agreed. “It might be easier to accomplish if I’m her first trainer as well.”
“You don’t mind?” Tim questioned.
Dick shook his head. “No, I don’t. It’ll be interesting. Besides, it should be less stress on your relationship with her if you’re not the one in charge of her training.”
Tim smiled sheepishly. “Good Point.”
“So her code name?” Dick questioned again as he studied the information on the screen. Tim had pulled up more of the lore on the Chosen he had gathered. Dick frowned. The legend spoke of the invading demons and the creation of the Chosen to fight against them, but it didn’t speak of the child Chosen and her Shield had sire nor several other factors Brandt had mentioned. They knew that Brandt was an immortal and he had mentioned that other Chosen was his. Was Brandt the same Shield mentioned in the lore or was he a different one? With the way Brandt talked it was likely the former.
“Moonwing.” Tim answered.
Dick smiled. “Good choice.” He leaned against the table as he glanced at Tim. “Now spill. What pieces have you put together?”
“They perform nine ritual sacrifices before they relocate to a different country to continue the pattern.” Tim stated, typing in a couple commands to pull up a list of cases that followed the pattern. “Before they had return to the U.S. they were in Europe. Sixteen out of eighteen teens were killed in their crusade.”
“The two that were spared contained the pendants?” Dick questioned.
“Likely.” Tim confirmed. “The pattern continued in Japan, Russia, and France. Sixteen killed, two spared.”
Dick glanced at Tim as he frowned in thought. “Planned?”
Tim shook his head. “Other countries before that had all eighteen victims killed.” He pulled up five more files onto the screen. “Each time the victims lived, work, or went to school near one of T.H. Inc. branches or subsidiaries.”
“Newly built before the sacrifices?”
“Rarely.” Tim denied with a frown. “The branches or subsidiaries were usually built between three to twelve years before the ritual took place. Some of their location I couldn’t’ find any traces of a ritual sacrifice.”
“They’re using them to scout.” Dick stated as he studied the list of location on the screen. “Gotham was supposed to be their new hunting ground when the fading of their chosen caused them to up their timetable.” Dick glanced at Tim, frowning. “How did Elizabeth become a Chosen?”
Tim remained silent for several moments before answering quietly. “She was a Chosen in her previous life.”
“Slayer.” Dick stated as he remembered the information from Elizabeth’s medical files. “Her powers transferred through lifetimes?”
“Looks like it.”
Left his daughter... Brandt’s words repeated in Dick’s mind as he stared at the screen. The first Shield’s, likely Brandt, daughter couldn’t have been Elizabeth—the timeframe wouldn’t add up unless time travel was involved. He doubted it. “If the lines were created separately why would this world Chosen’s line jump to Elizabeth?” A descendant? Perhaps.
“Similar sources?” Tim suggested. “Perhaps it didn’t jump, Liz might be a potential in both lives.”
Dick shook his head. “The hunters have all the current potentials. The last free potential died before she was a year old.”
Tim clenched his right hand angrily. “Damn.”
“Brandt mentioned that the old shield hid his daughter in another world.” Dick specified, crossing his arms. “Shadoway mentioned that part of the essence of the chosen breaks off to find a new host when a potential gives birth.”
“You think she was a potential for both lines since her first life?” Tim questioned.
Dick shrugged. “Why not?”
“It makes sense.” Tim conceded. “Liz mentioned that a Chosen is called at the death of the previous. Could it be possible that when Liz died and was then recalled back to her previous life that it woke up the other line?”
Dick opened his mouth to reply, pausing when Tim raised a hand requesting silence when his cell phone rang. “Hello?” Dick raised an eyebrow when Tim frowned as he listened to the caller. “I’ll be right there.”
“Trouble?” Dick questioned.
Tim shook his head. “Zatanna wants to talk.”
“Not particularly.” Tim stated as he raised his cowl. “I would rather you stay with Elizabeth in case she wakes up.”
Dick raised an eyebrow. “Don’t want her to trash your lair?”
Red Robin shook his head with a slight smile. “Rather not find out firsthand how creative she is with traps.”
Dick snickered. “Who says I wouldn’t help her?”
“Dick!” Red Robin protested, glaring at Dick. “Give me some slack, would ya?”
Dick shrugged as he followed Tim out of the lab. “I’ll stay until Alfred arrives. After that I need to return to the cave to help Bruce and Damian clear out the Hunter’s assassins that are lurking around the mansion. Something tells me they are looking for another Wayne heir to capture.”
Red Robin frowned in concern. “Do you need me to come?”
“No.” Dick denied, shaking his head. “We have this, but Tim, we need to finish our conversation.”
“We will.” Tim promised.
“Good.” Dick commented as he watched Red Robin make his way toward the back exit. “Otherwise I’m taking the conversation up with my new trainee.”
Red Robin laughed, poking his head back in the doorway. “You’re determined to get me thrown into the dog house.”
“You’re doing just fine on your own.” Dick countered with a laugh. After Red Robin left, Dick frowned in concern. If Elizabeth had been a potential to both lines in her first life and if the spell that force her back to that world is what cause her powers to reawaken, why did it take so long for them to activate in this world? What were consequences of the spell loopholes that Brandt had mentioned? Exactly how did it link Elizabeth with the old Chosen? Was the power truly Elizabeth’s or was it borrowed?
Red Robin frowned as he studied Zatanna from the shadows of the roof. It took less than ten minutes to arrive at the destination that Zatanna had requested. She was dressed in full magician gear-- tuxedo like top with coattails, short shorts, and fishnets. He wondered if anyone had asked her to pose for a playboy cover yet. He wouldn’t. He respected her too much, that, and he was fond of breathing. Angering a powerful magic user wasn’t wise for a person health, after all.
Zatanna held her top hat in her left hand as she leaned against the wall, casually studying her surroundings. It was likely she already knew he was here. She was used to working with Batman and Nightwing after all.
“You called me here because you figured out a way to locate the object that threatens Miss Winters’s life.” Red Robin stated as he stepped out of the shadows on her left. Zatanna raised an eyebrow and calmly nodded back. He had been right. She had known when he had arrived. “I’ve already located it.” Quickly he pulled it from his belt and handed the pendant over to Zatanna. “Can you break the hold the magic has on her?”
Zatanna frowned, studying the pendant. “This pendant was created very carefully.” She flipped pendant over in her hands. “There are few rituals that would combine blood with the different stones I see here and only one I know of that would use a reverse Eihwaz rune.” Lightly she traced the rune. “The ritual is an old one and very powerful—often used to switch a person situation with another that shared a connection previously to the ritual.” Again she flipped the pendant over. “I can create something that should block the connection. It would stop the transfer of life force, but Miss Winters would never be able to remove the pendant or she would return to the situation she is in now.”
Red Robin frowned for several moments before he questioned, “Is there another way?” At Zatanna’s nod he continued. “What would happen to the block if another ritual was introduced to the existing ones? A ritual meant to switch power sources from the person the life force was originally transferring to before the block was performed on Miss Winters?”
“The block would shatter.” Zatanna frowned. “Miss Winters would be left to the mercies of both rituals.”
Damn, Red Robin thought as he crossed his arms. “Is there a way to prevent that?”
Zatanna studied him for several moments. He refused to fidget nervously. Zatanna was very observant. What was she reading into this situation? After a few minutes she asked, “How far are you willing to go to save her?”
“What would it take?” He countered.
Zatanna propped her hat against her leg as she explained. “There is a set of pendants that can be created that will have the power to shield her. For the level of protection you’re requesting the pendants must be bonded to each other. One pendent would be for her the other must be worn by a male that wishes to protect her—preferably with someone who is in loves with her, but the desire to protect is enough.” She paused, staring at him with serious dark eyes as she tapped the edge of her hat. “Individually the pendants protective properties are strong, but when they are bonded their power are greatly intensified and when in the presence of the each other their power are increased by a hundred times.”
“The bond between the pendants would usurp the ritual bond Miss Winters has with this other person.” Zatanna stated, pocketing the pendant. “Miss Winters recent experience of being force to her previous life works in our advantage. If either Miss Winters or the male, who I assume will be you, focuses on the desire outcome, the pendants should be able to negate most of the consequences of both rituals, if not all of the consequences, to Miss Winter’s previous body.”
He smiled lightly. “It would save her.”
“From magical attacks, yes.” Zatanna reminded him. “It won’t stop physical attacks.”
Red Robin nodded, conceding her point before asking, “What would you require?” He could protect Liz from the physical attacks if she was unable to protect herself.
“It would require a Herkimer Diamond, Lapis Lazuli, a silver chain, and Elizabeth’s and the male’s birthstones soak in each of their blood for twenty-four hours.” Zatanna stated as she continued to tap her fingers against her hat. “The rest of the ingredients I have.”
“Miss Winter’s birthstone is Garnet. The other birthstone you would require is Ruby.” Red Robin stated as he reached into his belt and pulled out two vials filled with blood that he had briefly sneaked back into his lair for after leaving originally. He didn’t want to explain to Dick what he had likely needed the blood for. “I had a hunch that you would require blood. The rest of the materials I’ll get to you later tonight.”
“You care for her don’t you?” Zatanna questioned as she gave him a small smile before taking the vials. “Individuals pendants were often used by those who were single, but bonded pendants were often given to married or engaged couples. That not going to be a problem is it?”
He forced himself not to wince. There was always a catch with magic, wasn’t there? “Will the two people in question be mystically bounded towards each other?”
“No. ” Zatanna shook her head. “Their actions, thoughts, and feelings will remain their own. The pendants will warn them if the other is in danger by the birthstone darkening in color. In great distress, it may allow communication across great distance.” Zatanna smirked as she studied him. “They will however, encourage a healthy sexual desire and increase fertility.”
Red Robin gave a tense nod. “Make them.” He was going to need a lot more cold showers, but Elizabeth safety would be worth it. He would have to explain this to Liz. He winced. That wasn’t going to be fun.
“Red Robin.” Zatanna called out as he turned around. “With bonded pendants, birth control has a higher rate of failure.” Red Robin paused in mid step, barely preventing himself from stumbling in surprise. After several seconds, he sighed and continued towards the roof’s edge. The universe was mocking him.
She was going to punch Tim, Elizabeth decided angrily as she glared at unfamiliar dark gray ceiling. He drugged her! And did so while kissing her--that underhanded sneak! She sat up in bed and studied her surroundings, frowning. Where was she?
“I’m glad to see you’re awake, Miss Winters.” Alfred stated as he entered the room with his hands clasped behind his hands. “It’s fairly early, but I can bring down something to eat if you’re hungry.”
“No thanks, Alfred, I’m not hungry.” She winced as she rubbed her forehead. Where did the headache come from? The sedative? “Where am I? Where is Tim?”
Alfred briefly frowned in concern before he replied. “Master Timothy went with Master Richard to move your parents to a safe house until the matter with Hunters has been resolved.” He walked over to the cabinet in the opposite corner and pulled out a soft looking cream colored sweater and pair of black dress slacks. Elizabeth raised an eyebrow in wonder. How much variety of clothes did Tim have stocked in her size? Why? “He’s terribly worried that once the Hunter’s realized that you are beyond their reach that they would attack your parents in an attempt to lure you out.”
Quietly, Alfred placed the clothes onto the side table to the left of her bed. “His worry for your parents nearly matches his fear and concern over the hold the ritual magic has over you.” Alfred clasped his hands behind him again. “The removal of the pendant seems to have lessened some of its effects. Hopefully that will give Master Timothy some comfort as least. Though I fear it won’t be enough to convince him to get more than three hours of sleep every other day, if he manages that much, until this crisis is over.”
Talk about a guilt trip, Elizabeth thought, biting her bottom lip. It was hard to remain angry with Tim when he does something incredibly sweet after his underhanded tactics to protect her—especially with Alfred’s endorsement. It wasn’t going to prevent him from landing in the doghouse, but she wouldn’t punch him for now. She frowned. He really needed to learn to stop treating her as a damsel. What did Alfred mean by ritual magic being used on her? When did that happen? Elizabeth raised an eyebrow at Alfred. “You’re secretly the ruler of the Wayne family, aren’t you?
Alfred chuckled. “Hardly, Miss. I just accustomed to stubborn and opinionated charges.”
“Uh huh, sure, if you say so.” Elizabeth countered, grasping the necklace around her neck. Tim had remove a pendent? What pendant, she wondered briefly before her eyes widened in shock as she recalled the pendant Jeannie had given to her in the hospital. Why had she accepted it at face value? Elizabeth clenched the blankets on her bed angrily. She knew better than to casually wear anything that made a remote appearance in her slayer dreams. Why hadn’t she questioned it more?
Elizabeth bit her lip and dunked her head as she spotted Alfred’s knowing glance. Right. Ritual magic. “Um, I might owe Tim a kiss for his underhanded tactics to remove the threat to my health.” She briefly pressed her lips together as she raised a finger. “This time! He and I are still going to have a long talk about boundaries in using such tactic in the future.”
“Of course, young miss.” Alfred smiled warmly at her. Was it just her imagination or did she see approval in his eyes? “It is a very wise decision to find a respected balance compromised concerning the reasonable course of action to take to ensure each other’s health, safety, and happiness.”
“Where are we?” Elizabeth questioned again as she stared at Alfred wearily. If he ever went evil the Wayne boys were doom.
Alfred smiled at her again. She could see the amusement in his eyes. “We are in Master Timothy’s base of operation and he has given permission for me to give you a full tour.” He walked out the door and paused slightly outside it. “He also gave his consent to examine and ‘play’ with some of his gadgets.”
Elizabeth grinned. “I get to play?”
Alfred nodded. “The only constriction Master Timothy gave was everything must stay inside the lair and to ensure that you didn’t burn his lair down or blow anything up.” Alfred raised an eyebrow. “He made a vague reference to a gym and a high school?”
“Unusual circumstances.” Elizabeth stated flatly. Briefly she wondered if there was a way to destroy every record of her time in the mental institution or, at least, every copy that Tim had.
“I’m sure.” Alfred agreed as he began to close the door. “When you have finish dressing, I’ll be waiting in the hallway to give you a tour.” He gave her a gentle smile. “I might even tell some amusing story of Master Timothy.”
Dawn was creeping over the horizon as Nightwing and Red Robin swung onto the balcony attached to the Winter family’s apartment and quietly slipped into the living room. Nightwing glanced at Red Robin out of the corner of his right eye. Red Robin’s fingers on his left hand twitched slightly. “Do you want to talk about it?” Tim was worried Elizabeth and per usual, was downplaying the danger to himself. The additional problem with the pendant had only increased Tim’s tendency to take on his family and friends’ burdens especially with Elizabeth worsening state. The separation between the pendant and Elizabeth seemed to only slow the magic effect on her not stop it. Tim had been graver since he had returned from talking to Zatanna to aid the rest of the family in clearing out the Hunter’s assassins at the mansion. What did she say to him?
“Later. We need to minimize the Hunters’ possible targets first.” Red Robin replied, moving swiftly across the living room and into the right hallway where the master bedroom was located at. “Starting with getting Liz’s parents to a safe house.”
Nightwing frowned briefly before shrugging his shoulders. “Fine, we can move to your game plan for now.” When they paused outside the farthest bedroom door, he teased. “Should I be worried with how well you know the apartment?”
Red Robin glanced at him. He was sure if Tim didn’t have his cowl up that he would see the annoyance in his eyes. “No.”
“So you don’t have a drawer here, yet?” Nightwing questioned back as he knocked on the bedroom door. “Coarse her parents might have a problem with that. Which begs the question—do they know?”
“Nightwing!” Red Robin snapped. It was likely that Tim’s cheeks were red underneath his cowl. It was good to be a big brother. “We’re not ready for that stage yet! It’s too soon!”
Nightwing glanced up at the ceiling in mock befuddlement. “Huh. You bought condoms as a precaution. She even has her own room in your apartment. Twice now, but I think this time around is a little more permanent since you’re dating.” He smirked. “How is it that having your own little drawer is her dresser is moving too fast?” Nightwing shrugged. “Are you sure it’s not the opposite?”
Red Robin glared at Nightwing, hastily swallowing his reply when the bedroom door opened. Joyce’s eyes widened in surprise as she sharply took a step make. “Who?” She squinted in the dark at Red Robin, focusing on the symbol on his chest. “Boy Mascot?”
Nightwing snickered as Red Robin groaned. Tim was never going to live down his recently acquired nickname. He was going to have to thank Elizabeth for that. “Quiet short shorts.” Red Robin muttered darkly. Nightwing shrugged. He had already come to the understanding that he was stuck with his own variety of nicknames. Red Robin shook his head before answering Joyce. “It’s Red Robin actually, but your daughter is very fond of calling me that.”
Joyce raised an eyebrow while crossing her arms. “She started it in retaliation against being called a damsel, you realize.” Nightwing raised an eyebrow underneath his mask in surprise. How much did Joyce know about her daughter’s nightly adventures?
“I refuse to stop calling her a damsel for that reason despite that she had mostly proven to be anything but a damsel.” Red Robin smiled slightly in fondness before his facial expression turned serious. “We need both Mr. Winters and you to come with us.”
Joyce’s arms dropped to her side as she took several steps toward them, stopping only when David pulled her gently into his arms. “Is Elizabeth alright? Is she safe?”
“She fine, Mrs. Winters.” Nightwing stated, watching Tim out of the corner of his eye. Only the slight clenching of Tim’s left hand gave a hint to his worry. Just how badly was Elizabeth affected by the pendant? “We moved her to one of our safe houses until we can end the threat to her life.”
“What about Tim?” Joyce demanded. “Did you move him to a safe house as well? He is in the same amount of danger as Elizabeth and has a serious back wound! Tim would be no match for these monsters.”
Nightwing smiled warmly at Joyce while suppressing the urge to chuckle. “We have him in a secured location.”
Joyce smiled, relieved. “Good. Elizabeth would be devastated if something were to happen to him.”
“You will take us to the same safe house as them for protection.” David ordered, not quite managing the questioning tone he was attempting.
“No.” Red Robin answered, meeting David’s glare unflinching. “For each of your safety, but especially Elizabeth’s, you will be taken to a different location. We refuse to run the risk of the Hunter’s following us back to Miss Winters and Mr. Drake.”
Joyce patted David’s arm in the attempt to soothe his anger as she looked at Red Robin. “Elizabeth and Tim, they’re together?”
“They are.” Nightwing confirmed.
David scowled. “Do they have a chaperone?” Nightwing repressed his snicker. Between David and Bruce it was a wonder either of two teens managed to become a couple. Regardless they had a chaperone in the form of Alfred.
“David Allen Winters!” Joyce exclaimed, twisting around in his arms to stare at him in disapproval. “They are both consulting adults, or close enough anyways, certainly mature enough to handle their own relationship. Even if our baby girl decides to take it to the next step and have sex with Tim--which I certainly hope doesn’t happen for a couple more dates at the very least--as long as they do so safely I would be fine with it. I hardly doubt Tim is the sort of man to get some and then get gone. Nor does he seem the type to abandon Elizabeth if she became pregnant.”
David raised an eyebrow. He seemed slightly amused with a mix of resignation. “You want grandbabies.” Nightwing smirked, repressing his snickers as he glance at Red Robin. Tim’s lip was pressed in a thin line and his right hand clenched several times. He bet that Tim was fighting the urge to duck his head while a deep red blush covered his cheeks underneath his cowl. Tim was never living this down. Ever.
“Of course I want grandchildren.” Joyce shrugged. “Tim seemed like a lovely young man. I certainly wouldn’t mind him joining the family.” She smiled and patted David arm again. “But I have had the talk several times with Elizabeth--which you certainly did your best to avoid. I have no doubt that Elizabeth will behave responsibly and not make us grandparents until she and Tim are married should their relationship reach that point.” Turning around Joyce smiled at them. “Now I know my daughter. Tim may be good detergent from getting involved in the fight; it won’t stop her from trying especially since they did threaten him.”
“Don’t worry, Mrs. Winters.” Nightwing stated, smiling at her. “Red Robin won’t leave their side for a moment after we see to your safety.”
“Good!” Joyce smiled before she gave David a small kiss on the cheek. “See! There is your babysitter and we know he’s able. He brought her home every time she tried to sneak out to hunt the Joker down.” Joyce turned towards Red Robin giving him a stern look. “However Red Robin, knock and wait for a reply before you enter to check in on her. I don’t want to hear how you managed to walk in on her when she was in nothing but a towel again.”
Nightwing blinked in surprise, trying desperately to repress his snickering as Red Robin dunked his head. “Yes Ma’am.” When did this happen? Why didn’t he know about it? Her parents really did possess a lot of knowledge about their daughter activities. What else did they know? Clearly they didn’t know their identities or David wouldn’t have looked so content at Red Robin watching over his little girl.
After David and Joyce shut the door to dress, Nightwing questioned. “You walked in on her when she was dressing?”
“She walked in on me.” Red Robin muttered. “I had already been waiting in her bedroom to talk with her about the dangers of shadowing me and was going to try to convince her to stop. How was I supposed to know that she would take a shower at three in the morning? Who take a shower at three in the morning?”
“You just wanted to watch her sleep, admit it.” Nightwing teased before jokingly accused. “You weren’t dating her yet, were you? Was this why you bought condoms despite not planning on having sex with her for several more dates?” He snickered as Tim glared darkly at him. His little brother was getting better at those.
The tour from Alfred had been wonderful, Elizabeth absentmindedly thought as she clenched her hands angrily at her side. The lair had lots of things to play with and explore, though Alfred refuse to show her the lab stating that Tim wish to show her that room himself. She ignored the small twinges of pain in her palm as her fingernails bit into her skin causing a couple drop of blood to flow from the open cut. Meeting the rest of the Bat gang she could’ve done without. How upset would Tim get if she destroyed his computer in the effort to silence Oracle, her newest acquaintance? The meeting only occurred because Elizabeth accidental activated the web link. She frowned. Perhaps she should try looking for the power cord first.
“Just about everyone in the Bat Clan have issues with your fath….” Oracle continued to explain in her rant.
Enough was enough, Elizabeth thought as she snapped back, the barely contained fury coloring her tone. “He is a nutcase of a sperm donor.” She glared at the image of a face mask on the computer monitor as she crossed her arms. “What is it going to take to get it through all of your heads that just because Joker and I happen to share blood that it doesn’t mean he qualifies as family or has any right to the titles that family carries?” Elizabeth shook her head angrily. “Family is the people who are there for you. The people who you care for and are care by in return. Not just sometimes, not just during the good times, but the bad too. Joyce is my Mother.
David is my Father
.” Elizabeth said slowly, stressing the different words. “The Joker
is nothing more than a blood kin
who I wouldn’t miss for a second if he was six feet underneath the ground dead. Heck, I would be more relieved than anything!”
“And with a stance like that, Miss Elizabeth” Alfred replied as he walked down the stairs carry a small tray of drinks and snacks. “You might just convince the more stubborn members of our little family.”
“I’ll say!” A blonde woman stated, stepping out from the shadow on his right side. Who was she? Elizabeth wondered, turning toward the woman to study her. The woman was tensed, despite the wide smile she was giving her. New babysitter? “I’m not sure to be impressed or jealous that Boy Wonder trusted you with his identity and lair this soon into the relationship.” The woman gave a slight wistful look around. Elizabeth frowned. Did this woman have a past history with Tim like romantic relationship?
“Boy Wonder, huh?” Elizabeth repeated softly, ignoring the tension for now. She tapped her chin in mock thought before shaking her head. “Nah, Wonder Boy is better.”
The woman raised an eyebrow at her. “Does it make any difference?”
“Easily.” Elizabeth replied with a smirk. “The entitlement of Wonder Boy would allow him to fulfill his role as the poster child for the Wonder Bread’s commercials as well being the mascot for the Red Robin’s restaurants.”
The woman stared at her for several seconds before snickering. “You’re never going to let him live any of this down, are you?”
Elizabeth shrugged. “Never on this side of ever.”
The woman laughed again. “I’m going to like you.” She replied as she wrapped her arms around her stomach. “Which sucks. I was so prepared to hate you.”
“Out loud voice, Steph.” Oracle informed the woman, amused.
Steph’s eyes widened. “Opps.”
Elizabeth snorted before she accused sarcastically. “Prepared to hate me because the Joker just happens to be my biological sperm donor?”
“Please! Not even close.” Steph grinned at her. “You happen to be preaching to the quire about villainous fathers. Mine’s happens to be the Clue Master.”
“Oh.” Elizabeth paused a moment before questioning. “Who are you?”
“Stephanie Brown, fellow vigilante.” She stated, holding her hand out for a handshake. “Nice to meet you.”
Elizabeth returned the handshake as Oracle stated. “She’s also Tim’s former girlfriend.”
“You’re not jealous?” Elizabeth questioned as she raised an eyebrow at Stephanie.
“Completely, totally, and not at all.” Stephanie stated while staring directly into Elizabeth’s eyes.
Elizabeth stared at her, bewildered. “Huh?”
Stephanie shrugged. “I still like the jerk-face, but...” She paused, studying Elizabeth as she walked around her before shrugging again. “We’re not exactly good for each other. Kept hurting one another. That and he never really trusted me to be a vigilante. Kept telling me stay out of costume... Not in a good way either.” Stephanie straightened her back and lowered her voice to mock Tim. “I can’t trust you to wear that costume.” She crossed her arms, frowning while raising an eyebrow. “So what, you’re still paying ‘Dress-up?’”
Elizabeth winced in sympathy. “He didn’t.”
“Oh he did.” She confirmed.
Elizabeth glanced back at the computer screen. “You’ve been quiet since Stephanie’s entrance. Why? You were ready to tear into me a few moments ago.”
“I happen to agree with Alfred’s assessment.” Oracle stated through the com unit, a smug note showing through her tone.
Elizabeth narrowed her eyes as she accused. “It was a test.” Could she strangle her?
“You’ll get used to it. The boys have a bad habit of it.” Stephanie answered, shrugging. “At least this one wasn’t set up by Bat Sr. Trust me, his, are a dosey.” If Tim valued staying out of the dog house or from being punched he wouldn’t try these types of test, Elizabeth thought annoyed.
Elizabeth clenched her right hand. “And that makes the difference, today, how?”
Stephanie shrugged again as Oracle answered. “Because it wasn’t the boys that were testing you, I was. I needed to know your mantle if you are going join our fight and not just what Dick or Tim have been telling me.”
“Got enough?” Elizabeth asked darkly before continue in a more preppy voice. “Or do you want to go a couple more rounds?”
“We got enough.” Stephanie answered, grinning. “I so want to be there when you go off on him.”
“I’ll raise you.” Oracle countered. “I want it on tape. Now let’s start training our new member.”
Elizabeth gave them a come here gesture with her right hand. “Bring it.”
“Oh, we will.” Stephanie grinned. “We will.”
He was exhausted, Red Robin silently admitted to himself as he entered his lair through the back door, but he had completed his objectives after attending a mission prep meeting in the cave. Zatanna now had the rest of the materials needed to complete the pendants that would keep Liz safe. He yawned and lowered his cowl. Two days of no sleep was pushing his limits, but he had pushed himself harder in the past and had no doubt that he would again. The end result of surpassing those limits was never pretty but usually worth it. He needed to get some rest before the mission tomorrow night. Hopefully, Liz would be compassionate enough to allow him to crash for a few hours before drilling him.
Quietly he walked up the stairs pausing as he heard a thump of a body hitting the floor. What was Liz doing? He sneaked into the shadows of the training area of his lair and raised an eyebrow as he watched Elizabeth flipped Stephanie onto her back. That explained why Oracle comments of Stephanie being too busy to attend the meeting. Tim raised an eyebrow in surprise as the sparring continued. Liz was controlling the fight. He thought Stephanie would have the upper hand with her experience and training from Barbara. She had come a long way since her Spoiler days. How much training did Elizabeth had in her past life?
“Ready to give up yet?” Elizabeth teased as she blocked Stephanie kick with her forearm. “I’m pretty good at the fighting.”
Stephanie circled around her and grinned. “Never! I’m just letting you warm up!”
Tim smiled, leaning back against the wall as Stephanie faint a punch to Elizabeth’s left and strike at her right with another kick. He shouldn’t be surprise with Elizabeth’s skills he concluded as Elizabeth caught Stephanie kicked and swiped Stephanie’s legs from underneath her. He sparred with her before several times. Each time she had improved by leaps and bounds. He was willing to bet Elizabeth had been pulling the knowledge from her past life experiences. Skill that had been honed through nightly life or death fights for about four or five years of her life in her past world version of Gotham called Sunnydale. She had been their Batman, so to speak, and now her body was playing catch up with her mind. Already her reaction time and stamina had increased since her power had awoken.
He frowned, noticing Elizabeth’s breathing was slowly becoming more labored with each move. The pendant’s effect still had a strong hold on her, despite the distance that now lay between them. Tim smiled briefly as Liz continued to push past her body’s limits to countered Stephanie next strike. Elizabeth was too stubborn to go down without giving it everything she had.
Elizabeth still had plenty to learn, Tim decided as Stephanie succeeded in knocking Elizabeth off her feet. Liz twisted, turning her fall into a roll and raised her arms to block Stephanie punch. The terrain and the villains were different here than Elizabeth was used to. He crossed his arms as the women continued to trades several blows. Liz had the advantage in a straight melee fight, but the fights in Gotham were rarely straight shots. In the field, Stephanie would still hold the advantage in battle.
Elizabeth flipped over Stephanie kick causing her tank to ride up and his eyes trailed over Elizabeth’s bare, tone stomach. Tim barely withheld a groan, closing his eyes in the effort to banish the image of how Elizabeth’s workout clothes cling to her just enough to suggest a very alluring figure. A figure he had a glimpse of before. He was going to need to take a cold shower before getting some rest tonight. Perhaps it was a good thing he wouldn’t be in charge of her training. It would be less tempting to explore the sexual side of their relationship before they were ready. Not that Dick would be any help in that regard—somehow he had the feeling that Dick was cheering for it.
He opened his eyes a few seconds later when he failed to hear any more sounds from the spar. Liz and Stephanie were watching him with small smiles on their faces. Should he be worried with how well these two seem to be getting along with each other? “Fantasizing about something, Wonder Boy?” Liz questioned with a raised eyebrow.
Elizabeth didn’t seem angry, Tim observed as he kept the hope flaring to life tightly contained in his heart. Maybe Dick was right. “Mmmm” Slowly, purposefully he allowed his eyes to trail down Elizabeth’s body before meeting her eyes. “Definitely, my damsel.” He smirked as Elizabeth blushed. Finally!
Stephanie eyes widened in surprise. She glanced at Tim again before returning her stare to Elizabeth and declared. “You’re definitely good for him.”
Tim frowned. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“You don’t see it, do you?” Stephanie questioned back. She raised a hand for silence as he opened his mouth to reply. “No, of course not. Why would you?” Stephanie shook her head. “One of the greatest detective or not, you’re blind to yourself half of the time.” She raised a finger. “You’re relaxing.” She raised a second finger. “You’re actually having some fun despite the serious situation going on.” Stephanie crossed her arms and smiled. “Once again you’re living, actually living, not becoming more obsessed about,” She made quotation marks with her fingers as she dropped the tone of her voice. “the mission.
“I’m not that bad.” Tim complained, wincing as both Elizabeth and Stephanie snorted in disbelief. He should definitely be worried about how well they got along. Would it be possible to not introduce Liz to Cassandra? It was too late for Barbara. He shook his head. “Stephanie, Oracle has your mission Intel. You’ll be partnered up with me tomorrow night. Make sure you rest up.”
Stephanie shrugged and gave him a mock salute. “Yes sir.” She glanced back at Elizabeth. “Make him stop being serious again.”
Elizabeth shook her head with a small smile. “I’ll see what I can do.” Elizabeth crossed her arms and stared at him with a raised eyebrow. “What about me?”
Tim barely withheld a wince. This conversation wasn’t going to be fun. “You’re going to sit this one out.”
Stephanie winced, edging towards the exit. “That would be my sign to leave.”
Tim ignored Stephanie’s departure as he ran his right hand through his hair. “Liz, you’re not mission ready. Not yet.” Slowly he removed the top of his uniform, smiling briefly as he heard Liz intake of breath. He glanced back and teased. “Like what you see?” Fair was fair after all.
Elizabeth titled her head to the side. “Do I get see the rest?”
Tim blushed lightly. “Not yet.”
She smirked. “Promises, promises.” She sighed before leaning against the wall. “This fight concerns me Tim. I won’t just sit it out.”
“I’m not asking you to sit the fight out—just this mission.” He countered as he laid his shirt across the table on the left side of the room. He sighed. “Liz you don’t have a uniform to give you protection or hide your identity with.” He wasn’t going to tell her about her uniform. Not yet. If he did there would be no way to convince her stay behind. Tim barely withheld a wince. That decision would come back and bit him—he knew it.
Elizabeth frowned. “Am I going to have a say in this?”
“Always.” Tim replied, gasping her hands with his own. “However Liz, you don’t have our training.” Gently he laid a finger over her lips to silence her protest, ignoring her glare. “We don’t know how intensive your training is, Liz. What your weaknesses are. What your strengths are.” Slowly he began to rub circles into the back of her left hand with his thumb. “This isn’t a mission to take down the group. It’s a rescue mission. It’s going to be hard. One mistake can cost those girls their lives. Batman, Nightwing, Robin, Black Bat, Batgirl, and I know each other moves, what each of us can handle, and work well with each other. We’ll be able to get in and get out without second guessing ourselves.”
Elizabeth raised an eyebrow. “You’re not going to wrap me up in cotton, now are you?”
“Cotton offers no protection.” Tim stated with a smile as he tucked her hair behind her ear. “Plus you would shred the cotton to pieces and come after us anyways. I’m not going to hide what we’re doing, Liz, but I need you to be patient and willing to compromise with us. Most of us had a minimum of three months of training before we were allowed on the field.”
“Most?” Elizabeth questioned, studying his face with a frown.
Tim shrugged and turned around to grab ta shirt from the cabinet drawer. “Stephanie cheated.” And he didn’t give them much choice, his first time out.
“I heard a bit about that--including yours” Elizabeth chuckled briefly before crossing her arms. Tim smiled nervously at her as she stated seriously. “But if we are going to work out, Tim, no more underhanded tactics with me.”
“Unless you’re not in your right mind due to outside influence, like you were earlier.” Tim countered as he slipped a dark blue t-shirt on. “I’m not going to sit back and let you die because you don’t like my methods, but I’ll try to keep an open communication with you in order to not cross any unnecessary lines.”
“Abnormal circumstances aside, no more underhanded moves.” Elizabeth agreed with a nod, before raising an eyebrow. “That’s going to be hard for you, isn’t it?”
Tim collapsed in the chair beside him with a sigh. He glanced up with her, pleading. “Be patient with me?”
“Only if you’re patient with my own quirks.” She replied as she combed her hands through his hair. “I want to know what this ritual magic is doing to me. I’m assuming you have the information written down somewhere.”
Tim glanced up at her relieved and confused. “I thought you would be angry at me.”
“Thank Alfred.” Elizabeth replied flatly. “Now what’s your password to your computer so I can catch up on the Intel?”
“I can fill you in Liz.” Tim countered as he smothered a yawn.
“Nah ah.” Elizabeth refuted while gently placing a kiss on his forehead. “You need to sleep and more than three hours, buster.”
Tim raised an eyebrow. “Alfred?”
“Alfred.” Elizabeth confirmed with a nod. “Password?”
“Slayer.” Tim answered, ignoring Elizabeth look of disbelief and shrugged. “I set up your own access. Feel free to change the password if you desire to. It’ll allow you to access most of the database.” Tim barely withheld a wince. He probably shouldn’t have added that last part.
Elizabeth raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms. “Most?”
“Baby steps?” Tim pleaded.