Help from the Sidelines
Help from the Sidelines
Bart was miserable. It wasn’t such an unusual occurrence as others would like to believe; it was just, Bart usually got over misery fairly quickly. He’d always be a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of guy.
Still, sometimes there were things worth pining over for long periods of time.
“I didn’t think it would be such a bad thing.” Having one of his best friends turn cold on him suddenly with very little explanation was one of the few things that could keep Bart’s spirits down indefinitely.
Cassie was the only one out in the main rec room with him still. The older Titans had all gone somewhere for a private meeting about the situation. Bart had understood they weren’t too happy with his decision either, but the way they talked to him about it didn’t make him feel like dirt; though they did frustrate him a little. They were kind of patronising about the whole situation, though not overly worried. They
at least trusted his instincts.
Cassie was smiling sadly as she held him close to her. “It wasn’t,” she assured him. “Like Kory and Vic said, it wasn’t exactly what you should have done, but they guy was helping out and you didn’t have much of a choice about the whole thing. Tim’s just being … Tim.” She rolled her eyes when she couldn’t come up with a better explanation than that for their overly-secretive teammate’s actions.
Bart, just like Kon would, knew exactly what she meant. Tim’s esoteric personality and moodiness were so completely ingrained that his best friends had all picked up on his nuances over the years. He’d gotten better — as far as the whole social thing went — towards the end of their Young Justice stage, but for some reason had started sliding back into his initial broody, all-business, permanent mask persona over the past few weeks.
Tim was one of Bart’s first friends. He’d looked up to the elusive Robin for years. Tim was one of the only people — if not the
only person — who completely understood his sudden shift from Impulse to Kid Flash. He was calm and intelligent and always willing to help. He was open and friendly and explained things so that everyone could understand.
So why did he change?
“Goddamn it!” Bart and Cassie both started at Kon’s sudden loud appearance in the rec room. “He’s so irritating!” The couch shifted as Kon’s weight settled beside his girlfriend’s. Cassie frowned and pulled away from Bart to run her fingers through Kon’s dark curls. Bart didn’t mind that much, his curiosity had piqued at the mention of their somewhat-estranged friend.
“He’s doing that not-talking thing again?” Bart surmised.
“Completely.” Kon tensed up for another rant. “I don’t fucking get it! We’re like best friends, but he can’t trust me to know what’s wrong — and there is something wrong, no matter what he or anyone else says. Best friends know these things.”
“I made a mistake,” Bart tried to cut in, but both Cassie and Kon moved to stop him.
“You didn’t make any mistake,” Cassie assured him, stroking his hair as she’d done with Kon. “At least, nothing that deserves that kind of treatment.”
“None of us deserve that kind of treatment,” Kon grumbled. “And it’s more than that anyway. He’s been grouchy for weeks and I can’t think of anything that happened here to explain it, so that means a Gotham excuse is in order.”
“Bat-related?” Cassie asked, almost fearfully.
“It’s possible,” Kon admitted.
“He scares me,” Bart said. “I hope it’s something different.”
“I just wish he didn’t feel like he had to hide things from us,” Kon slumped back into the lounge. “But then again, this is Tim we’re talking about. I shouldn’t really expect anything else.”
Bart frowned. “There could be something serious going on.”
“That’s exactly my point! Something’s going on that I could help with and he’s not letting me in and I don’t understand why.” Kon jumped up and started pacing, floating over the carpet so he wouldn’t accidentally damage it. “Best friends tell each other everything right? I mean, I shared my darkest secrets with him, how come he won’t return the favour?”
“Since when has Tim ever just told
us his secrets?” Cassie asked, rolling her eyes. “We didn’t even find out his name until we ended up in that alternate dimension when he wasn’t Robin. Beyond his name, what do we actually know about him anyway?”
Bart and Kon both stared at her uneasily.
“Does it really matter that much?” Bart asked. “I mean, we trust him, and I’m sure if we asked he’d tell us about himself a bit more. Just so long as we didn’t ask about Batman or Nightwing or something.”
“Yeah, I kinda understand that part,” Kon argued. “Keeping secret identities. But this is something different, I know it. It’s too personal, like he’s afraid or something.”
“What the hell’s scary enough to scare Batman’s
protégé?” Bart asked.
“Good question, but it’ll have to wait for another time.” The three teenaged superheros turned to the main doorway of the rec room. Gar stood there, looking serious. “We’ve got trouble. Suit up.”
They'd gotten a call. Not another Alcatraz break, but almost as bad.
Since the weird "bombing" of certain districts in LA a few months ago, things in California had been rough. It was part of the reasons the Titans had chosen to set up shop on the west coast rather than the east. Sure, New York was Outsiders territory now, but the Titans were needed where they were.
This week's incident was a bank robbery with one of the newer costumed villains. She was so new, in fact, she wasn't even on file. Or any good.
Bart had to cringe a little at the cliché she embodied. Sure, a lot of villains were clichéd, but they'd toned things down a little over the years and usually they only embodied one cliché at a time. This woman … he shook his head and was glad he was put on hostage duty this time around. Hostage duty … he spared a thought for Connor and the last time he had a room full of hostages to evacuate. Bart hoped Connor would take up his offer and that Tim would get that stick he was so fond of out of his ass and welcome him to the team properly. Once he'd spared the tiniest fraction of a second for the stray thoughts, he turned his complete attention back to the task at hand: saving lives.
Kon was having a blast — not that he'd admit it in front of Cassie. Their opponent was decked out in a tight black leather bikini that barely covered enough of her to be considered 'decent' for public viewing. Then there were the spikes and heeled boots and her legs … was it just him or did they reach all the way to her exceptionally large rack?
Not even a minute later Kon realised the villainess had dressed that way intentionally as a distraction as he slammed into the ground hard enough to create a small crater in the road. “She’s got some sort of magic blaster thing,” he called out to Cassie as she came to check on him. He tried to get up, but the blast had affected him too badly. “Definitely magic.”
“Raven! Starfire!” Wonder Girl called out to the other women and the three raced off to deal with the villain while Robin helped Superboy out.
“What’d she hit?” Tim asked as he looked Kon over for visible injuries.
“My side. Knocked my liver about. I think I’m gonna puke.”
Robin helped Superboy onto his non-injured side and studied his back and side for anything. There was a large red patch reaching from Kon’s hip to his ribs.
“Do you have any idea what she hit you with?”
“What sort of effects did it have?”
“Feels like a punch to the gut.” Kon winced as Tim probed the injured area, but there were no sharp cries of pain and nothing felt broken.
“Physical manifestation then. Nothing serious.” Tim pulled something from his belt. “Let down your aura. I have something to help with the pain. It might burn a little.”
“Rob!” Tim was yanked away suddenly from Kon’s side and thrown backwards into a building. His back and head connected with the brick and he cried out as he fell to the ground, barely managing to bring his hands up to brace for the fall.
Barely conscious, he looked up to see Superboy being held up by his neck by the woman. He took a few swings at her, but couldn’t connect. Tim wondered why Kon didn’t just use his TTK when he saw the woman bring up her fist. It was glowing and she was whispering something. The glow intensified and Kon’s eyes widened as he stared at her fist. Magic. And with the woman’s strength at that close range …
“No!” Tim tried to shout, but it came out a whimper.
He watched in horror as the woman moved to strike and was stopped by a hand on her arm. She turned to look at the person holding her back and Tim followed her gaze to see a young man holding her back. He pulled her away from Superboy and threw her to the ground. Kon collapsed onto his knees and brought a hand to his stomach before throwing up.
The woman snarled and leapt up to attack the young man, but he dodged and landed a punch on her face, sending her stumbling back. She would have attacked again, but combined sonic and star blasts hitting her in the back sent her sprawling onto her face and deep into unconsciousness.
Vision blurry and his head and back aching, Robin stumbled to his feet and over to where the rest of the team was congregating near the slowly recovering Superboy.
“… can’t believe a newbie like that managed so much damage,” Cassie was muttering to Kory.
“What happened anyway?” Tim asked weakly as soon as he got in range of their conversation.
Cassie grimaced. “Monkey minions.”
Tim blinked and looked up at Starfire, who was scowling as furiously as Wonder Girl. “Okay. She had magic, it sort of fits. Any injuries?”
“Bart’s still checking on the civilians, but nothing so far,” Gar reported. “You okay, Boy Wonder?”
Robin shook his head, wincing. “I’ll need someone to look at my back later, and I might have a minor concussion.”
“You sure?” Cassie asked. “I mean there’s blood, but you sound lucid.”
“Vision’s blurry, headache, and I think I’m going to start singing “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” in a few minutes. There were really monkey minions?”
Cassie tried to hold back a giggle, but failed completely. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t laugh, you’re injured.”
Injured… “Superboy!” Tim turned around too fast and nearly fell down, due to dizziness, but Cassie caught hold of his shoulders.
“Chill, Wonder Boy.” Kon grinned at him, leaning against the mystery boy helping them out. “I’m fine. I feel like jelly and won’t eat for at least two days, but I’m cool.”
Tim nodded, relieved. He turned his attention to the boy who’d helped out and almost stumbled backwards. Tim knew this guy … sort of.
He was smiling nervously, though his arm was steady around Kon’s shoulders. Light brown hair fell into his eyes in a boyishly charming way and his blue eyes still dancing with excitement from the fight.
“Thanks for the save man,” Kon looked at the boy helping him out and got a shy smile in return for the comment.
“Just helping out,” he replied in a soft voice. “Right place, right time sort of thing.”
“Your timing’s always that good I take it?” A few of the Titans looked at Robin in surprise. His tone was hostile, but not overly so. The guy seemed not to notice.
“Hey!” Eyes all turned to the latest arrival. Bart appeared suddenly next to Raven. “Hostages are fine and who’s … Hey, it’s Connor!” Bart grinned and waved. “Hi. I see you found us all right.”
“Honestly, I was out shopping with a few friends. Weekend trip.” Connor seemed embarrassed to admit this. “Stuff like this tends to happen to me a lot.”
“Well since you’re here and all, you wanna become a Titan?”
“Kid Flash!” Tim glared at him. “You can’t just ask that sort of thing on the spur of the moment!”
“Weren’t we already discussing it anyway?” Bart shot back. “Besides, I think he’s already proven himself.”
“That’s not the point!”
“Whoa, chill!” Kon called out. “C’mon, can we talk about this later? Rob and I need medical attention. It’s not urgent, but it’s painful enough.”
Vic nodded and took charge again. “Superboy’s right. Raven, can you help those two then head back? Starfire, Beast Boy and I will deal with the authorities. Bart, make sure she’s secure then escort our guest back to the Tower. That is,” Vic looked over at Connor, “If you want to go?”
Connor glanced around at the teenaged superheros, most of whom looked enthusiastic. “Sure,” he shrugged. “Sounds great. Just gotta call my friends and tell them I might be late for the movie tonight.”
“Awesome!” Bart was practically bouncing. “You’ll love it at the Tower.”
Connor was smiling, bemused. “I’m sure I will.”