Barry Allen/Flash is supposed to be watching Irey West/Impulse. A JLA meeting interferes. Irey goes to Wayne Manor to spend time with Damian Wayne/Robin, leaving Barry to wonder about speedsters and boy wonders.
These characters aren’t mine.
Barry Allen, aka the Flash, glanced at his watch for the umpteenth time in the last he sighed three minutes. The second hand barely seemed to be moving. More than three minutes had to have passed. It felt as if at least three hours, if not more, had dragged past. Maybe the watch batteries were dying. Even though that seemed unlikely since it was a relatively new watch. Still, time couldn’t be moving that slowly, could it?
“Stop looking at your watch,” Bruce Wayne, aka the Batman, whispered harshly. “She’s fine.”
Barry sighed again, wanting to argue with Bruce but knowing it would be pointless. Arguing with Bruce was always pointless. It was a fact he had learned years ago and a fact he knew hadn’t changed during the years he had been “away.” Away he was still trying to find the right euphemism for the time he had been dead, or the time everyone thought he had been dead, or, well “away.” He bit back another sigh and tried to find a more comfortable position in his chair, resigning himself to the fact he was stuck in the JLA meeting and from the sounds of it, not going anywhere too soon.
When Wally West, aka the Flash, and his wife Linda had planned a two-day getaway for themselves, they had asked Barry and his wife Iris to look after the twins Jai and Irey. Barry and Iris had readily agreed. Wally and Linda could enjoy quality time together, while he and Iris bonded with the twins. He would spend the day with Jai; Iris would be with Irey. That at least had been the plan the plan had changed.
Since losing his powers, Jai had been sullen and depressed. His performance in school had left much to be desired. The trips to the principal’s office and afternoons of detention had become common occurrences. He had constantly picked on and argued with his sister. He had argued with his parents. Basically, he had argued with everyone. Wally and Linda had grown increasingly concerned. Having Jai visit a therapist wasn’t an option with secret identities involved. Likewise, giving the full explanation behind Jai’s mood change would also have been impossible. They had tried to have Jai talk to J’onn or Dr. Mid-Nite, but it had only emphasized the fact that Jai had lost his powers. With each passing week, Wally and Linda had grown increasingly desperate in their quest to try to something that would interest Jai. Nothing ever seemed to work. Jai had openly hated the world.
Then, surprising everyone, something had produced a small spark of interest photography. Of everything that could possibly interest Jai, photography had never been considered. Even the fact Jai had stumbled onto it seemed a fluke. Jai had been at the Allen household. Iris had been watching him since Jai had managed to earn a three-day suspension from school. While Jai had sulked, Iris had cleaned out boxes of old photographs and equipment. Something had caught Jai’s attention and he had started to ask questions. At first, everyone had treaded carefully, not wanting to overwhelm Jai, but also wanting to support him. Iris gave him one of her old cameras and a couple different lenses. She taught him a few basics and let him go. Even though the old camera meant Jai had to deal with film instead of the modern digital age, he hadn’t complained. When the first pictures had been developed, everyone had realized Jai had potential. While the photos hadn’t been perfect, even the non-photographers, i.e., everyone except Iris, could see Jai had been trying to capture something more than just a quick picture.
A bond had slowly developed between Iris and Jai. They could talk photography. Iris taught him basic techniques. She told him stories from her years as a photojournalist. As the weeks had passed, Jai’s attitude had started to improve; so, too, did his grades. Most importantly, though, Jai had found something his sister couldn’t do.
So, the initial plans of Barry spending time with Jai and Iris spending time with Irey had been scrapped. Their roles were reversed. Deep down, Barry knew it made logical sense and that it was the better solution for both of the kids. Only hours earlier, Iris and Jai had hopped on the train to go see a photography exhibit in St. Louis. The two would spend the day in St. Louis, viewing the exhibit and taking pictures. Meanwhile, he and Irey would well, that was the problem. Barry honestly had no clue as to what to do with the girl.
The irony of the situation wasn’t lost on him. Yes, he was more than qualified to handle a preteen speedster. Watching and training Wally had given him the experience. Likewise, he couldn’t deny the similarities between the young Wally and Irey: endless amounts of energy; a tendency to rush headfirst into any situation, damn the consequences; an ability to talk nonstop; the propensity for sharing too much information Dealing with Irey should have been a piece of cake. Yet, Barry had dreaded the day because no matter how much everyone said Wally and Irey were alike, there was one distinct difference Irey was a girl and that singular difference made all the difference in the world to Barry. What did he know about what eleven-going-on-twenty-year-old girls find interesting?
It was a sad state of affairs when he had found himself actually praying one of his minor Rogues would cause trouble. It would have easily filled the role of “something to do.” He could have used it as a training opportunity. Then again, were there any minor Rogues anymore? Probably not. But it didn’t matter. All was quiet in Central and Keystone cities. He had briefly contemplated enlisting the aid of Jay or Max or Bart. It had been tempting, but he had heard enough stories about Bart’s Impulse years that having another Flash try to foist off another Impulse was just asking for trouble. Besides, Iris would kill him, and Wally and Bart would never let him live it down.
In his angst about how he and Irey were going to spend a day together, he had completely forgotten about the JLA meeting. When he had received the meeting reminder, as much as he hated to admit it, he had silently cheered. He had been saved for at least a short period of time. He could dump bring Irey to the Watchtower. While he enjoyed the meeting, Irey could do whatever on the Watchtower. The Watchtower could keep her entertained. Maybe he could even extend the meeting so Irey could stay on the Watchtower longer. Toss a loaded question at either Clark or Diana and they could talk on and on.
It had been a plan, a great plan in his mind. The plan had completely fallen apart when he and Irey had arrived at the Watchtower.
“She can’t be here,” Eel O’Brien, aka Plastic Man, stated.
“She Impulse cannot be here.”
Barry glanced down at Irey. Irey’s face had a look that he hated to admit he recognized. He had seen it too many times to remember on her father’s face. Worse, it was a look he still saw on her father’s face. “What did she do?”
Eel glanced at Irey and smiled. “It’s not so much what she did, it’s what she and Robin did together the last time they were here.”
Robin. Damian Wayne. Barry felt the tingling of déjà vu. Had Irey been the current Kid Flash, it truly would be déjà vu. How many times had Wally and Dick Grayson, fka Robin, gotten themselves into trouble over the years? What one hadn’t thought of, the other had. Their antics had gotten them into situations over their heads on more than one occasion. From what he had been told, Bart and Tim Drake, fka Robin, had also had their share of adventures. What was it with speedsters and boy wonders? Were they destined to be drawn to each other? Destined to always find themselves in scrapes together?
“What did they do?” Barry was trying to picture in his mind a stunt that would have gotten them banned from the Watchtower. Nothing came to mind. Whatever it had been, it must have been bad. Even Wally and Dick had never been banned from the Watchtower and they had pulled more than their fair share of high jinks over the years.
“It doesn’t matter. Batman-Lite banned them from the Watchtower for six months. No exceptions.”
Dick had only recently returned to his role as Nightwing instead of Batman, or Batman-Lite as Wally had taken to calling him. Obviously the nickname had taken on a life of its own. Barry idly wondered if Plastic Man would have enough backbone to call Dick Batman-Lite to his face. Probably.
Before Barry had the chance to question or rather argue with Plastic Man further, he felt another presence. The Dark Knight had arrived. “Impulse, Robin is at the Manor. You may wait there.”
Irey glanced at Barry for approval. Looking at her face, at her big green eyes, he could see her silent plea to go. It was really no wonder how she had her father wrapped around her little finger. Barry nodded his head. With a grin and a quick hug, Impulse hopped back onto the teleporter pad. Seconds later, she disappeared from sight. Had he made the right decision in allowing her to go to the Manor? Wally had made it clear on countless occasions that he had mixed feelings about Irey’s friendship with Damian. So far, Wally was tolerating it, but he was most definitely not encouraging it. Would Wally view this as a way that would encourage the friendship? Also, Damian was part of the reason why she had been banned from the Watchtower. Perhaps he shouldn’t have allowed Irey to go. He could have asked Jay or Max or Bart. Surely, they would have had a free hour or two to spend with Irey while Barry attended the JLA meeting. But it was too late now she was already at the Manor. Reneging on his approval would mean a look of disappointment that he just couldn’t face.
“What did they do?” Barry asked as he followed Bruce to the meeting room.
“It doesn’t matter.”
“You know, I could just check the logs and-”
“They’ve been wiped.”
Barry stopped abruptly. The logs had been wiped? All evidence erased? The overly anal and paranoid Bat family that needed to know and record everything for posterity had purposefully deleted the data? Plastic Man’s words repeated in his mind banned for six months. Six months. Wiped records. He grabbed Bruce’s arm, forcing the man to stop as well. He received the Batglare for his trouble. “What did they do? She’s my niece and-”
“And the only thing you need to know is that no one was hurt, the damage was fixed, and-”
“What the hell did they do?” More times that he cared to admit, the speed was a curse. He had already visualized hundreds of different scenarios, but nothing that warranted records being wiped and suspensions being handed out. Even if he replaced sweet innocent Irey with the stunts he knew Wally and Bart were more than capable of pulling, nothing came to mind that warranted this level of punishment.
The Batglare intensified. After a weighted pause, Bruce answered. “They were discussing your and Wally’s abilities, particularly as they relate to vibrating through objects.” A sinking feeling started to develop in the pit of Barry’s stomach. “Impulse noted that while both you and Wally can vibrate through objects, whenever her father does it, the object explodes. Robin convinced Impulse to show him how. She did. However, rather than using a simple object, they chose a wall, an exterior wall.” Barry paled. If an exterior wall on the Watchtower was damaged, safeguards were automatically activated to seal off the damaged area to prevent depressurization of the entire Watchtower. However, any object in the depressurized area could be lost to the vacuum of space and would be killed within seconds. “Thankfully, J’onn and Hal were on duty when the incident occurred. Damage was kept to a minimum and no one was hurt.”
Hal knew? Hal had been present? Hal had never said a word. Barry was going to kill his supposed best friend. Why hadn’t Hal said anything? Then again, Wally had never said a word either. How could either of them not have shared this information?
“Neither Impulse nor Robin would talk about what had happened. The logs revealed Robin was the instigator, but both of them should have known better. Robin and Impulse are banned from the Watchtower for six months. No exceptions.”
As he sat in the meeting, impatiently waiting for the meeting to end, Barry reran his conversation with Bruce in his mind. He still felt irritated that no one had taken the time to tell him what had happened. It wasn’t like he needed to know everything. He wasn’t paranoid or a control freak like Bruce. But this, this was speedster-related and he felt as if he should have been told. Right or wrong, he felt responsible for the actions of the speedsters. He should have been told.
Robin Damian had been the instigator. He really shouldn’t have let Irey go to the Manor. It hadn’t been a wise decision. God only knew what Damian would do. Worse, the kid had access to the cave and all the bat toys. Anything was possible. Wally would probably kill him.
“She’s fine,” Bruce mumbled.
Barry really hated that Bruce seemed capable of reading everyone’s mind. He bit back a comment and forced himself to try to pay attention to whatever Clark was going on and on about. Barry hadn’t needed to ask a loaded question, not that that had remained an option once Irey had been banned from the Watchtower. Clark had settled into this topic completely on his own and showed no signs of wrapping up. Barry was a little surprised Bruce hadn’t lost his patience yet, but the fact that Bruce was doing work on his smartphone in plain sight of everyone was probably the reason. Barry knew no one else would be able to get away with it. The double standards that had existed in his previous tenure in the league still existed today. It was rather depressing that some things hadn’t changed.
Of the league members, no one had undergone a radical change. Whatever changes had occurred were subtle. Clark was married. Diana had a secret identity. He supposed it could be argued that Hal had undergone a few radical changes, but Barry had missed the Parallax and Spectre phases of Hal’s life, so from Barry’s perspective, Hal hadn’t change. Of the JLA members, the changes in the Bat family had surprised Barry the most. He never would have guessed the Bat family would expand beyond Bruce, Dick, and Alfred. Bruce, the stereotypical loner, the man whom had seemed unfit to raise Dick, had a family four sons and Alfred and an impressive list of allies. But apart from the changes in the size of the Bat family, Bruce himself hadn’t seemed to change. He remained aloof, stubborn, unemotional, paranoid the list of adjectives seemed endless. How why were all these people drawn to his side?
Dick Grayson continued to amaze Barry. Barry was glad to see that Dick’s positive attitude and ready smile had not been negatively impacted by his years with Bruce which thinking about it made Dick’s attitude and ready smile even more amazing. Seeing Dick as an adult hadn’t surprised Barry. Dick had grown into the man Barry knew he would eventually be quick witted, confident, considerate, trusting, a natural born leader. Within the hero community, Dick had managed to achieve something only a few Clark, Jay Garrick, Alan Scott had, the admiration and respect of the entire hero community. It was something Bruce would never achieve. In at least one aspect, Dick would surpass Bruce.
Then there was Tim Drake. Yet another former Robin. After meeting the young man, it had been easy to see that Tim had been a good choice for the job. The young man was similar to Dick in many ways, yet there were distinct differences. Tim didn’t have Dick’s natural charisma or athleticism. Tim beat Dick, though, in detective skills. That said volumes on Tim’s abilities since Dick’s skills were amazing. Tim had also benefited from having two mentors Batman and Nightwing. Barry guessed that the balancing of those two personalities had aided Tim’s development as Robin. Together, Dick and Tim would make any father proud even if their father refused to show it.
Then there was the other side of the coin Jason Todd and Damian. While Bruce had taken in Jason shortly before Barry had left for the future, Barry had never met Jason. Even since his rebirth, Barry had yet to meet Jason. Perhaps that was a good thing. He had only heard stories about the young man, none of which were particularly positive. Bruce had managed to find a boy who was the complete opposite of Dick. Knowing Bruce’s questionable parenting skills and cold personality, Barry assumed the transition hadn’t gone well for anyone involved. From what Barry had heard, Damian shared many of Jason’s attributes. For that reason, it really wasn’t a surprise that Wally had misgivings about his daughter’s friendship with Damian. While Wally would admit the boy had talent, the boy also had a major attitude problem. Most telling, though, was that Wally didn’t trust Damian. Yet despite those misgivings, Wally would grudgingly admit that Dick had said that Irey was a positive influence on Damian; that despite appearances to the contrary, Damian enjoyed spending time with her. Bruce must have believed it as well because why else would he have suggested Irey go to the Manor?
Now, sitting in this meeting room while Clark continued to drone on, Barry finally understood Wally’s anxiety about the friendship. Damian had encouraged Irey to vibrate through a wall and almost get herself killed. God only knew what other stunts Damian had pulled. What else did Damian have planned? Maybe Irey was a good influence for Damian, but was he a good influence for her?
At least when Wally and Dick had spent time together, Barry hadn’t worried about Dick getting Wally killed. Dick was a good kid at heart. Most importantly, Barry had felt relatively comforted by the fact that Dick would keep Wally from doing something stupid. It hadn’t always worked, but it did most of the time. In addition, Dick had been a good influence on Wally. Dick had taught Wally the need for stealth, the need to think about the bigger picture. Jay, Wally, and Max had said the same thing about Tim and Bart’s friendship. What would Damian teach Irey? How to be an assassin?
As his thoughts circled around Damian and Irey, Barry felt his anxiety begin to grow. If something happened to Irey
“Stop it,” Bruce hissed.
Damn that man. Barry forced himself to relax. If Bruce wasn’t worried, he shouldn’t be worried. Bruce would know his son, would know what Damian was capable of doing. Or would he? How much time had Bruce really spent with Damian? How well did Bruce know the boy? Damian had been partnered with Dick. He had remained partnered with Dick even after Bruce had initially returned. Only recently with Dick returning to his Nightwing role had Bruce partnered with his son. So, how well did Bruce know Damian? How much time had Bruce actually spent with Damian? The boy hadn’t grown up in the Wayne household. He had been raised in the League of Assassins. He had become an addition to the Wayne household after the last crisis when Bruce had disappeared. Even when Bruce had returned, the billionaire had spent much of his time traveling the world, not in Gotham, not with Damian. Dick knew Damian. Alfred knew Damian. Bruce did not.
Barry eyed Bruce up suspiciously. The man continued to work on his smartphone. Why was Bruce being so casual about this? Why wasn’t Bruce worried? If the boy had almost destroyed the Watchtower, think of what the boy could do with a cave full of toys. Then it hit him. Alfred was at the Manor. Alfred would keep the peace. No need to worry. “So, how’s Alfred?” Barry whispered.
His attention remaining on the phone, the Dark Knight answered, “I don’t know. He went to London on vacation.”
No Alfred? Immediately Barry’s anxiety returned with a vengeance. Was Damian alone with Irey? Oh, god Wally would definitely kill him.
Proving his omniscience yet again, Bruce replied, “Dick’s there.”
Dick. Barry relaxed again. Dick knew Damian best. Dick knew Irey as well. Better yet, Irey liked Dick, or rather “Uncle Dick” as she called him. The preteens couldn’t be in better hands. And in reality, Dick was probably a better choice than Alfred. Dick would keep the peace. Dick would keep them safe. No fear. Irey was safe.
“So, I propose that we ”
Barry’s attention returned to Clark. Clark seemed to be wrapping up. Looking around the table, everyone had seemed to realize the same thing. The other leaguers sat up straighter; smartphones were discreetly tucked away.
“I second the motion,” Hal Jordan, aka Green Lantern 2814.1, stated. Barry doubted Hal had listened to a tenth of what Clark had said. Then again, what had Clark been talking about?
“All in favor?” Clark asked.
The motion passed unanimously. The meeting adjourned. In general, Barry always enjoyed the after meeting camaraderie. With the decisions made, the atmosphere was more relaxed. It was a good way to catch up with everyone but not today. Today they needed to leave immediately. Yes, he trusted Dick, but this still was Damian and a cave full of toys. What if Dick had been called away to handle some crisis? Or what if Damian had hurt Dick because Barry knew a huge part of Wally and Bart’s dislike of Damian grew from the fact Damian had almost killed Tim twice. If Damian had almost killed Tim, what was to stop Damian from trying to kill Dick? If Dick and Alfred had both been present, there would be backup. If Damian turned on either of them, the other could issue a warning and alert Batman or the JLA or anybody. But there was only Dick
Considering Bruce always seemed to be the first one to leave JLA meetings, Barry didn’t worry. They would leave He felt his hopes sink. Bruce was talking to Clark and Diana and was that a smile on the Dark Knight’s face? Why did today have to be the exception? Or was it? Was Bruce purposefully torturing him? And what was to stop him from going to the Manor on his own? He could-
“Hey, Barry,” Hal greeted, “where’s the munchkin?” Barry punched Hal in the arm, purposefully putting a little speed into the punch so Hal would definitely feel it. “Ow! What was that for?”
Barry felt the curious glances from the others. He didn’t care. “Not telling me about a certain munchkin vibrating through a wall.”
“Yeah, that. How could you not have told me?”
Hal shrugged. “Wally knew. Since he seems to tell you everything-”
“Just about everything,” Barry corrected.
“Fine. Just about everything, I figured he’d tell you. Besides, no one was hurt. Irey was remorseful and scared. Can’t say that same thing about the other one.” Hal paused. “So, where is she? I thought you were watching her today.”
“I am, or rather, I was except that she’s banned from the Watchtower.”
Barry rolled his eyes.
“So, she’s with Iris?”
“No. Iris and Jai when to St. Louis. Irey’s-”
“With Damian at the Manor,” Bruce finished.
“Hopefully it’s still standing,” Hal said with a grin, a grin that faltered when he received the Batglare. “I should go.” Hal quickly left.
“Let’s go,” Bruce declared.
Seconds later they appeared in the cave. Bruce immediately strode over to the costume vault, pulling back his cowl as he walked. “No costumes,” he stated.
Barry remembered Alfred’s rule. No costumes in the Manor. He had to give Alfred credit for trying to maintain a sense of decorum. He had to give Alfred even more credit for the fact that Bruce followed the rule even when Alfred wasn’t around. With a quick whirl, Barry’s costume was back in his ring.
Glancing around, Barry breathed a small sigh of relief. The cave was still standing. No damage was visible. Everything seemed in order. Bruce hadn’t shown any reaction positive or negative. Everything must have been fine. Hopefully the same could be said about the manor. As Barry waited impatiently for Bruce to emerge costume-free, he took a quick peek at the trophies, noting the new ones that had been added since he had last been in the cave. Sadly, there were a lot of them.
After what seemed like an eternity, Bruce finally emerged costume-free. They went upstairs. Emerging in the study, Barry again noted everything seemed in order. Most importantly, he didn’t smell smoke. Always a good sign.
“Stop it,” Bruce snarled.
Barry forced himself to relax. When Bruce opened the door to the study, they could hear laughter coming from the foyer. Barry idly wondered how often laughter was heard in the Manor. When Dick had been a youngster, it had probably been a common occurrence, but since Dick had left? It seemed unlikely.
They followed the sound. At the base of the stairway, Irey stood giggling. A huge smile broke across her face when she saw the two adults. “Uncle Barry!” She gave him a quick hug.
Barry smiled, thankful to find her and the Manor with no visible damage. Seeing the apparent joy on her face, he wondered why he had been so worried. If Damian liked Irey, would he purposefully hurt her? Seeing her now, it seemed unlikely. The incident on the Watchtower had been an innocent mistake. Robin and Impulse were only eleven. It was easy to forget their ages at times. How many times had he reprimanded Wally when Wally had been Kid Flash, only to have Iris remind him that Wally was still a kid, still immature, and just having fun? How many times had he silently yelled at Bruce for squashing what little fun Dick seemed to have? Wally’s musings about Damian had made him paranoid for no reason. He should have never doubted that Irey would be safe. She had two Robins looking after her. How much safer could she be? “Having fun?”
Irey nodded her head enthusiastically, her ponytail bobbing. “So much fun, Uncle Barry. Thanks for letting me come here.”
His heart warmed at her words. “What are you doing?” He noticed her attention focused on the staircase.
Sock surfing? A glance at her feet revealed no shoes, only socks. Before he could ask another question, Irey clapped her hands and laughed. Barry watched in amazement as Damian slid or rather surfed down the banister. Before reaching the end, Damian flipped into the air and landed on his feet, a huge smile on his face. Barry doubted that smile appeared too often. He wondered how often the eleven-year-old truly acted like an eleven-year-old. Seeing the boy with the smile, it seemed impossible that the kid was also a trained assassin. It seemed impossible that Damian would ever knowingly try to hurt Irey.
The smile quickly disappeared from Damian’s face when he spotted Bruce. “Father,” he greeted softly.
“What. Are. You. Doing.” Bruce’s gaze had narrowed. His stance had become aggressive. The smile instantly disappeared from Irey’s face as well. Barry noticed Irey moved closer to him. He put his hand reassuringly on her shoulder.
Before Damian could answer, “Cowabunga” was shouted from the top of the staircase and Dick Grayson surfed down the banister as well. Like his younger brother, Dick flipped into the air before reaching the end. However, unlike Damian who had completed a single somersault, Dick executed a triple somersault. Also unlike Damian, the smile remained on Dick’s face even after he spotted Bruce.
“Hey, Bruce. Barry.” Dick’s eyes twinkled with mischief. He knew his mentor and father well. “You’re back early. I thought Clark would go on for at least another forty minutes or so. He seemed really captivated by the idea when I suggested it to him.”
Bruce’s frown deepened. He lunged forward. “Richard!” Dick ran, the smile still on his face.
Barry laughed as Bruce took off after his eldest son. Damian and Irey laughed as well. He looked at the two preteens, the happiness evident on their faces. Maybe it wasn’t so much of a thing about speedsters and boy wonders. Maybe it was really something to do with boy wonders.