Warnings: Spoilers for Young Justice: Invasion, Doctor Who; Survivor Guilt, Time War Angst, crossover
Characters: Dick Grayson, Wally West, Bruce Wayne, Rick Grayson, Damian Wayne, Alfred Pennyworth, M'gann Morzz, Connor Kent
Summary: Some birds are known to camouflage themselves among the young of another species. Time Lords are very similar in this respect, as Robin learns.
Ao3 | FF.net
Stephanie fights the urge to yawn and rubs her hands together, blowing on them a little for warmth. Nearby, the Batmobile’s tires are neatly propped against a wall that clearly had seen better days. She can see Robin’s profile against the dim light from the window. He’s looking out, frowning as he searches the darkness.
“You don’t have to wait with me, you know,” Robin says, his voice cutting through the silence with sudden, jarring loudness.
Stephanie starts, nearly jumping out of her skin, and then, shivering, she curls back into a ball on the decrepit sofa she’d found. “Sure I do,” she mumbles. “I can’t let you stay here alone.”
“Your dad is probably worried about you,” Robin says softly, turning to look at her. In the poor light, she can only make out the barest lines of his cheek, but he just sounds so sad.
Stephanie gulps a little, curling tighter into a ball, and rests her head on her hands, deliberately avoiding his gaze. How can she possibly explain the truth to Robin? Yes, her dad might be worried, but he might also be preoccupied with his work or his job hunts or locked up for violating parole or any number of things. He could get so caught up in it all sometimes that he forgot all about her.
“I know who he is, Stephanie,” Robin states. “I’m a detective, remember?”
In that instant, she feels the blood in her veins run cold and she can feel her heart thudding in her chest even as her lips start to quiver. Tears prickle at the corner of her eyes, burning hot against the bitter cold and reducing him to a blob of darkness against the window pane.
He turns away, looking back outside. For a moment, he’s silent and then: “Don’t worry. I’m not gonna tell.”
She sniffs, rubbing hard at her eyes. They still feel hot.
“Hey, Steph,” Robin pipes up. “When this is all over, do you think we can still be friends?”
Sniffing again, Stephanie rubs the last of the tears from her eyes and, blinking, she responds instinctively with “You’re stupid.”
Because he is: he’s stupid and weird and Robin, but he’s nothing like the Robin of her dad’s stories at all. He’s something else altogether, something special.
A shadow suddenly falls over the room and a voice, low and grave, follows. “I believe you kids have something of mine.”
It takes every ounce of her willpower – along with clamping both of her hands firmly over her mouth - not to scream in sheer terror.
Robin, however, looks absolutely delighted.
“I knew you’d come,” he says, cheerfully hopping down from the windowsill. “I didn’t think it would take this long, though. Did the sensors malfunction?”
Batman did not answer. Instead, he stood in stony silence and, unbidden, Robin’s earlier words returned to her.
He’ll be looking for me. But he won’t know it’s me he’s looking for.
“Robin,” she whispers, horrified, into her fingers. The borrowed sweater is covering most of his suit. He looks like just another poor neighborhood kid in hand-me-down clothes.
“Two hearts,” Robin states. He raises his eyebrows, jutting his chin forward defiantly. Never once do his eyes leave Batman’s face.
After a moment, the Batman responds: “You were dead.”
“For a minute there, B,” Robin admits with a shrug. He then frowns, tugging at his borrowed sweater. “I’m gonna need a new ID. And a new suit. This one’s toast.”
Batman does not say anything. He doesn’t even move and yet, somehow, Stephanie feels like his attention has now turned to her. She gulps and tries to make herself as small as possible.
“Don’t be rude, B,” Robin states, “She’s a friend – pulled me out of the harbor, actually.”
Batman’s focus feels like it is gliding away, shifting back onto Robin, and Stephanie feels like she can breathe again.
“She’s seen your face,” he says, his tone grave.
“This face,” Robin counters, “After it happened. Not his.”
But Batman’s stony expression never changes.
“I want to go home,” Stephanie whispers to herself. Then, louder, she repeats the words: “I want to go home. Robin, I want to go home!”
Her hands latch onto his sleeve even before she’s aware she’s grabbed for him. His eyes, wide and green, stare at her and then they soften in comprehension. His free hand closes over one of hers.
“Sure, Steph,” he says, smiling. “I’ll make sure you get home safe.”
The world slides and tilts into darkness.
It is bright and someone is cooking bacon and eggs.
Stephanie blinks wearily, slowly sitting up in bed. For a few moments, she sits there in silence and stares at the window, unable to determine if she is really awake or still dreaming.
Fresh snow lines the windowsill. Outside, snowflakes are still lazily falling.
It had been snowing in her dream, she’s sure of it.
There’s a knock on her door and, not a moment later, her father pokes his head in.
“Hey, kiddo, breakfast is ready.”
She blinks, the words sinking in, and slowly begins the process of untangling herself from her blanket. Halfway through, she decides it’s too cold to leave behind and instead hauls it over her shoulders, wrapping herself up as tightly as she can before attempting to make the shuffle to the next room. She glowers sleepily at the chair, unwilling to sacrifice a moment of warmth but understanding the necessity of having her hands free to eat. Her stomach growls loudly and she makes her choice: a few seconds of chill in order to wrap the blanket over her chair and around her shoulders.
Her father smiles at her and turns back to their tiny stove. It isn’t long before he turns back, placing a plate in front of her, and then he too slides into his chair with his plate in hand.
Stephanie glares at her plate, her eyebrows furrowing in concentration.
“Stephanie, are you okay?” her father asks.
“I had a weird dream,” she replies, frowning. “I think it was about Batman.”
Her father freezes in place, his fork hovering above his eggs. The hand holding it shakes ever so slightly.
Even as she tries to cling to the foggy remnants of the dream, it slips through her thoughts like sand through her fingers. She remembers wanting to go home and something about Robin. “I think he thought I took or saw something I wasn’t supposed to. I was scared. I thought he was gonna take me to Blackgate and I was never gonna get back home.”
Her father drops his fork and stands abruptly. Circling around the table, he kneels and enfolds her in the tightest hug he’s ever given her. “I’m sorry, baby girl, I’m so sorry.”
Stephanie both does and does not understand why he’s apologizing, but for one moment she feels like she is the most important thing in her father’s life, even more than being Cluemaster, and that is more than enough. So, she hugs him back as tight as she can, sniffing back tears she didn’t know she had, and there they stay, letting breakfast go cold.
“Things are going to be different,” her father promises, wiping tears from his eyes with a thumb as he stands. There’s a real, fierce determination in his voice.
Stephanie, privately, wishes that this time he means it.
A tinny cellphone ringtone interrupts the silence. Sighing, her father goes to collect it and scowls a little, mouthing parole as he swipes his thumb across the screen. “Hey, there, Joe, how are you? Yeah, yeah, fine. Just having a late breakfast with my daughter.”
He pauses, his face contorting oddly. “What? Well, no, that’s great but… are you serious? The Wayne program? I thought you said there weren’t any open slots left!”
Again there’s a pause and her father looks like he’s about to cry or collapse or both.
“No, no, of course I’m interested, Joe,” he replies, gripping the chair like a lifeline. “It’s just – you have no idea what this means to me and my family, Joe. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
He talks for another few minutes and when he hangs up, there are tears in his eyes but he is smiling. He swoops in for a hug and practically hauls her to her feet with a triumphant laugh that she can’t help but echo.
“It’s gonna be different from here on out,” he promises. “Everything’s gonna be different.”
This time, Stephanie believes him.