Disclaimers: DC owns everything Batman. No infringement intended. 'Nuff said.
"Oh come on, Bruce! Just once, please?" Robin sat in the front seat of the Batmobile, gazing hopefully at his mentor with what Alfred had deemed 'puppy dog' eyes. "I won't crash it."
Bruce crossed his arms. "No."
Robin's face fell. "But I just got my official driver's license. I'm a good driver, Bruce. I mean, I've been driving since fourteen. Look at my track record, no violations, no tickets, no crashes! I'm clean. I haven't hurt the Redbird and unlike Dick I don't park on the roofs of skyscrapers. Please, just for a while? If it gets busy, I'll pull over and you can take the wheel."
"No." Bruce ignored the dejected slump of his partner's shoulders. The Batmobile was his and his alone. "No one drives this car but me. Not Dick, not you, not even Alfred." He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "Out."
"Awww." Robin whined, but hopped out obligingly. "I just wanted to drive it once."
"When you're Batman, you can drive." Bruce suppressed a grin as Tim glowered and reluctantly nodded. Bruce watched as the young man adjusted his mask and stalked to the passenger cab and got inside. It never failed to amaze him how agreeable Tim was. No yelling matches, no silences, no yearlong grudges. There was some whining yes, but as Alfred said, all sixteen-year-olds--no matter how mature--were prone to bouts of `teenism.' So, on the rare occasions when Tim decided to exercise his rights to teenism, Bruce allowed him some leeway.
"Ready partner?" he asked, climbing into the front.
An excited voice answered from the back. "Bruce, I've got an idea."
"Really." Damn. Tim seemed just full of 'ideas' lately--none of them good.
"Yeah. What if, you let me drive to the entrance of the Batcave? Just this once. The tunnels short and I'll stop before we're out. This could remain just between you and I. No one would have to know. Please?"
"Just this once?"
"Just to the entrance?"
Tim's whining was giving him a headache. Bruce sighed. "Alright, but just down the tunnel and no one knows. Especially Nightwing."
"Yes! Whooo hooo! Alright!" He smiled over Tim's excited yells in the back. He really was getting complacent in his old age. He'd have never done this with Dick--at least not without an extra two or three insurance policies. He heard Tim jump out and scurry to the drivers cab. A happy face grinned at him through the tinted glass. "Are you going to open up, Bruce? I can't drive from out here."
Reluctantly, Bruce pushed back the glass and got out. He grabbed Tim's arm before the boy could climb in. "No speeding. You scratch this car and I reserve the right to pummel you senseless during training practices."
Tim gave him a thumbs up. "No problem. The Batmobile is safe with me!" Thus said, he scrambled into the cab. Bruce snagged the glass to keep the top from closing. Robin looked up in surprise. "What's the matter? Aw man, you're not having second thoughts?"
"I want to watch you prep."
"Oh." Tim squirmed slightly. "Okay." He stared at the control panel. "Um... there sure are a lot of buttons." He placed his hands in his lap and turned to Bruce. "What do I do first?"
Bruce suppressed the urge to yank the boy out. "Robin, I thought you said you could drive?"
Tim bit his lip. "I do, but not the Batmobile. I mean, it's different." He gestured to the seemingly endless rows of buttons and dials. "My car doesn't have all this." He straightened indignantly as Bruce grunted. "Hey, it's not my fault I got the BabyBird and Dick drives a boring motorcycle. How'm I supposed to know what everything does? It's not like you have a 'Batmobile' handbook laying around for me to read!"
"No!" Robin wailed. "I can do this Bruce; you just have to trust me!" He jutted out his lower lip in what Nightwing dubbed, the 'gimme' look. "Give me a chance, that's all I'm asking."
"Fine." Regretting his decision already, Bruce carefully gave instructions, praying to god that no harm became his baby at the hands of his overeager protégé. "Press that red button to your left." Tim pressed it. "Now, turn that dial there, good. Do you like the temperature?" Tim nodded. "Okay, activate the radio band, the detection system and connect to the batcomputer."
"Right." Tim did as told. "Is that everything?"
Bruce nodded reluctantly. "Get your seatbelt on. Once I'm in you can start the car and SLOWLY pull out."
"Gotcha boss." Tim's enthusiasm was bubbling over. "This is gonna be so great. Bruce, you're the best."
"Just don't scratch my car." He intoned, giving Robin his most menacing glare. Judging by the dopey grin upon his partner's face, he knew the intimidation had been lost on him. Feeling like a dead man walking, he made his way to the passenger cab. Thinking how odd it felt to be in the backseat, he strapped himself in. "Ready?"
"You betcha, boss!"
Trying to squelch the irrational urge to check his will, he listened as Tim turned the ignition. He watched the walls of the Batcave recede as Robin steered the car out. The tunnel had never seemed so long as the Batmobile inched its way towards the entrance.
After four minutes they hadn't even reached the first corner. Bruce drummed his fingers impatiently on the seat's armrest. Tim wasn't even going 20 mph. He'd told him to go slow but this was ridiculous. Any other kid would be speeding, but not Timothy. Heaven forbid the kid use the gas pedal. Leaning forward, he activated the car speaker, "Timothy, we don't have all night. You can go a little faster than this."
"But you said to go slow!" came the mystified reply. "I'm just being cautious."
"I'd like to be out of the tunnel before dawn. We have a patrol to start."
"Hey, I'm just being cautious! If anything goes wrong you'll be using my head as a punching bag!"
The second turn crept into view. Bruce groaned as Tim slowed the car down further. "What are you doing?"
"Just being careful, boss. Wouldn't want to ruin your paint job."
"Step on it!" Batman ordered.
"Okay," came the dubious response. Bruce's smile of satisfaction suddenly molded itself to his teeth as the Batmobile's turbo jets sprang to life. Oh hell, he thought as the Batmobile roared through the tunnel, hurtling towards a six inch, reinforced titanium ultra three barrier that was very much closed. "Timothy! Slow down!"
"What do you mean how?" Sweet Jesus, he'd know this was a bad idea. "Tim, hit the brake! Great Scott, I thought you had your driver's license!" To his horror the car did not slow, but rather, sped up. "Not the gas pedal! The brake, Tim, the brake!"
"Oops." Tim said sheepishly, "Sorry."
They were rounding the last corner. The entrance was only another 60 feet away. Why the hell weren't they slowing? "Timothy! The brake, NOW!"
"I did, but it's not working!" Bruce heard the first inklings of panic in his protégé's voice. "Um, Bruce, that door's coming up awful fast. Maybe you should open it."
"I can't from back here. It's the yellow button." He could clearly see the entrance. The steel interfacing gleamed menacingly at him. "Tim, the yellow button!"
"Which yellow button? For cryn' out loud boss, there are at least twenty yellow buttons!"
"Forget that, hit the emergency brake! It's the big red handle to the left of the steering the wheel. Pull it Tim! NOW!"
Tim did. With squealing tires, the Batmobile came to an abrupt stop. The sudden lack of momentum took Bruce by surprise. Pitching forward, his head hurled into the wall and rebounded, causing him to see stars. Damned seatbelt.
There was a moment of silence, then, "Whooo hooo! I'm the man! Bruce you gotta see this! We're an inch from the door. A whole inch! IS that luck or what?"
Bruce unlocked his seatbelt and pushed back the glass. Sure enough, Tim had managed to stop the vehicle seconds before impact. He watched Robin hop out and start a victory dance beside the vehicle. He resisted the urge to batarang the young man. "Timothy."
Robin sashayed towards him, wiggling his hips in such an obscene manner, Bruce knew it was time for another of those `talks'. Or maybe he should just yell at Dick. Any new development in the youngest Robin's behavior could always be traced back to Nightwing. He rolled his eyes as Tim waved his hands over his head, grinning.
"Hey, no need to thank me, boss. I told you I'm a good driver. No scratches. No deaths. No dented door. I'm the man! Oh yeah, I'm the man!"
Right. Another inch and 'the man' would have been bird feed. Bruce watched his partner's antics and wondered if he really did need a Robin. Being solo was a lot less hassle. Reaching down he snagged Tim's hand, ending the teen's victory dance. Tim looked up sheepishly. "Yes?"
"Get in the car."
Tim gestured to the door. "But--"
"Okay." Eyes wide, he crawled into the backseat, not protesting when Bruce buckled him in and activated the child safety locks on the glass. "Um, am I in trouble?"
Bruce didn't answer. He was too angry with himself for trusting his precious darling in the hands of inexperienced teenager. "I'm sorry darling," he whispered. "I won't let anyone drive you ever again. You have my word."
After a quick inspection of the Batmobile, Bruce was satisfied the only casualties were his tires. He ran an apologetic hand over the Batmobile's slick black finish. Poor baby, he'd order a new set first thing tomorrow. Even though Timothy had technically not violated the parameters of their agreement, the Boy Wonder could look forward to a round of 'human punching bag' at training tomorrow. Tim must have sensed this as well for he was unnaturally silent in the backseat, offering neither suggestions nor wisecracks as his employer completed his inspection of the Batmobile.
A few minutes later the door was open and the dynamic duo was speeding down the streets of Gotham in search of bad guys. Bruce was in the front seat, Robin was strapped into the back, and all was again right and good in the world. (At least until the Batmobile descended a steep hill and Bruce discovered Tim had worn out his brake pads. But that's a whole other story.)
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