Breakfast was not, Dana realized, going to be pleasant in the least. Jack had been avoiding her since their chat in the car, occupying himself with calls to the police and to Brentwood for the entire evening. She wasn't even positive he'd slept. At least not in their room. She'd gone to bed alone and awoken to the same.
Upon entering the kitchen to a dour husband, she knew his mood had not lifted. "Good morning." She greeted, sitting down to a bagel and orange juice. "Did you sleep well?"
"I see." Busying herself with her breakfast, Dana failed to see the darkening expression of her husband. "Will you be driving me to work today or should I call a cab?"
So that's the way it was going to be. "Fine."
"Aren't you going to ask me why?"
Dana shook her head.
"Ask me why, Dana."
Again she shook her head. She was not going to argue with him. They both knew damn well why he wouldn't drive her.
Jack's fist connecting with the table top had her jumping. "Ask me why, Dana!"
"Why Jack?" she whispered, trying to discreetly edge away. "Why do I have to take a cab?"
"Because our car was vandalized during the evening."
"Last night." Drained, Jack ran a hand through his graying hair. "I should have heard it. The damage done to it... I should have heard it."
"They wrecked the tires?"
"More than that. The windows are broken in. The sides of the car dented." Puffing up his cheeks, Jack blew a slow breath out. "I'd say the little bastard took a sledge hammer to it."
"I can't believe it." Dumbfounded, Dana took a sip of her juice. "Burglaries never happen in Gotham Heights. Was Bruce's place hit?"
"I doubt it. With the way that place looks at night no one would be daring enough to go there."
"Did you call the police?"
"Yeah." Jack gave a curt laugh. "Wanna know what they said?"
Suspecting it was bad, Dana decided she really didn't want to know, but doubting she had a choice, gave a regretful nod.
"They said they either look for my son or they look at my car."
Jack nodded. "Yep. I wonder if it would have made a difference if I told them I thought Tim did it."
"Timothy wouldn't do such a thing!" Dana couldn't believe he was back to blaming Tim. Would Jack ever give his son a break? "How can you say that?"
"Call it a hunch. The locks to the garage weren't broken. Neither were the windows."
"That doesn't mean they weren't picked."
"The alarm was turned off." Jack countered. At Dana's confused look he sagged in his seat, appearing worn and aged. "I set the alarm when we arrived home yesterday. The only people who know the codes to the system reside in this house." Tired lips corked at the edges. "And unless Mrs. Mac suddenly started lifting weights, I doubt she could have caused that sort of damage."
"Sorry to interrupt yer breakfast, Mister Drake," Finding their conversation momentarily stalled, they looked expectantly at the housekeeper, Mrs. Mac. The older woman stood at the threshold of the kitchen, as if unsure as to whether she should truly interrupt or not.
"What is it, Mrs Mac?"
The woman held out a brown envelope. "This arrived fer you sir."
Jack took the envelope and tossed it onto to the table. "Thank you."
"Unless you be needing anything else, I'll be on me way then. One o' my great nieces is coming to visit and I want to be there to pick her up from the airport."
"We're fine." Dana said smoothly. "Do enjoy your visit. Tell Terri I said 'hi'."
"I'll be sure to do that, Ma'am."
They waited until the front door slammed before resuming their argument.
"We don't know it was Tim." Dana took a bite of her bagel, mulling over this latest bit of information. "It couldn't have been Tim."
"It sure as hell points to him." Jack suddenly glanced at his watch and cursed. "Shit, I'm late. I called the office, one of the guys is going to pick me up. Just take a cab to your appointment, okay Dana? Oh, and see what's in that envelope will you? If it's another bill, shred it. I can't pay what I haven't received right?"
"Sure." Dana said, watching him leave. Alone in the kitchen, she slumped in her seat. Her gut told her it wasn't Timothy. Though he and Jack may fight, Tim wasn't the type to destroy things. It was Jack who threw pens and pounded his fists on tables. Tim just took off.
Sipping orange juice, she stared out the window. Wayne manor loomed across the way, as foreboding during the day as it was at night. Tim loved going there. Dana didn't know much of Bruce Wayne or his butler, but they'd taken care of Tim when Jack was in the hospital. And on other occasions. Though Dana had never told anyone, she'd often seen Tim coming from the Manor late at night. Funny, how whenever Tim was missing, neither Bruce nor Mr Pennysworth seemed concerned.
Finishing her breakfast, Dana decided it was time to pay a visit to the Manor. As she left the house, the brown envelope lay forgotten on the table.
Alfred was just finishing the breakfast dishes when the bell for the front door rang. Surprised, he dried his hands and carefully folded his tea towel before swiftly moving to the foray. Cracking the door open, he was both surprised and dismayed to see Dana Winters, Tim's stepmother, standing on the front porch. Opening the door wider, he gestured for her to come in.
"Mrs. Drake. What a pleasant surprise. Do come in."
"Thank you Alfred." Ramrod straight she entered, circumspectly glancing around the massive foray. "Is Bruce in?"
"The Master is currently unavailable." Alfred replied cautiously, scrutinizing his guest. This visit was far more than a social call. "However, I would be more than happy to relay any message you might have for him."
"That won't be necessary." Dana said crisply. "I'll speak to you instead. As the only servant in Wayne Manor, I'm sure you know more of the goings-on in this house than Bruce does."
"I handle most matters pertaining to Master Bruce's estate." Alfred said easily. "But I assure you Madam, there are very few "goings-on" in this house. Most of Master Bruce's escapades occur elsewhere. If you're curious about the Master's nocturnal activities, I would suggest reading the society pages. The newspaper is quite adept at keeping up with Master Bruce's social calender."
"I'm sure they are. But it's not his conquests I'm concerned with."
"I'm afraid I do not know to what you are referring Madam."
"I think you do." Dana glared across the room. "In fact, I think you know more than you're letting on."
Forcing a smile, Alfred busied himself with fluffing pillows on the sofa. "You'll have to be more specific, Madam. I am not as young as I used to be. My brain is becoming unable to follow such vague accusations."
"Interesting choice of words."
"You are not here on a social call." Alfred stated. "Perhaps, Madam, you might clarify the nature of this visit?"
"I want to know where Timothy is."
Taken aback by her bluntness, Alfred stiffened. Pillows forgotten, he turned to Dana, face more impassive than Bruce's. "I'm afraid, Mrs. Drake, I do not have any information concerning Master Timothy's whereabouts. He has been missing for close to a month. Had I any information, I surely would have contacted the authorities by now."
"Unless you didn't want him found."
"My dear woman, why ever would I want such a thing?"
"You tell me." Dana demanded, eyes flashing. "What did you have him doing all those nights?" She held up a hand to silence Alfred's protest. "Don't jerk me around. I've seen him leaving this place at ungodly hours of the night for too long not to know something was going on. Now, I'll ask only one more time. Where is Timothy?"
Finding his mouth dry, Alfred swallowed a few times before answering. "I don't know what you're talking about. Master Timothy was here, yes. But only because he needed some place to go. That child is having so many difficulties with his father... he needed a place to collect himself. A sanctuary, if you will."
"So he sticks around here until two a.m.?"
"He and Master Bruce would talk for hours."
"Bull." Alfred watched Dana cross her arms. "There were nights when Timothy had no reason to be here. Contrary to popular belief, he and Jack did not fight every night. They've had battles of will, yes. But they've also had plenty of father/son bonding moments."
"Perhaps it was not enough."
"I think it was." Dana snapped, rising from the couch she advanced towards Alfred so they were standing nose to nose. "I think there's something going on here. Something odd. And unless you want me to give my speculations to the police, I'd start answering my questions. Honestly."
"I assure you Madam...."
"Fine." Turning away, Dana stormed to the front door. "If you won't talk to me, you'll talk to the police." Grabbing the knob, she left, slamming the door behind her.
Alfred watched her go. "Oh dear." Picking up the phone, he dialled Oracle.
"That was cool, Kon-el! Can we do it again?"
Kon smiled indulgently at the young man before him. He and Marty had just returned from a tour of Metropolis. An ariel tour. "Maybe later. I need a drink, all that flyings left me parched."
"Me too." Marty agreed. Reaching into his pocket, he retrieved a wad of folded bills. "I'll buy. What do you want?"
Kon pushed the bills back into the boy's hand. "No way, man. You don't have to do that. I have money."
"But you just flew me around Metropolis. For free!" Pushing the money back into Kon's unwilling hand, Marty crossed his arms determinedly. "Uh uh. I won't accept anything you buy."
"Come on, kid. This has gotta be, what? A months worth of allowance? I can't take this."
"It's only a weeks worth. Besides, my family's rich. They don't care what I spend."
"Must be nice." Kon stared at the wad of twenties. "Um, how about I only take a twenty? I don't need um, all four hundred dollars to buy a couple of Zesti's."
"Okay." Marty relented. He tucked the money safely into his pocket as Kon retrieved their drinks from the pop machine. "Hey Kon?"
"Can we go girl watching?"
Kon nearly dropped their soda. "You wanna... with me?"
"Yeah. You're pretty cool. I bet you know lotsa chicks and lotsa cool spots to check them out."
"Aren't you a little young?"
"I'm thirteen." The kid snapped indignantly. Cracking open his Zesti, he flashed a grin. "Besides, as an official teenager, my hormones are running rampid. Anyway, I figured you could teach me some pick-up lines."
"Izzat so?" Amused, Kon rubbed his chin thoughtfully. Taking a thirteen year old girl-watching wasn't exactly something he should be doing. Teaching him pick-up lines would probably be enough to get him balled out by fearless leader. "I dunno, kid. My boss wouldn't really appreciate what I have to teach you."
"So?" Marty's eye narrowed mischievously. "Who's gonna tell?"
"If Robin ever found out..." Kon began then stopped. Robin was comatose in the batcave. The only way he was gonna find out was if Kon told him himself. "I don't think so, Marty. I'd get bitched at if word got out I'd taken you girl-watching."
"You said bitched." Marty kidded. "Besides, I'm not gonna tell."
"Just because!" Kon snapped. "Jeez Louise. You're a persistent little guy. Sorta like... never mind."
"Who?" Marty put aside his drink. Stepping forward, he grabbed Kon's arm. "Come on, man. Spill. That's the second time you've started to say something then suddenly zoned out. For cryn' out loud, you'd think someone'd died."
"He might as well have." Kon whispered, before catching himself. At the kid's wide-eyed expression he winced. "Shit. Sorry kid, but this is a closed topic."
"You were supposed to be digging chicks with him, huh?"
"Something like that." Kon took a healthy swig of his Zesti, wishing the kid would just shut up.
"So what happened?" Marty grabbed Kon's arm and steered him towards a bench. "You can say." he said, rubbing Kon's back soothingly. "I won't tell."
Kon didn't know why, but he believed him. "My friend got hurt. Bad. It was my fault."
"I bet it wasn't."
"It was." Kon confirmed. "We were on this mission. Robin--"
"He's your friend?"
"Yeah. Rob and I were doing recon for the JLA. We were just supposed to scope the place out. We had direct orders not to engage the enemy."
"You didn't listen, huh?"
"NO!" Kon glared at the kid, who shrugged. "When Batman tells you not to engage, you just don't engage."
"Did Robin engage, then? Is that how he got hurt?"
"Nah. Rob's a follows-order type of guy."
"So what happened?"
"I brought up a touchy subject." Kon winced as the memories came back. It'd been a month ago, but he could still recall the scene as if it had happened yesterday. "It was the wrong time and place. I shoulda known better."
"What did you talk about?"
"Something I shouldn't have." Kon said with more vehemence than he meant. "Doesn't matter what. The fact of the matter is that Rob got hurt because of me and my big mouth." All the anger and guilt he'd felt building for the past month welled, demanding an outlet. Kon was in just the right mood to give it one. "My big freakn' mouth that always gets me and everyone around me into major shit. My big mouth which made Rob quit the team. My big mouth that never knows when to stay quiet. My big mouth that screws up everything, which is why Rob's lying in a coma instead of here in Metropolis like we planned. Instead, I'm sitting on a park bench spouting off the trivialities of my life to some tiny tot I met at a cafe."
"Oh." Marty went real quiet. He kicked softly at the ground his sneaker. "So you're basically saying that instead of being here with your friend, you got stuck with me."
Shit. "Marty, it's not like that."
"I'm just sorta a substitute. That's why you let me come along." Round face scrunched up, Marty rose quickly from the bench. "You're just like my Dad! You invite me along only because you don't have anyone else, not because you want me there! Well don't worry Superboy, I won't take up anymore of your precious time!"
Kon watched helplessly as Marty disappeared into the afternoon crowd, smoothly blending with the tourists and strollers.
"Shit. Big mouth strikes again." Torn between going after Marty, or heading back to Gotham, Kon wondered if maybe Cassie was right. Maybe this was an entire guilt thing. Discarding his Zesti, he took to the skies. It was time to visit Robin.
"Yes. I would appreciate that officer. Thank you." Setting down the phone, Dana glared at Wayne Manor. "Let's see you lie your way out of this."
Satisfied, she picked up her jacket. The day was nice. She'd walk to work.
Oracle severed the connection to the Drake residence. Giving a sigh of relief, she dialled Wayne Manor. Alfred picked up on the first ring.
"Were you successful, Miss Barbara?"
"Completely." Pushing a stray lock of red hair from her face, Barbara Gordon smiled into the receiver. "She's very determined, Alfred. I'm going to keep tabs on her line in case she tries to phone again."
"That is both distressful and comforting."
"Obviously I get the distressing part, but why is this comforting?"
"Because Timothy has finally found a member of his immediate family who cares for him so much that she is willing to investigate other avenues. Jack has never shown such initiative. Mrs. Drake has kept a closer eye on Timothy's activities than his father and she has known the young sir for barely a year."
"Can't argue there." Chewing her lip, Barbara's eye fell to the school photo of Tim on her desk. He'd given it as a gift when he'd discovered she knew his identity. "It's too bad Tim won't be able to appreciate the sentiment."
"He might yet."
Barbara wasn't fooled by the mustered courage in the other's voice. "Alfred, I love the kid as much as anyone, but we both know he won't wake up. The technology to help him was destroyed along with everyone connected to it. Timmy's..." she felt her throat tighten. "He's not going to... he's just not, Alfred."
"Never lose hope Miss. It is what gives us strength."
The line clicked. She sat still, staring in melancholy at Tim's picture until her phone rang again.
Someone was crying. Bruce Wayne peered around the lobby of Wayne Enterprises. Suits and skirts crowded the elevators, tourists snapped photos while waiting for their tour to begin, anxious temps gabbed over coffee while security manned the doors. All in all, a typical day at Wayne Enterprises. Except someone was crying.
Cocking his head to the side, he searched for the source. It seemed to be coming from the behind the potted fern beside reception. Making his way through the crowded lobby, he quickened his step, ignoring the curious stares he was garnering. Bruce Wayne never hurried anywhere.
A mop of black hair was barely visible through the green stems of the plant. As he neared, the crying abruptly ceased. Leaning over he grabbed the pot. Pulling it away from the desk he was shocked to find... nothing.
A quick scan of the lobby provided no hints as to the black-haired criers whereabouts. "Odd."
"Mister Wayne? Sir?" A security guard peered over the desk, obviously puzzled as to what the companies top CEO was doing with a potted plant. "There be anything I can help you with?"
Straightening his tie, Bruce fell into playboy mode. "No, Arnold, everything is fine. I just thought I'd see how the pot looked away from the desk. You know, remodelling."
"Of course sir."
Bruce grinned at the other's befuddlement. "Well, I must be getting to work. Lucius hates it when I'm more than twenty minutes late."
But as he continued on to work, Bruce had the uncanny feeling he was being watched. As he waited for the elevator, he couldn't help but feel a sense of deja vu.
"Tim! You wake up!" Cassandra Cain slapped angrily at Tim's limp arm. It wasn't fair. Not fair at all. Her only friend was a vegetable. Life, Cassandra decided, is suck.
With a loud humph, she plopped down beside the bed. Tim slept on, oblivious to her dissatisfaction. He hadn't even flinched when she'd punched him. Stupid Tim. Now she didn't have anyone to get cheeseburgers with. Or see movies with. Or tease Spoiler with. In fact, the only person Cassandra's age was Spoiler. And Spoiler is definite suck.
"She say I chatterbox. She say situation stinks. She say that long time ago." Cassandra informed Tim. "When Joker made everyone nuts. That when she say that."
Her only response was the beep of Tim's iv. Rising, Cassandra went to the cupboard to get more nutrients. Alfred had shown her how to change the iv bag the other day. She felt an odd sense of pride knowing that Alfred allowed her to do this. This was an important job. She was taking care of Tim. Spoiler didn't take care of Tim. She didn't even visit anymore.
"I say she stink." Switching the bags, Cassandra waited until the liquid began to run before returning to her seat beside the bed. "I want to tell you that. Tell gossip."
Sitting back down, she propped her feet up on the side of the bed. Alfred would get mad, but Cassandra knew Tim didn't care. "There more gossip."
She hesitated. Maybe this was gossip she shouldn't tell. If Tim were awake, he would not be happy. But since he wasn't, and no one else would tell him, she decided she should. "Spoiler going be Robin. Batman made her costume. Is suck."
Taking Tim's hand, she squeezed it hard, not liking the flaccid feeling she got when she squeezed gently. "Is suck. I tell Batman is suck. I tell Spoiler is suck. I tell everyone is suck. You Robin. You not suck."
Releasing his hand, she sat back. "I thought I should tell. Maybe you wake up now."
Cassandra scowled. "Or maybe you sleep more." Crossing her arms, she blew a stray hair from her face nosily. "Sleep is suck."
"No improvement, huh?"
Cassandra almost took her feet off the bed. But seeing as it was only Superboy she left her boots where they were. "Is suck."
"Lots of stuff is suck."
Cassandra decided Superboy looked tired. Dark smudges made his face look most un-konlike. Too much visiting, not enough beating heads. "I stay with Robin. You go beat heads. You feel better."
"That's your cure for everything huh?" He smiled and pulled up a chair. "Girl troubles: beat heads. School problems: beat heads. Problems in general: beat heads."
"Beating heads make everything better."
"For you, maybe." Kon sighed and rubbed at his eyes. "I must look pretty bad, if you're telling me this."
"Dark smudges." Cassandra confirmed. "Need eyeliner."
"Boys don't wear eyeliner."
"Robin wear eyeliner." Cassandra pointed to the comatose Boy Wonder. "He have dark lines." She rummaged in the utility belt of her uniform. "See." she held up a white pencil. "Made dark shadows go away. I buy for Robin."
"I'm sure he appreciates that." A smile tugged at Kon's lips. "I bet it's every Boy Wonder's dream to wear Avon eyeliner."
"You making fun." Cassandra sulked, waving the pencil. "No dark lines."
"You're right, no dark lines." They sat in silence, watching the heart monitor tally Robin's heart rate. "He's not going to wake up, is he?"
Cassandra scowled. "Wake up when ready."
"What if ready never comes?"
Cassandra didn't like where this was heading. "Of course will come. Robin stubborn. He wake up just to be Robin again. Piss Spoiler off. Spoiler is suck."
"What's Spoiler got to do with this?"
"Spoiler is new Robin."
"You're shitting me!"
"Is very suck." Kon agreed. "Rob's sure not gonna like that."
"I tell him. He not do anything."
"This is very suck."
Drawing up his knees, Kon rested his chin on them dejectedly. "He better be ready soon. If Spoiler gets too used to the uniform he may never get it back."
"I burn uniform." Cassandra said determinedly. "Robin my friend. Spoiler not friend. She never visit. Not good friend."
"I'm not good either." Kon said softly, watching the gentle rise and fall of Tim's chest as he breathed. "Robin wouldn't be here if not for me."
"Was accident." Cassandra shrugged. "Happens."
"Not like this. I shoulda known better." Kon ripped his eyes away from the bed to stare piously at Batgirl. "I did this, Cass. I'm to blame. If anyone had gotten hurt that day, it shoulda been me."
"Because it was my fault."
"You say this, but report says accident." Cassandra's brow furrowed. "What happen that day? No one will say."
"You don't wanna know. It'll just make you wanna kick my head in."
"At least I know."
Kon sighed. "Okay... but after this you'll be saying Kon is suck..."
Kon overlooked the Demarti Institute, a research lab rumoured to be experimenting with brain waves. Rumour had it, they were able to break a down a person's psych. Kon thought it was bull. "Boy Wonderbread, why don't you put down the binoculars and let me scope the place out?"
"No." Robin didn't move from his crouched position. "Not yet."
"I haven't figured out the pattern of the guard's rotation yet. They aren't doing a standard patrol." As Robin spoke, a set of guard's appeared from the entrance of the building. A moment ago, they'd emerged from a side passage to the left of the Institute. "We can't risk being seen. Demarti and his people don't know they're under surveillance. The JLA wants to keep it that way for as long as possible."
"Then why send me? You I get. You do junk like this all the time. Me? I'm an--"
"Action sort of guy." Robin finished, smirking. "I don't know why they called you either."
"Wow, Robin, the Boy Godling doesn't know the answer."
From behind the binoculars, Robin's smirk turned to a frown. "I wish you'd stop that."
"Stop what?" Kon feigned innocence. It was fun to get Wonder Bird riled up.
"You know very well what."
"No." Kon said cheerfully. "I don't know. How about you explain things?"
"That." Robin's knuckles tightened around the binoculars. "Always putting me down. You won, Kon. So just leave me alone, okay?"
"Won what?" If he ever managed to win an argument against Robin he was sure the world would come to an end. "Throw me a bone here."
"The team." Robin risked a glance in his direction. "You're in charge of Young Justice now. You win."
"Hey man, I never made you quit the team. You did that all on your own."
"After you disobeyed my orders then confirmed my worst fears at the most inappropriate time imaginable."
Kon shrugged. "Get over yourself, man. You and I both knew that fight was coming. If I hadn't said it, one of the others was bound to sooner or later."
"You could have waited until we got back."
"Why? Just so you could pull more Batman Junior crap on us? Face it Rob, we had good reason not to trust you. We're a team and you couldn't even give us your real name. You fed us some bogus, made-up id that even Bart knew wasn't real. As your teammates, we deserved more than that."
"I couldn't give more than that." Robin said quietly. "As much as I wanted to, I couldn't."
"Wouldn't you mean."
"Couldn't!" Robin snapped angrily. Lowering the binoculars, he fixed Kon with a hurt gaze. "Don't you think I wanted to? When we formed the team I was thrilled. Nightwing had such good times with the Titans. Had formed such great relationships. He has people he can hang with, confide in. I wanted that too. Needed it. But then Batman laid down the rules. Suddenly everything changed. No face. No name. No personal information." Robin looked at Kon beseechingly. "Do you honestly believe this was how I wanted things to be?"
Taken aback, Kon didn't answer. Rob looked sincere, but..."I don't know, Al. Is it?"
"No!" Discarding his post, Robin spun on his knees to face Kon-el. "This wasn't how it was supposed to be. We're supposed to be friends. We're supposed to work on cases together, hang out sometimes."
"Go to the mall, paint our nails, get our hair done..."
"Stop it!" Robin shouted, then quickly lowered his voice. "Just stop it. I didn't come here to fight with you."
"Well, I didn't come here to get preached at!" Kon said angrily. "Jeezus Rob, I was just playing with you."
"Then stop playing!"
"Yes boys, do stop playing." The two turned to see a set of guards towering over them. Beyond them, Kon could see more soldiers assembling. "And do start by explaining your presence here."
"Up your nose with a rubber hose." He snapped.
His response was a round of laser fire. Lasers were no threat to the Kid of Steel, but to a non-meta they were. From his left, he heard Robin grunt. He spun in time to see Robin get tossed backward, his chest smoldering. "Rob!"
From behind him, something exploded. Everything went black.
"Then what happen?" Cassandra demanded. She was kneeling next to Kon's chair, eyes round. "What they do to Robin?"
Kon shrugged helplessly. "I don't know. When I woke up I was at Star Labs. No one would tell me about Robin. It wasn't until they released me and I tracked down Nightwing that I found out Rob was in a coma. All I know is that he was tortured."
"We need report."
"It's not in the official report." Kon rose and paced the infirmary. "It just says Robin was the victim of one of their experiments. It doesn't give specifics."
"Batman alway gives specifics." Cassandra jerked a thumb towards the cave. "We use Cray to see report."
"Uh uh." Kon protested as Cassandra started dragging him from infirmary. "No way. If Bats finds out I'll be toasted wheaties."
"Not find out. Not get mad. I get report."
Cassandra Cain grinned devilishly. "Batman at day job. Who going to know?"