Old Friends and New

June 06, 2017:

Red Robin recruits Spider-Man for his planned revival of the Titans.

A rooftop in Harlem; subsequently, the top of the United Nations HQ

One rooftop is pretty dingy. The other one is much nicer. And higher up. And looks out onto the East River.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Superboy, Wonder Girl, Zatanna Zatara

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

EARLIER

Spider-Man received a text message from Red Robin, on the phone the vigilante had provided a few months ago and which the wall-crawler had recently been instructed to heartlessly replace, by noted human monster Tony Stark.

The message was a time (about 11 at night) and a place (a rooftop in one of the outlying, less-gentrified areas of Harlem).

Terse, direct communication. But, well, he did learn from Batman.

NOW

When Spider-Man does arrive, Red Robin is not the only person present. He is the only person actually on the roof… Because he's currently dangling a man in camouflage pants and an old Russian army jacket off of the side by his ankle. The man doesn't appear to have been a particularly nice fellow, judging by the gun currently scattered in pieces over the rooftop, but it's hard for anyone to seem threatening when a guy in a costume is holding them upside down over a drop of at least eight stories.

"He doesn't communicate with us directly!" the upside-down man insists, in the accents of the Ukraine - Odessa Mob, a group Red Robin has been dealing with more than he'd like, lately. He was distracted, dealing with the Germany situation, and even if he'd left the others to keep an eye on things here… He didn't like that hands-off approach. He preferred to do things himself. "This Warlord—"

"General," Red Robin corrects, electronically blurred voice low and ominous.

"—General, General!" the inverted goon agrees quickly. "He provides the information through e-mail, yes? Keeps us ahead of the police. Alerts us to any competition. I don't know what he gets out of it!"

Control is what he gets, Red Robin thinks to himself. He doesn't say anything, though; better to let the subject sweat through the interrogation.

"That's all I know!" said subject insists, frantic, close to panic. "I came to work in the New York operation to get away from you Gotham crazies… Why are you following me here, huh? Just let me down!"

There's a tight smile from Red Robin, the only part of him visible below the cowl.

"Are you sure about that choice of words…?"

BEFORE

There's not a lot of spaces that Peter Parker has anymore to work on his pet projects. His pet spider-projects. You get the idea. Harry's apartment is an absolute no-go. He can't use the labs at Columbia (come on). He doesn't have the money to rent any space for himself for his work.

In the end, the only real place he has anymore is the safety and comfort of old homes.

And that's where he's at right now, spider-suit splayed out over a flat, rubber surface laid out on his bed as he hunches over it, peeling back incredibly expensive fibers and circuitry beneath with the bare minimum of tools to peer inside. He gets the layout of the suit, its internal systems, everything, with the slow, steady climb of hazel eyes. He looks towards the pieces of that StarkPhone.

"Yep. I can totally do this."

And he is absolutely about to MacGuyver a phone into his suit by the time his -current- superphone buzzes with a vibrating hum against his pocket. "Aw, c'mon," he mumbles to himself, a quiet grouse as he plucks up that phone, turns it on… and blinks.

"Wow," he utters, scratching the side of his head as he reads the terse text.

"I feel like I just got invited to an exciting event at the dentist's office."

NOW

"Wow, you guys have seriously got a schtick, huh?"

This is Spider-Man's friendly spider-greeting as Red Robin dangles that (less than) poor man upsidedown off the roof of their chosen meeting spot. His suit (thankfully) resewn without any major explosions in the process, everything working nice and proper, the red-and-blue vigilante swings in on one of those high tensile weblines, flipping up into the air with an unnecessary flourish before landing on his feet, arms snapped to his side like an olympic gymnast waiting for their applause. "Ta-da! Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is here!"

"Huh? How was that? I mean — c'mon, that was a pretty great entrance, right? Maybe I coulda timed it better, but, uh — what d'you think, buddy?" He looks to the upsidedown man. Lenses whirl into a squint. Silence passes. "Right. Nevermind. You got your whole … Gotham-Out-of-Gotham tourist experience going on now, don't let me stop you." He pats a leg.

"Anyway, don't be so harsh with this guy, there's easier ways to do this, y'know? You don't gotta put him out on a limb, here." That just happened. And also this:

"I mean, the guy looks like he's on his last leg already as it stands. That's just sadistic. I wouldn't leave someone dangling like that. You need to be polite about it, y'know? Sometimes people just need a helping hand to keep them from falling down the wrong path. They don't need someone threatening them when they don't even have a leg to stand on! Consideration. That's what it's all about. Helping our fellow man before they take the plunge."

Spider-Man shakes his head. Sighs, wearily.

"Anyway, what's up? Why the World's Happiest Text in the World? Maybe we should make it quick. I don't wanna leave this guy hanging. I mean…"

He could keep going, and sounds like he might just.

It's true, though: Dangling criminals off of high places is an old and respected method of getting information in Gotham City. It's not so much the fear of death, though it's questionable how widespread knowledge of the Bat-Family's refusal to kill people really is among Gotham's underworld, as it is the fear of getting horribly crippled and instead of dying, spending the rest of your life eating stewed pears and pooping into a bag.

The webslinger's arrival proves that vigilantes everywhere have their own schtick, though, and in New York City it's guaranteed that if Spider-Man gets ahold of you, you're going to hear about it. He does more talking in a bare handful of seconds than Red Robin has in the entire time he's been having his little friendly chat with a violent, murderous criminal.

Behind the featureless white lenses of his cowl, Red Robin's eyes squeeze shut. That tight, grim smile he'd been aiming down at the mobster twitches faintly, though it's difficult to say where it lies on the spectrum between 'annoyance' and 'trying not to laugh'.

"If is all same to you," the upside-down man interjects, "I would prefer you drop me if he is going to keep talking."

***

Red Robin didn't drop him.

It wasn't likely that the local police would do much about the Ukrainian gangster - they were the sort of group who would start going after cops if the NYPD was locking them up piecmeal - so instead he left the man tied up on the roof, with an admonishment that any further encounters would lead to a demonstration of Red Robin's intense hatred of other people's kneecaps. After that, it was time for another swinging trip through Manhattan, a trip that eventually brough them to the roof of the United Nations headquarters, looking out at the East River… And in particular, towards a small island, where a T-shaped building sits among the greenery; the disused Titans Tower.

"I know most of them, you know… The original Titans. There's been other versions of the team since then, but that first group…" Red Robin's cowled head shakes, his cape draped around his body where the late spring breeze, this high up, doesn't tug at it. "Have you ever been on a team, Spider-Man? Not a temporary team-up, like when we all crawled through that demon lady's no-no hole and wound up in the Alps… A real team. People you could rely on."

I would prefer you drop me if he is going to keep talking.

"Eesh. That's not very nice. Some people's perspective is all flipped turned upside-down sometimes, y'know?"

Double. Whammy.

***

It's not a long trek from where they were to where they are — swinging through the air hundreds of feet above street-level does wonders for avoiding traffic, especially when you live in New York and don't have to worry about Superman randomly barreling into you at the speed of light.

It's a thing. According to the most popular urban legend websites on Google Search.

Eventually, the arachnid vigilante ends up at the roof of the United Nations — or, more accurately, the wall just before the roof, lounging vertically just beneath Red Robin as his back sticks to the glassy surface of the building, wide, white lenses focused outwards towards the distinctive T beyond. They focus inward toward a squint, head tilted just a bit.

"Y'know, I've never been in there? Or met a Titan? Kinda like. I dunno. I thought I saw Nightwing once, but it was just a guy really into rattails." A pause. Spider-Man glances up. "Uh. Sorry if he's your like. Superhero brother or something."

And here, he awkwardly clears his throat, and goes back to focusing on the building. Have you ever been on a team?

"Uhh, I mean — well, my application for the Avengers is kinda… pending, is that the right word? Are there applications for the Avengers? I stuck a paper to the side of the building once but to be honest I printed that thing up from a website that was like, a-vengers.net or something. … So maybe that wasn't, uh — entirely copacetic. But, y'know! Fingers crossed!!"

His fingers, in fact, cross, for five whole seconds before his head hangs in defeat.

"… but no. Nope. Nada. No team. Dunno — I get this sinking feeling I might be bad for PR."

He can't imagine why.

The mention of the rat-tail actually does get a laugh out of Red Robin, a quiet and slightly nostalgic chuckle of amusement at his adoptive brother's past terrible fashion choices. At least Nightwing ditched that old costume, in the blue and yellow. It was just so… Disco.

"He got rid of the rat-tail eventually," the cowled young man says. "The really weird thing is how many dates he got while he did have it."

Maybe it really is true and that with enough money you can overcome anything, even terrible hairstyle choices. Or maybe on Starfire's planet that sort of thing was fashionable.

The mention of the Avengers and Spider-Man's possibly facetious attempt to joint them, one of the world's premier superheroic outfits, draws a long silence from Red Robin, though of course he's prone to those anyway. The webhead suggests his presence would be bad for PR, which is probably understandable given the daily 'SPIDER-MAN: THREAT OR MENACE?' headlines the Bugle runs, or their online quizzes that will tell you how much of a threat Spider-Man is to you and your loved ones, and the like.

"My ex-girlfriend is in the Avengers," Red Robin says. "I could ask her to put in a good word for you. I don't know if Captain Marvel listens to her or not, but…" A slow, subtle shrug, barely visible underneath the black cape. And wouldn't that be a fun phonecall, too. 'Hey Spoiler, can you help me get somebody into the Avengers?'

"Alternatively, I'm starting a group of my own. Some old friends, and some new ones. Titans Tower's been empty for too long, and there's too many… Too many people, young people, who are going to fall through the cracks. The Justice League and the Avengers have their own problems to deal with. The X-Men look out for mutants, and maybe nuhumans too… But it's a big world, and there are monsters out there who prey on the young and inexperienced, so it seems to me there should be someone trying to look out for them, too."

"What do you think?" Red Robin wonders. "Want to try being a Titan?"

"What? Seriously?" Spider-Man's white lenses shutter in an incomprehensible blink at the very idea of Nightwing's dating success.

"Jeez, what'm I doing wrong? Maybe I oughta attack a rat-tail to the back of the mask? Hmmm…"

But this, too, is just banter, cast to the winds as Spider-Man heaves a defeated sigh. "I'm never gonna outlive that knowledge. Thanks a lot, guy."

Yes. He blames Red Robin for all of this.

What is not joking is Spider-Man's claims of bad publicity, but such isn't exactly a secret; his love-hate relationship with New York is the stuff people could turn into a scummy reality show. A -highly-rated- scummy reality show. His shoulders lift in a simple shrug after that pronouncement; after all, it just is what it is. He's dealt with it for a few years now already, he can continue to do so.

What's more interesting is what Red Robin says next. "Huh?" The Spider's head tilts back, to peer at the Gothamite above him. "Seriously? Because, man, that's like — that'd be totally awesome, is what that is. Like — whoa!" Yeah. That summarizes his years of idolization of Captain America and the Avengers succinctly enough. Let's go with that.

But then he's offered an alternative, and behind the mask, Peter Parker blinks. Old and new friends. Titan's Tower. Young people.

"Wait are you asking me to be a Titan??" He asks right as Robin literally just asks him if he wants to try it. A second passes in confusion from the arachnid as he makes sense of the overlapped words.

"Uh. Right. Sorry. Talked over you. I do that sometimes. So that's a — that's a thing, huh? The Titans? You're really gonna try to like, start it over? Huh…"

Spider-Man falls into thought, his hands crossing over his chest.

"Titans, huh… I could be a founding member of a team…… or — err — refounding, or… how would you… put that… exactly? Refounder? That doesn't have the same ring to it. Founder the Second? Or Third? Or — whatever? Hrm…"

No, Peter. You're getting away from yourself again.

"I mean, uh! That's like — I'm super honored. I'd love to. Just — y'know — what's the… who's gonna be part of the band, I guess? I'd hate to join and then the, like, superhero equivalent of the bass player hates my guts or something. Or -I- end up being the bass player! It'll feel just like high school all over again." Focus.

"I mean — forget that. Ignore it. I just wanna… make sure I wouldn't be stepping on anyone's toes, I guess." Again: people hate him.

Red Robin does have some previous experience with a team, albeit a fairly informal one. Young Justice was basically a group of friends out trying to do good - or just generally getting caught up in zany hijinks, as a group of teenagers with superpowers (with one notable exception) are wont to do.

This… This is more focused. This is something with weight behind it, with meaning. A chance to do things that could really make the world a better place, or at the very least help prevent it from becoming a worse one.

"Well," that electronically modified voice says, once Spider-Man's run out of words for the moment. "I was thinking of getting J. Jonah Jameson on board as a mouthpiece, you know… An older guy to lend us an air of respectability, but I figure you and him might clash a bit."

As he makes this extremely deadpan joke, the cowled young man palms an object under his cape, before his hand lifts out from under it, and projects holographic images into the air on the rooftop, ghostly blue screens showing a young woman with dark hair (it is clearly a wig) and goggles hurling a heavy object; a young man in a leather jacket and an outfit with a particular S emblem on his chest, flying through the air.

"Old friends," Red Robin explains. "Wonder Girl, Superboy. I was hoping to get Impulse to join - he's like the Flash, but younger, and never stops talking - but he hasn't turned up. I'm going to talk to Miss Zatara as well. There's definitely going to be magical problems to deal with, and it's better if we had an expert on hand."

Unsaid is the fact that Zatanna is one of the people he wants to use the Titans to help protect. He knows something of the things that are out to get her, after all, and it can't hurt to have a group of powerful, dedicated young heroes on hand to help her out.

"Otherwise, well, if we find more people who fit, or people who need our help, we'll reach out to them. I'd be glad to have you on the team, Spider-Man. You've got useful powers, yeah, and we can always use more people around who can make stuff like those web-things you've got, but… You remember that conversation we had, after Ozone Park?"

It's unlikely that any of them will forget the events surrounding their adventure in Lernaea. Red Robin certainly won't, but he seldom forgets anything… Even the things he might want to.

"'I've gotta do good with them,' you said about your powers. 'It's my responsibility now.' We need that. I don't have any powers… I'm just a normal person. But I've seen how people, especially people our age, can take metahuman abilities for granted. Can see them as a license to do whatever they please. An attitude like yours… It'll keep us honest. It'll reminds us about what's important."

Wonder Girl, Superboy. Names he's definitely heard of before. Impulse, maybe less so, judging by the way he squints at the image of the young man—

"Ugh, the chatterboxes. Never know when to turn on the off-switch, am I right?"

Or that. Or it could just be that.

Still, his light joking aside, the young vigilante still takes a careful look at all three of those images, head canting to the side. "Is that a — superhero wig-?" He'll focus now, honest. It looks like a solid selection to him, though. Even if they were unknowns, though — he wouldn't have any doubt they were all solid, if Red Robin picked them. He's worked with the other young man well enough to know — he has a good head on his shoulders.

Instead, he focuses on the unexpectedly expected. "Huh — Zatanna, too?" White lenses focus in towards thoughtful slits. "Is that okay, she doesn't — really have a secret identity, does she? Or is she gonna make one up? The Mystic Mysteria? I think I can find a fishbowl…"

No — he's not worried about Zatanna being able to pull her own weight. Not after everything he's seen. If anything —

"Still, fishbowl or not, she'd be helpful to have around. I know I don't ever wanna dive into a demonic spider's back door ever again. That's like — some mind bending Space Odyssey stuff, but like some weird, fetish site version. Never again. Okay? Never. Again."

— she'd be a great boon.

Really. Never again.

Still — there's that name. Ozone Park. Just hearing it dredges up memories he'd rather forget, but forces himself not to. Of Lernaea. That opposite New York. Of what happened inside the facility after. Spider-Man's head dips, his knees drawing up towards his chest so that he may rest his arms across them and settle his chin upon those. It's an odd pose on the side of a building — one that casts his direction down towards the bustling city streets below.

"Yeah. I remember."

How could he forget?

People will always take advantage, especially when they're younger. He knows that far better than most. What he's asking, the kind of responsibility Red Robin needs of him, well…

"So, is there like — some kinda ID card or something? Some super badge? A secret handshake?"

— there's really only one answer Spider-Man could have. One he already really came to the second Red Robin asked.

It's a shame that Impulse isn't around, because Red Robin is pretty sure that the combined forces of the speedster and Spider-Man could annoy virtually any enemy into submission, if they really tried. It would become their new signature maneuver, their Fastball Special.

"I dunno if having her around will actually make it less likely that we're going to have to climb into any more demonic sphincters," the caped and cowled vigilante notes. "People like her seem to draw that sort of stuff… It must be a job hazard, like how I can't go a week without running into a new homicidal maniac, or tripping over a secret conspiracy." It certainly keeps life interesting. What would he be doing with himself now, if he'd followed through on his youthful resolve to retire from crimefighting once he'd graduated from highschool? He'd probably be at Ivy University right now, bored out of his skull.

Some people just weren't built for normalcy, or peace and quiet. Even people without a single superpower to their name.

"Maybe she knows some butt-avoidance spells, though, that'll let us get around it next time. We'll try and keep all of our spelunking to regular caves."

Though he's pretty sure that if they try to put Zatanna in a fishbowl helmet she'll find a way to stick them up all sorts of butts.

Red Robin watches Spider-Man as the other young man is faced with the unpleasant memories of what happened when they went to rescue Jane Foster and Bucky Barnes, and deal with the machine Hydra had created: He can sympathise, even if he doesn't know the details of what that place had tried to make him believe, the 'utopia' it had tried to force on him. His own was bad enough, and sometimes he dreams about it, still convinced it was real while in that fuzzy state between sleep and wakefulness.

Well, it's not like he has a shortage of nightmares, anyway.

"There'll be ID cards," Red Robin confirms. "For accessing the Tower. No secret handshake yet, but this'll have to do for now."

His cape shifts again, and Red Robin extends one gauntleted fist towards Spider-Man, for the traditionally masculine fist-bump.

"Welcome to the Titans, Spider-Man," he says, smiling faintly below his cowl.

Some people aren't built for normalcy, even without powers. Some people would love to be normal, but have powers.

Spider-Man falls into that latter category. But, well —

"I feel like, between a homicidal maniac and a demon butthole, I'm probably going to go with the homicidal maniac like…. 95% of the time."

— at least he's rolling with it.

"Like… maybe not of the homicidal maniac was also a quantum sphincter, but that's really… fringe case scenario there."

Yep.

"Then again, I dunno, Gotham has some weird criminals — have you everrrr — y'know what, let's just put a pin in that."

Y e p.

The memories are unpleasant. But they're also important. As painful as that day was — and it was, and still yet is — it still helped remind him of what he's doing this for. And that failure, well… while it's something he still grapples with, slowly coming to terms with it has been something he needed, too. He's reminded of Bucky, his head tilting up from its position on his arms, peering out towards the cityscape. Behind the mask, a frown settles briefly on his lips.

Eventually, though, the spidery vigilante shakes his head. He looks up towards Red Robin, extending that fist. "So like, just so you know, I'm really not photogenic, so I hope these aren't, like, picture IDs or something, or I'm gonna end up feeling super embarrassed." Still. He reaches out.

And performs the legendary fist-bump, the sign of an Eternal Bond.

"Happy to be aboard!"

"That handshake is terrible though, everyone's gonna figure that out. What if we did like… a little lock twist kinda thing, like this, or — whatever, it's — whatever. It's not important. We'll fix it in post."

Eternal. Bond.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License