Answers You Don't Want

August 14, 2017:

A few days after his strange encounter with Spoiler, Bart Allen visits Tim Drake to figure out just what was up with the Aubergine Avenger. He doesn't like what he hears.

Tim Drake's Townhouse, Gotham City

The fancy pad of a twenty year old with a lot of money.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Stephanie Brown, Barry Allen, Deathstroke, Ravager, Wally West, Iris West


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

It's been nearly a week since the incident in the East River. By now, the news has moved on to something else, and the people of New York - with a learned tolerance for weird crap and disasters in their backyard that proved resilient even in the face of a giant pigeon crapping everywhere and then getting exploded by persons unknown - have gone back to acting like nothing ever happened.

Tim Drake, at least, isn't in New York.

It's not his home, after all, even if he has a place to live in Titans Tower, and also the penthouse loft that he owns in Manhattan. Gotham is his home, and perhaps inevitably he always winds up back there.

Plus he does go to school in the City of Yesterday, too. The fall semester is only a few weeks away. So what is Tim doing with only a few weeks left until classes begin again, while he has any number of other projects to deal with? In the Nest, his computers whirr and beep and process information about the various cases on his plate - iDol and Auspex and the Brujeria, Ulysses Hadrian Armstrong and his manipulation of gangs in Gotham and New York alike, the mystery woman who blew up that pigeon and the goop that mutated it - but in the townhouse itself, Tim is sprawled over his couch in black shorts and a Green Lantern t-shirt, deeply engrossed in a video game.

He does take time off.

Once in a while.

Bart doesn't live in New York or Gotham City. He lives in what may as well be a podunk town in nowheresville, Alabama, the polar opposite of any of the big cities, where people took life slow and steady. Perfect for training up a speed-baby in a teenage body whose default agility made it seem like the world around him was standing still.

Go figure why he doesn't hang around Manchester very often, especially now that he's joined a Team. But as per the aftermath of most missions, Max Mercury had something to say and even more to ask, because grown-ups never give answers when they can ask a zillion questions until your brain explodes, and so when he finally gets a break, Bart's only too happy for it.

In a day and age where the internet hooks up friends and acquaintances made 'round the world via satellites and wires and what have you, most would call up or ping their besties rather than buy a plane or train ticket cross country to talk to them directly. But when you're able to cross several states and back, and be home in time for dinner with plenty of time to spare, who needed the internet?

Besides, waiting for responses on a screen takes forever. So a quick jaunt to Tim's house, it is.

There's a knock on the door of the townhouse. The warning he'd been given to keep clear of Gotham has been politely ignored, as Bart feels that there are more pressing matters to be discussed, and obviously someone like him can't wait until something else happens and his teammates get back together. So yes, a knock. Because he's not a burglar. It's however all that Bart does offer before he lets himself in, because it's totally fine and they're buds an' all, and it's not like Tim ever has other company over anyway, right?

"Tim! Hey, you b- oh cool, what'cha playin'?"

There are certain people it's not worth the effort to try and keep out anyway: Bart could just vibrate his molecules through the door or something, Conner or Cassie could get in through sheer brute force, Zatanna could simply magic her way in, Stephanie could pick the locks…

So, Tim cut his losses. In the case of the witch and the Spoiler, he outright gave them keys. They're all on the access list for the biometic lock on the Nest, anyway.

Fortunately, Tim's social life is weird at the best of times, so there's nothing going on for Bart to really interrupt in a conventional sense when he knocks and then lets himself in like a wacky sitcom neighbour. He doesn't even look up from the couch, instead keeping his dark blue eyes locked on the screen while shooting away at some other character.

"Overwatch," he answers Bart's question, not sounding at all surprised that it's the speedster at the door. Knowing him, he probably has some kind of setup that warns him who's there anyway, and Bart lingering long enough to knock like a normal person left him slow enough to register. "It's a team-based shooter, though my team is currently busy being bad at the game. What's up, did you finally get that fish smell out of your costume?"

That's the danger of tights. Smells just… Cling to them.

"…wow, I'll say." Bart squints at the screen, and then without further invitation vaults over the back of the couch to plop himself next to Tim so he can watch like a semi-normal person.

At mention of fish, the speedster just scowls. "Seemed like it took forever-" but that's nothing new, considering who's talking, "-but yeah, I think so. It wasn't just fish, man. That water's nasty! -although Max did have to go and make fish for dinner a couple nights ago. Guy is sick sometimes."

Shaking his head, he folds his arms, leaning back against the cushions. The silence lasts all of a blissful two seconds before he sits upright again.

"-hey what's the deal with Spoiler?"

"You know," Tim says, without looking away from the television - it's quite a large an advanced one, of course, because if you're going to be a wealthy crimefighter you might as well get to enjoy the wealthy part sometimes - "they just opened a new sushi place by the university, I've heard it's pretty good, if you wanted to go try it…"

He knows Bart doesn't.

That doesn't mean he won't bust the other young man's chops about it though!

But then, apropos of nothing, Bart Allen cuts through the extremely short-lived silence with a question Tim had honestly not expected. True, he'd mentioned Spoiler during the events on the East River, but it's not like he was really expecting Bart to pay attention to that. Especially since he had his hands full with other things.

"Uh," the genius detective says. "What do you mean? She's a vigilante here in Gotham, ended up joining the Avengers. We used to date, a few years ago." Honestly he can guess why Spoiler might act strange around Bart, but he's trying to play it cool, here.


He doesn't even throw a glance at Tim for that one.

It's only once Tim does reply to his sudden question that Bart looks at him, crossing his legs as he swivels himself around to sit sideways on the couch so that he can face the other. True, he hadn't really paid much attention when Robin had been shouting things over the comms, but it's what had happened afterwards that had made all the difference.

"Yeah, figured that much by the bat motif. -wait, you dated her?" He hadn't expected to get a personal history of her, but then again, he realizes his question had been a little vague. Now he's leaning closer, squinting at Tim the gamer.

"I talked to her after we beat up all the fish things and were helping around. I thought we were cool and all and then suddenly she tells me I better watch myself because someone's got it out for the Flash, right before she takes off."

Settling back a little, Bart folds his arms again, still facing Tim. "What's going on? I mean, should I really be that surprised if someone hates Wally's guts or is it really that dangerous that Spoiler told me to stay clear of Gotham?"

The question hadn't been very specific - after all, there's plenty of deals with Spoiler. She's complicated. A complication. She complicates things.

"Yeah, back when we were first a team," Tim confirms. It had, later, become something of a point of conflict with the blonde that he hadn't introduced her to his costumed friends until very recently. Even then, she'd pointedly kept her secret identity secret, which made things a little difficult, but still… Well, he tried.

Nobody can say he didn't try.

What Bart actually tells him leaves Tim feeling a complicated and somewhat conflicting set of emotions. Because really, what's going in is several different things, all sort of colliding together into an awkward pile.

"She was probably warning you to stay out of Gotham because you know how Batman gets about metahumans running around 'his' city. But…" The rest is difficult. The rest touches on people's secret identities. But if it's putting Bart in danger… "It's not Wally she means, though. It's difficult for Spoiler because she was… Involved… With Barry. Which I didn't tell you about, because 'hey my ex was recently in a relationship with your grandfather' is kind of an awkward conversation. Somebody hired Deathstroke and his daughter to go after Barry and Spoiler. I'm not sure who, but Deathstroke left Barry with shattered legs in a burning building until we pulled him out. Ravager went after Spoiler a few times, and I guess eventually Barry caught up to her, and he… Crossed a line." 'Put his hand in somebody's chest' is a line, definitely. "Now I guess Deathstroke is on a vengeance kick, and she was probably worried he'd come after you since you're pretty clearly connected to the Flash."

The look Bart gives Tim makes it seem like he's trying to peer into his head for how intensely focused he seems. He may be breaking another record of his for how long he can keep from running his mouth. But that's not the only thing breaking.

The frown that draws at the corners of his mouth remains in place, but his brow slowly eases as his expression turns into something more confused. He'd heard Tim. He's pretty sure he'd heard him right. And that's what throws him.


His mouth works but no sound accompanies it as he grasps for words to thoughts that can't complete themselves. The images accompanying those have to be nothing short of mind-rending.

Suddenly Bart all but leaps at Tim, grasping at his shirt as surely as he's probably grasping for a single sentence to blurt out, and what he holds onto is this: "Grampa was here??? Why am I just finding this out now??"

As though he hadn't already enough questions to wade through, what Tim had meant as informational instead only blows a hole in the figurative dam to spew out even more questions. Far too many questions and so much less of answers.

It's kind of a lot of information that Tim has just given Bart, some of it with unsettling implications.

It's not, then, very surprising to Tim that his friend latches onto what is probably the simplest and most easily digestible part of what was said: Something to get a proverbial handhold on, while Bart also gets a literal handhold on the vigilante's shirt.

"He was, yeah," Tim confirms for Bart, setting the controller down and turning his focus completely onto the speedster. "He was working with the Justice League, and I think SHIELD." And dating a girl ten years his junior, but Tim tries to not dwell on that part, for a whole host of reasons.

He does not, of course, always succeed. He's many things, but infallible isn't one of them.

"Spoiler said he vanished, I figured he was just laying low or busy or something, but it seems like he disappeared before you and Max came back. Other than that, I don't know."

With Tim actually looking in his direction now, Bart lets his fingers loosen from his shirt as he sinks back to sit on his knees, still tense as a strung bow. Thinking about his grandpa Barry with anyone other than Iris- it's not something he wants to entertain, and his head's threatening to ache just letting that much sink in.

"How come no one's gone looking for him? How does anyone even know if he's still alive or not?" he asks sullenly, although he's mostly kicking himself for having even missed Barry at all.

It's not like he'd blurred over everything else that Tim had dropped on him just then. He'd been listening completely, but those had been just a few info bombs too many to digest. Barry and Spoiler were dating, Deathstroke was hired to go after them, Grampa Barry's legs were shattered, Deathstroke's daughter went after Spoiler, Barry went after her, Barry and Spoiler were together, Barry Crossed a Line, Deathstroke's out for vengeance, Barry and Spoiler, Barry and Spoiler, Barry, Barry, Barry— Grampa Barry's gone and you missed him.

For another rare instance, Bart Allen is left speechless, shoulders sagging as he sits, his posture slowly following like a deflating balloon.

It is weird, on a fundamental level. After all, what does the possibility of Barry Allen ending up with someone other than Iris West mean for the existence of Bart? Would it erase him from existence, Back to the Future-style? Would the timeline just adapt to this change, putting Stephanie Brown in Iris' place, making her Bart's grandmother instead?

Tim's thought about these sorts of things, because of course he can't not. It's like a very strange puzzle that needs figuring out, one for which he admittedly does not fully know the ground rules. Watching a lot of Doctor Who didn't make him an expert on time travel and the implications thereof.

"Maybe he's on a mission for the League," Tim suggests. "I don't think anyone's seen Superman around recently, either. Look… I'll ask Batman about it, okay? He might know something. Or he might tell me that it's League business and that I should butt out of it."

Probably, he thinks to himself, he could've been less blunt. He could've been more diplomatic. It's easy to forget, sometimes, that for all the gulf of time that separated them, Barry was still Bart's family.

"And if it turns out he is in trouble, we'll go save him. We're not going to just let Deathstroke do whatever he wants."

Time streams are weirder when Allens are involved. Bart's not sure how things would have gone if he'd actually gotten to meet his grandpa, but he probably wouldn't have cared. He'd be able to meet someone that he otherwise would never have in his proper timeframe. Ugh, what a depressing thought. Bart squeezes his eyes shut, clamping his hands over his face a few times.

"You're right. If there's something he's handling, then he'll… He'll be doing what he does. And if he needs help, then we'll jump in." Nodding, he seems to warm up to the idea, sitting straighter. "Yeah. We got this. They're Justice League and we're the Titans!" Okay, maybe he's trying too hard to convince himself. But it's broken him out of that thought loop, which may as well have been physically draining for how he feels. Tim should know better than to give him too much to mentally digest.

Sighing, he lets himself flop back, sprawling across his half of the couch, dropping his sneakered feet across Tim's knees. "So what happens in the meantime? Not my first time I've been in Gotham, so how serious should I be taking Spoiler's warnings? Although now that you told me all that," he says, shooting a look between his fingers, "I guess that explains why she's not too keen on running into me."

Hopefully, Tim's completely baseless supposition about why Barry Allen is currently missing does help ease Bart's mind. A depressed Impulse is just… Weird. Fortunately, it seems like there's very few things that can actually provoke such a response from the young speedster.

"And then," Tim says, after Bart sits up straight and tries to convince himself that they'd be able to swoop in and help with whatever trouble his grandfather might be dealing with (alongside the Justice League, probably), "you can finally become Kid Flash, and get some proper sidekick work in."

Teasing, of course. Trying to give Bart something else to think about, especially with how much he knows the other young man likes the idea of being 'Kid Flash'.

About as much as Tim likes the idea of ever being the Batman, really.

"Deathstroke is dangerous, but he's not based in Gotham," the detective explains, glancing briefly at the feet resting on his leg - who leaves their shoes on inside?? - but he doesn't offer up a complaint. "And I doubt Spoiler knows who you actually are. I certainly haven't told her. She probably just guessed you were connected to the Flash, and it was… Awkward for her."

Bart was probably figuring on dropping by, quick-like. He's left his backpack and a jacket on the floor in a trail leading to the couch, obviously not having expected to learn previously untold stories of the relationships of his present-day grandfather. It's very hard to get his brain to skirt around that bombshell as even the slightest thought pulls like a magnet if he lets it slip. And knowing Bart, his thoughts go pretty much everywhere quite easily.

"I will step on your face," he mutters, shooting a glare at Tim. "Don't even start." Although he wonders if he might reconsider, if it was his grandpa who put him up to it. Being the Flash's sidekick could be exciting. If not totally awkward given he'd be with Spoiler-nononodon't think about that—!

It might not be too difficult for Tim to guess where Bart's train of thought has gone again as the speedster writhes on the couch, hands thrown over his face as he groans and rolls over to face the back of the couch.

"….no, don't think she knows. She just went off the costume," he replies, somewhat muffled into the cushions. "But yeah. Aaaawkward."

Probably for the best that Tim doesn't tell Bart that he first learned about Spoiler's relationship with the Flash when he went to rescue the Scarlet Speedster from the situation he'd been placed in by Deathstroke. That she hadn't told him which Flash it was, and he'd sort of assumed it was Wally, while also frowning at the possibility it might be Bart himself. After all, he was the right age, or close enough to it; of course, such a grievous violation of the bro code would've meant they'd have to have a fight.

"Yeah, it is pretty awkward generally," Tim agrees. It was pretty awkward for him to learn that his ex was dating the grandfather of one of his best friends, after all. Just how awkward must it be for Bart himself? "She's a good person, Bart… You can trust her. Besides, now that she warned you, we can keep a better eye out in case Deathstroke decides to pull anything. How do you feel about having a tracker on you all the time? I mean, I put one in your suit, but maybe something that can't be taken off of you, like a sub-dermal RFID chip behind the ear, or…"

"Pff, I'm not being pet-chipped!"

Bart swings his feet around to face the regular way as he seats himself properly on the couch again. He fixes Tim with another look, one brow arched up high. "Honestly, you needa get some better hobbies, man. We needa have game night at the Tower soon, sometime." Has Caitlin mentioned their holo-room computer hacking? The image of the red-haired Titan desperately making a shushing motion pops up in his head, and subsequently Bart closes his mouth as he narrowly aborts spoiling the surprise.

"Speaking of-" That's now how that phrase works, Bart. "-why does she call herself Spoiler, anyway? Is it like…movie spoilers, or…well I guess car spoiler doesn't make much sense. But then neither does the first one." At least his rambling is a decent signifier that his mood's been booted back up to usual levels.

Nobody ever lets im implant a sub-dermal RFID chip! It's an efficient tracking solution and it would make it easier to control security at the Tower!

"Well, fine, just be careful, then," the vigilante says, although he knows it's a fruitless effort. Bart Allen has been many things in his young life, but 'careful' isn't really on the list. Further evidence of that would be found in his exploit with Fairchild… But the speedster is sensible enough to not tell Tim about that. "Games night would be good. I'm not playing Cards Against Humanity with Cassie again though, she gets way too dark."

No it's probably for the best that Tim doesn't know about the tampering, at least not yet. Imagine how much he'll enjoy the surprise!

As for Spoiler…

"She… Had a grudge against this villain, the Cluemaster. He's like a second-rate Riddler," Tim explains. Carefully, to protect the blonde's secret identity. "So when she took up being a vigilante, she decided she was going to spoil his riddles. Then she started using 'spoiler alert' at a catchphrase, it was…" He shakes his head, ruefully.

Catchphrases aren't really his thing.

No amount of nodding that Bart does makes him seem sincere, whether he means to be or not. "I know, I know," he says, which…doesn't really help cement things either, but maybe he can at least get a gold star for effort. He'll try to be careful, which he amounts to keeping an extra sharp eye on things. It'll be fine. He's collected all the Pokemon already, so that phone game's already got boring.

"Wow. Okay." He…isn't sure what he was expecting for the origins of Spoiler's name. And Tim should be thankful Bart doesn't make extensive use of 'fast' puns like his grandpa.

It's only fair, given that everyone acts like the world just turned inside out whenever Tim makes a joke or a pun.

He half expected Zatanna to just up and leave after his 'bigger fish to fry' comment when they were trying to deal with that giant mutant goldfish.

The former Boy Wonder eyes Bart critically when he tries to assure the other young man that he'll be careful, or at least that he knows that he should be careful. He just has to hope that the speedster will have enough sense to contact the rest of the Titans if something goes wrong. At the very least, Zatanna's teleportation abilities, or Conner's own not-inconsiderable speed should let them get there before things go too badly.

He hopes. Of course, Tim knows full well that they live dangerous lives, that any one of them could be hurt or killed… But Bart is different. He's more innocent than the rest of them.

"I'm surprised she didn't end up sticking with Batgirl, but you know… Spoiler's her own thing. Like Impulse," he says, on the subject of the blonde Avenger. "C'mon, let's get something to eat, all this serious talk is making me hungry." And he knows Bart can probably eat a meal on a moment's notice anyway, with that Speed Force metabolism. "No sushi, I promise. Pizza?"

Bart's efforts to look absolutely serious might have the completely opposite effect as he meets Tim's look, and not because he means to do so on purpose.

"No kidding? I mean, with all the bat symbols it'd make more sense. But sticking 'bat' to everything gets old I guess. It's not like you called yourself Batboy." He clamps his mouth shut in an effort to stifle the snickers that threaten to follow.

Hopping to his feet, Bart's beaming at Tim's proposition, all too happy to grab a bite to eat. But when is he ever not? …not counting sushi. "Now we're talkin'! All that was making my brain hurt. And you know I'll never turn down pizza."

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