Conner looked out over the classroom full of strange new faces staring up at him and put on his best "changing schools in sophomore year is fun, really" smile. A pretty blonde girl with red star-shaped earrings smiled back and Conner's smile became a little more sincere.
"This is Conner Kent," the teacher, Mr. Smith, told the class. "He's just transferred here from Metropolis. Why don't you tell us a little about yourself, Conner?"
Crap, he should've know that was coming. He should've prepared a statement. "Well, uh, I like football," he offered. The blonde girl was still smiling at him. He winked at her. "And girls." She blushed, but kept smiling. Score!
"Excellent," Mr. Smith said. "Come out to practice this afternoon and we'll see if we can find you a spot on the J.V. team."
"Really? That's be great!" Conner said. "I thought it might be too late."
"We've had a few transfers leaving," Mr. Smith told him. The teacher looked over the class and his eyes settled on a small, black-haired boy who was typing something on a laptop. "Tim Drake." The boy looked up, startled. "Would you please show Conner around today?"
"Sure," Tim said, not looking all that thrilled about the idea. "No problem."
Conner felt irrationally annoyed at Tim's indifference. Whatever, 'Tim'. I'd rather have the blonde guide me.
Turned out that Tim was friends with the blonde, whose name was Cassie. They were on the cheer team together, along with Cassie's older sister, Donna and Tim's older brother, Dick.
"You guys are all cheerleaders?" Conner asked, when they joined the elder siblings at lunch.
"Yeah," Tim said defensively. He gave Conner a look that clearly asked, "You got a problem with that?
Dick clapped a hand on his brother's shoulder. "National champions, three years running," he said. "Football team's got a lot of catching up to do."
"We're doin' it this year." A red-haired guy with a tribal tattoo on one bicep set his lunch tray down on the table and slid in next to Donna. "Roy Harper," he said to Conner. "New kid?"
"J.V.'s new hope," Dick told him.
"The Tornado's our new hope, for all the teams," Roy said. "New coach this year," he explained to Conner.
"'Red Tornado', back when he was a pro," Roy said. "He's all grey now, though, so we just call him Tornado."
Conner's eyes widened. "He's that John Smith?!"
"Hell, yeah," Roy grinned. "What position do you play, new guy?"
"Quarterback, at my old school. My name's Conner." He stuck out his hand and Roy shook it.
"Welcome to Gotham Heights High," Roy said. "The J.V. Titans can use a good quarterback, so I hope you're good."
"Oh, I'm good," Conner grinned. "I'm really good." He winked at Cassie, who snickered and rolled her eyes. Tim, next to her, just rolled his eyes.
Dick and Roy got into a discussion about the new coach, which quickly devolved into a friendly argument over strategy.
"How come you don't play on the team?" Conner asked Dick.
"Because they don't let you do flips and shit on the field," Roy said dryly.
"Pretty much," Dick agreed amicably. He stood up on his chair and then did a quick downward twist and suddenly he was balanced on the back of the chair doing a handstand. He grinned at Conner and lifted one hand to wave, which left him doing a one-handed handstand.
"Mister Grayson," the cafeteria monitor said wearily.
Dick pushed up with his hand, twisted in the air and slid neatly back into a seating position. "Sorry, Mrs. Cooke," he said.
"Circus freak," Roy explained. Dick jabbed him with his elbow.
"Wait, I thought you guys were brothers," Conner said to Tim. "How come he's Grayson and you're Drake?"
"We're adopted," Tim said. "There's four of us, actually; Dick, Jason, Cass and me."
"And Damian," Dick reminded Tim.
"Right, but Damian's Bruce's bio-kid," Tim said. "Also he's ten, so he's not at this school."
"Big family," Conner observed. "I just have a little brother, Chris. He's six."
A gorgeous, curvy, biracial girl with golden brown skin, bright green eyes and golden brown hair in a curly hairdo that made her look nearly six feet tall, joined them at the table, pulling up a chair next to Dick.
"Whoa," Conner said, not realizing he'd spoken aloud.
"I know," Roy said to him. "But she's not interested in anyone but Dick."
Indeed, she had an arm around Dick's shoulders already. "Who's the new guy?" she asked cheerfully, not appearing offended by the comments.
"Conner Kent," Dick introduced them. "This is my girlfriend, Kory Anders."
"Hello, Kory," Conner said. "I'm not drooling, am I?" he asked Roy in a low voice.
"Not yet," Roy assured him.
"Welcome to Gotham Heights, Conner," Kory smiled. "Everyone's really nice here. I was new last year." She kissed Dick softly. "Sorry, the Amnesty International meeting ran late."
"I'm just glad to see you," Dick assured her.
Kory had an accent that Conner couldn't place, so he asked where she was from.
"Chicago," she grinned. It turned out that she had been born in Chicago, but her parents were hippie missionaries and she'd spent her childhood travelling around war zones and famine-struck areas all over the world. She'd come to Gotham to stay with her aunt in order to have a normal high school experience for her college applications.
"That sounds like a fascinating life," Conner said.
"Unique, at least," she laughed. "It's been difficult adapting to 'civilization'. Sometimes I feel like I'm from another planet altogether!"
"A hot planet," Roy said.
Dick smacked him on the back of the head. "Behave!"
Kory shook her head at Donna. "Boys!"
"I apologize," Donna said to Kory. "I've tried to train him, but he's impossible to tame."
Roy growled and pounced on Donna, snarling and licking her neck. She shrieked and laughed, pushing him off her.
The bell rang, signaling the end of lunch. The older kids headed off to their afternoon classes and Conner was back with Tim and Cassie. Tim looked over Conner's schedule and marked his classrooms on a school map.
"So," Conner said to Cassie, hoping that his reaction to Kory hadn't screwed things up. "You busy after school?"
"We have practice," Tim informed him.
Conner resisted rolling his eyes and saying, I wasn't asking *you*. No need to make enemies on the first day. "Yeah, that's right. Think I'm going to check out football practice."
Cassie shot Tim a look that Conner probably wasn't supposed to see. "I have a ton of homework and it's family dinner night tonight, but if you want to hang out this weekend, I could show you around a bit."
"Sure, yeah, that'd be great!" Conner exchanged numbers with Cassie while Tim hovered impatiently.
Cassie went off to her art history class and Conner finally gave into his frustration. "What's your problem with me?" he asked Tim.
Tim shrugged, a neutral expression on his face. "I don't have a problem with you."
"Is it Cassie? You and she have a thing?" Conner demanded.
"I don't have a problem with you," Tim insisted. His blue-eyed glare and clenched jaw sent Conner a different message.
"Fine. Whatever." Conner pulled the school map from Tim's hand. "You don't have to babysit me any more. I can find my way around."
"Good for you," Tim said tightly, then spun on his heel and strode off to class.
* * *