Owen wasn't the sort of person who was usually much given to self-reflection. If it seemed like a good idea, he did it without much consideration of the possible consequences. The habit might have been one of the reasons that he never stayed with a team for more than a few months and the list of his failures was at least twice as long as the list of his accomplishments. It might also explain why, if he hadn't quit, Batman probably would have booted him off the Outsiders anyway.
And, all things considered, it probably explained why he was currently letting Robin kick his ass. (Maybe "letting" wasn't the right word. "Getting his ass handed to him" might be more accurate, but Owen would never admit that.) He was as little given to reflection about words as he was about actions, and on second thought, mentioning Robin's dad might have been a bad idea-- even if Robin had opened up enough to talk about Ra's Al Ghul offering to bring his parents back to life. Owen barely dodged a punch, leaning backwards away from Robin's knuckles, mouth going a mile a minute.
"Seriously, I didn't mean it like that! I just meant that if you're going to bring back your dad, maybe you should bring back mine! I mean, it wouldn't be that much more difficu-- whoa!" Owen stumbled back away from a kick that brushed his stomach and ended up pressing back against the ledge of the rooftop. He glanced behind him. They were at least fifteen stories up and Owen had to suppress a wave of vertigo. "Come on, tweet-tweet!" He spun out of the way of the next kick, breathing hard. On third thought, mentioning the entire subject had definitely been a really bad idea. Robin just stared at him, and despite the creepy blank eyeholes on his domino mask, it was obvious enough from the way Tim twisted his lips that he was furious.
"You've never had family," Tim spat the words, and if Owen had been the poetic sort he might have thought he could hear the acid in them eating away at the concrete beneath their feet. "Don't even try to put your father on the same level as mine."
"I've had family! I had the Outsiders, and the Rog--..." Owen cut himself off, common sense, for once, smacking him at the base of the brain stem. Robin wouldn't like being reminded that Owen used to belong to the group of villains who had only recently killed one of his friends, right? "I had the Outsiders," he repeated stubbornly. "And I had my dad for a little while." He watched Tim's fist coming at him and knew that he could dodge it again, or he could just let Robin make the hit. It was easier not to move. It seemed like a good idea.
Well, it seemed like a good idea until stars bloomed behind his eyes from the shock of pain that ran up his jaw. Owen tumbled back-- over the ledge, he realized. For one long, ridiculous moment, Owen felt like Wile E. Coyote in the old cartoons. If he didn't look down, maybe he wouldn't really be falling. He was wrong, of course, like usual, but he couldn't seem to right himself no matter how he flailed, and the ground was getting closer with every second. He wanted to yell, but his throat tightened around his voice, strangling the scream at its base. Somewhere in the back of his mind a quiet countdown to impact started.
It took him several seconds to realize he wasn't falling any more. Another half a minute to notice the wiry arm wrapped around his waist. And then to notice the red and black costume and the irritated looking cub scout attached to the arm. And yet another to realize they were swinging slowly from one of the ridiculously thin wires the Bat-family used. "You punched me off the roof," Owen yelped, squirming in Robin's grasp.
"I didn't mean to." Robin's words were curt, cut short with chagrin. "Stop moving, or I'll drop you."
Owen was not stupid enough to keep moving. Robin was tiny, and Owen was not about to tempt fate by moving more than necessary. As they kept swinging on Robin's grappling line, it appeared his mouth, unfortunately, didn't seem to get the memo. "You know this must look really gay."
"I really am going to drop you," Robin said. But Owen could hear amusement seeping into Robin's voice and grinned himself in triumph. Until they landed on a rooftop and Robin dropped him unceremoniously to the ground. Owen grumbled about bruising, and rubbed at a sore spot on his arm.
Pulling himself back to his feet, Owen drew himself to his full, not-particularly-considerable height and tried to loom over Robin. It didn't work too well, which Owen should have expected. Even short Bats are experts at looming. It was a decent attempt though, and Owen did have about a foot over Robin's height. "You punched me off a roof," he said. Robin glared and opened his mouth to protest, but Owen, using a touch of his superspeed, moved in and covered Robin's mouth with his hand. "You punched me off a rooftop," he repeated, "and I think you at least owe me a milkshake. I mean, last time I showed up, I had to help you find a nuclear bomb, and now you're trying to drop me twenty stories? You're not old enough buy me booze, so buy me dinner and I'll call it even." He released Robin's mouth and crossed his arms, trying for imposing and failing miserably.
"It was only twelve stories," Robin said. But Owen could read defeat in the slouch of his shoulders. A grouchy, Bat-like sort of defeat, but defeat nonetheless. "I'm not taking you anywhere fancy, and I'm not going in costume." They both knew that Batman would skin them both alive if he found out that Robin was wandering around in civvies with a member of the Suicide Squad, but it wasn't like Owen didn't already know who was under that mask. And, honestly, Owen didn't really care. Tim seemed like a good kid, if a little boy scout-ish. Owen liked poking at him-- at least Robin was safer than Nightwing or Batman, anyway.
It didn't take long for them to get to the seedy-looking diner, not with Owen's bursts of superspeed and Robin's habit of swinging around on his grappling hook all over the city. Robin had refused to show Owen where his little stash of clothing was hidden, so he was waiting in a booth, munching on an order of waffle fries when Robin-- no, Tim finally showed up. He looked different without his cape and mask, less guarded somehow. And taller. "Are you wearing stilts?" Owen asked dipping a fry in catsup.
Tim reached over and snagged the fry out of Owen's hand, chewing and swallowing it before answering. "Lifts. I'm not that short." Tim loftily ignored Owen's burst of laughter. While Owen gasped for air, Tim ordered them both strawberry milkshakes and glared mildly at Owen, an expression that didn't nothing to calm his snickers even though Tim was well-practiced in the art of the Bat-glare.
"Anyone ever tell you you're like a more adorable version of Nightwing? I want to use you to pick up chicks later," Owen said, finally forcing himself to breath again. "Seriously. Chicks dig that big-eyed, earnest thing." He grabbed a fry and waved it in Tim's face. Playing with fire, he was, taunting Robin, but Tim had never shot Owen down the way Nightwing and Batman had. Even the annoyed looks were tinged with an edge of amused resignation.
Owen grinned at Tim, who just dropped his head into his hands. "Never say that again," he said, expression pitiful. "I am not Nightwing. I don't want to be Nightwing."
"He is a slut," Owen offered, and tried out a charming smile on their waitress. She rolled her eyes and dropped their milkshakes in the middle of the table. He grabbed one, and poked a long spoon into the glass, stirring it. "I mean, I think he even slept with Rex. And Rex is," Owen waved his free hand in a gesture that could have meant anything. "So, if you're not mini-Nightwing, does that make you mini-Batman?"
"No!" Tim's hand jerked as he reached for his milkshake and only his lightning-quick reflexes kept the drink from spilling everywhere. "I'm not Batman and I'm not Nightwing. I'm just," he trailed off. Owen watched him pick up the milkshake glass and stare at it as though it had all the answers. "Robin," he finished after a minute.
Owen knew he should keep his mouth shut, but he knew that most of the time, and it didn't really help to keep him from poking sore spots. "Robin, huh? Not Tim?" When Tim looked at him, blue eyes gone dark and lips pressed together, Owen shrugged and took a swallow of his shake. "I mean, I'm Owen, who dresses up, hangs out with a bunch of weird people and calls himself Captain Boomerang sometimes. But I'm still Owen, not Captain Boomerang." Robin was beginning to twitch a dangerously and, yeah, that was usually a cue to back off, right? "That's the problem with Nightwing and the Big Bat. They're Nightwing and Batman, not... whoever they're supposed to be outside of punching guys and wearing spandex. And maybe that's why you don't want to be them. It's not really healthy."
"Like you'd know from healthy," Tim snapped.
Owen flinched, but licked a fleck of ice cream from the corner of his mouth. "I know it's not really balanced to be saving people and punching intergalactic criminals all the damn time without any fun. All work and no play makes Jack go homicidal and all that." He held Tim's gaze as long as he could, but for some reason actually looking into his eyes was even creepier than staring at the blank white eyeholes. Owen dropped his gaze to the plate of fries and popped one into his mouth.
Tim's sigh was audible. "I used to be like that," he admitted, "before my father died." Maybe common sense was growing on Owen-- he bit his lip to keep from saying anything. "I was Tim, who occasionally solved crimes and dressed up. But then," he paused, skipping over words that didn't need to be said, "and my girlfriend died. And then my best friend died too. I don't really remember when I started really being Robin, but somewhere in there, I lost everyone except those two. If they're capes all the time, to be part of the family I have to be like that too. I've started believing it. You know," he said thoughtfully, "I once actually walked out the door to go to school still wearing my mask. It never even occurred to me to take it off until someone reminded me."
"Like pants," Owen said before he could stop himself. That thing about common sense? Nevermind.
"Like pants. You need to wear them or you're not dressed, right?" Owen waved a particularly waffly fry under Tim's nose. "But the rest of the world is like a nudist colony."
Biting into the fry, Owen said, "you feel exposed without the mask, but the rest of the world is like a nudist colony. You have to relearn how to take off your pants and be free again." He didn't even stumble at Tim's distressed and bewildered look. "It's hard to go and get a suntan on the beach without taking your pants off. And you know all these people who never take their clothes off and then they get all pasty white and that really isn't healthy, but to fit in you have to be unhealthy too. So sometime you're going to have to relearn to relax and say to hell with crazy guys who like bats. I'll buy you a Corona, and we can hang out and watch the girls."
"I'm not old enough to drink," Tim stammered, clearly thrown by Owen's refusal to be affected by Bat-brooding.
With a laugh, Owen tossed back the rest of his shake in two big gulps. "You're old enough to save the city from nuclear bombs, you're old enough that I can buy you a beer."
"Beer tastes disgusting," Tim said, lips pulling up at the corners.
"It's an acquired taste." Owen shrugged and hopped up. "Pay our bill, cub scout, I think it's high time we go to a club and watch some of those nudist girls. Maybe I-- I mean, we can reel them in with that adorable pudgy face of yours."
Owen wasn't the self-reflective sort. A lot of the times it got him into trouble, but sometimes doing the right thing was doing the right thing, whether or not it ended up the way he'd been expecting. And getting Robin to smile for the first time in months was the right thing, even if it only lasted until the third time Owen got a drink dumped on him. Then Tim started laughing.