“I’ll take three Bat-Mite meals, one with everything on the burger, the other with extra cheese and no pickles, and.” Lois told the cashier at the register before turning to Damian, “Do you want the burger or the nuggets, Damian?”
Damian opened his mouth to answer, but Jon jumped in. “Mom, he doesn’t want a kids meal, he said he’s too old for that.”
“I am thirteen, Jon. Of course I’m too old for one.” Damian retorted.
Lois had to try not to giggle. He’d said in such a serious tone. She was quickly learning that everything the young boy did was serious. Bruce had mentioned something about his youngest’s tendency to act older than he was. So she’d expected something like this when she offered to take care of lunch. Expecting it didn’t mean she shouldn’t try to influence him to loosen up at least a bit.
She looked down at him and smiled. “You’re never too old for a kid’s meal, Damian. They come with toys. I personally, am holding out for Batgirl.” she winked at him at that. “I’m getting one, and so is Jon, but if you’d like something else I can order that for you.”
Damian might have had a rough upbringing, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t enjoy the years of childhood he had left. Ordering a Bat-Mite meal was just one of the things Lois wanted to give him. She figured he’d be more willing to accept one if she ordered one for herself, and she hadn’t lied, she really was holding out for Batgirl.
His lips pressed into a line as he tried to decide. Lois watched as he fought with himself, hand absently brushing his stomach. She realized that neither he nor Jon would probably get full from the kid’s meal. Jon ate almost as much as Clark did, and Damian was a highly active young boy.
She nodded. “I forgot you two are growing boys. How about this?” she turned back to the cashier, flashed him an apologetic smile, and said. “Instead of the Bat-Mite meals can we get three Batburgers, everything on the first, no pickles and extra cheese on the other and?”
“No mayo.” Damian provided.
“No mayo on the third.” Lois finished. She then ordered fries and drinks, before she turned to the boys again.
“Jon, which toy are you missing?”
“Red Hood, and Aqua Batsuit. Oh and the gold foil Batgirl.” Jon told her.
“Ok, but which one would you like?”
The cashier intervened on the conversation then, “Actually, those last two are specials at our Gotham locations, but we’ve got some Red Hood toys. Want me to add one, it’s a dollar fifty extra?”
“I guess.” Jon said, seeming let down that they didn’t have the other two.
Lois looked at him, “What about you, Damian? Which are you missing?”
“They sell them individually?” he asked, blinking.
“Of course they do.” Lois smiled. “It’s usually more fun to see what comes with the Bat-Mite meal, but we’ll leave surprises for next time.”
“Individually.” Damian said again. “You mean I’ve collected five Red Hoods for nothing?” he crossed his arms, a scowl on his face, “The world has injustice in it, and I’ve discovered the source: false advertising.” He turned his glare on the counter now and the unfortunate cashier behind it.
“Damian keeps complaining he can’t get the Nightwing one in blue.” Jon told her, helpfully.
Helpfully might not be the right term. Yes it helped, but Lois knew her boy and he’d done it as a rib to Damian as well. It was nice to see the boys tease each other, as long as they didn’t go too far.
“Blue is the superior color. The red looks terrible.” Damian defended.
“Riiiight.” Jon grinned. “That’s the reason you want it in blue. Not because your brothe--Ooof!” Damian cut him off by punching him in the shoulder.
“What was that for?” Jon demanded, rubbing the spot Damian had hit.
He shrugged. “You were getting on my nerves.”
Lois left them to their minor squabble and finished ordering. They got their food and found an empty Riddler themed booth to sit at. Damian and Jon sat across from Lois. Both boys set out their toys, so Red Hood and Nightwing (dressed in blue) stood guard by their drink cups, while she returned with napkins and ketchup.
Jon unwrapped his burger and took a bite. “Aww man, they put pickles on here.” Jon scrunched his nose down at the burger in his hands.
“Pickles are a simple fix, Jon. Just take them off.” Lois offered.
Jon set the burger down to lift the top bun, “I know, but I can always taste the pickle juice after I take them off.” He peeled off the two whole pickles and one partially eaten one, dropping them onto a napkin.
Damian rolled his eyes at his friend. “I doubt that, and even if it does you can wipe off the excess juice with a napkin.” He took a bite of his own burger and scowled. “Mayo.” he hissed.
Jon’s eyes glittered as he grinned at his friend, “It’s alright, Damian, just wipe off the bun.”
They got Damian’s burger sorted and made it most of the way through their lunches without Lois having to stop any fights from breaking out. It was a balancing act with Damian and Jon, but she’d long ago decided it was that way between any young boys who were friends. They got along as much as they fought, but in a good way. One that sharpened them against each other. Their fathers proved that often enough.
“When did Dad say they were going to be ready?” Jon asked as he scooped a glob of ketchup onto a fry.
Damian seemed to perk up at this question, his attention moving from the Nightwing figure he’d been examining to Lois in a subtle, but too obvious way.
“They were planning to finish hiding the clues around noon. That way you boys have a full nine hours to search.” she answered.
“Tt.” Damian said, actually looking up at her now. “I’m sure we’ll do it in less than that.”
Jon grinned. “Yeah, we’ve really started to get the hang of working together.”
Lois smiled and took a sip from her cup. “If what your fathers have said is true, I’d say you’ve more than gotten the hang of it. That’s part of why today’s going to be fun, you’ll get to test that bond.”
“I still don’t see why they wouldn’t let us solve a real case.” Damian muttered. “We could have handled it.”
“The point is to have fun for Jon’s birthday, and a real case would have been work.” Lois reminded him.
They’d had this conversation more times than she’d liked in planning Jon’s party. At one point Damian had even convinced Jon that a real case would be more fun than a scavenger hunt around Metropolis. She’d managed to talk him down with the promise that the next time the two of them had a real mystery to solve she’d extend Jon’s curfew a few hours for them. Even then Damian hadn’t been too happy about playing what he called ‘a silly game for children’. Like wandering Metropolis for hours by themselves was a silly game or anything for children, but it was as safe as Lois could make it, and challenging enough for the boys to still enjoy themselves with.
“Will you give me a hint about what you got me?” Jon asked her.
“You’ll find out just as soon as you’ve solved all our clues.” Clark said, and Damian, Jon, and Lois all turned to see Clark and Bruce walking over to them. Lois scooted further into the booth so Clark could sit next to her, while Bruce snagged a loose chair from a table and sat at the head.
“Are you guys ready? Can we have the first clue now?” Jon asked, leaning forward and almost into his ketchup.
Lois tugged the mess waiting to happen out of the way and busied herself with balling up the last of the burger wrappers and french fry bags to pile on a tray.
“We are, but first, rules.” Clark said.
Damian scowled. “Rules? What can be simpler than follow the clues?”
“This isn’t a regular scavenger hunt, Damian.” Bruce told him. “It’s going to require investigation, teamwork, and energy. By the time you're done you both should be exhausted.”
“Plus it’ll be lots of fun.” Clark said.
Lois cleared her throat and eyed Clark.
“So, rules.” he said. “You have until nine tonight to solve all our clues and make it back to the apartment.”
“Mom already told us that.” Jon said. “What else?”
“Dick is going to be in the city if you need to take a break or have any problems. You’re not allowed to come to either of us with questions, and you can’t return to the Kent’s apartment until you’ve either finished or given up.” Bruce said.
Damian rolled his eyes. “I don’t foresee us having any issues, Father. But perhaps we’ll check in with Grayson to say hi if we have time.”
Lois couldn’t help but smile at Damian’s confidence. She’d seen some of the riddles and problems Bruce and Clark had set up, they weren’t making it easy on the boys. She’d like to be there to watch when Damian and Jon realized they might need some help.
“Some of the questions are going to be hard, and you might get stuck. If you do you have three places to get help. Tim and Jason have been kind enough to play along today and will each answer one question if you call or FaceTime them. Dick’s your third option, since he’s in the city you can just go to him with your question.”
“So it’s like phoning a friend on that game show Mom likes.” Jon said.
“For the most part.” Bruce nodded. “None of them know the answers to any of the riddles so don’t think you can trick or blackmail them into giving them to you.” he aimed this last part at Damian who huffed.
“As if I’d stoop so low, Father.”
“The game area includes all of Metropolis. None of the clues will take you out of the city proper, and most will be in public places. Neither of you know the city very well yet so be mindful of maps and tourist locations.” Clark told them. “Jon, do you still have the subway passes I gave you?”
Jon fished the plastic cards from his back pocket and held them up for Clark to see. “Yup. I’ve got a map from Mom too.”
“Good, keep those handy.” Clark nodded.
“Finally, you two should be able to finish this as yourselves, but if things get too tough or you do run into trouble don’t be afraid to change into your suits.” Bruce said. “Just remember that the people here don’t know you two very well yet.”
“And be careful.” Lois added. “Remeber Dick’s around to help, and if you get into real trouble you can always call us. Rules or no rules.”
She wasn’t too worried about them, but it was true that they didn’t know the city well, and the city didn’t know them well. She wouldn’t have been any happier with them in Gotham, and had said as much while planning. Even the suggestion had her mind running with crime statistics and danger. Still, trouble was everywhere, even Metropolis and there was all kinds of trouble for two boys to get into anywhere they went.
“We will.” Jon promised.
“Don’t worry Mrs. Kent, we’ll be back before you know it.” Damian grinned.
The quest starts!
Jon waited until his parents and Bruce left the restaurant to open the envelope his dad had handed him. He pressed the two ends of the metal tab together and opened the top flap before upending the contents onto the table.
A small plastic cylinder and an empty silver packet fell out. Damian picked up the packet to frown at it. Jon lifted the plastic tube and turned it over in his hands. It had a wrapper with the words Astrorox written on it next to a picture of an astronaut.
“What is this?” Damian asked, turning the wrapper over in his hands.
“It’s astronaut ice cream.” Jon said, “This one has the candies made into little pellets that are kind of like Dippin Dots but not at all the same.”
He looked over at Damian who was scowling. “What are you talking about, Jon? Dippin Dots? And how could that be an ice cream container? It’s insulation would be pathetic.”
With as smart as Damian was Jon kept forgetting that his friend was still so out of the loop about normal stuff. What kid hadn’t heard of astronaut ice cream or dippin dots? Jon had learned that Damian was the exception to the norm, but he didn’t mind. It made it all the more fun to share things with him.
“It’s freeze dried or something.” he shrugged. “Mom said they run it through a vacuum pump and use dry ice and stuff. They make different versions and flavors. I think the ice cream sandwich is good, but the rest are eh.”
“I know what freeze drying is, Kent.” Damian snapped, he only ever called Jon by his last name when he was frustrated, “What I want to know is why your father gave us trash as a clue. Mine isn’t even ‘ice cream’.”
“What do you mean? That looks like the wrapper for one of the blocks of ice cream.” Jon said.
“Well it’s not. It’s got Superman on the front, and it doesn’t say anything about ice cream.” Damian slid the metallic wrapper over to Jon.
His father was displayed on the front in one of his iconic flying shots. The description of the candy looked like it had been partially torn off leaving just the tagline: Perfect for every superhero in the making and the flavor at the bottom, strawberry.
“I guess we’re supposed to go to the place these came from.” Jon said. “I thought they were going to give us a riddle or something, but I guess it makes more sense to have physical clues instead?” He looked over at Damian for confirmation.
His friend shrugged. “I thought the same thing.” he smiled. “But this is preferable, this way we have to use our detective skills.”
Jon nodded. “Yeah.” he looked back down at the two empty candy wrappers. “There are only two places I can think of that carry these. There’s this candy store called Atomic Candy down on Main street.”
“And?” Damian prompted.
“And,” Jon rolled his eyes at him. “There’s a space museum in the historic district.” He thought back to the last time he’d seen flyers for the space museum. “Except they don’t have anything Superman related on display right now.”
Damian tapped a finger on the table. “If it were just the space ice cream I would say the museum, but they included the wrapper with Superman for a reason.”
“So, candy store?”
Damian nodded, “Then if we’re wrong we can check the museum.”
Jon slipped the candy wrappers back into the envelope and tucked it into his backpack along with both of the figures they'd gotten. His mother had insisted at least one of them carry a backpack, and Bruce had agreed, so they had a place to keep snacks and anything they picked up on their adventure. The backpack was from Bruce and had a secret pocket in the bottom where they could keep their costumes and gear.
They were lucky the restaurant was close to an entrance to the subway, Metropolis traffic could be a nightmare and the trains were the best way to get around. Plus, Jon didn’t have to worry about paying for their ride, the subway card his dad had given him was loaded with enough fare to complete the game.
There was a light crowd of people already filling up the stairwell to the subway, but Jon and Damian didn’t have a problem moving through them.
The job of working their way to the candy shop fell on Jon. The map of the lines showed an intricate web of red, blue, and green lines that Jon was still trying to get used to reading. He’d had a few months to learn, but most of the time he was with one or both of his parents and he didn’t have to worry about reading them.
“This is inane.” Damian grumbled, looking up at the map. “How does anyone read this, let alone use it daily?”
“You’re telling me Gotham is any easier to navigate?” Jon sighed at him, eyes still on the map. Damian didn’t answer, probably because Jon was right. Both cities had their complications.
He traced his finger through the air along the routes before glancing over at the schedule. They’d have to change lines halfway there, but if they hurried they could make the blue line’s next train.
“I’ve got it. Are you ready to go?” he asked, turning to Damian.
“I have been ready.” Damian told him.
Jon started to move towards the turnstiles and metal detectors that separated the platforms and ticket booths, but stopped the moment he saw the detectors. He turned back to Damian and looked him over.
“You don’t have any weapons on you, right?” He asked.
“Tt. Of course I do, who do you take me for?” Damian scowled.
Jon pressed his lips together so he wouldn’t smile. He shouldn’t have had to ask, he didn’t know a time when Damian wasn’t prepared with some kind of weapon on him. He slipped his backpack off and opened the front zipper. He was doubly happy it was from Bruce now, no guard would let it pass with knives shoved inside, but they could be easily hidden.
“Put them in here. They don’t allow weapons on the subway.” He said.
There wasn’t a lot not allowed on the subway, but what wasn’t was for safety. Jon didn’t mind the requirement, but Damian’s stormy face told him that his friend was strongly opposed.
“Why not?” Damian’s brows creased together, “What if we run into trouble?”
“Because most people on the subway aren’t psychos. You’ll be fine, just tuck them in here and you can take them back when we get off.” Jon said.
Damian scowled and pulled a knife from his back and one from under his pant leg. “Fine, but let it be known I don’t approve of the Metropolis Subway’s lack of respect for personal safety.”
He tucked the knives into the hidden pocket with a huff. Jon didn’t have it in him to tell Damian that personal safety was the reason they didn’t allow the weapons. They’d only end up in a circular argument.
Instead he aimed a light jab at Damian. “I don’t see why you’re so upset. Aren’t you always bragging about your abilities?”
“It’s not that I couldn’t handle a problem, Jon. I’m highly skilled and trained for anything.” Damian said, pointedly. “Having a weapon simply makes things easier.”
They passed through the detectors and had their backpack checked with no problems, then slid their cards and made it just in time for their train to arrive. Damian refused to sit on the chairs, choosing instead to stand. Jon knew they’d be walking most of the day and took the opportunity to sit and rest his feet.
When they got off the second train Jon led the way to Atomic Candy. Jon was familiar with the store, they had a wide selection of unique candies he’d never heard of and some of his favorites stocked regularly. He was always trying to convince his mother to take him there so he could try everything. He wasn’t going to leave until he’d picked up something tasty.
The store was light on customers when they walked in. Damian pulled away from Jon and started hunting for the clue. Jon was happy to let him, he was on a mission. He caught sight of the Superman candy almost immediately. The store had a selection of gummies, jelly beans, and ‘super pops’ that all featured his dad. They also had lunch boxes and mugs with Superman printed on them. The wrapper they’d gotten as a clue was for one of the super pops, strawberry and blueberry flavored suckers.
He grabbed two of the push pops with springs in them. Springy push pops were the best version, honestly who could ever manage to push the regular ones all the way up? Even with his little fingers he always had to upend them to finish off the hard candy.
The next thing he went for were the candy necklaces. The chalky candy was fun to crunch on, and Atomic Candy carried the kind that came in a two pack so he could give one to Damian, if he’d take it. He grabbed a plastic gun filled with tiny jawbreakers, a caramel and pretzel filled chocolate bar he hadn’t tried, and froze when he spotted the astronaut ice cream.
Damian had never tried it, and Jon was going to fix that.
He grabbed two of the sandwiches, one strawberry and the other cookies and cream and took them to stand in line at the checkout. He was pretty sure Damian would like at least one of the flavors. The line was already pretty long, it was like everyone who’d been in there when he and Damian had arrived chose then to get in line.
Damian pushed through the people in the line to stand by Jon. “I think I’ve found the—What is all that?” he frowned at the overflowing pile of treats in Jon’s arms.
“Supplies.” Jon shrugged. “Will you grab me an orange soda from the cooler?”
Damian’s nose scrunched at the request. “No, no drink should ever be an orange that bright, it’s not natural.”
“It’s that or carry all this while I go get one.” Jon made like he was going to hand Damian his pile of candy before adding. “Hurry up and decide though. This place keeps getting busier.”
Damian rolled his eyes and stalked towards the front of the store where they kept the drinks. More people had trailed in as Jon had been shopping, crowding the space in the shop from comfortable to cramped. It took a few minutes before Damian returned with two bottles in his hands.
“Don’t complain about the brand.” He said.
Damian showed him the bottle, it was one of about six different types of orange they carried and Jon liked this one. He nodded and angled his head to see what the other bottle was, lemon soda water. He grinned as he moved a bit so Damian could stand comfortably in line with him. “Perrier?” he asked.
Damian’s scowled. “It’s water, which will be more useful to us today than any of that.” He nodded at the candy.
“It’s flavored, does that mean it’s sweet?” Jon asked. He knew most weren’t sweet, most at least that his mom liked. She’d told Jon it was an ‘acquired taste’, he wasn’t sure if she was right or if growing up meant sacrificing things that tasted good.
“Of course not. It’s not a soda.” Damian scoffed.
“So, it’s just lemon?” Jon frowned. “What, are you an adult? Lemon is something only grown ups drink.” He’d lost count of how many times he’d taken extra lemons and sugar from the table and used them to make lemonade from his water when they ate out.
Damian leveled a look at him that said an adult is exactly what he aspired to be.
“Fine.” Jon said. “You be old. I’ll enjoy my time as a kid. You said you found something?”
Inch by inch they were working their way up the line. Jon wondered why lines always seemed to grow just when he needed to get in them. He’d thought their timing had been good when they arrived, and now the place was stuffy with people, most of them in line with them.
“The next clue.” Damian confirmed.
“Let me see.” Jon said, forgetting his and Damian’s arms were full he was so eager to see what their parents had planned next.
Damian shrugged. “Not until we’ve checked out, and done something with all this-- stuff.”
At least he had the courtesy of not calling it junk. Damian wasn’t big on candy; a thing Jon could never quite wrap his head around. He liked some sweets, but he leaned more towards savory foods with spices and flavors Jon couldn’t pronounce, let alone find it in himself to try.
They worked their way to the front at last and Jon paid for everything with some of the spending money their parents had given them for the day. He opted out of getting a bag, choosing instead to dump the candy into his backpack. The lady at the counter popped the top off of his soda for him and they stepped out of the shop.
They found a bench nearby and Jon tucked his drink next to him while he organized his bag. Damian pulled out the clue he’d found and showed it to Jon. It was a postcard, the image on the front was a garden, with a little stone walkway and flowers dotting the rich green grass. The focus of the image seemed to be a few strange statues and structures set out along the lawn. There was a metal sphere with holes in it, and a series of triangles made of wood pieces, built higher and higher on top of each other. He frowned, he’d never seen this place before.
“Is there something written on the back?” Jon asked, setting his backpack on the ground in front of him to look over the card.
The back of it was blank. Jon frowned at it and took the card from his friend, brushing his fingers along the white side to feel for indents, it was as smooth as could be. “Maybe invisible ink?” he wondered.
“Or we’re supposed to figure it out based on what’s shown.” Damian said.
“I have no idea where it’s supposed to be.” Jon frowned. “Aren’t we supposed to have a better clue? Something to go on? I’d at least been here a few times.” he waved his hand at the candy store.
“Father didn’t say it would be easy.” Damian said. “He told us it would require investigation. Which means an attention to detail. This here,” Damian pointed at one of the statues, a little girl made of metal was seated on a tire. “it looks familiar.”
Jon scoffed. “How is it you’d have seen that before and I haven’t? I live here, you’ve been to Metropolis how many times?”
“Just a few.” Damian hummed, focus still mostly on the postcard. His finger was tracing the lines of the triangle statue. After a moment he nodded. “Come on.”
“You know where we’re going?” Jon asked, following Damian as he stood. He scooped his backpack up, and slung one end over his shoulder then leaned down to pick up his soda.
Damian shook his head and started down the street back towards the subway station. “Not quite. But I know I saw both of these on a poster we passed earlier.”
“A poster?” Jon asked, following him.
Damian stopped suddenly and pointed. There, stuck to the window of a coffee shop was a poster announcing a new exhibit at the Metropolis Museum of Art. It was a Statue garden decorated with work from local artists. It had just opened a day earlier. The poster showed both a picture of the girl and the triangle statue.
“There was a stop for this museum on the subway.” Damian said. “It’s on the same line, two further than where we got off.”
Jon’s face was heating up, with what he wasn’t sure. Maybe embarrassment at being shown up in his own city by his friend? He should have known about the museum. They’d visited it when they’d first moved there. So, even though the exhibit was new Jon should have had some idea of where they were going. Even Damian had noticed the flyer.
He was sullen as they walked back to the subway and found the right train. He stood next to Damian instead of sitting this time. He tapped his foot as his friend read the smaller map printed above the doors.
“It’s ok, you know.” Damian said, still looking up.
Jon blinked over at him. “What is?”
The other boy shrugged. “Not knowing your way around. Missing the informational flyer.”
Now that Jon had seen the flyer he was seeing it everywhere, on half the storefronts and plastered on the subway walls along with flyers for concerts and store openings. Every time he spotted it his shame returned full force.
“It’s not really.” he said. “But thanks for trying.”
Damian looked over at him with a small frown. “You’re still new, and figuring your way out around a city is hard.”
Jon let out a laugh. “You’re one to talk. You’ve already got the subway map memorized, Mr. Why-is-this-so-complicated. And you caught the sign.”
Damian sighed. “I caught the sign because it’s part of my training. Father quizzes me on what’s happening in Gotham on a regular basis. It’s key to solving cases and figuring out where someone may target in the future. I’m always looking at flyers and cataloging them.”
“And the subway?” Jon prompted, tapping his finger on his bottle, he’d taken a sip earlier, but he was feeling so bad about missing the clue that the soda was resting like a weight in his stomach, preventing him from drinking any more of it.
“Maps are also part of training. Also, I didn’t think we’d want to waste a lot of time searching for locations today. I’ve only got this line and the red memorized.”
Jon rolled his eyes. “That makes me feel so much better.”
“I got lost a lot when I first came to Gotham.” Damian said.
“Really?” Jon gaped at him. Damian acted like he was comfortable anywhere, like he’d memorized the world’s maps and could find his way out of or to anything. It was hard to believe he’d ever been lost anywhere.
Damian nodded. “It was so different from where I came from. I’d grown up with the league, so I knew everything I needed to about my home. But, Gotham was this huge city, and even memorizing street maps couldn’t help fill in all the blanks.”
He ran his finger along the neck of his bottle and frowned. “I hated feeling so out of place, and every time I thought I’d figured it out there was some new surprise waiting for me.”
“Do you feel comfortable now?” Jon asked.
“Most of the time. Every so often I run across something that surprises me, but Grayson helped me see it as learning rather than weakness.” Damian took a sip of his water.
“It’ll get better with time, but if you want to learn faster try looking over maps or just wandering when you can so you can get a grip on the city.” He grinned at Jon. “You could even try flying over it and working your way from home to the different places you like to go.”
“If my dad lets me. But I could probably pay more attention to my surroundings, it would help.” He gulped down a mouthful of soda, finally thirsty again.
Damian pulled a face at him. “Disgusting.”
Damian's afraid they've been sent on a scavenger hunt just to see a bunch of statues, thankfully he's wrong.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
They’d spent over an hour in the museum. Damian had thought it would be a quick stop, but once he and Jon were inside both found themselves drawn to the different exhibits. They kept stopping to look at different sections, Jon with his eyes growing wider and Damian’s fingers itching to try the different techniques they were seeing. Paintings, and sculptures both ancient and new filled the building. There were three floors, the art growing more modern the higher the floor.
It wasn’t like it had been a while since he’d last painted anything, he’d finished up a piece the week earlier, but there was something about being surrounded by art that made him want to create more himself. Talking to Jon about it didn’t help.
“See how thick the oil paint on here is?” he said, pointing to a painting of a stormy ocean with waves that looked like they were going to jump out of the picture the paint was so thick. “The first few layers aren’t even dry.”
“But this painting’s like a hundred years old.” Jon said. He pulled a push pop from his pocket and pulled the top off it, the candy inside rose on it’s own with a snap and Damian resisted the urge to pull it out of Jon’s hand. He’d let the thing pop every time he’d opened it since they walked into the museum and it was beginning to grate on Damian’s nerves.
Instead he nodded. “Oil takes the longest to dry, especially when caked on like this.”
Jon leaned closer to it, like he didn’t believe Damian. For a second he thought his friend was going to use his x-ray vision to look through the layers and he almost reached a hand out to stop him. If he accidentally set it on fire they’d be in more trouble than he cared to think about. Then he was worried Jon’s candy would get on it. But Jon leaned back, his nose scrunched.
“It smells like oil.”
Damian rolled his eyes. “What did you think it was going to smell like?”
Jon shook his head. “I dunno. Old books or something?”
“Come on, the rest of the statues are still a floor above us.” Damian sighed, not even bothering to correct his friend further.
They’d checked the statue exhibit on the ground floor first. It was like the flyer had shown, a series of statues laid out in a garden. But the garden was smaller than they’d expected and they were surprised to find out that most of the statues on display were located on the top floor with the modern art. The museum cycled out the ones in the garden every week while the exhibit was there.
“How do you know so much about art? Did you mother hire an art history tutor for you or something?” Jon asked as they ascended the stairs heading up to the third floor.
Damian unfolded the map in his hands. “She did, but she also brought in people to teach me how to sketch and paint.”
Jon slid his hand on the railing next the them, making a metal swooshing sound as they walked. “Are you any good?”
“You remember my family portrait that hangs in the living room?” Damian asked.
“I finished the part with me in it.” Damian said, he looked up at Jon as he said it.
“Really?” Jon stopped to stare at him. “No way. It doesn’t even look like someone else painted on it.”
Damian shrugged. “Mother made sure I was proficient in many different styles. I could recreate a number of the paintings we’ve seen here if I felt like it.” He frowned. “However, I prefer to paint original pieces.”
He didn’t simply prefer to, he loved it. Loved smelling the paint as he squeezed it out onto his pallet. Loved the free, almost reckless feeling of first putting his brush to a blank canvas. When he’d been with mother it was one of the few things he could do for himself, with his own intentions. She could dictate the type or style when he was learning, but in his free time he could make whatever he wished, however he wanted to.
Even now he loved the feeling of pouring his emotions into the canvas or a sketch. When he’d first come to live with Father, and then Grayson he’d used it to funnel his frustration. With the city, with his lack of status, the mistrust he felt from each of his family members, with the newness of everything. If he hadn’t had an outlet he’d have been overwhelmed.
Lately he’d realized he enjoyed creating for people. It had started with the painting. Seeing how happy it made Father and Pennyworth had been gift enough to complete the piece. Grayson had been pestering him to make something for his new apartment and Damian finally relented. He still felt good when he thought of Grayson’s delighted hug and praise. He was waiting for Jon to ask him for something but his friend’s response surprised him.
“Do you think you could teach me? I like drawing, but painting always seemed like something I couldn’t manage.”
“Perhaps.” Damian said. “If we have time between missions and training.”
Jon’s smile made him feel almost as good as Grayson’s had.
They found the room with the statues. It was one of the larger areas of the museum, and dotted with large and small statues of all mediums. Each one had a small card by it describing its name, the name of the artist, the materials it was constructed from, and a brief method or reasoning behind the piece.
“I wonder what we’re supposed to be looking for in here? I’m sure we can’t take anything with us.” Jon said, as he started to pace through the statues, he was pressing his push pop up and down with it’s cap.
Damian ignored it and began reading the cards. “Keep your eyes open for anything unusual or that doesn’t seem to belong.”
He could hear the eyeroll in his friend’s words, “Right, because all the statues in here are normal.”
He wasn’t wrong. The statues were not what one would typically think of when they imagined statues. Instead of people made of bronze or marble most were shapes that made little sense, and made of things Damian wouldn’t think should be used to create statues with. Bottlecaps, broken glass, and cardboard were just a few.
The fifth card he read stopped him. There was a number typed in the bottom right corner of the card: 43.40638. He pulled his phone from his pocket and opened a new note to type the numbers into.
“Jon, check the cards for any numbers in the corners.” He said. “Write them down if you see any.”
He moved faster now only checking the cards. He glanced up to see Jon doing the same. They converged on the last card in the back, finding one last set: 2.18403
“Ok, we have numbers, what are they for?” Jon asked as Damian input the second set.
“They could be a few things.” Damian said. “Let’s find somewhere to sit down first.”
The museum had plenty of seating for tired walkers including benches, chairs sofas, and even one bed that was more like an interactive exhibit then long term seating. They found a bench in a relatively empty room and sat on it.
Damian returned his attention to the numbers they’d found. 43.40638 and 2.18403 both had enough numbers to be phone numbers missing the area code. He could assume it would be a Metropolis code, though the city had quite a few. The decimal point could indicate which area or order the area code could be chosen from, however he wasn’t sure there were 43 different ones even in Metropolis, and it felt like pushing things.
A tap on his shoulder made him look up from the phone and turn to Jon. “What--” He started to ask only to have Jon shove what looked like an ice cream sandwich at him. He had enough time to lean back and snatch the dessert out of his friend’s hand before he could succeed in making Damian eat it. There was a moment where he was surprised at the feel of the sandwich. He’d been expecting cold, and the cookies around the ice cream to be at the very least soft if not soggy. But the thing in his hand was neither cold nor soft. It was like a room temperature rock.
“What are you doing?” He asked as he lofted the sandwich. “And what is this?”
“Astronaut ice cream.” Jon said, as if it were obvious. “I picked it up at Atomic Candy. You said you hadn’t tried it before.” he added the last part pointedly, like it was Damian’s fault Jon was forced to buy it and then feed it to Damian.
That explained the temperature and texture of the candy in Damian’s hand. He narrowed his eyes at his friend. “And why were you trying to feed me?”
Jon shrugged. “You looked so focused, I figured a little brain food would help us crack the clue.” He held up a second sandwich for Damian to see.
Damian raised an eyebrow, “Brain food?”
“Well yeah. Eating helps me focus when I’m doing homework. Plus my dad says that your dad forgets to eat all the time, sometimes for an entire day.” Jon told him. “Dad told me that it’s our job to make sure you both don’t pass out from hunger.”
Damian had no idea how to react to that. Sure his father often forget to eat, and sometimes it was for longer than a day. Damian himself had done it a few times when engrossed in a case or dealing with a dangerous criminal they couldn’t give even a moment to. But it wasn’t like he did it on purpose, or for anything less than important.
“We just ate.” he said.
Jon rolled his eyes. “Hours ago.”
Damian sighed, “It’s been two, maybe two and a half hours since we ate.”
“Hmm.” Jon said. "It feels like it’s been longer."
He rolled his eyes, Jon was always hungry and not afraid to admit it. “It always feels longer to you. Now tell me how to go about eating this so we can continue our investigation. I meant it when I said we were going to finish this ahead of schedule.”
Jon rolled his eyes. “Just bite into it.”
The sandwich seemed to crumple the moment Damian took a bite. Part of the cookie broke off and fell onto his lap, and a dusting of strawberry ice cream powder followed it. He scowled at the mess on his jeans even as he chewed on the candy.
It was sweet, though not overpowering like caramel or even regular ice cream. The texture was airy like a meringue, but he thought it was a bit more crunchy. Damian managed about half of it before he was reaching for his water.
“Well?” Jon asked.
Damian glanced over. His friend had already finished his own candy. He handed the other half of his over to Jon.
“It is acceptable.” He told him. “I’m still pretty full from lunch.”
Jon took it with a smile. “Acceptable in Damian speak means good. Next time we’ll have to get the astrorox, only you need to try dippin dots before that.”
Damian turned his attention back to his phone. “You have a surprising amount of restrictions when it comes to candy, Jon.”
“Only for you. Has the sugar helped you figure out the numbers at all?”
“I’ve only just turned my attention back on it.” Damian told him. “Give me a moment.”
Jon relented, and played with his push pop while Damian looked over the numbers. It wasn’t five minutes before his friend was sighing.
“Come on Damian. I want to go somewhere.”
“That’s it.” Damian said, the numbers clicking into place. “Jon, you’re a genius.”
Jon’s brows knit together. “What are you talking about?”
Damian pointed at the numbers. “They’re coordinates. It’s so obvious I can’t believe I didn’t realize it before.”
His friend grinned at him. “You do have a habit of overthinking things.”
Damian punched him in the arm. “I do not.”
He narrowed his eyes at his friend, they didn’t have time to argue. “Whatever.”
Jon grinned in his victory as Damian tuned him out to input the coordinates in his phone’s GPS. It took a moment for the device to load, his connection inside the museum was spotty, but at last he had the location.
“It’s a wax museum.” Damian said.
“The new one? I’ve been begging Mom to take me for weeks.” Jon was looking over Damian’s shoulder at the phone screen. “That’s it! Come on, Damian, they’re across town so it’s going to take a while.” He said jumping to his feet.
“Are museums going to be the only places we visit?” Damian grumbled as they wandered through the wax museum for what felt like the fourth time.
The staff had been eyeing them with suspicion until Jon explained that they were on a scavenger hunt. One of the employees smiled at them and told the others he’d met Jon’s dad earlier. He wished Jon a happy birthday and told them to take as long as they needed to looking for the clue.
“We stopped at the candy store.” Jon said.
“I am beginning to think that was so you could stock up on candy.” Damian eyed his friend and the almost finished push pop in his hand.
Jon fished a candy necklace out of his backpack. “I got you some too. You just don’t want it.”
Damian rolled his eyes and took the candy from him, slipping it over his head. “There.” He said. “Happy?”
“Yes.” Jon grinned. “Now let’s keep looking.”
Damian sighed, casting his eyes around the room. They’d gone over it head to toe, this one and the three others filled with wax statues of people and had found nothing so far. Damian would have wondered if they’d gotten the last clue right if the employee hadn’t confirmed they were in the right place.
He let his attention linger on the closed off section of the museum. A rope and sign were strung across the opening clearly stating that it was off limits and that the exhibit wasn’t ready yet. Damian wanted to go in. He’d wanted to almost since they’d walked in over an hour ago. It had to be where the clue was.
“What about there?” he pointed at the closed off area.
Jon pressed his lips together. “It’s off limits.”
“We will be fine. Or are you scared?” Damian challenged.
Jon glanced around the room, finding it empty of people besides them and let out a heavy sigh. “We’re checking there whether or not I want to or not, aren’t we?”
Damian grinned at him. “Of course.”
He didn’t give Jon time to argue, instead he took his friend by the arm and pulled him into the room, both of them ducking under the rope as the slipped inside. The lighting was turned down to dim in the restricted area. There wasn’t much in the first room they stepped into, but the further they went back they came across bits and pieces of stands that were set up, and an assortment of wax figures, some already standing, some flat on the ground, and a few leaned against the wall.
“Damian, I don’t think my dad would have left us a clue in here.” Jon said.
“Yours might not have, but mine would. Remember half of this was done by him.” Damian said.
He’d stopped to take a full look at the room they were in, taking in each of the figures, and the half completed displays. Jon stood by him, a ball of nerves.
“I really don’t know if this is a good idea.”
“Let me think.” Damian shushed him.
Beside him Jon grumbled. “There was a promising figure in the main area, if we’d stayed a little longer.”
“Shush.” Damian said again.
At this Damian turned. Jon’s voice had been firm, almost angry even.
“I won’t. You keep leading the investigation. This is supposed to be between both of us, and I’ve hardly done anything.”
Damian stepped back away from him, his own temper flaring. “Your right. You have hardly done anything. I’ve been carrying this ‘team effort’ so please, Jon, go ahead find the next clue.” He crossed his arms and stared at Jon.
“Fine. I will.” Jon huffed.
He spun on his heel and took one step forward before he tripped over a wooden beam left in the floor and stumbled to the ground. He landed with a thump, the beam skidding across the floor with a clatter.
Both boys froze, heads turning towards the room’s entrance.
“Jon.” Damian whispered. “Use your x-ray vision, try to see if anyone’s coming.”
Jon pushed himself up to stand. “Oh, now you think we might get in trouble.”
“Just do it.” Damian hissed back.
Jon rolled his eyes but a moment later they lit up red as his friend started to look towards the walls.
“This isn’t easy you know.” Jon muttered. “There’s like a million things to look throoh!”
Damian jumped back as Jon’s eyes flared and instead of the gentle glow they’d been casting, red hot beams shot out, melting half a statue before Jon managed to cut them off.
“Crap. Crap, crap, crap. Damian we’ve got to go. We have to tell someone. Oh man, what did I do.” Jon’s panicked stuttering trailed off as they both caught sight of the half melted wax figure.
Damian stepped towards it, with Jon close behind. What seemed like support beams turned out to be the muzzles of guns. Damian reached a hand out to brush his fingers over it. The metal was still warm, but real.
“I think.” He said. “We’ve found our next clue.”
In case you were curious the coordinates are 100% random. I have no idea if they actually lead anywhere. Thanks for reading.
Jon's pretty sure that a bunch of guns hidden in a wax figure is not their next clue, he just has to figure out a way to convince Damian of that before things get too out of hand.
So now that school has finally started to settle into a rhythm I'm used to I'm going to try to get chapters of this, and Finding Us out on a little bit more regular of a schedule. We'll see how long that lasts, but I'm hopeful.
“That,” Jon said, stepping away from the half melted statue, “can’t be our next clue, there’s no way.”
Damian rolled his eyes at him and turned back to the weapons. Jon wrung his hands together, while his friend examined them, ears pricked to listen for footsteps that might move towards the back rooms they were in.
"They have to be.” Damian told him, voice thoughtful, “There is no other reason for us to have found them here.”
Jon could name a bunch of reasons for the weapons to be there, and none of them had to do with their scavenger hunt. All of them were dangerous, exactly the sort of thing their parents wanted them to stay away from.
He stepped between Damian and the statue, pushing his friend’s hand away. “Do I have to remind you that we’re not supposed to be solving a real case? These,” he flung his hand back towards the guns, just missing hitting them, “are a real case, and not our clue.”
Damian shook his head. “Nonsense, this is simply the next phase of our hunt. We have finished the preliminary clues and begun the difficult part.”
Jon wanted to shake his friend, Damian hadn’t been able to let go of the idea of participating in something challenging since their dads had first suggested a scavenger hunt across the city. Jon was sure his friend had already decided that the hunt had turned into some kind of fake case, or worse, a real one snuck in under his mom’s nose.
“I really don’t think so, Damian.” Jon said, “I think our real clue is somewhere in the main museum.”
Jon had a feeling Damian’s single mindedness was going to get them into a lot of trouble some day. He didn’t want this to be that day, there had to be a way of convincing his friend that there were other options.
He knew they’d been close to finding the clue before Damian had dragged them both into the off limits area, and he was sure if they went back they’d find a nice, safe, card waiting for them with their next real clue printed on it. All he had to do was convince Damian to look for it again.
“If it was, we would have found it before now.” Damian told him, his tone sure.
Jon pursed his lips and crossed his arms. “We didn’t ask the employees for help, I bet they’d point it out if we did, especially after so long.”
“Tt, we were very clearly instructed not to ask for help.”
“No, we were told to ask if we needed it.” Jon’s arms dropped to his sides, his hands curled into frustrated fists, “This is needing it, and we should really report it to the police, then we can continue our search.”
Damian moved around Jon to turn his attention back to the guns, first pulling on a pair of gloves from his pocket (because of course his friend would carry gloves in his pockets, and not something normal like candy), before grabbing one of the weapons and easing it out of the wax.
“Damian, no.” Jon hissed at him, but his friend didn’t move from his task, turning the weapon over in his hands before setting it on top of a box and beginning to take pictures of it with his phone.
“Really, Jon, it was obvious the previous clues were simply to warm us up. Do you think our fathers would have assigned us so trivial a quest as that of paper?” Damian asked, turning to look at him now.
“Well, no, but it wasn’t just paper. We had those candy wrappers.”
His friend gave a shrug of his shoulders, “We are Superboy and Robin, there is only so much challenge paper and candy wrappers can pose to us.”
“Maybe.” Jon said, then asked, “Are they plastic?” If they were, or if there was something fake about them he’d have an easier time accepting it was their clue.
“No, and it’s weight is appropriate for something genuine, though you would have to ask Todd for the exact weights on this model. It has been some time since I’ve thoroughly researched American made guns. Besides, Todd does not have Father policing his every study.” Damian said.
A hint of bitterness in his tone gave Jon the idea that at some point Damian had wanted to deepen, or refresh, his knowledge, and his dad had told him no. Which seemed a little odd to Jon, Damian was made to do so many other things to make him a better crime fighter, so why would he not need this? Unless his dad thought he was taking the study too seriously, or had other reservations. Maybe he’d just found something else more important.
“Well it’s not loaded, is it?” Jon asked.
Damian shot him a look that said of course it was, but he checked the clip anyway and nodded. “If this one is, then I’ll assume they all are. Probably so they can be used right away when sold.”
Jon gulped. “This is sounding less and less like a fake case, Damian.”
“Tt, you are worrying too much.”
“If you’re so sure this is our clue, then tell me, what do you think it’s point us to next?”
Damian considered him and then the weapons, “They are obviously being smuggled.” He started, “I believe we need to find out who is selling them and who is receiving them.”
“They were here, doesn’t that mean someone at the museum is going to take them?” Jon asked.
“Not necessarily, this could be a waystation. I believe our ultimate goal is to stop the sale, or further sale of these weapons by finding the source.”
“Then what, we tell our dads?” Jon asked.
Damian crossed his arms. “To stop the sale, we’ll need to actually stop the guys selling the guns.”
“This isn’t a real case.” Jon reminded him, “We should take it to our parents.”
“They will be actors of course,” Damian said, barreling past him, “So we should be aware of that, still it would not do to go too easy on them.”
“Damian. Listen to me.” Jon snapped, and his friend returned his attention to him.
Finally , Jon thought and crossed his arms. He eyed his friend, and went for the most serious tone he could manage.
“I can accept that this might be our clue, but I want to check one more time for a clue in the main part of the museum.” he held his hand up as Damian opened his mouth to interject, silencing his friend for the moment.
“If this isn’t our clue,” he continued, “and a real case we need to tell our parents about it. Either way, we should gather as much information as possible on the weapons, and then go check for a possible different clue, then move on from there.”
He wanted to tag on a ‘what do you think’ or a ‘maybe’ but that wouldn’t do anything to convince Damian of how he felt, so he let his speech stand as it was. This wasn’t Damian’s adventure, where Jon was tagging along, it was theirs, and to be theirs he had to have a say in it as well.
Damian seemed to get that, or at least take the meaning of Jon’s words, because he nodded and smiled.
“Good plan. This way we cover all our bases.”
Relief swept through Jon and he grinned back at his friend. “Great, let’s get started.”
He started checking the still unopened crates while Damian moved back to the statue. Jon saw his friend lean down to take a picture of something at the base of the statue, before explaining that it was a shipping tag.
For his part, Jon used his vision to look through the crates to see their contents two of them had wax statues, while the third had a smaller statue surrounded by another collection of weapons, these bigger and scarier versions of the ones in the wax statue.
“There’s more in this one, but not the other two.” He told Damia as he snapped a picture of the crates and any labels he could find.
“Let me see the backpack.” Damian asked.
Jon slid it off and handed it over to his friend, eyeing him, “You’re not going to pack the gun in there, are you?”
“Of course not, I am going to check it for fingerprints. We can discount the ones I got on it initially, but there may be something usable left. I need my kit.”
His kit. Of course he had a kit. Jon wouldn’t be surprised if he pulled it from the main pouch on the backpack, but instead he undid the bottom zipper and tugged out his utility belt, finding the right pouch after a moment of searching. He pulled a small red plastic container out of it and returned the belt to the bag, resealing the whole thing.
“So, how exactly do you dust for fingerprints?” Jon asked.
Damian waved him over, “Don’t touch anything.” he warned.
He set the plastic container down and opened it, pulling out a brush, a few cards of different colors, some tape, and a small canister that he twisted the top off. Inside was fine white powder.
Instead of dabbing the brush into the container, like Jon would have done, Damian brushed the bristles into the lid.
“Shouldn’t you put it in the dust?” Jon asked.
His friend shook his head, “Only a little is actually required. Putting it directly into the dust would result in too much on the bristles and risk messing up the prints.”
“Oh, so you don’t glob it on then blow off the extra?” Jon asked.
Damian slid his eyes over to him and Jon shrugged.
“Please do not tell me you’ve tried it that way before.”
Jon felt his cheeks flush, “I haven’t. But they do it that way on the tv sometimes.”
“Television gets many things wrong.” Damian said, before turning back to the task, “Now, we’re going to lightly brush it against the metal and see if anything shows up.”
Jon watched as Damian moved the brush across the gun’s surface and oohed as the shape of a print started to show up. Damian worked the brush across the weapon revealing a few more prints. He finished and re-sealed the powder, setting the brush on top of it.
“The tape will pull the dust off in the shape of the print.” Damian explained as he took the tape and one by one covered each print, pressing it down onto it before pulling up and peeling the print off.
“Hand me one of the black cards?” Damian asked.
Jon gave him one and watched as Damian pressed the tape down onto it, leaving the prints showing up on it. He packed everything back away, and tucked the box into the backpack, instead of returning it to his utility belt, swinging the whole thing over one shoulder.
Before Jon could suggest they head back into the main rooms, a museum employee stepped into the room. Only, he didn’t really look like an employee beyond the shirt he was wearing. He didn’t have a name tag, or even the same khaki pants the others had been wearing. Jon couldn’t remember seeing him earlier, but he nursed a faint hope the man would brush them off as unlucky kids.
He and Damian froze, Damian’s hands still close to the single gun they’d pulled from the statue, and Jon staring saucer eyed up at the man. His features shifted from confused to furious the moment his attention caught on the melted statue and the gun pulled from it.
“What do you two think you’re doing?” he asked.
“We were just looking for the bathroom, I thought the sign was pointing back here.” Jon lied, he could almost feel the eyeroll Damian was holding back next to him.
The man’s eyes narrowed. “It’s after closing, you two shouldn’t be here.”
“We-we got lost. We’ve been walking in circles forever.” Jon added, he felt tempted to add that they had found the statue half melted, but he didn’t want to bring any more attention to it than it was already getting.
He pulled his phone out, “Then let’s call your parent’s alright?” he said.
Damian took this moment to step forward, scooping up the gun in the process. “You were not here earlier.” he started, “And seeing as your uniform applies to the shirt alone, I can safely assume you’re here for these.”
“Damian.” Jon hissed, was he trying to get them killed?
The man’s eyes narrowed again, “I’ve never seen those before.”
Damian shrugged, “Doubtful. The first thing you looked at when you entered the room was not the two lost children, but the statue hiding a catch of weapons. Even if you haven’t physically seen them, you knew of their existence before you stepped foot into the room. What I want to know, is where you got them, and what you are planning to do with them. The names of your associates will be a nice place to start.”
“Damian!” Jon snapped.
“Those are some pretty big accusations, for a kid.” the man said, “I didn’t want to hurt you brats, so let’s say you forget all about what you saw here and I’ll escort you out of the building?” the threat didn’t even sound like a suggestion, and Jon was ready to take him up on it.
Damian shook his head, “That will not be necessary. I believe you’re going to give us all the information we need.”
Jon wanted to scream, what was Damian doing bluffing this man? They weren’t in uniform, and Jon was almost certain the man wasn’t an actor. Besides that they didn’t have anything ready to use to fight him if they had to that would also work to protect their identities.
Added to that, something was off about the man’s voice, he kept looking down to check his phone as they talked, and Jon was picking up on footsteps coming closer to the room they were in.
“I think we should listen to him, let’s get out of here.” Jon said, reaching out to place a hand on Damian’s elbow.
The man sneered. “Your friend doesn’t seem as sure as you are. I’d suggest taking his advice.”
Damian looked back at him with a furious, what are you thinking , look that made Jon want to groan, his friend had no idea how to take a hint.
The footsteps built into a roar in Jon’s ears and three more men rushed into the room, all of them carrying guns of some sort. At the entrance of them, the first man’s sneer turned into a cold grin.
“I did warn you.” he said.
Jon didn’t wait a second longer, he tightened his hold on Damian’s elbow and dragged his friend back, away from the now cluttered entrance to the room. He was pretty sure he’d seen a hallway tucked at the back of the room they were in earlier, thin and probably only there for fire codes or something, and he dragged Damian at a full run towards it.
A shot ricocheted off one of the displays they passed and Jon heard angry shouts of stop and you’ll hit the shipment, idiot before the footsteps picked up behind them again.
Damian tried to pull his arm out of Jon’s grip, but he kept it iron tight, ignoring the hiss from his friend behind him. There was no way he was letting Damian get in the middle of a firefight in a museum, he didn’t care if the bullets were rubber or not.
“Release me, Kent! We will not get another opportunity to find out who their supplier is if we run!” he demanded.
“I’m sure you can figure out something, you're resourceful.” Jon replied as he ducked down another hall, pulling Damian behind him.
“This is both the fastest and most effective way to achieve our goal, stop or I will halt behind you.”
“You do and I’ll pick you up and carry you out of here.” Jon shot back.
Damian made an indignant noise behind him, but didn’t slow his run.
The footsteps were getting closer again, and Jon could hear shouts ehco down the hall. His eyes were looking for any way out, another door, or a window maybe. Finally he caught sight of a single door in the back of the hallway.
Without letting go of his friend Jon slid to a stop by the door, and tried it, finding the knob locked.
“Come on!” he growled at it.
He took a moment to glance behind them. Two of the three men from earlier were fast approaching them, meaning Jon had to decide what to do quickly. They couldn’t take the time to pick the lock, he was pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to convince Damian to do it anyway, and he didn’t really want to break the knob. He held back a frustrated groan, who locked an inside door from the outside anyway?
Damian was shouting a challenge at them as Jon made his decision, he twisted the knob just so, snapping whatever lock had held it in place, and shoved the door open, pulling Damian out with him before slamming the door closed again. It cracked into the doorframe and stuck, making Jon wince, it was a display of strength he’d rather have kept hidden.
He didn’t pause to listen to anymore of Damian’s complaints, instead moving his hand from his friend’s elbow to hook around his waist, and with a quick glance around the back parking lot they’d found themselves in he made sure no one was looking. Jon didn’t waste time as he leapt up onto the roof of the building and lay flat, pressing Damian down with him.
“What are you doimmfm!”
Jon cut Damian off by clapping a hand to his friend’s lips as the door beneath them gave way and the two men stormed out. They split up and searched the parking lot for almost five minutes before giving up and going back inside. Once they did Jon pulled his hand away from Damian and rolled over onto his back to breathe.
“That escape was utterly uncalled for, Kent. A complete waste of both time and energy. We could have easily taken them and gotten the information we needed!” The frustrated speech poured out of Damian the moment Jon’s hand was gone.
Jon knew he could point out the fact that they weren’t in uniform, or that he was now fairly certain this was not part of his dad’s game, but he decided to play to Damian’s current state of mind.
“Remember, Damian, we’re supposed to be finding clues. Your dad said that your brothers wouldn’t have the endgame information. Which means those guys as actors, probably don’t have that information either. I say we investigate the gun clue and move on from there.”
His words seemed to mollify his friend, and after a moment Damian huffed. “Fine. I still believe it would have been easier to question them.”
“That’s the point, your dad said this wasn’t supposed to be easy.” Jon pointed out.
Damian sat up and eyed him for a moment before nodding, “That makes sense. And I know exactly where to start with our investigation.”
Damian and Jon call Jason
“When you said you knew exactly where to start out the investigation, Damian, I didn’t think you meant the library.” Jon said, perched on a chair beside Damian.
Thankfully Jon had a library card and they were able to access the public computers with little difficulty, a thing Damian was very grateful for. He had not been looking forward to talking his way into using one of the computers. He was also happy the library was not very full. They managed to get computers next to each other in a quite part of the building, with few people around. Which meant they could speak freely about their game and not have to answer stupid questions or be shushed.
He didn’t bother turning away from the computer, “And where did you think we were going, Jon?”
It had taken forever on this computer, but Damian had managed to dig his way into the cave’s computer systems. He’d have to be sure and completely scrub his presence from the very public computer, but that would not be difficult. If for some reason it did turn out to be trouble he would simply upload a virus to the device and fry it. That way there was no chance of the cave’s security systems being compromised.
“I dunno, maybe some shady weapons dealer you know?” Jon said.
Damian felt more than saw him shift, slipping his feet off the edge of the chair to let them kick against the carpet below.
“We will get to Todd eventually. What is first on our list finding out who the fingerprints we lifted belong to.” He said, uploading said prints to the database. “There, now we wait.” he turned to find Jon giving him a weird look.
“What?” he asked.
“Your brother isn’t a shady weapons dealer.” Jon didn’t ask it, but the way he said the words, careful and measured, like he wasn’t sure he was right was clear enough.
Damian waved him off, “He was close enough at one time. The point is that he is next on our list.”
“Next?” Jon sighed, “Can’t we stop for a snack? We could even check in with everyone and let them know how we’re doing.”
Damian considered this. Grayson was waiting for them somewhere in Metropolis, spending his day enjoying the city. They had time to check up with him before they moved on, and he did not want to waste the opportunity for Jon to see Grayson. The two had met they’d hit it off well, plus Damian would like to see his brother as well. Just to say hello. It had been a while since they’d done anything together. Still, it could wait until after they had the next bit of information. Grayson may even be able to help them put it all together.
“You have to promise.” Jon eyed him.
Damian sighed, “I promise, we will take a break the moment we have spoken with Todd. It cannot be too long though, we are on a tight schedule if we wish to solve this and return to your home before nine tonight.”
Jon grinned at him, “That’s fine. I’m going to text Mr. Grayson and tell him we’ll be by soon. I’m also demanding Dippin Dots, I bet he’ll agree that you need to try them.”
Before Damian could argue Jon’s fingers were already typing out a message.
“He has told you to call him Dick.” He said, instead.
Jon rolled his eyes at him, “You don’t.” he said, pointedly.
“I refuse to use that name. I have told Grayson on many occasions that he should insist on his given name, it is far more professional.” Damian huffed.
“Yet you don’t even call him, Richard.” Jon probed.
Damian turned back to the computer to check on the status of his search. Almost halfway there if they internet would hold. “I do when the occasion calls for it.” he said.
“Hmm. Sounds fake, but I’ll take it for now.” Jon said, and Damian had a brief moment where he thought they’d just sit in silence.
“So your other brother, Jason’s his name right? Not Todd?”
Damian huffed, “Yes. Why?”
Jon shrugged, “I’m just making sure.”
They were quiet again and Damian watched the numbers indicating the percent loaded count their way closer to 100. He was just considering asking Jon to grab them coffee from the front when his friend broke the silence again.
“He didn’t really fill a whole bag with mobster’s heads did he?”
Damian had to resist the urge to sigh, instead he turned and motioned around him, “This is not really appropriate conversation for a public place, Kent.”
“So, he did.” There was a bit of awe, maybe fear in Jon’s voice, his eyes wide, “How do you know he’s not gonna, you know snap and go after you all again?”
Damian did sigh now, “Todd has come a long way from his resurrection, and I believe he has truly embraced his new attempts at bonding with the family.”
“But what if--”
“We have handled Todd before, and we could again. However I do not think that will be a problem. He is a good man. And if you dare tell him I said a word of this to you I’ll hang you by your toes until the blood rushes to your head, and you're so dizzy you fly upside down.”
Jon’s face lit up like he’d just been told a great secret. Damian scowled at him and turned away. The search was blinking a red 100% at him and Damian clicked it open.
“There, the search is finished. Let’s see the face of the man who helped ship those weapons.”
“Or woman.” Jon said, peering over Damian’s shoulder.
He was right, the prints had matched a woman. Brown hair, cropped close to her face, with blue eyes the picture was one caught off a security camera instead of a mugshot. Suspect then, and never charged with anything.
“Cindy Joseph?” Jon read.
“It’s probably fake.” Damian said, “Something that will blend easily in society.”
“Or it could be her name.” Jon sat back, raising an eyebrow at him, “Not everything is cloak and daggers you know.”
Damian rolled his eyes at his friend, and saved the woman’s information to his drive before beginning his work clearing the computer. They could look over her files while they found a discreet place to call Todd. It wasn’t like Damian could just pull out a gun in a library to show his brother on a video call. They would have to find a place out of the public’s view.
Beside him Jon was quiet as he worked. Damian glanced over to see him focused in on his phone again.
“Your brother says to ask you, strawberry or chocolate?” Jon said, looking up.
“Ice cream flavor, which do you want? He’ll get them right before we meet up to save time.”
Damian shook his head, “Chocolate will be fine.”
“Letting. him. know.” Jon said, a pause between each word as he typed. “There. He also says don’t take too long with Jason, he’s and I quote, ‘way cooler than Jaybird’.”
“This is not a popularity contest. Each has an answer to our questions, and thus we will speak with each of my brothers. It is as simple as that.” Damian said, “Come on, the sooner we are done with Todd the sooner you can get your break.”
It was harder than Damian had imagined to find a quiet alley in Metropolis. Gotham was easy, even in the daytime it held dark corners. Plus, he knew the streets well and knew where to go to be overlooked. Kent’s city was different. Bright, open, filled with people milling the streets. And his friend was little help, Damian would have been surprised if Jon had ever needed a dark corner in his life.
“This one seems quiet enough.” Jon stopped them at a quiet alley.
Damian examined the alley before nodding, “It will have to work.”
They found a good hiding place behind a dumpster and crouched down. Damian instructed Jon to retrieve the gun from the backpack with a tissue while he called Jason.
Jason’s face flickered to life on the screen as the face time went through. He was grinning and only half in the picture, it looked like he was in the manor. Which made sense if he was simply waiting around for Damian to call. He wouldn’t be out doing things, and would find better company there than at his own apartment.
“Hold on a sec, Tater Tot,” he said, and turned all the way out of frame, “Hey Timbo! You owe me twenty bucks, the kids called me first!”
Damian rolled his eyes at the screen, of course Drake and Todd would have placed bets on when he’d call.
“Tim was sure you’d go to Dick first.” Jason said, returning to the frame, “I, of course, knew you’d ask me first.”
“Of course.” Damian drawled, “If it had been any other situation, I can assure you, Todd, Grayson would be the only person I’d come to for assistance. Unfortunately you have more expertise in this subject than he does.”
“Did your brother pick up?” Jon asked, leaning close to Damian.
Whatever Jason was going to say in response was cut off by Jon’s voice filtering over to him, “Is that the Kent kid? Put him on too, Dames, I’m always out when you two have playdates.”
“We do not have playdates.” Damian scowled, but pulled the phone back far enough so both he and Jon were in the screen.
Jon waved, suddenly shy next to Damian, “Hi, Mr. Red Hood. It’s nice to meet you, I’m Jon.”
There was a faint burst of laughter from somewhere beyond Jason that sounded like Tim’s voice, and Damian felt some small satisfaction at watching his brother’s face go red.
“I know who you are, the brat never stops talking about you. And do not do that.” Jason said, waving his hand at the screen, “I’m not Mr. Red Hood or Mr. Hood or Mr. Red got it? Dick told me you tried Mr. Nightwing with him, and just don’t. Okay?”
Damian glanced over to see Jon’s reaction to Jason’s comment about him, but his friend seemed more flustered than excited about that little slip of information.
“Right, ok. Sorry, Mr. Todd.”
Jason groaned, and dropped his head into his hands, “That,” he said, voice muffled, “Is even worse.” he looked back up with a long suffering frown, “What am I your teacher? It’s Jason, just Jason.”
Damian had to hold back a snicker as he heard Tim crack up again in the background: “Mr. Todd, I can’t believe it. I can’t wait to tell Steph about this!”
Jason turned away from them to shout, “Shut it, I can’t wait to see what he calls you .”
While they were arguing Damian turned to Jon, “Honestly, Jon, Mr. is not an appropriate title for Todd. He is not even an adult.”
“You sure?” Jon asked, frowning, “Cuz he looks like one.” his eyes flitted over to the screen, “I mean he seems more grown up then Mr. Grayson.”
“Hey! No, no, no, no.” Jason said, taking note of their conversation, and turning back to them, “I am not some old man, and neither should you let Damian talk you into that last name crap. Just call me Jason and we’re fine.”
“Mr. Jason?” Jon tried.
Jason groaned and then sighed, “Fine, sure, yeah. Whatever. Mr. Jason’s better than any of the others.”
“Incredible, it just keeps getting better.” Tim showed up over Jason’s shoulder, flinging one arm around his brother and grinning, “Jon, thank you for this.” he was holding up a phone with what looked like a video file one it, in his free hand.
“You’re welcome?” Jon said.
“Enough, Drake. Leave Todd alone so we may ask him our question. We are on a schedule and do not have time for these games.” Damian said, hoping to get some semblance of control over the conversation.
Tim gave him a look that seemed to say ‘poor kid’, “You do know you’re both playing a game right now? Right? That is what this is.”
“Which is exactly why I do not have time for your foolish asides.” Damian said, “You will get your turn to have input when we need your assistance.”
“Right, that’s what this is about.” Tim said, seeming to hold back a grin, “I’m jealous you called Jason instead of me.”
“Tim, he’s right. We are short on time.” Jon said.
Todd’s face in that moment was one Damian was sure both he and Drake would be hacking the security cameras of the Manor to get footage of later. His mouth dropped open, and his eyes narrowed in betrayal. He shrugged Tim’s arm off his shoulder and dead eyed the camera at Jon, “Tim. Really? Tim.”
Jon pressed his lips together and shrugged, “He’s not an adult. Dad says to be polite to adults, but it’s weird when it’s other kids.”
“I am not a kid!” Tim said, at the same time as Jason cried, “I’m not that old!”
“Enough, both of you.” Damian snapped, “Jon will call you what he will, and if you are not pleased with it take it up with him at a different time. For now I would like to solve this mystery before the sun sets.”
“Okay, okay. You’re right. Besides Timmy and I need to have a conversation when this is over.” Jason said.
Tim rolled his eyes, but got up to leave when Jason waved his hand at him.
“Now, what do you two need help with?” he asked, once it was just him in the screen again.
Damian crossed his arms, “First of all, I need your complete silence on this Todd. I do not want anyone else knowing how far we are in our investigation yet.”
Jason rolled his eyes, “Because we’re that invested.”
“You might be when you learn what we’ve found.” Damian countered. “And if you cannot keep your mouth shut I may have to tell Grayson about that time we snuck into--”
“Hold it right there, I’m intrigued enough. You don’t need to bring blackmail into this.” Jason’s tone verged on worried as he glanced behind him. Drake was probably still close by.
“Damian, I don’t think we really need to blackmail your brother, what if he get’s mad?” Jon asked.
“Tt, you have nothing to worry about. Todd would rather die than hurt a child.” Damian told him.
Jason huffed but shrugged, “Kid’s right, besides I’ve got plenty on him if he wants to start a blackmail war.”
Damian shot him a grin, “Try me.”
“Can we get back to the question?” Jon asked.
He was right, they did need to get back to the question. They had wasted enough time squabbling.
“We need details on why a particular weapons shipment might be in Metropolis and where they may have gotten them from. We have one gun for you to examine. We discovered it in a statue at the wax museum.” Damian said, and motioned to Jon to lift the weapon up for Jason to see.
His brother frowned, “This isn’t really what I was expecting you two to be doing. I thought it was more like a puzzle game.”
“This is a puzzle, Todd. A sophisticated one for crimefighters.”
Jason hummed, considering his words. “Turn it over, let me see the whole thing.” he said at last.
After a few minutes of examining, Jason telling Jon to move the gun this way and that, sometimes closer or further from the screen, and asking a volley of questions about weight, size he fell silent.
“Well?” Damian asked.
“I’m thinking. I wasn’t exactly prepared to evaluate weapons.”
That gave Damian pause. He had been certain that this was the correct path to move down, but what if he’d been wrong? What if they had missed their true clue and stumbled on a real case? If that were true Jason would have told them immediately, Father would have let his brothers know if they were not supposed to be moving down a path like this. Besides, none of his siblings knew all of the information. It was possible they were asked simply because of their expertise in things such as weapons. No, Damian would need a clearer sign if he were to believe they were in the wrong.
Next to him Jon fidgeted with his candy necklace munching on it while they waited. Damian wondered at how much his friend could handle without getting a stomach ache. He seemed to always be snacking.
“I remember these.” Jason said, “Least I think I do. I helped B with a case a while back with a similar M.O. You said you guys found them in wax statues?”
“Yep.” Jon said.
He nodded, “They were moving them through a traveling show or something, I could get you the exact details if you had time.”
“That is fine, but what we need to know is where to find their supplier. The men or women involved in shipping them.”
“Well we found them working out of a warehouse in Gotham. But I know you guys aren’t supposed to leave the city, so maybe take that as a model? Didja find any prints? I know B used those to track the owner of the place and--”
“That's it! Of course. I should have thought of that.” Damian said.
Next to him Jon’s eyes went wide, “Right, do you think that would be in the stuff you downloaded?” Jon asked.
Damian nodded, “There is a possibility of it. If not, we need to return to the library.”
“Wait hold on. What lady are you talking about?” Jason asked.
“Our prime suspect.” Jon said, “Thank’s for all your help Mr. Jason.”
Damian grinned, “Yes Mr. Jason, thank you.”
Damian and Jon have ice cream with Dick, and accidentally stumble upon a lead.
Jon’s stomach grumbled. Okay so maybe he was imagining it, but he’d been sitting in an alley for longer than he’d planned, and Damian still hadn’t looked up from where he was scrolling on his phone. Jon knew he wasn’t playing games or checking social media, but it didn’t stop him from glowering at the device.
“Do you think you could read and walk at the same time?” he asked.
Damian blinked up at him and frowned, “What for?”
Jon huffed, “Because we still have to meet your brother.”
His friend’s eyebrows turned down, “What do you mean? We just spoke with him.”
“Mr. Grayson. We were going to have ice cream with him remember?” Jon said, standing.
He stretched, reaching his hands above his head to pop his back. Then he turned his gaze back on Damian, still crouched beside him. “Come on. We’ll keep digging through the file while we walk. Or you’ll read and I’ll make sure you don’t run into a pole.” he grinned.
His friend glared at him, but stood, brushing off his pants. “I did offer to send you the files.”
“Yes but you like reading that stuff.” Jon said.
He pulled his own phone out of his pocket as they began walking, sending a text to Dick: On our way, be there in fifteen.
“Which is why I’m reading and you’re directing us where to go.” Damian said, eyes already back on his phone. “I am almost done, then I can give you a breakdown of her history.”
Jon tugged Damian’s elbow and moved him out of the path of a stroller. “I’ll take a shorter version, where do we go and what do we do when we get there.”
This brought a smile to Damian’s face, “If this were a real case I would insist you have all the information possible, but as it stands I believe that will suffice.”
The street wasn’t very busy, so Jon didn’t have to make sure his friend avoided too much. They were close to the Dippin Dots where they were meeting Dick. The buildings in this part of Metropolis were all tall, rising into the sky so Jon had to crane his neck to see them properly. They were in the heart of the city, instead of outskirts. It was one of Jon’s favorite places to be.
He loved being surrounded by the towering buildings and the steady flow of people on the streets. It was different than the country, where everything had been open and wide. He’d been worried the city would feel suffocating, instead there was a different freedom in the way everything and everyone pressed in on him.
He felt part of the crowd, like he blended in with everyone around him, and for a few moments was as normal as them. It wasn’t that he always wanted to be normal. Or that he didn’t love having powers or Superman for a dad. But sometimes it was nice to pretend. Especially on days where thinking about the future felt overwhelming.
“You think you’re brother will be able to help us with the case?” Jon asked.
Damian glanced back up, “We are not telling Grayson anything we have discovered. Knowing him, he will assume this quest is little more than paper clues dotted around the city and will try to dissuade us from our current investigation.”
Jon wasn’t sure that would be such a bad thing. He was happy enough accepting Damian’s thought that this was the trail they should be following, but he couldn’t shake the fact that he also still believed they were supposed to be looking for paper clues.
“He might have some good advice, though.”
“No. Grayson will jump to the wrong conclusion and we will waste valuable time explaining the turn our quest has taken.” Damian said, pocketing his phone. “We will enjoy ice cream and a break and then return to our quest, Grayson none the wiser about what we are truly doing.”
Jon shrugged, “If you think that’s best. We’re still good on time, and I don’t even think a delay to explain things would keep us from finishing on time.”
They still had four hours, almost five if Jon was being generous. And they could push their investigation close to nine if Jon flew them both back to the apartment. He wasn’t as worried about time as Damian seemed to be, and was really hoping to get in a long break sitting with his brother.
The ice cream place came in view, the words Dippin Dot’s partially obscured by colorful umbrellas meant to imitate the company’s main colors set over white tables. They could see a man sitting at one of them, waving at them. Both Jon and Damian hurried their steps to finish covering the ground between them and the man. When they made it to the table Dick stood, a bright smile on his face.
“Hey guys.” He pulled Damian in for a side hug, and Jon bit back a smile at the almost scowl on his friend’s face.
Jon had seen the two of them together a few times, but he didn’t think he’d ever get over just how much Damian changed when he was around Mr. Grayson. Everything about him softened, even if he claimed it didn’t. He didn’t stop being Damian, but it was like he could show a different part of himself. He didn’t glare as much. His insults were fewer and had less bite. He was easier to talk into things, especially if his brother was the one talking to him.
Most of all Damian seemed relaxed around his brother in a way Jon didn’t see him other places. Like he felt safe or something. Like Jon did when he was at home pressed between his parents on the couch watching something silly on the television.
“Hi, Mr. Grayson.” Jon smiled, holding out his hand.
Dick let go of Damian and pulled Jon himself into a hug, ignoring the hand. Jon returned it and they found their seats. Dick slid different ice cream containers to each of them, cotton candy for Jon and chocolate for Damian. Jon took the top off of his right away, dipping his spoon in.
“I just got them, so they’re still nice and cold.” Dick told them, he was eyeing Damian, “Jon said you wanted chocolate.”
Damian nodded. “It is typically a safe flavor when trying something new.”
Dick chuckled, “Right. Well try away.”
Jon ate a spoonful of his before Damian even had the plastic top off. He loved the silky sweet, and slightly odd texture of the little balls of ice cream. He wanted to bite down on it, but the desert melted almost as soon as he had it in his mouth, making the experience unique in every way.
His friend eyed the ice cream with a wary look, but the way both Jon and Dick eagerly watched him he spooned out a bunch and ate them. Jon watched as he tried not to smile around the sweet, his spoon already dipping back into the bowl.
“Well?” Dick asked.
“It is interesting.”
Jon shoved his shoulder, “Its amazing and you know it.”
Damian elbowed him back, “It is better than the astronaut ice cream you forced on me. This at the very least tastes as it is supposed to.”
Dick laughed, “I’m glad it tastes like it should. Do you like it?”
Jon watched as Damian had another bite and nodded, “The texture is surprisingly nice.”
“That’s as much of a yes as we’re going to get.” Jon said.
“Unless he asks for it again.” Dick added.
Next to him Damian huffed, “You can both save your gossip for when I am not here.”
The two of them chuckled and they finished their ice cream while Jon asked Mr. Grayson about Bludhaven and how things had been going for him. The man answered readily enough, talking about friends he’d made and a recent issue with the plumbing in his building.
When the last of the ice cream had been scooped from the crevices of the containers Dick held his hand out to begin stacking them for disposal.
“So how’s the case going?” he asked, balancing the spoons in the top bowl.
“Really good.” Jon said, “We’re getting close.”
Mr. Grayson leaned forward, resting his chin on a hand. His eyes glittered in the light, and if Jon didn’t know better he would have guessed Damian’s brother already knew what they’d been up to.
“Oh? What kinds of things have you been finding?”
Jon felt a foot kick against the side of his, and he brightened his smile, “All kinds of stuff, but it’s the locations that have been the most interesting. My favorite place we’ve been to was the museum. Damian promised he’d teach me how to paint.”
If Jon had known the reaction he’d get from Damian’s brother by mentioning the painting thing he would have brought it up much sooner. Mr. Grayson’s face lit up, and his attention locked on Damian.
His friend crossed his arms and sat back in his chair, “Do not look so excited, Grayson. I’ve only promised him if we have time between training.”
“I think it’s wonderful.” Dick said, his voice warm and not at all teasing.
There was something proud in his tone, not that Jon thought he’d tell Damian that outright. It would be the quickest way to get him to shut down, and maybe even retract his offer to show Jon painting. He knew Mr. Grayson wouldn’t want either of those things to happen.
At his brother’s words, Damian’s cheeks started to redden.
“You both are insufferable. You get excited over everything.” He huffed.
“That makes us the best people to have around you.” Jon told him, teasing, “You never get excited for anything.”
Dick snorted causing Damian to turn a glare on him. Jon swallowed back laughter as his friend lit into his brother. Their bickering was pleasant and familiar. Jon could tell both were at ease with the other and that this argument wasn’t important or heated, but the result of long hours spent with one another.
It was the sort of thing Jon wished he had. He and Damian might fight and tease each other, but it was a facsimile. An ache rested in Jon’s chest, a hole, a questioning of why he didn’t have a brother of his own. He’d never really wanted one before. There was enough to keep his mind busy, plenty of friends, the excitement of his own powers and his dad being Superman that he’d never wanted for someone to tease like Damian’s brother’s teased him.
“Jon, tell Grayson he is being an idiot.” Damian’s demand shocked Jon back into the present.
“Sorry.” he gave them a sheepish grin, “I wasn’t listening.”
“Tt.” Damian scoffed, “Useless, you are supposed to be my backup, not drifting into fantasy.”
Jon rolled his eyes, and opened his mouth to tell Damian he shouldn’t need backup against his own brother when his eyes caught sight of a familiar woman. Jon knew disguised glasses when he saw them, or at least he liked to think he did since he and his dad made use of them daily. To him the large black frames over her blue eyes were little but a disguise. She was taller than Jon had imagined, but the confident click of her heels on the concrete told him her extra height could be from those.
He elbowed his friend who turned on him ready to snap something but Jon nodded to Cindy, hoping Damian would take his meaning before he had to spell it out for Dick to overhear. Thankfully Damian’s mind wasn’t too far gone arguing and he recognized her. His brother seemed to take the exchange as them continuing their own argument and didn’t comment.
“Thank you for the ice cream and discussion, Grayson.” Damian said, standing, “But I believe it is time we returned to our hunt. I have told Jon we will wrap this up before the allotted time, and I won’t be called a liar.”
He pulled Jon out of his seat and started to tug him after the woman. Jon waved at Dick with a smile and shrug, “Thanks, Mr. Grayson! We’ll see you soon.”
If Damian’s brother was confused by their sudden departure he didn’t show it, only waved at Jon and watched them go with a shake of his head.
Jon’s arm was released after a moment and the two of them hurried through the crowd after the woman. At one point, Jon spotted her blue bag and tugged Damian in the right direction, then Damian seemed to find her again and pull him closer. They tag teamed their stalking of her like that until they reached an office building. Damian tugged Jon backwards as the woman pulled a set of keys from her purse and entered the front door.
The building wasn’t labeled with any one company name, or any name at all. 918 was written out in large black hanging numbers on the top corner of the brick. The lights inside the front room flickered on after a moment, and Damian pulled Jon along the side of the building, following the trail of lights to a room halfway towards the back.
“Can you look inside and see what she’s doing?” he asked.
Jon swallowed, “You remember what happened last time you wanted me to look through something?”
“We got our next clue.” Damian said, then noticing Jon’s lack of humor he rolled his eyes, “I will hold you in place to make sure you don’t fall if that is what you wish, but we need to know what she’s up to.”
“I can listen in on what she’s doing.” Jon suggested.
Listening meant there was little to no chance of his accidentally blowing a hole in the side of the building. He might be getting better at using his powers, but that didn’t mean he had mastered them yet. As good as he was with his vision he couldn’t help but remember the time he’d thrown Damian’s father through his barn on accident. That, added to his melting of the statue earlier, left him wary of trying it again.
“We need to see what she is working on. What if she has vital information pulled up on her computer or she is planning something?” Damian asked, “Listening will do us no good if she says nothing.”
“But you can always check what she was looking up on her computer, right?” Jon asked.
“It could be too late to stop her if we wait.” Damian pointed out.
Jon sighed, “Alright, I’ll give it a try. Just don’t blame me if we’re running from a ruined building.”
Damian put a hand on his shoulder and smiled at him, “I have faith that you will be fine.”
His friend’s confidence in him was enough to finish bolstering his own and Jon took in a deep breath before focusing on the wall.
Looking through things was always an odd experience, everything wavered, and if he stopped for too long on something he’d be stuck seeing the inside of the wall instead of through it. Then, if he tried to look too far things were too blurry. His dad said it would get easier the older he got, and the more he practiced, but Jon wasn’t so sure about that. Other things, like flying, were simple, and seemed to stick once he had them. Looking through things was something Jon found to be almost too much work.
Cindy was at her computer, but Jon couldn’t see what she was working on. The screen was turned away from them, facing the opposite wall. Jon frowned, and turned his gaze across the room. Awards hung on the walls, along with pictures of strangers, and inspirational posters. It looked like a normal office. There was a desk, chairs, filing cabinets, and even a bookshelf filled with both books and nicknacks. Nothing about it hinted that the woman was a criminal or engaged in illegal activities. Then again, Damian always told him that the best villain was one who blended in.
“It’s all normal.” Jon said, “And I can’t see what she’s doing. The computer’s facing the wrong way.”
Damian swore quietly under his breath. “Do you hear anything useful?” he asked.
Jon listened closely, filtering out the extra noise from around them, and from other offices close by to focus on Cindy’s. He shook his head, beyond the clatter of the keyboard there was nothing.
“Sorry.” he said.
Next to him, Damian crossed his arms, “Watch for a while longer and if nothing else happens we will wait until she leaves.”
“And you’ll hack her computer?” Jon asked.
“If that is our next step, yes.” Damian confirmed.
Jon nodded, “Alright. But if there’s nothing there, Damian--”
“Then I will admit I am wrong.” Damian told him. “I can promise you, I’m not wrong.”