After dismantling Toyman’s last robot, Clark glanced over at the scrolling marquee on the bank across the street. Local time as 7:32 PM—4:32 on the West Coast. Which meant it was time for him to head over to meet Bruce and Dick in Star City—so that they could spend an evening with Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance and Roy Harper.
Clark had actually been incredibly supportive of the idea when Bruce had first mentioned it, but the closer the time came, the less excited he was. Bruce wasn’t… great… in groups. And he and Ollie had some weird rich-people history that Clark didn’t fully grasp. And Ollie himself had the tendency to be a bit stubborn. Exhibit A: rejecting the offer to join the League.
Maybe Clark was still offended by that. Bruce had explained it as some sort of self-protection measure, which sounded reasonable enough, but Ollie’s official answer had been I don’t take orders.
Clark’s brow furrowed even thinking about it. It was such a fundamental misunderstanding of the League, of—no. He wasn’t going to think about that. He was going to be positive.
He intercepted the plane somewhere in Nevada, and knocked on a window where Bruce was sitting. Bruce didn’t even look out the window—just stood up and opened a hatch.
Clark dropped in and Bruce handed him a change of street clothes.
“I got your bag,” Bruce said, “in case you need anything else. Otherwise, we’ll leave it with ours until we reach the hotel.”
“No, this is fine,” said Clark, ducking into the lavatory and then swiftly emerging in a pair of jeans and a blue-and-grey flannel shirt. “Uneventful flight?”
“Mm. Dick’s been trying to get me to play Mad Libs, but otherwise, it’s been fine.”
Clark chuckled and then popped into the cockpit to say a quick hello to Alfred before crossing over to where Dick was sitting.
“Hey, kiddo,” he said, slipping into Bruce’s window-seat opposite Dick. Bruce took the seat next to Clark, though not before eyeing his old seat like lost territory. “You excited?”
“Am I,” said Dick, with a wide grin. “I reread Roy Harper’s dossier, and it’ll be cool to meet him… but… I don’t know. People are different in person. I was thinking… if he and Wally get along, it would be really cool to do something together, you know?”
Clark nodded along, but if Roy and Wally were like their mentors, a fast friendship didn’t seem promising. “You can be friends with them even if they don’t get along,” Clark reminded him.
“You don’t have to be friends at all,” Bruce added.
Dick swallowed, suddenly missing his usual confidence. “Is… there some reason we wouldn’t be?”
Bruce arched an eyebrow. “No.”
Dick’s brow knit, and he looked out the window.
“Hey, kiddo,” Clark said, reaching across to squeeze Dick’s knee. “It’ll be fine. Our worries don’t need to be yours.”
“Your worries about what? About Ollie?”
Clark hesitated and then nodded. Maybe he shouldn’t be sharing their concerns, but it was better that Dick understand and not worry too much himself.
“But I thought you knew Ollie,” Dick said, staring Bruce down.
“I do,” Bruce said. “He doesn’t know me.”
Clark tensed at that. “Bruce… did you not… tell him?”
“I had Dinah do it.”
“Really?” That didn’t seem right: Bruce relinquishing control over something so personal. “Why?”
“To make this evening less painful. Ollie tries to compete enough without me dropping that in his lap unexpected.”
Clark sighed and looked out the window at the clouds crawling by. “Can we all just try to get along?” he asked.
“Obviously,” Bruce said. “Buckle up, Dick. Time to descend.”
They stepped up to the door Oliver Queen’s beachfront mansion ten minutes after six.
Clark took Bruce’s hand and gave it a light squeeze. “You’re sure you’re okay with this?”
Bruce nodded and slipped his hand free to ring the bell—not that they needed announcing after the gated driveway had needed unlocking. He looked down at Dick. They were here for him. Bruce wouldn’t back out now, even if he wanted to.
Dinah opened the door and grinned.
“Bruce! Clark!” she said. “And Dick—hi there! Come in, come in!”
They followed her inside through a foyer and into a vast and open living area. A wall of windows overlooked the water and let in evening light across the contemporary space. One one side, a u-shaped sectional surrounded a strange television-fireplace-waterfall combination wall. On the other side lay a shining steel kitchen, where Ollie was tending a range with an athletic teenage boy that had to be Roy.
“Ollie’s just working on dinner,” Dinah explained. She turned around and called out, “They’re here!”
“Coming!” Ollie carried over a bowl of chips and dropped it on a coffee table. “Clark, good to see you again,” he said, holding his hand out for a practiced shake. “And Dick! How’s it hanging?”
Dick forced a smile. “It’s good.”
“And Bruce! Brucie. Wow.” Ollie laughed and pulled Bruce into a giant hug, and Clark’s breath hitched in concern. No one hugged Bruce like that. Except maybe Clark. Maybe.
Bruce was stiff at first, but then he suddenly loosened his posture and clapped Ollie on the back with a honeyed laugh.
It wasn’t the real Bruce.
It wasn’t that Clark hated the act. Not at all—it had its appeal. But Clark had thought that since these were fellow heroes, maybe they could just be themselves. Apparently that was too much to hope for.
“Ollie—it’s been a while,” said Bruce.
“Sure has,” said Ollie, stepping back and appraising Bruce. “Dinah told me your little secret—I couldn’t believe it.”
Bruce shrugged, clearly refusing to engage further on the subject.
Ollie squinted at Bruce for a moment longer than was comfortable, but then gestured back to the kitchen.
“And that’s Roy, on the stove. Hey! Royo! Come meet our guests.”
Roy covered a pot with a lid and wiped his hands before running over. “Hi,” he said, smiling wide.
“This is Roy Harper, my… uh. Son? Foster son. Ward. Something.”
Roy scoffed. “Thanks for the vote of confidence, boss.”
“The legalities are complicated,” Dinah explained, looking fondly at the boy. “That’s all.”
“We’re familiar with that,” Bruce said, smoothing over the situation.
“Nice to meet you, Roy. I’m Clark,” Clark said, offering a hand. “Um. Also Superman.”
“You’re Superman?” Roy asked, shaking Clark’s hand.
“Sure am. And this is Bruce Wayne—uh, Batman.”
Bruce held out a hand himself. “I’ve heard a lot of good things,” he said.
“You have?” Roy looked behind at Ollie, who shrugged.
“I have. And this is Dick.”
Dick stepped forward. “Dick Grayson. Foster son, ward, something,” he said, winking.
Roy laughed, and then cocked his head, looking Dick over. “You’re Robin, huh?”
“So you’ve heard of me,” said Dick, cutting through any potential tension.
“Hey Roy, you want to show Dick around?” Ollie offered.
Roy lit up. “Can I show him downstairs too?”
Ollie gave a nod of approval, and Roy jerked his head toward a hallway leading away from the open area.
“C’mon,” he said, leading Dick away.
“Well, come in,” said Ollie. “Take a seat. Make yourself comfortable.”
Bruce glanced over at Clark to communicate something like I will never be comfortable here, but Clark just smiled back and moved over to the u-shaped sectional to take a seat. Bruce walked in the direction, but he hovered, not quite willing to sit.
“What are you drinking?” Ollie asked. “We have it all.”
“Whatever you’re having,” said Clark, as Bruce said, “Just a seltzer for me.”
Ollie shook his head. “Seltzer? I never thought I’d see the day that Brucie Wayne turns down a drink.”
Bruce looked over to Clark, who clenched his jaw. The options weren’t great: continue a lie, or be himself and throw the lie in Ollie’s face. Clark wasn’t sure which would be worse.
“I don’t… drink,” Bruce admitted.
“But… Last month at the Tech Expo, you were bringing down the house! if you weren’t drinking at all those parties—”
“Ginger ale,” Bruce answered. “Tonic. Sometimes alcohol, but not much.”
“Gin and tonic, hold the gin?”
“Hh. Something like that.”
“That’s disgusting, you know that?”
Bruce shrugged again.
“You think you know a guy,” Ollie said, crossed back to the kitchen.
Dinah, meanwhile, opened the glass top of a record player and turned a few dials for the speakers and the player, and then set the needle down.
“I can change it if you’d like,” she said, just before the music started.
Clark shook his head, though he didn’t recognize the music.
Bruce though, went into deep concentration after two bars, and perked up as soon as a voice came through the speakers. “Is this Siouxsie and the Banshees?”
“It is,” said Dinah, clearly impressed. “Are you… a fan?”
Bruce shrugged one shoulder. “There are a few good songs.”
“Have you listened it on vinyl?”
“Not since… A long time ago.”
Dinah laughed and ushered him over. “This system’s great. And the sound is more authentic on vinyl. Here, you have to try.”
Bruce dragged his feet to where Dinah stood, and she plugged a pair of oversized headphones into the system, and the music dampened.
“Sorry, Clark,” she said. “Easier to appreciate the subtleties this way.”
“Oh, I can hear it just fine.”
“Of course you can.” Dinah laughed and handed the headphones to Bruce. “Try it.”
He obliged, and she moved the needle to a new song. She watched him intently, waiting for a reaction, and slowly, it came, subtle as it was. It started with a slight smile, and then Bruce nodded slowly in half-time. Dinah responded with a brighter smile and a tapping rhythm to the music she could no longer hear.
Bruce was acting so… normal. Not quite an act. This was definitely Bruce, with his appreciation for haunting music sung by someone who probably used up a full wand of black eyeliner every week. But sharing that interest with someone, that was different.
Then again, he had his own familiarity with Dinah and her mother, the Canaries of Gotham City and beyond. As allies, of course. It wasn’t like they had any romantic history, though you wouldn’t know it from how close they sat, or the appreciative smile Bruce gave Dinah, or the way she leaned in. Even if it was probably just to hear the music better.
Clark dragged his eyes away from them, refusing to fall into some stupid completely unfounded jealousy. It was good that Bruce was connecting with a fellow League member over something other than tactics.
Ollie returned then, handing Clark an opened bottle of some local IPA and setting Bruce’s seltzer down. He eyed Bruce warily. He hoped Bruce was being friendly, and not trying to stir up some kind of jealousy. Bruce wasn’t petty like that.
At least, he wasn’t that petty.
“She said it’s more authentic that way,” Clark explained, excusing the familiarity.
“I remember that line,” Ollie remarked, then mumbling under his breath, “Like he cares about authenticity.” It was low—low enough that it hadn’t been meant for Clark to hear. Ollie wasn’t used to super-hearing like Bruce and Dick were. Clark looked away, hoping Ollie wouldn’t realize his mistake.
There was clearly more to the Brucie-Ollie relationship than both being rich kids. And if Ollie thought Bruce was some kind of threat… well. That didn’t bode well for a peaceful evening. His shoulders tightened at the thought of it.
“Thanks for having us, Ollie,” Clark said, taking his beer. “This is really great.”
Ollie’s attention snapped away from Bruce and Dinah. “No problem,” he said. “Dinah said it might be good for the boys, so…” He shrugged.
“Right,” Clark said. “The boys. They’ll be back up soon, huh?”
He could only hope.
“That’s the house,” Roy said, shrugging. He stopped in front of a bookcase and grinned. “Wanna see the Arrowcave?”
Dick raised an eyebrow and bit back a laugh. “You call it the Arrow-cave?”
“Ollie does, so…” Roy shrugged and led them through a trap door and into a basement that held all the trappings of a vigilante home-base: training dummies, shooting ranges, a computer system, garage of cars and motorcycles. Except it was so… modern. Like it had been professionally designed. And it wasn’t drafty at all.
“You know the Batcave is like, an actual cave,” Dick noted.
“Yeah, seriously. Like. Stalagmites. Stalactites. Actual bats.” Dick fluttered his hand across the air, making a bat-like sound with his breath. “All the time.”
“I mean, yeah, I guess.” Dick found it much weirder to call a place a cave when it wasn’t remotely a cave, but he kept that to himself.
“Did he like… find a cave full of bats to fit the theme? Because that’s a little…” Roy made a face to complete his sentence, and Dick let out his contained laughter.
“No,” he said through his giggling. “No, he’s not… that weird. It’s just below the Manor. The Batcave was there before the Batman. Like, that’s why he’s the Bat-man and not… I don’t know. Birdman.”
“You’re the Bird-man,” Roy noted wryly.
Dick grinned. It wasn’t at all clear whether that was a compliment or not, but Dick chose to take it that way. “I guess I am.”
“Not that robins are very intimidating,” Roy said, leading them through the so-called cave.
“They are when they start kicking you in the teeth,” Dick countered, shrugging. He was used to it—bad guys laughing at the name, until they didn’t. “It was actually originally more of a Robin Hood thing, but—”
Roy spun back and cocked his head. “No shit?”
“I… uh. Figured.” Dick nodded back to where Ollie’s suits hung, all green and medieval, with feathered caps to boot.
Roy laughed and grabbed a bow, twirling it around his wrist effortlessly. He was so ridiculously cool. Hopefully Dick was able to keep up. “You know how to shoot?”
“Uh, the basics,” Dick said, rubbing a nervous hand against the back of his neck. Between growing up at Haly’s and training with Bruce, Dick had learned just about every skill that could possibly become useful in the field, and he wasn’t really bad at any of them, but he wasn’t about to compare himself to Green Arrow and Speedy, the best archers around.
“Show me what you’ve got,” Roy said, tossing it to Dick, who caught the bow by the handle and inspected it.
“Um.” Dick picked up an arrow from a nearby rack, but his confidence and cool demeanor were completely shot. “It’s… been a while,” he lied.
He drew the bow and held the nocked arrow by his cheek. He tried to aim, but the arrow began to wobble in and out of the sights.
“Breathe,” Roy advised.
Dick tried. He was already angry at himself for getting nervous—nerves never made for good performance. And now, Roy was going to think that he was mediocre, and they’d only just met, and—
“Here, you need to—” Roy stepped up and adjusted his grip. “Push forward with the bow.”
Then took his shoulders and turned them slightly.
It didn’t help. Dick dropped his form entirely.
“I’m good,” he said, trying to hide his embarrassment. He handed Roy the bow.
Roy screwed up his eyebrows and looked at Dick in confusion. “Look. You just… set the bow…”
Dick watched carefully as he demonstrated and narrated.
“Breathe in. Breathe out and set your body. Breathe in as you raise it,” he said, doing the same, “breathe out, and release.” The arrow flew perfectly to the target.
“I know that,” Dick grumbled.
“Then do it!” Roy pushed the bow back to Dick.
“Why do you care so much?”
“Well, I hear you’re such a hot-shot—guess I wanted to see if it was all bluster.”
Dick’s face pinched. “I’m not—” he started, not sure how he could make an honest sentence out of that. “I’m not an archer. I’m an acrobat.”
“Right… but…” Roy looked around. “Maybe if I help you with your shot, you’ll teach me some sweet judo moves?”
Dick laughed, easing up with the reminder that he had plenty of skills beyond this one. Roy was the best archer around. But Dick was the best at… a lot of things. And maybe Roy had been just as intimidated by him as Dick had been by Roy.
“Okay, fair,” he said with a smile.
He took the bow again, imitated Roy’s stance and recalled Bruce’s lessons, and let the arrow fly. It hit just a centimeter away from Roy’s. Granted, Roy could do it all blind-folded, at nine shots per second, but at least Dick hadn’t embarrassed himself. The bowstring snapped into his arm, but he grimaced back the pain, refusing to let it show.
“Nice!” Roy shouted, clapping him on the back. “Here, try again. Line up your shot, and we’ll get it closer.”
Dick did as instructed, and then Roy took a step forward.
“Okay, don’t take this as anything weird,” he warned, before stepping up behind Dick. He reached around to guide Dick’s handling—straightening the bow in line with his stance, raising the arrow against his cheek. He was close, close enough that Dick felt his own inhaling chest press against Roy’s.
It was weird. A lot weird.
Dick released the bow as quickly as he could and stepped away out from Roy. The shot went wide.
“I said not—”
“I’m fine,” said Dick, putting the bow back on the rack.
“I was just trying to help!”
“I didn’t ask for help!” Dick shouted.
Roy watched him. Studied him. And then Roy laughed and said, “I get it. I drive all the ladies wild. Figures you, too—”
“That’s not what’s happening,” Dick countered, though he wasn’t as quick with a justification. Not that he should need one. He’d only just met Roy. He hadn’t asked for an archery lesson, and he certainly hadn’t asked for help.
“It’s cool. It’s the red hair,” he said, running his hands through it to demonstrate.
“It’s really not,” Dick said, having gathered his nerves back.
“If you say so.” Roy shrugged.
What was it with over-confident redheads, anyway?
“Hey,” said Dick, desperate for a change of topic, “have you met Kid Flash?”
Roy shook his head. “Ollie says the Flashes are square.”
“Nah, they’re cool,” Dick countered. Before Roy could object, he pulled out his phone and clicked the speed-dial to Wally’s number and turned it to speaker.
“Yellllll-o?” Wally answered. Roy looked unimpressed.
“Hey! It’s Dick.”
“I know who it is, dumbass,” Wally answered. “This is a cell phone.”
“I’m with Speedy.”
“Wait, like… Arrow-Speedy?”
“Yeah. I thought you two should, uh, I don’t know. Say hi?”
“Hi,” said Roy, obligingly.
“You’re together? In person?”
“Yeah,” Dick said, “Bruce and Clark are here on some kind of painfully awkward double-date with Ollie and Dinah.”
“Yikes,” said Wally. “Does that make you the… fifth and sixth wheels?”
“Guess so,” said Roy.
“Well,” Dick reasoned, “it’s not so bad, since we can hang out together, but—”
“Where are you guys?” Wally interrupted.
“The Arrowcave,” Roy answered, crossing his arms.
“Green Arrow’s HQ,” Dick explained.
“Oh, like the Batcave, cool cool cool,” came Wally’s voice. “But I meant like, where where? I can drop by, if—”
“1538 Soundview Drive,” said Roy.
Dick’s eyes went wide.
“Come around the back unless you want to deal with explaining yourself to the bossmen.”
“Got it,” said Wally, hanging up the phone.
“What the hell?” Dick asked, spinning on Roy. “You just gave out your address?”
“Sorry—he knows your name. Is he not trustworthy?”
“He is! The line isn’t secure, though!”
Roy looked down at the phone and then nodded. “Point taken. Come on—we have to let him in.”
Roy walked over to a door and pressed his hand to a pad. It registered his clearance, and the door unlatched and opened onto a gorgeous grassy lawn overlooking the Sound. Wally was standing twenty feet to the side, on the driveway, and then he was next to them.
“So you’re the guy who took the best speedster name?” Wally asked.
Roy grinned. “And I guess you’re the guy everyone thinks I am these days.”
“Yeesh, sorry. Pretty sure that’s your fault.”
“Hey—Ollie gave me the name.”
“So we blame him?”
“That’s what I tend to do, yeah.” Roy laughed and propped the door open with his foot. “So, are we inside? Outside?”
Dick shrugged. “Outside’s nice.”
“Kay.” The door swung shut with a screech and a thud, and all three boys winced, realizing that the sound had probably been heard upstairs.
And sure enough, Clark was suddenly there, on the balcony, looking down at them. “Boys? Dick?”
“Hi, Clark,” Dick said. The other boys waved up at him.
“Hi, Super—Mister Kent!”
“What’s happening out here?”
“I was just introducing them,” Dick explained.
“I’m not staying,” Wally added. “Gotta get home for dinner.”
“Your folks know you’re here?”
“Uhhhh…” Wally looked between Dick and Roy for some kind of answer.
“They don’t know, Clark,” Dick reminded him.
“They think I’m at the store,” Wally said, shrugging.
Clark furrowed his brow. “They might get worried. If something happens—”
“I really don’t think so,” Wally mumbled, which only made Clark’s brow furrow deeper.
“I can bring you back,” he offered. “It’s really no trouble.”
“No, I’m good! You just, uh, enjoy your, uh… date, or whatever.”
Clark looked behind him at where the other adults were gathered. When he turned back, he wore a pained smile. “Yeah. Right. If you’re sure?”
“Okay then.” And then he was gone again.
Roy leaned against a post under the deck and looked Wally over. “So, what’s your story? Flash isn’t your dad?”
Wally shook his head. “Uncle. Or—almost. He’s engaged to my aunt.”
“He a wacko millionaire too? He can join the club upstairs.”
“No way,” Wally laughed. “He works for the police.”
Roy’s face soured.
Dick clenched his jaw, anticipating the conflict. Ollie had apparently called the Flashes square—this must be why.
“I didn’t realize the Flash was a pig,” Roy spat.
Wally threw his shoulders back and stepped forward. “What the hell’d you say?”
Dick threw his hands between them and gave a warning glare to each.
It didn’t work, apparently, because Roy followed with, “All cops are pigs. They’re tools of a fascist system.”
“What the fuck,” Wally countered, so articulately.
“Okay, chill out,” Dick warned, lowering his hands in an overly optimistic gesture. “It’s not that black and white.”
Roy shrugged. “Is to me. You know how many times they’ve tried to arrest me and Ollie? You know how many innocent people they throw in jail? Or kill? But they don’t do shit about the fat cats.”
“O-kay,” Dick said. “That’s—totally valid. There are bad cops, for sure. But there are good ones, too. But you can’t throw the Flash in with the rotten ones.”
“Sure I can. If he’s on the payroll, he’s complicit,” Roy argued.
Wally looked like he was ready to throw down, and Dick wasn’t eager to see that fight.
“You know why Barry works there?” Wally spat out. “Because he knows all that. He’s a scientist, trying to make sure they arrest people based on actual evidence and not bullshit. So don’t you dare—” Wally said, shoving Roy in the chest for good measure, “call him a pig.”
Dick stepped between them, urging Wally back. “Come on, Roy. You guys don’t call in the cops to take in perps after you apprehend them?”
Roy scoffed. “No.”
“Oh.” All right. Plan B. “But Dinah’s dad was GCPD—do you act like this with her?”
Roy opened his mouth to answer, but Wally was already shouting, “Oooooh daaamn. You’re a total hypocrite!”
That had not been the effect Dick was aiming for.
Roy held up his arms. “You wanna go, Swizzle Stick?”
“Yeah, maybe I do, youselfrighteoussbastard,” said Wally, zipping around Dick.
Roy squared himself off, and Wally took a breath, gearing himself up for a fight.
Dick rolled his eyes and sized up each of them. He’d have to hit Wally first—before he could avoid it.
He kicked the speedster’s feet from under and floored him, and then grabbed Roy’s arm and flipped him down to the ground.
“Ow,” Roy grumbled.
“Be grateful you’re on grass,” Dick snapped. “Now get up and apologize.”