With Roy and Jason in Gotham for the week, Rose was left to watch Lian. Joey and Eddie were helping out as well. The four them had drawn stacks of beautiful pictures, taken trips to the park, dared each other to try ‘adventurous’ food combinations, and played many a game. Jason and Roy made it a point to video chat with Lian every night before they went on patrol. It also helped that she got to see every single one of her favorite batty aunts and uncles. The three of them were planning to take her to spend the weekend in Gotham after she got out of school on Friday. The anticipation of it all was probably the one thing keeping Lian from fixating on how neither of her dads were around. Overall, everything was going swimmingly!
That is, until Dick and Kori asked if they could watch their daughter, Mar’I, as well. Originally, while the loving parents were helping out in Gotham, they had left the little one in the care of the Teen Titans and Titans at the tower. The two teams were big enough so that there was always someone around to care for her. However, since said teams were collectively down Damian, Tim, Dick, Kori, and Roy for a week, they were stretched thin between regular patrol, mission assignments, and life obligations. Naturally, that meant a crisis in Atlantis would pull all available members away. Dick, through a series of convoluted events, was able to pick up his daughter to bring her to the apartment his brother and best friend shared.
Mar’i had been so cheery and excited until the moment Dick left. That’s when the tears started. She was sitting in her sparkly, puffy skirt and ballet shoes in the middle of the living room screaming her head off. Tears and snot streamed down her face. Lian had hugged her in an effort to comfort her but ended up teary eyed beside her. Eddie was doing goofy dances and making faces as an attempt to get them to stop crying. Considering everything from talking to bribing had failed, it was worth a shot.
Rose sat on the couch, her head in her hands, half praying for an idea that would work. If only she could conjure up a vision on command. Joey tapped her shoulder, jolting her out of the depths of her mind. “Yes?” His response was to sign out the most brilliant solution she had ever heard. “This is why you’re the best big brother I could ask for.” She sprang up, her energy renewed. “Little ladies, Joey came up with a mission I think the two of you would love! How would you two like to be superheroes for a day?” Somehow, that got their attention.
The two girls looked at each other, smiles finally appearing on their face. “Like Mommy and Daddy?” Mar’i asked, the tears beginning to dry up.
Rose nodded. “Exactly! What do you think?”
“Hell yes!” Lian said.
Joey covered his mouth, Eddie looked proud and Rose was torn between humored and horrified. “Lian, that’s a bad word,” Rose tried to explain.
“Jay says it all the time,” she countered.
“And he shouldn’t. You know Daddy scolds him for it,” Rose said. She was going to have to tell Jason about this privately. He’d love it. If Roy found out, he’d probably flip just a little because he was such an overprotective father. “Say it again and you’ll have to sit the mission out okay?” Lian nodded. “Good. Mar’i, what about you?
The four-year-old nodded enthusiastically. “Sounds fun!”
“Alright, step one is choosing a name. What would you like to be called?” Rose asked.
“Mommy calls me Nightingale! Can I be that?” Mar’i asked, rising to her feet.
Rose was liking this idea more and more. “Absolutely! What about you Li?”
She was rubbing her chin and her eyebrows were angled downwards as she thought. It took her a couple minutes. “Daddy calls me Little Squeaker and Jay jokes about how his family is obsessed with the color red…so how about Little Red?”
“Like Riding Hood!” Mar’i said, she was floating just above the ground and clapping.
“We need costumes!” Lian shouted. The two of them ran to her room.
Rose signed “Thank you” to her brother who smiled in return.
Eddie plopped down on the couch, instinctively spreading out as much as he could. “So... what is this magical plan of Joey’s?”
She smiled slyly. “How do you feel about doing the voices of Lian’s stuffed animals?”
Her boyfriend picked up one of the bears that was cast onto the floor. “Hello, I’m Lord Dagger and I am a knight from the land of Gotham,” Eddie said in the most ridiculous voice she had ever heard him do.
“Don’t forget he is married to Prince Arrowhead and they have adopted the penguin as their daughter,” Rose said.
“What’s the penguin’s name again?” Eddie asked.
“Princess Battle Axe,” Rose said proudly. She knew that those three specific stuffed animals represented how Lian saw herself, Jason and Roy. Granted Rose’s knucklehead friends hadn’t figured it out yet, but she supposed that was what happened when two emotionally stunted men entered into a relationship. “By the way, we’re winging this.”
Two sets of small feet came running down the hall. Lian was wearing a red, hooded cloak from her dress up clothes, a pair of black leggings, and a red shirt. She had her nerf bow in hand and had managed to strap the quiver on as well. Around her waist was a black, studded belt that Lian attached a small purse to for a makeshift utility belt. Her look was completed with one of Roy’s old domino masks. Mar’i on the other hand had opted to change into a sparkly purple leotard and a silver tiara. She was still wearing her ballet flats but had chosen to compliment them with leg warmers. Instead of a mask, she had strategically placed star stickers under her large green eyes and across her cheeks and the bridge of her nose.
“Are you ready for your very first mission assignment?” Rose asked to hype them up. The two girls nodded excitedly. “Eddie, take it away.”
Eddie cleared his throat. “Little Red, Nightingale, a terrible crime wave has forsaken the world of these adorable stuffed animals.” He held up the two married bears and said in the same silly voice from a couple minutes ago, “We are being attacked by a devilishly good lucking metahuman, his intelligent sword wielding girlfriend, and her mischievous brother! Help us young ones, you’re our only hope!”
Lian drew her bow. “Put Lord Dagger and Prince Arrowhead down you fiend!”
“Make us!” Rose said, grabbing the broom out of the closet to use as a fake sword. She was promptly struck by a nerf arrow. “Those suckers actually hurt.” She rubbed her arm where she had been hit.
Mar’i was whispering into her cousin’s ear, causing her to nod in agreement. She pulled away and began to levitate. “As Dad would say; Titans, together!” She hovered over to Rose and latched onto the broom, pulling on it in an effort to snatch it of her hand.
“You’ll never win!” Eddie cried out, holding the teddy bears above his head. He gave a maniacal laugh for dramatic effect.
Lian fired two arrows at Eddie’s hands. He made a surprised sound as he lost his grip on the stuffed animals. The girl somersaulted across the floor, caught the bears and shot another arrow at him for good measure. “I warned you!” That is when Joey armed himself with a pillow and he stood. He lightly hit Lian across the back with his choice weapon. Lian, gently placed the two toys she had saved on the couch. “I’ll protect you two lovebirds…uh, I meant bears!” A nerf arrow hit Joey square in the chest.
“Little Red, she bested me…for now!” Mar’i said as Rose maintained control of the broom.
“Retreat!” Eddie hollered as he ran into the kitchen. He took the fire from Lian’s arrows as Rose followed. Joey opted to pillow fight Mar’i before making his great escape.
The two girls crouched behind the coffee table. “We need a plan,” Lian whispered as she reached for a couple of the nerf arrows she had used on Eddie. “They’re armed, dangerous, and willing to hold innocent stuffed animals hostage.”
“And they’re hiding in the kitchen where the cookies are,” Mar’i stated. Realization flashed across her face. She grabbed Lian’s arm and shook her excitedly. “That’s it! They’re running a cookie heist!”
“I think you’re on to something Nightingale. How are we going to get back all those delicious cookies?” Lian asked, scouting out the rest of the living room.
The other girl’s eyes glowed green from her alien powers. “I could fly in there and lift the weapons out of their hands.”
Lian nodded. “I can climb onto the counter and retrieve the goods while you distract them. From there I can provide cover.”
“I think we got this. On three?” Mar’i asked. Lian nodded. “One, two…I didn’t say three!”
“Hurry up slowpoke,” Lian said, already pressing herself against the wall outside the kitchen.
Mar’i floated over. “I’m going in!” Fake fight sounds ensued.
Lian peaked in. Her best friend had gained control of the broom sword and was fending off a pillow attack. This was her chance! She snuck her way in. With a jump, she pulled herself up onto the counter. Tiptoeing slowly, her sight became locked on the cookie jar in the corner. She had an arrow nocked just in case. It was only a couple more steps…Rose and Joey faked falling to the floor. Leaving Mar’i facing off against Eddie, defenseless against his tickling powers. She was laughing so hard. “Heads up!” The arrow went flying through the air, smacking Eddie right in the middle of the forehead.
Mar’i was able to break free by flying backwards. She “punched” Eddie across the jaw. He went down. “We did it!” She flew over to Lian and sat on the counter. “I think we should celebrate!”
“Good work buddy,” Lian said, finally able to reach her hand inside the cookie jar. “Oooh chocolate chip!” She handed Mar’i one.
“You haven’t seen the last of us!” Eddie cried.
Both girls looked at each other, mischievous grins on their faces. Lian shot Eddie in the chest with another one of her nerf arrows. “We have for now! Nightingale, we should make sure our headquarters are secure when we’re done with our treats.”
“You don’t have a…” Eddie began.
“That’s what you think,” Lian said, biting into her cookie.
Later that night, after the girls video chatted with their parents and were tucked into bed, the three caretakers finished tidying up small things around the apartment. Rose was on her way to put a book she had borrowed from Jason on his nightstand when she heard the little ones talking in hushed tones. Whether she paused due to curiosity or instinct or even both, she could not say for certain. Whatever the case was, she ended up overhearing a piece of their exchange.
“Today was fun, we should be superheroes more often,” Mar’i said.
Lian yawned. “I agree! What should our next mission be?”
There was a moment of silence as the two girls thought. “I’ve always wondered why Grandpa Bruce rarely smiles.”
“That’s easy. Jay says he is self-sabotaging and has unrealistic expectations,” Lian answered. “He doesn’t know I heard him say that because I was supposed to be in bed so it’s our secret, okay?”
“Okay,” Mar’i said, sounding sad. There was more silence. “Oh! What if we tried to figure out why Uncle Roy and Uncle Jay-son aren’t married?” Rose had to suppress express her delight from overhearing this tidbit. It was too innocent and cute.
“That would be epic!” Lian practically shouted.
Mar’i clapped her hands. “It’ll be our first real case!”
“You know what this means, right?” Lian asked.
“What?” Mar’i said in her normal tone of voice.
“If we figure it out, we’ll be better detectives than Grandpa Bruce,” Lian answered.
“Can we also solve the mystery of where my doll’s shoes went? I’ve looked everywhere!” Mar’i complained.
“Absolutely. Oh! We can recruit Sin! What do you think she’ll pick as a name?” Lian asked, they were both beginning to sound hyper.
Rose decided that she had heard enough. She slipped the book on Jason’s nightstand as she had originally intended and returned to the living room. She could feel the corners of her mouth wanting to turn upwards. She was ecstatic they had enjoyed themselves and felt empowered. Heck, they were so stinking adorable about the whole thing and their first cases only added to it. Her eyesight went dark for a second. In her mind’s eye she saw what could only be described as a movie clip play:
Teenaged versions of the two girls stood outside Titans Tower, staring up at it. Like today, one was clothed in red, the other purple. Behind them were four people; Roy, Jason, Dick, and…a woman. She couldn’t tell who the woman was which did not sit right with her. All she knew for certain was that she was definitely not Kori. The two girls looked at each other beaming.
“Come on Little Red,” Mar’i said as she linked arms with her cousin.
“Nightingale, the name is Red Hood now,” Lian muttered.
The one in purple laughed. “Not to me it isn’t. Now, let’s go!” She pulled on Lian and they both walked to the tower’s doors. They froze outside just shy of the entrance and looked back at the people behind them. Roy gave a thumbs up. Lian nodded and turned to enter…
Rose’s eyesight returned as the glimpse of the future vanished as quickly as it had come. She let herself smile as she sat down on Eddie’s lap. “You know what?” she asked her boyfriend and brother. They both looked at her, equally amused by the events of today. “Those girls are my heroes.”