"Look, kid, you'll do fine," Sam assures the kid sniffling into his sleeves. "I mean, I heard your audition, it was the best of the day."
"You're just sayin' that so I'll give you your sweatshirt back," the kid mumbles.
Sam laughs. "Dude, you got your tears and snot all over it. It's yours."
"Sorry," the kid says, finally lifting his head. He blinks up at Sam. “Hey, your audition was good, too.”
“Thanks.” Sam smiles at him. “’m’Sam. Hopefully I’ll see you at Judge’s Houses.”
The kid smiles back. “I’m Tim.”
Jason can’t believe he let Dick convince him to try out. He knows Dick’s just auditioning to hopefully get out of the Finch’s house, which is totally understandable, but Jason’s been planning to run away as soon as Dick ages out later this year. Dick keeps reminding him that 16 is too young to last long on the street without getting into something nasty but Jason remembers that just fine, from back before he got caught and shoved into the system. Whatever.
“C’mon, let’s go as brothers!” Dick had begged, doing that annoying puppy-dog thing he can do with his eyes that Jason still can’t manage. So now here they are, waiting around with the rest of the solo boys.
“Still say we shoulda done a duo or somethin’,” he mutters and Dick cackles, wrapping his arm around Jason’s shoulders. Thankfully, he doesn’t mention that Jason had refused to do that in the first place.
shouldntve come wout u, Bucky texts as soon as he’s off the stage.
no point in both of us missing out, Steve replies within the minute. ill be fine babe. Bucky glares down at the phone. Steve made him promise to audition whether or not Steve’s lungs acted up, and since it isn’t life-threatening (this time), Steve refused to let him stay at his side. The idiot.
So here he is, giving 100% because he knows Steve will never forgive him if he doesn’t, but he’s not making friends with the other contestants because he is furious that he’s here without Steve.
He does, however, take the time to comfort the younger kids he finds, and even listens to a girl crying about her boyfriend breaking up with her the day before, and he knows he’s nowhere near the oldest in his category at 20 but watching these little 16 and 17 year olds run around, it feels like it’s been forever since he was that young.
Finally, it’s the last day. He’s in the last group of boys called to the stage and he isn’t surprised at all when his name isn’t called. His 100% isn’t enough without Stevie.
“If I could have the following boys back out on the stage,” one of the assistant-people call, so Tim turns back. He sees the guy who helped him, Sam, also stepping up. Before long, all of the remaining boys are gathered around and the assistant says, “James Barnes.” Tim watches a tall guy frown but detach himself from the crowd. But then the assistant says, “Timothy Drake” and Tim almost trips over his feet hurrying after James.
“What do you think this is?” Tim asks him, trying not to hope too hard.
James shrugs. “Don’t know.”
The judges are waiting at their table, and three guys follow them onto the stage; Tim is happy to see Sam is one of them and bounces over to him excitedly.
“Hello,” Jim Gordon says. “I’m sure you’re all wondering why you’re here.”
“You’re each too good to let go,” Sue Storm continues. “So we’ve decided to see how you all do in a band together.”
Tim tilts his head before glancing up at Sam, who’s beginning to smile.
“Which means,” Bruce Wayne says, looking slightly less terrifying than usual, “that you are in the group category now, if you all agree.”
Tim’s about to shout but James says, “Can we have a minute to talk?”
“Of course,” Natasha Romanoff says.
“Over here,” James orders, stepping to the edge of the stage.
“What?” Tim asks. “Of course we’re doin’ it! Right, Sam?”
“Um, I’m Dick and this is my little brother Jason,” one of the other guys says. “Um. I’m in?”
“What the hell, I am if he is,” Jason mutters, looking like he wants to be anywhere else.
“I’m in,” Sam says, grinning.
James sticks his hand in his pocket and sighs heavily. “All of you want to do this?” he asks. “You’re sure? It’s gonna take so much more work than you think.” His eyes linger on Tim and Jason. “And it might be pointless, anyway. Going to Judge’s Houses isn’t a guarantee at all.”
“I’m sure,” Sam says firmly and Tim nods; so do the brothers.
“Okay.” James sighs again and leads the way back to the middle of the stage. “We’re goin’ to Judge’s Houses as a band,” he says.
“Good,” Bruce Wayne says. “We suggest you take the few weeks you have to practice as much as possible.”
“Of course,” James replies. Tim’s bouncing in place, and even Jason and Dick are clinging to each other while Sam is doing some kind of dance. But James – he doesn’t seem excited at all. He herds them all from the stage and they settle on the front steps, where they exchange contact information.
“I’ll need to talk to all of your parents,” James says. “I have an apartment where we can practice, if you’re all in the New York area.”
“Why are you actin’ like this is… I dunno, somethin’ horrible?” Jason asks. “I mean, it’s ridiculous for sure.”
“Because I was supposed to already be in a group,” James says sharply. “With my fiancé. But he’s sick, so he couldn’t come.”
“Oh,” Jason mutters. “Sorry.”
James rubs at his cheek. “Sorry, too. I just… Stevie should’ve been here.” He sits up straighter and says, “Anyway. Go home, talk to your parents. You’ll definitely need their permission.”
“Good plan,” Dick says. “Let’s meet up in three days at Central Park? Should give us time to convince our parents.”
“Sounds good,” James says. “Was good to meet ya.” He claps Sam on the shoulder, then Dick, and nods to Tim and Jason before hurrying down the steps toward the parking lot.
“This… this is a good thing, right?” Tim asks. His phone is buzzing in his pocket, probably Dad wondering why he hasn’t called yet.
“Of course it is!” Sam assures him. “Any of you need a ride home?”