<b><p></b> <b>When Batman walks into the watchtower:</b> Everyone maintains respectful silence and no one looks him in the eye; there are rumors floating around that he's actually an android fitted into a human body. They're all in awe of him; everyone listens to Batman and hangs onto his every word; Batman is the leader™.<p/><b>When batman walks into the batcave:</b> AWW BATSY'S LOOKING BROODY AGAIN DICK GO GET HIM SOME EYELINER AND EMO MUSIC LOLOLOL<p/></p><p/></p>
surprisingly it isn’t Batman who has the worst sleep schedule. It’s actually the Green Lanterns. They’re so used to being in space their internal clocks are busted, and their minds are still caught in the fact that they were (Plausibly) on a solo mission in space where they had to be on high alert all the time for enemies even on diplomatic missions. Whether they’re members of the JL or not, the Watchtower had a room where they can rest without a single interruption.
What would the batkids do if they were given a tour of the watch tower (I love the watchtower so much)
Dick: asks tons of questions, has to be told not to press buttons because that could be catastrophic, mentally takes note of all the places that would be fun to climb up (like the rafters in the mess hall)
Jason: tries to act unimpressed but totally loses his cool when they go by the training room and he sees Diana kick a punching bag so hard it explodes, totally (does)n’t ask to come back again sometime
Tim: try not to geek out over all the cool tech, the fact that he’s in space, and that there are tons of super awesome superheroes all around him and he’s actually here in real life
Damian: would have disappeared halfway through the tour to scout the place out on his own, scared the living daylights out of Hal because he climbed out of an air vent in the break room without a sound
Cass: in silent awe through the whole tour, manages to befriend half the people there somehow, wants to go back as soon as possible because the place is super cool and also in space
Duke: tries to talk with as many heroes as possible because he’s not entirely convinced it’s not a dream and if he’s going to wake up at some point he may as well make the best of it, geeks out when he meets Clark and totally takes a picture with the Super Seven (ft Bruce brooding in the edge of the pic)
Yang/Emerald or Baked Alaska cuddling? (For drawing suggestions)
I’ve never thought about drawing these two together but I could see something coming out of it (and of course emerald looks bothered cause she’s thinking ‘ah shit- I’m getting attached to this one and shes probably gonna die anyways :/ ‘
aka why you shouldn’t get attached to the people that you’re trying to fool
Rumors of Bat Cow have spread all through the Justice League Watchtower. No one will confirm or deny the animal’s existence. When Bruce is faced with the question, he just looks toward the Cave and leaves.
You’d think after 13 years… you know I can’t even think of a thing to call it - because I joke a lot about being raised in a cult, and how that makes me a bit clueless sometimes about pop culture, and social norms.
It’s true, and it’s a nice distraction from the fact that I’m essentially an orphan because a group of hatemongers who call themselves “christian” basically tell my family that god is going to kill me for not believing what they say, and that if they maintain their contact with me, god might kill them too.
Joking that I never saw Star Wars until I was 19 and house-sitting so I could sneak-watch it, is a nice distraction from the days-long anxiety attacks that feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest, because they’re having their religious convention this week and teaching even more people to hate their families for disagreeing with their church leaders.
Making cracks about my mother being so afraid of demons that she’d put garage sale purchases in the garage so on the chance they were demonized, they couldn’t infest the house, is a nice distraction from the nightmares and night terrors I have about feeling a total lack of control over my future or my finances or my body, regardless of the actual status of each of these things.
Telling “funny stories” about how slow we’d walk in the door-to-door work, so we’d cover the least amount of ground possible, and talk to the fewest people, is a great distraction from the fact that all of my friendships are fraught with fear that any disagreement will lead to a permanent estrangement, that every single time I stand up for myself I have to prepare myself for a battle and remind myself that it’s okay to prioritize my own feelings and emotional safety.
Religious abuse and religious trauma syndrome is a real thing, whether or not anybody lists it in the DSM. It’s as real as C/PTSD or domestic violence or sexual abuse. It messes up the way you think about things; sometimes it’s so subtle you don’t even know it’s completely distorted thinking, except that you know it feels awful, and makes you not want to leave the house, or talk to people… I don’t know if it ever goes away. You get better at managing your bigger stressors, and you get better at hiding your bigger signs and symptoms most days.
The next time I have a big reaction to something you think should have been trivial, I’m asking that you consider this.
Damian wants to learn how to play the violin. Jon wants to learn how to play the piano. Alfred has been asking their dads if he could teach them and already has ideas about a recital in the Watchtower with invitations already made to be sent to the Justice League, The Titans, The Teen Titans, and The Outlaws
Are you still taking flash fic requests? Can I have one of Dev interacting with the Justice League? That was one of my favourite scenes in the trilogy! (btw, Dev is in my top favourite fancharacters, he's the BEST)
HI. It took me a long time to finally answer you, but I didn’t forget! I’m still doing all flash/prompt requests in order and this one was finally up. And I even managed to keep it from getting Tragic! Also, THANK YOU SO MUCH. :-D
Beam Me Up(AO3 Link) Rating: T
Gen/Friendship 5500~ Words
The video conference feed is lighting up the screen of the batcomputer when Batman leans forward to slightly adjust the volume. A routine protocol meeting means he doesn’t have to deal with the hassle of teleportation or the headache of listening to other members of the team become distracted by tangents. They tend to stay more focused when they know he’s a mute button or disconnect command away from leaving instead of physically stuck in the room.
As far as angles go, it’s not the best, but three active cameras provide decent coverage. Wonder Woman is talking quietly and fiercely about recovery efforts in an area they fought in recently, and J’onn looks attentive. Flash and Green Lantern are both writing furiously and it’s not clear whether they are taking notes or doing something else. Superman is adding thoughts as they go but Batman is quiet. Unless they require input or redirection, his preference is to stay out of it.
So, when the topic transitions to the details of upcoming Watchtower shift schedules– something he has an actual interest in arranging– he opens his mouth to interject.
Unfortunately, it is the same moment that shockingly loud notes of Indian pop music surge from speakers across the Cave. The shocked expressions of the JLA make it abundantly clear that Batman, for all his speed, did not manage to hit the mute button in time.
“Dev!” Batman turns and shouts. He’d known Kiran Devabhaktuni was back in the medical bay working on something, but assumed Dev was aware there was a meeting going on.
But it is not Dev at the medbay that greets him when he twists in the chair. It is Dick Grayson and Dev on the workout mats, dancing.
“What?” Dick yells over the music, without stopping. They’re coordinating movements in what Bruce guesses is a Bollywood dance but he’s not certain.
“Turn it off,” Bruce orders in a yell. “I’m in a meeting!” He’s angled his body to make sure the JLA can’t see anything but the back of the cowl. Unfortunately, this also means his chair is turned to give them almost a perfect line of sight to the dancing. He sneaks a sidelong glance at the feed. The meeting is completely silent and every eye is directed at the screen. He stifles a sigh.
“Did you,” Dick pauses in his yell as he spins, “put it on,” another pause is punctuated by motion, “the whiteboard schedule?”
Dev is very pointedly avoiding anything approximating eye contact but he’s grinning madly.
“It’s my cave!” Bruce protests, feeling like a petulant child. “I shouldn’t have to!”
He is aware there is a whiteboard on the far wall, but aside from using it for specific mission work he largely ignores it. The minor details of sparring plans or vehicle upgrades tend to rarely get in his way or conflict with his schedule. He glances at it now and can just barely make out the large scrawl in blue marker on the date box: DANCE PARTY, KD & DG @ 7PM.
Bruce’s eyes narrow under the cowl.
He could stand up and find the power button for the stereo but there’s little certainty that this would prevent Dick from immediately restarting the music. Dev alone would possibly be easy to reason with, even if he is in the mood to be a bit of an ass, but combined with Dick is a dangerous pairing. The last thing Bruce wants is for this to turn into an actual argument with Dick in front of the JLA.
The only alternatives are abruptly leaving the meeting or unmuting the feed long enough to try to provide brief details over the music.
“Should we come join?” Clark asks as soon as he turns back to the computer and activates the audio again. “It looks like fun.”
If it was anyone else, they might smirk. But Clark is sincerity itself, even if Bruce knows or suspects that deep down the man is thoroughly amused.
“Yes!” Dick shouts from behind.
“No,” Bruce says at the same time, in a level tone. “I’m coming up there.”
“Bring Dev!” Barry demands before Bruce turns the entire monitor off. Bruce freezes.
“We were talking,” Barry says, perhaps more loudly than he needs to. Bruce doesn’t know how noisy the music seems on their end. Barry pauses like he’s waiting for Bruce to fish for information but Bruce remains silent. “J’onn and I, I mean,” Barry continues. “What happens if there’s some kind of emergency and Dev doesn’t know his way around up here? Or he’s not used to teleportation?”
“Nobody gets used to teleportation,” Bruce says stiffly, but he is forced to acknowledge that they are decent points. He considers, without looking back at Dev and Dick dancing, and then decides.
“I’ll be there in five minutes,” he says, and then he ends the feed and shuts the monitor down.
The music is still blaring when he stands.
“Dev,” he calls over the noise. “We’re going to the Tower.”
And it is a small consolation that he has the satisfaction of watching the other man suddenly stumble out of a dance step.
“What? Right now?”
Dick shoots Bruce a glare and sprints across the mats to turn the music off, plunging the cave into silence.
“You just have to have the last word, don’t you?” Dick accuses. He’s not even breathing hard.
Dev, on the other hand, is trying to catch his breath and he gives Dick a torn, conflicted look.
“I can stay, mate,” he says. “We’d scheduled it weeks ago.”
“No,” Dick says, shaking his head. Bruce is relieved that he sounds more wryly amused than bitter. “It’s fine. Go. We can do it again later.”
“Uh,” Dev says, looking to Bruce now. Bruce has still not taken off his cowl. “What do I need?”
“Nothing,” Bruce says, going to the vault for a teleportation remote. He spins the dial and tugs the heavy door open and hunts on the shelves of the outer room.
“Should I take Damian out tonight?” Dick asks from the mats. “How long are you going to be up there?”
“Take him out,” Bruce says, pushing the door closed again. “I’ll find you out there if I come back in time. Dev, stand right here.”
“The bloody fuck I will,” Dev says warily, hanging back a few steps and eyeing the small device. “You’ll thoroughly explain that first and give the success rate, in percentages.”
Bruce is a focused man and there’s a meeting waiting, but he can also appreciate caution and a need to understand. While he often uses tech without thinking much about it, he is not so desensitized to be occasionally aware of how profoundly strange it is.
“It’s alien,” Bruce says. “I’ve taken one apart before but I still can’t figure out quite how it works. The success rate is 99.2%.”
Dev raises an alarmed eyebrow.
“99.2 isn’t promising when it’s a human body, mate.”
“I’m giving you a hard time,” Bruce says, feeling like he’s somehow evened whatever score has resulted from the dancing interruption. “In our history of usage, in normal conditions we’ve never had one fail or demonstrate error. Are you coming?”
There’s a long pause while Dev stares at the device.
“Bloody hell,” he mutters. “Yes.”
“You might feel sick,” Bruce warns. “It sometimes has that effect.”
“Don’t try to talk me out of it now,” Dev pleads. “Just get it over with.”
Two seconds later, they’re on the Tower.
Kiran Devabhaktuni thought he was braced for whatever was about to happen, but it is clear almost immediately that he was not. One second, he was standing next to Batman in the Cave.
The exact same second, he is giving in to his body’s visceral need to bend forward and brace himself, palms against knees, in a room with curved gray walls.
“Bloody hell,” he mutters, swallowing bile. It didn’t feel like moving or traveling. There was a hazy flash of dissonant color and then he is simply somewhere else, with his insides all wrong. He wonders distantly if the process disrupts cellular motion, even if by parts of micromillimeters.
“Give it a minute,” Batman orders from beside him. Dev is grateful the other man does not sound amused or dismissive.
When Dev manages to stand, Batman leads him out of the room they’ve landed in, saying, “I have a meeting to finish.”
There’s a note of reproach in Batman’s tone but Dev is too queasy and too overwhelmed to feel bad about it.
“I’ll take you to the medbay. It should be empty right now, and you can explore from there.”
“What?” Dev exclaims, lengthening his stride for two steps to catch up. “Alone, mate?”
“If you posed a threat,” Batman said, his jaw tight, “you wouldn’t be here. If a door is locked, leave it alone. If it isn’t locked, then you can go in.”
“Alright,” Dev says, slowing abruptly as they enter a hallway lined with windows. Outside the windows is space, and earth below them.
“Dev,” Batman says and Dev doesn’t budge. His gaze is pulled to the spacescape like a magnet and he can’t tear himself away.
“We’re in space,” Dev says hollowly. “Sodding space.”
“Yes,” Batman confirms.
Dev looks down– a bit stupidly, he realizes– at his Converse trainers on the sleek hallway floor.
“We’re not standing on earth, mate,” he says.
“No,” Batman agrees.
Dev shakes his head to clear it and glances again at the glittering black expanse, the orb of green and blue and white below. On top of his queasiness, he feels the familiar lurch of a rebellion against heights even though that’s not technically a proper reaction, physically speaking.
“Right, then,” he says to Batman. “Lead on.”
They walk further along a curved corridor and then Batman presses a button in a wall panel and doors slide open to reveal a medical unit that looks rather like an emergency department combined with an operating room.
“I’ll be back as soon as I finish the meeting,” Batman says, standing on the threshold as Dev steps in. “The elevator is two more doors down. All the rooms have intercoms.”
Dev nods, surveying the line of cabinets. The most marked difference between this and the emergency departments he’s accustomed to is the absence of cheery or plain-language posters about patient rights and pain medication refills.
The doors hiss again as they close and Dev is alone in the room. Wayne hadn’t specified but Dev feels it was rather implied that the visit isn’t entirely recreational. At the very least, he ought to explore the unit and he’s rather grateful he’s alone to do so.
It means nobody is around to see his eyes widen and hear the half-strangled gasp, cutting off a startled swear, that escapes him when he spots the thing that must be the body scanner Wayne R&D has been trying to replicate, without much success.
Before Dev can even question whether or not he should touch it, he’s searching it over for a power button. When he finds something that might be it, there’s a moment of hesitation but he barrels right past it and presses.
The thing comes to life with a faint yellow glow and a pleasant, tiny hum. It’s ridiculously maneuverable and light and Dev nearly forgets that he’s in space it’s such a distracting piece of tech.
He scans his own wrist with a faintly surreal sense of awe, feeling more like he’s stepped into one of Timothy’s sci-fi films. It seems more mentally manageable in the context of fiction. For a moment, he squints at a thin line across the bone before he realizes the machine is sensitive enough to show scar from an old fracture.
After several more minutes, he reluctantly pulls himself away and looks around the room. If part of the reason he’s there is to be prepared for future emergencies, he shouldn’t waste his time.
With a grin, Dev starts exploring.
Bruce is beyond done. He had known this would happen if he came up to the Watchtower and sometimes he hates being right.
Their discussion about schedules, which should have taken twenty minutes at the very most, has stretched into over an hour with interjections and side notes and questions and thoughts.
He gets the vague sense that they’re doing it intentionally, Hal and Barry, to see how far they can push him. He wishes Arthur was here so instead of sitting motionless while he swallowed a sigh, he could at least let the king’s patience wear thin enough to cut things short with a rant about the effectiveness of edicts.
Clark is too nice. He’s always been too nice. He honestly looks like he’s even enjoying everyone talking, and J’onn could be there or he could be carefully tracking conversation with his eyes while his mind is light years away. It’s hard to tell. Bruce wonders idly if he’s talking to Dev.
Usually, Diana might be useful in curtailing a waste of time, but as one of the primary complaints was hers, she’s clearly unwilling to drop things until it’s addressed to her satisfaction.
There’s a soft crackle as the intercom in the room clicks on. The table falls silent in an instant.
“Mate,” Dev’s voice carries through the speaker. “Um. I might be, well, I might be about to die.”
In the background, there’s the blaring warning that precedes an airlock door opening. Bruce is already sitting ramrod straight but he flicks a monitor panel on the table to life.
Dev’s face appears onscreen in the feed for the hangar. He looks slightly worried, but mostly angry.
And Bruce knows from experience that means probably terrified.
“What happened?” Bruce asks, flicking through the manual override commands.
At the same time, Barry exclaims, “You brought him? Why didn’t you say something?”
“I was trying to leave the bloody room after the doors shut on their own,” Dev says.
Bruce cancels the airlock door process and the alarms die off. He can see the faint slump of relief in Dev’s shoulders.
“You pushed the red button,” Bruce says. “Why would you push a red button.”
“Bloody hell, it’s not my fault they’ve not been fucking labeled!” Dev retorts. “Red means exit!”
There’s a long pause and then the other man puts a hand over his eyes.
“I see where I might have gone wrong, then,” he says.
“You aren’t technically incorrect,” Bruce replies, feeling mildly guilty for leaving Dev on his own for so long. His irritation turns almost immediately outward toward the League, who apparently can’t manage a conversation about shifts without it being an Event.
“Don’t sodding patronize me,” Dev says with a sigh.
“I can’t believe you didn’t tell us!” Barry says again, already on his feet. “We’re done here, right?”
“Hiya, Dev!” Clark calls cheerfully. When Bruce glances up, there’s just the slightest telltale crease of concern in the alien’s brow.
Oh, great. This is going to turn into worried Checking Up On and Stern Talking, from Clark Kent.
In the video feed, Dev’s face goes ashy gray and his eyes widen.
“Did the entire League just hear all that, mate?” he asks flatly.
“Shite,” Dev says under his breath. He adds a half second later, in a much clearer tone, a rather resigned and forced, “Hullo, Superman.”
Bruce remotely opens the hangar doors to the hallway and says, “I’ll be there in a minute.”
Before Dev steps out of frame, there’s a flicker of red and Barry is standing next to him, talking rapidly.
Again, Bruce swallows the desire to sigh.
Before Wayne reaches them, Dev’s already been joined by the Flash and Superman and led to something like a common area backed by a cafeteria or kitchen of some sort.
“I can’t believe he didn’t tell us he’d brought you,” Flash says for the fifth time. “Hal’s never going to let him live this down.”
It’s not particularly reassuring to Dev, who had been having a fairly good time exploring on his own until the Incident.
“How’ve you been?” Superman asks, and because he’s not wearing a mask like the Flash or Wayne, it’s a lot harder to not just think of him as Clark.
“Eh,” Dev says, fighting the creeping blush when it occurs to him that not only did they overhear the entire airlock fiasco, but also saw him dancing with Dick Grayson not two hours ago. “I’ve been well. You?”
“Great,” Clark says, with an easy smile. “But you still owe me a round of BS.”
“The card game?” the Flash asks, his tone rising in surprise.
“He means Bullshit, but he won’t say it,” Dev replies, feeling slightly more at ease. He doesn’t even care that Clark probably did it on purpose.
“I will!” Clark insists. “But my Ma was there the last time we played.”
“You wouldn’t just now,” Dev says, fighting a smirk.
Clark shrugs in resignation.
“Still. You owe me a round,” he says, turning to peer into the dim kitchen. “I wonder if we have cards up here. Does Hal have cards?”
“Why would Hal have cards?” Flash asks, frowning.
“Of course I have cards,” Green Lantern says in a scoffing tone, coming into the room with Wayne and J’onn. “Why?”
“We’re playing BS, apparently,” Flash answers.
“You came all the way to space to play Bullshit,” Wayne asks. He sounds unamused but Dev can hear the undercurrent and see the slight twitch in one corner of the man’s mouth.
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, mate, but space is really boring. It’s full of literally nothing,” Dev answers. Honestly, he wouldn’t mind exploring the Tower a bit more but he figures he should wait and distract himself until it’s easier to keep his fingers from trembling.
“This is your first time up here, isn’t it?” Green Lantern asks. “Buddy, space is full of stuff.”
“Statistically, it’s more full of nothing,” Dev says stubbornly. Somehow arguing is making him feel less stupid.
“It’s full of planets,” Flash says.
“But if it’s a planet, does it count as space?” Dev asks. There are times he could kick himself for being an arse but he’s mostly just glad it’s keeping people from talking about airlocks. “I mean, not many stand about on earth talking about being in space.”
“Space is a vast emptiness,” J’onn says calmly, and Dev debates reaching out to the alien but feels like his mind would be too much wordless shrieking at the moment.
“I’m going to go find some cards,” Clark announces. “And Diana. She’d like this game.”
“I said I have some,” Green Lantern says, going with him. “Somewhere in my room.”
“I’m finding snacks,” Flash says. “We really need to start having food at those meetings.”
“Are you alright?” Wayne asks quietly when Flash disappears into the kitchen.
“You mean have I recovered from being a bloody wanker?” Dev asks a little bitterly. “Nearly. I’m sodding desperate for a cuppa, but I’ll live. Do we need to go?”
“Do you want to?” Wayne asks, with a slight frown.
“Not especially,” Dev shrugs. “But patrol.”
“Nightwing will take Robin out,” Wayne says. “I have some things I should look over with J’onn if I’m here.”
“Cheers, then,” Dev says.
“Are you abandoning him again?” Flash demands, sticking his head through a service window.
“He isn’t a child,” Wayne answers.
“I’m bloody fine,” Dev says. “And I’m not in the mood to lose a card game by default.”
Flash ducks back and then almost immediately reappears again.
“Wait. You’ve played games with Batman. Like actual games.”
“Our favorite is Candyland,” Dev says before he even thinks twice about what he’s saying. It’s the sort of thing he might say to make Timothy angry when talking to Jason. He figures he might as well run with it. “But he gets grumpy if we don’t have the matching sweets.”
The exposed part of Flash’s face pales.
“My favorite is black licorice,” Wayne says evenly from just behind Dev.
Flash’s mouth sets in a flat line.
“Of course it is,” he answers, sounding disgusted.
“Is this an American game?” J’onn asks.
“I’ll tell you about it,” Wayne says, heading out of the room.
It was a joke, Dev thinks before the doors close.
I was nearly certain this was the case. J’onn replies. Have you been enjoying the Tower? I am told it is an unusual experience.
It’s been bloody brilliant. The Medbay alone is a marvel. Not to mention space. I’m nearly sick thinking about it, it’s so massive.
There’s a flash of Wayne’s tense expression in Dev’s mind, like a flicker of remembering something suddenly.
I am glad you have found it satisfactory. Do you know why our interactions make Batman uncomfortable? Is there some protocol of etiquette I am breeching?
No, mate, he’s just mental.
That seems harsh but oddly fitting. Is this something I should refrain from telling him?
Don’t bother. I will. I’ve not in a bit and it’s overdue.
If you do not mind my observing it, you and Batman’s family convey respect or admiration in…confusing ways.
“Dev, are you hungry?” Dev is pulled out of his thoughts by Flash leaning through the window again. “I don’t know what you like.”
Enjoy your game, Kiran Devabhaktuni.
Tell Wayne I said I’m not miffed, if you would.
“Not particularly,” Dev answers Flash. He’s mostly finally over his initial teleportation queasiness and hasn’t really registered hunger in its wake.
“Hm,” Flash says skeptically. He emerges from the kitchen with his arms full of a various assortment of bags and containers. “If you change your mind, we can probably find you something.”
“Are those J’onn’s Oreos?” Dev asks when Flash dumps it all on a table.
Flash looks just slightly guilty.
“Not all of them,” he says.
“We found cards,” Clark says, coming back into the room trailed by his cape and Green Lantern. Wonder Woman is only a few steps behind them. “I started to explain the game to Diana, but she said she’s played before.”
“It’s called Cheat,” she adds archly, taking a seat at the table. “If I agree to play, we will call it by the correct name.”
“Thank you,” Dev says, pulling out another chair while internally slowly building to a panic again. He’s about to sit and play cards with the Justice League. In space. “I’ve told them that and it would have spared Superman the humiliation, but some of Batman’s sons like the excuse to shout ‘bullshit’ at each other.”
“They need an excuse?” Wonder Woman asks with a crooked grin.
“Not much,” Clark says wryly, sitting down.
“I’ve changed my mind,” Dev says. “Pass the crisps.”
Flash tilts the open bag toward him and Dev takes a handful.
“So, who’s actually good at this game?” Green Lantern asks, looking around the table. Green, almost transparent and overlarge hands shuffle the deck of cards and then, ghostlike, deal them out. “I mean, Supes isn’t, of course, but, who else?”
“Why does everyone say that?” Clark protests with a wounded frown. “I’m the only one here who keeps a secret identity without a damn mask.”
“Damn,” Flash echoes. “Hal, you made him angry.”
“He’s not that bad,” Dev says defensively, feeling like he owes Clark that much at least.
“Thanks, Dev,” Clark mutters.
“I am excellent at this game,” Wonder Woman says. She pauses. “J’onn is not playing, is he?”
“He’s off with Bats,” Flash answers.
“Good,” she says. “Then I am excellent at this game.”
“I’m better with the mask,” Flash says with a slight shrug. “But I’m keeping it as my handicap.”
“It’s not golf, Barry,” Hal says. “You don’t get a handicap.”
“Are you taking yours off?” Flash counters, with a mouthful of crisps.
Dev drinks in every word and motion, trying to chew his own handful of crisps as unobtrusively as possible.
Instead of answering Flash, Green Lantern looks at Dev.
“What about you?”
“I’m not assessing myself in a room of supers,” Dev says, slightly alarmed by the prospect. “If I’m bloody awful, I’ll not have the added humiliation of saying otherwise first.”
“Don’t listen to him. He’s almost as good as Batman,” Clark says, picking up his cards.
Dev glares at him, unable to tell if Clark is trying to be nice or trying to throw the others off or both.
By the third round, Clark’s nearly won and Wonder Woman is looking more and more annoyed.
“Bullshit,” Green Lantern says furiously to Clark when they go around again.
“I thought we were calling it Cheat,” Flash says, studying his cards.
“We are,” Green Lantern says. “I’m not saying it as part of the game. I’m just saying bullshit. I think he’s cheating somehow.”
“Why wouldn’t you say cheat, then?” Dev asks, taking an Oreo and making a mental note to apologize to J’onn later. His hands are no longer on the verge of trembling and he glances toward the curved window that looks out on space. His stomach doesn’t completely flip this time.
“I’m not stupid,” Green Lantern bites back. “You are cheating though, Kal, aren’t you?”
“It’s not my fault you underestimated me,” Clark answers with a pleased grin. “But I’ll sit out the next round if you feel like it’s fair.”
“Cheat,” Dev says, pulling his gaze away from space.
“Crap,” Clark mutters, turning over his card. He scoops up the handful. “How’d you know?”
“I asked J’onn,” Dev says, though he didn’t. Wonder Woman makes a noise of irritation and snaps her spread of cards shut. She studies Dev and then relaxes again.
“Hm,” is all she says.
“Do we have anything to drink?” Green Lantern asks.
“Maybe,” Flash says. “I’ll check.”
“No,” Clark says. “I will. I’m already behind again.”
The game pauses when he leaves the table and Dev takes the crisps Flash offers again. They’re vinegar flavored and fairly good.
“So, what have you seen?” Flash asks. “We’ll take a tour and fill the gaps after.”
“The medbay and the hangar,” Dev says. “That was as far as I got.”
“Well, we’re done then,” Green Lantern says, leaning over and looking at Flash’s cards. “We’ve got too much to go see. I can’t believe he just left you.”
“Are we not finishing the game?” Wonder Woman asks, frowning.
“I guess not,” Flash says, dropping his cards.
“We’ve got milk and canned tea,” Clark says from the kitchen.
“Milk? Who the hell drinks milk?” Green Lantern asks, twisting in his seat.
“I think it’s for the Oreos,” Flash says. “Does the tea have lemon in it?”
“I didn’t check,” Clark says from the dim room. “Did you say we were done with the game?”
“It’s probably got lemon,” Flash says, making a face. He stands and stretches. “We’re giving Dev an official tour.”
“I’ll come,” Clark says. “Hal, you’re on your own for drinks.”
“I’ve got coffee in my room,” Green Lantern says, gathering the cards. “I’ll make some later.”
“Sometime, we will finish a game,” Wonder Woman says, handing over her two cards. “But I, too, will come along for a tour. Someone should be there to provide accurate information.”
Dev grins at the self-satisfied look she has when Green Lantern and Flash immediately begin good-naturedly arguing with her and each other in reaction.
And even though he didn’t mind being on his own earlier, it’s brilliant to explore with bickering tour guides and less danger of pressing the wrong button. By the time they make a full circuit of the public rooms and a few of the private ones, Dev isn’t sure what’s more mind-blowing– the fact that he’s in space or that he’s chatting easily with the League.
They find Batman and J’onn in a room full of communication equipment, and neither of them seem surprised to see the group.
“We need to go soon,” Wayne says, glancing at them. “But I can show you anything they skipped.”
“We didn’t skip anything,” Clark says stubbornly. “We saw everything that matters.”
“The Kitchen?” Wayne asks.
By the way he says it, Dev surmises he does not mean the cafeteria room.
“Eh,” Flash hedges. “It’s not that exciting. More like work.”
“I’ll show you the Kitchen. Then we should go,” Wayne says, standing. “Contact me if we missed anything, J’onn.”
“Of course,” J’onn says.
“How did it go?” Wayne asks Dev when the others have said farewells and they’re in the corridor alone.
“Well, I think,” Dev answers. Now, at the end of it, he’s almost too wired to process much. “Thank you, by the way. For bringing me along.”
He does not say how much he had hoped he’d get to see the Tower someday; he doesn’t think he needs to.
“It’s a wise tactical decision,” Wayne says, and Dev understands there are also things Wayne isn’t saying but means nonetheless. There’s a faint smile beneath the cowl and his voice softens a little. “And you’re going to like the Kitchen. We use it for training, but it’s essentially a holodeck.”
They ride a lift down and walk more of a corridor and Dev is starting to feel genuinely hungry and actually desperate for a cup of tea. He’d not planned on doing so much walking about.
When they stop outside a door, Wayne hesitates.
“Don’t talk to J’onn while we’re inside,” he says.
“Sure, mate,” Dev agrees.
Wayne taps on a panel with gloved fingers and then the door slides open and they step into a massive grey room with a rounded ceiling.
There’s another computer set into the wall and Wayne presses another series of buttons and Dev nearly yelps when the entire room changes around them.
Instead of a grey room, he’s standing on a grassy knoll looking over a familiar river out across a familiar skyline.
It’s Gotham, but the entire city is quiet and there’s no movement. The buildings are in good repair and the southside docks have been rebuilt where they were sinking in; the pocket of sagging Section 8 apartment buildings just to the left of the Park Row divide are new and have rooftop community gardens Dev can make out even from where he stands. There’s sunlight over the distant bay.
And while taking it all in, he realizes that the city doesn’t feel dead and empty in the least. It looks and feels for all the world like it’s a tended home, just waiting for the return of life, like a summer cottage kept with cloth tarps on the furniture.
Dev glances sidelong at Wayne, who has pulled back his cowl for the first time Dev’s seen all night. The other man’s attention is fixed on the city.
“This room is for combat training,” he says.
“They don’t know about this one,” Dev guesses, bewildered still by how real it seems.
Wayne shakes his head.
“You could do bloody anything, then,” Dev says, watching Wayne’s face now. “Why this?”
“This is what she could be like,” Wayne answers. He sounds certain, more determined than hopeful. “She could be a beautiful city again. A good place to live.”
Dev surveys Gotham again.
“It’s already getting better,” he ventures, not really sure if this is what Wayne wants or needs to hear. “It’s not as bad off as it was when I first arrived.”
“Good,” Wayne says. “It should be better. There are other programs we can see, but I wanted to show you this one. In case you needed to see it.”
Dev turns slowly on the grass. Behind where they stand, he can make out the Manor roof and some of the property. Further inland and north, the scraggly pines and slopes that make up Vernon State Park loom tall.
“It’s mental that we’ve come to space and still end up looking at home,” Dev says, swiveling back and meeting Wayne’s gaze.
“Space hates us,” Wayne says, a little grumpily, Dev thinks. “I’m sorry about the airlock. Ready?”
When they materialize instantly in the Cave nearly an hour later, Bruce gives Dev a moment to collect himself. He does not admit how much his own stomach churns.
After he’s certain Dev is steady on his feet and not going to topple over, Bruce strides over to the computer and connects the comm.
“O. How is everyone?”
“Quiet night, B.”
“Tell Nightwing to bring Robin home by one. I’m not going out tonight.”
“Will do,” Oracle says cheerfully.
Bruce turns back to Dev and takes his cowl off.
“I’m sodding exhausted,” Dev says. “And I was peckish until that jump.”
“I think we owe you a cup of tea,” Bruce answers. “Let me get out of this suit.”
“A cuppa is all I’ve ever wanted.” Dev runs a hand through his hair and sighs. “Bloody hell, but that was fun.”
You guys I really did it! I disassociated from the Watchtower Organization today! I am losing Facebook friends and Instagram followers as we speak, my family has just disowned me. And even though I’m hopelessly alone I don’t think I’ve ever felt more free and happy. I know I have a road of hardship ahead of me but for right now I’m going to enjoy the weight lifted off of my shoulders.