I DONT OWN ANYTHING! THIS IS NOT MY STORY! GIVE CREDIT WHERE ITS DUE AND ITS NOT DUE TO ME!
“No,” Roy said automatically. Ollie gave him a pained look.
“Spee—Red Arrow,” he said, and it had to be bad if Ollie was actually respecting the codename change. He continued, “You know I’d never ask you to do this normally,” which was a complete and total lie and they both knew it.
Roy crossed his arms. He glowered harder, because clearly Ollie wasn’t getting the message.
“I’m not your babysitter,” he said through gritted teeth. “I’m not doing it.”
“C’mon,” Ollie cajoled. “It’ll only be for a couple hours – two days, tops, if we get sent to another dimension, but –”
“No,” Roy said. He glared, and Ollie glared, and they stood there in the middle of room sizing each other up. It wasn’t new territory, and Roy knew they could both keep it going for hours. One thing was for certain – he wasn’t backing down this time.
“Oh, for the love of --!”
Dinah pushed Ollie out of the way and grabbed him by front of his costume. She yanked him down until they were face to face.
“Roy,” she said, “I swear to God, if you don’t do this, I will make every moment of your life a living hell. You are going to wipe that stupid scowl off your face, march yourself in there and watch those kids, or the entire league is going to hear about what really cancelled the Star City Thanksgiving Day Parade two years ago. So help me – I will tell them what happened to the Arrow Car.”
“Wait,” Ollie said, frowning. “You told me it was stolen by aliens.”
“Am I being clear, young man?” Dinah asked. She ignored Ollie.
“Crystal,” Roy muttered. Dinah cupped her free hand to her ear.
“Yes! I understand! I’ll do it, okay?” Roy said, throwing his hands up. Dinah let go of him and he slumped forward, arms crossed.
Ollie beamed. Roy glared at him.
“I’m not doing it for you!” he hissed. “I’m doing it for Canary.”
Dinah gave him a fond, if somewhat exasperated look.
“Honestly, Roy, I don’t care if you’re doing for Lex Luthor, so long as you’re doing it,” she said. She clapped him on the shoulder. “Now, there’s instructions on the fridge and food in the freezer if they get hungry – all you have to do is warm it up. We’ve really got to go.”
Ollie placed his hand on her back as they walked out. He winked at Roy over his shoulder.
“If we’re not back before 9, you’ll have to tuck them in,” he said. “Bats was real specific about their bedtime.”
They teleported away before Roy could reply. He sighed and looked at the ceiling.
“I hate everything,” he said.
Fighting whatever giant monster had decided to snack on Metropolis this week had to be easier than babysitting.
For one thing, there were six of them. For another, they weren’t exactly keen on staying in the same place, and they had the powers to back it up.
To top it off, at least one of them seemed to be crying over something at any given moment.
Roy was sincerely contemplating throwing himself into the ocean.
It took him fifteen minutes to find and fish Robin out from under Miss Martian’s bed. In the process he lost track of Kid Flash, Superboy and Artemis, but Robin was by far the smallest and Roy had set up a priority system titled Who’s Most Likely to be Trampled.
“Hey, c’mon,” he said, catching Robin by the back of his tiny designer hoodie. He tried to keep his voice gentle – Robin was about four and his cheeks were damp. His nose was running; Roy realized he was going to need to find some tissues. “Quit squirming already.”
“No,” Robin said petulantly. Roy was starting to think that must have been his first word. “I don’t wanna.”
“Yeah, well,” Roy groused, picking Robin up. He was ridiculously light. “I don’t wanna either, kid.”
Robin sniffed. He pressed his face into Roy’s shoulder; Roy tried not to care too much about the snot and tears staining his costume.
“I want Batman,” he whined.
Roy honestly had no idea how to reply to that.
Kid Flash showed up as soon as Roy set foot in the kitchen, which just figured. He tugged at his pants, zooming around him in circles and smiling up at him with deceptively innocent eyes.
“I’m hungry,” he declared. Roy juggled Robin in his arms, trying to grab some paper towels.
“Alright, Baby Flash, I’ll make you a deal,” he said. He wet the paper towels under the sink and wrung them out until they were only damp. He did his best to scrub at Robin’s face. It was a little tricky considering Robin kept trying to escape. “You find your friends and I’ll get you whatever you want for dinner.”
The way Kid Flash’s eyes lit up made Roy instantly regret it.
“I don’t – not -- there are exceptions!” he shouted as Kid Flash speeds out of the room. He slumped back against the counter and held on a little tighter as Robin attempted to climb over his shoulder. “Batman’s going to kill me.”
Robin stilled, then started crying all over again.
Roy hung his head.
It turned out Aqualad was in the bathtub. Roy snorted, mumbled, “figured”, and left Robin, Kid Flash, Miss Martian and Superboy in front of the most child-friendly thing he could find on TV. Robin was still wailing about Batman; last he’d saw Kid Flash was trying to cheer him up with jokes, except he kept screwing up the punchlines.
Aqualad was, in fact, submerged in the tub. Roy had no idea where he’d gotten all the plastic fish.
“Hey, kid,” he tried, standing in the doorway. “You wanna get out of there?”
Aqualad eyed him moodily over the top of the water.
“That’s a no, huh?” Roy said. Aqualad dunked his head under the surface.
Roy sighed. He sat down on the ground by the tub and braced his arms on the edge, staring down into the water.
“C’mon, kid,” he said. “At least talk to me.”
It took a moment, but eventually Aqualad surfaced. He wouldn’t meet Roy’s eyes.
“I want to go home,” he said quietly.
“It’s so… dry here,” Aqualad murmured. He pressed his knees to his chest and circled them with his arms, hiding his face. Roy settled a hand on top of his head.
“I know,” he said. “Can’t do anything about that, kiddo. But hey, listen. It’s only for a little while, right? Soon Aquaman’s going to come back and he can take you home.”
Aqualad was quiet for a minute. He lifted his head up just enough to give Roy a wary eye.
“You really think so?” he whispered. Roy smiled and ruffled the fluffy blond hair under his fingers.
“Yeah,” he said. “C’mon. Let’s get you dried off and maybe you can talk Kid Flash out of wanting ice cream for dinner.”
Aqualad perked up.
“Ice cream?” he said.
“Five down,” he said, depositing Aqualad in the middle of his tiny teammates. “One to go. Hey – anyone know where Artemis is?”
“She’s in the training room,” Kid Flash said. “I tried to get her to come out, but she yelled at me. She’s mean.”
“I’ll be right back,” Roy said. “Stay or nobody’s getting ice cream.”
A chorus of complaints followed him down the hallway. Roy smirked.
The lights were off in the training room, but he could hear footsteps and a huffy little girl voice grumbling. He flipped on the lights.
Artemis blinked and scowled at him. She held a bow; it looked huge in her tiny hands. Roy crossed the room in a few long strides and plucked it from her grasp. She jumped after it and, feeling a little too amused by the situation, he held it above his head.
“Give it back!” she yelled. “That’s not fair, you’re all – giant! And stupid!”
“What did Green Arrow tell you about namecalling, twerp?” he said.
She scowled at him, red in the face.
“That it’s the best distraction tactic and it makes your enemies all mad and then they mess up and lose!” she yelled, which, okay, was pretty much Green Arrow through and through.
Roy rolled his eyes.
“What does your mom say about it?” he said, taking a chance, and Artemis fell silent. She stared at the ground, scuffing the heel of her shoe against it. “It’s dinnertime. Let’s go.”
“Don’t want to go with you,” Artemis muttered. “You’re not nice. You hate me.”
Roy froze on the spot.
“I don’t hate you,” he said after a moment. “Where’d you –”
“You do!” Artemis insisted, balling her little hands into fists. “You hate me and you don’t trust me and – you’re just a mean jerk!”
Roy sighed, tipping his head back. The league owed him for this.
He knelt down in front of her, setting the bow on the ground with a clatter. He placed his hands on her shoulders – she was trembling, slightly, and she was so little – and tried to look in her eyes.
“I don’t hate you,” he said. “You – I – what I said before, that’s different. Honestly. I’m just… I’m a mean jerk sometimes, okay?”
Artemis sniffled. Roy sighed again.
“Look,” he said, squeezing her shoulders. “How about we forget about everything I said and go have dinner? I’ll make you a deal – Kid Flash was supposed to choose, but if you promise not to say “ice cream”, you can pick what we’re having.”
Artemis sniffled again. She wiped her nose on the back of her hand.
“Can I have pizza?” she asked without looking up. In a smaller voice, she added, “… And a piggyback ride?”
Roy frowned, feeling defeat creeping over him. He turned around obligingly and gestured for her to get on. She wrapped her arms around his neck and he gripped her under the knees, easily lifting her up.
“Up we go,” he said as he straightened up. “You’re going to give me hell about this when you’re back to normal, aren’t you?”
“What did Green Arrow tell you about swearing?” Artemis said. Roy bit back a grin.
“That cursing is great for sticking it to the fat cats,” he said. Artemis giggled. Roy adjusted his grip slightly, braced himself and said, “Hang on tight!”
Artemis gasped and shrieked, fingers clawing at his shirt as he took off full speed down the hall; she started to laugh, and he did too.
The ice cream vs. pizza argument raged for a good ten minutes. Aqualad and Kid Flash defended their side valiantly, but Artemis managed to recruit Miss Martian and Superboy onto Team Pizza, and the only thing Robin wanted was Batman.
Roy personally sided with pizza, if only because tomato sauce had some nutritional value. Sort of. He could claim it did, anyway.
He ended up having to promise ice cream for dessert – Aqualad had threatened to jump back in the tub.
“I can help with the pizza!” Miss Martian exclaimed once they were in the kitchen. She hopped up and down. “Let me, let me! I’m a really good cook!”
Roy, frozen pizza in hand, stared at the page of instructions taped to the fridge. Under Miss Martian’s section DO NOT let near oven. Or stove. Or microwave. was written in red pen.
“Sure, you could help me warm this up,” Roy said, “but that’s boring. You know what’s fun? Setting the table.”
A look of confusion crossed Miss Martian’s face.
“Really?” she said.
“He’s lying!” Kid Flash shouted. “It’s not fun at all! That’s why it’s a chore!”
Miss Martian looked from Kid Flash to Roy and back again. Roy raised an eyebrow.
“Would I lie to you?” he said. “Look, you can make it a game – first one to set a whole place at the table gets …” he trailed off, digging around in his pocket. He pulled out a dollar. “First one to set a whole place at the table gets a dollar.”
There was a shriek as Miss Martian, Kid Flash and Artemis all just about fell over each other trying to get to the cutlery drawer. Aqualad hovered nervously behind them, standing with Superboy.
“No knives!” Roy shouted. “Any knives and you’re disqualified from the competition!”
Robin tugged at his pants and Roy obligingly bent down.
“You don’t use forks to eat pizza,” he told Roy, little voice very serious. Roy gave him a confidential smirk.
“You know that, and I know that,” he said, “but apparently they don’t.”
Roy ended up having to hand out dollars to everyone before the world’s tiniest debate over whether the use of superpowers was fair play broke out. Robin only shook his head when Roy offered him one.
“Batman has way more money than all of you,” he declared. Roy snorted.
“I’m sure,” he said. He waved the dollar in the air. “Whoever helps me clean up gets an extra prize!”
Roy had expected the league back by seven, at the latest. Nobody had exactly been happy about leaving their smaller-than-usual sidekicks. But seven came and went, and then eight, and then it was nine. Roy checked the instructions on the fridge; turned out Ollie hadn’t been kidding about that whole bedtime thing.
Wrangling all the kids together was hard enough. There was no way Roy was going to be able to get them to stay in their separate bedrooms. They ended up all piled into Miss Martian’s room, dressed in whatever pajamas Roy could find. Miss Martian had shifted her own – pink, with fluffy collars and cuffs.
“Are you going to read us a story?” she asked. There were books lining her shelves – Harry Potter and chicklit and huge collections of fairy tales. It looked like she had just grabbed armfuls of whatever was on display at the book store.
“I don’t…” Roy started, but there were five pairs of eyes and one pair of sunglasses staring owlishly up at him.
“Please?” Miss Martian said. She had Superboy’s hand gripped in her own. “Nobody’s ever read a story to Superboy!”
Roy slumped a little bit.
“Alright,” he said, sitting down on the edge of the bed. “What kind of story do you guys want?”
“I want a fairy tale!” Miss Martian exclaimed. “Sleeping Beauty!”
Kid Flash made a face.
“That story’s for babies,” he said. “It’s boring. I want something in space!”
“Space isn’t as cool as Batman,” Robin muttered around a yawn.
“Can we have a story about pirates?” Aqualad asked, just as Artemis chimed in, “No, Robin Hood!”
Superboy didn’t say anything. He had a fist full of Miss Martian’s blankets.
“I think we should let Superboy pick the story,” Roy said. Superboy looked up sharply, something unreadable in his eyes. Roy nodded at him. “Pick whatever you want.”
“Yeah!” Miss Martian said. “What kind of story do you want, Superboy?”
Superboy bit his lip.
“It’s okay,” Aqualad said.
“I guess it’s fair,” Kid Flash said. He added, quietly, “you should still pick something in space, though,” and Robin elbowed him.
Superboy was quiet for another long moment.
“Can I…” he finally said, his voice hesitant. He looked down at the bed. “Can we have a story about Superman? Doing something cool?”
“Gotta be honest, I don’t know that many Superman stories,” he said. Something like disappointment flashed in Superboy’s eyes.
Roy made a decision: as long as it was a good story, it didn’t matter how true it was.
“But I guess I could tell you about the time he and Green Arrow fought the space aliens,” he said, crossing his arms and leaning back. “With the help of Aquaman and Batman. To save the princess, for truth, justice and apple pie.”
Roy only realized he’d fallen asleep when the door creaked open. Black Canary stood in the doorway, lit from behind. She was smiling.
“Oh, don’t let me disturb you,” she said quietly when he started to get up. He looked down and found himself trapped; Robin was sprawled over him, drooling on his chest, and Superboy was cuddled up against his side. Miss Martian had one of his hands trapped between her own. Aqualad and Kid Flash had thrown themselves over his legs. Artemis had her head on his shoulder. Her hair tickled his cheek.
“Help,” he said.
“I only wish I had a camera,” Dinah said, settling one hand on her hip. “Should I call the others? I’m sure Batman’s got one in that belt of his.”
“I hate you all,” Roy grumbled and Dinah’s smile, if possible, got even wider.
“Doesn’t look like that from here,” she said. “I gotta say, I’m impressed. Everyone was taking bets on the way over about how trashed this place would be, and whether you’d be hogtied in a closet.”
“Nobody has any faith,” Roy said. He let himself relax; it wasn’t like he was going anywhere so long as the kids were all on top of him.
“So does that mean you’ll do it again tomorrow?” Dinah asked. Roy slanted a glare her way.
“Don’t even joke,” he said. “How long’s this supposed to last again?”
“Zatara says probably another few days,” she said. Her grin took on a wicked edge. “So. Did this put you off kids forever?”
Roy almost bit out a yes but then Artemis shifted and Superboy sighed in his sleep and he stopped.
“They weren’t that bad,” he said, quietly, his eyes falling shut, and Dinah’s smile softened as she shut the door.
AGAIN I DONT OWN ANYTHING! I HOPE YOU ENJOYED AND I HOPE IT WASNT PREVIOUSLY POSTED