Too Many Long Boxes!
   
   

End of Summer
 

Young, Just Us

by Arlene Pon

Timothy Drake practically jumped out of the sedan before his driver could open the door for him. He leaned in through the opened window.

"Thanks for driving me, Alfie. I'll call if there're any changes."

"You're quite welcome, young sir," the old gentleman replied. "Will you be joining us for supper, Master Tim?"

"No, probably not. Mrs. Mac's making her famous shepherd's pie." Tim grimaced. "Tell Bruce I said 'hi', though." The boy waved and went off.

"Have a good day!" Alfred called after the already-retreating backside.

As Tim ran up the steps of his high school, he nearly bumped into the wild-haired boy who suddenly appeared before him.

"Hey, Bart."

"HeyTim!Gottahurry!Don'twanttolateforclass!"

"What?" Tim glanced at his watch. "We've still got half an hour!"

Bart Allen skidded to a halt and almost tripped over his abnormally large feet. "For real?" He checked his own watch. "Hunh."

Tim jogged to catch up to his friend. "Geez, Bart! You gotta slow down!" He shook his head at his impulsive friend. "What's up?"

"Aw, nothin' much. Oh yeah! Coach Smith said I gotta try out for track! Whaddya think?" John Smith, also known as the "Red Tornado" in his heyday as a varsity linebacker, had seen Bart's hyper-activity and decided to use it to the school's advantage.

"Kewl," Tim nodded. "What'd your uncle say?"

At this, Bart blushed. "Um, I didn't tell him yet. I wanted to try out first, y'know, see if I can make the cut, if I was good enough."

"Good enough? You kiddin'? You'll be so fast, everybody else'll eat your dust!"

Bart's face brightened at his friend's confidence in him. "Thanks, Tim! Try out's after school today! Wish me luck! Later!" Tim waved to him as they reached his locker. As he switched his books to get ready for his first class, Tim was roughly pushed aside and dropped everything in his arms. On the floor, he glared at the football players horsing around as they walked down the hall, heedless of anyone else they bumped into. "Dumb jocks," he muttered as he picked up his belongings.

"Oh, hey, Tim! What happened?" A leggy blond dressed in the school's colors crouched next to him and helped him with his books.

"Hi, Cass. Conal and his friends happened, that's what. Geeze, Cass, how can you be a cheerleader for those guys, anyway?" Tim blew out a frustrated breath. "I mean, they're such pains in the--."

"Well, they're not all jerks, not all the time," she defended.

Tim shook his head. Cassandra Sandsmark's crush on Conal, aka "Superboy" or simply "The Kid", captain of the football team, most valuable player of the semester and all-around jerk, was legendary among the school gossip circles. He knew his complaint was falling on deaf ears. "Well, yeah, you just keep believing that, Cass. Anyway, thanks for helping me. You'd better get going."

"Sure thing, Tim. See ya!" The perky teen practically skipped towards her classroom.

After looking at his despairingly at his wrinkled report, he gathered everything he needed and shoved the rest in his locker, slamming the door before it all fell out again. He sighed. High school sucked.

******

"All right, guys!" Coach Smith barked, "Red plays defense and white's offense. Run through the last play again! Con, get over here! I gotta talk to you."

The dark-haired boy breathlessly ran up. "What's up, RT?"

"Listen, Kid, I've been going over your grades and--"

"Aw, man! It's History, ain't it? I'm tellin' you, Mr. Kent hates me or somethin'! He's flunking me on purpose!"

"Calm down, Con. Mr. Kent, doesn't hate . . . uh, well. Ahem. You know the rule: No pass, no play."

"But c'mon! The big game's coming up! They're depending on me! I gotta play!"

The coach crossed his arms and waited until the boy's rant ended. "You done yet, boy?"

"Uh, yes, sir." Conal stood awkwardly, not quite sure what to do with his hands. Finally, he copied the man opposite him and also crossed his arms.

"Good, now listen up. I made a deal. Mr. Kent's agreed to let you play if you raise your grades. You're getting a tutor. No," he put up a hand to still any protests, "you need this, and the team needs you. No pass, no play, remember?" At this reminder, Conal shut his mouth and nodded glumly. "After school, one hour. And behave yourself. Now, get back out there, Kid."

"She better be cute," Con muttered as he jogged off. The coach hid his smile behind his clipboard. 'Oh, yeah, Kid,' the man thought to himself, 'you're just going to love her.'

******

The bell rang, but before Tim could leave, Mr. Kent stopped him. "Timothy, a word, please?"

Timothy gulped. "Uh, listen, Mr. Kent, about my report, you see . . . " He trailed off at the teacher's look. Okay, shutting up now. Tim closed his mouth.

"Timothy, if you wouldn't mind, there's an . . . extracurricular activity the school needs help with."

"Um, yes, sir?" Let's see, extracurricular means after school. Shoot.

"As you know, you need a passing grade in order to play on any of the school's teams." Tim nodded nervously. "Well, it seems that one of the players needs some help, and Coach Smith requested a tutor for him. And since you're one of my best students, I was hoping you'd be that tutor." Sensing Tim's reluctance, Mr. Kent added, "Please, Timothy. It's for the team."

"Uh, sure, Mr. Kent. But, I mean, I can't promise anything. What if we don't, you know . . . ?"

"Don't worry, son, it'll work out. We'll discuss his progress later on, okay? It's after school in the Library for an hour. If it cuts into your homework, let me know, we'll figure something out. And Tim, thanks."

"Sure, Mr. Kent." With that, Tim left the room, cursing himself for not being able to say "no" to the request.

******

At lunch time, Tim and Bart settled in their usual area, away from the crowds.

" . . . and yeah, so, it's like I couldn't refuse, right? I mean, this is Mr. Kent, and he's like the nicest teacher in school."

"Um, yeah, dude, I feel your pain. You gonna eat that?"

"Hm? Oh. Here. So, I don't even know who it is, just that it's a guy. What if it's one of those football guys? An' you know what they're like, right? What if he decides, 'Hey, this is a good day to run Tim's shorts up the flagpole?' And he'd do it too, you know."

"Yeah, totally tragic. You gonna eat those chips?"

Tim brought the cellophane bag closer to his side. "Oh no, you are not getting these." Hoping to use Bart's short attention span to save his snack, he looked around. "Hey look! It's Cass an' Ciss! Why don't you call'em over?" When Bart dashed off to retrieve the girls, Tim stashed his chips into his backpack. He felt slightly guilty, but, hey, they were his chips, after all.

Bart was back before the girls were even halfway to their makeshift picnic spot. "Y'know, Bart, you're definitely going to make track." Bart beamed at the compliment.

"Wh-who's going for track?" Cecilia King-Jones huffed out as she joined the boys on the grass.

"Bart is, duh! Didja think that Tim . . . " At Tim's hurt look, Cassie recanted. "Um, I mean, Bart's so hyper, so, like, uh, . . . " At Bart's hurt look, Cassie just stopped and took a deep breath. "Ciss, would you just hit me already?"

"Sure." The other blond obliged her by smacking her on the head.

"Thanks, Ciss," the boys said together. All was well once again, until a familiar voice broke the peace.

"Girls! Why're two lovely ladies hanging with these two geekwads?"

"Hi, Kid," Cassie sighed.

"And how's my little Wonderbabe doin'?" Cassie giggled while the other three teens rolled their eyes in disgust.

Cissie stood up. "Later, guys. Archery tournament's coming up, and I'm gonna go to the practice range before I toss my cookies." At the mention of cookies, Bart immediately got up and followed her down. This left Tim as the only reluctant witness to the embarrassing exchange.

"I'm doing real good, SB, now that you're here. Are you doing anything after school?" Tim hastily picked up his stuff before he had to watch anymore. He could withstand only so much torture.

"Sorry, Cass, but I gotta go to the Library later." At this, Tim paused in his escape. "Doin' a favor for Coach."

"Kewl. That's so nice of you, Con."

"You still here, Drake?" Oops, caught.

"Nope, not here, going now, 'bye!" Tim turned and walked away before the flirting couple could see the look of horror spread across his face. Time to talk to Mr. Kent about his new student.

******

Usually, Tim, like any other normal teenager, looked forward to the end of the school day; it had always meant freedom. That is, until today. He took a deep breath and headed towards the Library. He didn't want to be late. Actually, he didn't want to be there at all, but he had talked to Mr. Kent again, who had talked him into it, again. Tim sighed. The nicest people were always the most dangerous.

Seeing that he beat his student, Tim settled down to mentally prepare himself for the encounter. Judging from what he's said at lunch, Conal didn't know who his tutor was. The door opened. Well, he does now. Hoo boy.

The larger boy looked at him in shock. "Oh no. No friggin' way, man. Nuh uh."

"Uh, hey, Con. Um, I guess I'm gonna be your, y'know . . . "

Conal slowly approached the table. "This some kinda joke? 'Cuz I ain't laughin'."

That was it. Something inside of Tim snapped. "Get over yourself and sit down!" Con plopped himself into a chair, still in shock.

"B-but, you're a sophmore! You're like, younger!" He recoiled at the Look Tim sent his way. Man, dude had one evil glare going on.

"I'm your tutor, and I'm supposed help you. I'm doing this on my own time. You don't like it, fine, then leave."

"You're not the boss of me," Con replied weakly.

Tim smiled cruelly. "As a matter of fact, I am. You wanna talk to Mr. Kent or the coach, maybe?"

"Um, well, no, I mean . . . "

Tim started shoving his books inside his bag. "Forget this. I'm going home." He stood up and headed for the door.

"No, wait!" Conal panicked. "If I don't pass, I can't play! C'mon, man!" He tried his infamous puppy dog eyes on Tim. It always worked with the girls.

Apparently, guys were immune. "No way. You obviously don't want to and you're not willing to try. 'Sides, I got my own stuff to do."

"Wait! I'm sorry, okay? There, I said it. I mean, you're smart an' everything, and I really need help here. And there are people depending on me! I can't let everybody else down. C'mon, man, please?"

At this, Tim relented. 'For the good of the team,' he reminded himself. "Okay, fine, but I'm putting down ground rules." At Con's nod, he went on. "One, be on time. Two, be ready. And that means actually read the book. You don't get something, I'll explain it. Three, pay attention. Four, try, 'cuz this isn't going to work if you don't want it to. Deal?

"Yeah, man, deal."

"Kewl. Let's start with Chapter Three . . . "

******

An hour later, two dark haired boys emerged from the school, both feeling extremely successful. The larger one bounced a bit as they moved towards the sidewalk. Neither of them noticed the dark van on the other side of the street, nor the three men that exited it.

"Omigawd! I actually understood that! It makes so much sense now! And it, like, sounds so simple! Why can't Mr. Kent teach like that?"

Tim smiled proudly at his student. "He does, Con. But you need to be awake to hear it."

"Hey! I'm awake, just not, um, aware."

"Tim!Ididit!Imadetheteam!" Bart popped up seemingly from nowhere.

"Gah!" "Nerts!" Both boys jumped back in surprise. "Geez, Allen, you tryin' to give us heart attacks?"

Bart blinked innocently. "No. Why would I want to do that?"

"What?! Why you little--You just--"

"You just startled us, Bart," Tim cut Con off. "Rule five," he muttered, "Get a grip, dude." He turned back to Bart. "Little warning next time, Bart? And congrats."

"Thanks, Tim! I gotta tell Uncle Max the news." Before either of the boys could speak, Bart sped off in the direction of his home.

Conal watched him go in amazement. "Dude's fast."

"Understatement, Kid." Tim looked out at the curb and spotted Alfred. "There's my ride. Tomorrow, right?"

"Yeah, see ya. And thanks."

"No prob." By this time, the men from the van were almost upon them.

"Master Tim! Look out!"

"Get the kid!"

"Tim, what--?"

"Con! Duck!" Tim's hand shot into his bag and emerged with a short rod. As Con dove for the ground, Tim swung the rod, and it extended, hitting one of the men and stunning him. Con scrambled to his feet and rushed the other man in a low tackle, hitting him square in the stomach and knocking him down.

A scream of pain distracted them from the fight. When Tim turned around, he saw another man grabbing at an arrow in his shoulder. "Tim! Behind you!" Cissie yelled as she ran, reading another arrow.

With lightning reflexes, Tim turned, his bostaff readied for another attack. The man he had stunned was about to lunge for him, when, suddenly, he was kicked in the face by Cassie's cartwheel. Tim whipped his staff behind the man's kneecaps, bringing him down yet a second time and knocking him out.

Con was still struggling with his man. "Freeze, dirtbag!" Cissie's voice rang out. The man's eyes widened, and he immediately froze. "It's okay, Kid. Just move to your right." Conal stopped and slowly obeyed the instructions. When he checked in the direction of Cissie's voice, he saw her aiming another arrow at his man on the floor. He grinned. "Kewl." The whole incident had actually taken about a minute.

"Good heavens! Children! Are you all right?" Alfred ran up breathlessly with a cell phone in his hand. He surveyed the scene. "There's rope in the trunk, young sir." Tim nodded.

"Kid," Tim called out, "pin down the guy with the arrow stuck in him. Cass, watch the one we took down. Ciss, if your guy moves, shoot him." The man in front of Cissie blanched and whimpered. Tim ran to the car for the rope. When he returned, he heard Alfred calmly describing the situation, presumably to the police. He tossed one length to Con and approached the still fully conscious one.

"Allow me, young sir." Alfred took the rope and kneeled down next to the frozen man, who still was staring at the arrow. Then he drew back his arm and hit him on the chin, knocking him out. Tim stared in bewilderment at the normally gentle older man. Alfred smiled at his charge while expertly trussing the prone figure before him. "Couldn't let you have all the fun, now could I?" He moved over to the wounded man and checked Con's knots. "Quite satisfactory, young man."

"Uh, thanks, um, sir. So why're they after me? One of 'em said, 'Get the Kid,' right?"

"Well, actually, Con, they were after me," Tim spoke up. The teens all looked at him in surprise. "You see, my dad's Jack Drake." Unable to meet their eyes, he concentrated instead on folding up his staff.

Cissie understood first. "THE Jack Drake? That archeologist?"

Con whistled. "Whoa, talk about megabucks."

"Waitaminute, Tim," Cassie broke in, "so, this kinda thing happens a lot? People trying to get you?"

"No, not a lot, really, but enough that I had to learn how to defend myself." Thankfully, they all heard the sirens approaching. Satisfied that the would-be kidnappers weren't going anywhere, Alfred went to the street to meet the police.

"But, why don't you have a bodyguard or something?" Cassie shivered, "If anything happened to me, my mom'd flip."

"Yeah, an' why are you at a public school? You can afford to go somewhere better. I mean, man, you're loaded!"

"Look, the police are here. Can we talk about this later?" He walked over to Cissie, who suddenly looked pale. "Hey, you okay, Ciss? You wanna sit down?"

Cissie started shaking. "I-I actually shot somebody!" Tim gently removed the bow from her loosened grasp and set it aside.

"Hey, Con! Gimme your coat!" The larger boy shrugged out of his leather jacket and tossed it to Tim. "Here, put this on." He draped it around his friend and made her sit on the floor. "Take it easy now." He motioned to Cassie, who moved over to comfort the other girl.

******

After what seemed to be hours later, the police left with the attackers, one having been taken away in an ambulance. The teens assured them they would be at the station house with their parents the next day. One officer stayed behind.

"You kids need a ride home?"

Cissie, who had calmed down and was relatively back to normal, thought about the offer. "Cass, if I went home in a patrol car, you think my mom would freak?"

Cassie raised her eyebrows. "Fer sure. I know my mom would."

"Kewl." Turning back to the officer, she addressed him. "Can you take me home?"

"Of course. Anybody else?"

"I'd be more than happy to drive you all home," Alfred offered. The rest of them decided to go with the older gentleman.

As they piled into the car, they reviewed everything, even though the police had questioned them over and over about it all.

"Man, we so totally rocked! And we took'em all down! Float like a robin, sting like a bee!" Con pretended to box someone in front of him. Cassie, now wearing the Kid's leather jacket, moved closer to Con.

Tim frowned. "Actually, Kid, it's 'float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.'"

"Naw, man, butterflies're for wusses!"

"And robins don't float. Technically they--"

"C'mon, Timbo! You're thinking too much! Robins're are pretty quick, right? Wait'll everybody at school hears about this! I was so awesome!"

"No! Con, we can't tell anyone at school! I just thank God reporters didn't get in on the act! Can you imagine what'd happen? Every freak out there would know where Jack Drake's kid was, then I'd really have to hide. If my dad ever found out about this, he'd send me off somewhere, like, like, Brentwood!"

"For true?" Cassie made a face. "I hear that's like some sorta prison for boys."

"Boys only? No chicks?" Con shuddered. "Man, that's like, harsh."

"Yeah, it is, so like promise nobody at school finds out. Cass, can you tell Ciss?" She nodded. The car came to a stop in front of her home, and Alfred opened the door for her. "Bye, guys! And thanks, Mr. Pennyworth!"

"Please, miss, call me Alfred. 'Mr. Pennyworth' makes me sound so ancient."

She giggled. "'Kay. Bye, Alfred!" After seeing her to her door, Alfred climbed back into the car and started for Conal's home.

Tim continued. "Con? Please? Promise?" When Con hesitated, he threw in, "Promise you won't tell, and I promise I won't tell about you needing a tutor."

Dang, now those were puppy dog eyes. "Okay, okay. Deal. No prob, Rob. Heh, get it? Rob, short for Robin, the bird thing an' all?"

Tim shook his head. "Yeah, whatever, dude. Just not something stupid, like 'Karate Kid.'"

Con chortled. "Karate Kid? You kiddin', right?" At Tim's glare, he backed off. "Geez, man, if looks could kill . . . " The car stopped. "Well, that's me."

"See you tomorrow, SB. And yeah, we rocked." The boys bumped fists before Con exited the car.

"Later, geekwad."

"See ya, ya dumb jock."

After making sure Conal entered safely, Alfred turned the vehicle towards his last charge's home. "Will you be starting your own superheroes' club, young sir?" he remarked dryly.

Tim laughed. "I don't think so. I really hope it doesn't happen again. I mean, we're young, but we're just us."

End

 
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