Joseph Kane awoke one morning in Wayne Manor only to find that only that he was NOT a cockroach (like he was in a very Kafka-esque nightmare the previous evening); but that the place was trashed. Food dishes were piled high, clothes were tossed on furniture, and there was the overripe smell of sweat and hormones. He sighed as he, still in pajamas and bathrobe, helped Alfred Pennyworth clean.
"Teenagers", Joseph swore under his breath.
"Aren't you 19, Master Joseph?" reminded Alfred.
"I'm also a doctor, a Waynetech Executive, and Sam's guardian. Besides, with all that training I did for my now ended superhero career, I didn't really have time to be one." Joseph gingerly picked up one of Bart Allen's shirts. "Does the kid have no concept of laundry? Or does that not exist in the future?"
"I hate to belabor the point, Master Joseph; but you are still young. And you are working towards assuming that career again. You have had a lot on your shoulders since you were young--"
"Not always by my own volition--"
"And you need to realize that you are not typical for a teenager."
"Tell me about it. Closest one I can think of in that merry little group presently crashing here is Tim; and even I'm less anal-retentive than him."
"I believe he took your "Mini-Bats" swipe a bit too close to heart."
"I talked to him, explained it."
"I know sir; probably didn't help him though. He has a hard time managing the Teen Titans as it is." Alfred sniffed the air. "Does something smell like a zoo?"
Joseph pointed to a pile of clothes, "That would be coming from Beast Boy's clothes."
"Remind me to use the hose on Mr. Logan to give him a bath."
Joseph grinned. "I'll make a mental note."
"What a mess...." Joseph and Alfred turned to see Joseph's little brother, Sam, leaning down from the landing.
Next to him, grumpy as always, was Damian Wayne. "Drake and his so called friends are wrecking the manor! When Father gets back from his mission...."
"I'm certain both you and I will be giving him an earful, Master Damian," sighed Alfred.
"Okay, we need a meeting about this," said Joseph, putting on the air of an exasperated junior executive.
"This early?" yawned Sam.
"I want them to clean up this mess!" glowered Damian.
Alfred looked at Joseph, "They really should, sir. Would teach them character."
Joseph grinned. "Get me some airhorns."
Tim Drake bolted upright in bed, only to see Damian perching on top of him, airhorn right in Tim's face. Damian blasted it again, Tim kicked him off the bed.
"Damn it, Damian; what do you think you're doing!"
"Kane and Pennyworth want you downstairs, now!"
"Couldn't Joseph woken me up?"
"I volunteered." Damian blasted the horn again. "He wants you and your peasant friends to clean the manor."
Tim grabbed the horn out of Damian's hands. "Get out of my room; I'll be down in five minutes."
">TT<" Damian left. In the meanwhile, Tim put on a tanktop and sweatpants; and then shook the red dog sleeping next to him.
"Gar, we're wanted downstairs."
"Oh come on, five more minutes...." yawned the dog, actually Garfield Logan, aka Beast Boy.
"I think it's about the mess we made last night."
"Don't you have a butler?"
"Yeah, but Doctor Kane is acting as head of the house until Batman or Nightwing gets back. And dude, SHOWER!"
Sam looked nervous as he entered the room where Superboy, aka Conner Kent aka Kon-El, and Kid Flash, aka Bart Allen, were sleeping.
"So sorry about this...."
Bart practically went from prone to sitting upright immediately. "ABANDON SHIP! WOMEN AND SPEEDTERS FIRST!"
Conner was up a moment sooner and grabbed Sam by the shirt. The eight year old boy dangled in the muscular Teen of Steel's grip. Sam panicked and blasted the airhorn again, right in Connor's face. Connor dropped Sam and held his ears.
"Why did you do that?!" Superboy roared.
"J-J-Joey wants you downstairs to clean up the mess and..."
"And you decided to use an airhorn?" asked Bart.
"That was Joey's idea, thought it would get you up faster." Sam looked panicky as Superboy looked back at him, and whimpered. "Sorry...."
"Look, kid, it's not your fault. I'm just not a morning person, especially when awakened like that." Connor stretched, "We'll be down soon."
Sam nodded and dashed out of the room.
"Geez, Kon, you frightened the kid," said Bart, who put on a t-shirt but remained in his boxers.
"I didn't mean to, but he shouldn't have done that."
"He was just doing what his brother told him to do."
Connor put on sweatpants and headed to the door. "So what should I do to calm him down, smile?"
"It wouldn't hurt. And aren't you going to put on a shirt?"
"Dude, mixed company."
Alfred drew back the curtains of the bedroom where Cassie Sandsmark, aka Wonder Girl, and Kiran Singh, aka Solstice, were sleeping.
"Miss Sandsmark, Miss Singh; time to get up."
"Why so early, Mister Pennyworth?" asked Kiran.
"Some pre-breakfast cleaning. You left quite a mess last night; and Doctor Kane and I are not going to clean it up."
"Why is Doctor Kane the boss here? Shouldn't Tim be in charge?" asked Cassie.
"While Master Tim is Master Bruce's adopted son; Master Joseph is presently the only one here other than me who has passed the age of majority. While Master Tim is presently the master of Wayne Manor by right; Master Bruce asked Master Joseph to be head of the household while the Justice League is away."
"And to keep us from interfering", said Cassie; sore that the Justice League didn't want the Teen Titans to aid them while some members of an earlier Titans group were with the League.
"I'm afraid so, Miss Sandsmark. Master Joseph will be back down in a few minutes to list the chores."
"We'll be there."
Alfred left. Kiran turned to Cassie, "Is it me, or did I hear airhorns."
Joseph was waiting patiently for the Teen Titans as they came downstairs. He had already showered and changed into his "informal work clothes"; in this case a dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up, a vest, suit pants, and dress shoes with appropriate socks. Sam was still in his pajamas while Damian was in shorts and a t-shirt. Conner saw Sam and gave what he thought was a reassuring smile, but Sam hid behind a chair. The Titans lined up and Joseph went up and down the line.
"Look, I hate to be the one to do this--"
"Bullshit." said Cassie.
Joseph shot her a look. "Yes, I do. As Alfred has constantly pointed out these last couple days, I'm not that much older than you. And to be honest I've had to deal with certain things with life that had to make me very independent early on. That being said...." He stopped in front of Connor "Two questions. One, we're in mixed company, why are you not wearing a shirt?"
Connor pointed to Gar, who was still in dog form. "He's not."
Gar transformed, showing he was wearing a t-shirt and shorts in his red humanoid form. "You were saying?"
Connor turned back to Joseph, "I'll get one when you're done with the lecture, Doctor."
"Please do, and please all of you call me Joseph. And that brings me to question number two." He pointed to the S-shield barcode tattoo on Superboy's right shoulder. "How the heck did you get that?"
"Paid money, got it done."
"But you're part Kryptonian, it shouldn't be..." Joseph paused. "Sorry, that's the scientist in me. Anyways, what I brought you all down here to clean up the various messes you've made. I don't think Batman will want to return to a house smelling like an open sewer, and looking like a riot scene. You will clean this place until...."
"Until you see it shines like Wayne Tower," said Bart.
"Actually no." Joseph pointed to Alfred. "He'll be the judge of your work. He has stricter standards than me."
"His desk is appalling," said Alfred, who constantly dealt with Joseph's "organized chaos" in his various working areas.
"Sam and I will cook breakfast," said Joseph.
"Can you cook?" asked Kiran.
"Surprisingly well," said Damian.
"What is Damian going to do?" asked Tim.
"Watch you and laugh, Drake," sneered Damian.
"Actually, Damian, you will help Tim. Consider it brotherly chores," said Joseph.
"NO!" said Tim and Damian at the same time.
"Yes you will," said Alfred. His words had much more weight behind them. The two Wayne boys went silent. "Now, here are the various tasks..."
Two hours later, Wayne Manor shined not only like Wayne Tower, but the top of the Chrysler Building. It was only 9 in the morning, still the perfect time for breakfast.
"My hands are raw...." complained Kiran.
"At least you weren't scrubbing the floors like Cinderella," said Cassie.
"Not my fault I almost made a mini dust bowl," said Bart.
"Tell that to my coughing fit, Allen!" yelled Damian, who then coughed.
"I'm surprised I didn't break anything," said Connor.
"And who knew being an Elephant would work as a power washer. I'm even more surprised the floor held up under me!" said Gar.
Tim was silent, he was still grumpy about Joseph's retort from the other night, not to mention being rudely awakened. While he and Joseph were cordial in the past; he felt Batman placing Joseph above him in this situation was a tad insulting.
So imagine everyone's surprise to see the spread of food on the table. Joseph stood at the head of the table, Sam was seated to his right.
"No need to stand on ceremony, dig in."
The Teens practically swarmed the table. Sam quaked a bit when Connor sat next to him, but as the meal progressed, he and Connor managed to get onto friendly terms. Joseph was happy too; if Superboy yelled at Sam during this meal, he would have pulled a Rykers and stuck a Kryptonite shiv into Connor's kidneys.
Tim leaned back, maybe he was being too harsh on Joseph. At this point, Joseph turned to Tim,"Remember when I said you and your group should take a vacation?"
"Treat these next few days as them. Do thing that normal teens do."
"What do they do?"
"You're asking me this?"
Tim looked at Joseph, "Look, I know your growing up wasn't normal; but you at least have an idea. I lost track of that the moment I put on a mask."
"I once wore one."
"Not in a few months."
"Ouch, rub some salt in the wound why don't you?"
"Even then, you at least had an idea of normalcy. You weren't a hero long enough to lose that idea. So what should we do?"
"Well, there's the mall; but you boys will be bored. Not to mention I would be too as your chaperone AND I'd have to explain why one of you is a furry red kid."
"Very funny, can't you whip up some holo thing?"
"Oh certainly; you'd still be bored."
"What about Dave and Busters?" said Sam.
"What do you mean?" asked Tim.
"It's got games, prizes, food."
"Haven't you eaten enough? You eat more than any little kid I've seen," said Connor.
"Trust me, Clone; the kid is a black hole. Besides, the workout regimen I put him through will make him lose the baby fat," responded Damian haughtily.
"Games? Video games? I'm in!" grinned Bart.
"Me too!" said Gar, who turned into a clapping seal.
"It would be nice to just get out," said Kiran; who had recently regained the ability to look like how she looked before NOWHERE experimented on her.
"Is it near a mall, I could do some...shopping," said Cassie, who was trying to sneak the silverware into her purse. Alfred quickly snatched them away from her. "Hey, I won't be stealing there."
"And you won't be stealing here, Miss Sandsmark."
"Fine, I'm in." said Connor.
"Okay, but first things first everyone," said Tim. "Training."
The other teens groaned. Sam giggled, but then Damian turned to him. "What are you giggling about Kane; I'm training you too!"
A few hours later, Joseph, Sam, Damian and the Teen Titans were lounging in a private room overlooking the main floor of the Dave & Busters in the Gotham Hills MegaMall. Platters of food, and pitchers of soda and water (for the overly fitness conscious aka Tim) covered the table, as well as buckets of tickets. Sam was grinning.
"This is so cool, hanging out with teen heroes!"
">TT<" Damian said grumpily.
"You're just upset they invited me to train with them and show me new things and left you alone."
"I joined them."
"You forced your way in and guilt tripped them."
"That I learned from you."
Gar was looking in a mirror. Joseph's holo device made him look like his old self: blond, blue eyes, normal ears, normal skin. "Never thought I'd see this again."
"It's yours to keep," said Joseph.
"It's too much. I mean, I'm good looking even in Beast Boy mode. The girls can't resist me then. They'll faint now."
Cassie and Singh snickered at that.
"Let's not count our chickens before they hatch."
"I can be a hot rooster too."
Joseph rolled his eyes.
"Hey, all the girls were all over me at the DDR platform."
"That's because you were beating the champ."
"Yeah, and then Bart beat me."
Bart was draped with tickets. "What can I say, I'm a pro at games."
Connor smirked, "Beat you in the punching game though."
Tim chuckled, a rare thing that made everyone stare in surprise. "I'm more surprised that you didn't break it."
"I'm more surprised that you did the shooting gallery," said Kiran. "I thought you and Batman hated guns."
"Birdarangs give you great hand-eye coordination."
"Plus you wanted to show off in front of those girls swooning over 'Mister Wayne'," smirked Joseph.
"It was nothing."
"You're being modest. You really are Dick's brother; I remember him doing similar stuff for girls when Haly's Circus was at Coney Island."
Damian frowned, "And what am I?"
"You really want me to answer that?" said Joseph.
"Why don't we all play more games," said Joseph, standing, "I got a lucky streak at the trivia machine."
"Hey, Blondie, why don't you leave your Superman wannabe and talk to us?"
Cassie turned and sighed. A bunch of frat boys from Gotham University, already drunk, were leering at her. "Sorry, boys, but I'm fine with my friend."
"Why do they think I want to be Superman?" whispered Connor to Tim.
"You're a muscular kid with black hair, blue eyes, and a Superman shield tattoo."
Kiran pulled at Cassie's sleeve. "Let's go to the mall...."
A very tall and muscular frat boy stood in front of the ladies. "You two aren't leaving until you get to know me and my friends."
Connor, Tim, Gar and Bart moved in to protect Cassie and Kiran.
"Oh really!" said an exasperated Cassie.
"Leave the girls alone, they're with us," said Gar.
"Two girls for four guys?" said the frat boy. He grinned, "Kinky!"
Bart, surprising them all, punched the frat boy. "Perv!"
"Prez!" shouted one of the members of the frat. They stood from their table and looked like they were going to start a fight.
"Excuse me." Everyone turned and saw Joseph with his arms crossed. "You are picking a fight with minors. A crime. Such a coward."
"You think you can beat me, nerd?"
"Of course. Care to take it outside?"
"Yeah. Come on boys!"
The frat boys left. Joseph just stood there.
"Are-Are you going to fight them?" asked Bart.
Tim looked at Joseph, "You tricked them."
"Not a very original one, Douglas Adams beat me to it in one of his Hitchikers' Guide to the Galaxy books."
"We could have taken him," said Connor.
"Why? And expose your identities in a crowded arcade? Bad idea." Joseph looked over his shoulder to the front window, where the frat boys were waiting. "But I got a twisted one. All of you itching for a fight. One that's easy enough to prevent some property damage?"
"You act like all our brawls cost the taxpayers millions of dollars," say Cassie.
"Well you did wreck a good part of Midtown Manhattan. I may not be the biggest fan of that borough nor do I presently live in New York; but I am a New Yorker at heart. Oh the bill on that New Years Eve fight...."
"Enough of the guilt trip, Joseph," said Tim.
"Look, you can literally smell the Venom those guys are pumping into their veins. I've heard of that particular frat; a bodybuilders one at Gotham U, actually more a front for Venom distribution but it does attract certain students. Why don't you show them the error of their ways...."
"Where's that chicken?" asked Prez.
"He couldn't make it, so he sent another bird." Red Robin threw a birdarang into Prez's shoulder. As Prez screamed in rage, he charged; only to be knocked back by a punch from Superboy.
Wonder Girl wrapped her lasso around another frat member. "Think you can prey on women?" She shocked him with the lasso. "Think again."
Two massive thugs surrounded Beast Boy. He grinned and turned into a gorilla. He tossed one thug into a car and the other he made into an ersatz drum. "You look tense, dude, let this ape loosen you up."
"MY CAR!" screamed Prez. He punched Superboy into a wall and tossed Red Robin into a pole.
Solstice and Kid Flash worked together to keep other members of the frat off balance with their speed. Kid Flash couldn't resist pantsing a few Venom users during this.
"Isn't that a tad immature, KF?" asked Solstice.
"Oh, you know you're actually laughing." retorted Kid Flash with a grin to Solstice.
Red Robin and Superboy saw Prez charge towards them. They split up and attacked two other thugs as Prez crashed into the wall. Prez saw Wonder Girl and grinned lasciviously. He charged to get her, only to be knocked back.
The Teen Titans took down the rest of the fraternity.
"Screw you guys, I'm going to kill that coward!" shrieked Prez. He injected himself with Venom, growing bigger. He then charged into the mall.
"After him!" yelled Red Robin.
"Damian, please take Sam back to the main floor." Joseph turned from the window.
"I don't want to see what happens next."
"Joey, please be careful," begged Sam as Damian quickly took him to the arcade. Joseph simply stood in the center of the room in a defensive stance as the maddened Venom user charged in. Joseph dodged, grabbed the massive arm, and hit a pressure point. The arm went limp, and the thug screamed in pain. He fell to his knees, holding his arm. The Teen Titans entered the room through a back entrance and looked at the scene in astonishment. Joseph smiled, time to put on a show.
"That spot paralyzes your arm," said Joseph, "It also causes an immense amount of pain." He approached the thug and grabbed his hand. Joseph then applied pressure to a knuckle on the thug's hand. "That's that knuckle broken from pressure in 5, 4..." The thug screamed as Joseph broke his finger. Joseph broke another, "That's for threatening girls." Another, "That's for being a Venom user." Another, "That's for being incredibly creepy." Another, "And that's for ruining a pleasant outing."
"Mercy!" begged Prez.
"Then turn yourself and your frat into the police. Now, run." Joseph smiled, but the warmth in his eyes were replaced with something cold and frightening. Prez dashed out of the place. Joseph turned to the Titans. "What?"
"Oh come on!" Everyone turned and saw that Damian and Sam had returned. Damian was grumpy, "We missed the action?"
"Are you okay, Joey?" asked Sam.
"Not a scratch, I will admit being charged at by someone the size of a rhino to be scary."
"Well, you kept your cool," said Beast Boy.
"I had too."
"Not too bad for a former hero," grinned Red Robin.
Joseph grinned back, "And if I can get Pointy Ears to train me, I'll be one again."
"Would be cool to fight alongside you one day," said Red Robin.
"Yeah!" said Kid Flash.
"Likewise," agreed Superboy.
"I always wanted a big brother figure," said Solstice.
"Oh what the hell, I think it would be nice too," said Wonder Girl.
"And you all should get changed so we can get--" Joseph was interrupted as his cell rang. He picked it up. "Hello? Oh hey, boss. You want me to put him on?" Joseph held his phone out to Red Robin. "It's for you."
Red Robin took it, "Batman?"
"The League has a few missions for your group to help us."
"Yes sir. How can we help the Justice League?"
"We're going on a mission for the League?" asked Kid Flash, practically vibrating with excitement.
"Easy, tiger, let's wait to see what it is," said Wonder Girl.
Batman's voice filled the receiver. "First thing I need you to do is find your old friend, Bunker...."