"This is the last one," Tim Drake said as he put the last box into the empty room. He and his father stood within Tim's spacious dorm room on the campus of UCLA. "Felt like I had a hundred boxes to bring with me."
"I lost count around thirty-seven," his father Jack Drake replied. "Now Tim, I really don't have to tell you how to behave, because I'm sure you're responsible enough to know the difference between right and wrong." Tim rolled his eyes. "But what I do want to tell you," Jack continued. "Is Dana and I are both very proud of you and your mother would have been extremely proud. Don't ever forget that." Tim smiled as he father patted him on the shoulder.
"Thanks Dad," Tim replied. He swallowed the lump in his throat and followed his father out of his dorm room. "Ives should be along soon," Tim said as he locked the door. "I just feel bad his parents decided to drive him across the country."
"I'm sure Ives will survive. I'm just glad you both decided to attend UCLA so you would have someone familiar to room with." He checked his watch. "My flight leaves in an hour and forty-five minutes, so I better get back on the road if I want to make it on time."
"Yeah," Tim agreed. He gave his dad a brief hug and watched him go down the front steps of his building.
"Call Dana!" his father yelled as he exited the front gate. "You know she's dying to hear from you!"
"Take care of my car!" Tim answered playfully. He had decided to leave the Redbird back at home since Los Angeles was abundant with public transportation. Plus gas is a bitch, he thought. His father's wave was the only reply he received.
Tim walked back into the building. Once he had decided on UCLA and found out Ives was interested in being his roommate, he and Bruce had come to a difficult decision.
"You have to tell him you're Robin," Bruce said. He stood from his chair in his study and walked to the window.
"Are you crazy?" Tim asked. "I don't want to put Ives in that position."
"You're already putting him in a position by having him as a roommate. If your identity becomes compromised in anyway, Ives will be one of the first targets."
"Dammit Bruce," Tim sighed as he put his head in his hands. "With all the things I've learned, I can keep the secret from Ives."
"Not without it hurting you and Ives' friendship," Bruce retorted. "Imagine if I tried to hide my identity from Alfred. That would cause not only a headache but a definite lack of trust that I just can't have. Ives deserves to know."
"Alright, I'll tell him as soon as he gets there," Tim said. "But I don't have to like it.
Tim unlocked his door and pushed it open.
"Hey there," a voice called. Tim whirled to see two lovely young girls walking down the hallway. They wore those impossibly small shorts that were in style and their shirts did nothing to hide their chests.
"Hi," Tim smiled in reply. Tim lived in a boys' dormitory, but since today was move-in day, anyone could walk through. He watched the girls turn the corner and then entered his room. He shut the door and slid down it into a sitting position. "I am definitely going to like it here," he sighed. He kicked the nearest box. "But I am going to HATE unpacking."
Outside of Tim's dorm, a young woman leaned against a nearby tree. She wore a tank top, sweatpants, and running shoes. She brought her bottle of water to her lips and swallowed the rest of it. She wiped her lips with the back of her hand and continued looking at the dorm. A couple, likely in their late thirties, smiled at her as they walked by. She returned the smile and then tossed her water into a nearby trashcan.
"This couldn't be more perfect," she said to herself. And with that, she jogged away.
One hour later.
"I can't believe you're making me do this Ives!" Tim yelled from the bathroom.
"I have to believe it to see it," Ives replied. His voice still echoed through the now semi-decorated room. He pulled off his jacket and tossed it on one of his many suitcases. "This better be good Drake," he said as he paced around the room and stretched. A forty-one hour drive in a mini-van across country is not good for the bones, he decided.
"Are the blinds closed and the door locked?" Tim asked through the door.
"Yes!" Ives answered. "Just come out so I can see your cheap costume already."
Tim pushed the bathroom door open and strode into Ives' line of sight. The mask was in place, the "R" shone in what little sunlight was coming through the windows, gold gleamed on the inside of the cape while black draped over the shoulders. Red could be seen on the arms and the legs and in one of the black gloved hands was the trademark "R" shaped batarang. Tim Drake wasn't standing in his dorm room any longer. Only Robin remained.
Ives mouth was hanging wide open.
"Well?" Tim asked.
"I mean," Ives stammered. "I thought you were kidding, that you were playing a joke. But just looking at you now...nothing says Tim Drake to me at all. Wow."
"Good," Tim said as he tucked away his R-rang. "Because you have a right to know this as my roommate and I want to give you a warning about what I deal with on a daily basis. In all likelihood, my activities as Robin will not endanger you in anyway, but if you are in danger, I'll defend you with my life." He pulled the mask off. "Also, if you want to get a new room assignment, that is also understandable. But as my friend, I feel this is a secret I can entrust you with, no matter your decision." Tim sat down on the floor and started to unlace his boots.
Ives began to pull his clothing out of his suitcases. "You, my friend, are way too dramatic," Ives said. "I'm glad you felt you could share this part of your life with me. But we can go over all the details later. Right now, I want to unpack, take a shower, and explore campus. Does that sound too difficult?"
Tim smiled at his old friend. "Not at all, because that was going to my next statement."
Across campus, in one of the girls' dormitories, parents and relatives were scattered all over as they dropped off their daughters, nieces, and cousins.
One of these women hung up the last of her curtains, all while leaning off of her bed and supporting a cell phone on her shoulder. "Yes uncle," she responded. "I will. I won't. No uncle. I will. I will. I love you too. Goodbye." She flipped her phone closed and hooked the curtain rod back in place.
"Wow Ariana," her roommate, Jasmine Alexander, said. "I've never seen anyone multi-task so well with a worried parent yelling in their ear."
Ari collapsed on her bed and laughed. "When you've lived in a house with an uncle like mine, you have to learn to multi-task." She opened up a bag of nearby Skittles and poured some into her hand. "You don't get scholarship offers from UCLA if you don't."
Jasmine sat beside her and stuck her hand out. "So how does it feel to have freedom for the first time, ever?" she asked. Ariana handed her the bag and stood up.
"I feel like putting on my little black dress I had to carefully hide from my aunt, heading out, and seeing what cute boys feel like buying me a drink."
Jasmine finished the rest of the Skittles and flicked on the nearby radio. "The only drinks you'll be seeing," she began as she took her hair down. "Are the ones I'm handing you from all the men I'll have to beat off with a stick."
"We'll just see about that!" Ari said as she began pulling clothes out of her closet.
"What do you mean you don't want to go?" Ives moaned. He and Tim were had only been walking around campus for an hour and they already had received four offers to go to different events. This was the first one to catch Ives' attention.
"I don't think the first thing we need to be doing is going to a keg party," Tim replied. He took a sip of his water. "Not only are we underage, but chances are the party will be broken up by the police."
"But it's sponsored by a fraternity! Those parties don't get broken up."
"Notice," Tim said pointing at the flyer. "That this party is located off campus and not at the fraternity house." He could feel Ives glaring at him. "The police will show and shut it down."
"I'm going," Ives said folding his arms.
"Then go. I'm not your keeper, but don't say I didn't warn you."
"What are you going to do? Go out and protect the night?" Ives giggled. The look Tim gave him stifled him.
"For your information, I was planning on going to a night club. One of the eighteen and up ones. I figure, it'll be a great way to possibly meet women my own age, maybe have a drink, and not have to worry about my good time being ruined."
"You're probably also going to do some detective work," Ives said as Tim raised an eyebrow. "You act like I haven't been watching movies my whole life. Any good hero wants to get to know his new surroundings as quickly as possible. You're going to a night club to work!"
Tim took another drink of water and stood up. "You're right, what can I say. But I would really like if you came with me."
"No way! This is one of the few nights I'll be able to cut loose without having to worry about what classes I have in the morning or anything else for that matter. I'm going to the keg party."
"Just be careful then."
"I will," Ives said as he hopped up. "I'm going to run back to the room and grab some money and then I'm off. Don't wait up for me!"
"I have the feeling I'll be cleaning up after you!" Tim called after him. His comm-link beeped. He pulled out his cell phone and added a special adapter to the plug he normally charged the phone with. "This line's secure, go ahead."
"How are you, Master Timothy?" Alfred Pennyworth asked. Even though he was miles away, he wasn't surprised Alfred was the first one he heard from.
"Just fine, Alfred," Tim answered as he started walking again. "How are things there?"
"Well, it is ten ‘o clock on our side of the states, so you know where Master Bruce is."
"I forgot all about the time zones! I better keep that in mind for when I call home. I'm sure anytime I call you will be fine though."
"As long as you don't interrupt my soap operas," Alfred retorted. "Do you have need of anything Tim?"
Tim scratched his head as he looked at a redhead with her arms wrapped around a man twice his size. A football player no doubt. "Not as of right now. Bruce and I were discussing equipment, but he wanted to hold off on that until the semester was a few weeks in."
"Very well then. You take care, young man, and I will speak to you soon."
"Of course. Thanks for calling Alfred." He hung up his phone and dug into his pocket with his other hand, pulling out a quarter and a dime. He fed the change into local newspaper machine and pulled out his purchase. After a quick scan, he saw a few clubs within walking distance that piqued his interest. No better place to start than here.
"Excuse me?" a voice inquired. Tim looked up and saw that same redhead from before looking at him. "I just wanted to hand you this flyer for The Daily Bruin, our school newspaper. Our first issue comes out Monday."
"Thanks," Tim said as he looked at the flyer. The redhead smiled and began to walk away.
"No, thank you for reading! Maybe I'll see you around." Then she was gone.
Tim put the flyer in his back pocket. "Maybe."
Across town, two men met at the pool of a low budget motel.
"Are you listening to me?" one of the men asked as he removed his glasses. The sun was setting on the Los Angeles and he no longer had need for him. The other man's back was to him.
"I hear you, goddammit," his companion hissed as he blew out smoke. He tucked his hair behind his ears and yanked on his jacket collar.
"You better, Burke, because you can not fuck this up. Look at me!" A nearby parent quickly ushered her children back inside the motel after the outburst. Burke turned around on the lounge chair and faced the older man. "This," he continued as he produced a small baggy that held tablets that looked like ecstasy, "is sublime. That's what I call it anyway. This is our new cash cow."
"Sublime? Why not just call it ex?" Burke inquired.
"Because you idiot, it's not ex! This is a brand new designer drug that a lot of people died for to make sure I got it." He wiped the sweat from his brow. "You know what venom is, Burke?"
"You mean that comic book guy?"
"Wrong. Venom is a super steroid. That guy Bane, the one that claims he took out the Batman, he used to be hooked on it. These pills," he said as he held up the bag, "have venom in them. They give the user a rush like no other. Not to mention a brief time with super-strength." Burke was definitely listening now.
"I'll take it around the clubs tonight," Burke said as he took the baggy. "Tonight is the first night in town for a lot of UCLA kids." He stood.
"Burke," the old man said as he grabbed his young associate's arm. "Do not sample the product."
"Yeah, yeah," Burke replied as he yanked his arm away. "I got it." He pushed open the pool's gate and started to hail a cab.
The old man sighed and stood up from his own chair. What kind of man sends his own son to his death? He picked up his belongings and walked towards the motel, not waiting for any type of response.
Night has enveloped the city of Los Angeles as Ives made his way to the address specified on the flyer. "This looks like the place," he mumbled to himself. It was a normal two-story house, with sounds of music coming from within. Ives started walking up the steps when he was stopped a large man.
"Where's your invitation?" he demanded. He wore a white t-shirt that he looked ready to tear through at any moment, blue jeans, and sneakers.
"Um," Ives mumbled as he held up his flyer. "I was given this."
"That ain't no invitation," the man scoffed. "Get out of here before I have to move you myself."
"Jeff!" a female voice called. A tall skinny blonde came out of the house and walked up behind him. "I gave him the flyer."
"You gave him the flyer, Tiffany?" Jeff asked.
"Yes," she said as she moved around Jeff and draped an arm around Ives. "You were a freshman once too...before the ‘roids kicked in." Jeff's face scrunched in anger.
"Whatever Tiff," he said, even though it looked like that wasn't what he really wanted to say. "Take your little freshman and get out of my sight."
Tiff grabbed Ives by the hand and led him inside. After shutting the door, she took him through the quaint décor of the house and to a screen door which led to the backyard. The yard was lit with Christmas lights and torches and several dozen students swarmed all over.
"You ever been to a party like this...what was your name?" she asked.
"Ives." His voice barely came out. "And no, I haven't."
"Well tonight is your lucky night," Tiff smiled. She pulled him through the crowd to the front of the keg line. "You stick with me and you'll have the best time of your life."
It hadn't taken Tim five minutes to get inside Club Heat, despite the long line for the under twenty one crowd. He patted his fake I.D. inside his jacket pocket. I never said the rules were always right. He still grimaced a bit when he took a drink of his coke, just to sell the idea that he was actually drinking.
Club Heat was in the middle of its grand opening celebration so everyone was trying to get in and see what the new club had to offer. Tim was impressed; a large dance floor, four bars, and a DJ booth suspended above the floor so the DJ could see the floor and have his privacy. Another large room was connected to the dance floor, but the door leading to it had a large security guard and a velvet rope to match. V.I.P., Tim thought. That's probably where a lot of the illegal stuff goes down.
The dance floor was filling up quickly, but Tim still had plenty of personal space. Whoever designed this place knew what they were doing. He spied a few of the girls he had seen in his dorm earlier and they waved and smiled when they saw him. A few moments later, Tim saw the redhead, who gave him a come hither look. At least I think that's what it was. He declined her silent offer and continued looking around.
"Playing hard to get?" the redhead asked as she slid up beside him. She wore a low cut red dress and her perfume mesmerized Tim's nostrils.
"No," he replied as he set down his half-full drink on a nearby table. "I'm not much for dancing."
"I thought freshmen were typically too young for those," she said as she nodded at his drink.
"How did you know I was a freshman?"
"I saw you and your father earlier when I was handing out flyers. Plus, I'm a journalist."
"A good journalist always gets names and introduces herself properly."
The redhead put a finger to her lips thoughtfully. "Very observant of you." She extended her hand. "I'm Kayla Jones."
Tim returned the grip. "I'm Tim Drake."
"Can you spell that for me?" she asked playfully. She glanced back at the dance floor. "Why don't you leave your friend for a second and come try to dance."
"Why not?" Tim agreed. He started to follow her into the crowd when a commotion towards the front door caught his eye. "Hold on, Kayla," he said, but Kayla had already changed direction and was pushing her way to the disturbance.
"Oh my god!"
By the time Tim and Kayla got to the front of the crowd, they saw what was causing the fuss. A young man was clutching at his chest and his eyes were full of fear. He lost his footing and hit the ground hard. Before security could get to him, he started going into violent convulsions.
"Call 911!" the lead security guard bellowed as the music stopped. "This guy isn't our problem."
"Wait!" Tim yelled as he leaped next to stricken man. "We've got to help him now!"
"I didn't know you were studying medicine Tim," Kayla commented from behind him.
"There are a lot of things you don't know about me," Tim replied grimly as he removed his jacket.
Next Issue: Tim Drake vs. the mysterious illness! Can Tim help this stranger through his ordeal? And how did Ives fare at his party? Plus, Robin takes L.A. by storm!