"FUCK," Tim shrieks, and much like the banshee his tone mimics, he feels deeply haunted.
On instinct, his hands fly up to his headset, clawing over the circular ear covers (customized to match Bart's channel theme). They tremble with frustration, before deflating and falling back down to his side, now instead clenched with simmering fury.
Innumerable times has Twitch chat sent Link careening over the edge of a cliff—he's playing Breath of the Wild with the game display blocked from his vision, instead only able to see a pitch black screen and solely relying on their directions, so of course that'll happen—but this time? This time defines his breaking point.
He'd led Link to Rito village against all odds, relying partially on muscle memory and partially on the feeble trust he built for certain recurring names in chat. Of course, that trust falls through nearly every time, but he needs to make some kind of progress, and any guidance is better than none.
Even the mods keep trying to screw with him, giving him false directions out of a sick desire to troll him. Granted, it was justified considering all he puts them through, but still rude and an unfair catalyst for Twitch chat to flame him. The joke's on the, though, considering they're the ones reading through chat to make sure no one becomes too toxic.
Nevertheless, he'd made it through to Rito village, and just needed to stop in the shop to purchase arrows. The initial trek through the village proved simple—just a continued, twisted path upwards. Locating the shop itself, however, proved far more difficult.
He kept trekking forward, until he realized he couldn't move any longer. Internally, he cursed, realizing he'd missed the turn into the shop, and was now stupidly leading Link directly into the stairway's end.
"I missed it, didn't I?" he asked.
"Yes," chat replied.
"Aw, for the love of—well, I guess you guys will have to lead me back down to it," he decided, biting his cheek. "But no funny business, alright?" He regarded his lens sharply. A silly request, in retrospect.
What proceeded was honestly what he should have expected after essentially asking for it.
As he looped back down the stairs spiraling the center of the village, he kept a close watch on chat. Occasionally, a few "turn left here" messages would appear, but he was looking for unanimity.
Eventually, after a slow descent, he received an overwhelming amount of "right here!"s. Tentatively, he decided to trust it. There were only a few naysayers, and a coordinated effort to troll him a second time seemed unlikely. Gingerly, he turned left.
"Am I close to the arrows?" he asked, pausing Link in his tracks before he charged blindly into the sides of the shop.
"yea, 10 o'clock 5 seconds," answered one viewer he recognized as never having previously led him astray. A reliable source.
Tim, now feeling rather pleased he had made it into his destination, made his final mistake: believing in any sort of reliability.
Posture lax in his official Wayne Enterprises chair, Tim gently pushed forward the joystick, hovering thumb intending to next press the "A" button to purchase the arrows.
Just as suddenly as he had moved forward, though, he was greeted by the harsh cry of Link, quieting gradually in a sort of pitch only accomplished by a cruel, downward descent.
He had fallen again. Off the platform he forgot existed in the village. All of which led him to release the most haggard scream of his Twitch career thus, taking him up to this moment in time.
The weight of the world settles on his shoulders, and he recalls a line from an old teacher's Shakespeare ramblings—something like: "the crown makes heavy he who wears it," or "heavy is the crown on the head," or—never mind, the effect is the same even if he botches the wording, and he's not feeling very Shakespearean right now. All he wants to do is flip his monitor and smash his screen, sending the controller flying in his rage.
But then the second, calmer, more rational wave of thought washes over him: he can get through this, he just needs to calm down for a second. Is he really about to just quit after all the progress he's made this stream? Does he really want this to be added to the inevitable rage compilation his subscribers love to edit together?
"No," he shakes his head, eyes squeezed shut. The progress is steady, and he decides he can't just sign off for the night like this.
Especially since he really needs the content for his weekly upload on the Youtube channel.
He exhales heavily through his nose.
"I'm not giving up. We're this far in, right? I'm not giving up." To his own ears, he sounds tired, resigned—and it's true; he is. But he's not going to throw in the towel quite yet.
He shakes his head, loose strands from his small bun flicking against his cheeks with the movement. Relaxing his hands, he reopens his eyes, glancing toward the chat visible on the side of his screen. As expected, a sea of "F"'s floods the box. He sighs.
"Okay, what we're gonna do is I'm gonna load up the last save, and we're gonna try this again. And you guys are gonna tell me which direction to go," he pauses, staring directly into the recording camera, "right ?"
He waits a moment, the chirp of a subscription notification echoing dully in his ears, but he's too focused on chat to deal out gratitude right now. In response, he receives a semi-mixed assortment of replies, ranging from flat out "no" to a dubious "of course, red :)." He's not a fool—he knows they're all dirty liars, but they're his audience of dirty liars, so he heaves another sigh and presses the plus button on his switch controller.
He navigates the menu by memory, thumbing over the joystick once again and hitting "A" to load the save file. His hand scrubs over his face, rubbing away the mental and physical exhaustion. After another moment punctuated by a groan, he peers back up at chat, ready to be led to what will most likely be his death, but he's being optimistic here. Immediately, the frantic, colored text opposes that optimism.
WAIT NOT THAT ONE RJRNDND
redrobin watch out!!! oh my god he has airpods in he can't hear us
Tim's ears wince at the sudden roar emitted from his speakers, his pulse picking up instantly. Cold realization washes through his blood.
"Oh, wait, god, fuck. Did I select the save file—"
Before he can finish his sentence, another cry and a pained groan from Link answer the question.
"Waitwaitwait no chat which direction should I—"
He springs to action, moving Link backwards in an attempt to run away. The chat provides no support or advice, instead only offering cries of shocked amusement in an endless, scrolling stream.
Link groans again, taking another hit from what Tim now knows for certain to be a Lynel. This time, the groan devolves into a breathier, finalized cry—one symbolizing the end of the hylian hero. And one additionally symbolizing the end of Tim.
From the speakers framing his set up on either side, he hears the telltale chime of a game over. His eyes, now glazed over, stare blankly at the blackened screen before him. Not even a muscle twitches in his posture, his body sitting completely stock still and straight up in his chair. From beside the black box where he stares, chat scrolls wildly, all either yelling shouts of awe and terror, producing "f"'s, or showing concern for the streamer now giving his monitor a hundred yard stare. But Tim doesn't see them. He sits perfectly still for a full minute.
foxxyloxxy [MOD]: hey, tim, sweetie, are you okay?
nerdforhire [MOD]: i think he's broken
The only thing that draws his attention away from his fugue state is a jingle he almost expects to be another notification informing that he died in the game, but upon further inspection, is only a text from his mod groupchat.
Tam: hey, are you... okay?
Ives: rest in pieces but also ^^
Ives: Buddy, really, are you alright?
Tim blinks. Then sets his phone back down. Wordlessly, he removes his headset, placing it down on the desk before him. The face cam, now vacated, only reveals a view of Tim's chair. It remains empty, the stream completely silent save for the occasional muffled background noise. Abandoned by their streamer and entertainment, chat looks upon themselves to puzzle it out.
lmao is he ok
hey check out my channel pls
maybe he just had to use the bathroom
red come back
mods pls update :redbirbsad:
Despite concerns from chat, the room remains empty, with only the Wayne Ent. chair’s logo and the pitch black outline of the Gotham cityscape in view to keep the stream viewers company.
After a solid ten minutes of dead air, rustling emerges from near the microphone, and Tim reappears back on screen, mug in hand, wearing a large, worn sweater—a change from his standard graphic tee he'd had on earlier. A smile plasters onto his face as he maximizes the face cam onto his setup's screen. From above the unnatural curve of his lips, however, his hollow eyes stare coldly.
"Hey guys. I think we're gonna...take a break tonight." If his voice is hoarse from shrieking earlier, he shows no acknowledgement of it. He continues to smile, but behind his eyes, howling specters swim.
"So," he pauses to sip at his mug—a nice, calming , raspberry blend of tea—and continues, "this is now a Q&A I guess. How's everyone doing?" He moves to set down his mug onto a nearby coaster, scrolling idly through chat.
"'Are you okay,'" he reads slowly. His hand travels to his chin in mock thought, before he smiles once again. "Haha, no. Anyway, next question."
His phone begins to ring just as chat fills with new comments, all vying for a chance to be read aloud by the streamer, and a notification pops onto his stream. On his phone's display, Discord reveals an incoming call, the caller titled Kon Man. Tim presses accept.
"Hey, Kon, what's up?" he says nonchalantly.
"Uhhhhh, hey, Rob. Nothing much. I was just about to raid you and...are things...alright?" Kon asks carefully. Tim can hear the concern in his voice.
Tim shrugs, letting out a short and pitchy laugh. "Ha! Nope. Thanks for the raid, though!"
The call cuts off as Tim hangs up, pressing the heel of his hands into his eyes, rubbing slowly before reemerging. He clears his throat.
"Oooookay. Next question. Although, let's turn the tables. That's what I'm known for, right?" His smile gains a feral edge to it. "Turning the tables. Mixing. It. Up. Like playing Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild without being able to see the fucking —"
His sentence cuts off abruptly, as if edited in real time. He grits his teeth, before exhaling harshly. The mellow smile slots back into place painfully.
"I mean. Ahem. Anyway, I'll ask you guys questions, I guess." He leans back in his chair, resting his elbows on the red leather arm rests, thinking. "So, we’ve established Kon's streaming right now. What about Cassie and Bart?" His brow arches down in curiosity, eyes tracing chat and awaiting an answer. He's quickly informed that, yes, they are both streaming. He hums, taking another sip. It's strange to see them all online synchronously, but not completely unbelievable.
"Cassie's playing Final Fantasy VI, right? What's Bart up to? Still Neopets? Or is today Sonic day?"
Chat responds mostly with assorted confirmations of 'Sonic,' but Tim spots a few admonishing him for not knowing. He frowns, adjusting his posture to sit up a bit. In an effort to become more comfortable, he pulls his feet up onto the chair, knees entering the face cam's field of vision.
The smile on his lips morphs into a frown, tugged down with slight offense at certain accusations by viewers of feeble friendship. "Hey, I barely know my own stream schedule, let alone have my friends' memorized. Oh, that reminds me," he holds out an index finger, motioning the universal sign of a sudden recollection, "next week's schedule will be up tomorrow, probably on YouTube first, then Twitter."
Below, his phone vibrates furiously, drawing his vision away momentarily.
"Sorry, guys, Bart keeps texting me." Tim flips his phone face down, removing the distracting screen display from his field of vision. "Anyway, the schedule includes more blind Breath of the Wild, the first session of Wind Waker, the Breath of the Wild Origami stream that you guys asked for as a sub goal (again, that's on you ), and a couple other things, but those are a surprise for now," he relays.
Another alert rings from his phone, and his gaze casts downward. Reluctantly, he flips the phone back case-down. He hums in slight surprise at what he reads.
"The mods say I should turn on text-to-speech for the cheer messages," he looks back to the screen, "What do you guys think? Will that be too annoying?
Tim leans his elbow onto the arm rest, in turn leaning his cheek on his fist, waiting for an answer. Even though he just took a ten minute…break… the chat still proves lively enough, giving a clear answer.
"Survey says: yes." He leans forward, mousing over the settings for TTS and flicking it on. Pleased with the results, he sits back in the chair.
"There. I think it should be—"
" Red Robin here. Do you ever feel like a duck? "
On instinct, hearing those achingly familiar words read aloud by the disembodied TTS voice, Tim groans, placing his head in his hands. "Come on guys. Am I never gonna live that one down? It was my first YouTube video and I was nervous; cut me some slack."
Chat protests his defense by furthering the repetition of the words he carries the deepest regret for.
"I was just trying to communicate that sometimes you feel a little overwhelmed in a huge, open world RPG where there's so much to do and so much to grab!" He weaves his arms over his abdomen. "Fuck me, I guess. I'm so sorry for Kon's viewers that raided. Now you're exposed to all these rude, lovely people."
He frowns for a few moments, before his expression turns guilty. "Err, sorry, guys. Don't actually think I don't like you. I'm so glad I have viewers, or else I'd just be sitting here alone, and that'd be fairly depressing. Also, this Breath of the Wild challenge solely relies on chat, so that'd be pretty hard to do without you." He considers his statement for a few seconds. "Not that it's easy with you , but you know what I mean," he shrugs in correction.
Another ping sounds from the screen.
"This better not be anothe—"
"Tim, chat wants you to explain how you know Kon, Bart and Cassie. Love, Foxx ."
His brows arch in surprise. "Hi, Tam," he greets, "but, really? Okay, I guess." He brushes his hair back carefully, tucking it behind his ears.
"I forgot some people are new to the stream. If you don't know, us four make up a streaming collective called Young Justice, but we go a little further back than that. I don't really know if I've even really told the full story at once, anyway, to be honest," he says, nose scrunching in thought. Some wiki page probably has it pieced together, drawing from the individual mentions of details the four have given over their streaming careers. Really, this will just be rehashing old news. But, if it's what chat wants, then who is he to stand in their way?
The mug, now returned to his hands, still gives off a gentle heat when he breathes over it, deciding how to approach the tale. He inhales the fragrance of raspberry, before exhaling with resolve.
"Well, I guess it started around the time—"
"—that I met Tim. I think we were maybe, uh, twelve? Thirteen? I dunno," Kon shrugs, running one hand through the wavy locks tousled on his head. Circling his neck, he feels a pop of his joints, comfortably stretched and eased after an hour's worth of bad stream posture. An attempt to maintain good form is always made, but even the ergonomic shape of his trademark red and black chair can't save him from getting stiff.
The keyboard in front of his monitor shifts easily back into ideal position with a gentle tug toward his body. Concurrent to his speech, he begins to unpause the game—Spiderman PS4 today—and resumes gameplay. He's currently swinging over to meet M.J., and—not for the first time—is caught for a second just on how beautiful the graphics are. He can see his reflection in the skyscrapers : how cool is that?
His awe distracts him from his ongoing story, and he only realizes after he notices his mouth is slightly ajar. He closes it, laughing sheepishly.
"Sorry, guys. Game pretty; brain off. What was I talking about?"
Spider Man continues to swing, Kon's eyes not straying from the character's wild and free movement. His eyes alright with remembrance a second later, though, thankfully.
"Oh, yeah! Me and Tim. So—right, we met at, like, 13. We both had some pretty heavy stuff going on at the time, so my dad thought it'd be a good idea for us to meet."
Kon's brows furrow momentarily. "First, I guess I should mention our dads know each other. They're—"
"—acquaintances, as Bruce would say. That's code for best friends, though, in his book." Tim's gaze casts off off screen.
"I probably shouldn't be exposing him like this live on stream, but it's not like I'm saying anything less flattering than what Steph tweets, so," he shrugs, "eh, it's fine."
"Follow Steph @spoileralert on Twitter and Instagram for thrilling Wayne family updates. From: totally not Steph. "
Tim rolls his eyes. "I can see your username, you know. And why are you even watching the stream? You have an exam tomorrow; go to bed or I'll tell the stream the brick story," he threatens, downturned eyebrows hooding his icy blue stare.
The frown apparent on his lips perks back up, though, as he reads through the immediate, steady influx of pro-Steph-going-to-bed messages and Steph's own indignant refusal in chat. The mods are really going after her, and it's amusing to read through. After staring in pleased silence for a moment, he clears his throat again.
"Like I was saying, um, our dads introduced us, and, well, we got along sort of—"
"—badly, oh, god, it was so bad," Kon stresses, shaking his head for effect. "I thought he was an uptight nerd, and he thought I was some stupid punk hooligan which was…" his eyes dart off camera, "...actually not wrong," he admits, now additionally biting his cheek. In retrospect, Tim's judgement made more sense than he gave him credit for. Kon did wear a studded leather jacket, and gave every authority figure hell, and carried a strong disregard for formal education, and some of his previous adventures were less than legal .
Yeah, Tim was pretty valid.
"I mean, it's not like either of us said anything shitty, or anything, but it was like pulling teeth to get either of us to say more than three words to each other. We just kinda…sat there," he continues. Multiple hours were spent in silence so thick it could only be severed by a machete, and Kon had wished desperately that the cushions of the sofa in Wayne Manor's living room would swallow him up at the time. It had looked like they would be trapped in that awkward, uncomfortable, forced teen interaction for a millennia.
Of course, in true Tim fashion, however, the other boy managed to remedy the situation.
“We wouldn’t have ever actually started talking if Tim hadn’t taken out his laptop that day.” His laugh is fond; reflective. From within his memory, he can recall a perfect image of a stilted Tim, all knobby joints and disheveled hair, swallowed in an oversized Hitchhiker’s Guide shirt—an endearing little nerd stuffed behind a monitor not so different from Tim today.
“I guess I got bored in the silence after a while and really curious about what he was so focused on, so I kinda just—” he motions walking with his fingers, removing his hand from the controller for a second, “—and checked out what he was looking at. Turns out, he was on some kind of forum—"
"—Gaia Online, which is only sort of embarrassing at this point, to be honest," Tim reveals indifferently.
"—talking to another random user about, like, anime, I think—"
"—we were talking about Discworld , and I remember, because I was wearing my Discworld shirt that day, too," Tim recalls, pointing confidently at the camera. "Or, at least, I was talking at him about reading Discworld , because I really wanted someone else to read it so I could talk about it." His bottom lip juts out in consideration, before retracting. "Not that that really stopped me, anyway, but, whatever." He tilts the mug in his hands, watching the tea slosh gently from side to side.
"Anyway, the guy's username was—"
"—Impulse, which might sound familiar. If you follow us at all, you can probably see where this is going already," Kon laughs, then curses as M.J. gets caught sneaking through the warehouse in the game. He regards the camera with a wilting gaze.
"I swear I don't suck at this; it's just hard to launch into story time and sneak." The scene resets, beginning from the initial loading point in the warehouse.
"Anyway, I asked Tim about this Impulse guy, and he said they talked mostly about video games. I think I kinda laughed or something and asked what kind of games he played because I was sure he'd say, like, puzzle games or something dorky. But he told me he liked League , and Halo , and Fifa , and just a ton of all the games 13 year old Kon went nuts for. So things kinda kicked off from there."
"I asked him if he wanted to play Portal , and he said yeah, so we ended up playing Portal ." Tim shakes his head, eyes cast to the ceiling in embarrassed recollection, but he still smiles. "It was awkward at first, but we kind of settled into it and got talking after a while. After that day, me and Kon kind of became best friends, and me and Impulse moved our conversation onto Kik so Kon could join in."
Kon and Bart's introduction had been a little stiff at first, but with Tim's nudging, the two began to warm up quickly, becoming as close with each other as Tim was with them.
The monitor shakes as Tim idly wheels his chair back and forth. He unhooks his foot from his desk's leg after a moment, instead moving it back up to his seat.
"Sorry, guys, if the camera was a little shaky just now. Um, so, yeah, we all just kept talking about all kinds of stuff. We were all the same age, so we had school and stuff in common, but we liked the same games and shows, too. We'd stay up late all texting back and forth and playing on Xbox live. That is," and here he looks at the camera a bit more wistfully, "until Impulse disappeared."
"Ugh!" Bart exclaims, "I was so mad! It wasn't even my fault! Thad pulled the worst prank ever and changed the passwords for all my accounts online. I never wrote them down because I just relied on staying logged in and changing them if I needed to through my email, but he changed that too!" Bart curses, shaking his fist, but still maintaining a perfect, streamlined movement for Sonic on his screen display. He could play this game in his sleep at this point; he's surprised no one's suggested doing so yet.
"And I couldn't even contact them through Xbox live because he cleared my friends list. To be fair, though, he assumed all my friends were real life friends that I could just ask to give their tags again in person, but it still sucked."
Despite the unfortunate topic, Bart chirps a laugh, almost like he's surprised by it himself. "He got in so— haha, sorry—so much trouble when our uncle found out, though, oh my gosh." Tears begin to well in his reddening eyes, gleeful and shining in the red-tinted room. The memory of a disgruntled Thad being scolded feeds joy into his heart.
"Uncle Barry made him apologize and make a new account on every platform he locked me out of. And he didn't get dessert after dinner for a week! Aunt Iris was so mad."
Tears of glee clouding his vision, Bart has to pause the game, scrubbing his eyes with the heel of his palm. "Oh, gosh, sorry. I just remembered I told Uncle Barry the only thing that would make me forgive Thad was if he gave me a hug ," he cackles, abandoning efforts to wipe his eyes, devolving into a full, body-shaking belly laugh. After a moment, he calms, taming his laugh-shaken breath.
"He already wanted to then, but Thad is really gonna kill me now for telling you guys this, so I hope you're enjoying my last stream." He grins. Taking advantage of a rare moment of pause in his stream, he peeks at chat. Both brows furrow on his face in thought at the topic of conversation.
"Huh. I guess a lot of you don't know who Thad is?" Bart picks his controller back up, moving to unpause. "He's my brother—we're twins. Pretty identical, except he has blonde hair and he's a little grumpy. But he's still great! He's on here, too. His channel's 1n3rtia, with a one for the "i" and a three for the "e." Just like my "i" and "e" in 1mpuls3."
Bart gasps, fleeting realization passing over his face.
"Oh! That username actually comes from when I first made my Gaia account. I've used it for everything since. Cool how this all loops together, huh? Back to what I was saying about the whole origin story, though," Sonic gathers a heaping of rings, the chime of their collection pinging happily in Bart's ear, "so I disappeared online, right? Well—"
"Me and Tim were destroyed. I mean, Bart was our best friend and he disappeared all of a sudden like a ghost! We had planned on actually starting a YouTube channel with videos of us playing games before he went MIA which hurt even more. It really sucked," Kon sighs. "Tim and I didn't want to go through with it without Imp, so we just held onto the videos we already had recorded with Bart. I think Tim had them filed away somewhere on his backup hard drive, I dunno. I didn't do much of the tech stuff back then." He chuckles. "Honestly, I still don't. Shout out to Cassie for coaching me through my setup, haha."
He really owes the quality of his stream to Cassie. Of course, Tim reigned as the Core Four's resident tech expert, but Kon was too proud to ask the other boy for help. He wanted to prove his capability and reliability to Tim and show him he could be trusted as an important part of their team, but, ultimately, he'd ended up caving and looking to Cassie for guidance. Tim had still at least pretended to be impressed that Kon had been able to follow given directions when setting all his equipment up, but Kon was pretty sure it was mostly out of pity. Man, Tim was some guy.
Within the game, M.J. gets caught again by a stray guard. " Shit," Kon hisses with irritation, yanked away from his mind. As the scene reloads once more, he sets the controller down on his thigh, taking the opportunity to stretch out his arms.
"But, yeah. We didn't think we'd ever see Bart again, and we kind of gave up on the whole gamer dream until—"
"—the next summer, my brother started dating this guy. I know this sounds unrelated, but just wait, yeah?" Tim requests, trying to assure that he hasn't completely derailed the story. "My brother had actually known him for a long time (longer than he even knew me), but they had just realized they were both crazy for each other," Tim says, rolling his eyes.
Dick and Wally were hard to watch before they had actually gotten together, always tiptoeing around the idea of being a couple, but both too blind to see it was easily attainable. Contrarily, Tim knew from the moment he met Wally West that that was the guy Dick would end up with. Even if all of their mutual swooning was nauseatingly saccharine at times, Tim had to admit that it was heartwarming to see someone who cared about his brother that much.
"I think Dick said something to Wally (that's his name, if you didn't know) about how I was pretty down. Dick didn't know exactly why I was sad, but he knew at least part of it was because Kon was away visiting his grandparents and couldn't visit in Gotham. Wally thought the solution was a new friend, so he decided to take his equally lonely cousin with him when he came to visit Gotham for the summer."
Tim exhales after the long winded exposition, huffing a laugh. "Things get kind of weird here. As in, coincidence levels on par with the archduke's assassin stopping for a sandwich weird."
After realizing what he's said, he frowns. After second thought, maybe it's not great to compare reuniting with a lost friend to a successful assassination attempt and catalyst for the first world war.
"Wait, no. More like you lose your wallet and then win the lottery the same day kind of coincidence. No wars started here."
Before he can continue, another alert chirps from the cheer messages.
"You can't tell Steph when to go to bed. It's of her own free will . -Anarky," TTS reads.
Tim glares at the camera. "Lonnie, since when are you on Steph's side?" What weakness Steph must've preyed on to get Lonnie's support, he has no idea. In the midst of his curiosity, he points rigidly toward the lens.
"Everyone in chat, mobilize and tell Steph to go to bed. Tweet at her." He sips his tea, fierceness still in his eyes, before it breaks a second later as he chokes.
"Oh, no, don't do that. Then she'll just use that as an excuse to stay up and reply to every tweet. Everyone, ignore Steph instead, how's that?" he corrects, nodding with growing pleasure at his fixed command. Another cheer chirp rings from his speakers.
"L M A O Tim's never gonna finish this story. Too many distractions."
The glare returns to his eyes. "Hey, I'm not distracted on purpose. If anything, it's your guys' fault for causing trouble, hooligans."
With a quiet clunk his mug returns back to the desk.
"Where was I?" He picks at the hem of his sleeve searchingly, humming a little as he ponders his place in the story, before he elicits a short hm! of remembrance.
"Right—Wally's mystery cousin guest." He shifts to hook his arm around the back of the chair. "All I had heard about him was that he was small, and fast like Wally, and apparently talked a lot, so you can imagine my excitement at the idea of having a chatty, sporty kid stay with us and being forced to entertain him all summer."
"I was so excited to meet this kid! I mean, his name was the same as my old friend, and Wally said he was really cool and nice. Also, he lived in a huge mansion! Great for running around the halls," Bart adds, cheekily.
The timer on the screen continues to tick upward. Many would become unnerved by its continuous progression, but Bart continues his tale as if he were completing any menial task, adding chipper commentary all the while. Sonic trots steadily along on his little, blue warpath.
"So, me and Wally drove across multiple states to Blüdhaven to Dick's apartment—which is a whole different story I'll tell sometime, haha—and we get there and I meet his boyfriend. And Dick was really nice! I guess I didn't really see the same stuff that Wally talked about like how he had 'dimples for days' or his big butt or whatever, but he welcomed us into his apartment and bought me all the McDonald's I wanted so that was cool! Instant Bart approval." Bart's own dimples show as he grins widely, recalling the regal feast Dick supplied of fast food at Bart's request with nostalgic, phantom hunger. His thumb sticks upward with approval.
"We stayed in Blüdhaven for a couple of days until Dick took us to visit the manor. I couldn't sleep the night before because I was too excited."
"I couldn't sleep the night before because I was trying to savor my last night of freedom," Tim confesses. "I thought I'd have to go to bed early every night to cut time spent with this kid as short as possible, so it really seemed like my last supper. It really sucked, too, because I couldn't even spend it on Xbox live with Kon because he was away at his grandparents', so I kind of assumed I wouldn't really be able to hang out with him alone for the rest of the summer."
Thirteen year old Tim was pretty devastated at the prospect of going sans Kon until Wally's cousin left. He didn't want to invite Kon over while Wally's cousin visited, partially because he didn't want to subject Kon to the mystery kid, and partially because he was worried.
What if they did meet, and Kon and the kid found they had more in common than Kon and Tim? He was a pretty withdrawn kid, moving from school to school previously at his parents' whim, so he hadn't truly had a friend before Kon. If Kon met and started being friends with this other kid, who was to say he wouldn't realize how lame Tim was in comparison to, and who could blame him if he did?
What if I was your apostle but then I betrayed you and the way I betrayed you was by kissing your cheek blushing emoji, TTS interrupts.
Tim coughs, not expecting to hear such a thing and immediately shaken out of his thoughts. He flushes, consistently and wildly uncomfortable with the niche in his fan base obsessed with pairing him with his friends. The amount of fan art he sees—
"There was no kissing that night, guys, don't—uh—don't worry about that. So, um," he begins, scratching the side of his head lightly, but doesn't find any words.
"You were saying about Bart. —nerdforhire"
Tim's mouth opens in a recollective "o." He retakes his place in the narrative.
"Thanks, Ives," he says gratefully. He'd be lost without his mods. And probably stumbling over words that would make a lot of people very mad.
"Yeah, so, the next day when I actually got to meet the kid—"
"—we pulled up to the manor and it was already so huge! These rich people really do pull out all the stops," Bart gushes, eyes still containing the same incredulity as the day he arrived at the Wayne residence. Of course, it isn't as though Bart cares about wealth, but it was interesting to see such an expansive structure for the first time and realize that's what another person calls home. Plus, the manor improved vastly upon the previous night's lodging; Dick's apartment almost certainly had a rat (if not rats plural) living in the walls, despite his protestations.
"We got in, and Dick took us to our rooms and his butler fed us lunch; it was great!" Bart finishes happily.
"I wasn't doing great. I kind of had a mini meltdown upstairs when I finally had to leave my room," Tim admits. He bites his cheek, deciphering how to best communicate his past self's mindset without seeming like a total jerk. Although, it'd be fair if people thought that, because he really was.
"It was quiet and self contained, but I was still pretty internally bitter. But then I got downstairs and saw him, and the only thing I could think was," Tim's lips quirk up, "'Wow, Dick wasn't lying: he really is small.'"
Bart snickers. "It's funny because I'm two inches taller than him now—"
"—He's only an inch taller, and if he ever tries to tell you otherwise, I want everyone to spam his chat telling him he's a liar," Tim demands, waving his hand as if directing an army. Slander is the last offense he'll stand for.
"There's no proof and any he procures is simply owed to discrepancy in shoe height, posture, and position."
"Haha, why are you guys all saying I'm a liar?" The chat only catches Bart's eye because of the sudden steady stream of accusations. Sonic still runs smoothly on screen. Nevertheless, he'll try to defend himself, especially considering he knows he's right and he gets to have this after years of being teased for being the littlest.
"I know it's true because I—" Bart halts in his sentence, looking oddly conflicted with how to proceed,"—well, you don't need to know why, but I went with Tim to the doctor once and saw him get measured, and I swear he was 5'2—not a hair over." Bart nods solemnly.
Something quiet rustles from off screen, sounding distant even through the mic. Bart peeks away from the "Sonic has finished Act 1" screen, brows furrowed past his red and white chair to discern the source of the noise. He turns, revealing a glimpse of his background. Beyond his set up lies a fairly small room, favoring coziness over spaciousness. Picture frames line the warm, red walls, illuminated by yellowed fairy lights. A hint of fabric peeks from the corner, showing the barest glimpse of Bart's matching red sheets.
He gasps in an exaggerated matter, pointed toward the door.
"Who's that? Who's that ? Is that Doxy ?" Bart asks in a babying voice. He pats his legs firmly, grinning. "Come here Doxy, c'mere!"
A brown and white blur trots dutifully across the screen, landing firmly in Bart's lap and firmly caught by his awaiting arms. Dox the pocket beagle sniffs curiously at the desk as Bart swivels back his chair just in time for the next act to start. He seizes the controller once again, running his hand over Dox's fur.
"Sorry, guys. Dox wants to say hi!"
Dox releases a short sniff, almost as if in greeting, before slowly circling in Bart's lap. The streamer helps the beagle settle, petting him all the while.
Bart's eyes flit to the webcam as he begins to refocus on the game, maintaining all previous swiftness in gameplay.
"Dox can help me tell the story, right, Dox? You've met Tim and Kon. You like them, right?" Bart asks rhetorically, half in his puppy speaking voice, and half in his ordinary tone, splitting energy between game and pup. Dox, eyes now drooping in almost immediate exhaustion, moves his ears minutely at the mention of Tim and Kon, but otherwise continues to prepare for his imminent nap.
"Yeah," Bart nods, as if he received agreement. "You love them." Sonic dives into the water, and Bart carefully maneuvers him to the left. "So, where was I?" He bites his bottom lip lightly in concentration. "Oh, yeah, so when I finally met Tim—"
"—neither of us really said anything. To be fair, I was giving my best boardroom glare, which I've been told by Bruce is fairly stony."
"I was terrified. Even though he was a little taller than me, he was so scrawny. I thought he would brain me with one of his pointy elbows." Bart shakes his head. "Either that or eat me because he looked so bony and needed the nutrients."
Tim yawns, feeling warm from his now-finished tea, but he's committed to telling this story through. If not for the entertainment of his current audience, it will be awfully convenient to have a video he can point people toward when they ask for Young Justice's origin. He just hopes the edit will be interesting enough to post.
His hand retracts from his mouth when it closes, yawn receding, setting back down into his lap.
"I didn't say anything to Bart when we met initially or at dinner that night because I was brooding, and Bart didn't say anything because he was too afraid I'd bite him through my retainers or something," he laughs, blowing hair out of his eyes. After a few huffs, he decides to simply redo his bun. He tugs the cloth hair tie out, dark black locks cascading easily. The fabric slips onto his wrist.
"Dick and Wally were nervous enough about our botched meeting that they each went to talk to us," Tim recounts, voice tipping upward in concentration as he gathers strands into one, collected tail. "Dick came to my room and gave me his big blue cow eyes, and weak, foolish, thirteen-year-old Tim couldn't say no, so I ended up waiting for Bart, who Dick told me would meet me in the living room to play video games that night."
"Wally begged me to go give him a chance, but I really thought he'd rip my head off, so I made him walk me to the living room," Bart chuckles sheepishly, slightly embarrassed at the memory. Tim really could be icy when he was determined to be, to be fair, and thirteen year old Bart was hardly prepared.
"I knew him and Dick would probably be spying on us, anyway. Tim's family encourages no sense of boundaries in others."
Tim wraps the hair tie one more time before he's pleased it will hold his bun securely.
"Enjoying the lore. Thank you for being you, Red smiley face," TTS announces, making Tim smile.
"Thanks," Tim says, "really. I'm glad I'm not boring you guys to death." He smooths down the strands on top of his head, feeling the soft, conditioned hair beneath his fingers. After taking a moment to pause and breathe, he continues.
"I knew there was no way Dick wouldn't mother hen and be keeping an eye over us, so I got ready to try my best not to be rude. Naturally," he starts, "I decided to play Minecraft, because if things were awkward, at least I could pretend I was just focusing on building and not ignoring Bart."
Bart inhales deeply. "As you all know, I love Minecraft. At the time, though, the world was kind of in that phase where it was uncool to play so the only people who knew I liked it were Kon and Tim."
"Bart loves Minecraft," Kon supplies. "Like, he really loves Minecraft. He built us all houses on his server. Every house has three guest rooms so we can all sleep over at each other's houses, too. It's actually the reason he got Dox: he loved having a Minecraft dog so much that he wanted one in real life, too." Kon can recall multiple long conversations of Bart agonizing over what to name Dox, and whether he could really name a dog Steve in good conscience. Luckily Kon, Cassie, and Tim had succeeded in suggesting alternatives.
Bart coughs lightly, taking a sip of water afterward. His throat's a little hoarse after all the excitement of his mini Minecraft rant. He just couldn't hold himself back, though. Who doesn't love a game about cubes and building?
"So, I walked in and saw Tim playing Minecraft, and I don't know what came over me, but I got so excited seeing he liked it that I just blurted out—"
"You're a crafter, too?'" Tim echoes, unable to stop himself from breaking his mockery of Bart's wide eyed, awestruck look he had worn in that moment with laughter.
Bart coughs again, flushing slightly. "Not, um, the coolest thing I've said. But, anyway, the only thing that mattered was that Tim immediately figured out who I was, because he has big brain disease."
"You guys know that Bart has a pretty distinct voice, and no one else can talk that fast. Plus, even though I'd never seen what he looked like, he fit the few details he'd mentioned. That," Tim remarks, "and there weren't many Barts out there that were coincidentally thirteen years old and liked Minecraft at the time." As he leans in his chair, single dangling leg swinging gently, he relaxes into the plush support. "It was obvious, really."
"Big brain," Bart echoes, nodding seriously. "Go spam his chat with it. That humble little dork needs to hear it." A look suddenly flashes over his features, one best described as devious .
"Emphasis on little."
Tim rotates his chair in tiny rotations, putting little consciousness into the movement.
"The moment it clicked, though, it all just kind of devolved into a lot of excited yelling, and hugging, and probably some crying if I'm being honest. Dick and Wally ran in like five seconds later because I guess they assumed I had gone postal or something, but then they were just confused when they saw Bart koala-ed on me."
Tim remembers the tight grip of Bart's hands in his shirt, and the wet sensation of snot and tears against his neck. Even despite the unpleasant dampness, he couldn't help but focus solely on the soaring joy in his chest.
Then, he remembers the hilarity of Dick and Wally's confused faces, caught half between fear and excitement. It had taken a few tries before they could accurately relay the events of their friendship and tragic separation, but eventually the two older boys seemed to understand. They scolded them crossly on the dangers of online interaction, but all Bart and Tim could do was grin goofily. Tim had distractedly promised something about never talking to strangers on the internet again (oops) before Dick and Wally finally had left them to their own devices so that Tim could call Kon and relay to him the good news.
"like my status if you would koala big brain red robin too."
Tim titters in surprise. "You guys are too much tonight." He bites his inner lip, instinctually shy from the compliment. "But thanks."
"We were sitting down at dinner when the phone rang," Kon begins, just as Peter and M.J. finish up a cut scene, and Spider Man appears poised on top of a street lamp, "and the phone almost never rings at Ma and Pa's house, so of course, Ma answered in case it was an emergency call from anyone in town." He guides Spidey, leaping and swinging over Washington Square. "Needless to say, she was surprised to hear Tim on the other end, but called me over to the phone, anyway, after he insisted it was urgent." Kon laughs a little breathlessly. He's shed his jacket, warming up after streaming for a while, and his undercut curls tangle messily over his forehead.
"I was so excited that I must've yelled or something, because next thing I knew, my dad was running over to check and see what was wrong."
In hardly any time, Clark had appeared, barreling into the front hall where the landline hung from the wall, eyes hardened and serious in anticipation of whatever news had agitated Kon enough into shouting. He'd put on a calm face, even if he had to hide his own worry, just to put Kon at ease. Later, after considering and realizing the obvious care the man had for him, it'd been one of the first moments Kon began to see him as more than just a contributor to his genetic makeup.
"When he asked me what was wrong I, uh…panicked. I couldn't tell him what actually was happening, so I freaked out and said the first thing that came to mind, which was—"
"—that Dick was having a baby," Tim laughs, rolling his eyes at the memory. "Kon's not a great liar under pressure, but that was probably the worst yet."
"He honestly almost fainted. I just remember him going white before Mom came in and asked me what was going on. I just blurted out the same thing, but, luckily, she had the good sense to realize that that couldn't happen because, one, Dick physically cannot bear children, two, was in a relationship with another guy who couldn't either, and, three, would never cheat and also would never get anyone pregnant unless planned," Kon lists, sticking a finger up for each point. He shakes his head slowly. "Honestly, I don't know what we would do without her. Dad gets a little too caught in his heart, sometimes, I think, and goes straight to 'I need to fix this' mode."
Lucky for the Kent's, Lois possesses good sense superior to the rest of her family. That can be said with utmost confidence, Kon thinks. He himself is a little quick to jump on emotion, habitually latching onto anger and frustration. After Lois, Jon is probably the next most rational, which is slightly disappointing considering he's twelve, but Kon doesn't really want to linger on that revelation right now.
"I had to tell them the truth after that. Or at least the sort of truth," he qualifies, grimacing. "I just said Bart was Tim’s friend who he suddenly got back in touch with. It's not a lie, but, still, sorry Mom and Dad.” He rubs the back of his neck guiltily. Clark and Lois really didn’t deserve all of this.
"Kon visited the next week, and it was..." Tim searches for the right word, landing on: "...emotional."
"We cried and hugged for like a full hour. Even Mr. Wayne was weirded out," Bart says, just as Sonic rockets wildly across the stage, cutting priceless seconds off of his run time. Bruce had stood soundlessly in the foyer of the front hall for a good minute, that day, trying to gather his thoughts, before silently retreating and leaving the three boys to squeeze each other tearfully.
Bart continues to lead Sonic through the metal pipe-strewn course.
"The original YouTube channel launched not long after that when I found out Tim still had our old recording, and the streaming followed pretty much directly after. It just seemed like the next, big, cool gaming thing to do, and all our favorite YouTubers did, so we wanted to be exactly like them," Bart recalls, remember their young and hopeful dreams for mythical internet fame. At the time, they'd thought they were perfect candidates, but they had no idea how much they had to learn.
"We started streaming separately just because it's hard to be in the same place at the same time often enough to have a real group stream schedule. And, yeah!" Bart grins toothily, "That's how we started out here!"
"How does Cassie fit into this?"
Tim curses, wincing. "Sorry, I should've mentioned that part earlier. Cassie's gonna kill me for forgetting her." Tim imagines the very cross text he'll receive later, nearly wincing again, but continues talking anyway.
"I got introduced personally to Cassie because she put out—"
"—an open call for mods," Cassie says, talking over the cutscene. Locke reads over the stone figures, while Terra stands behind Strago. She presses through the conversation, paying little attention to the text on screen.
"I had just gotten into streaming. I tried to join a lot of different gaming communities, but, at the time, they were full of guys who liked to be an asshole to me because I was a teen girl playing first person shooters," she explains, barely suppressing the urge to roll her eyes. "It's so stereotypical, but it really does suck out there for young girls who want to play co op games like that on Xbox live and whatever. So I just decided to make my own community and start streaming. The only problem was that I had no mods to monitor my chat, so I still had assholes saying really nasty things to me. So I asked a few people I'd seen in my chat frequently if they would do it, and—"
"—one of those people was me. I had actually wanted to mod for a while because I wasn't sure about the whole solo stream thing, but no one would make me a mod because they thought I was too young," Tim says, picking at a loose thread on his sleeve. Too many nights were spent in humiliation, stewing over another rejected DM or mod application. No one took a thirteen year old seriously, no matter how capable he was; his young, hopeful heart could hardly take it
Yes, there were too many nights spent humiliated. Until he stumbled upon Wondergirl.
"Luckily," Tim continues, "Cassie was the same age, and I had been watching her for a while, so I decided to just go for it."
Today's a standing stream for Cassie. She sits too often for her liking, so even if she can't actively move around, at least she can remove herself from her usual slouched position. It's a little more effort to switch setups on days like these, but it's worth it if it saves her some spinal compression.
"I pretty much accepted Tim as a mod from the get-go, especially considering I didn't have any other offers," she says. That, and she'd always thought he was clever. Even at thirteen, he'd had some kind of cutting response to the jerks in her chat anytime they said something unsavory. In the years since, he'd only bloomed further, maturing into the snarky and ingenious jack of all trades, master of nearly all she knows and loves.
"I technically still hold mod status on her stream, but ever since she convinced me to start my own stream and found a separate mod team—which, shout-out to Cassie's mods and also my mods, once again," Tim reminds seriously. "You guys do so much." He doesn't see the majority of them, but he's seen enough unnerving messages to imagine the caliber of creep they have to combat on a regular basis.
"On this stream we love and support the mods"
"Absolutely," Tim nods, "absolutely." He sits in silence for a moment, attempting to regain his place in his story.
"On this stream, we love and support Red Robin —foxx"
"We love you , Tam," he stresses. "But, yeah. Since Cassie and I both became actual streamers, I haven't had much use for my modship." Tugging his bunched sweater back down over his midriff and exposed back (it always rides up after a while), he laughs. "Maybe if this stream thing goes wayward, I'll go back to modding, but things look pretty alright for the time being."
"He's still welcome anytime, but I don't think that'll happen," Cassie says. Tim's stream steadily gains followers each week, and his YouTube channel boasts even greater success. Plus, she has her own mods, now. In fact, she had only been messaging with Cissie a mere couple hours ago before she began the stream. They'd both slipped easily into their familiar repartee, and Cassie found herself unable to refrain from smiling at her screen. Speaking of, she really can't think of Cissie right now, or else she'll start looking suspiciously soft, and she doesn't want any prying questions tonight. It's better to focus on the game right now. Yeah.
In terms of gameplay, tonight's been more than leisurely. She's leveled fairly highly for this point in the game, so Terra, Locke, and Strago fight off Ultros pretty easily in-game. The game is easier now that she's not playing it as a kid, but the nostalgia factor makes up for any deficit in enjoyment caused by ease.
"Actually, Tim introduced me to Bart and Kon after a while of just us talking. I had heard of them before that, though. They weren't super popular, but Young Just Us kinda stood out to me. We were both small and both focused more on fun than getting views, so it was kinda natural when we all became friends." She shrugs. "I really can't explain it. I mean, it was weird not meeting in person for a while, but, even then, Diana knew them already so it wasn't like I didn't know if they were real or not."
"Oh, yeah," Kon says, "Cassie's...aunt...works with me and Tim's dads. Also Bart's uncle. Did I mention that they know Bart's uncle?" He frowns, mind spinning slightly with the onslaught of details and moving parts in the story before he waves it off. "Whatever, you're hearing it now."
"But, yeah!" Bart smiles. "Now we're the Core Four of the Young Justice collective and we rule! Take that, everyone else."
His sentence trails off as Sonic leaps at Dr. Eggman's suit of armor, shattering the machine into nothing more than metal parts, before speeding stage left in his typical, accelerated, blue ball. Gaining momentum, Bart begins to woop happily, escalating into a full holler as the screen whites out. Elated, he pushes back his chair. Dox, already startled from his cheers, leaps from his lap, ears alert and eyes widened, but Bart hardly notices over his joy.
He stands shooting both fists straight into the air. "Yes! And take that , record holders! Fourteen minutes, thirty seconds flat. New world record for Sonic the Hedgehog glitchless speedrun, heck yeah!" He cheers again, this time performing a slight, giddy dance.
"Impulse just got the world record for glitchless sonic speed run."
Tim looks up directly at the on screen message. "Really? Again? I didn't know it had been taken from him in the first place." It must've been recent; Bart rarely lets something like that sticks for long. "Well, congrats, Bart. Good job," he congratulates, a pleasant, congratulatory expression floating onto his features.
"If you guys aren't already subscribed to Bart's channel, go do it. You won't find a more unique speedrunner anywhere else." It's a true statement. Tim can't name another speedrunner that allows as many distractions as Bart and still shatters as many records.
"And I promise we don't normally stream at the same time," he adds. The coincidence of them all online at the same time is strange, but it had to happen eventually, he guesses. It may as well be tonight.
"Go subscribe to the rest of Young Justice," Kon says. "Bart's 1mpuls3, with a one for the "i" and a three for the "e," Cassie's Wondergirl, and Tim's RedRobin."
"You guys should check them out. They stream enough outside of when I stream, that you could probably just fill your days with Young Justice." Kon frowns, then corrects, "Not that I think you should, though, so please nobody have your parents storming my Instagram DMs, okay?" The kinds of considerations you have to make as a streamer puts him through the ringer sometimes.
"I hope that was a sufficient answer, though, because I don't know if I can tell it any better, or again at all," Tim says, stretching. A joint in his right shoulder pops as he reaches over and across his head. "If it got too convoluted, maybe try asking the other three. I'm a streamer and not a game developer for a reason, haha. Stories aren't my forte," he avows, terminating his stretching and instead moving his shoulders in small circles. He's only been streaming for a few hours, but the weight of the day has settled into his bones, placing resistance toward the simple action of keeping his eyes open. He yawns, covering his mouth politely. Even if he can't see his audience physically, he still has to remember there's a whole host of viewers, watching and reading into nearly every one of his movements and gestures. It's best to be overly aware and considerate than to act obliviously.
Bart yells once again, this time within close proximity to his mic, undoubtedly blowing the eardrums of his viewers, but the serotonin from his win still prevents him from caring.
From behind his position in the far reaches of the room, Dox barks sharply at his sudden flurry of movement and noise. Swooping down gleefully, Bart plucks the dog from the floor, holding him up into the field of vision of the camera.
"Dox says, 'Yay Bart! Good sonic! Good running!'" He punctuates the beagle's imagined excitement with a firm kiss to his head, causing the dog to squint. He shifts the dog in his arms, instead changing his hold to resemble that closer to how one might hold an infant. Bart smiles giddily as he watches the steady thrum of messages in chat, all yelling their congratulations by way of all-capital-lettered messages. Almost immediately, however, both dog and speedrunner perk up, glancing once again at the door. Bart moves off screen, still carrying Dox.
"Hey, Thad!" he yells, then looks at the beagle in his arms and adds more quietly: "Doxy! Thad's home!"
"What?" a voice yells faintly off screen in response.
Bart tilts his neck upwards to amplify his sound. "I just got another Sonic record! Want to come here and say anything?"
"No!" the voice responds sharply. When Bart returns to the camera a few seconds later, he's frowning. Dox rests his chin on the streamer's shoulder, peering at the wall tiredly.
"Well, I don't know what I expected," Bart sighs, before brightening. "But yay! We did it guys!"
Chat continues to scroll, joy factor nearly matching that of Bart's own, and he's filled with sudden gratitude that he's able to have such a supportive cast of regular viewers. That people would choose to revisit his channel week after week at all is shocking, but their endless cheering for him is even more unbelievable. This surge of dopamine feels like a good place to end. He likes to leave off on a high note.
"Okay, guys," he starts, "I think we're gonna leave this off until next week." He can still feel the dimples in his cheek, pressed there by the apparent happiness on his face. "It's been great tonight: glad we could all have this win together." He rocks Dox, holding the small dog with only one arm so that he can take hold of his mouse.
"See ya next time, Speedsters!" he says, winking. "Impulse, out!"
His stream logs offline.
Kon runs his hand through his curls, using his other hand to scroll through the game menu to save. He's reached a good saving point, entering into a building after fighting a small group of guys in the street. He got a lot done in the game this stream, so he's pleased enough to call it quits for the night.
"We did pretty well, I think. Next time we'll start with looking for Mr. Standish, and see where we go from there."
The game loads for a second, before announcing it's saved. He quits the game a second later, closing out of the software and ultimately shutting down the game system.
"I'm really liking this game so far. I feel like me and Spidey could get along pretty well, y'know?" he comments. Something about the spry and grand movements of the hero speaks to his soul. The healing factor and inhuman strength are cool, too.
"I can't wait to pick this up next time. I know it's not even that long from now, but I'm not gonna lie: it's hard not to play in between streams, haha," he says honestly, placing his controller onto the side of his desk. He looks back at his monitor, not reading chat, but watching the thread of messages increase as they pick up on the incoming end of stream. Everyone has to get their last word in, he guesses.
"But, really, I had fun tonight, and I hope you guys did too. Maybe you even learned something about me and my friends. Or maybe you just muted while I was talking and watched me play." He shrugs. He doesn't really care, just as long as he knows he has some viewers who at least enjoy his commentary.
"Well, see you in...two days I think? Yeah, two days," he remembers. "See you guys, and stay safe. Superboy, out."
With another click of his mouse, Conner ends the stream.
Cassie closes out the emulator, opening her YouTube channel instead as the stream background. With the rate she's playing Final Fantasy VI, she'll be finished within a few more streams. After that, who knows what she'll move onto. That reminds her: she really ought to put out a poll for what her viewers want to see next…
She jots that down on her mental list. Maybe when she texts Cissie after this, she can ask her for some ideas.
"This isn't my first time playing this game, but I swear I must've forgotten everything that happened. It's making me feel like I haven't actually played it before," she says. By this point, she's leaning a bit on her desk, tired from standing all this time. Her spine feels relatively unbothered, though, which is nice.
"Maybe things will start feeling familiar again soon. We'll have to see next stream, I guess."
She pushes her cursor over to near where her username is displayed on her channel page.
"If you're not already, please consider subscribing to my channel, or to the stream. And don't forget to check out the rest of Young Justice, too. We really appreciate your support." Her voice is earnest: she really means what she says. Some streamers speak dozens of empty words about how much they treasure their audience, only to behave exactly the opposite, but Young Justice has always been about fostering friendship and community—about strength in numbers, and expressing yourself without concern for others' rules and restrictions. None of them are the type to put on niceties just for the sake of attracting a following; it's far better to accomplish a following based on those people genuinely enjoying you and your content. They've each carved out a special and collective niche to share in their little corner of the streaming world.
"Alright, on that note, I'm gonna go eat something, and maybe turn in early," she plans aloud, scratching lightly over the fuzzy, shaved sides of her hair. "I hope you guys are doing well, and I'll see you soon. Bye, guys. Wondergirl, out"
And with that, Cassie goes offline, turning away from her computer and heading for the direction of her kitchen.
"Okay," Tim says after rubbing over his eyes for the fifth time in as many minutes. "I think I'm going to end the stream here. I know it was a little nontraditional today, but I hope you still enjoyed it," he voices honestly. He doesn't always feel like the most interesting person, and he doesn't really understand why so many people like to watch and listen to him ramble and yell about nerd stuff, but he's not complaining.
"Like I said earlier, the stream schedule will be posted tomorrow, so look forward to that. Thanks again to the mods, and for you guys for sticking around. Go subscribe to the rest of Young Justice if you aren't already," he says, beginning his end of stream spiel. "Have a good night, everyone."
He leans forward, seizing the mouse so that he can terminate the stream.
"Stay safe, Red Robin ou—"
Just as he mouses over the option to end the live recording, his phone rings. Frowning, he removes his hand from the mouse, instead slowly picking up his phone. He easily identifies the ringtone as Tam's (Ahsoka's theme, because she really is the Ahsoka to his pre-dark side Anakin). In any normal circumstance, he'd be delighted to receive a call from his friend, but he's really exhausted at this point, so he accepts the call in a manner that one may identify as begrudging.
"Hello?" his eyes flit to the still-recording stream. Should he just end it? He didn't get to sign off, though, and he hates when he's unable to sign off properly.
"Hi, Tim." Tam says, voice uncommonly tight. Something in him startles hearing her greet him as such, and his expression subconsciously takes on a grave edge.
"What's up?" he asks, straightforward. If Tam's calling during a stream—let alone the end of the stream—out of the blue, there's no question it can only be serious.
"There's one last cheer message for the stream, but we aren't sure it should run."
Tim frowns, surprised. The mods usually can make executive decisions without his consideration, which is exactly what he trusts them to do. Rarely, if ever, do they ask him his thoughts on a matter—that is, unless it's serious.
"How bad is it?"
"Well," she stalls. That's not good; Tam never stalls.
"It doesn't have any harmful content, or offensive terms. It's a donation, too, which makes this unfortunate… "
"I'm not…seeing a problem?" he half states, half questions.
Tam sighs. "We think it might upset you in particular."
Tim's frown deepens. "If it's just some kind of jab, I really don't think it'll be bad. Plus, I'd feel bad denying someone a message they paid for."
"I really think you might want to look over—"
"Hey," he interrupts, "I trust you guys. If it made it past your cursory content check, I'm sure it can show on stream."
"Alright ," Tam intones, and Tim winces; she doesn't sound pleased at being cut off. "But when you start crying about it, don't come running to me."
Tam hangs up abruptly, with Tim barely starting to stutter a reply as the other line goes dead.
"Um," he says intelligently, "I guess we have one more donation for tonight." There's a tremor in his voice, residual from his fear of Tam's wrath. His viewers may or may not notice his sudden spike in anxiety, but anyone familiar with his mannerisms could spot the obvious signs a mile away squinting.
His face completely smooths over, adopting a cool, careless look. The slant of his shoulders straightens and stiffens, now paralleling the level edge of where the wall meets the ceiling above him in his camera's view. He swallows noticeably, throat bobbing as his mouth comes up dry.
He hates not knowing what's coming. God, maybe he really should've just read over the message, but he's so tired that he just assumed it'd be fine. But what if it's not fine? Tam wouldn't just let him walk into something detrimental to himself, would she?
His breath picks up—again, hardly noticeable—but still unpleasant for his lungs.
Every nerve in his body lights up like an adorned tree at Christmas, lying in wait for the dreaded—
The donation alert.
He stares in silence, perfectly forward as he waits the few seconds' time between the alert and the message, both passing slothfully, and ending in no time at all. Tim dreads the wait, wishing for the message to hurry up and voice itself already.
But once that disembodied voice begins to break the tense quiet settled upon him, he regrets ever wishing for such a thing.
"Dearest Red, it begins, You can't imagine my excitement upon hearing yourself indulge us (your most faithful viewers) in a story. After all, that's what I'm known for busying myself with, right? "
It ends. But Tim holds his breath.
"But upon hearing your titillating tale, I could only find myself disappointed. The story arc felt choppy and rushed. I found myself unable to relate to the main character, who seemed like a huge, uncool nerd."
Another pause before—
"I really wish you had improved upon your characterization and structure, but, alas. I suppose I may not be that lucky. How unfortunate."
"In summation, I would give this story two stars out of five. I only gave it an additional star because I enjoyed the cover."
Tim squeezes his eyes shut.
He bites his bottom lip, hard enough to draw blood.
"The Red Hood Reads."
Tim's eyes snap open, and in perfect parallel, so does he. Words flow from his mouth like molten lava. Just call him Vesuvius.
"Who does that asshole think he is? What the hell? He donated five hundred dollars! And for what? To be an outrageous dick? What, was Twitter not enough for you?" he rants, anger boiling in his blood like an overheated kettle. His hands fly wildly, drawn into fists and white knuckled.
"I swear ," he vows, voice smooth and pressured like liquid arsenic, and just as poisonous, "that when I hunt you down—and don't you dare think I won't—that you'll regret ever —"
Tim cuts off, mouth agape and brows still drawn downward with passionate distaste.
"Get wrecked, you fucking pint sized scrub."
Most appropriately, Tim sees red.
Needless to say, as he stands under the cold spray of his shower an hour later, Tim regrets ever interrupting Tam. He doesn't know why he doesn't listen to her more often, but he has a feeling he'd avoid a lot of trouble if he did.
That Red Hood asshole has been mocking him online far too often for his liking, and he only gets away with it by being nearly undetectable in terms of true identity. He's never gone as far as infiltrating his stream before, only lurking on Twitter and snarking in the occasional YouTube comment, but today he'd gone one step too far, and Tim was certain the ban from his channel the mods dealt out would do little to deter him in the future.
Most unfortunately, Tim can't even do anything to get even. Any retaliation Tim would typically pull falls flat when its target remains completely anonymous and nearly untouchable. The elusive Hood is untraceable and shrouded in mystery, criticizing Tim and offering stupid remarks from the shadows. The last thing he wants is to stoop to his level.
But today, Tim gave that jerk exactly what he wanted: a reaction. His nails dig half moons into his palms, before relaxing once again as he cools his anger. Now is not the time. It was not the time earlier, either, but he already blew that and now stands in the face of the consequences.
He runs his hands over his face and through his wet hair, smoothing the frazzled lines and strands there. Pulling his thoughts forcibly away from the "Tim Drake Loses it on Stream" stream clips he's already seen popping up on social media, he instead pools his energy into dreaming of the exact wrath he'll execute the day he uncovers that Red Hooded bastard's identity. He'll take those six hundred repulsively donated dollars and put them to good use—funding his vengeance. That dick and his perplexingly popular book review channel won't know what's coming until it hits him, and that will be Tim's greatest triumph.
But triumph will not arrive back into his veins just yet—not until that day—so Tim settles himself firmly back into his present, letting the cool water wash over him and trail down the drain.