Seeds

They spotted each other outside the meeting room more or less immediately.

Carmine Falcone gave Casper a spine-crushing hug, reserved only for his best and most trusted friends. “Davis! Been a hot minute. People were starting to wonder what happened to you.”

Casper chuckled “Like they give a shit about my personal affairs.”

Carmine released his shorter friend. “How is he, anyway? Still up at the lodge?”

Casper leaned on his cane. “Well, his lung has healed up enough that he can take care of himself without coughing up blood, so… I decided it would be best to keep him close, here in Gotham.”

Carmine grimaced. “This ain't exactly the place for R and R.”

Casper sighed. “I know, I know…. It's soon, but… I'm thinking it's about time he got a little more involved. I've kept him cooped up long enough. He knows what the world is really like now. He's an adult.”

Carmine nodded. “I suppose. I'd still say it's too early to throw him in after all that trauma.”

“I'm not throwing him in. I'll just have him… you know… dip his toes.”

“This really ain't his… forte, though. He's a good kid.”

“This isn't the world for good kids, now is it?”

“You've got a point there. This is the world for Nathaniel Cranes. Speaking of which, you hear?”

“No. What?”

“You came back just in time. He got his hand blown off yesterday. Expect that to get thrown your way today if Jonathan is here.”

Casper sighed. “I miss doing little miracles like that… you know, back when they were miracles, not expected demands. Should be simple enough… We've got plenty of extra hands lying around… wonder what route he'll want to go. Prothstetic… good as new flesh and blood… or something different and dramatic. He strikes me as the dramatic type.”

~~~~~~~~

As the attendees settled in, Casper got a few more “How's the son”s, some more sincere than others.

They both agreed the meeting went on about six hours too long, but it was at least interesting this time. It wasn't news to him that the Hall girl had escaped. That had been his department. Of course, it wouldn't have happened if he'd been there, but now that it had….

And there was the new Bat Boy. That. That was very interesting.

Almost as interesting as Julius Luthor and his little… interference. He hadn't been told the Brain Interactive Construct had been stolen. That certainly irked him. Somebody was going to pay for not telling him the instant that happened. Sure, his absence was for something important, but not important enough that he couldn't have been informed- he let it go. He'd worry about it later.

~~~~~~~

Daniel was greeted by his uncle with a much gentler hug than usual, which he returned.

Carmine ruffled his hair, as he had always done since their very first meeting. “Holding up, Danny? We've missed you.”

“I'm… I'm doing alright,” he said, managing a small smile.

Dinner was quiet. Daniel certainly wasn't up for much conversation, and it felt awkward for his father and uncle to exclude him in their own conversations. It wasn't silent, though. There was a bit of catching up. Some “So how was college?” here, and “How's the family?” there.

Once dinner was done, Casper spoke up. “Daniel… Carmine and I have some things to discuss.”

Daniel was prepared to retreat to his room as usual when the “adults were talking”, but Casper stopped him.

“If you'd like… you can stay, and… be a part of it?”

Daniel was certainly caught off guard. It took a moment for him to consider it. “I… I really appreciate the offer, but… not this time.” He wasn't ready yet. He wasn't ready to walk to the store down the street to grab something, let alone be included in something heavy and important. Not yet. He wasn't sure when he would be.

Casper nodded. He didn't look disappointed. “That's absolutely fine. If you ever decide you want to be a part of anything… just let me know, alright?”

Daniel nodded. He put on a weak smile of appreciation. “I will.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Once Daniel had gone to his room, Carmine and Casper got situated in the living room, pulling apart the neat folders they'd been provided. Casper laid a few pages out across the coffee table. “Alright, so are you thinking what I'm thinking?”

“Looks like it. Maybe,” nodded Carmine, lighting up a cigarette before looking over the pages.

Casper separated the pages into two groups. One was Julius and Brainiac, the other the two metahumans.

“We need to be careful,” said Casper. “We go too big too soon, it could get complicated fast. I say we start small and independent-” He tapped the security image of the young man in the Bat suit. “And let the bigger things follow their own course for now.” He slid Julius and Brainiac farther away.

Carmine leaned forward over the table. “So what exactly do you have in mind?”

“We can't act big and organized. That raises too many flags.”

“What the hell are you even talking about? Spit it out. What's your idea?”

Casper sighed. He didn't like doing tiny, individual, small-scale things, but that's all he'd been given to do for the past decade. Why stop now? “Basically…. I think we should sort of… “Sponsor” Batman Junior over here.”

Carmine put on an odd thinking expression. “Sponsor him?”

“Yeah. Let him do… whatever it is he wants to do, but under our… protection. He can be our little symbol of hope. Once one person can successfully rise up against suppression, others are bound to pop up. That's what they're so worried about him for, isn't it?”

Carmine nodded, his understanding growing. A small smile grew. “Alright, alright… I see. I get it. We're just… planting some seeds.”

“Exactly. We don't have to do much directly. We just serve as a sort of… well if they're seeds, then we're… botanists. Gardeners. We'll water a little here… spray some pesticide there. No big farm… it'll be like…” He chuckled. “You know, our little cannabis field out in the woods.”

Carmine's smile grew. “Yes. I like it. Where do we start?”

“Well, by the looks of it, these kids are running around trying to hide on the streets. They won't last long like that. They need a safe place to situate themselves.”

“Have anywhere in mind?”

Casper grinned, turning to his partner in crime. “That's where you come in, Don Falcone.”

Carmine chuckled, his grin turning sly. “Oh, I miss it… Senator is so boring.”

“You've gotta have a few old safehouses off the books still, right?”

“You know me too well. Alright you've got me. I do.”

“So, we'll let them use one and keep an eye on them… keep them safe. Let them do them, but stay informed and involved both ways. Anybody asks, we aren't involved with each other and they stumbled across the place.”

“I have a place in mind. Alright, consider me in. So how are you going to get in contact? Will we stay anonymous? Earn their trust?”

“I'm sure they'll need our rescue sooner than later. It's not about trust, it's about action- just doing it. Trouble is finding them. Shouldn't be too hard. I can send out a flock of birds to find them, then all I have to do is pop in and take them to the safe house.”

“That's it, huh? We're going that simple?”

“Yup. That simple.”

“What about Daniel? You want him involved?”

“He might not be ready for much, but the world won't wait for him to be. I'll do what I can to keep him out of harm's way, but we'll have to see what happens.” He stood up and went to the window. The view of the city was an impressive one, but not the highest. He popped the window open, tilting it, and a small black bird swooped through the gap to perch on Casper's wrist. “Alright, darling.” He held up the picture of Lyra Hall. “Tell your friends.” He reached out through the tiny bird for every one of its distant relatives in a fifty mile radius.

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