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angrydurf

We Take Care of Our Own

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Mike closed the file he'd been sent as the bus came to a stop at the base of the drive leading up to the prestigious Claremont Academy.  He smiled and thanked the bus driver wishing her a good day before stepping off the final step and looking up at the school.  When it had come time to get teaching assistant credits his former school seemed a natural choice.  Now it seemed full of memories, most good granted but somehow more distant than he'd expected.  As he crossed through the gates it was clear to him it was not the same or perhaps it was he who had changed.  There were more than years now between him and this place, and given his assigned duty for the day that was probably for the best.

 

After a brief stop by the administrative office to get the visitor badge that so rarely was actually worn by the school's rare visitors Mike awaited his assigned student in the large foyer of the Cooke wing his fingertips brushing the hem of the bronzed statue of Matthias as he had before many tests in his tenure here.  Looking toward Marquez's office he sat and awaited the student within to finish her session taking care not to inadvertently listen in.  When Robin emerged he rose and waved to the good doctor extending a hand, "You must be Ms. Chevalier." he greeted gently, "I'm Mike, Mike Harris."  He glanced to Marquez to double check the counselor had informed her of their impending meeting then back to Robin with a polite smile.

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Robin had been told about the meeting, of course, but her body language broad cast reluctance despite the forced polite smile on her face, "Yes, I know - Phalanx. Dr Marquez said you were going to be chatting with me about stuff, and the school, and all," Robin said, studiously polite and she offered a firm handshake that didn't use any more than a normal amount of pressure. Her hands were rough, faint scars criss crossing her knuckles and the backs of her hands; lighter than the rest of her skin. She wore a simple thin t-shirt, frayed and worn around the hems and a little too large for her body but not in a way that did much to cut the clear ridges and lines of muscle in her arms and shoulders. Her grey eyed gaze cut to the teachers before she retrieved her hand to jam them into the pockets of her equally worn jeans, "It's very nice to meet you, Mr. Harris. Thank you for taking the time to speak to me."

 

It was studiously polite even if it was clear that Robin had already braced for a Talk about her Life Choices and why Claremont was clearly going to be an awesome experience. She paused to hitch a faded black backpack up on her shoulder that had a scrap of what looked like had been once a leather jacket or vest carefully safety pinned to the back of it. 

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Mike's handshake was gentle even over cautious despite the details in her file as to her own significant durability.  He swept his gaze over her and the stiff demeanor, forced politeness, closed in body language.  It didn't take a master of the human condition like Alex or Trevor to see the young woman was not comfortable here.  He thanked Dr. Marquez and waved goodbye as he fell in step with his charge for the afternoon as he walked with her toward the main quad and turned toward the main entrance, if she was uncomfortable here best to get her somewhere she was more comfortable.  "I was thinking we'd head off campus to talk, if that sounds good to you of course."  he offered and held up his bus pass, "My treat."  he added with a smirk not bothering to ask if she needed to drop off the bag, that was clearly an item that rarely left her sight.  As they crossed under the arched gate and Mike signed her out with the attendant there he turned to her to add, "They gave me your file to look over, help me better help you."  the tall man explained and raised a brow as he asked, "Would you like to see it?"

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Robin blinked, her gaze cutting to the side as the last comment finally drew a reaction from the quiet young woman. That she suspected it was some sort of trick was clear in the expression that flickered across her features. She frowned at him before giving a short shake of her head, "No, thank you," but it was less stilted, at least. She shrugged, pulling the thin fabric tight with the gesture across her shoulders, "It doesn't matter what other people think about me. I've had a lot of files over the years. All that matters, really, is what I think about myself."

 

Robin paused then, reaching up to knot her hair back from her face with a faded red scarf that she knotted at the back of her head, pulling the corkscrew curls out of her face. She looked up, those grey eyes thoughtful as she examined his features. "But thanks, though. It's not something I get offered a lot. I know they keep files on me," she shrugged as they stopped at the bus stop. "We're not going back to the Fens, are we?" Robin sighed a little as she looked up at Mike, "Cuz I get white folks asking me to take 'em around the Fens more often than you think. Ain't gonna solve the world's troubles in a night, though."

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"Well just let me know if you change your mind."  Mike replied with an easy smile, "You deserve to know if you decide you want to."  he added firmly but said no more on the subject for the time being though his tone suggested more personal investment in that particular matter than his relationship, or lack thereof, with her would explain.  He met her gaze as she thanked him and nodded silently as he checked the time on his watch and the bus schedule, "Doesn't mean doing something isn't worthwhile."  he pointed out as he nodded at the schedule and glanced to her and shook his head, "If you want to go to the Fens I'm happy to see where you grew up."  he admitted and shrugged himself broad shoulders flexing under the unseasonably warm turtleneck and sweater vest he wore like some kind of hipster Mr. Rodgers,  "But I wouldn't presume."  he assured her and tilted his head and squinted his eyes down the street for a moment before stepping back to seat himself on the bench, "Going to be a few minutes yet."  he told her and though he ensured he'd left plenty of space for her to sit comfortably he did not suggest such beyond that gesture.  "Have you been to Riverside park?"  he asked almost as if she was from out of town rather than a neighborhood that was perhaps a twenty minute taxi ride from the park, but without judgement simply acceptance that such a journey may not have been possible for her.  "I find it relaxing but it's not everyone's cup of tea."  he acknowledged with a smile, "But it is quiet and private without being alone."  he said with a fond sigh.

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"Well, yeah, sure. Something's better than nothing but sometimes energy might be better use in a different way," Robin agreed with the sentiment but gave a little shrug of her shoulders again before shaking her head, "No, not really. I mean... I think I ran through there at night once or twice but I usually just go from here to the Fens and back, mostly. 'Less there's trouble somewhere else. Went to the Goodman building with Riley."

 

Robin's mouth flattened a little then and surely Mike had seen that incident in the file. She forced her shoulders to relax, her grey eyes watching for the bus. She didn't take the silent offer to sit, instead slouching one shoulder against the bus stop sign. "Sounds nice," she said in that studiously polite tone, deflecting the conversation back to him, "Go there often?"

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Mike let the venture at the Goodman Building lie, if she'd wanted to say more she probably would have though his warm smile softened at how closed off she was over the experience.  Not frightened just, disappointed?  He'd have to try to come back to it another time.

 

"It is yes."  Mike agreed gently.  He shook his head, "Not as often as I used too."  he admitted a bit sadly as his schedule of late was rather impacted, but in truth even the peace of the park was still crowded out by the noises and lights of the city unless he specifically closed them out.  Standing moments before the bus rumbled into view and stepping forward to where it would stop he smiled, "It's important I think to have a place you feel at peace even fleetingly."  he said with a shrug and took a measured step back from the curb as the bus approached and lurched to a stop.

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Robin gave a slight snort at that statement. "Peace, sure," she agreed with a shrug as she went to step onto the bus with fluid grace, swinging herself up towards the seats with one hand on the bar as she headed for the back of the bus, near the rear doors. "I don't think I know what you mean by that. What even is peace?" Robin shrugged as she went to find a seat, tucking her limbs well out of the way and cradling her backpack on her lap as she looked up at the large man with piercing grey eyes. For a moment frustration flickered across her features, the frustration of a teenager who clearly thought that few people understood her moods and emotions. It was quickly, almost ruthlessly quashed as she shifted her legs out of the way for Mike to find his own seat. 

 

"I'm sorry," Robin said, then, her gaze cutting away towards the window as the bus started to move, "I'm sure it's very nice there, of course."

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Looking at the seating available on the bus mike frowned slightly, he was loath to take up seats that others could use however clearly individuals of his stature clearly had not been in mind when the seating was designed.  He finally settled on the seat opposite Robin and neatly folded himself to take up as little space as possible that others might need despite the relative emptiness of the bus.  He met her gaze and shook his head, "No need to apologize."  he assured and took a moment to look out the window and let the tension settle before speaking again.

 

"Hmmm."  he rumbled in his chest as he considered her admittedly somewhat juvenile response, and moreover how best to address it.  "I suppose it's different for everyone."  he finally settled on, "And not easy to find sometimes."  his hooded gaze was somewhat sad at the last as he looked back to her, "At the least I hope it will be a good place to chat."  he acknowledged assuming honest statement of his goals was never the wrong approach.  

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"Chat about what?" Robin asked, turning her attention from the street passing by to fix Mike with one of those sharp, not quite suspicious gazes. She gave a little shrug of her shoulders before turning her gaze back towards the window, "It's good to get out of school, either way. I mean, its not a bad place but I don't really ever feel comfortable there most of the time. But the food's not half bad and the gym's nice and all. They got a pool though I usually sink more than swim in it. Something about fat to muscle ratio or something."

 

She shrugged once more, with the affected disinterest of a teenager that had learned the dangers of attachment. "And I ain't been kicked out yet which is something I guess."

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Mike gave a subtle shrug, "Whatever you'd like really."  he said, "Me, you, the school."  he listed but a few, "I'm sure the adjustment to Claremont must be difficult."  he acknowledged carefully setting his hand lightly on his thighs as he met her eyes, "It's trying even for students who expect it in some ways, legacies to live up to and all that."  he murmured recalling his own friends experiences.  Looking down a bit sadly he added, "It must be difficult in more and different ways for you."  he admitted not claiming to understand but clearly empathizing with the difficulties.

 

At her final statement he quirked a brow, "You expect them too?"  Mike asked wondering what sort of mischief she could get up to that the school would wash its hands of her.

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Robin averted her gaze from the clear sympathy, shifting uncomfortably but at least not defensive and guarded, "S'okay. Everyone's got their own problems," she deflected with a shrug of her shoulders under the thin t-shirt. Absently, she plucked the fraying threads on the knee of one jean, her gaze drawn down to the action. Her response was a second shrug to the question. 

 

"Probably eventually," Robin admitted with the deceptive casualness of a teenager guarding their emotions against disappointment. "A lotta people don't think I belong there. Maybe I don't."

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"Others certainly do."  Mike agreed readily, "All the more reason not to assume yours are so small or so great that it's wrong to share the load."  he pointed out with a gentle smile, "But we don't have to talk about problems,"  He paused and nodded to himself, "Any classes you find particularly interesting?"  he asked opening up an avenue for her to pick the less personal if she still felt the impetus.

 

Mike shook his head sadly at her admission, "Well, that isn't up to them, that's up to you."  he countered quietly, "I find that those thinking they hold hte keys to who should or should not be 'in' are usually exactly the sort who shouldn't."  he offered with a small shrug, "It's up to you to decide if you belong or not, or really if you even want to."  Mike sat still in his seat rocking only ever so slightly in time with the lurching of the bus his countenance patient and open but not demanding anything of her.  

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"It's not like its just the popular kids," Robin sighed, her mind drifting to Archer and her inevitable failure to measure up but she shook it off rather than vocalizing the issue with staff. "I don't care if I belong or not. I'm just trying to get outta it what I can before I'm on my own again. I mean, I get what kind of a break it is. Getting swept up to a cushy private school is like some kinda sitcom, y'know?"

 

Robin shrugged and bolted to her feet as the bus came to a stop at the park, adding over her shoulder, "But at the end of the school year, I'm back to the Fens and doing what I do. No point in getting too comfortable in the meanwhile."

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Mike raised a brow at what was obviously left unsaid as to who beyond the 'popular kids' felt she did not belong.  "That's up to you too you know."  he pointed out quietly finally.  "I had a couple classmates that stayed for summers."  he smiled slightly, "And not just for summer sessions."  he added with a small laugh.  He reached up gingerly to pull himself to his feet as the bus kneeled at the park stop and followed her off keeping a few steps back even as she came to a stop on the sidewalk.  slouching under the doorframe as he exited he waited for the noise of the bus taking its leave to fade before he spoke again.  "I didn't suggest you didn't appreciate it."  he pointed out with a small smile, "If you want to go back they probably won't stop you, but you should think about it."  he explained with a shrug and pointed to a path, "This goes around by the bluffs and the Sentry Statue it's a nice view but a bit longer path so not as busy mostly joggers lost in their music and all."

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"Yeah, people at home need me though," Robin gave a helpless little shrug of her shoulders, settling her backpack over one once more. "Already had a'couple of other folks captured because I was off enjoying a rich kid prep school and wasn't keeping an eye out for 'em."

 

There was recrimination in her tone but aimed inward. It wasn't too hard to see that Robin had already taken on the Fens as her own. She turned her head to follow his gesture and gave him another absent minded shrug, "I don't mind walking. Unless Riley's got his bike, that's pretty much how I get anywhere. Well, that and hitching sometimes."

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Mike nodded and headed off in the indicated direction his steps measured to her own in a rambling casual pace.  Looking sadly toward her he raised a brow, "You get them back?"  he asked carefully knowing it would be particularly trying if she hadn't.  "You can't be everywhere you know."  He pointed out with a low sigh, "That's just setting yourself up for failure."  he turned out toward the bay as they walked and hummed softly, "No matter how much you give up there will always be a few who slip past that you can't do anything about."  he intoned softly, "You run yourself into the ground, or worse isolate yourself so far you don't even remember why you're doing it anymore and you're not helping anyone."  

 

He paused and continued walking, "Claremont is more than just a fancy prep school, you'll meet people who can help you when you need it and people you can help when they need it."  he pointed out a bit more cheerfully, "And they'll make you better than you were, it may not seem like it at the time but they really can hone in and get you to be a better version of you."

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"Some," was Robin's short reply that brooked no further inquiry into that particular line of questioning. She gave a short, sharp shrug of her shoulders that sent the meager contents of her backpack rustling with the gesture. "Sure, I can't. No one can. But isn't it worth it to try? I mean, I'm no Centurion. I know that. I don't have, like, real powers. But someone's gotta do something. No one should have to watch the door and wonder if the people they love are going to come home tonight."

 

For a brief moment her grey gaze flashed with stubborn intensity before she repressed it once more. "I guess. I mean, you're right. I learn more quickly than I do just out on my own, for sure. And I've made a couple of friends. Real friends."

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Mike nodded satisfied with the answer catching the cue not to pry further, "No one's suggesting you stop trying, at least not here."  he pointed out with a vague sigh as he drew to a stop at an overlook peering out into the city across the river and the choppy waves of the bay.  

 

He turned back to her meeting her grey eyes with a soft tone in his voice,  "You're right."  he acknowledged, "Robin, I'm so sorry."  he said earnestly, "What happened to your parents, to you."  he shook his head, "I wish someone had been there, had been able to stop it."  he shrugged and slowly fell silent for a long moment.  "And your drive to make sure no one else does, that'll keep you going, in a way."  Mike acknowledged without judgment, "You need room for more though, if that is all you are at the end of the day more than two people died in that alley."  his tone was somber but caring, "You have to live a life as well, it can be too easy to focus on the doing and forget why, and for who if you don't take a step back and let yourself see the world and the people in it, let them care about you."  he left unsaid letting herself care about them that would come perhaps already had.

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Robin hesitated, her grey eyes glinting with a suspicious moisture. She didn't cry easily, not any more, but it was a lot easier to bottle up the anger in the face of other reactions. A genuine, heartfelt apology wasn't on her list of responses. Robin broke eye contact first staring down at her dusty sneakers. This pair was starting to wear through, part of her noticed absently. 

 

"I let people care about me," Robin mumbled, shoving her hands into her jean pockets, her head ducked down, "I'm just not really good at it. I mean, no one's cared in a few years. I mean, I had foster parents but they just... they had too much else going on. There's a lotta kids that have needs and I'm good at taking care of myself."

 

Robin paused before admitting slowly, "I have a few friends, though, a roommate." She paused and then added, "An' a boyfriend."

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Mike smiled slightly at the small opening of her demeanor.  "That's a good start."  he acknowledged earnestly after a moment to let her compose herself if needed.  His gaze fell to the ground as well as he let the quiet sounds of the park fill the silence.  "Well it sounds like there are people who care now then."  he pointed out softly, "Being self sufficient doesn't mean not letting anyone help."  he glanced to her as he considered his words carefully.  He didn't know her life outside the pages of an admittedly spares file from the school.  He could make guesses and suppositions certainly but probably could never really know. 

 

"I'm not going to say I know what you've been through, I don't think lies however polite are going to help anything here."  he explained baldly without pretense.  "You're strong, not just in body but in spirit."  Mike relayed with honest praise.  "Sometimes that isn't enough though."  he said carefully looking out over the bay with a sigh.  "I had a friend when I was in school."  Mike began to explain, "And I'd like to tell you a little about him if you're interested, you remind me of him in some ways."  he offered carefully.

Edited by angrydurf

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Although she was far too young to have been in the military, or anything of the sort, there was definitely something in her stance that reminded Mike of the police academy - that at rest but prepared to stand for as long as things might take, the squared shoulders; even the short, sharp nod she gave in response to his question. 

 

"Sure," Robin agreed, relaxing minutely as the conversation shifted away from her at least in part. She'd much rather hear about his school friends and days than talk about her own life. "At Claremont?"

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Mike nodded answer to her question with a small smile, "Yea, that long ago."  he joked lightly at his own not so advanced age.  He paused to think about how best to present the story then let out a small exhalation as he began.  "So we had a pretty tight group of friends, a few crazy adventures under our belt."  he offered with a fond smile.  "The usual high school drama too I guess."  he added with a wry shrug.  "But James always seemed above it all." 

 

He glanced to Robin then away, "He was always calm and cool and seemed to have things together in ways the rest of us didn't you know?"  he offered questioningly, "I mean he had family money, a car, all that."  he shrugged, "But I guess that high life doesn't leave a lot of family time an he grew up kinda fast, ahead of the curve on dealing with things on his own."  Mike explained with a small smile, "Not that he held it over anyone that was the thing about him he was generous and helpful with everything, the kinda guy that was always there for you no matter what."  he looked to her and acknowledged, "Now I think you know as well as anyone having a lot or not doesn't have much to do with giving a lot and he gave a lot."  Mike stopped for a moment as he looked at Robin to make sure it was sinking in despite the disparity of resources.

 

"Anyway as giving as he was he wasn't really willing to take."  Mike offered with a shrug, "And not just like the stuff his money and family could cover he didn't want any of us to stick our necks out for him no matter how rough things got."  The big mans eyes swept out to the bay as he thought back, "So he had some trouble, big trouble really,"  Mike let out a sigh as he remembered James vanishing and the invasion that followed.  "Thing was it was dangerous, and he wanted to keep us safe, and he thought he could handle it on his own, make the play and take care of it all by himself."  Mike shook his head, "He couldn't though."  Mike turned back to Robin then though with a smile, "But we came anyway, despite the danger and the lies and all the things he did to try and make sure we didn't put ourselves at risk we came because he was our friend and we knew he needed our help."   He looked questioning to Robin and carefully considered, "So sometimes you need to be willing to reach out and take the help that's offered even if you think you have it by yourself.  You never know when you'll need it."

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