Thursday, June 22, 2017

Chapter Twenty: Insanity

Chapter Twenty: Insanity

Over the next week, Dick got into a routine, as did Adeline, the Titans, and the rest of the super hero community. Dick would often get up late to find a note and breakfast on the table, as Ms. Kane left early for work. He would occupy his time with doing research and on occasion chilling out with the remote in hand. Around five, he'd call Ms. Kane and ask what he should do for dinner and by ten, he'd fake going to bed and he'd been running around in Gotham by eleven with the Titans by his side.

Lately, it had been pretty quiet. He and the Titans often spread out over the city to take care of the scum throughout the nights, occasionally teaming up and starting a rouge menace. Even during the day, Dick found himself sneaking out a few times to see what he could do during the day. However, the most he and the other Titans really did was talk to Sawyer about seeing the Joker, who said that most likely by tonight, they could get at least one of the Titans down to talk to him. Robin had then gone home early after that, ready to get a few more hours of sleep. He knew he had been stressed and so sleep was calling him. When he woke up and looked out the window, he was surprised that he had actually been able to get up so early.

He didn't complain though, and hopped out of bed and went down the stairs to the kitchen, but the smell made him raise a brow. Running down, Dick looked at the stove, on which eggs and sausage were cooking. The thing missing? The person cooking them. That's when he heard something coming from around the corner. A 'huht' sort of sound, that kept repeating and came from an open door.

Slowly, Dick opened the door, to find it leading to a basement below and a glow from light coming from below as well. Dick walked down the steps and as soon as he turned the corner, he saw probably the most unexpected thing that he had seen all week. In the basement was a large collection of equipment for working out and at the moment, Ms. Kane was using one of the machines to work her... very well toned muscles.

As Dick's jaw dropped, Adeline stopped her workout to look over at him, "Oh, morning, Dick? Breakfast will be ready in a few minutes."

When he didn't respond and his look of shock didn't vanish, Adeline added, "You okay, Dick?"

It took a moment for him to put his thoughts into words, but he finally managed to with, "You're, you're a body builder?"

Adeline laughed, "Hardly, but I do work out in the morning. I get up early to do so and wake myself up. This stuff's mostly just left over from when I was younger."

Dick resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Did all of Bruce's family have unusual basements? Well, at least it wasn't a Batcave. Nothing could surprise him over that though, but this was still pretty shocking. Almost annoying, too. He could bet that if he had just known about this, Ms. Kane would have let him use this stuff during the day. As Ms. Kane went back to her work out, Dick looked around the walls, on which were framed awards. As he looked closer, he noticed that many of them were government issued. As Ms. Kane got up and grabbed a towel, Dick glanced over at her.

"You were in the Army?" He asked.

"Oh, yeah, long time ago," Adeline told him, "My father was a soldier and I just inherited that part of him."

"How long did you stay?" Dick asked and pointed to one medal, "It says here you were a captain."

Adeline looked over at the medal and sighed, "Yeah, I was. I trained special agent troops in the Army. I guess I must have stayed for a good number of years, not sure how many though."

"Oh," Dick said, "That where you got the, uh, exercise routine from then?"

Ms. Kane walked over to the stairs with a nod, "Yeah, I suppose so. I was always pretty athletic though. Come on, I don't want breakfast to burn."

Dick followed Ms. Kane back up to the kitchen area where she began to serve up both of them the eggs and sausage. Dick sat down at the island as Adeline handed him a dish and they began to eat. Dick watched Ms. Kane at out of the corner of his eye as they ate their breakfast. Perhaps that was the first real wake up call for him. He still knew hardly anything about her. They just didn't get the chance to talk much, but he probably should be making an effort.

"Ms. Kane?" He asked.

"Yes, Dick?" She answered.

"Um, I, what... I really, I really don't know that much about you," Dick told her.

Adeline chewed her food thoughtfully and replied, "That's my fault, Dick. I'm not always very open about myself."

There was a pause when Dick asked, "Why?"

Adeline mulled it over in her head, "I guess... Some things are just painful, that's all."

"What wasn't?" Dick asked.

Adeline laughed, "I suppose there were good times."

Dick paused and then asked, "Your sons? What were they like?"

Adeline looked at him a bit surprised, "Oh, well, different as night and day. My oldest was really strong headed. My younger son was a real sweetheart. I don't know..."

Dick watched as Ms. Kane went into almost a trance. Her eyes were glassy and seemed to lock up memories, both good and bad. A small smile tugged at her face, but wasn't strong enough to appear fully. Dick took a couple bites of food, thinking. Finally Adeline stood up with a sigh and put her dish in the dishwasher.

"I've got some work to do while I'm home today, okay Dick?" She asked.

"Sure," He answered, "Think I could use the equipment downstairs?"

"Of course," She told him, "Go for it."

Dick smiled lightly as the two parted. He hadn't expected much from that, but he could tell that she certainly had a whole different side to her. He looked over at the door towards the basement and shrugged. He had to admit, as odd as the basements were, he really could never complain.

Adeline heard Dick running downstairs within minutes of sitting down at her desk. Wayne Industries was becoming a frenzy. It was absolutely ridiculous in many ways. She sat back in her chair and ran a hand through her hair and down her face. Of all things too, it had to be a vigilante. A vigilante. The one thing she probably hated more than anything else in the world. Grabbing a key from under her chair, Adeline took it and unlocked one of her filing cabinets. But she wouldn't pull it all the way out. She couldn't.

Adeline shut her eyes and took out the key. How many times had she learned this. The likelihood that it was him... There were plenty of others. It was just her own paranoia. That's what it had been before. When was the last time that they had actually crossed paths. Probably right before... She shook her head and bit her lip. Dick didn't know how much his presence brought back memories. He didn't know how much she enjoyed his voice because it was just there and it was kind. She couldn't just throw away his safety on a paranoia. Adeline began to work.

On a shelf inside her office, one picture sat upon it. Two boys smiled with her in the photo. One with curly blond and one with blond silk for hair. Those boys, she'd never see them again. They were lost because their innocence was lost before they could really be kids. Dick deserved more than that. Vigilantes wouldn't ruin that. She would make sure of it.


The Titans had never seen Robin so awake in their entire lives. No, scratch that, they had never seen him so aware of every detail in their entire lives. It wasn't even gradual. It was just that night. It was like he hadn't been sitting around all day. Which, of course, he hadn't. After finding out about Ms. Kane's stash of equipment, Dick had spent all day downstairs, working his muscles. Maybe that was a good thing, considering he wouldn't have as much of a chance tonight. As they zoomed through Gotham, Cyborg and Beast Boy took note of Robin's... knack for almost showing off.

As they headed farther into the city, Cyborg began to notice a change in direction, "Yo, B, you recognize this area at all?"

"Don't look at me, dude," Beast Boy said, weirded out by the surrounding setting, "Least Robin seems to know where he's going."

"At least that's one thing we can be sure about," Cyborg said.

"The guy's turning into an animal," Beast Boy commented, not in a positive tone either.

Cyborg kept up the speed while the girls flew between the two vehicles. Starfire's gaze drifted from building to building as they passed through the streets of Gotham. She began to notice that things seemed to be getting less friendlier as they went.

"Raven, where exactly are we?" Starfire asked.

Raven looked at her from under her hood, "Nowhere I really want to be, Starfire."

Starfire's worried look turned to almost panic as she looked ahead at Robin, "You, uh, you do not want to be here?"

Raven blew a random strand of hair out of her face, "Well, do you?"

"Um, well, no," Starfire answered, "It seems as though to get the worse as we... Ekkk!"

Starfire stopped in front of a large gate, that seemed to spring up from the ground. It was a strong, formidable structure, with vines wrapping themselves around it. Starfire instantly flew back towards Raven and the others. Beyond the gate was a large building, with bars on every window, from which lights flickered and shadows mocked the sane. The most disturbing thing perhaps, though, was that Robin was walking towards the gate where the sign read 'Arkham Asylum'.

"Come on," He said, not looking back at his team members, who at this point were wondering if Robin was about to check himself in.

They followed hesitantly past the walled-up borders and after their leader. It was pretty quiet, actually. That is until someone cackled from inside, making all four of the other Titans tense or squeal in fright. Robin however, didn't seem to notice. In fact, he didn't. He was very used to this by now. He found Detective Sawyer at the front as she said she would be while the four Titans hung in the background listening.

"Thanks for letting us in here, Detective," Robin told her.

"Not a problem," Sawyer said professionally, "You think that you can actually get Joker to talk, though?"

"I'll have to," Robin said.

Sawyer raised a brow as she looked behind him at the rest of the Titans, "Robin, can I talk to you for a moment... alone?"

He looked back at his teammates and nodded, walking off with the Officer to a corner, "What is it, Detective?"

"I was assuming that it would be just you and the Batman," She said, "I was able to wrangle two visitation passes, not five."

Robin kept a stone-face, but Sawyer could tell that he hadn't thought of that for some reason, "Robin... Where is Batman? Even the Commissioner has noticed..."

"He's working on another lead, an international one, Ra's Al Ghul and what not," Robin explained quickly, "The Titans and I are working on local leads."

"Oh..." Sawyer left, "I, sorry, Gordon was just a little... concerned. The night that Wayne died, he was just really... yeah, sorry, alright, that explains it. Well, in any case, I still can't get all of you rights for a visit tonight. Why don't you decide amongst yourselves then."

"Sounds fine with me," Robin said, turning around and walking back to his team.

"Well?" Beast Boy asked when they saw Robin coming over to them.

"Me and someone else," Robin stated, "That's the final line."

The four Titans looked from side to side at one another, but Cyborg was the first to speak, "I nominate Raven."

"I motion the second," Starfire said.

"Wait, what?" Raven asked.

"I don't think that's such a bad idea, to be honest," Robin informed her.

"But why me?" Raven questioned.

"Well, you, uh, got the best people skills," Beast Boy said.

Raven looked at him like he was crazy when Starfire interrupted, "I think what friend Beast Boy means to say, is that you have quite the way with making the doers of evil talk."

"No," Raven said flat out.

"Come on, Rae, why not?" Cyborg asked.

Raven looked down at the floor, away from the others, "I don't like it here."

"Why?" Beast Boy asked, "Like, we all hate it, but it's not going to get worse, right?"

"This place houses the criminally insane, Beast Boy," Raven answered, "I will not go down there."

Beast Boy was taken back by this, but then softened his position, "Alright, well, I guess I can see that..."

Cyborg however was not going down so easily, "Raven, come on, we've got to get Joker to talk. Who else has experience with this sort of thing?"

"What about any of you?" Raven shot.

Cyborg continued, "Rae, we're all a bit creeped out by this guy, but seriously, what can we do with him that you can't do better?"

Raven looked from each of her teammates to Robin. She felt, rather than saw why she was being nominated over others. Starfire didn't want, or maybe felt she couldn't stand seeing Robin's possible actions while down there. Beast Boy wasn't exactly... going to be much help, considering his expertise was better spent in the field, not in the mental hospital. Robin shook his head.

"Look, Raven, no one has to go with me. And I'm sure the they'll at least let you guys stay out in the halls so that you can be close by," Robin assured her and then added, "Guys, none of you have to come, either."

"It is not that Robin, we will come," Starfire started.

"Look, why don't I go in then," Cyborg offered, "I mean, as long as the others are right outside..."

Robin nodded and called over to Sawyer, "Cyborg and I will go in, but can the others be within the vicinity?"

She nodded, got them the passes, and then led them down the long hallways. They all sort of wished at that point that they had stayed behind. The walls were made of stone and smelled of mold, while the lights inside flickered and some of the inhabitants spat at the five teens as they passed by. Each of them kept an eye on their heels, as though they had just stepped into a minefield. Then, a loud crazed cackle echoed down the hallway, causing three of the Titans to tense in fear. The other two just dealt with it. One better than the other. As they passed by several doors, Raven kept away from the doorways, as though they were poison. Soon, up ahead, the six people spotted Harvey Bullock. Raven stopped as another laugh rang out from the door way ahead.

"Friend Raven?" Starfire asked, "Are you okay?"

Raven put a hand to her head, "I'm fine."

"That's good, you'll have to stand out here for however long we get stuck there," Bullock told her as Raven's eyes widened, "Who's going in?'"

"I am," Robin told him.

"Well, duh," Bullock pointed out, "I meant which one of your teammates are going in with ya."

"That would be me," Cyborg stepped forward.

"'Kay, be careful in there," Bullock said, going for the door.

"He's got a straight jacket on, but keep an eye on him, alright?" Sawyer warned.

Cyborg raised a brow, but once he was inside, he saw what she was talking about. On the floor, a barefoot man sat in the shadows. But he could still see the eyes and the smile, that stretched up way past what would be considered normal into his cheek bones.

"Oh! I have guests! Do I?" The man laughed, "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

Robin stepped forward with Cyborg behind him, "It's time to talk."

"'Bout what should we talk about? Hehe," Joker laughed, "By the way, maybe you should think about a diet, Tin man."

As Joker laughed, Cyborg looked down. It's not like he could even gain or lose weight, so why was that so funny? As Robin began to ask the Joker questions, Cyborg soon learnedthat nothing the Joker said made any sense. Outside, the other three Titans and the two cops waited. Starfire kept a close watch on the door. It made her heart race to think of what was going on inside. Sawyer and Bullock sat back, as though used to the uncomfortable creaking that ran through out the building. Beast Boy kept his eyes on everyone around him and any form of life that happened to pass by. Believe it or not, a couple mice ran by as though it were natural. He was sure that it was.

One ran past his feet towards Raven. She shuffled her feet away from the creature and kept her hood and cloak surrounding her tightly. He raised a brow at her. Raven felt herself becoming weaker the longer she stayed. She really hated it here. She hated Gotham. All of the woes and pains. She felt it all and she was compelled to keep it within her, rather than let others suffer. And in here... It was much worse. Now there wasn't just pain. There was sick joy. Like that of her father's. And she couldn't stop it, because the people here, the people here were insane and she couldn't cure that.


Raven clutched her head at hearing the Joker's laugh and fell to her knees. "Raven!" Beast Boy rushed over to her as Starfire turned to look inside. Cyborg blocked her view. Raven held her hand up to Beast Boy, telling him to stop. The other two cops looked at her as she struggled to get up.

"Where's the exit?" She asked, keeping a hand on her head, afraid that two extra eyes might pop up any time if she didn't leave soon.

Bullock got up and went over to her, "Come on, I'll show you."

"I'll come with you," Beast Boy offered.

"No!" She ordered and then, after seeing his startled face, added on a lighter, kinder note, "You're needed here."

"You will be alright, friend Raven?" Starfire asked.

Raven paused for a moment and then answered, "I will."

As Bullock led the hooded girl down the hallway, he kept an eye on her. He hated to admit it, but he really didn't know much about her, or any of the Titans save for Robin. But she looked... stressed, like something was out of her control, to such an extreme for her.

"You really going to be okay?" Harvey asked as they reached the main hall.

"I... will be," Raven told him, "I... I am particularly prone to the emotions and moods of other people, even places. Arkham is... no, Gotham... This place is..."

Raven paused trying to gather her thoughts, "It's consumed with an evil far beyond that of other places... I hate being here. It reminds me too much of a demon's house."

Bullock nodded with a small smirk, "Guess that's why we've got bat's here. He can put up with it."

Raven winced, "Yeah, I guess so."

Deep within Arkham, nothing was really getting any better. Robin was starting to get annoyed. Joker was, by now, rolling over on the floor laughing. They hadn't gotten any useful information out of him as it was and the comments about how crazy teens were these days were starting to lose their humorous element. Then again, they hadn't been funny to begin with.

"What'sa matter Birdy Boy?" Joker asked, "You didn't actually think that I'd take the little boy in tights seriously now, did ya?"

Cyborg saw Robin's face turn into a scowl. Robin yelled and grabbed Joker by the straps of the straight jacket while Cyborg stepped back.

"Since when do you ever take anyone seriously, Joker?" Robin asked.

"Since I checked in to get cured, doc!" Joker answered, laughing like a maniac.

Then Cyborg heard Robin do something that actually worried him. A sound started softly and then became a rich chuckle, escaping from Robin's throat.

"That's, heh, a good one Joker," Robin told him.

"Isn't it?" Joker laughed.

Robin had decided to changed tactics, "It is. Here's another funny one, though, heh, I think you might have heard the punch line, heheh. Who hired you?"

Joker smiled, "Oh, guy I met at a party, big guy, that's who."

"Really?" Robin said, "So you have heard it. How about this one, Who is Ravager?"

"That's easy, a hired water gun," Joker laughed.

Robin continued, "By who? Who hired him?"

That's when the progress ended, "That's a horrible joke."

"Joker, come on!" Robin yelled, roughly.

"Acting like him doesn't make you him, Bat-boy," Joker told him, "You're still just a kid."

"Who hired him, Joker?!" Robin yelled again.

Joker kicked out at Robin, but he dodged easily. Cyborg stepped forward as Robin threw Joker to the ground.

Joker shook his head, "You think throwing me's gonna get me to talk, brat?"

Robin looked down at him, "No, but you've done enough."

Cyborg watched as Robin went to the door and called out to Sawyer, who opened the door for Cyborg and Robin. But only Cyborg made it out before Robin shut the door again.

"What?" Cyborg turned before seeing the door slam.

He was going to ask Robin what all of that had been about, but now he was more worried about Robin being in there alone. Inside the cell, Robin stood once again in the shadows, his eyes narrowed and his cape over his shoulders. Blending with the shadows, Joker watched as his guest change his disposition. In an instant, Robin grabbed the Joker by the throat with one hand and held him against the wall.

"One last joke. Where's Ravager?" Robin questioned.

Joker gasped for air and then answered bitterly, "Probably where all the hired guns go, kid."


Joker only smiled at him and began to choke as he laughed. Robin let him go and went for the door again as Joker stood up. He was right about to open the door when he heard Joker whisper to him over his shoulder.

"You want to hear a real joke, kid? Do ya? I'm going to kill ya one day. I'm gonna kill you. I'm going to beat you with a crow bar. And I'm gonna beat ya again. And then, heh, and then, I'm going to blow you up, kid. Heh, right in front of your mommy. Just to make sure you're really dead. How's that sound kid? How's that for a joke?" Joker told him, repressing laughter.

Robin looked over at him and rolled his eyes, "Please, Joker, like you could really do that."

"Oh, yeah, kid? Oh yeah? I'm gonna kill you all. You and every single one of your team..."

Robin left the room and shut the Ace of Knaves inside the cell once again. As he emerged, the others noticed his change in posture, as though the whole questioning had taken it all out of him. All of that previous energy. Gone. And his mind swirling with new information. And new threats.

Starfire walked over to him and put a hand on his shoulder, "Robin?"

He was quiet for a moment before he answered, "Let's go."

Sawyer was about to say something, but before she could, Robin walked off. He knew the way out. Getting out to the R-Cycle, Robin hopped on before half of the Titans knew where he was going. Cyborg and Raven decided to ride in the car while Beast Boy and Starfire followed from behind. It was unnaturally silent right now. Save for the splashes of puddles, the Titans seemed to glide through the streets aimlessly. But Robin knew where he was going. He almost wished that he could lose them so that the others didn't.

He almost succeeded. He had sped ahead and was able to park the R-Cycle as he jumped to the rooftops. Robin knew that they would catch up, find him by his locater signal. He hardly ever turned it off intentionally these days anyway. Finally, he found what he was searching for. Brief solace. The Boy Wonder's masked eyes glided slowly over the city's landscape. There were so many places that Ravager could be hiding. And wherever he wasn't, someone else was. People like the Riddler, Penguin, and Killer Croc. Robin shook his head.

He couldn't keep them here. It was unfair to them. It wasn't their responsibility. Gotham was... Robin felt himself tense almost unwillingly. It was his to protect now, wasn't it? It was. It was... He had enough for now. Gotham wasn't doing terribly. At least, not at the moment. And if it ever got bad, then he could call in others. But to keep them here, to keep his friends here, it wasn't right. It just put them in all the more danger and he couldn't risk that.

Robin heard them flying and jumping up to the top of the building. He had to tell them now. They'd have no chance at winning the argument.

"Dude," Beast Boy panted, "What... what was that for...?"

Robin didn't answer them and only glanced at them from the corner of his eye, "Sorry, I had to think for a moment."

"About what, man?" Cyborg asked.

Robin sighed, but kept his eyes ahead and away from them, "About keeping you here."

"What?" Starfire questioned.

Why did she have to ask that? Why her?

"You've been away from Jump for a month," Robin told them, "You're needed back there."

"What about you, dude?" Beast Boy asked.

Robin kept quiet again, but eventually answered as the wind hit them, "I'm staying here."

"But... why?" Starfire asked, panicked.

"Yeah, man," Cyborg added.

"Come on, guys, think about it. I'm living with Ms. Kane. I know that... I know that Batman could have probably given up being... his other self. But I can't. I'm just a minor and I can't do anything about it. Besides, Gotham needs someone," Robin explained.

"So get Superman," Beast Boy suggested.

Cyborg continued, "Yeah, or one of the other guys from the Justice League. They could all take turns or what not. 'Sides, after seeing you in there with Joker, you... It's just not a good idea, man."

"Robin, I must agree with the two morons," Raven told him, "It's not right that you should have to stay alone here."

"I'll be fine," Robin countered.

"No," Starfire said suddenly, "You will not."

Robin turned to her as she continued, "You have not been okay since you have arrived here. You have been the depressed and... you have not been yourself."

Robin didn't say anything as Raven added, "Robin, this place is dangerous. I can feel it. It's like... it's like the evil is rooted into the ground."

Robin shot back, "You forget, I've been trained to live in this place. I know how to live here, to protect myself and others."

"So what?" Beast Boy asked, "It doesn't matter what you've been trained to do, man. It's about what the risks are."

"Exactly," Robin said, "Which is why I want you all to go home."

"We're not leavin', man," Cyborg said.

"No way," Beast Boy added.

"I third that decision," Raven added.

Robin was starting to get frustrated, "You'll go. You don't need to be here and thus, I'm pulling the Titans out. Jump needs you more than Gotham does."

"But you need us more than Jump does, Robin," Raven said.

Somehow, that was just the wrong thing to say. Robin finally turned to them all, furious. He wanted them gone. Every second, every moment, it was too much.

Robin said, "I'm not defenseless, Raven. And I want you all to go."

"Robin..." Starfire started.

"Leave!" He yelled, "Go!"

The four Titans stepped back. They watched him. They watched their leader stand, rooted firmly into his strong stance, unyielding to any argument. Robin was right, they couldn't win. Slowly, the Titans began to back down.

"Fine man," Cyborg said.

"Don't get killed," Raven added.

Beast Boy followed sadly behind them as Robin turned to look back at the city. He didn't realize that there was still someone behind him. That is, until the wind blew. And he heard her walk over.

"Robin..." Starfire started, placing a hand on his shoulder.

He turned at her touch, holding her fingers in his hand, "I'm sorry, Star. But this is for your own good."


Robin shook his head at her. Starfire looked at the ground and then up at him. What she did next was instinctive. Star immediately wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him gently. Robin was surprised at first, but then melted. He found himself slowly bring an arm around her back pulling her closer to him. Starfire felt small tears welling up in her eyes, but she wouldn't let them fall. This just worried her so much.

"You would promise me..." She whispered.

"Promise what?" He whispered back.

Starfire pulled back and pushed a stray hair strand back and answered, "You will call us; if you need anything? If we can help?"

Robin's stone look softened slightly, "Of course, I will. There's no one else I'd call first."

Starfire nodded and then turned to go. Before she could walk far, she heard him call her.

"Stay safe, Star."

She turned to look back at him, "I will, Robin. You, please, do the same."

Robin nodded as he watched the last Titan leave him that night. Slade watched as well. Perfect. Just perfect. Robin sighed as he turned back to the city's landscape. He heard the clock tower sound. It was still early and he knew that he should still be working. Jumping over the roof and down to another while he ran across that one. He began to become a blur. He was able to stop a couple crooks here and there and he quickly put Firefly back on the ground for the cops to collect. The night though... it was much quieter than it had been in a while. Robin wondered if this was what it was like for Bruce before Bruce took him in. The dead silence of it all.

Eventually, around three or so, Robin decided to call the R-Cycle and get back to Ms. Kane's. He could feel his arms again as he climbed through the window to his room and his feet began to burn and tingle. His chest hurt as he fell onto his bed and attempted to pull up the covers. But even then, he couldn't focus on his own exhaustion. Instead, his mind kept racing with thoughts about Gotham, Ravager, and his friends. He didn't know when he fell asleep, but at some point, he did.

He got up from his bed and walked to the doorway, to find himself back inside Bruce's office. Someone was by the desk. Slowly, Dick walked over, careful not to make a sound. They looked so familiar. And yet, somehow, Dick didn't trust his own judgment.

"Bruce..." He asked, before reaching out a hand to tap the figure on their shoulder.

"Not a chance, kid!" Ravager spun around and grabbed him by the wrist.

Like that, Dick felt himself being thrown against the wall and onto the ground. Dick groaned and shook his head, but when he opened his eyes, he saw himself in an all too familiar situation. He was on a small square board, raised high above the ground and in front of him were two wires, the top wires from which the bars swung. And right in the middle of them, was Bruce, looking at him, like it was nothing. Dick shook his head.

"Bruce... No... Get back, get off of it!" He called.

But right as he said it, he saw flames lick at the wires. Dick looked away from the hot and intense light. But then he heard the crack and the gun shots. Dick looked behind him and saw that he was on the floor and the wet liquid that he felt reaching his fingers was blood. Dick shut his eyes and bit his lip.

"Bruce..." Dick whispered, but as he turned to see what he could only imagine was Bruce, he gasped.

It wasn't Bruce.

His four friends lay crumpled on the floor, a different murderer above each one of them. Anthony Zucco above Beast Boy. The man that had killed his parents. Two Face above Cyborg. The first to wake him up to the dangerous reality. Ravager above Raven. Someone that could kill without a second thought. And finally, Joker above Starfire. A maniac plague. That's when he heard slow clapping. Looking above his head, Robin saw Slade standing above him.

Slade chuckled, "How can you save a city, Robin, when you can't save yourself?"

Robin looked from him to the other four villains who came forward, each with their weapon of choice. Robin got up and ran. He felt his face stinging with tears. Finally, he found a ditch and fell into it to hide. Dick tried to catch his breath when he noticed something. The ground he was sitting on was too... smooth to be natural. Dick looked down and saw that he was sitting atop a coffin lid. He looked upwards and saw on the tomb stone, a figure. The stone read: RIP: Bruce Wayne, but Batman stood above it. Dick held a hand up, as though afraid of the ghost's uniform.

"Bat... Batman...?" Dick asked.

Then he heard laughter again. This time, from all of them. They came closer. And closer. And just as he saw their faces, the uniform lost i's shape and began to glide, fall over him. The darkness... it was too much.

And he screamed.

Bolting upright, Adeline heard yelling coming from down the hall. She instantly got up and ran into Dick's bedroom, where she found a frantic and panicking Dick yelling. He thrashed in his bed, caught in his sheets, and sweating like mad. She sat down and shook his arms hard as he continued to yell.

"Stop! Please!"

"Dick!" She yelled.

"Bruce! Don't!"

"Dick!" She yelled again.

"No! Please!"


It was with a final yell from both of them that Dick bolted up and awake. Adeline looked at Dick, who was in no way out of the nightmare. His shoulders kept shaking and he barely could sit up. A cold sweat covered his skin and as Adeline watched him, she noticed something else. He was near tears.

"Dick..." She started, but somehow, she knew what he really needed.

Leaning forward, Adeline puled Dick into a hug. Just like she had for... for Grant and Joey. For a moment, Dick didn't realize what was happening, the images in his head repeatedly haunting him. But when he finally looked around, Dick came back to his senses. The surprise above all though, was that Ms. Kane was in the room and hugging him. He... he hadn't been hugged like this since before his parents... His mom... As Dick widened his eyes, he felt how moist they were and looked up to keep any tears from the nightmare or the memories from leaking out.

"You okay?" She asked.

Dick nodded, "Sorry... I... It was about..."

When he didn't finish, Adeline nodded. She knew who it was about or at least, one person who it was about, Bruce. She released her arms around him and sat up, looking at him just to make sure he was alright. Dick shook his head and looked up at her with a small smile.

"I... uh, thanks, Ms. Kane," He said after a moment.

Adeline smiled at him gently and answered, "You're welcome, Dick. You want to talk or..."

Dick looked down at that and Adeline got it, but knew that there was more that she should be doing. Standing up, Adeline went to the door, but paused for a moment where she felt her gut telling her to say something. Anything.

"Dick..." She said, turning around, "I... You're safe here, you know that, right? I won't let anything happen to you."

Dick looked up at her and with a smile, nodded slowly, "Yeah, I... I do."

"Good," She said, "Because if you doubted me, I would have had to show you the last guy I fought with. Not a pleasant sight. 'Night, Dick."

Dick managed a small laugh at that as Ms. Kane left the room. Instead of going back to her room, Adeline went downstairs to her office. She walked over to the photo and picked it up, looking at the two boys in it. She missed their smiles a lot. At least she knew one of them should be okay. At least. It shouldn't be 'at least'. But it was. Adeline glanced up to where Dick should be in his room. That kid. She could tell he was something else.

Meanwhile, falling back onto his pillow, Dick tried to shut his eyes, hoping sleep would come soon, good sleep, that is. He was so tired and he couldn't take more of it. But Dick knew he was up for more of this. He could only imagine that to be the case - He never quite understood how Bruce had handled Gotham alone. Well, he was probably about to find out. Probably. Most likely. He would have groaned, but he was too tired to and soon fell slowly into a peaceful slumber as the moon began to set. The night, gone.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Chapter Nineteen: To Hope

Chapter Nineteen: To Hope

One of the things that Lois never understood was how Clark could so easily get off work whenever he requested off. Clark never questioned it though and was just grateful that Diana had such a free schedule. They had been dealing with separate threats over the past week. He dealt with Toy Man while she dealt with the Silver Swan. To be perfectly honest, if something went off now, though, they'd probably both yell at the Green twins, Hal and Ollie, to deal with it.

Alfred answered the door and let them in. Diana quickly pulled off her work suit once they were in, glad to take off the constricting outfit. Her costume gleamed even in the faint light while Clark slowly took off his civilian clothes in a more fashionable manner.

"I assume your trips went well," Alfred remarked.

"Very, thank you, Alfred," Diana told him.

"Yeah, sorry we couldn't get here sooner," Clark said.

"Not a problem," Alfred said.

Diana asked, "How's Dick doing?"

"To my knowledge he is doing just fine. Ms. Kane has had him for the past week and I've heard nothing but good reports for him," Alfred relayed.

"What's he been up to?" Clark asked.

Alfred sighed, "He and the Titans have been active in the evenings, watching over Gotham. That's all he's really said, but I'm certain that he's probably attempting to find this Ravager character."

Clark shook his head while Diana replied, "Well, as long as he hasn't broken an arm, I think it's time that it's about time that we look into that clock."

Clark rolled his eyes as he and Alfred followed Diana to Bruce's office. Diana kicked the clock while Alfred nearly fainted in response, "Please don't! That's an antique!"

"Alright then, well, let's at least get it off the door," Wonder Woman said shrugging, "Superman?"

Superman nodded and carefully pulled the clock off of the door, placing it to the side. He then used his heat vision to melt through the door's solid block of steel. Soon, the sound of screeching bats were heard along with running water from the cave below. Superman began the long descent down with Wonder Woman and Alfred behind him. It was slow, excrutiatingly slow, and as they got farther down, Wonder Woman noticed something. Clark was getting slower too, as though he didn't want to go down any more. About half way down though, her reasons changed as a blaring siren was activated.


Superman and Wonder Woman looked to both sides as they heard the screeches of the bats grow. But that wasn't it. Like it ever was. Superman gasped as Kryptonite shot into the open and clipped to his shirt, leaving the Kryptonian with only the ability to fall to the ground. Wonder Woman pushed Alfred up the steps and pulled Superman to the side. She flew downwards until she saw a door slam down in front of her, all access denied. She pounded the door a few times until she gave up, for the moment. She walked back up the steps, where she had left Superman.

She began to pull off the kryptonite clasps, bitterly, "Alfred, come on! I need you to bring down a lead box!"

"On my way, Ms. Prince," Alfred called.

As she got off the last of the clasps, Wonder Woman felt a bitter sense of anger grow in her throat. He had expected them. Expected them and what had he done? He'd put up defenses! Defenses, of all things. She tried to bite her lip, as she attempted to convince herself that Bruce was probably just being careful, wary if the JLA were to ever go rogue. Alfred was down in a matter of moments and held the lead box. Wonder Woman dumped the remaining pieces of Kryptonite into the box and shut it, and Superman immediately seemed to revive from the bout of sickness.

Superman shook his head, "Well, that wasn't fun."

"Did you know about this, Alfred?" Wonder Woman asked.

"I knew that Master Bruce had put in security measures, but I never guessed that he would put it in for the Justice League," Alfred told her.

Wonder Woman rolled her eyes, "It figures, though."

"Is the cave sealed?" Superman asked.

"Yeah, not much of a way in unless we dig," Wonder Woman replied.

Alfred interrupted, "Which would be a very poor decision considering how unstable the rock formations are as it is."

"Let's just see this door," Superman said, and the trio once again began to walk down the moist steps.

Reaching the door, Superman put his hands up to it and pushed. It wouldn't budge. Besides, he wasn't too excited to encounter another round of Kryptonite poisoning.

"Alright then," he said after a moment.

He adjusted his vision, the X-rays taking in perfect images of the various levels of the Batcave. Superman sighed.

"What? What is it?" Wonder Woman asked.

"I..." Superman stopped for a moment, before turning for the exit, "I just almost hoped that he was down there."

"Clark..." Wonder Woman started, but Superman continued up the stairs.

Reaching the top, Superman finally turned to the other two, "You, you don't know. If there was one person that I always thought would live through it all, other than you Diana, it was Wayne, but to find that Bat-Symbol, to find it over that dead body... It scared me, like at the moment, I was actually human in one of the most deadly situations ever."

Wonder Woman bent her head down while Alfred offered words of comfort, "Superman, if there's one thing I knew about Master Bruce, it's that, he lived to protect others from his own pain. He would not want you or anyone else to dwell on his death. He'd want you to keep being the hero you are."

Wonder Woman added, "Yeah, that sounds like what Bruce would want. Come on, Clark, why don't we get something to eat? Get your mind off of things?"

Clark nodded, when he looked up as though he heard something else, "Uh, one second."

In an instant, Clark flew past them and back, with his cell phone at hand, "Hello? Jimmy? Hi, I um, well yeah, but, alright, Lois did what? What did Perry say? I... What's going... Bizarro? Why's he... Alright. Okay. I'll... Why not? I..."

Clark looked at his phone as Jimmy hung up, "Apparently Bizarro's capture is still causing the MPD trouble."

"Figures," Wonder Woman stated.

"I better get back home," Superman said, "Call me with the final report, Alfred?"

"I will as soon as I get it," Alfred nodded.

Superman smiled slightly and flew off to get his stuff and head back home. Wonder Woman remained silent for a moment as she and Alfred walked back to the main hall. She took note of the place. It seemed... so empty and quiet. Her footsteps echoed all around them. She wondered how Alfred could stand this. She never realized how much life even Bruce could bring to this estate.

"Would you like something before you go, Ms. Prince?" Alfred asked.

"Huh? Oh no, I just... You know, I get why Clark's so down about this. The place isn't the same," She said.

Alfred nodded, "I must admit, I see it myself... But I try to focus on other things, such as keeping this place in order and keeping in contact with others."

"You've seen a lot of people die, Alfred," She said out of the blue.

"And probably many more," Alfred said, "But if I know they could be happy with what their final actions were, I can lay it to rest."

"You think he was happy?" Wonder Woman asked.

"He was protecting young Master Dick, was he not?" Alfred asked.

Wonder Woman sighed, "Yeah, I guess."

The two walked off to the door, where Alfred saw Diana off. He looked off at the horizon with Gotham's skyline. He sighed. He had to admit, Gotham was different. It wasn't the same as it was years before the Dark Knight. It was worse and now it seemed like it was in the pit of despair. It was hanging by a thread and he hoped that somehow, it could hold on.


Adeline got out of her car and walked into Wayne Tower. Her morning had been nothing but a disorganized mess. She was still getting used to having Dick at home and while the kid had done nothing wrong, he sure added a whole new element to her mornings. Just this morning, she had jumped into a cold shower and found out later that he had taken a hot one moments earlier. And then of course, making another breakfast was another story. She was starting to think that maybe she should just listen to him and let him fend for himself, but at the same time, she almost enjoyed the company and having to worry about someone else.

Opening the doors, she made her way up by the staircase (there was only one working elevator and that had a line). Besides, she liked the exercise. Getting to the twelfth floor, Adeline walked up to several co-workers asking her for information. This always happened. It was like being swarmed by gnats. It kept her for a couple minutes from going into see Mr. Earle and Fox to complete the finalization about the investigation. Within the office, Mr. Earle and a few board members were in a heated argument with Fox.

"...with the success of Project Firewall, what reason do you have to demote me?"

"Every reason."

"Wayne wanted the company to..."

"He left me at the head, Fox, and I expect you to be treat me as such," Earle remarked.

"You're not the owner, Earle. And personally, I have much more respect for him than I do you," Fox backfired, "You just have never liked the fact that I actually play it safe."

"You're being demoted and that's the end of it," Earle told him, "Effective immediately."

Fox eyed Earle harshly and he would have stormed right out of the office if it hadn't been for Adeline walking into the room at that moment.

"Ms. Kane," He said.

"Hi, Fox, I'm sorry. I got barraged as usual while coming in," Adeline said.

"Yes, but normally it doesn't take you this long," Earle noted.

Adeline stared at him for a moment before Earle continued, "Fox, why don't you and Ms. Kane go up and get the final report about the damage to our building?"

Fox almost huffed his answer, but decided against it, "Yes sir."

The two walked out of the office and to their luck, found the one elevator that was working close by and on the way up to them. Earle sat back in his chair. Maybe this time, it would work for him. He'd waited over a decade to get this company to go public again. This time, he was ready to actually make it happen. Then again, at the moment, that was a very unrealistic goal. A more appropriate one would be to survive the next five minutes after he finished signing his name to demote Fox.

Inside the elevator, Fox sighed, "I'm sorry about him."

"Oh no, it's fine, I should have been here earlier anyway. I'm starting to remember what it feels like to be a Mom," She conveyed.

"He's doing well?" Fox asked.

"Very," Adeline said, "He's adjusting much better than I expected. I'm still trying to get out of him whether he wants to go to school or not though."

"Knowing him, whatever answer he gives you wouldn't surprise me," Fox said, "He's always been a logical kid, that's for sure. Doesn't act that way all the time, but he is deep down."

"I'm realizing that," Adeline said jokingly.

They were quiet for a couple moments until the elevator reached the highest floor. They had two more flights to go. Walking up, Fox's movements were slow.

"You know, these murders... I just, it's such a brutal way of dieing," Fox commented, "I mean, even when I first knew Austin, I just, he didn't seem like such a person who would have been on a murder list. Then again, I suppose they never are. Wayne... Maybe. Because of his position. But I had never even heard of some of the others."

"You knew Austin?" Kane asked.

"He used to be a socialite in Gotham when he was younger. I saw him at several of the functions held here at Wayne Tower, believe it or not," Fox said with a smile, "Good friends with the Waynes, that one."

"I see," Adeline said as the reached the top.

As they opened the latch to the top, they walked into the remaining level of the damaged tower's top. There were others around doing research on the damaged building. They could still see walls around them, but they were scorched and Adeline instantly smelled something dead. Dead like it had been cooked. However, that wasn't the only thing she that she noticed. She suddenly felt incredibly light headed.

"Are you okay, Ms. Kane?" Fox asked.

"Just a little, dizzy, I guess..." Adeline started.

"Well, that constitutes a part of what we've discovered," Fox told her.

Adeline raised an eyebrow and followed Fox over to a table of equipment and a small laptop, "The chemical, that Ravager used to torch the place, was not gasoline as we originally thought."

"What?" Adeline asked.

"It was another chemical, called 'Hexane'," Fox explained.

"Hexane?" Adeline repeated.

"It has many of the same properties as gasoline. But a few notable characteristics, it reacts with solvents to create and extract cooking oil and is also used to create glues. It's remains are also the reason you're feeling dizzy because it's a mild form of anesthesia. And of course, it's flammable," Fox said.

"So what are you saying, Fox?" She asked.

"Look around," Fox told her.

She looked. The Hexane had done a lot of damage, a considerable amount. Things were either melted or a charcoal black. But it was only until she noticed two workers picking up a door that she noticed something else. The door wouldn't budge. Down several stories below, Earle finished the paperwork for demoting Fox and handed it off to one of his secretaries. He sat back in his chair. It was good to be on top again. Very good.

Slade watched him, hidden in the shadows, "I thought you'd never finish Mr. Earle."

Earle spun around to face the man, his eyes wide with shock, "Who are you? What do you want?"

"Oh you'll find out," Slade said, taking out a torch gun.

But back up above, Adeline, oblivious to what was going on below her, turned back towards Fox with a hard glare, "You mean to tell me that this... this... Hexane... and whatever it was mixed with, it was... It..."

"It cooked it's victims, Ms. Kane. They caught fire, they burned thanks to the immense heat, when it got hot enough, they became trapped in the glue covered walls and floors, and eventually, they passed out as it or the smoke knocked them out," Fox finished.

Adeline held her breath as Fox finished, "Someone, someone really planned this. They really wanted Wayne dead and they weren't going to take any chances."

Adeline's eyes were still for a moment. She fought off the urge to think about such a horrible way of dieing. But her thoughts were caught off by the sound of two gunshots. Looking down below, Adeline immediately went into action and flew down several flights of stairs. Earle! He had to be the target. No one else would be. He was running the company. She had to get there in time. She had...

Kicking open the doors to Earle's office, the site was not pleasant. There was another one. A ring of soot and ash. Just like the pictures she had seen of the cops before. And Earle was no where to be seen. Worse yet, there were two bullets inside a wall. But to top off all of this though, there was no culprit. No one.

Adeline clenched her jaw as she lowered her gun to the ground. Why... Why... Something wasn't right. Why not finish off burning Wayne Tower to the ground? Huh? Why not? Adeline stepped back for a moment as she raised her phone up to her ear, dialing 911 subconsciously.


Adeline didn't answer.

"Hello?" They repeated, "Is anyone there?"

Finally she hit her senses, "Yes, this is Adeline Kane, security head of Wayne Tower. We've got another murder."


The day seemed slow after that. Adeline watched as the police came up and surrounded the area. She had let them examine everything. She had seen Gordon and Yin going ballistic over this. Eventually, she just locked herself in the security room, watching the tape in Earle's office over and over again. It had turned off right when the assassin needed it to and then back on again moments later.

In her gut, Adeline didn't believe that this was Ravager at all. From what they knew, Ravager had been a gun for hire. Dick had even said that he was easily distracted. Not a mastermind, by the sounds of it. It just didn't fit. The day dragged by. She felt numb at the wheel of her car, despite being totally aware of her surroundings. It felt so out of her control. How could she have missed the culprit by a few minutes? How?

Getting out of her car, Adeline walked up the stairs and fumbled around for her keys, listening to the crickets chirp. It was late. Opening the door, Adeline wearily entered the house and closed the door.

"Hi, Ms. Kane," Adeline jumped at the voice and turned to see Dick at the kitchen counter.

"Oh, oh Dick, you scared me, I'm sorry," She told him.

"Oh, sorry," Dick said.

"Don't be," Adeline told him and then she noticed what he was doing, fixing something, a salad.

"I hope you don't mind," Dick said, "I, you didn't come back and it's like nine."

"Oh, no, I'm, I don't mind," Adeline told him, "But I think you'll need more than that."

"Um, no, I'm good..." Dick trailed off as Adeline immediately went to the fridge and began to pull out food items.

Dick watched her as she took his plate and began to add items to it. Her moments were hasty, but as Dick watched, he noticed her fingers shook and she fumbled with everything.

"Ms. Kane? Are you..." Dick started.

"Huh?" Adeline asked, "I... I'm... I'm fine."

Dick looked at her. Throughout the day, he had kept himself busy. Working on files off of his laptop and trying to put back together some of his equipment. He felt bad because she was working to make him something to eat when in reality, he had just noticed maybe ten minutes ago himself that he hadn't had anything for several hours. But a question sprung to his mind as he stumbled upon that fact again.

"Ms. Kane? Why did you get back so late?" He asked.

Adeline stopped moving and looking at the ground, before looking at him from the corner of her eye, "...Earle's dead."

Dick's face said it all, "What?"

"Died the same way the cop Bennett did," Adeline said.

"Ravager was there, again?" Dick asked, his voice mounting slightly in anger.

Adeline slammed a plastic container onto the table, making Dick jump, "Dick, I don't think this was Ravager."

Dick was taken back by this, "What? Why wouldn't it be? He killed Bruce!"

"Ravager is sloppy," Adeline stated, "This was clean."

Dick felt like answering that no killing was clean, but the logical part of himself held him back. That... that was true. Ravager was sloppy.

"And the idiot PD don't believe me on this," Adeline stated, "They're willing to bet it's the same guy."

Dick watched her, she looked shaken, "I guess... well... I mean, we don't know any of that..."

Adeline didn't look at him. She picked up a knife and began cutting cold chicken to add to the salad. Dick watched Ms. Kane. He could tell, by the way that she was standing, that what he had said had bothered her. Something about the whole thing bothered her. He looked up at the staircase and at the ceiling where his room was and then back at her.

"Dick, that's just it though... We don't know anything," She muttered.

She finished with the chicken and handed the plate to him. He took it, but paused before actually sitting down to eat it.

"Ms. Kane... Why does this bother you so much?" Dick asked.

Adeline felt shock at the question, but then thought for a moment about it, "I... I don't know, Dick. It just, it just does."

Dick looked at his plate and then at one of the nearby windows, while a small smile tugged at the corners of his lips, "Ms. Kane?"

"Yes, Dick?" She asked, obviously tired.

"Thanks," He said, "You're good at this."

Adeline chuckled, "Good at what, Dick?"

Dick shrugged, "I don't know. I good parental figure, I guess."

Adeline let a soft smile hit her face, "Thanks, I guess. Don't stay up too late ok?"

Dick nodded as Adeline grabbed a Coke from the fridge and slowly made her way upstairs. Dick took a couple slow bites. He had a feeling that he had only begun to get to know his new guardian. In particular, he was curious to know whose stuff was in his room. He shrugged. Well, if she was like Bruce, he'd find out that she was a vigilante within two days. He let out a low laugh. Yeah, sure. The likelihood of something like that happening again was so low it was laughable. He listened for any motion, nothing. He finished his food as his thoughts wandered back upstairs.

He quietly made his way upstairs, hoping that Ms. Kane was asleep. He heard nothing. Opening up the toy box, Dick put on the suit and wedged the window back open and closed. Running through the neighborhood, Robin wasn't surprised when he saw his bike coming around the corner. Jumping on, Robin put on his helmet and let the wind whip his cape behind him. Tonight he was out for his latest target: the infamous Two-Face. Over the week, he and the Titans had... found clues as to his whereabouts. However, Robin was almost sure that Two-Face knew that they knew where he was and was waiting for them.

Robin smiled. Two-Face didn't know who he was dealing with. The Titans were not from around Gotham and they fought in a whole different way.

Soon the Titans found him and they continued to ride on- it had become a pattern for them. They followed and asked questions afterwords. No one bothered to change it because often times, they met up midtown and for some reason, being superheroes in this city and actually showing up in the brighter sections of town was deserving of people pointing and giving them remarks. It gave them a little boost in moral and confidence, which in Robin's mind, the Titans needed when they got down to the scum of this city.

The lights flashed against the smooth exterior of the T-Car and R-Cycle while it gleamed against their armors. It was liberating. Finally, they passed over to downtown Gotham. Robin led them down towards the north east section of the island near the bridge leading to the Narrows. When Robin hopped off the bike and into a crouch, his bo-staff out, the other Titans halted their motions and stopped by their leader. Robin was always crouching these days, as though remaining in a stealth mode. They didn't see his face much anymore either; it was always in shadows.

"He's here," Robin said slowly.

"So what's the plan, then?" Raven asked.

"I want you, Raven, to take out the first set of goons; they'll be expecting you. Beast Boy, Cyborg, you follow her and push your way in," Robin told them.

"And I Robin?" Starfire asked.

"You and I are going in the back way," Robin said.

Cyborg and Raven nodded at him and then went towards the front as Robin added, "Want to make a bit of a flashy entrance?"

Beast Boy smiled, "Oh yeah!"

He ran past them while Raven and Cyborg were left in the dust. Robin and Starfire held back, but it wasn't until the other three were out of sight that Starfire realized she was alone. Looking up she saw Robin climbing to the top of a nearby building. Flying up, Starfire saw Robin three roofs over, watching a building below. He didn't move and didn't acknowledge her presence. It was eerie how still he was.

"Robin?" She asked.

He didn't move, "Robin, are you alright?"

"I'm fine," He told her, his eyes not moving.

She didn't know how she was supposed to disagree, but really, it was all she could do unless she changed the subject, "Are you... doing well at Ms. Kane's?"

"It's fine. Mr. Earle's dead at Wayne Industries," He conveyed, changing the subject for her.

"How did you..."

"She told me," Robin told her.

Starfire felt a cold breeze hit her and she held her arms. It was then that she noticed that he again hadn't moved. Not even bothered... His face... It was so hard, unmoving. Stony, like it had been carved out of rock. His stance was formidable, like he was ready to attack someone from the sky. It bothered her. She had seen him looking somewhat that before, but... never to this intensity.

"Robin..." She started, "You are not okay."

It was at this, Robin turned to face her, "What?"

"You... you act differently," She said, "You are less... you are..."

"Starfire... I just... Look, I want to get Ravager," Robin said.

"You wanted to get Slade, too," Starfire said.

Robin looked away, "Starfire, I'm... it's different. Gotham's... You realize what I have to do, right?"

Starfire watched him as he continued, "It's nearly defenseless. You... You realize what I was trained to do?"

"I... do, but Robin... You and I both know that when you act like this it is unhealthy," She answered.

Robin shook his head, "I'm fine, Star, for now. We'll figure it out soon, k?"

Starfire looked at him sadly, but with sigh answered, "I guess."

Starfire was surprised to see Robin in front of her with a small smile on his face, "We will. We just have to get Ravager."

Starfire nodded, but a noise coming from a nearby building distracted their attention and Starfire instantly saw Robin go back to how he was minutes ago within seconds.

"Come on, it's our cue," He said, as he slipped back into the shadows.

Starfire's disposition went back to it's rather depressed mode with his shift in behavior. She'd probably have to deal with this later as he said. But that's what really bothered her. She thought back to all of the times that Slade had ever monopolized Robin's mind. It was the same thing here. Only now, it seemed that everyone, every single crazed monstrosity was taking up his mind in this decaying city. Yes decaying, just like what she was afraid of what might happen to Robin if he continued to act this way. Throughout all of this though, Cyborg, Beast Boy, and Raven had found the entrance to Two-Face's hideout.

"Ew," Beast Boy said, "Dude, the place looks worse than Fix It's."

"What, are you scared?" Raven asked.

"No!" Beast Boy answered, "It's just not very friendly looking, that's all."

"Well, look, I'm going to go take out those two thugs out front," Cyborg said, "You don't suppose there's more out here, do ya?"

"Doubt it," Raven told him, "Robin said Two-Face likes pairs. So unless there's another pair out here, you're probably safe. Just remember to take out those cameras first."

Cyborg knocked his head with a fist, "You think a tech-geek like me would forget something like that?"

"Just go," She said.

As they watched Cyborg sneak over, Beast Boy whispered, "Hey, Raven."

"What?" She whispered.

"What do you think of all this? This Ravager, Two-Face, and Red X stuff?" He asked.

"I just want to wrap this all up soon," Raven said, "Staying here is a bad idea."

"So you're supporting this?"

"Supporting what?"

"Like, searching for these guys. I mean, we're even trusting Red X right now," Beast Boy said.

"I'm all up for finding Wayne's killer, Beast Boy, I just want to do it quickly," Raven answered.

She had answered the question, but Beast Boy was less then satisfied. Sure, he had wanted to know what she had thought about finding Ravager, but being the mind-wandering guy that he was, he was a little more interested as to whether or not she or anyone else was a little edgy with trusting Red X. After the guy had raided the fridge, Beast Boy could hardly say that he trusted X.

Cyborg was having a little more success in his goals, but even here, even in Gotham, he was edgy. He didn't like this place. There's a difference between being a city guy in Jump and a city guy in Gotham, that's for sure. And after that hacking job, Cyborg had not been too thrilled about the prospect of having his system either hacked again or used against him. He took out the cameras with a repeating image setting. Once he was close enough, he easily knocked the two goons into each other. Wiping his hands, he waved over to Raven and Beast Boy who quickly came over.

"Mind if I start this one?" Raven asked.

"Not at all," Cyborg said, letting her pass through the solid door.

Beast Boy and Cyborg smiled as they both went for a window to hide by, "Hey Cyborg!"


"How long do you think this will last?"

"Five minutes."

"Two minutes."

"You buy the pizza?"

"You the soda?"

Inside, Raven was unaware of her comrades' bet on her, but she had instantly appeared to about fifteen goons. Enshrouded by shadow, many of them looked at her like she was some sort of weird little girl.

"What the..." One of them began when Raven started to walk forward.

"Hey, you're not allowed past," Raven turned her head around and the thug saw her eyes glowing.

"You think I care?" Raven asked.

Instantly she shot up into the air, her telepathic energy shooting in all directions. Many of the thugs didn't expect this. And the rest didn't expect Cyborg and Beast Boy jumping out of the windows either.

"Come on, what kind of party is this?" Cyborg joked.

"Yeah, where on earth are the babes?" Beast Boy quipped.

While the three Titans took out the thugs one by one, another ran down the hallway towards his boss. Bursting into the room, he panted out to his boss the news. Two Face turned around, a gun in his hand.

"I suppose we'll have to rectify that," Two-Face said, "But not today. There's no real worth fighting for this."

"Huh?" His thug asked, but he didn't get his answer as Two-Face and the pair of twins with him left the room.

The thug didn't have to wait long when he felt a cold presence. Turning around, he saw an engulfing dark figure and she wouldn't smile. The man screamed, but it didn't keep him from getting knocked out. Raven lowered herself and breathed. For personal reasons, Raven felt her presence in Gotham was just asking for trouble. The evil here was so strong and she fed off of that.

She composed herself and voiced over her communicator, "Search the place, Two-Face has to be here."

She headed down the opposite hallway while the other two continued down their corridors. Two-Face on the other hand, was walking briskly down the hall, the gun at his side now. The two pasty faced twins followed him, despite the uncertain nature of the situation. Two-Face barely paid them heed. That is, until they were gone. Turning around, he barely had the chance to realize what was going on when he was shoved into the office next to him. With a yell, he landed on the hard edge of a desk. He pulled his gun out, but it was knocked out of his hand by a bo-staff and down to the ground. But what he finally saw, when he finally saw his opponent, he was shocked to see someone different than he'd been expecting. And they were accompanied by someone he had never seen before.

Two-Face began to chuckle, "Wow, Boy Wonder, this is certainly a surprise."

"Why should it be?"

"Who's your darling friend?" Two-Face taunted, as he reached for the gun unsuccessfully.

Robin shot a glance at Starfire and then the gun. Starfire got the message and fried the thing with a starbolt instantly. She let her eyes glow and her body revel in the energy for a moment.

"Now that I know we won't have any interruptions, what do you know about the killings? What do you know about Ravager?" Robin asked.

Two-Face laughed, "I only know that they've been a pain."

"What else?" Robin asked, harshly.

Two-Face looked at him questioningly, "You know, I'm starting to wonder why you're even doing this Robin. Shouldn't the bat be doing this? It's a little dangerous having a child out doing a man's job. What if he were to get in the way of a home run?"

Robin growled and slammed Two-Face up into the wall, "You don't get it, do you?"

Two-Face looked up as Robin continued, "I'm not some sidekick anymore, Dent. In case you haven't noticed, my entire team is swarming your pathetic hideout and taking every one of your goons out. And I'm perfectly willing to knock you out too."

Two-Face smiled and Robin head-butted the man, scaring Starfire, "Don't think I'm some kid you can beat with a baseball bat."

Two-Face spat out the blood from his lip, not in the least bit pleased with that last attack, "What's the change in attitude for?"

"Answer. My. Question," Robin seethed.

Dent glared at Robin for a moment, studying his face. It was unyielding, "I don't know anything about it. Joker does. He got involved with the head's plan because he couldn't stand waiting. They were getting paid big to take out Wayne. With all the maniacs running around, I wouldn't know where to start. All I got was a warning not to pull anything during that time."

Robin eyed him. He knew that Two-Face wasn't telling him everything and he knew that Two-Face deliberately was doing so too. It would be his ticket out of Arkham. But at least he had a lead with Joker. Throwing Two-Face to the side, Robin hand-cuffed him to a wall while Two-Face tried to remain conscious.

"You're... You're growing, heh, to be a lot like him," Two-Face said, before passing out.

Robin smiled, "Good."

He left the room, Starfire looking after him. That was just what she was afraid of. She didn't know what she had just witnessed. She didn't understand half of it. But she could certainly understand that she didn't like it and that Robin's actions were far from ordinary. They were... he was... it was scary.

Outside, Starfire caught up with the rest of the team, with the police showing up as well. She watched everything unfold. She watched Two-Face being taken away. They caught sight of each other and when Two-Face smiled at her with a deranged look, Starfire looked at him with an expression that said nothing but disgust. She held her arms. It was getting cold.

"Gordon says he needs to get us security clearance to get to see Joker," Robin confirmed, "But that could take a while. So I think our best bet for now is to keep working during the night."

The others nodded and got into the T-Car while Starfire watched Robin climb aboard the R-Cycle and head out his own way. She didn't think he was going back to Ms. Kane's either. Getting in the car because she didn't want to stay outside, Starfire leaned against the seat and didn't bother to tell Beast Boy to change out of being a puppy dog on her lap for the ride.

She was right. Robin didn't go home. Ms. Kane was nice. Yeah. But it didn't feel like home. Wayne Manor hadn't even felt like home. It was more like a morgue for him now. He thought of Starfire's face from earlier. He rode towards the center of the city again. Shooting up a jump line, Robin began to climb up towards the top of a nearby building. He rested next to one of the gargoyles and watched the city move. In some ways, it was very pretty. Very calming. In others, the filth pervaded the sky. He thought about Ravager and Two-Face.

He knew he was worrying his team. He knew that. It had been something that he had never quite been very good at. With Batman, he had always worried too much. So when the Titans worried, he often took it the same way. But he knew that they worried like friends did. They weren't there to babysit him. Like any friends though, they were there when they needed to be for him. He got up and leaned on the gargoyle's head and sighed.

No one, no one knew this city like he did. No one anymore. He saw so much beauty in it. So much potential. There was almost a sense of a strong rooting, like nothing could destroy it. He knew the little alley ways. He knew where the best place was to get a home-style breakfast. He knew where the homeless could go for help. He knew where there were single moms who would tuck their kids into bed with a kiss on their forehead with a smile.

He wondered if Ms. Kane had really had kids at one point. He had suspected it for a while, but he figured that she could tell him when she was ready. He had to go back. He knew it. She really was a kind woman and Robin had a feeling that things would get better. He hoped. He hoped they would. Bruce wouldn't have. But at this point, hoping, hoping was all that Robin thought he could do. He sat up and stood, getting on top of the gargoyle's head. Falling, Robin felt the wind hit his face.

Yeah, this was all real.

It was all so real.

As Robin shot out a zip line and landed on his bike, he found himself hoping he actually could do this, could survive all of this.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Chapter Eighteen: Adjusting

Chapter Eighteen: Adjusting

Dick slammed the top of the suitcase down as he clicked shut the last bag. He looked around his room. It still had a lot of stuff, things he was sure Alfred would keep safe in it, but the important things were gone. The small framed pictures. Most of his clothes. His shoes. His notebooks. All of it was packed, miraculously in only about 8 boxes. He had just finished up with two other suitcases meant for Robin supplies only. It wasn't like he'd have full access to the arsenal for a while anyway. He'd have to conserve what he had and once he got down to the bare minimum, well, he could worry about that later.

He looked over at the others who were sitting across from him on the other side of his bed. The gang had come over to help him pack. Honestly, now that the funeral was over, the fact that they now finally knew who he really was, was hitting them. As they had basically gone threw his life, they saw how he had lived. It had been so different. At the Tower, he was always Robin. Robin who was everything he could be, every one that he was as a person, with the exception of one or two things. Here, he had either been Dick Grayson or Robin. Never both at the same time.

Dick sighed, "Thanks guys."

"No problem dude," Beast Boy told him.

"Not like we're really doing much of anything anyway," Cyborg added.

Starfire brooded, "Are you sure you will be okay, Dick?"

Dick looked at her in confusion when Raven elaborated, "Come on, you've never met this woman and Bruce gave custody of you to her? Have you even met this woman before?"

Dick thought for a moment and then answered, "I don't know. Ms. Kane seems familiar, but I don't think I've ever been formally introduced to her till now."

"Man, how are you even going to be able to get back to Jump with her around?" Cyborg asked.

"I..." Dick stopped, knowing his team wouldn't like his answer, "I don't know."

"What?" Starfire asked.

"Well, I mean, I don't even know how well this is going to be working out as Robin while at Ms. Kane's house. I barely have anything!" Dick told them.

"Dude, this custody thing sucks!" Beast Boy told him.

"BB, um, it's more than that..." Dick replied.

Raven narrowed her eyes, "This isn't about Ravager is it?"

Dick shrugged and turned away from his friends, "Um... well... Guys, it's really not, I mean... I have to stay in Gotham. Till the JLA figures what they're going to do and all."

Starfire interceded, "But, Robin... Is that... You promised that you would be coming home soon."

Dick turned to look at her with sad eyes, "Star, I know, but, but that was before Bruce... You know that I want to be out there, but right now, my home town needs me. And now we know who's our bad guy."

"But man, didn't you say that Ravager didn't even seem like the type..."

"Yes, I did," Dick answered, "But if it's not him that's behind it all, it doesn't matter 'cause all we need to do it track him down so we can find out who his boss is. That shouldn't be too hard to do."

The Titans watched him for a moment until the sound of a car driving up to the house came through the window. They were all over in a moment as they looked outside the two windows. Ms. Kane stood below, holding her arm and looking around the yard. Alfred opened the door and stepped outside.

"Ms. Kane! You've arrived, Dick will be down in a second," Alfred told her with a half hearted light tone.

"Thanks, Mr. Pennyworth," Ms. Kane said, "I... I want to say that I'm sorry about all of this. I honestly don't know how this could have happened. I know that my parents and I were in his will when I was younger, but I don't see how it would still have something like this in there."

Alfred nodded, "I'm sure it was just a mistake in the system, I just want to thank you for agreeing to take care of Dick for the time being."

Ms. Kane nodded, "It's no big deal, really Mr. Pennyworth. As long as he's not put back into that system."

"Oh my word, yes," Alfred agreed, "You have no idea the trouble that I had to deal with when Bruce was... well, I suppose it doesn't matter now. All I know is that it probably is a bigger mess to deal with now."

Ms. Kane smiled, "I suppose so, I assure you that I'll have Dick visit often, Mr. Pennyworth. He seems to have a good friend in you."

"Please, Ms. Kane, call me Alfred. It's what the Masters call me," Alfred replied.

Ms. Kane laughed, "Well, then call me Adeline. Ms. Kane seems so strict and uptight."

"Adeline then," Alfred nodded and then he paused before continuing, "Adeline, did you ever come here before? What I mean to say is, how close were you with Master Bruce?"

Adeline looked shocked, "Well, I came by a couple times when I was younger. My dad was in the army, so I didn't get much of a chance to visit. But I came by once or twice when I was five or so. Do you remember anyone named 'Addie'?"

Alfred looked surprised as she continued, "That was me."

"My word, it must have been a few decades since the last time I saw you," Alfred said. He looked up at the Manor to see Dick and his friends, "Master Dick! Come on down now and don't keep Ms. Kane waiting!"

Dick and the Titans pulled their heads back in and Beast Boy burst with what everyone was thinking, "Well, at least someone's seen her before."

"A few decades?" Raven asked.

Cyborg shook his head, "How on earth did Batman even keep in contact with her?"

"I don't know," Dick told them as he picked up a few suitcases, "But I intend to find out before I unpack one suitcase. Gonna help?"

He motioned to the rest of the suitcases, which the Titans each began to gather up and bring downstairs. Coming out as civilians, the group started to pack up the car with Dick's belongings. Cyborg shut the door and stood back as Dick looked between Ms. Kane and his friends and Alfred.

Ms. Kane smiled faintly, "You, um, I don't know your friends..."

Dick's eyes widened at the realization, "Oh, um, this is Rachel, Victor, Gar, and Kory."

Ms. Kane smiled at them again, "Nice to meet you. You know, I'm not going to keep him from you. Do you want the address so you can visit?"

The others smiled back and nodded. She didn't seem that bad. In fact, she was rather nice. The address was shared and each of them shoved it into their pockets. Ms. Kane walked over to her door and waited as Dick said his goodbyes. He pounded fists with the guys and gave each of the girls a hug. When it came to Alfred, he stood still for a moment, a sad look in his blue eyes. He then gave the man a tight hug.

Alfred returned the favor and told him, "Don't worry. We'll be in contact. This is just until we sort all of this out."

Dick nodded and let go. He walked over to the car and looked back a final time at Wayne Manor and then over at the graveyard to the side. Then he got into the car and shut the door. The Titans watched as the car drove off and out of sight before returning to the Manor to wait for his call.


In uptown Gotham, Slade sat back as he watched the car drive off as well.


He never thought that knowing Adeline would have been so useful to him. Then again, knowing Adeline was always a plus. But still, it didn't hurt that she was actually related to Wayne. Slade had never met Wayne, but he had seen the family tree, which was easy enough to come across. He had a hunch that Adeline wasn't totally buying this, but that was alright. She wouldn't have to buy it for long. The only thing that he had to wait for was for Dick's papers to be transferred. That was it. The phone rang and Slade picked it up.

"Hello?" He asked, pretending to sound like he didn't know who it could be.

"Here's the question that I'm going to ask you, Slade: Should I be paying you for Wayne's murder?" Luthor asked, "I heard that it was some pyro-fanatic like firefly only with the name Ravager."

Slade chuckled, "Luthor, you give Ravager too much credit. He's below firefly."

"Enough with the laughs, Slade," Luthor interrupted, "Do I pay you or not?"

Slade leaned forward towards his computer, "Mr. Luthor, do you honestly think that Ravager would have known the exact location of Wayne's office without my help? So yeah, I paid him off to do the job."

Luthor smiled, "Then it's done?"

"It's done," Slade said.

"Very well then, I'm transferring the money into your account now," Lex told him and Slade watched as the transfer was made.

He laughed, "You know, Luthor, quite frankly, I feel as though I should be thanking you."

Luthor raised a brow as he walked over to the window of LuthorCorp with harsh interest, "Why?"

Slade replied evenly, "I feel as though I gained more than just a pay check- quite frankly, I would have done this even if you hadn't paid me; that was just a bonus."

Luthor's eyes narrowed, his eyes focusing on the building in Metropolis, "What were you in this for, Slade?"

Slade laughed coolly, "Oh, you'll find out, Lex; it will become apparent soon enough. It was nice doing business with you."

"And you," Luthor said after a moment and the two hung up.

Slade's eye continued to watch the car driving towards the outskirts of uptown Gotham, the suburban section off the islands. If he hadn't had such a great sense of self control, he would have fidgeted. It had all worked. It was true, he'd have a short time in which he could actually make his move between when the papers were finished and Adeline attempted to give custody of Dick back to that butler or the Man of Steel (he hoped beyond hope that it wasn't the latter), but he could deal with that. After all, he was better than most at things like this. Right now, it was just a matter of time. He'd probably also have to leave behind a different trail of bread crumbs too, which shouldn't be too hard. Besides, Adeline would never say anything about him to Dick. She wouldn't. Slade knew that she wouldn't. He eyed Adeline's image on the screen.

Just as beautiful as ever.

Slade sighed as the thought finally came across him, that this was indeed going to be a bit difficult, in the sense that old... emotions were involved. The car continued to drive smoothly and evenly through Gotham. Slade got up from his desk to go down to the kitchen for something to calm his nerves. No matter. Maybe he'd go for a jog. He have to occupy himself. There was time to waste.


The car ride was unnaturally quiet. No music. No honking horns. No screeching to a halt. And most certainly, no talking. It was as though neither of them knew what to say. Dick played with his phone while Adeline gripped the wheel, her eyes glued to the road. But both of them felt the uneasiness. Adeline snuck a glance at the teenager in the car and then looked back at the road. Well, she was going to have him living with her. She might as well get to know him a bit.

"So..." She started, "Alfred said you lived in California for a while?"

"Huh?" Dick said looking up at her, "Uh, yeah. Just for a little bit. It was for a boarding school; I sort of already completed all of the high school courses I needed it and I wanted to do more so, yeah."

Adeline nodded, "That's impressive. You like doing any sports?"

Dick shrugged, "I do the trapeze and I've played other sports, but nothing's really stuck."

"The trapeze? That's interesting," Adeline stated.

"Yeah, my parents taught me," Dick said, "I'm a little out of practice, but, yeah, I still like doing it."

Adeline nodded again and Dick finally looked up at her, "Ms. Kane, how long have you lived in Gotham?"

Adeline shrugged, "Well, I've had a house here for some time, but I just started using it again after Bruce called me with that job."

"What job?" Dick asked; this was news.

"The one protecting Project Firewall. I run a smaller company that works as security people or, more commonly, spies," Adeline told him, "So Bruce called me up and asked if I could help him out a bit."

Dick thought for a moment and then he remembered:

"Of course, Mr. Wayne." Lucius answered. "Oh, by the way, Detectives Yin and Bennett commented yesterday that you might want to take into consideration some extra security for this project because of Gotham's interest. Apparently, the Mayor mentioned it to Gordon."

"I'll call around. I might have a cousin who does that sort of thing." Bruce mentioned.

"Wait, you have a cousin?' Dick asked.

"Not sure." Bruce pondered it for a moment. "Ah, well, suppose I'll get it done eventually."

So he hadn't been lying like Dick had originally thought he might be. He knew Adeline... "I also visited for that family reunion of Bruce's a couple months ago. I'm not that surprised that Alfred didn't remember me. That party was so crowded; I'm surprised how well it went."

Dick's eyes widened further as he remembered that as well. Did he see her? He thought about it for a moment and then Adeline laughed.

"I remember spilling punch over someone's shirt; that was awkward," Adeline stated with a laugh and then Dick remembered her doing so.

He leaned back. Okay, so she was definitely related to Bruce. Man, that was just... incredible. Even more incredible was the fact that Dick didn't even know her. The car stopped and Dick looked outside of the window at a decent two-story house. He hadn't even noticed that they had entered the suburbs. Adeline got out of the car, while Dick stared. She opened the trunk and knocked Dick into his senses with the sound. He opened his car door and went to get his stuff. He saw Adeline go for the two suitcases with his Robin supplies in it.

"Uh, I'll get those. They're, uh, a little fragile," He said.

"Alright," Adeline said and grabbed two others.

They walked up to the door and Adeline got out her keys. The door opened and Dick got his first look inside his new home. It was modern, but with a touch of traditional wooden interior. It was very warm and comfortable. Adeline shrugged.

"It's not much, but it's home," She said, "Come on in. I'll show you your room."

Dick nodded and followed her up the steps. The upstairs were a bit different. There was less of a wooden interior and instead held a traditional 60's style, despite there being few decorations. Adeline opened a door and Dick looked inside the room. She went in and put down his suitcases. The room was wide and had everything he needed. He was... well, surprised. How she had gotten all of this in such a short amount of notice was, to be blunt, mind blowing. She smiled and went back to get more of his bags. He soon followed her down and continued to help her with his stuff. His stuff, he should be doing this. Dick shook his head. It took a couple minutes, but eventually they got all of his stuff inside and into his new room.

Adeline stretched and asked, "Do you want to unpack or should I show you around the house first?"

"Um, I'll unpack first. Thanks Ms. Kane," Dick answered.

Adeline nodded and then left him alone. Dick now took a better look at the room. It was the first time he noticed how... divided it was. And that there were two beds to boot. On one side of the room, there was a bed with blue sheets and on the other there was a bed with green sheets. Then there were two dressers and two closets. He opened up the drawers and closets and found them both to be empty. The walls were bare. It was odd. Despite there being two of nearly everything, it was as though everything had been stripped of personality save for the sheets. It couldn't be a guest room. He didn't think, anyway. A guest room would have the same colored sheets on the beds.

Dick shook his head as he continued to unpack. He'd ask Ms. Kane about it all later. When he got down to his last two bags, the bags with his... equipment, he looked around the room for a safe hiding place. Where would Ms. Kane not look if she was to go into the room? To the side of the room there was a toy box. Maybe? Dick walked over to the box, which hadn't looked like it had been touched in years. There was a small lock on it, but that was an easy thing to remove.

Upon opening it, Dick found two types of toys. Action figures from GI Joe and music toys. He looked at the closed door and then at the box. He then began to carefully move the toys to the side until he could fit his suitcases into the box. Strangely enough, it fit perfectly. Keeping out a lock pick for his pocket and closing the toy box, Dick got up and left the room. Walking downstairs, he found Ms. Kane in the kitchen. Upon seeing him she smiled.

"You all situated?" She asked.

"Yeah, I'm good," Dick told her.

"What do you want for lunch?" She asked.


"Lunch, you up for sandwiches?" She asked him again.

"Um, uh, sure," Dick answered. He didn't realize that it was already one'o'clock in the afternoon.

"How's ham and cheese, sound? 'Fraid it's all I got," She told him.

"That's fine," He answered.

He watched her make the sandwiches. It didn't take long and soon they were both sitting on the island eating.

"So, how you holding up?" She asked after a moment.

Dick shrugged, "Best as I can, I guess."

Adeline nodded, but looked up as Dick asked her, "Ms. Kane? That... My room, it wasn't a guest room, was it?"

Adeline's eyes widened for a moment, but then went back to a soft gaze, "Not exactly. That was my sons' room. They're out of the house now."

"Do they visit often?" Dick asked.

"Sometimes. Every now and then," Adeline said sadly.

Dick decided to stop prodding for answers. Obviously there was something painful there. And considering that he had yet to see another man in the house and that Ms. Kane hadn't mentioned any other man, he could probably assume that they were separated, or the more likely option, divorced.

When he finished his sandwich, Ms. Kane asked, "You want a tour of the house?"

"Uh, sure," He replied.

Getting off the island seats, he followed Ms. Kane around the first floor of the house, "In here's the living room. Beyond that door's my office. The entertainment room's in there. In front of that is the open room. Bathroom's right here."

Dick had to admit, this was a really nice house. The decorations in the room were patriotic, but in a humble manner.

"Downstairs is storage and my workout room," She told him, "Upstairs we've got another bathroom in the hallway. My room's right next to it and down the hall is a guest room. Not much else other than that."

Dick nodded as she finished the small tour, "Thanks Ms. Kane. Really."

"It's no problem, Dick," She told him.

"Um, just wondering, but Ms. Kane, when do you work normally, like, what do you do during the week?" He asked, an innocent enough question.

"Mostly I work from nine to five. It's a long day for me," She answered, "Other than that, I do whatever needs to be done."

Dick nodded, "Alright, cool, thanks."

Ms. Kane shrugged, "Well, that actually reminds me. Gotham wants you to go back into the school system. I was going to wait to see what you'd like to do. I can't pay for that private school, unfortunately."

"Um, well, I'll think about it," Dick answered, "Thanks Ms. Kane."

"You're welcome, Dick, and feel free to look around the neighborhood. It's a good area," She told him, "There's a bike in the garage."

Dick nodded, but instead went up to his room. He flipped open his communicator to see his friend's faces pop up on the screen.

"Dude, you surviving?" Beast Boy teased.

"It's cool. She seems nice enough. I think I'll call the R-Cycle tonight, though. I can probably pull this off," Dick told them.

"So where should we meet you?" Cyborg asked.

"Downtown, right by the docks opposite the Narrows," Dick told them.

"Alright," Raven said, "We'll be there."

"Be careful, Robin," Starfire told him.

"I will. See you 'round twelve," He answered.

Below in her office, Adeline sat down in her chair. She looked up at the many awards and sighed. Another kid. Another kid. She held her chest as she opened up the drawer. Somehow, she hated that feeling, but loved it all the same. From inside, she pulled out a picture of her boys. Her boys, both happy in that picture. How quickly that had all fallen apart. She felt the bitterness return. She thought back on their sweet smiles. How they had taken after her and...

When was the last time she had checked up on him anyway? He was working on the West coast. That's what she'd last heard and apparently he'd been making quite a name for himself too. Maybe she should check up on him, though. Shouldn't be too hard. She made a mental note of it and began to do some desk work. She thought about her current situation. Dick seemed like a sweet enough kid. She wished that she had at least gotten the chance to talk to Bruce about him more so that she didn't feel so clueless. She sighed. Well, if she could get through day one, she could probably get through the rest of them.

Adeline continued to do her company's paper work while the picture of her kids sat off to the side smiling up at her like they never would again.


Robin felt the pulse of the city and it's diamond skyscrapers. It was on all accounts alive. And it wreaked of that feeling, the one that makes your blood boil. Like it has to work harder so that you are ready. He was on top of one of the skyscrapers in Midtown which was alive tonight. The socialites were below him, laughing as they flaunted their wealth. Without a care in the world. How nice. Not really, he thought. The buildings sparkled with flashing lights. Time to go.

He leaned forward and spread out his arms to his sides, letting himself fall forward. The lights flashed against his face, but that didn't affect his focus. He had to do this just right. He shot out a zip line and swung around the next building over where he released the line just in time to land on the monorail. He held on as the train sped past the buildings and he felt the wind whipping his hair. He felt alive tonight, but alive with a poison slowly infiltrating his blood stream. He smiled. Good.

His stop was coming up. The Boy Wonder began to run and then jumped onto one of the ratty rooftops, the glamour of Midtown now long gone as he entered the downtown island right after the train left the Narrows. It was a filthy place where he could smell rotting alcohol in the streets along with those who hadn't bathed in ages. Yeah, this was also Gotham. Then again, how could that really be such a surprise? The others weren't here yet. But they would be soon.

Robin stopped and let his cape whip backwards; he loved this feeling. It held a certain tingle that ran through his blood and made him pull a corner of his lips into a small smile. He found the bar he was looking for. The Stacked Deck. Time for some theatrics. The Boy Wonder went around back and hit the power rig. Instantly, the music that had been pumping loudly cut off and a bunch of screams were heard. They were panicking, good. People began to come out. He waited. He wanted the scum and they'd stick around, not hit the road like everyone else.

"Man, that was a total bomb, thought that our one night off would be worth our time, Dean," One of the men said.

"Don't blame me, 'sides, we got a fifty fifty chance of gettin' off tomorrows too," Dean said.

"Well, I don't care whatever the chances are, I wanted a night..."

Robin smiled.


They never stood a chance. Not too far away, the Titans flew towards the area.

"Any idea as to where he actually wanted to meet us?" Cyborg asked to no one in particular.

"Hey, it's Robin, I'm sure we'll..." Beast Boy started but he was cut off by a short scream.

The four Titans sped up and around a corner where they stopped and found Robin. The Boy Wonder held a poor sap up by the shirt and he was completely enshrouded in the shadows. His cape clutched his sides and the gleam in his eyes reminded them of... of... something... dangerous.

Robin yelled at the man harshly, "I asked you a question, and seriously, I don't want to lose my temper. So, where... is... Ravager?"

"Uh, uh, don't know, he's new. He... he... check My Alibi! Check Alibi! They'll probably know. I don't know nothin'! Boss never mentioned no Ravager!" The man whimpered as the lights from Cyborg's car hit his face and Robin stared him down.

He threw the man off to the side and stood at his full height. The Titans stared at him, as though too scared to say a word. His eyes were narrowed as he approached him.

"We've got a location," Robin told them and walked past the T-Car.

"Dude, that was intense," Beast Boy commented.

Robin said nothing as his R-Cycle road up and screeched to a halt.

"Where to, Rob?" Cyborg asked, resigned to the fact that Robin wasn't about to elaborate.

Robin put on his helmet snugly and answered, "My Alibi."

He then revved the engine and sped off. The others followed, with some difficulty. They found themselves soon riding past the big leagues of the city through the back roads. They headed east and soon they saw Robin abandon his R-Cycle. Cyborg got out and the others followed their leader. It was getting increasingly dark outside, as though the lights were being shut out from sight. Robin kept at it, racing ahead of them all. They ultimately reached a corner in which none of them could tell where their leader had gone.

"Great," Beast Boy said, "Now what do we do."

"Look, up there!" Raven pointed out.

They caught a glimpse of Robin jumping up onto the top of the roof. They soared up to the top of the building where they finally saw a pink hue shining and giving Robin only an outline as the wind hit him. Starfire went forward first to see what Robin saw.

"Robin?" She asked.

"My Alibi," Robin said and she looked over at the bar, "Cy, go to the front door. BB, the left window. Rae, the back. Star, the right window."

"What about you?" Cyborg asked.

Robin waited for a moment before responding, "You'll see."

The others nodded and got into position. His lips were drawn tight. He watched them all disperse. Cyborg got down to the bottom and waited. Once he got the go ahead, he'd storm the place. All of them. All at once.

"Alright guys, you ready?" He asked.

"Yeah, we're good," Raven answered.

"Alright, Titans, Go!" He yelled as he slammed open the door shocking the pool players inside.

Instantly it was chaos. The four Titans came in as blurs as they fought. But it was just them. Just the four of them. And still, this was Gotham. Every man fought here. Every man. Starfire looked around the room. She had not seen Robin enter since she had arrived. Where had he...?


The glass above them shattered while the new guest spread out, something that resembled wings. They landed on the table, launching half a dozen smoke bombs. With a quick snap, a bo-staff emerged from their hand and they quickly began to dispense of the rest of the criminals, taking down more than half of them in a matter of seconds. It was almost over before he even began. The smoke settled and they finally were able to see through the smoke. But what they saw and heard next was much more... unsettling then what they had seen their leader do earlier.

"Please, please, come on, man, don't..."

Robin chuckled lowly and coldly, "Stop cowering and answer my question. Where. Is. Ravager?"

"I don't know! I don't take no orders from no Ravager!" The man squirmed.

"Then who does?" Robin yelled.

"I don't know! No one's been moving lately. Two Face, he just started up, gatherin' again! Maybe he'd know," The man confessed. The Titans watched the man's sad plea in shock.

But Robin's face held no pity. Like a demon.

Robin threw the man into one of the corners of the broken pool table, knocking him out cold. He walked past the Titans and outside. Unsure as to what to do, they followed him. There was a long moment of silence as no one moved. All they heard was the scampering of rats and the sound of the gravel between their shoes and the street.

Starfire was the first to speak, "Robin?"

"Dude, that wasn't... that wasn't cool," Beast Boy said.

"Man, come on, that wasn't normal for you," Cyborg continued.

"Where does Ms. Kane think you are?" Raven asked.

"Asleep," Robin told her, "I left around eleven."

"But, dude, where did that..." Beast Boy started.

Robin sighed and hit a button on his belt, "I'm fine. I just... I get caught up, like... It's the city. That's all."

"Robin," Raven grabbed his arm and Robin turned to look at her.

Robin and Raven locked eyes. She knew that there was more than his thirst for Ravager's justice to be brought out. But that's what worried her the most. She didn't want that thirst to grow anymore than it already was. And whatever else it was that was causing him to act this way, well, she could pretty much say that it was Bruce's absence. After all, when they had worked with Batman earlier, the Dark Knight had a similar disposition when dealing with criminals. Perhaps it was a bit a hereditary reaction then.

"Robin?" Starfire asked.

Robin looked over at her. Her eyes were rightfully filled with concern. For a moment, he felt himself feel like something flooded into him and replaced the intensity of the night that Gotham had leaked into his system. Guilt, guilt for making her, them all worry. She walked up to him as Raven replaced her hood and stepped back.

"Starfire," Robin started, before looking at the others, "Guys, I'm... Sorry. It's just... It's just Gotham. And..."

They watched him for a moment as he looked at the ground, "... It's hard knowing that I'm not returning to the cave tonight."

"Dude, don't worry," Beast Boy told him, "You'll get through this."

"We all will, man; always do," Cyborg added.

Robin nodded, but he knew still, that this was going to affect him more than the others.

"Let's move to a different subject," Raven told them.

"Yes," Starfire added, "Where would we find this two-faced of which they speak of?"

"Two Face, Starfire," Robin corrected, "This criminal, Two Face, his real name is Harvey Dent. He used to be a DA for Gotham, but after a freak accident at one of his trials, his face was distorted by acid and so was his mentality."

"Ouch," Beast Boy said, remembering some of his earlier attempts to shape shift when he was younger that ended up in some really bad distortions.

"That happened before I became Robin, so I didn't know Harvey. Two Face bases his crimes off of a flip of the coin. Half of them are for the 'betterment' of society, the other are to 'wreak havoc'. But because of Harvey's distorted views, in our views, his crimes border more so towards that of chaos," Robin continued.

"Please tell me we're not dealing with another Joker," Cyborg asked.

Robin shook his head, "Not exactly, Two Face is a little more... restrained. Kind of a bit quick to the point too after you get his mind games. I know that Batman had considered him to be his friend at one point too, when he was the DA."

"So you think it could be this Two Face?" Starfire asked.

Robin shook his head, "No. But the fact that Two Face hasn't been doing anything lately might mean he knows something."

"That's your best lead?" A voice asked from above them.

The team turned to see Red X smugly leaning against the fire escape two floors up.

"What are you doing here?" Robin asked, annoyed.

"Didn't want to stay the whole night in the room, kid," Red X told him.

"How much did you hear?" Robin asked.

Red X shrugged as he jumped down, "Don't really keep track of that sort of thing, kid. I've been up there for an hour."

"Don't credit yourself," Raven said, "I knew you were up there as soon as you stepped around the corner; you only heard about our lead with Two Face."

Red X glared at her and then turned to the leader, "Look, here's my advice. You need some real leads. Ones that won't take forever to follow."

"And how do you suggest that we get those?" Robin asked.

He could tell Red X was smiling under the mask, "Well... I might be able to help you out there."

"How so?" Robin asked, feigning ignorance as to what Red X was about to suggest.

"How's about I go in for you?" Red X asked.

"Dude, what?" Beast Boy asked, "Thought you wanted to stay up in the room forever ordering breakfast in bed."

Red X shot him a quick glare, "Well, that's the thing. I don't. And honestly, after my little trip 'round Gotham here tonight, I kinda like it here."

"Figures," Cyborg commented.

"For a small price, I might be willing to help you out there, Robin. I mean, you've said it yourself: Red X can get closer to the villains than you ever could," Red X recited.

Robin's eyes narrowed as the two masks locked. Starfire looked back and forth between the two. Oddly enough, though, she noticed that Robin did not clench up his hand into a fist. Normally, she would have suspected such a thing from him; it was never likely that he'd make a deal with a villain for something of this nature.

"Alright then," Robin said, "I'll call you with the details tomorrow."

"How you going to call me, kid?" Red X smirked as the team began to walk off with Robin.

Robin smiled, "Who designed that suit, X?"

Red X's shock could be seen for the moment, but then it turned into amusement as he called back, "Touche, Boy Wonder, touche!"

The Titans walked back to their vehicles to part ways. Robin gave Starfire a quick hug before watching them all race back to midtown. Robin sighed. It took only a matter of minutes for him to get back to the outskirts in the suburbs. He got off a couple blocks away from Ms. Kane's house and snuck back in as quietly as he could. He looked around the corner and saw Ms. Kane's door shut. He sighed and began to get ready for the three hours of sleep he actually hoped for. Jumping under the covers, Dick pulled them over his shoulders. It was getting colder now, he noted. November was here. Dick looked outside the window for a moment. The wind blew against the house.

Sighing, Dick let his head reach the pillow as he let himself succumb to sleep. He could worry about other things, Ravager tomorrow. He didn't know about the camera that was watching him through the window. He didn't know that in Uptown Gotham, one of his greatest foes was watching him. Slade smiled. So the Boy Wonder was going to keep this up. He wondered how long that would last. Hopefully long enough. But then again, knowing Robin, he knew shouldn't worry. Slade should never underestimate him. And he never intended to.

The winter's cold crept into Gotham. It was going to be a cold hard winter. And if the weather didn't assure it, Slade made a note to himself to make sure that he would.