Thursday, June 1, 2017

Chapter Nine: Escalation in Gotham

Part Three: Escalation in Gotham

Chapter Nine: From Rooftops to Sidewalks

The rain poured down the back of his head and down his neck. There was stench in the air, like that of dead rats. It was diluted by the smell of hot dogs that had been sitting on the grill all day and into the night. Below, cars had their headlights on and on occasion were needlessly honking their horns, the drivers annoyed that rush hour traffic had proceeded into the later evening hours. Some were just parking so they could take the monorail. It would be packed, but at least it would be quicker than driving.

Up ahead, a traffic light was out, sending tempers soaring. He really shouldn't be here. It was well lit, safer than other areas. He was needed elsewhere. Running, the adrenaline started to flow, making his heart work faster, his mind think quicker. At the same time it was a blur, but he was picking everything up. Diving off of a high building, he did a flip and neatly landed in a crouch position. But that was only for a second as he soon ran off again. Finally, he slowed down, his cape whipping against his sides.

"Give me your money!"

His head turned towards the yell. Idiot. Who yells that in a city? Especially this one. This guy must be desperate. He heard a muffled sob and a scream coming from a window below with the drapes right by the fire escape. This was inside the building? What on earth? Spreading his arms out, he began to fall.

"Shut up, lady! I said money and jewler-!"

The poor guy never got to finish. Juliet saw someone come through her window. It almost looked like they had flung themselves inside. The person snared the gunman's hand and as he twisted it Juliet heard bones grind. The man screamed and dropped his gun.

"You! I'm gonna-!"

The figure elbowed the robber in the face, sending the man to the floor away from Juliet. The figure turned to Juliet. She was shaking, her brown hair was a mess from being thrown to the floor and her eyes were wet and puffy. She held her hand to her face, choking on tears, shocked at what just happened. What was the world coming to?

He held out a gentle hand, "It's okay."

She looked at the figure. This, this was... "It's okay. I promise. I'm one of the good guys."

The voice was strong, but young, reassuring. She took his hand and found as she stood up that she was taller than he was. Wow. Slowly, she tried to make out details. But he turned and cuffed the gunman to one of the window's bars. After, he grabbed the gun and took out the ammo.

"Call the cops. I've got to go."

With that he was off. Juliet went to the window, but there had literally been no sign left of her rescuer. The man by her feet groaned loudly and Juliet slowly let a small sigh of relief.

His feet were numb, he'd been running and out in the cold for so long. He could feel his sides beginning to shake, to shiver at the adrenaline that he could feel flow through him every time his heart beat. His breath made puffy clouds of air as sweat mingled with rain water. His ears, acute as ever, heard everything – from the water pouring down the drains to the cat below hissing at a dog barking on the ground.

There was no light here, or barely any if one had to be specific. So the bright colors of his costume were nothing more than shadows. They had split up. He was to search the east, Batman, the west. But they'd be meeting up soon. Great. Terrific, really. Robin sighed. He had to admit, he was tired. Being out all night in the rain after a stressful arrival could do that to him and the fact that he and Bruce had barely said anything worth saying didn't help any.

They had talked about the report and thankfully, Bruce had been willing to take a look at it and consider it as a possibility. While there wasn't a real reason for it, that had been one of Robin's real worries. That Batman would just dismiss the theory because the arsonist had not used Hexane before and refused to help. But that was the only thing that they had talked about. Not 'How's life been?' or 'What have you been up to lately?'. No, nothing like that. But then again, that was probably best. That was a can of worms waiting to be opened up. It was just one more thing for Bruce to start getting on his case about. And ask anyone really, there was way too much on his plate as it was.

He thought back to Jump and sighed. He was here now. And he might as well make the most of it. Work hard, get his job done. All that. All that...

They would have gone to the airport with him, but Robin had told them not to. It would just be easier when it came to getting off as Dick Grayson. And... the idea of going back to Gotham as Robin in an airplane was just begging for some insane terrorist attack or worse, for paparazzi to start asking if he was here to stay. As if! Temporary was all this would be.

Robin found a place to change once he got near the airport. Taking a cab, Dick got out of the car, tipped the driver and went to wait for his plane. It was about seven in the morning and the sun was just barely coming up. The last day of September was all that it could be. He had about two suitcases and a laptop for the plane ride. He'd ship his other stuff another... less conspicuous way. He sat alone, since not many people were there anyway.

He kept fiddling with his shake, not knowing whether or not he could manage to drink it. While his thoughts should have been on the mission ahead, they weren't. They were on last night's events. The party, the revelation, Star, and then everything he had been doing... He shook his head. Maybe he was feeling guilty, considering he was about to go to Gotham, but honestly, how was he going to face Bruce? How? An answer to that would be nice. He could feel his stomach tying up in knots and he could already feel color draining from his face. He had told his friends that he'd be fine. But now he was starting to feel sick to his stomach.

Calmly, Dick tried to meditate like Bruce had taught him. He could slow his breathing, but not his heart rate. Focus on the mission. Focus on finding their arsonist/robber/killer. Oh man, spending hours downstairs with Batman. Joy.

'Someone kill me now,' he thought.

"Flight B10 to Gotham City, first class is now boarding," someone announced over the speaker.

Dick got up and found himself the only one standing. He saw a couple of adults look up at him. So he happened to be the ward of a billionaire who could buy first class tickets. No reason for them to look at him in surprise. He handed his ticket over to security and went inside. Finding his seat before one of the flight attendants could get up to talk to him, Dick sat down and tried to relax. Maybe he could catch up on his sleep. One of the flight attendants approached him.

"Dick Grayson?" she asked, a little uncertain that it was him.

"Yeah?" he said.

"Oh, um, My name is Chloe and I'll be your flight attendant for your trip. Once we take off is there anything I can get you?" she asked.

"If I think of something, I'll let you know," he told her.

She smiled and walked off to be ready for when everyone else boarded. Dick leaned back. There was one thing about plane trips. They made him nervous. He wasn't scared of flying, it was the anticipation, the long time with nothing to do, that made him nervous. And especially when he was going to Gotham. He had only made about six trips out there. Three had all been on the anniversary of his parents' death to pay respects. The others were to see Alfred or attend a party of Bruce's that he just had to go to. Had? Yeah right. It was just a social grace on his part. And this time, it was to work on something. Again, if someone knocked him out right now, he'd be very grateful.

He didn't know how much time passed and he didn't notice when his flight was delayed fifteen minutes because someone's luggage wasn't on. So when he felt the plane getting ready to take off, it was a bit of shock to him. Buckling up, Dick sat back. The plane started to move forward and the engines rumbled. Instead of closing his eyes, though, to relax, Dick looked out the window as the plane began it's ascension. He saw Jump. He saw everything he had seen before. He saw the bay and he saw the tower. Slowly, a hand came up for one small, almost unnoticeable wave good bye. No one saw it. No one but him.

About thirty minutes in, Chloe came by again, "Some breakfast, Dick?"

"I'm good, I had a shake before I left," Dick told her.

Chloe nodded, but kept her gaze on Dick a moment longer. It was odd for a teenager alone to get a first class ticket in her opinion. But she shrugged it off to go help the main cabin. When she came back, she looked over to see him asleep in his chair. Poor guy looked exhausted. Reaching over and pulling the blind down, Chloe then went to the front to take a seat and read The Daily Planet.

The trip passed without much incident. That is, until they came into Gotham City's limits. A massive storm had swallowed the city and rain pounded against the plane. It was when a crack of lightning split the air and thunder followed that Dick woke up. He looked around and pulled up the window blind to see a monster of a what could have bin a mini hurricane. He wasn't worried, but really, he was a little shaken.

To see Gotham in the middle of an ugly storm like this was not the best way to come in. And he could only bet that Bruce would be solely focused on his work during such weather.

Dick sighed and sat back as he heard the captain announce, "We will be descending momentarily. Please fasten your seat-belts and enjoy your stay in Gotham."

Dick buckled up and waited. The wind roared outside and Dick felt that enjoying his stay would be the last thing that he would do while here. The plane began to rumble and soar downwards slowly, but not gracefully. He felt a sudden landing as the front wheels of the plane hit the ground. Clutching the seat's arms Dick felt himself suddenly tense as it was announced that they had made a safe arrival in Gotham. What an oxymoron. Gotham? Safe? Yeah, right.

It took a couple minutes to dock, but they did and Dick was the first one out. Chloe smiled at him and he forced a smile back. He was not happy. Not happy in the slightest. Well, at least Alfred would be picking him up. That was always positive. He got out and saw people waiting around for their next flight. He didn't want to stick around, though. His own thoughts clouded his mind as he subconsciously made his way to the gate where Alfred would be waiting.

It wasn't until he heard someone call his name that he looked up. "Master Richard!"

Dick looked over to see Alfred to his left. He smiled and quickly strode over, "Hey Alfred, thanks for picking me up; you didn't have to."

Alfred gave Dick a quick hug and answered, "And leave you to walk home in this storm? Not on my watch."

The two smiled and went to pick up Dick's luggage. They weren't going to talk about why he was really here. Not yet. That was a big no-no. Instead they chatted about how that 'private school' going. It was going well. He was acing all of his tests. Having fun with his friends. The usual. They were just about to the limo in the parking lot when Alfred stopped their jovial conversation.

"Master Dick, I want to make you aware that..." he began.

"Those waves out there are incredible, Alfred, they're so much..."

"Master Dick," Alfred interrupted and this time, Dick shut his mouth to listen, "I want to make you aware that Master Bruce..."

Too late. Dick looked over at the car to see Bruce stepping out, tired, probably self-deprived of sleep, and intimidating. Dick fought down the urge to gulp. Bruce was here. He wasn't sleeping in like he was supposed to, like Dick had counted on when he scheduled the flight for this early in the morning. This was just his luck, wasn't it? Dick came forward as Alfred took his luggage and put it in the trunk. 

The old butler could see Dick's posture had changed noticeably, from carefree to proper, like he was to behave in front of the Queen of England. That would have been fine, except his head bent down low and the smile on his face moments ago had disappeared. Bruce looked down at Dick and opened the car door. Dick muttered 'thanks', got inside and sat on the far end, hoping to stay away from Bruce if he could. Bruce followed and sat in the back, looking around casually. No words were exchanged even after Alfred started the car and tried to spark up some form of conversation between the two. Nearly every attempted ended with 'Yeah, sure' and 'Alright'.

As Alfred drove, he kept glancing back at the two of them, hoping one of them would at least try to talk to the other. They both saw this. They both got what he was trying to do. But the excuses. Bruce's probably tired and in a bad mood. Richard's probably angry that he even has to be here. Bruce doesn't care for small talk. Richard doesn't like small talk. And on and on it goes. The butler eventually gave up and gave a disapproving look at the two sending what he hoped was guilt down their silent throats.

Soon, they were on their way up the road in Bristol that lead to Wayne Manor. In this lighting, Dick saw that the usually elegant Manor looked more like a cold fortress. The shadows cast upon it made the Gothic architecture even more outstanding and intimidating. It didn't look like it was all that warm inside either. Alfred parked the car and the two got out.

Bruce only said, "Why don't you unpack, I have work to do."

Dick squinted his eyes, but didn't say anything. Fine, no 'hello'. Still, Bruce was probably just tired. Maybe he was making this out to be worse than it should be. It's all your attitude, right? Wait, what? Oh yeah, sure, let's go with that because otherwise this would be unbearable. With Alfred's help, Dick brought his bags upstairs to his room. Everything was the same, though he could Alfred had recently dusted.

Quickly putting his bags away and grabbing his laptop, Dick walked down to Bruce's study where the old grandfather clock stood. Large pictures adorned the walls, most of them just expensive paintings. A rare vase here or sculpture there. It was all the same. The white marble and columns stood to his right and left as he neared the study. He grasped the crystal doorknob and twisted it to reveal the study, books rising nearly four times his height and computer to the side of the polished oak desk. But he passed that for the grandfather clock. This is the only moment where he stopped, and hesitated for a moment.

Did he really want to do this? No, that wasn't the question. Did he really have to do this? The answer was most certainly 'yes'. That meant that there was no way around it. No way out of working with the man who he had stormed out on three years ago. No way around the awkward silences and the critics. No way. No way. Dick sighed and thought back to the tower. The sooner he got this over with, the better. Slowly, he turned the clock's hands to 10:47 PM and the grandfather removed itself to reveal the staircase below.


The sun had risen just moments ago. Starfire was standing on the roof, her arms folded as she looked up at the horizon. It was lonely now. It hadn't been before, even when he was just in his room. She looked over at the planes taking off. They began to soar away. One after another, each second getting faster. It made her blood boil. She didn't know which plane was Robin's, but that didn't matter since she could only assume that it had already taken off.

They just kept getting faster and faster and kept flying out of sight.

Starfire clenched her fists. Instantly she jetted off to the airplanes. One was taking off. She was beating it. It started to catch up. She sped up, feeling the wind whip her hair. She saw people watching her out of the corner of her eye. She knew she wasn't supposed to do this. But she could let her anger out. Zooming upward, Starfire kept on going. They were heading across the bay, away from Gotham. She shot starbolts downwards at the water, making blasts of sea water shoot up. She turned over so that her back faced the water and she could see the tower. The Tower.

He said he'd be okay. She knew her anger only came from that... loneliness as Raven would say. And... If he promised that he'd be okay, the least she could do was make sure that she was also okay. Starfire stopped and watched the plane fly off. The others were probably waking up. The wind and salty air hit her face. Her lighted fists and emerald eyes slowly lost their glow. She'd be okay. But already, she really missed him.


Rudy wiped his brow for the fifth time in the last ten minutes. The place was a wreck. The glass cups and plates were shattered all over the floor. The disco balls and technicolor lights had either been smashed or twisted into useless scrap. And the chairs and tables, they were nothing but splinters, unrecognizable to anyone except Rudy.

The Titans. Of all things. How could they have found out about this place? There had to be a snitch. Had to be. And he could bet his previously ridiculously high salary that everyone would be looking for that little traitor. Red X maybe? Or maybe that pink haired twit, what was her name? Or could of been Kitten. That rotten little... But how would he find whoever told while he was sitting in a cell? The police had arrived last night, after everyone left. The Titans had sent them and now he was confined inside. No invasion of privacy, just house arrest. Or rather, work arrest.

That's not what he was worried about, though. He was dreading the call that would come any minute. What would he say? What would he think? Worse yet, what would he do to him? The phone rang, scaring Rudy enough to wet himself. His hand shook and he could feel his own skin dampen his already sweaty clothes. This was so bad. What if he just left it ring, didn't answer it? No, that would be worse. Far worse. Somehow, Rudy found the courage to stand up and bring himself over to the phone.

"He, hel, hello?" Rudy dared.

"Rudy, I heard about last night," The voice, smooth, blood chilling said.

"I, uh, well, it's a funny story about that, Mr..." Rudy began.

"The Titans came for a party, is that right?"

"Well, uh, yeah, but that, it wasn't my fault, I swear, sir," Rudy quickly spilled out.

"I don't blame you in the slightest, Rudy," Slade said, leaning back in his seat, watching the portable TV screen.

"You, you don't?" Rudy was shaking so hard it was nearly impossible to stand, but Slade had eased up on the poor man a bit so that he could at least find a chair to sit down on.

"No, Rudy, actually, I should be... thanking you," Slade told him watching the scene of the fight last night, but then he switched to a different image.

"Thank...thanking me?" Rudy asked.

Slade's eye watched the screen as a black haired boy boarded a flight in the Jump City airport. The scene changed again, this time, showing a reunion. The boy walked through Gotham's airport only to find his old butler standing there waiting for him. His eyes followed their path of travel while a small, entertained smile came to his lips as they widened on his face.

The boy was here.

"Yes, I should thank you, Rudy," Slade said, after a moment's thoughts.

"For, for what?" Rudy asked.

The boy and the butler walked down the hallways. The boy was pretending to be casual, but his posture revealed otherwise to Slade. There was a slight slouch in that confident carefree posture and the boy's face, while light hearted, was a bit tight, as though he was anticipating something soon. This intrigued Slade. While he had yet to install cameras in the Wayne Manor, there was no doubt in his mind that he would find out eventually why that was.

Finally, Slade answered slowly, but with a sharp tone, "That's none of your concern."

"Well," Rudy got a little more confident, "What about Zenith's Fire? What do you want to do about that?"

"I'll find another spot to open up something similar, Rudy," Slade told him casually, "It's a small asset in the long run."

"What about the cops? I can't go to jail. I've got a wife, huh? I've got a wife!" Rudy begged.

"I'll get you a good lawyer, Rudy, trust me, I know many. You won't be going to jail," Slade calmed the bartender, "But do me a favor though...

"Anything, sir, anything," Rudy grovelled.

"Spread the word."

Rudy sweat hard, "Uh, what word?"

Slade stroked his goatee for a moment before answering, "The snitch is no longer welcome to our parties."

Rudy gulped loudly causing Slade to roll his eyes at the sound. "I have to go. I have work that requires my attention."

"Alright, well, thank you again, Mr. Wilson, thank you..." Rudy heard the receiver go blank and stopped talking.

The man was a weakling. Pathetic, really. No matter. Zenith's fire was nothing. Merely an easy way to hear that he could replace in a few days or two about what was going on in Jump's Underworld. Although, compared to Gotham, it seemed more like a knitting circle. The people in Gotham, the criminals, they had firepower. They only thing they had that Slade didn't like was that they had a... certain taste for theatrics. Luckily this one wasn't... too far fetched.

They called him Mr. Freeze. He was a sob story, that was for sure. Lost his girl and became a cold-hearted money-obsessed freak. Ha. Weren't they all? Freeze was perfect for the job. There was nothing unusual about him trying to rob a bank, especially considering all the times he had done that before.

Still, why not be a bit theatrical? It could always be a bit fun. Make it big, front-page worthy, make them have to chip out the bank for months after... That's what he needed tonight. Keep the two vigilantes busy. Keep them worried about a big time heist-then the rest of Gotham. Keep the Boy Wonder away. It was too soon. Yes, too soon.

The brilliant boy. Smart boy. Endless potential. Robin was really something. Everyone else takes pictures of the Man of Steel, the Dark Knight, and the Princess of the Amazons. They're blind. Yes, Robin was his 'arch-enemy', but really, what kid could accomplish so much in such a short space of time? The boy was going to be better than his teacher. Of that, Slade was certain and somehow, he could only bet that Batman thought the same...

Slade looked over at the clock. It was time to go. The evening hours approached rapidly and that meant time was ticking away. Shaking his head free of thoughts and getting out of the car, Slade walked over to the store. It was an old store. Not that much security, not that it mattered. He wasn't risking throwing away all of his time for something that he could easily buy.

The sign above read in old brown and ruby-red letters 'Cultural Antiques since 1939'. Well, this was the address, that was for sure. He had no time now (apparently neither did the owner, since it was closed) and he had... other matters of business that he had to attend to. Striding over to the car, Slade reached in and grabbed a suitcase. He nodded at Wintergreen and began to walk off.

Wintergreen leaned back. He had seen the man do this many times. Too many. But alas, it was not up to him as to what his friend did. And even more regrettable, he always worried that one day Slade would... lose, again. And maybe this time, lose too much. Wintergreen didn't think that Slade would ever just lose. He knew that with... whatever Slade was doing now, he had a plan and knew what he was doing. But then again, Slade had known what he was doing when he had first done something that involved the Boy Wonder. And the boy had beaten him, which Wintergreen had not expected.

The new game has already started and all bets are on. It's his turn. The defeat before showed the promise that Robin had. The... Potential, as Slade would say. But the defeat, if anything, made Slade even more determined to do... something. To win, to accomplish whatever it was that he has set out to do. It's his turn to place his bet. He has to pass. There's no way to no what sort of outcome could come from these upcoming events.


The rain went from a pounding drum to a tittering cymbal. It was still cold, but the rain was letting up. Finally. It was at least three in the morning anyhow. Scanning the streets below, Robin jumped from building to building watching, looking, waiting. Somehow, that happened when he was in Gotham. He could look and watch for danger in Jump. But he could feel it in Gotham. There was something, like the earth had opened up and Gotham had come out of it. It was almost a pattern, crystal buildings in the center and then the cool lava had hardened around the center. But with this scene came the little devils that crawled around, lurking in the shadows.

Keeping this in mind, it did not surprise him when he saw a flash of quick movement entering a jewelry store. Going closer, Robin squinted his eyes and listened. A window was opening on the right side. He ran. The endorphins were released almost instantly, flooding his blood stream and enhancing the chase. He saw a dart of purple there, something black. He kept running. His breath was quick, silent, controlled. Soon, he leaped ahead of the criminal, who had taken their chase to the roof tops.

They came around the corner and with a smack, Robin's bo-staff found it's target and his net tangled up the robber. Robin went into the light partially and then he saw who the burglar was. Catwoman?! Great. She struggled at the net and pulled hard, her annoyance at him apparent. Finally, she looked up to see who her captor was.

"You?!" she asked.

"What?" he raised his brows in response.

"What on earth are you doing here?" She continued, obviously annoyed and repulsed.

"Well, I hit you in the gut and tangled you up in a net and you just robbed a jewelry store. What do you think I'm doing here?" Robin asked back.

"No, kid, I meant what are you doing in Gotham?" she asked, her eyes flashing.

"Don't worry, I'll be gone before you know it," Robin told her and added under his breath. "Hopefully, anyway."

Catwoman's eyes darted around. He couldn't quiet tell if she was more angry at the fact that she was caught or the fact that he was actually here. If anything, she was probably hoping that Batman would have been the one to show up, not his partner. Then again, she probably didn't think of him as a partner. Not even a sidekick. That surprised? To refresh one's memory... oh, what were some of her nicknames for him when he had been younger? Oh yes, Birdy-boy, brat, bird-brain, runt, etc. Robin couldn't blame her, though. They'd never really gotten along.

"So what are you going to do? Turn me in?" Catwoman asked.

"Too busy, I'll have someone come pick you up," Robin told her as he began to punch in the address on a locator.

Catwoman's eyes narrowed and her nose wrinkled up. This kid didn't have time for her? What has the world come to? No, she didn't like the kid, but this was different. The kid how... wow, the kid had guns! How can the kid even have biceps? He was a kid. What had he been doing in the west? He wasn't shooting out puns, either. He was being a smart aleck. While in reality this wasn't very new at all, it was a newsflash for her. What else had changed?

"And what's making the Boy Wonder so busy, then?" Catwoman asked.

Robin answered, "None of your business."

Catwoman relaxed, sitting on her knees. He had to hand it to her-she knew how to act the damsel in distress when she wasn't. When he was younger, he never could quite get why Batman would get stiff around her. Women could be so... they just knew. They knew how to make themselves look attractive and make men fidget. In that sense, he was extremely glad that he was too young for her and could still hate her. Concentrating on calling Gordon, he still was annoyed when she interrupted him.

Catwoman pouted almost playfully and added, "Must be important for you to come all the way out here."

"Can you shut up?" Robin asked, turning toward her, his bo-staff at hand.

"Why you little..." she started.


They both turned their heads to see the demon-like man. Robin held his staff where it was and suddenly straightened his posture while Catwoman merely smiled and loosened up her body a bit. It should be a crime that a girl could see all of those muscles under that suit.

"Robin, what's going on?" He asked, approaching Catwoman.

"She just robbed a jewelry store," Robin told him.

"Which one?"

"The one on 52nd Street," Robin answered.

Batman bent down and snapped the robes with a batarang, increasing the size of Catwoman's smile and putting an outraged look on Robin's face.

"What, Batman, what are you..."

"She was returning a pair of earrings," Batman answered.

"Returning in the middle of the night when the store is closed and no one's around?" Robin questioned.

Batman turned his head to look at him and Robin understood what was going on. He shook his head in disbelief.

"You can't be serious!" He yelled.

Catwoman stood up and brushed the dirt off her suit as Robin continued, "She robbed the store and just because she returned it, you're going to let her get away with it?"

Batman finally faced Robin, "It's complicated, Robin. We'll discuss this later."

Robin's disbelief was obvious and yet Catwoman's pleasure was even more apparent. She hoped over to a chimney and looked down at the two of them, "He's gotten taller."

Batman said nothing and waited. She wanted to know something and he wasn't up for small talk, "So, what's going on that you need to have the Boy Wonder tag along?"

"The homicides," Batman told her simply.

"The one that killed Austin?" Catwoman asked, her voice suddenly heavier with a serious concern in her tone.

"In your neighborhood, yes," Batman answered.

She raised her eyebrows. Since Austin, she had been out more often than usual. While she was by no means a hero, she didn't like it when someone else messed with her territory. And while there was a side to her that loved just being out and playing cat and mouse, there was another part of her that begged for reason, for order. She blamed it on society. So when Austin was randomly murdered, it put her on edge.

Jumping down, Catwoman walked up, "You know, calling the runt out here is a little unnecessary, don't you think?"

"Robin's here by his own choice," Batman informed her.

"Really?" Catwoman asked, obviously surprised. She never bothered to hide reactions from the two of them.

She looked over at Robin who was ignoring her, "Thought you could handle Gotham again?"

Robin's teeth clenched, but there was no other sign of his annoyance, "That's real funny, you know?"

He didn't look at her, no respect whatsoever was given. The punk. Catwoman turned back to Batman who was watching both of them, not amused.

"Look handsome, I haven't heard anything, except for Gotham's underworld doesn't like intruders," She told Batman who glanced at her only briefly.

"Are you implying that you might keep an eye out for this person?" Batman asked, but he already knew the answer.

Catwoman smiled, this time, her voice, still deeper, had a rich lush tone to it. She was flirting, "Maybe... And maybe once the kid's gone I can go rob a jewelry store."

"Do you really think you'll have time for that?" Robin asked and Catwoman's eyes darted at him, "I mean, considering the fact that you'll have to spend all day at the beauty parlor for that party that you're probably invited to, right Selina? Maybe you should get started now. It must take hours..."

At the use of her real name, Catwoman stood up at the insult. She saw Batman glaring at Robin for the smart alecky remark, but something told her that it was time for her to go even if Batman was about to lecture the kid.

"Fine, Bird-boy," she said, standing on the roof's ledge, "It was nice to see you too."

With that she fell off and into the dark alleys below. Robin didn't even turn to face Batman and instead began to walk off. But he didn't get far before he was stopped.

"Where do you think you're going?"

Robin hunched his shoulders for a moment, bracing himself, "What? Come on, I'm so sick of her. She's constantly a problem and you let her be!"

Batman's face didn't flinch nor show expression, so Robin continued, "And you know, I'm not here to be your sidekick! I came out here so I could stop the robberies occurring in Jump."

Robin let out a breath and waited. Batman didn't say anything. Nothing, there was nothing. He just cast his eyes down. Down on Robin. And Robin couldn't stand it. It was that silent disappointment. That eerie feeling that he'd get whenever he knew that he had disappointed Bruce somehow. That feeling when he knew that Bruce expected more of him-him, the teen, not the kid. The one who's supposed to be maturing. The one who shouldn't be insulting women by calling them ugly. The gut feeling, the one he had worried about came and he bent his head down at the ground, a scowl on his face, but the silent apology visible, despite still being a bit bitter.

Light hit his face. Batman turned towards the source to see the Bat-signal illuminate the night sky. In an instant, the dark knight had leaped off the building leaving his squire standing there. Robin looked over in the direction of the GCPD station. He sighed. Well, at least they could put this conversation off till later. No, he wasn't hoping that Batman would forget. That would never happen. Robin ran and fell off the building, diving down. The free fall was weightless, wonderful, if for only a couple seconds.

Closing his eyes for a moment, for one moment as he fell past everything, Robin wished that he really could fly.

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