Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Chapter Twenty-Six: Salt In The Wound

Chapter Twenty-Six: Salt In The Wound

The air always smelled differently in the city than it did above it. It was dingy, dirty, and above all, it stunk of something that had died a millennia ago. Poison Ivy had tried countless times in the past to correct this problem using her own... methods, but somehow, X doubted that even if she had gotten her way, Gotham could have been saved from it. He sat on a fire escape, watching the entrance to Neighbors, debating as to whether or not to go in. Eventually, he realized that whether or not he wanted to go in, it was the quickest way to get something to eat, something he was in desperate need of.

Slamming the door open, Red X strode in, not really caring what people thought of him at this point. Yeah, he wore a mask. It didn't look as bad as half the images on theirs. He walked over to the bar and pulled one of the men sitting there off his seat by the shirt to the ground. Taking a seat, Red X took a breather. He was extremely tired and hungry. Not a combination to mess with. A waitress, after a slight hesitation, came up to him, "What'll ya have?"

"The quickest thing you have that's edible," Red X shot at her.

The waitress rolled her eyes and went to the back. Red X didn't much care. The man whose seat he had taken glared at him and walked off. But he still wanted compensation... For the past two weeks or so, Red X had been living off of barely nothing. He hadn't seen Robin since November and had yet to tell him what he had found about out about Ravager. It almost worried him, but then again, it was Robin and he had probably solved the issue anyway or just decided to ditch him.

Either way, the only reason it mattered to him was that now he'd actually have to start working again. Not really what he wanted to do at all. The waitress came over with Red X's dish and set it down on the bar. He was about to take a bite when he felt someone tap him on the shoulder. Looking behind him, Red X found himself looking at something he couldn't quite start to describe. Well, actually, he could, but still, it wasn't all that easy. A woman with white face paint and a mask looked at him, her lips black and her outfit like something out of a playing card.

"Hiya, puddin', name's Harley Quinn, but call me Harley," The woman said, grabbing his hand and shaking it.

Red X pulled away, utterly baffled as Harley continued, "Now, I know that you didn't just throw my buddy over there out of his seat, now did ya?"

Red X glanced over at the man behind her and then at her, not sure as to what to make of the woman. What was the big...

"You see, why my puddin's off in the big house, I take care of our men 'round here. Bobby's one of our men," Harley said sweetly.

"Actually my name's Sam..."

"Shut up!" She screeched, causing Red X back up a bit.

"Look, lady, I don't know who you are, but I don't move for anybody. And honestly, I'm in no mood to put up with this," Red X stated flatly.

He turned to go back to his food when he felt his jaw getting knocked out of place. He felt blood fill his mouth and swallowed hard, repressing the urge to shiver in repulsion. It wasn't like he could really do anything else with this mask on. Harley brought her hand back and examined it.

"Aw, now look, you made me break a nail," Harley said, then her eyes turned dangerous, "You're a DEAD MAN!"

Jumping to her feet, Harley aimed a kick towards his head again, but this time, Red X was ready. Flinging himself back, Red X skidded out of the way only to see another attack coming his way. Harley was an acrobat, he could tell. She didn't mind causing a bit of ciaos either, by the looks of it. She actually was laughing as the fight played out. Though thoroughly mad that he hadn't gotten the chance to eat anything, X concluded that it was probably best if he left.

Heading towards the door, Red X wrenched it open and ran up the steps towards the fire escape he had been on earlier. But Harley had decided to follow and was flipping her way up towards him. Climbing fast, Red X got to the top and steeled himself ready to strike. As soon as he heard her laughter come up and above in a flip, Red X landed a nasty kick to the side of her face sending her close to the edge of the roof. Red X scowled. He had been aiming for the open air.

Harley caught herself and as Red X ran off, he heard her yell, "Alright, no more misses nice Harley!"

Catching up to him quickly, Harley threw another punch his way, but Red X dodged it easily. He attempted to elbow her in the gut, but found that she used his own momentum to trip him. Toppling to the ground, Red X spun around to fight her off when he saw that she had pulled out a gun and was aiming it at his head. He growled low as she laughed.

"You wanna play rough, kid?" She asked, "This is the Joker's neighborhood, doll face, so if you wanna play rough, you gotta be able to accept the consequences."

Red X eyed Harley from beneath the mask. He wanted to just hit his belt's button to go invisible, but unfortunately, even when he was cloaked, it didn't mean that he was bullet proof. He began to slowly bring his hands up when he heard the crack of a whip and Harley yelling out in pain. Turning his head to the right, Red X saw another figure slink her way into the light.

"Back off, Harley," She barked.

Harley dropped her gun and was holding her hand underneath her arm, biting her lip, "Geez, why I oughta..."

"Oh shut it," The woman said, "Red X, right?"

Red X nodded once and stood up, brushing off the dirt from his cape. As he watched the two females, he slowly started to recognize the second. She had a tight black suit on and cat-like ears on her head. A whip was held loosely in her right hand and she had a scowl on her face.

"Catwoman, I presume?" Red X asked.

She chuckled, "Who else?"

"Catwoman, you're so dead when Joker..." Harley started.

"You tell the Joker to back off of my territory, Harley," Catwoman said, "The East End's mine."

"To plunder or protect, kitty?" Harley remarked.

"How about to hang you by the throat and make you a cat toy?" Catwoman said, marching up to her and kicking the gun off to the side.

Harley glared at Catwoman before muttering, "Fine, fine. Not like my puddin's thinks I'm worth telling anything to these days anyway."

Catwoman turned back to her, "What?"

Harley raised a brow, "Oh, you know how men are. Sometimes after they dump you, you just want to kill all the rest of them."

"Actually, I don't," Catwoman said, "I never get dumped. I dump them. But the Joker dumped you?"

"Well, not really dumped me, but he barely said anything when he was last outside of that dreadful Arkham Asylum," Harley said.

"Joker's acting up, too?" Red X asked and Catwoman looked at Red X.

"Something like that... why?" Harley started, "And why would you think I'd tell you?"

Red X snorted, "Do I look like a good guy?"

"Well, the Batman doesn't," Harley stated.

"Honey, I stole this suit right out from the Teen Titans' nose," Red X said, "I'm no hero."

Harley's lip quivered up as though trying to act barely impressed, "Fine kid. I get it."

"What's Joker been doing, Harley?" Catwoman asked, redirecting the conversation again.

Harley finally brought her hand out again and started massaging it. "Well, if you must know, I think puddin's been stressed. Or maybe actually working. That's how he gets when he's on a job. And he keeps mentioning some 'guy' or something. Pretty vague, but that's puddin' for ya."

Catwoman narrowed her eyes at Harley and then at X before issuing her last word to the clown, "I don't care what Joker's intentions are, just as long as he stays off of my end of the streets, you got that?"

Harley sneered, but answered, "Fine, kitty cat."

Harley flipped over towards the edge of the roof and then down below, leaving the two other costumed characters to themselves. Catwoman finally decided to acknowledge Red X a little bit as she looked over at him.

"You'll get yourself killed by doing something stupid like that," She told him.

Red X looked at her, annoyed, "Look, I can handle myself, lady."

"What are you doing here, anyway?" She continued, ignoring the last comment, "Don't you normally live in Jump City?"

Red X raised a brow, impressed that she knew who he was, "Generally, I suppose. Not that safe there for me anymore. Got on someone's bad side."

"So that's a habit of yours?" Catwoman smirked.

"Bad side, good side, as long as no one's trying to kill me, I'm good," Red X stated.

"Your philosophy contradicts itself," Catwoman said.

Red X smiled, "Not if you're me."

Catwoman walked over to the side where the street lights illuminated her face, "So why Gotham?"

"Hm?" Red X asked.

"Why Gotham?"

"Oh," Red X said, "Well, for a while I was taking refuge with the Titans. They owed me one and to make a long story short, I'm living here doing almost a freelance sort of job for their leader, Robin."

Normally, he didn't think he'd tell anyone that. He did have some methods of keeping himself alive. However, he had a feeling that telling her wasn't something he really needed to worry about. After all, if the Joker and her weren't very good friends, she couldn't be that bad. Catwoman pulled the end of her whip up to her gloved fingers and started playing with the ends, keeping her attention away from him.

"Robin? Really?" She asked, "Well, as much as I hate to say it, I can't say that I'm surprised."

"About what?" Red X said, not sure if he had just been insulted.

"About Robin... and his rising vigilante career," Catwoman clarified, "What did he have you doing, anyway?"

Red X shrugged, "Just keeping an ear out really. He's been working on those fire murders and asked me to report in if I heard anything. In exchange, I get breakfast, lunch, dinner and a roof over my head for the night... not that he's been coming through lately, though."

Catwoman rolled her eyes, "Not surprising. When they get on a case, you can't find them for weeks. And I haven't seen tall, dark and handsome in at least a month."

"Who?" Red X asked, unsure as to who she was talking about.

Catwoman glared at him, "The Batman."

"Oh, Batman's not part of this," Red X told her.

"He's not?" She questioned, surprised.

"Not that I know," Red X said.

"And you said that you haven't heard from Robin in a while?" Catwoman said and Red X nodded.

"It's actually kinda annoying, considering that I've got information for him," Red X said.

"Weird..." Catwoman muttered.

"Weird what?" Red X asked.

Catwoman walked over to a smoke stack and leaned against it, bringing a fist to her chin in thought, "With all that's going on..."

"What are you getting at?" Red X said, putting a foot against the edge of the roof.

The Princess of Plunder rubbed her chin as she answered, "I just wonder if there's something bigger than what we're all seeing... The idea that the Joker was working for someone..."

She shook her head trying to make it out, "This would be so much easier if Batman would just make an appearance or something..."

Red X raised a brow and then walked towards her, "Well, maybe this will help. You know Ravager?"

Catwoman's face suddenly darkened in a unnatural manner, "The one guilty of Bruce Wayne's murder?"

Red X stepped back, a bit shocked by her tone, "Uh, yeah, I found him a while back."

"You what...?" Selina felt her throat constrict.

"Yep, and get this, he was working for somebody. Even he was hired out for the job," Red X said.

"So somebody's hiring out a bunch of criminals?" Catwoman finished the thought, "But who..."

"You got me on this one, babe," Red X said, "But I'd bet anything that they're bigger than Gotham, considering I think that's a hunch of Robin's and you know, they're usually right about this sort of thing."

Catwoman's eyes narrowed. She didn't like this and what was worse, this kid was taking it so lightly. Just what she needed, another brat to watch out for.

"Well, look, I'd love to stick around and chat, but I'm starving," Red X said, going back to the roof's edge, "Thanks for the save."

"You don't take much seriously, do you?" Catwoman asked him, not very impressed.

"Hey, why should I?" Red X argued back, "If it doesn't involve me, then it's not my problem."

Catwoman squinted as Red X jumped off the roof and out of sight. She sighed, aggravated. She really didn't have much patience for kids, teenagers, any of them, really. Oh, and stupid men. Yeah, those were pretty high on her list, too. Selina had to admit though, she was starting to be able to stand Robin a bit more. At least he was maturing... somewhat. She rolled her eyes and looked north at uptown. The city's lights clamored at the night's sky. However, it didn't quell the feeling of anger that was starting to burn in her chest.

Ravager had been working for someone. Someone had deliberately killed him... Bruce... Selina brought her hand up to her mask and pulled it up and off, wiping away the hints of tears threatening to break away. She wanted to scratch out their eyes, whoever they were. She'd kept an eye out for Ravager, but now, to know that he was just a pawn... she wanted to find the king. Her eyes passed over the bottom shops and a piece of jewelery caught Catwoman's eyes. Pretty. On any other night, she might have been tempted, but not tonight.

Not tonight...

Suddenly, Selina felt the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. Turning swiftly, Catwoman looked into the shadows of the smoke stacks and the many rooftops of the East End. She repressed the urge to gulp and instead brought her mask back down, walking forward. She squinted up her eyes to get a better look. She could have sworn... She began running into the night. If someone was up there, she'd find them.

After two minutes of searching, Catwoman slowed her sprint to a jog and then stopped. Nothing. Weird. It was all weird. She knew someone else was up here and she intended to find out who. They had killed Bruce. They'd pay. She wanted her shot at them. But it didn't look like she was getting one tonight. Maybe, maybe not... Catwoman turned around quickly. No one. She was getting paranoid. With everything going on, that's what it had to be, her own paranoia... No. Something was off. She knew it. She couldn't ignore it.

She wouldn't ignore it.


Slade opened the door to the hallway and walked towards the steps. He stretched his back as he had been sitting at the computer for the last five hours. Before heading downstairs, he peeked into Dick's room. Just as he'd thought, Dick was sound asleep in bed. The boy shivered as the cold air seeped into the room. Slade smiled and shut the door, continuing his path downstairs.

Dick hadn't been taking his nightly ventures for the past two weeks or so. Maybe more, and Slade couldn't be more pleased. The only thing that tended to bother him was the fact that the boy was so quiet when he was home. He was getting better, but still, it was like he had to force anything out of the teen. He walked into the kitchen and began making breakfast. At least the kid was eating more, too, considering that every day, Dick was at least coming back sweaty and thoroughly flushed in the face.

Most of the time, their days were uncommonly routine. Normally Slade would get up, make breakfast, Dick would come down, he would 'fake' work, Dick would go play baseball, he'd actually get a work out in, Dick would come home, they'd have dinner, Dick would go to bed, and then he'd actually work. It was a cycle, but it wasn't one that he really cared to complain about. Actually, any break from the norm set him on high alert.

When 'Mr. Kent' had come over, Slade couldn't admit that he had been very happy about it, but he wasn't too worried. He'd covered his tracks well enough so that even if that pansy tried to do research on his background, he'd only come up with a respectable profile. Almost on cue, as he finished breakfast, Dick came down, bleary-eyed, and yawning. The kid slumped over to the island as Slade put a dish of eggs and sausage in front of him. Dick took a moment before getting up and grabbing the carton of orange juice from the fridge.

"Sleep well?" Slade asked.

Dick shrugged as he poured himself a glass and sat down. The rest of breakfast was spent in silence, which irked Slade. The kid really wasn't very sociable, was he? Dick got up once he was finished and placed his dishes in the dishwasher before muttering a 'thanks' and heading back upstairs. Slade's eyes narrowed and suddenly, his fake one irritated him. Sighing, he rubbed it gently, careful to keep it in place. He glanced over at a mirror to check his reflection. He had to admit, he was surprised at what a fake eye and a little make up could do. Couple that with covering it a bit with bangs all worked to keep Dick in the dark.

Marching up to the top of the steps, Dick went back to his room and got ready for the day. Today they were playing Brian and Jacob's team for the tickets to the Gotham Goliaths. Not that he hadn't seen the Goliaths before, but it would be so much cooler to be hanging out with people his age and not in a tux. He winced. He shouldn't be thinking badly of Bruce. It wasn't his fault that they had been dragged so often to fundraisers.

He hadn't told the team about Bruce. He figured that they didn't need to know. And today, he wanted to have fun. He dressed for the game, despite the fact that it wasn't going to be till three thirty. Glancing outside, he saw that it was overcast and the sky was threatening. He walked over to his laptop and quickly checked the weather report. Seventy percent chance of rain with a high of 38 degrees. No kidding. He threw on a T-shirt and jeans, grabbing long socks to keep him warm during the beginning of the game. He grabbed a cap that Omar had given him and went for his laptop.

He pulled up a file or two, searching through some of the criminal files and clues that he had kept in a list. By scanning it, he hoped that with a fresh look, he might notice something. But with no luck, he closed the files and carried the laptop downstairs, where he set himself up on the couch. Wilson was cleaning up and eventually went upstairs to work or do whatever, Dick didn't really care. He opened his laptop again and proceeded to play video games. He remained that way till about eleven, when he decided to read some news, which lasted maybe half and hour. Maybe.

Getting bored in this house was a rather easy thing for Dick to do. There was never anything on TV mid-day, considering that everyone was supposed to be at school or at work. Right now, he thought that the only reason that he hadn't been enrolled in the local High School was because of his records being held up because of the many transfers they had had to go through previously. Either way, he was technically a high school graduate and had been taking online college courses every once in a while when he had been out at Titans Tower. The classes had been nothing formal and Dick had often taken them to be a means of stimulating his brain rather than a legit course of study that would effect his overall record.

Not that it helped him now. Dick turned off the TV and laid back on the couch, aggravated and jittery. Noticing that it was near lunch anyway, he got up to eat, which took him about another half hour. This was becoming painful. If he was really timing everything... Dick shook his head. He went up to his room and looked around, seeing if there was anything to clean up. He picked up some papers and some clothes, at the same time, tossing his shoes in the closet. He mentally scowled at his organizational habits.

Dick went back downstairs to the lounge, deciding that the best thing to do would be to read a book. He went to a shelf and grabbed a rather large volume on the history of the world's cities. It was surprisingly interesting and kept his attention for a while until he started seeing double after reading for so long. Standing up, Dick looked outside the window to see that the overcast day hadn't receded. He sighed, stretching. He was impatient and wanted to get out, but he didn't feel like freezing in the cold for an hour or more before the game actually started.

Putting the book down, Dick decided to at least get his blood pumping. He walked into the front dining area, a place that on most occasions, he'd rather skip being in. But the emptiness of it was good enough for now. He could stand it. Dick glanced outside again, but seeing nothing new, he turned in the other direction, towards the library. He hadn't really been in here very often. It was in it's own corner of the house, draped in shadows. And the walls held a very old fashioned sort of appeal to them.

There was a lot to look at, though. The first time he had been here, he had mostly only gotten to scan over it. But now, now he could see what was in here. Like he had remembered, Wilson had collected items from all over the world. Every continent was represented and each one had something different to identify themselves with. Dolls, instruments, flags, tapestries, toys, historical texts, paintings... He brushed past many of the items, with some interest, but not very much.

He came to a picture of a person's hands near their chest with only a the edges of their jaw and ear visible on the wall, or rather, it was a painting and below that were a few pieces of jewelry that were featured in it. The paint was dark, dirty, but retained time's appeal. But the jewelry was what continued to hold his eyes. They were gold pieces with carvings and were elegantly made, though one could tell that they had to have been forged out of a few different pieces of gold. It wasn't anything special, just a necklace and two bracelets.

They still held some gleam to them though, despite the wear that had plagued them. He could tell that someone had worn them before, probably often. Dick moved a bit closer to examine the designs. They were so familiar. They looked slightly European - he could see traces of the Mediterranean Sea's culture in it too. But there wasn't a country that can to mind... He felt that he should know this. Dick reached out to touch one.

"They're fragile," Dick jumped and turned to see Wilson to his side.

How he had not noticed him come in was beyond Dick, "No kidding. They look familiar, where'd you get them?"

Wilson sighed and answered, "They were a gift. They're from the Romani culture."

"Romani? The Roma?" Dick asked, curious, "I'm half Roma."

Wilson looked at him, tilting his head to the side to look at him from another angle, "Who's side?"

"My Dad's..." Dick said, trailing off and turning back to the jewelry, "No wonder they caught my eye."

"No wonder indeed," Wilson said, somewhat interested in where the conversation would lead, "You know, the person who gave them to me told me an interesting story about them."

Dick didn't make a comment, but listened, "She said that they were only meant for the Roma to wear, that they wouldn't fit anyone else."

The teen paused for a moment, remembering his family's native stories, "Doesn't sound too unlikely, the story, that is. Not sure how logical it would be, though."

He leaned back, but kept his eyes on the jewelry and the painting. Slade watched as the boy continued to stare at it, as though entranced by it like a dog would a toy bone. He repressed a smile, glad that he had picked up the piece at the antique store. Dick continued to study them and after a minute or two, he leaned back and sighed.

"Cool," He said, casually.

Wilson nodded, "I thought so... Do you have anything like it, Dick?"

"Huh?" Dick said, looking over at him.

"Do you have anything like it?" Wilson repeated the question.

"Oh, no," Dick said, "I only got to see my Dad's family a few times in my life, since we all traveled."

"That's a shame," Wilson stated.

"Not really, I mean, I don't regret it," Dick said, "We, uh, we worked as trapeze artists. It was a lot of fun."

Wilson raised a brow, pretending to be surprised, "Really? That's unique."

Dick looked at Wilson at the term 'unique', "What?"

"It's just different, that's all," Wilson stated, "It's not every day you meet a trapeze artist."

"Oh," Dick said, sort of taken of guard.

Slade could see that it hadn't been the best thing to say and attempted to redirect the conversation, "So how did you end up in Wayne's care?"

Dick shot a glance at Wilson and answered, "There was an accident and my parents died. He took me in, that's all."

"Seems a bit random," Slade commented, any degrading thing he could say about Wayne was worth every penny.

"Not really," Dick stated, turning to face him, "Bruce lost his parents around the same age as I did."

Slade nodded, but didn't look impressed, so Dick continued, "I wasn't some charity case, if that's what you're thinking."

Slade looked offended, though in reality, he wasn't, "I didn't say that, Dick."

"But you're thinking it," Dick warned, "Look, I was kept out of the papers. I was taught privately at home until middle school. I only went out to public functions later on. He wasn't trying to make a big deal out of anything."

"Dick, calm down," Slade said, "I'm not accusing Wayne of anything."

Dick glared at him, not sure if he really believed him. Above, he could hear the rain starting to pound on the rooftop. The room was tense for both of them. Slade wasn't sure where the conversation was leading to, but Dick had a strong feeling that he didn't want to keep it going.

Dick turned to the side answering, "Yeah, sure."


"Look, it's the same everywhere. Only a few people ever believe me when I say Wayne's not, he wasn't a bad guy," Dick stated, "And trust me, I know when I'm a charity case."

Moving past Slade, Dick left the library to go to the front room, the words that Bruce had told him seconds before his death, ringing in his ears. It took a second for Slade to realize he'd just been snubbed and while there was a part of him that was slightly impressed, he realized immediately that this view needed to be corrected.

"Dick, wait," He said, going to the front room.

He found Dick sitting on the couch, looking outside, where the rain had started falling in a casual semi-bleak manner. Dick didn't look at him, ignoring Slade's presence. Slade sighed and walked up to the couch.

"Why would you think that you're a charity case here?" Slade asked.

It took a moment, before Dick responded sarcastically, "There's the classic characteristics."

"What are you talking about?" Slade asked, incredulously.

That's when Dick finally turned to look at him, "Why do you even pretend to care?"

Slade repressed the urge to be sarcastic in return, "I don't pretend, Dick."

"Sure," Dick stated, "I believe you. I'm just some random kid that got dropped into your life that you didn't even know about until a couple of weeks ago. Of course you care."

"Dick, you're not making any sense," Slade argued.

"Oh yeah, I'm not making any sense. When all you do all day is check in on me like I'm going to break something in your house. It's not like you even want me in the house half the time. You never ask about the games I play," Dick said, pausing for a moment, "And you know, if you did care, I mean genuinely cared, you'd be dead. Because everyone who's ever really cared about me is dead!"

Slade kept quiet, looking at Dick. The boy was so angry. So bitterly angry. And hurt. By everything. By circumstance, by the enormous amount of pressure put upon him by everyone around him. By being thrown around from one place to another. Slade hated to admit that he was partially responsible for that, but that had been for the best. Still, now Dick felt like he was just a nobody. The clock in the room chimed and they both turned to look at it. It was three.

Dick looked back at Slade, "I've got to go."

He moved past Slade and slipped on his shoes that were by the door. Throwing on his coat and grabbing the glove the guys had lent him, Dick went outside into the rain. The door slammed shut and Slade was left alone. He didn't care, huh? Slade looked out the corner of his eye out the window as Dick walked down the sidewalk. The boy was depressed, that was for sure. But perhaps this hadn't been a total loss of a conversation.

Slade smiled. If there was one thing he knew how to do well, it was correct problems. He went to get his coat and wallet. Going out to the car, Slade shifted into reverse and backed into the street, heading for downtown Gotham. In the opposite direction, Dick ran towards the field, the rain starting to feel cold. He kept his hood on and one hand in his jacket, the other holding the glove. It took him about three minutes or so to reach the field, where he saw Omar and Ellie waiting along with the rest of the team.

He ran across the street and onto the field. Glancing over, he saw the other team huddling while a few parents stood in the rain with umbrellas to watch them. Omar called him over and he and Rain started to explain their strategy. Once done, Omar finished the pep talk.

"I know we can do this, guys," Omar called out, "We're going to see the Gotham Goliath's off season game! We've got the best players, the best strategies..."

"The best captains!" Kevin added.

Omar nodded, "We've got this! Now who's with me?!"

They called a team cheer, yelling that they were and got ready for the first inning. The game started out clean enough, until their shoes got drenched with water and their clothes began to get muddy. The rain started to pour down harder now, pounding on their backs and necks as though dooming them to lose. There were several players that slipped and slid past bases, but somehow managed.

By the end of the fifth inning, they were all soaked to the skin, coated in mud, and could barely see out into the street much less where the ball was coming from. Dick and Sean sat down, both tired and out of breath having both finished two runs. Most of the team was exhausted or panting hard. And despite all of this, despite the heat that they were generating from the adrenaline rushes, they were still freezing cold. Ellie walked over sat down next to Dick, rubbing her hands together, hoping that somehow that would help. Then she sat up, as though surprised at something.

"Hey, Dick?" She asked.

"Huh?" He asked back.

"Isn't that your guardian?" Ellie asked him.

Dick immediately sat up and looked over at the spectators. Sure enough, there was Wilson, watching the game. He didn't know exactly what to do at that. He was surprised, yeah, but...Wilson was here?

"I'll be right back," Dick told Ellie.

Running over, Dick went over to Slade, who looked at him from underneath an umbrella. Slade smiled.

"You play well," He said.

Dick was still in a lot of shock, but somehow managed to nod, "Thanks... What are you doing here?"

"Watching the game, Dick," Slade told him, "And, you ran out of the house so quickly... I didn't get a chance to give you this."

Slade took something out from behind his back and presented a brand new wooden baseball bat. Sleek, smooth, perfect weight. Dick gaped at it and slowly took the bat, marveling at it. He looked up at Slade, not sure at what to say. He looked down at the bat again and suddenly his gut dropped. Oh, he'd been such a jerk...

"I think your team's about to play again," Slade said, "Go get 'em."

Dick looked back up at him and nodded, "Th.. Thanks."

Slade smiled. Dick smiled back and slowly went back to his team. They were out in the field now. Dick remained in the outfield most of the time and with his catches and Sean's first basemen skills, they quickly got the other team out within a few pitches. The rain continued to pour until there wasn't an inch of them that wasn't soaked. They couldn't even be sweaty. It wasn't possible.

Dick and Sean got in several good plays. Dick used the new bat, finding it to have amazing grip. He felt guilty having to throw it to the ground after a hit. That's the way the game went, he knew and he was pretty sure that Wilson knew, but still...

Soon enough, the score boards got filled up and they got to the top of the ninth. They were ahead, but the bases were loaded and if Brian and Jacob's team scored, they'd have to go into the bottom of the ninth and there wasn't one of them that thought that they could score. Well, Sean thought he could, but he was at the end of the lineup.

Dick breathed deeply, taking in all that he could. Rain drops dripped past his eyelashes and ran down his face. He swallowed hard as he saw the next batter come up. He could recognize that it was the captain, Jacob. He couldn't make out much else, the rain was so intense. He watched Omar pitch. Strike. Rain threw it back to Omar, nodding at him. Omar gulped and swung. Strike Two. Rain threw it back again. Everyone tensed. One more out and they'd win...

The ball flew through out of Omar's hands at Jacob. Then, the unmistakable crack of the ball against wood. He heard the gasp. He watched as the ball flew through the air and towards... Dick's eyes dilated. Right between center and third base. No one was there. Dick ran. The rain made the rest of it a blur. He remembered running and then, watching as the ball started heading for the ground, leaped down and slid hard. Upon landing, it was the wetness that brought him back into the game. He saw everyone's eyes on him and, more specifically, his glove. He looked over and saw the ball in his hands. Third out. Third out!

"I've got it!" He yelled getting up, "Third out!"

Immediately there was an eruption of yells and screams. His teammates abandoned their posts and ran over to him and suddenly he found himself inside a crowded group that was yelling and screaming their heads off. Rain and Omar were jumping up and down like maniacs while Kevin and Sean came up and patted Dick on the back. Ellie was about to have a heart attack and was nearly floating, she was jumping so much. They all were hugging each other and jumping up and down like they had won the world series. It was quite like being at a dance when everyone gets in a big group just to jump up and down and step on one another's feet.

Dick smiled as he felt everyone yelling congrats at him and talking about how they won. He heard Mina and Nomin yelling about the Gotham Goliaths and somehow, Ellie found him and began choking the air out of him in a hug, she was so happy. Spencer and Daniel came over and lifted Dick up onto their shoulders as cheers erupted.

"Gotham Goliaths! Gotham Goliaths! Gotham Goliaths!"

After what felt like a good ten minutes of cheering and screaming, Rain and Patrick went over to collect the cash for the tickets and told everyone to call them for their tickets. The team dispersed pretty quickly, most being called in by their parents thinking that they'd get hypothermia.

"YOU AMAZING CHILD!" Ellie yelled, once again holding Dick around the neck and keeping air from reaching his lungs, "You keep that glove and the ball and everything you got!"

Dick smiled, "Thanks Ellie! Really!"

Ellie kissed him on the cheek excitedly and then ran off to where her parents were calling for her, "Bye!"

"Bye Ellie!" Dick called.

He went over to collect the new bat and then turned to see Slade across the field. He walked over and offered a small smile. Slade offered one in return.

"Congratulations," He said.

"Thanks," Dick said.

"Good job," Slade told him.

Dick nodded as Slade continued, "Ready to go? I've got a towel or two in the car."

Dick nodded again and followed him to the car, where they got in and drove back to the townhouse. Upon arriving, they went in the side door near the kitchen and Dick kicked off his shoes. The warm air hit him immediately and he breathed a sigh of relief. Slade placed the keys on the table and took off his wet trench coat.

"Why don't you go take a shower?" Slade suggested, noting the mud all over Dick's face and clothes.

Come to think of it, he'd probably never be able to wear these clothes again with these stains, "Alright."

Dick walked towards the staircase and up towards the bathroom. Soon, the hot water was running and the drain started dealing with all of that mud. Dick washed up and felt the refreshing nature of a shower kick in. He got out after about ten minutes and went to his room. Outside, he saw that the rain had almost stopped and was just pitter-pattering. He pulled out some casual clothes, noting that it was still only about 8:30 and he'd probably be up for the next three hours anyway.

He looked over at his closet. Dick sighed. He went in and pulled out the belt and mask to put on his bedside table by the door. Though he had made a promise to himself, that had been really, REALLY, fun. But he knew that he had to go back to work. He saw how bad things were starting to get, even in his short leave of absence. But still, that had been so much fun. The whole gang was fun. It was just being with them. Even if they had lost, it would have been great. Well, alright, so winning did have that appeal, but still, it would have been fun enough. He thought back to the Titans. That's what they had been like. And he'd always ignored them. He'd have to give them a call tonight. Apologize...

Apologize. Dick heard the water running and realized that he had another person to apologize to to. Wilson. Wow, he'd been a jerk, hadn't he? And the guy had gotten him that bat and had come to the game and everything. And all he had done was be a rude little smart mouth. Dick felt an immense amount of guilt and... gratitude. Dick sighed. He finished getting dressed and spiked his hair a little bit. Not much, but enough so that he didn't feel like water was still pouring over his head.

Dick opened the door to his room and heard the water stop. It had come from down the hall and Dick realized that Wilson had probably showered too. Closing the door most of the way, Dick walked down to Wilson's room and knocked softly.

"Wilson?" He asked.

No answer. He knocked again and called, "Wilson?"

He knocked a third time, when the door opened. Dick stepped back, surprised, but he quickly got over that. Swallowing, Dick stepped into the room and looked around. It looked normal enough. And then he saw the light streaming from the right side of the room, coming from the door. Dick smiled slightly and went to look over.

"Wil... son?" Dick paused, frozen in place, his smile now gone.

Through the small crack in the door, Dick saw Wilson at the counter of his bathroom. But on the counter. On the counter... rolled a small glass ball. An eye. Dick looked up at Wilson's reflection in the mirror in front of him. Sure enough, Dick could see the empty eye socket on the right side of Wilson's face. Dick couldn't move and suddenly he started to have trouble breathing.


Slade looked up at him through the mirror and slowly, but ever so surely, came a small smile of satisfaction, his eye never leaving Dick's face. But Dick's could. Within seconds, Dick felt himself impulsively move, leave, get away. Slade looked down at the eye for a moment, not too alarmed, and chuckled softly. Well, it was about time. He laughed louder as Dick ran down the hall, grabbing his belt and mask from his room, and ran down the steps.

'Let the chase begin!'

End Of Part Four

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Chapter Twenty-Five: National Past Time

Chapter Twenty Five: National Past Time

As December pushed its way into Gotham's city limits, the air grew colder, thinner, and above all, more desolate. The wind whistled, brushed over the rooftops and begged people to bring their pets inside at night. That's why the streets were empty in the suburbs. In the rows of houses, windows glowed as families ate dinner or decorated for the holidays. It was hard to image that only a week or so ago, the same street had been filled with cops lined up, their lights blaring into their homes. One house, the dark one tonight, was their focus.

The house had been taped off. It made him feel slightly uncomfortable. Picking the back door's lock, he went inside. Already it was getting dusty. He went into the living area. Nothing seemed out of place, so he went to the rooms above. He opened the first bedroom, where one bed was unused and the other was still messy. He passed it without much interest, but he could swear that something smelled... odd. He's come back. He walked down to the master bedroom, where the scene was taped off. He slid under and looked around, again, nothing out of the ordinary.

He walked downstairs, towards the kitchen, which seemed ordinary enough. It was beginning to bother him. The last place, her office. He went inside and looked around. It was untouched so far. Maybe that's why seeing two bullets on the desk bothered him. He turned to go, when he saw a picture of a family. A torn corner stood where a husband should have. His face became stern.

He left the room and worked for about half an hour before leaving the way he came. He looked back once, the house still cold and void of life. The wind rustled and he spun his head around towards the back woods. He eyed the area carefully. It put him on edge, but he looked back at the house despite it. Whatever was going on here, he didn't like it. And he would get to the bottom of it no matter what.


"Got fresh water!" Ryan called.

In an instant, the entire baseball team had dropped what they were doing and ran over to the sidelines to grab a drink. Dick was tempted to just throw it on himself, but he knew that he'd be freezing cold afterwards if he did that. Omar and Rain impatiently waited while the others finished.

"Guys, come on, we've only got a few hours of sunlight left!" Rain said, tapping her foot.

Sean spun around and answered, "We've been playing for two hours straight! Give us a break!"

Rain rolled her eyes, while Omar announced, "Fine, twenty minutes."

Sean smiled smugly and took a long gulp of water. Dick let himself catch his breath. For the past week or so, every day around three, he had left the house to meet up with the others. It was a nice escape from the awkward situation that Wilson provided. He was so quiet that when he said anything, it made him jump. And he always said something when Dick didn't even realize he was in the room.

Oddly enough, baseball was fun. He worked up a sweat, and the guys were great. Daniel had been helping him learn some techniques for where to aim the ball while Sean had decided to make Dick his new opponent. They were hardly ever on the same team, but after the first few days, Sean had actually grown to respect him a little more than he did others.

He saw Kevin follow Ellie over to the bench, where she pulled out her over-stuffed bag. Deciding that Nomin and Mina's conversation about how to keep their nails clean didn't really interest him, he walked over to join Ellie and Kevin's conversation.

"Hey guys!" He said, as they had been playing on opposite teams today.

"Hey Dick, man, you're killing us out there," Kevin said.

"Tell Sean that. He'd never agree with that," Dick said, laughing, "So what're you talking about?"

"She's trying to convince me that being invisible is better than being able to fly," Kevin told him.

"Well, it is! If you're invisible, you're like, able to be the greatest stalker in the world!" Ellie exclaimed.

Dick might have been worried the first day he met Ellie, but after this week, he had slowly started realizing that none of these guys were all that sane, anyway. Ellie started pulling out all of her stuff from her bag. A beat up notebook, an MP3 player, a deck box, a bent picture of a rainbow and a unicorn, a Gameboy, a Japanese comic, and lastly, her baseball mitt.

"What all do you keep in there, anyway?" Dick asked her.

"Oh, you know, sharp things to stab people with," Ellie related to him happily.

Kevin picked up the deck box and asked sarcastically, "So then, Ellie, since you enjoy killing people so much, who's the best super villain out there?"

"Well, that depends, when you say 'best', do you mean that they're the best because no one has to worry about them or that they're the best because they do their job well?" Ellie asked back.

"They're good at their job," Kevin clarified, tossing the deck box back to her.

In an instant, Ellie answered, "The Joker. He uses knifes. And he's insane. And he's a maniac."

Omar came over and joined the conversation, "Ellie, Ellie, Ellie, Two Face is the way to go. That guy's a freak with that coin of his."

"Yeah, but with him there's a fifty fifty chance that he'll let you live," Ellie explained, "With the Joker you're just about dead ninety nine percent of the time."

Kevin pulled his backpack over to the side and began rummaging around through it as well, "Please tell me you're not planning on becoming the next Harley Quinn, Ellie."

Ellie shook her head very quickly, "Oh, no way, I wouldn't want to be anywhere near that freak! Well, I'd like to take a picture, but then I think I'd start running for my life. What about you, Dick? What's the worst Super villain in your book?"

That was easy, "Slade."

They looked at him oddly and Omar said what they were all thinking, "Who?"

Dick then realized the issue, "Oh, he's on the west coast. Back in California he'd wreak havoc."

"Oh, what was his gimmick?" Kevin asked, as he found his own deck box in his much less stuffed bag.

"He didn't have one, come to think of it," Dick answered slowly, "He has only one eye, though."

"How lame," Ellie asked, "Then again, most villains have pretty lame get ups."

Kevin nodded and continued the conversation, "Well then, who do you think is the greatest superhero of all time?"

"Oh, probably Batman, I mean, who doesn't love Batman?" Ellie answered.

"Really, not Superman?" Kevin asked, as he and Ellie started up their card game.

Omar answered for her, "Well, why not Batman? He's from our hometown."

"See!" Ellie said, but then after a moment, added with a dreamy tone, "Well, actually, I really like Robin, too. I'd just love to see his eyes."

Dick felt himself blush and look away. So that's what girls wondered...

"I bet they're green," Ellie said, "That or brown."

Nomin came into the conversation now, "Oh Robin? You know, I heard he's dating Starfire."

Mina followed her friend in, "Of course he isn't! He's dating BumbleBee."

"Where did you hear that?" Kevin asked.

"Well, duh, from Teen Scene Magazine," Mina answered.

Dick resisted the urge to start laughing as Sean followed the girls in as well, "Robin's not that great. Now the Flash, that's a cool superhero."

"All he does is run really fast," Omar said.

"Well, what do you want him to do?" Sean asked, "Shoot webs from his hands and swing around Keystone or Central City?"

"No, but I bet Superman could beat him in a race," Daniel smirked.

Dick watched as at least half the team seemed to flood over to them as Kevin continued, "I'd have to agree, don't you Spence?"

"Actually, I don't, but Superman can shoot lasers from his eyes, meaning he could knock the Flash out before he got to the end of the race," Spencer said.

"Yeah, unless Superman's somehow super-stopped by some stupid glowing green rock," Omar remarked.

"Exactly," Sean said, "Gosh, the guy's so perfect. Some time's I wish he'd just go out and die."

Dick looked over in horror as Kevin argued, "You're almost as violent as Ellie!"

"Well, I'm being honest!" Sean said back, "I bet Batman could take Superman out in a second's notice."

"Sure he could," Kevin remarked sarcastically.

"Look, if we're talking about how capable Batman is, I think you're strongly overdoing it, Sean," said Rain.

"Why?" Ellie asked, playing another card.

"Well, obviously, because the guy's human, right?" Sean said.

"Are you sure about that?" Nomin asked.

"Positive," Rain answered.

"Yeah, the guy's not that great," Sean remarked.

"Oh yeah, sure. I bet you could just shoot him a couple times and then burn him while you're at it and then he'd be out for good," Omar said sarcastically almost laughing at the idea, making Dick feel like he was going to lose the contents of his stomach.

"Well, where was he when Bruce Wayne needed his help?" Rain argued, "Huh? No where. Superman came and bailed them out."

Dick felt sick as he said it, "Maybe, maybe he was preoccupied."

Rain rolled her eyes, "More like he was out failing at life!"

Dick winced as Kevin replied back, "Oh lay off! That guy's saved our butts probably more times than we know. Remember the Holiday killer? Or when Joker tried to fill our air with his Joker gas? Or when Poison Ivy tried to turn Gotham into a literal greenhouse?"

"She would've failed anyway, we're too polluted to be saved from it," Sean muttered.

"I agree with Kevin," Megan said, "He saved my Mom from Two Face when she was at the office once! The guy's a hero no matter what you guys say."

"Thank you!" Kevin said, and then he looked at the card field, "Hey wait a minute, when did you get that second Dragon on the field?"

Ellie laughed maniacally as Omar continued, "Megan's right. Any superhero's got an A in my book... by the way, Dick, you need to start aiming away from the first baseman."

Dick gaped when Kevin continued, "Yeah, superheroes... they sure make the world a better place... but what if they didn't exist?

Carry looked at Kevin like he was crazy, "Like, what if there was a whole world without them?"

"Yeah, wouldn't that be weird?" Kevin said, "Who'd take down the bad guys?"

The team was quiet for a second before Patrick added in, "Well... there's always the police."

"Oh dude," Megan said, "We'd all be doomed to anarchy!"

Ellie added, "While that might be fun for the first day, I agree, the bad guys would never be captured and the world would fall apart!"

Dick smirked, "I couldn't agree with you more."

Ellie high fived Dick before telling Kevin, "You're dead."


Ellie flashed another card his way and Kevin went pale, "Oh come on!"

Ellie played the card and answered, "Well, if such a world were to ever exist, I suppose the logical thing to do is travel between dimensions ourselves and become superheroes for them!"

"Oh yeah?" Kevin asked, "And what would you call yourself Ellie?"

"Kaibagirl!" Ellie exclaimed, pulling out a polymerization card, to combine three of her cards.

"What?" Kevin said.

"I win!" Ellie yelled, enthusiastically, Dick being totally lost at this point.

Kevin wrinkled his nose as he groaned, "Oh man... Why did I ever give away that anti-fusion card..."

"Well good," Omar said, "Break's over."

Kevin and Ellie began to pick up their game and got to their places while Dick lined up behind Daniel to bat when Rain made a quick announcement.

"Hey guys! We're playing Brian and Jacob's team next week, and, since Jacob's a moron, he bet that if their team lost, they'd pay up for tickets to the Gotham Goliaths!" Rain yelled.

"Seriously?" Megan asked.

"Man, that rocks!" Daniel added.

"But..." Rain added, "Uh, if we loose, we gotta pay for them to go."

"What?" Omar answered, "And you agreed to this, Rain? You're the logical one here!"

"Well, we do have Sean and Dick on our team, we have a pretty good chance of winning," Rain told him.

"We're staying after another hour for the next week then," Omar said, almost in a growl.

The team groaned, but Rain interrupted, "Come on, guys, this is the Gotham Goliaths! They're facing the Metropolis Monarchs and it's going to be the game of the year! We've got to go! We can win!"

Sean rolled his eyes, "I suppose, I mean, it's not like I can possibly lose."

"Unless you're up against Dick," Spencer smirked.

"Shut it," Sean said.

The team kept playing, the idea of seeing Gotham's major league baseball team playing motivating them at times and at others, making them already feel broke. The game kept going, despite the cold. They were nearly the only ones outside. Everyone else was inside their warm homes and the streets were desolate. Well, except for one person.

Clark looked at the address on the sheet of paper. This was it. He was sure of it, at least, he hoped he was. Kent knocked again and inside, Slade turned to the door. He hoped it wasn't solicitors. Going to the window, he glanced outside to see a man with dark hair, slouching and adjusting his glasses. Slade narrowed his eyes and went to the door.

Opening the door, Slade asked, "Hello, can I help you?"

Clark looked at Slade in surprise. He was taller then him. Or at least, he appeared to be. If he wasn't slouching, they could be the same height. He adjusted his necktie and cleared his throat.

"Mr. Wilson, I presume?" Clark asked kindly, holding out a hand.

"Yes?" Slade asked, not about to return the gesture.

"I, my name is Clark Kent. I'm a reporter for the Daily Planet and I knew Wayne and his ward. Is Dick home?" Clark inquired.

Slade eyed Clark subtly and answered, "No, he's not. He's out."

"Oh," Clark said, "Well, is he going to be home anytime soon?"

Slade repressed a sigh of aggravation, "I wouldn't know, he's playing a baseball game with some of the neighborhood kids."

Clark nodded, "That, that's good, so, he's doing alright then?"

"I would say so," Slade said coolly.

"That's good. He's been taking a lot of hits lately, hasn't he?" Clark said, trying to make friendly conversation, but feeling like he was failing.

"If that's not obvious," Slade said.

"Uh, do you think I could wait for him here? I won't be a bother," Clark said.

"Do you really want to wait on the porch steps?" Slade asked, biting sarcasm in his tone, "I'm kidding of course, come on in."

Slade stood aside to let Clark in, "Feel free to hang up your coat."

Slade walked into the kitchen while Clark took off his jacket and looked around. It was a normal enough setting. Nothing out of the ordinary, really.

"Want something to drink, Mr. Kent?" Slade asked.

"I'm good, thank you," Clark answered.

"Suit yourself," Slade said.

He came back and gestured to the front room, where they both took a seat, "Now, what was it you said you did again, Mr. Kent?"

Clark clapped his hands together and answered truthfully, "I work at the Daily Planet as a reporter out in Metropolis."

"Metropolis?" Slade asked, "That's a ways away to come for a visit."

As Slade got up to get a book from one of the shelves, Clark replied, "Not really, it's a relatively short trip when you're used to it. And it's worth it to see how Dick's doing. He's like a nephew."

Nephew? Short trip? Metropolis? Slade glanced over at looked past the rims of Clark's glasses. Those eyes... they were a perfect crystal blue, like he had heard... Slade held his tongue for a moment as he glanced over towards the stairs. Great, just great. What luck... what...

"So, is Dick still rattled or anything? He's not too tired or anything?" Clark asked.

"Why would he be tired?" Wilson asked, sharply, catching Clark's attention.

"Uh, well, sometimes people can't sleep after traumatic events like that," Clark said, "And Dick hasn't always had the best luck when it comes to sleeping in the first place."

"Mr. Kent, how did you end up meeting Dick in the first place?" Slade asked quickly interrupting him.

"Huh?" Clark asked, caught off guard, "How did I meet him? I, I met him through Wayne."

"You and Wayne were good friends?" Slade asked.

"I'd say so," Clark said, now getting cold himself.

Slade turned back to Clark and eyed him, "You were at the funeral?"

"Yes," Clark said, defensively, but realizing he wasn't leaving a great impression on Wilson, "I helped Mr. Pennyworth organize it."

"Ah, yes, their butler. He seems like a decent man," Slade commented.

"He is," Clark firmly stated.

They eyed each other for a moment. Slade did not want the Man of Steel in his house. He didn't want him anywhere near Dick. It would just spell out trouble and he wasn't about to deal with that after all of this. Not when he was so close.

"I see," Slade said, "And you?"

Clark raised a brow, but answered cautiously, "I'd hope so."

He didn't know what kind of game Wilson was playing at, but he wasn't about to let his guard down. Meanwhile, a few blocks away, the baseball gang finished their game. Rain's team had won, but because it had taken so long, they had decided to skip going to a local shop (local being used extremely loosely there) and decided to head home instead. Dick gave a wave goodbye and started walking home, taking the glove he was borrowing from Ellie and putting on his jacket as he went.

Dick walked a block or so before he noticed the sound of footsteps behind him. As he stopped, Dick nearly fell over as he turned and saw Ellie glancing over his shoulder.

"Hi Dick!" She said, as Dick caught himself from falling over.

"Ellie? What are you doing here?" He asked, "Have you been following me this whole time?"

"Or have I?" Ellie asked.

"What?" Dick replied.

"In a world where The Lion King reigns supreme and the fate of humanity is decided by the outcome of a card game, maybe it is YOU who is following ME," Ellie said, smiling happily and forging ahead.

Dick stopped in his tracks as he watched her continue farther down the street, "... That doesn't make any kind of sense."

"I never make sense, Dick. But yes, I was following you. I need to know where you live, you see, I know where everyone on our team lives, so that I can stalk them when necessary," Ellie said.

"You're one weird kid, you know that?" Dick said.

"Oh, like anyone's normal," Ellie said, brushing it off, "So where do you live, anyways?"

"Uh," Dick contemplated for a moment as to whether or not he was comfortable with letting Ellie know where he lived, but then he realized that she'd find out no matter what he did, "It's just about a half mile walk."

"Oh, that's not that bad," Ellie said, swinging her backpack over her other shoulder, when she glanced down at his glove, "Say, do you need a bat?"

"A what?" Dick asked, immediately thinking of the annoying little pets up in the Batcave.

"A baseball bat, you silly," She said.

"Oh, well, no, I'm good using a team bat," Dick said, as he kept walking.

"Alright then," Ellie said, "So, you like living in Gotham?"

"Well, I guess so, I sort of miss my friends back in California, but I still call them so I'm pretty good," Dick said.

"You lived here before right?" She asked.

"On the outskirts I did," Dick said, "But I know the city well enough."

Ellie kicked a rock, "So why did you live out in California?"

"I went to a private school out there," Dick told her.

Ellie shivered, "Gah, I hate private schools. I had to go to private school for elementary and middle school. Mom gave up by high school, though, and thank goodness for that!"

"No kidding," Dick said, thinking back to when he actually did go to a private school back in middle school. It hadn't been fun at all, "But yeah, I got called back, so here I am.

"Well sweetness!" Ellie said, "I think we're all happy about that. You've really upped our team's spirits with that arm, you know that? It's like you're a good luck charm!"

Dick rolled his eyes. He didn't see how that was possible, but he let it pass. They walked around the corner and were within sight of the town house when "I'm Back" started to ring out from Ellie's back pocket. Picking up her phone, Ellie didn't get a chance to answer before she started getting yelled at over the phone.

"ELLIE! IF YOU STALKED THAT KID HOME I'M GONNA...!" Omar yelled over the line, Ellie keeping the phone at arm's length.

"Oh you silly person, you knew that I'd do this..." She began.

But only a couple houses away, the tension was mounting to a much greater level. Inside the townhouse, Clark held his breath for a moment, waiting for Wilson to continue.

Slade nodded, "Listen, Mr. Kent..."

Clark stood up, acting on the instinct to stand up at his full height. They were now at eye level now as Slade walked over.

"I'm a private man. I know that doesn't always go looked upon favorably. I apologize for that; it's just my preference," Slade said, choosing his words carefully, "But I do not like it when my abilities and my capability at maintaining my responsibilities are challenged."

"I didn't mean to..." Clark said.

"But you don't trust me," Slade said.

Clark held his tongue, but answered, "You haven't given me much reason to."

"Well, how about this. I've served honorably for the US Army and I've lived as a respectable member of every community I've lived in," Slade told him.

Clark squinted his eyes. He didn't like where this was going, "Mr. Wilson, I am only here because of..."

"Because of Dick, you've made that point clear," Slade said, walking towards the hallway, "And as I've told you, I've been taking care of him to the best of my ability, which I think Gotham's City Council would find satisfactory."

Clark kept silent for a moment, before walking over to the doorway, "I'm sorry if I offended you Mr. Wilson. I suppose I'll just see Dick another time."

Slade nodded and opened the door. If only the timing hadn't been so bitterly perfect. As Clark looked out, Dick was at the bottom step talking to a friend. Dick looked up and his face filled with excitement. A shame.

"Clark!" He yelled, and jumped up the seven steps to give Clark a hug, "How's it been? What, what are you doing here?"

"Well, what else?" Clark answered, "Visiting you and doing some business work."

Slade eyed Clark as Dick suddenly realized Ellie standing in the background, "Oh, Clark, this is Ellie. We play on the same baseball team."

Clark smiled and shook Ellie's hand, "Nice to meet you Ellie."

"Cool to meet you too, Mr..." Ellie started.

"Mr. Kent," Clark told her.

"Wait, the, Clark Kent?" Ellie asked, "You work for the Daily Planet! With Lois Lane! Dude, I so want to work there one day!"

"I'll recommend you when you get there," Clark replied.

"Are you leaving already?" Dick asked, seeing Clark had gotten his things.

Clark looked back up at Wilson before looking back at Dick, "Um, I do have a flight to catch, Dick, but I'll visit again soon, if that's alright with Mr. Wilson..."

Slade cleared his throat and answered, "Of course, any time. Though I do go on trips on occasion."

Clark shook Slade's hand, each noticing the other's strong grip, their eyes narrowing.

Dick nodded as Clark turned back and replied, "Well, thanks for the visit anyway. I'm sorry that I was out."

"It's no problem," Clark said, walking past Dick and down to the sidewalk, "Take care, Dick."

"I will," Dick said.

Clark gave one last smile before looking back up towards Wilson. He turned quickly and walked off as Dick watched. Ellie stood at the bottom of the steps, rocking back on her heals when she finally couldn't stand the silence.

"So you're Wilson, er, Mr. Wilson?" She asked, suddenly feeling the need to be respectful.

Slade looked down at her as Dick was knocked out of his trance and answered, "Uh, yeah, Ellie, Mr. Wilson, Wilson, Ellie."

"A pleasure," Slade said, before switching his attention to Dick, "Dick, you haven't had anything to eat yet, have you?"

"Nope, just water," Dick said.

"Alright, then come inside and I'll get dinner ready," Slade said, "Nice meeting you Ellie."

"You too...?" Ellie said, before tapping Dick on the shoulder as Wilson went in the house, "Dude, is he your dad or something?"

"Oh, no," Dick explained, "He's my guardian."

"Oh..." Ellie trailed off, "Creepy..."

"Why do you say that?" Dick asked, confused.

"He kinda seems like one of those sketchy stalkers you'd find hiding out in your bathroom working for the Joker or something," Ellie whispered.

Dick didn't really get a chance to respond before Wilson called him in, "Come on in, Dick!"

"Ellie, I think you think everyone is a stalker," Dick said and Ellie shrugged as he went to the door, "See you tomorrow, then, Ellie."

"Alright, see you tomor..." Ellie looked at her phone, which had started ringing again. She read the text and looked up, "Apparently, Rain says to get to practice early if we can."

"Okay, see ya," Dick said.

"Bye!" Ellie replied and ran home.

Dick shut the door as the temperature dropped a few degrees. After kicking off his mud caked shoes, Dick walked up to his room and sat down on the floor. He took a breath and sighed, looking at the closet. He really should go out tonight. He hadn't in a while, but... Dick yawned. How could he? He'd get himself killed he was so tired from playing all day... But he couldn't quit now. Ryan wasn't getting his cast off for at least two more weeks and he'd never be ready for the big game even if he got it off early.

He'd play just until Ryan got his cast off. Then he'd back off a bit. He had to. It's just the way it had to be. He was having fun, though. Why should he? He was shirking his duty, no, not duty. He wasn't shirking that. He was shying away from his instinct. And yet, was it a bad thing? No, no. After the past month, why couldn't he be happy for once? For just a little bit? He just had to balance it. Like Clark had said...

"Dick!" Wilson called.

Dick looked at the door and ran downstairs to see what was up. It turned out that dinner was ready. As Dick sat down, a few blocks away, Clark took off his glasses and took off the facade. Flying up and into downtown Gotham, Clark took an automatic dive upwards, towards the stars. He left the atmospheres and left Earth and soon he could see the many satellites orbiting the planet. He found what he was looking for and headed for an entry way. Upon landing inside the JLA tower, Superman went for the main control room, where he saw J'onn standing.

"Superman," J'onn said as he saw his colleague's expression, "What's wrong?"

"Get me Wonder Woman, Manhunter," Superman said.

J'onn nodded and connected Superman to the island of Themyscira. They waited only a few moments before being answered by Artemis, "What is it?"

"We need to talk to Diana," Superman said.

Artemis wrinkled her nose before calling over Wonder Woman, who was a little more polite, "Superman, what's the crisis?"

Superman bit his lip, "I just met Dick's new guardian."

"New?" Wonder Woman asked, "Since when? Was it Ms. Kane?"

"No, his name was Mr. Grant Wilson, and I don't think I liked him one bit," Superman said.

J'onn and Diana looked at each other over the in shock. Superman... didn't like somebody? Was the world coming to an end?

"Well, why don't you like him Clark?" Wonder Woman asked.

"I got bad vibes from him, Diana," Superman said.

"Does he have a good background?" J'onn asked.

"He has a fine background," Superman said, "But somehow I don't believe that's all there is to him."

Wonder Woman wiped sweat from her brow before answering, "Well, why don't you look into it?"

"I can't," Superman said, "I'm stuck helping Lois on that bit with Luthor, which as much as I hate to say it, takes priority."

"What about Ollie?" Diana asked, "He could do it for you."

"That might work..." Superman trailed off, "Alright, I'll call him."

The line disconnected and J'onn called up Green Arrow, who promptly picked up the signal, "Martian, what's up?"

Superman interrupted and answered him, "Ollie, how'd you like to do some digging for me? Nothing urgent."

Ollie smiled and replied, "Sure, I could. Now who do you need the dirt on?"

Defying Destiny

A New Story... A New Adventure.

"Even if every piece of you disappeared and if it scattered everywhere; No, I won't waver, I'll start back at one and look for you all over again."

Six years later and the searches continue. 

One search, never acknowledged.

And one that started with completing a puzzle eight years ago.

But... can Yugi and Seto really defy destiny? Or will lives and hearts forever be shattered?

A "Yu-Gi-Oh!" Fan Fiction by RenaRedhead

To Read, check out the link below.
Hope to see you on this new adventure!

Is "Custody" a Sequel?

Hey all,

Today I decided to answer a question that is long overdue for an answer. That question: Is "Custody" a sequel? I've gotten this question a few times, particularly on the basis that it is a sequel to my first story "What?". The first time I actually drafted anything for "Custody" was after I wrote the first chapter of "What?", which was originally supposed to be a one-shot. However, the response to "What?" was "More please" and figuring that I could do 'one more chapter', I wrote more. And more. And more. And more. By the second chapter of "What?", Chapter One was already written for "Custody", but "Custody" got shelved until I completed the 24 chapter "one-shot" (hysterical, I know).

Anyway, after "What?" was finished, I decided to go ahead and work on another story, "Could This Go Anywhere?" before finally moving on to writing "Custody" (I knew "Could This Go Anywhere?" would be shorter than "Custody" and opted to finish that first).

So onto the actual question, now that background has been given. Is it a sequel? Technically, no. I never wrote "Custody" with the intent that it would be a follow up or sequel to "What?". However, nearly everything I write within the "Teen Titans" realm in regards to fan fiction is written with the characters all having the same qualities/aspects/personalities as they would in any other stories I've written them in (with the exception of perhaps comedy). I also rarely, if ever write duplicates, or rather stories that would conflict with one another due to timing.

So if you want to see my stories as part of their own extended universe, then yes, "Custody" could be considered a sequel to "What?" as it would take place after the "Apprentice" episodes of the show whereas "What?" took place during said episodes. Do you need to read "What?" to understand "Custody"? Not at all. Do you need to read "What?" to enjoy "Custody"? I certainly hope not! But if you find it more enjoyable, than that would certainly bring a smile to my face. ^_^

To read "What?", you can check out the link below or find it linked on my Fan Fiction Profile Page.
Have a lovely day,

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Chapter Twenty-Four: Disconnecting

Chapter Twenty Four: Disconnecting

Dick sat on the couch in the lounge. That's what he had gotten used to doing for the past three days. Staying in the lounge all day and doing something mundane with his time. This time, he had the TV muted as he tried to figure out a mind bender game.

The first two days he had mostly stayed inside of his room, trying to work when he could. Ultimately, he got hardly any work done. Despite the fact that Wilson supposedly worked during the day, the guy took an awful lot of breaks and, in Dick's opinion, he had taken the chance every time to check in on him. This made it extremely difficult to do any work at all. However, he somehow managed, via texting, to tell the Titans what was going on. They had all rather disliked the idea of Dick living with some stranger, as he had, but even more than he had, it seemed. Dick felt pretty self sufficient himself, making him less worried than they were.

So because of that one difference of opinion, Dick, after several hundred text messages, finally decided to complete this 'conversation' with a phone call as soon as he could get out of the house. That had proved to be more than a challenge. Dick quickly realized that Wilson tended to stay up late every night and that he had an annoying habit of sitting right by the stairs and front door, too. After the second night, he eventually figured that if he was going to get out, he'd have to work on that during the day before hand. So on the third day, when Wilson slipped out of the house to do whatever (Dick didn't really care what), he had taken the opportunity to climb the fire escape outside to look at the window to his room from the outside.

His first impression was that he had been right and that the wood had grown together, but he soon found the problem. The window had been sealed from the outside. He couldn't say that he was surprised. The window didn't have any bars on it and people did take precautions in cities. Using a sharp edge of a birdarang from his utility belt (that was hidden under his long T-shirt) Dick slowly managed to cut through the sealer. It made him grateful that he had waited to do this. The seal made it impossible for anyone to break in without making a sound.

As he finally rounded the edge of the window, Dick flipped the birdarang back in place and began to shove and wiggle the window's edge. The sealer had done it's job well, getting into the crevices, but that didn't mean that Dick couldn't get it. After all, with what he could bench press, this was easy. With a slam, the window finally came free and hit the top of the window's edge. Dick bit his lip and looked around. No one. Good.

Taking out a piece of sandpaper, he quickly rubbed at the sealer and removed what he could of it. He was about to get to the top and bottom of the window when he heard a car drive up down below and the car door open and close. Dick gulped and quickly slid inside the window, shutting it quickly and throwing his belt back with his other stuff that he had shoved into the corner of his closet, hidden by empty suitcases, just as Wilson entered and began walking up the stairs.

He remembered snagging his laptop and flipping it open as he heard a knock on his door. Wilson checked in with him about dinner before leaving without a word to get back to work. Piece of cake. By the third night, Dick managed to sneak out without making a sound. He had locked his door and was pretty sure that Wilson had gone to bed by then. It had been so refreshing to get out. So liberating. He had been feeling so cooped up and to just free fall a few times from a couple skyscrapers, well, it could do a person wonders. Dick glanced over at Wilson for a moment, who was in the library. He thought back to last night and his brief escape from this place. There wasn't a single word to describe it, not a single word...

Robin ran downtown, shooting grapples to cross sometimes a half block at a time. He'd release and land on the edge of building only to leap down to the next one. Sweat dripped down his neck, but the cold air froze it before it could go too far. The ice built on him, but he was still hot, his heart beating like mad, pumping blood through his veins to give the rest of his body the energy to merge with the city. The livid skyline grew shorter as he leaped across to the southern edge of midtown. And in his ear, he could hear Raven and the others protesting.

"Robin are you at least the slightest bit worried that Ms. Kane goes missing just weeks after Bruce died?" Raven asked.

"Of course I am, but I think it's probably related to her job, Raven," Robin told her, "She worked as security personnel. She could have known something."

"So you're not worried at all about this Wilson guy?" Cyborg asked.

An alarm was blaring.

"Hold that thought," Robin told them.

Four men were outside, a window shattered and a door wide open when the sign clearly read 'closed'. It was so natural, so easy. They carried out items one at a time to the truck. They didn't want to leave anything behind. After all, the cash they could get for this would be priceless. On the floor, an old woman lay unconscious. The place couldn't be seen, it wasn't by any lamp post. And better yet, The Batman hadn't shown up and word was that he wasn't going to be around for a while. Working with the Justice League or something. Whatever it was, he wasn't here. And he wouldn't be stopping them.

So when the sound of metal hitting a jaw bone was heard, no one knew what to expect. It was hard enough to see. One of them yelped loudly and suddenly another one had been smashed into the back shelves. The two remaining gulped, finally pulling guns from the holsters. But one dropped his at the sound of the laughter. Robin dropped from the ceiling, kicking out the last gun from the one guy's hand, before nailing a good punch to other's jaw. The shadows gave him power. Spinning around, he landed a kick at the other's gut, before head butting him. All four were unconscious. Robin walked over to the old woman and checked her pulse. Good, she was alive. He hadn't been too late. This time.

Robin picked her up carefully and found a few pillows that had been for displaying jewelery. Kicking them gently to the ground, he placed her on them before walking over to the phone. 911 rang and when someone answered, he anonymously tipped them off to come down here before hanging back up. He tied up the thugs and debated leaving a note for Gordon, but decided against it. Better let them think that the Batman had done this. It would put them more at the ease they should already be at.

"Sorry, Cyborg," Robin said, shooting out a grapple, "But no, I'm not really worried about Wilson."

"Why not?" Beast Boy questioned back, "And what on earth did we just hear over the T-Communicator?"

"I took out a couple thugs," Robin told them, "And the reason that I'm not worried is because if Ms. Kane knew something, the fact that I was there was probably irrelevant."

"But, Robin, could that not have been the point?" Starfire asked.

Robin took a moment to breath in and out before answering, "No one cares about Dick Grayson, guys. The only thing he represents is the Wayne fortune at this point, and if this guy's really the elite hacker that he is, I highly doubt that would be a motive. He could just transfer the records as he pleases."

"What do you mean 'no one cares about Dick Grayson'?" Starfire asked back, almost sounding insulted, thought Robin couldn't figure out why.

"Star, it's just from a motive stand point, that's all," Robin explained.

"Well, you do well to remember that," Raven scolded him.

"Yes, Mother," Robin answered sarcastically, "But guys, with the two murders at Wayne Tower, I'd bet anything Ms. Kane found something that she wasn't supposed to."

"So you're going to work on figuring that out?" Cyborg asked.

"Pretty much," Robin told them, "In the mean time, I'll just deal with Wilson."

"Deal?" Beast Boy asked, "I thought you said you weren't worried about the guy."

"I'm not," Robin replied, "He's just really annoying. He's home like all day and he hardly ever goes out, plus he makes a habit of staying up late."

"Don't we all?" Raven asked, the inside joke enough to make the other three Titans find the need to stifle a hint of laughter.

"Ha ha, very funny," Robin told them, "Look, I got to go, I'll talk to you guys when I can. I doubt that I'll be out every night."

"Alright, peace out, man," Cyborg said and the transmission ended.

At least now the Titans seemed somewhat content. Or rather, Robin decided to let himself believe that. The Titans... not so much. None of them had liked Gotham very much and they could tell that the longer Robin was there, the more distant he seemed. They didn't doubt his reasonings, his conclusions, any of that. They just doubted that they wanted to let him do this on his own. Robin continued to work through out the night. He was pleased when he was able to stop several thugs that night, but otherwise, it was pretty quiet. As he rose from one fight, he felt his communicator buzz, telling him to call it a night. The steam from pipes underneath the city continued to leak out as Robin once again parted from the lights of the street lamps.

He opted not to use the R-Cycle tonight. He didn't want to risk waking anyone in the area up either way, it would just be a waste of gas since he could be back in fifteen minutes. Actually, it took fourteen minutes, but it didn't make that much of difference. Wilson didn't come in to check on him and, after changing, Dick went straight to bed without the slightest hesitation. What he needed was a good night's sleep now. And despite the adrenaline still pumping madly through his body, he somehow managed to fall sleep.

He had slept in till about ten when he was woken to the smell of breakfast. That was another thing, Wilson didn't know the meaning of small meals. And when he had suggested having just a protein shake, Wilson almost laughed. Apparently, that was hardly good for a growing body and that nothing could replace a well rounded meal. Or whatever. Dick really wasn't paying too much attention. So, sitting on the couch in the late afternoon, he finished the game before messing it up again. He had done this about nine times thus far. And he wasn't really watching the weather channel, either. Most of the day had been quiet.

So when Wilson slammed a book shut in the opposite room loudly, Dick jumped and nearly fell off the couch. Actually he did. As he looked up from the ground, he saw Wilson coming into the room, surprised as to why Dick was now on the ground.

"Dick, you haven't gone out in three days, why don't you take a stroll?" Wilson asked.

Dick fumed, the jerk, "Because I don't want to."

"Nonsense, it's a nice day outside," Wilson told him.

Dick looked at the channel, "And it's like fifty degrees out there, I'm not going out there."

With that, Dick got up and began to walk towards the stairs. Wilson, however, wasn't finished.

"Dick, I'd like you to take a walk," Wilson said firmly.

Dick spun around, almost surprised that Wilson wasn't letting this slip, "What?"

"Do I have to repeat it a third time?" Wilson asked, "Now come on."

"I'm not taking a walk. You take a walk!" Dick told him, angrily.

But Slade wasn't going to. Instead, Wilson walked forward and Dick took a few steps backwards as Wilson continued, "Don't be ridiculous, Dick, I have to work."

For some reason, this whole walk thing was beginning to bug Dick. But as he turned to go towards the stairs, Wilson took the opportunity, to push him towards the door.

"Hey, hey! What gives! Wilson!" Dick began yelling, but before he knew it, Wilson had opened the door and he was outside, stumbling down the steps to the sidewalk.

Dick turned back to see Wilson looking back down at him, "Go on, have fun."

And with that he slammed the door shut and locked it. At that point, Dick stood there for a moment, stunned, but then the wind blew and he felt goosebumps raise over his skin. He looked down and saw his feet bare.

"Wilson!" He yelled, hugging his arms, "You jerk! I don't even have any shoes on!"

With that, Dick found his shoes, a pair of socks, and a small red jacket being tossed out the door at him. The door slammed shut and was relocked. Dick looked at the door like it was some sort of foreign object... Did Wilson just kick him out of the house? Fuming, Dick angrily grabbed the jacket and pulled on his shoes. Fine, if Wilson wanted him to take a walk, he'll take a walk. It was better than being around him any day.

As Dick sulked off down the street, Wilson watched him disappear. That had been fun, for him anyway. Oh yes, he knew that Dick had been out last night. He had checked the window frame and just as he had suspected, Dick had pried it open when he had gone out. He couldn't keep Dick from going out now, save for if he kept checking in on him, which he knew he couldn't since there was no good excuse or reason. But... if he could get the kid to spend up most of his energy during the day, it would make it much less likely that Dick would go out at all. And he was sure Dick could do that.

Dick didn't see it that way. There was nothing to do out here. Their were townhouses on his left and townhouses on his right. Oh wait, no, there were apartment buildings now. What a change in scenery. There were no stores, no arcades, no restaurants; there was little see and even less to do. No one was out either. There were no cars passing by on the street, no one walking down the sidewalks. It was basically deserted. It figured too, this was a residential area and everyone was probably out working.

Dick rounded a corner when he finally heard something. Yelling from down the street, but it sounded more like a bunch of people, like there was something going on. As he passed two apartment buildings, he came to an open lot and finally saw what all the commotion was about. A group of teenagers were playing baseball in the lot and kept cheering loudly as someone made a hit. Dick went back to looking at the sidewalk, thinking that maybe now Wilson would let him back into the house.

He had almost passed the lot when he heard someone yell, "Heads Up!"

Dick heard a ball bounce off the ground and felt it hit his shoe. He bent down and picked up the ball as he saw a guy run over to him.

"Hey man, sorry 'bout that," He said, "Ellie's got a mean arm, but when she hits a foul, it's hard to get sometimes."

Dick looked over to see a girl (Ellie presumably) with blue streaks in her hair still up at bat, waving at him, "No problem. Here you go."

The guy took the ball before taking a good look at Dick, "You live around here?"

"Uh, yeah, a couple blocks that way," Dick told him, "I just moved in a few days ago."

"Oh, cool, are you going to school around here?" The guy asked.

"Um, I don't know yet," Dick answered, "Depends on how things work out."

"Alright, well, that's cool that you're going to be living around here... I'm Omar, by the way and this is my team," He told him.

"I'm Dick, nice to meet you," Dick said.

Omar tossed the ball before asking, "Hey, we're a man short out here, do you want to play?"

"Uh... sure?" Dick answered, surprised at himself.

"Great, come on, I'll introduce you to everyone, but first, do you mind throwing the ball at that kid, Sean, over there? I just want to see how good your arm is," Omar told him.

Dick shrugged and took the ball. He pulled his arm back and threw the ball straight at Sean, who caught it - barely. And afterwards, he had to take his glove off. That had hurt. Dick tensed, but Omar laughed.

"Dude, have you played before?" He asked.

"Uh, no, I just do sports, that's all," Dick said.

"Whatever you do to get that, don't stop," Omar told him as they walked over to the small row of benches.

Omar whistled and everyone listened up, "We got a new player!"

"We've got a new what?" A brown haired girl asked, walking over.

"A new player, Rain. This is Dick everyone! He's on my team today!" Omar yelled.

The two went to the benches where Omar began to explain what they were doing, "Rain and I are co-captains of the team. We generally just split the team for practice and mix it up every day. But there's other teams that we play from all over uptown, that we know from school."

"Oh," Dick said, all of this very new to him and pretty shocking at the same time.

"But yeah, today we've got Spencer, Carry, Ellie, Patrick, Daniel, Mina, Nomin, and you," Omar told him.

"Spencer and Ellie are out on the field right now, and that's Mina up at bat. Carry's up next," Omar explained, "I gotta go talk to Patrick, but yeah, feel free to sit wherever and watch."

Dick nodded as Omar went over to Patrick. Looking around, Dick took a spot to the left of a guy that he thought was Daniel. Dick gripped his hands and watched. What was he doing? He barely knew anything about baseball. He didn't even know these people. But at least it was something to do. Dick sighed as he heard the crack of wood against the ball. Carry ran off to first while Spencer and Ellie ran right to home. Spencer went over to talk to Daniel while Ellie walked over to her backpack nearby him.

She grabbed her cap and put it on backwards before turning to him, "Hi, I'm Ellie. Sorry about the stray ball; it happens sometimes, so are you new here? Where'd you move from? Japan, Canada, Europe? Do you like baseball?"

Dick sat there, trying to remember all of her questions and when he finally managed, he answered, "Uh, I lived in California, but I moved back home recently. I, actually have never played baseball before."

Ellie was in mid-stretch when she stopped and looked at him, "You've never played baseball before? Where'd you get that arm then?"

"Uh... I did gymnastics," Dick told her.

"Oh cool!" She said, "Well, baseball's not hard, it's just throwing a ball around."

"I wouldn't say that!" Ellie looked up to see a younger teen come forward with a broken arm, "It's a matter of trajectory, skill, as well as speed. Those one the field are trying to get..."

"Yeah, yeah, we get it Ryan," Ellie interrupted, "He's been our water boy since he broke his arm, but he acts more like an adviser to Omar. Gosh, I want to stab that kid."

"You want to stab everyone," Spencer commented a few feet away.

"Well, what can I say, I'm handy with a knife," Ellie replied.

Ellie sat down and pulled her backpack front and center. Spencer came around to grab a water bottle from Ryan. Dick watched as she unzipped the rest of the bag. His eyes widened as he saw how much stuff she had actually managed to cram into that thing. Several baseball bats were still rammed in there along with a lot of other random stuff. Finally she got to the bottom and pulled out two gloves.

"Hey Omar!" She called, "What's he playing as?"

"Outfield for now," Omar called back

Spencer took Dick's hand and measured it, "Man, do you think he can even fit the outfielder's glove?"

"Nope," Ellie said, "Here you go."

She handed him a glove, the difference not apparent to Dick, but he took it anyway as he heard Rain whistle and saw everyone coming in. Ryan started handing out water bottles while people started talking. It was obvious to Dick that even though they split up for every game, they were all good friends. It reminded him of the Titans.

"Hey, here you go," Ryan said, handing him a water bottle.

"Oh, thanks," Dick said.

The bottle was cold, but since Dick hadn't been running around he was still freezing. A couple people came over to talk to Ellie while Spencer and Daniel moved to talk to another kid who had been playing in the outfield. That's when the other co-captain, Rain, came over to him.

"So, Dick, to what extent have you played baseball?" She asked.

And once again, he repeated, "None, really. I mean, I've watched it before and I know the basics of it, but I've never played it. "

"Oh, alright, cool. And don't worry, next time, I'll pick you to be on my team," She assured him.

Dick looked over and saw Omar coming their way, "The only reason I'm letting you have him next time is because he's new."

"Omar, we both need to know all of our teammates strengths and weaknesss," Rain argued.

"Yeah, and we've got to choose players based off of how much of a challenge they'll give the other player," Omar said back.

They began to argue with one another, but most people went on as normal. So that left Dick to assume that it was. As he watched, a shadow came up to cover him and he looked up at it's owner.

"Dick, right?" The guy said, who he recognized as the one he had thrown the ball to.

Dick stood up and held out a hand, "Yeah, just moved here."

The kid took it quickly, but continued, "I'm Sean, but don't worry, I'll take it easy on you."

"Oh, whatever, Omar! Come on, guys, break's over!" Rain yelled.

To his surprise, Dick didn't hear anyone complaining. The teams switched sides and Dick found himself being directed to the outfield to the right, near the street, by Omar. Putting on the glove, Dick saw Ellie on third base. She pounded on the base until she caught site of Dick and waved at him madly.

"Good luck, Dick!" She called.

Dick nodded, a little uneasily, and saw they were about to start. The guy tapped the bat against the plate and waited as Omar threw the pitch. At the second strike the guy struck the ball towards the center of the field and ran to first, where he landed safe.

"Nice job, Kevin!" Rain yelled.

Sean was up next. He looked confident, sort of cocky. But Dick guessed that he should be as everyone else was watching him and tensing. He had to be a good player and Sean knew it. Omar took a breath and threw the pitch again. With another crack, the ball went flying, heading right over their heads and towards Dick. Dick felt his heart race again. He ran towards the ball and leaped up to catch it when he felt the ball snugly land in his glove.

Dick opened his eyes and looked around as he landed. Sean, almost at first, looked at Dick in shock while the rest of his team started cheering. Spencer and Daniel whistled, while Ellie looked like she was having some sort of convulsion. Meanwhile, Omar clapped a few times and hollered.

"Now that's how it's done!" He yelled.

Dick slowly smiled and threw the ball back to Omar. Their first out. And that had been, well, kind of fun. They kept playing and before Dick realized it, it was dark outside and they were playing by the street light and their own flashlights. They just kept playing and playing, Ryan making several water trips back to his house to refill the multiple water bottles. At the end, they had a pretty even game, but Omar's team came out slightly in the lead. The players grabbed their things and parted ways, most heading off in small groups in opposite directions. When asked, Dick had shrugged and said he'd be glad to come the next day.

He grabbed his jacket, which he had tossed aside after two innings, and headed back to Wilson's. If it hadn't been for the fact that Dick had practically memorized a map of Gotham, he might have gotten lost for the dark and generic look of the streets. As he got to the steps, he sighed, and decided he might as well see if that was a long enough walk. He knocked on the door and after a moment, Wilson came to the door.

"Was that long enough?" Dick asked.

Wilson chuckled, "I suppose."

Dick walked inside and kicked off his shoes, which were covered in dirt. Wilson shut the door and watched as Dick slumped inside and headed for the kitchen counter. Following the teen inside, Slade leaned against the opposite counter as Dick grabbed a glass and pulled out a bottle of orange juice.

"Might I ask where you were?" He asked.

Dick poured himself a glass and looked over, "I, there was baseball team, and they were short a player."

"Ah, they play in an open lot near by?" Wilson asked.

"Yeah," Dick said, "Just a few blocks away."

"You have fun?" Wilson asked, grabbing a glass himself.

"I guess, yeah," Dick said, shrugging, "It was different, you know."

Wilson nodded. He swished the contents of his glass around, not really intent on drinking it. He wasn't thirsty. Dick, however, drank in large gulps, still slightly out of breath. Wilson was also pleased to see that Dick had worked up a sweat and he could still see significant heaves in the boy's chest as he breathed. Dick would hardly be productive tonight.

"Well, it was good that you went out," Slade said.

Dick looked over at him, slightly annoyed, "Like I had much of a choice."

"It was better than sitting in the house all day," Wilson told him.

Dick couldn't really argue with that, so he decided to shut his mouth... for now. He finished the orange juice and went straight for his room.

"Take a shower, you're filthy," Wilson called up to him.

Dick didn't care to comment, but either way, Slade didn't much care. After tossing his glass, Slade sat down in the front room. All he heard for the rest of the night, was the sound of water running once and footsteps from and to Dick's room. Around twelve, he went up to check on Dick who, as he had suspected, had practically passed out on his bed. He stayed up till about three that night, just to be sure, before going to bed himself to get one or two hours of sleep. He had to admit, he was satisfied with the outcome. While he hadn't particularly been counting on the boy finding a baseball team to play on, he couldn't complain about it. If this kept up, Slade could see a pattern of Robin's absence. Good.

That was all good.


The long cave entrance was dark and cold, colder than normal. It was also a little damp. It had rained the past few days and had left the air muggy and the sky dark. He walked down, though, like he did every time. However he did have some difficulty, considering the pathway had been destroyed since Blackfire's... intrusion. Upon entering the hollow and tall room at the bottom, Beast Boy paused, but didn't look around much. He knew he'd just get angry if he did.

He walked up to the centerpiece of the room, the statue, her. He bit his lip and looked up at the stone image. It bothered him that it never moved. Mostly, because at one time, Terra had moved. The shimmering silver figure seemed so much more like a piece of rock than a monument, a person. It made him sad that she stood there frozen without relief. She had been able to animate the earth, but now she was bound to it. The silence unnerved him, so he often just talked to her, told her what was going on.

"Hey," He said, "Um, I'm sorry I haven't visited lately."

The rock said nothing, so he continued, "I was in Gotham City, with the others... Man, a lot's been going on."

He watched her and then said, "I, uh, I brought your favorites. The yellow daylilies."

He bent down and placed the bouquet of flowers on the monument, "Robin, he, um, Batman's... gone now. Everyone's taking it pretty hard."

"I didn't know him too well, but Robin's going nuts or something. He's barely talking to us anymore," He continued, "I guess I get why. I mean, I took it hard when you... yeah. Starfire's also having a hard time, since he's not talking. No one's talking really, come to think of it."

"No one?" Beast Boy spun around to see Raven walking in, "You are."

Beast Boy looked down, "Well, what are we supposed to do? Sit around and wait for Robin to call us?"

She was quiet when Beast Boy finally continued, "What are you doing here, anyway?"

"Didn't know where you were," Raven said.

"What, are you guys my babysitters?" Beast Boy asked.

Raven frowned, but pulled her hood down, "It's a mess down here."

"So, what?" Beast Boy said.

Raven pursed her lips, but said nothing and instead held out her hand, which glowed in an aura. Beast Boy watched as Raven moved the debris into the canyon and smoothed the ground. When she was done, she walked up to the statue. They stood there for a few minutes, just staring at Terra's statue. But finally, the silence took in and Beast Boy looked away.

"It was so easy to talk to her, Rae," He muttered.

Raven gave a small nod, "I can see that... I'm sorry about the Titans. I'm... frustrated too."

"You are?" Beast Boy asked.

"We all are," Raven said, "I know how you feel."

Beast Boy eyed her, not knowing where she was going with this, "Starfire's so worried and Cyborg's overwhelmed with leading the team. And..."

He watched as Raven bent her head down, "We're all not sure as to what is going to happen either..."

"What are you saying, Raven?" Beast Boy asked.

Raven closed her eyes for a moment, as though to breathe, "I don't know what's going on with Robin or Gotham or any of this. But the Titans... we've got to be ready."

"Raven?" Beast Boy questioned, "Have you been seeing something?"

Raven thought it out for a second before answering, "I'm just... when we were in Gotham, I felt like, like the evil there... It's so overwhelming... It's not like Jump City where we can easily vanquish it. It's rooted in the ground..."

"You think Robin's going to be okay?" Beast Boy asked.

"If I did, I wouldn't still be thinking about it," Raven said, "And I don't think any of us would be either."

Beast Boy took a step back, rocking on his feet, unsure as to what to say, "Well, at least we know it's not the Joker or Two-Face, right?"

Raven glanced over at him surprised by the humorous comment, "Why the sudden change in tone?"

Beast Boy shrugged, "You're just... good at talking."

Raven rolled her eyes, "Sure I am."

They heard the loud pounding of metal against solid rock and turned to see Cyborg coming in.

"Guys!" He yelled.

"Hey Cyborg," Raven said.

"We've got a problem," Cyborg told them.

"What problem?" Beast Boy asked.

"Remember the hacker, from way back when?" Cyborg told them, motioning for them to follow.

"Yeah, so what about it?" Beast Boy asked, seeing the obvious irritation in Cyborg's face.

Cyborg marched them right up to the T-Car, "They copied my files."

"They what?" Raven asked.

"They copied my files," Cyborg repeated, "I don't know which one they wanted, but whatever they took, we've got to do a total security reboot."

"Does that include..." Raven started.

"Yeah, the Tower, I know," Cyborg answered, "That means no electricity for maybe a few days."

"WHAT?!" Beast Boy yelled.

"Yeah, I know, it bites," Cyborg said, "But unless we want another major break in, we can't risk it."

"Who would want your files?" Raven interjected.

"I'd say Brother Blood, but he's already got the basics of how my systems work. Besides, he's in Steel City. Ways a way from Gotham," Cyborg said.

"Hey, what about that guy a few months back?" Beast Boy asked, "Eastwood or something?"

Raven and Cyborg glanced at each other and Raven answered, "I'll check into Westfield, but I don't see any connection between him and Gotham."

"We can ask Robin when our systems get back online," Cyborg said, "Actually, that whole process will probably have to wait until Titans Tower gets back online."

"So... what you're saying is that we're going without any electricity, working day in and day out to get the tower up and running, and we've got to protect the Tower itself?" Beast Boy asked.

"Basically, yes," Cyborg answered.

If it was possible, Beast Boy got greener, "This is so not fair."

"Well, it could be worse..." Cyborg shrugged.

"How?" Beast Boy snapped.

Cyborg thought and answered, "Well, Red X could be here."

"True," Beast Boy said, nodding.

"You've told Starfire about this?" Raven asked.

"Yep, she seemed fine with it," Cyborg said.

Raven continued, "What about Robin?"

"I left him a message; you know how he is right now," Cyborg told her.

"All too well," Raven said, still irritated about the all too annoying phone conversations.

"We're just gonna have to sit and deal with it," Cyborg said.

They got to the car and started to drive back to the tower. With all that was happening, this was just another headache for them all. And Robin was probably going to go ballistic on them when he found out - something none of them were very excited about. Within hours, the Tower had begun it's reboot. The electronics off, the lights down, the security systems offline. Titans Tower had shut down its presence from the rest of the world. Off the radar. Gone.

It made Slade smile.