Chapter Twenty Five: National Past Time
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.
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
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.
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
"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."
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
"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.
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
"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.
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
"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."
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."
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."
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."
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.
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?"
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.
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!"
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.
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."
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?"
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!"
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!"
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?"
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.
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."
walked into the kitchen while Clark took off his jacket and looked
around. It was a normal enough setting. Nothing out of the ordinary,
"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."
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."
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.
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?"
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.
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."
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.
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.
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."
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?"
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."
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.
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
"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.
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.
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."
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..."
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
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."
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.
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
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.
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
"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.
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!"
I think you think everyone is a stalker," Dick said and Ellie shrugged
as he went to the door, "See you tomorrow, then, Ellie."
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.
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.
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?"