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

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