Friday, December 15, 2017

Chapter Thirty-Eight: What You Wouldn't Do

Chapter Thirty-Eight: What You Wouldn't Do

The muggy air outside seeped through the cracks in the windows. The cracks weren't there from age, though. They were there because Joker kept throwing small rocks at them. He'd claw at the walls of his cell and whenever a good piece would fall out of place, he'd throw it a million times at the glass. He wasn't trying to escape, he was just trying to cause some property damage. It amused him, what could he say? Though to be honest, he was the only one it amused. Two Face, who could hear Joker's maniacal laughter through the vent, was particularly tired of it and annoyed that the Joker hadn't found another way to bug the caretakers of the residents of Arkham Asylum (for the criminally insane).

Insane was right.

Joker continued to throw the rocks at the window. He had become quite good at aiming them through the bars that kept him from the window itself. His laughter continued. A stream of 'Ha's, 'Hehe's, and combinations of the two. Sometimes, he'd almost lose his breath and consciousness he was laughing so hard. How that was possible, Two Face could only assume it was because this was the Joker that was doing it. He hoped though, that Joker would lose consciousness soon enough... but he shortly admitted to himself that that was probably a hopeless notion.

Two Face snarled, "Joker! Shut up!"

"Hehaheheee," Joker replied through the vent, "Don't tell me you're jealous 'cause I'm havin' some fun, Harvey?"

Two Face attempted to remain composed, "You know, I know having fun is your field of expertise, but the noise you're making is quite... undesirable for those of us who... are more concerned with other things..."

"Haha, oh yeah, you're still brooding over getting taken in by the Bat's bird brat," Joker brought up.

Two Face lost it, "SHUT UP!"

And of course, Joker didn't and continued to mock his practical cell mate, "How dare you tell me to 'shut up' Two Face old boy! We go so far back!"

"As if," Two Face growled.

Joker made a comedic 'batter up' swing and let a small rock fling through the bars. It shattered a small hole through the glass and continued to sail outside.

"Heehee, hope that hurt someone," Joker mumbled, "Teeheeheehahee..."

"At least I wasn't stupid enough to gain the attention of Batman and the entire police force!" Two Face remarked back.

"Harvey, Harvey, Harvey," Joker said, "I'm hurt, that was intentional."

"And when is your payoff coming then?" Two Face asked, "I would have thought that you'd bust out by now."

Joker crossed his arms, "Well, excuse me for being a little slow on the escape plan. I'm working on it!"

"You should have had one before you got caught," Two Face remarked.

"Listen, you want to go, Dent?" Joker asked.

"Crawl through the air vent and the pleasure'll be all..."

Suddenly something shot through Joker's window and it shattered into a thousand pieces. Joker covered his eyes, but upon regaining his sight, Two Face heard him begin to chuckle again.

"Well, well, well, perfect timing," Joker laughed while picking up the same rock that he had thrown out the window moments earlier.

"You two bicker like an old married couple," Slade said, while holding onto the wall and setting up small explosives on both windows.

"What are you doing here?" Two Face inquired.

Slade would have normally smiled, but at this point, he wasn't really in the mood to do so, "I have a job for you two."

"I work for no one," Two Face quickly snapped.

"I'm not saying you'd be doing it for free," Slade answered, securing the explosives to the bars, "I'll free you from Arkham and get you to your area of town, Two Face."

Two Face raised a brow, interested, maybe...

"That's no incentive for me," Joker remarked, "I'm almost out of here and besides, you were supposed to do that for me ages ago. What happened there?"

"I was a little... distracted," Slade stated carefully, "Though I think you'd have fun doing this Joker."

"Doing what?" Joker spat back and Two Face listened.

Slade glanced at the two of them through the windows, "I need a sufficient... distraction. I need chaos to rule Gotham tonight. And who better than 'The Clown Prince of Crime' and 'Harvey Two-Face Dent' to create it for me?"

"Chaos?" Joker asked, "You've got my attention!"

"Several Justice League members as well as the Teen Titans are in Gotham tonight. I want you to terrorize this city. Big time," Slade smirked, "Your supplies will be waiting for you at these locations along with directions to specific getaway routes."

Slade tossed them each a slip of paper, "There should be more than enough men and supplies. Keep the change."

A count down began on the explosives. Joker and Two Face looked through the vent and then at the lowering numbers on the TNT. The Joker started laughing while Two Face began to smirk. This, he thought, might actually be a bit fun.

The counters reached zero and a muffled blast tore through the windows of their cells in Arkham Asylum. Alarms didn't even blare, though. Joker and Two Face got out from behind the beds and looked out to see two cables aimed in separate directions with a harness on each. Joker's smile widened.

"Beat you to the bottom, Dent!" He yelled and jumped onto the harness and out of the Asylum.

Two Face watched Joker bounce up and down on the cable, not even bothering to attach the harness to himself. He had to hand it to Deathstroke. He knew how to seal a deal. Attaching the harness to his belt buckle, Two Face took a running start and leaped off to catch the rest of the harness and slide quickly down the cable line to freedom. Now this, this would be fun.


Beast Boy was busy tapping his foot on the steel floor of the Batcave. He couldn't believe that he was thinking this, but he was bored stiff. He was in one of the most secret, most secure, and coolest superhero bases in the world. And he was bored. For the last hour, after Batman's confusing and ridiculous explanation of how he was somehow still alive, Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, and Cyborg had been going through files, emergency procedures and debating over where Slade might be hiding or planning on doing next. As for the other three Titans, Raven was meditating and attempting to sense any signs of danger, Starfire was working with Alfred to take care of the Manor's security, and he... well, Beast Boy really didn't have anything to do.

He tried to pay attention and put in his two cents with Cyborg and the others, but he ended up finding that most of it really wasn't a conversation. Alfred had already put the Manor's security on the highest level of alert, which was displayed on the right monitor while Batman was positive that Slade wouldn't take such a humiliation standing down. Wonder Woman worked on setting up a relay system between Titans Tower and the Watch Tower while Cyborg was downloading information on Wayne Manor's primary defenses, designs that Luthor had made for his Sonic Cannon's technology (a nice find that Batman had made), and a detailed map of Gotham City from the Batcave's system.

Superman and Batman were taking the opportunity to discuss possible defenses, neither of them really agreeing on anything. Therefore, there wasn't much to do, especially on Beast Boy's end. How on earth could he possibly be bored?! It was sort of irritating... He stopped tapping his foot and put his head in his hands. Seriously, dude... And the idea that Slade was still out there gave him the creeps. It made him antsy. So he did the only thing he could think to do. He walked over to Raven.

"Uh, hey, Raven?"

Raven opened an eye and said nothing. Beast Boy pulled at his shirt's collar, "Uh, hehe, um, hey, you uh, you don't think it's a bad idea, do you? Just sitting' around here and all... I mean, Slade could be..."

"He's not here," She said, "I'd sense him."

"Uh... uh, huh, well..." Beast Boy said, rubbing the back of his neck, "Alright... if you say so..."

He began to walk back to his spot. He should just sit down and chill. Maybe he should just talk to Superman and Batman about... Then again, they looked kind of busy. And by busy, he meant intimidatingly angry with one another. For a moment, he pondered over who he thought would win in a fight between the two of them when something bright and round caught his peripheral vision. He gasped and turned to a darker corner of the Batcave. Nothing. Though he could have sworn... He stepped a bit closer and slowly a single eye came into view.

He screamed, "RAVEN!"

"What?" She yelled back and looked up.

"Raven!" He called.

"Quiet," She said.

"Huh?" Beast Boy asked, only to see everyone looking at the two of them like they were crazy. Well, particularly like he was crazy. Though it didn't take long for them to ignore him again.

"Listen, Raven, I just... I just saw, what I could swear was an eyeball in the corner over there," He whispered and pointed to where he had seen the eye.

Raven glanced over and saw nothing, "You're seeing things. Slade's not over there and certainly no one else is."

"But, but Raven..." Beast Boy stuttered.

"Batman," She called, "How secure is the cave?"

"One hundred percent," He answered, before returning to work.

She had to admit, he really was blunt... "See, now don't bother me again."

"Friend Raven, is something the matter?" Starfire asked, floating over with a tray of medicine.

"No, Beast Boy's bored and seeing things. The dim light is playing tricks on him," Raven told her.

"Look, Raven, I know what I saw," Beast Boy said, a bit angry now.

She glared at him, but upon seeing his reaction, she softened her demeanor slightly, "Then maybe it was a reflection of someone else's eye. The walls of the cave are as wet as a lake."

Beast Boy's frustration lowered a bit at the suggested explanation, "Maybe..."

"Oh, yes, it does make sense when you put it that way, friend Raven," Starfire said, "Tamaran often has waterfalls that produce the same effect on the walls opposite them."

"Alright, I get it, but that was seriously creepy," Beast Boy stated... "What are you doing?"

"Oh," Starfire answered, "I am delivering this up to Ms. Leslie. She requested it to help friend Robin."

"Oh, alright. Guess we'll see you when you get back down," Beast Boy said.

Starfire smiled and went on up the stairs to the Manor. She flew up to the exit and upon entering the Manor itself, landed and walked the rest of the way. She felt like she should while here. Somehow, it was a bit weird, being in Robin's home, where he lived before he moved out to Titans Tower. It almost invoked some sort of respect out of her, too, like she would her own home as well. She climbed the staircase in the front and followed Alfred's instructions to find Robin's room. Soon she found what she believed was the right doorway. The Tamaranian knocked gently and then opened the door only to find Catwoman leaning against the door, blocking her way.

"Um, excuse me, Ms... Woman of the Cats, but I have medicine to give to Robin. May I please enter?" Starfire asked.

Catwoman looked at her with an eyebrow raised before standing up straight and answering, "Sure, kid, go ahead in."

Starfire smiled and walked into the room. She saw Leslie waiting by a door, but saw no sign of Robin. Leslie smiled and answered the evident question on Star's face.

"He's just cleaning up in the bathroom, dear," Leslie told her.

"Oh," Starfire replied, now understanding.

Just then the door by Leslie opened and Robin came into the room, a robe over his shoulders and a pair of shorts on.

"Oh, hey, Starfire," Robin said upon seeing her.

"Hello, friend, I brought you some remedies," She said, holding up the tray.

"Thanks," He said.

Then Starfire noticed, "Um, friend, why is your mask on?"

Robin smiled, "Not taking any chances. If I end up in a fight, I want Robin to be in it, not Dick Grayson."

"Alright then, well at least let me see if there's anything we missed," Leslie said, gesturing for him to take off the robe.

Robin didn't argue; Leslie was a doctor before anything else after all. He removed the robe and Leslie scanned for any signs of scrapes or bruises that she had missed earlier. For the most part, he looked pretty cleaned up. At least he hadn't needed any stitches, though he had several bandages scattered across his back and chest. It didn't surprise Starfire too much, after that explosion and seeing the mess he had been when they had found him. Still, it reminded her of the time that Robin had been seeing hallucinations of Slade due to inhaling the modified dust that had been hidden in Slade's mask.

Leslie however, noticed something that disturbed her on a higher level than his injuries from the explosion. On his upper arm, there was a string of bruises... they matched the pattern of a set of fingerprints, as though Robin had been gripped by the arm and dragged multiple times in the course of the last few weeks. He couldn't see them, and there weren't any more Leslie could find, other than tell tale signs of fights that Robin had been in, so she said nothing and made a mental note to talk to Bruce about it later. Still, it was a clear indication, especially to Leslie, that Slade had to be a horrible person.

She handed Robin a loose t-shirt and he put it on while she took the medicine that Starfire had brought up. She set aside a small amount of pills and filled a glass of water from the sink so that Robin could swallow the meds. Afterwards, she ushered Robin into bed, not wanting him to strain himself any further. Starfire watched quietly, but with sympathy like any of the Titans would. Catwoman remained silent the entire time and barely acknowledged what was going on.

Earlier, when she had entered, Dick had nearly attempted to attack her before she pulled up the Bat-communicator that Bruce had given her earlier. It was only when he had heard Bruce confirm that she was indeed on their side (at least at the moment) and was to be keeping watch for him, that Dick really calmed down. Actually, no. He quit trying to incriminate her. But he did continue to glare at her for quite some time. At one point, when he had replaced his mask, he then realized that Bruce had told her who they were. His head had snapped over at her and if possible, his scowl turned worse. Leslie, however, quickly returned his attention to mending his injuries.

Since then, Catwoman had taken to ignoring him and just keeping an eye out for anything unusual. Leslie and Starfire decided to stay until Robin fell into a light dose. They wouldn't have to wait very long, as all of the medicine only sped up the process and Robin was already extremely tired. While Leslie paced here and there while waiting, Starfire sat by Robin's side. She was the only one that Catwoman really watched. Perhaps it was the earlier title that she had given Catwoman (Ms. Woman of the Cats), but she was a little struck by the girl's character.

As they waited, Catwoman noticed Starfire slip her hand into Robin's. Her eyes were soft and she had a warm smile on. She was happy... And that's when it really hit Catwoman. Robin... Robin was a teenager. And these two, they must, well, be into each other. She couldn't see Robin's expression, but the fact that he continued to hold Starfire's hand was enough for her to recognize it. And by the looks of it, unlike most teenage couples who didn't know what they wanted or were dating for the fun of it, they probably were some of the few... who really cared about one another...

Leslie leaned over and tapped Starfire on the shoulder. Robin was asleep and they both headed for the door. Leslie nodded at Catwoman and Catwoman nodded back. They left and the door clicked behind them as it was shut. It was just her and Robin. She walked around the side of the bed and double-checked that Robin really was out of it. He was. And his hand was in the same spot where Starfire had left it. She grabbed the chair and brought it over to the other side of the bed where she could be between the door and the windows.

She sat on it backwards and pulled off her own cowl. Selina shook loose her wavy black hair and leaned her chin on the back of the chair. Man, it was hitting her. Like, when did he turn into a teenager with love interests? The last time she saw him, she only saw that he had grown a few inches. It didn't really click for her that the bratty kid in booty shorts had grown up in more ways then one. He was still a little annoying, but... Wow. She looked out the window. The view was absolutely beautiful. She could see Gotham to one side and then the cliff that led to the ocean on the other. The moon was full and gleamed despite Gotham's attempts to hide it from existence. Batman was right, Gotham never slept. It's lights were always there to sparkle for the stars.

She was barely getting over the shock that Batman was Bruce Wayne... and she had practically dated both of them! How did she not notice? Well, as Batman, Bruce did drop his voice a couple octaves... But they were both such good kissers! How could she not notice? How could she not tell? She shook her head and decided not to debate it anymore.

She remembered finding Batman that one night it was snowing and he had taken her back to the Batcave, not really explaining anything. The fact that Robin wasn't with him didn't register at first; he hadn't been with Batman much the past year anyway. As they rode in the Batmobile in stealth mode, she attempted to get some sort of explanation out of him. He hadn't said anything.

Upon entering the Batcave, he stopped and opened the doors to the Batmobile. She still had no idea of what to expect. She asked why she hadn't seen him lately. She asked why he wasn't talking. She asked if there was something really... And then he had taken off his mask and she was finally just as quiet as he was. Bruce Wayne. And then he answered her questions. He also asked many of his own. Neither Dick or Robin, whichever alias they were talking about, no one actually knew if he was alive. And he needed that. The trouble with it was that he had to maintain a low profile, which was particularly hard to do after a while. He rarely was able to visit the Batcave itself and he couldn't fight anyone who would go blathering on about 'It's the Batman!'.

That's where she came in. He asked her, as a personal favor, if she would help him.

Well, when the richest man in Gotham, the Dark Knight, and a potential love interest reveals to you their identity and asks you to do them a favor, you say yes. She had come to understand since why he had kept it a secret from her. He did it with everybody. It was strictly a need to know thing. Only if you were lucky, like she was, he would trust you enough to tell you.

She had received a Bat-communicator and since then, she had worked to help him whenever possible. They'd meet at random locations scattered through out Gotham. Bruce's network was beyond anything that she had imagined. But the real surprises came as she worked with him. The subtle things that he did. She saw more of who he was. Why he did what he did.

Upon the day's discovery of the new enemy in their midst, she had seen how much Robin mattered to him. He wasn't just outraged because he had been outsmarted. He was furious because this person's, Slade's, sole intention was to hurt Robin. His only real family (outside of Alfred), one of the few that he had ever gotten close to... And that's when it finally fell into place for her, how much he cared about Robin, like they really were father and son. She could now understand why every time she and Robin had clashed, he never took sides and only separated them. He wasn't about to degrade either of them. He valued them both.

And if he valued Robin, she guessed that she could value him too. She still felt that he was a bit of a punk around her, but... if he was important to Batman, he was important to her too. And the kid was shaping up a little bit. A little. Selina sighed and smirked. Whatever. She was here now. What else was she going to do with her time, anyway?

The air turned on. She looked up at the vent. It was a little hot in here... What she couldn't see though, were the tiny nanobots (only a few of Slade's specialties) that had entered the room and had proceeded to fly over to the window. A few scouted, getting a good look at the room, and the table with the bottles of medicine by Robin's bed. Slade smiled. Wayne's security system, while at the top of the line, had some loopholes. He was sure that Batman knew where they were, too. He could almost consider this a thrill, if it wasn't for the situation at hand.

The one loophole that allowed for the easiest access to Robin's room was the window. If opened from the inside, it sent a message to the mainframe of the system, but it wouldn't sound any alarms. He noticed he had ten seconds. The nanobots pushed open the locks on the windows. Then, with a small kick, they opened the windows, which slid out of place, making a small creak. Selina looked up and noticed.

She got up and walked over to the window and looked outside. Up, down and all around. She saw nothing. Weird... She turned towards the door... was it a distra... Instantly, Selina felt herself being attacked and found herself in a choke hold.

"Rob..." She didn't get much farther as Slade placed a thick glue-like material over her mouth.

She elbowed him and was able to get out of his grasp. She pulled her whip from her side and let it unravel, going into a defensive position. Slade chuckled. She reached for the Bat-communicator, but he attacked her arm before she could get it. It fell to the floor and she had to instantly engage in fighting him. She could tell his style came from the military and it made her grateful that she had experience in kick boxing. For the most part, it was a matter of dodging one another's attacks. And they both did, equally well.

But Selina knew that she'd have to get to the Bat-communicator soon. She couldn't fight this guy on her own and by the way he was fighting, she knew it. Slade was motivated. His edge was his drive. And despite the fact that they were both in the height of physical condition, she knew that with only a few hits, she'd be down for the count and it would take her many more to knock this guy off his feet.

"I'm impressed, Catwoman," Slade whispered, "I didn't think it would take this long."

She glared at him and they went at it again. Down below, Alfred looked up at the monitor screen and saw the warning from the window being opened. He looked over at Leslie.

"You didn't open the window for him or anything, did you?" He asked.

Leslie shook her head and Alfred looked over to Batman, "Master Wayne, the window up in Dick's bedroom has been opened."

Batman's head swiveled so quickly, Alfred was surprised that he could move so fast with the cowl on. He was over at the screen in a second while the others looked up and over at him. Up at the top of the Manor, Slade knew that someone was bound to investigate the open window soon. There was no time to deal with Catwoman anymore. She was a furious opponent, almost like Adeline in many ways. That was probably the only reason he could do this. His experiences fighting Adeline gave him an advantage that Catwoman didn't know about.

Selina found herself weighing her options. If she woke Robin up, he'd be drowsy and Slade's attention would turn primarily to him. Who knew what kind of reinforcements Slade had up his sleeve? She remembered reading over the file Batman had found from Titans Tower that said he was a master at robotic technology. The idea of leading him safely down stairs after that sounded nearly impossible. She could just pick him up and run, but with the added weight, she'd be slow and Slade would quickly catch up to her. She had to call for back up. It was her only real chance.

Catwoman and Slade parted from combat and she took the opportunity to run to the fallen communicator. She turned it on. Yes! While she couldn't make an intelligible word, she could still scream. Batman saw the incoming call and put it on speaker. The sound of Selina's muffled scream was all he needed. Then the communication was cut off and Batman began to leave for the Manor when an incoming message came to the screen that Superman was near.

"Possible trouble at Arkham," He relayed.

"Stay here, monitor it."

And that's all he said. Wonder Woman looked over at Clark and he nodded. If he needed to, he could always get to the top of Wayne Manor in an instant. Batman, the Titans, and Wonder Woman rushed up to Robin's room, where things were not going as well as one could hope. Slade had broken the communicator and used Catwoman's fallen whip to restrain her arms to her chest. He pulled out a small sedative and plunged it into her mouth. Selina's eyes widened. No, no way would she go out like this... She used her remaining energy to force herself into a flip and out of Slade's restraint.

She did a one-eighty in mid air with her body and landed facing Slade, her fists up, but she saw that Slade wasn't worried. And then she knew why. Slowly, Selina fell to her knees and fell to the floor, losing sight of her surroundings. No... Slade walked passed her and over to the bed, where Robin was barely stirring. He grabbed Robin by the chin and looked at him.

"Wake up, Robin, it's time to go," He said.

Robin's eyes opened slightly and he squinted, but it wasn't long before he was fully awake and attempted to make a struggle against the intruder. Slade wasn't going to deal with this now, though. He held Robin's arms down against the boy's sides with one arm and immediately dragged the teen out of his bed. He barely caught sight of Catwoman's fallen form.

"Slade! No!" Robin yelled.

"I'll deal with your delinquency later," Slade said.

Robin struggled as panic began to rise in his chest. No, no, not again! Please, not again!

The door burst open and in came seven superheroes just as Slade pushed the door open further. It was beginning to mist outside and a clash of thunder and lighting shook and lit up the room, illuminating Slade's new policy, a hostage situation. Slade held a small hand blade in his hand and upon seeing where he was holding it, Batman growled.

"Slade, release him!" Batman yelled.

"You really are back from the dead," Slade commented, "I should have known that I'd have to kill you myself. But I won't be making that mistake again."

"Yo, Slade, drop him man," Beast Boy yelled.

"Unless you want to deal with seven very angry superheroes," Cyborg added.

Slade chuckled, "Are you sure you want to do that? Because... unlike you, I'm not too concerned..."

Slade rested the blade on Robin's neck, almost drawing blood and Robin shut his eyes tightly. He was still shaking. After all of this, he was still going to lose. They were going to lose. Slade... Slade was going to win. And that's what scared him. Somewhere, he heard Starfire and Wonder Woman gasp, Cyborg and Beast Boy take steps back, and Batman and Raven remained where they were, but at the same time, he didn't think their expressions would be very friendly either.

Batman held an arm out, ordering the others not to move as Slade continued, "…with roughing him up a bit. You see, if he can't talk, he can't speak out against me. It works out well either way for me. Though I'm sure that... you would prefer..."

Slade let the knife fall so that he could turn Robin's face towards his comrades, "That I leave him unharmed."

In the cave below, as Superman heard the ongoing conversation taking place upstairs through Batman's communicator on speaker, he began to notice incoming 911 calls all coming from two highly populated areas of the city. What was going on?

"Alfred, does Batman have any cameras to give us a visual of the area?" He asked.

"I'll bring them up right away," Alfred replied.

Something reached Superman's ears, like someone tripping on the steel floors. But everyone was upstairs, right? He felt someone tapping him and immediately turned to see who it was. Before he could determine who it was though, he felt himself involuntarily stiffen.


Slade had slowly begun to make his way with Robin to the window, the knife back in place. The look on Robin's face made Batman tense. He had never seen Robin so... terrified and he couldn't...

Then in an instant, Superman rocked out through the floor boards and yelled, "Slade!"

Slade turned to see the blue-eyed Kryptonian, but paused as he noticed something different... this wasn't Superman... at least, alone.

"Drop it! I know you wouldn't do it!" Superman told him.

Slade found himself actually angry for once, "Why you..."

"No, I know you couldn't do it! After what it put Mom through!" Superman said, leaving most of the Titans and Wonder Woman incredibly confused.

Slade and Superman looked at each other, though soon Beast Boy noticed. Slade wasn't looking Superman in the eye. Why..?

"Drop the knife!" Superman yelled, "Or don't you remember? Because I sure do."

Superman landed on the floor and suddenly slumped and regained posture. However, the essence of a soul protruded from him and took solid form. A teenage boy, about Beast Boy's age with curly blond hair appeared before them. He was a little short and quiet. From just this appearance, you'd never think anything special of him. But the fact that he could overshadow Superman was enough to tell you he wasn't an ordinary teenager and the bright purple and white outfit gave everyone the same idea.

"Wait, Jericho?" Beast Boy asked.

Jericho looked over at the Titans and nodded before looking back at Slade. Slade's eye narrowed and Jericho pulled down on the high turtle neck that he wore to reveal a deep scar across his vocal cords. Slade looked from the scar to the rest of the superheroes standing behind Jericho.

"Very well," He said, "Have it your way, though... if I'm not mistaken, you might have other matters to attend to."

The others looked confused until Superman confirmed what Slade had said, "Batman, reports are coming in about two..."

"Superman, Wonder Woman, take a Titan and take care of it, we'll handle Slade," Batman ordered, but neither seemed very willing to go with Slade just standing there with the knife still poised. At least he hadn't moved it since Jericho's appearance...

"Better decide soon," Slade taunted, "Or you won't have a chance to save either of them."

He jumped out the window with Robin in tow and immediately everyone went into action. Superman picked up Cyborg and Wonder Woman pulled Beast Boy out with her and they headed for Gotham. That left Batman and three other Titans and they didn't waste any time in chasing after Slade. Starfire shot a starbolt of light into the air, illuminating the roof of Wayne Manor. It was huge. And to make matters worse, there were thousands of places to hide in the dark and rain.

"Split up," Batman ordered.

They each headed in opposite directions. Raven glided over the rooftops searching for Robin's aura. That's probably why she found Slade first. Finding her center, she began to chant her incantation.

"Azarath Metrion Zinthos" She yelled and attempted to trap Slade within a cage of telekinetic energy.

But he slipped through the bars and threw Robin aright into her, both of them colliding into a glass window frame. Raven took most of the force of the collision and could barely crawl out after Slade picked Robin up again and continued on his way. Raven hit her locator button on her T-communicator and Starfire received her location. But before Starfire could get there, Slade felt himself being attacked by the third Titan.

Jericho jumped from a higher roof ledge and landed on Slade's back, attempting to choke him. Robin struggled to get free again. 'Just a little longer...' Jericho thought, 'Just a little...' He didn't get to finish the thought as he felt himself being kicked off of Slade's back and tackled to the ground. Jericho shook his head and looked up, confused to see who his attacker was.

"Didn't forget me, did you?" Red X smirked and that's when Jericho could have sworn... That voice...

'Grant?' He signed.

Red X pulled off the mask, revealing the face of another teenager, maybe a year older than Robin, but he resembled Jericho, save for the fact that he had blue eyes and his hair was straight. It stuck out thanks to the sweat that came from wearing a full facial mask and whipped around his head in the wind and rain. It was a well known fact within their family that Grant resembled his father at a younger age. He smiled.

"Miss me, little bro?" He asked.

Jericho remained shocked and in response, X kicked Jericho in the stomach and pushed him off to a lower ledge of the rooftops. Red X replaced his mask and jumped off to follow his brother. This was going to be good.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Chapter Thirty-Seven: Reaching for Safety

Part Six: Family

Chapter Thirty-Seven: Reaching for Safety

He struggled in a thick darkness, the cold creeping and slowly attempting to latch onto his fingers and around his neck. His face stung as though he had been slapped. In flashes that came and went, he could see a bright orange mass and glowing red dots. His ears were ringing. He squirmed against the ooze that seemed to surround him like a huge amount of cobwebs.

The light hit his eyes and he squinted. Maybe he should just let them close. He could hear blurred sounds in the background. He just wanted to sleep... Wow, he was sore. What hit him? He squinted again and saw purple and tan skin... His thoughts stopped. He turned his head upwards. A face caught his eyes, which widened as clarity came to him.

"Star...?" He began.

He saw her surprised face turn to a smiling one. He felt her hand on the top of his head and realized that he was lying on a few chairs with his head on her lap. A blanket covered him. There was a clicking sound in the background.

"Where... where am... I?" He asked.

"We are in the Department of Police of the City of Gotham," She replied, and for the first time in a long time, he smiled at her version of the English language.

"What... what happened?" He asked her this time, still tense.

"The police arrived after the explosion," Starfire explained, "The out was knocked from you, but Superman and Wonder Woman were unharmed and soon found you before the police did..."

That's when Robin noticed, the mask was gone from his face, "They, no one... knows then?"

"I do not believe so," Starfire told him, "Superman and Wonder Woman insisted on staying here until the work of paper is done."

"Then... Slade is..." Robin started.

Starfire nodded, "I searched with Wonder Woman for an hour and could not find him."

Robin nodded, but felt slightly disoriented. He decided to try and sit up, hoping that Starfire couldn't detect his apparent shaken exterior. With some help from Starfire, he managed to do so, but his head still ached. Across the room, Gordon noticed that Dick was waking up and briskly came over.

"Dick?" He asked, "How are you feeling?"

"Little dizzy... and sore... but I'm okay," Dick said, not really registering everything.

Gordon nodded in understanding, "Are you up for answering any questions?"

Dick shook his head slightly, hoping to avoid any more discomfort, "Not... not really... but I will if you need me to..."

"That's alright, we can ask you later," Gordon said, "I need to deal with the photographers and news crew, but I'll be back soon, son."

Starfire nodded for him as Dick felt that doing so himself would force him to lie back down. Photographers... How in the world? Oh, of course, it was because of Superman and Wonder Woman, wasn't it? How often do superheroes other than Batman hang out at the G.C.P.D.? He then noticed that he was still wearing the torn uniform underneath the blanket. What a great front page that would be... He pulled the blanket over him more tightly. He shivered.

"Um, Dick?" Starfire said, "I called the others; they're on the roof to avoid... the photographers."

"Oh, thank you," Dick said, then let out what he hoped was a loose laugh, "I can't tell you guys how much I missed you... Who... who are they handing me off to this time?"

"Mr. Pennyworth; he is in the other room with a Ms. Leslie talking to Mr. Bullock. Everything can go back to the normal..." Starfire answered carefully, noticing Robin's rather hidden, but clearly despairing and sarcastic tone.

Dick smiled thinking back to how things were before this whole mess and then he frowned slightly. He attempted to block out the fear that tried to arise from the back of his mind, "Well, not everything... but enough."

There was silence for a minute before he thought to speak again, "Um, Starfire? What happened to Ms. Kane?"

Starfire furrowed her brows, "Ms. Kane was in the vicinity?"

He looked at her, immediately alert, "Yes, she, yeah, she was. You didn't find her?"

Starfire shook her head no and Dick continued, "Then where..."

And yet there wasn't an answer for him to receive. She could be anywhere... Outside the offices of the G.C.P.D., news crew continued to snap away and record everything that they could while Wonder Woman and Superman stood firmly rooted in the doorway.

"At this rate," Wonder Woman stated, "He'll be here any minute to blow this place up to the watchtower."

"Wonder Woman," Superman began, "It's not my fault that a squad of police cars had the sirens wailing behind us when we got here, so if we could focus on the situation at hand..."

It was amazing how persistent these people could be. Superman recalled that there was a code of ethics that they supposedly were to follow, but it seemed that those often were lost in the heat of the moment.

"Excuse me, but if you could back up," He called, trying to create some space, "The photos that you have will not do you any good because of the windows' coatings..."

"Like that will help," Wonder Woman muttered.

"Well, if you have any... suggest...ions..." Superman stuttered to a stop.

His eyes focused on an area of the crowd where people were parting. A tall man came into view and Superman's jaw dropped. He scanned him to make sure it wasn't a trick. Wonder Woman elbowed him in the side.

"Superman, could you help me for just a moment..."

"Diana!" He shot and then eyed the newcomer.

Wonder Woman looked over instantly at the sound of her name and then felt herself freeze. The man walked up to them both, looking at them apologetically.

"May I?" He asked.

Superman nodded and looked at Wonder Woman as though asking if he could go in as well. She nodded and they both went inside. The man found Sawyer talking on the phone to the hospital.

"How much of an emergency is this, officer?" Sawyer asked, "We're kind of strained here right now."

"Ms. Sawyer, listen, Ms. Kane, she was delivered here tonight! She's in the emergency room in critical condition, but..."

The man taped Sawyer on the shoulder.

"What, what is it?" She asked, irritated and then she instantly gasped, "You... you..."

"Where's Dick?" He asked.

"A... around the corner," She knew that her eyes were twice their regular size, but at this point, she felt that she deserved some slack.

"Thank you," He said and continued.

Most in the office began to stop and look. Silence came over the room. The man rounded the corner and saw Dick sitting next to Starfire in silence. He looked worn out and tired, and for once his spiky hair was down and flat. He noticed that the two held each others' hands out of immediate sight. He paused in his footsteps and felt guilt for not... doing anything. He couldn't wait any longer. It wasn't fair or just...

He finally spoke, "Dick."

The whole room froze. Dick tensed and felt Starfire's gaze look up and over him. He heard her gasp and very slowly, he turned his head and looked up as well. His eyes, he felt were deceiving him. This couldn't... How? He stood up, confused and hesitant to believe anything. The man felt himself smile upon seeing the obvious distrust, but also the earnest hope in Dick's face, something that would never leave his personality.

The man sighed and spoke, "Alright, I always wanted a husky when I was a kid."

The quirky secret that only they knew. Dick smiled, "Bruce."

Dick wasn't sure how, but he felt his feet move and he ran into Bruce's arms and buried his face in the man's chest. And for the first time, in a long time, Bruce returned the hug and held Dick tightly. Alfred and Leslie came out to see and Gordon watched in disbelief. The unbelievable had happened. Superman and Starfire smiled and watched the reunited father and son share a moment, a much-needed moment, in which they were only aware of one another.

Shock, regret, relief. A mixture of emotions, but neither minded. Bruce was alive. Dick was okay. That was what was important right then. That and nothing else. For an instant, Dick was free from fear. Nothing could harm him. Nothing. He felt... safe.

Finally, they parted and Dick questioned, "How... how are you?"

"Batman rescued me," He said, winking (code for 'I'll explain later'), "He kept me down in the Batcave for the last few months. Said he was tracking a lead and wanted me out of the picture for a while."

Bruce looked Dick over, "You look like a mess."

Dick laughed, and eyed Bruce's hair, which was not quite as long as it use to be, "I'm not the only one."

Bruce smiled, a rare occurrence and turned to face Gordon, "Commissioner, you look flustered."

Gordon slowly nodded, "A bit, a bit, it's uh, good to see you alive, Mr. Wayne."

"Ha, good to be alive," Bruce said.

"Yes, I, I'd think so," Gordon shook his head trying to regain a sense of normalcy, though considering everything, that didn't seem likely, "So, did I hear right? Batman kept you locked up for the past few months?"

"Well, it was fine on my part," Bruce said, making sure to keep Gordon from thinking that Batman had kidnapped him, "He finally let me out after learning about Dick's condition."

"Well, that's uh, that's good to hear. We were planning on taking him to the hospital as soon as the papers were written up..." Gordon started when Alfred and Leslie came over.

"Master Bruce!" Alfred exclaimed, astonished.

"Hi Alfred," Bruce said, "Leslie."

Leslie brought her hands to her face, "Oh, Bruce, I can't believe it!"

Bruce shrugged as she ran over and hugged him. She pulled away back to Alfred and Bruce turned to Gordon again, "Commissioner, would it be alright if I took Dick home to Wayne Manor? Leslie is a highly capable doctor and I trust her that she can take care of him better than any hospital can."

Gordon looked between the four people surrounding him. From Alfred, to Leslie, to Dick, to Bruce. He sighed, "Well, I believe legally that shouldn't be a problem. And it's up to you whether he goes to the hospital, but we will need him to come in for questioning at another time."

"We're fine with that, right Dick?" Bruce said, putting a hand lightly on Dick's shoulder, just in case there might be a bruise there. Dick nodded.

"I'd check with the capes, too," Gordon said, "They've been like hawks since the incident and frankly, it might just be best to keep him here after what happened..."

Bruce looked over at Clark, who nodded, "It's alright on our end as long as we can tag along for a bit, just for security."

"I appreciate it... Dick, you ready to go home?" Bruce said.

Dick smiled and nodded, "Yeah."

"Alfred, would you bring the car around?" Bruce asked.

"Of course sir," Alfred said.

Starfire stood up and followed the four remaining to the front. Somehow, despite the photographers and news crew, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Starfire managed to make a path for Bruce, Dick, and Leslie, while simultaneously keeping people back. It was like they had become security against the papparazzi. Gordon already had men outside, however, keeping people back as they got to the car. The three entered while the three capes flew up into the sky. The four Titans on the roof met up with them.

"What's going on?" Cyborg asked.

"We are heading to the Manor of the Wayne's," Starfire informed them.

"So Alfred got the all clear?" Beast Boy asked, emerging from his hawk form to be caught by Starfire.

"No, Mr. Wayne did," Starfire smiled.

Raven hid her own, "I wondered why Dick suddenly felt so... positive, I guess."

Photographers snapped away, hoping for the shot that would be on tomorrow's front page. They already knew what the headlines would read. But strangely, that wasn't what made Dick feel... uncomfortable. It was being out in the open... Once they had entered the car though, Dick found himself unaware of the paparazzi and a bit more secure. Alfred drove the car like before. Leslie was in the front with him and Bruce in the back. No one asked any questions. They just let things be. Dick leaned against Bruce's arm, fatigue plaguing him. His eyes closed. Bruce watched him out of the corner of his eye.

It was... unexpected, Dick's behavior. After everything he had done... it could be deemed an incredibly self-centered action. And he should have realized what was happening sooner, but he didn't. In the past, he had realized that his work cost him relationships, friends... and yet there were always a few that stayed. How Dick managed to be one of them... he wasn't quite sure.

They arrived at Wayne Manor and Dick lifted his head up. They got out and were accompanied inside by the JLA and the Titans, all of which said something to their respective teammate from Gotham, before stopping in the main room. Bruce turned to Leslie.

"Could you take Dick up to his room and bandage him up?" Bruce asked.

"Wait a second," Diana demanded, "We deserve some explanations, Bruce. Right, Clark?"

Bruce looked over at Clark who gave a brief nod of agreement, "It would be rather nice..."

"Yeah, at least explain to us how you're not dead," Cyborg challenged.

Surprisingly enough, Bruce didn't glare down at Dick's teammate and sighed. "Very well, but considering Dick's condition, he needs to get some rest, so I'll make this short."

Despite hearing the word 'short', everyone present slouched a bit for the story. That's what explanations did sometimes...

"How, how did you live?" Dick asked, "I saw you... get shot... and then the fire..."

Bruce looked down at his ward and answered, "With some preparation and with Fox's help."

"Fox knew you were alive?" Alfred asked.

"No, he didn't, but he is responsible for how I survived the bullets," Bruce replied, "Military and police personnel already have bullet proof vests, but it's not a perfect design. It can still shatter and the shattering metal can kill for the bullet if you're really unlucky. Fox designed a light electric vest that when on, remedies this problem, using magnetics."

"Magnetics?" Diana asked.

"Essentially, it repels the bullet so that it slows down enough so that by the time it hits your chest, it doesn't have enough momentum to injure you," Bruce explained, "It does this at almost the speed of sound and starts to slow the bullets about a foot away from you. Once they hit you they're magnetically stuck to the vest. No harm done."

"But what about the blood? And I saw those things come... out... of your chest..." Dick said, resisting the urge to remember the images.

"That's the other part of the design," Bruce stated, "Fox knew that even if the design could save your heart or lungs, it couldn't save the rest of you. You can still die from a bullet in your thigh or arm and if your opponent doesn't see you bleeding, he's likely to keep shooting until he does."

"So you created... a fake out?" Raven supplemented.

"Exactly," Bruce said, "Inside the chest are compartments that release red fluid through a thin grate once the bullet is stuck to the plate. It's accurate thanks to sensors that detect the highest concentration of electrical magnetic energy. Each sensor has a corresponding side on the other side. It also releases the liquid, but in addition, it shoots out what could be mistaken as a bullet, creating the illusion that the bullet passed through the person's chest."

"And you were wearing this the whole time?" Clark asked, dumbfounded by how Bruce could call that a 'short' explanation.

"Yes, it's still too expensive for the military and... as always... I requested a personal prototype," Bruce stated.

"And you didn't get one for Robin?" Beast Boy asked.

"They take a while to make," Bruce told them, "I figured the most dangerous criminals would shoot at me to get me out of the way. If that happened, it would give Dick time to retreat. However, one was in the process of being made for you and should have been done by the end of that week."

Dick nodded, "And then the... fire?"

"Simple," Bruce said, "Vaseline. Or rather, a very dense thin concentration of Vaseline."

"Care to explain that one?" Diana asked.

"It's a little known fact that Vaseline will keep your skin from burning for one minute, two, max when next to a fire; it creates a barrier between you and the flames. I knew that we were dealing with a pyromaniac, so for a while, I'd been coating my face and hands in a very thin layer of it, just as a precaution, considering my social standing. Alfred noticed how it was affecting my skin negatively at one point, actually," Bruce summed up.

"Oh, yes, I remember that," Alfred trailed off.

"Since you didn't go to public events with me, Dick, I didn't give you any either," Bruce told him, "I used it only for work and public events...didn't save all of my hair, though."

The group glanced at his black hair which, as Dick had noted earlier, wasn't particularly straight and at some points incredibly short. It earned a few smiles before Bruce turned the conversation back to a more serious tone.

"Now, Leslie, will you take Dick up to his room and fix him up? I'll send someone up later," Bruce told her.

Dick turned to him instantly, "Wait, you still..."

"You'll get your answers, Dick," Bruce said, hoping to calm him down, "What I'd like you to do now is go up and get your rest."

The Boy Wonder glared at him for a moment, slightly agitated that he hadn't heard the whole story, but mainly it was the pit in his stomach that was bothering him. Leslie walked over and put a hand on his shoulder.

"Come on, dear," She said.

Finally, Dick nodded and began to walk up the steps towards his room. His room... it was... comforting, to say the least. The rest watched before Bruce immediately turned and headed for his study. The remaining heroes quickly followed.

"You think it's safe to leave him up there?" Diana asked.

"With the security system in this house, we have a few minutes of warning time before anyone can get to Dick's room," Bruce told her, "I have someone I'll send up within that amount of time."

"Who?" Beast Boy asked.

They followed Bruce down the staircase, Clark being slightly cautious after his and Diana's last visit there. The Titans' eyes scanned the place, this being their first time in the Batcave. They didn't have much time to look around, however, as footsteps alerted them to the presence of another person there.

"Well, did you get your kid back?"

All eyes turned to the newcomer who was dressed in a recognizable black skin tight cat suit. Half of those mouths dropped. The women kept their cool.

"He's upstairs. I'd like you to go up to his room and guard him for a few hours or so. I'll send someone to relieve you," Bruce said, loosening his shirt to reveal part of the Batsuit underneath.

"Fine," Catwoman said, "Have fun with the dead guy, everyone."

With that, she sulkily left leaving the JLA members and the Titans extremely shocked. Clark was the first to say anything.

"You let HER know before the rest of us that you were okay?" He asked, "Why did you even stay hidden in the first place?"

"When I became a target, I realized that these arson attacks were far from random. I started searching and found many of the victims had links to the Wayne family through financial means. Some were through charities, others contracts, but they all led to points of power in Wayne Enterprises, many of which were probably forgotten to most. Anyone who didn't have a business relation was in the way, so to speak," Bruce told them.

"So... it was about Wayne Enterprises?" Diana finished.

"Basically, that's what I originally guessed, anyway," Bruce stated. "On that lead, I figured that whoever was behind this was likely a business competitor who had been refused some sort of deal. Top of the list for that was Lex Luthor. That being said, it was to my advantage to let him think that I was dead as he'd be more likely to slip up."

"Um," Starfire started, "Excuse me for a moment, but did Luthor want something from you that would have been necessary to create that machine Superman and I fought in Metropolis?"

"That's exactly what it was," Bruce said, pulling up on the computer screens a design with the label 'Project Xenomineral', "This machine would take radioactive pieces of foreign matter and reconfigure it as solar energy. Luthor must have figured out how to instead increase the output of the mineral's energy instead of convert it to solar energy. In this case, it was kryptonite."

Clark resisted the urge to fume as Bruce finished, "I monitored who Robin's guardian was the entire time. Originally, I had planned that Alfred was to be his guardian, but when Adeline received guardianship, I wasn't too concerned, since we were cousins. I noted when his guardianship was given to Wilson as well, but I didn't see any signs of a Grant Wilson being any trouble. It wasn't until after Luthor's attacks on Metropolis that I realized that something wasn't right."

"Such as?" Beast Boy said sarcastically.

"I couldn't contact Robin when I tried to," Bruce said, pulling the mask on, "That never happens. He always has his communicator with him. I tried several times with no response. In the meantime, I searched up Wilson's history. His company records turned up fake, his name forged, and finally, Adeline's and my own will had been tampered with. When I checked those who had been killed, almost all of them had a link to my will or my parents' will regarding custody or guardianship of minors."

"Adeline's will was changed only in terms of Wilson's first name change to keep everything straight so that he could still claim custody of Dick," Batman continued, "Based on that and Adeline's disappearance, I searched for property records of Wilson's. He had more than you'd expect, to say the least. It looked like he owned a business himself."

"That's what Ollie found odd about him, too," Clark said.

"We found their location around the same time," Batman finished, "Slade had stored mass amounts of weapons below and I set a bomb up to blow it sky high. I got Adeline to safety and once you were present, I let the bomb run out of time. It wouldn't be enough to obliterate anyone, but it would provide a chance to separate everyone. I would have gone and gotten Robin, but you got there before I did. That being said, I took Adeline to the hospital and went straight for the Police Department."

"You don't mind that Slade knows you're alive now?" Raven questioned.

"No, I want him to know I don't die easily," Batman stated.

"So if I'm following you, we couldn't know you were alive because it would have given that information away then to whoever was behind the murders?" Cyborg asked.

Batman gave a brief nod.

"Oh come on!" Cyborg yelled, "This is... This is, really... I hate these ninja-like tactics!"

"Get used to it," Batman said, "I had Catwoman begin to help me a few weeks into December so that I could avoid the spotlight if I ever needed to go out."

"But the Catwoman was fine because she was on neither side?" Starfire asked.

"Yes," Batman answered.

"Do you think Slade will come after him again?" Superman asked.

"Probably, but as for when, I'm not sure," Batman stated, "I'd say sometime when Dick is still incredibly weakened."

"So... soon?" Raven filled in.

Another nod.

"I have set the estate on high alert, sir," Alfred said.

"Speaking of which," Wonder Woman interrupted, "Thanks for locking us out of the Batcave."

"You should know I have defenses like that," Batman told her, "But I do apologize, I was at another base of mine in the city, and thus those defenses were on a higher level than normal."

"Bruce," Clark said, "Please, never do that again."

"Good luck with making me do that," Batman said, and Clark could swear that if it wasn't for his demeanor, Batman would have been smiling.


The quiet monitor beeped away, telling her that her heart was still beating. In some ways, she wished that it wouldn't. Her body ached and her stomach seemed to have been lost at some point. At least the bed was soft. She was in a hospital, Gotham General Hospital to be precise... It was warm in the room, or rather, a good temperature. Not too cold, not too hot. She hoped that she could somehow just doze and slumber...

A breeze hit her face and she tightened her eyes. Did the vent just turn on? She heard footsteps, but something was wrong. There was no sign of a light being turned on. And the shoes.. had metal rims? A hand came to her face and suddenly she heard the monitor speed up a bit. Before she could open her eyes, though, she felt lips against her own. She wanted to panic, but was too tired to do so. Her eyes opened and she saw a figure, the outline was fuzzy, but she knew who it was.

He ended the kiss, "I promise, I'll fix this. I'll make up for tearing up our family. I'll give you one that you can finally have. I promise, Addie."

She wanted to tell him, 'no', but she could only groan. He moved a few strands of hair away from her face.

"Get better," Slade told her.

Adeline barely caught a glimpse of him as he climbed out of the window and into the night, off to do who knew what. She had to warn them. She had to get a hold of Batman. But she physically couldn't and it made her want to scream.