Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Chapter Thirty: The Portrait

Chapter Thirty: The Portrait

The window pane snapped violently against the walls as the curtains blew in the wind. The banging echoed throughout the empty house, which for the most part wasn't heated to save energy. But that didn't mean that no one was home. The door opened and the current and only resident of the manor walked over to the window.

"Oh honestly," He said, closing the window and glancing at the lock, which appeared to have just not been locked tight enough, "It's hard enough as it is..."

Alfred relocked the window and went back to the main entrance hallway. Wayne Manor had been quiet for the past month and a half, it's regular two other occupants absent. It was... an odd enough feeling. Alfred never thought that Wayne Manor would cease to be occupied by an heir to the Wayne legacy and the fact that he had actually out-lived Master Wayne... Alfred went into the dining hall when he heard knocking.

"Is it too much to ask?" He questioned, walking towards the front again.

He had begun talking aloud at random points in time in order to keep the silence from unnerving him. While he thought that at first it was another window that had been blown open, the former butler soon realized that it was coming instead from the front door. Hurrying over, Alfred opened the door to see an old friend standing in the doorway, bundled in a brown trench coat that covered the white one underneath.

"Evening, Alfred," Leslie said.

"Leslie?" Alfred said, "Oh do come in, you must be freezing outside."

Alfred stood aside as Leslie came in. He shut the door behind her and hastened to follow her in.

"It's... dark," She said, slowly, trying to find a word to describe the place.

"Oh yes, well, not much of a reason to keep it lit these days," Alfred said, as they walked towards the living room area, where a small fire kept the room warm.

The velvet couches sat in the center on top of an exquisite rug, one that Martha Wayne had found while visiting Africa. There stood a few glossy tables on the sides of the couches while one or two blankets were resting on the sides. Leslie walked in, the room familiar to her. She had spent many days helping Alfred care for a young Bruce Wayne back in the day. It was during that time that she and Alfred had become close friends. She sighed as she looked around. It was... emptier than usual...

Alfred cleared his throat, "So, uh, Leslie, to what do I owe this visit?"

Leslie turned around to see him and smiled, "I came to check in on how you were doing. What else?"

Alfred blushed irrefutably, "Oh, well, I am doing fine, thank you. How has the clinic... and yourself? How have you been?"

Leslie brought a tired hand up to her hair, which was placed in a loose bun, in an attempt to keep it from falling out of place, "Busy. The clinic's been busier than usual."

They stood there awkwardly for minute, neither sure how to continue. But as in every instance, Leslie was the one to break the silence. She pulled off her coat and walked over to Alfred.

"Are you alright?" She asked, earnestly interested.

Alfred was surprised by the gesture, but answered, "Yes, I am alright."

Leslie caught his eyes as she speculated as to whether or not he was telling the truth. And then in an instant, she dropped her coat to the floor and threw her arms around his neck, hugging him.

"Don't lie to me," She said.

Alfred looked at her, the presence of another human already a shocker in and of itself. But slowly, he took it for who she was and wrapped his arms around her too.

"Just but a bit of depression, that's all," He said to her.

Leslie hugged him tightly before pulling back, "Just a bit, huh? I'll say there's a lot of 'bits'."

She spun around the room again, "This place looks less lived in than it ever has."

"Well, with only one person here, I hope you don't expect me to go through every room and cause utter mayhem in it just to have to clean it up later," Alfred said indignantly.

Leslie looked over and smiled at him, but he could see that she was also being sympathetic at the same time, "Have you heard from Dick recently?"

Alfred shook his head, "Rarely. Mr. Kent said that he visited him the other day, though I must admit that he did not sound too thrilled about it."

"Mr. Kent?" Leslie asked, "Isn't that the cheery one of Bruce's friends?"

Alfred nodded and Leslie looked at him oddly, "That's... unusual. Must have had an off day..."

Alfred shrugged, "Couldn't tell."

Leslie walked over to the fireplace. Above the mantle, a large portrait stood where two people, a man and a woman smiled. Husband and wife. Doctor and Philanthropist. Father and Mother. Below them, stood a small boy, smiling as well. Perhaps his was the cheeriest. The dark hair was brushed out of his face and the corners of his mouth were as far back as he could make them go.

"He was such a cute kid..." Leslie trailed off.

Alfred rolled his eyes, "He was still the biggest trouble maker."

"I bet Dick gave him a run for his money," Leslie said.

Alfred nodded, "I think Master Wayne knew that when he took in young Master Dick. They were very similar at that age, and older now that I think about it."

Leslie turned her head to the ground, biting her lip, "I'm sorry, I suppose I'm not making things any better."

"Leslie, you know as well as I that reminiscing is no crime," Alfred told her.

"Yes, well, it doesn't always help in these situations," Leslie said... "Has Dick been... is he still working?"

Alfred nodded, "I believe so, but his time for going out is limited."

Leslie looked at Alfred in question, "Do you think that's a bad thing?"

Alfred made his way over to the fireplace next to her, "From what Mr. Kent said, I'm not entirely sure. I believe that it would be a good notion for Dick to be preoccupied, but not if that occupation would remind him of his current circumstances..."

"You seem distracted..." Leslie said, noting Alfred's pause in his thought process.

Alfred shook his head, "It's nothing..."

"Nothing seems like a lot of something," Leslie told him, as they turned to face each other.

"What Kent said about Wilson... He said that he had someone on it, but just sitting here only making sure that dust doesn't collect..." Alfred explained; Leslie brought a hand up to his face as he closed his tired eyes, "I feel as though I should be doing something more than this."

Leslie smiled at him. Alfred was always one to be resourceful and was always willing to lend a hand. It was a natural instinct that he had. She liked that about him. His only downfall came when he got discouraged. Thankfully, it didn't happen very much and when it did, she more often than not had a solution.

"Then why don't you?" She asked.

Alfred's eyes opened and he looked at her, "Excuse me?"

"Kent doesn't like Wilson. Research Wilson, then. No one's stopping you," Leslie said.

The former butler's eyes widened and suddenly, held a familiar old spark to them, "Leslie, that's brilliant! Come on."

"Huh?" She asked as he found her hand and pulled her towards the exit of the room and down the hall.

He grabbed her coat and his and ran towards the garage, "The Manor's internet has been disabled. We have to go to the library."

"Is the library even open?" Leslie asked, confused, though her hand did slip into his evenly.

"It's open till ten in Gotham," Alfred explained.

He hit a button and a car door opened for Leslie. She got in barely before he did.

"I should have known you would get me into this," She said as he started the engine.

He turned on the warm air before looking over at her and telling her, "At least on the way there, we'll stay warm."

She smiled at him as he backed out of the garage, her cheeks rosy, but not from the cold.


Two large buckets landed in the middle of the tarp-covered floor. Robin looked up at Slade in question. In the past week, Robin had been subjected to sparring and performing household chores. Not much, considering past encounters had often been much worse. So as Robin looked around the bare room and the two paint cans, he began to assume that this would be another odd ball chore. At least he had somehow earned the freedom of walking around most of the estate. Most. Not all of it. The doors and the windows remained locked.

"The tops and bottoms of the room should have a distinct thick black rim," Slade told him, "Leave the ceiling white. The main color of the room will be orange. Give them both a double coating. I'll be in the gym when you're done."

With that little instruction, Slade left the room and left Robin to paint it. Robin looked down at the paint cans. Wonderful. He picked up the nearby screw driver and proceeded to wriggle one open. It contained the black paint, so he opened the orange to begin with that. It would figure that Slade would choose these colors. What did he want to do? Slather it in his face that he was stuck here? He'd already done that quite well.

He poured some of the orange paint into the tray and pushed the roller back and forth, getting a good coat on it before walking over to the wall. Thankfully, it was a small room. Not as small as his room, but it wasn't the gym by any stretch of the imagination. The coat colored the wall without much effort and he reflected on how if he was just supposed to do chores, he should be at least a little relieved. In reality, they only made him angry.

The fact that he had decided to even do these willingly angered him. Ultimately, he wasn't doing it out of loyalty, which he figured Slade wanted. He was doing them because he didn't want to add to the number of bruises on his back. Like a coward. He slammed the roller again onto the wall. Like a coward...

To be intimidated was one thing, to avoid the fight all together was another. His logical side reasoned that if he wanted any chance of escape, he needed to be in the best condition. At the same time, he asked himself 'What escape?' Every time he looked out a window, all he saw was a nothingness within the forest. There were no lights and the only signs of life came from the animals, many of which had secluded themselves to the safety of their nests or burrows to avoid the cold. There was only so much...

He nearly finished a first coat on one wall within thirty minutes, and started the second coat. He'd paint the coats of orange first, considering it was the lighter color and easier to paint over. At least the work wasn't really heavy labor and he wasn't being worked to death, despite the whole situation annoying him to no end. He kept painting. He half wondered if this was a room that Slade hadn't gotten to yet. He had seen no traces of furniture outside of it.

So he was painting an empty room, with perhaps no other purpose other than the fact that he should paint it. He glared at the wall. He hated it for existing. The second wall was done. He continued to the third. He was getting faster at this as he went along. Hopefully he'd be done soon. He couldn't stand the smell. It made him wrinkle his nose as new fumes escaped from the wet paint. Even if there were windows in the room, he doubted that he would have been able to open them, anyway. Suddenly, the heater turned on and the smell intensified. It made him cough violently. He walked over to the door and stumbled out, trying to regain his breath. The door opened and he stepped out to wait until the heater turned off. As he had come to learn, it never stayed on very long.

Once he heard it turn off, he walked back into the room to find two of the walls ready for a second coat. If it wasn't for the wet paint, he would have slammed his head against the wall. On the other side of the estate, someone else had a similar desire in mind. In a blue work out suit, Adeline warmed up in the gym, waiting. In the past week, she and Slade had sparred once a day, for an entire hour. She wished that it had been longer as she enjoyed being able to let a little anger loose more often.

The doors to the gym opened and Slade stepped in, "I'm not late, am I?"

Adeline faked a smile, "Oh, never."

Slade walked over to stand opposite her, "You know, you don't have to do this, Adeline."

She ignored him and readied herself. The one thing that really got under her skin was the way he underhandedly would bring up the fact that he had won all of their previous encounters. It was almost a shock to her the first day. He had improved significantly, off-the-charts-significantly since the last time they had ever fought. The loss was a humiliating wake-up call, despite the fact that she knew that the odds had been against her. And since then, she hadn't held back, not that she had felt that she had done so the first time. Slade's well being meant nothing to her, nothing at all.

"But if you insist," Slade said, eying her.

Adeline stared at him and calmly, slowly conveyed, "As if I wouldn't."

Slade nodded. He knew that she wouldn't ever surrender to defeat once she started something. Adeline leapt forward and they began to fight. For the first few minutes it seemed pretty evenly matched, or rather, Adeline held up her ground pretty well. The thing that they both had going for them was that they had both learned the arts of guerrilla war fare and martial arts. What was Slade's advantage was his enhanced brain power. What was Adeline's advantage was her will to win.

She jumped over him and landed a kick on his back, but not without him finding her arm and displacing her balance, too. They both landed with skill. Adeline felt her hair cling to her face as her pony tail limped past her shoulder. She never took her eyes off of him. The clock ticked and told them thirty five minutes had passed.

"Tired yet?" He asked.

Adeline laughed, "As if."

She stared the fight again, "You know what I don't get?"

He spun out of the way of her attack, "What?"

He was curious. She kicked, hoping to knock his feet out from under him, "You've really hit a low blow..."

He jumped and she finished, "This time."

She backed off, "Even I was caught by surprise."

"I'm flattered," Slade said, "I've surpassed the teacher, then?"

"I never said that," Adeline snapped, as Slade started the fight again, causing Adeline to speak between defending and attacking, "What... I... Don't... Under... Stand... Is why..."

She leapt behind the old couching, distancing them again, "What could have motivated you so much that you'd kill off Batman to get it?"

Slade looked at her, letting her continue without an answer, "And what exactly do you want Dick for, anyway?"

They stopped circling the couch and looked at each other. Answers and Questions. That's all there ever were about them.

"Adeline, what's the point of having an empire, without having an heir?" Slade asked.

Adeline's mouth dropped as Slade continued, "I promised to leave Grant and Joseph out of this business. That does not mean that I am bound to do the same with everyone else."

"You want Dick to..."

Adeline glared at him and leapt over the couch, hoping to kick Slade in the head. She couldn't believe it.

"It was never public knowledge, but at one point, Robin was my apprentice," Slade dodging her.

"Wha..." Fists danced, "Why?"

"His friends' lives were simply in danger," Slade explained, "But it didn't last. I don't see why I expected it to."

"Maybe you never did?" Adeline asked, furiously.

She was a little happy to hear that Slade's plans had been foiled in the past. Though something also told her that this defeat had caused much more trouble than it ever really solved.

They kept fighting, "So now... ugh... you want Robin to be your apprentice again?"

Slade didn't answer, but Adeline knew that was the case, "Why?"

Slade aimed a kick at her waist, but Adeline side-stepped it, "If you watch, you'll see why."

Such a simple answer and so not the one she wanted. No matter... "How... gah... do you expect... to achieve that... when you've failed... whoa... at it... wha... before?"

She aimed a punch at his face, but he caught her arm and held her in his grasp, the fight almost won. Adeline's eyes widened as she attempted to wrench herself free.

That's when she heard him tell her in her ear, "That's for me to know."

Adeline's face contorted in anger. She turned her head and spit in his face. He released her, wiping the spit off his mask. The clock struck. It had been an hour. Slade looked back to see Adeline glaring at him without an ounce of forgiveness.

"I don't care if it's Joey or Grant or someone else. You're demented, Slade," She hissed.

Slade turned for the door, taking a deep breath, and though he didn't face her, he ended their conversation, "You are free to your own opinion."

He left the gym. At this point, he figured that Robin should be almost done, so the mastermind headed to the empty room where he had left him. He wouldn't let her get to him. Adeline's determination never ceased to amaze him and cause him to... Slade shook his head. He wouldn't let Adeline's presence deter him from convincing Robin to be his apprentice. He had just about reached the room when Robin came around the corner, smelling of paint. The boy wonder barely caught himself before they slammed into one another. Looking up, Robin crossed his arms. Slade cast his eye down to see the younger.

"You've finished?" He asked.

Robin rolled his eyes for an answer. Slade eyed him. Walking back towards the room, Robin followed Slade for whatever inspection he had to now endure. As Slade walked into the room, he looked around at the four walls. It looked like a decent job. Until he saw one wall, right by the corner. At the top line where the orange met black, a thin line of black paint had begun to trickle down, ruining the distinction. Slade cast a glance at Robin, who had been ignoring him for the most part up until this point.

"You missed a spot," Slade told him, "Repaint it."

Robin looked over at what Slade was talking about. The thin black line... He had been working for a good few hours. He smelled like paint and he was sweating like crazy because of that heater, which only made the whole situation worse. Two coats of paint, four walls a total of twenty four different coats. And to make matters worse, it was the black that was running, which would mean he'd have to do several more coats to cover the darker color. He looked up at Slade, angrier than ever, but his answer was simple and final.

"No," Robin said.

Slade's expression, despite the mask, suddenly scared him. He looked livid with fury. Robin backed away, uncrossing his arms, worried, when suddenly Slade chuckled.

"Huh?" Robin asked.

"What you don't seem to understand, Robin," Slade said, turning to face him, "Is that you will be completing that order, one way or another."

Robin stepped back, but before his foot could even rest on the floor, he felt his shirt being wrenched forward. Slade threw him to the ground and beneath his back, he could feel the tray of orange paint. Suddenly, he was lifted up off the ground again. He grabbed onto Slade's wrist, hoping to find some relief from the choking hold, but was rewarded at he felt himself being slammed against the wet wall. Then directly after wards, his shoulder blades were the first to feel the sensation of his whole body being rubbed across the wall, with Slade forcing his head against it causing the boy wonder to feel dizziness overwhelming him.

Slade pulled Robin back and held him in the air, looking up at the wall. The paint job was immeasurably uneven, but Slade wasn't looking at that. The remnants of the black line remained. He glanced at Robin, who was just coming out of fighting off the dizzy spells.

"I think it needs a second coat," Slade said.

Robin's masked eyes widened, "No. No-no-no-no!"

He didn't finish. Slade slammed him back into the orange tray, but not satisfied with the amount of paint that was left, he let go as Robin gasped at the intense pain in his back, old wounds springing forth. When he finally looked up he saw Slade standing above him with one of the cans of paint. His eyes widened.

"Slade, don't...!" The mastermind tipped the can over, spilling half of the can on top of the Boy Wonder.

Robin covered his head, though he could feel the paint seeping past his arms, dripping onto his face. Slade picked him up and once again threw him into the wall, using him to cover the black line's remaining fragments. Robin held onto Slade's wrist as he felt himself being dragged back and forth across the wall. Finally, for a second time, Slade pulled the boy back and held him in the air again by the neck. Slowly he lowered him down.

"I don't think I see a trace of that line now..." Then his eye narrowed, "Though, now that I look at it, the top line of black seems to have a few specks of orange."

Robin glanced over at the trim and was horrified to see that Slade was right, "Slade, no! Stop...!"

He was dropped down this time onto the tray of black paint, but he wasn't about to lay down and wait like last time. Rolling over, Robin fought the searing pains that threatened to destroy the nerves in his back, when he heard Slade talk.

"Where do you think you're going?" Slade walked toward Robin, the can much heavier as not as much black paint had been used, "We're not done yet."

Robin felt Slade shove the side of his stomach over and pour the black paint over him. This time, stopping it did nothing to help. The black washed over him. The inevitable came. Slade once again picked Robin up shoving him into the wall, but this time, Slade didn't keep him in one place. First on one wall, then another, the colors getting smeared against each other creating an unkindly grey. At one point, a hand print clung to the paint, fingernails digging in, making an imprint, before it was dragged away and left to dry. Robin choked out, trying to breath, his vision obscured.

Finally, it was over. Slade dropped Robin to the ground, onto his knees. He attempted to sit up when he heard Slade walking away, picking something up. Then, he heard it, the remaining paint from the cans and the trays, rushing, falling on top of him. The colors ran into his hair and seeped past his clothes onto his skin. His hair dripped with the colors that stained him, his chest a mixture of black and orange complimenting and contrasting each other at the same time. He choked, getting air, the paint tasting vile as it threatened to seep past his lips. The heater came on and did the opposite of what it should do. It made his skin feel like ice.

Robin bent over, trying to catch his breath. It had been so fast and yet... he didn't want to think about it. He opened his eyes and realized that his mask was covered, making him unable to see. He brought a hand up and attempted to wipe off what he could, but he found that his fingers were littered in the orange blood, too. But as he uncovered what he could, the first thing that he saw was Slade's feet, standing in front of him. He looked up at the man. No, he couldn't be a man. No man could do something like this...

Slade kneeled down and looked Robin in the eye, "Take a good look around you, Robin. Take a good look at yourself."

Robin looked around the room, the entire paint job, ruined, and then, as he looked at himself, he saw a similar display as the orange and black colors covered him, tagged him...like an adverse portrait... Slade grabbed Robin's chin as some orange paint slid down some of Robin's hair.

"I own you, Robin," Slade said, "Don't try to escape that fact."

Slade stood up, releasing him and walked towards the door, but before he left he gave Robin one final order, "Oh, and Robin."

Robin turned his head upward as Slade finished, "I don't want to see any paint leave this room. I'll see you at dinner."

Robin nearly choked as Slade left. Looking down at himself, he didn't think he could leave this room. He was so drenched in paint... a black bit of paint dripped down his mask and he wiped it off. As he sat down, trying to recover from the terrifying experience, he slowly realized that he probably wasn't going to have to time wait for the paint on him to dry as he most likely only had a few hours...

He slowly took off his shoes and socks, separating them as he did so. Pulling his shirt off, he didn't dare look to see if his back looked as bad as it felt. He found the screw driver and punched a few holes at the knees of his pants, so that he could tear the bottoms off making shorts. He squeezed what he could out of the now-shorts and wrung out his shirt. Using his socks that were surprisingly mostly still dry, he used them to clear off any massively dripping bits of paint that had clung to his skin.

Within an hour, he had been able to slowly make it out of the painted room (the doors of which had slammed shut and locked themselves behind him) to the bathroom, where he took a shower to rinse off the rest. By the time dinner started, he was clean of any signs of paint. It didn't stop him from resenting Slade for what he had done or from resenting himself for letting it happen. Had he? He felt as though he should have been able to stop him... despite his... slipping grasp of control.

And all the while, Slade accumulated that control as the seconds, hours and days ticked by.

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