Chapter Thirty: The Portrait
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..."
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.
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.
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?"
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
"Are you alright?" She asked, earnestly interested.
Alfred was surprised by the gesture, but answered, "Yes, I am alright."
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.
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."
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."
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.
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
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?"
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.
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."
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.
hit a button and a car door opened for Leslie. She got in barely before
"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."
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.
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
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.
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...
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."
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."
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.
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?"
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.
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."
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
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."
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."
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.
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."
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.
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
"You missed a spot," Slade told him, "Repaint it."
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.
expression, despite the mask, suddenly scared him. He looked livid with
fury. Robin backed away, uncrossing his arms, worried, when suddenly
"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.
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!"
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.
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
"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...!"
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
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
Slade kneeled down and looked Robin in the eye, "Take a good look around you, Robin. Take a good look at yourself."
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
"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."
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.