"Robin!" Batman shouted, turning his head to look for him. "Where the hell are you?"
All around him debris began to fall. Dick didn't know who was behind this, but he had to answer the distress call from Gordon. Apparently whoever was behind this wasn't a regular Gotham villain. Of course, ever since Dick donned the Batman cowl the regular villains decided to screw with the new Batman in town.
As the seconds passed by in silence worry began to gnaw at Dick's insides. While he knew that Damian was more than capable of taking care of himself Dick couldn't help but worry for the little brat. Where the hell was he? The last thing Dick remembered was Damian going after some thug just seconds before the bomb exploded.
So much for teamwork.
"I see you haven't changed much."
Dick froze at the sound of the voice. Surely…no way…he hadn't seen that villain in years…
He turned around. A man dressed in a black-and-orange costume stood in the doorway with his hands clasped behind his back. Even after all of these years Dick still hated the man for what he had done to all of his friends. Not just the Titans, but to his friends in the Justice League. If the man came here for the sole purpose of extracting revenge then Dick would make sure that he wouldn't hurt Damian.
"What are you talking about, Deathstroke?" Dick growled. "Why are you here?"
Slade shook his head and stepped forward. Dick dodged a piece of cement as the building shook violently. Where was Damian? Was Slade responsible for the bomb? If so, then there was going to be hell to pay.
"Everyone knows you're not the original," Slade said, "he's a lot taller than you are."
Dick didn't have time for this nonsense. Even though he had a deep history with Slade he didn't have time to reminisce. Instead of sticking around to talk he rushed towards Slade with an angry roar. A secondary explosion rocked the building, forcing Dick to change tactics. Instead of kicking Slade Dick decided to punch the mercenary in the face for all he was worth. His eyes widened in surprise as Slade caught his fist in his overlarge hand. Slade took the opportunity to swing a fist into Dick's face.
"New costume, same old mistakes."
The blow left Dick feeling a bit muddled. As he stood up and tried to clear his head Slade kneed him in the stomach. With the wind knocked completely out of him, Dick found himself on all fours, trying to catch his breath. If Damian came in here now he would berate Dick for allowing himself to be beaten by a one-eyed mercenary.
"Why…why are you here?" Dick asked.
"I was in town. Thought I'd stop by and say hello."
Dick's gloved hands formed fists. He had been beaten too many times by Slade. If anything, he couldn't allow himself to be beaten by Slade while he was wearing the Batman cowl. Batman didn't allow himself to be beaten by anyone. Robin had an excuse, and perhaps Nightwing, but not Batman. Never Batman.
"ROBIN!" Dick shouted again.
No one answered. After this was over Dick was going to give the kid a severe lecture. He couldn't keep going off on his own like that. Although Dick would never admit it out loud, he really needed Damian's help right now.
"I see that someone else has donned your old costume," Slade said. "Isn't he your guardian's son?"
Dick snapped his head up and scowled.
"Why, are you still looking for an apprentice, Slade?"
The mercenary laughed. Dick struggled to his feet and assumed a fighting stance. If the building wasn't about the collapse on him then he would care more about fighting Slade. Unlike most of the villains Dick fought, he had a very personal history with Slade. It didn't matter what costume he wore, the fact was still the same: he used to work for Slade, even if it was unwillingly. Slade had always been out for revenge after that. Ever since that harrowing time as master and apprentice the two had scored intensely personal hits against each other over the years.
"No. I suppose that it's too late to teach you anything anymore, Grayson."
Dick raised his fists, but then Slade raised his own. There was a trigger in his hand. All at once that trigger brought back painful memories that Dick would rather forget. Slade's mask shifted slightly. The man was smiling.
"Hear me out, Grayson, or I'll blow up the downtown neighborhood."
The room rocked again. A small boy with a scowl on his face dropped down into the room, the hood of his Robin costume over his head.
"Robin, get over here," Dick ordered in a tight voice.
"Tch, what's got you so worked up?" Damian asked, the eyeholes of his mask narrowing as he caught sight of Slade. "Oh, it's Deathstroke."
At first Dick was afraid that Damian wasn't going to listen to him. But perhaps the kid sensed the urgency in his voice. Damian leapt over a pile of debris and stood next to Dick. Slade chuckled softly under his breath.
"Tell me, Grayson, how many nights have I kept you up?"
Damian tensed visibly when Slade mentioned Dick's name. Dick held up a hand as a sign to restrain himself. Slade, like most villains, liked to talk. But Dick found himself listening to every word that dripped out of Slade's mouth. The mercenary began to pace around them, never minding the debris falling down from the ceiling.
"What are we waiting for?" Damian demanded. "We can take him!"
"I like you, Wayne," Slade said, "I like that fire about you. Reminds me a lot of your brother's obsession with me back when he was a Titan."
Dick's face grew pale. He had never told Damian about his brief apprenticeship with Slade. Hell, he never even told Tim that. The only people who knew about that were the original Titans, Alfred, and Bruce.
"What is he talking about?" Damian asked. "What's going on?"
As usual, Damian didn't sound scared. Dick could tell that the kid was holding back, but at the same time Dick knew that Slade's words had caught his interest.
"Slade—" Dick began.
Slade held up the trigger again, effectively silencing him. Once before Slade had held a trigger similar to that one, and once before threatened him into silence. Dick mentally hit himself. How could he have fallen into the same trap twice?
"Of course, I didn't expect you to tell your new partner about us right away. After all, I probably gave you nightmares afterwards, didn't I?"
Sweat poured down the side of Dick's forehead as he gritted his teeth. He knew about Slade's mind games better than anyone else. If he talked then Slade would twist his words into something they weren't. But yes, Slade had given him nightmares after he came home from the haunt. Who wouldn't have nightmares? Being constantly beaten…threatened…having the lives of the Titans threatened…
"Are you here to be nostalgic?" Dick demanded. "That isn't going to work. I'm not a child anymore. You can't scare me."
He knew that he was lying. Both Damian and Slade knew he was lying as well. Slade laughed again. This was getting irritating. Damian began to look back-and-forth between Slade and Dick, trying to figure out what the hell was going on.
"I know I can't. I know that you're Batman now…congratulations."
Slade said that last word with as much sarcasm as he could muster. If Slade was here simply to mock him—
"Are you still mad at me about Rose?" Dick asked, trying to change the subject. "You were pretty pissed about that last time I saw you."
Slade moved so quickly that Dick almost didn't react in time. The two began to fight furiously as the room shook. It was so different fighting in the Batman costume. Dick wished that he didn't have the cape on him at the moment. It threw him off balance and it was also a safety hazard. The older man knocked Dick's arm aside and pushed him against the wall.
"As a matter of fact, I am."
Forgetting his orders to stay put, Damian rushed forward to his mentor's aid. Slade spun around to battle the younger Robin. Dick blinked away the black spots in front of his eyes. As soon as his head cleared he joined in the fight.
Before Slade had time to react Dick forced the controller out of Slade's hand. He reached out and grasped Slade by the throat. The mercenary's eye widened in surprise, but then he smirked.
"I suppose I am teaching you something, then."
Dick breathed heavily as he leaned in close to Slade's face, his voice a low and deadly growl.
"You're not hurting Damian or anyone else. Not on my watch."
"That's always been a weakness of yours, Dick. But you're not Batman. To me you'll always be the little boy who worked for me in Jump City."
And with that Slade forced his way out of Dick's grip. Before Dick could say or do anything the ceiling finally began to collapse. Together Batman and Robin sprinted to safety as Slade vanished. Dick knew that they wouldn't be able to find him unless he wanted to be found. As soon as they were on another rooftop Damian finally spoke.
"What did Deathstoke mean, Grayson? He said you used to work for him."
My hatred for you knows no bounds, Slade, Dick thought.
Dick straightened. He wasn't going to let Slade know that his words got to him. He looked down at Damian, who had his arms crossed over his chest and was looking at him expectantly. Being the little aristocratic brat that he was, Damian probably expected an answer.
"That's a story for another day," Dick replied. "Come on, let's get out of here."
As they moved away from the crumbling building Damian began to ask more questions. While Dick wasn't sure if he wanted to tell Damian the whole story, he knew that he would have to eventually. Dick knew that he and Deathstroke were going to clash again. They would always clash again. Yes, in a sense Dick considered Deathstoke to be his arch-nemesis. How could he not, after all that they had done to each other?
Dick's head snapped up as he sensed someone near them. He knew who it was before the man spoke. When he had trained as Slade's apprentice he could always sense the man's evil presence. As he looked up he saw Slade standing on a steel support beam high above them.
"Another day, Grayson," he said, mockingly saluting him. "Another day."
A/N: Wow…I wrote this pretty fast. Could have been better, but it's good practice. Later!