“Dick, I told you. I’ll call when I’m ready to talk to you again”, Roy says after he has picked up the phone.
“Roy, Deathstroke is in my apartment.” Dick’s voice sounds calm and controlled but Roy’s heart stops for a moment.
“Are you alright?”, he asks taking in a deep breath. Please don’t do anything stupid, Dick.
Dick is quiet for a moment: “He said to call you and tell you to come here.”
There is slow and steady breathing in his ear. Too careful to be calm. Roy realizes that Dick must be incredibly scared.
“It’ll take me an hour. I’m still in Metropolis. I’m guessing he doesn’t want me to call anyone.”
There’s only silence. Then the phone call is ended. Roy can hear his own heartbeat. It’s fast. His hands are shaking. What business does Deathstroke have with him? And why would he not just come to him directly? It’s obvious that the fear clenching his abdomen is the point of this endeavor.
It takes Roy 45 minutes and he has broken a lot of speed limits. He stands in front of the door to Dick’s apartment and debates whether he should ring the doorbell or use the key Dick gave him ‘in case you’re ever in Blüdhaven and need a place to stay’.
He decides to go with the key but opens the door slowly so no one inside will be surprised. Once the door is open, Roy takes a moment to take in the room. No sign of a fight. Deathstroke is sitting on a chair in a black suit facing the door with a gun in his hand. He’s smiling at Roy. Roy can only see the back of Dick’s head. He’s on the couch.
Deeathstroke raises an eyebrow at him and motions with his free hand to close the door. Then, he speaks: “I hear you’re investigating Intergang.”
Roy nods without moving closer. He isn’t going to do anything that might get Deathstroke to shoot the gun pointed at Dick.
“They hired me to stop that investigation. I think they might prefer it if I killed you but I’m sure we can work something out. I’d hate for this to get messy. Wouldn’t you?”
There is an evil smile on Slade’s face. He’s playing with Roy. But Roy can’t do anything but nod slowly.
“Good”, Slade simply says and shoots.
“Dick!”, Roy calls out and clambors forward. He jumps over the couch and looks into Dick’s wide eyes. He hears the frantic breathing and looks for the blood but there isn’t any. There’s just a small hole in Dick’s white shirt. “It’s okay, Dick. You’re okay”, he breathes but Dick doesn’t seem to calm down.
“The effects won’t last more than a week. If the investigation continues, the damage I do will be more lasting”, Slade’s voice says from behind him and it takes Roy ten seconds, maybe more, to process the words.
Roy pushes up Dick’s shirt. No wound. Just a network of small blue lines going outward from where the bullet had hit. It looked like a network of cables. If Slade had told the truth, Dick was alright.
Well, not alright maybe. Dick was definitely having a panic attack. Roy tried to calm his own breathing. No way was he going to be able to calm Dick down if he was panicking as well.
He takes one of Dick’s hands and places it on his breast: “Come on, breathe with me, Dick. In… and out… in… and out…” He holds Dick’s hand there for a few minutes, combs through his hair and talks softly. Then Roy lets Dick’s hand down. “Tell me what’s going on, Dick”, he says.
Dick takes a shaky breath: “I can’t feel my legs, Roy.”
There’s panic in Roy’s chest for a moment before he pushes it down: “Slade said the effects of whatever he shot you with would only last a week. Don’t worry, we can figure this out.
Dick nods but his eyes are still wide with fear.
“I’m going to call the Watchtower, alright? They’ll transport us up and we can get someone to do all necessary scans.”
Dick nods again. Roy fishes the communicator out of his pocket and presses Watchtower.
“Cyborg here. What do you need, Arsenal?”, Vic’s voice says cheerfully.
“Hey, Vic. Can you lock onto my location and beam Dick and me up?”
Vic sombers: “Sure. Is everything alright?”
“Dick’s hurt”, Roy cringes at his own words and looks at Dick who seems to be trying to meditate.
“Are you ready?”, Vic asks.
“One moment. Dick?” Dick opens an eye. “Is it okay if I lift you up?” Another nod. Roy stands up and carefully lifts Dick up. For a guy who’s 20 centimeters smaller than Roy, Dick is heavy. “We’re ready, Vic.”
They dissolve into nothingness and are put together again on the Watchtower.
“How can I help?”, Vic asks carefully while Roy is still trying to get his bearings.
Roy grimaces. Vic could probably run the most effective tests but he doesn’t want to tell him what had happened in front of Dick and he doesn’t want to leave Dick alone either: “Donna’s here, right?”
“Yes, I think she went to the training room half an hour ago.”
“I’ll get Dick to the medbay. Can you send her there?”
“Sure, anything else?”
“Not for now.”
The steps approaching the medbay are cautious but quick. Donna. She’s probably worried. Roy looks down at Dick who was staring at the ceiling. No movement. Just blinking every once in a while.
“What happened?”, Donna asks from the doorway and slowly walks closer to the cot. She’s afraid of what she’s going to see, Roy realises.
Dick’s head moves and he grits out one word: “Deathstroke.” His face is a neutral mask like the one he wore during their time with the Outsiders.
Donna’s face shows relief and horror at the same time. Meetings with Slade never go well. And there’s no way to predict how badly they’ll end but he does have this creepy obsession with Dick. Roy shoots Donna a look, silently asking if she can deal with Dick even if he starts to panic. She nods slightly.
“Dick, I’m going to get Vic so he can run some tests, alright?”
“Do you want to tell me what happened?”, Donna asks carefully after Roy has left the room.
Dick closes his eyes: “I can’t feel my legs.” Donna’s heart stops. Dick hurries to continue: “He said it would only last a week.” Dick draws in a deep breath. “But I can’t feel my legs and I’m scared out of my mind, Donna.”
“Do you want me to call someone? Any of your siblings? Wally? Alfred?”, she doesn’t mention Bruce because she doesn’t know whether they’ve had another fight.
Dick lips quiver: “Can you call Bruce?” A single tear rolls down his cheek and Donna realizes that the adrenaline rush must be wearing off.
“I will. Just give me a second.”
Donna has Bruce Wayne’s phone number on her phone. He answers after two rings: “Ms Troy. There had better be a reason you’re calling me during a board meeting.”
“Dick’s hurt. Dr Stone and Harper are taking care of him but he wants you here”, Donna says trying not to give anything away if someone can hear something on Bruce’s end.
She hears Bruce’s voice in the background: “Mrs Jordan, would you please tell the other board members, I’ve been called away on a family emergency?” Then his attention turns back to her: “How bad is it?”
A relieved sigh and a quieter voice: “I will go to an alley near WE. Shouldn’t take more than ten minutes.”
With that the phone call is ended. Donna combs through Dick’s hair with her free hand as she puts her phone away: “He’ll be here in ten minutes.”
“Harper, report”, Bruce growls as soon as he materializes on the Watchtower and Roy can barely bite back his response. Dick asked for Bruce and Roy won’t be responsible for any deaths today.
“Deathstroke shot him and said the effects would last up to a week. Donna and Vic are getting ready to run some tests.”
The look on Bruce’s face is purely Batman. Roy has seen it often over the years. Every time Dick got hurt or in trouble. It’s the ‘I’m worried but I don’t want to show it’-face. Roy hates that face. He hates the emotional constipation that comes with it.
“Medbay?”, Bruce asks looking into the right direction.
Bruce looks at him: “Thank you for taking care of him.”
Roy isn’t even mildly surprised that it’s a acidic anger that flares up in him and not any warm feeling.
They make it through the entirety of the medical tests before the yelling begins. Roy would be proud of himself for not starting it - not actually being a part of it - if it weren’t for the fact that one of his closest friends was yelling at his father with tears streaming down his face while lying in a bed unable to move his legs. Yeah, this day was going great.
“Why the hell do you think I would want to come live in the manor for a week? I’m still angry at you! I wanted you here because I was feeling helpless and panicked and wanted your comfort but instead you just… bulldoze over what I want! You can’t just decide everything for me! That’s not how life works!” Dick’s breathing is heavy. His eyes are wide. He’s obviously trying to get his emotions under control.
Roy clears his throat and gets a Batglare which he decides to ignore: “You can stay at my place if you want to”, he says without looking at Bruce. “Wally’s been staying there and I have another guest room. There’ll be someone to help you whenever you need it and you wouldn’t have to be alone.”
Dick looks like he’s going to reject the offer because he’s a stubborn idiot who doesn’t like to accept help. Then his eyes drift to the ceiling for a moment and back to Roy. His mouth twitches unhappily: “Thank you. I’d like that.”
Roy smiles at him and feels a sharp pain in his heart. He really doesn’t like that Dick agreed so easily: “I’ll be back here in half an hour. I need to talk to Vic about something.”
He hurries out the room and feels the rush of air of Donna flying after him. He stops at the end of the hallway and turns around expectantly.
“You’re not blaming yourself, are you?”, Donna asks.
“Do I look like a Bat to you?”
“Not particularly, no”, there’s a soft worried smile on Donna’s face. Roy knows it’s worried because he’s seen it often enough.
He rubs his face: “No but I’m going to give Vic all the information I have on Intergang. I’m not going to continue investigating them.”
“It’s not your fault.”
“But it would be my fault if I ignored the warning and continued.” Donna looks like she’s about to protest. “With the Justice League continuing the investigation I can claim I had nothing to do with it. And if they’re hiring Deathstroke, the case is too big for me alone, anyway.”
“Make sure he doesn’t fall in a hole?”
“I will. Wally will probably do more.”
“Yeah. I’m glad he’s staying with you two. The manor wouldn’t have ended well even if there hadn’t been this much yelling beforehand. He would have shut himself off from his family, his family wouldn’t have known how to deal with it or pushed too much. Dick wouldn’t have let his pain show because he doesn’t want his siblings to have to deal with that and would have ended up angry and depressed without any solutions.”
“Wow, you’re in a bad mood, aren’t you?”
“Harper, I’ve been stuck on the Watchtower for the last week while angry at the Justice League.”
Roy hums in response. He can understand that.
“I really like Jessica. I’ve been teaching her sword fighting and hand to hand combat. She keeps me company whenever she has time. I join her during monitor duty. It’s also nice to spend time with Vic. He nearly blew a hole in a wall when he heard that they made us disband. I’m still not sure whether it was the shock or anger.”
Roy laughs: “Do you ever wonder how out of all of us it’s Vic who’s in the Justice League?”
Donna grins right back at him: “Well, at least Dick and I have had a standing invitation or the last eight years. Probably Garth, too, but he’s never said anything.”
“That’s because you’re teacher’s pets.”
“Did you just call the guy, who nearly punched Batman five minutes ago, a teacher’s pet?”
Roy laughs so hard his eyes start watering: “You know what I mean!”
Dick wakes up in an unfamiliar bed. It takes him a moment to remember what had happened. The wheelchair next to his bed helps. He maneuvers himself to the edge of his bed and lifts himself into the wheelchair only for it to roll away and him to crash to the floor. There are fast footsteps in the hallway and the door was opened.
“Are you okay?”, Roy asks before seeing him on the floor. “Did you get hurt?”
“No, I’m fine”, Dick says angry at himself for not paying attention to the wheelchair’s brakes.
“Come on, I’ll help you.”
The first day isn’t great. Dick is in a bad mood all day and Roy and Wally are trying really hard to get him to feel better. They try but Dick just wants to climb into a cave and reemerge in a week. Except he can’t climb of course and sometimes he moves in a way that makes the gadget in his back shoot pain through his entire body. The first time he’d stretched for his glass and screamed in pain because he didn’t expect it.
Every time since then, while he hasn’t made more than a groan or hiss, Wally had flinched violently and Roy had stopped what he was doing to look at Dick. Dick doesn’t like it. He doesn’t like being handled with care, like he’s a raw egg that would break at the smallest pressure. He isn’t. He survived three weeks of juvie when he was nine. He can survive one week without the use of his legs.
There’s a small voice in the back of his head saying that surviving isn’t really the issue here.
When the gadget removes itself from his spine, Dick vomits and falls off the couch. Spasms shoot through his body and the pain is all consuming. Suddenly, it stops.
“Dick, are you okay?”, He hears Wally ask repeating his name over and over again.
“I’m fine”, Dick croaks.
He pushed himself up and realizes that that was his foot he just moved. Dick stares down at it. Then, when it moves again, he starts crying in relief.