Bludhaven - after midnight
Squatting on the top of a tenement building, Nightwing looked down at the city that he now patrolled and protected. It wasn't Gotham City, it didn't have the scope, the size, or the wealth mixed with poverty, but it was his domain for now. This was his city. A light, cold rain started to fall. He ignored it. His mind was pre-occupied with other things.
Since it was after midnight, it was officially his birthday. Twenty-three years ago on November 11th he was born. For nine of those years he was part of a family called the Flying Graysons working for the International known Haly's Circus. He was considered a child prodigy, the boy who did a quadruple on the trapeze. His parents were so proud of him. Their son was only nine years and a star. His future was brighter than bright.
His father was Romani, a man who took pride in being called a gypsy because he didn't back down from a fight, while his mother was part English, Irish, and Scottish. God, he loved those days flying through the air with his mother and father. Whenever he let go of the trapeze bar, it felt as if he was a bird flying free. He first joined their act when he was six years old. By the age of seven he was doing a triple. By the age of eight was doing a quad.
His parents loved him. He was their pride and joy. His father Jonathan, originally Giovani but he changed it, and his mother Mary indulged their little Dickie. Jonathan taught him acrobatics, high flying, the ways of life in the circus, and how to defend himself. His mother Mary taught him literature, poetry, math, and more. When Haly's Circus visited Gotham City, Anthony Zucco put the strong arm on Mr. Haley for protection money. When Haley refused to pay, Zucco decided to teach him a lesson and rigged the trapeze ropes of the famous Flying Graysons to fail. Nine year old Richard Grayson watched in horror as his parents fell to their death.
In the audience was Bruce Wayne, a nineteen year old wealthy man, who had just returned to Gotham after disappearing two years earlier. In Richard Grayson, he saw a version of himself, so he took the young orphan into his home. He saw that the boy was filled with hate and a need to revenge his parents. Understanding the boy, Bruce Wayne knew he needed discipline and focus to deal with his anger, so he introduced Dick Grayson to Batman. For the next few years Dick trained under the Batman. He wasn't allowed to patrol with his mentor, or fight with him, but he trained and trained until Bruce started to be satisfied with his progress, while Alfred, Bruce's butler, took care of all his other needs. Alfred tended to his injuries, fed him, made sure he had some time to play as a child, and spoiled him.
By the time he was fourteen, he had become Robin, Batman's sidekick, his apprentice. Together they fought the criminals of Gotham, acting as a vigilante hero team. Captain James Gordon accepted them and worked with him and then when he was raised up to commissioner, his whole department accepted them. Batman and Robin weren't treated as vigilantes to be hunted down, but as almost an extension of the Gotham Police Department. It might have been unorthodox, but he worked. Because of Batman and Robin the crime rate in Gotham actually went down. It still was a dangerous city, but there was now hope.
By the time he was seventeen Dick was chafing under the tutelage of Bruce, so he left behind Gotham and being Robin and became Nightwing. Gone was his red, green, and yellow uniform replaced by a black one with a blue bird on his chest that was made of Nomex with a Kevlar triple weave giving him flexibility and some protection. He went to San Francisco and started the Teen Titans. As their leader, he made new friends, had lovers, almost got married, and then turned twenty and decided it was time return to Gotham because Bruce disappeared fighting Darkseid and was presumed dead.
Nightwing became Batman. His Robin was Damian Wayne-al Ghul, Bruce's biological son with Talia al Ghul. Damian was the fourth Robin. He was the first, the second was Jason Todd, that ended quickly and badly, and then Tim Drake became Robin. Tim developed his own style and persona and changed from Robin to Red Robin. He still was the Red Robin. Damian was his Robin for a year until Bruce was found and returned to take up his mantle. Now father and son were Batman and Robin.
Once Bruce was back, Nightwing made a comeback and moved to Bludhaven. Here he was on his birthday alone, squatting in the rain, and waiting for some action.
“Hey, Bro,” said a familiar voice.
Dick had heard Tim coming up behind him. He smiled.
“Tim,” he said.
“Happy Birthday,” Tim wished him.
Dick turned to look at another adopted son of Bruce Wayne. His costume was made of of red and black with a utility belt that held a collapsible bo staff and gauntlets that many surprises. His Red Robin suit had body armor much like Bruce's Batman suit.
“Why are you here, Tim?” he asked.
“Because it's your birthday tomorrow. I thought I could convince to have a fun day with your brother and maybe even dinner and movie,” said Tim.
“I pick the restaurant and movie,” smirked Dick.
“And Bruce pays for it. He gave me a black titanium credit card, the kind without a limit,” smiled Tim.
“Sounds good,” smiled Dick.
A car came a screeching halt below them. Three men got out of the black SUV. They were carrying guns.
“Care to join me for some action?” asked Dick.
“Sounds like fun,” said Tim, as he took out his grappling gun from behind his cape.
Dick smirked and merely jumped off the roof, went hurdling through the air, and then he grabbed one of his Escrima batons, pressed a button, and fired a piton at a street lamp. Tim chuckled as they made their way to street level.
Dick and Tim slept in late at his place. For them sleeping in late meant they were both up and looking for coffee by seven in the morning. Both of them had grown used to living off of three hours of sleep with the occasional luxury of getting four hours of sleep. An hour a day of meditation helped their bodies heal.
The two young men stood in their underwear in Dick's large open kitchen waiting for the coffee maker to finish its task. When he got to Bludhaven, Dick bought a warehouse in the up and coming waterfront district. He then spent a nice amount of money to have two separate construction companies refurbish it into the top two floors making up loft area for living, a gym/training area with steam room and hot tub, a garage on the first floor that included a hidden area for his wingcycle, and a special false wall hidden area that made up his lair which he used as his form of the Batcave with computers, medical, and other items.
The coffee maker finished its job and both of them attacked the pot of steaming hot liquid. Dick got to it first and poured himself a large mug then handed it to Tim, who poured himself a large mug. Dick added half and half and sugar to his coffee, while Tim drank it black like Bruce.
“Before I forget Barbara sends her best. She wanted to come for your birthday, but she's leaving today to move to Japan in order to train with marital arts experts,” Tim told him.
“What made her do that?” Dick asked.
“Bruce,” sighed Tim. “He told her that she needed to improve her skills and she agreed.”
Dick sipped his coffee. When Bruce passed judgment most of group that formed his extended family listened to him. He wasn't one of them, though. Bruce was against him becoming Nightwing and starting the Teen Titans, or Titans as they were now known as. His disapproval made Dick know he was doing the right thing.
“She cares too much about his opinion too much,” he remarked.
“You know she thinks Bruce walks on water,” grinned Tim. “And still still hung up on you.”
Dick grunted his response. His two greatest loves in his life so far were Kori, an alien princess with a temper, and Barbara. He couldn't make either relationship work because Bruce had taught him to put the mission first and he learned his lesson too well. Fortunately, it was a lesson he was trying to unlearn. He wanted more in his life than the mission.
“How is Bruce?” asked Dick.
Tim smirked then answered: “He has his hands full with Damian.”
“I can believe that,” smiled Dick.
“I think it bothers Bruce that Damian listened to you better when you acted as Batman than he does Bruce,” Tim told him.
“Damian... Damian is a handful,” admitted Dick.
“Yeah, but he has this strange competition and admiration for his brother Richard,” chuckled Tim.
“How is your relationship with Damian?” asked Dick.
“I'm better with computers than him and beat his ass with video games, so he hates me,” grinned Tim.
Dick laughed. Damian needed to be the best at everything. He was taught during his time with his grandfather and mother at the League of Assassins that second place will not do.
“I thought after we drink the pot of coffee we can got get breakfast then come back here and workout, take a steam, and then decide on where and what we are doing to night,” stated Dick.
“Sounds like a plan and anyone raised by Bruce Wayne must have a plan,” laughed Tim.
Dick chose a action film, something with a lot of stunts and explosions. Afterward he chose the restaurant, a local pub near his waterfront warehouse. Dick and Tim entered Mulligan's. Waving at the bartender, Dick took a seat along with Tim at an empty table.
“You a regular here?” asked Tim.
“Bruce has his regular spots and I have mine,” replied Dick.
“Yeah, but Bruce's spots involve a suit jacket and tie,” smiled Tim.
“Hey, you can't take the circus out of the boy. I like simple,” smiled Dick.
The waitress, a young brunette with a wicked smile, came over to the table. She put down two menus.
“Hey, handsome,” she said to Dick.
“Lori, this is a brother Tim,” Dick introduced Tim.
“Yeah, he's pretty good looking, too, but you're still the pick of the litter,” she grinned. “You two want a drink?”
“Yeah, I'll have a beer and he'll have an ice tea...” Dick started to order.
“Hey, at least make it a root beer or something,” chuckled Tim.
Lori looked at Tim and smiled: “How old are you?”
“Nineteen,” he grinned.
“You'll be legal someday,” she quipped then went off to get their drinks.
“Friend?” asked Tim.
“I've turned a new leaf, Tim” smiled Dick. “For now I am avoiding relationships until I'm sure that she is the right one for me. I've made too many mistakes, so it's time I slow down and not imitate Bruce.”
“Remind me not to tell Barbara that she was a mistake,” smirked Tim.
“Very funny, bro,” replied Dick.
Dick opened the menu, as did Tim. They reviewed their options. Lori brought them their drinks.
“I'll have the double bacon cheeseburger with onion rings on the side,” ordered Dick.
“I'll have the fish and chips,” ordered Tim.
“Be back with your meals,” she smiled then left.
The two former Robins fell into a conversation about Gotham, keeping their voices low. Tim updated him on the Joker, Two Faced, and Penguin then gave him an update on Jason Todd. The Joker killed Todd a year into his training as the new Robin, the successor to Dick. In a rage Bruce nearly beat the Joker to death, but stopped short. Twenty hours after his death, Jason's body was stolen by Ra's al Ghul, who placed him in a Lazarus Pit. Three years later the Red Hood appeared in Gotham. It turned out to be a changed Jason Todd. With training from the League of Assassins, he killed those in his way and brutalized gang-leaders taking control of a large portion of criminal activity in Gotham.
When Bruce found out it was him, he made it his goal to reclaim Jason's soul, to bring him back to being the good heart boy he started to train. In the end Jason told Bruce that he could never be the same as he was, too much had changed in him, but he could try to be on the right side of the law. A truce was finally forged.
“So Jason is visiting Gotham, as Jason not the Red Hood. Bruce is actually taking some time to spend with him,” Tim told him.
“He wanted me dead,” sighed Dick.
“Yeah, I know. He resented you for being the first Robin, the best one, and then becoming Batman for a time,” said Tim.
“And you?” asked Dick.
“Dick, I've always known that you are number one in Bruce's opinion. He's closer to you than he is to even Damian, his biological son. And the two of you are way too much alike,” he smiled.
“No, we're not,” snapped Dick.
“Yes, you are,” he grinned.
The meal came. Lori put them down then messed up Tim's hair and winked at Dick. Once she was gone they started to eat. As they enjoyed their first few bites of food, the unexpected came into the pub. Kori along with Raven entered. Kori looked like a supermodel with green eyes and red hair, as well as a body that took a man's breath away, and Raven, well, she had grown up. She wasn't as tall as Kori but she was shapely and dressed as a Goth. The two of them drew the attention of every man in the pub. They walked over to Dick's and Tim's table.
“Hey, handsome,” purred Kori as she looked at Dick.
“If it isn't our two former fearless leaders,” deadpanned Raven.
“Raven,” said Dick.
“I go by the name my mother gave me now. Rachel Roth,” said Raven. “Raven is when I'm acting as a Titan.”
“Sit down,” offered Tim.
“I got the feeling that you're not here by accident,” commented Dick.
“You really were trained by the world's greatest detective,” smirked Raven, as she sat beside Tim.
Kori sat beside Dick making him feel uncomfortable. They once almost got married, but since they broke things off, Dick had kept his distance from her. The Tamaranean princess came from a society that was freer and more open when it came to sex. When Dick found out that she had been married on her home planet as part of a peace treaty, and that she also had an affair with Jason. Dick gave her a meaningless smile.
“You are looking good, Dick,” she said.
“Thanks,” he said then added, “Why are you here?”
“The Titans need you,” said Raven.
“What's wrong?” asked Tim.
Kori turned her attention from Dick and looked at Tim.
“H.I.V.E.is back,” she said to Tim.
“Tell me more,” Tim prompted her.
“They have hired Grant Wilson, the Ravager, to assassinate Titans,” Kori stated.
“I thought he was dead,” said Tim.
“He's as difficult to kill as his father,” Kori replied.
Dick picked up an onion ring and ate it then reached for his wallet. He took out a hundred dollar bill and placed it down on the table then he picked up his burger.
“Well, I'm leaving. Bludhaven needs me. Integang is up to something and I have intel that tells me that Professor Pyg is back in town,” Dick stated. “I haven't been a Titan for two years and I'd like to keep it that way.”
Taking a bite of his burger, he looked at Tim.
“I'll probably be on patrol when you come back to my place,” he said while chewing his food. “Later.”
Dick walked away. He knew the Titans could handle their problem without him, especially if Tim was involved. Tim Drake had genius level hacking abilities to go along with great detective skills and tactical skills. They'd be in good hands with him.
Exiting the pub, he started walking towards his place. Though, he was enjoying his evening with Tim, there still was work to be done in his city.
Around one in the morning a cold rain started to fall. Nightwing had been following one of Professor Pyg's associates Jaina Hudson, AKA White Rabbit. Recently, she had been recruited by the Leviathan Group, which was now financing Professor Pyg. One of the disturbing things to find out was that Pyg, AKA Lazlo Valentin, a brilliant surgeon who just happened to go insane because of a mind control drug he was experimenting with for the spy organization Spyral, was Talia's son. Just like Damian he Talia's son. In some ways this made this personal because Dick wanted to protect Damian and Bruce. The Lazarus Pits allowed Talia to have a long life at the slow cost of her humanity.
A chill went down Dick's spine. His suit might protect him from fire, some bullets, but it didn't protect him from the cold. Sometimes he considered wearing something more like Bruce's suit. He didn't remember being cold when he acted as Batman for that long year. Dick watched as Jaina entered a nightclub called The Milk Club. Suddenly, Dick felt a crackle of energy behind him.
“What is it that you want, Raven?” he asked.
Dick looked over his shoulder at Raven. She was dressed in her thigh high black boots, a black short dress, and a dark blue cape with its hood obscuring her face. Around her waist was a belt made up of large red stones and silver, another red stone kept her cloak on, and a final small red stone shined from its spot on her forehead. He remembered her when the Titans were the Teen Titans and she just fifteen. Back then she was petite and fragile looking. She was still only five foot ten inches, only an inch or two smaller than him, and had filled out in so many ways.
“Wanted to see what you were doing instead of helping the Titans, the team you started,” she said. “I guess you're stalking an attractive young woman, who entered that club.”
“I'm following her and for a reason,” he said.
Dick stood up from his squatting position on the roof and faced her. Her took down her hood exposing her black with blue streaks hair to the rain. Dick now noticed how much the young girl was gone replaced by a young woman. Her dark blue eyes glared at him.
“We need your help,” she stated.
“Tim will help. If you have him then you don't need me,” smiled Dick.
“Is this an ego thing?” she asked.
“No, this is something I'm involved in which is important, Raven. I can't leave this,” Dick stated.
“Tell me about it?” she demanded.
“I know that you have limited mind reading ability, Raven, but don't try it on me. I was trained by Batman and trained well,” grinned Dick.
Raven attempted a peripheral read of his mind but got nothing. He wouldn't let her into his mind.
“I can also read emotion, empath, and I feel your angry and fear. What is it that Nightwing fears?” she asked. Raven was truly shocked to sense this much fear in Nightwing. When he was the Titans leader, he never felt fear. But it wasn't fear for himself, but for others.
“Okay, I'll tell you. Professor Pyg, an evil piece of work. He's a brilliant surgeon, who worked for a private spy agency called Spyral. Well, a mind control drug he was exposed to a mind controlling drug he designed. It made him insane. Now he kidnaps people, operates on them, using drugs on them, and turns them in something he calls dollotrons, human dolls. They are irrevocable changed to look like a human doll and to listen to his orders,” he growled. “But that's only part of the problem. You see Professor Pyg's real name is Lazlo Valentin. His mother is Talia al Ghul. Yes, Damian's mother. And Talia is now the head of the Leviathan Organization, an anti-capitalist, eco-terrorists group that wants control over metahumans so it can change the world.”
“You can't deal with them by yourself,” she said.
“Right now I'm collecting intel, that's all,” he replied. “Once I have enough I'll go to Batman, or maybe even the Titans.”
“Still, you need backup,” she said with concern.
“I'll be fine,” he smirked.
The almost imperceptible sound of a rifle with a silencer muffling it being fired was detected through the rain. Raven was shocked to see a burst of blood explode from Dick's shoulder. He grunted then grimaced in pain. Acting quickly, Raven had her soul self envelope both her and Dick and teleport them to his warehouse home. He definitely needed backup.