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.
Tim had Dick on the medical bed in his hidden area of his warehouse. He had pulled down the upper half of his Nightwing suit, so he could get to the bullet wound. Luckily, it was a through and through and seemed to mainly do muscle damage. While Tim stitched up Dick's left shoulder, Raven negated most of his pain with her empathic skills. She hadn't said a word since she got Dick to his place. For some reason seeing Nightwing shot shook her. Kori watched and paced.
“You want to tell me about this,” said Tim.
“Teflon bullet, sniper with silencer. Didn't hear it coming until it was too late,” groaned Dick.
Raven stared at Dick's bare upper body for a moment. The lithe sinewy muscles were expected, but what else she saw wasn't expected. She counted seven healed knife wounds, three bullet holes, and the fading white scares of claw mark across his prefect abdomen. Looking at his scars was a reminder that he was human, all too human. So was Tim. Most of the Titans were Meta-humans. Kori was alien and she was half demon. So few of them were all human and susceptible to the damage they were susceptible to. Dick and Tim were remarkable doing what they were doing, she thought.
“Sit me up, bro,” growled Dick.
When she appeared with the injured Nightwing, Tim and Kori were at the warehouse discussing Grant Wilson and what to do with H.I.V.E.. She appeared in the middle of the large living area. Tim reacted immediately taking his brother into the hidden areas of the warehouse where the medical supplies were kept.
“He should stay lying down,” Raven commented finally breaking her silence.
“That's not going to happen,” smiled Tim.
He helped Dick into a seated position then handed him four pain killers and a glass of water. Dick downed the pills and water then handed him back the glass. Once he put the glass down Tim started bandaging him.
“I see you still don't believe on being easy on yourself,” remarked Kori. “You won't even rest, will you?”
“I want to check if Bludhaven's CCTV caught a glimpse of the sniper. If I know the sniper, I'll know who sent them then I know how to deal with this,” Dick stated.
Dick softly groaned as he stood up and walked over to his computer setup. Tim followed him. Raven looked over at Kori with concern. Kori shrugged. She had seen this behavior before from Dick when he was injured. He ignored the pain and concentrated on the mission. After the fourth or fifth time she started to stop voicing her concern about him and accepted that he was who he was. Yes, Kori still loved in many ways, but Dick kept part of himself closed off and she didn't like that. She shared everything about herself, good and bad. He didn't.
Tim sat in the chair beside him. As Dick started to work in the Bludhaven's CCTV network, Tim took over.
“I'm better at this then you, bro,” smiled Tim.
“Okay, I'll give you that,” chuckled Dick.
Tim hacked into the system and started work through the network, setting up a filter for time and location. Finally, he brought up the right CCTV. There was a shadowy figure on a rooftop. A rifle with a long silencer could be made out. Tim worked on the image for a few minutes trying to enhance. Finally Tim cleared up the image.
“That's Silencer,” sighed Dick. “Honor Guest.”
“I thought she was out of the game,” said Tim.
“She was. The only way to get her to pick up a hit now is by threatening her son or husband or both. She'd kill to protect them,” growled Dick. “Sounds like something Talia would do.”
“Talia has access to the League of Assassins, so why use Silencer?” Tim pointed out.
“Silencer used to be part of Leviathan and she is the head of that organization. Talia doesn't like it when talent walks away from her. She likes to get her money's worth,” Dick noted.
“Leviathan,” sighed Tim. “They are nasty.”
“Talia al Ghul,” Dick said softly.
“She still holds a grudge against you because of Damian,” Tim said to his brother.
“Why?” Raven asked.
“Because when Dick acted as Batman, Damian learned what it was like to be a hero and do the right thing. When Bruce returned Damian chose to stay with his father and not return to the League of Assassins. She blamed Dick for Damian's decision even more than she blamed Bruce. I think Talia thought Damian would spend a years or so with Bruce and go running home to train to replace his grandfather eventually,” Tim explained.
“So you are who we have to blame for that bossy brat,” smiled Kori.
“Well, partially,” grinned Dick.
“I should stay here with you, Dick,” said Tim.
“No, you have to help the Titans. I'll handle this, Tim,” replied Dick.
“I'll stay and act as his backup,” Raven spoke up.
Everyone turned their heads and looked at her. Dick looked confused and Kori looked a little miffed. Tim smirked.
“What?” said Raven.
“Why you and not me?” asked Kori.
“It's obvious, Koriand'r. You'll end up spend as much time trying to seduce him as look out for his back. You can't help yourself,” stated Raven.
Tim laughed then said: “She's right.”
“How about no one helps me and I do this on my own,” offered Dick.
“Not going to happen, bro,” said Tim. “You need someone looking out for your back if Talia is sending assassins after you.”
“I've dealt with worse,” said Dick.
“Raven stays. It's going to take a week or so for your shoulder to be at full strength, so you can use the help. Think of it as you are helping to train her up for the Titans,” said Tim.
“I don't need more training,” snapped Raven.
“You'll be getting more training if you stay here with Dick, like it or not,” said Tim.
“I'll need a hotel room and my street clothes,” stated Raven.
“You'll stay here. I have three free bedrooms,” said Dick. “And I'll take you shopping for clothes tomorrow.”
“You don't have to do that,” Raven said with some force.
“Let him. Dick has money of his own from his circus days and then some, plus he's one of Bruce Wayne's heirs,” smiled Tim. “Money is not a problem.”
“I chose the stores and the clothes,” growled Raven.
“Yeah, of course,” said Dick.
“Who wants eggs and bacon?” asked Dick. “I'm cooking.”
“I do,” grinned Kori.
“I could eat,” added Dick.
“I'll have tea,” stated Raven.
“Morning, sleepyhead,” Tim greeted Kori, who was wearing one of Dick's tee shirt for pajamas, as she exited one of the spare bedrooms.
Tim was in the kitchen pouring her a cup of coffee. Before Kori could even shuffle into the kitchen area to get her coffee, Raven exited the other spare bedroom. She was also wearing one of Dick's tee shirts to sleep in.
“Coffee?” Tim asked her, as he handed Kori a coffee.
“Tea,” mumbled Raven.
She made it to the kitchen counter and sat on a stool beside Kori. They both looked like they needed more sleep.
“Where's Richard?” asked Kori.
“In the gym working out,” smiled Tim.
“Shouldn't he be resting?” snapped Raven.
“We were taught by Batman that the only reason you didn't workout or train was because you were incapacitated. Dick is not incapacitated. He's hurt,” Tim told them.
“He had a bullet damage some the muscle in his shoulder,” stated Raven annoyed by Dick's behavior.
“Which you helped heal,” grinned Tim.
“Did you workout?” asked Kori.
“Yup,” Tim's grin grew.
“Why is Richard still working out?” asked Raven.
“Because he's injured. The extra hour is called rehabbing,” chuckled Tim.
“You, the whole Batman clan, are crazy,” stated Kori. “I want breakfast before we leave for San Francisco.”
“How about I make you an omelet?” asked Tim.
“That will be satisfactory,” answered Kori.
“And you?” he asked Raven.
“Toast,” she sighed.
As they ate their breakfast, Dick came into the living area. He was dressed in jeans and a blue chambray shirt. His hair was still wet and he had the beginning of five o'clock shadow. The man looked like he was model coming from a photo shoot instead of a tired vigilante coming from his morning workout.
“You have coffee and breakfast for me?” he asked Tim.
“In the microwave is an omelet and there is still coffee in the pot,” replied Tim.
“Thanks, bro,” smiled Dick.
Tim, Kori, and Raven sat at the dining table finishing their breakfast. Dick grabbed his plate, which had an omelet and toast on it, and poured himself a mug of coffee. After adding half and half and sugar, he joined them.
“Kori and I will be leaving in less than a half hour,” said Tim.
Dick looked at Raven and said: “You ready to go shopping for clothes.”
“Does Bludhaven have a Goodwill place and second hand clothes stores?” she asked.
“I suppose,” he shrugged as he ate his omelet.
“I'll look it up on the internet,” sighed Raven.
“We are going to one boutique,” stated Dick.
“Why?” asked Raven.
“Because in three days from now is a charity ball given by the mayor. We are attending,” Dick told her.
“Why?” asked Raven not hiding her tone of irritation.
“Because my intel tells me that Talia al Ghul will be attending,” stated Dick. “We are going. Or, at least, I'm going.”
“Alright, I'm going,” she growled.
“You're a beautiful young woman, Raven. Look at the ball as a chance to show off,” Dick told.
Raven's dark blue eyes met Dick's azure colored eyes. Dick thought he saw a bit of blush in her cheeks but it was soon replaced by a scowl.
“I don't show off,” she snapped.
“Okay,” he smiled then ate more of his omelet.
Raven and Dick took the freight elevator to the first floor, which had been turned into a garage. They had their choice of a black Maserati Ghibli, a gray Mercedes Benz SUV GLC, a black 2015 Ford Pickup F-150 Platinum, a black 2016 Harley Davidson Street Glide, and a black 2017 Ducati Diavel. His Nightwing cycle was hidden away in its own hidden garage. Raven looked at the cars and bikes and shook her head.
“I guess you need more cars,” joked Raven.
“Funny,” smirked Dick. “We're taking the Mercedes SUV.”
“Whatever you say,” she said.
Dick walked over to a lockup box, unlocked it with a biometric hand-print then grabbed the keys of the Mercedes. Dick zipped up his brown leather jacket, pressed the button to turn off the alarm and unlock the doors then got in the Mercedes. Raven, who was dressed in back jeans, a black hoodie, and a black overcoat, got in the passenger seat.
“Where to first?” he asked.
“I checked and there is a Goodwill store in The Narrows and several second hand clothes store worth looking at in Fort Joseph District,” she told him.
“Okay, well, start at the Narrows then head to St. Joseph District. After that I'm thinking lunch at Waterloo Docks because I'm in the mood for fish and chips, and, finally, a boutique I know in Avalon Hill,” Dick explained. “How does that sound?”
“Like I have no choice,” snarked Raven.
Dick chuckled to himself, started the SUV, pressed the garage door button, and the garage door slowly opened up. He pulled out of his waterfront area home and started to drive towards the Narrow. While driving he glanced over at Raven.
“Smile. I'm paying for today,” he said.
“I don't need you to pay,” she grumbled.
“Hey, you are doing me a favor, so I'm paying for it,” he stated.
“A favor you don't want,” she countered.
“But I'm accepting it, aren't I?” he said.
“You don't want me here, do you?” she confronted him.
“Hey, Raven, it's not about you. It's about me. I was trained by Batman, so I tend to want to do things on my own. Even when I led the Titans, I went off on my own on occasion. Like adoptive father, like adopted son,” he smiled.
“Do you trust me?” she asked.
“I let you on the Titans when you were a kid. I trust you,” smirked Dick.
“I'm not a kid anymore,” mumbled Raven.
“I know, I know, you're twenty years old. You're an old timer now,” he chuckled. “You're still a kid to me, little Raven, who feared becoming like her father. You're never became like him, did you?”
“Because of the Titans,” she replied.
“We helped, but mainly it's because of you, Raven. You fought that curse, that prophecy, not the Titans. You deserve most of the credit,” he told her.
Raven looked at him for a moment. He was paying attention to driving, so he didn't ntoice that she blushed a little. When she first joined the Titans she had a crush on Nightwing, their leader and founder of the Titans.
“You still dating Beast Boy?” he asked.
“You mean Changling,” she corrected him.
“Okay, yeah, Changling,” Dick smirked.
“No. We broke up,” Raven stated in a tone that told Dick that she didn't want to talk about it.
“Okay, we won't talk about you and Beast Boy,” he said.
“Changling,” she corrected him.
“Okay, Changling,” he said.
“Do you want to talk about you and Kori?” asked Raven.
“Sure, why not? Let's see Kori comes from a society where sexual freedom is taken seriously. We were going to get married I found out that she had slept with Jason Todd, my brother who went bad. I didn't realize she liked bad boys. We fought and she told me that she was married before on her home planet as part of a peace treaty then she told me a few other things and by the end of your conversation, she broke up with me and I quit the Titans to go solo,” he explained.
“Kori always says that you have a darkness in you even greater than your brother Jason,” Raven said.
“But I don't let it out to play like he does,” Dick smiled. “Here is the Goodwill.”
Over the last few years a great deal of money had gone into Waterloo Docks transforming the area into a place that tourists could find a meal, nice hotels, and entertainment. Dick parked the SUV at a private parking lot then he and Raven walked quickly, since a light, cold rain started, to Nell's Seafood. Nell's had been here for seventy years. It was here before Waterloo Docks was considered almost chic, and it was here now. They entered and the day manager recognized Dick and quickly sat them.
“I'll have a waitress bring you over menus right away,” the day manager said.
“I already know what I want,” smiled Dick then he looked at Raven. “I could order for you.”
“Why not?” she said.
“Hey, Don, just tell the waitress that I'll have the cod fish and chips and my guest will have grilled salmon with grilled asparagus and rice,” Dick ordered.
“Drink?” he asked Dick.
“I'll have a lager and,” Dick paused and looked over at Raven.
“I'll have green tea,” she said.
“Sure thing, Mr. Grayson,” said Don then he disappeared.
“Dick Grayson, man about town,” deadpanned Raven.
“Hey, you should see the couple of places I go as Nightwing,” grinned Dick.
“You ate out as Nightwing?” she asked.
“Not so much eat out as drop in late at night and order food to go. I stopped a robbery in both places so they like it when I show up,” he told her.
“Let me guess the places are fast food,” she said.
“One is a great burger joint and the other is a Chinese restaurant. The Golden Wok I have actually sat in a dark corner both and had a meal because the weather was bad,” he smiled.
“You're weird,” she said.
“Batman has a diner in Gotham he goes to for coffee, sometimes a meal, and to meet Commissioner Gordon,” Dick told her. “It's good to have places to go to that you can trust.”
Suddenly, a waitress showed up with their drinks. Raven added half a sugar to her tea and Dick sipped his large lager.
“After this we'll go get you that dress for the charity ball,” said Dick. “Then I want to go home and rest up for tonight.”
“What is going on tonight?” she asked.
“I'm going to see if I can find Professor Pyg,” he told her.
“Shouldn't you wait until you're healed completely?” she asked.
“I'm fine,” grinned Dick.
“Yeah, sure,” mumbled Raven as she sipped her tea.
Their food arrived and they started to eat changing their conversation to catching up Dick on some of the Titans.
Nightwing had intel that told him that something was going down at the Bludhaven City Commercial Port. According to his intel their was a delivery being made at the Port Authority Railhead. Nightwing zipped along on his Wingcycle. His souped up bike was on whisper drive as he reached the City Port. Pulling over, he got off his bike and took to the high ground, by climbing up to the roof one of the many warehouses in the port area.
When he got to the top, he turned and saw Raven land on the roof behind him. Looking at her in her Raven suit, Dick unexpectedly remembered how she looked in the black gown he bought her for the charity ball. The gown offered cleavage and a slit up the side that revealed maybe too much leg. Anyway, you put it, the gown and Raven in it made him think of her as more than a kid, which was good. His life was too complicated already to find Raven attractive.
“What do you want me to do?” she asked him.
“Stay back and watch me. If you see trouble, join me,” he said.
He reached into one of his many hidden pockets and took out an ear-bud then tossed it to her. She caught it.
“It's communication device. You'll be able to hear me talk and talk to me through it,” he told her.
“You've got to be kidding,” sighed Raven then put it in her right ear.
She couldn't see his eyes because of the white film covering mask's eye slot, but she could see his smirk which made her want smack him. Before she could argue with him, he did a back flip off the building. As his body fell towards the ground, Raven watched as he grabbed a Escrima baton, fired the piton from its tip, which caught antennae on the roof of another warehouse then swung himself up and onto that roof. Once he retrieved the piton and high tensile wire by pressing another button on his baton, Nightwing started to run across the roof with acrobatic grace.
Rachel watched as he ran across the roof tops until he reached the area with the railhead then he did a front flip off the front, glided his body towards the lamppost, grabbed it, and then slid his way down the lamppost. Nightwing then made his way a long freight train so he could check the cars. In one of them there was the contraband. He wanted to know what it was and who it was for.
Nightwing ran from one car to another checking it with a scanner that he had in his right gauntlet pocket. Finally, he found one that was lead lined and appeared to have something in it that people didn't want you to see. Reaching into another of his hidden pockets, he took out a wingding with an explosive charge on it and threw it at the lock on the freight door. It blew the lock off.
Nightwing then started to pull the door open. The moment he had it opened a crack, several sets of hands from inside reached for the door and started to push it open. Once it was open enough, dollotrons started to fall out of the freight train car It was a setup.
Night touched the comm in his ear: “It's a trap. The freight car was filled with dollotrons.”
“What are these dollotrons?” Raven asked in his ear.
“Think zombie dolls controlled by an insane genius,” he said as they started to attack him.
Nightwing took both his Escrima batons from his back and started to beat the dollotrons away. There must have been fifty or sixty of them. These had to mean that Professor Pyg had to be in the area so he could watch this. As he swung away his wounded shoulder began to throb in pain, but he ignored it. One of the doll faced surgically destroyed dollotrons stuck a scalpel in Nightwing's back. It was about to pull it out when he jumped in the air twisting around and kicked it in the doll mask face.
Raven in her soul self form appeared and cast darkness around everything. Nightwing used the night-vision in his mask to see, but the soul darkness was too think to see through. Carefully, using his batons to clear away, he made his way towards Raven. He hand grabbed him and pulled him over to her then the soul darkness disappeared.
“Thanks,” he said.
Raven next covered twenty of the dollotrons in her darkness and moved them back into the freight car then slammed the door shut on them. Nightwing kept fighting back the rest, even though that throb of pain was becoming a deep painful ache. Raven noticed a scalpel sticking out of Dick's back and blood running down it. She decided that the odds were against then then covered them both in her soul self and used her teleportation back to Dick's warehouse home. They appeared in the living room area near the kitchen.
“Damn it, Raven, why did you teleport us away?” growled Dick.
“You're injured and we were outnumbered,” she said then reached for a chair and sat down. Teleportation took the most out of her of all her powers.
“We could have handled them together,” he stated.
“You're shoulder isn't full strength yet and you have a scalpel in your back near your spine. We needed to retreat,” she told him.
“Pyg must have been there. I can't let him turn anymore people into those damned dollotrons,” he said.
He put his batons back in their place on his back then he turned and slammed down the hand with his bad shoulder on the kitchen counter. The pain reverberated up and down his arm from his shoulder, which took the wind out of his lungs. He groaned in pain.
“I need to check your arm and take the scalpel out of your back,” Raven stated.
Dick closed his eyes. After taking a few breaths to steady himself, Dick realized that Raven was acting as his backup and trying to protect him. His angry started to dissipate.
“Raven, I'm sorry,” he said softly. “I shouldn't get angry at you.”
“Because I'm not one of those trained by Batman,” she snapped.
“No, because you were protecting your partner,” Dick said. He reached up and pulled off his mask and tossed it on the counter top. “My stitches in my shoulder are ripped and I'd like to get the scalpel out of my back. Can you please help me?”
“Yes,” she answered trying not to sound angry.
“Once I'm patched up, I've got to out my wingcycle in drone mode and drive it back here,” he smiled. “Next time, can we not leave my transportation?”
“We'll see,” she said and followed him to the closet with the false wall that lead to his lair. “You don't an anesthetic for that shoulder, do you?”
Wearing her new bed clothes, a pair of black yoga pants and a Clash tee shirt, Raven woke up in the morning and shuffled her way to the kitchen area. A green tea waited on the counter top for her. She felt it. It was still hot. She looked at the clock on the wall. It was seven fifteen in the morning. This meant Dick was working out, even though he should be resting.
Taking a sip of her tea, she noticed it had a dollop of honey in it just the way she liked it. It appeared that Dick Grayson observed everything. She walked into the kitchen and opened cabinet door after cabinet door until she found where he kept cereal. Her choice of cereals were Lucky Charms and Frosted Flakes. She growled at her choices of cereal then she searched out where he kept his bread. So far from what she'd seen Dick's diet was just like Tim's, which fast food and foods that were less than nutritious unless they were home in Gotham City and Alfred was cooking for them. Finding the the bread basket she saw her choices were Rye, whole wheat, and cinnamon raisin. She chose a couple slices of the cinnamon raisin and put them in the toaster then grabbed the butter out of the refrigerator.
By the time she sat down to enjoy her toast, Dick walked into the kitchen area wearing sweat pants and no shirt. The white bandage on his shoulder was spotting red, but the one on his back appeared to be fine. She'd have to check the stitches and change his shoulder later. He walked over to the coffee machine, where a pot of black coffee awaited him, and poured himself a mug then added half and half and sugar.
Turning he offered Raven a smile then took a drink from his mug. She didn't want to admit but deep down that crush for the leader of the Titans still existed. He was model handsome, ridiculously heroic and not without a brain. When he was the leader of the Titans he pushed her to learn how to control her emotions and powers. And unlike some Titans, he never showed any fear of her, even when her demonic side was showing through.
“I was going to offer to make you breakfast but I see you took care of yourself,” he said.
“You are resting for a couple of days,” she stated.
“I agree, Raven. Sorry, I mean Rachel,” he grinned. “The shoulder won't heal without a day or two rest. I guess the mayor's ball will be the next time we deal with Talia and whatever she's up to.”
“Shouldn't you let Batman know about this?” she asked.
A scowl passed Dick's face which he quickly masked. Even with her empath skills she was impressed how quickly he shielded his emotions and thoughts.
“I will send him an intel packet this afternoon. I need to collect all the data and intelligence I have gathered so far then I'll send it off to him. He can decide what he wants to do for himself,” Dick told her.
“You still feuding with Bat Daddy?” she asked him.
Dick smirked. Raven was never shy about stomping on personal space when she thought it might be a problem and always had some bite to her humor. He always appreciated that.
“Bruce and I don't see eye to eye about certain things,” he said.
“Tim says it is because you are afraid of becoming just like Bruce,” she stated in a monotone.
“He talks about my personal life with the Titans?” asked Dick.
“No, he talks about you with Kori and me. Kori because she knows you so well and me because Tim and I have become good friends,” she replied. “He worries about his big brother being cut off. He says Bruce worries about you, too.”
“Bludhaven is a two and half hour drive if he wants to see me,” Dick smirked then he exhaled and smiled. “I'm glad Dick isn't too standoffish as the leader of the Titans. I'm glad he is making friends.”
“Tim's a good leader,” she stated.
“Better than me probably. My lone wolf instincts went against leading others,” he admitted. “Cyborg used to keep me in my place, but he's Justice League now.”
She didn't want to tell him that she thought he was the best leader. His ego didn't need the assuaging.
“Kori is thinking of leaving the Titans. Jason is starting a small group called the Outsiders. It would be him, Arsenal and Kori,” Raven told him.
“Roy and Jason along with Kori,” sighed Dick. “She'll end up sleeping with both of them.”
“They won't be that much sleeping done,” smirked Raven.
“Very funny, Miss Roth,” chuckled Dick. “It'll be messy but in an odd way the three of them are well matched. Where does Jason intend to have this group?”
“Kori's space ship which is hidden on some deserted island somewhere in the Caribbean. Her ships computers let them tap into the world and transportation device allows them to go wherever they need to go,” explained Raven. “Dealing with H.I.V.E is Kori's farewell to the Titans.”
“You mean dealing with Ravager. H.I.V.E is going to take years to deal with. Their tentacles are spread out and diverse,” Dick corrected her.
“If you say so,” smiled Raven.
Dick grinned at her remark then he went to the cabinet and took out the Frosted Flakes. He got milk from the refrigerator and pour it over the cereal in put in a bowl then grabbed a spoon and started to eat.
“We should go food shopping to buy stuff that you eat,” he said with a mouthful of cereal.
“I don't need to see what you are eating when you speak,” she growled.
Dick laughed then he put his bowl down on the counter top and picked up his coffee mug and downed half of it.
“What do you eat?” he asked.
“Mainly vegetarian with only occasionally eating fish and poultry,” she answered.
“Definitely have to buy you some supplies. I eat meat, usually red meat, with potatoes and the occasionally vegetable,” grinned Dick.
“Before we go anywhere I have to change your bandage and check your stitches,” she told him.
Dick shrugged then went back to eating his cereal.
After spending and hour and half food shopping, they returned to the warehouse. Raven went into the gym to meditate more than exercise or train, while Dick went into his computer lab and started to put together a intel packet for Bruce. After two hours of meditation Raven showered, changed her clothes in black jeans and a black tee shirt along with black boots then she headed into the hidden away computer lab.
“Still working?” she asked Dick, who was sitting at his high-end computer system.
“I sent Bruce the packet. I've been checking CCTV feeds from last night trying to track Pyg and Honor Guest. I think I found Guest. She seems to be staying in a seedy little hotel in the Melville Section, my home turf,” he told her. “I might have to drop by for a visit when my shoulder is healed.”
“You said that Talia is probably holding her husband and child's life over her head,” said Raven.
“Don't worry, Rachel, I intend on helping her not fighting her,” said Dick.
Dick shut down his search then swiveled around in his chair. He looked at Raven and grinned.
“I think it's time I introduce you to a haunt of mine. The place is called Hogan's Alley. It's about fifteen blocks from here. Hogan's is a cop bar owned by Hank Hogan. I've made friends with Hank and several of the cops that drink there. I even worked as a bartender for him when he needed someone,” he said then his brow furrowed and he stated: “You're only twenty. You can't drink.”
“I can have a soda water or soda,” she said.
“True. Okay, let's go to Hogan's,” said Dick.
Dick and Raven entered Hogan's Alley. The place had a woody feel to it and smelled of scotch and charcoaled meat. It was almost two in the afternoon and the place had a few people in it. Dick recognized some of the people from his days on the Bludhaven Police. They sat down at an empty table. He waved at two uniformed officers, a male and female, who were eating burgers for lunch. They waved back.
“I was a cop on Bludhaven Police for two years. I had to quite for a couple reasons,” he said but didn't explain the reasons.
“What were the reasons?” Raven asked.
He sighed then answered: “Being Nightwing and a cop meant I almost never slept which caught up to me and I was involved in the murder of Blockbuster. Or I should say I didn't stop the murder of Blockbuster because I was so worn out and out of focus that I trusted the wrong person.”
“Tarantula,” stated Raven.
“Yeah... her,” he said coldly then nodded at the table with the two cops. “That's Sergeant Amy Rohrbach and Officer Gannon Malloy. Any was my partner and Gannon is a friend. At the bar the woman smoking the cigar is Detective Elise Svoboda. She's not to fond of Dick Grayson who she thinks is a playboy who played at being a cop, but she's a friend to Nightwing and has helped him on more than one occasion.”
“You like life complicated,” commented Raven.
“You have no idea, Raven,” he said.
“Rachel. Call me Rachel or I'll start calling you Nightwing,” she snapped.
“Testy,” he smiled.
A waitress came over. She was around thirty trying to look twenty and looked like she was thrilled to see Dick.
“Dick, nice seeing you here. What can I get you?” she asked with a suggestive tone.
“Rachel, what will you have?” he asked Raven.
“A ginger ale,” she said.
“Anything to eat?” he asked.
“Okay, I'll have a Guinness from the tap and tell Hank I want one of his steak and cheese subs,” smiled Dick.
“I'll get on it,” she smiled then left.
“She'd like to get on you,” mumbled Raven.
Dick laughed. Detective Svoboda came over to the table. She looked like was working a case by having a whiskey to help her think. Dick actually was impressed with her detective skills, though he realize she had her blind spots.
“So, rich boy still visits the cop bar, huh?” she said.
“I am a friend of Hank,” he said.
Hank along with Amy knew he was Nightwing. They were of a small group of chosen confidantes.
“I thought he had better taste than that,” she said then walked away and exited the bar.
“She really doesn't like you,” said Raven.
“I'm well aware of that,” sighed Dick.
The waitress came with his Guinness and Raven's ginger ale. She smiled at Dick and left. This made Raven growl.
“She's rude,” she said.
“Dani is nice enough. She thinks I'd be a good time,” he said with a smile then the smile disappeared. “I'm not.”
“Yeah, sure,” muttered Raven.
Dick looked over at her, but he didn't say anything. Instead he put a smile that he used almost as a mask on his face, as the two cops had finished their meal and approached him.
“Dick, we need to go out for drinks some night soon,” said Gannon. “Who is your friend?”
“Gannon Malloy, this is Rachel Roth. She a friend of the family,” he said.
“Is that a ruby on your forehead?” he asked.
“No. It's a chakra gem,” Raven answered in a monotone.
“It's nice,” he said.
“Dick, can I talk to you for a minute?” Amy asked.
Dick stood up and walked away to speak privately with Amy. Raven scowled at this. Yes, she didn't like being stuck with Malloy who was hitting on her, but also she wasn't sure of Amy's relationship with Dick.
“Yeah, Amy, how can I help you?” he asked.
“We had some run-ins with these fucking strange people. They are like dolls but are human. I mean they put six cops in the hospital and they can take serious damage without a problem You know anything?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he sighed. “They are called Dollotrons and they are the creations of a piece of work named Professor Pyg, or Lazlo Valentin. Long story made short they are human beings he has experimented on and turned into human dolls, zombies, who obey him and feel little pain. So far there is no way of turning them back into normal people but Wayne Enterprises R&D is working on a therapy or a cure.”
“How do we handle them?” she asked.
“Full force or they will kill you,” he said. “I'm trying to stop Pyg.”
“If you need help, let me know,” she said then placed her right hand on Dick's left arm.
Raven noticed this. It was an intimate gesture. She started to wonder if Amy Rohrbach was another conquest of Dick Grayson. They returned to the table and sat down.
“Come on, partner, we have work to do,” Amy said to Malloy.
He smiled at Raven and said: “I hope to see you again.”
She didn't reply but just nodded. They left.
“She a former girlfriend?” asked Raven.
Dick knotted his brow for a moment as he thought about who she was then realized it was Amy.
“Amy is married with three year old son and a husband who is a stay at home dad and writer,” answered Dick. “I saved her life once.”
“How?” asked Raven.
“Deathstroke was hired to kill her,” said Dick.
“Slade Wilson. Oh, shit,” Raven said softly. She knew Dick's history with Wilson Slade.
“I convinced him not to kill her because there was no way I could protect her twenty-four/seven,” he said.
“Convinced him? Wilson is a mercenary,” said Raven.
“Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. I offered him twice what he was being paid for to kill her then I tracked down the man who put the contract out on her and convinced him it was a bad idea,” said Dick.
“How did you convince him?” asked Raven.
“I broke his legs, his right arm, and a couple of his ribs. He know wants me dead. I can handle that,” said Dick.
The steak and cheese sub arrived. Dani placed it in front of Dick, who picked up a ketchup bottle and put ketchup on it. He then took a big bite.
“Are you sure you don't want a bite?” he asked Raven.
She had to admit it looked good, but she shook her head no.
“Pyg's dollotrons put six cops in the hospital,” said Dick. “I didn't know about it, which means that the police are keeping it very quiet and it happened overnight. I'm too into their system not to know about it unless they are keeping it off the system and out of the public's eye. Hard to do for long, though.”
“What are we going to do?” asked Raven.
“Go to the mayor's ball tomorrow night and shake things up a little with Talia. Leviathan Organization has a legitimate reputation as a protector of the environment and proponent of green energy. I want to have a dance with Talia,” smiled Dick.
Raven moaned out of annoyance, which made Dick laugh.
Dick exited his bedroom wearing an Armani tuxedo. He looked around to see that Raven hadn't come out of her room yet. The black he purchased for Raven was something he thought he saw Audrey Hepburn wear in a movie that he watched with Alfred. It was elegant and sexy and he was sure that she would look good in it. He looked at his watch, a Longines from the Master Collection. Alfred bought it for him one Christmas. It was getting late.
He was about to call out for her when Raven exited the guest bedroom. Dick found he lost his voice for a moment he was so taken back by her beauty. He cleared his throat and spoke.
“I like you with your hair up,” he said.
“Yeah, sure,” she retorted.
“I have something for you to wear,” he said then walked over to the kitchen counter, grabbed a necklace case then walked over to her and handed it to Raven.
Raven opened it and was stunned by what she saw.
“Is this yours? Or did you buy it?” she asked.
“Well, I bought it the other day when I went out for an hour. It's a blood red pear shaped ruby with a diamond set in rose gold,” he said. “I thought it complimented your chakra gem and I owe you thanks for being my backup and... friend.”
“I can't accept this,” Raven said immediately.
“You can wear it tonight and we can argue about who it belongs to when this is over and you are leaving,” said Dick.
She took it out of the case and started to put it on, but Dick stopped her and gently did put it on her. As he stood behind her, Raven felt her temperature rise. Dick stepped away from her, but as he did he gently touched her right shoulder with his right hand then flexed his right hand.
“We are taking the Maserati,” Dick stated.
“I need something to wear over this dress. It's cold out,” Raven said.
“You'll find a Prada Gabardine long black overcoat in the closet by the door that is your size,” said Dick. “I remembered that you'd need an overcoat and picked it up when I got the necklace. I'm pretty good at judging sizes.”
“Oh,” she said. “We better get going.”
Dick let the valet have his car to park. He took a ticket from him and he and Raven entered the building for the Mayor's Charity Ball. The building used for the ball was the Forsyth Building, which was owned by the Wayne Enterprises. It's ballroom was huge Art Deco ballroom with a stage and balconies. Four beautiful chandeliers hung from the distinctive ceiling. Dick and raven stopped at the cloakroom area to hand over their overcoats. The young woman taking coats handed him a ticket for each overcoat then the two of them entered the ballroom.
The first person to greet them was Mayor Hamilton Hill and his wife Victoria.
“Richard, thank you for coming and for your generous check to Bludhaven Children Hospital new wing,” he said. “Who is your lovely guest?”
“This is Rachel Roth, Mr. Mayor,” said Dick.
“You are lovely,” added Victoria Hill.
“Oh, I arranged for you to be seated at the same table as the individual you asked for,” said Hamilton.
“Thank you, Mr. Mayor,” said Dick, then he handed his invitation to a waiter, who checked his name then the seating plan. He escorted Dick and Raven to a table where Talia al Ghul sat along with December Graystone, a member of the League of Assassins. Out of the corner of his eye Dick spotted Bruce Wayne at the ball along with Selina Kyle. He smiled to himself, as he wondered what Bruce had to promise Selina to be his date. Dick also recognized the other two guests at the table: Chief of Police Delmore Redhorn and his Mary. Redhorn was open to the highest bidder.
They were seated then Talia smiled at Dick.
“I see Daddy is here tonight also,” she said.
“I didn't know Bruce was coming. We aren't that close,” stated Dick.
“Isn't that too bad?” she smiled.
Dick had to admit she was beautiful with chestnut hair and blue eyes, as well as a body that was agile, lithe, and sensuous, but she was also evil. Graystone seemed amused by the conversation. He was dressed in black, including his shirt and bow tie. His hair was black and long. Dick knew he was a blood mage, as well as a trained assassin.
“So, Grayson, it's been six months since you left the Bludhaven Police, isn't it?” said Redhorn. “Couldn't hack it, huh?”
“I loved being a cop, but I found that the police department is rife with corruption,” smiled Dick. “You know what they say, Chief, a fish stinks from the head.”
“Are you accusing me of something?” Redhorn asked.
Instead of speaking Dick just turned and looked coldly at Redhorn then offered him a spectacular smile. Redhorn's face turned beet red, but Talia interceded before he could speak.
“I was just telling Chief Redhorn here how accommodating I find Bludhaven,” she said.
“I have no doubt that you do, Talia,” said Dick.
A waiter came by and handed Dick a piece of paper. He opened it and read the note.
The suite upstairs once the ball starts to thin. We need to talk. Bruce
Raven leaned in and whispered in his ear: “Who is it from?”
“Read my mind,” he smiled.
She assumed it was from Bruce. The orchestra began to play. It was a familiar tune but Dick couldn't place it. He looked at Raven.
“Care to dance?” he asked her.
“Sure,” she answered.
He took her by the hand to the dance floor and started to dance with her. At least for a few minutes they didn't have to fit a table with evil and corruption.
Dick placed his hand on the biometric plate which unlocked the door to the top floor suite of the Forsyth Building. He and Raven entered the luxurious suite to find Selina with her legs up on a sofa sipping a drink and Bruce staring out of a window at the city of Bludhaven. He turned and faced Dick.
“Good intel,” he stated. “Leviathan appears to have made Bludhaven its HQ for now. I'm tapping sources to see if I can find where Talia has her secret spot is.”
“Chief Redhorn is in her pocket, which might complicate things,” said Dick.
“Don't you two even know how to say hello to each other?” laughed Selina. “Right down to business so you don't even have to talk to each other for long.”
Both men glared at her. Selina smiled innocently then turned and looked at Raven.
“Aren't they adorable?” she said then added. “By the way you look beautiful tonight, absolutely beautiful.”
“Miss Roth, I've been rude. Is there anything I can get you?” Bruce asked.
“I'm fine,” she said.
“Selina, it's a pleasure to see you again,” smiled Dick.
“You fill out a tux nicely, Richard,” she said.
“And you are lovely as always,” he replied.
“Is that enough with the pleasantries? May we get back to business, Selina?” asked Bruce.
“God, you two are so much alike. No wonder you started to fight as junior got older. It's alpha male against alpha male,” smirked Selina.
“I need to free up some thing in Gotham and make contingencies before I can come back to Bludhaven,” Bruce said to Dick. “It will probably take two weeks.”
“I'm going to continue to deal with Leviathan, especially Professor Pyg. The one thing I think is necessary is exposing Chief Redhorn. He needs to be taken down, so the police in this city have a chance,” said Dick.
“What do you need?” asked Bruce.
“We need his financials exposed to local media outlets and newspapers,” said Dick. “I have some, but I lost the trail of where he's sent his money offshore.”
“Send me what you have and I'll get the rest,” Bruce stated.
“Done,” said Dick. “Give me a heads up when you are going to release everything to the media.”
“I will,” replied Bruce.
“Okay. It's time we go,” said Dick who then smiled at Selina. “Always a pleasure, Selina.”
“Richard,” she purred then she looked at Raven. “Rachel.”
“This has been fascinating,” Raven said.
Dick walked over to her and the two of them exited. Once in the hallway she looked at Dick.
“You need to fix that,” she said.
“Fix what?” he replied acting stupid.
“Your relationship with him. I have a reason to hate my father. You have to figure out how to deal with yours so you can have a real relationship,” said Raven.
“I'll keep that in mind,” growled Dick, as the elevator doors opened.
They stepped into the elevator. It was time to go home.
When Raven got up Dick was seated on one of the sofas drinking one of his many mugs of morning coffee and using a Surface Pro. He waved at her as she shuffled into the kitchen to make herself some tea. On the kitchen counter top beside the microwave there were four boxes of tea that she bought: green tea, green tea with mint, Earl Grey, and chamomile tea. She chose the Earl Grey.
Once her tea was ready she walked over to the armchair across from the sofa Dick sat in and cleared her throat to get his attention.
“Yes, Raven?” he asked.
“Rachel, Dick,” she put extra emphasis on Dick.
“Okay, what is it, Rachel?” he asked trying not to smile. The more he was around her the more he enjoyed her company. When he was Kori, he loved being with her, though sometimes her constant need to share feelings or thoughts got on his nerves. Of course, when he was with Barbara he adored her, but her need to push him to improve his relationship with Bruce or to learn to share his problems with her got on his nerves. Raven seemed to push a little but not too much. Or maybe it was the way she pushed him.
“What is your plan of action? Since I'm your backup I think I deserve to know,” she said.
“Okay, I sent what I had on Redhorn to Bruce. With his network and connections, he'll get the rest of the information to take out Redhorn and send it out to Bludhaven media Bludhaven will arrest its current chief of police and the mayor, who is honest, will get a chance to hire an honest chief,” said Dick.
“Are there a lot of corrupt cops in the Bludhaven Police?” she asked.
“Enough,” sighed Dick.
He put down his Surface Pro on the coffee table and picked up his coffee mug. After taking a drink of coffee, he took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
“December Graystone bothers me. It means that the League of Assassins is supporting her now. Ras al Ghul is supporting his daughter, even though he is against how the Leviathan Organization is achieving its goals. Ras is a piece of work, but he also considers himself a man of honor. It makes me wonder if he is still in charge of the League. I know Talia wants him dead. Maybe she finally succeeded.”
“How would you be able to find out?” she asked.
“A trip to Afghanistan,” he laughed. “Can you teleport us that far?”
“No. Think miles not hundred of miles,” she said. “If I use all my energy maybe a hundred miles, but I'd probably pass out after I did it and need to rest for a long while.”
“Good to know,” smiled Dick.
“In an emergency I'd try a long teleportation for you,” she said.
Dick offered her a smile.
“So, December Graystone bothers me,” he repeated.
“You said he is a blood mage,” Raven said.
“Yeah, he uses his own blood to perform spells including teleporting. Plus on top of that he is a trained League assassin,” he told her.
“Sounds like he'd be my problem not yours,” said Raven.
“Has your fighting skills improved since I was with the Titans?” he asked her.
“I can handle myself,” she said defiantly.
“Well, after you have breakfast, we'll see about that,” Dick said.
“Oh, come on, are we going to spar?” she asked.
“Yes, we are,” grinned Dick. “I'm not letting you near Graystone unless I'm sure you can hold your own.”
“Oh, joy,” she sighed. “I'm going to have some Bob's Red Mill Crunchy Coconut Granola. You want some?”
“I had a couple of sausage breakfast sandwiches that I microwaved,” he told her.
“You really need to change your diet otherwise your Nightwing suit might get even tighter,” she groused then got up and started to walk into the kitchen.
“You noticed how tight my suit is, huh?” he smirked.
“You wish,” she said.
Dick watched her go and smiled. He had to admit that he enjoyed having Raven around.
Wearing sweat pants and a tee shirt, that Dick noticed strained against her breasts, Raven stretched out her body and prepared for sparring with Dick. He wore an old pair of gray sweat pants and a blue tee shirt with Superman's S on it. Stretching out quickly he walked to the middle of the laid out mats and waited for Raven. She finally joined him.
“S for Super Nightwing,” she smiled.
“It's not an S. You know that. It's Superman's family symbol,” he corrected her.
“Okay, Bat Boy, how do you want to do this?” she asked.
“Attack me,” he told her.
Raven thought about it for few moments then she used a move she learned from Tim that was from Brazilian jiu-jitsu. She would attempt a well aimed jump to wrap her legs around Dick's neck, a pull guard maneuver, and throw him to the ground. Once he was on the ground, strength wasn't an issue, it was a matter of wrestling moves and advantage. As she made her move, Dick did a back flip avoiding her move. She landed hard on the mat.
“Tim taught you that,” he said.
“Yes, he did,” she growled.
“I taught him,” smiled Dick. “What's next a judo move?”
Raven got up slowly rubbing her backside. Dick stood there and waited for her next move.
“I'm waiting,” he smirked.
Next, Raven attempted a strike to Dick's midsection, which she was going to follow with a Jujutsu hip toss and then a joint lock once she had him on the floor. Unfortunately, her strike ended with her flat on her back, as Dick kicked her legs out from underneath her. When she landed a grunt of air came out of her and sh groaned in pain.
“Really, Jujutsu?” he smiled. “Tim again?”
“Yes,” she moaned from the floor. This time her back was hurting her. “Let me guess you taught him Jujutsu.”
“No, Bruce taught him. He also taught me and he probably taught me longer,” chuckled Dick. “Before you continue, I also know Bojutsu, Kendo, Kenjutsu, Wing Chun, Aikido, Savate, boxing, Capoeira, Escrima, and others. From the age nine to fourteen all I did was train in the Batcave. Of course even once I started going into the field with Bruce, he continued to train me until I left to start the Titans and then I continued to train on my own and finding a sensei where I could.”
“I concede,” she said as she stretched out her back.
“You need more training, Raven,” Dick told her.
She growled at him and said: “Rachel.”
“Oh, come on we are in my home. No one is here so let me call you Raven. Rachel is a nice name but Raven suits you. Dark hair, mysterious beauty. You're Raven,” he grinned.
“Okay. Now stop talking and start training,” she smirked.
For the next hour and half Dick showed Raven strikes, throws, counter moves, and joint locks, which he thought suited her size, weight and skill level. He knew she was highly intelligent and processed information quickly, so he tried to overload her so that she focused even harder. As time progressed her frustration increased. All those years training with Batman had made him almost Batman's equal. Almost his equal but not quite. He had to admit that Bruce was even more obsessive than him, whereupon he combined his training with his nature gifts at acrobatics, which made him impressive in his own way.
As Dick brought Raven in for a hip toss, she grabbed onto him and held tightly forcing him to the floor, also. She landed on the mat with Dick on top of her. For a moment he stared into blue eyes, as she stared into his gray blue eyes. There they stayed breathing heavily and locked on each others eyes until Dick rolled away and got up. Raven stayed on the mat. She had to admit to herself that she thought of kissing him for a moment but she didn't want to become just another Dick Grayson conquest. There were enough of them already.
“I think you've had enough for today,” he said. “There is a shower, steam room, and Jacuzzi in a separate section as part of the gym. Take advantage of it. I am.”
After a quick shower, Dick settled into the large Jacuzzi. This was one of the ways he spoiled his body, a nice hot soak in the Jacuzzi. His muscles relaxed; he relaxed. In case Raven joined him he wore his boxer into the Jacuzzi. He knew he should have gotten a swimsuit but he didn't feel finding them. Putting a towel behind his head, he put his head back and closed his eyes. His mind drifted as his body became more relaxed. It drifted to thoughts of Raven and how much she had changed. When he met her she was a girl but now she was a young woman, a very attractive young woman.
“May I join you?” Raven asked.
He opened his eyes and saw Raven wearing a sports bra and underwear. Suddenly, his throat went dry. Yes, she had become a very attractive woman.
“Sure,” he rasped.
She sat down across from him and groaned.
“My body is sore,” she stated then she looked at Dick who was still staring at her. This made her want to smile, but she suppressed it, which was ironic because it was Dick who helped her master her emotions when he was the leader of the Titans.
“This will help,” he said then put his head back and closed his eyes again.
She sunk in deeper into the Jacuzzi and felt her muscles start to loosen up and her to start decompressing. This was exactly what she needed and it didn't hurt that she made Dick uncomfortable. Actually, the thought that she could make him feel uncomfortable made her feel slightly aroused. When she meditated she was going to have to deal with her crush on Dick, which was turning into something more than a crush.
“What are your plans for tonight?” she asked him.
“I was thinking of tracking down Honor Guest,” he said.
“She shot you,” stated Raven.
“If Talia is forcing her into working for her then she needs my help. I'm going to offer it,” he said.
“What do you want me to do?” she asked.
“Stay back. You'll have a communication device in your ear, so you can listen and if you think I need help then help me,” he said.
“You like keeping plans simple,” she remarked.
“I find complicated means more things fall apart,” smiled Dick, who lifted his head and looked at Raven. “I trust you.”
“I trust you, too,” replied Raven.
“I'm glad,” Dick admitted. “You've grown up since I first met you and become very impressive, Raven. Tim is lucky to have you as a teammate.”
“Don't forget Damian, too. He's a part-time Titan,” she smirked. “He doesn't let anyone speak badly about you. Garth once mentioned that he thought Tim was a better leader and Damian had his katana at his throat in the blink of an eye.”
“Damian and I have a complicated relationship,” sighed Dick. “He thinks of me as a big brother, but he also preferred it when I was Batman for Bruce for a short time. Yet, he is also still very competitive with me. It's complicated.”
“Well, we learned not to insult you in front of him,” smiled Raven.
“Do you often feel the need to insult me?” grinned Dick.
“Not too often,” smirked Raven.
Honor Guest was a statuesque black woman with short dyed blond hair. No matter what crowd she was in she stood out. Dressed only in a towel because she had just showered, she was going through the dresser drawer of the cheap room she occupied to get her underwear. In his Nightwing gear Dick slipped silently in through an open window. When she turned she saw him and reacted by reached for her Glock 22 on the top of the dresser. Dick throw one of his wingdigs at the Glock knocking it away.
“Damn,” she snarled. “At least let me get dressed before we fight.”
“Is she naked?” asked Raven in his ear. Dick ignored her.
“Just stay where you are. I didn't come here to fight. I came here to help you,” he said.
“How can you help me?” she asked as she put her hands on her hips.
“You wouldn't be working for Talia al Ghul unless she had something over you. I know you wanted to retire,” he stated. “I'm guessing she is threatening your husband and child.”
Her glare told him that he was right.
“Where are they?” he asked.
“Gotham City,” she answered.
“Are they under guard or being watched?” he asked.
“Goatboy is watching them,” she sighed.
“I can have Batman extricate your family then have them ready to ship them wherever you feel they'll be safe. I know you must have a stash of getaway funds and a place in him. It's the nature of your business. Let me help you,” Dick offered.
“You sure Batman will help you with this?” she asked.
Dick smiled then answered: “I was Robin before I became Nightwing. Plus, he hates Leviathan for many reasons, some of them personal.”
“I have a place in Jamaica. My Husband knows about it. If we get there we'll be safe,” she said.
“Let me get in touch with Batman and make arrangements,” Dick said.
“What do you want for this?” she asked.
“One, I want you gone from Bludhaven and, two, I know where Leviathan Corporate HQ is but I need to know where her secret base is,” said Dick.
“I can tell, but first my family has to be safe,” she said.
“Done,” he nodded then fell backwards out the window.
By the time Guest got to the window to cake on him, he was gone. On top of the roof three buildings away, Dick stood beside Raven. She had the hood of her cape up making it almost impossible to see her face. Her eyes were on Dick, as he stood there thinking. Finally, he reached into a hidden pocket near his right ankle and took out a smartphone. He speed dialed Bruce.
“It's me,” he said into the phone. “I spoke to Honor Guest and made a deal with her. I need you to do a few things.”
“Send me the details. I'll get it done. What will she give us in return for our help?” asked Bruce in Batman voice.
“The location of their secret base in Bludhaven,” answered Dick.
“Well done. Send me the information. Oh, update on Chief Redhorn. He has an account with three million dollars in it in a bank in the Turks and Caicos Island. Bludhaven media and newspapers will be receiving an email in the morning,” he said then hung up.
Dick put his smartphone back. Stretching out his neck and turned and looked at Raven.
“I'm going patrolling. Because Leviathan I haven't been patrolling the city much lately. You don't have to come. I do this alone all the time. Consider this a night off,” he said.
“I want to check in with the Titans,” she said.
“Go right ahead. You know where my computers and everything are hidden,” he smiled then he took off running across the roof until he got to the edge then he did a somersault across to the next roof.
Raven shook her head then teleported herself back to his place.
In the Melville Neighborhood, four patrol cars blocked a city street as the officers tried to deal with thirty dollotrons. Two of the cops were Malloy and Rohrbach. Eight officers against thirty dollotrons. Two of the officers were down and seriously injured, while Amy called for more backup.
Dick came off the rooftop looking like a graceful bird. He landed on four dollotrons and came up with his Escrima sticks in hand and started pummeling them, while also delivering savant kicks. Amy swallowed hard as she watched around ten dollotrons surround him then she remembered what Dick told her and that was to put the dollotrons down if you had to in order to survive.
“Gannon, call a warning then pull your gun and use it, if you have to,” she ordered.
“Yes, sarge,” he said then yelled, as he pulled his sidearm: “Step back and stop your violence or we will shoot.”
The dollotrons kept coming. He and Amy opened fire and two of the officers followed suit. Several of the dollotrons hit the ground dead, while the rest started to scatter. Once they started scattering, Amy noticed that all but three of the dollotrons who attacked Nightwing were on the ground barely moving. The three left standing ran.
She looked at Nightwing. His forehead was cut and his lip bloody. Instead of putting his Escrima sticks away, he fired piton at the roof of a four story building and then pressed the retract button and the high tensile wire and piton pulled him up to the roof. Once he was on the rooftop he waved at Amy and took off.
“That was Nightwing,” said Malloy.
“No shit,” she said. “Go check on Hernandez, Phillips, and Hull. I'll call for buses.”
“Gotcha,” he said and ran over to check on the downed officers.
She walked over to her patrol car and got in to call for ambulances then she made a mental note to check on Dick tomorrow. Those dollotrons barely felt a thing but they sure as hell had a kick.
Dick let himself into his place from the rooftop entrance. He made a stop off at the medical area. Peeling off the top of his suit, he checked himself out in the mirror. His ribs had the beginning of some bruising, but he knew there were no cracked or broken ribs. He grabbed an ice pack out of the cold storage, put it against his right rib cage then taped it in place. Next he checked in the mirror the cut on his forehead. It was along his hairline, so even if it scarred it would be that noticeable. He applied a Celox gauze to it and taped it in place. Lastly, he looked at his lip. He sucked on his lip for a second clearing the blood. Tomorrow he'd have a slight fat lip, which he'd deal with by applying pressure to it to shrink it. On the whole he was in fine shape for taking on dollotrons.
Leaving the medical area, he peeled off his mask. He went down to the second floor but Raven was nowhere in sight. He assumed she was in her bedroom, which was too bad because he wanted to ask how things were going with H.I.V.E and Ravager. Instead of showing and going to bed Dick decided to take sit in the Jacuzzi for an hour, so he headed down to the first floor.
Once he entered the gym area, he stripped off the rest of his suit leaving him in the nude then he headed over to the Jacuzzi section. Once he turned the corner, he saw Raven sitting in the Jacuzzi wearing earbuds and listening to music off her smartphone. Her eyes nearly popped out of her head when she saw Dick standing there naked. Dick quickly grabbed a towel and wrapped it around his waist. Raven took out her earbuds. She noticed the ice pack and forehead.
“What happened to you?” she asked trying to sound like she didn't see Dick naked, although she now understood why Kori said he was unforgettable and difficult to let go.
“Dollotrons attacking police. I helped,” he said. “I thought you were in bed, so I came down here to use the Jacuzzi.”
“Get in. I'm decent, at least,” she smirked.
He got into the Jacuzzi still wearing the towel. Once he sat down he pulled the ice pack off and tossed it in a corner.
“How's things going with the Titans?” he asked trying to put what just happened behind them.
“Tim said that they were going to be dealing with the problem for weeks,” she said.
As Dick opened his mouth to respond, Raven started to giggle. Her face blushed and her giggle turned into a laugh. Dick cringed for a moment then found himself laughing, too. Once they both stopped laughing, an uncomfortable silence enveloped them. Dick decided to break it.
“Listen, Raven, I'm sorry. I really thought you were in your bedroom,” he said.
“That's okay, Dick,” she said then she started to laugh again after she said his name.
Dick sighed and waited for her to stop laughing. When she stopped laughing, Raven took a deep breath.
“I'm sorry,” she said. “It's just that your aptly named.”
She started to giggle this time. It was getting under Dick's skin, so he stood up walked over to her side of the Jacuzzi, took her in his arms, and kissed her passionately and hard on the lips. He didn't have any idea why he did this, but it just seemed the right thing to do.
Raven responded at first and brought her hand up to his face and slipped her tongue into his mouth. For several minutes they kissed then his arousal caught her attention, pushed her into the reality that she was kissing Dick Grayson, someone she had feelings for but his reputation with women scared her. Her soul self emerged and pushed him away hard then it enveloped her and she disappeared. Dick groaned from the pain of having hit the Jacuzzi hard with his back.
“Okay, I didn't handle that well,” he said to himself. “And I thought I gave up women. Dick, you really are well named.”
Raven kept vacillating between anger and attraction as she kept replaying their kiss, or kisses, in her head. Why did he do it? She asked herself. Is he attracted to her or was he just shutting her up? Anger followed by attraction then anger came roaring back.
Two hours meditating Raven finally came to a conclusion which was that it didn't matter. Dealing with Leviathan Organization was more important than this. In the morning she'd put Dick in his place and set parameters for them. It was then that she tried to get some sleep.
Dick had the large screen TV on as Good Morning Bludhaven reported about the corruption of Chief Delmore Redhorn. On his Surface had read several articles about Redhorn. There was no way Redhorn was going to get out of this, especially since Mayor Hamilton Hill was honest. The calls for Redhorn resignation and arrest had started.
Dick finished off his second mug of coffee then took a bite of the breakfast burrito he had microwaved. Losing Redhorn would be a minor annoyance to Leviathan, just like losing Honor Guest would be. He hoped to hear from Bruce tonight that her husband and child were safe.
“Morning,” mumbled Raven, who managed only two hours of sleep. Unlike Dick Raven liked to get at least five to six hours.
“Morning, Rachel,” he smiled.
She snorted and continued into the kitchen. She filled the teapot with water then put it on the stove and turned on the burner. Next, she grabbed a mug and Earl Gray tea and set it up for the water then, finally, she got a bowl and spoon, her cereal and soy milk and made her breakfast. With everything set, she looked up to see Dick transfixed by the TV.
“What is happening?” she asked.
“Bruce sent the Bludhaven media the goods on Redhorn. We are seeing the beginning of the end of Chief Delmore Redhorn,” stated Dick.
“One for the good guys. Oh, yeah,” she said in a dull, tired monotone. “We need to talk.”
Dick muted the TV then took a deep breath just as the teapot started whistling. Raven herself a cup of tea, as Dick finished his burrito and came to the counter with his mug of coffee.
“Let me start this talk,” he said. “I apologize for my behavior last night. It was boorish and insulting to you. I had no right to kiss you. I'm sorry and it will never happen again. We have a mission here to do and our energy and focus should be on that mission. Please forgive me.”
Everything she wanted to say to him just faded from her mind. He was putting up the wall between them. Dick was apologizing in such a way that it told her that he made a mistake and he wasn't going to do it again. Anger started to fill her body.
“Raven, your chakra gem is starting to glow,” Dick told her.
She grabbed her tea and her cereal then growled: “I need to meditate.”
She stormed out of the kitchen and back to her room where she slammed the door shut using her soul self. Dick groaned.
“Oh, yeah. I'm doing real well impressing her,” he sighed.
Dick was sitting in his computer lab checking on news reports about Chief Redhorn, as well as hacking into the Bludhaven IAD computer network to see if an investigation of Redhorn had begun. It not only had begun but an arrest warrant was going to be issued by the end of the day. Knowing this, he opened up his files on corrupt cops in the Bludhaven. There were twenty-three that he had been able to track and gather incriminating evidence on. He prepped those files then sent them through anonymously to the Internal Affairs Department, Lieutenant Franklin Jefferson, with a note to meet Nightwing at nine o'clock in the evening behind Hogan's Alley. He knew Jefferson was honest.
With that done he was ready to hit Leviathan somewhere else and hit them hard. He knew that Mayor Hill was in discussions with the Leviathan Organization about taking over Bludhaven's sewage treatment plant making green and the sewage recyclable. Somehow he needed to stop this. One possibility was to have Wayne Enterprises Green Division outbid them and takeover the treatment plant. Lucius Fox was the CEO of Wayne Enterprises with Bruce as the Chairman of the Board. Long ago Bruce brought Lucius into his secrets, so he knew all about Dick, too. Instead of going to Bruce, Dick decided to go straight to Lucius.
Since Lucius was in on most of the secrets of the Bat Clan, he had an encrypted email account where Bruce sent him special requests. Dick wrote a detailed email to Lucius about Leviathan and the sewage treatment plant explaining to him how they needed to stop Leviathan, as well as informing him about his relationship with Mayor Hill. He suggested making a counter bid in order to make sure that Leviathan doesn't get anymore footholds into Bludhaven. After he sent the email, his stomach started to growl. He checked his watch and saw it was five minutes to two. Time to eat.
When Dick got to the second level, he headed into the kitchen. He wasn't sure what he wanted to eat, so he opened the refrigerator door and stared at the contents within. After a heavy sigh, he closed the door then looked over at Raven's bedroom door. The door was shut. He knew he needed to make things right with her but now. With that he reached into his back pocket and pulled out his smartphone then dialed a local pizza place and ordered a pepperoni and sausage pizza, as well as a plain cheese pizza in case Raven wanted a slice. After he put his smartphone back in his pocket, the freight elevator started moving. He watched and waited to see who it was. Once it stopped, Raven got off along with Alfred Pennyworth. A smile cracked open Dick's face.
“Alfred,” he called to him then rushed over and hugged him.
“Master Dick, it is always a pleasure to see you again,” he said.
“Why are you in Bludhaven?” he asked him.
“Master Bruce asked me to prepare the Forsyth Building for an extended stay by him,” said Alfred.
Dick smiled then he said: “I see you met Rachel.”
“Miss Roth is a delight. We have been getting to know each other downstairs in your gym area. She was stretching and I was sitting and talking to her,” Alfred said.
“Talking about what?” Dick asked.
“Many things,” smiled Alfred.
Raven snorted a laugh then she walked past Dick. He could see that she was still pissed with him, but he already decided to deal with that much later. Too much was on his plate to deal with now.
“I just ordered pizza,” he said then called to Raven. “Including a cheese pizza in case you want some.”
“Aren't you a prince?” she smirked.
Dick glanced at her with a mix of guilt and want, which Alfred noticed immediately. From the conversation he had with Raven downstairs, he could tell that she was both angry and attracted to Master Dick.
“Actually, to the Romani people Master Dick is a kind of prince in a way. Besides being considered a prodigal at the age of seven on the trapeze, his father was in line to lead their clan,” Alfred explained.
“Until he married a non-Romani. The Romani people don't like outsiders,” he said. “Once they married our clan became the Haly Circus. I grew up in the Haly Circus, though my father did teach me to speak Romani as well as know many of the ways. And he taught me how to fly in the air.”
“And you were amazing to watch. I remember when Master Bruce and I saw this young child flying through the air doing things adults couldn't do. He was remarkable to see. Master Bruce was even impressed and he does not impress easily,” said Alfred.
Dick escorted Alfred to a sofa and motioned Alfred to sit down.
“Where are you bags?” asked Dick.
“Downstairs. I thought I'd stay here a few days before getting the Forsyth Building ready. Master Bruce won't be here for nine days, so I have plenty of time,” Alfred explained. “I know you to well, Master Dick, and I thought you might need a few healthy home cooked meals done for you. Plus, it has been a long time since I've looked after you.”
“I wouldn't mind home cooked food, either,” Raven spoke up as sat in the armchair.
“I'm still having pizza for lunch,” smiled Dick. “I'll go get your bags and put them in my other guest room.” Dick took off using the stairs to get the bags.
Alfred looked at Raven. She smiled at him.
“You are interested in Master Dick,” he said. It wasn't a question but a fact.
“I'm slowly getting to know him. He's always been aloof. Though, I have been learning a lot about him since I started staying here,” she said.
“I mean that you are attracted to him,” smiled Alfred.
She blushed but didn't say anything.
“He is a good man, but he does have flaws. It has always been my hope that Dick finds someone who sees his flaws and understands that they are part of him and cannot be changed easily. You especially cannot push him to change them,” said Alfred. “Barbara pushed too hard and too often. I believe that She wanted to change into her idea of what he could be. Poor Koriand'r didn't understand that Master Dick needs certain walls to protect himself. She wanted no walls between them. His parents death scarred him. Of course, becoming Robin didn't really help him on certain levels, though it freed him on others.”
Raven was about to speak when Dick burst through the stairwell door carrying Alfred's bags. He brought them over to the other guest bedroom next to him and then rejoined them in time for the buzzer to sound.
“Pizza is here,” he said.
“Really, Master Dick, pizza?” Alfred said. “I guess I can endure a slice of cheese pizza.”
“Sure you can, Alfred,” chuckled Dick, as he went to get the pizzas.
“You love him,” stated Raven.
“He is like a grandson to me, just as Master Bruce is like a son,” said Alfred. “Through circumstance I happened into this family and I am glad that I did.”
“Batman and Nightwing don't get along,” she said.
“They do and they don't. I think Master Bruce expects too much from Master Dick and Master Dick doesn't want to become Master Bruce,” said Alfred. “In other words they need a good kick in the arse.”
Raven began to laugh as Dick came back carrying two large pizzas. He placed them down on the coffee table, opened the top box, which was his sausage and pepperoni, grabbed a slice, and began to eat. Alfred got up and went into the kitchen to get three plates. He returned and handed one to Raven, one to Dick, and kept one then he served Raven and himself a slice of cheese pizza.
“This pizza could use a good red wine,” he remarked.
“There is a well stocked wine rack in the kitchen, Alfred. Some of them are from Wayne Manor's wine cellar, too,” said Dick.
“I'll check that out in time,” Alfred smiled.
“So, what exactly do you have to do for Bruce?” asked Dick.
“The top three floors of the building are private. One is a gym and workout area, the other floor is a mini-Batcave, and, of course, the top floor is the penthouse. The larder must be stocked and clothes and other items put in their place. Also, in the subbasement there is a hidden spot for some of his vehicles,” explained Alfred. “He wants everything ready for when he arrives.”
“I see. Is anyone coming with him?” asked Dick.
“Damian,” answered Alfred.
“Good idea to keep the kid close. Talia has wanted him dead since he chose Bruce over her,” said Dick.
“Yes, that is a shame. Damian won't talk about it, but you can tell that he is deeply hurt,” sighed Alfred.
“I better eat up. I still a few things to do before I go out tonight,” said Dick.
“What are you doing tonight?” Raven asked.
“You can have tonight off, too,” he said. “I'm meeting with some from IAD. It's time to get rid of corrupt cops.”
“Good. I get to spend some time getting to know Alfred,” said Raven.
“Dinner before or after your night work?” asked Alfred.
“I should be home fairly early in comparison to what you are used to, Alfred,” said Dick. “Afterwards.”
“Very good, Master Dick,” smiled Alfred.
Lieutenant Franklin Jefferson was a thirty-three year old African American male. After a few years as a detective in the Vice Unit, he became sickened by the police corruption he saw, so he transferred to IAD. Most cops treated cops who were part of IAD as pariah, though Hank Hogan wouldn't allow that treatment in his bar. Hank understood the need for IAD.
Standing in the back alley near the trash dumpster. It was dark since on of the lights that lit this alley was out. With his right hand Franklin reached to his hip and touched his sidearm. He knew that several street cops and detectives who spoke highly of Nightwing and the help he gave them.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Nightwing jump off the building opposite Hogan's Alley land on the fire escape then back flip off the fire escape and land a few feet from him. He started to reach for his sidearm but changed his mind, since he had agreed to meet.
“You're Nightwing,” he said.
“Yup,” said Dick. “You got what I emailed you, Lieutenant Jefferson?”
“Twenty-three. That's a lot of corrupt cops you sent me information on,” he said.
“Unfortunately, it's not all of them, but it is enough to damage the corrupt and empower the honest ones,” said Dick.
“You collected this information illegally on these cops,” said Jefferson.
“The photos aren't illegal. Detective Fergus beating a prostitute because she didn't have enough money for him, or Officer Sams and Officer Holly shaking down a street vendor for money. Those photos were taking legally, so to speak,” said Dick.
“I know,” sighed Jefferson.
“Are you going to go after them?” asked Dick.
“Yes,” answered Jefferson.
“If you need my help, tell Hank Hogan what you need. He has a way of getting in touch of me,” said Dick.
“Really?” Jefferson replied in surprise.
“Yeah,” smiled Dick, “I eat there sometimes in the back late at night.”
Dick took a running start, jumped up and grabbed the fire escape and climbed it quickly and gracefully. When he was high enough he used one of his Escrima sticks and shot a piton and wire to the other roof and swung over then climbed up the rest of the way. Jefferson watched until he was out of sight then he shook his head in amazement then he went into Hogan's Alley using the backdoor.
As Dick ran across rooftops and swung across boulevards until he stopped when he heard a loud explosion. He looked in the direction of the giant fireball. One of Bludhaven's Police Precincts was in that area, one he knew well. Dick decided to head off and check it out.
Dick entered through the rooftop entrance and made his way down to the second floor. Both Raven and Alfred were watching the breaking news. The 15th Police Precinct had been bombed. It was being called an act of terrorism. In his Nightwing gear he stood there and watched for a moment. When he had arrived the fire department and first responders had everything under control. Since he couldn't help, he came home.
“Master Dick, do you know anyone from that precinct?” asked Alfred.
“It was my old precinct, Alfred. This is Talia's work. I took Redhorn off the board for her, so she retaliates by bombing my the precinct I worked out of. She likes to inflict pain when you frustrate her. What the hell did Bruce ever see in her,” growled Dick.
Raven could feel the anger wafting off of Dick. His fury was tangible to her, almost overwhelming, so she focused to block it out.
“Go change and shower, Richard,” said Alfred softly. “I'll heat up dinner for you and I also recommend a stiff drink.”
“I think I'll do that, Alfred,” said Dick.
Alfred looked over at Raven.
“You must keep an eye on him, Miss Roth. When he is like this he tends to react without a plan of action. This can cause him problems,” Alfred told her.
“I have his back,” she said.
“Thank you, Miss,” he smiled then he headed into the kitchen.
After he showered and changed into black jeans and a black tee shirt, Dick returned. Alfred had set a place for him at the dining table. He sat down then Alfred served him chicken cordon bleu with a spinach salad on the side along with Pinot Noir. Dick noticed that Raven was enjoying a glass of Pinot Noir, as she sat on the sofa watching the news.
“Thanks, Alfred,” he said.
“Eat then relax before you decide on a course of action,” Alfred suggested.
“Alfred, five cops I worked with are dead and fifteen other are in the hospital. Thank God Amy and Gannon were on a call and Detective Svoboda was off,” he sighed.
Alfred sat down and joined them. Raven muted the TV then joined them at the table.
“I take it you two already ate,” said Dick.
“It was delicious. I might consider eating red meat if Alfred cooks it. He is an amazing cook,” smiled Raven.
“I thought I'd make a lasagna tomorrow that is half vegetarian and half sausage. I know you enjoy sausage lasagna, Master Dick,” said Alfred.
“With your garlic bread?” asked Dick.
“Of course,” answered Alfred.
“I was going to go to the hospital tomorrow to see some of the injured and check up on them,” said Dick.
“I'll go with you,” said Raven.
“You don't have,” said Dick.
“I know. I want to go with you,” she replied.
“In a week or so it's going to be Thanksgiving. What a shitty holiday for these families. I'll talk to the mayor to start a charity for them,” sighed Dick, as he put his knife and fork down.
“Eat, Master Dick. You are going to need your strength. Remember what Master Bruce taught you,” said Alfred.
“You can't help anyone if you aren't in your best condition,” said Dick.
He picked up the knife and fork and continued to eat.
“I made him many a meal at three in the morning in order to assure proper nutrition for him and you,” said Alfred.
“Still do, don't you?” Dick said with a soft smile on his lips.
“I do,” smiled Alfred. “And you satisfy yourself with frozen foods and takeout I bet.”
“You know me too well, Alfred,” said Dick.
His smartphone rang. Dick stood and walked away from the table so he could answer it. The call was from Amy Rohrbach.
“Hello,” he said.
“Dick, I can't believe this happen. Do you have any idea who did this?” she asked.
“I do, but I don't want to talk about it on the phone. I'm going to the hospital tomorrow. Will I see you there?” he asked.
“Of course you will,” she answered.
“Good. We'll talk then, Amy,” said Dick.
“I expect Nightwing's help on this,” Amy stated.
“You'll have it. Please, stay safe. Keep your head on a swivel,” replied Dick.
“Always,” she said.
She hung up. Dick put his smartphone away. He returned to the table.
“Talia is going to pay for this,” he stated.
“Talia al Ghul has many crimes to pay for,” added Alfred.
Dressed in a black Herringbone topcoat, white linen shirt, and black pants Dick entered the hospital with Raven, who was dressed black jeans, a blue shirt, knee high black boots, and a long black leather jacket. Dick noticed Hank Hogan talking to a couple of plainclothes cops and joined them. He had no doubts that there were a lot cops in this hospital right now.
“Hank,” he said.
“Dick,” Hank greeted him then he looked at Raven.
“This is my friend Rachel Roth,” Dick said.
“Dick, this is Detective Stephen Holiday and Sergeant Terry White. Dick was on the job for couple of years,” said Hank. “He worked out of the 15th.”
“Why'd you leave the job?” asked White.
“Didn't see eye to eye with Captain Burke,” said Dick. “I had the feeling I was going to be a crossing guard the rest of my career if I stayed.”
“Burke. I heard he's under investigation now by the IAD. Couldn't happen to a more incompetent bastard,” said White.
“So, how are the wounded doing?” asked Dick.
“Seven are fine. They're going to spend another couple of days in the hospital then be released,” White told him. “Two died overnight. Three lost limbs and three are in the ICU.”
“Damn,” growled Dick. “Anyone see Sergeant Rohrbach? She used to be my partner.”
“Amy,” smiled White. “I saw her on the 6th Floor. She was arranging guards for the ICU.”
“I'll see you later at the Alley, kid. We need to talk,” said Hank.
“We'll head there after I talk to Amy,” said Dick.
Raven nodded at Hank and followed Dick as he headed for the elevator bank. When they were away from everyone, she asked Dick a question.
“Captain Burke? What happened?” she asked.
“It happened around the time Blockbuster came after me. There was blood evidence at the scene where Blockbuster was shot and killed by Tarantula. It was mine. He and I had been battling, kicking each others ass. I was exhausted. Hell, I had a grade two concussion and two broken ribs. I hadn't slept in days. He hit me with a right hook that put me down for a few seconds when Tarantula showed up. She took a gun out. I called out for her not to shoot but I didn't move. I mean I should have been able to move, but I couldn't. She shot him in the head then she came over to me and kissed me. I didn't respond. I was in a state of shock, so she started to kiss me more and more than... we. I don't even remember having sex with her. But I did. She laughed then left me on the rooftop with Blockbuster's dead body. I called the police then left,” he told her in a monotone. “I couldn't believe it happened. All cops were called into their precincts because violence from Blockbuster's associate was expected. The violence didn't happen because they were rudderless without their leader. I didn't go into work, though. I stayed home for two days without even calling in as sick. Burke wanted me off the job for it. All I did manage to do was hack into the forensic lab and have my blood sample destroyed to protect my identity. When I came back to work, I resigned.”
“Dick, she raped you. Tarantula raped you,” Raven said in horror. “How have you dealt with this?”
“I left the police because I can't afford to get that worn out again and lose control. And I have concentrated on the mission, which is protecting and cleaning up Bludhaven,” he said.
She gently touched his cheek and said, “You need more than that.”
After letting her hand linger for a for moments, he finally pressed the button for the elevator. The doors opened and they got on it and he pressed the button for the sixth floor. The doors shut.
“I don't deserve more, Raven,” he said in a soft voice.
Raven had opened up her empath powers. She could feel the sadness and guilt he felt. But also the humiliation and self loathing. Tarantula had damaged him and he dealt with it by doing his mission, by hiding in his mission. She needed to help him. Raven put up her mental shields before she started to cry.
The doors opened and the ICU was filled with uniformed and plainclothes police. Dick and Raven stepped off the elevator and Amy noticed him immediately. A couple of uniformed officers were going to stopped them but she came forward.
“I know them,” she said then escorted them to a private area to speak.
“Amy, I introduced you to Rachel,” he said.
“Does she know you well?” Amy asked.
Dick knew this was her way of asking if Raven knew he was Nightwing.
“Yes, she does,” he said.
“Good,” sighed Amy. “Who do you think did this?”
“Leviathan,” he answered.
“The fucking environmental organization,” she snarled.
“They are also a terrorist group run by Talia al Ghul the daughter of Ras al Ghul, the leader of the League of Assassins,” he told her.
“I want this bitch, Dick,” Amy said.
“So don't I, Amy,” he said.
“What are you doing about this?” she asked.
“First, Chief Redhorn is gone. He was in her pocket. And I'm working on other things with Rachel's help, as well as Batman's help,” he said.
“Batman is helping you,” she said. This seemed to almost relieve her, which pissed off Dick.
“Yes. He's helping me,” Dick said.
“Please, Dick, keep me in the loop,” she said.
“I will, Amy,” he sighed then he bent down and kissed her cheek. “We'll deal with this and we'll win.”
“Now, I'll tell people you came by. Get to work,” she said.
Raven noticed that after the hospital where he confided in her with what happened with Blockbuster and Tarantula and had talked with Sergeant Rohrbach, that Dick was in no mood to talk. Everything about him was directed inwardly. Dick was done sharing for now and she wasn't going to push him. He drove them in silence to Hogan's Alley, parked the car then the two of them entered in time for the lunch crowd. Only two tables were available and the bar was crowded. A waitress handed them two menus and pointed them to one of the tables. They sat down.
“You hungry at all?” he asked her.
“A little, but what can I eat here?” Raven asked.
“Hank makes a good veggie burger, or so I've been told,” Dick told her.
“Okay,” she said.
The waitress came over. Dick ordered for them.
“My friend will have the veggie burger and sweet potato fries and I'll have a double cheeseburger and curly fries. Also, we'll each have the stout from the tap,” he ordered.
“Okay,” said the waitress.
“Oh, and tell Hank that Dick Grayson is here. He is expecting me,” he said.
“Okay,” she smiled having recognized his name. Unfortunately, Bludhaven sometimes treated Dick Grayson like Gotham City treated Bruce Wayne.
She left them. Raven reached over placed her right hand on top of Dick's right hand. He looked at her.
“Whatever you need from me, I'll give it to you,” she said and meant it.
He placed his left hand on top of her hand and smiled.
“I'll be okay,” he said. “I shouldn't have told you about Blockbuster and Tarantula.”
“I'm glad you did,” she said.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because now I'm sure you trust me,” she smiled. “I like being trusted by you.”
“Ra... Rachel, I'm glad you stayed to be my backup. I didn't realize how much I needed someone,” he admitted.
“Batman has his Robins and you have me,” she smiled.
Hank came with their stouts and then sat down at the table. He looked at Raven and smiled.
“I can tell that Dick trusts you, so I'll get to the point,” said Hank then he looked at Dick. “One of Blockbuster's gang is back in town – Lester Buchinsky.”
“The Electrocutioner,” growled Dick.
“Yup,” said Hank.
“Electrocutioner?” asked Raven.
“He wears a suit that generates enough electricity to kill a person with a single touch of one of his hands,” explained Dick.
“Let me guess he wants you dead,” said Raven.
“Oh, yeah, he wants me dead,” smirked Dick.
“I have the wife and child in safe house. A private plane flies them to Jamaica in the morning,” rasped Bruce in his Batman mode.
“What happened to Goatboy?” asked Dick, as he held his smartphone to his ear.
“Arkham,” was the simple answer.
“I'll tell Honor Guest that our end is fulfilled,” said Dick.
“Be careful. Talia wants you dead, but first she'll want to hurt you, cause you pain. I never thought I'd say this but Ras was a more honorable foe than his daughter. Just be careful,” said Bruce.
“Understood,” replied Dick. “Is Ras still in charge of the League?”
“I've checked through my sources. Ras has disappeared completely. I don't know if he's dead or just in hiding waiting to see who rises to the top of the League to take his spot. Right now Mara al Ghul is the provisional leader until a permanent one can be chosen,” Bruce told him.
“Talia?” asked Dick.
“Maybe. Things are murky,” he said. “Just be careful.”
Bruce hung up. Dick exhaled then put his smartphone away in a hidden pocket. He was on the roof of a six floor building across the street from Honor Guest's hotel.
“Your defenses are down,” he heard a voice behind him say.
Turning he saw Guest dressed in her Silencer gear. She had a Ruger Super Redhawk handgun pointed at him. Considering the power of the sidearm and the bullets she used at this range she could turn him into Swiss cheese.
“Your husband and kid will be in Jamaica by tomorrow afternoon. Right now they are in a safe house being taken care of,” Dick told her.
She put down her gun then holstered it. A smile slowly cracked her face.
“Shit, you and Batman do good work,” she said.
“Where is there hidden base, Honor?” asked Dick.
“Fear Cay Island. There is a underground complex that dates back to the Civil War. Back then it was dug out and tunnels held in place by wood, but Talia has expanded it and turned it into a concrete and metal safe haven for her people for training and hiding, as well as her real headquarters around here,” Honor said.
“Our deal is done. I'd pack and fly out of here as soon as possible. Talia is vindictive, especially when she believes you have betrayed her,” said Dick.
“I agree,” Honor said then she turned and headed for the rooftop door. She opened it and then left him alone.
As Dick turned to scan the city, he heard in his earbud a 10-00 officer down call. He took off. The call came only a few blocks away. As he swung across the street to another rooftop, he was finally in position to see the problem. Twenty dollotrons had two patrol cars surrounded. The cops were making the mistake of trying to subdue them as if they could feel pain or understood the situations. They didn't understand that they were living robots or zombies, who obeyed only Pyg.
Several more patrol cars pulled up. Dick came swinging down from the roof taking out three dollotrons. He took his Escrima sticks into his hands and started to batter the dollotrons back away from the police. As he did this he noticed several of the dollotrons had bomb vest on. They were walking explosive devices being used to kill police.
“Shit,” said Dick to himself then he called out: “Bombs! Take cover!”
Dick then tried to extricate himself from the dollotrons. Suddenly, blackness enveloped the dollotrons and moved them away from Dick and the police. He looked up and saw Raven floating in the air. Her chakra gem glowed as her soul self encased the dollotrons. Suddenly, one, two, three, and then four bombs went off taking out all of the dollotrons. Holding the explosive force back and keeping the dollotrons together tasked Raven. She started to fall to the ground from the exertion, but before she could hit the asphalt, Dick caught her in his arms.
“You saved my life,” he said to her.
“I am your backup, remember?” she said.
“Who I now owe my life,” he said looking into her eyes.
For a moment she stared at his face wishing she could see his eyes, which were covered by a white glass.
“You can let me down,” she told him. “I just wasn't expecting the force of those bombs. They were strong enough to take out this block.”
“Sounds like something Pyg would do,” he said then he put her on feet.
Now with the blackness gone, Dick and Raven were able to survey the damage done to the dollotrons. They were blown to pieces. More human lives destroyed by Pyg. He heard Raven gasp at the carnage that the explosion caused on Pyg's human dolls.
“Let's get out of here,” Dick said.
“I'll teleport us home,” she said with guilt and sadness in her voice.
After she changed into her bed clothes, Alfred made Raven a cup of green tea, while Dick changed into jeans then went to his computer lab and started to research Fear Cay Island. He wanted to find information on the Civil War era underground complex. As he worked researching, as much as he could, his mind kept going back to Raven saving his life. But he also remembered her look of guilt and horror at what happened to the dollotrons. Her guilt over what happened was almost palatable.
“Master Dick, I made you a mug of hot chocolate,” Alfred announced as he entered the computer lab. He placed the mug beside him.
Dick smiled. On cold night when he was out patrolling with Batman during his old Robin days, Alfred would greet him with hot chocolate when he came home. Bruce would give him a lengthy criticism of what he did wrong that night and Alfred had hot chocolate for him.
“Thanks, Alfred,” Dick mumbled, as he worked on the computer. “How is Raven doing?”
“After a few sips of tea she fell asleep on the sofa. I believe she was traumatized by what happened out there tonight, Master Dick,” he told Dick.
Dick knew that from Alfred's tone that he thought highly of Raven and worried about her.
“For good reason, Alfred, in saving me, the police, and the people on that block, she trapped the dollotrons with her soul self and the bombs. There were only pieces of them left after the explosions,” he explained.
“No wonder she's in shock,” sighed Alfred. “Miss Rachel is very special.”
Dick smiled at this then he stopped using his computer, picked up the mug of hot chocolate, and took a sip.
“It looks like tomorrow I have to make a trip to the Bludhaven Natural History Museum. The original plans of the tunnels from the Civil War era are there somewhere in their archives,” he stated.
“Ah, you doing research the old fashion way. If I remember correctly, it was never your forte,” smiled Alfred.
“Maybe I'll ask Raven for help,” he said. “She loves old books.”
“I think that's a good idea. She could use a nice day out after this evening,” said Alfred.
Dick took another sip of his hot chocolate and stood up and started to follow him out of the computer lab.
“Is there lasagna left over?” he asked.
“Yes, there is,” said Alfred then he grinned.
“Let's go then,” he smiled. “I've had enough work for the night.”
When they got down the second floor, Dick walked over to Raven's sleeping body. Alfred watched as he gently picked her up and carried her into her bedroom. Dick kicked opened the door and placed her on the bed then covered her with an extra blanket that was at the foot of the bed. Before he left her to sleep, he bent over and kissed her on her forehead then he left. Once he was gone, Raven smiled. She wasn't as a sleep as he thought she was.
Dick exited the bedroom and softly closed the door. He walked over to the kitchen, where Alfred was putting the lasagna in the oven.
“I have a microwave, Alfred,” said Dick.
“Microwaved food is unevenly heated and always steaming hot in one spot and cold in another. Now sit down and I'll get you some lasagna when it is ready,” stated Alfred.
Dick grinned then sat down at the dining table. He waited patiently for Alfred to bring him his snack. In time Alfred came to the table carrying a tray with a plate of lasagna on it and two glasses of wine. He placed one glass in front of Dick and the lasagna then he sat down with the second glass of wine. Dick picked up the fork and started to eat the lasagna.
“You are attracted to Miss Rachel,” stated Alfred.
“It shows?” asked Dick.
“I know you well, Master Dick. It shows to me,” said Alfred. “What are you going to do about it?”
“Nothing, Alfred. I've sworn off women for now,” sighed Dick.
“Shutting women out or using them for merely sexual purposes is Master Bruce, not you, Master Dick. Miss Rachel would be good for you. She was qualities that I think compliment her well. This is my opinion for you to take or not,” Alfred told him.
“You know I value your opinion, Alfred,” smiled Dick. “I'm not shutting women out of my life. I'm just taking some time to get myself together after a series of mistakes. That's all.”
“Yes, I've heard that one before. It has an old and familiar excuse,” sighed Alfred, who then took a sip of wine. “If you don't want to become like Master Bruce then don't act like him. It's very simple.”
“I...,” he stopped. “You're right, Alfred. You're right. But he trained me well.”
“I know,” smiled Alfred. “He is trying to change, Master Dick. Damian is making him realize that he has to change. And even though Damian is biological son, he thinks of all his Robins as his sons and you are his first. In some ways, you are the one he is closest to. Try to keep that in mind, as you are feuding with him.”
Dick continued to eat as his snack and Alfred enjoyed his glass of wine in an amiable silence.
In the basement of the Natural Museum Raven and Dick searched for the book that held the map of the Civil War era tunnels. So far they had spent two hours searching for the book that held what they needed to no avail. As opposed to Dick, who hated rummaging through the stacks of old books, Raven was enthralled by it. She loved books and the older and more dusty the better for her. To her this was a well spent day.
Pulling a book off the shelf to check, Dick sighed when he saw it didn't have what he was looking for. A groan of frustration escaped his lips. As he put it back, he heard Raven whisper: “Yes.”
He turned to see her sit down at at table with a large book. It was opened to a detailed map of Fear Cay Island Civil War era tunnels. Dick joined.
“You found it,” he smiled.
“Take your smartphone out and take pictures of this detailed map of the tunnels,” she said.
Dick took out his smartphone and did as he was told by her. After taking enough photographs he put his smartphone away.
“How the hell did you find this?” he asked her.
“Someone purposely shelved it in the wrong place. I decided to stop looking in the area we were told that we'd find it and search in an area where it shouldn't be,” she said.
“Uh huh,” he grinned. “You might make a great detective one of these day with training. Well, let's get out of here. I'm sick of old books.”
“I love old books,” she said.
“I remember, Ra... Rachel,” Dick said. “We used to have to force you out of your room to join us for team bonding. You'd rather read than bond.”
“Team bonding,” snorted Raven. “Pizza and games, you call that team bonding. I called that bad nutrition and annoying waste of time.”
“Yeah, I called that team bonding. It must have work since we ended up a well run team and you ended up dating Garth.”
“Yeah, and you ended up sleeping with the team members that weren't male. I say half the team,” countered Raven.
“Half the team?” smirked Dick. “I dated Donna for a short time and then Kori, who I almost married. Okay, and then there was a dalliance with Jesse Quick, but that's all.”
“And you were really, really close to Wally,” smirked Raven.
“Wally and I never dated. He always preferred Linda to me and I learned my lesson about speedsters with Jesse,” Dick replied with a grin. “Now let's get out of here, shall we?”
“Back to the warehouse?” she asked.
“No. How about I take you wherever you want to go,” he said. “Where do you want to go, Rachel?”
“To a bookstore. I have my tablet with me which has about three hundred books on it, but I miss hold a book and ready. I'd love to pick up a couple of hardcover and paperback books,” she said.
“A bookstore,” sighed Dick. “Okay, let's go to a bookstore so you can peruse and purchase.”
A week past without Leviathan showing itself again. This made Dick antsy because it meant that they were planning something, something big and he had no idea what it was. Alfred was gone to deal with Bruce's needs and Raven bought a stack of books to read, so that lately in their spare time she was either on the sofa reading or in her room reading, while he worked out or did more intel gathering on the computer.
Nightly, Raven and Dick patrolled, Dick wanted some action other than chasing down common criminals. He wanted to put Leviathan out of action and end Talia al Ghul's reign. But today was to be spent doing something that made him less than comfortable, he was to meet Bruce and Damian at the Forsyth Building. Bruce sent him a text telling him that he was looking forward to talking to him and meeting Rachel Roth.
Rachel exited her bedroom dressed in short black dress, knee high black leather boots, and a black leather jacket. Dick gawked at her for a moment then recovered. He wore jeans, a white dress shirt, and his black Herringbone overcoat.
“You ready to meet Bruce?” he asked.
“I always wanted to meet Batman,” she smirked. “He is the man who trained you.”
“Well, you are meeting the full package tonight. And Damian is with him instead of with the Titans. He and his mother don't get along well since she tried to kill him,” explained Dick.
“Tough family he comes from. I know the feeling,” she replied.
“Yeah,” sighed Dick.
They arrived at the Forsyth Building and parked in the underground garage in the private area then took the private elevator up to the penthouse. When the doors opened the first thing they saw was Damian in Jeans and a Bludhaven Brawlers tee shirt. He was texting on his smartphone ignoring their presence.
“Hey, Damian,” Dick called to him.
“Grayson,” he greeted him without looking up. “And Raven.”
“That's Rachel, Robin,” Raven corrected him.
“Uh huh, sure,” he said and walked away.
Alfred came out of nowhere. He smiled at them then said: “Master Bruce is in the study on the phone. I believe it is Bat business he is doing.”
“I've missed you, Alfred,” Raven said then walked over to him and gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
“And I have missed you, too, my dear,” said Alfred in return.
Alfred took Raven and Dick's coats and hung them.
“What's for dinner tonight, Alfred?” asked Dick with a smile.
“Grilled salmon with rice pilaf and asparagus,” answered Alfred then he looked at Raven and smiled.
“Thank you, Alfred, for not making it a red meat special,” said Raven.
“Oh, Master Bruce expects you for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday,” said Alfred then he looked at Raven. “I hope you eat turkey.”
“Don't worry about it, Alfred. I will,” she smiled.
It was then that Bruce exited the study. He was dressed in black pants, expensive loafers, and a tailored blue dress shirt. When he saw Raven, Bruce put his best charming smile on his face and approached her.
“Rachel Roth,” he said.
“Mr. Wayne,” she said.
“Call me Bruce,” he replied and took her right hand then kissed it.
Next, he looked at Dick. The two men stared at each other for a moment then Bruce broke the silence.
“Selina is coming to Bludhaven. She'll arrive in a few days,” said Bruce.
“I'm glad she's trying to play it straight but she better behave in my city,” stated Dick. After he said it he realized how much he sounded like Bruce. Dick tried not to show his reaction. He kept his face calm.
“Selina has never been one to want to hurt anyone, except those she believes hurt either animals or those she cares for,” said Bruce. “I'm hoping she can stay straight.”
Damian snorted. Bruce ignored him. Father and son were having their struggles with each other. Bruce was trying to get Damian to change his instincts to kill first and also trying to get him to think more like a detective and not an assassin. It was difficult to do.
“Is that all?” asked Dick.
“Barbara is flying back to Gotham. I asked her to return and watch over the city for me. She knows how I like this done best, besides you,” said Bruce.
“Anyone assisting her?” asked Dick.
“Luke Fox, Nightwing. He is learning slowly by the is learning. Also, Batwoman is will be in town,” said Bruce.
“I thought you didn't approve of her?” asked Dick.
“She is modifying her way. I think she's learning what it means to wear the bat symbol,” stated Bruce.
“What about Jason?” asked Dick.
“Jason is helping Tim,” answered Bruce then he looked over at Rachel. “I'm surprised you haven't been recalled to the Titans, Miss Roth.”
“Tim wanted someone he trusted to watch Dick's back. That's me,” she said.
“I'm glad you are here to help him,” smiled Bruce. It was a genuine smile, which surprised Dick.
Alfred cleared his throat then said: “May I suggest that we take the conversation to the dining room. Dinner is ready to be served.”
“Okay, Alfred,” said Bruce.
Dinner went about without a problem. Bruce peppered Raven with questions about herself, while Damian made the odd sarcastic comment that would lead to Raven being sarcastic back to him. Dick sat in silence eating his dinner and sipping the Pinot Noir that Alfred chose for the meal.
“We'd be eating steak tonight if you weren't here,” Damian remarked to Raven.
“Damian, don't be rude. Rachel is a guest,” said Bruce in a tone that told him he wanted no argument.
Damian shrugged but didn't say a word. Dick kept glancing at Raven. More and more lately he was finding himself attracted to her, wanting to do more than just patrol but to take her out on a date. Was avoiding women making him like Bruce?
Alfred collected the dinner dishes then returned pushing a cart with a sterling silver coffee pot, cups, and chocolate mousse dessert. He served everyone then disappeared.
“Why doesn't Alfred eat with us?” asked Raven.
“I've had this argument with Alfred for years. He refuses to dine with us unless it's a special occasion,” stated Bruce. “Selina and I have taken to eating in the kitchen with him because of it.”
“Really?” said Dick finally speaking.
Bruce nodded yes then said, “It was Selina's idea. I felt like a fool for not thinking of it myself.”
Bruce then sampled the mousse. It was delicious. Rachel ate hers with relish then noticed that Alfred had served her a cup of nice hot tea. She smiled. Dick noticed. Her smile made him smile, which Bruce noticed, as did Damian.
“Now that dinner is done,” said Bruce, “we should talk about Leviathan and Fear Cay Island. I believe that Dick and I should infiltrate and take out the underground facility.”
“Why just the two of you?” asked Damian.
“Because your mother wants you dead and I won't risk you,” answered Bruce. “I was hoping that Rachel could watch your back like she has Dick's.”
“No problem,” said Raven.
“Are we to engage or just recon?” asked Dick.
“I'd like to recon first,” said Bruce.
“Sounds like a plan,” grinned Dick.