"Hi, is this Slade Wilson?" The voice was sweet, friendly, but held a reserved tone. Not his usual mercenary client call, but who the hell else would be calling his phone at one a.m.?
"The one and only." Slade replied flatly, looking over to the kitchen clock from the spot he'd fallen asleep on the couch. Hm. More like three a.m. Dick should have been home by now. Did he call?
"I have … some unfortunate news." That reservation in her voice rang through clear as day now, Slade felt his heart jam it's way into his throat. "Your fiance, Richard Grayson, he's here at the hospital. Things are rather serious, I can't discuss details over the phone but-"
"Which hospital?" Slade was already up, grabbing what he needed to head out the door.
"St. Mercy in Gotham, he's currently in triage so-"
"Tell him I'll be there in ten minutes."
There was a pause between them, "I'll let him know."
"What do you mean 'family only'? I'm his emergency contact, they called me to come here. Now you are going to stick me out here in the waiting room without seeing him?" Slade's hands were planted firmly on the intake desk in front of him, all six-plus feet of him intimidatingly boring down onto the poor male nurse in front of him.
"It's … hospital policy. It's outdated, we know. I just … don't have any power to make exceptions." The man squeezed out, sounding and looking incredibly sympathetic for Slade's situation. Which, seemed almost counterintuitive to the clear fear he held as well. Slade recognized it and straightened himself out from the desk, letting his hands flex in and out of fists at his side.
"Fine. Fine." Slade ground out, taking a small step back. "I'll make some phone calls." Slade turned to do just that, resigning himself to calling every bat brat phone number until someone answered and told him what the hell was going on. Who first? Tim would be the most likely to answer at this hour …
Slade had taken his phone out of his pocket, a hallway past the check-in counter when he caught a glimpse of black hair and an Italian tailored suit out of his periphery. "Bruce." Slade said loud enough to grab the man's attention, but it was clear by his reaction that Batman had been aware of Slade's presence before he was.
"They must have called you." Bruce replied flatly, shutting the door to the ICU and locking them both out. Yet, Slade wasn't concentrated on what Bruce was saying, or the way his body language was tight and uneasy.
No Slade just heard the screaming.
"No! Stop! Let me go! LET ME GO!"
Slade tensed as well, but instead of freezing, he made long strides towards the door.
"That HURTS! STOP! PLEASE!"
Slade would have ripped the damn door off its hinges and stormed the damn place if a strong arm hadn't hit him square in the chest, blocking him from doing any such thing.
"He's hit his head. They aren't hurting him." Bruce unnecessarily explained. He earned a sharp glare from Slade, who quickly pushed the younger man's arm away from his chest. He didn't move forward, though now all of his attention was solely focused on Bruce.
"What happened?" Slade asked in a low tone. Bruce, being Batman and all, did not so much as flinch. The intimidation worked a lot better on average citizens.
"It's work-related." Slade knew just by Bruce's clipped response that was all the information he would get out in public.
"I want to see him." Slade pushed next. Bruce knew people, made a lot of damn donations. One call to the president of this hospital and Slade was sure the exception would be made to allow him inside the ICU to see Dick.
God, he just wanted to see Dick.
"Right now he isn't seeing anyone. He's still in triage, anyone but the medical staff in the room would be a distraction and in the way." Damn. Leave it to Bruce to be right, but he was. If Dick was hurt that badly, then Slade would be a distraction and a pretty large waste of space. Slade's distress must have shown somewhere on his features because he could have sworn he saw sympathy on Bruce's face. "I'll make some phone calls once he's stable."
Slade was genuinely surprised. Bruce just shook his head, “I’m not bitter enough to deny my son access to his fiance at a time like this.”
It was the first time that Slade had actually heard Bruce acknowledge their engagement. It was no secret that Batman, king of the No Kill Rule, wasn’t a huge fan of Deathstroke the Terminator. As it would turn out, that also translated into how Bruce Wayne felt about Slade Wilson. No surprise there either. However, dating Dick hadn’t improved their relationship, in fact, it may have deteriorated it further.
Bruce was quite vocal in the beginning about his disapproval of Dick’s partner choice. Dick had come home a few times, after patrols, or family dinners, throwing his keys down into their bowl already halfway through a tirade about Bruce’s comments before he was even out of the entryway.
‘He doesn’t get it, Slade … he thinks you are using me or something, but this isn’t like that. YOU aren’t like that, not with me, not anymore.’
Once or twice, Slade came in for Bruce’s defense … no, really he did. Slade had made a lot of morally ambiguous and downright horrible choices in his life. He wasn’t just talking about murder either. His life had been on a path of destruction for a long time. Slade let his family be ripped apart, played a hand in his ex-wife and son’s death, manipulated, then lied to his other two children to keep them safe, and contributed to the suffering of innocent people in the hundreds.
So, Slade told Dick that it would take time for Bruce to realize and accept that Slade wasn’t out to hurt Dick. Like any reasonable father, Bruce was cautious and untrustworthy of Slade. If the situation was the reverse? Slade would have had several objections as well.
What happened next was like an episode of the Twilight Zone. Bruce and himself sat in near-dead silence in front of those door for what seemed like forever. Then, the next thing Slade knew, he was sitting down at a table, styrofoam coffee cups in his hands, and two bats sitting across from him. How and when Slade got there was a blur.
Bruce was relaxed back into his chair, one arm folded across his chest, the other holding a phone up to his ear. He looked bored, perhaps a bit irritated. Few words left his mouth and most of his conversation consisted of hummed agreements. Between listening on the phone, Bruce would shift to look at what Tim (next to him) was doing on his laptop. If he saw something he approved of, he would point to it and nod his head, if not, he’d disapprovingly swat away with his hand.
Tim didn’t seem to mind working like this, somehow silently communicating back with his mentor in various brow lifts and micro facial expressions that the two of them were so naturally inclined to use. He was sipping off his own cup of coffee (which Slade vaguely remembered buying for no reason), his hands must have never left the keyboard, the sound of clicking fading into the background like soothing white noise.
Slade sat there for only a few seconds longer before he couldn’t take it anymore. “Who did this to him?” The constant patter of keystrokes finally stopped.
Bruce was still on the phone and seemed to use that to his advantage to dodge the question, however, Tim was still wide open and clearly engaged. Slade shifted his gaze over to him, surprised when their eyes actually met over the computer screen. This was the first time they’d made eye contact since Tim arrived.
“... do I have to repeat myself?”
“That’s not necessary,” Tim replied, looking down and finally shutting the lid to his laptop. He glanced briefly over to Bruce, then back to Slade. “Why do you want to know?”
“I want to make sure to send the guy a birthday card this year,” Slade said with heavy sarcasm. “Why the hell do you think I want to know?”
Tim went stiff at the reply, a frown settling on his features. “You want to kill them.” Slade rolled his eyes. “Because they hurt him.”
“No one touches him. No one.” Slade said with surety, having to take his hands away from the foam of his cup to avoid crushing it in his hands.
Tim just watched Slade for a minute, analyzing him like software. “Dick wouldn’t want me to tell you.”
“Then don’t tell me. I have email and text, go ahead and send their address and next of kin as well.” Slade replied, sounding far too serious for it to be a joke.
“No,” Tim said flatly, mirroring Bruce’s tone almost exactly from earlier. “Dick doesn’t need you to be in jail, he needs you here.”
There was another long silence between them.
“... Don’t be so reasonable brat, you’ll make an old man look bad.” Slade managed to get the tiniest of smiles out of Tim.
“Is that admitting you’re old?” Tim asked with a semi-playful attitude. “It’s good that you are finally accepting it.”
“Shitty kid, who raised you?” Slade and Tim both looked at Bruce, they both laughed a little. It was an odd release of tension considering the current situation. Bruce even looked over a bit confused, obviously having been too distracted with his other conversation to know he was being picked on.
“I think it’s sort of … sweet how much you care about him.” Tim said next, tracing the logo of his laptop on the lid with his finger. Slade just raised an eyebrow. “I mean, the whole killing business is a bit much but … I guess it’s the thought that counts.”
“Sounds like a crappy gift you got for Christmas when you put it that way,” Slade replied, then followed up quickly with. “I wouldn’t have asked him to marry me if I didn’t care about him.”
“I know,” Tim said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “Not everyone on this side of the family thinks your relationship with Dick is a negative aspect of his life.” Slade was, again, surprised by the Batclan’s sentiments that night … or was it really considered morning now?
“Meaning there is more than one of you?” Slade asked, half-joking. Tim smiled again and opened his mouth to say something else when Bruce stopped talking and placed his phone on the table.
“Dick’s ready for visitors.”
It took a half an hour from Bruce’s announcement to get inside the ICU. First, there was some confusion about Dick’s chart and whether or not he was allowed visitors (which he wasn’t, but Bruce was, of course, ‘a special case’). Once that was cleared up, the doctor wanted to take only Bruce back first, then others would be allowed one at a time. Bruce took his sweet time talking to the doctor. The entire time Slade stood, back against the wall, and arms crossed against his chest, foot bouncing under him.
“You can go in first after Bruce comes back.” Tim offered, Slade shot him a look.
“What ever made you think I was going second?” Slade asked, Tim just shrugged his shoulders.
“I was trying to be nice. I’m family, so I could go first if I wanted to.” Tim replied Slade shook his head.
“Did you know Dick keeps a running list of reasons why you should never become a supervillain?”
“... he does?”
“How is that of any surprise to you?” Slade asked honestly as the doors opened up, Bruce emerging with a sour look on his face. Slade didn’t even have time to ask what was wrong.
“He wants to see you,” Bruce said, not even having to look at Slade for everyone to know who he was addressing.
Slade didn’t have to be told twice.
Once inside the locked double doors, Slade realized how close he had been to Dick this entire time. The hero’s room had been right on the other side of the wall from where Slade had been leaning this entire time. The room had sliding glass doors and a curtain pulled to block the view from inside.
“He just got out of surgery about half an hour ago, he’s probably still shaking off the anesthesia, so try and be calm with him.” A female nurse spoke to him, scanning a key card next to the sliding doors and watching them open automatically. Slade wasn’t sure if the reason for the restricted access on Dick’s room was to keep people out or to keep Dick in. From what he heard earlier? It was probably the latter.
“Dick, you have a visitor.” The nurse called softly, drawing back the curtain enough so that both Slade and Dick could see each other.
Dick was in rough shape. He had two IV drips, a dozen or so machines running off of both, EKG monitor, oxygen cannula, and gauze wrapped around his chest and parts of his arms. His face was bruised along the left side of his jaw and another sizable, deeply dark bruise ran into his hairline above his right eye. Dick’s face was flushed, eyes half hazy, black hair sticking up in every direction possible.
“Dick…” Slade breathed out, taking a step into the room. That’s all it took.
Dick’s eyes widened, then abruptly filled with tears that came streaming down in face in fat drops that clung to his eyelashes. Despite the wires and tubes, Dick raised both arms toward Slade and made to reach out to him almost like a child would to be picked up.
Slade couldn’t help but let out a small chuckle and smile. It wasn’t funny that Dick was hurt, but Slade just couldn’t get over how damn cute his lover looked right now, practically begging to be held. Though, Slade was entirely unsurprised by this behavior.
“Handsome you are okay.” Slade replied, closing the distance between them and leaning over Dick’s bed to hug him, though, Dick’s arms were around his back and clutching the fabric of his shirt before his arms even began to wrap around him. “Everything is going to be alright. I’m here.”
Dick was shaking against Slade, all but sobbing into his shoulder. Slade just stayed there with him, silently cupping the back of his head, and rubbing soothing circles onto his back. Eventually, Dick’s iron grip relaxed and he began slouching in Slade’s grip. Slowly, Slade let Dick’s backrest against the bed, earning something of a whine out of Dick.
“I’m not going anywhere, I’m grabbing a chair.” Dick physically looked relieved by that statement, letting his head rest against the bed, his eyes closing soon afterward. Slade set up his chair close to Dick’s bed so he could comfortably sit by him and touch him. Touch was so important to Dick, Slade knew that but … It was important for him too. Slade had been wanting to see Dick, touch him, for hours. Even if it was just a little hand-holding, it would be comforting to both of them.
Slade slipped his hand under Dick’s, startling the younger a bit until Slade began brushing his thumb along the top of Dick’s hand. “It’s just me. I’m still here.”
“Don’t go.” Dick said, opening his eyes to look at Slade with renewed tears in his eyes.
“I won’t. I’ll stay right here as long as you need me to.”
“Even if it’s forever?” Dick asked, a cry attempting to strangle his voice.
Slade smiled and nodded, “Yes, even if it’s forever.”
Dick looked so relieved, a few tears fell down anyway. Slade knew that Dick’s emotional state was due to a mixture of drugs and probably head trauma, poor thing.
“I love you.” Dick all but whispered, lifting Slade’s hand up and placing it by his face. Slade took over from there and began brushing his fingers through Dick’s hair, against the side of his face and temple. Dick sank into the touch immediately, leaning toward Slade’s hand a little more in response.
Slade had no problem doing this, especially as he watched Dick truly relax. All the tension seemed to fall out of his body, his face relaxed, lids shut lazily instead of by force. He even watched Dick’s heart rate slow, and blood pressure lower to more reasonable levels.
“I love you too.” Slade spoke softly, in case Dick was ready to fall back asleep.
It was silent for a while. Dick was breathing comfortably, Slade still dutifully playing with Dick’s hair. Then, Slade felt a hand slip up his forearm again and wrap around his hand. He felt Dick’s index finger rubbing along the engagement band that Dick insisted Slade wear. He smiled a little bit. “I’m going to marry you.” Dick said, sounding half asleep.
“Good, I’m glad we are on the same page.” Slade answered. Dick pinched the top of his hand and muttered out something sounding like ‘sassy man’ before falling silent again. “Get some rest Dick, your body needs it.”
“You’ll be here when I wake up?”