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Jumping to Conclusions

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Talia planned it perfectly. She pulled together pictures and reports from that time, gathering clips of Renegade Dick Grayson working beside Slade Wilson. They had access to stuff from Slade's systems, stuff even Richard himself didn't get. 


Wilson was a former student under her father, and like Bruce, he walked away with his respect. But, also like Bruce, that didn't mean her father wasn't keeping a close eye on him.


Talia had training videos of Richard breaking into the Wayne building to steal some disks with Wilson's commentary overlay. Even fights with the Teen Titans where Richard spared no expense in destroying his so-called friends. 


She put them on a flash drive and encrypted it. Talia waited for the day when her son Damian was sent to patrol with Cain; it took just under a week. The security on the drive would be enough for them to request assistance from Drake to unlock, who, according to her spies, should be patrolling with Todd. She knew to play the part of the secret keeper, letting Cain read her intentions. Talia had nothing to hide; she was merely passing along the information. It was just missing a little context. 



Dick was having a decent day. He spent the day in Gotham with his family, and the night he got to patrol with Batman. It was good like it hasn’t been in a very long time for them. They had made it back before everyone else and were waiting in the cave. Bruce was working on the Bat computer while Dick stood over his shoulder sipping some hot chocolate. 


The sound of motorcycles alerted them to the other’s arrival, Dick was slightly surprised at them arriving simultaneously, but it wasn’t unheard of. It didn’t take a genius to see the dark cloud hanging over all of them. Dick shared a look with Bruce, who frowned back in equal confusion. Dick shrugged back, then turned to the younger heroes. “Hey guys, how was-”


“What is this?” Tim demanded, throwing a flash drive at Dick, who barely caught it before it could bounce off his forehead. 


Dick glanced at it, open palm, then back up with a smart remark on his tongue. 


“Don’t,” Jason snarled before Dick could speak, “Fucking-” 


Then Cass was pushing him to the side and signing at Dick in a flurry of hastily strung together words. Dick caught only bits and pieces, like “how,” “work,” and “Slade.”  Bruce took the device from Dick’s palm, but he had a sinking feeling he knew what was on the device. 


Damian was still at the back, face blank but eyes dark and unreadable. The pit in Dick’s stomach grew with dread. 


Cass continued to sign things like “killer” and “teach” while Jason and Tim used things like traitor and hypocrite. 


A sharp whistle from Bruce brought the room to a halt. There was a pause, not even long enough for the whistle to stop echoing from the far reaches of the cave, when a voice floated from one of the speakers. The same one that haunted Dick’s dreams, a simple and deep “good work, Apprentice.”


Dick responded violently, and to be honest, he wasn’t all that surprised about the knee-jerk reaction. It was reflexes because that phrase never meant something good. He turned, hurling the mug in his hands straight into the face of one Slade Wilson on the screen behind him. Hot chocolate, though now more of a room temperature, splashed across himself and Bruce, dripping down the screen.  Not nearly as satisfying as Dick was hoping. 


“So that was you,” Bruce said, dragging a looping video of Dick as Renegade breaking into WE.  The sound was muted, and Dick was grateful for it. Bruce was keeping his voice light like they were talking about the office secret Santa. 


Dick hummed in conformation, not trusting his voice. He doesn’t know if he would scream, sob, or just start laughing. 


“I always wondered why they brought it back.” Bruce continued.  Dick appreciates what Bruce was trying to do. The man stepped up over the last few months and was trying to deescalate the situation now.  Based on the man’s hunched shoulders and darkened but unsurprised expression, he must have known to some extent. 


Dick felt the heated gazes on his back and was ashamed he couldn’t face his own family. 


“Really?” Jason growled, “This fucker used to work with Deathstroke, and that’s all you have to say.” There was the sound of footsteps, then a large hand on Dick’s shoulder spun him around. “Don’t even have the fucking decency to look at us.”   Jason was close, about an arm's length away. Over his shoulder, the others had come closer.  “Going to say anything, Goldie?”


“It’s not -”


“Don’t give us that shit,” Jason interrupted, “We don’t want you’re fucking excuses. We can see what’s happening; there’s no talking your way out of it.”


“There’s more to-”


“Like what?” Tim jumped in now, “What could possibly justify working with that monster?” 


“I can expl-”


“Oh, I bet you can,” Jason continued, pressing into Dick’s space. The younger man stood about a head taller than Dick, meaning he towered over Dick more than anything.  


Dick could feel his heart in his chest, and his lungs felt tighter. 


“You’re a fucking hypocrite working for fucking Deathstroke while preaching about no killing.” Jason kept talking; the green in his eyes was hypnotizing. Dick tried to shove Jason back, but the older man held his ground. There were voices further away, but Dick couldn’t hear them.  “ The man practically tortured Cass for two months in the name of training. Bet you don’t even care, you’re always a Daddy’s boy-” 


Dick didn’t realize what he did until he was on the other side of the debriefing table, with it acting as a buffer between himself and the rest of his family.  His instincts took over, Jason was a threat, and his body responded. He was on the floor now, clutching his bleeding nose and swearing up a storm.  Dick held his throbbing hand close to his chest and tried to catch his breath.  He can’t; everything was too bright and too loud. 


“So you’re just going to punch Jason and run away?” Tim yelled at his back. 


Dick felt something break, a cold chill fell over his body, and though his lungs hurt and his heart ached, he didn’t care anymore.  He whipped back around, “Fuck you,” he snarled, ignoring the startled looks on their faces. “You come in here with the worst seven months of my life, accuse me of things, refuse to let me explain, and I’m the bad guy.” Dick felt a laugh bubble up, “Just, just fuck all of you.”


“Seven months,” Bruce whispered, with a slight undertone of horror. The four youngest heroes turned to their father, finding him staring at Dick what they would later realize as dread. 

“Seven months, three days, fourteen hours, and thirty-two minutes, give or take a few seconds,” Dick said, doing jazz hands with his good hand.  “I was tortured under that monster while he claimed it was training. I was starved, sleep-deprived, and worked to my limit. I am intimately aware of just how much of a monster he can be.”


“Richard,” Damian said, voice cautious and careful. “What happened?”


Dick hesitated, turning to his youngest brother, “He had Nanobots in the Teen Titan’s blood, held my team hostage without them even knowing it.” Dick paused for a moment, then turned back to the computer, gesturing to take the keyboard. Bruce moved out of the way and let his oldest son take the seat. He connected to the Titan systems, then dug deep into areas that even Tim didn’t recognize.  Eventually, Dick pulled open some diagrams of the bots used on the Titans. 


He shoved the prints off to a side computer, pulling open another video. He hit play without explanation. They watched with slight horror as the figure they now learned to be Renegade Dick fought against the Titans. The audio cuts in Slade echoed around the cave; he says Renegade needs a reminder. Then the Teen Titans collapse onto the ground, screaming in pain. Renegade Dick was begging for Slade to stop; he promised anything. Slade laughed and called Renegade Dick pathetic and weak. He promised punishment and demanded his apprentice return. 


Dick closes the window, pulling up another before anyone could speak. “All it took was sixty seconds, and they would be dead,” Dick said. “He liked to remind me, used to press it just to torture me.” 


Cass moved closer, planning to put a hand on her older brother’s shoulder to offer some comfort. Instead, he flinched away before she could reach, eyeing her with hurt. It made guilt pool in her stomach. 


“That’s how I escaped,” Dick added, his gaze shifted to something dark and far away, “got myself injected. He lost his leverage; he either had to let me go or kill me.  At that point, I was ready for either.”   There was a sharp intake of breath from someone at his back, but Dick didn’t look to see where it came from.  He closed out of the system, backing until he was once again in the Batcomputer mainframe. 


Dick pushed away from the computer, edging out of range from everyone and heading towards the stairs. He walked until he stood a few steps up, “I will say this once,” He said, casting his gaze across the cave, “You don’t get to fucking judge me for keeping my team alive. I was alone at sixteen, against an adult who was obsessed with me. I never gave Slade information about Batman, the League, the Titans, you all, or anything else.  I’m done with people questioning my loyalty. You don’t want it? Fine, I’m gone.”   Dick turned on his heels and walked away. It would have a feeling of finality if Dick could feel anything at all.