Chapter 5: Fight of Styles (5/5)

Suddenly, Cass ran out of the room. I looked after her and then looked to the others, who shrugged as one person. Seconds later she came back, carrying my old bo stick in her hand. She tossed it to me and leaned closer. "You can have weapon, to give you a chance." Everyone had to laugh at her comment, mostly because they thought that it was probably true. Well, if she was willing to let me use a weapon.

I tossed the bo towards Dick, who caught it reflexively. Moving over to my jacket, I bent down to reveal my until then concealed weapons belt. Dick was by my side in a flash, peeking at my stuff. I turned and pointed my index finger at his nose. "Look, don't touch." Opening one of the pouches I pulled out my modified bos. Both of them. I'd designed these my self, and they were a mixture of my previous bo, and several other weapons that I'd learned over the years. Extendable like my old weapon, they were heavier and slightly shorter than my original bo, but still about double the length of Dick's escrima sticks when extended. I'd found that since I'd modified them to my own liking, fewer people knew how to react to them since I'd come up with my own style that was a mixture of several disciplines and utilized styles from several other weapons. When contracted, they fit into the palm of my hand.

I carried them this way as I returned to the mat. Cass's eyes were gleaming. I got the feeling that she really loved a good contest, and if she was still as good as she had been when I'd left, she was probably having trouble finding sane people willing to spar seriously with her. Well, I'll try anything once. No use even trying to hide my training from her like I had with Dick. I melted into one of the higher level xingyi* defense poses, something that they all knew I hadn't known the first clue about before I left. Heh. Just wait. I heard Dick muffle a curse as he realized the import of my knowing a very complicated and elite eastern martial art form. Then I zoned the rest of the world out and focused on Cass alone.

If my little melee with Dick had been a dance, my fight with Cass was a mixture of equal parts ballet, gymnastics, and deadly martial arts. I held nothing back, and after I almost took her head off with an extending bo, I don't think she did either. My every sense was alert, trying to read her movements the way she read mine. I had studied under a teacher that utilized the sight method, and he had been able to teach me the rudiments of the way that it worked. Even more valuable were the masking moves that he taught me, the ability to hide my intentions until the very last second, and hope that she couldn't react fast enough.

Unfortunately, it only worked about half of the time, and she kept wearing me down. I did get a couple of punches in though, and the look on her face was priceless when I toppled her to the ground with an obscure version of the twisting side kick. She was up before I could press my advantage, however, and the match finally ended with me on the ground, one bo clear across the room where it had been flung by a kick, the other in Cass's hand and pointed at the hollow of my throat. If this had been for real, she could crush my throat before I could do anything to stop her.

Luckily for me, this wasn't for real. I threw up my hands. "I surrender. Don't kill me, please." The sarcastic tone in my voice made her laugh and she flipped the bo back to the small size with a flick of her wrist.

I rolled to my feet, wincing as I felt my bruises. She'd connected a couple more times than was healthy for me waking up happy in the morning. Then I happened to catch sight of our audience. Dick was standing by the monitor with Bab's face on it and they were both sporting identical open- mouthed visages. Alfred gave me a proud grandfather smile, and Bruce was smiling? Well, twitching. I gave him an incredulous look and he pointed to Dick and Babs. They did look pretty funny. I gathered that it had been a while since anyone had actually given Cass a run for her money. I hadn't really expected to win, and I was reasonably proud of my performance. If I'd had to, I could have fought her to the point where I could get away, and that was probably all that I'd ever be able to accomplish with someone of her talents. Seeing Dick with his jaw hanging open just sweetened the pot.

Dick shut his mouth with a snap and looked me right in the eye. "Is it ok if I just admit that you're the best now and maybe we can just skip the next fight altogether? My butt's hurting just thinking about it." He gave me a pained look. "You weren't even trying with me, were you? No, don't answer that, on second thought, I don't want to know."

Babs broke in, "What I want to know is how you went from a talented but average fighter to, to. whatever you are now."

Bruce stepped over to look at my weapons belt, picking it up to examine the contents. "I'd like to know that myself, Tim. You've improved far beyond what I ever thought you'd be capable of."

I wasn't sure if that was a compliment or not, and Barbara's comment about average rankled a little, but I knew that it was true. Explaining my past three years would take hours and I really wasn't up to all that tonight. I tried to think of a polite way to say that I wasn't sure that I was ready to go into that. Well, once again, honesty works. "I'm not really ready to talk about all that yet." Every eye turned to me in surprise. I hurried to preface my statement with, "Nothing personal or anything, and I'm sure you'll get the whole story eventually, but some of it's kind of. hmm. different? Abnormal? No, that's not right either." I was at a loss for words.

Alfred saved me by calmly stating that it wasn't polite to inquire into personal matters without permission. He met the eyes of each person in the room and I suddenly had no doubt that no one would ask about it until I brought it up. Heh. People only think Batman rules the clan.

Cass came up beside my elbow and handed me my bo's. Dick obviously wanted to inspect them, so I tossed one over. The other I handed to Bruce, who inspected it for about three seconds and then returned it to its home on my belt. He handed me the belt with a nod. Dick was extending and contracting my bo, whirling it about his head. When I held out my hand, he gave it to me grudgingly. I could tell that he liked them. Digging back in my belt, I handed him my spare set. "Just get them back to me when you're done with them. I'm headed back to the motel. I think we all need some time to think." I looked at Bruce. "I do have some questions for you, and I'm sure that you have some for me. Tomorrow night? I'll even come in the front door." Bruce looked like he wanted to hash things out right here and now, but I needed to get away and rearrange my thoughts a little. Too much had happened for me to be comfortable adding anything else to the mix. I needed to get some information about my Dad and I didn't think that I could handle that tonight.

Alfred looked offended. "You will certainly not be returning to the motel, young man. I have perfectly suitable quarters for you upstairs and they will be much more comfortable than any motel."

I honestly tried to convince Alfred to let me go, but it was like arguing with a brick wall. Before I knew it, I was being bustled upstairs, jacket, boots and weapons belt still in hand. I heard the murmur of voices start up in the cave, and would have loved to know what they were saying, but Alfred didn't give me a chance to evesdrop. "Master Tim, I declare, you have grown up. Why when you left you were still a young boy and now you've become a man."

Alfred rattled on all the way up to the room where he immediately set about to 'put the room to rights', as I know he'd call it. I watched for a second and then squeezed my words in edgewise. "Thanks, Alfred, I appreciate it."

Alfred stopped his straightening and looked me straight in the eye. "Will you be staying in Gotham, Master Tim?" Nothing like getting straight to the heart of the matter.

"I don't know yet, Alfred. I have a couple of people I need to talk to, and then I'll be able to make that decision." I slung my load of stuff to the floor and double-checked my weapons, as I did every night. "I'm just gonna have to wait and see."

"Well, I hope that whatever your decision is, you'll consider this a home to you. I know Master Bruce feels that way." With that he quietly left me to my own devises, shutting the door behind him.

I wasn't so sure about what 'Master Bruce' thought, but since I wasn't likely to find out tonight, I stripped of the remainder of my gear and almost fell into bed. I positioned my self to be able to see both the door and the window out of habit and without even realizing it I'd placed both of my bo's under my pillow. Hmmm, I think I'm getting paranoid.

I'd planned on lying there and thinking about the evening and how I was going to deal with my father, but sleep claimed me before I got very far.

END. for now.


*pronounced hsing-i. This is an actual Chinese internal martial art form. I know nothing about it other than the name looked cool when I was looking for something official to call what Tim does here. Hopefully I didn't use it too out of context.

Adam - hey, thanks for the review suggestion about Tim's statement in Nightwing #6. I don't currently get comic subscriptions, so I'm not always up to date on everything. I probably won't be following continuity perfectly, (I'm kinda stumped on what to do with Spoiler. ;), but I'll try to work in your suggestion somewhere. I just have to think of something that might have made him change his mind. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

To the rest of you wonderful reviewers, thanks, and don't be afraid to leave suggestions or comments on how I could improve this. My feelings don't get hurt easily, and I'm really good at ignoring suggestions that I don't like. As Tim would say, "Heh." I am planning on several more fics in this storyline, and the next one will be coming soon, probably by the first of the year. It's going to deal with the Jack Drake situation. Until then, krtshadow.