Nightwing: Out of Time 4 – The Final Conflict

Chapter 7

By Christopher W. Blaine

e-mail: darth_yoshi@yahoo.com

DISCLAIMER: Nightwing™ and all of the characters and situations previously copyrighted by DC Comics Inc. remain the property of that entity and are used without permission for fan-related entertainment only. This original story, and all original concepts and creations contained herein, are ©2004 and the intellectual property of Christopher W. Blaine.

"Wake up."

Dick Grayson's eyes fluttered for a few moments as his brain tried to register what was going through his head. It was a voice, the most beautiful voice he had ever heard. As light poured through his lenses and forced images through the optic nerves, his brain suddenly came to life and he sat up.

Sitting next to him, clad in a towel with long dark dripping hair was none other than Princess Diana, known to most of the world as Wonder Woman. Even though she did not wear perfume, he detected the smell of a Mediterranean morning coming from her. "Good morning, Richard," she said.

He looked down to see he was shirtless, but otherwise still in his costume. He was sore all over his body and there was a healing wound across his abdomen. Wonder Woman reached out and poked it with a finger, it both hurting him and at the same time, causing his mind to wander to places it shouldn't. "Ow," he said.

"It still hurts," she said with a smile. She gave him a quick once over and realized that he appeared very confused. "Do you know where you are?"

He looked around and finally it dawned on him. He was in his apartment. "Home?"

The Amazon smiled and stood up, clutching her towel with a hand that could crush steel. "We finished late last night and you offered to let me use your bed." She cast a glance around the apartment. "I've never seen a man keep so clean a domicile. I suppose Alfred stops by once a week."

"Actually," he said as he sat up, "I pay a cleaning lady." He shook the sleep away and then looked over at the world's most desirous woman, who was clad in nothing but confidence and a towel that had a large Superman logo on it. "Did we?"

She laughed. "Now, that is priceless. If we had, I would hope you would not forget." He blushed, realizing that he had made a terrible assumption. She seemed to read his mind and went into the kitchen, returning with s steaming cup of tea as a peace offering.

He accepted it gracefully and asked her to sit down. She started to sit across from him and realizing her attire, took a chair that prevented him from being able to see anything he shouldn't. As she made herself comfortable, she took a good look at him. There was no doubt about his rugged handsomeness. He had the jaw and the chest (Gods! She thought, that chest!) that made him desirable, but he also had an air of softness about him as well.

Behind him was a row of photographs and one of them, smudged with thumbprints from being held so often, was of her twin sister, Donna. "Do you remember anything? You took quite a bump on the head last night."

He reached up and cautiously touched the back of his skull. He winced; it was very tender. "Did you hit me?"

"No, but I could have. I mean, I asked for your help getting out of my costume…"

"What?"

She could not help herself and she laughed some more. "I'm so sorry, Richard; Donna used to tell me how she would kid with you and how serious you would get. You are so much more fun to aggravate than Batman." She took a deep breath to compose herself. "Poison Ivy nearly had you in bed last night…we were tracking her through Bludhaven…"

"In bed?"

Wonder Woman shrugged. "It seems to be one of her talents, enthralling men. She tried it on me and she is still spitting out teeth as I understand it." He chuckled and suddenly some images started forming in his mind as he started to remember. "Were we at a warehouse, maybe?" he asked.

"No, we were at a floral shop actually," she informed him, speaking slowly so that he did not become more disoriented.

"I had a dream…we were married…"

"You and I? I suppose that it is typical. I often dream of being married," she confessed. "Submitting yourself to a union with another is a noble pursuit. I am surprised that you would think of me, though. Perhaps it has to do with my relationship with Donna."

He took a sip of the tea; it was spiced with a little ginger. He complimented her on it and then considered her point. "I don't know. Why were you here anyway? This is a long way from New York or the Watchtower."

"You asked for my help."

"No offense, Princess, but why would I ask for you when I have Donna on speed dial."

Wonder Woman's face paled and suddenly her eyes started to water. She was not shedding tears for herself, those had already fallen. Instead, she saw the face of a man who had somehow forgotten or merely blocked off the truth. "Richard, Donna is dead."

Nightwing stood up and set the tea down. "What? I just talked to her yesterday…"

A door opened in his mind and the events of the past year, all from the way time was supposed to precede, were dumped onto him all at once. The guilt and the pain and the anguish and all of the hurt he had experienced over twelve months were loaded into a hypodermic needle and injected into his heart.

He stumbled and Wonder Woman caught him, holding him up with arms that could toss battleships aside. He said nothing, but looked into her eyes and saw the eyes of someone who had meant so much to him staring back. He could not help himself; he grabbed Wonder Woman and pulled her close, but she did not resist, instead wrapping her arms around him as well.

Tears were shed and a soul poured out all of the pain it had never gotten to, all the while a goddess of truth held him, comforted him and shared in his despair. A bond was formed between the two of them, the Amazon and the orphan, a bond that had so many possibilities for the future.

And all of it was watched by Oracle, the Phantom Stranger's hand on her shoulder. She understood that Nightwing had to experience this pain; the loss of Donna Troy was a pivotal moment in his life. The currents of time were moving slowly now, waiting for some event to send them in this direction or that, but they were at least no longer being affected by the storms of non-continuity.

From this point on, his life would be different. Maybe he and Wonder Woman were meant to be together; perhaps not. So long as time was allowed to continue the course that was meant for it, then the future was safe. The disruption had passed on, but not without it casualties.

This had been the point in time that the Gardener's reality was to be created, but because of Wonder Woman's intervention, it would never be. The hero who had not wanted to be one would never exist, not even in Hypertime. That reality was gone.

Oracle closed her eyes, trying to focus on the small tributaries that flowed away from the main river of time, but she could not do it. "In time, your powers will develop to the point that you will be able to peer into the realms of the possible," he told her. "You are still young."

"Do I even really exist? Have I destroyed my own reality, as well as the Gardener's?" she asked in the voice of a frightened child.

"The Gardener was never meant to exist; you have set everything right." The Stranger then removed his hand. "Except for Waverider. He will be tried and found guilty for his insubordination."

"No!" Oracle said, turning around. "That's not fair! He was just trying to save me! Trying to save everyone!" She started to cry. "We have to do something!"

The Stranger shook his head. "You duty is to return to your world and live your life. Maybe you are the future; maybe you are future that could be, but your existence is as important as anyone else's."

She wiped her nose on her sleeve, seeming more childlike as she did so. "I can't; I have a responsibility."

"Yes, to live." Then the Phantom Stranger smiled. "You will do the right thing."

She nodded, somehow feeling trust in his words and next to them, a portal opened. Through it, they could both see her bedroom in her own reality. It was pink, so different than the black and red costume she now wore. "I have one question, though; why are you so involved? Why did you even care? I doubt a little thing like the end of time will effect your existence."

He shrugged. "Do I have to have a reason? Should not aid be appreciated, no matter where it come from, so long as the cause of justice and balance are served?"

She smiled and reached up to kiss him on the cheek. She was surprised by how warm he was. "You are a mystery, but sweet. I hope we'll see each other again." She stepped into the portal and waved to him. "Good-bye, Stranger!"

Uncharacteristically, he returned the gesture. "Good-bye," he said.

"Mother."

"And what does Dad think about all of this?" Titan asked as he examined the newest recruits to the Justice League. Earthian snickered as he pointed to Black Robin and Titan found it annoying. The Red Tornado, whom Earthian was speaking with, remained impassive as he always did.

"You father is paying a heavy price already for your sister's existence," Wonder Woman said as she adjusted her tiara in her dark mane. Over in the other corner of the meeting room, the blonde-trussed Lightning was busy scooping up small pastries. The Amazon gave her son a smile. "I forgave him years ago for his indulgence with Jessie Quick, but he never has. It does make it easier to keep the apartment clean."

"I meant Black Robin, mom," Titan said. He was visiting from the Justice Society and had only recently been let in on the secret of Black Robin's existence. She was a clone of Tara Markov that had also been given a healthy dose of Dick Grayson's DNA. She had been meant to be used as a weapon against Batman, but the Batman, in his last recorded case, had discovered the truth and rescued the girl.

He had arranged for her to be raised away from Gotham, in her native Markovia, where she and her half-brother Earthian had become close. But she was also his half-sister as well and he was not sure how to react. "Why can't I have a half-brother?" he whined and his mother gave him a stern look. "I mean, as often as you and Dad are rolling around the shores of Paradise Island, I'd figure I'd have another sibling by now."

"Atreus Jonathan Bruce Grayson," she scolded. "You had better start using some of the manners your Uncle Alfred taught you and not the ones your aunt Artemis did."

"Mom," he said, an aggravated look on his face. "Artemis is my girlfriend, not my aunt. Yuck!"

"Hey, bro," Lightning said as she punched her brother in his wide bicep. "Looks like our new sister is feeling out of place."

"Mom seems to think she likes putting on the Batman act," Titan told her. The two children of Nightwing looked over to Black Robin, who was busying herself by examining one of the computer terminals. She had been requested to join the League by the Batman, who was now spending his days in luxury somewhere in Europe with his true love, Talia, the daughter of Ra's Al Ghul. It had been Talia that had been the final key in the puzzle concerning Black Robin and her sudden defection to the side of the Batman had assured his final victory over her father.

"Has dad spoken with her yet?" Lighting asked. Dick Grayson had involved himself in an affair with her mother when his wife, Wonder Woman, had been away on a Justice League mission. Before then, there had been some tension in their marriage and Lighting's mother admitted that she had taken advantage of the situation.

In the end, Nightwing and Wonder Woman had reconciled and he had dedicated himself to raising both of his children as well as he could. The news that he had a third child had been quite a shock to him. He could not come and visit her as he had to stay on Paradise Island, where he remained at a youthful forty-two years of age. "He's tried, but she is scared," Earthian said, busting in on the conversation. He looked at Lightning. "I suppose we are related now, perhaps I could give you a hug in the European fashion?

"I don't think so," Lightning commented.

The conversation was interrupted as a black portal suddenly appeared in the middle of the room and a woman stepped out of it. She was tall, wearing a low-cut leather costume that left nothing to the imagination. Her eyes sparkled green and her long red hair gave the impression of fire in the way it seemed to flow from her head. The woman spoke in a voice that echoed. "Titan. Lightning. Black Robin."

Wonder Woman stepped forward. "Who are you?" she asked.

The intruder smiled. "This does not concern you, Princess Diana," she replied and with a wave of her hand, all in the room froze except for the children of Nightwing.

"Mom!" Titan said as he rushed to his mother's aid. "If you've hurt her…"

"I have done no harm. I need the three of you."

Black Robin eyed her suspiciously. "Why?"

"Time has come under attack again. Once, many years ago, I requested your help and you came to the defense of humanity to save our father…"

"Oh, Lord, don't tell me he's got another one!" Lightning lamented as she made the sign of the cross. "Please don't let the sins of the father be heaped upon the daughter!"

"Amen," Black Robin agreed and for the first time, the two women smiled at each other.

"We have no time; we must testify at the trial of Waverider," the intruder said. When they said they did not understand, the woman told them that all would be revealed. "I am Oracle and I have come to pull you out of this reality…"

"Crap! Not a Hypertime thing!" Titan moaned. "Can't you get the Outsiders or someone like that?"

"And," Oracle said with a grin, "another of our friends is in trouble. Jade Lantern has appeared, but she is in the wrong reality and has been driven mad."

"Let me guess, she has the same father as us," Black Robin added sarcastically.

"We are the Children of the Night," Oracle told them. "We have a destiny to fulfill!"

"I suppose it's better than being the Society of Dick," Lighting joked.

"Hypertime sucks," Titan explained. "Something always goes wrong."

"We could be the Bastards of the Dark," Black Robin said.

"Aren't you listening to me?" Titan asked as Lightning gabbed him by the forearm. Black Robin gabbed the other one and together they pulled him towards Oracle. "You can't just take her word for it!"

"We trust her," the women said in unison.

"But I kissed a woman in the last adventure and it turned out to be a female version of Grandpa Bruce," Titan said, but his pleas went unanswered as he and his sisters stepped into the portal. "And you never get anything done all the way! You have to keep going back and trying to fix things!

"You always end up out of time!"