My little thoughts on NW #93. I know this comic has generated a lot of fic. Lemme be just one more to the masses (

Disclaimer: Standard disclaimers apply.


The sound of tractor-trailers flying past sometimes drown out his thoughts. Night after night, he sat on the curb outside the roach motel, watching the rigs careen past, waiting for those one or two moments when he could forget Bludhaven, and himself.

It started to rain about an hour into his watch. He didn't get up. Pulling his knees to his chest, he contemplated the way his wet grease-stained jeans clung to the bones and kneecap. He supposed he'd lost weight this last month. He couldn't be certain. He didn't look in the mirror any more.

Catalina hadn't said anything. But they didn't talk much.

The rain fell in big globs, soaking him clear through. The poison ivy trees along the roadside clapped applause as the drops hit the leaves, almost drowning out the sound of the trucks cutting through the water.

He tried to find patterns in the sound, some kind of order in the slapping of the rain on cars and trees and cement and puddles, and on moving trucks that hissed through the humid air. He tried to put them all right in his mind, but he couldn't. He couldn't smell the spring, or the rain. Just sweat and blood.

"Are you planning to sit out here all night?" Catalina tried to sound annoyed, but he knew worry when he heard it.

"Go back to sleep." Running a hand over his hair, water spilled out and down his back. Without looking at her, he rose and began walking across the parking lot. "I'll be back later."

She might have said something. Actually, he was certain she had. The rain had drown out the words, but he knew the sentiments. She wondered when he was finally going to let go.

Crossing a service road, he kept walking until his feet slid around in his shoes, past two gas stations and an all-night diner. When he couldn't go any further, his sneakers oozed into the mud around him and he had to grab the metal frame around a lonely, ill-lit payphone. He watched the mud, oozing and bubbling around him, like he was about to be sucked into the earth.

He had an amazing number of quarters in his pocket. Eating out of vending machines did that.

It always seemed to rain. It was spring, but did that mean it always had to rain? The ground was already saturated. No wonder he was sinking.

After dropping the appropriate number of coins into the slot, it rang twice. "Roy's house of love..." a tired voice answered.

"I--"He stopped. In some ways, he was surprised he'd gotten that far.

"Dick? That you? Dude... a lot of people're worried. "Roy seemed to be waiting for him to say something. "Dick? I know a little of what happened and..." Roy sighed. "If you want to, I'm always here to talk."

He'd used up a hand full of quarters on this call. "Roy, I..." His mouth was dry. "I'm sorry, Roy. I'm... tell..." He closed his eyes and hung up, admitting failure.

Leaning against the phone cubicle, he tried to catch his breath. He'd thought he'd be able to talk to Roy. Roy had been lost, hadn't known his way home.

But Roy... hadn't been standing in that stair well.

He had only a dime left after his next call. Pay phones were expensive. Too bad his cell phone was blown to dust. Too bad a cell phone was traceable. He wondered if "she" was looking for him. He didn't know how he'd feel, if she were.

Someone on the other end answered and he got out even less than he had the last time.

"Whoever it is, they're not talking..." a female voice grumbled. There was some fumbling.

"Give me the phone... Dick?" There was no uncertainty in the man's voice. Just concern.

Clenching his eyes shut, he hung up the phone. Before the change even hit the locked receptacle at the base, there was a rush of air and the rain blew sideways for a moment.

"I won't ask how you found me." Dick refused to look at the blue and red figure suspended in the air before him.

"You look like hell." Superman touched down beside him.

"I feel like... this is..."He looked down at his hands. Again. All he did was stare at them. "I've..."

When Superman touched him, his flesh burned. He wanted to shake the hand off of his shoulder but lacked the courage to move. "Dick... I know."

"God. Everybody--"And he'd actually entertained vague notions of going back.

"No. They don't. Batman destroyed the security videos. Only he and I know." Superman let his hand linger for a moment. "I know you'll come home when you're ready. They're waiting for you." That assurance given, he didn't leave. Rain rolled down his cape, somehow pulling his feet the last few inches to the ground. "I think I know why you called me."

"Really?" Dick asked quietly, still string at his hands. "I don't."

"Dick, in the Phantom Zone..."

"Don't," Dick said firmly. "I can't hear it. Not right now."

Superman nodded. "But that's why you called me."

Dick looked at him for the first time. Even in the salmon glow of the distant highway lights, the cape still glared red. Or perhaps it was just his imagination, the product of his tired mind. "Yeah."

"You think you can't come home." He was just a reporter, stating the facts.

"Sometimes I don't think I'll ever be able to." Every time he thought of home, he thought of blood. He couldn't even bring himself to think of Bruce. "Tell Him I'm sorry."

Clark was stoic, but it wasn't etched and carved into his face, the way it would have been Bruce. It was a quiet compassion that knew he had no words of comfort. "You should tell him yourself. When you're ready. In the mean time... he'll keep."

Dick swallowed and wiped his nose on his sleeve. "Thanks."

"Do me a favor," Superman looked back towards the motel. "Don't go looking for trouble. When things are looking low, the worst thing you can do is making them worse."

With a certain amount of resignation, Dick began sloshing through the mud, back toward the motel. "I can't get out of a lot of things, Clark," he said conversationally, almost to himself. "I got swallowed up, and I can't find my way out."

Wanting to help, but knowing from his own past that he couldn't, he fought every muscle in his body and its urge to follow. Superman locked his jaw and let the young man walk away from him.