(Part 5) AN: I want to thank everyone for reading, and if you are reading this now – thank you very much for being so patient. I want to apologize for making everyone wait for so long but one scene just didn't want to be written – I have to admit, I am still not very happy with it, but hey – whatever got it done and finished and at the same time didn't totally suck (g). So two years after I started posting… the last chapter… . FDK would be nice, rotten tomatoes avoidance even better :P.
PS anyone wants to use my version of Ian Peek for a villan - go for it :)
See first part for legal stuff.
Matt wasn't happy. That was a bit of an understatement actually, he was a little beyond being unhappy. The old unused office that their captor had thrown them in as a makeshift cell wasn't that bad, as far as cells go, not really. Most people wouldn't even be bothered by the thick layer of dust laying over all the exposed surfaces. Unless of course, like Matt, you were suffering from a couple of cracked ribs and the attendant wish to not breathe, or move at all for that matter. Then the dust became more than a bit problematic. Every breath taken or the slightest shift of weight became a minefield, possibly full of pain.
With that in mind, Matt gingerly shifted position, being careful to not stir the dust any more than possible. He was trying to find a way to sit that didn't hurt. He wasn't having much luck at it he thought as something inside grated that wasn't supposed to. He winced. Bruce must have noticed.
"How you holding up kid?"
"Honestly? Could be better." Matt put a hand to his left side where the pain was the worst. "I think a few of my ribs got cracked when the green freaky glass guy used me for batting practice back at the office there."
Bruce grunted and said, "Breathe shallowly and don't move around much."
Matt rolled his eyes and said dryly. "Yeah, Bruce. Believe it or not, I had pretty much figured that much out already, but thanks anyway."
Low volume laughter spilled into the room from the room's only window making both captives look towards it. It's not like it was really a window anymore at any rate, any glass that might have been in it long since gone, but the rusting wire-mesh protective covering would still have been strong enough to hold against most things. To get in or out. Batman wasn't part of that list. Terry made short work of the weather-fatigued metal and squeezed through to step inside the room. He said in a conversational tone, "You know I think you said pretty much exactly the same thing to me when I busted up my ribs tangling with the whole Xander/Kobra mess back in high school, Bruce. It was as useful then as I bet it is now," he cocked an eyebrow in Matt's direction. "Which is to say, not very."
Matt grinned, "I think you need to get some new material, old man."
Bruce just glowered at both of them and grunted again. The brothers could tell that he wasn't really angry though – he was just acting grumbly to keep to form. "What did I do to deserve having to deal with you two-" He muttered under his breath.
Matt broke in before the older two could get on a roll insulting each other. "How did you find us?"
"Our friend 'Mr.Greenjeans' left a little useful something behind. When he panicked and yanked his foot free from the magnet's netting, he sheared off some fragments of the bottom of his foot. Gave me an intact surface to swab and run a trace analysis on."
Matt broke in excitedly. He knew how Terry had done it. "You matched up the results from the trace analysis to areas in the city to find us. Cool!"
"Good thinking." Bruce complimented Terry with a barely noticeable smirk. Terry caught it however and grouched,
"Jeez, I've only been watching you do this crap for the past nine years, Bruce. I sincerely hope that some of it would have sunk in by now. Nobody is that thick."
"I was beginning to wonder…"
Terry threw up his hands. "Argh!" he expressed his exasperation, but quietly. Matt snickered. Terry knew that Bruce wasn't about to let him get the last word, so why did his brother even try? Trying not to laugh made his ribs twinge in pain though, making Matt aware they needed to get back to the situation at hand.
"For crying out loud, could you two keep your pitiful attempts at witty banter for the cave or the office?" Pain made his usually more lighthearted sarcasm sharper than usual and Matt instantly felt bad. It wasn't Terry and Bruce's fault he was hurt or that they were in this mess and he really shouldn't take it out on them. Not even verbally, but now that he had their undivided attention he continued, "Can we focus here people? Remember the really strong freaky green guy made out of glassy stuff? Y'know, the one trying to hold me, and Bruce hostage, who is just on the other side of that door? What are we doing about him? Anything?"
"If you're not careful, you just might cut yourself with that tongue one of these days Matt." Terry had pitched his voice down into his 'Batman' register. Trying to sound like he was ticked off, but Matt could still hear the threads of amusement and worry underneath the grim tones. Matt made a rude gesture in his brother's direction. Terry snorted, reassured that for the most part Matt was doing okay. Shaking his head Terry said with a faint grin, "Nothing fazes you anymore, does it Matt?"
Matt cocked his head at his brother and smirked, "Do you have a point?" Unthinkingly, he shifted his weight and promptly hissed with pain as things inside him that weren't supposed to move, did. He brought a hand up to support the damaged area as he said, "C'mon bro, my ribs are killing me. Is there a plan or something or what? Fill us in already."
"Yes, there's a plan, and if you can keep your mouth from flapping for five minutes or so, I'll tell you what it is." Matt blew a quiet raspberry in his brother's direction but leaned in close as Terry began to outline what he and Stalker had roughly worked out.
The outraged yell from the main part of the building made Terry curse as he finished tying off the bindings on Matt's ribs. A quick conference between the Batmen, new and old, had them both agreeing that it was too risky to move Matt without the rudimentary first aid. A notion that Matt heartily endorsed, both on a personal and practical level – one of his broken ribs slipping and puncturing a lung due to any injudicious moves he might make during their egress would more than suck as well as hinder their escape chances. Though it seemed that the short delay had been just long enough for Stalker to get noticed by their emerald captor. Hopefully, not before the geographically displaced hunter had managed to lie out and camouflage the magnetic netting where planned.
Clearly heard by the trio on the upper level, the oddly resonating voice carried on harshly, "How did you find this place? What are you doing here? Wayne is only getting his due, why are you bothering with a rescue attempt? It's not like he would help you or anyone else if they asked him for …" He continued to rant wildly in the same vein, much as he had while destroying the properties of Wayne Enterprises.
Terry cursed under his breath; Stalker getting noticed really pushed the timetable forward. At least Terry had already broken the lock on the abandoned office's door and handed off the magnet's cordless remote to Bruce, according to the plan that he had worked out with Stalker. All that was left was for the two former captives and for Batman himself to get into position.
Flying back out the window and back down to the opposite end of the ruined mill from where he knew Stalker had positioned himself. While maneuvering, Batman could hear their quarry still ranting, and after hearing a few more specific vocalized grudges against Bruce Wayne - the man, clued in to who it was they had been fighting all this time. Peek! Ian Peek of all people come back to haunt them.
The slimy piece of garbage had caused them trouble enough the last time they had dealt with him – nothing earth shattering like some of the crooks they had to deal with true, but he'd been dangerous in his own fashion with his threatened exposure of their identities. His petulant demands that Bruce had to help him because Taka had worked for Bruce's company and he had the resources – well demands of any sort were not the way to get anything from the old man. Especially when the reason you were suffering was from the side effects of your own misdeeds, that Bruce chalked up to just desserts. Terry totally agreed with his mentor on the outlook, karma was a bitch.
Granted he was a rather changed Peek, the man's radically new appearance was indicative of that fact. His methods and level of danger really hadn't changed all that much, he was still pretty much a petulant nuisance wanting what he thought of as justice for imagined wrongs against himself. It meant that he would probably be fairly easily baited into the trap they had laid for him. At least they hoped so, none of them really wanted to tangle up close and personal with the 650lb or so walking and talking hunk of fayalite. It was a given if that happened then they would hurt, bad, as Matt's ribs attested.
Now all they had to do was successfully play on the terror that he had shown on at Wayne Enterprises head office of being trapped and then trap him for real. Terry had guessed fear of the dark was another element of the same phobia, so he had made sure to bring along a blackout hood. The hood was actually the lynchpin of the plan, it was what they needed to be able to steer the living gemstone into the magnetic net, which in turn would hold him.
Stalker played his part to perfection when he saw that Batman was in position. He had been lurking near where he had deployed the net under a hole in the roof. His positioning meant Peek wasn't able to see in the shadows beyond clearly, so when Stalker bolted from the near side of the shadows to the far side Peek naturally followed to keep the large hunter in sight. This allowed Batman in camouflage mode to glide overhead and drop the blackout hood over green glasslike head neat as could be. A quick shot of the bolos secured the hood in place as Stalker used the base of his telescoping spear to trip the now panicking Peek when he stumbled back into the center of the net.
After that was done things became rather anticlimactic, Wayne shot the power on the remote to full effectively pinning Peek in place. Then the Batmobile lowered it' grapples through the whole in the roof, gathered up the loose edges of the netting and after carefully lifting clear of the building, remotely rocketed off with it's wailing cargo. End destination, police. Somehow Terry was sure Barbara wasn't going to be pleased with him. Ah well, couldn't be helped – he did make sure to quietly key in an info drop of everything they had on Peek to her personal computer. He hoped that she got it before she got Peek.
Matt and Bruce had found their way down to the ground level, both looking a bit worse for wear. Matt still held a hand against his injured ribs. Stalker was just standing beside him. All four were glad that it was over. Suddenly Terry said, "Did you guys realize that was Ian Peek from that old show Sneak Peek?"
Bruce just cocked an eyebrow at him. 'Oh yeah, I guess he would have clued in on the rants with how much more of them he had to listen to while I was searching for them.' Terry thought, wondering why he thought he might have gotten one up on his mentor.
Matt said, "Hunh, I remember that show. I always wondered why the guy pulled the Batman expose and then just disappeared. I guess it had something to do with how he got his stories right? Whatever it was really came back and bit him on the butt, eh?" Terry and Bruce both chuckled.
"We'll tell you all about it next 'lesson' night, okay Matt?" Terry replied.
Stalker summed it up the most succinctly though, "Reporters, bah, they are the parasites infesting the body of humanity."
Matt walked up the familiar path to Beth's door and knocked. While he waited for someone to answer, he nervously shifted the bouquet of Beth's favorite flowers that he held from one hand to the other and back again. 'Please be home Beth, I don't like it when we aren't talking.' Matt now understood a lot better why Terry had been so insistent that he not neglect Beth because of working for him and Bruce or his other training. There were certain people in your life that did things for you without even trying. Beth did that for him and it wasn't something that he wanted to lose.
He was broken out of his reverie abruptly when the door swung open suddenly. It was Beth and she didn't look happy to see him. Her words confirmed his impression, "Oh… it's you." Matt just stood mute on the step, hurting. She ungraciously prompted him, "Well, what do you want?"
Okay, maybe this was going to be a bit harder than he thought. She was really ticked at him. "Umm, can I come in?"
"I suppose." She stepped back, still holding the door open and motioned for him to come into the hallway. As soon as he was clear she let the door go and it slammed behind him.
After the loud way the door had shut, Matt found the awkward silence in the hall deafening. "Umm…" he searched for something to say, anything, to break the stillness. His hands nervously constricted around the flowers that he still held, reminding him of them.
"Here," he thrust the slightly bedraggled bouquet at Beth, "these are for you."
Reflexively, she took them. Which was a good thing because he had already let go and retreated again. Sneaking a peek in her direction, he saw clearly when she noticed that they were wild tiger lilies, her favorites. Her face softened from the harsh mask she had been wearing since he first arrived to something more like her usual expression. She knew how hard it was to get her favorite flower.
Wildflowers that used to grow with impunity throughout the US were rare nowadays due to all the development. You had to know the Latin name for the things to be able to get them from a florist or nursery. 'Thank God for memory training or I never would have been able to remember the name of those damn flowers.' It was good to know that his training might help him save his relationship, even if it had been what almost ruined it in the first place. Deciding that the timing wasn't about to get any better he launched into his pre-prepared speech.
"Beth, I know you're pissed with me and I can't blame you. I acted like an ass-"
"Yes you did." Beth interjected feelingly.
"If I may continue…" Matt paused for any more comments that Beth might feel like making, when she shook her head he carried on, "as I was saying, I acted like an ass, but I can explain."
"So… explain." Beth seemed ready to listen to Matt's relief. Playing the part he had cast himself in, Matt looked down at the floor and scuffed one toe over the other.
"Well y'see, the reason I blew up at you like that was because I was embarrassed. The night that you saw Batman dropping me off, it was because he had just finished rescuing me." Matt peered through his lashes to see exactly how Beth took that little revelation. She didn't disappoint him. Her mouth fell open and her eyes went wide. Nearly dropping the flowers she rushed to his side asking,
"Rescuing? What happened? Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine for the most part. I got a couple of sore spots, but I'll survive." Matt answered her last question first as he chuckled at her rapid fire questioning.
"To put it simply, I got mugged. A bunch of T's cornered me when I was on my way home from work and, I guess I should say 'attempted' to mug me, to be completely accurate. Problem was, is when I didn't have enough creds to satisfy their greed, they decided that since I wasn't going to fund their entertainment, they decided I was going to be it." Beth gasped gratifyingly. "Needless to say, ten to one odds – they suck. They were creaming me until Batman jumped in."
Beth looked tortured. Matt knew she was feeling torn. She couldn't decide whether to be concerned for Matt, or excited to hear about her hero, Batman, in action. He solved her dilemma by plowing ahead with his 'story'.
"Then the odds slanted dramatically in the other direction. They didn't stand a chance, Beth, even with them having ten to his one. He took them all out in minutes. It was so schway – except for the pretty major fact that I was hurting so bad, and the totally humiliating reason I was in pain – it would have been a dream come true." Matt worked hard to get the pathos in the last line right – too much or too little meant Beth might guess he wasn't telling her the truth. It seemed that he had gauged it just right though because Beth rewarded him with a commiserating hug. Which caused him promptly to wince as she compressed his still tender ribs.
"Oww! Watch the ribs Beth, they're not totally healed yet."
In one move Beth stepped back from him and yanked up his t-shirt revealing the supportive tape swathing his chest. Matt hissed and Beth swore, "Damn Matt, I thought you said that you were okay?" She poked a finger into the tape. "This is more than a sore spot, buddy. What else are you hiding?"
"Beth, I'm fine. Honest. The biggest hit was to my macho male ego, but if it will make you feel better I will give you a run-down of all my injuries." Matt paused and then said archly, "Heck I'll even make it a guided sightseeing tour of every single one if you want."
Beth blushed as his gibe registered. It brought her attention to the fact that she was still holding the hem of his t-shirt up, exposing his bandaged chest. She didn't however drop it immediately like he expected. Instead she lowered it slowly, fascinated. Trailing her fingers over muscles normally covered to public view. Matt's breath stuttered in his chest, finding it very hard to concentrate all of a sudden. 'Oooh boy, this is…'
He had better finish his apology and explanation while he still could, "I was doing my best trying to act normal, but I was hurt, embarrassed, and generally feeling pretty low. I'd just gotten my butt handed to me on a platter, had to be saved like some kind of wimp by our hero, and then that same hero saw me home and waited outside until I got in the door like a little kid who can't be trusted to get home on his own."
Sheepish, Beth said, "And then the next day you have me acting all freaky at school on you." Matt nodded and Beth continued guiltily, "God, you must have been getting really weirded out by all the looks I was sending you all day long and then when you asked me if there was something bothering me, I so totally unloaded on you."
"Yep, can you forgive me?" Matt asked with his best big brown puppy dog eyes.
Beth laughed in surprise. Grinning she said, "I guess so, but only if you forgive me too. You had no right to yell at me like you did, but I had no right jumping to conclusions and getting on your case like I did."
"When you put it that way, I'd have to be an idiot to argue." He winked and proposed one better, "Or how about we just call it even. We disregard each other's mistakes, as one nullifies the other, and just keep on like we were never interrupted?"
"Sounds fair to me." Beth chuckled throatily, "Did I happen to let drop that my parents are gone for the weekend?" Beth smiled warmly up into Matt's eyes. "Now, about that guided sightseeing tour you mentioned…" Fingers that had never left his skin from her earlier explorations began to journey again.
The End. (Finally!!)