Disclaimer: I do not own Nightwing or Slade. I think both characters are owned by DC Comics. I am not receiving any pecuniary benefits from this work.
A/N: This is set before Starfire shows up from that Warp episode. Nightwing's costume is a little different, but will go back to normal at the story's end. For the purposes of this story, Nightwing is about thirty-two.
Nightwing prowls the streets. Jump City is truly his now, as Gotham is Batman's. He guards it alone. The Titans dissolved two years ago, when one little alien girl disappeared. The sorceress had fallen apart, her damaged mind shattering in a whirl of brilliant red hair and glowing green eyes, in the loss of innocence. The last Slade had heard she resided in a private room located in a hospital for the mentally ill.
The changeling and the cyborg had lasted longer, but with the alien and the sorceress—and he would like to test her magical powers against his own, a pity that she is too unstable to risk antagonizing—out of commission, they too had left. Slade has no idea where they are now, but he has always known where Robin is. He still knows—on the corner of Apple and Main, dealing with three thugs who are unworthy of his skill. But he keeps forgetting that Robin isn't Robin anymore. The garish circus colors have been retired—and why on earth Batman of all people had allowed his protégés to dress in reds, greens, and yellows was beyond him—in favor of Nightwing's more stealthy black and blue. The short, spiky hair has grown out into smooth and flowing locks, but the mask has stayed. Just once, Slade wants to see his boy's eyes.
On a whim, Slade decides to track down Nightwing and see if their years apart have ruined his little bird. Slade has been using his magic to keep track of Robin—Nightwing—for years. Robin is now on Shady Lane. Perfect for a little…reminiscing.
Nightwing is not in a mood to reminisce. Unfortunately for the criminal element of the city, that is precisely what he has been doing for quite some time. In a gesture of defiance and final triumph, he took over Slade's lair--the lair Slade had broken him in--as his own last year. Only it seems that now Slade wishes to reclaim it. Over a period of several months, he has heard Slade's voice multiple times. He could swear that he has seen the mercenary behind him, in front of him; he has seen a tall shadow in the darkness with one bright eye. Nightwing knows that that idea is foolishness. Some geokinetic girl had taken up with Slade years ago and had killed him in an accident. Even Slade is not immortal, and even if he had survived the lava somehow he would be old by this point. No threat to a young and vigorous fighter, except that this is Slade and he could probably take down the Justice League.
Nightwing has seriously considered going to Raven and asking her if he's going insane, but the fact that she is herself insane makes him think that might not be a good idea. Much more of Slade haunting him, though, and he just might ask her anyway.
"Come now, Robin. I thought better of you than this." Nightwing whirls, shoulder-length hair haloing out around him and bo staff at the ready.
There is no one there. Nightwing is still tense. He wants to call Speedy, maybe Aqualad, maybe summon the Titans again, but he can't. Slade isn't here, and even if he was—Nightwing wants to fight him alone. Slade always did mean more to him than any other opponent, though Robin would never have admitted it. Slade kept him up at night, planning ways to stop him and figuring out what exactly he wanted.
"You, Robin. It's always been about you." One long finger trails down his spine, with no utility belt to block its path, and Nightwing shivers. He's back to being Robin, caught off guard and unsure. He doesn't know if that voice /touch/ is a memory, but his eyes close and his back wants to arch, wants to curve like a cat's into that ghostly caress. Then his brain catches up and his eyes snap open. Once again, there's no one there. Nightwing stands in Slade's lair, body tingling and ready, and just… Really. Hates. Everything.
Slade lazily opens his own eyes. Toying with Robin is always entertaining, but Nightwing—Well. If he had known how Robin looked with long hair, he would have made certain the boy never cut it. Nightwing is also darker than Robin, more controlled, and Slade almost regrets that. Robin's fire had been so beautiful to watch and to manipulate. Nightwing's flame is banked, hidden. It's time to make it spark.
Tonight Nightwing patrols again, his old Gotham habits never quite vanishing. As Robin of Jump City, he'd just used cameras, but now there's no one to worry if he isn't there at one o'clock in the morning and he was raised in Gotham, after all. Technology just isn't a match for your own eyes. Nightwing is atop the roof of the bank on Main Street when he hears him laughing. He is tired of this, tired of looking over his shoulder for a dead man and being disappointed when one slate eye isn't there to meet his gaze. But he looks one last time—and Slade is there.
For a single heartbeat Nightwing is too shocked /joyous/ to move. Then Slade leaps forward and the chase is on. Nightwing blocks the punch, slightly awed that Slade has kept his legendary—slightly ridiculous, really—speed. He returns with an attempted uppercut, but Slade leaps backward and it misses. Nightwing rushes forward and Slade dances to the left, but keeps going back. Nightwing pulls up short after a few moments of this, because while he doesn't know Slade, he does know the man's fighting style. If Slade is defending, then there's a trap. Especially if, during the defense, the man happens to move to another building.
"Good—Nightwing. Robin wouldn't have caught that. You've improved." Slade's voice is that purr again, that damn sound that makes Nightwing feel as though he's sixteen again. He's struck by the fact that Slade called him "Nightwing" when even Batman often slips and calls him "Robin".
Slade has lured Nightwing onto the roof of a skyscraper. They face off, neither one so much as breathing hard. For a moment, there is no motion. Slade, as always, has planned an escape route. But Nightwing is backed against the wall, tense and hard and beautiful, midnight hair in midnight air, and tonight Slade is in the mood to remember his own birthday. So Slade kisses him. Nightwing's mouth remains open and bruised even after Slade draws away, taut body arching against nothing but the air. Slade has to touch, but he has not lived so long and gained so much through lack of control. So he leaves.
It is only later that he realizes; Robin should have aged. He looks to be somewhere in his early twenties, but is in fact in his thirties. Behind the mask, Slade smiles. It's always nice to have a plan come to fruition even without his guiding hand.
Next week, Nightwing stirs in his bed and hits something hard. He jolts awake to see—a box. Slade's mark is on it.
Nightwing was aroused for days after Slade had /go on say it/ kissed him, and he really really really wants to know what the fuck Slade had been up to on that skyscraper. So he opens the box. Lying on black and orange silk are Slade's own gauntlets and the belt that Robin himself had worn as Slade's reluctant apprentice.
Nightwing knows that the acceptance of these gifts represents the end of an era, the real end of the Teen Titans. He puts them on anyway and imagines he can hear Slade's voice murmuring in his ear, soft smoky velvet that sounds like a purr and smells like sex and feels like a partnership. "Good boy."