Thanks so much for the great responses for this story. I'm working on the next chapter of 'Waste Not, Want Not' and it should be out next week some time, if not sooner. Whoo! Anyway, thanks to everyone who reads this and extra special thanks to those who read and review.
Dedicated to: sekai no yakusoku and The Writer you Fools
"Richard?" she breathed, stunned.
The 'hostage' was indeed tied to a chair—sloppily Raven noted as she saw the figure discreetly working his hands free, which she gave him credit for since many others would have just sat there, fearful and useless. She took in his attire—jeans—okay, so she did remember Richard was still in school uniform when last she saw him and doubted he'd gone back to change—and a red t-shirt, a tear in the right sleeve. His skin was the same even fairness of Richard's though, his hair the same ebony hue, and his eyes...ah there.
His eyes were a shocking amber, brown maybe, but the flecks of yellow made them almost fiery and Raven found herself thinking herself skeptical at the hostage's current predicament. He didn't seem the type to get caught...doing anything...much less get himself tied up while doing it.
Shifting her weight slightly, she winced as the air vent creaked even under her slight body mass and held her breath as one of the men ventured closer, staring right up at her through the tiny vents, not knowing it. Urgently glancing for which way to quickly get out of sight as the man reached out a hand to move the vent, Raven stopped as she heard a thud and a yell and the man whirled in time to see the former hostage slam a chair into his face.
Silently Raven favored him with a 9.3 for skill.
But just as the lad set the chair down a sickening and hollow impact could be heard as from out of Raven's perspective a well-polished black boot buried itself in his stomach, causing the lad to go down on a knee, almost fetal, cursing.
"Fuck," he groaned and a cool chuckle answered him.
"Yes you are, fucked. Did you think you could slip away?" the voice slithered around the room, snakelike and ten times as venomous.
"Fuck you. I would have if—" The boot collided with his stomach again and he coughed harshly, a speckle of blood forming at the corner of his mouth as he sputtered angrily, cut off.
"If fate didn't have such a nasty sense of humor, is that it boy? No, wrong. Fate's got nothing to do with this. I've eyes all over the city. Why do you think I had my men try for this bank, hm?" Distorted in a strange, muffled way, Raven only now could tell that it was a man's voice. She thought to dive down on him, just knock him out but something held her back and she waited for him to possibly reveal more...something was off here.
Other than this strange hostage's uncanny similarity to Richard in appearance.
Bent over, hands pressed hard on the floor, the guy did not answer and now the voice gained a body as a tall, muscular and well suited man stepped into the light, pulling the guy up by his black locks, eyeing him murderously, humor gone.
"Answer me, boy!" the man glowered. Imposing, dressed also all in black, loose coat and hat giving him a private-eye feel, Raven half-expected the hostage to yield as he jutted his chin out at the man, eyes glimmering that eerie amber shade and he simply said in a harsh whisper:
"I thought you had all the answers."
The mockery was evident in every note and earned him a growl from the man as he threw him down with unexpected strength, the boy hitting the floor hard with another grunt.
"Fool," this strange man in black said with the air of judge and jury as he kicked him one last time. At this point the other men were getting up again, each one readjusting the various askew positions of his mask, the tension noticeable without the visibility of their faces as each aimed their glances at the boy on the ground.
"Boss?" one asked gruffly. The 'boss' waved a hand almost royally.
"Do what you will, but bring the money. You know what happens if you don't." The cool edge was back in his voice as he exited Raven's limited view through the vents again and she heard a door swing, presumably a side or back door.
The click of those well polished boots echoed forebodingly and Raven had the impression of a tyrant king having exited a grand hall rather than some nameless jerk having left a blah-faced banking room with less than sufficient henchmen.
"On your feet, lousy piece of—" but the man never finished as the boy, chuckling to Raven's mired confusion, swept a leg under his feet and floored the man, the man's head making a nauseating thud on the tiles.
"Well alright," the boy smirked and got to his feet just as the other two worked to surround him.
Enough's enough, Raven thought and not meaning to be dramatic, but somehow always managing, busted through the vent. Taking one of the men down with a forceful landing, sending his gun skittering to one side of the room and the bag—presumably full of money—also fell to the ground. The boy eyed her speculatively.
"How long were you up there?" he asked, not bothering to hide his irritation.
"That's irrelevant," she replied coldly, noting the trained gun fluctuating between her and the boy, held by the last man left standing...who Raven realized was somewhat slight for a man.
Maybe it wasn't a man at all. Raven took a step forward but the figure cocked the gun, hand shaking.
"S-stop!" the figure ordered hoarsely, attempting to conceal herself, but the voice was undeniably female. Raven wondered at that.
"Just drop it, kid," the boy said, a devilish grin creeping through his eyes and across his face.
"Shut up!" she said, nervously switching the gun's aim to the boy.
"Your friends are down. You haven't got a chance," Raven tried to reason with the girl-criminal.
"N-no! I can't...he'll..." she trailed off and Raven took another step—foolhardy, but she really didn't expect the girl to shoot.
Raven seeing her finger move had turned but the bullet hit anyway, ripped past her side, only grazing it, but her intake of air was clearly audible.
"Fuck," the boy cursed again, his favorite word, Raven thought too lightly for the situation as he moved toward the girl who looked about to shoot at him when Raven knocked it out of her hand.
"Give up," Raven bit out, but the girl grabbed the money bag on the floor and fled. The boy followed and this time it was Raven: "Fuck!" as she trailed the boy who had taken off trailing the girl as fast as she could, hand covering the bleeding in her right side with little success at staunching it. "Not good," she said to herself through gritted teeth, pausing time enough to rip a long strip from her cloak—she had about twelve, she could spare one at any moment—and wrapped it around the wound, securing it at her other side.
It wasn't much but she took off again anyway.
It would have to do.
Shooting a grappling hook, she took to traveling the faster way—by skyscraper, noting as she did with a biting moment of cynicism that the police were still positioned outside the bank, still thinking someone was in there...
Those idiots, she thought, exasperated but her attention came away from them fast as she spotted the red of the boy's shirt and not far ahead a small black speck darting away at admirable speed. Dropping down to the alley entrance they'd just entered, Raven landed in a crouch, the cold gray of the ever reaching buildings notably grimy and the smell of the city particularly dank in this part of it. Feet hitting the concrete below them mercilessly, she sped after the odd two ahead of her—boy and girl, questionable hostage and not so questionable criminal accomplice.
But where was the connection? That man with the well polished black boots seemed to know the boy...not in a good way. And the girl...she didn't seem all too suited to her line of duty currently.
What is going on tonight? Raven pondered, irked by the confounding nature of it all even as she ran through the shadows of alleyways, always just in time to see a flash of red flit around a corner and out of sight, enough to know which way to go, not enough to catch him or her first.
Rounding what felt like the fiftieth corner, her ears picked up the sound of metal rattling and she jerked her head up to see the girl just reaching the top of the fire escape on this building, the red shirted boy close behind. Shaking her head, Raven tore out the grappling gun again, shooting it and pulling herself up with a powerful arc that allowed her to land in front of the fleeing girl in black, still gripping the money bag like her life depended on it. One of the city's typical nighttime winds blew across the rooftops, making Raven's torn cloak flap ominously behind her as she watched through her eye mask, wound forgotten as she let her hands rest at her sides.
The boy in red reached the top just then.
"Hey kid, why don't you just run back to the Boss and leave the money here, hm?" he said casually, sauntering up to the black clad girl like they were in the halls of a high school.
Raven felt the almost irrepressible urge to punch him.
"Stop, don't come closer!" she cried wildly, running to the edge of the building.
"Boy! Knock it off!" Raven stalked over to him. He turned to face her.
"Nightwing is it? Or Arella?" he asked, still casual. "You're always in the papers...what?" he cocked a brow at her and then, "Oh, afraid she'll jump? She won't," he commented and chuckled.
Raven glanced over at the girl who seemed to be debating furiously with herself as whether to leap or make a dash for the other side of the building's fire escape.
"I don't have time for you," Raven muttered, pushing past the boy, and approached the girl, slowly hands out in front of her. She did not see the considering gaze he laid upon her as she stepped toward the overwhelmed girl at the building's edge. "Look, I don't think you want to do this," she spoke as patiently as she could manage, even as she felt the warmth of her own blood trickling down her leg, her makeshift bandage now saturated with it. The girl shook her head, no.
"Stop it...please...you have to let me go," the girl pleaded, voice wavering under power of the wind.
"Are you afraid, girl?" Raven asked.
"Yes," it was barely a whisper.
"What's your name?" The girl shook her head. Raven repressed a groan. She assumed the girl wouldn't tell her, but it was nice to be wrong sometimes.
"Come on girl, I'm not going to hurt you. Just give the money back. This can be sorted out," Raven tried a more coaxing approach. Her voice was stiff with the increasing pain from her wound and her typical inability to be very compassionate, but she tried.
"No, no, I can't," the girl shook her head wildly, clutching it as if demons tormented her from the inside. Raven grimaced. She knew something of that.
"Listen—" Raven began, stepping very cautiously toward the girl. But just then a metallic clang sounded as something small and metal hit the space between Raven and the girl—a metal ball of some kind. There was little time to guess at its contents as it released a blinding cloud of thick gray-white and Raven heard the boy behind her cough. Pulling her cloak to cover her nose and mouth, Raven searched the girl out blindly with her free hand but the smoke cleared and the girl was gone...money too.
"Waste of my time," the boy said after a hacking cough, massaging his throat carelessly. Raven whirled and it looked like she might stalk right past the boy but she snagged him by the collar of his shirt as she passed, much to his protest. "Hey! What do you think—"
"Shut up," Raven cut in, a low growl in her tone, dragging the boy in red behind her. He scowled.
"Whatever you say," he muttered. The boy considered his options, which to his disappointment, seemed rather limited.
Not that he believed in limits much.
There was 1) go along with her—yeah, right; he almost rolled his eyes. And there was 2) make a break for it—yeah, probably. The boy resolved to wait until this crusader of the night became minutely more distracted, enough to hopefully loosen her surprisingly vice-like grip on his shirt. Then maybe he could try to run...
Raven stumbled and bit back a curse. The world was doing strange things, heaving up and down without accord, and she felt strangely cold. Her legs seemed like lead and she only vaguely recalled the wound in her side before her mortality betrayed her and the world went dark.
The boy thought he saw Raven, who he thought of as Nightwing/ Arella, waver—something in the dizziness of her eyes—and he prepared to dash away.
But it wasn't a necessary preparation. His eyes widened as the cloaked figure crumpled to the concrete of the roof, inches from the door she'd been headed to with him in tow. Rubbing the back of his head thoughtfully, he groaned.
"Just leave her," he whispered over and over to himself. He turned away. "Just leave her," he said again, some anger evident in his indecision. He took a few steps.
And he stopped.
"Fuck," he said for what must have been the fiftieth time that night and turned back toward the fallen hero in black. He repeated the curse word for posterity as he knelt beside the unconscious Raven and scooped her into his arms, disappearing inside the door to the building seconds later.
And the roof had no signs of there ever being anyone there at all that night.
Except a few permanent bloodstains a couple feet from the door.
At another part of the city Richard Grayson sat, phone in hand, chin resting on the counter as he listened to the monotony of the ring on the other end.
Where is she?
It's been hours.
She must be there.
What happened tonight?
Click. A familiar, distinctly unenthused voice deadpanned through the airwaves:
This is Raven. Leave a message.
He sat up and held the phone tiredly.
"Raven, it's Richard...I just wanted to know if you were...doing alright."
He sighed. That was mostly it.
"See you tomorrow," he finished and hung up before the machine could cut him off due to too many awkward pauses. Mussing his hair absently, Richard pondered somewhat darkly on the literati of his affections.
He really did hope she was alright.
But more than that, Richard couldn't shake the unnerving feeling that the reason he kept hoping Raven Roth was alright, was because she wasn't.
Something was wrong.
And he had no way of knowing how or what.
Some mysteries, like Raven herself, were alluring, intoxicating...drew a person like him in without hope of return. Other mysteries, like those surrounding Raven were maddening, aggravating...drove a person to circular thinking with no answers.
Those were the dangerous ones.
Smart enough to differentiate, Richard still did not sleep that night.
You probably know who the boy is. Duh. But what can I say? I'm losing my edge for subtlety lately. BAH. Anyway, you know my request.
And for those who celebrate/ do the turkey or whatever day thing: happy thanksgiving