Hi: Yeah…I know…it took awhile. Please don't yell. I'm dying of a headache; this chapter would have been up earlier in this week, if I hadn't had a huge stress meltdown in school. Needless to say, I'm a bit of a wreck at the moment, because of all the crap that's been happening over the week, but it's not an excuse. I'm stupid—and I promise that I'm going to update more frequently from now on. And I apologize for the unannounced hiatus that I went on. So, please enjoy, and it will be GREAT to hear from all of you again.
Dedication: This chapter is for 'faithful reader' who has stuck with me through the four months that I've been gone (I thank you for that reminder: It was a serious wake-up call for me). So, this is for you.
Chapter Nine: You Can Run…
"Wow…" Rose sighed, as she stepped out the door, shaking her mane of white hair out behind her, and stretching her limbs. "I still can't believe this is actually happening," she repeated. "It's…it's so cool!"
"Yeah, it…it really is unbelievable," Robin admitted stepping out after her, brows knitted together in thought. Rose turned at the tone of his voice, her excited expression fading quickly.
"What? What's wrong?"
Robin gave a small sigh and shook his head fitfully, trying to clear it of the multitude of thoughts that were buzzing around like a swarm of bees.
"I'm considering our options."
Rose cocked her head to one side, lost.
"Uh…options? What are you talking about?"
"I'm trying to think of places where we can go," he supplied. "After the robots, I'm starting to think that we might need a place to lie low for a bit, and rest up. I've been running through possibilities; that's all."
"Oh…what about…" Rose went slightly pink, and shrugged, trying to pretend she hadn't said anything at all. Robin wasn't so easily fooled.
"What? What were you about to say?"
"Well…" The girl sighed, and scuffed one of her shoes on the pavement. "You said we needed a safe place to stay for awhile, so we can figure a few things out, right?"
"Yeah. What about it?"
"How…how about your dad's place?"
Robin stared blankly at her, and Rose rushed to explain.
"Well, see, it's not like I'm trying to force anything on your or your dad, but, well…you did say that you think we need a safe area to go to for the moment. I was just thinking…you know…I mean, come on! What better place than Wayne Manor, with Batman? There couldn't possibly be a safer place in all of Gotham City! That's all I'm trying to say. What do you think?"
Robin looked away, unable to bring himself to say the words. How could he possibly tell, or try to explain to her the shame he felt after what occurred last night, or how he could still the wraith of Bruce that Crane had conjured up in his mind's eye, and hear those awful, hurtful words in his ear? And especially after lying to Bruce earlier that morning, and claiming that he was perfectly fine…not to mention that Bruce would definitely hear about the incident at school…how could he face his father now?
Rose was still watching him expectantly, waiting for his answer.
"I'm not so sure," he managed to spit out. "Even though it'd be safe, it would also be the most obvious place to trail us to, don't you think?"
"Well," Rose began, but she sounded doubtful this time. Robin pressed his advantage.
"Wayne Manor's pretty far from this area of the city…it'd be easy to attack us on the way there."
"Yeah," Rose concluded glumly. "I guess you're right…so…where do you think we should go?"
"I have some supplies back at the apartment where I'm staying," Robin explained, relief seeping through him. "Let's head there first, and then focus on where we can go. Okay?"
"Okay," Rose said, barely holding in a sigh of disappointment.
Robin busied himself with flagging down the nearest cab.
There were few times in Wintergreen's life when he had Slade truly "lose it," or so the expression went.
As it was, he could only stand there in silent wonder as his friend flew about the lair, barking orders through the communicators he used to contact his drones, calling off the attack he had placed on Robin. He seemed so crazed, that William was hesitant to approach him. Yes, he understood Slade's exact feelings regarding Rose and, given the current state of his own thoughts, he couldn't quite say he blamed the man. But, as Slade had stressed so many times in their discussions, nothing could interrupt the plans that they had set into motion.
So, with slow, careful movements, he stepped up, edging around the broken remains of Slade's desk, and gently touched his friend on the shoulder. The younger man jumped slightly, and whirled about, perhaps on the verge of striking him, but Wintergreen held his hand up, to show Slade that it was only him, and that he meant no harm.
The two stared at one another for a long moment, before Slade, after taking a few deep breaths, said in a low, controlled voice:
"We need to find them."
"Yes," Wintergreen agreed calmly. Slade nodded absently and turned away; he removed his mask, ran a hand absently through his hair, before turning back and fixing his sergeant with his typical, unfazed expression. Wintergreen smiled briefly in approval, silently marveling at how quickly Slade had managed to get his emotions under control.
"There is a slight problem," he stated, as soon as he was sure Slade was listening. "Our only guaranteed method of pinpointing his location is in his apartment building. Aside from the drone reports—the ones remaining, that is—, we don't have much information to go on."
Slade considered quietly.
"I know how he thinks," he said, voice quiet with confidence. "The apartment is a likely possibility; it's a safe house, in a sense. But there's another chance that he'd run to his father."
"Wayne Manor, then?" William asked.
"I think so…I can send someone over to investigate the apartment building…as for the manor…"
He sank into his chair, fingers interlacing in thought, before he glanced back up at his friend, a hard glint in his eye.
"You're going out to meet with Ms. Watson today?"
"For the last time," Wintergreen stated, unable to keep a smidgeon of glee out of his voice. Slade nodded, giving a short laugh.
"Indeed… If you don't mind," he said slyly, "would you mind paying a visit over to Wayne Manor once you're finished with her? Just to…investigate?"
He said this word with mocking innocence, and Wintergreen couldn't resist a sadistic chuckle.
"Why not? I always did want to meet the Dark Knight."
"...a mysterious, menacing figure, the enigma known as 'Slade' haunts Jump City, terrorizing citizens, and posing a constant threat to the Teen Titans—the super-powered defenders that guard Jump. Few have ever seen more of him than a silhouette, there one moment, gone the next. While this stranger is a dangerous mastermind, and while he has the potential to overthrow and annihilate Jump City entirely, most of his schemes have often been vanquished by the Titans—which, to some, is only an indication that he is testing them, is testing us, by playing games with them. The most known attack of Slade was a year back, when he and his apprentice, 'Terra'—a corrupted Titan herself—supposedly destroyed the Titans, and began to move forward in their takeover of the city (although later, they discovered that the Titans were not dead, when the five returned to save Jump City). This reporter will continue to follow this case, because he is determined to unveil the answers…until then, he would beg all those innocents out there to be on your guard. Slade is still out there, a volatile monster, and he may always be plotting, plotting his next move against us all."
"…responsible for the blackmailing and imprisonment of one Titan member, and the corruption and death of another; he managed to once completely control Jump City, before the Titans managed to overthrow him, and rescue the city from chaos; a savage murderer, and a constant thief of valuable, dangerous technology. Recent police reports are also indicating an association with the nameless (and currently missing) arsonist of last month, and other findings are connecting him with the waves that wiped out Jump City…dangerous, violent, insane…"
"Rumors and panic follow him everywhere. Questions fly about him, one of the most frightening and confusing (as ridiculous at it may sound) is, is he immortal...?"
Amelia's eyes were about the size of dinner plates, as she stared at the glowing computer screen in front of her, mind hardly able to accept all the information that was flying at her. True, she'd gotten the feeling that the whole plot that she'd become involved in had been a lot deeper than Wintergreen had been letting on, but this was way over her head.
The woman sighed and settled back into the pillows that she propped up by the headboard—after a quick research session, she'd escaped from the school, and had returned to the hotel, only to pick up the trail with one of the laptops that the hotel offered from their computer room—exiting the page. She was just about to click on the link beneath it ("Actual pictures of Slade! New sightings today!") when there came a sharp rapping on her door.
Amelia twitched violently, upsetting the notes and printed documents that she'd surrounded herself with over the course of two hours, and she watched despairingly as the mass of papers fluttered to the floor
"Watson," Came Wintergreen's bored voice, "I hope you're decent, because I'm coming in."
The woman cursed, having briefly forgotten that she'd been forced to give up her spare room key to the man, so that he could barge in whenever he felt like it, and that'd he'd mentioned something about dropping by later in the day. She flung herself into the task of covering up all her information.
"Uh, yes," she said, wincing at how shrill her voice was as she slammed the laptop shut and thrust it beneath her pillow, before collecting a few papers that had fanned out across the floor and stuffing them beneath the daily newspaper. "One moment, please!"
The instant that she was sure that there was no signs to indicate what she'd been doing, Amelia straightened up, and turned in the direction of the door, calling out:
"All right! You can enter now!
There was sharp click, and a beeping sound as a keycard was swiped, and Wintergreen came into view as he rounded the corner, upper lip curled in a sneer as he took in the disarray of the hotel room.
"Nice to know that you're keeping up an effort to remain organized," he quipped. Amelia only nodded, and stared at his carefully polished shoes. Normally, she would have returned his look of disgust and made some aggravating comment on her part, but…things had changed slightly.
Meanwhile, Wintergreen, unaccustomed to Amelia's new found silence, raised an eyebrow, staring her down. Watson offered him a weak smile, knowing that she probably looked like a complete fool; Wintergreen merely brushed past this.
"My employer wants to know how your interaction with Richard went at the high school this morning," he stated.
"It was perfect."
"He understood the warning, and the offer?"
"And he, obviously, refused—something my employer was expecting."
Amelia kept quiet, and she could feel Wintergreen's gaze on her, could almost see the bewilderment on his face. If it had been under other circumstances, she probably would have been on the verge of laughter, and making a mental note that this was another perfect tactic to use to grind on Wintergreen's nerves. There was an uncomfortable pause, as William waited, shifting his weight slightly, both of them at a loss for words.
"So, um…everything went smoothly?" He repeated.
"And…uh…nothing else relevant occurred that he would be interested in, right?"
"Very well, then. I shall inform him. Oh, before I forget: He would like to meet you this evening. He requests that you be ready by ten o' clock, perhaps?"
Amelia had difficulty swallowing for a moment. Bloody hell: After her experience in the criminal world, that could only mean one thing.
She had outlived her purpose in their scheme.
Somehow, Watson managed to unglue her throat and speak.
"Good. I shall tell him. Until tonight," he said dismissively, and turned away, footsteps clicking against the floor; she shuffled after him, to lock up, but just as he was about to step foot out, Wintergreen hesitated in the doorway, and then turned back to her, brow furrowed.
"Are you…are you feeling quite right this morning? You seem a bit…pale…"
It was all Amelia could do to keep her jaw from dropping. This had to be her imagination. He was honestly asking if she was all right, actually showing concern for her well-being.
She felt like she was going to faint.
"I'm…I'm fine," she whispered faintly, suddenly resisting the urge to begin giggling inanely. Wintergreen gave her a final once over, before raising his eyebrow and nodding courteously at her.
"This evening, then," he said, and left.
The woman stood stock still for a moment, before leaning forward and turning the lock with trembling fingers. Then, inch by inch, she tiptoed back through her hotel room, and into the bedroom.
Amelia took a shuddering breath, before flopping back down on the bed.
"My God, what a mess…"
She slid the laptop out from its hiding place and flipped it back open, absently reaching for a coffee cup resting on the edge of the bureau; she was too absorbed in her research to realize that the coffee was already several days old.
"I can't tell you just how horrified I am by this whole predicament, Mr. Wayne. It has just been a terrible shock for the entire school, and we've never truly been faced with such an extreme crisis such as this one. I can only imagine how horror-struck everyone is, and you must be going out of your mind…"
Bruce nodded absently, listening half-heartedly to Mr. Daniels babble on and on about how sorry he was, all the while keeping a careful eye on the police force at the other end of the hallway, swarming around the decapitated robots. From the snippets of conversation he'd caught from their mumbled discussions, Robin had been missing for a couple of hours now, and that they had no suspects—which meant no leads for him—except…
"—the worst part is that I wasn't here to witness or stop any of it," Daniels admitted, shaking his head with regret.
"What?" Bruce said, a bit too loudly as he snapped out of his reverie. Mr. Daniels gave him an inquiring glance, and the Dark Knight's cheeks went a slight pink.
"Sorry…I was just surprised. You said you weren't here?"
Daniels nodded grimly.
"Yes, unfortunately. I was, uh…attacked," he admitted.
"What happened?" Bruce asked him, this time genuinely intrigued. Daniels cleared his throat, still a little bit curious, but he obliged, chewing on his lower lip as he thought hard.
"Well, it was about four or five this morning, which is about the time that I typically get up to prepare for work. I was just getting out of bed to turn on a few lights, and maybe make myself a cup of coffee when I heard this soft, clattering noise in the kitchen. I wasn't honestly sure what I thought it was, but the first idea that popped into my head was that the sound had been caused by a burglar. So, I reached for the baseball bat that I sometimes keep beneath my bed—after all, this is Gotham City," the principal added quickly, as if to justify what he obviously considered a peculiar habit.
"Too true," Bruce murmured darkly. Daniels gave him an odd look, and Bruce gave an impatient wave of his hand, indicating for him to go on.
"Let me see…I crept towards the kitchen, perhaps hoping that I would have the luck of striking first…but when I got there, I saw nothing; there were no intruders, and no signs that the room had been disrupted in any way. For a moment, I thought that I'd imagined it. That is, right before the girl appeared and struck me across the face. The next thing I know, the maid for my apartment building is screaming for help, and I'm waking up in my closet, bound and gagged. And then, of course, the phone call came in from the school this morning about your son…"
He trailed off thoughtfully, and Bruce felt a small stab of anxiety.
"Coffee?" Daniels suddenly offered, indicating a pot on the counter of the teacher's lounge. Bruce resisted the urge to cross his eyes, but nodded anyway.
"Please. You mentioned 'the girl'…who is she?"
The principal shook his head, setting the pot to boil.
"You'll never believe this, but she was the replacement secretary that we'd just hired a few days ago."
"No kidding," Bruce said, listening intently.
"Yes," Daniels said, chuckling ironically. "I remember her clearly, actually. She was British. That was the first thing about her: Her accent. And there was the fact that she was available almost instantly after our old secretary, Ms. Halverson, went missing. However, she didn't seem to have the first clue about how do to the job correctly…and…" The man bit his lip, as if thinking about how to choose his next words.
"Yes?" Bruce prodded edgily, after a beat. Daniels jumped, as if he had forgotten that he was there, but laughed it off, and went on.
"Well, there was just something very…peculiar about her."
"Just…" Daniels gestured vaguely. "Her eyes…Mr. Smith wishes he could have remembered more about her, but they only talked once, and then Richard disappeared."
The Dark Knight took a sip of his coffee, eye twitching slightly at the taste, and frowned.
"You'll forgive me, but…what does that have to do with anything?"
"Since, aside from Mr. Smith, she was the last one to see Richard before he ran off."
Bruce's eyes narrowed at this new information.
"What did you say?"
Daniels shifted from foot to foot awkwardly.
"Well…according to Mr. Smith, who has Richard in his class, there was an announcement over the loudspeaker that I wished to see him in my office. But we both know that that's preposterous, because of what happened to me this morning. The only one there today was that girl…"
Bruce felt his heart skip a beat.
"What did she look like?" Bruce demanded, on the verge of grabbing Daniels by the lapels and slamming him against the nearest walls until he got the answers he needed. "What was her name?"
"I-I-I believe it was something like Amelia Watson," the principal offered meekly, cowering before Bruce's barely contained rage.
"Are you sure? Do you need to check your files, or are you absolutely certain?"
"P-positive," Daniels whimpered. "She—she had wispy blonde hair, and pale blue eyes, I think…"
"Anything about her that might make her stand out?"
"You're positive?" Bruce growled, a note of incredulity and hope underlining his rough tone. Mr. Daniels' head bobbed up and down eagerly.
The Dark Knight took a step backwards and sighed, before nodding in acknowledgment at the other man, who was still regarding him with an expression of utmost terror.
"Thank you, Mr. Daniels, for calling me in. I've enjoyed this conversation. We really should have another one that isn't about mishaps involving Richard."
"Whatever you say," was the tremulous response.
"Good. I look forward to it…"
There was an awkward pause, as Bruce shot the principal a sheepish look.
"Um…would you excuse me for a minute?"
The Dark Knight swept out of the office without another word.
Daniels waited until the door had been shut behind him, before he grasped his mug of coffee firmly and drained the remainder of the contents.
Outside in the hallway, Bruce whipped out his cell phone, fingers darting rapidly over the keys as he punched in the number for Wayne Manor.
The phone rang twice, before Bruce heard the other line pick up.
"Alfred? You there?"
"Master Bruce! Are you still at the school? What have you learned so far?"
"I can't answer your questions right now, Alf, I'm sorry," the Knight told his old friend regretfully. "I promise, as soon as I get the time, I'll fill you in on everything. All I can say now is that I've got a lead. I need you to do me a favor."
"I need you to go down to the Cave," Bruce said slowly, lowering his voice so that no one could overhear. "I want you to log onto the computer, and do a search."
"Yes, of course. Name?"
"Amelia Watson," the Batman annunciated carefully. "She's British, with blonde hair and pale blue eyes. Look for any kind of criminal record, and call me back immediately if you find anything."
"I understand, sir. Is she behind Master Richard's disappearance?"
"Seems like it."
"I see, Master Bruce. In that case, I'll get started right away."
"Thanks. I owe you one."
"Don't be ridiculous," the butler scoffed, and Bruce chuckled, glancing sidelong down the hall at the cops gathered around the smashed remains of the "mysterious intruders."
"Hey, Alfred," he said suddenly, an idea striking him.
"Yes, Master Bruce? Is there anything else?"
"Yeah…those robots last month at the hospital…what did they look like again?"
"Black, for the most part, with silver on their arms and legs…and on their face, with a circle of orange within it, I believe."
"That's what I thought," Bruce said, becoming somber once more, and he snapped the cell phone shut.
Alfred stood in the empty hallway of Wayne Manor, clutching the phone while his knuckles went white. Though he'd just been telling Bruce earlier that he had the utmost faith in Richard, there were times where he could react just as strongly and recklessly as his employer did when it came to the boy. Yes, Dick was strong, and had the capabilities to take care of himself…but anyone who would've tried to explain this to Alfred or Bruce under circumstances like these might as well have been damned.
The elderly man set the phone down into its cradle and crossed to the library, fingers lightly tapping the piano keys that would open the doorway. The memory of fighting the drones off in those hospital rooms was still bitterly clear in his head. If they had had anything to do with Master Richard's disappearance…Alfred shivered, unwilling to think of Master Dick fighting against those creatures.
Once in the Cave, Alfred made his way through the maze of work and technology to the computer. Hitting the keys with precision, the butler typed in the name that his employer had given him, and sat back to watch as files ran by rapidly, bits and pieces of information flying open. No doubt this was going to take quite awhile…
Alfred sighed at the prospect of extensive research, as he always did, and stood, figuring he'd best get a cup of tea while he was waiting. He was striding back towards the elevator when something caught his eye.
Bruce's abandoned suitcase was lying on the table, wide open; the papers with the four odd names on them and the scraps of information included were right inside, within plain view. His employer hadn't been able to do much with them; he'd been kept busy with meetings, Crane's escape, and now, on top of it all, his current illness.
The butler stared at the papers a moment longer, before he strode forward, snatched them up, and hurried towards the elevator. True, Bruce had only told him to research Amelia Watson, but it couldn't hurt to look into a few other things at the same time.
The elevator came to a shuddering halt as it stopped, and the doors opened. Alfred stepped out and, with brisk, purposeful steps, went directly to the telephone perched on a stand in the main foyer.
His fingers danced across the digits, dialing a number that had become all too familiar to him after all the years. The line rang twice, before it was picked up.
"Yes, Lucius?" Alfred inquired, as he glanced at the documents clenched in his right hand. "It's me. I was wondering if you could spare me a moment of your time; there are a couple questions I want to ask you…"
Robin and Rose-
Rose nodded admiringly at her surroundings, obviously impressed.
"This is a nice place you got here."
Robin paused in front of the double doors to the building, and smiled slightly.
"Yeah; it's pretty comfortable. Nothing like home," he added.
"Of course," Rose agreed amicably, blue eyes thoughtful. "How much does it cost to stay in this place anyway?" She inquired, and Robin raised an eyebrow.
"Out of plain curiosity," she explained.
"About a thousand bucks a month…or so…" He guessed, shifting uncomfortably. Bruce's wealth, as helpful as it was at times, never failed to occasionally make him feel like some stuck-up, spoiled little brat.
Rose had winced visibly at the price, but managed a shaky grin.
"Oh…heh…is that all?"
Robin couldn't help but chuckle, and pushed open one of the doors, ushering her in.
They walked up the staircase and arrived at the door to his room in complete silence. Rose fidgeted uncomfortably as Robin fumbled with his keys for a moment, and they slipped inside; the Boy Wonder laughed sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck as Rose stared about the place with wide eyes.
"I'm sorry about the mess," he told her. "I had a bit of a rough night last night, and as you can probably tell, I really wasn't expecting company."
Rose laughed like she knew she was supposed to, but her eyes were roving across the front room in a second glance, and she now noted the overturned furniture.
"Wait here," Robin was telling her, as he strode off in the opposite direction, probably towards his room. "I'll be right back."
Rose could only nod mutely, still taking in even the smallest details. She had figured long ago that whatever Richard—or Robin, rather—was caught up in was serious, but that it was his decision to tell her. She wasn't going to press into personal matters.
Meanwhile, Robin had indeed entered his bedroom, and was now pawing through the trunk by his bed, carefully shifting aside the bits and pieces of his past life. He'd kept a few birdarangs, and a jumpcord, mostly for memory's sake…although he had been fairly sure that they would one day prove useful again. He just hadn't known how right he would be…
Robin shook himself; scooping an ice disc out of the bottom of the trunk to shove into his pocket, and hooking the other weapons onto his belt, he pushed himself off his knees and onto his feet, before he strode out the door.
Rose was examining the kitchen with immense interest.
"Find something?" He asked teasingly.
The girl jumped, and blushed.
"I was just taking a look around…I like it here."
"Yeah…it is kind of nice, I guess."
He kicked out thoughtlessly, the bottom of his sneaker scuffing the floor, and Rose cleared her throat.
"So…should we get going?"
"Sure!" She said, a bit too cheerfully, and he knew she felt as awkward as he did. She had proven already, on several accounts, that she was smart. He would have been shocked if she hadn't already guessed what exactly he'd meant a moment ago by "rough night."
The two made their way out of the apartment, footsteps clattering as they headed down in the stairwell, both lost in their own thoughts.
They were heading down another hallway, towards the newest flight of stairs, when Robin paused, suddenly, frowning slightly. Rose noticed, and halted as well.
"What is it?"
"I…" The boy stopped again, listening hard.
"Do you hear screaming?"
A split second later, something large smashed through the wall, sending them flying off their feet, and onto the other side of the hall. The two teens slid down to the floor, wheezing for air through the heavy shower of dust and plaster.
Plasmus towered over them, mouth stretched wide like a gaping, black abyss about to swallow them whole, and roared, as he brought down another pillar of slime to crush them.
Robin and Rose glanced at each other for a split second, before they dove off in opposite directions; Plasmus's attack just missed them, instead coming to crash down on the floor. A second burst of debris flew up.
"This another one of your friends?" Rose shouted at Robin, rolling out of the way of another blow.
The Boy Wonder didn't have to time to answer; as Plasmus screamed again, a thin tentacle snaked a path across the tile flooring, and wrapped itself tightly around Robin's unguarded ankle, dragging him forward with a sudden, violent yank. Robin thrashed, fingers sliding uselessly across the floor as he was reeled in at an alarming speed, searching for something to latch onto.
Rose, blue eyes wide with horror, didn't stop to consider the odds; she rushed forward after him, hands curling into angry fists. Plasmus spared a moment to look up from his prey to notice the oncoming enemy, his foul green eyes narrowing. The Boy Wonder, grunting and pulling at his leg in any attempt to free it, saw Plasmus focus on Rose, and realized the danger.
"Rose!" He snapped, as loudly as his voice could carry. "Get out of the way!"—but his warning came a moment too late. One of Plasmus' tentacles whirled through the air in her direction, the slime slamming into her body with amazing force; the girl went flying down the hallway, skidding over the tile flooring, and coming to a crumpled heap at the other end. Robin looked after her helplessly, but his gaze was immediately drawn to the bright red object that had been placed by the doorway connecting to the next hall…and incidentally, only inches from her.
"Rose, can you hear me?" He called to her, praying that she wasn't dead; his heart leapt when he heard a faint moan, and saw her give herself a slight shake, as if trying to clear her thoughts.
The girl's head snapped upward at his voice, alternating between blinking uncomprehendingly and squinting, trying to focus her line of vision as she struggled to pull herself up into a slouching position.
"The—fire…extinguisher!" Robin managed to spit out as more gunk swarmed out from Plasmus' massive body, beginning to smother him. "H—he—help me, Rose!"
Rose glanced about herself, bewildered, and her gaze locked on the mentioned extinguisher.
"Rose…" Robin hissed, between his painful gasps for air. The weight was crushing him, squeezing the air out of his lungs. "The…fire…"
The teenage girl inhaled shakily, and, reaching for the extinguisher, began to walk forward at a steady pace that eventually broke into a run as she grew closer and closer. As Plasmus swept a tentacle at her to block her path, Rose ducked low, aimed, and released the lever. A jet of foamy, frigid spray shot out, coating one of the tentacles that held Robin. The Boy Wonder raised a free hand in a hammer fist, and brought it down hard; the frozen glop cracked and shattered beneath the impact, causing Plasmus to roar in pain and release him. Robin immediately scrambled to his feet and flew down the hall, grabbing Rose's arm as he passed her by, intent on putting as much distance between themselves and the creature as possible.
The two darted towards the exit, and as they approached, Robin flung Rose in front of him, sending her stumbling through the other door, before passing through and instantly bolting it shut.
Rose was standing behind him, panting hard for air. A single droplet of blood trickled down her forehead—she'd probably sliced it when Plasmus had thrown her. Robin bit his lip, and turned back to the door, flicking the latch before he leaned back against the cold metal surface.
"What now?" Rose asked him, brushing her hair back out of her face.
"I don't know…"
"Do you think he's gone?" She asked, the hope in her voice unmistakable. Robin sighed and took a step forward—and his heel plunged into something slippery. Both teenagers glanced down, terrified to see a pool of purple sludge sliding beneath the crack underneath the door; at the same time, a loud, ear-shattering explosion echoed against the door.
"I guess that's your answer," Robin replied wryly, quickly removing his foot from the muck and taking a place beside her. "So…you ready?"
Rose shot a look at him, mouth opened wordlessly, unable to speak. Robin gave her a tight smile, understanding how she felt.
Plasmus rammed himself against the door once more, and the hinges shrieked loudly beneath the pressure. Rose paled.
"Ready?" Robin repeated. The girl was quiet, eyes glowing with fear and the heat of battle, before she whispered hoarsely:
As if on cue, multiple tentacles smashed through the door and surrounding wall, sending splinters of metal and wood flying and skittering across the floor. Robin and Rose staggered, just barely keeping their balance against the fierce blow, and began to back away.
Plasmus burst through the remains of the doorway, already flinging torrents of slime out. Several of them met their target, wrapping themselves around Robin's midsection and trapping him. The Boy Wonder was hoisted into the air and slammed into the ceiling, nearly knocking all the wind out of his lungs with that single blow. He could only hang limply in the monster's grip, as he was crashed back and forth between the ceiling and the floor.
Rose, who had fallen backwards, was sprawled across the floor, looking up at her friend with horror, mind racing for some solution to save him, while also trying her hardest to ignore the fact that she was terrified beyond belief. The fire extinguisher had been left in the other hallway, she recalled…it'd be difficult to retrieve it, and, personally, she'd be shocked if she survived…but, at the moment, it was their only successful attempt at battling this thing.
Rose swallowed hard, gathering her resolve…and dove forward, ducking and rolling to avoid the flurry of the creature's limbs. She threw herself forward, sliding across the floor, past the remains of the broken door; she was so close! With a final thrust, she flung a hand out, clawing wildly, to close around the handle of the extinguisher, still lying where she had dropped it.
The girl got to her feet again, and turned to glare at the monster's turned back. Robin was still fighting, but his yells were becoming feebler with each passing moment.
I guess it's up to me, then.
Rose sprinted back towards the fight, shooting the contents of the fire extinguisher at every exposed area of the thing's body and chilling the slime. The creature roared and growled, swiping at her, but Rose easily avoided him. When she felt she'd done enough work, she flung the extinguisher onto the floor and leapt forth, planting a firm front kick on the frozen area of its body. The ice cracked and shattered beneath her heel, and Rose smiled triumphantly as the incessant bellowing became louder…only to find herself sinking in past the surface a second later, and into the goo that made up the monster's form.
She didn't even have to time to gasp in disgust, as the gunk began twisting its way up her body, pinning her arms to her sides, and curling up around her neck. Rose felt her stomach clench, as she just barely resisted the urge to vomit. The girl couldn't help it—she began to scream.
Robin, slumping in Plasmus's grip, heard Rose's cries of terror and somehow managing to drag himself from his nearly unconscious state, blinking back the haze from his eyes.
Crap…what are we going to do…?
Plasmus ground him into the floor, and Robin struggled to think. He had to come up with something quick, not just for his sake but for Rose's as well. As Plasmus's limbs tightened their grip, he felt something in his pocket press against his thigh—the weapons that he'd grabbed! In his first fight against Plasmus, he'd used an ice disc…why wouldn't it work now?
His fingers moved quickly, digging their way through the slime around his body, moving for his pocket.
Plasmus flung him roughly against the ceiling.
Just a little bit closer, Robin thought desperately, reaching, reaching…
Plasmus lifted him into the air, and brought him down onto the floor with another vicious slam—
And the Boy Wonder's hand clenched triumphantly around the disc in his pocket. As Plasmus swung him upwards once more, towards the ceiling, Robin released the weapon, flinging it directly into Plasmus's bulbous eyes. The monster gave a deafening screech of agony, lurching dangerously to one side—and his massive body crashed through the brick and plaster of the wall behind them. The monster tumbled out into the empty space below, with Robin and Rose still trapped in his clutches. Robin gritted his teeth, and Rose had shut her eyes tightly; he could see that she was shaking, and realized that he was doing the same.
The three of them plummeted to the ground far below…and hit the pavement with a violent shudder that sent the people on the streets screaming in fear. Robin, trembling hard, and vision swaying, struggled to dig himself out of Plasmus's body, while off to the side, Rose did the same.
The sky above rumbled.
Plasmus gave a feeble roar, but the fall had taken a toll on him, and, as Robin glanced up towards the sky, rain began to trickle down from the clouds that had been gathering over time. The monster could only allow the rain to begin washing him away, until little by little, the man inside was revealed, now fast asleep.
"Well…" the Boy Wonder said, laughing slightly to cover up the fact that he was still recovering from their fall. "Guess that's over."
Rose didn't answer, but stumbled over to where he was standing, looking at him with almost pleading eyes, and said weakly:
"Can we go to your dad's now?"
It only figured with his luck that he would get stuck in the middle of a thunderstorm.
Holocaust carefully picked his way through the ruins of the city, cringing and edging away from the downpour; while he'd been trying his best to keep beneath overhangs and particularly large shelters of debris, raindrops had occasionally made contact with his body, burning through his trench like acid and stinging his skin.
Infernal water…damn it all…odds were, if he hadn't gone over that cliff in the first place, there was no way he'd have this sensitive a reaction to the storm.
All the more reason to rip that stupid girl limb from limb when he finally got his hands on her.
Now: If he could just get past the slight problem that he didn't have a clue where to begin looking for the Titans—who seemed to have vanished along with the destruction of their city—then everything would be just peachy.
He just needed a sign, or something like that, to give him a nudge in the right direction, that was all.
Fate, as it would have it, was feeling kindly towards him, and obliged.
Somewhere over his head, Holocaust heard the screech of a bird of prey as it passed overhead. He glanced upwards, irritated that the noise had disrupted his concentration, and was briefly considering whether or not he should throw a fireball at it the next time it slipped out from beneath the cloud cover—
And stopped short.
High in the air, an emerald hawk reappeared from behind the thunderheads, swooping and gliding on the thermals, always doubling back, and passing over the same area several times, as if it were looking for something…
The demon's orange eyes flickered with recognition, and the lips beneath his mask curled upwards in a wicked grin. With a new purpose in his step, Holocaust started after the hawk, tracking its progress.
Now we're getting somewhere…
Lucius paused in the middle of his description of Miss Kane's personal history.
"Was that the doorbell?"
"Yes," Alfred admitted, reluctantly setting down the pen he was using to scribble as many notes as possible. He hesitated, and then Fox spoke again, sounding a little amused.
"You aren't going to answer it?"
The butler resisted the urge to groan in his exasperation at being interrupted and placed the documents on the table beside the phone.
"I'll be right back," Alfred promised. "Don't hang up." He set the phone down on the table, and, crossing over the door opened it wide.
A man stood in the doorway smiling politely, with a briefcase in one hand. Alfred eyed him contemptuously, assuming that he was a door-to-door salesman.
"Yes, sir?" He asked, in a practiced, disdainful voice. "How may I help you?"
"My name is Mr. Thompson," the man said, introducing himself. "I'm a representative from a branch of Wayne Enterprises in England. There are a few things I'd like to discuss with Mr. Wayne. Is he here at the moment?"
The man gave him another bright smile that didn't reach his gray, frigid eyes.
Alfred looked him up and down silently, taking in every detail of his appearance, the disgust now replaced by curiosity and suspicion.
"I'm afraid not. He happens to be out, attending to a few personal matters at the moment. Would you like me to tell him that you happened to stop by? He can contact you later."
Thompson gave a chuckle.
"No, no; I'd hate to be any trouble to Mr. Wayne, like that. Will he be home soon, by any chance?"
"It's hard to tell," the butler replied, just barely keeping the waspish edge out of his voice. "Mr. Wayne is often out for hours at a time. It isn't his obligation to inform me where he might be, or what he shall be doing."
"Well then…I don't suppose it would be possible for me to wait here for awhile, just in case he returns early?" Thompson inquired airily.
The feeling of distrust tightened in Alfred's chest, though the neutral expression on his face never flickered for a moment.
"I suppose that would be all right," he replied calmly.
Alfred stepped to the side, allowing the man to pass across the threshold, eyes narrowing every so slightly.
"One moment please," the butler said, excusing himself courteously, as he strode off into the other room. He never turned his back on the other man for a second as he made his way over the phone and picked it up again.
"Lucius, I hope you don't mind waiting a bit longer for me," Alfred muttered into the phone, shooting a glare over his shoulder at Thompson who was innocently and obliviously looking about the main foyer. "Something's come up…"
"I'm from Cambodia; spent most of my childhood there, living with my mom, and receiving tons of martial arts training."
"Ah. So that would be what I saw back in the alleyway."
"Yup. Told you my upbringing was weird. You?"
"All over the place. Grew up in the circus, traveling, and meeting hundreds of different people, all the time…"
"The circus, eh?"
"My parents were the star acrobats: The Flying Graysons."
"I think I've heard of them…"
Rose gave a thoughtful pause, and tilted her head back to let the raindrops wash over her face and hair, as the two of them strode along the packed sidewalk. They were the only ones who had been caught in the weather without an umbrella—although neither of the teenagers were particularly perturbed by this.
"So, that's how you ended up with Batman, then?"
"Wasn't that exciting?"
"I guess so."
Rose snorted, and shook her head.
"I'll never understand you, you know that?"
Robin laughed and patted her shoulder sympathetically.
"Don't worry. You're not the only one."
"I feel so much better now…"
Robin chuckled again, and they walked on for a bit, content with listening to the sound of the rain spatter against the sidewalk.
"You keep mentioning your mother," he said finally, hoping that he wasn't about to anything incredibly stupid. Beside him, Rose's shoulders straightened a bit, since she probably guessed where he was going with this. "What about your father?"
"I already told you this," Rose insisted in a dull voice. "I didn't know him at all. He didn't want me—end of story. What do I care about him anyway?" She added, growling more to herself than to Robin.
"But don't you ever wonder about him?"
"Yeah. I guess."
"Do you know anything about him?"
"Uh-huh. I guess you could say that…although most of it's from stories that my mom or Wintergreen told me, or what I discovered more on my own."
"Huh…tell me about him?"
Rose stiffened indignantly.
"Why not?" Robin shot back.
"Because that's none of your business!"
"But I told you about my dad right off!"
"No you didn't," Rose countered. "You lied to me the first time we met!"
"Well…okay…" Robin admitted. "But I told you eventually. And besides, it's not like anything you say would be that big of a deal to me. I'm a hero, Rose—I've seen enough whacked out stuff. I'm not surprised by much anymore."
Rose glared at him a moment longer, before dropping her defensive expression.
"I guess I forgot…"
"My dad…" Rose sighed, and swept her bedraggled hair back from her forehead, before laughing cynically. "I can't believe I'm telling you this…my dad was a mercenary."
Robin blinked, trying his best to look surprised.
"I know, I know, it sounds totally insane, but it's true. He traveled all over the world, killing people for a living."
She stopped and looked at him, as if to make sure that he was taking her seriously.
"Well…" He began, searching for the right words. "That's…really unexpected."
Rose snorted, and Robin had to crack up as well at how stupid he'd just sounded.
"Seriously, though," he continued. "Did he really…?"
"Yup. Along with his buddy that I told you about, Mr. William Wintergreen; I guess you could say they were sort of like partners…"
"Hmm. You kind of hinted at this stuff last month… So, is that how he met your mom?"
"You got it. He was in Cambodia at the time, with my mom, and his mission was to be her escort. Only, while doing so—"
"They fell in love." Robin concluded, and Rose nodded again.
"That's how I came to exist."
They strode along quietly for the next few minutes, before Robin spoke.
"You keep saying 'was,' or 'did this,' or something like that, as if your dad's dead. Is he?"
Rose shrugged, averting her eyes from his. Robin waited patiently, and before long, the girl gave an exasperated groan, and threw her hands up in the air.
"Jeez! How do you do that?" She snapped at him, and the Boy Wonder allowed himself a quick, self-satisfied smile, before staring her down once more.
"Is he dead?" He repeated.
Rose groaned, and stared at her feet as she shuffled along.
"I honestly don't know. I really don't. Remember when he left me?"
"That's the last time I ever saw him," she explained. "I really don't know what ever happened to him after that. I couldn't tell you." She didn't speak for a moment or two, before going on in a softer, more grief-stricken voice. "Sometimes, I find myself thinking about him…and I hope, and pray that, even if…if he is what he is, that he's still alive, still out there…thinking about me. And even though a lot of people would consider him evil, maybe even you yourself…" She shook her head suddenly, and quickened her pace, Robin jogging after her to keep up.
"What?" He pressed. "What is it? What were you going to say?"
"No," Rose growled, stomping away, ignoring the looks that they were attracting. "It's stupid and sentimental, and it'll sound weird. I don't want to say it."
Robin lunged forward and grabbed her arm, twirling her around to face him. Rose's eyes flashed bitterly, and she tugged viciously, but he dug his fingertips into her arm—applying just enough pressure to get her to stop struggling—and stared her down.
"You think I care about that?" He asked her earnestly, quietly, almost sadly. "It's okay…I won't think any less of you for it, if that's what you're worried about—I'd be a moron if I did."
Rose had stopped pulling away, and was watching him with a guarded expression. They paid absolutely no attention to the teeming, muttering masses that edged around them, before Rose gave one more half-hearted tug, and Robin released her.
They started walking again, slowly, each one taking great pains not to even look the other's way. And then, much to Robin's surprise, Rose began mumbling under her breath, never once glancing up at him:
"Sometimes I wish that he'll come back and find me…that he'll take me away from this boring life that I've been trapped in…I hate being here, living this average, day to day existence, especially when I see you people like you and your friends swooping around, and saving the day from evil…I want to see him again…and I want him, more than anything else, to love me…"
Rose's steps had faltered every so often as she had gone on, and now she had halted entirely, directly in the middle of the sidewalk. Robin stood there, seeing another side of Rose; a side that, he had a feeling, she didn't reveal to many others. The rain continued to trickle down gently, soaking them to the bones—and for a minute Robin could have sworn he saw a tear slip down her cheek, before mixing with the rain.
And, despite the fact that he had sworn earlier to himself that he wouldn't reveal anything truly personal, should she and Slade ever cross paths, Robin found his mouth moving, and words flowing from his mouth before he could stop himself.
"You know…it's really weird…even though everyone knows we split up, tons of people still seem to be under the impression that Bruce and I are really close," Robin whispered, not looking at her now. "They all think that it was just some stupid stunt that I pulled, because I'm a teenager now, and want to prove that I can be independent…and sometimes I just want to grab them and beat them around the heads a couple of times…Everyone thinks that we're the 'perfect father and son duo,' but…but we're not…
"And, even though I act like a hothead, and pretend that I don't care, all I…all I want is for things to be the way they were before I left. I want to be able to talk to him, to not feel awkward, or like I'm trying to make a sad attempt at reuniting us…Both of us feel the same way, I think, but…I think we're both too scared to admit to the other, because we're worried about what their reaction might be, and that we might end up looking like an idiot, because the other couldn't really care less…that's how I feel anyway…although I've always been good at reading Bruce." Robin stopped to chuckle quietly.
"I only wish…I only wish there was some way to be closer to him again…that's all I want from him…because after my mom and dad died, he's the only one that I've ever met who's come close to replacing them…I just want to know that he loves me…"
Rose didn't speak for a moment, absorbing this information.
"Sounds like you and me are in the same boat, with our messed up lives," she told him bluntly, and Robin couldn't help but begin to laugh. Rose cracked a smile, and before long, the two of them were leaning on one another for support, as they stumbled down the sidewalk, laughing hysterically and causing passerby to give them a wide berth.
To be Continued…
(Laughs manically) I finished! Ha…I think I'm going to collapse…ugh…anyway, so again, like I said, I feel bad. Please don't yell—although you guys are so nice to me that you usually don't—and just give me feedback. While it's not my best chapter ever written, considering the chapter before this, I feel satisfied. And that's the important thing, right? Oh, btw: Anyone dressing up for Halloween? Just curious…well…I've, uh…I've gotta go, but I'll be back soon. I promise…I just need to catch up on some sleep, that's all…just need to…(giggles, and collapses in a dead faint)