Pain (1/

Title: Pain (1/?)

Author:  Maven Cree mavencree@hotmail.com

Rating:  PG

Disclaimer:  Any characters previously mentioned in a DC comic, I do not own.  DC does.  I'm not making money off of this. 

Continuity: Comic book.

Summary: 

Warnings:  Heavy emotional stuff.  Some violence.

©April 2001

**********************************************************************************************

"The ally secure?"

"Yes."

"Any problems?"

"No."

"Stop it."

"Okay."

Batman clenched his fists tightly; the firm weave in his gloves could be heard crackling against itself.

The young men present tried with all that was in them to keep a stone straight face, staring straight out into the Gotham night skyline.  But they weren't strong enough.

Robin let a small snort escape, which caused Nightwing to bite on his own lips in a futile attempt to suppress a smile.  Both completely lost it a moment later, erupting in laughter so hard they had to hold their stomachs for the pain.

Batman gave a weary sigh.

They'd been teasing him all night.  A sadistic twist of imitating his stone faced demeanour while responding to his questions in precise grim unison using only one-word sentences.

Dick's idea.  Torturing the Bat: one of his few true pleasures in life.

He'd been in Gotham that day visiting his favourite girl, a certain red headed on-line goddess.  When night fell, he decided to join his mentor and his little brother on patrol for a few hours before heading back to Bludhaven.

As a joke, he thought that Batman needed a small dose of his own medicine.

The game had been going on for nearly three hours, in-between the muggings, robberies and car jackings.  Batman pretended that nothing out of the ordinary was going on… that they weren't getting to him.

But it was obvious now that they were.

"Don't you have your own city to look after, Brat?"  He asked dryly.

"Yeah…" Nightwing replied calming down, a wide grin still plastered across his face.  "I guess I should be looking in on ole Rol—"

"Guys!  Come in!  Are you there?!"

"Go ahead, Oracle." Batman replied.  All humour ended as the three listened through their respective communicators to the urgency in Oracle's voice.

"My dad's under fire!  Midtown Warehouse district—"

"We're on our way, Babs!" Nightwing responded as the three went over the side of the building.  They threw out de-cell cables to slow their approach to the ground below.  The Batmobile's engines fired sending the current dynamic duo rocketing towards the Warehouse district.  Nightwing on his modified cycle was right on their tail.

**********

"Montoya, Report!" Gordon barked into his radio.  He heard the spray of automatic gunfire, both from his own position and from the detective's via the radio.

"I'm pinned behind the south wall!" Renee Montoya responded when she could.  The south wall was made of thick cement blocks that was several feet wide, but was only three feet high and being picked off readily.  The detective second grade was staying as low and as close to it as she could.

"Had to abandon the car!  They're armour piercers, Commissioner!"

Commissioner Gordon, squatting behind the engine block of his own car, started as a bullet passed through the car door just inches from his face.

"Tell me about it." He muttered to himself.  "Where's Allen?!" He inquired of her partner.

"He was around back when – *DIOS!* – when the shooting started!"

"Montoya?!"

"That last one ricocheted a little close!"

"Back up's on the way!"

The side mirror near his head exploded, a shard of it cutting him in the temple.

I've gotta get outta here, he thought.

There was an explosion from within the warehouse where most of the gunfire was hailing.

This warehouse was *supposed* to be empty.  Commissioner Gordon, Lieutenant Bullock as well as Detectives Montoya and Allen were there to inspect it as a possible location for an important sting operation that the GCPD was planning.  A perimeter sweep was customarily done first.  The two detectives went to investigate the south and west sides.  Lieutenant Bullock was on the north and the Commissioner investigated the east.  It shouldn't have taken more than ten minutes.  But no sooner had they split up than they found themselves under siege.

The gunfire seemed to cease momentarily following the explosion.  Jim managed to hazard a glance around the front of the car.  He could see a high orange glow emitting from the high row of window on the building.

A fire.  He didn't waste anymore time, and ran for more secure cover behind a nearby cement storage shed.

He was about to try contacting the Lieutenant when the gunfire started up again.

**********

On the north side of the warehouse, Lieutenant Bullock clicked off his radio.  The voices of his fellow officers could prove to be a liability to him at the moment.  Two heavily armed men were investigating a little to closely to his current position amongst  several large oil drums.  Bullock released his clip and quietly reloaded.

**********

Damn, damn, dammit, Det. Allen swore to himself.  There were three armed gunmen headed straight for him.  He was crouching behind a pile of steel pipes, and was able to see his enemy between the cracks in the ropes.  There was nowhere else for him to take cover.  At least nowhere he could get to before being thoroughly air-conditioned.

They hadn't seen him yet, but they were getting closed.  Fifteen feet… Ten… Eight…

There were several thuds accompanied by several grunts and clanking sounds.  Allen peaked through the ropes again, but couldn't see anyone.  He chanced a glance around the side and saw all three gunmen lying unconscious on the pavement. 

Someone touched Allen on his shoulder and he bolted forward into a roll, coming up in a crouch, his gun poised towards his previous position.

The young boy who stood there held his hands up defensively.  "Whoa!  It's me Detective."  He said quickly.

"Robin?"  Det. Allen took his finger off the trigger and lowered his weapon.

"Are you alright, sir?"

"I'm fine." He replied standing.  He looked around cautiously, his eyes coming to rest on the three inanimate thugs.  "Never thought I'd be so glad to see a kid in a costume.  You do this?"

"Yessir." Robin replied.  He and the detective both preceded to disarming and securing the unconscious men, Robin retrieving his batarangs as they went.  "Batman and Nightwing are here too.  Any idea what's going on?"

"None."  He replied.  "But it's a good guess we interrupted somebody's schedule.  Looks like they're torching the evidence."

Allen looked up and around, but he found that aside from the perps, he was now alone.

**********

Officer Montoya peeked around the side of the wall, staying as close to the ground as she possibly could.  The shots in her direction stopped almost completely.  There was the distinct sound of a large metal door opening from the warehouse.  She dared to look a little further and saw several guards emerging from the building, armed to the teeth and escorting a large armoured vehicle that was moving at walking speed.

"Oh, mamma…" she muttered.  "This is *not* good."

A loud 'clang' noise caught her attention and she could just barely make out a line that had clamped onto the side of the truck and extended to somewhere on the top of the warehouse.  From the roof source, the line lit up with electrical currant and upon reaching the truck, shorted out all of its electrical systems.  The vehicle rolled to a stop and five men emerged, joining their comrades, ready for battle.

Montoya checked her clip.  Seven shots left.  Eleven baddies that she had counted.

**********

They'd seen him.

Lieutenant Bullock wasn't exactly the kind of man that was easy to hide.

The two gunmen opened fire, their bullets sawing through the oil barrels like so much paper.  But although he was a big man, Harvey could move when he really wanted to… or really needed to.  He stood up and fired, one instantly dropping one of the gunmen.  The remaining shot at the officer, catching his trench coat.  Bullock dropped him as well.

He stood and cocking his weapon, emerged from the stacked barrels.  Cautiously he kicked the guns away from the bodies of his would-be assailants.  He was correct in guessing they were wearing vests under their large jackets.

That's why he'd aimed for their heads.

These two wouldn't be a burden to the legal system anymore.

And Bullock wouldn't loose any sleep over it.

Suddenly the wind was knocked out of the officer as he felt himself being tackled to the ground from behind.  Simultaneously, there was the sound of automatic gunfire as well as a cascade of the oil drums being toppled over onto each other.

**********

The gunfire picked up once more, but surprisingly it didn't seem to be in her direction.

Steeling another look around the corner again, Renee saw the would-be assailants, firing wildly and falling to the ground as a dark figure enveloped them, two and three and four at a time.

It was over in seconds.

All eleven lay sprawled around the truck in various stages of injury.  The large dark figure was inspecting the vehicle—just in case.

Montoya approached and immediately began cuffing one of the men.

"All clear?" She questioned.

"Yes."

Batman was securing the other criminals with plastic ties.  He glanced up only long enough to toss the officer a few of them as she only had one pair of cuffs.

As she finished, Batman fully opened the doors at the back of the van.  Montoya joined him a moment later and her eyes grew wide.

Hundreds dollar bills.  Thousands… maybe millions of them.  All bundled together and sealed in a clear plastic wrapping.

"Madre Dios…This is Treasury Level."

"There haven't been any bank hits in the area, separate or total to produce that amount of money." Commented a voice from behind them.  Batman didn't seem fazed by it, but Renee jumped.  She turned to see Commissioner Gordon approaching, securing his gun into his holster.

"They're not bank robbers.  Their too advanced for a simple cash theft."  Batman said.  He tapped the side of his cowl, switching to his sights to an infer-red scan.  "This is payment."

"For what?" Renee questioned.

"We'll hopefully get some answers once the fire department gets done with this building."

She nodded.  "Heard anything from Harvey, yet?"

**********

Allen found Robin kneeling on the back of an assailant, securing him with plastic ties.

"You know, one of these days you guys are gonna have to teach me how to do that disappearing thing." He said.

Robin looked up and him and smiled.  "Sorry.  We're trained to move fast."

"So I've noticed.  I'm heading to the north side."  Allen said.  "Bullock hasn't been responding.  He might be in trouble."

"That's where Nightwing was going." Robin replied.  "I'll go with you."

**********

Flattened out on his stomach, the air began to return to Bullock's lungs.  Moving slightly he became aware of a heavy weight lying across his back like a shielding blanket.  He turned his head and immediately saw a black-gloved hand with a midnight blue streak resting beside his face.

Bullock sighed and closed his eyes.  "Alright kid.  Geddoffa me." he said rolling onto his side.  The weight slid to the ground beside him.  "I think the coast is clear."  He brought himself up onto one knee and looked at the pile of barrels.  He could make out two distinct shapes sticking out of the millet: a limp human hand and the end of an automatic rifle.  "That's gonna hurt." He muttered.  When he realized his young companion wasn't engaging in his expected smart-mouthed banter, Bullock cast a look down at the vigilante who was now sprawled out on his back.

Nightwing's eyes were closed tight.  His teeth were clenched together and his breathing was extremely laboured. He seemed to be in a great amount of pain, but wasn't making any attempt to voice that.

"Hey kid?" Bullock said, lightly nudging him in the shoulder.  "You oka—"

He stopped when the flickering light from the warehouse fire drew his attention to dark spot growing into the blue stylized wing that crossed the young man's chest.

"Aw, jeez…" he swore and fished his radio out of the pocket of his trench coat.

"Commish!"  He yelled into the radio.  "Nightwing's down!  Repeat:  Nightwing is down!"

**********

Robin and Allen were almost to the north side when the call came out over the short range.  A quick glance at each other and their quick jog broke out into a run.  They rounded the corner to find Lieutenant Bullock surrounded by three bodies.  He was tending to one of them.

"Nightwing!" Robin exclaimed a moment before skidding to a halt beside his fallen brother.  He knelt down beside him.

"Wing?"

Nightwing didn't respond, nor did he open his eyes.  Instead, he raised his hand, which Robin dutifully took in his and gave a light squeeze.  There was slow stream of bubbled blood coming from the side of his mouth, which Robin knew meant there had been lung damage.

"You're gonna be okay, Wing."  Robin told him.  "Just hang in there."

A moment later a shadow fell over the group as Batman descended on them.  He touched something on his belt before moving to inspect his protégé's wounds.  Not long afterwards Commissioner Gordon and Det. Montoya ran up.  The other two officers joined them, standing nearby but at a respectable distance.

"Damn kid saved my life." Bullock muttered before the Commissioner could ask.  "I counted three entries.  Tore right through that Kevlar junk."

Gordon watched as Batman disconnected his long cape and placed it over the boy.  They could see that Nightwing was trying to say something to him.  Batman shook his head slightly and they could just barely hear him tell the boy not to talk.

Sirens could be heard in the near distance and were becoming louder.

Jim stepped forward.

"Batman, there's an ambulance coming.  We can—"

"No."

"But, Batman…!" Robin implored.

"The Doctor is closer."  He said cutting him off in a low voice.

There was a screech of tires as the Batmobile skidded around the corner and came to a stop.

Batman gingerly picked up his fallen son and the care with which he did it was not lost on the officers gathered there.

"Take the cycle." He said to Robin as the boy opened the passenger door for him.  He nodded mutely and took off, flashing police lights approaching in the distance.

Once Nightwing was secure and the door closed, Batman looked to the police officers, gave a curt nod and slid into the driver's seat.

The Batmobile peeled away, the sound of sirens singing in the air.  The first cars stopped around the front and began picking up the men tied to the poles.

Commissioner James Gordon jutted his chin out authoritatively.

"This never happened."  He said firmly, before they were joined by anyone else.

"What?" Montoya questioned.  Gordon turned to face them.

"This never happened." He repeated.  "Nightwing.  As far as anyone else in concerned, Nightwing never left Bludhaven tonight.  He wasn't here and he was never… He wasn't here.  Batman and Robin showed up and helped us out.  No one was injured.  No one who counts anyway.  Understand?" He added.

"You want us to falsify our reports?" Allen asked in surprise.

The Commissioner stood nose to nose with the Detective, his eyes flaring.

"You heard what I said, Detective.  Infer from it what you will." He hissed, enunciating each word. "You're still pretty new to Gotham...  Perhaps you're just not *aware* of what those men have done for the city, not the least of which was just saving the life of your Lieutenant."

Montoya grabbed her new partner's arm and pulled him back slightly from their angry superior.  "He understands, Commissioner.  This *never* *happened*, *right* Allen?" She stressed.

Two police cruisers pulled up.  The uniformed officers got out and approached the low talking group.

The Commissioner carefully looked the Detective in his eye.  Detective Allen looked back just as carefully.  After a moment, he raised his own chin decidedly.

"Right."  He finally replied.

Jim nodded and the officers went about their business of organizing a cleanup of the mess.

**********

It was the longest drive to the Gotham Medical Centre that Batman had ever taken.

From the Midtown Warehouse district to the nearest hospital was a fifteen-minute drive in the Batmobile.  From the district to the DMC should have taken exactly eleven minutes, seventeen seconds.

Batman made it in six.  Robin hadn't even arrived yet.

In the car, Nightwing's ragged breathing cut into his very soul.

Dr. Leslie Thompkins was waiting for them at the secret entrance when they arrived.  She helped place the injured hero on a surgical bed.  She informed him that Alfred was on his way.  She began tending to him and Alfred arrived to help, not long after the current Boy Wonder.  Bruce was unceremoniously kicked out of the medical area to allow the healers to do their work.

Two hours passed, sometime during which, Barbara Gordon arrived.

She was surprised and pained to see Batman there.  She'd expected him to be out, taking his pain into the night, using it to fight evil.  The fact that he was still there told her how serious the situation was.

The Bat, in civilian garb, stood silently staring at the doors to the medical bay, his gaze intense as though he were *willing* his son to survive.

The medics emerged, their faces downcast.  By this time, there was nothing left of Oracle but a bundle of nerves and poor Tim had chewed his knuckles raw.  The Doctor told them they had done all that they could.  The only thing they could do was wait… and pray.

Nightwing… Dick Grayson was very weak.

They weren't certain he would survive the night.

Each member of the sad party took time sitting with the hero.

It was near dawn when Bruce took his turn. 

The drowning sound of the ventilator and heart monitor echoed quietly in the tiny room.  Bruce sat down in a chair beside the bed.  His mind flickered back to when he'd found Dick at the warehouse.

He'd apologized.

Dick had just had three bullets pass through his chest and he was apologizing to Batman.

He apologized for messing up.  Bullock had killed two assailants.  No one, good guy or bad, was supposed to die on their watch.  It was their cardinal rule.  And he'd failed.  He wasn't fast enough.  And all he could do to save Bullock from the third gunman was to set in motion the domino affect that buried the man in the barrels, before diving to push the hefty Lieutenant of the way of the gunfire.

The very life was bleeding out of him, and he was still apologizing.

Batman had told him not to talk, to save his strength.  He also told him he had nothing to be sorry about.  He'd saved the officer.  He'd done his job.

He was proud of him.

Nightwing gave the beginnings of a weak smile.

Then he lost consciousness.

Sitting at his bedside Batman would have sold his soul to the Joker to see Dick open his eyes right then.

But the only movement in the room was the blip on the heart monitor, the pump of the assisting ventilator and the rise and fall of the young man's chest…

…which slowed with every breath…

**********

Clark Kent adjusted his tie nervously.  This was going to be a big day.  A banner day.

Full Disclosure day.

A month ago, his long-time 'friend' Bruce Wayne, known by some as Batman, had been unceremoniously booted out of the JLA amongst feelings of betrayal.

Not two weeks later, Batman and his followers had saved not only the JLA, but the entire world as well.  The heroes then were forced to swallow their hurt and their pride and admit that the JLA needed the Bat.  He was re-instated.

But there needed to be more.

There needed to be trust.

So Clark, sometimes known as Kal-El or as Superman and the Bat, decided to reveal their identities to the JLA.

Full disclosure.

Only Wonder Woman was aware of the subject of today's meeting.  A safeguard, Clark had joked, in case he or Bruce decided to chicken out.

The meeting was scheduled for 18:30hrs at the Watchtower.

It was 7:30 am and he was already a wreck.

Of course, that could be because he was about to have somewhat of a dry run of the evening's event.

Batman had given him permission to tell his wife, reporter Lois Lane, that he was really Bruce Wayne.

"Marriage is a subject I'm not too familiar with." He'd said.  "But I do know keeping things from your wife, can't be good.  Besides, from what a hear, Lois is pretty good at keeping certain *discretionary* secrets."

He couldn't argue with that.  And he really didn't like keeping secrets from his wife.

But how to go about it?  He'd been going over it in his head all morning.

Lois was currently in their kitchen.

He figured he would casually walk in, pour himself a glass of juice and say:

"I'll be heading to Gotham first tonight to pick up Bruce.  I think it would be better if we arrived at the Watchtower at the same time."

And she'd say:

"Bruce?"

And he'd say:

"Yeah, Bruce.  Bruce Wayne.  If we're going to reveal our identities to the JLA together, we should probably…"

And that's where she would cut him off, putting the two together.

He just hoped the kitchen would sustain any possible damage that was inflicted after that.

Clark walked into the kitchen to find his wife in front of the small counter-top television set holding a cup of coffee.  She 'tsked' unhappily.

"What a shame." She said to no one in particular.

"What's wrong?" Clark asked.

"Do you remember Richard Grayson?  The boy Bruce Wayne took in some years ago?"

Clark began to pour a cup of coffee and smiled to himself.  "Yes." He replied plainly.

"He's dead."

SMASH!

"What?!"

Lois looked at her startled husband who (obviously) didn't seem to be bothered by the broken coffee pot or the hot liquid, which had splashed all over him when the pot hit the floor.

"Clark, what—"

"Dick Grayson? Are you *sure*?"

"Yes.  He was shot in a mugging last night.  What—?"

"You're *positive*?!"

"Clark…" Lois picked up the remote and began flipping through the channels.  She caught the end of the GNN report.  The caption above the anchor's left shoulder read "Richard John Grayson" and his dates.

"Police are keeping details of the incident quiet at this time and Bruce Wayne has yet to be reached for comment.  Onto other overnight news: The police raid two nights ago at the Midtown Wareho…"

Lois clicked off the set.

"See."  She said and turned to face her husband.  Her eyes grew wide with concern.  They Kryptonian who, barring any unfortunate contact with Kryptonite, always appeared to be the pinnacle of 'human' health and vigour, looked decidedly pale… ill.  He looked as though he could hit the floor at any moment.  She wasn't certain, but she thought he might be going into shock.

Lois helped him into a chair and knelt down beside him.  She placed a hand on his shoulder and another on his arm.

"Honey, what is it?"

"…I—I can't believe he's… gone…" he said just above a whisper.

Lois shook her head.  "I know it's… a terrible thing.  I mean, I heard he's turned out to be a fine young man, but… We've only met him once or twice and that was *years* ago.  I don't understand why you're taking this so hard?  It's—it's not like we really *knew* him…"

Clark, who had been resting his face in his hands, began to shake his head.

"No… Lois… I *did* know him.   I know him well.  He—Dick Grayson—Lois, he was—family… like—a nephew to me…"

"What?  Clark, what are you talking… You're not making any sense.  I now you and Bruce talk sometimes, but…"

"Lois…" He took his wife's hands and looked her in the eyes.  "Dick Grayson is… was… …Nightwing."

"…Nightwing…?" she whispered in disbelief.

She has always known the young vigilante was important to Clark and always felt somewhat slighted that she was forced to be excluded from such an important part of her husband's life.  Ever since the boy flew over the skies of Gotham as Robin (something she had figured out on her own but never revealed) Clark had always praised the young boy's accomplishment's  with pride.  For years she'd been privy to the changing voice of an adolescent who politely refused to give his name, asking to speak to Clark and then hearing her partner's half of the conversation, dispensing friendly advice, or just lending a warm ear.

Dick Grayson was Nightwing?

Dick Grayson was dead…

Dear god…

"Honey, I…" she breathed, trying to find a way to consol her troubled mate.  But what could she say?  She was…

Dick Grayson was Nightwing…

…Bruce Wayne was…

Her eyes grew wide again.

"Bruce Wayne…" she whispered.

Clark nodded sadly.

"The meeting tonight… we were planning to reveal our identities to the rest of the JLA.  No more secrets.  I was… coming in here to tell you first… about Bruce… and Dick."  He shook his head and leaned back in his chair.

"Well.  You're not going to any meeting today.  And you're not going into work either."

"Honey, I'm fine."

"The hell you are.  Aside from a bout with the green stuff, I've never seen you look so ill!"

"I can't just sit here all day."

"*Yes*, you can." She said standing.  "I'll clear things with Perry and be back here in an hour."

"Lois, you don't have to…"

She silenced him with a kiss.

"When are you gonna learn to shuddap and just listen to your wife?  Most husbands would have learned that by now!" She berated with a smile.

"Yes, dear." He replied and quirked a partial smile.  It didn't reach his eyes.

"I'd better call Diana; let her know I won't be there."

Lois had an odd look on her face.

"Do you think… I mean, will HE still be there?  You're always telling me how driven he is."

Clark shook his head.  "No.  He may appear to be made of stone, but he loves… loved that boy with all of his heart."

Lois nodded.  She grabbed her purse, gave him another comforting kiss and departed.

Clark remained where he was for nearly ten minutes.  He then cleaned up the mess he'd made and changed his clothes.

Returning to the living room, he dialled Diana Prince's number.

A teary voice answered the phone.

"Hello?"

"Diana?"

"Oh, Clark, did you hear?"

"Dick?"

"I can't believe it!  I just saw it on the news."

"Me too."

"You don't buy that mugging story do you?"

"I didn't hear all of what happened, but a simple mugging is doubtful."

"Have you contacted Bruce?"

"I'm debating whether or not I should do that.  You know how… private he is.   It's not likely he'll be wanting to speak to anyone right now, let alone me."

"You don't give yourself enough credit." Wonder Woman said quietly.  "But you have to do what you feel is right.  Should we cancel the meeting?"

"Bruce won't be there, and I… Lois… I won't be there either.  But the others are going to wonder…"

"I'll tell them.  I'll explain everything."

"Thank you, Diana."

"Take care, Clark."

The long-time friends and teammates disconnected.

Clark leaned back in his sofa and stared silently into dead space for several long minutes.

"Dammit, Dick.  What happened?"

**********

PAIN IS JUST BEGINNING…