This plot had come to me a century ago, but never got the time to write it. Finally, I was struck with motivation, and went on to write this in one sitting (Yay me!) This was inspired by my own experiences with watching the crime shows my parents always watch; I'd often wondered what all those murder terms were supposed to mean, until I finally searched the subject in the internet. Yes, I did do quite a huge amount of research for this, but if some of the terminologies are wrong, forgive me.
Warnings: Mild OOC, AU (?), character death, and not necessarily for the squeamish.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Teen Titans and Batman, nor 'Interlude' by My Chemical Romance.
Since we talked alone...
Come angels of unknown...
Come angels of unknown...
There were two photographs in front of him.
It had been a particularly slow Thursday in Gotham City, and he didn't have much to do as both Bruce Wayne and Batman. Feeling a bit sluggish, maybe from two many glasses of wine, he decided to do something he rarely did: he watched the television.
One had the picture of a young face; no more than a boy, sixteen years old at the most. His black hair was spiked with gel but still managed to look soft. The expression on the boy's face was a cross between determination, arrogance, and compassion at the same time; an eyebrow raised curiously, a smirk tugging at his lips. There was a domino-colored mask over his eyes, but he knew them to be a vivid, crystal blue. Just like his.
No one who had never met him could ever guess that beneath that mask were the eyes of a tragedy.
He idly toyed with the remote with his nimble fingers, twirling it round and round as he flipped the channels, in search of something worth watching. It seemed that all that constantly being showed on the tube were the video versions of junk food. Finally, he stumbled upon a crime film that he'd already seen before; oh well, beggars can't be choosers.
There was only fifteen minutes into the film when he heard a noise outside the door. Creaky floorboards and a thump against the wood signified the only child in the house.
"Dick? I know you're out there."
There was a murmur that sounded quite like 'Aw man! Ace, you totally blew our cover!'
The doorknob turned and there appeared a boy of about nine or ten, his dark hair disheveled, his red shirt and brown cargo shorts rumpled and dirty beyond belief, and a mischievous look on his innocent face. A big Doberman trailed behind him.
"What were you doing?"
Dick stared at his sneakers, obviously embarrassed. "I… I was…" he stammered.
"Come on, out with it."
"I wanted to watch your grown-up show too, but Alfred told me they weren't for kids," he stated, with none of the unease he'd displayed earlier.
He felt the edges of his mouth curling into a half-smile. "Well, let's say that just this once Alfred's wrong. There's room for two people on the couch, sport." He patted the space beside him. It won't do any harm; there was minimal violence and more critical and in-depth thinking in the movie. It would enhance the boy's analytical skills.
A wide grin brightened up Dick's face. "Ace too?"
"Well, he can come in, but he has to stay on the floor."
He'd seen it all happen. He'd been in the circus tent the night they fell, helplessly seeing them plummet to their deaths the night they left their son alone to fend for himself in the world. He'd experienced his pessimistic and angry attitude the first few weeks since the adoption; he'd been there when the fury and denial was replaced with acceptance and indifference, which, slowly, morphed back into what he was supposed to be. A little boy, now orphaned, but learning to move on from the past.
His nightmares lessened, his cynical behavior overshadowed with his respectful one. Then, that turned to admiration, then attachment, and, lastly, love for his surrogate father, the sagely and kind butler, the seemingly-fierce but affectionate dog, and the new life he now has to live.
It took some time, but the end result was wonderful.
They might be an unconventional, if but strange one, but the occupants of Wayne Manor were a family.
It had been half an hour since Dick had sat behind him, but he was uncharacteristically quiet, utterly focused on the different scenes, as if trying to memorize the flow of the script and needed total concentration. Finally, before he had the chance to inquire if he was alright, the boy spoke up, gaze directed at his with what appeared like confusion.
"Bruce, can I ask you something?"
Dick pointed at the characters on the screen, who were currently suspended in the aftermath of a courtroom battle.
"You know when Bob killed the other guy? Patrick? Well, what did Judge Krabbs mean by 'second-degree' murder? Like, after the lawyer, Ms. Cheeks, asked for a lowered sentence?"
He was impressed with Dick's attentiveness, but the question was met with mirth. "Well, that's just how it is with the law. There are different kinds of murders, murderers, and sentences."
"What do you mean 'why?'"
"I meant exactly that. Why is it all so complicated? What's second-degree murder, or first-degree murder, and is there a third-degree murder? Why are all the punishment times different? Why are the killers allowed to go out early with 'parole'?" He drummed his smallish digits on the plush leather of the sofa as he talked.
The queries were sent one after the other, loaded with a lust for knowledge, but he couldn't resist but to humor the boy. "Well, that's how the constitution was made, so I guess you'll have to take it up to the Supreme Court."
"Why are you so insistent about this, Dick? There were reasons underneath those laws, even if they're not always clear. You have to evaluate the situation carefully. I taught you that."
But even that was taken from him, two times already.
The other photo was unusual and maybe even eerie. A man's headshot was covered with a metal helmet of some sort, the other half of it seemed to be made out of bronze, with slits at the bottom of the 'face' probably for speaking and breathing. But the most unsettling feature was the man's one left eye, which was narrowed and cold. The color of the eyes were a stormy gray; vicious, cruel, and dishonorable. Even on computer ink and paper, evil radiated off him like an aura.
"But what's the difference? How do you know what the killer was thinking? How can you tell if they meant to kill or not? What if the judge and the jury and the evidence were wrong? And why does some murders have more sentence dates than others? Does it make the case less important? What's the big deal with classifying all these crimes? The point is, he killed a human being. Period. No questions asked."
Only now did he realize that Dick's bottom lip was trembling as it always did when he was about to cry, only furthered by the tears filling up in his eyes. And the profoundness of the question astounded him. It was amazing how a child's simple curiosity could overthrow all the reason in the world.
"It's just logical, Dick." He blurted out, for lack of something better, and immediately regretted it. He knew what Dick was thinking off, and the hurt in the boy's eyes were too much for even the World's Greatest Detective too bear, for he averted his to focus on the blue backwards baseball cap on Dick's head that completely clashed with his outfit.
"Well, logic is stupid." Dick's tone threatened to break, and one hot tear slipped from his eyelids and quickly descended his cheek. He wiped at it with the back of his hand, bowing slightly, fists clenching at his sides.
"Dick…" he began softly, inwardly cursing himself for his horrible blunder. He should have known.
"Forget it." Said the juvenile voice that suddenly sounded decades older, filtered with resentment and regret, and their host hopped off the couch and bolted to the entrance/exit, the door slamming hard with a loud 'boom.'
Bruce bleakly rubbed the bridge of his tall nose, feeling a migraine coming along. He'd made a mistake… again. Ace merely looked up at him with the deepest yet emptiest eyes he'd ever seen, offering no answers to his problem.
He'd never personally met the man, but the bastard had stolen more from him than anyone could ever dream of imagining.
When his ward had left to pursue a crime-fighting career of his own without the degrading position of 'sidekick,' things had never been the same at the manor. Somehow, he'd provided a ray of sunshine in the lonely and dismal place, and with him gone, a thick barrenness hung stale in the air.
He rarely heard from Dick, now to be called 'Robin,' when the Titans were formed, with only formal updates about the team's members and corresponding status. He'd never even known an inkling of who Slade was until the news was thrust into his face one morning.
Dick didn't talk to him and avoided him when he can over the next couple of days, rarely seen except during dinner and while he played and ran in the hallways with Ace. Alfred wondered what was going on, but chose not to pry and even satisfied the boy's wishes for a midnight snack of Tortillas and hot chocolate, if only to lessen the awkwardness in the large house.
Eventually, as most children do, he forgot about it, but by then, Bruce was busy with the company and donning the cape and cowl it barely made any discrepancy.
On second thought, maybe it did. A lot, actually.
He would never find out for sure, but maybe he could have taken it better if someone from his team informed him, or one of his co-Leagues, or a friend from the Jump Police. But it would have come anyway, and it did, served on a silver tray along with his morning coffee, a plate of waffles with syrup and fruit on the side, and a glass of orange juice, made with Alfred's tender loving care.
He gripped the handle of the coffee mug as he read the headline. He'd browsed the titles of most of the other articles on the front page before his gaze darted back to the bold black letters on the top in grave astonishment.
The Jump Daily Bulletin
TITAN LEADER SLAIN- ARCHENEMY SUSPECTED
The shock made his broad jaw drop, and the mug slipped from his fingers and unto his lap, then the floor. The heat of the liquid was painful and searing on his flesh, but all was ignored save for the phrase that suddenly repeated itself in his mind like a broken player.
'…the point is, he killed a human being. Period. No questions asked.'
No questions asked.
July 15, 2006, Thursday- The body of the leader of the Teen Titans, a crime fighting group situated in Jump City, was found by one of their members, the shape-shifting Beastboy…
Robin, who used to be the Batman's sidekick, lay dead on one of the building rooftops, where he was last seen the previous night by his teammates fighting the masked villain known as Slade…
If only he'd known before…
He was discovered with multiple injuries: four cracked ribs, a broken arm, a dislocated leg bone, crushed phalanges and numerous abrasions on his limbs and torso…
Autopsy revealed that though a bullet was found in his skull, the primary cause of death was interior bleeding when one of the cracked ribs pierced several internal organs and shut down the body's functions…
But it was too late.
The night prior to the death, a villain called Cinderblock had been released by Slade as confirmed by Jump City Municipal Jail's records and video feed to cause havoc in the city…
While the other Titans were occupied with fighting Cinderblock, Robin had gone after the mastermind and disappeared, his communicator deactivated…
The two allegedly had a dark history together as Robin was forced to temporarily work for the criminal to save his associates…
Robin was notorious for spending hour after hour locked in his room, obsessively researching about Slade's whereabouts…
The Titans are presently grieving for the loss of their beloved leader…
The funeral service is to be held on July 22, 2006… as a closed casket affair…
He should have known.
He took Slade's picture and stared at the eyes for what seemed an eternity. He wanted to know, to find out (why? why? why?) what it was inside of him that made him kill his son. His son!
At first, the only thing he'd wanted to do was to hunt down this 'Slade' and beat him senseless, torture him and make him plead for mercy before killing him, like he did to Robin…
…but he knew that he couldn't, shouldn't, wouldn't. Robin never wanted to kill anyone and justified that killing was unforgivable, and he carried that mindset with him, until his death…
He tentatively tore the paper in half, the tears in his eyes dried but nevertheless burning, silently grateful for his act of aloofness and maintained composure; the perfect deception of 'being okay,' proven throughout the years…
The two pieces he crumpled in his hands, deliberately, as if relishing the only revenge he could carry out against the man…
… and let the two paper balls fall to the ground, not making a sound.
His fingers closed over the photo of Dick (born Richard Grayson, alias Robin the Boy Wonder, leader, hero, son, lover, brother, friend…) and tried to picture the man he could have been but will never be, the smile of the child he'd grown to love like the one he never had but would never see again, except in his dreams…
It had all happened thirty years ago.
Slade Wilson was caught after ten years of the case being unsolved… He had been charged with various first-degree murders, including Dick's and many others, as well as scores of crimes in other cities, states, and countries such as robbery, armed assault, trespass, endangerment of innocents, etcetera, etcetera. He was sentenced with immeasurable counts of life in prison without parole, with more than 500 years for the added counts, and for Dick's case and twelve more, received the death sentence, through the lethal injection.
Not that it mattered anymore.