A/N: Yeah. You wanna know where really strange, abstract ideas come from? Sickness. This oddball idea of an Alcoholics-Anonymous-gone-Vigilante thing came to me a couple nights ago while lying sick in my bed. I don't know where it came from, I don't know where it's going and I don't really think it's that good. I just hope that someone out there accepts it for being a ill-muse idea and gives me advice on what can/cannot be fixed.
It's in an Alternate-Universe (hence AU), and I played with origins substantially. I also created a superhero (Silence) for the sake of filling up space.
This is not like the "Justice Lords" type of deal, but I can certainly see the parallels.
So there was a warning: Now you know that I really didn't know what I was doing when I wrote this.
Disclaimer--blah blah blah, do not own, shouldn't be able to write, covering my ass. DCAU/DC Comic stuff.
He attends the Meetings almost fanatically.
Richard Grayson still doesn't quite understand why he keeps going, but he does. He reasons that eventually he'll understand, but maybe for now he is only meant to wonder and observe.
Sometimes there are new faces. The young sit in the corner and fidget nervously in the back ring of chairs. The old and grizzled simply sit in their seats and lean forward, eyes saying what their lips never will.
Dick watches them file in warily and reflects that at some point he was one of them, careful of the world, not quite understanding why he was there, what he was trying to find, but he's slowly pulled out of that. Moving away from the outer ring of rickety folding chairs and forcing himself to sit closer to the podium, to truth and pain the question he still doesn't have an answer for has been both beneficial and agonizing.
Because he doesn't know why he keeps coming. But he just does.
Then again...they all do.
Vigilantes Anonymous is probably the proper name for this place, this dimly lit cement basement in the bowels of an old church at the corner of Gotham. They all stay here to hide from the Bat, each sworn to secrecy in that tacit silence that none of them dare break, and eventually in that quiet they begin to find that this dark room holds some type of strange comfort to them. They sneak in from their respective cities, some by the call of day, some by night, and bare their souls to a bunch of strangers.
Helena has told him that the experience is strangely cathartic, but he resists her pressure to go to the podium.
Instead, Dick watches. He stealthily sneaks in from the roof–making sure that the Bat or his cronies aren't near–and eventually climbs down to the basement staircase at exactly 12:45AM. The small card he carries with him opens the door and lets him in, and from there he takes his respective seat in the third row in the far left corner, back to a wall.
The Meetings start exactly at one o'clock, AM on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Dick is the first person in.
Helena–one of the few people he knows by name–Catwoman and Silence follow afterwards.
Helena sits on his right.
Catwoman gives him a dirty look and sits over in the distant right corner.
And Silence vanishes, then appears in the first row.
Stability doesn't exist outside the VANON meetings; Richard Grayson has fought his way through life ever since the night when his parents died and has survived on the very edge of poverty even up to now.
Maybe that is why he finds more comfort here, in this habitual, on-the-dot behavior of his comrades.
Helena–Huntress–nudges him in the side, pulling him out a reverie.
"...did you know he was going up today?"
Dick shakes his head, trying to focus.
Helena stares at him in amusement through her mask and rolls her eyes.
"Silence is going to go up today. Did you know that?"
Dick blinks and narrows his eyes at the black-clothed figure up front.
Silence turns around in his chair and gives Grayson a thumbs-up as Helena answers the rest, smiling.
A small smile on his part, and a shift in the chair. Dick leans back and crosses his arms over his chest.
Helena glances over at him. "What?"
"I never thought," Dick chuckles, "that out of all of us Silence would be the one to go up there."
Helena pushes him with her shoulder gently. "I told you that it's strangely cathartic, but you didn't believe me."
He shoots her a look, and the smile begins to fade. "Still don't."
Helena bobs her head slowly for a moment, considering this, before she shrugs.
"Your teenage-angst, Wing-Boy." she says, winking.
"Nightwing." He replies.
Another mischievous look. "Whatever."
The two sit in relaxed peace for a few moments longer as more and more people begin to file in. The costumes vary in color, vibrancy and fashion statements, but their basic job remains the same: keep the identity secret and save the oh-so-fragile alter-ego that resides beneath the latex skin, mask and face-paint.
"We're busy tonight," Helena observes as Dick glances up at the old seventies-clock hanging up on the wall.
He nods as one boy–dressed in vivid red, green and yellow–slips past the second row and seats himself three chairs away from Catwoman. She shoots him a deadly, dangerous look but the kid maintains his position.
Helena turns her attention elsewhere, shifting in her chair and turning around to speak with Wonder Girl. After a few seconds (Grayson doesn't pay attention to what the girls say to each other, probably doesn't really want to) the two explode into laughter.
Another glance at the clock. Dick notes with relief that there are only two minutes to starting time. Slowly but surely the stream of vigilantes entering the room starts to trickle down and then last, but not least, Steel locks down the door.
It should barely engage the human attention span, but the Question manages.
The click of shoes, the gentle swish of a tan trenchcoat fluttering in an AC breeze.
It's quiet, but they all hear it. The murmur of voices eventually rolls to a stop, the backs stiffen. Helena turns away from her conversation with Wonder Girl and then they all pay attention to the front, watching and pivoting their heads like owls to watch that faceless figure move his way towards center stage.
He waits a moment, making sure they all here him before clearing his throat.
"Good morning, Vigilantes."
It's like the gentle roll of a wave, voices starting from the back and reluctantly working themselves to the front.
"Good morning, Question."
Dick imagines that from behind the mask the Question smiles, amused at how the group doesn't speak as one and yet all deciding nanoseconds after each other that they should greet the man up front as he greeted them.
Together but independent, indeed.
"How are we all doing?"
Some shouts of fine, other murmurs of gibberish and the occasional frown. Helena leans forward in her seat and smiles broadly, eyes glued on the Question and the podium.
(Dick knows that she has a crush on the guy, but has decided to keep it to himself. He doesn't feel like getting pounded by an angry kung-fu female.)
The Question waits for the replies to die down before continuing.
"The month of December," he says, "is often difficult for many of us."
Murmurs of agreement.
"No families, jobs that are less than appealing, and here–in Gotham anyway--there is that bitter cold that sticks to your veins and freezes your bones."
Just wait 'til you start living here, Dick thinks.
"But those reasons," the Question goes on, "are why we are here. We may not necessarily know one another, nor work with one another, but it is in our similar fears and alternate lifestyles that we find companionship. It is why you come to this wretched cement basement every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday to hear each other's stories, and it is why you will continue to come here. Unity."
Some people shift uncomfortably in their chairs, memories of the word 'unity' and the time before falling into bad places.
(The Split, the breaking apart, the crackdown on vigilantes outside the roster, the Bat's return to Gotham like Satan rising from the depths of hell)
(Dick returning to his shitty flat, turning on the news and seeing that the Justice League was no longer a wide organization but the original Seven to which it had pertained)
(They all remember this, but sometimes they all wish they could forget)
"The Big Seven frightened you," the Question says, "and they terrified you into believing that your lives–and the gifts with which you were blessed–were a curse. They broke apart that fragile bond that the Justice League had created between all of us and put in its place a belief that none were equal, and that none could do good."
The room is deathly silent.
Richard Grayson swallows audibly.
Helena's hands quietly clench into fists.
"But we can do good, my friends, and we continue to even up to now. We still exist and protect what we hold most dear, and that is ultimately the most we ever can do. Protect and serve. Guard the weak.
"The Big Seven–" and the Question raises a hand, pointing upwards, "–have forgotten this, but we have not, and it is what keeps us strong." He leans forward on the podium and bows his head slightly. "Let us remember that that is what December is for."
The audience sits in silence for a long moment, entranced, before up front Silence begins to clap and then, rippling down the line, Catwoman begins to clap and then they all begin to applaud the speech.
Dick is nervous, but he tries to put it behind him. When the Question moves away from the podium, introducing Silence and the group once again goes back into a comfortable lull, he tells himself that going to these meetings is safety.
It's only when Helena leans over and whispers–after Silence is done, fingers gripping the podium tightly and voice ragged with emotion–"calm down" that he relaxes slightly and leans back in his chair.
The meeting is over. Various bands of vigilantes assemble around the coffee machines, various groups move towards the door and one or two people wander about, searching for their niche. The Question speaks to Steel, and Grayson can only assume that it's probably about tightening security.
Silence weaves his way through the seats, finally coming to rest on Dick's left.
Helena reaches over, pats him on the shoulder.
Wonder Girl does the same.
Dick looks Silence in the black-slits that serves as eyes and nods.
Silence doesn't say anything, not after spilling his soul to the group of masked heroes, but he knows what is in that nod and bows his head in response.
And then, like clockwork, they begin to leave.
The west coast vigilantes–those located in Los Angeles–are among the first to leave, and often Metropolis and Central City heroes accompany them, taking them through the least-hostile territory until they reach a good break-off point.
Chicago and Detroit follow afterwards. The Midwest cities–Denver, Dallas, St. Louis and Houston–go third. The locals sneak out fourth.
It finally comes to a point where only Helena and Dick are left, pseudo-siblings sitting in an awkward silence and flickering florescent bulbs.
Helena finally stands, clearing her throat.
She shoots him a look, sticks out an arm. "Walk with me, my brother from another mother."
From another life, more like it. The girl of a wealthy mob man , raped by her father's right-hand man at six and then forced to go to boarding school, to hide that fear and pain until nineteen when the entire family was slaughtered in front of her eyes.
The boy, a part of an oddball circus family, who saw Mom and Dad fall from the ropes with that sickening crunch and afterwards had to live with the brutal reality that he had seen a strange man in the tent before It happened.
Different lives, same agony.
Dick hooks her arm in his, and they slowly walk towards the door.
Dick goes to the number pad at the right-hand side of the port and stabs in the sequence that will protect their valuable haven.
Helena slides her card through security.
The port hisses, they slide through, and then before Dick knows it he's back on the roof again.
Their arms are still hooked.
Helena is the first to disengage, gently pinching her pseudo-brother in the arm and smiling gently.
Dick takes the step back.
The two evaluate each other.
"You worry too much," Helena concludes after a long pause, "and think too hard about things you can't control and can't stop."
Dick's eyelid twitches at this, but he doesn't rise to the bait.
"You don't worry enough," he responds, "and don't evaluate situations and their outcomes."
Helena chuckles slightly before turning on her heel and carefully walking towards the end of the roof.
She looks back at Dick.
"Remember December, Dick," she says.
And then she's gone.