Author's Note: I will finish this story, goddammit.

Some vocabulary for this chapter. Yes, there will be a quiz afterwards.

Kaetzchen - n. German for kitten.

Koneko - n. Japanese for kitten.

HUD - Head's Up Display. Think of a computer screen that appears in front of your face without blocking whatever's behind it. That's a HUD.

More Red X because I said so. Reviews are cheaper than crack.

Slade prided himself on his control. It was something he valued over many of his possessions that he knew most others did not have. Such as Robin, Raven and the rest of the Titans. Not to mention some of the lesser stable villainous element in the city.

In his lair, his world, he controlled everything at every second. Not a single gear clicked without his knowing it.

Thus, when a hacking presence was detected by one of his computers, he knew in less than two minutes who it was trying to hack him, and what they were trying to hack. The automatic response was to shut down that particular target, and launch a particularly vicious retroactive virus to the hacker.

Along with some dopplegangers to cement the point that you absolutely do not hack the Big Bad of Jump City.

The rest of his day was rather pleasant and uninterrupted.

It was a serene three days before he was alerted to the same hacking presence again. It was doing the same thing as last time, not so much trying to break through his firewalls as much as knocking on them repeatedly.

This was peculiar behavior for a hacker, especially the same hacker that he had dealt with once before. None were usually so brave as to try again. Being dead tended to complicated repeat offenders very muchly.

He was even more curious as to why the offender wasn't trying to gain access to any of his files. Of at least attempting to skim one of his many accounts in every country. Not so much as running a password cracker over anything significant.

Well, someone who was trying to hard to get his attention, and living this long to do it, deserved it somewhat.

At least as long as it took him to satisfy his curiosity and home in on their signal.

The last thing he expected in the video box was another mask, well, maybe not another mask, but another mask with a skull over it. The fact that the owner of the skull had not sought to pilfer any of his files or his information piqued his interest further.

He was not going to speak first, thus merely rose an unseen brow as the thief did so. " Ah. There you are. I'll spare you the obligatory knock-knock joke. "

If he was expecting some sort of amused reaction, all he received was a slight incline of the head to chorus a popping sound from the villain's neck and a blink.

This did nothing to faze him, and the grin Slade assumed was behind that mask. " Well, at least you don't have company, so you can't in fact call me rude for intruding."

It took some doing to keep his eye from rolling." Because hacking in is much more polite. "

A helpless shrug. " Hey, I knocked first this time, didn't I? " He did not wait for the older male to answer. " Listen, kitty cat, I come to you with a proposition. I know you like shiny things, and I just happen to be in the business of acquiring shiny things. I'm looking to make a little room in my closet, so I'd like to make a donation to your cause. "

Slade shifted somewhat, unseen behind his back, but right hand gripped the wrist of the left a little harder. " What did you just call me? "

One of the perks of wearing a mask, was that your facial expressions were hidden. But even if his were not, X had his schooled into one of confusion. " What did I just call you? " He parroted. " I didn't call you anything. Why, is there an echo in there? High ceiling? I bet you get great acoustics..."

Left eye twitched as the other went on. Slade had originally been content to let the other babble himself into revealing nervousness and showing his lie. But his voice hadn't changed in pitch to indicate a lie. There was some indication of true interest in the layout of his lair, some sort of plan the other was making. But that could be because he was true to his words of wanting to come and play around with his ceiling and gears.

Somehow that wording made him feel distinctly dirty. But he supposed the white noise of his inner workings could have given him an auditory hallucination. It wasn't completely out of the range of happening. There had been plenty of times where contacts of his had required him to speak louder over it.

Again, he shifted. As much as the younger was starting to disinterest him, his mention of giving something away did maintain his curiosity. After all, his tastes weren't unknown in the criminal underground. The only thing to be concerned with, was whether or not he could use what Red X was offering, and what he wanted in return. Truly, it wouldn't be something that he actually needed. Otherwise he would have already acquired it himself. There was the worry also, if it happened to be something that he did need and he hadn't acquired it yet, how the other would have come to acquire the knowledge that it was exactly what he was looking for.

The part that would rather difficult even for him, would be what X wanted in return. If it were something simple and worthless to him, would he indulge himself and make the whole transaction hard on the thief for his own amusement, or simply go through with it and have gained a contact?

The other had not been through his records, a quick check told him. He had no way of knowing, aside from his own past thefts what he cared for. If he did have something he needed, it would have been pure luck. Well, that left what the boy wanted.

Slade couldn't figure out whether or not to be annoyed by the boy's quick interruption in what

he was about to say. Both hands raised up, and he took on the pose of what he thought a car salesman might look to an indecisive buyer. " I know what you're thinking! 'What's in it for you?' Right? You're right, I do want something. But it's nothing so grand that you'd want to try and cut my head off. Again. "

That tone didn't need any interpretation. Slade decided he was pleased that the thief seemed off-put by the previous attack for his actions. " You're head is still attached. Don't complain. "

Red X huffed." You don't have to look so smug about it. Don't think I can't see you grinning like the cat that caught the canary under there. I know you are. "

Slade did not deny it. " How do I know you're not Robin under that mask? "

" How do you know I'm not– " Red X managed to look affronted, even with his mask on. " You only ask me that because I'm sitting down. Here." Without another word, the fugitive alphabet character stood up to his full height and folded his arms. " Surely, Robin isn't so egocentric as to think the same thing that didn't work the first time would work the second just because he thought of it. But then again..." He shifted with a cock of his head. " A man all wrapped up in himself makes an awful small package."

Well, the boy did have at least a foot on Robin. If he were truly under that mask, he would have added more than a foot in height. Not to mention, he would never be able to make a short joke about himself; even if he were deep undercover. " You mentioned a donation. Such as? "

" My apologies for keeping you in suspense, kaetzchen. " Hand was brought to his chest as he made something of a gallant bow to the other, but did not allow the space in his words to stretch long enough for the supervillain to call him on what he just said. " Rest assured, however, what I have to offer you is a nice, big, toy that you could truly appreciate. "

For the first time in quite a while, Slade was at odds with himself. On the one hand, this little punk thief had called him a feline. But on the other, this little punk thief was extremely talented, and could very well have stolen something that he wouldn't mind owning himself.

The other's voice cut into his thoughts," Don't be so cautious, kitten, you've got eight lives left. I won't hurt you."

Slade ignored the feline pet name tacked on, narrowing his eye nonetheless. " That remains to be seen. What is in this for you, boy? "

Before Red X answered, he saw his fist clench. So he was older than he looked. Possibly just had a birthday between eighteen and twenty one-twenty-two. At least to the age where being regarded as a young male was a blow to his ego. Yet, whatever offensive the younger thief took did not show up in his voice. " Are you kidding? Kaetzchen, do you know who you are? Do you have any idea how many unsavory individuals there are that would kill, do kill to even get in your good graces? "

" From what it sounds like, Red X, you wouldn't be getting a lot of stealing done with all the time you intend to spend behind me. "

He thought he might have finally put the younger thief off balance with his thinly veiled insult. Whatever he was about to say, he lost while he shifted himself looking decidedly uncomfortable before the supervillain. " ...What I mean, is, I want to show you what I can do. "

Slade didn't mind making it obvious that he was starting to get disinterested in the other. " I've seen what you can do. "

" No, you don't get it, koneko. I mean, I'm practically giving you free range of my treasury. " As he said this, quick pictures of items he'd stolen flashed on the screen next to his head. " You're liable to wind up with any one of these things. "

The supervillain was observing the pictures that sped by in rapid succession before he could stop himself. He was almost tempted to admit that those were some very nice pieces of technological work. He didn't truly need any of them. But he could find uses for almost all of them. " You're looking for a job then, is that it? "

" Something of a more personal relationship than that. A partnership, if you will. " Again his hands went up to stall whatever Slade was about to say. " I know, I know, you probably get this several times a day. But come on, honestly, how many have you gotten that talk like I talk, and can do what I do? "

The kid did have a point.

" However," His hands came up to steeple before his mask. " I know you have trust issues, koneko. So I'm not so naive to think this is all it will take. You don't trust me and I know better than to immediately trust you. Predators like you have claws and aren't shy about using them. "

That was two points. " Let's say I do take your proposal into consideration. I do know that you are an exceptional thief. Your track record is nothing to ignore. However, the last thing you've stolen was jewelry. "

" Though that isn't the only thing I've stolen, that's true. I did swipe the Jewel of Silicone City. "

" Why? " Somehow, to the thief that sounded more like an accusation than a question.

He merely shrugged however. " S'pretty. Why? Is that what you want? "

" Now what would I do with jewelry? "

The chuckle that he received in response let him know that the thief had caught the implied,"You idiot" at the end of that question. " Think of it as an engagement present. "

Slade chose to ignore him. " So let me make sure that I understand you perfectly, you wish to turn over to me some prize of yours in return for striking up a partnership with me? "

" That's right. "

" And what is it you expect to gain from my partnership? "

" You. " Before Slade even had time to begin to look confused beneath his mask, the thief quickly corrected himself," That is to say, you in terms of, if I'm working with you, I don't have to worry about stepping on your tail, or you crossing my path and bringing me bad luck. "

" And if your toy isn't something I would like to play with...? " There was a rather malicious glint in his eye that Red X decided he didn't like.

It was best to steer him away from thoughts like that if they were to be partners at some point. Under that mask, Slade got the distinct impression the other was grinning very confidently. " Oh, you will. "

It was nothing other than his criminal history and that solid confidence that led Slade to make his next decision. " Very well, Red X. You've pleaded a very engaging case. Where would you like this exchange to take place? "

It was a test of sorts. If he chose the wrong type of place, the only one to greet him would be a doppleganger with distinct orders to kill. If he chose the right one, perhaps it was time he did seek out a new contact. Slade did make sure that his disposition gave off the,"If you choose a club or a bar, I will kill you, and hang you up in the doorway as an example to your friends" type of vibe.

Red X made a show of thinking, complete with a 'hmm' noise. " How about the library? After closing? "

X relaxed at the somewhat 'pleased' sound that seemed to come from the supervillain. " Excellent choice. There is one more thing, Red X. "

" Of course, kaetzchen."

" If you ever attempt to hack into my systems again, I will do the same to you. You will be conscious throughout and you will see the to which of the four corners of the earth that I send each of your arms and legs, do you understand me? "

Somehow it bothered him that the younger male was not quite quaking in some amount of fear. But he did solace in the fact that he seemed a bit nauseous. " Don't worry, I have no desire to end up as kitty litter. When should I expect you? " He was grinning once again under that mask.

" Whenever I get there. " And with that, he severed their connection. Not only did he sever it, he blocked it as well. Red X would only be able to knock once next time, and the attack drones would be alerted.

That grin stopped being cute around the fourth time anyway.

" Goddamn. What a temperamental kitty. "

Red X actually took a few minutes to brace his head on his arms after the screen had darkened. That type personality was always hard on him. Truly, there were times when he was absolutely position he could see a black tail waving behind Slade; flicking in lazy interest or lashing in withheld irritation. Not to mention, for the first half of their conversation, he seemed to be ready to go to sleep at any given time.

It had taken a considerable amount of self-restraint, something he did not often exercise using, to keep from saying too much. For a moment there, he was concerned that Slade had seen right through him and knew exactly what he wanted. But it was a false alarm, thankfully.

I will be spending quite a bit of time behind you though, kitten, if I have my way. With you, that is.

It had taken him days to work out exactly what he was going to say to the supervillain. Literally, he had sat down and wrote out a few times the same conversation. In the end, he still ad-libbed the whole thing. Honestly, he wasn't sure that he'd be able to get away with the pet names that just seemed to come to him. But he just couldn't help himself. Feline nicknames just seem to fit the older male. Even when he said it in different languages, such as German and Japanese, the feline aspect was too strong to ignore in favor of anything else. All in all, it turned out better than he had planned.

At least, he didn't have to add to the scrap pile that sat in his living room. At some point he was going to have to finish breaking that junk down and melt it down for more X-shuriken.

The best prizes were never easy, he supposed. And wouldn't Robin be absolutely rabid when he found out? Not only would he have stolen Slade's complete attention, but he definitely intended to make off with Slade altogether. The younger was awfully excitable. This time he might just actually have that aneurysm Red X was counting on him having before twenty.

" Oh well. At any rate, I did managed to get the cat to come to me. We now have a date. " Pushing off from his desk, the fugitive alphabet character sauntered over to his highly valued treasury. " Can't show up without flowers or he'll slam the door on me. "

The light that he turned on gave off a shine to every metallic surface in the room. On just the top shelf alone was enough technological know-how to construct a small, efficient army. Or destroy one. There were various blue-prints rolled up and sealed; when he couldn't be bothered to wait for the thing to actually be built. Data discs abound, though in some order so he could actually find what he was looking for. The bottom shelf was all weapons; guns, plans for guns, projectiles, bombs, special bullets and viruses of the computer and biological variety.

Picking up a particularly vicious weapon's HUD, he grinned at his reflection; mischief gleaming in his eyes. " Here kitty, kitty. "