Disclaimer: As much as I wish I did, I sadly don't own the Teen Titans…. Maybe I do in some alternate universe, but in this universe, unfortunately I do not. Yeah… that doesn't make me very happy, but oh well…
Author's Note: So… six months… How on earth did it take me six… long… painful… months…? I'm so sorry; it's honestly awful of me. I half blame school, half blame laziness, half blame not wanting to see it end. Yes I know that's three halves too. But hopefully, since this chapter is about twice as long as my normal chapters it will make up for it? Maybe? Please? Anyway, I do want to say a few things before I let you go on to read this chapter.
First, I've updated several of my websites, including this one. I have updated my page a bit and added three new one-shots (for "DNAngel", "Vampire Knight", and "Black Butler") and I hope to have more on the way. My DA page has also been updated as well with a new (and first) journal (not really sure why I haven't written a journal for that before now) about my DA, things going on, and also a little about completing Custody. Second, I have listed at the bottom a bit of what I plan to do now that Custody is finished too, since… yeah… it's been a while since I've done much of anything else, hasn't it?
And finally, I wanted to thank everyone who wrote me asking me to update with this chapter. I do really appreciate all of your patience and encouragement. It really has helped, especially with this, the last chapter of this… story that's grown to be a part of me for the last few years. So yeah, thank you all so very much.
I sincerely hope that this chapter lives up to all expectations. So without further ado, here is "Chapter Forty-One: What Matters Most"!
Part Seven: Conclusion
Chapter Forty-One: What Matters Most
It was dark, a little chilly, but she was comfortable. She could have stayed there longer, but she felt like if she did, her back might start to hurt. Selina rolled her shoulders as she opened her eyes. Looking around, she saw that she was in the Med-wing of the Batcave, a section Bruce had built for the very purpose of handling injuries and medical procedures. The other reason behind its construction was so if Alfred had to perform something as elaborate as an open heart surgery, it would best be done in a sterile environment rather than the openness of the Batcave itself.
She shut her eyes, wondering what had happened to land her… But upon remembering what had occurred before she had been knocked out the night before, she opened them again. Robin… where was…? She rushed out of the room to the main lair of the cave to see Bruce sitting at the computer.
"Bruce!" She called, "Where's Ro…"
"Upstairs," Batman told her, "How's the head injury?"
Selina stopped and suddenly became aware of herself for a moment, "Oh, I feel fine. It wasn't too bad, but what…"
"It's been handled," He told her, ending the conversation.
Selina tilted her head to the side. The man hadn't even turned around. She smiled and walked over behind him. The clear view of the reflection on the computer screen was emotionless. Just as she thought. Her smile turned to a smirk.
"What?" She asked, letting her hips talk for a moment as she walked around to the front to face him, "No play-by-play tough guy?"
"No," He said calmly.
Her smirk vanished and she sighed, "You angry with me?"
For the first time since she had entered the room, he turned to acknowledge at her, "Excuse me?"
"For getting put out of the picture back there?"
His brow wrinkled slightly, before he turned his attention back to the screen, "You did what you could and you kept Slade from leaving right on the spot. Why would I be angry at you?"
She shrugged, "I don't know, but at least I got to see some of your humanity by asking."
He stopped typing and glanced her way before turning away again. She finished after the silence droned in the dead air, "Sorry, but, you are all right, right?"
Bruce looked away. There was a brief pause, before Selina saw the smallest hint of a nod. She smiled. Before Bruce got the chance to start typing again, he was startled by a hug from her and a kiss on the cheek. He stiffened slightly. That was… unexpected…
She smirked as she let go and whispered in his ear, "Good to hear, tough guy."
"I… think you should go lie down," He said, his words trailing off as she began to walk off.
"Only when you take a break, honey," She called, laughing.
Batman watched her walk up the staircase till she was out of sight. That woman was… that was… He shook his head, beginning to type again. He could just blame that on the head injury. But… no. That really wasn't the head injury.
Life was quiet. It felt very weightless, save for the covers. He could feel the covers that were up to his chin. But the fact that his head was sunk into a soft pillow… that… That made him not mind. There was nothing, nothing that could bother him. He could sleep and not worry… Wait, huh?
Dick's eyes fluttered open. That thought, it felt like a dream. He saw a ceiling. It didn't belong to the one in his room, but then again, wouldn't that one have suffered severe damages to it? Where was he? Slade hadn't… won, had he? He didn't think so… but it was… Then he worried and as he discovered, it was possible to do so. He groaned and turned his head, only to see a lovely red-haired head resting on the bed next to him.
He relaxed and pulled his arm out from under the covers. Slowly, he touched her hand, "Sta…Starfire?"
"Huh?" She bolted up, still slightly dazed, but when her gaze met his; her look baffled him until she instantly caught him in a hug, "Robin! You are all right! We thought you may not wake for several of your earth days!"
Dick looked at her head near his left shoulder and smiled, "Yeah, guess I am…. What happened?"
Starfire pulled back and began to recount the last day's events, "Raven has kept Slade locked away along with the technologies of surveillance that have been provided by Cyborg and the Batman. Superman and Wonder Woman have been monitoring the City of Gotham; in fact I believe they are out on the patrol right now… But oh! Mr. Wayne has also gone about the issues of custody arrangements due to bringing a man out of the dead."
Dick nodded as he listened; realizing that his mask was on the bedside table, "Heh, is the place still wrecked?"
"Um, I believe the three boys have been doing the rotation of the shifts and have either been watching the Red X or they have been helping rebuild the Manor," She informed him.
The boy wonder took all of this in; it wasn't too hard, which surprised him. It felt… surreal. Not having to worry about Slade or anything. It didn't even feel natural. But yes, here he was basically hearing that. All he had to do was just… what was he supposed to do, anyway?
"Starfire, what were the Titans going to do?" He asked her, and then clarified upon seeing her confused face, "I mean, once all this was done?"
Starfire shrugged a little and then answered, "We were waiting to see what you would want to do; we wanted you to fully recover before we made any decisions."
"Oh," Dick said, he wasn't sure what he was supposed to say, so all he finished with was, "Okay."
Starfire bit her lip and stood up as though to go, unsure of what to do. But then out of the blue she smiled at him and gave him another hug. He looked at her, surprised. It wasn't a tight hug like it usually was. It was gentle, quiet… right.
"I am glad that you are safe, Robin," She said softly, "I am so very glad."
She pulled away and spoke, "I must allow the others to know of your recovery."
He nodded, understanding. Again, she stood up to go to the door. As the Tamaranian gripped the handle, she heard him speak.
They looked at each other. He didn't say anything and eventually looked down, a little embarrassed. And with that, everything started to catch up to him. Everything. All that they had gone through. What had happened. And the outcome….It gave him an odd tight feeling in his chest. He nearly spaced out.
"Hm?" He said, "Oh, uh, nevermind."
She felt herself blushing, so she turned to leave, "I shall return later, friend."
With that, she was gone and he was left to recover. She felt a little bad about it, leaving. She wanted to stay. She could tell by watching him that he wasn't… comfortable in a weird way. Like he didn't know what to do with himself. Still though, she was glad that he was awake at least. That he was okay. He was okay…
Starfire walked down the halls of the Manor when she heard her other three friends talking amongst themselves. She looked outside to see them where Cyborg and Beast Boy had been working for the past hour. Quickening her pace, she made it down the stairs and out to meet them.
"Friends! Friend Robin is awake!" She announced, throwing her arms out happily.
"He's awake?" Beast Boy asked, "Awesome! How's he doing?"
"He seems to be doing the well!" Starfire told them happily.
Raven looked relieved, "Good, I was afraid he was going to be out for much longer than that after that fight."
"You did a tremendous job healing him, friend Raven," Starfire told her, "He seemed as though he only woke from the sleep of the deep."
Beast Boy looked at her funny when Cyborg muttered, "A deep sleep, smart one."
"Oh," Beast Boy responded.
"So, the repairs, they are coming along, yes?" Starfire continued.
"Yeah, we're getting there and Jericho's been a great help with them too, unlike this one," Cyborg said, pointing at the green monkey on the roof next to him playing with a hammer.
"Hey! I work! I'm not just lying around!" Beast Boy shouted, after transforming back.
"Yeah, you're also becoming a Rhino on the loose," Cyborg told him.
As the two boys began to bicker, Raven sighed and filled Starfire in, "They should be done in about two days, assuming Beast Boy doesn't becoming more useless."
Starfire nodded, "And Slade, you are detaining him well still?"
"Yeah… which is weird, since I would have thought that he would have put up a fight, but then again, Batman's technology is incredible, all things considered. I mean, we had to build the cell outside in the lot over there," Raven told her.
Starfire noted the corner with a nod, "Do you not receive any break?"
"I do. Batman and Catwoman also take turns at it as well. In his spare time, Batman's also compiling a court case against Slade," She stretched her face a bit, showing her astonishment. "He's a little intimidating when he wants someone to meet justice."
Starfire laughed, "More intimidating than you?"
Raven smirked and answered ironically, "I know, for once, right?"
They both smiled and looked up at the boys who were now back to working… and throwing stuff at each other. It was going to take more than two days, wasn't it? But maybe, maybe things would go back to normal. After all of this craziness… It was too good to be true… For all of them. The newness of the situation, was so refreshing. For once the girls could watch the boys be boys and they were not out worrying or working like adults. They could be teenagers, actual, real teenagers.
A few days went by. The Titans and Joey all continued to work on the Manor while Catwoman, Batman, and Raven took shifts keeping watch over Slade. Batman would have handed him over to the cops, but upon seeing that it was Slade who had broken Joker and Two-Face out of Arkham in the first place, he wasn't keen on releasing Slade to the Feds till the court date.
Red X on the other hand… well at this point, no one was really sure why Batman hadn't handed him over… He was driving Cyborg and Beast Boy up a wall and both of them were baffled as to how Joey could stand him. They considered asking Batman to give Red X over, but they all preferred to leave all the decision making to him. He tended to have this look about him that screamed 'don't bother me'. And no one really blamed him for it. There were so many people around and Batman had never been one to like being around people for an extended period of time.
He did eventually tell Wonder Woman and Superman to go home. And they did, sort of knowing that Batman didn't like the crowd there and wanted to handle Gotham on his own. But… because they were knowledgeable enough to know that Batman was stretching himself thin, they did have Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter keep an eye on Gotham from the JLA Space Station.
Catwoman was the only one who, well, he didn't insist on leaving. And she sort of planted herself there, claiming to be uninterested what Gotham had to offer at this time of the year. Wayne Manor had a lot more… priceless items at the moment. Bruce, despite what should have been his better judgment, allowed Alfred to keep out most of the antiques in the building.
The only one who didn't really… do much… was Robin. Raven had insisted that just because he was awake, it didn't mean he had made a full recovery. She even had Alfred come in and tell him that, just so he'd believe her. She would have asked Alfred to do the same for Batman, but at the same time, she had already realized that there was no telling Batman what to do.
At times, Robin would get up and roam the Manor a bit. Most of the time though, he remained in his room, where he and Starfire would talk. He preferred listening to her more. He didn't have much to say back anyway, at least about himself. She never pried and he was grateful for that. Instead, she'd talk about the funny things that the boys would say, ask him questions about the idioms of Earth, or tell him things about Tamaran.
The subject of Slade was avoided. Because no matter how much he tried, he didn't feel like he couldn't worry. Was he becoming paranoid? No. He had every reason to worry - at least from past experiences. But then again, Batman hadn't been behind the padded cell keeping an eye on Slade 24/7. And even if this did come through? What was he supposed to do now? The Titans had all agreed that they would go back to Jump, knowing that they were needed there, though they had never asked if Robin would come with them. After this incident… would Batman even let him?
Hearing Starfire talk to him though, it seemed to help. She just let him be, and didn't pressure him about the subject. After she and Robin had had breakfast one morning, she had excused herself to help Alfred with carrying their things down to the kitchen. She was about to return when Alfred stopped her as he was loading the dishes into the dishwasher.
"Miss Starfire," He said.
"Oh, yes?" She asked.
"I wanted to thank you," He told her.
Starfire looked at him, unsure of what he meant, when he continued, "You're very good to him, Master Dick that is."
"Oh," She said, seeing what he meant, "He is my friend. I am happy to be of assistance."
Alfred smiled at her, "Friends… Well, return to your friend then. I am sure that he is eagerly awaiting your return."
Starfire blushed slightly, but nodded her head, "I shall."
After she left, Alfred continued to load the dishes into the dishwasher after disposing of what was left into the garbage or into plastic wrap to save. He was glad to see that the young master wasn't following in his mentor's footsteps entirely…
Starfire made her way around to the front hall staircase when she saw Raven coming down them, half asleep it seemed.
"Oh! Hello friend, you appear tired. Did you not sleep the well?" Starfire asked.
Raven looked up at her and was about to answer, but was interrupted. Their communicators went off simultaneously. Raven flipped hers open, unsure why it would be going off as it wasn't set to be alerted by Batman's computer rather than the Tower's. But at the same time, her stomach was dropping. And for good reason. Her eyes went wide.
"Raven?" Starfire asked.
Raven shut her communicator tightly and rose from the ground quickly, "Come on."
Starfire arose and Raven began to fly off in the direction of the cell, with Starfire close behind. Upon reaching the cell, she saw Batman standing at the door, which was hanging on its hinges. The whole cell was in shambles. It had to be… an explosion? From the inside. But how did he have explosives? They had taken away all of his supplies… How did Slade even survive? Batman looked at Raven.
"Where were you?" He demanded.
"Around back, I thought Catwoman was watching him," She answered as the rest of the Titans caught up. Catwoman came around the other corner as well.
Batman turned to her, "Were you on watch?"
"What are you talking about, you were," She answered.
Batman looked back at the door. He didn't have time to question how Slade managed to trick the three of them. He had to make sure… As he turned to the Manor, Dick opened the side door. No one moved. Dick looked passed them at the door where Batman stood. The teen began to walk forward to see the damage. Everyone was silent, though Batman kept a look out for any sign of an attack from Slade. It was just his nature.
Slade's cell was empty. No one really knew what Dick was thinking, or feeling. They wanted to know, but didn't voice it. Dick flinched and didn't speak. The expression on his face… maybe he was mortified? But he didn't seem to be... If anything he was… angry? Was that it? It was like a weird mix, like Dick didn't know what to feel. Barefooted, he walked a good twenty feet away from the rest of them into the open.
It was true, though; he didn't know what to feel. After everything that he had just gone through. The past few months. And then everything from before… With the apprenticeship, Terra, Trigon… He was angry. Angry because he was worried. Because he was scared. Scared as to what Slade might do. To people. To him… He glanced around the open field. It was empty and the wind tickled the grass. That… maniac…
"Slade!" He yelled, "Slade!"
The place remained quiet. The space felt empty. He looked around, while Batman remained ever vigilant, but more than anything, because he was also worried. He couldn't… no, he could believe this. He could believe that Robin would do this. After everything, if Slade really was going to try again… Their thought processes seemed in to be in sync. Dick turned away and walked back towards everyone.
Upon reaching the remains of the cell, he looked at everyone and shook his head, "Did this just happen?"
Batman nodded and Dick looked down, silent for a moment before continuing, "…He probably can't do much now, anyway…."
Catwoman raised a brow as Dick pushed past her and Cyborg to go to the door. She looked at Batman, "Is that true?"
"He's very limited at this point," Batman noted, "I wouldn't put it past him, but Slade seems smarter than that. He probably used whatever he had left on those explosives and tricking us."
She could sense the hint of betterment in Batman's voice as he continued, "Search the grounds within a half mile radius, and go in opposite directions. If you don't find anything, he's gone."
After telling Jericho to hang back and continue to keep watch over Red X, Batman left. The last thing he needed was for that man's sons to get involved. The five others remained. Raven scrunched up her face, mad, but she flew off into the sky to search, hoping it would calm herself. Beast Boy shortly followed while Cyborg ran off to start on the opposite end of the Manor. Starfire looked up at Catwoman.
"They are… worried," She said slowly.
Catwoman nodded, "I can't expect them not to be."
Starfire's head dropped. She was worried, too. She couldn't see how… after a few days… Robin was still in no state to accept everything as it was before, but what about now…
Catwoman said, "He's going to be fine. That kid's tough. But for now, we should do as Batman says."
She began to walk off after Cyborg when she called back to Starfire, "Come on girl, he can make it through this."
"How do you—" Starfire began when Catwoman interrupted her with an answer.
"Because he's Batman's kid. That's how he is…. Now go on! Let's see if we can find this guy."
Starfire bent her head for a moment, but nodded. They both went off in separate directions, occasionally meeting up as they searched the outside grounds of Wayne Manor, but really, they didn't get a chance to sit down until much later when the search had been completed. They had each searched the grounds several times while Batman had searched the interior of the Manor, with Alfred staying with Dick. The search turned up nothing, unfortunately, just as expected…
He was annoyed. It wasn't just the fact that he had been blindfolded alone that bothered him. Nor was it the fact that he had been tied up. No, having his gear being taken from him, that's what bugged him the most. Furthermore, what he was wearing resembled something that he'd wear if he were going to church. He was not going to church…. At least, he didn't think he was. At the moment, he was being directed in silence. He didn't want to speak to anyone and no one was speaking to him.
"Watch your head."
Ok, correction, Cyborg was. Or at least directing him anyway. He sat down in what he realized to be a car. Great. Now where were they taking him? He heard the car door slam and the engine start. They began to move. He stayed there in silence for a few minutes. He heard the car pass over a bridge and soon the sounds of cars and sirens could be heard. Finally, someone, who had been so quiet he hadn't even realized they had been there, pulled off his blindfold.
"Joey?" He said, "What is this?"
Joey sighed and began to sign out what was going on. Grant looked at the motions without getting any of them. He smiled sarcastically and shrugged.
"Sorry, didn't quiet catch that," Grant told him.
Joey glared and took out a notepad and began writing down what he had just said. He held it out for Grant to read.
"The hospital? Why are we going there?"
His younger brother took back the pad and scribbled something else out for Grant to read. He finished it and once again held it out for his brother to read.
Grant was quiet for a moment, "You're kidding right?"
Joey shook his head 'no'.
Grant sat back thinking it over before laughing slightly, "So, you convinced the big old bad Batman to let you take me to the hospital to see Mom? Really? Don't you think that's a little… easy?"
Joey looked away and Grant stared, "What?"
Joey glanced back at his brother before taking the notepad back and wrote out his thoughts before passing the notepad back.
"She'd probably like to see you."
Grant let out a chuckle, "Really, Joe, really? Is that what you told Batman? You and I both know I'm gone the second you let me out of here. Batman probably knows it too."
Joey wrote something out again.
"Yeah, he knows, he doesn't need to keep you, anyway."
Grant read it and this time he was slightly insulted, "Excuse me? Are you serious? I don't merit enough to be taken into custody? You've got to be kidding me!"
Joey said nothing and looked down. The truth was Grant did. On nearly every level. Theft, assisting in attempted kidnap, juvenile delinquency… yeah, Grant had done it all taking into account his age and Batman for one was not the type that was really willing to bend his rules. Quite frankly, Joey hadn't been keen on the idea, either. Maybe that's why when he had suggested it; Batman could see that neither of them wanted to do it. But out of respect for Addie… Batman had relented.
Grant was a "troubled youth". Sure, fine. He was bound to be swayed by family, for good or for bad. And theft… well, he let Selina off all the time. There wasn't much argument for that. And technically… this was his nephew.
Joey just ignored the question when the car stopped. Grant looked around to see that they were in an alley way. Joey got up and pulled the blind fold over his brother and led him out of the car. The car drove off before Joey took the blind fold off for good. Already, Grant could smell the distinct scent of a hospital with sanitizer just begging to escape from the windows above them. Joey went around back to untie his brother's hands when Grant spoke up again.
"So why do you even think I'll go visit Mom?" He asked as he pulled his arms up as he turned to face his brother and rubbed his wrists, "Not like she's worth anything to me."
Joey just shook his head. He knew that his brother was lying. After all, why would he have bothered to figure out what was going on if it he hadn't known their mother was involved? It's not like he could have figured out that their dad had been involved save for if he hadn't found out about their mom first.
And he knew that Grant knew, deep down, that their mother did everything for not just Joey, but for him as well. Joey wrote down the room number and held it out for Grant, who slowly took it. The younger brother sighed and turned, walking towards the front of the hospital. Grant just watched.
She hated the monitors. Beeping away like crazy. They made it impossible to relax at all. Didn't these doctors get it? If she could sleep, she would. After all, it wasn't like she was feeling that well to begin with. A door opened and she heard footsteps walking in. She shut her eyes. What did they want from her now?
The bed sunk and Addie opened her eyes. They narrowed, "I'm guessing you failed."
He bent his head slightly, "Our fight can't be ended that easily, Addie."
"Don't call me that."
Slade looked at her, the mask gone, a doctor's coat on. She still hated that. He would have said 'Always have, always will' to describe that sort of sore spot that she had about that. But she hadn't been like that before, so it hadn't been for 'always'…
"Grant's alright. So is Joey," Slade told her and her eyes widened slightly, "I saw them the other night. Grant's still… bitter to me, but Joey's handling himself well. And Grant's become a real force to be reckoned with."
"You're awful, you know that?" Adeline said, "Talking about your son like that. You're not praising him. When you say that, you're praising a thing."
Slade didn't look at her and she continued, "He's your son. As much as I hate to say that, he is. And so is Joey."
Adeline let out a short sarcastic laugh, "If you can't treat them like human beings, what made you think you could win a battle like this?"
Slade stood up. He slowly took a step away and then stopped, thinking. It was… that wasn't it… "I know they're not things, Adeline."
"Oh really? You sure don't act like—"
"I did this for them. To keep my promise to you," Slade said turning to her, "I knew their lives were not things to be taken lightly."
Adeline crossed her arms, not sure how Slade could understand that and want to do the same thing to someone else, "As if! You still haven't learned, Slade. You'll never learn. Not after what happened to Joey. Not after what happened to our family. And not now."
Slade let Adeline's words hang in the air. He had wanted their lives to in some way peacefully co-exist. He'd stay away from their kids. He'd do his job. She'd do hers. Perhaps, he thought, he should have never gotten her involved with this, despite the logical reasons behind doing so. All she ever did was point out his flaws and how to change them. It was odd, too. Often, he did know what he should do, what he ought to do, it just didn't fully fit with his nature. Slade sighed.
"Perhaps I'm still the same fool of a soldier you taught all those years ago," Slade said softly.
Adeline watched him. She couldn't tell if he meant those words. She didn't think he was regretting his actions. Maybe he was, in regards to their family. But she didn't sense any remorse coming from anything of the likes regarding what he had been doing for the last half of the year. His words, though, maybe that's what stung the most. He was a fool. The fool that she had fallen for. The fool she still loved. How she hated him for it…
"Just leave, Slade," She said, "I don't care what your reasons for doing any of this were or are. I only want you far away from me."
Slade faced her and shook his head, removing the doctor's coat and revealing his get up. But he paused when he brought out the mask. He looked at her.
She turned her head back to see him and waited. Waited to see what he'd say. Because she knew he wanted to. But words never came. He only shook his head and walked over to the window. He opened the shaft and began to climb out. He stopped upon looking down.
"The boys are here," He said, "Hopefully they'll make you happier than I did."
Addie glared and shook her head. When she glanced over to see him again, Slade was gone.
Grant stood there for a minute. He really didn't want to go in. Joey was being his usual annoying self. Having that irritating 'I'm right, you're wrong, it's your problem.' type attitude. Or at least it felt that way. Grant growled slightly. He really, really didn't want to go in. It would just make Joey smug about being right. And then his mom. Oh yeah, what would she say? She had to know about his... record. Maybe. Did she? One way or another, he didn't want to find out.
He turned to go. He'd apologize the next time he'd see her...
"Where do you think you're going?"
Grant turned and looked up at the fire escape to see Slade looking back down at him, "Dad?"
"That's not an answer, young man; that's a question," Slade told him, walking down the staircase and then hoping down to the ground.
Grant sighed and turned to face him, "I don't know, sir."
"That's not a good enough answer," Slade said, crossing his arms.
Grant, for the first time in a long time, narrowed his eyes, angry, "Nothing's ever good enough for you! Not me, not Joey! Well, I can understand Joey, but..."
"Who ever said that?"
Slade stared at Grant. He waited a moment before answering, "Grant, you know that's not the case. I never asked if you were good enough."
Grant turned around, not buying it, or rather, not wanting to buy this. Slade continued, "You know that the question I always asked, and that your mother has always asked, was 'how could I be good enough?' It's why we never brought you or Joe into this."
"Well I'm in it now!" Grant spun around, telling him.
"No you're not," Slade said, "You're living your life differently than me and your mother."
Slade looked at him. Slade knew Grant knew this. He knew Grant was smart enough to realize the things he was telling him were true. And he also knew that Grant wasn't sure how it ended up that they would be true. The kid was just a loner now.
"Don't give me that face," Slade told him, "Go up and see your mother. She may not be pleased with the roughien you are, but really, seeing you will only make her happy. "
Slade began to walk off and again, Grant saw he was being left for a second time that day. Then he realized something.
"What are you doing now?" He asked.
"Doesn't matter, doesn't involve you guys," Slade yelled back.
It didn't either. At this point, he didn't have anything. Nothing here anyway. The whole plan, it was scrapped. He couldn't reuse it. He couldn't back it up with anything. Once Batman was back, he had only one shot. And Robin had actually managed to stop him. For now, he had other worries and they didn't involve trying to hoist up a broken plan. He had to rebuild. Get back to where he was before all of this. Otherwise he wouldn't still be able to call the shots in Jump for that much longer. And Jump, Jump City was his territory.
If he let Grant get involved though, Adeline wouldn't forgive him and he wouldn't be able to forgive himself for it, either. Grant and Joey both deserved something different. With Robin, Robin could have done it. It would have been something right for him. But Grant and Joey, they were meant to play other roles. He just hoped Grant would let it go.
To his surprise, Grant did. His oldest son stood there, a little confused before calling back again, "How'd you get here, anyway?"
Slade stopped and turned to see Grant out of the corner of his eyes, "Wasn't that hard. Batman needs to work on his surveillance equipment."
Grant glanced down and smirked. Doubting his dad, it just never was worth it. When he looked up though, Slade was gone. He tilted his head to look upward and sighed. Grant shrugged, debating. Maybe... later. When Joey wasn't around. That way he wouldn't have to deal with his ignorant younger brother. With that, Grant left to get something to eat, planning on returning in a couple of hours.
The sea breeze blew up from the cliff side. It was still fairly early in the morning, but already, Cyborg and Beast Boy were gearing up for the trip home, carrying out luggage and packing snacks. Lots of snacks. Not that they needed any, Dick knew, since Raven would probably teleport them more than half way there. As he came down the stairs, he could see his two friends making multiple trips to and from the kitchen. Distracted by that though, he almost didn't notice Bruce at the bottom of the stairs.
"Oh," He said, upon seeing his mentor, who looked tired with dark circles under his eyes, "Long night?"
Bruce gave a brief nod when he caught sight of Dick's small suitcase which was in the teen's hand. Dick noticed this and looked down. They hadn't really discussed anything. Not about him staying or going.
"You that eager to leave?" Bruce asked.
Dick looked up and shook his head, "Oh, well, no, I mean, we just hadn't talked and I wanted to, you know, be ready if…"
Dick stopped and looked down at Bruce, "Yeah?"
"Want to take a walk?" He asked.
The teen looked at him, surprised by the question. The guy looked like he was going to pass out, so the notion of a walk sounded incredibly out of the blue. But at the same time, Bruce seemed calm and a walk didn't sound like too much.
"Um, sure," Dick said, "Where to?"
"Just around the property," Bruce said, walking towards the door.
Dick slowly followed, leaving his bag at the bottom of the stairs. The sun was still rising, and the sky was painted with an orange-pink flare. Clouds were just a mist in the atmosphere. Dew still hung onto the grass. They walked out for a while in the open, near the cliff, not saying anything. The silence was excrutiating. So Dick tried to fill it with small talk.
"So, uh, when did Jericho and you meet up?" He asked.
"I found him wandering around his mother's place after Adeline disappeared," Bruce said after a moment, "He said that the last time he had seen his dad, he seemed to be working on something involving Gotham, which worried him. So when he heard of his mother disappearing here, he came to check."
Dick nodded, "So… then… Is she actually your cousin?"
"Yes, she is, through my mother's side. Though we didn't talk often once she went into the Military or even much after my mother died," He told him.
The seagulls were flying around below them, calling to each other, their echoes hitting the stone wall. They reached one of the far reaches of the property, maybe about twenty feet from the cliff, when suddenly, Bruce stopped.
"I wanted to apologize to you, Dick," He said, changing the subject, the reason for the walk now coming out.
Dick looked up, surprised, "For what?"
"I should have kept a better eye on you," Bruce said, "Luthor was not who I should have been worrying about."
Dick shrugged it off, "It's… it was fine."
"No it wasn't," Bruce told him stiffly.
Dick watched him as Bruce brought up a hand to the back of his head, sighing.
"I trusted a system that I was so used to seeing manipulated," He continued, "I didn't think of the repercussions it might have had... and did have."
"You didn't know," Dick told him, "I should have said something. About the possibility that Slade would be involved. I just didn't because we hadn't heard from him in ages… I'm still such an amateur."
Bruce looked at him oddly, "You're not an amateur. I might have over-trusted the system, but I wouldn't have given it that much credit if I didn't think you could handle yourself."
After a moment, he looked over at Dick, who was standing there, surprised. When Dick saw this, he shook his head, "But… I didn't handle myself. I couldn't…"
He should have said something about Slade. He shouldn't have ignored his friends' worries. He should have recognized that it was Slade in the first place. He should of…
Dick looked up, meeting Bruce's eyes. They were for once, not stone.
"You're beating yourself up," He said, "Don't."
The Teen Wonder looked at him incredulously, "Don't? Why not? I'm always doing that! Ever since I was a kid! Even when I didn't need to! Why, when I really screwed up, shouldn't I?"
"You didn't screw up," Bruce said.
"Yes I did!" Dick yelled, his voice not as loud as he meant it to be. More quietly though, he repeated it, "Yes, I did."
Bruce watched him for a moment. Dick stood there, the truth finally out. He didn't mention Slade since he didn't want that to be the case. He didn't notice the connections to Jump after a while. He didn't work well with Batman when he needed to. But worse… He hadn't been able to stop Slade. He had…
Bruce had walked back over to him, standing a foot taller than him, "What happened?"
The younger one shook his head, not speaking a word. He didn't want to say it. When he thought about it, it wasn't just that he hadn't stopped Slade. It had been that he had been helpless and that at some point…
He hadn't… And if Bruce knew… Where would that leave…
"I'm, I'm sorry," He said, almost a mumble, "Bruce, I'm…I'm really sorry."
Bruce didn't say anything, not sure as to why Dick was apologizing. It wasn't even like Dick to apologize these days. When Dick was younger, yes, he had apologized endlessly when he did something wrong or when he hadn't lived up to Bruce's expectations. But now… well, he hardly apologized for not living up to Bruce's expectations and there wasn't anything that he had done that Bruce had been particularly upset about in his performance, so… that left doing something wrong.
"Why are you apologizing, Dick?" He asked.
Dick shook his head. He… he still wanted to avoid it, but… he had to be honest. He couldn't hide something like this….
He sighed and tried to explain it, "I… when Slade was… In that estate… Bruce, he… He wasn't merciless, and I know I should have stood up to it, but…"
Bruce watched as again Dick paused. They hadn't had a chance to talk about anything that had happened. Bruce had worked while Dick had rested. And for the most part, their paths hadn't crossed. Maybe because they hadn't wanted to. Maybe because they were avoiding something. A subject that they had avoided for years…
"I… I swear, I didn't… I didn't want to… but after everything he put me through… I couldn't… I just wanted it to stop and I didn't think about…"
"Dick," Bruce said, grabbing the teen's shoulders, "Spit it out."
Dick's mouth moved, but no words came out, until finally, some kind of sound, and then one phrase, "I… I called Slade my father."
Bruce stared at Dick, shocked. Dick took it as a sign to start apologizing more, but before he could, Bruce spoke, "That's what this is about?"
Dick nodded. It had been killing him. He had never treated Bruce right after some point. After this man had taken him in, given him a home, he had left it and had vowed never to look back, at least, as little as he could, hating the person who he never felt good enough for. But then, having Bruce gone, and knowing that he could never apologize, when Bruce died still protecting someone, him, that had supposedly hated him… This man may have been annoyed with him at points, but he never had stopped caring for him. It was the least that Dick could have done, think of him as a father… Because really, he always had. And he blew it…
"Sorry, I'm so sorry, Bruce," Dick said; he couldn't even look at Bruce.
"Dick," Bruce said, getting down to Dick's eye level, "Why would I want you to apologize for that?"
Dick looked at him unsure of why Bruce would ask that, "I… Bruce, you gave me everything and I…"
"I left you in the cold," Bruce said.
"I didn't know that!" Dick said, "And even still, it was wrong!"
"Wrong? Dick…" Bruce answered, "I never was out to force you to see me as your father. I could never replace your father. He was a great man who loved you. You don't have to apologize to me."
Dick shook his head, "But…Bruce, I…"
Bruce let go and slowly stood up straight again, unsure of what to make of this as Dick finished, "I do."
Bruce shook his head, "Dick…"
"I do, because I do see you as a father to me!" Dick told him, "And for years, I only tried to be that good because of everything you've given me, everything you've done for me. Because I wanted, I wanted to be like a son to you….When I left, I felt like I had failed you too much at some point and thought I'd never live up to that, whether I wanted to or not… So I left, but… There's no way I could have messed up as badly as I did when I was captured by Slade…"
The Dark Knight just stood there, amazed in some ways of what he was hearing. It was… an accumulation. Of a lot of things. Things he never thought of or that he'd ever hear…
"I'm sorry," The Teen Wonder said, "I'm really sorry."
Dick stood there. Hoping that by some means, Bruce would comprehend how badly he felt about this. But what if he didn't? What if the man really hadn't ever intended to see him as a son? What was he going to do if Bruce still wanted him to stay after seeing how badly he had messed up? He wasn't even sure he could stand up to his friends, with them knowing what had happened. What was…
His thoughts were interrupted when Bruce brought him into a tight hug. His eyes opened wide and he looked up at Bruce, to see if the man wasn't doing this to calm him down or to create any other method of coping. It was a genuine, real…
"Please don't be, Dick," Bruce said, "I could never be angry at you for that."
Suddenly, Dick felt his eyes burn with saltwater. They filled to a point where he couldn't see clearly, so he shut them and tears fell. He returned the hug. It wasn't forgiveness that had made this happen. It was… acceptance. But, did it really…
"I was never the best parental figure," Bruce continued, "I knew the training I put you through was intense. But I did it so you could be safe. It was why I was strict… But I didn't think after that you could ever… I never expected you to think of me as a father…"
Really? That was it? Dick couldn't believe…
"But I always… despite myself, thought of you as a son…"
Dick's eyes widened and he looked up at Bruce, astonished, "You… you did?"
They parted and Bruce nodded, "I never said so because I didn't want to intrude or force it."
Dick's mouth dropped. He hadn't expected that. He could grasp it, but still, after… He dried his face, trying to maintain himself.
"You've become an outstanding young man, Dick," Bruce told him, "You're strong, smart, and you know how to treat people right, how to care for others… If you don't think I'm proud of that, I'm not sure what you thought I wanted you to become."
The teenager thought for a moment, "Superman?"
Bruce eyed him incredulously and for once, a sarcastic comment escaped him, "Yes, Dick, I wanted you to be vulnerable to a piece of alien rock…."
For the first time, in a long time, Dick actually laughed, "Never thought I'd hear one from you."
"Don't get used to it," Bruce told him.
They heard car doors beginning to open behind them. The Titans were packing up the car. Dick looked after the sounds, suddenly realizing that he still didn't know what to do.
"You have a great group of friends," Bruce told him, "And a great team with the Titans."
Dick looked up at him and nodded, "We, uh, we can handle ourselves pretty well."
Bruce gave a brief nod, "Dick, I've misjudged people in the past. So I want an honest answer from you."
Dick turned to face Bruce and nodded, understanding as Bruce spoke, "Are you ready to go back? Can you handle that Slade is free?"
It wasn't the question that Dick had expected. He had to think about it for a moment before an answer came to him, "I… I want to go back. My friends… they're my family too. And Slade… I don't know what he's doing now, but… "
Dick paused, thinking over the next part of his answer, before speaking, "We've handled him before. We can always do it again. And I will call if we need back up. I'm not going to make the same mistake twice."
Bruce nodded, looking out over the cliff side at the Atlantic, "It's scary, isn't it? Losing someone... or yourself."
Dick glanced up at him and slowly nodded while Bruce continued, "I started my crusade with no one. Not even Alfred had much of a say in it. But having people around has kept me from becoming lost in it. Even I know that."
"You don't seem to want to admit it," Dick told him, smiling a bit.
"My point to this is," Bruce said, "Don't hesitate to call. There are people out there you can trust…"
The point was complete, but it didn't feel that way. Dick waited and finally there was more, "I… think I shouldn't have discredited your friends so quickly. They know what they're doing. Trust them."
Dick nodded as Bruce finished, "That girl. The one you went out with, she's a good person."
The teen looked up at Bruce, shocked, "Huh?"
"She didn't leave your side this past week and she was the one that went back for you even when you told them not to," Bruce said, "She was the one that really rescued you."
They heard footsteps on the grass behind them and they both turned to see Starfire approaching them. She stopped upon them seeing her and she ran a hand up to the back of her neck, feeling awkward.
"Um, I am sorry to disturb you, but, Cyborg would like to know if he should pack your things, Robin," She said.
Dick looked down and then up to speak when Bruce interrupted, "Tell him to go ahead."
Starfire nodded and began to walk off to leave them be again. The teen wonder looked up at the Dark Knight, surprised, when Bruce looked cocked an eye brow.
"Are you just going to stand there?"
Bruce nodded over to Starfire, "Go on."
Suddenly, Dick got it and a smile made its way to his face. He gave Bruce another quick hug before running off after her. He made his way across the grass following the red head of hair. By the time she heard him and had turned around, he had caught her and picked her up, twirling her in the air.
"Huh, friend –" She was interrupted when he picked her up and twirled her before putting her down.
She stood there, unsure as to what brought this on, "Friend…"
Blush was radiating off of her and she honestly didn't know how to finish, so Dick finished, "Thank you."
"Huh?" She asked.
"You know how wonderful you are?" He asked, smiling. She shook her head, still surprised, "You are as wonderful as… Starfire…?"
She blinked, but finally answered, "Yes, Robin?"
"I love you," He said, breathless.
Her eyes widened. She was wordless. Nothing came. Not English, not Tamaranian, nothing.
"You forget the English language?" Robin laughed.
For once, yes, was the answer so she nodded, smiling, never having felt this happy. The Teen Wonder smiled too, bringing a hand to her face and for once, the space between them disappeared and they kissed. It lasted. His other arm wrapped around her waist gently while somehow, her arms managed to come and wrap around his neck. It was sweet, natural. Being together like this… It felt like they were floating on air. Like life was joyous… wonderful, more than worth living. Life was complete.
The need for oxygen broke them apart, but it didn't stop Starfire from turning red or chase the smiles off their faces.
"Yo!" Cyborg yelled at the both of them, "Guys! Do we need to pack your stuff, Rob?"
"Yeah!" Dick called.
"Well, good 'cause we already packed it!" Beast Boy called, walking around to the front and bumping into Raven.
She glared at him, but rolled her eyes, "Just get in the car."
"You ready to go then?" Cyborg called to both of them.
Starfire nodded when Dick called out, "Hold on one sec!"
He ran up to the manor where Alfred was standing with a bag in his hand. Dick took it and ran inside quickly, only to return minutes later, the leader of the Titans.
"Good to see you in that again," Cyborg told him.
The four teens smiled at him. It reminded him of what he had been missing, "Let's get going then, Titans."
"Whoot! I am ready for this!" Beast Boy yelled from the back seat as he clambered up to see Raven in the front in the passengers' seat, "I can't wait to make tofu waffles on my own again. You going to make your tea when we get back, right, Ray?"
Raven smiled slightly, "I have missed it…"
Cyborg opened the car door and called to Star and Robin, "You getting in or what, guys?"
Robin glanced at Starfire and she smiled. He hopped down the steps and slipped her hand into his before leading her to the T-Car and opening the side of door for her. She slipped inside and he followed, shutting the door. He waved at Alfred and even Selina, who came to the door in time, too. Maybe her presence… He glanced over to the cliff to see Bruce still standing there, watching. He waved back and Bruce gave a brief nod as Cyborg reved the engine.
"You ready, Titans?" He yelled.
"Yes already," Raven told him exasperated.
Cyborg hit the gas and just as he did, Raven opened a portal to bypass the road trip. They exited on the outskirts of Jump City.
"Aw, Raven, why'd you have to do that?" Beast Boy said, "I wanted a road trip…"
"So you have a death wish?" Raven asked.
The two of them began to bicker back and forth while Cyborg turned the sound system on. In the back, Starfire leaned against Robin's shoulder. It felt nice to be able to do that. His smile widened and he opened the window. As they passed around the curve, a tall sleek tower came into view. It was shaped like a "T". Titans Tower.
It was so good to finally, finally be home.
A/N: O.O … . . o_o It's… done? Wow. Okay, wow, um, I seriously… wow… -breathes in deeply several times to get over the fact… still isn't over the fact- Wow. I'm… I'm seriously hoping that this lived up to everything that you guys were hoping for. To me, it did what it should have (otherwise I wouldn't have published this, but yeah), I hope you enjoyed it and I hope that you enjoyed "Custody". Please review! I have a few more things to say down here before the bottom of the page comes, but first! I'd like to thank everyone who has followed "Custody" or added it to their favorites lists. I'd especially like to thank everyone who reviewed as well. And yes, I am about to list all of you off. Because you mean that much to me ;)
Special thanks for all of the wonderful reviews goes to:
:) , Alonein-Darkness7, Clovergirl22, Balance in the Dark, KaliAnn, Tari Silmarwen, Dagzar, Cold Cruel and Collected, Wynja, loopylouise123, peppymint, AdrenalineRush, Serlenia, alibi2014, ttwildfirex, Arella121, WinchesterPhantom, Clovergirl22, Aki and Tenshi, Connector, Hemlock27, blue-eyed-blond227, Lurkinshdws, ThatBirdWhoSaysDuh, The Magician ( Joseph, xxScriblezxx, Rakna, vballer, Apprentice08, Loony Dagda, "Flame,Blame or Candy Cane", virgoinvertigo, Star Ravager, Astalavisbay, Chibi Lauryn, MutantLover09, Formerly Melodious, Sakura Katana, Balrog Roike, Yumi-wuves-YAOI, Sparx10, Review, Baird Crevan, Kara D, Tameny, Kitty-Katz-Katz, NevermoreLight, HiKari Mokuba's Guardian, DecadentPlaything, Nicole, Star 4 Robin, Gabrielus Prime, la petite tourne-sol, Santana2, Sunset16, Still Town, Trimacle, alvara one of many obsessions, Shinaria, Mystyre, .717, Unleash The Shadow, Mystyre, Nadreth, Agent-G, Ravestna, fullmetaldevil, Blue-Demon-383, Aeris-Raven, KarumaK, TitanQueen13, Padawan Jan-AQ, Lady Bevier, Dark Austral, Slade/Robin fan, Tiff, Panamint, lolo, LastChancetoBreathe, Stormgirl415, Chatwyn, shadow lupus, dlsky, Shinaria, or-chan, Daisy, JA-9, Allspark, Allspark, H. Ferns, Arrienete, Scorp, Heihachi-Katayama, somekindofsomething, midnight glade, ersay123, Aerrow4Ever, anonymus, Andie, sarah . mclaurin bakerbotts . com, annymous, Jane, Valak, wuup, Maei13, xx13ookwormxx, Vampy, ObsidianEbony, TheDentistNemesis, Allendra, Arrienete, A Loyal Reader, DivineRedFire, dragonflysky, .R, FreeFallinSurvivor, Gotyu, KeeperOfComics, Onba, Rainys-day-dreamin, addicted2books, Victory Is For the Weak, Starlight, Sorry, Kirsten Erin, PanMarlon, Kenzie-Cat, Vampires-and-Wearwolves, 13, ivylei-67, arose42, snaperdoodle, BlueSkies, another robin fan, Snapesthe1, arose42, crazygurl34, Moonlit Water, Ms. Unlucky, Hoots, zack maniac, redmail . com, Mellowtopian, VulcanCarrotCake, Violet, betmail . com, and destinyfey.
You guys all rock. Every review you sent me brightened my day and encouraged me to keep writing this… this mammoth of a story. (Which did you know it was only supposed to be about 25 chapters? Yep! It was! So much for living up to that expectation XD) I would also like to send out a special thanks to everyone who emailed me or PMed me to encourage me as well. Seeing that you cared that much really was awesome and I'd like to thank you for it. I also want to thank my friends who legit hung onto my leg until I updated. They have so much patience for me, I don't know how they did it.
Thanks above all else goes to my friend, Mommadear, who has read every chapter, edited it, and given me her honest opinion about each chapter. The story would be nothing without her and I thank her from the bottom of my heart for all of the work she has done to help me make this story what it is.
So now onto final notes - plans, etc. I hope to go through all of my anonymous reviews this summer and post them up on my webpage. I may not be able to get to all of them all at once, but I will, I promise and they'll be posted on my Fan Fiction. Net homepage. Every time I update after this story, you should see more and I'll keep them up until December of 2010. As for new stories…
I will primarily stick to One-Shots for a while, both for the DC and Marvel Universes as well as some new stories for Mangas and Animes. As for multi-chapter stories… I do have a few in mind, but after how long Custody has run for, I'm not going to start posting those until I'm at least a few chapters in. I have more on this subject in depth on my FanFiction Homepage though, so feel free to check that for more info.
But yeah, that's pretty much it! As I mentioned before, my sites are updated touching upon new things going on with me as well as notes about Custody…. Now I sort of feel like I'm writing so that I don't have to say that Custody is done… But, it's done. So again, I really do want to thank you all for reading this story. I hope it lived up to your expectations and that the ending was satisfying. Stay awesome everyone! Keep smiling and stay epic! Till next time,
~Rena Redhead ^_^