Epilogue – Craven
Dick tilted back his head and squinted up into the dull winter sun. Titans Tower loomed over him, a huge silhouette that was as much home to him as Wayne Manor was.
It was empty right now; he'd made sure of that. Walking the snow laden ground of the island had brought back so many memories – of better times, of worse times. Back then it always felt like he was going somewhere – like he was on a journey to a specific place. It had been as heady as it had been confusing. But now…
Now he had arrived. He was who he was meant to be – a vigilante, a police officer, a man grown – and yet…
He was back to being as confused as ever. More so, and now there was no place to go.
"Thought I'd find you here."
OK so the tower was not so empty.
Roy Harper leaned against a tree and grinned, "been looking for you."
Dick didn't look in his direction. "Found me."
He continued walking, forcing his friend to fall into step beside him or be left behind.
"Kind of thought you might be looking for me actually." Roy said, hurrying a little to catch up.
Was he? Probably. Not consciously but somewhere buried under that part of him that had learned you didn't ask for help…maybe.
"I heard. About, well, you know…" Roy said, "figured you could use some advice."
Dick upped his pace.
Roy was forced to break into a jog. "Been there, done that, you know."
His head snapped round. "I'm not like you." It sounded cruel.
"Ouch." Roy stopped walking. "Look, Dick, no one ever thinks it's them 'til it happens."
Dick came to a halt but didn't turn, keeping his back to Roy.
"That's the thing with drugs. It's real equal opportunities – rich, poor, black, white..."
"So you're saying there was never a point when you could walk away?" He snapped. "Because there is. I'm there." Dick turned and pushed spread fingers through his hair. "I know what I could do, what I want to do." He closed his eyes against the burning inside him, the whisper crying out for more meth. "Hell I even know what I will do!" Probably. That realisation cluttered at his heart. He opened his eyes to see Roy watching him with a mixture of anger and concern. "Didn't you ever see that point?"
Roy took a breath. "Maybe." He shrugged. "Or maybe I crossed that point the very first time I did drugs. It wasn't an accident like you. I made the choice. And it didn't come out of a healthy place for me." He frowned. "But it made me feel good. And when it wore off, I wanted to feel good again…and again." He paused. "Sometimes…" He looked away. "Sometimes I still do."
Dick looked at his friend. "What stops you?" He needed to know, wanted it to be that simple, even if he knew it wasn't. "Lian?"
"Maybe a little. But mostly…mostly it's knowing that however much I want to, I won't feel that good – first high good – again." He sighed. "Because you never do, Dick. I found that out the hard way. You chase that first hit, but it doesn't happen so you take more and more, trying to get there. And before you know it, it's got you and you can't stop." He looked away but Dick guessed his eyes weren't really seeing anything other than memories. "Knowing that keeps me going. Lian gives me something to keep going for."
They fell silent.
Dick looked down at his feet. I'm not like you. His own words echoed in his head. He still believed them. Did that make him conceited? In denial?
Just plain wrong?
Or maybe… Dick's lips curved in the faintest of smiles. "Maybe…you're like me then." He told his friend. "We're both at that point."
Roy burst into a grin. "Maybe." He agreed. Then his face fell. "But Dick… That point's forever. Or until…"
"…You cross it." Dick finished, putting his hands in his pockets, fingers curling around the packet hidden there.
They fell into silence after that, and continued walking. When conversation began again, it was safe topics like Lian and Titan's and the JSA.
Finally the light began to dwindle and Roy said his goodbyes. Dick watched him go and then continued his slow circuit of the island, only stopping when he reached the water's edge.
Dick took the packet of Blue from his pocket, still sealed and untouched. The only trace of the drug left. "I already have an addiction." He told the empty air. It's called Nightwing.
And he drew back his arm and tossed it into the sea.
Coda – Bedshaped.
Dick had paid for Evie's funeral. No family had come forward to claim her body. No one had cared enough, it seemed, to miss her or mourn her.
The flowers in his hand smelt sweet. He had no idea what kind she liked, or even if she liked flowers at all, so he'd simply chosen roses. White roses - for innocence - and it had struck him as vaguely ironic. He had never felt innocent and he doubted Evie had either.
He laid the flowers against the headstone and whispered a gypsy lament. He stayed there for long moments then stood up and let out a long breath, falling into his thoughts.
Time passed. The man at his side simply waited.
"I could have been her, Alfred." He finally admitted and closed his eyes against the truth he had hidden from Roy and even, from himself. "I thought about it. Part of me even wanted it, wanted to let go."
"Master Dick, you certainly could not have been her!" The elderly butler sounded offended. "Miss Jones was… She was bedshaped."
He frowned. "Bedshaped?"
"Forgive me; it's a term I once heard a long time ago. It means…one who has lost touch with living and is simply…dying, just as surely as if they were on their deathbed." He turned. "You, Master Dick, even at our most desperate hours, were never bedshaped."
Dick remained silent, aware of the beat of his heart. He hoped Alfred's words were true. But he felt a storm coming, from far off and he wasn't so sure.
"Come, Master Dick," the elderly man finally said. "This chill is very hard even on young bones. I dare say we shall both be better for a spot of tea."
Dick sighed and began walking.
At the entrance to the cemetery, he looked back over his shoulder at Evie's grave. Death had set her free from her addiction. He hoped she would rest in peace.
And that he, one day, might find some.
This story won the 2007 DFA for Best Action/Adventure. Many, many thanks to the following reviewers, without whom this story would have never got finished – Red Wulf, Ellen, Beth, CindyW, Christine, SahRae, Robin, DC Lady, Lucy, Wendy, Goober787, Charlene, BatThing, Trinilee Greenleaf, Protector of Canon2, amura, WingBat, kokomocalifornia, caltha, Batnightwings, Alleonh, Alle, Wandering Raccoon, Jessi and BatCasity. My apologies if I missed anyone, it wasn't intentional.
Thanks for reading!