Golden Sunset, Eagle Rising

A Teen Titans fanfic by Brain Doyle

No permission has been granted, no money has been made, no offence has been intended.

The majority of this story is set sometime just before New Titans #88/#89

New York City, year before last (Comic book time) (Which, for the uninitiated means it could be anytime within the last ten years worth of comics)

The box had been redirected to one of Dicks anonymous mail drops in New York, from Gotham, via the Batcave. The covering note on the box read;

"This clearly isn't meant for me. B says you can pay to have your own mail redirected next time. I _think_ he's joking, but I'm not sure how to tell the difference yet"

It was signed "R#3"

Dick sighed "If it makes you feel any better Tim, I've NEVER been sure".

So it had been left for Robin at Gotham Police HQ, and Tim had collected it and passed it on.

Even assuming that Batman would have checked it twice over for anything suspicious, Dick still made the usual checks himself. When he finally got around to opening the box, he found it contained something Dick had never expected to see again, the costume and winged harness of the Titans West member Golden Eagle, otherwise known as the late Charley Parker.

The fabric was torn somewhat, and there were what might be a couple of bloodstains on the tunic. Dick felt a pang as soon as he saw it, a lump in his throat at another reminder of the friends he had lost recently. Charley had been killed by the Wildebeest Society, a ludicrously named but incredibly powerful, organisation dedicated to destroying the Titans (or worse). He'd died a futile, pointless and painful death that he certainly hadn't deserved. He may not have been the most dedicated hero around, and Dick may not have known as well as he might have liked, but at least he had tried to make a difference with his life.

A letter accompanying the costume, from some firm of lawyers, explained that this was the final request of their late client, whose name Dick didn't recognise.

There was also a sealed envelope included with the letter, in handwriting he didn't recognise until he remembered he'd never actually seen Charley write anything. It was handwritten

Dick sprawled on his couch and started to read.

"Aloha Robbie,"

Dick smiled, that was Charley's style all right.

"All right, I know that you're Nightwing now, and I'd really to call you by your real name in this letter, but since you never told me what your real name was, I'll use the name I first knew you by."

"If you're reading this then I'm dead. If it was in some universe destroying level emergency then I guess you won't be reading this either, but anything short of a mutant star-goat eating the world, I'm guessing you'd survive, and take the world to safety with you. You were always that kind of guy."

"And if I'm dead (and I hope it was at least in some cool, heroic way) then I'd like someone to know a bit more about me than I was ever willing to share."

"Why you? Well, for starters I know you hate a mystery more than anyone else I ever met, and secondly, well, we'll come to that later."

"First thing is, as I'm sure you probably suspected, 'Charley Parker' wasn't my real name. I chose because I not only loved his music, but also his nickname, y'know, "Bird"? I'm guessing a smart guy like you probably figured out that connection already."

Dick nodded absently, he'd always found the name to be a little too obvious, but had respected Charley's privacy, he's used too many pseudonyms himself over the years to feel badly about anyone else doing the same. He read on..

"I was going to pick either "Charley Parker" or "John Grayson", after this guy I once saw at the circus in LA. John Grayson was a trapeze artist, one of "The Flying Graysons", along with his wife, I think they had a kid too or something, but I never saw him... Anyway, you never saw a man more at home flying through the air than that Grayson guy, except possibly you, and Superman, and the big S has the ultimate unfair advantage in that department. I was so jealous of Grayson being able to do fly though the air like that, it was all I wanted to do when I grew up. Not just be a pilot or anything, and I was never going to be a trapeze artist like him, I wanted to REALLY fly."

Dick reread the last paragraph twice and then just stared at it again. Was it possible Charley had known his secret? He remembered the Haly Circus stopping in Los Angeles a couple of times when he was little, and it must have been around that time he'd had that awful flu, and had been so sick and dizzy that his parents wouldn't let him perform. He'd been stuck in bed for over a week. The timing would be just about right too if he remembered it properly. Charley would have been about four.

Dick glanced up at the framed circus poster advertising "The Flying Graysons" that always hung in whichever room he was living in. "So Dad, you and Mom seem to have inspired three Robins, one Nightwing, and now an Golden Eagle too! That's quite a legacy."

The man's face in the poster, whilst it couldn't convey the sheer energy of the man himself, just smiled on.

In the absence of more data Dick put it down to coincidence. He read on.

"As for the other reason I chose you to say this too, well, how can I put this...? Flamebird wasn't the only one with a crush on you in the Titans West team. Yeah, I may be in a coffin, but I'm coming out of the closet! Sorry if that weirds you out, but I may as well be honest here if nowhere else, it's not like it'll make a difference now."

Dick blinked for a moment, then shrugged.

"You're the only one I've told about this, though I'm pretty sure Lilith knew. Of course, we all just assumed that Lilith knew everything anyway, it saved time. I might have come out to the others on the team, most of them would have been cool I think, but I just couldn't be bothered with the fuss that Hank would have made about it, he was bad enough with Don, and he was his own brother, so I kept it too myself. I put on the old surf-dude pose, and they were happy enough not to look any deeper."

"Another thing you should know about me is that I wasn't always a goof-off. Yes I know that's what you thought of me, I don't mind, by the time you knew me I was. But I was a real brain when I was young, college courses at age twelve, UCLA at fourteen, the whole "Doogie Howser" uber-nerd thing, except I was more interested in electronics and physics than medicine. A real live, A1 quality, anal-retentive science geek."

Dick tried to picture Charley in a button down collar and lab coat and found it almost impossible. Hawaiian shirts? Sure. Cutaway jeans? No problem, but the laidback surfer as superbright lab-jockey? The mind boggled.

"I'd been working on my flying suit for a couple of semesters in my spare time. Anyway, while I was there using their labs I met another student, guy by the name of Hector Hall. Yes, I know that name might mean something to you. He was also known as the Silver Scarab."

Dick thought about the name, then remembered, a superhero with the now defunct Infinity Incorporated. Hector Hall, son of the Golden Age Hawkman and Hawkwoman. He'd had a career as the Silver Scarab and then... Dick honestly didn't know what had happened to him, he'd died or something hadn't he? The Titans had only met the team once and Dick hadn't even been there. Since then he'd always been too busy to pay much attention to the West Coast superteams.

"Hector was in pre-Med, but was also working on a pet project of his own after hours. He wanted to make a flying suit like his parents. But to get it to work he needed permission to get into some lab areas that he really shouldn't have been in, and that's where I came in. I had free reign to go anywhere on campus, one of the benefits of being a genius. Plus I was able to understand what he was trying to do better than he did, since I was into theoretical physics a LOT more than him."

"Hank was using this stuff called Ninth metal his parents had got hold of. Ninth is amazing stuff; with the slightest electrical current passing through it, it doesn't get on well with gravity. That's what makes it a great basis for a flying suit, but working with it is a pain in the ass! Don't get me started on smelting the damn stuff! None of the normal rules apply when it's in molten form!"

"Anyway, Hank was always into Egyptian stuff, so he wanted to use the Scarab as his gimmick. In the end he became the Silver Scarab."

"My deal with him was that I could get a little of the Ninth metal for myself, provided I didn't use it for criminal or military projects, which seemed like a weird rule since I'd helped him break any number of rules by helping him make the suit in the first place. Still, it got me my piece of Ninth metal and I was building my own suit using it. He could be the Silver Scarab if he wanted, but there was only one animal I wanted to be, and it wasn't a bug. It was ironic that it even sort fit in with his motif, from Silver Scarab to Golden Eagle!"

"I was also helping him work out how to build his solar energy blasters, but I was never that struck with them as an idea, so I never used them myself. Guess if I'm dead now chances are I should probably have kept them, huh?"

Dick shivered a little at that, gallows humour had never appealed to him.

"Ah well, now comes the part that's hard to think about again. Did I say at any point that Hector Hall was one of the best looking guys I'd ever seen? And he always seemed as uncomfortable around women as I did, and we'd been getting on so well, almost a big-brother/little-brother thing, but more so, so I kind of thought..."

"Well, anyway, let's just say I picked a cosmic-scale, Darkseid-knocking-on-the-front-door-level, "really bad time" to try my first pass at a guy. I was too young, too nervous, too clumsy, and Hector was too highly strung, too reactive and too damn _straight_! Well, it got messy, REALLY messy. He called me a whole pile of names I don't think he really met, and probably didn't even know the meaning of and I took it badly. I sometimes think that if I'd spent more time developing a functional "gaydar" it would have been more useful than the suit!"

"I'd spent so much time and effort into working up the courage to even talk to him about it, and well, having it thrown back in my face was the last straw. I didn't have any family to support me and I'd never really had a proper childhood because of my smarts, so I just had all these pressures hitting me at the same time without any release."

"I had academic pressures that I was too young to cope with emotionally, and now I had emotional pressures I was too young to cope with intellectually. Not to put too fine a point on it, I had what they politely call "an episode", which translates into "full-blown nervous breakdown".... at age 15. Like I said, I always was an overachiever back then!"

"So ultimately, I quit my classes and dropped out completely. I ended up in a shack on Malibu beach, raking in bottle caps. Oh, I had money put aside that my parents had left me, and I'd earned a tidy amount from a few patents over the years, but that was part of my life I didn't want to have anything to do with again."

"It was surfing that helped me get back to normal. The waves don't care if you're a genius or an idiot, or if you're gay or not, they're equal opportunity right the way down the tube. It's strange, because I'm not even from the coast and I'd never thought about surfing before, but it just felt so right! On a good breaker I could just forget all my troubles and live for the moment."

Dick had seen Charley surf a couple of times and, recalling the blissed-out expression on his face when he'd be riding the crest of a wave, had to agree, it must have been like swinging down between tall buildings on an impossibly thin line, trusting to your skill to prevent yourself from becoming street-pizza. Maybe surfing was something he should try himself... Sometime.

"About the only thing I'd kept with me from my old life was the flying suit. They let me have it in my therapy as it gave me something of my past to hold on to, they didn't know it was almost finished, or even what it was able to do."

"It took a couple of years of therapy, but I grew out of the funk. I liked the surfer life and sure as heck wasn't going back to college, but I wanted to do more than that. I was ready to face the world again, but I couldn't go back to being the old me, that hadn't been much fun the first time, and I wasn't keen on starting all that again. So I decided to do things on my terms for a change."

"Of course, with the suit, I decided to give the hero gig a try after all. I also decided to try and teach people to value their heroes a bit more than most of them did."

"Now, I really didn't need any more money than I already had. Like I say I had enough put aside to live on, and a little more besides, but I decided to advertise myself as a pay-as-you-go hero. Either they'd use me, which was fine, or if they needed their ass saved by another hero, they might realise that these guys did it for free ands that was worth valuing, compared to me. It wasn't like I would ignore a real emergency, but the people on the ground didn't know that."

Dick smiled again, there was a loopy, yet almost Zen, logic to that which sounded like Charley all the way.

"And now, the big question.,, "What to do with the suit now?" Well, to be honest, I have no idea. You can put it in a glass case if you like, but that does seem a waste of some really natty threads, and some gnarly mechanics to boot."

"On the one hand, you can use it yourself if you like. Give Nightwing real wings, or not, as you choose."

"Or you can find some worthy individual to carry on the name. I know that's a big favour to ask and one heck of a responsibility, but I can't think of anyone better suited to find the right person to be the next Golden Eagle."

"Oh, and tell Bette I loved her. I really did, just maybe not in the way she thought I did, the bossy big sister I never knew I wanted but was damn glad I had.... most of the time."

"So until the next time we see each other, when we'll probably be wearing wings of a different sort, stay well!"

Aloha Kahuna Wonder!"

It was signed with the name from the lawyer's letter, and Dick realised that another mystery had been solved, and he now knew the Golden Eagle's real name.

Dick sat and reread the letter couple of times. He'd never have suspected half of what Charley had revealed, but it did all tie together with what he did know.

He was deeply touched by Charley's confidence in him, but wasn't at all sure he was ready to try and select someone to be another hero. What if something happened to them, like had happened to Charley... or Jason, or Danny. That would be more than he could bear.

On the other hand, Charley was right, it was a waste of the gift of flight.

Kory had been going on at him recently about redesigning his Nightwing costume, and had mentioned incorporating Tamaranean glider wings into this new version. (That struck him as a little odd, he didn't recall anyone on Tamaran ever wearing glider wings, they didn't need them because they could all fly naturally. He resolved to ask Kory about that sometime...). The gravity on Tamaran might make the actual workkins a bit unreliable, but perhaps with a little Ninth metal worked in... it couldn't hurt, could it?

Not enough for full time flying, he wasn't sure he could handle that and it'd make him lazy, but boosting his gliding a little might give him a useful advantage in a pinch, and would cut down on the need for jumplines and de-cel cables. That was definitely worth thinking about, and it would be honouring Charley in a small quiet way.

Until he decided what to do with it Dick, with appropriate respect, laid the Golden Eagle costume back in the box it had arrived in.

Titan's Tower; Today

Dick was going through some of the boxes he'd had shipped to the new Titans Tower just after it was built. He hadn't had a chance to go through much of it, what with all the constant ferrying between Bludhaven, Gotham and New York. But now he had a free day and had promised himself some clearing time at the Tower.

When he came across a certain, familiar box buried beneath piles of case notes he felt the usual pang of loss again. This was Charleys box, with the remains of his suit included.

The glider wings had been okay, but he'd never been comfortable with them, especially not after what he'd found out about the "Kory" who'd help design them. He hadn't done anything with his old costume since he'd adopted his most recent version, but it was still intact, with the Ninth metal filaments still worked in. They would easily be taken out and restored, and the suit itself was retrievable.

Now there was an active Titans again, maybe it was time to think about there being another Golden Eagle. After all, he'd never thought there'd be another Robin after Jason, nor another Flash after Barry, nor another Green Lantern after Hal, but their successors were all doing honour to their inspirations. It would be a shame if Charley's only legacy came to nothing.

But how to find out who should wear the suit, that was a tricky one.

Dick sat down to ponder this some more, he was sure a solution would come.... in time... In time, the Golden Eagle would fly again!


Authors notes;
I have to confess I never liked Nightwing's glider wings in his post Titan's Hunt outfit, especially not when their mechanics were never explained, and to me, they never successfully replaced the more traditional grapnel and line. With that in mind, I thought I'd at least come up with an explanation about how Nightwing suddenly pretty much got the power of flight for a while.

Charley originally had a link to the Silver Age Hawkman, but numerous retcons fixed THAT wagon, so I thought I'd try to keep the theme going by tying him into the Golden Age version instead and Ninth meal seemed to solve all my plot problems.

Charley's crush on Dick was not meant to be contentious, just me adding another layer onto a seriously underdeveloped character. I don't think it contradicts anything particularly, and if it does, so what, this is a fanfic?