Chapter 9

Thirty-seven separate scenarios flashed through Batman's mind before he acted. About twenty-six of those he immediately disregarded as far too bloodthirsty. Seven he disregarded against all common sense because they involved ignoring the scene before him under the theory that his ward was not in immediate danger and it made no sense to spring an obvious trap. Of the remaining four options, two were just plain stupid and had almost no chance of working but would be extremely satisfying if he stayed free long enough to execute, and one involved killing Myra from where he stood, not as bloodthirsty as the first twenty-six methods but still not a viable option. That left a thoroughly unsatisfying, imperfect plan that was slightly less likely in succeeding as leaving the scene altogether in search of Poison Ivy, but a much better chance than barging into the room.

Still standing in the doorway, all senses on high alert, he tossed a knock-out chemical into the room. He himself was already wearing a mask (he was dealing with Poison Ivy who had already drugged him once; several times even if Myra had been dosing him). Dick wasn't, of course, but even though there was as slight risk of giving someone a sedative who had already been drugged with an unknown substance, the gas was very mild and the honest truth was that, in this particular instance, an awake Dick was a liability. Batman had no way of knowing in what state of mind Dick would awaken to; either he would hinder his own rescue or he would be too proficient at helping and give himself away. It was…simpler this way.

Nothing happened in the five seconds he gave the canister to work (the sleeping occupants of the bed couldn't fall any more asleep). No alarms sounded, no bars sprang up or plants. Still not entering the room, Batman shot a line at the bed, hooked it, braced the line in the doorway, and reeled. The bed was of strong iron and had been bolted, both into the floor and the wall with shackles welded to the post. The mattress, however, had no such fixings. It flew across the room, slammed into the doorway, and threw its occupants forward at the abrupt stop. Myra tumbled with a vicious thud into the wall. Dick tumbled directly into Batman's arms. This took no more than two and a half seconds.

Now the room reacted, heavy bars clamping over the doorway like a Venus fly trap closing its jaws, but seconds too late. There was a ripping noise as the bars snagged the sheet Batman had pulled up with Dick, and then they were gone.

Their flight was not completely unimpeded, but even burdened as he was with Dick thrown over his shoulder Batman had no difficulty dispatching anyone he did run across. Hypnotic powers might get Ivy willing cannon fodder, but it did not generally provide her minions with great skill. Batman ran, not to find Poison Ivy, not yet, but instead back to the Bat mobile where he quickly stowed Dick, taking the time to wrap him in his spare robe and do a quick check of his vitals.

Physically, the boy seemed fine. Anything else would be dealt with after. He locked the car (full lock and emergency protocols active; Dick would almost certainly be alright now, no matter what the outcome for Batman was) and left.

In the meantime, Poison Ivy was glaring at Myra's crumpled form. The trap had been perfect. All it had needed was for Batman to walk into the room. He'd have found himself locked into an impenetrable cell. Then the walls would have opened to reveal her and her waiting vines, he and the boy would have been ensnared (the boy to ensure that Bats was distracted and more easily grabbed) and Ivy could have her fun with him at her leisure. Perfect.

But Batman hadn't entered the room. He'd escaped, with the bait, leaving only that useless woman behind. The plan was falling apart. It was only a matter of time before Batman found a way to break the pheromone's power. And he was smart. He'd know better than to hack at the branches when he could go straight for the root. He was coming for her. But surely she could use that to her advantage?

"Take the bitch," she ordered two of her men with an imperious motion of her hand to Myra's crumbled form, "We'll make her the bait." The men complied eagerly, though it said a lot to Ivy's power of seduction that their hands didn't even wander over the nude form as they picked her up. As if Ivy cared about their animalistic couplings.

Of course, she knew Batman wouldn't much care to save Myra; she had seen what she had done to the boy (not that she was really watching, but she had to keep an eye on proceedings for the trap to work). But perhaps, just maybe, the scene he had come upon could incite him to his baser desire for violence and revenge. Perhaps…

There was a dark shadow, a slight draft of wind behind her. He was already there.

The fight was brief. Ivy's army of minions had already been dosed with the antidote, ironically enough through the same method Ivy had used, the sprinkler systems. Batman had enlisted the aid of female officers, firefighters, and scientists to mass produce the antidote and administer it while he went after the source. Ivy's entire plan had been contingent upon incapacitating Batman. Her garden, while deadly, did not have the dexterity or mobility needed to help her achieve victory, and her minions proved to be rather useless. And to be perfectly honest, at that point, the fight had somewhat gone out of her. She expected to fail. Furious and regal though she stood, her mind was already on contingency plans of how to escape after her capture, even as she fought to evade said end.

The cleanup afterwards took longer than the actual rescue and capture had. Most of that Batman left to Gotham's finest, but he did take the time to confiscate the video feed of the room Myra had…molested…Dick in. There was evidence enough without it. He left.

Dick was still unconscious when he carried him to his bed. Bruce stared at him silently (after a brief but intimately thorough exam for injuries. It seemed Dick had come out of his ordeal with nothing more than a few bruises.) He was dressed now, tucked into his bed and moving slightly in his sleep, the smooth countenance of unconsciousness giving way to signs of distress. Without turning his head to look, Bruce spoke to a presence at the door.

"You are supposed to be resting."

"I came to see Master Dick," Alfred answered, his tone but stubborn and fragile. Then at last Bruce looked at him. He stood unsteadily in the doorway, the day's trials evident in his bandaged head where he had been struck during the struggle that had resulted in their couch being shot. Still, despite his injury he looked over both his charges with an adept eye.

"This was not your fault," he said suddenly. Bruce didn't answer. He turned his head to look at Dick once more. He had never felt so out of depth before; physical dangers he could handle, and he was used to mental demons of all kinds, but this…and why hadn't he seen it? He had invited Myra into their home. He had allowed her to…and all the signs had been there, but he still hadn't…

"It was not your fault," Alfred stated definitively once more, suddenly right at his shoulder, and offering an embroidered handkerchief. It was only then that Bruce realized he, he of all people, was actually crying. He turned away abruptly, determined to erase any evidence of such a weakness. He shook himself. Dick was safe, Poison Ivy and Myra were imprisoned. This could be dealt with. It would be dealt with. Stoic and silent, he turned and stalked from the room. There had to be something that needed to be taken care of, something he could physically do.

He had only managed two steps down the hall before he was stopped by a piercing scream. Dick was awake.