Gotham Adventures notes
Author's Note: I wrote this just after I posted my first story "Eternally Yours" but for some reason didn't finish it. I've had a couple of reader's request some more stories so here one is. I'll admit this one hasn't had as much work on it as the first and hasn't been proof read (I am a sad, lonely writer with no friends!) so please, please excuse typo's etc. This is written in the animated series format, but when I wrote it I hadn't seen Nightwing's appearance in the Gotham Adventures Animated comics or the animated series but I did take the moment on the rooftop between Batman and Robin and Batgirl when Robin punches Batman and takes off and went from there. I was horrified to learn that a relationship develops between Bruce and Barbara in the future YUCK YUCK YUCK and choose to ignore that completely YUCK AGAIN! Dick and Babs Forever!! Enjoy. Warning: Contains Sappiness unbecoming to Batman.
Gotham Adventures: Two heads are better than one.
THE BATCAVE, BENEATH WAYNE MANOR.
Alfred Pennyworth hummed softly to himself in the Batcave as he cleaned the display cases that housed the various objects Batman had collected from his foes.
Every now and then the elderly gentleman would bend down to inspect the items a little closer. Alfred was not ashamed to admit that some of the pieces still fascinated for him, unfortunately they also made excellent dust collectors.
His head lifted a little as a soft humming sound caught his attention and he stood back from the last case and eyed it critically, before removing the tiniest smudge in the top left corner. With a satisfied nod he turned and made his way to the centre of the Batcave just as the Batmobile pulled into its docking position. The roof slid back silently but for a small squeak that caused a ripple of displeasure in the butler's forehead, he would need to deal with that later.
He barely noticed the silent figure of Gotham City's Dark Knight as he seemingly floated away from the machine and made his way to the costume vault, but his partner was an entirely different matter. A small red and yellow blur was jumping up and down in front of the straight-laced Englishman uttering a barely recognisable dialogue about their adventure that night.
Alfred raised his eyes to the ceiling before fixing the young boy in a hard glare that he had learned worked wonders on small, overly excited young boys. Instantly the blur settled down and presently his face and small physic came into focus.
"Master Timothy." Alfred said solemnly, "Kindly remove your costume so it can be laundered." He bent down to inspect a small stain on the front of the brightly coloured tunic and his eyes widened, "Is that an oil stain! Heavens above that will never come out!"
Timothy Drake grinned as only a little boy can. "Nope – Barbeque sauce, spilled my dinner!"
Alfred raised his already upturned nose, "Dinner? Anything that requires the use of barbeque sauce can hardly be considered dinner! I have a roast chicken with vegetables in the oven – you do know what vegetables are do you not, young Sir?"
"Funny little green things right?" Tim muttered incoherently as he pulled his tunic over his head, "Bruce said they give you brain freeze."
"Did He." Alfred replied, folding the tunic over his arm and glaring at his surrogate son as he appeared from within the costume vault fully converted back into his civilian persona.
"I believe I said they are brain food Alfred." Bruce Wayne explained, raising an eyebrow at Tim, "Apparently he wasn't paying attention."
"Really." Alfred remarked dryly, "I wonder where he learnt that from."
Bruce smiled at the butler and pushed Tim towards the costume vault, "Get changed. If I was paying attention correctly Alfred has a roast standing by."
Alfred sighed and made his way to the small elevator that would take him back into the Manor, "Dinner will be served in ten minutes Sir."
"Thankyou Alfred." Bruce answered sweetly.
Moments later Alfred was being entertained by the exciting adventures of Batman and Robin, told at an unbelievably fast speed by young Tim as he simultaneously swallowed his meal.
" … An' then the Penguin says "You will never clip my wings Batman!" and he jumps off the balcony with an umbrella that's suppose to open up and turn into a 'copter, only he grabbed the wrong one and all it did was turn inside out!"
"My word!" Alfred exclaimed.
Tim giggled, "You shoulda heard him squeal Alfred! Sounded just like a girl – Then Batman jumps after him and catches him just before he hits the ground and the Penguin makes an even better sound – kinda like a howling dog. Then Batman drops him right on top of the police car and they all jump on him – it was sooooo funny!" He finished his story with a hurried gulp of milk before fixing the butler in his twinkling eyes, "An' that's not even the best bit – I haven't told you about Nightwing yet …"
"I think that's enough storytelling for tonight." Bruce cut in suddenly.
Alfred's face had risen at the sound of the young vigilante's name and he passed a disappointed glance to Bruce. Tim's face was an echo of the butler's as he stared dismayed at his adopted father with an equally confused look on his small countenance.
"Why can't I tell him about Nightwing?"
Bruce suddenly found his meal very interesting, he moved the potatoes on his plate around and seemed more than content in just watching them.
Alfred shook his head, "Perhaps some other time Master Timothy. Now it's late and time for you to be in bed in young man."
Tim nodded sullenly, stepping away from the table and looking to Bruce curiously, "Why don't you let me talk about Dick? You an' Babs always cut me off when I try to talk about him."
Bruce sent the boy an obviously false smile then let it drop when he saw Tim wasn't buying it, "It's a long story Tim."
Tim frowned instantly, "That's what Babs says too only it's not a long story – you just don't want me to know why he stopped being Robin. Do you think I'm going to do the same thing?"
"No." Bruce said simply.
Tim stared at him for some time and Alfred cringed at the silence that followed. Even when Dick Grayson wasn't home he was causing the horrible silence that had often plagued the Mansion after he and Bruce fought.
Alfred despised the silence. He preferred to remember the laughter that Dick used to bring with him whenever he walked into a room – before he had grown up and out of the Robin costume.
Eventually Tim stamped his foot defiantly and stormed off to his room. Bruce watched him leave with varying degrees of sadness and relief on his face.
"Perhaps you should talk to the boy Master Bruce – I believe he's afraid that you may put him aside as you have Master Dick." Alfred said quietly.
Bruce stood up sharply, so much so that his chair fell back behind him with a loud SMACK.
"I didn't put him aside Alfred – he shelved himself! I didn't tell him to run away and if he thinks he can just come back into my city and everything will be forgiven then he … he …"
"He obviously believes that he belongs to a family. Isn't that what families do Master Bruce? Forgive each other?"
Bruce picked up his chair, pushing it a little roughly under the table, "He walked out on this family – on you, Barbara and I. He can't just waltz back in."
Alfred picked up Bruce's discarded meal, "No he can't. Especially since you've made it so clear that he is no longer welcome." He forced the younger man to make eye contact with him, "I know you were hoping that he would make the first move and come home, but you've made it impossible for him."
Bruce shook his head, "He's been back for two months Alfred, that's more than enough time to come and explain his behaviour."
"You had the locks changed Master Bruce and a new phone number installed. I believe Master Dick has the message loud and clear."
Bruce glowered, gripping the top of the chair till his knuckles whitened, "He wouldn't have come anyway."
Alfred paused on his way back to the kitchen, "Perhaps you could have given him the choice? Wasn't that the reason he left in the first place? You wouldn't let him make his own choices?"
Bruce stared at his oldest friend and Alfred felt a twinge of regret at the obvious pain he was causing by mentioning Dick. He remembered how shattered Bruce had been to find Dick gone without a word. He remembered how shattered he himself had felt. But Bruce went beyond the pain and eventually found himself some resentment and anger to immerse himself in instead.
Alfred was not a psychologist but he had known Bruce all of his life and he knew that the strange and confusing behaviour was Bruce's way of protecting himself. Dick had abandoned him and for Bruce it was the second time. His parents had done the same, with circumstances that were beyond their control and beyond Bruce's, although he still managed to find something in the terrible murder to blame himself for. But he had never been purposefully abandoned before. He had not protected himself against losing someone when it could have been avoided. For years he had trained himself so that no one would ever have to feel what he had, he would protect all from ever losing a loved one. But this was something he couldn't stop, he couldn't fight, he couldn't defeat. But he could have prevented it – and that alone was what haunted him.
When the news of Dick's return reached them Alfred had hoped that the whole horrible experience could be put behind them. But Bruce had shown a remarkable amount of stubbornness when it came to accepting Dick back into the family. He had done things that had shocked the butler who hadn't thought him capable of such demeaning and purposefully hurtful acts and they did little to encourage Dick to return.
Bruce was keeping Dick at a distance, protecting himself. He would not feel the utter helplessness of losing someone who meant so much to him again. He was sabotaging any form of reconciliation in an attempt to protect his fragile self.
Dick was not without blame. He had come back silently and without word – just as he had left. He was renting an apartment instead of coming home to the Manor and although he patrolled as Nightwing, he did so away from Batman and the team, he avoided them at all costs.
They were both so stupidly proud and stubborn that Alfred found it hard to believe that they weren't actually related.
And it made him miserable.
They both wore their pain well, hiding it beneath the masks that they had learned to wear when they were younger. They were experts at disguising every aspect of their personalities. They were capable of wearing a happy face and acting as though everything was fine in the world when on the inside they were falling apart.
Alfred was used to seeing it in Bruce. The Playboy Billionaire façade that he wore was as familiar as the Dark and Awe Inspiring mantle of the Batman. But Dick had never needed to cover up his true identity, and his emotions were what made him so much more carefree and relaxed than his mentor.
That was then, now Dick wore a mask also, but it was not as convincing as Bruce's. His eyes told the truth: deep blue pools of hurt, anger and guilt. Alfred had seen him only once since he had returned and it was all he could do not to pull the young man into an embrace, to tell him that everything would be alright, to see him smile in his old way again.
But Dick had shied away from any contact and knowing how much that hurt Alfred only doubled his own guilt. He had asked instantly about Barbara and Alfred could see that he was still very much in love with her and unsure if she would never feel the same for him ever again. If only he had known how much she had missed him, how Alfred had heard her crying when she thought she was alone in the Batcave, how the mention of his name could bring a pained expression to her pretty face. She too had covered up her pain over time, she convinced herself that Dick was in the past and she was moving on to her future. How Alfred had longed to tell her that she could never do that – because Dick was her future. It was as obvious as moustache on his face that the two were born to be together, that fate had brought them together from both sides of their lives.
As Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon and as Robin and Batgirl, they were and always would be the perfect match – no matter who else came into their lives. Alfred knew that eventually they would find each other again.
Barbara had dated briefly, but without passion and without care. She was too afraid of having her heart broken again to offer it to anyone else as she had to Dick. Alfred was unsure of Dick's relationships, but he guessed from the loneliness etched into the boyish face that his heart still belonged to the fiery redhead who had captured it so completely.
He knew Dick was miserable, he hated being alone, but he was also adamant that he wouldn't be the one to mend the burned bridge between he and Bruce. Not when he knew Bruce would only turn his back on him.
Alfred sighed, it was time to play his trump card. "When Master Dick left you lost a son and partner but you gained a daughter in Barbara and eventually a new son in Master Tim – and Batman gained a team."
He held Bruce's gaze strongly, forbidding the younger man to look away, "On the other hand Master Dick lost his family, his home, his love and his position – he's lost everything and you've gained more than you ever could have imagined. Now he is back in Gotham but he isn't back in this family or in the team. He is an outsider and a lonely, miserable one at that."
"He made his choice." Bruce said simply.
Alfred gave an exasperated sigh, "Yes. And perhaps it was a bad decision or the wrong choice but perhaps for him it was the right one. You can't deny that Nightwing is far more mature and responsible than Robin ever was. He has successfully tackled whatever demons were hindering his growth as a crimefighter. But as Dick Grayson he has taken a step backwards. There is no arrogance, no assuredness, no emotional stability – and if you don't act now you may lose Dick altogether."
Bruce's eyes narrowed, Alfred's words were troubling him more than he would care to admit. "He wasn't the only one to suffer when he left – running away was not the right thing to do."
Alfred nodded, "Perhaps not and I believe Master Dick himself probably realises that. But the real question here Sir is … how long are you going to punish him for it?"
Bruce forced himself to look away from the butler, he could still feel the soft grey eyes burning into him but he refused to acknowledge them.
Eventually Alfred shook his head in disappointment and turned away from Bruce, freeing him from the conversation. Bruce left instantly and silently and Alfred knew he would head back to the Batcave, to find something that would take Dick from his mind.
"He couldn't even say his name." Alfred whispered sadly.
"This is Summer Gleason reporting from the steps of city hall as Mayor Hill, together with Bruce Wayne and Dr Augustin Monroe from Arkham Asylum, unveil their new and controversial in-mate rehabilitation programme."
The camera zoomed to the reporter's left, taking in the handsome billionaire, the city's Mayor and the elderly Dr Monroe.
Bruce Wayne stepped up to the podium, cleared his throat and waited for the noise to die down. "I've been asked to say a few words about the programme I'm sponsoring." He said, his light though demanding voice echoing across the street. "The idea for an inmate rehabilitation programme was originally voiced five years ago by District Attorney Harvey Dent."
Bruce paused and for a moment a shadow seemed to pass over his face, "Many of you now know Harvey as Two Face, one of Gotham's most dangerous criminals. But there was a time when Harvey Dent wanted the best for Gotham, he was disappointed by the number of criminals who did their time but could never fit back into society – and eventually returned to their life of crime. This programme is something I have a great personal interest in as I one day hope to see my old friend back and I'm sure this programme will help him as well as many other inmates who are just in need of a second chance." He lit up the camera with a dazzling smile, "And we've all needed one of those at some time in our life."
The pretty red headed reporter smiled professionally into the camera, "Many people are asking is this what Gotham needs to stem the increase in criminal activity? Will this programme truly be able to rehabilitate inmates at Arkham and allow them to lead normal lives – or is this just another way for those said inmates to get a free ticket out of jail to return to their criminal ways." She stared hard into the camera, "You be the judge."
In his cell in Arkham Asylum Two Face tossed his coin in the air over and over. He scowled at Bruce's words, his fist clenching the coin in a large, disfigured hand.
"He's one to talk about being two faced!" He growled, "Steals our life, our girl and now he's taking the glory for our idea."
He gave a low laugh as Summer Gleason finished her commentary, his lip curling at her final words.
"You be the judge." He repeated and flipped his coin in the air once more, snapping it back on the way down. He opened his palm and smiled, "Why we'd love to."
SIX MONTHS LATER, WAYNE CORP. BUILDING.
Bruce smiled at the bold front page headline of the Gotham Express, "REHAB PROGRAMME A SUCCESS!"
His head lifted slightly as the mail cart pulled up to his door and he motioned for the middle aged mailman to enter his office.
The man smiled, taking off his cap as he approached. "Good morning Mr Wayne."
"Good Morning Charlie." He took the small wad of envelopes from the older man and looked him over. "How is everything going Charlie – no problems?"
Charlie grinned, "No Sir, everything's great. I can't thank you enough for all the help you've given me and my family."
Bruce returned the grin, "Well you're one of the success stories Charlie – I'm just glad the programme is working."
Charlie lit up the room with a wide smile, "That programme was a gift from God Mr Wayne, I don't know where me an' my family would be now without it." He ducked his head a little as though embarrassed by the emotion in his voice. "Well I'd better get back to work – lots of mail this morning."
He offered his hand to Bruce and the billionaire shook it warmly. "You're a good man Mr Wayne – A very good man."
"You could say the same about yourself. You've overcome a lot of obstacles Charlie and you should be very proud of yourself." Bruce said as he walked him to the door, "I know your wife and children are. They told me so at the office party last week."
Charlie blushed a little, "Oh I told 'em not to bother you – a busy man like you don't have time to stop and gasbag!"
Bruce laughed, "There's nothing I like more Charlie. You have a good day."
"Mr Wayne, everyday is a good day for me now." Charlie called over his shoulder as he disappeared from sight.
Bruce was still grinning when he returned to his desk. The shrill ringing of his phone brought him back to reality and he snapped it up, "Yes?"
"I have Dr Monroe from Arkham Asylum on the phone for you Mr Wayne." His secretary said, "Shall I put him through?"
"Yes Anne. Thank you." He neatly folded the paper while the call was transferred, "Dr Monroe, how can I help you?"
For a moment Bruce's brow furrowed as he listened to what the Doctor had to say.
"And he's completed the programme without any hiccups?" he said quietly, "Is that reason for suspicion in your opinion?"
Bruce nodded along with the Doctor's voice, "I think I will have to see him for myself – Is this afternoon alright with you?"
Bruce glanced over his diary, grimacing at all the meetings he would have to cancel. "Great. Tell Harvey I'm coming to visit – he hates unannounced visitors."
Bruce's frown returned when he hung up the phone but he wasn't sure why. The news was good. Harvey had successfully completed the programme and had been a model patient ever since he started. Bruce was hopeful that the programme had served its purpose and that Harvey, like so many others, could return to life in Gotham. But could he do it without Two Face? Was this all a plan to get out? Bruce bit his lip – he could only hope.
LATER THAT EVENING.
Bruce was all smiles when he returned home that night.
Tim gazed up at him in shock, "You been hit with Joker gas or somethin'?"
Bruce laughed, "No Tim. I've just been to see Harvey."
Alfred raised a questioning eyebrow as he removed Bruce's coat, "And how did it go Sir?" he asked.
"It went very well Alfred. Dr Monroe believes Harvey is pulling more weight now than Two Face is and I'm inclined to believe him. He was calm, articulate and charming – just like the old Harvey."
Tim looked a little suspicious, "You sure about that?" He had his own reasons for distrusting the once honest citizen.
It was because of Two Face that he was now Bruce's ward and Batman's partner. But this happy world had come at a high price. His father's death, directly linked to his dealings with Two Face, was the reason Tim was the new Boy Wonder today.
Bruce knelt down before the small boy, squeezing his shoulders gently, "I know you're suspicious Tim, you have every right to be, but I really do believe he has changed."
Tim still looked unconvinced but he shrugged, "Well you ought to know – I never knew him before Two Face. What's going to happen now?"
"I'll speak to the board of directors at Arkham on his behalf. Harvey has requested being placed in a position where he can utilize his knowledge of the law."
"Which side of the law?" Tim asked dryly then glanced to Bruce, "Sorry, I guess I'm use to insulting him."
Bruce regarded Alfred curiously, "You've been quiet about this – What do you think?"
Alfred cleared his throat, "I think it is close to dinner time and that this conversation should continue, if absolutely necessary, over the dinner table and not in the hallway."
Bruce smiled ruefully and placing a hand on Tim's shoulder he led him to the dining room.
Batman landed on the rooftop of the police station and paused, suddenly on alert. The Batsignal had lit up the sky moments after he had began his routine patrol and he had left Batgirl and Robin to deal with a small group of thugs terrorising a gas station attendant while he answered The Commissioner's call.
Curiously he glanced around the empty rooftop and then straightened.
"The Batsignal is NOT a pager." He growled.
A lithe figure dressed midnight black kevlar with an eggshell blue bird symbol blazed across his well defined chest appeared from the darkness.
Nightwing switched of the large light as he approached his former mentor.
"I had no other way of contacting you."
Batman turned, moving to the edge of the roof, "I don't have time for this."
He fired his batgrapple and swung into the night. He moved effortlessly through the night sky, his speed increasing with every direction change he made. He eventually came to a stop five blocks away on the roof of the shopping centre.
He scowled when Nightwing glided overhead, dropping gracefully to stand before him once more, "You have time for me to chase you all over Gotham? – 'cause that's what's going to happen if you don't let me talk." He lowered his arms as he spoke, folding the inbuilt gliders in his suit back into position.
Batman watched him do so with no outward show of emotion but inside he had to admit that the gliders were an interesting and apparently satisfactory replacement to a batgrapple and rope.
Then Batman lifted his head and stared at Nightwing and Nightwing stared back.
"Very well." He relented, "You have ten minutes."
Nightwing's jaw tightened, but he pushed whatever feelings of resentment he had aside. "What are you doing about Two Face?"
Batman's eyes narrowed, "What about him?"
For a moment Nightwing looked confused, "About the spate of crimes he's behind." His eyes widened when he realised Batman was oblivious to what he was saying, "You haven't picked up on it?"
" The robbery at Morgestein's jewellery? The theft at the museum? "
Batman remained unmoving, his face like stone.
Nightwing clicked his tongue impatiently, "Mr Morgestein was a twin until last month when his brother passed away. The museum was robbed of a pair of Roman statues – not the most expensive of the collection but the only one consisting of two pieces." Nightwing flung his hands in the air, "Is this setting off any alarm bells?"
"Coincidental." Batman replied, "There is no proof to link Harvey to any of those crimes– they are a slight reference at best, easily connected if you want them to be."
"Harvey? You're calling him Harvey now?" Nightwing thundered incredulously.
"That is his name."
Nightwing glared at him, "I can't believe your doing this – after all he's put you through. How many chances are you going to give him?"
"Some people deserve another chance."
Nightwing's fists curled, it was more than obvious by his tone that Batman was not referring to him.
For some time the two men just stared at each other then Batman turned abruptly away.
"Your time is up." He said simply.
Batgirl and Robin landed suddenly on the roof, both taking a step back in surprise when they saw Nightwing.
Nightwing glanced from them to Batman and shook his head sadly, "Sorry to interrupt the Bat party." And he walked to the roof's edge before diving off into the darkness.
Batgirl and Robin regarded their boss curiously, "What was that about?" Robin asked.
Batman flung his cape over his shoulders, "Nothing. I'm patrolling alone tonight. You two stay together."
They glanced to each other, "Right. What about Nightwing?" Batgirl asked.
But Batman had already gone.
Batman balanced silently on the narrow fire escape of the factory across the road from Arkham Asylum his eyes fixed on the new Rehabilitation Centre built onto the left wing of the Asylum. For some time he just stood there, contemplating, then with an annoyed grunt he aimed for the nearest window access.
Two Face was bent over a stack of law books in the library, he gave a slow smile when he heard the familiar rustle of Batman's cape.
"I was wondering when you would show up." He rasped. "Come to check on me?"
Batman walked around the table, searching the monstrous face without emotion, "Is there a reason I should be checking on you?"
Two Face laughed, "You bat folk are just far too suspicious. I've done nothing else here but study all the aspects of the law that I've missed during my … absence."
Batman frowned, "I always thought you kept up on the law."
Two Face shrugged, "There's a lot I've missed. I'm enjoying re-acquainting myself with it all." He grinned at the Dark Knight, "I'm surprised at how much I've missed it."
Batman's eyes never left his face, constantly searching for anything suspicious, slowly he gave a small smile, "I wish you all the best Harvey."
Two Face's disfigured eyebrow raised ever so slightly, "But you'll be watching me right? Your little protégé passed on that message already tonight."
Batman flinched slightly, his face almost betraying his anger. He left Arkham without answering the question.
It didn't take him long to track down Nightwing. He was studying the crime scene at the jewellery store.
"I don't appreciate you going behind my back." He snarled.
Nightwing jumped, his face betraying his otherwise cool demeanour. He looked more than a little annoyed at being surprised.
"You said he wasn't responsible – if that's true I won't find anything to connect him to this and you can do the "I told you so" speech you like so much." He retorted lightly.
"This is none of your business. Your interfering could interrupt his progress in the programme." Batman continued gruffly, "Nothing is to compromise his rehabilitation."
Nightwing sighed, "Look. You think he's innocent I think he's suspicious. Why don't we just agree to disagree on this one and set about proving each other wrong?"
"Unacceptable." Batman growled, "This is not a competition, it's Harvey's life."
Nightwing nodded waving a hand around the mess that was once a jewellery store, "And the lives of everyone in this city if you're wrong about him."
He held Batman's gaze, "Look I hope you're right I really do. But you've always been a little biased when it comes to him. You concentrate on being a supportive friend and I'll make sure he really is what he says he is."
"No." Batman replied.
Nightwing opened his mouth to continue but Batman cut him off, "This is no longer your responsibility. I will not have you tracking all over my city raising unnecessary suspicion about him. If there is any reason to suspect him of a crime I will deal with it."
"You've already ignored the first warning clues. If this is a test to see what he can get away with, he's only going to get bolder."
"Not your concern." Batman returned.
His ex partner set his mouth into a thin line, "You can't stop me." He said quietly.
Batman stepped up to him, "I can stop you."
He waited until Nightwing stepped back, his face flushing a little as he did so. Then Batman abruptly turned and walked from the store.
He failed to notice a pair of troubled blue eyes watching the two from the darkness of the alley.
Nightwing smashed his fist down on the nearest display case, shattering the small amount of glass left. He cocked his head to the side when he heard a soft rustle and snarled, "Back for more …" He began, but cut off sharply when he saw it was a different Bat member.
"Barbara." He murmured.
She raised an unimpressed eyebrow, "I prefer Batgirl at night if it's ok with you."
Nightwing swallowed, unsure of what to say to her.
"That's not going to help you know." She said softly.
Nightwing glanced back to the display case, "I know – but it was already a mess in here."
She rolled her eyes, "I meant you and Batman. He's never going to accept you back if you continually argue with him."
Nightwing shrugged, "As far as I can tell it won't make a difference what I do. He can give Two Face whatever leniency he asks for but when it comes to me … I'm all out of chances."
Batgirl took in the room, walking around it silently her practiced eyes taking in every last detail, "Is that what you want – a second chance?"
Nightwing watched her, aware that his heart was thumping and not liking the sensation. "I guess – though I don't really see what I did that was so wrong to be treated like this."
Batgirl spun, facing him furiously, "You don't see!" She exclaimed angrily, "You abandoned us, you left without a word and barely kept any contact after that and now you expect to be welcomed back with opened arms?"
Nightwing put his hands up, "Ok. I didn't handle it in the best way but I wasn't thinking straight – I was confused."
"You were confused!" She shrieked, "I came into the middle of something I had no idea about. You kept coming to the point of asking me for help then tossing me aside with your lame excuses and cryptic conversations." She met his sorry gaze and shook her head, "You never even gave me the opportunity to help you – you just assumed I couldn't possibly understand your complicated life and took off – in the middle of our relationship!"
Nightwing grabbed her hand, "And it's the one thing I regret. I wish I had confided in you, I wish I had stopped to think about you. But all I could see was you standing with him, looking at me like I'd gone mad!" He sighed, "And maybe I had. I didn't want to leave you but I just had to get away from him."
Batgirl looked to their joined hands and slowly pulled hers from his, "And now?"
Nightwing shrugged, "Now I know we can't go back to the way it was. But … I was hoping … maybe … maybe we could see how this goes instead."
Batgirl bit her lip, frowning a little as she thought things over. "It's going to take more time than you've allowed and I can't promise anything, especially when it comes to him."
Nightwing smiled shortly, "I can wait."
There was a comfortable silence between them for sometime and eventually Batgirl spoke, "Tell me your suspicions about Two Face."
Nightwing's face lifted a little and he ran through the same points he had with Batman.
Batgirl was quiet for some time then she sighed, "I'm a little more inclined to go with you on this one."
Nightwing couldn't hide his relief or the grin that settled on his face. "I was beginning to think I was just looking for anything to put on him."
"I don't trust him and deep down I'm not sure Batman does either." She once again took in the chaos around her, "It is a possibility – a slim one but it shouldn't be ignored."
Nightwing nodded, "Then if I need help?"
Batgirl smiled and passed him a small transmitter, "You can use this." She kept her hand in his for a small second, "And you know where I live."
She made her way to the door, looking over her shoulder at him before she left, "Just for the record. I hope your wrong – about Harvey."
Nightwing grimaced, "So do I. But I have a bad feeling that there isn't a Harvey Dent anymore and there never will be."
A WEEK LATER WAYNE CORP. BUILDING. LATE AFTERNOON.
Bruce smiled a little as his phone rang, a small red light indicating that it was his private line. "I wonder what Tim did this time." He said, chuckling a little at the previous escapades that ran through his mind.
He pushed the speaker button but before he could even greet Alfred the butler broke in, "I'm sorry to interrupt you at work Master Bruce, but I'm afraid we've have a serious predicament to deal with."
Bruce frowned, "What is it Alfred?"
"I collected Master Timothy from school as usual Sir. He was late, as usual, because of which we were the last to leave the grounds. We'd barely made it to the gate when a car pulled up in front of us, blocking the road." Alfred paused for a moment, "A man exited the other car and came up to my window – I thought perhaps they needed assistance so I opened the window and …"
"And?" Bruce repeated anxiously.
"I'm very ashamed Master Bruce, I should have known better."
Bruce was very worried now, "What happened Alfred?"
"I'm afraid I don't know Sir – the last I remember is the man in question dropping a gas cylinder into my lap, I lost consciousness almost immediately."
Bruce swallowed hard, "Are you alright Alfred? Is Tim alright?"
"I don't seem to be suffering any side affects Master Bruce but I don't know of Master Timothy's condition."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm afraid he's gone Master Bruce – whoever that man was he took Master Timothy with him."
Bruce's heart jumped.
"Could you identify the man Alfred?"
"Certainly Sir." The butler replied, "But it may not be necessary. They left a note, it simply says, "I have what's yours, if you want him back deliver two million dollars to the old Hudson Hotel at ten o'clock tonight." "
Bruce took a moment to steady his breathing, "Return home Alfred. I'll organise the money and meet you there. Use the computer downstairs and see if you can identify the man you saw."
"Yes Sir." He replied, "I'm terribly sorry Master Bruce, I shouldn't have opened my window."
"It's not your fault Alfred." Bruce replied gruffly, "If they wanted Tim that badly they would have done anything they could to get him. You're lucky they only decided to gas you."
"Yes Sir." He answered softly, "I'll see you at home."
EARLY THAT NIGHT, WAYNE MANOR
When Bruce made his way down to the Batcave Alfred was discussing the incident with Barbara.
Both turned to look at him, the worry obvious on their faces.
"I've found the man responsible Master Bruce." Alfred said, motioning to the computer screen, "A man for hire it seems – It doesn't help us."
"I know whose responsible Alfred." Bruce said quietly, placing a metallic briefcase on the counter "And so do you."
Alfred lowered his head, "I'm sorry Sir, I didn't want to insinuate anything."
"Two Face." Barbara said, eyeing her mentor curiously, "The two Million dollars?"
'And ten o'clock tonight." Bruce continued, "In twenty four hour time that's Twenty Two hundred hours. It's Two Face."
Barbara sighed, "I'm sorry Bruce – I know how much you hoped he had changed."
Bruce glared at the computer screen, "This should never have happened. I should have picked up that it was all an act." He shook his head.
"Well the evidence wasn't hard Bruce," Barbara offered quickly, "No one can blame you for disregarding it."
"That wasn't why I disregarded it." Bruce answered, for a moment he just stared at the briefcase then finally he sighed, "Call Dick Alfred, tell him what's happened. He'll want to help."
Barbara broke into a smile, glancing to Alfred and expecting him to be doing the same. She frowned when she saw he was not, "Alfred?"
Alfred gave a sorry sigh, "Master Richard stopped returning my calls after your conversation at the jewellery store Sir."
Bruce's brow furrowed, he said nothing as he hid a small tracing device into the lining of the briefcase, "Well try him again – if he knows what is happening he'll change his mind."
Alfred cleared his throat, "His phone is disconnected Sir."
Bruce glanced up sharply and his face darkened, "Fine. Then he can stay out of this." He slammed the brief case shut and turned to Barbara, "Two Face will have this well planned. It's too risky too trail us. Follow the tracing device at a distance, no matter what happens to us you follow the money – it will lead us to Two Face. I'll follow when I have Tim to safety."
Barbara nodded simply, her face echoing Alfred's disappointed gaze.
THE OLD HUDSON HOTEL, GOTHAM CITY SLUMS.
Bruce stood on the pavement and stared up at the derelict hotel. His hand tightened around the briefcase momentarily as Nightwing's words echoed in his head. He shook his head to clear them, unsure if he was more furious at himself or Dick. Straightening his shoulders he forced his face to look minutely afraid – as Bruce Wayne's would – and walked to the door.
He didn't even have to knock. The door opened and two large twins stood grinning stupidly at him.
"Hiya rich man." One of them boomed, reaching for the case.
Bruce snapped it away, "Not till I see Tim."
They stared at him, still wearing their ridiculous smiles then stepped aside, motioning for him to walk ahead of them.
Bruce hesitated, but as he had little choice he obediently stepped between them. He was not at all surprised when they gripped his arms and half dragged him down the dark hallway.
Bruce let them take him, playing the anxious playboy all the way, "Where are we going?" He moaned, "Where are you taking me."
They stopped suddenly and unceremoniously dumped him in the centre of what was once the lobby. The case was ripped from his grip and he sat still for a moment, searching the room for Tim.
"Where's Tim!" He thundered.
"Patience, Patience." Came a familiar raspy retort, "You'll see him soon enough."
Bruce acted surprised when Two Face stepped from the darkness, "Harvey? What do you think your doing?"
Two face grinned, "Something you can credit yourself with Brucie." He bent down to Bruce's level, eyeing him with his bad side, "See we got to thinking. This in-mate rehab programme was all well and good when we were The District Attorney."
His twins carried a heavy antique chair to where he stood and Two Face took a seat, "But since we've been on the inside we've had a chance to … re-evaluate the idea. See, having been an inmate we realised it's not rehabilitation the poor fools need – it's training. Why rehabilitate them to fit into society when it was society that turned them into crooks in the first place."
He took his coin from his pocket and began tossing it, "Why not just train them to be better at what they do – give them a career they actually want and not some janitorial or mailman round that their supposed to feel grateful for."
Bruce shook his head, "You're insane Harvey! The programme is working, the inmates are responding to it. Your idea had helped so many already – if you do this it will ruin it for everyone else. Your own chance will disappear."
Two Face growled, "We never wanted a stinking chance you fool! We like what we do." He waved the briefcase before Bruce's face, "It pays well." And he laughed.
Bruce looked away from him, "This is it Harvey. If you do this I won't stand up for you again. I won't give you any more chances."
Two Face snarled at him, "If you actually think we want your help Bruce – you're the insane one." He flipped his coin once more, eagerly glancing at it in his palm, he looked a little unhappy then shrugged. "You get to live – Friend."
Bruce struggled as the twins grabbed him again, "Where's Tim, Harvey!" He yelled, "Where is he?"
"Timmy's fine." Two Face called as Bruce was dragged away, "we're reminiscing about old times. He's as much of a pain as his dad was."
"Harvey don't do this!" Bruce pleaded one more time.
He got no reply.
Bruce put out his hands protectively as he was thrown into the murky darkness of what he guessed was an old meat locker. His hands broke his fall as he tripped over a heavy object just in front of the door and slammed into the concrete floor.
He groaned, glancing around the room instantly and taking its measure.
There was no easy way out of the locker – if a way existed at all.
Bruce lifted himself to his feet and turned the study whatever it was that he had tumbled over. He gave a start when he recognised the familiar form of a human body. A very still, silent body.
"Harvey, what have you done?" He whispered.
He dropped beside the inert form and checked for vital signs. Satisfied that the young man was alive and breathing Bruce turned him on his side and opened his airway.
The small light radiating from the top of the locker danced across the finely sculptured face of the unconscious man and Bruce gasped, his heart skipping a beat as panic flooded his body.
"Dick!" He cried.
Again Bruce checked for a pulse, but with shaking fingers this time. He checked him over two more times before he was completely satisfied that Dick was alive, then he ran his hands over the still body, praying he wouldn't find any serious damage.
He grimaced at the large lump on the back of his head and tapped his pale face anxiously, slipping Dick's head into his lap.
"Dick?" He whispered, "Can you hear me Son?"
Dick gave a soft groan, moving for the first time.
"Bruce?" He muttered.
Bruce smiled, "Yes – it's me. Can you open your eyes?"
Dick obeyed, cringing at the searing pain that followed. "Ouch."
"You can say that again. Are you hurt anywhere else?"
Dick moved his limbs, slowly at first and then he forced himself to sit up, fighting back the urge to vomit as his vision swam. He rested his head in hands for some time while Bruce supported him.
Eventually Dick lifted his head and looked at his foster father.
"You came." He said softly.
Bruce was obviously surprised, "Did you think I wouldn't?"
Dick shrugged, "The thought had crossed my mind – I've been here for two days."
Bruce mentally abused himself for not noticing that Dick was even missing and decided not to tell him that he had actually come to retrieve Tim.
"Harvey only contacted me this morning, I had to raise the money."
Dick instantly picked up the change in Bruce's tone. His words hinted at a double meaning; I had to form a plan.
"Is everybody worried at home?"
"Yes. Barbara's keeping Alfred company. He's been too anxious to even wash my clothes – I had to do this suit myself. Barbara's taking care of everything."
Alfred is working around the clock, my suit has a tracking device installed in it and Batgirl is taking care of everything.
Dick gave a quick nod to show he understood, "Any idea on what Two Face is planning?"
"Yes. But I believe this whole thing is more about hurting me."
Dick raised a hand to his aching temple, "Hate to say I told you so!"
They descended into an awkward silence and eventually Bruce stood, and began searching the room.
"Already looked." Dick said shortly.
There's no way out of here.
Bruce sighed, he watched Dick from the corner of his eye while he impatiently paced the room. He was obviously on the verge of saying something but was trying to decide whether or not he wanted to.
"How's the kid?" Dick asked eventually.
Bruce debated telling the truth; That Tim had also been taken, that Tim was the reason he was there. But the earlier surprise in Dick's face was enough to make him hesitate. He must have doubted that he would even show and the knowledge that he hadn't come for him at all would certainly upset the younger man.
"I saw him the other night – he's not half bad."
I saw Robin the other night – he's not as good as I was.
Bruce glanced around their prison, unsure if he wanted to start that sort of a conversation in a place that could be bugged. Once he had convinced himself that the room was empty save for himself and Dick he leaned back against the wall and sighed.
"Okay, let's get this over with."
Dick frowned, "Get what over with?"
"You know what." Bruce replied, staring back at him hard.
Dick looked away and Bruce could see the muscles in his jaw working. Bruce had learned a long time ago that Dick always made that particular motion when he was upset or anxious.
"You think I made a bad choice with Tim?"
Dick kept his eyes on the ground another obvious display of anger and pain.
"No. I think he's a great replacement." He muttered eventually.
Bruce closed his eyes as his own anger started to rise, "He's not a replacement Dick."
"He's your new son and partner – sounds like a replacement to me."
Bruce shook his head, "You didn't give me much of a choice."
"Oh that's right, I forgot. I was the one that left. I was the one that abandoned you. You didn't do anything wrong – I'm just a spoiled little kid that skipped town when he didn't get what he wanted." Dick glared at his old mentor, "Is that how you see it Bruce? Because from my side of the fence I was the one who didn't have a choice – I never had a choice."
Bruce pushed off the wall and started pacing again, "There were other ways Dick. You left without a word – we could have talked … "
Dick snorted, "Talked! When was the last time you ever let anyone else talk? I know how it would have been Bruce; Your way or the highway, just as it always was." He got to his own feet, using the wall to steady himself. "This time I chose the highway."
Bruce faced him and noticed for the first time that Dick was only a few inches shorter than himself. He was staring back at him with sharp blue eyes that told of misery and resentment and for once showed no sign of backing down easily.
Bruce sighed, this was going to get messy.
"I understand that you didn't want to follow my orders anymore Dick – I know you thought you were capable of making your own decisions."
"Because I was!" Dick snapped, "There wasn't any doubt in my mind. You wouldn't accept that I had grown up." He poked Bruce's chest as he spoke, "You wouldn't let me prove that I was capable." Poke. "You had to be in control of everything." Poke. "You had to make all the choices." Poke.
Bruce brushed Dick's fingers away a little more roughly than he intended.
Instantly Dick's face flooded with fury and his fists curled, "You always came first."
"That's not true." Bruce defended, "I always put you first Dick. Your safety was the reason that I made those decisions, I was tough on you and maybe I didn't give you the leniency that you think you deserved but look at what happened when you did make a decision for yourself Dick." He jabbed his own finger into Dick's chest, "You ran away. Was that the kind of decision I was suppose to let you make?"
Dick's eyes widened and for a moment a thousand emotions crossed his face then he turned a violent red and Bruce took a step backwards."You actually think that was what I wanted!" He yelled, grasping Bruce's lapels and pulling him back to face him, "You didn't give me a choice! I had no future with you. You took everything from me. I couldn't work with you, I couldn't live in that house with you and if that wasn't enough you had to have Barbara too."
Bruce wanted to yell back, to tell him how disappointed he was in him, how utterly miserable he had been because of Dick's choice, but he couldn't. Alfred's words were running through his mind; "He's lost everything and you've gained more than you ever could have imagined … How long will you punish him? … Lose him forever."
"I didn't take Barbara, Dick. At least I didn't mean to. She made her own decision also – and she never wanted you to leave. You hurt her when you disappeared, did you know that? Did you consider that?"
Dick pushed him away, his eyes once again finding refuge in the floor, "I had no choice." He said again, "I would have taken her with me but she would never have.." He cut off and when he locked eyes with Bruce again the anger was gone. But in its place was something Bruce had hoped he would never have to see again. The dumb misery in Dick's face tugged at his heart, it was a hundred times worse than the anger and resentment – that he could share with Dick, that he could admit to possessing. But the absolute loneliness and pain that Dick had was his alone.
Bruce had pain, he had misery but he had never been the cause of it before and now he had a real family, a family that helped lessen his pain and loneliness. Alfred was right, he did have more than he thought and Dick had nothing.
"She would never have left you." Dick finished his head dropping slowly to accommodate the tiredness in his voice, " I couldn't face her. I couldn't hear her say that she wanted to stay with you. I knew she would choose you."
Bruce took hold of Dick's shoulders and squeezed them gently, "She didn't choose me Dick. She chose the work, she chose to do what she felt was her duty."
"Batman." Dick said, shaking his head, "She chose Batman."
"Dick … " Bruce stopped and considered his words very carefully, "I was very disappointed in you Dick." He gripped him tighter when Dick tried to pull away, "But when I first saw Nightwing – when I saw how good you were, how much you grown, I realised that your leaving had been the right thing to do on some level."
Dick's head lifted and he stared at him in surprise.
"I can't say that I agree with the way you did it. It hurt us all that you just up and left like that. I know you believed it was necessary and perhaps to you it was." He took a deep breath, "I'm proud of the man you've become Dick, You've matured in a way that I once thought was beyond you." Bruce gave a small, nervous smile, "I hardly recognise you without the stupid puns and terrible jokes – not to mention with the new ponytail."
He was rewarded with a slight rise in the corners of Dick's mouth and he continued, "You are a valuable asset to Gotham City Dick and to Batman. I just have to get used to the fact that you are a man now."
Bruce continued, "The Manor will always be your home – no matter how old you are, and you are welcome in every room of that house." He gave a soft smile, "Including the downstairs room."
Dick stared at him for some time then roused himself, blinking rapidly to clear the haziness before his eyes. He was emotionally exhausted and his head was pounding along with his alleviated heart rate. "Do you mean that?"He whispered.
Bruce nodded, "Yes. You are welcome home." A mischievous smile crept across his sombre face, "But I'm not sure about the ponytail – you might have to leave that behind."
Instantly the old Grayson Grin lit up Dick's face and Bruce basked in it happily, "I suddenly feel like getting that tattoo I was thinking about." Dick threatened.
They stood before each other in silence then, happiness written across their features. Then they both dropped back, satisfied with the show of emotion that they had received from each other.
Dick eyed Bruce knowingly, a wide smile still glued to his face, "You were worried I was going to hug you weren't you?"
Bruce had just slipped off his jacket and handed it to Dick when the door opened and the twins still grinning faces leered at them, "Let's go."
Dick was already shivering from the days spent in the frigid locker and he gratefully put the jacket on.
Dick glared menacingly at Two Faces' huge armed goons as he and Bruce were forced at gunpoint back down a narrow passageway that he supposed led to the centre of the abandoned hotel they were in.
The goons responded with identical jeers, displayed on their identical faces.
Dick's head still pounded and he was light headed, so much so that he tended to walk a little unsteadily. He could see Bruce watching him with some concern and offered up a small smile to his former mentor. Bruce reached out a hand to help steady him that was quickly slapped back by one of the twins.
"Hands to yourself!" The other ordered.
Bruce glowered as he was shoved roughly in the back; his patience was wearing thin.
Both Bruce and Dick gave a start when they entered the main foyer of the old hotel, for sitting in the middle of the room, tied to a chair with a bored expression on his face was Tim Drake.
"Tim!" They said in unison.
"Are you alright?" Bruce finished.
Tim nodded, "How's Alfie – was he hurt?"
Bruce smiled, "He's fine – worried I'm sure." He grunted a little as he and
Dick were shoved into nearby chairs and bound to them.
Tim glanced to Dick and back to Bruce curiously, "When'd they get Dick?"
Dick's eyes met Bruce's instantly and for a millisecond they just stared at each other. Bruce's heart hammered a little when he saw the slow burning starting in Dicks face.
"You didn't know I was here!" He hissed angrily, "You came for Tim didn't you!"
"Yes" Bruce admitted, "Two Face grabbed him on the way home from school – he left a note on the back seat – I never even saw one for …"
"You never looked!" Dick cut in, "He took me from my apartment two days ago! You didn't even notice me gone!"
Bruce met his oldest son's angry gaze with an equally fierce one, "How was I supposed to Dick! You've avoided us like a plague since you returned. I've never even seen your apartment and I didn't think I was welcome."
A thick raspy voice cut across their conversation as Two Face materialized before them, "Well, well." He remarked, "This is not a happy family reunion."
"Harvey!" Bruce said sharply, "Stop this now."
Two Face glanced at them each individually then bent down to Dick's face level, "What's the matter Dicky? Finally discovered Mr Perfect Bruce Wayne isn't so perfect?"
Dick shut his mouth tightly, refusing to meet the hideously scarred side of Two Face's features. It was one thing to agree with Two Face but quite another to admit it aloud.
"C'mon." Two Face prodded, "Tell Uncle Harve all about it."
Dick grimaced at the old nickname he had once used for Harvey Dent and this time had no trouble staring at the criminal Harvey had become, "You can get bent!" He growled.
This produced a snort of laughter from Tim and Two Face straightened up, glaring at the youngster.
"You're as obnoxious as your father was you little brat!"
Tim's face flooded with fury and he struggled against his bonds.
"Temper like his too." Two Face added with a satisfied smile.
"Leave them alone Harvey." Bruce muttered, trying to calm Tim with a soft glance. He offered the same to Dick but found the latter unwilling to meet his gaze.
Two Face stood in front of Bruce with a pleased look on his terrible face, "We have a problem Brucie." He said, motioning to a second set of twins to his right.
The female accomplices stepped forward with Bruce's briefcase and began emptying the money after careful inspection into a black leather bag. Bruce clicked his tongue quietly, so much for the tracing device.
"It seems we only have half the money." Two Face continued, "Which means you only paid for one boy." He gave a low chuckle, "Or one half of both of them."
"I'll get the rest of the money." Bruce said quickly, "If I had known, you know I would have paid for both."
Harvey raised his deformed eyebrow, "Do we now? We're not so sure." He gripped Dick's face forcing the younger man to look at him, "What do you think Dicky? Think he would have paid to get you back? You two don't seem as chummy as I remember."
Dick gave no answer but he stared at the villain with all the hate he could muster.
Two Face chuckled and he stepped back to fix them all in his sight. "One son has to stay behind – Any volunteers?"
Two Face watched contently as the three regarded each other in silence.
"I'll stay." Dick and Tim replied in unison.
"No!" Bruce said sharply, "Harvey you can keep me – Alfred will organise any money you need. Let them go." There was an air of danger in Bruce's voice that made Two Face regard him curiously for some time. Then with a slow deliberation he pulled his notorious coin from his pocket and flipped it in the air.
Three sets of uneasy eyes watched as the scarred side fought with the untouched side until Two Face snapped it from the air. He gave it a small glance, nodded in agreement and pointed to Dick, "Looks like I'll be spending some more time with my favourite surrogate nephew."
The male twins moved towards Dick instantly and Bruce glared at them in such a way that they hesitated and looked to their boss for guidance.
"Take him!" Two Face snarled.
"Harvey – I'll get the money. You don't need him - you can take me instead. This is about me and you, not Dick – He's hurt!"
Two Face nodded to the female twins and they came up behind Bruce and Tim, covering their mouths with duct tape. Tim wriggled impatiently in his seat and sent daggers to the grinning damsels – they replied simultaneously with a kiss blown in his direction.
Two Face and Bruce kept eye contact all the while, both trying to stare the other one down. Two Face seemed mildly surprised at the strength in Bruce's gaze and its unwavering stubbornness. Eventually he straightened and tapped the briefcase, "You're right Bruce – this is about you and us." He watched unpassionately as Dick and the chair he was tied to were effortlessly lifted from the ground by the two hefty male twins. "Which is exactly why we're taking the boy. We'll be in touch." And he walked away.
Bruce struggled in his seat and managed to turn it around enough to see the small entourage disappear. Dick looked back at him from over his shoulder and sent Bruce a look that relayed an all too clear message: I'll get myself out of this – stay away from me. I don't need your help.
With a growl of helplessness Bruce started the first of many moves that would see him free of his bonds in little time. Unfortunately that would be more than enough time for Two Face to escape.
Dick bit off a groan as he was tossed roughly into the back of a small van that was parked in the old car park of the motel.
His head was thumping at a steady rate with his heart and he could no longer contain his shivering. He lifted his head slightly when Two Face bent over him and would have let fly with a particularly bad pun but he wasn't even close to being capable of thinking of one.
His heart rate climbed steadily as Two Face once again pulled his coin from inside his jacket pocket and flipped it in the air. He'd known Two Face long enough to know that the coin toss would either be his ticket out or his death sentence.
Two Face opened his palm and for a moment he seemed a little sombre. Then he shrugged and patted Dick on the head, "Nice knowing you Dicky!" He glanced to the male twins, "Make sure he's never found." And he slammed the door shut.
The trip that followed was bumpy and altogether unpleasant, but Dick was far to busy concentrating on freeing himself before they reached their destination to really care.
Inside he was furious. He couldn't believe that not only had Bruce failed to notice that he had been kidnapped but that he had lied about his real reason for being in the motel.
Truthfully, Dick hadn't wanted him to show, not at first. He had wanted to get himself out, to show Bruce he could make it on his own and now, with some irony, he realised that even if he had managed to escape – Bruce would never have known about it anyway!
But after the first twenty hours and with a particularly nasty crack on the head after his first attempt at escape he came to the realisation that he wasn't getting himself out of there any time soon, and he began to wonder if Bruce was going to come for him. Moreover he was beginning to worry that perhaps Bruce would not come.
A sharp bump caused Dick to slam his head into the floor and he groaned loudly, his vision clouding momentarily. He forced himself to stay conscious though his head begged him to do otherwise. The ropes around his hands would have caused him barely a moments worry in his Nightwing suit where any number of tools were at his disposal, but all he had was his civilian clothing and Bruce's jacket and the ropes were bound too tightly to allow any movement – that and the fact that he was minutes away from passing out.
He steadied his breathing and once more went over his options. Suddenly he gave a jolt – he was wearing Bruce's jacket, and he had seen Bruce carry off many unbelievable escapes in his civilian persona. Instantly Dick's fingers sought the lining of the jacket and he gave a small smile when he felt a small, sharp object inside the hem. "So that's how you do it." He whispered, freeing the picking device and starting to scratch away at the ropes, "Another secret of the Dark Knight revealed folks – tune in next week when we discover if Batman is a jocks or boxers man."
Dick was almost through the ropes when the van came to a sudden stop.
He remained motionless as the burly twins dragged him from the van. A cold wind tore through the jacket and he recognised the familiar sounds of Gotham Harbour almost instantly. Dick rolled his eyes, what was it with goons and throwing people off bridges anyway?
There was comfort in the fact that Dick had been tossed off many a bridge and lived to tell of it. Of course he had been able to pull out a batgrapple on all of those occasions or extend the inbuilt gliders in his Nightwing suit and he doubted Bruce had either of those tucked away in the jacket he was wearing.
The twins said nothing as they swung him between them, but both wore a smile of absolute enjoyment as though they were having the time of their lives.
Dick closed his eyes as he felt them release him and almost instantly he gave his bonds a sharp tug with his hands, breaking the remaining strands of rope and freeing his arms. His eyes opened and the seasoned aerialist sought for anything that he could use to catch himself with. The bridge had a few small connecting bars beneath its structure and Dick tensed every muscle in his body, straightening himself out and reaching above his head as he tumbled head first towards the dark waters below.
He used the first bar to slow himself down, spinning around it in an arc that brought him neatly to the second and following that to a third. It was on the third bar that he slowed his spin completely and he hung there for some time while he collected his thoughts.
Two Face's men had not stayed to see his watery end – or in this case to witness his amazing save, but Dick was worried that he would end up taking a dunking anyway. He was quickly tiring and his head was becoming unbearably painful.
Dick took a deep breath and concentrated on regaining his senses. Once accomplished, his practiced eyes took in his surroundings. He began a slow swing, building it up enough to propel him up and over the bar he was on. He latched on to another above it with his knees and swung himself up. He repeated the slow but steady course until finally his feet came to rest on the top of the bridge.
Dick put a hand to his head, groaned and began the long walk back to his apartment.
He'd barely made it three quarters of the way home when a sleek black Mercedes pulled up beside him.
Dick scowled, remembering the tracking device that was hidden in the jacket he was wearing.
"Good evening Master Richard." Alfred called from within the car. "Can I offer you a ride home?"
Dick shook his head, "No thankyou."
"Very well." Came the short reply.
For the next five minutes Dick tried heroically to ignore the black car as it drove at a walking pace beside him. He stole a sideways glance at the butler inside who was doing a far better job of acting unperturbed than he was, and sighed.
Alfred said nothing as the young man flung himself into the passenger seat and slouched down in the way he always had – even after being told many times to sit up straight.
Alfred cast a medical eye over Dick's injuries and satisfied that they weren't too serious, he headed for Dick's apartment.
DICK GRAYSON'S APARTMENT, GOTHAM CITY WEST.
"Welcome to my humble abode." Dick exclaimed dryly as he opened the door to his apartment.
Alfred looked around the sparsely furnished apartment and raised a surprised eyebrow, "It's tidy!"
Dick laughed, "Don't say you never taught me nothin' Alfie!" He made his way to a small mirror in the bathroom and examined his head, grimacing at the large lump covered by his hair. "Why is it always my head?" He mused.
"Do you need assistance Master Dick?" Alfred called from the kitchen his voice muffled a little as he stuck his head into the various cupboards.
"No I'm fine." Dick returned, "And stop snooping."
Alfred gave an indignant sound, "I'm looking for the tea young Sir, we could both use one."
Dick made his way to the kitchen and opened the pantry, after a little searching he handed Alfred a cheap blend he'd picked up in his travels. "Will this do – I don't drink a lot of tea."
Alfred lifted up his nose, "Well it's no English Breakfast, but I suppose it shall suffice."
Dick located a small ice pack from his freezer and placed it gingerly over the lump on his skull then he settled himself onto a bar stool and watched with a small smile as Alfred moved around the kitchen. He couldn't help but laugh when the butler sought out a cloth and began wiping down the already spotless benches.
"You just can't help yourself can you Alfred!"
Alfred gave a knowing smile, "Some habits are hard to break young Sir."
Dick glanced away, "And some have to be broken."
Alfred said nothing as he poured the tea, inspecting Dick's teacups with a suspicious eye first.
Eventually Dick couldn't stand the silence and he knew Alfred had planned it that way.
"Ok, what's the wise lesson of the day Master?"
Alfred resisted the urge to smile at the old statement a younger Dick had greeted him with every morning at the Manor.
"I believe it's something along the lines of forgiving and forgetting." Alfred replied.
Dick looked to the ground, "I think I have too much of a headache to continue with this conversation."
"A pity." Alfred said softly, "I know how much you despise unresolved issues."
Dick shook his head, "I shouldn't have to always be the one to come forward and apologise – I did it all the time when I was younger. Bruce never once approached me, I was always the one to mend the gap."
Alfred nodded, "Yes, I will not disagree that Master Bruce can be stubborn and unco-operative at times. Perhaps he became too reliant on you being the one to start the process. That's not to say that didn't want to do it himself." He took a small sip of his tea and frowned at its taste, "I'll have to have some proper tea delivered to you Sir."
Dick rolled his eyes, "Whatever."
Alfred groaned, "That word is being used quite inappropriately by the youth of today. If Master Timothy says it to me one more time he'll be receiving a dictionary for his birthday."
"How is the kid going?" Dick asked quietly.
"Enjoying every second I'm afraid – just as you did."
"That seems like a lifetime ago." Dick muttered, placing his chin in his palm and resting on the bench top. "I grew to hate every second, every moment that it took from my other life. My time with Bruce, with you, with Barbara." He frowned, "Especially with Barbara."
"I suppose it was to be expected. You had more of a personal life than Master Bruce ever did. His was only a façade. But I often wondered if he envied you a little, being able to be both Robin and Dick without having to stray from your personality. It can't be easy switching from Batman to the ridiculous Bruce Wayne of the public eye and spending such little time as the Bruce we both know."
"Both knew." Dick cut in, "He changed Alfred and so did I. I couldn't keep pretending that I was some carefree kid in a cape there to bring him back to reality, to remind him what it was all for. I was growing up and I had other issues to face and he wouldn't give me the time I needed to deal with them – everything had to be his way. He wanted me when he wanted me regardless of what I was doing and whom else it would affect. It was easy for him to dump a girl in the middle of a date or excuse himself from a meeting – he was Bruce Wayne, it was what he was known for." Dick gave a low sigh, "But I wasn't. I didn't want to keep sacrificing my time to chase the Joker and Two Face and the others. Don't get me wrong – I didn't want them out on the streets either its just … Sometimes I wish …"
"That you could have a normal life?"
Dick raised his eyes to the butler's and nodded. "Selfish, I know."
Alfred smiled, "No Master Dick, it's not selfish – it was what I always wanted for you and I was a little relieved when you gave yourself that time." He fixed Dick with a pair of wise grey eyes, "Although your choice of method was a little … unfortunate."
"It all happened so fast." Dick admitted, "I just had to leave Alfie – I had to."
Alfred put a hand on his shoulder, "But you couldn't lead the normal life for long could you?"
Dick shook his head resignedly, "No. I kept seeing bad guys everywhere. Someone always needed help and couldn't get it. I guess I missed it a little, being able to see the look on their faces when they saw us – the hope and awe of the people and the fear of the criminals. It was what I was meant to do – what I am meant to be doing."
Alfred nodded, "Then perhaps it's time to stop working apart from your allies and start working together."
Dick seemed to think about it for some time, he remembered the conversation with Bruce, the utter relief that he had been forgiven. Then he remembered Two Face, the note Bruce never saw. Forgiven but forgotten.
Dick flushed, "He didn't even notice me gone Alfred."
"Ah yes, the ransom note." Alfred said, "Do you see one?"
Dick blinked at him, he hadn't even looked.
Two minutes later Dick stood gazing out at the city, he felt calm for the first time in days.
There was no note.
"He played us." He murmured, "And I fell for it."
"A perfect double plan. He steals the money but more importantly he steals you."
Dick shook his head, "He knew we'd separated, it was in all the papers. I let him play me for a fool!" His fists clenched at his side momentarily, "He knew I'd want to believe that Bruce had forgotten me."
"And Master Tim was used for money and to further your anger, to make you believe you had really been replaced. Another double deal."
Dick's head dropped, " Do you suppose Bruce knew?"
Alfred sighed, "I doubt it. Two Face played on his guilt, making him feel as though he had failed you."
Dick stared at the city, watching the dark clouds lightening as dawn approached. "What now?"
"I suppose you don't allow the villain to win."
Dick turned to face him, finding him standing by the door holding his coat. "Breakfast is in two hours Master Dick. I believe there is a place set for you at the table."
Dick's eyes widened momentarily then he laughed, "You knew from the beginning you'd get me home, didn't you?"
Alfred smiled, "No, but Master Bruce had every confidence in me." He held out the coat. "And in you."
"We'll there's nothing to eat here anyway." Dick retorted, then rubbing his aching head added, " But I'm going to need some serious aspirin."
THAT NIGHT, GOTHAM CITY POLICE HEADQUARTERS.
Commissioner Gordon paced anxiously across the small rooftop, his shadow highlighted by the Batsignal.
He turned, gazing upwards in a way that was becoming very familiar at the sound of lightly flapping material.
Batman landed before him with Batgirl and Robin flanking either side. The Commissioner nodded at them politely and went to speak, cutting off as a fourth figure landed, a little more gracefully than the previous three and made his way to stand on Batman's right.
Commissioner Gordon said nothing, he knew the man from various reports as Nightwing, and he had always assumed that he was the previous Boy Wonder.
He had been solo since his return but somehow Gordon was not surprised to see him there with the others and he certainly seemed to be part of the team.
"I'm going to need a bigger rooftop." Gordon muttered.
Nightwing grinned and the Commissioner recognised the old Robin smile. "Good to see you back, Son." He said simply.
Nightwing nodded, "Good to be back Commissioner."
Batman stepped forward, "Two Face is not rehabilitated." He said gruffly.
"You got that right." Gordon answered, "We've had multiple sightings and disappearing people reports all over town and I just received a call from Doctor Monroe from Arkham."
Four sets of eyes narrowed, the younger three looking at each other anxiously.
"Two Face broke in a little over an hour ago. He took control of the Asylum and the new Rehab Wing – We don't know exactly what's he's planning and all communication from Arkham has been cut."
Batman's fists clenched, "He's planning his own programme. Teaching the inmates to be better at their crimes. The exact opposite of the programme in place now."
Gordon gave an incredulous snort, "All those inmates being taught by Two Face?"
"And the others I imagine. The Scarecrow, Mr Freeze, The Riddler even the Joker, if he has anything worth teaching."
Gordon looked horrified, "Then those inmates already rehabilitated could be the missing people. The places Two Face hit seemed to have no obvious pattern to them – but I remember a reformed inmate being placed in at least two of those places."
Charlie's grateful face suddenly flashed before Batman's eyes and he growled, "How much time can you give us?"
Gordon shrugged, "One hour – then the S.W.A.T team goes in."
Batman nodded, "We'll be in touch."
Mass confusion greeted Two Face as he stepped from the shadows to look down on the inmates he had gathered to the centre of Arkham Asylum's main lobby. Standing around them were the ten or so hired gun's he'd taken on for the break in, holding automatic rifles at the distressed inmates.
"Friends." He growled, smiling at the various degrees of apprehension and fear that flooded their faces. "You are to be the first to partake in a new improved programme." He grinned at them, "Something to bring out the villain in you."
The room was deadly silent. The inmates stared at him in disbelief and fright glancing to each other in confusion.
A large man pushed his way to the front, "Listen Two Face. Most of us here are glad to be on the programme. We made mistakes and we've paid for them. I just want to get back to my family."
"Me too!" Another voice called from the crowd, echoed by a few others.
"You misunderstand us." Two Face answered, holding his hands up and motioning for quiet, "This is an opportunity not to be missed." The deformed side of his face pulled back in a large, hideous grin, "In fact – We insist that you don't."
Gasps filled the room as figures emerged from the darkness behind him.
"Students." Two Face thundered, "Meet your teachers!"
The inmates gaped in horror as the worst of Gotham's villains stared down on them in delight.
"Dibs on the dorks." The Joker howled and he shrugged at Two Face, "They make better clowns."
Batman kept to the shadows as he moved along the inner walls of the Asylum, he paused briefly as Batgirl contacted him.
"Bad news." She said, whispering slightly, "We have twenty or so inmates, ten gun handlers and Two Face, Joker, Penguin, Scarecrow, Riddler and Croc."
Batman grimaced, it could have been worse. "Keep your eyes open for others." He whispered back, "God knows how many agreed to join Two Face – and he had the money to buy them over."
"I'm almost at Dr Monroe's office. Be ready for my signal."
Batman slid up to the doctor's office and tried the handle, surprised to find it open he hesitated for a moment then slipped inside. His eyes made out the slight form of Dr Monroe bound and gagged in his large leather chair.
Once satisfied that they were alone, Batman went to his aid, untying the grateful man.
"Thank God you're here." The doctor exclaimed, whispering hoarsely. "I hope you brought back up – he's freed some of the maximum security patients."
"I know." Batman answered, "We have it under control." He made his way to the door, peering out into the darkness. "Do you know how he managed to gain control of Arkham so quickly?"
"I have an idea." Doctor Monroe replied.
Batman caught the catch in his voice a moment too late, he turned just as the doctor brought a heavy statuette down in his head. With a grunt Batman fell to the floor unconscious.
Two Face surveyed his work with a nod of satisfaction. The inmates were divided into groups and were obediently sitting before their allocated teacher. Of course the fact that they all had machine guns aimed at their heads had guaranteed their obedience.
He watched as The Riddler ran through his point by point guide to outwitting any opponent. The Penguin lectured his audience on the proper way to behave once wealth was gained and how to gain more while never having to lift a finger. Killer Croc demonstrated on an unfortunate inmate the various fighting techniques needed to subdue anyone standing in their way.
Scarecrow, a natural teacher, was of course leading his class through fear tactics and human control. And last The Joker paraded before his students going through a ridiculous stand up comedy routine complete with exploding balloon creatures while his audience looked on unsure whether to laugh or cry.
Two Face reached into his pocket, searching for his coin but stopped when he saw a movement from the side. A huge smile lit up his face as Doctor Monroe emerged, followed by the two hefty male twins dragging an unconscious Batman between them. "Well he took his time."
"Wakey, Wakey!" The Joker chuckled, slapping Batman over the face with a rubber chicken. He bent in and inspected the Dark Knights features curiously, "You're not fakin' it are you bats?" He stood back and crossed his arms defiantly, "C'mon – why did the Bat cross the road?"
"Why did it?" The Riddler eventually asked.
Joker shrugged, "I dunno – that's why I asked him!" And he batted Batman over the head again.
"Enough." Batman growled, coming to life. He moved his hands and feet and found that they were shackled to a wrought iron chair.
The Villains that stood in a circle around him grinned with pleasure.
"Finally in Arkham where you belong!" The Scarecrow muttered.
"Welcome." The Penguin greeted.
"To our humble abode." The Riddler finished.
Killer Croc stood at a distance and just bared his teeth in greeting. Batman glanced to Two Face and was met by a satisfied smile, "Double plan Batman – You should have seen this coming." He located his coin and began his compulsive flipping. "We're a little disappointed."
The Joker pulled a notepad from his coat and pulled up another chair. He snagged a pair of glasses from one of his terrified students and took a seat, crossing his legs and staring expectantly at Batman – pen poised, "And how does that make you feeeeeel?" He howled, breaking into laughter almost immediately.
Batman ignored him, his attention solely on Two Face. "What now Two Face?"
"Now he pays me." Doctor Monroe said, stepping forward, "Fifty thousand as promised."
"Fifty." The Joker exclaimed, he snarled at Two Face, "You only offered me ten!"
"You're only worth ten." Two Face answered simply. He caught his coin and
flipped it onto his hand. "But – You could always negotiate for more. Of course the Doctor would have to give up some of his."
The Joker span, his eyes wide with glee, "Oh Doctor." He sang, skipping over to a nervous Monroe. "You'll share with me won't you?"
Doctor Monroe backed up a little, glancing to Two Face expectantly, "We had a deal!"
"Get out of here you fool!" Batman yelled.
But it was too late, Joker pulled a revolver from his pants and aimed it and the Doctor, "I'll share my toys with you!" He bellowed, "How about some bullets?"
Doctor Monroe turned and ran, screaming for help from Two Face as he heard the click of a barrel being loaded. Joker lifted up the gun, squinted as he lined up the shot and stuck his tongue out to the side.
His finger had barely touched the trigger when a Batarang swung into his hand. With a howl of agony he dropped the gun and danced around on the spot cupping his hand. "OUCH!!" He screamed, snatching the nearest machine gun, "Give me that! I want to kill something today!" And he fired into the air.
The villains and inmates scrambled for cover as the gunmen joined The Joker, shooting into the dark rooftop in the hope of hitting one of the crimefighters.
Smoke pellets dropped to the floor followed by cries of pain and bewilderment as one by one the gunmen went down.
The Joker kept firing, continuing even after he was out of bullets. The smoke cleared and he stood facing the four vigilantes.
He put a finger to his bright red mouth, "Something's different – no don't tell me?" He mused, glancing to them each in turn. He paused, frowned, then counted them out loud, "One, Two, Three … Four!" He exclaimed and pointing to Nightwing he added, "There's another girl on the team!"
Nightwing's leg shot out and The Joker went flying. He lay dazed in a pile for a moment then grinned, "Welcome back bird-boy."
Nightwing glared at him, "That's Nightwing. Joker."
"Ohhh I like it!" The Clown exclaimed, "WingNut it is!" and he threw a baby doll that he'd retrieved from his jacket at him. Nightwing caught the doll, rolled his eyes and tossed it back.
The Joker snapped it up in glee, then, realising his mistake, opened his mouth to object. He hadn't the chance to utter a word before sleeping gas poured from the doll's mouth and into his face, "You're not supposed to chuck it back." He moaned, then dropped unconscious at Nightwing's feet.
"Damn Clown!" Two Face bellowed, "You ruined everything!"
He and his fellow conspirators crawled back to their feet, facing the crimefighter's furiously.
The four vigilantes moved into fighting positions then suddenly Batgirl and Robin veered off, running for the inmates.
"Stop them!" Two Face growled.
The Penguin and Scarecrow obediently took chase.
Batman and Nightwing stood back to back, surrounded by the other three.
"Getting a feeling of de'ja'vu here." Nightwing remarked.
"Just like old times." Batman returned.
They ducked as Killer Croc launched for them, sending him flying over their heads and into The Riddler.
"Get off me you overgrown handbag!" He squealed.
"What'd you call me?" Croc growled.
They stared at each other menacingly then started wrestling.
Two Face gave a growl of fury, "If you want something done, you have to do it yourself!" and reaching into his jacket he pulled out a remote control, pushing a large central button.
All in the lobby paused as the building started to shake, then suddenly explosions ripped through the building, blowing the roof off and sending debris flying into the room.
Croc and Riddler stared up at the ceiling and shrieked as a large chunk came tumbling towards them.
Batman and Nightwing moved as one man, slamming into the duo and propelling them across the room to safety. The crimefighters rolled and flipped in the air narrowly missing being flattened themselves.
"Two Face." Batman said, throwing a bat bola around the two struggling Villains to hold them. Then he and Nightwing followed after the ringleader. Batgirl and Robin stood across from Scarecrow and Penguin muscles ready and minds alert.
"What is it that Bat's fear my scary friend?" The Penguin queried.
The Scarecrow smiled, "Large carnivores like us bird man?"
The Penguin gave a slow smile, "And sharp blinding light." He threw a small, marble shaped ball at the feet of the young duo, shielding himself and The Scarecrow with a dark umbrella as the ball exploded flooding in the room in a bright, searing light.
Batgirl and Robin covered their own eyes a moment to late, groaning at the sudden blindness before them.
The two rouges smiled at the helpless vigilantes and descended upon them with murder in their eyes.
Moments later they lay bewildered beneath the two vigilantes while their hands were being bound.
"We may not be able to see you." Batgirl said lightly, "But we can still hear you."
"And smell you!" Robin exclaimed wrinkling his nose a little from atop of The Penguin, "Don't they have showers in here Penguin?"
"Insufferable youth!" The Penguin squawked, "I'll make you sorry one day!"
"I'm sorry now," Robin retorted, "Seriously, it called soap!"
Batgirl smiled, "Let's get the inmates home. And clean up this mess."
Together they kicked down the door leading to the garden and the grateful inmates swarmed from the building and into the waiting protection of the police.
Robin rubbed at his eyes as they momentarily watered then glanced around the wrecked room. He sighed, "Which bad guy bundle do you want?"
"Let's start with The Joker and the Doctor – and then make sure the rest of Arkham is secure."
Shouts from Arkham's others villains filled the hallway as Batman and Nightwing tore after Two Face.
Harley Quinn danced around her cell with two blankets grasped her hands like Pom – Pom's while singing in her high pitched, childish voice, "Harvey, Harvey he's our man, if he can't do it, his other side can! WEEEEEEEEEE"
Pamela Isley otherwise known as Poison Ivy glared at her blonde friend from across the way, "Really Harley." She chastised, "If Two Face wanted your help he would have asked you to join his little teaching staff."
Harley paused with one leg in the air in between her verse – "Hey Yeah!" She exclaimed, dropping her bundles. "Mr J was probably about to let me out too."
"I'm sure." Pamela responded sarcastically. She glanced at the retreating figures, "That must be Nightwing – he's not as broad as his master, more like a strong and flexible sapling I imagine."
Harley giggled, "All the better to mulch I suppose."
Pamela smiled at her genuinely, "An excellent fertilizer Harley dear and so much easier to maintain than his thick oak of a mentor." Her green eyes glistened momentarily, "That sapling could be moulded to grow in a certain way – like a small bonsai tree – if he had the right encouragement."
Harley's brow furrowed, "Ya lost me Red?"
"Imagine what he could do for us Harley, if we could clip his bat wings." She pulled a small canister from the folds of her clothes.
Harley's eyes lit up as Pamela displayed the bright red lipstick in her hand, "Ohhh – encouragement!" She exclaimed breaking into laughter, then she flattened herself up against the glass, her blue eyes burning, "Count me in!" She growled.
Two Face glanced over his shoulder as he ran along the brightly lit white corridor of the Asylum. Batman and Nightwing were still close on his tail and rapidly catching up. Growling he pulled a revolver from his coat and fired blindly at the two pursuing vigilantes.
Batman and Nightwing ducked the random shots as best they could while keeping up the pace needed to keep Two Face in their sights.
"He's headed for the roof." Batman said between breaths.
"Typical." Nightwing returned, "And I suppose there's a helicopter primed and ready for takeoff waiting for him."
"Well there's a helicopter." Batman replied then flashed his partner a rare smile.
Nightwing gave a short laugh, "Always one step ahead as usual."
"Two Face is too predictable, he always has a second plan in waiting."
"He's not the only one." Nightwing responded, twisting suddenly into another passageway, "Meet you at the roof." He called, waving.
Batman grunted, "Just where does he think he's going?"
Nightwing increased his pace a little as he practically flew along the second corridor that took him directly to one of the only large windows in the Asylum that looked down on the vast garden area below presently swarming with inmates and police.
A window he had previously visited minutes before the joint attack on Two Face.
Nightwing's hand went to his gauntlet and he pushed a selection of buttons. A series of small explosions sounded and instantly the bars on the window dropped to the floor, still smoking at the corners where he had placed small detonation devices. With a smile he touched another button and a tiny Bat shaped spot on the window began to pulse, eliciting a high pitched sound that shattered the glass onto the window sill beneath it.
At the unusual sound, those on the lawn glanced up in time to see a stiff black and blue object shoot out of the window and into the air like a human dart.
Mouths agape they watched as he extended his arms to either side displaying the eggshell blue coloured gliders built into his costume like the wings of a bird. Instantly he caught an updraft and glided gracefully towards the top of the Asylum.
On the ground, amongst the various excited and awed voices Detective Harvey Bullock snorted unappreciatively, "Looks like grandstanding runs in the family." He muttered.
Grandstanding had not been Nightwing's intention. He had known from the beginning as Batman had that Two Face would most likely use the roof as a getaway and had therefore been prepared to get there the fastest way he could manage. Now as he glided up to the rooftop he prayed that his decision had been the right one to make.
Two Face stole another look over his shoulder and frowned. Batman was pursuing him alone. Had he managed to strike the other Vigilante with a stray bullet?
"Not a chance." He muttered.
If that were the case Batman would have been seeing to his injured protégé at that moment and not hot on his heels.
That only left one conclusion; Nightwing was trying a different route, hoping to cut him off. Two Face laughed, the odds weren't in the young vigilante's favour and he was footsteps away from the door that would take him to the roof.
Grasping his gun once more he aimed at the dark figure behind him and emptied his gun at him.
Batman was forced to duck and roll to avoid the sporadic shrapnel flying at his central mass. Growling he came to his feet flicking a Batarang as he rose and knocking the weapon from Two Face's grip.
Two Face bit of a cry, ignoring his stinging hand as he charged through the door at the end of the corridor and took the ten or so steps in bounds. His hand might ache for few hours but the gunfire had given him back a few precious seconds, enough for him to reach the safety of his helicopter and the machine gun bolted to its floor. The scarred side of his face rose in a hideous smile as he imagined Batman flying through the door and straight into his hail of automatic gunfire.
He was still grinning broadly in anticipation as he flew through the last door and straight into Nightwing's waiting fist.
"Took your time." Nightwing quipped, flicking a pair of Batcuffs onto the stunned villain's wrist, "I was getting bored up here."
Two Face stared up at him in disbelief, his eyes widened as he caught sight of his twin female accomplices, who should have been piloting his getaway vehicle, hanging high above Nightwing's head securely wrapped together in the thin but strong Batrope. Their eyes displaying the all too familiar humiliation and confusion of someone bested by Batman.
"How!" Two Face howled.
Nightwing smiled, "Hey, a guy's gotta have some mystery about him!"
"You're not the only one with a double plan Harvey." Batman said, stepping quietly through the door.
"Damn clown!" Two Face screamed, "We wouldn't have needed the roof if wasn't for him!"
Batman glared down at him, "Next time I suggest you chose your allies more carefully." And he nodded slightly at Nightwing.
Nightwing grinned, "I'll go check on the others."
Two Face gaped as Nightwing once again opened his gliders and dove off the roof. He turned his eyes to the Dark Knight standing over him in the way he hated, "We heard you weren't working with him anymore."
Batman stared back at him with cold, unforgiving eyes, "Some people deserve a second chance."
Bruce sat across from Two Face in silence, he sought the hideous face for any sign of his old friend and eventually shook his head, admitting defeat.
"I won't be coming to see you anymore Harvey, not until I'm assured Two Face is no longer part of your life."
"We're gonna miss our little chats." Two Face snarled sarcastically. "Whatever will we do without you?"
Bruce sighed resignedly, "If you're smart you'll work at getting better, but I'm not holding my breath. I came today to tell you one thing and one thing only."
Two Face grinned maniacally, "That you're here for us – through thick and thin all we need to do is call. We know this line rich boy, you've been spouting it for the last two years. We don't need you, we don't need anyone."
Bruce stood, moving close to the pane of glass that separated the two of them. "No. That chance is gone Two Face. It disappeared the moment you endangered my family."
Two Face glanced up sharply and snorted, "Family. You and your little orphan boys." He turned, so his hideous side glared back at Bruce menacingly, "Last I checked one boy had abandoned you and the other won't be far behind. Face it money bags, you're as lousy a father as you are a friend. Where's little Dicky now? Do you even know? Do you even care?"
Bruce's gaze never wavered from the horrible bulging eye staring him down, "Actually he's enjoying some of Alfred's home made blueberry pancakes as we speak – and if I know him he's probably onto his second round." He smiled softly as he remembered the three of them moments ago, sitting around the great dining table, fighting over the maple syrup with Alfred looking on silently disapproving but too happy to see them all together to put a stop to it.
Then a look neither Two Face nor Harvey Dent had ever seen came across the usual cheery face. A look that sent the hairs on the back of Two Face's neck straight up.
" I came tell you that if you ever target my family again…" His voice lowered to a timbre that obviously unnerved the Villain before him, "… You're going to need more than just the two of you to stop me." He gave him a slow, confident smile, "A lot more."
Bruce bent and picked up his coat from the back of the chair and his face returned to it's usually cheery self. Two Face however remained staring, silent and unsure.
"Now, I'm taking Dick and Tim to Gotham Stadium, The Knights are playing and we have prime tickets – or so they tell me. Truth be told, I would go to the Moon with them if they wanted me to, as long as we go together."
He gave Two Face one last, long look, "And as for you not needing anyone else but yourself Two Face, you're wrong and Harvey knows it. Everybody needs someone else and I doubt you'll be Harvey's first choice forever. You've already cost him Grace and now me. Odd's are, he won't stand for that much longer – You're not worth it." And spinning swiftly he walked away without a second glance.
Two Face sat silently in thought for some time, trying to pinpoint what exactly it was about the playboy that unnerved him so much. "Pompous little rich kid." He muttered, standing and pacing the room. He pressed his face against the glass pane of his cell and could just make out the red-headed plant lady in the cell diagonally opposite him. Word was she and The Jokers stupid side-kick, the clown girl, were planning an escape. If he could convince them to release him to – he could teach that rich brat a real lesson.
Subconsciously he sought out his coin clutching it in his good hand, "Heads we stay, Tales we leave." He made the motion to toss the coin but nothing happened. It stayed clutched securely in his unmarked hand. Over and over he tried but his fist stayed clenched tightly around his judge, jury and executioner.
"What have you done to me!" he screamed through the glass.
What was this? Some new drug? He'd never heard of such a thing. He beat against the glass with the unmoving fist, he couldn't even switch the coin to his bad hand. And then suddenly he realised what he had said. "Me" he repeated, "I said what have you done to ME!" he screamed in fury, drawing guards from all over the complex. They watched stunned, some amused, some horrified as Two Face wrestled with his own hand. "Give it back to me! " He shouted, fury turning to fear when the hand actually started pulling away on it's own accord.
"No! No!" He screamed, "Give it back to me! I need it! Please I need it, you need me, we need each other ……… Harvey! NO HARVEY!"