By: Shannyn Grayson Ivy
Lying behind the Batmobile, an exhausted ebony canine lay, with spirit close to defeated. Hunger plagued him and his dynamic form begged for rest. Dizzy spells still came to him often, along with longer bouts of mental confusion. Whatever was happening to him was getting stronger, his own thoughts often jumbled now. He realized he needed help, needed to find the evil that did this to him, so he could restore not only his body but his fleeting sanity as well. His thoughts however, kept going to the Batman, as the arrow flew in seemingly slow motion.
The approaching car brought the wolf from its thoughts. An animal control vehicle pulled up alongside the Batmobile. He knew he should run, and he tried. Weakness due to loss of blood however, made it impossible. As the two men forced him into the caged back of the vehicle, the wolf could only stare at the bloody spot where the Batman had laid a few minutes before.
"Joe, you think these wolves are wild?" The animal control specialist asked his co-worker as they continued collecting the injured animals.
"Have to be, nobody in the city's going to own a wolf. Shame too, guess we'll have to euthanize them. In the shape they are in, we're doing them a favor."
"Yeah, no need waiting on the usual time period, it's not like anyone is going to adopt them. We'll start putting them to sleep as soon as we get back."
Inside the cage, the black wolf looked at his trapped cellmates with sadness. He wondered if they understood what fate was about to befall them. A flash of memory of Batman petting him, while he slept in his arms, overcame him. He missed the safeness he had felt then. He laid down, with his weary head on his mighty front paws, finding comfort only in that memory.
The boy's screams went on unheard, as the doctor continued his madness. Robin's young body shook vigorously and he couldn't seem to stop it. A pain like he had never experienced went through him, seeming to cause his senses to explode all at once. Suddenly he could scream no longer, could do nothing but watch as the doctor brought over a second shot to inject him with. His young eyes growing wider the closer the doctor came to him; he tried in vain to pull at the chains that held him.
"In the end, it does little good to fight me. If you could only ask Nightwing how futile his attempts were."
"Wha...what did you do to..." Try as he might, Robin couldn't say more.
"To Nightwing? Why, I did the same that I'm about to do for you. I gave him the chance to make medical history, to make his existence mean something. Soon my research will be complete and I can change the world with my findings. I will show all those that laughed at me! They called me insane, because I alone have a vision for the future. With what I bring to genetic engineering, I will change mankind forever."
"Night...wing." Robin managed to whisper.
"Oh do not grieve for him little one. He put up a valiant struggle! He had the fight of ten men in him. It is no wonder that the Bat had enlisted his aid. He was the pride of my research, a true masterpiece. Now it's time for you to join him..."
"How is he?" Oracle asked Flash over the tiny communicator. Even with her voice masked, he could still hear the tension that flowed from her.
"He's finally out. He put up one hell of a struggle. Keep raving about finding that black wolf. Do you know what that's about?"
"Negative, but if it means that much to Batman then that's your new mission. You and Arsenal go to the pound and retrieve that black wolf."
"Copy that Oracle. We're on our way."
"Get back away from him Joe!" Tony Sanders had been in animal control for over nine years. In all that time he had never seen an animal put up as big a fight as this one. It had started when he and his co-worker Joe had tried to take a grey wolf down the corridor to be put to sleep. The black wolf had jumped up and threatened to attack. He was obviously protecting the grey wolf with all the fight left in him. Tony had been impressed that the Black had not attacked them but instead stood his ground, growling with teeth bared as a warning.
"I've got the tranq gun. Move and let me knock him out. Then we'll carry him to the chamber first. He must be their leader." Tony moved a little closer to manage a clear shot. With lightning speed the black wolf attacked his hand, gripping it with his teeth until the tranquiller gun was dropped. With that accomplished the wolf took the gun in his mouth and dropped it behind the rest of the wolves. To retrieve it would mean facing down all of them. Tony started to slowly back up when a reddish brown wolf attacked him. Before Joe could come to his aid, the black wolf had grabbed the red wolf and was pulling him off of Tony.
"Man, I seen it but I don't believe it!" Joe stated as he pulled Tony out of the cage by his arm.
"Are you alright Tony?"
"Yeah thanks to the black. Joe this is no ordinary wolf we've got here."
Vomiting profusely, Robin almost choked from being too weak to lift his head. The pain was increasing to the point that death would have become a welcomed relief. He chided himself mentally for the thought. 'I bet Dick didn't just give up'. Robin found courage in thinking of his older surrogate brother. He refused to believe that Nightwing was dead as the doctor had led him to believe. In Robin's eyes, Nightwing was larger than life, infallible. He refused to think otherwise. The hope that Nightwing still lived was all he had left to cling to. 'He's alive, I know he is, and when he finds me, I won't be crying like a girl!' Set in his new resolve, Robin held firm to his belief that his surrogate father and brother would find him in time.
Checking him over, the doctor shook his head in disgust. Writing down something on a pad he studied Robin's breathing.
"Well little one, I have some rather bad news for you."
Robin continued to eye the doctor, wondering what he had planned for next.
"Apparently the initial shot was far too strong for you. You are having an allergic reaction. It's a shame that you are not going to make it. You would have made a strong addition to the pack. So brave, it's a pity."
Robin felt another wave of nausea hit him as he realized that the doctor was saying he was dying.
"Still I can do nothing to put you out of your misery. I must observe your side effects and record the time it takes for your life force to expire. The good news for you is it shouldn't be long now."
"Superman come in."
"I'm here Oracle."
"He's the stubbornness son of a gun I've ever met! He can't get up so he had Alfred make him some kind of portable lab on the tabletop that a dinner tray should be going on. He's impossible!"
Oracle allowed herself an understanding laugh.
"I'm going to round up all the wolves in the Bludhaven/Gotham City area. I'm building a holding area to put them in out near where we found Batman earlier. It's isolated enough that it shouldn't disturb anyone."
"Why are you rounding up wolves?"
"Do I look like I know? Batman insists that if I don't, he'll get up and do it himself. So looks like I'm going."
"Good choice under the circumstances. Batman is even harder to get along with when he's injured. Listen Superman, have you by any chance seen Robin lately?"
"I'm getting worried. He hasn't checked in and he's not answering his wrist comm. Arsenal reported earlier that Robin was very upset about Nightwing and was taking all this hard. He said Robin went for a walk to clear his head. No one has heard from him since."
A long pause followed, making Oracle wonder what was wrong.
"Superman? Are you there?"
"Yes Oracle. Hang on."
In the background Oracle could here Batman using the voice on Alfred, to no avail.
"Those boys need me Alfred!"
"MASTER BRUCE! I SAID LIE BACK!"
Superman blinked in surprise at Alfred's authoritative voice and the way Bruce lowered his eyes and slumped his shoulders in submission.
"You will do them more good here. Now stop this foolishness at once! Resume your laboratory studies and do not force me to give you a sedative!"
With a sudden burst of energy, Batman looked up at Superman and challenged.
"What are you looking at? Go out there and find them damn it!"
Oracle's smile lit up her face as she heard Superman sigh and then reply, "Yes Bruce, right away Bruce."
Looking at the two costumed men that walked into the shelter, Tony shook his head. "What now?" He muttered.
"Excuse me sir. We are looking for a wolf."
"Which one? I have eight of them."
Arsenal answered, trying hard not to let the guilt over what happened earlier get to him.
"This wolf is jet black. Beautiful and huge."
"And super intelligent?" Tony asked.
Arsenal and Flash exchanged looks with one another, unsure of what the man meant.
"We've got him alright. Although I'd like to know how you plan to get next to him. That one's a scrapper."
"That is a good question Flash. How are we going to get him?"
Wally West opened the cage door slowly and despite his reputation as Flash for being the fastest man alive, he did not see the black wolf until it jumped him.
"FLASH!" Arsenal screamed as he ran into the cage.
To all of their disbeliefs, the black wolf stood on top of Wally but instead of attacking he was wagging his tail. Flash was the first to regain his speech abilities.
"See Arsenal, I told you it wouldn't be a problem. Animals like me."
"Well, I'm glad somebody does." Arsenal quipped.
"Come in Oracle."
"I'm here Arsenal, go ahead." Oracles voice sounded stressed to the max. It was so full of sadness that it made the black wolf ache to be near her. The thought of her vanilla scented hair breezed across his senses. Suddenly the Batmobile was filled with uncontrollable barking.
"Shut him up Wally!"
"Yeah right! Why don't you tell him to shut up?"
The barking continued until Oracle had reached her breaking point.
"QUITE!" She screamed. Instantly the wolf stopped and with a soft whine, licked the monitor in the dashboard of the Batmobile.
"Wow Oracle, you really have a way with man and beasts!" Flash quipped.
"Yeah I think he's sweet on you." Arsenal chimed in.
"Shut up both of you. I don't have time for this." She snapped.
"Sorry Oracle. We have the wolf as you have seen and we left the others for Superman to pick up as you requested. What now?"
"Batman wants that wolf back at the cave. Although why he's chasing canines when his son is missing is beyond me. Drop him off, as soon as possible; so maybe we can get some real work accomplished! Oracle out!"
"Whoa. She's ticked." Arsenal whispered.
"Me too actually. What is it with the wolves already? Why won't Batman ever tell us anything? I don't see how Dick puts up with him."
"Yeah, I know. Batman is a totally ass." Arsenal answered as Flash nodded his agreement.
Both men were startled when the wolf began to growl.
"What's he mad about?" Flash asked.
"Why are you asking me? You are the one that animals like remember? All I said was that Batman is a..."
"ROFF! GRRRRRR!" Was the black wolf's answer.
"It's Batman. He doesn't want you talking about Batman."
"Oh don't be ridiculous. He can't understand what I'm saying." As the wolf continued his glare and low growl, Arsenal added, "Can he?"
"What are you doing back here?" Batman snapped, never looking up from his microscope.
Superman tried once again to remind himself that Batman was worried and hurt. Still, Superman mused, Batman could try the patience of a Saint.
"I collected all the wild wolves. Fifty-seven in all, including three pups."
"Did you say pups?" Batman asked, looking up with a shocked expression.
"Yes. Would you please tell me what all this is about? I'm more than tired of being left in the dark on this. If you want my help then you better spill it Bruce. NOW!"
The roar of the Batmobile's engine came screeching to a halt. As soon as the door was opened, the black wolf flew past them in a blur as he ran straight to Batman's bedside and jumped up on it.
"Thank God!" Bruce whispered as he pulled the wolf into an embrace and held him close. He hadn't realized that he had attracted a crowd as Alfred, Leslie, Superman, Flash, and Arsenal watched in confusion and surprise. Even Oracle's face filled the Batcomputer screen and she couldn't help but comment on the reunion.
"Good, you've got the precious wolf back. Now can we look for Dick? I'm warning you Bruce if you don't do something soon, I'll go find him myself!"
"Are you hurt?" Batman asked the wolf softly. Gently he ran his hands along the wolf's body looking for injuries. The wolf, which was more than happy to be reunited, continuously licked Batman in the face.
"Bruce, I must insist you get that animal off the bed. It's not good for you, especially in your condition." Leslie scowled at him but noticed it had no effect on him whatsoever. He continued to act as though he and the wolf were the only ones in the room.
"You scared me, you know that?" Batman put his hands around the gruff of the wolf's neck and pulled at it teasingly. The wolf wagged his tail and playfully put a paw on Batman's arm.
"HELLO! Earth to BATMAN! Nightwing is still missing and now so is Robin. What are you going to do?" Oracle demanded.
The wolf started to bark; it was obvious he was anxious about something. When Batman answered, he addressed the wolf instead of Oracle.
"Yes, Tim is missing. I'm not sure how long. He was last seen in an alley by the lab. He took off on foot. Do you think you can track him son?"
With the term of affection 'son' being used, everyone looked at one another. Batman continued to ignore them.
"Okay, Alfred will get you Tim's shirt. Track him and bring him home. By the time you get back I should have this antidote ready."
The wolf put one paw on each of Batman's shoulders and then laid his head down. It was clear that he was giving him a hug. The onlookers in the room witnessed it in shock.
"I know son. I'm glad you're okay too." Batman whispered as he again hugged the wolf. When his eyes began to grow misty, he cleared his throat and got back to business.
"Nightwolf, go find Robin!"
The wolf barked his happy reply.
Superman flew Nightwolf to the place that Robin had last been seen. Flash and Arsenal were still finding it hard to believe that their best friend was now in the shape of a wolf. As Nightwolf tracked, the three of them tried to understand it all.
"So this is supposed to be Nightwing?" Flash asked Superman, hoping for some answers.
"That's what I got out of it. Although Batman wouldn't tell me anything directly." Superman answered.
"Yeah what's with that anyway? Batman is a royal pain in the..." Before Arsenal could finish his sentence, Nightwolf stopped tracking long enough to growl at him and give him a hard glare.
"Okay, geesh! I didn't say it." Arsenal defended.
"Yeah but you were thinking it!" Flash grinned.
"So where you!" Arsenal shot back.
Robin's breath was coming in hard wheezing now. In and out of consciousness, Tim tried to fight against the pain and fear. He could feel his body giving out on him. Could feel death close at hand. He wasn't even sure anymore if that was a bad thing. His thoughts kept drifting back to Nightwing. Was he dead? He prayed he wasn't but if so, Tim looked forward to being reunited with him on the other side. It was the only comfort he had.
The doctor's morbid comments barely registered through the fog inside his mind. Breathing was too much of a chore now and Robin closed his eyes for what he hoped would be the last time.
"He's having a fit. This must be the place." Flash noted.
Bending down Superman made eye contact with the wolf. "Lead the way Dick!" He whispered.
Nightwolf lead them through what appeared to be an abandoned house, going down into the basement. Doctor Emile Dorian stood in front of Robin. Nightwolf was on him before he even knew he was there. With his sharp teeth and claws cutting into the doctor's flesh, blood splashed out in every direction. Enjoying the revenge, Nightwolf continued to maim the man that had hurt his brother.
"Superman stop him, Nightwolf is going to kill that guy!" Flash shouted.
Superman ran to Nightwolf trying to get him off the doctor, but Nightwolf retaliated by biting him. Superman felt no pain, but was surprised that Dick would attempt to hurt him. He had clearly lost control.
"Stop it! That's enough! We have Robin now; we have to tend to him. Do you understand? We have to get him to Batman. That's what's important right now."
The black wolf stopped his attack and ran to Robin. His tail tucked between his legs and his ears pinned down, he lay beside the young boy and whined.
"Flash, you and Arsenal take care of things here. I'm taking these two to the cave." With that Superman swept both Robin and the wolf up into his arms and was gone.
Despite Alfred and Leslie's arguments, Batman left his bed and went to his two surrogate sons. He had been relieved to see that Robin was still in human form but as he approached him, it was obvious that the boy was in extreme trouble. His breathing was almost non-existent. Nightwolf looked defeated, as though he knew how close to death Robin was. Taking Robin into his arms, Batman carried him to the med lab in the cave. Alfred and Leslie attached the monitors as Batman pulled out his vials of serum, hoping that it was the antidote he was seeking.
"I hate to make him a guinea pig, but I don't have much of a choice. Leslie would you please administer this. I can't seem to get my hands to steady." Batman handed Dr. Leslie Thompkins what he prayed would be a cure for the boy who had come to mean the world to him. Looking down at his oldest 'son' he took a deep breath.
"I hate to make you a guinea pig too. I was going to test this on the others first but we don't have the time. If my conclusions from Dorian's paperwork are correct, then after seventy-two hours you will be forced to stay in wolf form forever. You are dangerously close to that deadline. Dick I don't know what to do. This could cure you, but it could kill you if you have an adverse reaction to it." Batman's voice was shaky and full of doubt. Nightwolf stood up on his back paws and took the vial from Batman's hand. Carrying it to Alfred, he then went to the table and picked up an injection needle and dropped it in Alfred's lap.
"It is clear sir that he wishes to proceed." Alfred said as he began to prepare the shot.
Batman dropped to his knees and held the wolf, stroking his fur gently, offering what reassure he could. The wolf licked him and refused to look at Alfred as the shot was given. Once it was accomplished, the wolf jumped onto the bed beside Tim and laid his head on the young boy's wheezing chest.
"Master Bruce, telephone for you sir. It is Miss Barbara." Alfred handed Bruce the cordless phone, refusing to let him get up out of bed. Bruce's wounds were very serious in their own right and Alfred had threatened to knock him out completely if he didn't behave.
Holding the phone for a long moment, Bruce did not speak. Words for what he felt in his heart, again refusing to come to his lips.
"Bruce? Are you there?"
"Yes Barbara, I'm here."
"How are they?" Her anxious voice all but screamed.
"They are resting. Tim's vitals are getting stronger. Leslie says he's going to make it."
"Dick is a very hungry human again. He has been eating almost non-stop since he woke up and found out that Tim would be all right. He wouldn't touch a bite until he knew Tim was okay."
"So he's not a wolf anymore?"
Bruce glanced over at his son who was stuffing potato chips in his mouth at rapid speed. Smiling to himself he answered her.
"No, he's totally back to the Dick we know and love."
"Did you say love? Since when do you speak that word?" Barbara asked only half joking.
"Don't be mean Barbara. I have had a rough few days too. It's not easy watching your son turn into a flea bag."
With his last statement made, Dick threw the now empty potato chip bag at him. Which being stuck in the bed, he was unable to totally dodge as it hit him in the face. Taking the phone away from Bruce, Dick's soft sexy voice whispered in her ear. "So how about it beautiful? You and me and the moonlight, I'll show you how to howl." Barbara laughed as she cried tears of relief. Yes, she thought, he is back...
XXXXXXXXXX The End