AN: This story has been on a bit of a haitus... primarily as i'm so sporadic with when i decided to update. Anywho - a bout of creativity ended up with me both writing this chapter and also drawing Phoebe. You can view it on my DeviantArt account here: #/d5sdaz7. Enjoy!
The sky was turning a blood red against the white of the snow and yellowing cloud as Terry arrived at Wayne Manor; the building imposing as ever. Terry had tried calling Dana on his walk from the train stop but to his annoyance there had been no response; hopefully she'd just spent more time in the gym than usual, imagining one very unfortunate punching bag to be Terry's face. As he made his way up to the large front door he noticed the daily paper and post had been left uncollected wedged into the letter box,
"I guess he really did give the maid a day off" he mumbled as he pulled the thick paper and envelopes out of the grip of the letter box. The warm confines of Wayne Manor greeted Terry as he entered the main reception area; the mansion carried with it the scent of dust, old alcohol and furniture which Terry could never get used to.
"Mr Wayne!" Terry's voice echoed through the sparsely furnished entrance hall of the manor. He grinned and quickly knelt down as he heard the clicking of Ace's clawed paws galloping on the tiled floor,
"Hey Ace!" He welcomed the Great Dane with a tight hug and rough stroke, "Where's your layabout owner then?"
"I heard that" Terry reddened as he saw the shadowed form of Bruce coming out of the concealed entrance of the Bat Cave,
"Heh, sorry" He gave Ace a final pat as he rose back to standing, "You been down there all day?" He questioned, noticing Bruce looking paler than usual, "Have you eaten?"
"Now you really are starting to sound like the Maid" Bruce replied gruffly to the questioning, bringing a scowl to Terry's face,
"Well I' am meant to be looking after you, at least that's what you tell me to say to everyone else. Little gratitude wouldn't go far" He absently scratched at Ace's scalp, the dog sitting obediently waiting for his walk,
"Bad day?" Bruce questioned as he moved to sit on a nearby couch, Terry could see something definitely different in the old man,
"I could say the same about you, something come up?" Ace whined and leaned against Terry's leg and Bruce motioned towards the door,
"I'll tell you when you get back" Bruce paused, "I need to do some more research… and Ace needs a stretch. Go on, I'll be downstairs when you get back" He carefully raised himself using his cane for balance and headed once more to the concealed entrance which had been left ajar.
"Yeah sure…. C'mon Ace" Terry patted the dogs sturdy side and headed out the door once more with Ace happily barking along by his side.
Phoebe's heart was still a flurry of anger and adrenaline; she'd let her panic get the better of her and she'd fled,
"What're you doing!? You could have beaten those bastards into the ground!" She spat to herself, gripping her satchel strap tighter and running a hand through her hair, "Your Nana would be mortified!" She slowed to a stop and took a deep inhale; letting the cold, frosty air fill her lungs. Upon exhaling she opened her eyes and took in her surroundings; the area she was in was still grimy – snow mixed with grit mixed with decomp but now there were a few neon lights scattered about and more concentrated in the distance. She felt like she had gone back in time, compared to where that preppy school had been these buildings were practically ancient. The train rails still loomed above and new modern cars were parked up on the dirty sidewalks but the buildings had stayed the same.
"Must be in Old Town…" she mumbled, her previous incident escaping her mind, "… need to find somewhere to stay" A mission now at hand she began her pace down the side walk, the crowds would hopefully keep attention away.
She found a cheap motel; it was pretty much a hostel as people looked like they had been staying there for years. Only two rooms were left and she took the one furthest away from the strip. The fat man at the check in gave her a once over, probably looking for puncture marks of a needle or bruises of an abusive father; he couldn't have stank more of weed if he tried.
"How long you intendin' to stay?" He questioned, words slurring,
"How long am I allowed?"
"If you don't know you pay by the day, you got the creds now?" He shot her a suspicious look, without a reply she dropped a couple of credits onto the grubby desk.
"Funky…" He reached over to the key board, his thick fingers hooking around the little key, "You don't take the key out the building and if I'm not here then it'll be Angela who sees you in and out"
"Sure…" Phoebe replied, taking the key and pocketing it; the man directed her towards a steep set of stairs and she took her leave. Her heavy satchel bag jostled against her thigh as she hopped up the steep stairs; the height of the steps awkwardly in between a stride and a skip. Her room was on the third floor and as she got onto the corridor she could smell over boiled coffee and burnt toast and the muffled sound of a television emanated from the closest door. Her eyes followed the linoleum and ended at her door, a window ajar at the end wall brought in the cold and she quickly let herself in. A click of a switch and the room glowed with a yellow light; the room combined a small kitchen area and bedroom with a small wet room off to the side. The linoleum continued into the room and Phoebe's boots squeaked as she made her way past the make-shift kitchen and to the bed. She lazily dropped her satchel on the bed and followed suit her blonde hair draping over her face as she flopped onto the green comforter. Her mind drifted as her feet and fingers thawed; she wasn't used to this sort of cold and she'd been ill dressed as soon as she'd stepped off the train. As she contemplated acquiring a fur coat the chirping of her phone vibrated against her side, with a lazy movement she answered,
"Nana" her eyes followed the stucco on the ceiling,
"Hello sweetheart; just checking in" A warm, husky voice crackled from the phone, a silence followed briefly and a flicking of pages, "Our client requires an update" Phoebe sighed,
"It's been completed" She fingered the buttons of her coat,
"Good" Phoebe could feel the grin of satisfaction from her Nana, "She will be so happy, you do wonderful things Phoebe remember that. All these women, you bring them peace"
"I know Nana, I think the cold's just getting to me" Her tone was lax as the warmth of the room cuddled her frame,
"You're stronger than that" The sternness returned, "Did you manage to get information on the new target" Back to business Phoebe thought,
"Yes, the mark is a teacher at the school; he's part of the genetic engineering facilities I can get him there tonight"
"Phoebe – remember to be cautious – you aren't the only one that prowls at night… not in Gotham" Her Nana's tone became cold, "If he's still out there as the papers state you do not give him a second chance; remember what I told you"
"Rip his wings off…"
Terry rubbed at his arms to keep warm; the dark had come quicker than he'd been ready for and so had the chill of the night. With a quickened pace he caught up with Ace who sat waiting on the porch of Wayne Manor,
"Not like the cold either, huh Ace?" He grinned at the black dog and unlocked the door for the shivering mutt; Ace bounded through the main hall and down the passage to the Bat Cave, yipping as he went. With the door locked Terry followed down making sure to close it on the way – he was getting as paranoid as the old man. The Bat Cave welcomed Terry with its familiar drips of moisture, cold cloying touch and electronic buzzing,
"Bruce?" Terry's voice bounced off the walls, he hoped that old man hadn't changed his mind and wandered back into the house,
"I'm at the monitor" Bruce's voice emanated from the gloom - of course he's at the monitor – Terry thought, he was more there than anywhere else these days. He picked up his pace, moving past the cabinets of memorabilia and to the juggernaut monitor that Bruce had sat himself in front of.
"So, are you going to enlighten me?" Terry propped himself against the leather chair inhabiting Bruce, when Terry glanced he could see the dark hollows of Bruce's eyes looking even more bruised; he would be an idiot not to know something was bothering the veteran vigilante,
"… yes" Bruce pondered, his hands forming a plinth to rest his chin, "The police found the body of Billy Vogel last night, bound and decapitated in an abandoned apartment" Terry hid the morbid surge of adrenaline that surfaced from the information,
"Vogel?" Terry watched as photos of the grim apartment opened up on the screen along with the dull white noise from a police radio, the room was sparse and appeared as if no one had lived there in years. The furniture was gone except for the desk chair that housed the unfortunate corpse of Billy Vogel. How Bruce had got his hands on these photos was beyond him, some questions he had decided to put aside.
"His father Lance Vogel owns several night clubs in Gotham. As far as the police are concerned the father should have been in that chair not the son" Bruce leaned back in the leather chair a weary hand patting against Ace's neck as the dog sat obediently next to his master,
"You think it's a threat gone wrong?" Terry pondered, "Blackmail?" Bruce shook his head,
"That's what I thought first, but look" With a quick click the screen changed to a closer inspection of the severed neck, "The cut is clean and precise, the intention was to kill and not to injure… the body doesn't have defensive wounds or signs of torture. Billy Vogel was brought to that room to be killed, but as of yet no one knows why".
"You sending me out?..." Terry felt a sickly twist in his stomach; the duality of a new hunt against the repairing of his and Dana's relationship was a place he didn't wish to be.
"Not tonight…" Bruce grunted, Terry hid a sigh of relief, "I'm going to look at this further; but keep your phone close the killer may be out again tonight"
"Got it, you need me for anything else?" Terry nibbled at his lip, feeling that the space of thought was purposefully to long,
"No, but I'll be in contact if anything changes" He waited a short moment in case Bruce graced him with any more information; the old man had a penchant for dramatic pauses. Deciding the moment had passed Terry said his goodbyes and headed out and as the dust of the aging house filled his lungs once again his thoughts turned back to Dana. Max had mentioned the usual group meeting up for drinks; hopefully Dana wouldn't give him the cold shoulder for his hesitancy earlier – he wanted to make this work. He flung his bag around from his back and delved his hand in for his phone intending to ring Max but caught onto his well-worn bat suit; reluctantly he gazed down at the midnight black material that held both triumph and pain. He remembered his first night as the Batman; it had been exhilarating and terrifying and he'd never felt closer to his father than he had in that moment. From then on whenever he wore the suit he knew he could do the impossible and he could make his mark, just like Bruce had years before. He cared for Dana, but he had also found a cause; one which he could do good things with, he no longer felt like he was falling into the same pit that of those he fought. He worried at his lip, if anything meeting his friends would show Dana that he was not becoming the recluse that he was sure she considered him, he stuff his suit back to the bottom of his bag and brought out his cell phone.
"Hey" Max's voice sounded down the phone along with a cacophony of gun shots and electric music,
"Max are you still at the arcade?" It had been nearly three hours since they'd parted ways – how many spare credits did she have?
"Yeah, a guy challenged me to a shoot off on one of the two player games and I won sooo spending my hard earned winnings" she chuckled, "You finished?"
"Just, are you still meeting the guys tonight?" Terry swung his bag back over his arm and made his way down from Wayne Manor.
"Far as I know… I'll meet you outside the school in about an hour okay?" Terry could hear the sound of something being killed in the background and couldn't help being impressed by Max's ability to kill and talk casually on the phone at the same time.
"Might be a little longer than that, I think I just missed the half 6" he absently kicked a stone further down the inclining street letting it skip into the bushes off the walkway,
"More play time for me" Max replied, he could imagine the wide grin on her face, "I'll see you at the steps then"
"See you later Max" Terry smiled, letting the pink haired nerd continue on with her gaming. As he neared the train station the skies let forth a soft falling flurry of snow, Terry raised his eyes up to the glittering sky, the yellow grey clouds of the night making everything seem lucid and not quite real. He hoped that tonight the filth of Gotham would allow him a pardon.