I see green, I see red

by Christopher W. Blaine

e-mail: darth_yoshi@yahoo.com

DISCLAIMER: All of the characters contained in this story are ©2002 by DC Comics Inc. and are used without permission for fan-related non-profit purposes only. This original work of fiction is ©2002 by Christopher W. Blaine and may not be reproduced in part or as a whole without the express permission of the author.

Johnny "Smack Doctor" Franks flew across his apartment, crashing into a faux Ming vase. Dust and grime mixed with his own blood, forming a nasty paste on his face and he cursed himself for being born with the tendency to smart off to people who could whip his tail. Normally, it didn't matter since he had several highly paid bodyguards to protect him from those he liked to verbally abuse.

As he felt the forming lump on his head, he looked over to see four of his men in various states of capture. Lines, wires and even glue had been used to prevent them from coming to Johnny's aid. Silently, he cursed himself for hiring such unintelligent thugs, as opposed to the metahumans Blockbuster liked to hire.

Of course, Blockbuster was the kingpin of the Bludhaven underworld and Johnny wasn't even on the totem pole yet. If he didn't do something about his unwanted visitor, he would never get there anyway.

"Alright, hero-man!" Johnny cried, spitting out a gold tooth. "What the hell do you want?"

Out of the shadows, a tall man with blonde hair and a goatee, clad in a green costume and carrying a green bow smiled. "I just want to talk. I'm looking for a friend of mine, scumbag, and you're going to tell me how to find him!"

Officer Tom Patterson chewed at a hangnail as he watched the rookie exit the radio car and walk over. He saw the fresh face, big smile and clean-shaven officer as nothing but an annoyance, but said nothing. His partner, the cute little brunette, outranked him and he was not in the mood to go through another round of state-sanctioned sensitivity training.

Dick Grayson saw the other cop standing there, apparently trying to eat his finger and nodded hello. The other cop grunted some sort of reply and stepped back. "You sure seem happy today, young Officer Grayson," his partner said.

"I had a good night, Amy," he replied. It actually had been as he had spent most of it not stopping crime as Nightwing, Bludhaven's resident super-hero, but in a soul-searching conversation with former JLA member Zauriel. Sometimes talking was much better than fighting.

"Really," she said, smiling, "and here I thought you spent all night drinking hot chocolate and watching old movies. Anyone I know?"

Dick gave her a wry look. He had to admit that there had once been some slight attraction between the two co-workers, but that had long since passed. Her ribbing of him in romantic matters proved that their friendship was strengthening. "Not what you think…I was…at church." Not entirely a lie, he thought, given that Zauriel was an angel and Heaven's representative on Earth.

They walked through a broken down door and past an evidence technician that was dusting for fingerprints with little interest in his work. That was typical for Bludhaven, as the police force was one the most corrupt in the country. It was the reason why Dick Grayson, heir to the Wayne Fortune, had given up his "life" as a playboy and had taken a real job.

There was a side of him that wanted to smack the evidence technician on the back of the head, but it would serve no purpose. He was trying to blend in and gain the trust of his fellow officers so that he could use that information as Nightwing to bring the guilty to justice. "What happened here? Looks like an army ran through here."

Amy shrugged. They were here only to act as gophers for the detectives. "This was a known hang out for a small-time drug dealer; some guy wanting to climb the totem pole of disgust. Got a 9-1-1 call earlier saying that the dealer and some of his men were all knocked out, covered in white powder, pills, grass and, get this, maple syrup."

Dick laughed. "Maple syrup?"

"Oh, yeah, and they ended up with a bunch of half-frozen stray dogs them. Pretty funny when you think about it."

Dick looked out of a broken window, noting that the glass was on the inside. Snow was starting to fall, the precursor to a bigger storm on its way. "We know what happened?" He considered the possibilities, but came up blank. He hadn't done it, and there were no other heroes in Bludhaven. It was slightly possible that either Batman or Robin had been here, but he seriously doubted it.

"No," Amy said, zipping her jacket up as a breeze came in through the broken window. "The scumbags are keeping quiet. Probably too embarrassed by what happened."

Dick was about to reply when another officer called to the detectives from a far corner. Dick saw a man in an overcoat throw down a cigarette and walk over. He didn't hear what they were saying, but was surprised but what the detective held up.

A green boxing glove on an arrow shaft.

"Give me the full poop, babe," Dick said to the video monitor. On it, the love of his life, the former Batgirl Barbara Gordon, pushed her glasses up and smiled. "Coming through now, lover."

Dick pulled his Nightwing top on as the information came across the screen of his computer. "I don't want to read this, can't you just tell me?"

"You sure do whine an awful lot; must be that spoiled little rich boy syndrome." There was a lightness to her tone and he counted himself lucky to have finally pursued a relationship with her. He realized how much he needed her in his life. "Okay, dear, its like this: Oliver Queen is indeed alive and well."

"Yeah, I heard about it, but I haven't exactly had the time to look into it. I know Bruce has verified him and so has Roy, but I wasn't totally convinced." Oliver Queen had been the original Green Arrow, a hero who represented every liberal cause. Queen had adopted Roy Harper, Dick's friend and fellow Titan known as Arsenal. The womanizing Emerald Archer was also the father of Connor Hawke, the second person to take up the Green Arrow mantle. "I thought he was keeping his activities strictly within the boundaries of Star City."

"Well, the boxing glove arrow is one of his signature weapons; Connor doesn't use trick arrows. If he's there, he hasn't told anyone why."

"Well, I don't like it," Dick said, applying a light adhesive to his eye mask.

"Don't tell me you're going to start acting like Bruce and start making other super-heroes get your permission before coming to Bludhaven, are you? How many times have you complained about that policy?" Barbara asked him.

"It's not that; I have a problem with Oliver personally."

That piqued Barbara's interest. "Really? Anything you want to talk about?"

"I'm sure Dinah can fill you in on the details," he replied. Dinah Lance was the Black Canary, Barbara's best friend and another super-hero. She had also been Oliver Queen's girlfriend for several years before he died. "I'll talk to you later," he said, and then added, "I love you."

"Right back at you, bat-boy," she said sweetly.

Oliver Queen had been one of the first of a new generation of super-heroes. In the 1950's, the Justice Society of America disbanded and do-gooders, for the most part, disappeared. Decades later, a new generation of heroes appeared and the Green Arrow was there in the beginning.

For years he fought what he considered the good fight, taking up the causes of the common man and going up against the "fat cats" of the rich man's society. Then, while trying to stop an eco-terrorist, he was blown up and killed.

Now, he was back and he was very angry.

He had gone to look up a man who had been a good contact within the minority communities, a person who could introduce him and vouch for his sincerity. Star City had fallen on some hard times without him and he had hoped to re-establish the "Green Arrow Network". The problem was that his friend was dead.

The word was that his friend had moved to Bludhaven a few years before in order to establish a political action movement. Unfortunately, that movement seemed to rub the wrong people the wrong way. He wanted to find out who those people were.

His first clue had been newspaper articles that pointed to an anti-drug campaign his friend had waged. That, no doubt, had not pleased the local dealers. Oliver hated drugs most of all for they hit the closest to home. One of his more painful memories was from a few years back, when he discovered that his ward, Roy, had been using heroine.

"What the hell are you doing in my town, Queen?" Nightwing asked.

Green Arrow whirled around. Despite being one of the older members of the hero circle, he was surprisingly quick. Before he had stopped his spin, he had pulled out and notched a bolo arrow. Nightwing had dropped down from the next building with the grace of Batman, and Green Arrow decided he didn't really like that. "Well, if it isn't little Dickie Robin," the archer said, lowering the bow.

"You haven't answered my question," Nightwing said.

"I don't answer to you, kid; you aren't Batman," Green Arrow replied, putting the bolo back in his quiver. "I heard you had moved from Gotham to here, but I didn't really expect to run into you. Let's just say I'm passing through."

"Let's say you're not and you tell me what you want." Nightwing began coiling up his line. "I'm not sure you need to be here."

"What is it with you bat-guys and this marking your territory crap? You aren't the freakin' Wizard of Oz, you know that? I've been out of it for awhile, but I'm pretty sure it's still a free country. But, then again, you trust-fund guys think you can run the world anyway!"

"Funny…I seem to remember something called the Queen Fund a few years back," Nightwing replied. "This isn't about territory, it's about respect."

"Excuse me? Look kid, I don't have time for this or your whining…if you have something you want to tell me, go ahead. I'm not here trying to show you up, I'm looking into the death of a friend of mine. All of my leads indicate some joker named Blockbuster." Green Arrow turned and pointed to a large home on top of a hill overlooking the city. "I here this big-wig lives up there."

"And I suppose you're just going to march in there and demand her surrender. Typical Oliver Queen arrogance."

Green Arrow once again turned back to Nightwing; his face a mixture of shock and anger. "This has a lot more to do with than me barging into your town, doesn't it, Dick?" He sat down on the roof ledge and pretended to adjust his bow string. "Go ahead, let me have it."

"You really want to know? Okay, the simple fact is that I think that calling you a hero is a stretch of the truth. A hero is more than someone who claims to be fighting the good fight, they're someone who dedicates their whole life to a principle of helping those who can't help themselves. You put on the costume and fire a few arrows and you think that gives you special consideration."

Green Arrow scratched his chin. "Ah, I see; so if I put on a cape and cowl and act like Satan's messenger, then I can be special. Or maybe I have to have a lot of money, huh? You know what, kid? You've got great big brass ones, you know that?" He smiled, indicating he wasn't truly angry, just annoyed. "I'm glad you've come into your own, just like Roy…"

"That's what I'm talking about, Ollie. Say what you want about Bruce, but at least he didn't abandon me. Maybe we had our differences…maybe we disagreed…but in the end, he was there for me when it counted. You, however, left Roy to his own devices while you and Hal Jordan chased skirts across the country!"

Green Arrow stood up, his eyes flashing mild anger. "Number one, little man, my relationship with Roy Harper is my damn business; I didn't realize I had to have your approval of everything I do or have done. Second, you haven't got a clue what Hal and I were doing, but just to alleviate your fears, we were trying to discover what the real America was!"

"Ha! I guess you found it then when you became a deadbeat dad!" Nightwing said. "He was a boy and you left him all alone while you tried to find yourself!"

Green Arrow shook his head. "I realize that maybe that leaving Roy all alone was not the brightest thing to do, but let's face it, it isn't like he's some milksop or something. You don't have the first clue as to what this is like for me, Dickie! When I try to get my life back together, I discover I'm a pariah in the super-hero world. My best friend is dead, my girlfriend has left me, my ward's made me a grandpa and I have a son I never knew existed. Not only that, the only person who believes anything I say is Batman."

Despite himself, Nightwing allowed a small grin. "I suppose you're right, I don't understand. But then again, neither do you. Bruce told me about your 'problems', but that doesn't change anything. Have you done anything to change the perception of you? Are you going to begin to act like the hero so many people think you are?"

"What the hell are you talking about? That's what I'm doing here! I'm going to bring this piece of do dirt to justice for murdering a good man!"

"That's assuming, of course, that I've been doing nothing but catching shoplifters in all of the time I've lived here."

Green Arrow shook his head. "What the hell…are you mad at me because I'm a bad father or because you think that I think you can't handle it on your own?"

"Things are different now then what you remembered; it's not the same world. We heroes work together and do what we can to support each other. Not only in our professional life, but in our personal ones as well. You come barging in here, firing up the place and you can ruin years worth of work. We don't just tie up the bad guys and hand them over to the cops…we gather evidence that will result in convictions. We also check with the on-scene hero before we do anything. Tell me something, would you like it if Superman showed up in Star City and started busting heads?"

"Better than that fascist Hawkman," Green Arrow mumbled under his breath. "Okay, Dickie, fine…you want the credit for this than fine, you can have it…"

Nightwing stepped closer. "No, you're going to leave Bludhaven and not come back until you can prove that the days of 'wild man' Queen are over. I don't trust you and I sure as hell won't let you mess up what I've been working on here."

Green Arrow was silent and searched Nightwing's face to see of maybe this was some sort of joke, but saw nothing to ease his fears. Briefly, he wondered what had he done to gain such notoriety among those whom he considered his allies? Sighing, he relented. "Fine, Dickie, I'll go…for now. Understand something, though, I'm still a hero. Maybe one out of time…out of place in this so-called new world, but I am a hero. You're not the first to read me the riot act and maybe you're right. Maybe there are some other things I need to take care of first.

"But let me just say one thing…take it as a bit of advice from an old hand…justice delayed is not justice at all."

"Don't worry about that, I've got everything under control," Nightwing said. Green Arrow decided not to say anything else. It was obvious that he currently did not meet Nightwing's expectations and he wondered if the younger hero's views were representative of the majority of the heroes he knew. There was much he had to ponder.

No longer could he just barge in and do whatever he wanted. A hierarchy had been established and he wasn't part of it yet. In fact, because of his past actions, he was going to pay a price.

He supposed he should have expected a more hard-line view of his life from someone who suckled at the Batman's teat. "Watch yourself, kid."

Nightwing said nothing until Green Arrow was long gone. He tapped a small device in his ear. "You hear?"

"Yes," came the voice of Oracle. "Dinah is here as well and she thinks you were a little hard on him."

"Maybe, but he needs to get his life together before he starts involving himself in other people's. I remember how I used to admire him when I was a kid; he was like a poor man's Superman the way he would stand up for the little people. But he believed in the cause more than the people. I'm hoping that this second chance he's been given will be put to good use."

"I guess time will tell," she responded.

Nightwing looked off in the direction that the older hero had moved off in and felt a small bit of regret. "Hopefully, he'll use that time well."