Disclaimer: Oh how I wish I owned Teen Titans.
A/N: Hello world. This Aes Sedai cannot stand being off FF for very long. Seriously, I'm addicted to writing fanfiction now. I haven't had to work much this month, so I have lots of free time. Oh, and I'm about 42,500 words into my NaNoWriMo novel. My roomie keeps telling me not to write fanfiction during Nano, but I'm so far ahead of my word count that I think I'm safe. For now.
I really, really, REALLLY wanted to do another apprentice story set one year later, in which Robin never got out of whole apprenticeship. Unlike "Entrapment" this will have an actual plot and is intended to be much longer. MUCH longer.
Why this story? I've always been intrigued by the Apprentice episodes. A lot of people on FF seem to start a lot of "what if Robin never got out of this situation" stories, but never finish them. I drabbled a little bit with this in Entrapment, but it's much too short. I wanted to do a longer project.
Note: I'm in the process of revising the fic. All chapters will stay up. I'm just rewriting some terrible sentences and fixing typos and other inconsistencies.
Part 1: Apprentice
Chapter 1: Reunions
Jump City, California
Dick Grayson slunk into the kitchen. William Wintergreen, Slade's terse accomplice, didn't look up as Dick entered the room. Dick avoided Wintergreen's eyes as he walked towards the counter.
He didn't know who was going to be at this dinner tonight—Slade never told him these things. Why would he? It wasn't as if Slade trusted him. Yet, somehow, Dick knew that important people were coming. Everything Slade did and said today implied that it was. He had cut Dick's training a few hours short to prepare the Haunt for his guests. Not that Dick was complaining about that.
He picked up a dish of food. Even though Slade never told him Dick knew that he was supposed to help Wintergreen. He didn't bother to complain. There was no point. How sad, to come to that point in time when you know exactly what your captor expects of you. The aroma of the steak wafted through his nostrils and made his stomach grumble.
For a moment he stood still and closed his eyes. If he imagined hard enough he could make himself believe—even for the briefest moment—that Wintergreen was Alfred cutting up slices of French bread. That he wasn't in the kitchen at Slade's haunt, but at the kitchen in Wayne Manor.
He opened his eyes.
No matter how many times he closed his eyes and wished it all away, he still found himself in this living nightmare. Sometimes he could briefly forget about his horrible predicament, but he always swung back to reality. Was this really his life now?
Instead of bothering to answer his own question, Dick began to walk towards the dining room with the plate of food in his hands. A voice stopped him.
"Turn around, Dick," Wintergreen said.
Sighing heavily, Dick obeyed. He still wasn't sure what to think of Wintergreen. Yes, over the past few months he trusted Wintergreen more than he trusted Slade. The man wasn't awful like Slade was, but Wintergreen could be rather…cold at times. Dick couldn't be sure if that was because Slade told him not to talk to Dick or if Wintergreen was just laconic. The British butler peeled the mask off of his face. Dick blinked in surprise.
"Trust me," Wintergreen said, as though he could read Dick's mind, "it'll make this a lot less awkward."
Shouldering his way into the other room, Dick felt his simmering apprehension grow. What did Wintergreen mean by that? Who was here? Probably some low-lifes from the HIVE Academy like he usually invited.
Everyone sitting around the dinner table looked up as he entered the room. As he looked up to meet those face, Dick almost dropped the plate in dumb surprise. At once Dick was glad that Wintergreen took off his mask.
A small coterie of villains sat around the table. The HIVE Headmistress sat to Slade's left. Lex Luthor sat next to her. But those two weren't the people who caught his gaze. The Penguin, the Riddler, and Ra's al Ghul also sat at the table. Two-Face was also there, which immediately brought back unpleasant memories for him.
The Bat villains.
Momentary fear crossed his face before Dick recomposed himself. No wonder Wintergreen told him to ditch the mask. He avoided their eyes as he set the dish down on the table, not wanting to look at them.
Without even looking at Slade Dick turned around and walked back towards the kitchen, forcing himself not to run. Eating bread and water, or nothing at all, sounded much more appealing. He didn't want to be here. His hand reached for the doorknob. It was so simple. All he had to do was go back inside and—
"Where are you going, young man?"
His hand left the doorknob as he tensed visibly. Once again, their eyes turned towards his unprotected back. He gazed towards the ceiling, as though praying to some deity for courage.
"I…I was…" Dick began weakly. "I wasn't aware that…"
"Look at me when I'm talking to you."
It took a great deal of courage to obey. A room full of old enemies did nothing to assuage his fear. Mentally blocking out the rest of the crowd, Dick looked straight at Slade's face. Although Dick couldn't see Slade's face he could tell that Slade wasn't in the mood for backtalk.
He couldn't help it. His eyes slid towards the Headmistress, who glanced away. She had come to the haunt a fair few times and was one of the few people who knew who he was. As Dick scanned the room he realized that there was an empty place at the table.
Dick sat down on Slade's right and looked down at his plate. He wasn't hungry at all. Not anymore. Fear pulsed through him. What if one of these Bat Villains recognized him? Dick felt the eyes of Ra's al Ghul upon him. Unlike the others—besides the Riddler, perhaps—al Ghul was just as clever as Slade. One had to tread carefully around him.
"And who is this, Slade?" Ra's al Ghul asked.
Slade nudged Dick's arm. Against his better judgment, Dick looked up towards al Ghul. Even without saying much, he knew what Slade wanted him to do.
"I'm…I'm Richard," he said, his voice nearly a mumble. "Slade's apprentice."
He really didn't want to talk anymore. Especially not to someone like Ra's al Ghul, who was probably one of Batman's worst enemies aside from the Joker. Speaking of the Joker, it wasn't surprising that Slade didn't bother inviting the clown. No sane person would do that.
"We've talked about mumbling," Slade said. "Speak up."
"Don't give him grief," Ra's said. "He's just nervous, that's all."
Their eyes locked. Sudden recognition flashed in al Ghul's dark eyes. Was that surprise Dick saw? Dick knew from previous experience that Ra's deduced Batman's secret identity, but was apparently too impressed by Bruce's skill to pronounce it to the world. Was Ra's going to say something about this? Was he going to say something to Batman? Dick didn't know.
Dick didn't call himself Robin anymore. For now he was simply Dick Grayson, and he didn't mind that at all. After all that he had done he didn't deserve to be called Robin anymore. A few months ago Slade stopped calling him Robin and began calling him by his real name. This was a transition period, that strange transformation between hero and villain. Although Slade wanted to flaunt the fact that he held the Bat's protégée in his grasp he wanted Robin to step out of Batman's shadow…and into his own. He wanted the world to know that this wasn't the cutesy little Boy Wonder that everyone knew and loved.
"I didn't know you had an apprentice," Ra's al Ghul said. "Why hasn't everyone been notified of this…new development?"
"Well, I wasn't planning on formally announcing it until later," Slade said. "Much later."
The only reason Dick was here was to be shown off. Slade was planning something else, but what? What business did Slade have with people from Gotham? Or Metropolis, for that matter?
"Looks kind of scrawny," the Penguin said.
The only thing he wanted to concentrate on was the food on his plate. Like always, Slade never ate at these dinners. He would never take off his mask. However, Dick had gotten close enough to see his mouth move through the thin slits of his mask. As he looked up to see how Slade would react to this statement he saw Slade's lips curl in a slight smile.
"Oh, you'll be surprised at how big a punch he can pack," Slade said. "I'm sure you know what it's like to be beaten up by a little kid."
At this the Penguin scowled. The other villains didn't say anything at this. Almost all of them had taken a good beating from the Boy Wonder before. To keep himself from feeling too awkward Dick shoved some more food in his mouth.
"The Bat's brat," the Penguin snarled.
So that's what villains called him behind his back. Dick paused, his fork halfway to his mouth. It was a wonder that none of them aside from Ra's had recognized him. But it seemed as though the other villains were disinterested in the topic of the former boy wonder. Although a source of grief, Robin was inconsequential. Batman was a topic of greater interest.
"So, how's the Bat these days?" Slade asked.
"The Batman," Penguin snorted, "is that why you brought us here, Slade? To ask us about Batman?"
The other Bat villains aside from Ra's spluttered angrily. Ra's merely sipped his wine, watching the conversation with aloof interest.
Dick tried not to show too much emotion at the mention of Batman. As Dick continued to eat his blue eyes darted nervously around the room. Out of the corner of his eye he could see that hated controller still strapped to the inside of Slade's wrist. Why did Slade taunt him like this?
The salt shaker was near him. A sudden, crazy, stupid thought crossed his mind.
Without speaking he stood up a little to reach for the salt shaker. Slade continued to talk, not even bothering to pay attention to his apprentice. He had mere seconds to act. That controller was mere inches away…
Dick lunged towards the controller. His fingers scraped against the metal of Slade's uniform as his fingers closed around the controller. All he had to do now was wrench the wretched thing out of Slade's—
He almost fell on the table as Slade whipped his arm away. Ignoring everyone and everything else he lunged forward again. All that mattered now was that controller. His hands scrunched into fists as he leaned back and prepared to punch Slade in the face. Slade's one eye widened in slight surprise, but then narrowed in amusement.
They fought for a few seconds.
Adrenaline pumped through him as he struggled to fight his "master." He had actually touched the controller! His determination swelled. Victory was near at hand! Slade countered all of Dick's flurries of attacks lazily. As they continued to fight Dick noticed that his own fighting style was becoming more erratic, more desperate on his part. It didn't take long for Slade to get on the offensive.
Slade grabbed hold of his arm and slammed him down on the table, twisting his arm painfully behind his back. Dick held back a scream as he lifted his head, his free arm convulsing slightly as pain shot through him. Slade placed his other hand on the back of Dick's neck and pushed his head painfully down. The stupid controller pressed against his neck as Slade's hand tightened, as though he meant to strangle Dick.
"So sorry," Slade said pleasantly, "my apprentice seems to have momentarily forgotten his place."
As Dick squirmed Slade pulled tighter, threatening to dislodge his arm from its socket. An eyebrow or two rose as something popped in Dick's shoulder. He held back a scream as his face scrunched up in agony.
Calm down, he thought.
If he struggled to free himself Slade just might break his arm. He didn't want to humiliate himself more than he should.
"Now, is that really necessary, Slade?" Ra's al Ghul asked. "All he wanted was some salt."
When he worked with Batman he never got to fight Ra's much. He was one of those villains who was too clever for his own good. Batman never wanted Robin to get hurt, so sometimes he made him stay at home. During those times Dick felt resentful that he was being forced to stay at home, especially as he got older and older. Bruce didn't want him to get hurt. But Slade deliberately put him in harm's way in order to "toughen him up." Did Slade want Dick to get hurt?
Not at all.
"Really?" Slade asked dangerously. "Is that all you wanted?"
He didn't want to talk. He didn't want to answer Slade's questions. He didn't even want to be here. But he couldn't afford any bravado right now.
Dick's eyes fell upon the HIVE Headmistress, who only gazed steadily back at him. No one was here to help him. No one was going to help him. For the past year he wanted out. He didn't truly realize what he had gotten himself into until Slade threw him headfirst into intense training. Sometimes he forgot his friends as he pleaded for a way out…anyway out…
After an eternity, Slade released him. Dick straightened and rubbed his aching shoulder. That had hurt. To be frank, he felt a little embarrassed that Slade had beat him down like that in front of the other villains. To have Slade do that in the privacy of the haunt was one thing, but being beaten down like that in front of others was…demoralizing.
"Excuse us for a moment."
Slade gripped his arm tightly and dragged him out of the room. A few snickers from the villains grated his ears. Ra's al Ghul was the only one who didn't laugh. Numb horror encased him as he realized the full implications of what he had just done. Slade's grip on his arm tightened as Dick began to struggle.
Slade wrenched open the door and threw him into the hallway. A bit disorientated, Dick found himself bumping into the wall across from the door.
"Slade…" he said, panic now rising in his chest. "Slade don't—"
With a loud THUMP! Slade slammed into him, throwing a punch into his stomach. Even though Dick knew that a beating was coming, there was nothing he could do to block the pain. He didn't even try to fight back, something for which Slade would criticize him for later. Even if he tried to run away there was nowhere he could go. Slade knew every inch of this place like the back of his hand.
"Wretched little brat," Slade breathed, slamming him against the wall.
"Slade…" Dick choked. "I'm sorry…I won't do it again…"
Terrified yelps echoed down the hallways as Slade kicked him. The villains just outside the walls could hear his yells of pain, but he didn't care. This was a fight that he was going to lose. He knew it. Slade knew it. The other villains knew it.
Eventually he fell into a heap on the floor. Dick curled a little as he wrapped his arms around his stomach, trying not throw up or cry. Wintergreen entered the room and silently watched Slade beat him. Why didn't Wintergreen ever say anything? Why did he just watch? It was obvious that he disapproved.
He whimpered as Slade grabbed a fistful of his hair and lifted his head off of the ground. Two months since he had tried a stupid stunt like that. Dick had hoped that his continued good behavior would throw Slade off guard.
Apparently, it didn't.
"You were doing so well," Slade whispered into his ear. "When I come back I want a good explanation for this."
Before Dick could protest Slade slammed his face down on the floor. Stars popped in front of his eyes as blood flowed from his nose. For a brief moment he thought that he would lose consciousness. He wanted to lose consciousness. Tremors coursed through him. It had happened so fast…
"Go back to your room and wait for me there," Slade said. "Is that clear?"
As Dick placed a hand to his bleeding nose Slade walked back to the dining room and slammed the door shut behind him. When the conversation resumed on the other side of the wall Wintergreen finally stepped forward and helped him to his feet. "Are you all right, Dick?"
Nodding weakly, Dick accepted the bag of ice that Wintergreen handed him. Dick lifted up his shirt and pressed it against his bruised ribcage. It seemed as though he was always pressing bags of ice to purple bruises. Life with Slade could do that to a person.
"Lean your head back," Wintergreen said, handing him a tissue. "Let's try to stop the bleeding."
How was he going to explain this to Slade? He wasn't. Dick acted out of pure impulse. This time he didn't have an excuse for his behavior.
Hopelessness overwhelmed him. All he wanted to do was go home. Anything was better than this nightmare. Like Slade, Dick had hoped that over time he would come to accept this. Not quite fully, but just enough to make this stupid apprenticeship bearable. But he couldn't lie to himself any longer. Even after all of these months he still hated Slade, but above all he hated himself.
Dick hated himself for falling into Slade's trap. He hated the fact that he would never be able to defeat Slade. Other peoples' lives were in danger because of him. That last fact alone grated him more than anything.
Wintergreen made a move as though to help him, but Dick waved the older man off. He wasn't weak. He could do this. He forced himself to his feet and glanced down the long hallway. It was sad how well he knew the haunt. Holding the bag of ice to his aching side, Dick waddled down the long dark hallway back towards his room.
JLA Watch Tower
"It's good to have you all here," Clark said, "especially the Titans."
The crowd quieted. As Clark glanced around the room he was glad to see some familiar faces. Most of the main members of the Justice League were here. The reserve members were out patrolling instead. The four remaining Teen Titans sat near the front. After all, they were the reason why everyone was here.
"We are here to discuss an important matter," he said. "Locating Robin."
Everyone tensed. Clark looked past the despondent Titans towards Bruce, who stood quietly by himself in the corner. The Titans knew that something had to be done. That's why the Titans came forward asking for help. Even if they didn't come forward Clark felt as if the League would have tried to do something anyway.
"It's been so long," Diana said, rubbing her temple, "What have you figured out about his disappearance?"
"Nothing since he started working for Slade," Cyborg said.
Batman said nothing. Clark was honestly worried about Bruce. Just last week Bruce was forced to admit to the public that Dick Grayson was missing. It was surprising how long Commissioner Gordon, the GCPD and the JCPD managed to keep this a secret as it was. Even though Bruce didn't talk much to the other members Clark knew that this was hard for him to cope with.
"He would never turn."
Everyone turned to look at Bruce. The Titans looked unsure how to act around him. Clark didn't blame them. Even some of the JLA members didn't know how to act around him, especially concerning the dicey situation with Robin.
"I know him better than any of you," Batman said, "he swore an oath to me that he would enact justice."
The Teen Titans watched Batman speak with wide eyes. None of them had ever met Batman before, so none of them knew about Bruce's behavior. Sure, they probably heard rants from Robin about his strained relationship with Batman, but as far as Clark knew Bruce never seemed to care enough to go out and meet the Titans for himself. It was sad how desperate the situation had to get to attract Bruce's attention.
Bruce leaned against the edge of the table and bowed his head a little.
"I know he's not acting of his own accord…that he's being controlled. Sometimes I wish that he had turned of his own free will."
Everyone exchanged melancholy looks. Clark liked to be optimistic, but even to him this situation seemed pretty grim. He clapped his hands together and spoke in a loud, firm voice.
"We're going to have to trust one another," Clark said, "even if that means revealing our secret identities to one another."
Beast Boy squeaked in surprise. Some of the others shot him curious glances. Some people here were content to reveal their secret identities. People like Bruce however, were not. To an extent Clark knew that Bruce still thought that the Teen Titans were amateurs.
"It's not without good reason," Diana said, "we have solid proof that Slade knows Robin's secret identity, as well as that of Batman."
The Titans exchanged nervous glances. Clark merely frowned and crossed his arms over his massive chest. Did they not know? Were they so naive to believe that Deathstoke wouldn't do that? Batman had to tell them. If they were going to work together then they would have to learn to trust each other.
Batman strode to the center of the room so that everyone could see him. Even with the dark cowl it was plain to see that Batman looked wearied. For the past few days he had to deal with so much. This situation was getting to the point where it couldn't be kept a secret much longer.
"Back when Robin stole from Wayne Enterprises, he wasn't just stealing for Slade." After a moment's hesitation, Batman pulled off his cowl. "He stole from me."
As though in response, the other JLA heroes took off their masks. Slade hadn't just messed with Robin—now that it was clear that Slade knew the secret identity of Batman there was a good chance that he also knew the secret identities of half the League. Although the others would rather not reveal their secret identities, they knew that everyone was going to have to band together to do this right.
"This is bad," Beast Boy groaned. "Really bad."
"The Titans can't approach Robin without harm to themselves," Dr. Palmer said, "Dr. Mid-Nite and I have confirmed the fact that the Titans are in fact infested with nanoscopic probes."
"Well," Green Arrow said, "can't you fix that? If that's the reason why Robin's been blackmailed—"
"Do you believe that we haven't considered doing that already?" Dr. Palmer snapped back. "We've taken a good look at the probes. If we try to do anything to remove or deactivate them the probes will be triggered automatically."
"How about tracing the signal?" Green Lantern suggested. "What if we used the probes to track Slade's location?"
"The only time anyone is able to track the signal is when the probes are actively destroying us," Cyborg said. "And that's not going to happen…not unless Robin disobeys Slade."
An uncomfortable silence followed this. The only reason that the Titans were alive now was because Robin did everything that Slade told him to do. Slade could easily shove them over the edge with the simple push of a button. And there was nothing anyone could do about it.
"I see," Clark said. The full hopelessness of the situation crashed down upon him. "But this is why we're here, isn't it? We need to help him."
Help him how? Clark may be the Man of Steel, but Dick wasn't from Krypton. He was just an ordinary human being who was vulnerable just like everyone else. The Titans were human—save for the Tamaranean, but even she was susceptible to death.
Speaking of the Tamaranean, Clark was surprised to note that she had not spoken at all during this meeting. From what he gathered, she and Dick fancied each other. This apprenticeship must have hit her hard. The poor girl.
Clark looked down at Earth. Even with the swirling white clouds he could still see the California coastline. Somewhere down there Robin was being held captive by a psychopath. He placed a hand on the glass separating him from the vacuum of space.
"Don't worry, kid," Clark said softly. "We'll help you. Somehow."
Jump City, California
Slade sat back down at the dining table.
"Apprentice giving you a little trouble, Slade?" the HIVE Headmistress asked.
"We're working on his little…temper tantrums."
A little bit of adrenaline still pumped through Slade. What did the boy hope to accomplish? Even if he had managed to get the controller away from him it would have only been too easy for Slade to get it back.
Why did Dick to act then? Slade didn't like beating the boy, not unless it had to be done. And what he did certainly warranted a beating.
"I just find it…very...interesting that you've chosen a boy like him," Ra's al Ghul said. "Where did you find him?"
"In Gotham," Slade replied.
Did he really want to tell them that he had the Bat's protégée under his control now? Not really. He wanted to wait a little longer before letting the world know who he was. He was enraging Bruce Wayne enough as it was. Threatening to kill the Titans had made him back off, but Slade knew that he couldn't kill the Titans if Batman decided to intervene. That would make him break his promise to Dick, and Slade was one to keep promises.
"I just…have to ask, Slade," Luthor said. "Why was he so keen on taking that trigger from your wrist?"
Ah yes, Lex Luthor. Dick must have been wondering why Slade decided to invite that particular villain. Slade hadn't done much business in Metropolis, but he respected Luthor and he knew that Luthor felt the same. Well, who didn't respect Deathstroke the Terminator? He was, after all, the most accomplished assassin out there.
"That's something between the two of us," Slade replied. "But never mind him. He's not why I called you all here."
Yes, he had asked these villains to come for another reason. But he was lying when he said that this didn't have anything to do with Dick. On the contrary, it had everything to do with the boy. He just wasn't going to allow these villains to be fully privy to his plans.
"And does it have something to do with the Batman?" Penguin asked.
"In fact it does." Slade smiled underneath his mask. "I want you to leave him alone. Don't do anything that will attract his attention."
Shock crossed the villain's faces, all of them except Ra's al Ghul's. One of the villains—Two-Face—began to laugh.
"Why?" he asked. "It's not like he's your arch-enemy."
"Yeah," Penguin said. "From what I hear your arch-nemesis is a sixteen-year-old kid. Robin, right?"
Slade smiled under his mask. No one had recognized the boy. For a moment he thought that Dick would come in with his mask on, but apparently Wintergreen made him take it off. Actually a good call on Will's part. Slade didn't even think about Dick's past relationships with these villains.
"But Robin's been missing for months," the Riddler said. "It is a very interesting riddle indeed…"
Although he would love to proclaim to the world that, yes, he had Robin the Boy Wonder under his control Slade refrained himself. Now wasn't the right time.
"Never mind Robin. I'm only concerned with his mentor. I've been given a contract to kill Batman," Slade lied, "and I'd rather not have anyone get in my way."
"You are going to kill the detective?" Ra's al Ghul asked. "Who gave you this contract, Slade?"
They met eyes. Ra's was one of Batman's cleverest enemies. In a way, Ra's respected Batman the same way Slade respected Robin for his skills. That's why Ra's always addressed Batman as "detective." Slade had a feeling that Ra's knew exactly who Richard the apprentice really was.
"Does it matter?" Slade asked. "Aren't you glad that I'm going to kill Batman?"
"It is necessary to take his life?"
"You're one to talk."
"Maybe. But perhaps, Slade, my ultimate goals are a lot less self-motivated." Ra's took the salt shaker and began to season his food. "Even when it concerns a possible successor."
What was Ra's suggesting, then? That Slade had forced Robin to become his apprentice for his own selfish gain? Yes, Slade admitted to himself that he did it for selfish gain. But who was Ra's to judge? Didn't Ra's try to make Batman his successor at one point? Perhaps they were more alike than Slade wanted to admit.
"You'll have to find your own successor somewhere else," Slade said coolly. "It's not as if he'll ever join you of his own free will anyway."
Ra's merely raised an eyebrow. So, Slade was correct in assuming that Ra's thought of Bruce Wayne almost the same way that Slade thought of Dick. The only difference was that Slade was molding Dick into the perfect criminal mastermind. Ra's—in his villainous, twisted way—wanted to cleanse the world for the greater good. He didn't want to train Bruce Wayne. Slade never thought of the greater good. He only thought of himself and the criminal empire he ran, which was just the way the world should work. Slade didn't care about the overall condition of the world, only about the things which mattered the most to him.
"At least I didn't coerce him."
Some of the other villains watched the exchange in mild interest. Slade didn't like where this conversation was going. Was Ra's really going to tell him off for holding Dick captive? As Slade thought of a response Ra's continued to speak, his voice still cool and collective.
"I respected him enough to make his own decision—at the cost, of course—of becoming my arch-enemy." Ra's frowned a little. "Violence and coercion will do nothing to change his mind. Respect the fact that he's smart enough to make his own decision."
Slade wanted to move the conversation back to the matter at hand. He didn't have time for a cryptic conversation. The only reason Slade sent out an invitation to Ra's in the first place was because al Ghul would find out about the dinner anyway.
But of all people, Ra's al Ghul was criticizing him for his choice in an apprentice?
"None of that influences my plans in the least, Ra's," Slade said, his tone stony. "I already have plans set in motion to kill the Batman."
Ra's sniffed disdainfully. Slade frowned. He supposed that the only reason Ra's didn't kill Batman outright was because he admired him. Still, that was the only reason why he would never kill Dick.
"Well…" Two-Face said. "If you're going to kill the Batman then I might just be able to put all of my plans on hold."
Everyone aside from Ra's nodded in agreement. Slade figured that most of them would approve of this. Of course, Slade wasn't about to tell them how he planned to kill Wayne. It would be best if the least amount of people knew, especially Dick.
"I may call upon you if I need you to distract him," Slade said. "I don't want him to know that I am behind this."
Well, that wasn't entirely true. Slade still wasn't sure if he wanted Dick to see Bruce Wayne one last time before he killed the man. He knew that he wanted to shove the whole thing in Wayne's face, meet him in person before delivering the final blow.
"I'm not from Gotham," Luthor said. "So why am I here?"
"We'll talk separately," Slade replied. "I have a business deal I wish to make. I trust you are in town until tomorrow night?"
Luthor nodded. This was good. Slade needed to speak to him alone. He didn't really trust any of the other villains. The business deal that Slade had in mind had to do with that pesky Man of Steel. Superman was just as much of a threat to Slade's plans as Batman was. Possibly more, given his near-invulnerable state.
"And what do you wish for me to do, Slade?" the HIVE Headmistress asked. "I have no contacts in Gotham."
"I have need of your students again," Slade said. "And not the ones I hired last time, if you please. Unless of course, you must. All I need you to do is to keep the Titans occupied."
She nodded. Slade really didn't like to use the agents of the HIVE Academy, but he respected the headmistress. She deserved respect. Her students, on the other hand, did not. That was one of the things Slade did different. Instead of taking on many students like the Headmistress did Slade only took on one student. It was just better that way.
"I'm glad you understand, gentlemen, lady." Slade stood up, signaling to the others that the dinner was almost over. "Do inform all of the others in Gotham that I'm planning something for the Bat. Especially the clown."
"I'm afraid you're on your own with the Joker," the Penguin said. "He's insane. You might just have to kill him. He'll be angry when he finds out that you're going to kill Batman."
"I'll convince him that it'll be one big…hilarious…joke." Slade's voice slithered into the room, his voice dripping with the coldest sarcasm he could muster. "But if not, know that I don't care what the clown thinks."
That was the only unknown variable in Slade's plan: the Joker. Unlike some desperate mobsters in Gotham, Slade wasn't dumb enough to let the Joker loose. As far as he knew, the Joker had escaped from Arkham yet again and was currently wreaking havoc in Gotham. At least the clown kept the Batman occupied. For now. He stood up, signaling the end of dinner. All of them stood up with him.
"Wintergreen will show you out the door."
His one eye watched them go. Slade leaned against the table, his gloved knuckles scrunching a little as he formed fists. As soon as the villains left Slade whipped around and stalked away, his steel-clad boots pounding angrily against the hard tiles of the floor. The boy's insolence wasn't going to go unnoticed.
Did everyone like the angst? Yeah, I'm a fan of writing angst. I will try to balance it out, though, so that it's not TOO angsty. Angst does get old after a while.
And yes, the Robin sections will no longer be called Robin sections because they focus more on his character as Dick Grayson. I always thought that if Robin stayed as Slade's apprentice he would have a name change.
And al Ghul's interaction with Slade was sort of inspired by his appearances in Batman: Under the Hood and in Batman Begins.
Did you know that putting salt in your food is an insult to the chef? Yeah, Ra's, shove it all in Slade's face!
P.S: don't expect weekly updates during November. Heck, I don't think I'll go so far as to say that I'll be updating regularly during the first half of December either (semester finals). But for those who know me/have followed me before, you know that I don't leave stuff hanging. I meant to post this on Thanksgiving, but surprisingly I have a lot of free time. I also just want to throw this out online as a sort of "teaser." Christmas break will be a WONDERFUL time for updating.
Stay awesome, guys.