Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters.
I really don't want to post this chapter. I don't want this to be over…
Mellow: SHH I MADE THE VIDEO INITIALLY FOR MY OWN AMUSEMENT SO THAT I COULD LOOK AT ALL OF YOUR GUYS' PICTURES AT ONCE AND SO THAT I WOULDN'T HAVE TO KEEP CLICKING ON DIFFERENT LINKS TO LOOK AT THEM. It was going to languish forever on my computer and then I thought, "Oh what the Hell might as well upload it to Youtube Trololo. Or maybe I'll just keep it forever on my laptop because I'll forget LOL. I don't know how else to show my appreciation for you guys who took the time to do artwork.
Chapter 40: Flying
4 Years Later
Bludhaven Police Department
Like any other afternoon in Bludhaven it was cloudy, although it wasn't because of the city smog. Ever since Nightwing came in the city began to clean itself up. Well, it was in the process of becoming a better place. At least all of the street lamps had new light bulbs now. Dick stepped out onto the street, his head pounding from the latest lecture. He felt tired, but after he drank a cup of coffee from the nearest coffee shop he would be fine.
Learning with a group of people was a lot different than he remembered. However, it had been a while since he had been in a normal classroom setting. He had learned most of what he knew now through…private tutoring. It had been a challenge integrating himself back into a normal life and normal society, but he got by.
I have more field practice tomorrow, he reminded himself. God, I don't want to do that over again, but I can't tell Amy that I don't need it…
It scared him that he could handle a gun so easily even after four years. Dick had to pretend that he didn't know how to fire a gun, but he suspected that Officer Amy Rohrbach knew better. The others in his class already suspected that he had some hard street lessons.
Well, he though dryly, that's a bit of an understatement.
He felt his cell phone vibrating. He stopped walking and took his cell phone out of his pocket. Dick glanced at the caller id and flipped open his phone.
"Hey Roy, what's up?" he asked.
He stopped walking and leaned against the wall of the Bludhaven Police Department. He cupped a hand over his other ear as his classmates filed out of the building, all of them talking loudly. One of the guys tried to tell him that they were all heading up to a bar later that evening to socialize, but Dick waved him off.
"Sure, Roy, I'll babysit Lian," Dick said. "I'd love to. I'll be over later tonight once I'm down with my shift."
Dick shut off his cell phone. It would be great to see Roy and Lian again. He stood on the street outside of the Bludhaven Police Department, dressed neatly in his police uniform. Although he was still going through training he still dressed neatly to impress his future employers. Well, all cadets wore the same thing: dark pants and a blue, short-sleeved collar shirt. He put his cell phone away and sighed.
I still can't believe that I'm babysitting Roy's kid, Dick thought. Time has flown by so quickly. I love her as if she were really my niece.
He laughed to himself as he remembered Ollie's reaction to the newest addition to the family. Dick himself had been a bit shocked to discover who Lian's mother was, but he knew that he wasn't to criticize Roy's choice of lover.
He saw the human side of her, he thought, even though she's an assassin she's still human. She's still capable of love.
Over the past four years he found himself closer to Roy and Wally, as well as Donna. He found that he grew especially close to Roy. Although no one ever questioned his decision to let Slade go to his face Dick knew that they were all wondering why. Roy was one of the few who understood Dick's decision. Even though he thought it was a dumb idea to let Slade go he understood how Dick could see the human side of Slade.
Once he got back from Bludhaven that Halloween night he made sure that he reached out to other people in the superhero community that he hadn't talked to in a long while. He wanted to reconnect. And, of course, he had made new friends along the way.
"I see you dropped out of college."
Dick didn't even have to turn to see who it was. He recognized the voice almost at once. Why wouldn't he? He found himself turning to face Slade. The mercenary stood a few feet away, dressed in civilian clothing. Dick made sure that his face didn't show any sign of surprise. It had been four years since he had last met Slade alone. Those four years apart hadn't done anything to quell Dick's animosity towards the man. He replied in a calm, collected voice.
"I see you haven't changed much, Slade."
Well, Slade did look a little older. More lines had appeared on his face. Dick suddenly realized that Slade was probably a lot older than Bruce, judging from the white hair. Still, that didn't mean that he was any less dangerous. Dick felt himself tensing a little. Why was Slade here?
"So why aren't you in school anymore, Grayson?"
"College wasn't for me. Besides, I'm still a little…" he trailed off. Why was he answering Slade's question? "People still ask me questions about the time Dick Grayson went missing. It got old really fast."
Besides, being a vigilante and a college student wasn't the best thing in the world. And since he was the heir to Wayne Enterprises people paid attention to him, especially when he reappeared from obscurity. Although he asked people not to ask him about his disappearance they still did. He supposed that it was natural curiosity, and he couldn't blame them for that. Hardly anyone outside of the superhero community knew what really happened. He just gave them a vague answer and nothing more.
Dick didn't want to admit that, from time-to-time, he still woke up in the middle of the night screaming. True, the nightmares weren't nearly as bad as they had been four years ago, but he wanted to be rid of them. He had scared his college roommate one too many times. One of the reasons he finally dropped out of college was because of depression, but now he felt as though he was doing something more rewarding with his time. He wasn't depressed now.
So many things had happened during the last four years. For a couple of years he led the Titans as Nightwing. He did date Kory for a little while, but now they were on and off again. Since he now lived in Bludhaven after dropping out of college it was a little difficult to date her when she was across the country. Raven's birthday had come and gone. Nightwing had led the Titans against Trigon and struggled to beat an inter-dimensional demon. Really, the apprenticeship had been a cakewalk compared to that. He eventually lost contact with Jared, although the last Dick had heard was that Jared went back to school to finish his engineering degree. Lian had been born. Joey Wilson, Slade's son, had joined the Titans under the name of Jericho. Although the Titans didn't know who Jericho's father was, Dick assured them that they could trust him. And Bruce…well, a lot of things happened between them. After everything that had happened, Bruce felt as though he needed to make it up to Dick. After Dick had been home for a week after the incident in Bludhaven Bruce took Dick aside.
"I talked to some of my lawyers," Bruce said, "I have the papers here. You don't have to sign them if you don't want to…I just thought…"
Dick picked up one of the papers. These were adoption papers. All these years he had been Bruce's legal ward. While it was naturally assumed that Dick would be the legal heir to Wayne Enterprises, Bruce never adopted Dick. Dick had always been Bruce's legal ward and had been content with that. He didn't even consider the possibility that Bruce would…he didn't have to…
"I guess it won't make much of a difference," Bruce rambled. "It's just that…it'll be official…you don't have to take my last name or anything…"
Dick looked up at him. For Bruce, this simple gesture meant so much. Dick felt a sudden urge to wipe away the tears forming in his eyes. Bruce had never been much of a talker. Dick understood what Bruce was trying to say through this gesture. At first Dick couldn't find the right words to say. He didn't expect Bruce to do this.
"I've always thought of you as my father, even if you didn't want me to," Dick said quietly. "I…of course, Bruce."
Although he was now the heir to Wayne Enterprises in legal name now Dick hadn't talked to Bruce in a while. He didn't need to. They still had their disagreements. Just because they had been estranged by the apprenticeship didn't mean that all of their arguments had been settled or forgotten. Dick understood that it would take a while for him to mentally recover from the apprenticeship, but he felt all right now. He managed to get along fine without Slade's help. Or Bruce's help, for that matter.
"You're twenty years old. You should be in school."
"Who are you, my father?" Dick frowned. Did he have to give Slade another lecture about mentoring him when he didn't want it? "I'm joining the Bludhaven Police Department. I told you that I would."
"You did, didn't you?"
"I'm a man of my word."
"So I've noticed." Slade paused. "With your impressive training and credentials I'm sure you'll be a fine officer."
Dick grimaced. He couldn't tell if Slade was mocking him or not. Dick wanted Slade to leave. While he wasn't too worried that Slade was going to attack him Dick could never be too sure. Besides, hearing Slade say things like that only irritated him. He could never be sure if Slade actually meant the words he said.
"I see that someone else has taken your old identity," Slade said to break the silence. "That kid's more hotheaded than you were."
Dick's temper began to flare. "Leave the new Robin alone. He doesn't deserve to go through what you put me through."
"No need to raise your voice. I have no desire to mentor your new adopted brother. He's a lot more trouble than he's worth. I'm just surprised that Batman took on another Robin."
Yes, Dick was surprised that Bruce did that as well. After everything that had happened to Dick, Bruce eventually decided to replace him since Dick moved on as Nightwing. It wasn't as if Dick was angry for it. In fact, he had given the new Robin his personal blessing and gave him some good advice.
"Even after everything Slade's done," Dick said as soon as the boy left the room, "you still need a Robin. Batman always needs a Robin."
"I won't allow him to be hurt," Bruce said. "He needs help. Being Robin will help him, just as it helped you."
Without Robin, Batman would sink back into his brooding self. Now that Dick had grown up and left the house he wouldn't be there all the time for Bruce.
"Make sure he's not as arrogant as I used to be," Dick said. "Teach him how to be humble. I don't want him to fall into the same traps that I fell into."
Besides, this new Robin wouldn't be working with the Titans for a while. He would be working alongside Batman, just as Dick had done so many years ago. Bruce would be there to teach him and protect him until he was also ready to move on. And Dick would also make sure that he got along with the new Robin just so that the kid would have a friend…a big brother of sorts. The poor kid was an orphan as well.
Remembering the choice Dick left Slade back when they battled in Bludhaven, Dick sighed. This meeting now was probably a result of that choice he made. He knew that someday his decision to let Slade go would come and kick him in the butt again.
"So why are you here?" Dick asked, trying to change the subject. "Bludhaven isn't your territory."
"I was in town. Thought I'd stop by and say hello."
"Still looking for an apprentice?"
"I'm thinking about it."
"If you harm another kid—"
"You'll do everything in your power to stop me. I know.
On that aspect, Dick couldn't trust Slade. The next time Slade had an apprentice he wouldn't be looking for someone to mentor—he would be looking for someone young and vulnerable to control completely. If Dick ever caught wind of Slade trying to train another apprentice he would drop everything and go help. He didn't care what he would have to do. No one else deserved to go through what he went through.
"You're here for a contract, aren't you?"
"Indeed I am."
"Were you sent here to kill me?"
"Hmm, that is a curious possibility. Why don't you join me for coffee and find out?"
"You're a real piece of work, you know that?"
"I'm guessing that's a no."
"Leave now or I'll knock your teeth in."
Dick's voice became hard. Slade was just bugging him now—probably out of habit. He was still good at his mind games. Slade laughed and took a step closer to him. Dick had grown a lot in the last four years. He was now nearly eye-to-eye with Slade. Dick found himself subconsciously straightening to make himself look more intimidating. He wasn't going to back down from Slade this time around.
"I'm glad we can still talk like civilized human beings." Slade's voice became a smirk. Slade held out his hand. "You've grown into a fine young man, Grayson. I hope we can leave on amiable terms."
Dick stared at the hand and then back to Slade's face. His kept his hands at his side. Oh sure, they had clashed a few times after their big battle in Bludhaven, but Dick hadn't had the chance to talk to the man one-on-one. He wasn't looking for a reunion. He also wasn't looking to reconcile.
For a moment he wondered what would have happened if he had stayed with Slade. Dick probably wouldn't be in Bludhaven. Would Slade have had him complete his training now? Would they still be in Jump City?
"No, Slade. So long as you keep killing people I can't fully forgive you. Don't mistake my mercy for kindness. I can't arrest you because you haven't done anything illegal…yet."
Although Slade had done some horrible things in the past Dick deliberately let Slade go. Dick could have easily amassed enough evidence to convict Slade. If he really wanted to he could do it now. But Dick didn't try to press charges. He knew that the police wouldn't be able to catch Slade anyway. Besides, Slade hadn't done any real damage…as far as Dick knew.
"You're always accusing me of something," Slade said.
"You've never given me a good reason to trust you."
"I suppose that's true."
Why wouldn't Slade ever admit that he was wrong for once? Even here he didn't sound truthful. He sounded as though he was merely musing on the idea that he could be wrong. Dick had a feeling that he hadn't actually convinced Slade that his choice to pick Dick as an apprentice was wrong. In a way, he had confirmed that he was the perfect choice by eventually defeating Slade in a fair fight.
Maybe I was wrong to think that he could change, Dick thought, maybe I made a mistake. But if I did, then at least I'll admit that I made one. He won't.
"Well, I would love to stay and chat, but I have a schedule to keep," Slade said. "So unless you do want to be nostalgic…"
Slade walked away. Besides, if Slade really wanted him dead then Dick would already be fighting for his life. Before Slade walked around the corner Dick called out to him.
"Hey," Dick said, "you dropped your wallet."
Dick tossed Slade his wallet. Surprised, Slade caught it. He looked from his wallet to Dick, his eye narrowing in suspicion.
"Pickpocketing? Isn't that a little beneath you?"
"Old habits die hard." Dick stuck his hands deep in his pants pockets. "Especially when they're pounded into you."
Snickering quietly, Slade placed his wallet back inside his pocket. "So, you do steal from time-to-time. That won't look too good on your resume, will it?"
"Tried it once after that Halloween," Dick said, shrugging. "I pulled a Catwoman and put the computer chip back. Stealing only brings a temporary thrill…after a while it gets boring. It's not worth it. "
When he began to control the crime in Bludhaven four years ago Dick wondered if he should control crime as a criminal overlord. He could have ruled Bludhaven after usurping one of the head Mafia families. He had that chance. Dick also had the chance to become a villain, a thief or a con artist. He could have defeated Slade that way as well. But he had already made his decision. Slade shook his head.
"You could have been great, you know. You're wasting your time here at the BPD."
"I suppose you would tell me that I was wasting money if I donated to a charity fund." Dick looked hard at Slade. "It may be a waste of time to you, Slade, but it's not for me. I told you before: I don't want you any more in my life. Leave."
"All right. I'm leaving." The smirk never left Slade's face. "But that doesn't mean that we won't see each other again soon."
Slade turned and disappeared around the corner. Dick watched him go, his face still twisted in anger. Amy Rohrbach, one of the older police officers who was mentoring him, walked down the steps and stood next to him. Dick realized that his hands were still curled into fists at his side.
"Who was that?" she asked.
"A former mentor," he said stiffly. "Someone I don't want to see ever again."
What else was he going to say? He didn't want to tell anyone in the BPD that he was trained to be an assassin. That wouldn't look good on his record. However, he had to admit that it probably prepared him for working here more than anything the police training could do. Dick had learned his street lessons from both Batman and Slade. He just had to keep that ruthless side of him a little more controlled now.
"Really?" Amy asked, putting her hands on her hips. "You didn't talk about him in your resume."
"Like I said: I'd rather not talk about him."
He knew that he was being cryptic. He knew that he was probably raising Amy's suspicions, but the police officers here gave him a little bit of slack. They knew that he had been kidnapped as a teenager, even if they didn't know the exact details. That was his excuse for his strange behavior of disappearing at odd times (worked well considering that he was a vigilante). An elaborate cover story had been created to cover the apprenticeship.
People were told that he was kidnapped because he was the heir to the Wayne Enterprises fortune. Simple as that. It was believable and vague enough to keep details hidden from the public eye. Although it didn't quite explain everything Dick didn't want to have to explain anything to anyone.
But that's all in the past, now, Dick thought, I can only look ahead. I don't want the apprenticeship to drag me down.
Things changed. Ultimately, life went on. People moved on. Dick knew that there was so much more he could do with his life. He wasn't going to allow this little encounter with Slade to shake him. There were more important things to worry about.
"You're a little cryptic sometimes, do you know that?" Amy asked.
"I learned from the best."
Slade's here on business, Dick thought, He's probably up to no good, just like always. But unless he does something, then I won't go after him.
He lifted his head at the sound of police sirens. As a rookie he wouldn't be able to go out into the field just yet. He needed to complete his training. He heard Amy turn on her walkie-talkie and begin to bark orders into it. Dick stood still as she ran by to leap into the police car.
Was Slade the cause of those sirens? Dick didn't know. Dick didn't care. He had given Slade a second chance, and if Slade decided to use it to commit more crimes then Dick was going to treat him like any other criminal. If Slade had decided to move to Bludhaven to cause trouble, then Dick was going to stop him. He was no longer afraid of being captured or manipulated anyone. Slade already acknowledged that Dick was beyond the need for training. That was enough for Dick.
As the other police officers scrambled to their cars Dick used the opportunity to slink into the shadows. No one noticed him walking away. It was time to become Bludhaven's protector again. After changing quickly into his Nightwing costume and climbing onto the rooftop he looked around for the source of the sirens.
The slight breeze rustled his dark hair. This time he wasn't afraid to call for help if he needed it. He looked over the edge of the rooftop. He was so high up…but he didn't care. He wasn't afraid of heights. After watching his parents fall from the trapezes he knew that he could be afraid of heights after that, but he wasn't. How could he be afraid of heights? His parents had died doing the thing they loved to do best. Right now, he was doing what he loved best: protecting people. He looked over the edge of the rooftop again and tightened his grip on his grapple hook.
This should kill me, he thought.
A smile brightened his face. He was Nightwing, former protégée of Gotham's Dark Knight and the former Robin the Boy Wonder. And…even though he didn't want to admit it…he was also the former protégée of Deathstroke the Terminator. The people of Bludhaven knew that. Everyone knew that now. There wasn't much he could do to stop the press from jumping all over that. But instead of denying it he admitted it to the public.
Some people still think I'm crazy or too dangerous to have around, he thought, but why should I care about what they think?
Initially, Batman had been against Nightwing telling the press that he worked for Slade, but Dick didn't feel the need to lie to anyone. The citizens of Bludhaven needed to know who their protector was. Unlike Batman, Nightwing was a lot more open. He would prove his valor to Bludhaven by protecting its citizens from harm. So far, that seemed to be working.
Even from this height he noticed people looking up at him. Some were pointing. Children in the street waved to him excitedly. He waved back just as enthusiastically. Unlike Batman, he was out during the day time as well as at night. He had no trouble interacting with the citizens of Bludhaven.
A shout of giddy excitement escaped him as he threw himself off the rooftop. Leaping off the top of a building was the least dangerous thing he would do today. He was so used to it that his stomach didn't even drop in alarm. It felt so natural. He was trained to do it. He was born to do it.
It was time to fly through the air with the greatest of ease.
I'll let you guys guess who the new Robin is. Hint: he's a canon character.
I don't think the timeline is exactly right for baby Lian, but then I thought: THIS IS MY AU STORY. I DO WHAT I WANT.
Also, this chapter wasn't meant to be long since I planned to use one POV. I thought that it would be nice to end on Dick's note.
And the last line: I stole it from a Nightwing comic. Just FYI.
OK, big author's note because it's the end:
YOU GUYS HAVE ALL BEEN FABULOUS. I especially thank those who have been following this story since the very first chapter. Thanks for sticking around through my rambling author's notes, for putting up with my really weird ideas and thanks for reading through this 200K+ monstrosity.
I also thank you guys for the online flailing that went on outside this site. It was nice getting to know a lot of you. I was trying not to be vain with the whole "let's interact on YouTube and Tumblr and stuff" I was trying to encourage fun things to do while waiting for the next chapter. AND IT WAS SO MUCH FUN, GUYS. Another reason why I don't want this fic to end is because I got to know a lot of you through this fic.
Just like with my other big stories, I ask that you all leave a comment for this last chapter, especially if you've been lurking. I want to thank each and every one of you personally for reading. Try to log in if you can. I can't really get back to anons. If you don't know what to say then you can comment on these things: 1) say what you liked about the story. 2) Tell me what you didn't like about the story 3) if you have anything you disliked tell me why. I always ask this at the end of big stories. I'm always trying to make the next one better. :D
I will be leaving the country for 4 weeks. I'll have spotty Internet, so I won't be completely off the grid. However, I'm not bringing my laptop and I will only have access to the Internet through my Kindle. If you leave a comment or send me an email I'll be able to read it, but because typing on my Kindle is a bitch I may not reply in a timely fashion. No fanfiction will be written during this time. I need a break. When I return I will complete The Blorthog Project. While I would love to write another apprentice story I feel as though I won't be able to obtain the epicness of this one.
A poll is also up for what kind of story I should write after TBP.
If I am to write a sequel, I would prefer to write it in the context of Batman Reborn. However, I currently have no plans for a sequel.
Again, thank you all for reading. You've been wonderful and I hope to see you all during "The Blorthog Project."