FudoTwin17: I don't have much time, so here's to hoping this makes it to the site this time. Love you guys and hoping you have a great day! 3

Cat: She owns nothing of importance except me.

Chapter 16


"Idiot boy!" Snapped Slade, his firm grip around the barrel of the gun. Dick stared at him blankly. He didn't even seem to grasp that the gun that had been aimed at his head hardly a moment ago now pointed very clearly at the ceiling. "What were you thinking?"

Thinking. What was he thinking? Bullets. He was thinking about bullets. Faintly, Dick wondered what happened to the bullets. Had they been lodged in the walls or the ceiling somewhere beyond where the darkness and the rusted piping hid his sight? Shakily, he wondered if one of the bullets had caught a pipe and made rust burst into the air. Rust kind of looked like blood, and smelled like it, too. Was that where that coppery smell was coming from?

Slade tore the gun from his hand and emptied it, throwing the bullets on the floor. Each one made a loud clang as it fell to the ground in the dead silence, and Dick winced at each one.

Suddenly, Dick felt the overwhelming need to giggle. It wasn't even funny, but there was definitely a pun hiding in there – dead silence. After all, he had just tried to kill himself. Huh.

He'd tried to kill himself.

Suddenly, he didn't want to laugh. He didn't feel at all airy or giggly. He felt like all the walls were squeezing in on him, and the darkness was too dark, and the air was too thick – And Slade was staring at him, evaluating him, and Slade – Slade knew!

Dick had just tried to leave. He'd just tried to leave, and Slade knew it. Bruce and Alfred's faces flashed in front of his eyes. The nanobots. What about the bombs in the watchtower? A third of Gotham? All those people for something so stupid – just a stupid thought. Maybe if he begged? Got on his knees. It would be worth it to save all of them.

I'll make you watch.

Dick felt like he was choking, dying, crying, dead. Who had he just doomed? Who was going to die for him?

Everything started blurring together. At first, Dick thought tears, but it was his panic drawing the vision from his eyes and the breath from his lungs. He was shaking and terrified, and everything was wrong.

And he knew darkness in his desperation.

. . .

The world seemed a bit slurred together to Batman (probably because of the sleep deprivation and the ridiculous amounts of coffee that was beginning to wear off), but he was still researching and active enough to force his concentration when a transmission came in.

Seeing it was Superman, Batman just scowled and didn't answer. He didn't have time for anything that wasn't directly connected to finding Dick, and he'd hardly spoken at all to Superman about Dick since Superman had decided to avoid Superboy. He could understand that having a clone was a surprise and a bit scary, but Batman didn't have time for a heart to heart about Kryptonian drama and sons when his own boy was missing.

Missing and not dead because Dick was useful to Deathstroke alive, and Batman wouldn't believe for a moment that Dick was . . . was . . .

The transmission came again, stubbornly refusing to let Batman search in vain. He ignored it again.

But it came a third time.

With a growl, Batman answered in the call, and Superman appeared on his screen in all his glory. Batman scowled at him even as Superman gave a tight, relieved smile. "I'm glad you picked up."

"What, Clark?" Batman growled, and Superman gave a slight flinch.

"There's something happening." The Kryptonian stated.

Bruce's eyebrow twitched in irritation underneath his cowl. "And?"

"It's worldwide patterns. From energy readings to weather patterns, there's something happening in –"

"I don't care." Batman stated. His hand went to cut the transmission, but Superman held up a hand.

"Wait! Please just hear me out!" He exclaimed. "Please."

Batman's eye twitched beneath the cowl, and his lips thinned. "I don't have time for you, Kent. I don't have time to waste on you and the League when I have my own problems to deal with." His hand went once again to cut off Superman, but the Kryptonian interrupted again.

"It's the Injustice League!" He exclaimed.

"That's not possible." Snapped Batman.

"It's their MO." Replied Superman.

"They're all locked away." Batman stated simply. "It can't be them."

"It has to be. Nothing else fits." Batman's hand slammed down on the table next to the keyboard, making Superman almost jump. The only reason he didn't was due to how used to the Bat's mood swings he had become.

"No. We would know. I would know." Batman snapped. Then he seemed to go still. "Unless . . ."

"Unless what?" Superman prompted, leaning closer to the screen on his end at the Watchtower.

Batman was eerily still for a moment before he seemed to come to himself, the blank expression on his face deepening into discontent after a moment of deep understanding. He looked back at the screen. "I don't have time for you."

Superman's eyes widened. "No! Batman, you need to help, or Dick will –"

Every muscle in the Bat's body tensed up, his eyes shooting daggers. "Is that a threat?"

Surprise made the man of steel sit up straight. "What? Of course not! I'm just saying that everything has been connected. From the attack on the cave to our league missions to Cadmus and the Kobra Venom – It's all been connected! We need you to stop what they're doing now!"

Done with the alien man, Batman shut off the transmission but not before Superman managed to throw his parting shot.

"You have to consider the possibility that the Injustice League may very well be behind Dick's kidnapping, too."

. . .

Though many, his apprentice included, would consider him a monster, Slade was very careful when he tucked the boy into his bed. From smoothing out the covers to assuring himself that Dick was in his most comfortable position he could be in, Slade was very careful to make sure that Dick was . . . comfortable.

"I wouldn't have had to do this if you had just cooperated." He informed the unconscious teen with the slightest twitch of the lip. "But I suppose you would never have cooperated, would you?"

The master tactician surveyed the boy's sleep for a moment more before turning to the corner of the room where a small stand like that in a hospital stood. With a clear saline bag hanging, Slade wasted no time administering a small tube with a needle at the end into the boy's skin and taping it down with a cotton ball between. Into one of the openings for a tube of medication or otherwise, he inserted the saline line.

After finishing, he assured himself once more of Dick's complete lack of awareness before turning away again to the darkened corner. With steady hands, he rolled a cart forward and set it up next to the saline drip. After inserting the tube from the machine into the opening, he started the machine and watched as a dose of medication passed through the line into the boy's bloodstream, he set intervals for medication on the machine – once every twenty four hours.

With no wish to drug him into a coma – After all, Slade wanted his brain to be undamaged – Slade made sure that his apprentice would be sufficiently cared for lest he dared to find a child to care for him, and that was much too dangerous.

After all, the Light had told him it would last no more than two days at the longest, and since Dick had proven that he could not be trusted alone in the base (as Slade had originally planned to lock him), this would have to work.

Finally, the man pulled a chain from beneath the bed. Bolted to the floor, the chain was connected to an ankle restraint of cold metal wrapped in softer cloth and leather. With a slow and steady movement, Slade pulled the blanket from Dick's feet and locked the restraint in place. He was careful as he replaced the blanket and smoothed it out before heading to the door.

He shut off the light and began to exit, but he hesitated at the door, glancing back at his apprentice.

After all, he had been a father once.

He was still standing there when his world and Dick's world separated into two.

. . .

FudoTwin17: That's it! I'm done! I'm tired. And I have exams tomorrow. Wish me luck. See you all.