Once again, I am deeply sorry. I hope that this chapter will make up for it, as some serious shit goes down near the end of it.
Dick was exhausted. He had spent the whole day training, only breaking for lunch. Every muscle in his body ached as if it were being dipped into the fiery depths of Hell. Even the tiniest of movements shot searing pain through his limbs. But with every ache and pain came a reward; he had beaten his own time of forty-three seconds in taking down a robot. Dick could easily bench 350, so naturally he pushed his limits and bumped it up to 415. Throughout his long day he had taken to throwing knives. He was even better with them than he was with bird-a-rangs. After much persuasion, Dick had even convinced Wintergreen to take him out to shoot. A favorite gun of his was the Barrett 50 cal. He had stood at the weeping willow and shot crab apples on a tree at the other end of the yard. Dick loved seeing them explode like a firework in his scope.
Slade would have been proud if he had been there. The man had disappeared before Dick had even woken up. Wintergreen had not uttered a word about Slade's absence. It was almost like he had never existed. Dick knew not to press the old man for details, but curiosity nagged at him. Where did Slade disappear to? Why did he leave? Dick sighed; there was so much about Slade he didn't know. He wished the man would open up, at least a little. How was he supposed to place his trust in the hands of someone he hardly knew? It wasn't that Dick didn't trust Slade, he most definitely did. It just didn't seem right that Slade knew everything about him, save for his clothing size, and he knew nothing about Slade. Would Slade hide things from him forever? Wasn't a partnership supposed to be built on trust and loyalty? True, Dick had proved his trust when he chose not to leave the house while Slade and Wintergreen were away, and Slade had returned the favor by giving him a keycard. But why not take the next step?
July had rolled in like a wave on the beach. The sun was hot and threatened to scorch all below. A slight breeze would occasionally pass through, but not enough to cool someone down. The sun had disappeared over the horizon for the day and the stars had come out, sparkling like a million tiny diamonds in the sky. Dick was sprawled in the grass, stretched out as far as his limbs would reach. His blue eyes scanned the equally blue night sky for constellations. He loved lying under the domed heavens, it reminded him of how small he actually was. He idly wondered if there was some young boy on another planet doing exactly what he was. Seeing the stars reminded him that he was not alone.
Closing his eyes, Dick let the sounds of the night fill him. Crickets chirped and the night life stirred. If Dick would have melted like a wax candle right then and there, he wouldn't have cared. Opening his eyes, he resumed gazing at the stars. The sky stretched over the earth like a silk blanket. Dick vaguely remembered that the ancient Romans used to believe that the sky was a blanket draped over the mountains in the four corners of the earth. A warm breeze drifted through the air, ruffling Dick's hair. He felt like everything was at peace in the world. He couldn't have had a more perfect day; two days, actually, as it was well past midnight. For a moment he thought about asking Wintergreen if he could sleep outside, but he quickly the thought knowing the answer would be no. He wasn't tired, not one bit, but he knew that Slade and Wintergreen would get on his case about not sleeping. Dick laughed a little, but he wasn't sure why. Maybe he was tired.
A few bats flew overhead, twisting and turning in the air like an aerialist. They had probably come out for the night to hunt for food. Dick was up on his feet and walking back to the house before he even knew it. Lights shone from inside the sliding glass door and onto the green grass of the yard. From where he stood, Dick could see Wintergreen nodding off in his chair with a newspaper lying in his lap. Dick smiled a bit at that. Not everyone was accustomed to his strange sleeping patterns. Climbing the stairs of the porch, he glanced over his shoulder once more at the empty yard.
Pulling open the door, he stepped into the cool house and closed the door behind him. Moving to the counter he found a bottle of ZQuil waiting for him. In the end Dick ended up having to confess his insomnia to Slade and Wintergreen. ZQuil was unfortunately their only solution. The over the counter drug did little to nothing for him. He still had long sleepless nights and the occasional nightmare. Dick had actually taken to sleeping on the floor, as it helped a little. Pouring himself the correct amount of medicine, he drank it and put it back in its correct cabinet. Walking to the divider of the kitchen and living room, Dick peered in and cleared his throat to announce his presence. Wintergreen twitched and looked up at him, the newspaper sliding off his lap.
"I'm going to bed," Dick told him.
"Did you take your medicine?"
He nodded. "It doesn't work very well, but who knows? Tonight might be the night."
Wintergreen smiled. "At least one of us will get some sleep."
"You're not going to bed?"
"I'm afraid not. I'm staying up and waiting for Slade."
"Is everything all right? Where is he?" Dick asked.
The old man's eyes shone with sadness. "That's nothing you have to concern yourself with. Now get some rest. You'll have a long day tomorrow." He glanced at his watch and corrected himself. "Today."
Dick wanted to pry further, but knew not to. Shoving his hands in his pockets, he turned over his keycard absentmindedly. Wishing Wintergreen a good night, he turned on his heel and made his way to the hallway. His mind wandered just as his feet did. What could Slade be doing at such an ungodly hour? Dick grimaced and erased that thought from his mind; he honestly didn't want to know. Turning into his bedroom, he flicked on the light. The inky blackness was replaced with illuminating light. Pulling his shirt off, he inspected the bruises on his sides, all of which were from the day's training. Slipping off his pants, Dick quickly grabbed a set of night clothes from his dresser and changed into them. Tightening the drawstring on his pajama bottoms, Dick rolled his eyes. Did Slade and Wintergreen think he was a sumo wrestler?
Walking across the room, Dick turned off hid light and made his way to his spot on the floor. Pulling the blanket over himself, Dick eased his head onto his arm and closed his eyes. Sometimes, if he listened really hard, he could hear crickets chirping outside of his room. But he heard nothing that night except for a faint ringing sound in his ears. Opening his eyes, he stared at the ceiling and watched as it seemingly grew darker and when he would shift his eyes the darkness would dissipate. Rolling onto his back, Dick threw an arm over his eyes and inwardly groaned. Why in the world couldn't he sleep? There was nothing his mind was dwelling on at all. So why couldn't he sleep?
His mind ran hundreds of miles away, to Gotham City. What was Bruce doing? Was he still looking for him? Or did Batman and the whole League think him dead? Anger swelled inside of him like a volcano ready to blow. Dick doubted that Bruce even cared that he was gone. He had been out of the man's life for years. Dick grumbled and moved into a more comfortable position, trying not to think about Bruce. The very thought of his former mentor filled him with anger. Ignoring his lingering thoughts, Dick attempted to get his mind to focus on something, anything else. He really didn't want to think about where Slade was because if he did his detective side would poke through and it could make Slade or Wintergreen angry.
After what seemed like hours Dick finally fell into a restless, nightmare plagued sleep. Dark images flashed behind his eyelids; each new picture struck fear into his heart like a hammer pounding a nail into a plank of wood. The dream—no, the nightmare—had started where his life ended: under the big top. Dick watched his parents fall to their deaths, but instead of looks of shock their faces were stretched into insane smiles. All the clowns, every performer, every audience member's face was morphed into the Joker's. Greasy green hair sprung from their heads like wild grass, and their irises turned blood red. Laughter filled the tent as the Graysons took their final dive. Dick even found himself laughing. Then he was on his knees beside their lifeless bodies, watching their blood seep into the ground. Behind him he heard Bruce telling him it was all his fault.
The scene shifted and Dick found himself lying on a cold floor, staring at the divided face of Two-Face. A bloody baseball bat was raised above the villain's head, and he sneered down at the young boy cowering at his feet. Dick remembered the memory well, but he wished he could forget. He remembered the way he had cried at the crazy man's feet as he beat the everliving daylights out of him. He remembered Two-Face's eye filled with bloodlust while Harvey Dent's eye begged him for forgiveness. But most of all he remembered how Batman had just watched as he had been beaten within an inch of his life.
Fire was all that Dick saw. Thirty foot flames sprouted from the windows and doorway of the yellow brick house. Tears sprung to his eyes as he literally watched the last several months of his life go up in flames. He didn't know how, but somehow he knew that Wintergreen and Slade were trapped inside. His heart pumped wildly in his chest like it couldn't get enough blood to his brain for it to comprehend what was going on. And then it hit him like a punch to the face. Dick began to run towards the house, ready to save both, but with every step he took he seemed to get further away. It was like he was running on a never ending treadmill. A scream of anguish tore from his throat as the house began to collapse in on itself. The fear that shook him to his very core seemed so real that he could no longer tell if he was vividly dreaming or if he was living a horrid reality.
Dick's eyes flew open and he frantically looked around the room for something or someone that wasn't there. He thought his heart was going to explode in a mess of blood and gore from how hard and fast it was pumping. His hair was slick with sweat that ran down his forehead and into his eyes. Dick felt like he had a hundred pound weight sitting on his chest, slowly letting the oxygen out of his lungs. Gulping lungful after lungful of air, he patted his chest to make sure nothing heavy was actually sitting on it. Slowly sitting up, Dick rested his head on the edge of his bed and tried to calm his racing heart. His blanket was tangled around his ankles. A nice hot shower would do him some good.
Dick was immediately on his feet and running towards the door. He knew not to ask questions when he was called, but to go straight to the source, and Slade was calling him. Dick realized that he sounded angry, very angry. With one glance at his digital alarm clock, he knew it was around 4:30 in the morning, a little earlier than when Wintergreen normally woke him, but not by much. Reaching the door, he attempted to yank it open, but to no avail. Dick swore under his breath, realizing he must have closed the door. Giving it a couple more tugs, he gave up and ran to his pants that lay abandoned on the floor. Savagely tearing the keycard out of the pocket, he rushed back to the locked door and began working on it. He gently traced the crack of the door with the card, trying to find the magic spot. His hands shook as he worked and perspiration rolled down his skin like raindrops. Except he enjoyed rain and he was not enjoying anything about his current situation.
Just as Dick was about to shimmy the door, he heard heavy footfalls coming down the hallway. The footsteps only caused Dick to work faster and to lose his place. The door swung open with a loud bang as it bounced off the wall and ricocheted against Dick's forehead. Before Dick could regain his bearings, he was kicked savagely in the guy and all the air in his lungs escaped him. Scrambling to his feet, Dick threw a blind punch in the general direction the kick had come from, only to have his fist caught and twisted painfully behind his back. Dick tried to ignore the blinding pain as he tried to free himself. There was something different about this fight. His arm felt like it was on the verge of breaking.
Slade's punches were swift and vicious, yet they were sloppy, at least for Slade. Dick felt a blow land on the left side of his face; it was hard and he wouldn't have been surprised if the tender flesh had already begun bruising. There was no doubt in his mind that Slade was not holding back. The man was giving his all and Dick could hardly dodge, let alone get a punch in. What was going on? Why in the world was Slade attacking him out of the blue? Ducking away from a punch, Dick lunged for Slade's legs only to find himself on the other side of the room with his vision swimming and his head throbbing. He could make out the form of Slade walking towards him, but before he had the chance to crawl away, Slade picked him up by the front of his shirt and held him against the wall.
"You come to me when you are called, understand?"
Slade's voice was like the hiss of a snake. It was low and menacing. Dick almost expected the man to turn into a deadly viper. But there was something else. Slade had leaned in to whisper to him, and when he did so, Dick had smelled a foul odor that had made his sense of smell want to commit suicide. Dick had smelled alcohol. It was very faint, almost nonexistent, but it was still there. Dick was confused; Slade didn't seem intoxicated, but his labored movement spoke for itself. Slade was not drunk, nor was he sober. He was lost somewhere in the delirium in between. If he moved carefully and worked swiftly, Dick could probably take down the man fairly easily. Anger radiated off of him like heat, and Dick was truly scared for his own safety. He did not want to go back to the beatings; he thought they had moved past that.
Ever so slowly, Dick began to raise his legs. Then in one motion he planted his feet on Slade's chest and pushed him away. For a moment Slade was surprised, but only for a moment. He made a grab for Dick, but the boy jumped out of the way, and in turn, crashing into the nightstand. Scrambling over the bed, Dick rushed for the door, only to have his hair caught in Slade's fist. Seizing the man's wrist, Dick squeezed until he let go and then he twisted Slade's arm behind his back like he had done to Dick so many times before. Taking a deep breath, Dick felt all his fear melt away like the last snow of winter. He was not afraid of Slade. His newfound courage allowed him to force Slade onto his knees.
Then Wintergreen was there, pulling Dick out of the room. The old man's eyes showed a mixture of worry, fear, and grief. Dick immediately wanted to interrogate him, but he was too busy being pulled down the hall by his wrist to ask any questions. Upon leaving the room, Wintergreen had slammed the door shut, a futile attempt to lock Slade in. Dick shivered as he heard the splitting of wood and the sound of the door coming off its hinges, but he did not dare to look. As he and Wintergreen advanced down the hallway, it seemed to grow longer and narrower like a never ending nightmare. For a second, Dick believed that he was dreaming. But his jaw throbbed, painfully reminding him that he was indeed awake.
Finally reaching the end of the hallway, Wintergreen pushed Dick into the kitchen, past the table, and towards the sliding glass door. Shoving the boy against the glass panel, Wintergreen used his own body to shield him. Fear didn't settle in until Dick had seen how scared Wintergreen was. Reaching for his keycard, he cursed, realizing that it was on his bedroom floor. Dick felt his heart skip a beat as Slade's face appeared around the corner. Slade began to slink towards the two of them like a lion stalking its prey. Wintergreen pressed Dick closer to the door with every step Slade took. All the while, Slade's eye never left Dick's face.
"Sir, please," Wintergreen tried to reason. "None of this is his fault."
Slade glared at him. "He did not come when he was called. He resisted when-"
"When what? When you were attempting to beat him?" the old man spat. "He was not intentionally trying to disobey you. He was locked in his room and could not get out."
Slade's shoulders slumped in defeat, and he forgot about Dick momentarily. "Where's the phone?"
"You are not calling Addie."
Dick broke away from Wintergreen and stepped into the no man's land in between the two men. "What the hell is going on?"
With a sigh, Slade moved to the table, sat down, and folded his hands in front of him. Dick then got the impression that he was to also sit down. With an unsure glance at Wintergreen, who nodded in approval, Dick pulled out a chair and sat down across from Slade. Crossing his arms over his chest, he felt defiant, and he felt like he deserved to break some rules. That is why he had cussed, and much to his surprise no one had cared. If he had had pockets, he would have shoved his hands in them. But he didn't, so he crossed his arms instead. Two hands rested on his shoulders and gave him a reassuring a squeeze before falling back to the sides of their owner. Dick's face was set in a scowl that would make Batman jealous, as he glared at Slade. He wanted answers.
"The boy deserves an explanation," Wintergreen said.
"I just want the phone to-"
"I will not let you harass the poor woman. She is in just as much pain as you are."
Dick raised an eyebrow and perked up a little at the last statement, suddenly very interested in the conversation. Slade? In pain? That was unheard of. But surely enough, when his eyes scanned the man's face he found pain there. Not the kind of pain that could be seen by the naked eye, but the kind that could only be seen by someone who had experienced it themselves. Slade had buried his pain deep. It was like a wound that had scarred over, but never fully healed. Dick's face softened and he relaxed his shoulders. He was all too familiar with the pain Slade was feeling. He wanted to help the man, he really did, but how could he help someone he hardly knew? Dick decided he would try to help in any way he could; he would just have to use his limited prior knowledge to try and fill up the empty file of Slade stored in his brain. Craning his neck, he stared up at Wintergreen.
"And calling Addie would be a bad thing?"
The old man nodded vigorously.
Taking a deep breath, Dick again faced Slade. "I don't need an explanation. I forgive you for attacking me. I'll think of it as extra practice."
"No," Slade said.
"No," Slade repeated. "You deserve to know what is going on."
"You really don't have to tell me. It's none of my business."
"No, I brought you into this. You are part of my life now. I trust you. No more secrets."
Dick nodded, accepting Slade's words. "Who did you lose?"
Slade stared at his hands for a while before answering. "Everything, everyone. I had an apprentice before Terra, before you. He died young, too young. He was only a boy. He was younger than you his name was Ravager, but to me he was Grant Wilson."
"Your son," Dick rasped.
"I had a wife and two sons, and I ruined it all. Grant died as my apprentice, and Joey, my youngest son, got his throat slit because of me."
"You- you lost both of your sons?"
"No, Grant died, but Joey's vocal cords were cut. He will be a mute for the rest of his life."
Dick frowned, afraid to ask his next question. "What happened to your wife?"
Slade smirked. "Addie wasn't very docile. When she found out I was a mercenary, she shot my eye out with my own gun and forbid me from ever seeing Joey again."
Wintergreen sighed. "Sir, I highly suggest that you get some sleep."
Dick watched as Slade stood up from his spot and Wintergreen helped him down the hallway. When they were out of sight, Dick rested his head in his hands and let the conversation roll over in his mind. Slade had lost everything, just like he had. They weren't so different, him and Slade. They had both lost their families and everything important to them. Dick felt his eyes get wet, but he ignore his tears. He was crying for Mary and John Grayson, for Grant, Joey, and Addie, and for himself and Slade. And there it was; he knew about Slade's past, but he now wished he didn't.
I just have a lot of feelings about Slade and the entire Wilson family. Also, Slade/Addie= actual OTP. Okay, that's a bit of a stretch, but I still ship it a lot. I could probably go on and on about how fantastic and badass Addie is, but The Walking Dead comes back tonight and I have tons of crap to get together before then.