Chapter 7: Approaching Storm
Alfred frowns as he approaches Bruce, who was perched in his chair in front of the Batcomputer.
"Sir. Have you forgotten about our guests?" The butler asks, coming to stand behind the billionaire, who was typing rapidly on his computer.
"No. Dick is asleep and the other two refuse to leave his side. I have to find out who did this to him. Did you see all of those scars on his chest? He's been through enough! Who would do that kind of thing to him?! He's only a child!"
"Perhaps you can just ask him, Sir? You wanted to gain his trust, but you do not trust him yourself. Trust works both ways." Bruce sighs, spinning around in his chair to face his father figure.
"I'm being a horrible host, aren't I?" Alfred chooses not to say anything on the matter, instead, deciding to check his watch.
"Lunch is just about ready. Perhaps you can go inform the Young Masters while I set the table." With that, the butler disappears up the hidden staircase as Bruce runs a tired hand through his hair. He was terrible with kids.
Dick stirs slowly on the sofa, whimpering softly when he shifts his injured leg. When his eyes flutter open, he flinches back, seeing two young, familiar faces hovering over him anxiously. Dick groans in irritation, trying to push them away weakly as they help him sit up. He hisses in pain as his legs swing off the couch. Damian and Jason were at his side in an instant, setting pillows behind him to help keep him propped up.
"You guys are being ridiculous." Dick mutters, wincing slightly as he shifts, trying to get more comfortable.
"We're not being ridiculous! You were shot, in case you've forgotten." Jason growls, glancing down the bandages on the younger teen's leg to make sure they held.
"Kind of hard to forget with the stabbing pain in my leg." Dick grumbles, clenching his teeth, trying to ride out the searing waves of agony.
"Now isn't the time to be snarky. We're in deep shit right now." Jason mutters, starting to pace the room anxiously. "Not only do we have to take care of whoever the hell did this to you, but we have to ward off Two-Face's lackeys too! They sent another message while you were gone." Jason reaches into jeans' pocket and pulls out an envelope. Half of it was black, while the other half was white. It was addressed to 'The Outsiders'. Jason hands the message to Dick, who rips it open carelessly, not in the mood for Two-Face's theatrics. His eyes narrow at the note, from the villain himself, demanding that they hand over their territory or be wiped out. Dick growls in irritation, crumbling the note and tossing it into the lit fireplace.
"We're going out tonight. Set up a meeting with his goons." The thirteen-year-old snaps. Damian steps in front of the acrobat, crossing his arms.
"No. You're in no condition to go out, Grayson. Let us handle this while you recover."
"No." Dick's eyes flash with fury as he glares up at his youngest 'brother'. "I want this taken care of once and for all. We need to send a message that he'll understand."
"I have to agree with the Little Demon, here." Jason states, pausing. "Just tell us what you want done, and we'll do it."
"Set up the fucking meeting Jason." Dick all but growls, starting to tremble with rage. "I won't tell you again. Set up the meeting or I will. I'm more than capable of taking care of this in my current condition. In case you've forgotten, this isn't nearly the worst injury I've had." Before Jason or Damian could protest further, Bruce walks into the room, and the three look up at him in question.
"Lunch is ready. Alfred is getting everything set up." The billionaire mumbles uncomfortably, sensing the tension in the air.
"Thanks Bruce. And thanks for patching me up." Dick smiles up at Bruce briefly before hissing in pain as he tries to stand without putting too much weight on his right leg. Damian and Jason quickly sling each his arms over their shoulders, helping to haul him up. Dick shoots them an irritated glare before sighing in defeat, letting them help him. Bruce glances at him in concern, before turning and leading the way towards the dining room.
Lunch was awkward, to say the least. Jason and Damian ate in silence, their gazes never lingering away from Dick for very long. Dick, of course notices this, and starts to become more and more aggravated. Alfred clears his throat, glancing over at Dick, smiling softly.
"How are you feeling, Master Dick? Is there anything I can get you?" The elderly butler states, genuine concern lacing his voice. Dick's lips quirks up slightly as he meets the butler's gaze.
"I'm fine, Alfred. Thank you."
"How the hell can you be fine?! You nearly gave us a heart attack when we found you!" Jason hisses, stabbing his fork into his baked chicken angrily.
"You never did answer us before, Grayson. Who did this to you?" Damian asks in barley contained fury.
"Enough!" Dick seethes, rising to his feet quickly, putting all of his weight on his uninjured leg. "I was shot. So what. I'm alive. Now, stop treating me like I'm fragile and about to shatter!" Jason and Damian instantly jump from their seats, frowning.
"But-"Jason starts, but Dick glares at him, clenching a fist.
"No. I don't want to fucking talk about it!" Dick hisses before furiously limping out of the room. Jason and Damian stare after him in shock. That was the second time Dick snapped at them. Dick never lost his temper so quickly. The two boys share a worried look. Something was very wrong.
"Perhaps we should all give him some space. Let us finish lunch, and then Master Bruce will go and talk to him." Alfred murmurs, sending a confused Bruce a pointed look. The billionaire's shoulder slump before resuming his meal. The two boys sigh in defeat, before sitting down as well. There was no point talking to Dick when he was fuming anyway.
After finishing up with lunch, Bruce was about to sneak off to the Batcave to check the mansion's security cameras, when he pauses. Where would an acrobat go when upset? He changes his route to the roof instead, easily finding the brooding thirteen-year-old sitting on a corner of the roof, facing the pond. Bruce makes his way over to the teen, making sure that he made enough noise to alert the boy to his presence. The last thing he wanted was to startle the teen off of his roof.
"I used to come up here all the time to hide from Alfred as a kid." Bruce muses, sitting a few feet away from Dick, dangling his feet off the roof, much like the boy was.
"Did it work?" Dick asks after a few beats of silence. Bruce chuckles, shaking his head.
"You can never hide anything from that man." Dick smirks at that.
"Good point." After a few more moments of silence, Bruce casts his glance over at the teen again.
"Are you alright?" What the billionaire really wanted to ask was who shot him, but by the lost expression on the boy's face, he knew that it wasn't the right time.
"You know, you and Alfred are the only ones to ask me that…the first thing Jay and Dami wanted to know was who did it."
"They were really worried about you…maybe that's their way of asking…"
"I'm surprised you're not asking who." Dick finally glances over at Bruce, eyeing him curiously. "I took you for the vengeful type."
"Who says that I'm not?" Bruce smirks, causing Dick to laugh softly. "But I know that now isn't the time to ask that question." The two sit in silence for a couple more minutes before Bruce turns to face the acrobat. "Are you alright, Dick?" Dick sighs, his eyes focusing on a couple of ducks floating on the surface of the pond.
"No." He breathes, his fingers gripping the edge of the roof tightly. "I know, that after everything I've been through, I should be able to handle anything…but…that bastard still has a way of getting to me…it's times like these when I wish the Bat had time for someone like me…but I know he's busy taking care of Gotham's Super Villains…Gotham needs him…I'm not selfish enough to take him away from that. So I'll take care of myself. And the others. I'll be strong like I've always been." Dick spares a glance over at Bruce, who had completely frozen, a look of shock and empathy on his face, and sighs. "What I'm trying to say is; I may not be alright now, but I will be. I can't afford to be weak."
"It was Ray, wasn't it." Bruce affirms, his voice barely above a whisper. Dick nods slowly.
"I assume you've read my file."
"What if…what if I could contact Batman for you. Maybe he will have time to help you. All of you." At this, Dick laughs, but it isn't a happy sound. This laugh is full of sadness, and resignation.
"Thanks Bruce, but it's alright. Batman doesn't have time to help all of the lost children of Gotham."
"But what if he could at least get Ray off of the streets for you?"
"I already have someone else working on that." Bruce raises an eyebrow at this.
"And here I took you for the vengeful type." Dick grins mischievously, cocking an eyebrow at the billionaire.
"Who says that I'm not?" Bruce laughs heartily, shaking his head, before standing up.
"We should head back inside. Alfred baked some of your favorite cookies." He holds out a hand for the teen, who stares at it for a moment before taking it. Bruce helps haul him up to his feet before turning to head inside.
"B-Bruce?" The billionaire pauses, pivoting to face the acrobat again curiously. As soon as he was facing the boy, his spine stiffens and his eyes widen in shock, feeling the boy crash into his front, hugging him. After a second, Bruce relaxes, awkwardly returning the embrace. "Thank you." Dick murmurs into Bruce's shirt.
"Any time." Bruce cards a hand through Dick's hair, causing the boy to snuggle closer before releasing him. Dick takes Bruce's hand, smiling up at him sheepishly.
"Though, this still doesn't mean that I trust you more than Alfred." Bruce feigns a hurt look.
"What?! But we had a heart-to-heart and everything!" Bruce starts to lead them inside, keeping his pace slow for the limping boy.
"Ah, but Alfred bakes me cookies." Dick beams up at him playfully, causing Bruce to snort.
"I see. So the way to earn your trust is through baked goods?"
"Yup! And don't even think about making something by yourself. Alfred has told me horror stories of you in the kitchen."
"That traitor." Bruce mutters, grinning as Dick giggles next to him.
Once they were inside, they were practically ambushed by Jason and Damian. Dick sighs at their worried expressions and releases Bruce's hand.
"Sorry about snapping at you guys earlier. You know I don't handle being smothered very well." They nod, taking a step towards him, no doubt checking him for any signs of new injuries. "I hate to break up the party, but Jason and Damian really need to head back." He sends them a pointed look, causing them to frown, then glances up at Bruce.
"Alright. I'll go get Alfred." He walks off to go find said man as Jason and Damian cross their arms, demanding an explanation.
"I wasn't kidding when I told you to set up the meeting. I need to get out some aggression, and they need to be taught a lesson. It's a win-win." Dick chimes, smirking at them.
"I still don't think it's such a good idea. Your wounds are still fresh. What if something happens?" Jason insists.
"Then we'll get Cassie and Steph to join us as backup. They will be snipers in case something goes wrong, and you two will be with me. Damian, ask Tim for blueprints of the alley off 5th." Damian frowns.
"Why do I have to ask Drake for anything?"
"Because I want to know every angle of that area. We're confronting them on our territory. Let's show them why it's ours." Dick smirks deviously, before turning and hobbling away. Alfred rounds the corner and raises an eyebrow at Jason and Damian's sour expressions. Jason waves a hand dismissively.
"Don't worry about it. Dick is just being difficult. What else is new?" He grumbles before heading towards the front door. Damian nods in agreement, following after him.
Later that night, three of Two-Face's lackeys wait around in the alley across from 5th Street in Old Gotham. One of the gruffer looking men keeps checking his watch, growing more and more irritated by the second.
"I don't understand why the boss is continuing to play games with these brats. We could just come in with the semi-automatics and take them out." One of them asks, clearly not in the mood to be meeting with the young gang.
"Someone with a puny mind such as yourself wouldn't possibly understand. You can't just be a heathen and take everything you want by force." A young, playful voice chimes from the shadows. The three men focus their attention on where the voice came from, all glaring in irritation.
"Clearly they woke up on the wrong side of the bed." A gruffer voice jeers, laughing as the three take out their guns defensively. Robin takes a step into the light, his hands resting comfortably in his royal blue hoodie's pockets.
"No need to be so defensive. We're here to discuss territory. Your boss wants all of our territory. I'm afraid, that's not going to happen." Robin states calmly.
"And we're not going to take 'no' for an answer. Boss's orders." One of the thugs sneers, pointing his handgun at Robin's head.
"You know, you really shouldn't aim for the head. It's such a difficult shot. Especially if your target is moving." Robin smirks as the thug pauses in confusion.
"You little-" Before the man could finish, his eyes widen, feeling a knife slice his cheek. He turns, to look at the small knife that was now lodged in the wall behind him. The man suddenly coughs, his eyes widening as something hard hits him in the throat. He gasps, stumbling back, seeing Robin crouched in front of him, hand on his neck. Before the other two goons could react, Robin whips out two more knives, and tosses one into the man on his right's stomach, and the other into the man on his left's kneecap. The two fall to the ground, crying out in pain as Robin roundhouse kicks the first thug in the solar plexus with his left leg. Robin then steps in front of the man with the knife in his stomach and glances over at the man who had just ripped the knife out of his knee.
"Now, I want you to listen very carefully. Tell your boss that if he wants our territory, that he had better come and take it from us himself. Tell him that he is going to have to pry it from our cold, dead hands." He steps on the knife that was lodged in the man's stomach, pushing it in deeper. The man cries out in agony and the third thug stares at Robin in horror. "And tell him, good luck. He's going to need it. We're not just some inexperienced children." Robin grins darkly before turning away. "Now, you had better get this guy to a hospital. Wouldn't want him to die or anything. Your braver counterpart will just be unconscious for a while." Robin scoffs at the first goon, who was curled in a ball, gasping for air. He walks away, only limping slightly as the third lackey scrambles to his feet, cursing when he puts pressure on his injured leg.
Once Robin made it back to the shadows, Jason grabs his shoulder, yanking him to face the older teen.
"What the fuck was that?!" Red Hood hisses as Robin glares up at him.
"I was taking care of the problem."
"What happened to the plan? You practically just declared war on Two-Face!"
"He's not going to actually come down here. There's no way he wants Old Gotham that bad. We've neutralized every threat that he's sent our way. What the hell is your problem?"
"My problem is that this isn't like you!" Jason nearly roars, causing an approaching Damian, Cassandra, and Stephanie to freeze. Dick smacks Jason's hand away from his shoulder as if burned.
"Oh, and now you're an expert on me? You hardly know anything about me! You only know what little I've told you, so leave me the fuck alone!" Dick seethes, as Jason's jaw goes slack. The older teen deflates slightly as Robin limps off into the shadows in a blind rage.