Rating: M (For adult language, references to violence and drug use, suggestive lines, and a heavily implied relationship.)
Beta: Gladrial and At The Writer's Block
Disclaimer: I own nothing. The owners own. This is for fun, not profit. I've made no money.
Summary: A master and apprentice reunite for coffee after nearly three months apart. Mission objectives are discussed and changes noted. (Post-"Terra" AU, Slade/Terra Slerra)
Author's Notes: In order for this story to work, you have to pretend that Slade decided after getting Terra as a pupil that he was in a good position to leave Jump City. So...no Terra spying on the Titans, control suit, killing Slade, schoolgirl reborn stuff. With me so far? Okay! It is also three years later and Terra is seventeen. (Further installments in this AU are completely possible. I have some ideas.)
She was ten minutes late. Not that Slade was completely shocked, as she was having to take a taxi, but a call out of courtesy would have been appreciated. He settled into his uncomfortable metal chair outside of the over-priced cafe, watching the hustle and bustle of Metropolis move around him. It was a city full of shine, elevation, and clean lines. Not bad aesthetically, though he preferred moving about in a place like Moscow or Gotham, where there was always a shadow to disappear into. More character.
When her taxi pulled up, his apprentice paid her driver with a smile and made an ungraceful dash to where Slade was standing beside the table to greet her. He was intending a brief hug, perhaps even just a simple head pat, but Terra was pulling him into an embrace and down for a kiss, which he returned more fervently than he'd anticipated. Three months was apparently far too long for either of them. She pulled away and accepted his good-natured look of disapproval with a bright grin. "You missed me," she stated in a smug, sing-song tone. "And I've been a very good girl, so buy me a frappuccino and I'll tell you all about stuff."
"Oh," he replied dryly, "I see you've left your manners in Europe. Pity." Laughing, Terra threw a drawn out "pleeeeaaaase" over her shoulder as she flounced to the bathroom inside, boots clomping loudly. Slade walked calmly towards the counter, a few thoughts running through his head about reining his teenage pupil in a bit, now that she had returned. He imagined that they would both end up enjoying it immensely.
Three minutes and twelve dollars later, Slade had a frivolous mocha concoction in one hand and a plain coffee in the other. Honestly the lengths he went to were continually astonishing. He told the seventeen year-old this as she wandered back from the restroom and retrieved her drink, to which she retorted, "Not my fault you like things dull, man."
"Dull is not really a word most people would use to describe me, dear."
She snorted at that in an incredibly unladylike fashion, sucking nearly a quarter of the frappuccino up with her first sip. "Oh come on, you're Mister Routine. That's, like, your default mode." Slade shot her an annoyed glare, causing her to roll her eyes. And he decided then that the first thing he was going to do upon returning to his lodgings was throw her onto the bed and not let her up until this willful phase had dissipated.
They sat down at a new table, still outside but flush with the building. The mismatched pair drank their beverages in a moment of silence to themselves, immersed in the white noise provided by the traffic and cell phone chatter of New Troy. Observing her over the rim of his cup, Slade noted how much paler she was since he had last seen her, the new tone made more obvious against the dark blue of her fitted pea coat. There was a gray scarf around her neck to hide a mottled bruise, he knew this, but a closer look at her face revealed something new to him.
"You're wearing makeup," he stated neutrally, though she paused mid-suck, with wide eyes, as if he had growled it.
"...Yeah," Terra replied carefully, adding in a rush, "Just a little eyeliner and stuff. One of the girls showed me how to do it and I thought it would be weird if I didn't wear any. Like I would stick out."
"Possibly a correct assumption given your cover," Slade said. "And It looks very becoming on you."
Blushing, Terra mumbled, "I thought maybe you'd be mad."
"I have no idea why," he replied. Why would she think he would be upset over her taking an interest in cosmetics? She had been a fervent tomboy the entire time he'd known her, true, but she was also extremely susceptible to advertising. It was a wonder the teenage girl underneath all of the dirt hadn't caved sooner. "As long as you do not let it interfere with my tasks for you, I see no problem with it."
She smiled brightly, her lined eyes beginning to wander towards the sky like a common tourist to the Big Apricot, and Slade decided it was time to get down to brass tacks. "I do, however, have a problem with your handling of the Serrano incident."
And suddenly, the aggravating adolescent was back, slumping into her chair and rolling her eyes heavenward in what must have been an attempt to have him throw her through the front window of the coffee shop. "Oh, that," she sighed. He would have marked it as a moan, but he had heard her moans and wished for them to remain a pleasant sound in his mind. "I knew you were gonna bitch about that, even after I ran around like a crazy person all over Barcelona following those idiots-"
"Termination was expressly forbidden by the client," Slade reminded her in a low voice. "And I don't care how it happened-"
"He got hit by a truck after I pushed him out of the Mercedes," pouted Terra. "I didn't kill the sleazebag, it was his own stupid fault for standing in the middle of the freakin' road yelling at me."
"-It still took precious millions off of the final price," he finished. "Not to mention ruined any potential future business relationship we might have had with our employer."
"But I got the codes, didn't I? It took weeks to get myself in that circle and those guys were so awful to be around..." Her eyes were large and pleading. She was even nibbling on her lip in an attempt to garner some sort of favorable reaction from him. He gazed at her impassively.
"In the real world, you are paid for something very specific to be accomplished and there are consequences if it is not done correctly." There was a pause between them as he watched her make a small frustrated sound and push her hair behind an ear. "Which is why I am only allowing you half of what you would have received from this job."
He had not known she could sit up so straight, so suddenly, in her chair. "But that's not..." she began, before reining herself in and mumbling something. Asked to repeat herself clearly, she said in a purposefully grating monotone, "Yes sir, I understand. I will be more careful next time."
Not wanting to have a scene in the open, or so soon after being reunited, Slade simply acknowledged this with an absolutely serious, "You better be" and returned to his black coffee. Her first mission without him overseas had been, at the core, successful. But now she would shoot for perfection and there was nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all.
Her empty cup sat abandoned as she dug through her pockets for something, blonde hair falling to hide the irritated face that had not yet lost the fullness of youth. His thoughts lingering on how much further he could drive her anger with him once they were alone, because pissed off sex with his darling apprentice was worth every scowl, Slade was pulled out of these musings by what was suddenly in her hands. "Explain yourself, girl."
Already in enough trouble, Terra apparently was operating under the Band-Aid method of reveal, continuing to light the European brand slim with a disposable lighter she had to flick twice. Allowing herself a first drag before answering, giving Slade's eyebrows ample time to fall to dangerous levels, she replied upon exhale with a simple, aggravating statement: "Everyone was doing it and I wanted to blend."
"Then you blend while you are on the job," he snapped. "Not when you are off the clock. Peak physical condition does not involve sucking tar into your-"
"They wanted to screw me, you know," the little blonde before him stated bluntly, releasing the words in another cloud of smoke. "Plenty of guys did. But I kept telling them I had a guy who was hella jealous back in the states. They didn't like that or believe it, but it worked. For a couple weeks." A graceful, practiced tap of her ashes. "Then it was suspicious. And I already didn't binge drink or pop pills or do lines of coke in the bathroom."
"You picked your own cover," Slade felt it necessary to point out. He had allowed her to go about it the hard way and of course this happened. Why was he surprised?
"So," she continued, "I spent a whole day making myself learn how to smoke. Everyone there smokes. I threw up a few times. But it worked." She blows the next cloud off to the side, eyes glancing towards the nearby park. He could tell that she wanted to go play in her element, but it was not the time nor the place. "By the next night, I was pretending to do Jello shots at a posh penthouse in Pedralbes, listening to those morons go on about their cars and their yates impresionantes."
"And, let me guess, they spilled their guts the most when they went out to the balcony for a cigarette?"
She flashed him a wild, childish grin that he had grown quite accustomed to. "Bingo, boss."
Slade leaned back in the metal seat, openly giving her the stern look that he had been forced to deepen over the years as his charge became immune. To his mental satisfaction, her face fell upon receiving it and she looked off to the side again, at the ground now, sucking in another lungful. No matter how much she aged, how her power and self-esteem increased, he could still make her nervously cower like a little fourteen year-old. It was wonderful.
"If you have not quit on your own in precisely five months, I will make you quit." She ducked her head sheepishly, blonde hair closing around her face. "Is that clear, Terra?" He received another mumbled, "Yes, sir". "Addictions are weaknesses. I won't have you botching a job because you needed a nicotine fix."
"I understand," the teenager replied, the barest hint of a snap behind the words.
He allowed her a moment, to think nasty thoughts towards him in an inward sulk, then asked, "Besides the obvious, did you enjoy Spain?"
Terra shrugged. "I didn't get to enjoy the city off the job, if that's what you mean. I mostly just went out at night. It was pretty from what I saw." Such clipped answers! Yes, she was furious with him, bottling it up for her next temper tantrum. It was a shame he didn't care. "I wanted to go to the beach more before it got cold, but half of the women were topless, even the old ladies, and it was gross."
"Yes, they are famed for their beaches," Slade responded, rising from his chair and grabbing his coffee cup. "Perhaps your next assignment can be a resort in the Caribbean." He tossed his cup into a nearby trashcan adding, "With sparkling blue waters. And a nudist colony."
"Haha," Terra spit out with no humor, rising with her cigarette and empty plastic cup in hand. "Hilarious."
"And all non-smoking rooms with scenic views of the nude yoga class for senior citizens."
Terra hurled her cup into the trashcan with unnecessary roughness and, looking straight up into Slade's face, commented with what was probably not intended to be a childish tone, "Old. People. Are. Gross." The "O" in the middle of the last word was drawn out the barest hint too long to keep any of the sting she had clearly meant to put behind it.
Looking straight down into her baby blues, Slade returned the favor in an equally childish manner with, "Smoking. Is. Gross." He even drew out the same syllable in the final word and actually smiled when Terra stomped her foot. Was she seventeen or seven? He could tell that making her even that much more exasperated with him would reap fantastic rewards when they got back to the hotel. It was always a treat to break her in again. Make her beg for it after all her pretense.
With one more mouthful of smoke, she threw the remainder of the cigarette on the sidewalk and ground it beneath her boot. Exhaling a wispy cloud, Terra said, "There. You happy now?"
"Halfway there," Slade replied, starting down the sidewalk with his hands in the pockets of his jacket. "Let's go see if we can achieve more." His hotel was right around the corner, a whole penthouse suite to themselves.
They would have to revisit the "old and gross" comments after a few hours in bed. See what she had to say then.