A/N: This takes place after the events of Failsafe and Disordered. Robin's confession to Black Canary about not wanting to be Batman any more inspired this. Also, the site won't let me add a third character to the story line-up but just an FYI, Wally features heavily.
"It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons." Johann Schiller.
"Lucius, I don't care what his lawyers threatened! It still doesn't change the fact that Branston Daniels violated the terms of the agreement when he created that damn prototype; clause thirty-four was specifically written to prevent that."
Bruce Wayne fixed his business manager with an irritated look. This was the third time this week that Lucius had raised the issue of the Branthrope partnership, and Bruce felt he had already made himself quite clear on the matter. "Just terminate the contract! If Daniels has a problem with it, tell him to contact our lawyers."
Lucius appeared unfazed by his employer's tirade. "Bruce, you break that contract now and it will be at a loss to Wayne Enterprises."
"We can afford it."
"Maybe, but Branthrope Incorporated can't. They were barely keeping their heads above water before this. You pull out now and it will bankrupt them."
Bruce pinched the bridge of his nose. "I know, Lucius, but what do you expect me to do? They were going to sell that technology to the highest bidder! You know as well as I do how dangerous it would be if it got into the wrong hands. Besides, Daniels should have been upfront from the start about his financial situation; his company wasn't in a position to go in on a deal like this."
"And it's a pity Jonah didn't think to check a little deeper into Branthrope Incorporated before he signed on the dotted line," Lucius pointed out.
Bruce scowled. Jonah Harris was a long serving member on his Board of Directors who had first raised the suggestion of investing in Branthrope Incorporated several months ago. It had seemed like an excellent idea at the time. Waynetech were in the process of developing a nanite technology that allowed for targeted drug delivery at a molecular level, while Branthrope Incorporated were working on a chemical that could reanimate dead tissue. If successful, the combination of both sciences could create untold medical advances. However, Branthrope Incorporated had used the Waynetech nanites to develop a weapons' prototype that could potentially disintegrate a body in seconds by attacking the molecular structure of cells.
Bruce had found out about the prototype at the same time he had been made aware of Branthrope's past dealings with foreign mercenaries; which if he had known beforehand, would have prevented him from ever doing business with Branthrope. He was angry with Jonah for not disclosing the full extent of Branthrope Incorporated's past, as well as their chequered financial history. What had been a potentially brilliant partnership had descended into one big headache; with Bruce trying to terminate the contract and have the weapons' prototype – along with all of its research – destroyed. However, Branston Daniels was fighting both for all he was worth, meaning that reprimanding Jonah was low on Bruce's current list of priorities…but that didn't mean that he wouldn't. He just needed to deal with the matter at hand first.
"Lucius, I know you're only trying to make the best of a bad situation but…"
"Quit flogging the dead horse?"
Bruce chuckled and stood up. "That's one way of putting it. Contact our lawyers and make them aware of the situation; don't deal with Daniels anymore. If he contacts you, refer him to them."
Lucius nodded. "Sorry to get you down here when you have plans, Bruce, I just thought you should see the letter from his lawyers."
"It's alright, Lucius. I know you wouldn't have called me if it wasn't important."
"So, what are you and Dick doing tonight that you're in such a rush?" he asked, gathering up the paperwork.
"It's the Ultimate Fight Night at Gotham Square Gardens. Dick has never been before and he's been looking forward to it for weeks."
Lucius shook his head as they walked out of the office. "You have to be the only parent I know who considers violent contact sports a suitable form of entertainment for a thirteen-year-old."
Bruce smiled. "You sound like Alfred. But mixed martial arts is not as violent as the media would have you believe; there's quite a bit of skill involved."
"Where is Dick?" asked Lucius as they passed the empty waiting area en-route to the elevator. "I thought he came with you?"
"He did. We met Jimmy and Ed on the way in and he stopped to talk to them."
The older man gave a fond smile. "Typical Dick. I don't think I've ever met anyone with such an instant ability to get on with everyone."
"It comes naturally to him." Bruce looked at his watch. "We'd better get going. Are you coming?"
Lucius shook his head. "I want to finish up a few things first. Enjoy your evening, Bruce. Tell Dick I said hello."
"I will. Have a good weekend, Lucius."
Bruce stepped into the elevator and hit the ground floor button. He could see Lucius walking back to his office as the doors slid closed. The elevator jerked slightly before the hum of movement indicated its descent. Bruce stared at his reflection in the mirrored surface, not really seeing it. His thoughts were on his young ward.
It had only been a few days since the disastrous training exercise with Martian Manhunter and Bruce was troubled by how uncharacteristically quiet Dick had been in the aftermath. He had seemed more like his old self since the counselling session with Black Canary, but there was still an unease lurking below the surface; an unease that Bruce knew had much to do with him.
The elevator doors pinged open and he was greeted with laughter pealing across the lobby. Dick was sitting on the security desk with his legs crossed, chortling. Jimmy was grinning from behind the desk, his eyes going back and forth between the security screens while Ed – who was standing in front of them – recounted some story, miming as he did so.
Bruce hoped it was a clean story; Ed's sense of humour bordered on the obscene sometimes. "Dick," he called, walking towards them. Three heads turned and Jimmy got to his feet.
Dick's eyes gleamed. "Are we ready to go?"
"Cool!" The boy arched off the security desk, landing gracefully on the floor. He grinned back at the two men. "See you guys next week!"
"Enjoy Fight Night, Kid," smiled Jimmy.
"Good night, Mr. Wayne," Ed added.
"Goodnight," Bruce responded, ushering Dick towards the doors.
The October air was slightly chilly after the warmth of the lobby, and the street was quiet as they descended the front steps. Wayne Enterprises was located in Gotham's financial district – a hive of activity throughout the day but practically a ghost town by late evening.
Dick checked his watch. "It's after seven thirty. How long until the first fight?"
"It starts at eight. We have plenty of time."
"Don't suppose we could stop for pizza after?" he asked hopefully.
"Sorry, Dick, I have an important conference call that I have to be back for." Bruce gave him a meaningful look that clearly said Batman had somewhere to be tonight.
Dick nodded, looking slightly disappointed.
A slight rustle to the left caught Bruce's attention. He froze, his sharp eyes spotting a dark van parked on the street that hadn't been there before. His hand shot out and seized Dick's shoulder just as several shadowy shapes emerged from the darkness, surrounding them.
Eyes narrowing, Bruce assessed the situation; four men dressed in dark clothing and wearing balaclavas blocked their path. They wouldn't be able to reach the car, but maybe they could retreat back to Wayne Enterprises?
He glanced back at the building. Another man stood at the top of the steps; they were trapped.
Bruce frowned. This was clearly not some random mugging.
Briefly he wondered if this had anything to do with the Waynetech technology that he was currently embroiled in battle with Branthrope Incorporated over; Bruce was the only person with access to every element of it.
The men started to close in and he stopped thinking as instinct took over. He threw a hard punch at the nearest man's jaw while Dick ducked the grabbing arms of another. Two of the men reached for Bruce and he delivered a swift uppercut to the first man's chin, simultaneously driving a hard knee into the second's solar plexus. Bruce Wayne may not be up to Batman's level, but that didn't mean he couldn't fight; he just couldn't be too good.
Beside him, Dick was ducking and weaving between two men. His movements were fluid, skilled, and altogether too impressive for Dick Grayson; without thinking, the boy had switched into Robin.
Bruce smashed his fist into the jaw of the fifth man who had just come down the steps then whirled and grabbed Dick. "Pare down your fighting," he hissed, while making it look as though he was defending the boy.
Dick shot him an incredulous 'you've-got-to-be-kidding-me' glance but Bruce shook his head insistently.
He knew that Jimmy and Ed were watching the security screens, and the outside cameras panned several yards in front of the building. They should have seen what was happening by now; all Bruce needed to do was keep the men occupied until help arrived.
He had just blocked a hard punch to his ribs when suddenly, something exploded inside him, shades of grey eclipsing his vision as the world fell away.
Reality slowly tunneled back to him and he found himself on his hands and knees on the pavement. He looked up; one of the men stood above him with a stun-gun. He recognized the model; a lethal item designed to ensure maximum dispersal of pain. But it had never made it past safety regulations or progressed to development; the only way these men could have obtained the blueprints necessary to build it was illegally. This had to be about the Waynetech technology.
"Bruce!" Dick was struggling to reach him; one of the men was holding his arms behind his back. "Bruce, are you alright?"
"I'm fine." He clambered to his feet and glared at the man with the stun gun. "I'll go with you, leave him out of this."
The masked man gave a chuckle of amusement. "You? Wayne, you may be one of the richest assholes on the planet but that kidnapping clause of yours makes you worthless."
Bruce's heart dropped like a stone. Ten years ago he had instigated a life insurance plan designed to discourage kidnappers; it prohibited ransom payment in the event of his own abduction.
This wasn't about the Waynetech technology.
"Dick, RUN!" he yelled, throwing himself at the man who was holding the boy. He sent the man reeling and had just smashed a fist into the jaw of a second when another internal explosion rocked him and the world went grey again, before lighting up into a fiery red. He was burning up, shooting out sparks in every direction.
The next thing he knew, he was sprawled on the pavement, gasping. He must have passed out. Sounds of a struggle reached his ears and he jerked his head up.
The masked men were moving towards the edge of the pavement where the black van was now pulling up. Two of them were carrying Dick while the boy bucked and yelled. Bruce hauled himself to his feet as one of them slid open the side door of the van, but immediately crashed back to the ground; his muscles still spasming from the electrical charge.
"Dick!" he shouted, desperately trying to make his body cooperate.
The boy was being forced into the back of the van. His head turned at his guardian's voice. "Bruce– Get off you jerks!" He threw a hard punch at one of their noses and the crack echoed in the silent street.
The man holding the stun-gun jabbed it into the boy's arm and he convulsed before going limp.
A howl of rage escaped Bruce and he forced himself to his feet.
One of the other men produced a gun and pointed it at Bruce. "Hold it right there, Wayne."
Bruce took a step forward. The man's eyes narrowed through the balaclava and he swung the gun so that it was pointing at Dick instead. The boy was lying on the floor of the van while one of the men bound his hands behind his back. Bruce froze.
"You know how this works, Wayne," said the one with the stun-gun. We'll be in touch."
The man climbed into the van just as Dick turned to face his guardian. His eyes were dazed as they met Bruce's. A hood was dropped over his head. It was the last thing Bruce saw before the door slammed shut and the van pulled out.