A/N: Hey guys,

I just wanted to briefly clarify a few things that happened in the last chaper. Mostly everyone enjoyed the graveyard scene, which had been so much fun to write and it had been a bit of a summary on what happened in the other chapters. But it had been mentioned about Dick speaking Romanian.

So, yes, I do know about Dick's heritage, and I think the whole Romani vs Romanian thing that occurs a lot in fics where Dick speaks Romanian is a bit silly. With the encouragement of a dear friend of mine, Anthezar, (Check out her fic Forgotten Bonds in the TT!Archive. She's amazing!) I ultimately decided to have Dick speak Romanian. After all, it is indeed my fanfiction, and I can control what Dick can and can't do. I don't mean to come off upset or anything, and it isn't a problem when people mention it, but ultimately it is my decision.

Speaking Romanian isn't going to become a huge part of my fic as it was going to be originally. I just wanted to toss it into the graveyard scene because it was something meaningful between Dick and his parents. Sorry to come off so strong about it, but I felt the need to back up my decision.

Anyways, the amount of feedback I have been getting is... amazing really. I can't even describe it. I really wish I could individually thank each and everyone of you like some authors do, but I simply haven't got the time for it. If I could thank you all personally, I would, so instead I constantly remind you lovely people all the time.

It's probably getting old, but thank you guys so much. I don't deserve any of the love you guys give me, but you still do, and when I'm feeling down, there's nothing better than to read reviews to cheer myself up. Words can't express how thankful I am; there's no fanfiction with out all of you lovely people out there! You guys are my inspiration to keep writing, and I can't be thankful enough to you guys for helping me do what I love to do.

Oh, and another thing, there are absolutely no nanobots! Hahaha, a few of you guys mentioned it, but I dunno, the idea seemed a bit overused, and I didn't want to drag in the similarities in between Teen Titans and Young Justice. Oh, and feel free to write your own ideas into the comments as well! I've said before, and I'll say it again: There is no story without you guys! So if you have an idea and I like it, I might add it in. You guys are the best inspiration I have!

And to clarify another thing, this Slade isn't exactly the Teen Titans Slade we all know and love, nor is he exactly like Young Justice Deathstroke. He's a mixture of both, in my opinion. Ruthless and cunning, yet the man's got a warm heart too :)

No more spoilers. You're all just going to have to wait and see! I'm sure you guys just want to get to the chapter now xD Hahaha read on (:

Chapter 9

October 23, 2012

{23:31 EST}

"Master Richard!" Alfred called past the closed-door, knocking gently with one hand. "Please open the door, sir. I've prepared hot chocolate for you." He said as he expertly balanced a tray with a hot chocolate mug resting on it and he knocked twice more. The Englishman politely stepped back and waited for the young master to open the door, hoping that the promise of his specially prepared hot chocolate would be enough to get Dick into a better mood. The young, sweet-loving teenager would never turn down an opportunity to have a chocolate drink, especially the drink Alfred could prepare with years of experience.

Seconds eventually changed into a complete minute, encouraging Alfred to knock again. "Master Dick!" He called again as he gently knocked with a gloved hand, "Please open the door."

There was no sound of movement on the other side, so Alfred walked to the end of the hall and put the tray on the side table. He made his way back to Dick's bedroom door and slowly turned the knob once. Realizing it was locked, Alfred knocked again, "Are you alright, sir?"

Panic suddenly fluttered through Alfred's chest. He doubted Dick would be able to fall asleep while under such stress of arguing with Bruce. Alfred knocked again before he stretched up and grabbed the key to Dick's bedroom resting above the door. He gripped the brass key tightly and knocked a final time on Dick's bedroom door.

"Master Richard, I'm going to open the door."

Alfred inserted the key into the key hole and unlocked the door. He turned the knob and pushed the door open, but the door moved hardly an inch before stopping abruptly. Confused, Alfred tried again and was met with the sound of the door banging against the same thing. Alfred tried to peer into the room, but failed to see anything beyond the light blue paint on the walls.

He turned away and rushed down the hall, forgetting about the hot chocolate at the other end of the hall. When Alfred reached Bruce's study, he knocked on the door twice and waited for Bruce to invite him into the study. He impatiently tapped his foot against the polished wood floors as different ideas flooded through his mind about where Richard could be or what could of happened to the boy.

"Come in." Came Bruce's voice from the other side.

Alfred quickly pushed open the door, nearly startling Bruce with the look on his face, "Master Bruce, I believe that Master Dick has left the house."

"I sent him to his room," Bruce said, a tired tone in his voice. His navy eyes scanned over the paperwork before he picked up a pen and signed the papers resting in front of him, "Have you checked there?"

"Yes, sir, however Master Dick seems to have pushed something in front of the door, preventing me from going in. I tried calling to him, but there was no answer."

Bruce dropped his pen and let his paperwork fall unorganized on his desk. A tight feeling formed in Bruce's stomach as they approached Dick's bedroom took note of Dick's laptop out in the hallway. He figured the boy dropped it outside when he first entered his room, following Bruce's given instructions. Instead of checking the laptop, Bruce reached up and banged on the door.

"Dick!" Bruce shouted, "Dick, open this door right now!"

He half expected there to be movement on the other side, the sound of a dresser being pushed away from the door. Then, Dick would have opened the door with a scowl on his face, eyes possibly red from holding back forbidden tears of bitter anger and hurt. Bruce would then scold Dick for not answering the door when Alfred called before Dick slammed the door in both their faces and demanding that both Alfred and Bruce leave him alone.

But all he got was silence.

Bruce tried to open the door like Alfred had minutes earlier, but got no further than the Englishman had. He pushed the side of his head against the door to peer into the room, hoping to see a reflection, or a shadow, or even the boy himself; however, the blue walls stared back at him, revealing no secrets leading to Dick's location. Bruce felt both fury and worry flood through him as he stepped away from the door and bang on it with a hard fist.

"Richard John Grayson, open the door!"

With a growl, Bruce tried to open the door again, successfully getting the door to open another inch. He gestured for Alfred to take a few steps back, and when the man did so, Bruce rammed into the door with all his strength. On the other side of the door, the wardrobe moved far enough, allowing Bruce and Alfred to squeeze through the opening and step into Dick's room.

"Dick-" Bruce stopped himself when he noticed the room was empty. His navy eyes drifted to the open window, and Bruce knew that Dick must have slipped out through there without making any sound whatsoever. Adding on his acrobatic skills, Dick could have easily scaled down the side of the Manor. He moved to it and stuck his head outside, scanning for anything in the darkness shrouding Wayne Manor's grounds. It was too dark to see any footprints, but Bruce had a small idea about where Dick ran off to. The boy had been angry, confused, and hurt, so Bruce figured Dick would have gone to the cemetery to be with his parents like he had done many times before.

"Get the car ready." He said to Alfred, closing Dick's bedroom window. As Alfred left the room, Bruce slammed his hand against Dick's desk; he had no idea where Dick was, only a theory. Gotham was a dangerous city, and Dick was far from safe running around the city late at night, especially without his cape on. And Bruce knew that it was entirely his fault.

He didn't have time to pity himself. Bruce rushed out of the room and down to the Batcave in record time. Changing quickly into his suit, Batman ran and jumped into the Batmobile. Alfred handed him a cellphone and he quickly punched in Dick's cellphone number. The windshield closed over the hood of the car, and Batman pushed down onto the gas petal and drove out of the Batcave.

The cellphone rang many times before it sent Batman to Dick's voice mailbox. Batman clenched his jaw tightly and he threw the phone into the passenger seat. He took out his Batcommunicator and called Dick's communicator.

Worry tied Batman's stomach into knots with each passing second Dick didn't answer. Dick was intelligent, there was no way he would forget to bring either his cellphone or his communicator. It led Batman to believe Dick may be in danger. Last time Dick left the Manor without permission ended with him coming back with more broken bones to count on his ten fingers, and Batman had vowed that day to never let it happen to Richard again, but he failed.

His foot pressed harder on the accelerator and his gloved fingers wrapped tighter around the steering wheel. Batman had driven to Gotham Cemetery many times, but the journey had never taken so long in his life. Just this once, let Dick be sitting unharmed in front of his parents' gravestones. Just this once, let his boy be safe. Just this once, let him be right on time.

Just this once.

The brakes applied and Batman sprang out of the Batmobile as quickly as possible. His feet barley scraped ground before he gracefully flipped over the black gate. Just as swiftly, he cut through the spaces between gravestones before coming upon a set of two familiar headstones. Those belonging to Mary and John Grayson.

Similar to the way Dick had, Batman rested a gloved hand on the gravestone, almost begging the stones to speak to him and tell him what happened to Richard. However, all Batman got was the bitter silence and chilling winds. His masked eyes traced over the surrounding areas, looking for any signs of a struggle or footprints leading towards a specific direction, but everything looked utterly normal. Gritting his teeth together, Batman turned away from the stones but didn't walk away.

"I'll find Dick," Batman said, glancing over his shoulder to stare at the still gravestones, "And I'll bring him home. That much, I promise." He turned fully and the shadows swallowed him as he walked away.

{20:21 EST}

The first sound that met Dick's ears was the sound of gears and machinery rolling like clockwork over his head. Clicking that seemed to form a monotonous, yet calming melody and rung out through the large room. Dick's gym shoes managed to produce a clean tapping sound as he sluggishly trailed behind Slade. His hands were jammed into his pockets and his shoulders were tense. The boy's azure eyes were fixed on the back of Slade's head, almost daring the man to turn and try to strike him.

He was furious, to say the very least. Dick knew better than this; he shouldn't have followed Slade. He could have ran home and told Bruce everything that happened and come clean about every lie he dared to speak to that man. The decision he chose made him feel sick to his stomach. What if Slade was just fooling him? How could one man possible know all the identities to every superhero in the Justice League? Slade was bluffing, it would be impossible for him to know.

However, Dick knew that no one was fooling him. Slade was completely serious, and Dick couldn't question a man of that much power. Even if Slade was lying, even if he didn't know, he was already in too deep to back out of the deal.

Yet, there was the annoying voice in the back of Dick's head, telling him how good of an opportunity this could be for him. Dick tried to ignore it, but he couldn't help but see the light in Slade's offer. He was correct in saying Bruce would quit training him. Dick knew Bruce better than most people, and once the man took away his cape, there was no getting it back. However, Dick drew the line when Bruce took away his acrobatics. Perhaps he could live without crime-fighting, but the one thing Dick could never give up was his talent. It was the legacy of his parents and The Flying Graysons, and it was something he intended to do for them. That was something Bruce could never take away from him.

Suddenly, Slade stopped walking and Dick froze just as quickly, keeping a safe between Slade and himself. Dick looked around the room they were in curiously; he had gotten lost in his thoughts. He couldn't hear the gears anymore, and they were no longer in a room, but a hallway instead. Slade turned around and Dick froze as the man brought his hand up, but Slade only reached forward to open the door.

He gestured for Dick to step inside first, and Dick cautiously did so, keeping his guard up as he turned his back to Slade. Dick nearly jumped when Slade turned on the lights suddenly, standing merely inches behind him. Stepping away from Slade with exceptional speed, Dick examined the room they were in, almost expecting to find a dungeon of sorts.

However, Dick's assumption was miles off. Instead, it was a room with light grey carpeting and light blue walls. There were no windows, but there was a lamp on the desk against the wall, as well as the light switch Slade turned on. Against another wall was a large dresser and a closet found against a third wall. Across the room was another door, but Dick had now idea where it lead to. Finally, there was a bed directly across from the mysterious door, a few feet away. It was smaller than his bedroom at Wayne Manor, but his room there was too large to begin with. There was always too much emptiness.

"This is your bedroom." Slade explained finally, dragging Dick out of his trance again, "And through that door is your bathroom. Something wrong, Dick?" Slade asked as he examined Dick's perplexed expression.

Dick shook his head, "No, it's just that... never mind." He ended his sentence as quickly as it began, awkwardly biting his lip. To say the least, he hadn't expected this to be his room. When he first came to Wayne Manor, it took days before Dick got to move out of the guest bedroom with only his stuffed animal to take with him, and finally move into his new gigantic bedroom. It had taken months for Dick to consider that room his home; he was never one for big spaces. Growing up in a circus, there wasn't much personal space to go around, but when he moved into the Manor, he was smothered in it.

"Were you expecting the walls to be black?" Slade asked with a smirk as he glanced around the room innocently, "Or perhaps a cot jammed into the corner of the room with no lighting?"

Dick looked away awkwardly, "Kind of." He mumbled, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand. He heard a slight chuckle come from Slade and saw him shake his head slightly in his peripheral vision. Dick turned his head back up to face the man as Slade turned to face him as well. After being here only for minutes, Dick was already growing tired of looking only at Slade's black and orange mask.

"Allow me to explain," Slade began, clasping his hands together behind his back, "As I told you earlier, I have been looking for an apprentice. And no, apprenticeship does not mean slavery. I don't need a sickly child to take care of, nor do I need a robot to mindless do what I tell it to. When I said I wanted to train you to be my apprentice, it meant I want to elevate you to your fullest ability. I can't have that if I shove you in a cage and only fed you once a day, now can I?"

"I won't be here long." Dick challenged, his eyebrows knitting together slightly, "Bruce will find me. And then he'll throw you into jail before you can even dare to say our names to the public."

Slade chuckled lightly, "That's quite the threat," He said with a smirk beneath his mask, "How endearing."

Dick felt anger flourish up inside of him, almost taunting him to attack Slade for belittling both Bruce and himself. The way Slade childed him just made his blood boil, and Dick would not let that stand. Before he could even register what he was doing, Dick pulled his arm back and curled his fingers into a small fist. With a low growl, Dick's fist went hurdling through the air and straight for Slade.

Despite what Dick had hoped, Slade grabbed Dick's wrist with a tight grasp. "Bruce will find me and you'll pay for everything, psycho." Dick growled darkly as his eyes intently glared up at his captor.

Slade tightly grabbed the boy's chin with his other, "Now lets get one thing clear," Slade said in a dangerous and low tone, "And listen well, because I do not intend on repeating myself. expect you to speak to me with respect. You are to address me by my name or sir."

Dick rolled his eyes, "I'm not giving you any respect; I didn't ask to be here."

"Don't you dare roll your eyes at me, boy." He hissed in a frightening tone. Dick felt his blood turn to ice at Slade's words while staring up back into the man's gray eye. Only one other person could manage to cause Dick to freeze because of a few simple words, and Slade managed to become the second, trailing behind Joker.

Dick's sudden change in demeanor did not go unnoticed by Slade, "You indeed willingly follow me when I asked you to." He said calmly, trying to see if his own change in tone could change Dick's behavior once more. As he suspected, Dick snapped out of his small trance as anger flooded through him instead.

"Because you're blackmailing me!" He snapped, "I didn't have any choice!"

A smirk spread from behind the black and orange mask, "From what I understand, the dear old Bat preaches that you always have a second choice."

"Batman can be wrong! He-he was wrong when he said-" Dick stopped talking abruptly, his eyes widening and jaw dropping slightly. He immediately sealed his lips and again tried to pull his wrist away from Slade. He hated how Slade could get into his head like that- make himself sound so approachable and willing to listen. And Dick always fell for his convincing choice of words and tone of voice.

The smirk behind Slade's mask faded, "Said what?" He asked, analyzing Dick's sudden change in behavior. Instead of holding Dick's wrist, Slade loosened his firm grip, allowing Dick to tear his arm away. Dick stepped away and placed a few feet of space between the two of them and rubbed his sore wrist gently. Again, Dick's behavior suddenly changed, as though he was desperate for something more, for something more to be said to him. Slade vaguely wondered what could head Richard to be so unstable.

Dick shook his head side to side, "Stop doing that." He commanded, feeling more and more powerless with each passing second. He knew what Slade was doing because Bruce had both warned him about certain criminals doing it and Bruce had tried successfully and unsuccessfully tried it himself many times. Slade was trying to get him to talk- to simply provoke him into speaking what was running through his mind; however, Dick wouldn't let it work this time. He had already been manipulated by Slade enough up until this point.

"Doing what?" Slade asked, his head tilting slightly to the side as curiosity drove him forward. Just what was running through that mind of his?

"Quit trying to get me to talk about Bruce or whatever else I'm thinking about!" Dick growled, his eyes glaring up at Slade distastefully. The man was mocking him now, he knew exactly what he was doing to Dick.

"Dear boy, I'm not pulling any tricks on you. You're over-analyzing everything I'm saying." The man bluntly explained.

"Because you're a manipulative psycho!"

Again, Slade felt his temper escalate quickly, and he approached Dick forebodingly, staring down at the young boy like he was Slade's prey. Cautiously, Dick stepped a few feet back until his back hit the other wall, leaving him cornered once more. Standing in a helpless position again, Dick couldn't help but notice the blatant height difference between Slade and himself. There was no longer any doubt that Slade was taller than Bruce by at least two inches, leaving Dick at even that much more of a disadvantage.

"Now, I believe I told you to address me as either Slade or sir. You're a smart boy, Richard, I highly doubt that you've forgotten such a thing so quickly."

"How about you quit calling me Richard first." Dick spat back just as quickly, crossing his arms over his chest.

Slade's eyes narrowed, "You are in no position to be making demands, Richard," Slade taunted darkly, successfully enraging Dick even further. "Let's get back on the topic of respect, shall we? You need to learn to watch that tongue of yours before you say something you'll quickly regret. The last thing I need is to deal with a delinquent brat with a short temper."

Dick felt his heart hammer against his rib cage harder and his stomach tied itself into knots. There had been many insults thrown his way all his life, name-calling or bullying, but there were three names that Dick despised to be called: a delinquent, a charity case, and a freak. Being called a delinquent reminded Dick of his horrible days he suffered in the Juvenile Delinquent Center before Bruce saved him from the torment that place caused. Dick couldn't even remember the social worker's reason for putting him there once his parents died. It was something along the lines of "having grown up in an unfit home", but Dick had been too young and upset to realize what he meant. Bruce spent weeks working to get him out of there, and another few to convince Dick that he never deserved to go there.

But his words only helped Dick so much. There was no protection for him at school or on the streets. To many people, Dick was Bruce's charity case. A way to earn the man both more popularity and money. Dick never believed those who spat that at him, but the hate always caught up with him, and it always brought up the same questions he was too ashamed of to ask Bruce. Was he a charity case? Did Bruce really care about him?

Those were poisonous questions that never dared to slip past Dick's lips, and there was one more word that was just as venomous as the first two.


Dick couldn't understand why that word was forced at him so often. Growing up in a circus did not make him a freak. Acrobatics were his natural talent; his gift, and he deserved as much of an opportunity to share his talent with others as musicians or artists did. The men and women Dick spent years traveling with were as normal as anyone Dick could imagine. They didn't look or act differently compared to anyone else, yet his friends and family were stained with the title of being freaks. In his circus, there were no two-headed men, or a blue man, or even three-handed people; however, there were men and women with extraordinary talent, and they weren't afraid to share it with the world.

"Don't call me that." Dick mumbled with anger, clenching his hand into a fist.

"What was that?" Slade slowly asked, his voice dripping in warning. He was daring Dick to speak disrespectfully again, tempting him like a cunning and deceitful snake would its weaker prey.

"I said 'don't call me that'!" Dick barked back loudly, "I'm not a delinquent!" He finished roughly, glaring up at Slade.

Slade put both his hands on Dick's upper arms, holding the young teenager still, "What did I just say about your temper?" He held Dick tighter as if to cope with his ever-rising temper, in place of smacking the child. Slade grit his teeth together; Why couldn't the brat just listen to him?

"I don't care!" He yelled, stomping his foot to the ground similarly to the way a child would, "I didn't ask to be here! You're the one blackmailing me because you're a twisted sociopath!"

A sharp smack sounded throughout the room as back of Slade's hand struck Dick across the face. The boy staggered to the side and his hand flew up to his left cheek quickly. He looked back up at Slade with wide cerulean eyes with a slight wetness smudging them from the power of the blow. Dick stood rigid, gaping up towards Slade. He had never been struck like that before.

The man standing over him appeared almost just as shocked; however, Slade regained his composure far faster than Richard did. He gradually moved his arm back to his side, his eye locked on the bright red mark rapidly forming on Dick's cheek under the boy's small, shaking hand. The back of his left hand stung as well as he curled it into a fist. Slade never once hit a child across the face, and the look of hurt on Dick's face supplied him with an explanation why. The way Dick looked up at him now didn't resemble one of fear as though Slade would beat him; however, Dick looked up at him with wide, frightened eyes because the child never suffered a blow similar to that. And as far as Slade could tell, Dick could break as easily as butterfly wings.

Eventually, Slade cleared his throat before speaking, "It's late," He said softly, "We will continue talking in the morning. You are free to shower and there is a change of clothes for you in the dresser. Try and get some rest."

Dick weakly nodded, not daring to move an inch from his spot until Slade finally turned and walked out the door, closing it behind himself. As soon as Dick heard the door close, he released the breath he was holding and collapsed back against the wall. He dropped his head to look at the ground, finally dropping his hand away from his cheek. It wasn't until Slade left the room when Dick finally noticed how badly he was shaking and felt his heart pound against his chest.

He forced himself to breathe slower; now was not the time for him to panic. All Slade had done was hit him, that sort of thing happened all the time, Dick told himself as he staggered towards his bed. He stopped at his desk, grasping the edge tightly with his two hands until his hands cramped from the sudden strength. Dick gasped for breath, lowing his head and letting his bangs fall off of his forehead because he knew that this sort of thing never happened.

"T-ten," Dick stuttered, talking aloud to himself. He inhaled a quivering breath and his throat felt like it was closing tighter as if there was a hand closing around his neck while something invisible constricted his lungs up against his rib cage. Mentally, Dick continued to plead with himself not to panic because Slade could walk in and see him at any second.

However, the chant in his head only seemed to make him feel worse.

"Nine, e-eight," He continued softly, breathing in once more on the even number, "S-s-seven-" Dick's hand slipped along side of his desk, sending him toppling over with a loud gasp. He put his hand out to try to catch himself on the desk once more, but his hand got caught in the cord to his lamp, dragging the piece of technology with him. Dick landed on the ground before the lamp followed, however, he cringed when the light bulb broke loudly right after him.

The light seemed to shatter like any concentration he managed to build up and Dick scrambled away from the broken bulb quickly. He already began to dread hearing the door open over his shoulder once more; however, the sick feeling that suddenly intoxicated his stomach forced Dick to double over to try to stop it. His arms curled around his stomach and he buried his face towards into his knees. Again, he desperately gasped for a full rush of air, but all he could breathe through was a small straw and with each failed gasp, his chest tightened, his heart hammered against his chest harder, and Dick felt further and further away from calming down.


Dick heard Slade's voice, but he couldn't manage to comprehend what Slade said to him. The door slammed behind him and Slade rushed quickly to Dick's side. The man's footsteps loudly echoed in Dick's ears because they matched the tempo at which his heart was pulsing inside of his skull. His own hands felt clammy against his sides, but his heart raced like he had just completed a marathon.

He felt like he was dying.

A hand dropped down against Dick's back and began to gently rub his back. Dick felt himself relax slightly to the touch. It could never be what Dick's father did for him, but he could admit that he would take it as a close second. It wasn't the same way his father had done for him, nor was it the same as the awkwardness and heaviness of Bruce; however, it was the touch of a father. Someone who knew how to act around children; someone who knew how to act like a parent.

And Dick knew that hand belonged to Slade.

Suddenly, Dick felt himself being guided to sit upright, despite the nauseous feeling dwelling within his stomach. Cool fingers pressed against Dick's face, and he immediately flinched away, fearing that another blow was coming to his face. Dick fell backwards on his elbows, providing himself with an angle to back away from Slade.

"D-don't t-touch me." He stuttered, staring directly at Slade crouched before him. When he finally noticed the comforting hand was no longer on his back, Dick felt anxiety flood throughout his veins, and he struggled to breathe once more. Slade watched the boy with panic, seeing his small chest rapidly rise and fall with each short and gasping breath he struggled to inhale. He didn't know what to do for Dick if he wouldn't allow Slade to get near enough. Was he the cause of Richard's sudden panic attack? Is that why Dick wouldn't let him touch him? Guilt rushed over Slade as he watched Dick writhe only inches before him.

Dick turned onto his stomach, resting on his knees and palms, "Ten," He whispered, taking in a shallow breath of air, "N-nine, e-eigh-" He stopped with a painful gasp for air, tears suddenly pricking the corners of his eyes. He couldn't calm down; it was making the attack worse than they had been in months. The fear, anxiety, and lack of oxygen simply overwhelmed Dick, frightening him even more than he had begun with.

"I-I-I c-can't, I-"

Again, Slade's hand rested on Dick's back, gently rubbing a soothing pattern on his back, "Breathe, Dick." He said to Dick softly, "Just one breath."

The boy found himself succumbing to Slade's touch; he couldn't pull through this alone. He forced himself to take in a larger gulp of air, finally allowing a decent amount of oxygen to reach his starved lungs. Slade slowly brought his hand up towards Dick's face and rested his cool hand against Dick's forehead. Instead of cringing away like Slade had expected, Dick remained still and unalarmed, yet still quivering like a leaf in a light breeze.

"Another breath." He instructed, talking as though Dick was still a young child. Although Dick would have normally supplied Slade with a bitter remark, he instead gave a small twitch of a nod before his eyelids swept over his azure eyes as he inhaled another breath. The breath provided even greater results than last time and Dick finally relaxed his tense shoulders, leaning his side against Slade while he continued to rub Dick's back. While Dick kept his eyes shut, it almost felt for a moment that he was sitting back in John Grayson's arms after one of the first few attacks. The gentle hold felt far more like his father's old touch compared to Bruce's awkwardness.

The experience was short-lived, however, when Dick opened his eyes again and sat in his new bedroom and it wasn't John's arms protectively around him, but Slade's instead. The two of them remained that way until Slade clasped his hands gently over Dick's upper arms and locked eyes with the boy when he fully calmed down minutes later.

"You have panic attacks?" Slade asked curiously when he knew Dick was calm enough to think clearly.

Dick awkwardly looked down at his knees, "Yeah... sometimes. I-I'm usually able to calm myself down, but sometimes-" He shrugged his shoulders, "Sometimes I can't..."

Slade mulled over Dick's words a moment as another question came to his mind, "How often do they occur?"

"Not often. Just... after something traumatic." He explained, bringing his head back up to look at Slade. Dick silently hoped that Slade wouldn't jump to the conclusion that by slapping him, Dick had a panic attack. He couldn't know for sure what it was, but the hit definitely sent him over the edge. If Dick had to guess the cause, it would be built up stress from over the past few days and nights. The stress of hunting Slade while dealing with Bruce and his teammates was beginning to get to him. But Dick supposed he wouldn't have to worry about such things for awhile. The attacks weren't supposed to happen so often, especially after having two in a little over a week.

"Are you alright?"

His cerulean eyes darted to meet Slade's with shock etched into them. When he saw the serious look in the man's eye, Dick regained his composure, "I should be fine." He told Slade.

Slade shook his head, "I didn't ask if you're going to be alright, I asked if you are alright."

A small piece of Dick wanted to cave in and explain everything that occurred the past few days to someone who wanted to listen to him for once; however, Dick held his tongue and nodded his head, "I'm alright." He replied weakly.

After a few more moments, Slade stood back up on his feet before lowing a hand for Dick to take. The boy hesitantly did so, and Slade effortlessly pulled Dick up off the carpeted floor. Dick watched as Slade walked over to the broken lamp and began to pick up the pieces that shattered onto the carpet. Instead of staring, Dick made the effort to go and assist Slade, but the man put his hand up just as quickly, stopping Dick in his tracks.

"I don't want you stepping on the glass. Go shower while I clean this mess up."

Dick swallowed and nodded, turning away and walking up towards his dresser. He opened the top drawer and pulled out some fresh clothes to change into before walking over to the unused door of the room and opening it slowly. The walls and floor were tiled with light turquoise and white, and the furnishing in the room was bleach white as well. Dick shut the door behind himself, revealing a full length mirror behind the door. He undressed himself and peeled off his bandages, placing his clothes on the closed toilet seat and bandages in the wastebasket. Turning on the water in the shower stall in the far end of the bathroom, Dick stepped in, hoping to relax his still shaken nerves.

His shower was short, and he hopped out almost as quickly as he had taken to hop in. He dried himself quickly before dressing himself once more; however, Dick kept his shirt off, gazing into the full length mirror. His eyes immediately trailed his shoulder wound and he searched to see if his stitches had ripped at all. Dick sighed in relief when they all appeared to be in tact, allowing him to tug his shirt over his head.

Reaching up to the mirror above his sink, Dick opened the cabinet to examine its continents. It had everything Dick would need for personal hygiene, but Dick wasn't sure if he should be thankful to know Slade prepared for him to come, or to find it creepy that the man had practically everything he needed. Dick rolled his eyes for caring in the first place before he pulled out a comb and poorly ran it through his wet hair a few quick times. He placed it back in its original spot and removed the toothbrush provided and toothpaste.

Quickly, Dick opened up the package the brush came in, and tossed out the cardboard and plastic in a waste bin beneath the snow-white sink. He copied the same movement for the toothpaste and brushed his teeth slowly. Dick didn't want to go back out there knowing Slade was on the other side. His heart was still racing although he separated himself from both Slade and Bruce, the two people who seemed to cause his anxiety to escalate.

After Dick spit the toothpaste out and rinsed his mouth, he used his towel to clear some of the steam on the mirror and gazed closely at himself, even bending forward to get almost nose to nose with the reflection. His crystal eyes stared back at him as he looked back and forth between the two quickly. What could have caused his panic attack in Slade's presence? Dick had been fine until they began to argue before it finally ended when Slade backhanded him across the face.

Gently, Dick ran his fingers over the side of his face, examining it closely. There was a faint line tracing the remains of the cut he had obtained at the Power Plant. It wouldn't scar, but it hadn't healed quite yet. Continuing down to the bottom half of his cheek, Dick saw the light discoloration of a bruise spreading from his chin up towards his eye. He pressed his finger against it and quickly flinched away with a quiet gasp. It hurt much worse than it looked, but Dick knew the bruise wouldn't get much darker that what it was. Slade hadn't hit him nearly as hard as he was capable of.

Speaking of Slade, Dick realized he needed to go back out there and face the man again. Dick wasn't sure if he could since Slade now knew about his anxiety problems. Another thing the man could somehow hold against him. With a groan, Dick released the rim of the sink he held in his hand and stepped away from the mirror to grab his clothes. He turned to face the door, placing his hand on the handle. Better to face Slade now instead of later.

He opened the door and stepped back into his room, stepping on cool hard-wood flooring before the carpeting. Dick dropped his clothes into a laundry basket beside the door when he finally noticed Slade at his desk. The man finished screwing in the new light bulb, the circuit connecting as Dick closed the bathroom door himself.

Before Dick could say anything, Slade stood up, "It's nearly midnight." He said, turning his head to the side to face Dick and observe the forming bruise on his face, "I will come in the morning to wake you up."

Dick nodded twice as Slade made his way towards the exit. He faintly began to wonder who the man behind the dark mask was. After all, if he had to be maskless, Slade should be too. Was it someone Dick knew underneath the armor and darkness? Or was this a man with no name simply turning up out of nowhere without a trace to follow? Dick could only begin to wonder what secrets could lie behind the mask, such as how Slade lost his eye, or perhaps family ties that he may possess. The more questions that ran through his mind made him more determined to find out who the man behind the mask was before his stay here completed itself. He would finally get the answers that he deserved.

"Goodnight, Richard." Slade bid him as he opened the door to step through the hall, leaving Dick to lock his thoughts away for now.

Dick didn't say anything in reply as the door shut behind the man's quickly turned off the lights before sinking into his shocking comfortable bed. His body began to rest, but his mind kept sprinting in circles. He was really here; he was now Slade's apprentice. Was it really that simple though? That by a few magic words he was no longer Batman's partner, but Slade's instead? All of the night's events replayed in his head quickly; this was really happening. Tomorrow, he would wake up at there would be no one for him to see other than Slade. There would be no Alfred, or Bruce, or the Team.

And Dick simply felt alone.

October 24, 2012

{02:16 EST}

"Master Bruce, you have been searching for hours. Please return home to rest and eat." Alfred pleaded again into the microphone attached to the Batcomputer as he monitored where the Batmobile raced around Gotham City. The Englishman shook his head while Batman made a sharp right turn down the same street he barreled down less than five minutes ago.


Alfred frowned at Batman's stubbornness. Of course he was worried sick over Dick's safety; however, that fact did not give Batman the right to forfeit his own health. If Dick was to return home unharmed, Batman needed to be in peek condition in to do so. Otherwise anything could happen to Richard before Batman reached him.

A sigh escaped the old man's lips, "Sir, you have a meeting in the morning."

"Cancel it."

"I cannot," Alfred said, using the Batcomputer to pull up Bruce's morning schedule, "it is the same men from the last two meetings you rescheduled."

Batman growled, his fingers tightening around the steering wheel, "I don't care." He hissed, "Cancel it anyways." He swerved passed a driver violently

Back on the monitor, Alfred opened the tab with Batman's location frantically zooming across Gotham City. Again, the Englishman felt a twinge of anger at Batman's stubbornness,"I'm afraid that if I do so, that Mister Todd and Mister Johnson will back out of the deal."

"What part of 'I don't care' did you not understand?"

Alfred sighed, "Alright, I will make the phone call in the morning to cancel it then," He said solemnly, "But please return home for the night, Master Bruce."

"Not while Dick is still out there."

Batman felt his heart tighten as he spoke Dick's name. It was his fault that Dick ran away from home, his fault that Dick got kidnapped, and it would be his fault if Dick got hurt, or even worse. He swore to Dick's parents when he got Dick out of the Juvenile Delinquent Center, that he would protect Dick from harm just like they would have wanted. They would have wanted their little boy to be safe, happy, and loved although Mary and John weren't there anymore.

And Bruce repaid them by allowing Dick to run around the streets of Gotham in a cape and tights.

Although it made Dick happy, it also completely disregarded the promise that Bruce made a few years ago. His fingers coiled around the steering wheel tighter until his fingers began to cramp. He would keep Dick away from being Robin to keep him safe and out of harm's way on a nightly basis. Bruce would protect him during the day, and Batman would cover the rest at night.

"Sir, it has been hours. You cannot help Master Dick if you cannot help yourself first."

"I can't waste time, Alfred. He wasn't kidnapped as Robin, some criminal could be holding him for ransom. I'll rest when Dick gets home." Batman retorted gruffly, his voice only lightening at the mention of Dick's name. He had no idea where Dick was; he could be held captive by Joker or some other madman or a pathetic junkie looking for easy money off of ransom for Dick's safe return. Ultimately, it didn't matter who kidnapped Richard, because Batman vowed to find whoever it was and bring them to justice, and he would make them regret ever daring to utter Dick's name.

He would make sure of it.

"Would you like me to send out an alert to the Justice League?" Alfred asked slowly, fearing that Batman would snap at him for suggesting the idea.

"No." Batman curtly replied in a low growl.

Alfred sighed, folding his arms over his chest at the adult's stubbornness,"Sir," He began, "I believe that-"

"I don't need the League's help!" Batman snapped, his foot pushing down on the accelerator harder unconsciously, "Dick is my responsibility, I'll find him on my own, just like every other time. Keep the League out of it."

"Richard's teammates deserve to know." Alfred said matter-of-factly, using the Batcomputer to tap into the security cameras around Gotham city. His aged and tired eyes observed six screens at once, drifting back and forth between all six to hopefully locate a certain raven-haired teenage boy. The footage continued to roll the same empty streets to reveal no signs about Dick's location.

Batman rolled his eyes immaturely, "He has no teammates, Alfred. There is no team. I disbanded the team today like I said I would."


A frustrated growl emitted from Batman's throat, "You heard me, Alfred! We've already had this discussion."

Alfred waved his hand in disapproval although Batman could not see him, "No, no, not that sir. The security cameras. I have been observing them and there is a few frames of a young lad with black hair walking along the sidewalk."

"What street?" Batman asked, slamming his foot down against the break pedal. He swerved to the side as he came to a full, sudden stop before lurching forward in his seat with his fingers loosening around the wheel. The man reached his hand forward to turn up the volume on the stereo of the vehicle. Leaning forward in anticipation, Batman covered the accelerator with his foot and pulled up a map of Gotham's streets on the small display screen on the Batmobile.

"Just a moment. There is a black vehicle following behind him, I don't think the boy has noticed yet. My word, I cannot tell if that is Richard or not, there must be a different camera I can-"

Batman slammed his fist against the dashboard with a loud curse, "What street, Alfred!?"

"Bell Avenue, but, Master Bruce-" Alfred's voice was drown out by the roar of the engine and loud screeching of the tires as Batman's foot dropped onto the accelerator like a weight. His gloved fingers clenched the wheel tightly as he made a sharp turn to the right, narrowly swerving past parked cars along the side of the road. Batman bent forward in anticipation, his breath still and eyes darting between the blackened street and road signs. The odometer doubled the speed limit as Batman pressed harder on the gas pedal.

He suddenly laid on the break pedal and skidded ahead, his body lurching forward in the vehicle. Batman grit his teeth together while forcing the wheel to turn under the pressure of inertia. The vehicle screeched in protest; however, the wheels obeyed and turned down the street. The wheels continued to swerve, but the Batmobile soon came to a halt, allowing Batman to jump out of the car just as quickly.

"Richard!" He shouted, his voice tired and frustrated. Batman sprinted the length of the sidewalk, looking down every alleyway and crack between the buildings. As he looked, Batman ignored the constant vibration of his communicator. He knew it was Alfred, Dick had left his communicator at home. The last thing Batman wanted was Alfred nagging in his ear.

Nearly an hour slipped away from him as he searched restlessly for Dick. Batman growled in frustration, banging his fist against a nearby foundation. No evidence. There was no evidence to be found. Dick could have- he would have left some clue for him to find, anything to tip Batman off to his location. Dick knew what Bruce would find, he knew the conclusions the man would make; however, there was nothing to be found. Everything looked completely ordinary, no signs of a struggle. There were no signs that Dick was ever here.

Batman's eyes fell on the street suddenly. Alfred said there was a vehicle following the boy on the camera- following Dick- there had to be scuff marks on the road. The pavement looked relatively normal; however, Batman's trained eye caught the marks leading towards an alleyway on the side of the road.

Quickly, he followed the marks, turning down the alleyway. The fence caught his eye first, towering at an abnormally large height. Batman walked forward and gently placed his hand on it. If Dick was being followed, if he had stood here, would he have made it past this fence? Is this where he was abducted?

He looked closely at the wood, searching for any scuffing or shoe markings against the tan wall. By the looks of it, there was no indication that Dick had the opportunity to scale the massive fence, let alone actually manage to cross it. There were no nearby dumpsters to give the young acrobat leverage, Batman doubted that Dick would have been able to over that fence in under thirty seconds without the extra help.

Suddenly, something caught Batman's eye in the bottom corner of the wooden structure. His cape shroud him as he dropped down to one knee to examine it more closely. It was a hole, very small in diameter, but it was there for sure. For a better look, Batman lay down flat on his stomach, looking through the hole to see the pavement on the other side. In the ground, there was a small marking, similar to the shape of the hole in the fence. Batman got back up to his feet suddenly, his heart dropping in his stomach. There was no doubt in his mind that the hole and scuff mark were both fresh, and he knew exactly what they were from

A bullet.

A/N: Hello, my lovely readers~ Yes, I know its been like... forever since I've updated. I'll have you know, I've been just 500 words shy of completing this chapter for about four weeks, but I lacked the ability to finish it. There's been so much drama so I've been doing my best keeping up there before my fic :3

However, my fic will not go unfinished, I promise! I simply love this piece too much to ever even think about not finishing it. I'll try keeping a better schedule though, and I'll try and get a update before the new year ^_^ Thank you all so much for the patients and love and support. It seriously means so much to me, you guys are really my motivation for writing!

Feel free to leave a review or suggestion! I love you all so much, you're seriously the best! And I promise I'll do my best to update more! Hahaha, thank you all so much for being so patient with me.