AN: i actually got a pm the other day asking me to continue and i was kinda like 'oh yeah...this fic exists...oops'. anyway my beta has sorta disappeared so im just gonna go ahead and publish as is. no italics or anything because of issues and stuff and it's not edited so yeah. whatever. enjoy.

disclaimer: me no own.


Day 15

Standing with his head bowed, the nunchakus dangling from one hand, Dick surveyed the form in front of him.

He was young, probably mid-twenties, and had been previously ousted from the Talons. For what reason, Dick wasn't sure, but he had a sneaking suspicion that it had something to do with failing a mission because of some unforeseen reason. If it had been anything different, such as desertion or betrayal, the Talons would've wanted to handle it personally, inflicting the most pain possible instead of just ordering Dick to knock him out.

(He had obeyed, which was all he had been doing the last few days. It left him with a horrible tingling in his gut and the feeling that his tongue was too big for his mouth each time.)

The man had gone down quickly; he was well-trained, but not to the point where the fight lasted over ten minutes. Now, Dick asked emotionlessly to seemingly empty air, on the inside desperately wanting to get away from the body that was almost too still to be alive, "What's next?"

The answer came through the intercom positioned in the corner of the room, spoken swiftly, as if it were the simplest thing in the world, which Dick supposed to Felix, it was. "Kill him."

Dick's stomach fell to his feet, a knot forming in his throat, as he stiffened in retaliation to his order. He knew that the moment would come eventually, but he didn't think it would be so soon, barely two weeks into his 'training'. The area on his left wrist was just beginning to scab over, a darker pink forming at the edges, and his nose was still sore from a week ago, but he could take it, as long as he didn't have to take a life.

The man lying prone in front of him had a soul, albeit it was a far from innocent one, and right now, it was in Dick's hands. One misstep, one slip, and his fingers could clench, extinguishing it with a precise snap of the neck. Another life gone, like that business owner who had made an honest living every single day, like that young woman who's daughter had just turned three, like that toddler who had had so much to live for but never got the chance. So many people dead, all because Dick was told to make it happen.

That alone triggered a deep self-loathing the likes of which never had never held that much emotion at their core. (Somewhere in the depths of his thoughts, Dick realized that he had almost the same thing, just to himself, but he ignored it.)

Those faces, names, addresses, families, plastered along the front of Dick's minds like harsh billboards, along with the fact that he was going to keep his kindness and hold onto his love, prompted him not to feel well-deserved dread and horror, just grim determination, the same kind he felt when he had left the Cave all those nights ago. He was not going to allow any more blood to be smeared on his hands. So, as Felix was waiting with that smug, expectant look on his face in the viewing room, because Dick knew he was, the teen's grip on his weapon tightened and he said with utmost certainty, "No."

"What did you say?" Dick could hear Felix's patience, stretched as tightly as a drumhead, portrayed in those words that were spoken quietly, strained, holding a certain power in them that normally, once upon a time, would leave Dick shaking in his boots.

But, for once, it didn't.

Swiftly, chin held high and a steely look in his eyes that made them all the more captivating, Dick dropped the nunchakus, turned on his heel, and walked forward, away from his unconscious opponent, away from the promise of further destruction of his soul, and looked straight into the camera that he was positive Felix was watching him through, before saying the exact same tone used on him only moments before, only with a renewed fierceness, "No."

The intercom crackled as it was turned off.


Day 16

"So, you're - going off to save your friend then."

"Uh, y-yeah." Swiveling his gaze to the floor of the Cave, which suddenly seemed very interesting, Conner did his best to not look up and immediately feel as if he had kicked a puppy just because of the way Superman held himself around him.

An awkward silence descended, broken only by the sound of Batman's voice, which rang out loud and clear to the Kryptonians. The two unconsciously mirrored each other's position of hands hidden behind back, lips pressed into a thin line, and nose pointing directly at the floor, neither daring to look up at the other.

After several strained seconds, Conner felt the gentle nudge of M'gann's mind against his own and his posture loosened. Her voice filtered into his head like a much needed rain, soothing any immediate worries that bubbled in the clone's chest. "Say something, Conner," M'gann prodded, and Conner looked out of the corner of his eye to see her glancing at him from across the room.

"Why," he said, bordering on aggressive. M'gann looked a little startled at the harsh tone, but he continued, his thoughts now sounding more dejected than anything else. "It's not like it'll do any good."

"Of course it will!" Conner's eyes jerked wide and his mouth opened marginally. He rarely saw M'gann's fiery side, and when he did, it always came as a shock. "Conner Kent, if Superman honestly doesn't see how special you are, then it's amazing he's made it this far in life." Her voice altered to a soft lull that made happiness bloom in Conner's bones and race through his blood. "Just try it."

A small grin smeared itself across his face, and Conner nodded, mentally sighing, "Okay."

A fleeting 'love you' echoed in his mind, and he steeled himself, taking a deep breath and clenching his hands, before looking up. Conner opened his mouth, the beginning of a word just starting to form…at the exact time that Superman did the same thin. An audible click was heard as Conner's mouth snapped shut, which only lasted until he tried to issue a halting and bumbling apology. "I'm sor - I'm sorry. I just - I didn't mean to interr-."

"No," Superman interrupted, a complacent hand stretched out in front of him. "It - it's fine, really. Please, say whatever you wanted to say. I insist."

Conner, shocked partially by the fact that Superman was being nice to him and partially by the way an almost county accent had produced itself from the man's mouth, unsurely stated, "I…was just wondering what you wanted, I guess."

"I, oh - um, I just…I heard you took on a civilian name. From Batman." Unnecessarily jerking his hand in the aforementioned man's direction, Superman looked as if he was playing a game called 'Look Anywhere But Superboy.' Conner wouldn't be surprised if that was true.

Still, the teen nodded slowly, hands descending down to fiddle with the pockets of his cargo pants. "Uh, yeah. C-Conner Kent."

For the first time since the two had stood parallel from each other, surrounded by rubble and dust and uncertain heroes, Superman looked straight ahead and into Conner's eyes, not searching for Superboy, the weapon designed to destroy him, but Conner, the teen who just needed guidance and acceptance. "Good. I - I mean, my name is Clark Kent, and…I think it fits. Conner and Clark. It sounds good together. Like brothers." A hand descended onto Conner's shoulder and he smiled at it before doing the same to its owner.

Right then and there, while waiting to break into the base of deadly assassins, Conner decided that he liked Clark's eyes. They were the color of the sky on a cloudless day and seemed to have the same endless depth. M'gann had told him that his eyes were the same way, but he had never believed her.

Maybe he would search out a mirror and check when he had time.


Day 16

It was the first time Dick tried to escape in the physical sense, and boy, he tried. The rocks that made up cell were covered in bloody fingerprints where he scratched his hands raw trying to claw a way out of his prison, and the door hosted several more scratches, but to no appeal. No matter how much time and fingernails he wasted on doing that, it didn't worked.

He didn't cry, though, only letting out the occasional feral scream when an image of Bruce managed to wriggle its way into his mind, and finally, when the fact that he wasn't going to get out in that way made itself clear to Dick, his shoulders slumped and his hair seemed to droop even more into his eyes.

Moments later, Dick found himself huddled at the foot of his cot, praying to a god that he had never bothered to believe in that Bruce would come and save him. Sleeping didn't seem important, so Dick sat and prayed and hummed Romani tunes that his mother had showed him when he was a kid. The music seemed to drive off the descending shadows, so he didn't stop even when his throat started to go sore. He did stop, however, when the guards came to fetch him.

They arrived in a group of two, ushering him from his room in what seemed like the most despotic manner possible. Handcuffs were secured around his wrists, digging in harshly, but just barely ghosting over the scab from the 'incident' a few days ago, making Dick wonder if the Talons had been trying to give him a psychological message or he was just over thinking it.

The assassins didn't talk, prompting Dick to follow their example, but they did prod him roughly on the back until he reached his destination - which turned out to be just another training room.

However, it was made clear that it wasn't just any training room when Dick saw the exquisite weaponry that clung to the wall, beckoning for any man or woman to use them. His eyes surveyed them appreciatively, the shaking in his hands the only thing that gave away the fact that he knew one of them would be used to kill him.

Without warning, the door slammed open, Felix sweeping in through the open doorway with a silk robe draped from his neck to the floor, and Dick stood there, fighting the scenarios in his head that ended with the red of his own blood harmonizing with the crimson cloth.

The two Talons nodded at the man, who came to rest in a relaxed stance only a few feet away from Dick, and exited the room in single file. The door slammed shut immediately, a soft click wriggling it's way through the wood and out into open air. Dick's hands, which were still trapped in front of him by the cuffs, tightened into fists, and he swallowed down the bile that had worked it's way towards his mouth, ignoring the acrid taste that burned at the back of his throat.

"So," Felix stated, the ends of his mouth curling up into a demented smile. "Here we are." He pushed off the ground with his left foot, and began pacing in a circle around Dick, giving the teen the distinct feeling that he was on display. Watching as Felix opens his mouth again, Dick almost wants to snort when the beginning of an evil monologue reaches his ears because no matter the villain, whether it be a deadly assassin or an insane clown, they always felt the need to provide Dick with information he had no need, or want, for.

It would have been funny if it weren't so irritating.

"I'll admit I had high hopes, boy." Dick bit his tongue to keep from gritting out that 'his name is Dick', because if he's going to die, he wanted to die by his name. A small part of him was glad that it wasn't just a random thug or even one of Bruce's rogues that killed him off, because then he would've died as a vigilante, by a name that wasn't his; but resentment still bubbled in his chest at the fact that even though he wouldn't die as 'Whisper', he'd probably die as 'boy' instead.

"You were promising when you were a child, and that only increased with the more time you spent with us. That is, until that night." Watching as Felix came to a halt directly in front of him, the teen's eyes caught sight of a piece of metal, a key that had been hidden amongst the folds of Felix's robe. Long, pale fingers hoop themselves around Dick's wrist, and with more force then necessary, his arms are jerked upward, the key sliding into its slot on the handcuffs without hindrance.

A second later, they landed on the ground and Felix returned the key to his robe, where it disappeared into what Dick supposed was an magically invisible pocket. A black remote was then pulled out, displaying two blue buttons that whispered promises of searing electricity, and glorious freedom.

Personally, Dick was hoping the latter would apply to him.

Slowly, Felix reached his thumb along the surface of the remote, his impassive eyes never leaving Dick's face. The top button was pushed down with finality and Dick heard a sharp hiss, before the constant weight from the last few weeks lightened considerably then disappeared altogether.

Raising his hand to rest on the back of his neck, Dick watched in guarded awe as a muted thump came from the ground at his feet, and tried not to focus too much on how the feeling of air on his skin felt almost foreign.

Felix calmly slipped the remote back into the magically invisible pocket that Dick was still convinced existed, and took a step forward. In retaliation, Dick took two steps back and raised his clenched fists to his waistline, prepared to move into a defensive position in need be.

That turned out to be unnecessary as Felix merely bent down and plucked the collar off the ground, examining it for scratches once he straightened. Personally, Dick thought that was pretty stupid, because the thing had been around his neck for the entire time, but he had a feeling that angering Felix further would be bad...or worse, at least.

The collar apparently passed Felix's assessment because the man walked over and hung it on an empty hook on the weapon-infested wall. Glancing fleetingly at the door, Dick quickly decided against making a run for it. He wouldn't get far.

A light clinking drew Dick's attention back to Felix almost immediately, and a wooden staff engraved with owls landed in Dick's hands without warning. Dick looked down at his hands in surprise before returning to his previous game of 'Keep Felix in Sight at All Times.' The man held a twin of Dick's staff, except for the two pointed blades protruding from each end.

Shifting his hands in order to hold the staff properly, Dick's fingertips brushed over a blemish in the wood. He lightly pushed against it, only to stiffen when two blades popped out of his staff, identically to Felix's.

Felix nodded, as if satisfied, and widened his stance. Watching in anticipation, fear, and maybe a bit of very misplaced excitement, Dick waited as Felix seemed to meditate, calmly inhaling and exhaling without a care in the world.

Then, with one last deep breath, Felix charged.


Day 16

Kaldur dropped down into an empty hallway silently, landing directly behind the sleek, black cape that was attached to the shoulders of his partner. Being paired with Batman wasn't...bad, per se, but the fact that the man didn't provide any insight as to what he was up to was slightly annoying. And then there was the fact that in the back of his head, Kaldur could hear Wally's and Artemis's constant flirting.

He almost liked it when they were enemies better.

In front of him, a slight rustling sound was heard, and Batman's shoulders clenched, his cape swishing along with the movement. The man's senses proved to be as sharp as ever, for three black-adorned assassins rounded the corner. They froze for a moment, obviously shocked that there were heroes in their 'top secret base,' before they each went for their respective weapons.

Spreading his feet further apart, Kaldur reached for his water-bearers, only to watch as Batman sprang into action, kicking and punching the Talons. In a matter of seconds, a serenade of thumps was heard. A hand signal from Batman set Kaldur into motion, hauling the closest assassin down the hallway and to the door of the very place Kaldur and Batman were headed; the computer room.

Batman dragged the second and third Talons directly behind Kaldur, and without hesitation, snagged a key card from the waist of one of the captives. Watching as Batman swiped it through the provided slot, Kaldur started forward eagerly as soon as the door slid open.

The room had a tile floor that contrasted with the plush carpet just outside the door, and an entire wall was covered in computer screens, only half of them used for security. The rest were black, turned off until they were needed. Attached to the bottom of the screens was a console, blinking lights flashing along every square inch.

Batman dropped the two assassins to the ground heedlessly, instantly heading toward the large - thankfully empty - leather chair that was positioned in front of the computer wall. Pulling out a USB cable that was identical to Whisper's, Batman set to work on hacking the systems, while Kaldur shut the door and locked it, standing guard with water-bearers in hand.

Minutes passed with the only sound being the clicking of keys, and Kaldur was so accustomed to the quiet he almost jumped out of his skin when the alarm went off. A siren remarkably similar to a police officer's sounded, and red lights flashed every other second, giving the pair's skins crimson hues when they flashed.

Kaldur swore he saw Batman tensely mouth, "Three...two...one."

Immediately after Batman's countdown, Wally's voice came over the mind link, unusually timid. "Hey, Bats? When you said that our objective was to just get in, grab Whisper and Dick, then get out undetected, was that a direct order or more of a recommendation? 'Cause I'm pretty sure it sounded like a recommendation when you said it."

Kaldur could hear Artemis murmuring quietly in a language that was most likely Vietnamese, but he didn't question it. It was much better than when she started spitting out foreign cuss words that Conner should not be hearing, because instead of using derogatory words, she was probably just questioning how was it that Fate had brought her together with someone who could be such a huge moron at times.

Though the irony was not lost on Kaldur. Wally accidentally revealing their position on the night they met Whisper had proved to be useful since the Team had not only gained a member, but a brother. And truth be told, that was what Whisper had become in the few months Kaldur had known him. An incredibly small, occasionally immature, yet extremely capable little brother. A little brother who was risking his life at that very moment to protect the League and the Team.

The very thought brought back unwanted memories of snow and ice and screaming, yellow flashes lighting up the piercing whiteness of skeletons. Kaldur had left a behind a burden much too heavy for Whisper to carry, but he still hadn't hesitated to do it, throwing himself in harm's way.

That wasn't going to happen again. They would rescue their brother, that was for sure.

It took a few seconds for Kaldur to realize that M'gann was calling his name through the link, but when he did, the worried tone of her thoughts was not reassuring in the slightest.

"Aqualad, Batman isn't responding to the link. Is he still there?"

"Yes, he is-" Kaldur turned, only to find an empty chair still swiveling the slightest bit. "Batman?"


Day 16

Dick flipped around the cell with purpose, fighting as he had never fought before. A normal person would have laid down their weapons first chance they got and hoped that their death would be painless. Dick, however, was not a normal person by any means.

Sitting and waiting for his death was something Dick would not allow himself to do under any circumstances. It didn't matter that Bruce wasn't there yet or that he was hopelessly outmatched or that he didn't even have any gadgets to help him. Dick was not giving up.

Optimism wasn't something that should've been possible for someone who had lost so much and was about to lose what he had managed to gain, but that was the only thing fit to describe what Dick was feeling. He had complete faith that Bruce would find him, and until then, Dick was going to keep fighting.

Today was special, and not just because of the fact that Felix had lost his temper and gone even more insane. Dick because of some inexplicable feeling in his gut, knew that things were changing and with it, his life. Whether it was the existence of his life that was changing, or merely how he was living it, Dick didn't know.

But the one thing he did know kept him moving and kept him alive.

Today was the day, and Dick was going to make sure Felix knew it, no matter how much it decreased his chances of survival.

"I hate you," Dick spoke for the first time since the fight had begun, staff circling around to slice at Felix. The blow was deflected and Dick jumped back just in time to avoid a jab for his lower abdomen.

"You should be thanking me." Dick watched carefully as Felix pivoted to avoid another attack, only to leap away when a foot was aimed for his knee and land in a defensive stance once again. "I made you into what you are today. A skilled fighter capable of things most people can hardly dream of. A warrior."

"An bloodthirsty assassin," Dick countered, his voice rising as Felix stalked towards him. The man moved gracefully, and he was once again reminded of an animal and its prey, chasing and running in an endless cycle, never ending. "And my parents - Bruce - the Team, they're who made me who I am today, not you."

Dodging as Felix moved to the left, Dick realized his mistake only when a foot collided with his ankle and he fell to the ground, his breath vanishing from his lungs. Not a second later, a heavy weight settled on his stomach, and Dick put his staff up against Felix's, trying to keep the metal ends away from him. Black started creeping into the edge of Dick's vision and he heard a whisper among his own blood pumping through his ears. "If you truly believe that, boy, then you are deluding yourself."

That was what set him off. Living with Bruce and being part of the Team had opened his eyes to different ways to live life; ways that weren't as innocent as his days in the circus by a long shot, but could never compared to the harshness showed with the Talons. It was an equilibrium between the two surroundings he had grown used to, and one Dick found himself helplessly being pulled to like iron to a magnet. He had seen too much to be the last Flying Grayson, but he was too optimistic to be a Talon, and Felix suggesting anything but rubbed him the wrong way.

Dick saw and felt red, clawing and scratching and spreading along his vision, until all he knew was pure and raw anger. So, in a move that he had never used before in a fight, Dick lashed out, and with a single hand still holding his staff in place, the other darted forward and landed squarely where the sun did not shine.

Visibly stiffening, Felix's eyes widened, and Dick saw very clearly the way the man bit his tongue to keep from crying out. The soreness of Dick's knuckles told him that he was wearing a cup but it definitely didn't prevent all of the force of the blow from reaching its target. A large, decidedly evil smirk formed along the teen's lips and he decided that the feeling of having the world spin just for him was a normal sensation in a moment like that.

Without further ado, Dick shoved his feet upward and threw Felix off of him, watching in guarded amusement as the man landed on his feet and stood with his knees almost touching. Dick himself stood, and spun his staff to point an end at Felix.

"You will pay for that, boy," Felix insisted, and Dick probably would've been more frightened if not for the way his voice was higher than usual.

Fighting a smirk, Dick realized his mistake when he barely had time to prepare as Felix leapt forward, staff poised to deliver a solid hit to the top of Dick's head. On pure instinct, Dick raised his staff over his head, curling the rest of his body into itself for protection.

Felix's staff hit his and a loud snap assaulted Dick's ears. His hands jolted, small splinters embedding themselves into any available skin, and Dick looked up at his staff, only to grimace at what he saw. What used to be a beautifully crafted weapon had been reduced to what one might find being used in an everyday fight in a random Gotham alleyway.

The middle was shattered, displaying jagged edges like they were trophies, and a crack had spread throughout one half, leaving the metal spear at an angle that would not be any help in a fight.

Without a second thought, Dick spun the two pieces around so that the points were facing away from him and he fell back into the instinctive stance that came naturally when fighting with escrima sticks.

Another predatory smirk worked its way onto Felix's face, and before Dick knew it, the dance was on again.


Day 16

Leather-coated knuckles collided harshly with the masked cheek of a Talon, Bruce's heel introducing the same move to another assassin. Bodies were scattered along the floor behind him, the chests of them all softly moving up and down, but none made a move to rise, since being unconscious tended to impede such actions.

Bruce wasn't making any real efforts to hide his presence; it couldn't be bothered anyway. In reality, it was only a matter of time before the heroes got discovered, so Batman hadn't been surprised when West tripped an alarm. (Bruce blamed the fact that he was probably distracted by Artemis.)

What had shocked Bruce more than anything, however, was the backdoor that was in the computer encryption. To hack into the mainframe had been almost child's play, but only because of that backdoor, and Bruce had a feeling he knew exactly where it came from.

Ducking down, Bruce swept the feet out from under another assassin and transferred seamlessly into a run. Instead of taking the steps, Bruce merely jumped, completing a flip before landing in a crouch. Within a second, Bruce was on the move again, taking down two more Talons before he reached the end of the training hallway.

Bruce pulled out a low-grade explosive and threw it, dashing through the smoke that appeared as soon as the doors were blown open. Batarangs at the ready, Bruce froze as he saw something he never wished to see - Whisper with a weapon pointed directly at his neck.


Day 16

As more time passed, one thing became clear. Dick was losing. He parried and blocked and dodged, never going on the offensive, because offense was death, and death was frowned upon in Dick's mind, but that didn't stop him from receiving numerous lacerations and a pain in his wrist that Dick was pretty sure meant it was sprained.

The teen was slowing down, as much as Dick hated to admit it, and before long, a particularly nasty cut to his shoulder made him drop on half of his staff, the other half dispatched quickly and efficiently.

Hand-to-hand combat was difficult enough when going up against someone as experienced as Felix, but it was near impossible to make it effective when the opponent had a weapon; which was why Dick wasn't surprised when a knee smashed into his stomach and he collapsed to all fours, eyes gazing at the floor. The cold tip of Felix's blade caressed the back of Dick's neck, directly over his spinal cord, and he didn't make any move to get up.

Dick could try to twist out of the bo and take Felix down in the same move, but he would probably end up dead before his hands left the ground. Honestly, Dick was tired of fighting. He was tired of living in fear and running and hiding. All he wanted to do was relax for the first time since his entire world collapsed with a crack - literally

Maybe...maybe he would be able to do that with his parents, and his aunt, and his cousin, and his uncle.

BOOM!

The explosion shook the entire room slightly, blowing a good sized hole in the doorway and filling the entrance with smoke and dust. Felix and Dick were both startled, though Felix didn't shift his arms in the slightest. Dick, however, felt a grin stretching across his face, because out of the corner of his eye, two recognizable points appeared in the dust, attached to a firm, strong body that Dick had never been more happy to see in his life.

Two black blurs raced towards Felix, and before Dick knew what was happening, the sharp piece of Felix's staff was on the ground and Dick was scrambling towards the wall, away from death.

Bruce moved into the room, as Dick struggled to his feet, scrabbling at the stone for support. Dust was still in the air, and it stung Dick's eyes and tickled his nose but he couldn't find it in himself to care, because Bruce was here and Bruce was fighting for him.

Dick leaned against the wall, a quiet satisfaction bubbling in his chest at the reverie the cold stone provided him, and found that Bruce was actually fighting for him.

While Dick had been clambering to his feet, Bruce had attacked, and the man was holding his own. When people had said that the he was skilled, they had understated it terribly. Bruce fought with a kind of silent fury the likes of which Dick had never seen before, raging in any direction the brawl called for. Anger flowed off of him in waves, each strike being applied with the speed of lightning, and for once, Dick was frightened of what Batman was capable of.

Felix wasn't backing down, though. Even while wearing a robe that would've constricted anybody else's movement, he managed to match Bruce hit for hit. He was extremely spry for his age, but not exactly limber, and it was evident not only to Dick, but to Bruce too.

Focusing on breathing evenly, because it seemed to be getting harder with each passing minute, Dick gave a small smile as Bruce threw a Batarang, catching Felix off guard and creating an opening just big enough to get a hit in.

Felix stumbled, eyes not daring to follow the path of his discarded bo, and brought his foot up directly up to Bruce's collarbone. The blow was blocked, but a small flash of silver appeared in Felix's hand, unnoticed by Bruce even though it was heading straight towards his rib cage, and Dick rushed forward.

Dick would never know what gave him the extra boost, the unconfined adrenaline that coursed through his body, but the next thing he knew, his hands were fastened around Felix's wrist and there was a snap, loud and defined and pleasing, before the knife hit the ground and Dick's head was flung into the wall. It hurt, but that only lasted a few seconds because the world started to go fuzzy and Dick's legs started to go numb. Dick's form collapsed like a rag doll onto the grimy floor but he forced his eyes to stay open, blearily surveying the fight in front of him.

There were two blurs, one a pure black and one cerise, moving so rapidly that it looked surreal. The darkest one - Batman, he realized dully - was moving faster than the other, driving him back with every hit. Finally, with what Dick was comparatively sure was a powerful roundhouse kick, the red figure was thrown backwards and collapsed, unmoving. Even through the haze, a pleased smirk erupted along Dick's face.

It was over.

Bruce stood still for a moment before rushing over, face still shifting in and out of focus, and his knees met the ground with a sudden desperation. Two gloved hands carefully plucked up Dick's body, earning a groan when his arm was jostled, and Bruce cradled him to his chest, using a tenderness that hadn't been seen since that dark night in the ally, where two shots were heard and a boy was disfigured into some form of a man. Dick blinked, which he realized wasn't a good idea when his eyes took too long to open again, and was surprised to find Bruce's deep, brown eyes where white film should've been when his sight came back to him.

Blood running a gentle trail down his chin, Dick coughed, crimson bubbles forming at the corner of his mouth. "W-wha' took...s-so lon'...Br-uh...t-tati..." The last word puttering out of existence, Dick's eyelids fell closed and gravity tugged his head downwards, ebony hair falling limply towards the ground.

Without the cowl, Bruce's shock was clear as crystal. He dimly registered the language as Romani, but his main concern was the bright blue eyes now hidden by thin layers of skin. Those...weren't Whisper's eyes. They were the exact same color - the exact same shape - that he had seen on the newspaper the morning after the blood was found in the forest outside Bludhaven. The exact same eyes that had been filled with tears atop the platform when all the air had been sucked from that circus tent and the silence had echoed with a horrible crunch.

All the pieces fell into place, aligning themselves with sudden clarity. Those weren't Whisper's eyes; they were an acrobat's, a dreamer's, a child's. But most importantly, they were Dick's eyes. Dick, the boy who had been behind the mask of Whisper all along.

Without another word, Bruce pulled his cowl back over his head, cast one more dirty look at Feliciano's still silhouette, and carried his son out of that awful room.


AN: tada. again, this is unedited and who knows when the next chap will be out? i actually wrote this part like um. a year ago. wow. well anyway. this is really bad. here ya go. bye.