Summary: Canon, expect no destruction of Buldhaven. In the wake of Bruce's death Slade and Dick have a talk about the younger male's future.

Disclaimer: don't own

Dick Grayson sat alone in the empty cave, the cowl of his new suit felt too heavy in his hands. Even though it was a burden he had fought for just a few hours ago to be allowed to carry.

Batman had been a symbol of hope for him long before he meet Bruce Wayne on the fateful day, a symbol he couldn't allow to be tainted by his brothers through committing murder or simple weakness. Truthfully he didn't want to become Batman, hadn't he always pointed out that Robin was his partner not apprentice? That he was his own person? That he was not just a multicoloured copy of the Bat?

Yet here he was, about to give up the very existence he built on his own only to become the shadow of another. And why? Because someone had to, Gotham needs it's Batman and he wasn't arrogant enough to believe the same applied for Buldhaven and Nightwing. No someone had to do it and he was the only one really qualified for the job...

The sound of movement interrupted his musings, there in the sanctuary of the cave stood Deathstroke the Terminator as if it was an everyday occurrence for him.

However he didn't rise for him position on the cold, hard floor. They had too much history for him to be simply killed. No matter how much money Slade might have been offered, the feeling of safety was most likely not healthy...

"Want to be the first to see the new and improved Batman, now with function social skills", Dick said lightly as he looked up to the older man. Yet his teasing had no effect on the mercenary, the silence slowly became oppressive and the hero tried to think of another line to break it as Slade finally started to talk.

"Could you explain", the voice was cold as ice and hard as diamond," why you throw your life away to become the cheap shadow of a dead man?"

The word cheap stung but he let it slide, as much as Slade loved mind games he didn't appreciate to be on the receiving end..

"Bruce took me in after my life practically imploded, I own him." There the simple truth. It wasn't about being a hero, he could be a hero in his own costume, no it was about the debt he owned him.

"He didn't change his life for you, how much more do you intended to give until your debt is finally paid." The voice was unrelenting and the air spiked with tension, but worse was that as much as he hated it, Slade had a point. Still Bruce had given him six years of his life...

"Six years", with some pleasure he saw a flicker of surprise in Slade's eye," I will remain here six years, than Tim can carry the cowl and Damien should know everything he needs to know." Yes that sounded like a good plan and should hopefully appease the older man. He had been a soldier once and still valued his honour, maybe that would get him of his back.

"After those six years, you will cut your ties with the Batclan", it sounded less like a question and more like an order, however the approval made him agree. In the wake of Bruce death the last thing he needed was angry Slade. Who knew what might have happened if he didn't agree? So he nodded and the older male seemed satisfied. In six years he could still break his word if needed...

"You will take a weaker version of the serum, it stops you from ageing, so you will be able to live your life once your parole is over." This time it was a clear order he didn't dare to question, yet did he have to make it sound like he was some kind of prisoner?

"Why not the real deal?" asked Dick, rather out of curiosity than interest, as long as he wasn't immortal it was nothing really permanent so he confident the he could handle it...

"You will have enough time to earn it apprentice", answered Slade almost playfully and left the cave.

Well, hell. Just what had he gotten himself into?