You can thank KatTheGracefulKlutz and M1ndb3nd for this particular update. Reviews really do help motivate me to write more/faster. It kind of feels like I'm just throwing this story into an empty room at this point, and I love hearing from you guys!
Kat: I'm glad you enjoy the story so much! I don't think I actually intended the shadow to be anyone; however, if it were anyone, it would be someone who works with the Joker (who may or may not turn up later…)
M1ndb3nd: Yeah, my updating is not really working out to be any kind of regular haha. I'm working on finishing it, but if I get everything in that I want, it's gonna be a long time coming oops. Your suggestions have given me some great things to think about! I kind of get lost in the story and forget about what I've mentioned so far. And I know you like the family- I do too- but I can't make any promises about their safety…
"Amelia, you need to go to bed now, sweetie!"
"Five more minutes, Daddy? Please?"
Joseph's warm smile widened, and he sighed with a small laugh. "Alright. But only five!"
The child's excited shout reached the kitchen, and Carrie smacked her husband upside the head as she bustled about, cleaning up from dinner. "Joseph! You said five more minutes two hours ago!"
Dick stifled a snigger as the man laughed aloud. "It's alright, Carrie. Children have little to no concept of time."
"It's eleven o'clock!"
"Eleven fifteen," Dick piped in, grinning. Painkillers did wonders for one's mood.
Carrie looked on the verge of another furious outburst, but the doctor held his hands up to placate her. "Alright, alright, we'll make it an actual five minutes this time."
The Boy Wonder muffled another snort, watching Joseph cast him a furtive smile. The man's love for his family was blatant, even as he dodged another swat from his less-than-amused wife.
"Robin, Robin!" Dick looked up as the small blonde girl came running into the room, bouncing in place with excitement. "Robin, come here!" She tugged at the sleeve of his borrowed shirt, trying to drag him back into the living room.
"Whoa, hold on there, sweetie." Her father plucked her up from behind, gentle detaching her grip on the injured boy. "Robin needs to stay off that bad leg of his so he can heal."
"It's alright, Joseph." The teen slowly stood, keeping his weight on his good leg. The doctor shot him a warning look, but Dick waved him off. "I've done dumber things on worse injuries."
Joseph didn't even seem slightly appeased by that- quite the opposite really- but then Amelia sprang off his lap and tore into the living room, the injured vigilante hobbling behind her.
"Look what I got!" she exclaimed, brandishing a small stuffed toy from amongst her mess of playthings.
Dick plopped down on the couch, hauling his wounded limb onto the cushion. He checked to make sure it would bleed on anything- he's already left enough blood stains in this house- before he accepted the toy from her. "What is it?"
She giggled softly. "It's you, silly. See? He's got the costume and the cape and the mask, just like you! Well… Like you normally wear…" She looked distastefully at his borrowed sweats and baggy t-shirt.
Dick looked the bear over and then flashed a forced grin to soothe away her eager expression. "Looks just like me, right?" He held it up to his face, and she laughed again.
"Oh! Be right back!" Amelia bolted out of the room, thudding up the stairs and leaving Dick alone with his thoughts.
So this was the newest marketing scheme of the big corporations, the newest fad among kids? Turn the youngest hero into a toy, a role model, something for little kids to aspire to become?
Dick glared distastefully at the stoplight colors and set the bear on the floor. It could be considered flattering if this toy of himself wasn't encouraging kids to follow in his footsteps, wasn't romanticizing a hazardous, stressful lifestyle and dangerous profession with dolls and toys and costumes, wasn't turning a group of awe-inspiring heroes into an attainable, feasible goal. Being born with powers was different. If a kid had powers, maybe idolizing someone with a similar skill set would be good. But for normal, everyday kids who wanted to run around and play hero…
Of course, Robin fully acknowledged the irony in his thoughts, of criticizing non-powered kids idolizing a hero and trying to be like them, but his situation was… different. He'd had a teacher, a mentor, and prior training that made him perfectly cut out to be a child vigilante. But he was a rare case. There were maybe six other kids in America who could do this, but that was honestly pushing it, since-
Dick snapped out of his thoughts with a jump, glancing at the little girl. He hadn't even noticed her come down… Batman would've skinned me for that… "What's up, Amelia?" She was standing by the window, face pressed against the glass, but she backed up when he spoke to let him see out.
"Do you think he has a real gun?"
Dick took a quick glance out the window, one look at the man in the snow with his mask ornamented with a bright red smile. All the blood rushed out of his face as he grabbed a blanket off the back of the couch, covering himself with it. "Joseph!" he shouted, trying not to pay attention to the little hands grabbing at him.
Footsteps sounded the arrival of the doctor to the room. "Robin? What's wrong?"
"Close the blinds. All of them on the ground floor." He could almost sense the hesitation in the adult. "Just do it!"
After another beat of nothing, Joseph moved around to the windows, relaying the instructions to his wife. "Robin, what's going on?" he demanded, finally walking over and pulling the blanket away.
Dick sucked in a shaky breath, dragging a hand through his hair. He couldn't make himself look up has he spoke. "He… he found me again. The J-Joker's here…"
The older man's face washed over with shock, and the air itself seemed to tense up.
"Daddy?" Amelia looked up at her father, tugged on his pants leg. "Daddy, what's going on?"
Carrie walked in from the kitchen at that moment. "Robin?" Her voice shook with nerves.
Dick bit his lip, closing his eyes. This was the last thing he wanted… But he should've expected this. "I'm so sorry. I've put you all in so much danger…"
Joseph placed a hand on the teen's shoulder. "Don't apologize. This isn't your fault. Tell us how to help you."
Help? They're just civilians. If they try to help, they'll just end up dead.
An equally unhelpful voice piped up to remind him that Batman would know what to do. Then again, Batman would never get himself in a situation where he had to protect civilians while dealing with a useless leg. Dick was about as much good as an untrained toddler would be.
But he shook off those negative thoughts, finally turning his gaze to meet the doctor's. "Get your family upstairs. You need to be in a room with no windows and only one door. Keep the lights off and stay quiet. If you have any kind of weapon, like a gun or something, now is the time to get it. Can you do that?"
Surprisingly, it was Carrie who took action first. With a curt nod, she herded her daughter up the stairs, fielding off the child's questions with a whispered, "Not now, Amelia."
Joseph followed suit by opening a closet by the front door and pulling an old rifle and a box of bullets off the shelf. "What are you going to do?"
Dick carefully rested his injured leg on the floor, testing to see just how much weight it would hold. Just resting it was fine, but with the addition of a tiny bit of pressure, fire shot up and down his leg and Dick hissed in pain. No way could he be able to fight off armed thugs on his own… "I need a phone."
There was a beat of silence as Joseph paused in his act of loading the gun. "Robin, the landline is down."
"You've got a cell, right?"
The older man frowned, his eyes following Dick's slow limp into the kitchen. "Yes, but I don't know if you'll get any signal. With that storm-"
Muffled shouting reached them from outside, and any remnant of color drained from the boy's face.
"Give me the phone," Robin growled, sounding frighteningly like his mentor. "Go upstairs."
Joseph did as he was told, casting the injured teen one last anxious glance before he vanished up the stairs. Only then did Dick allow his panic to show. This wasn't a fight he could win. An injured leg with a highly dubious chance of being able to call for help? Even if Batman miraculously managed to show up and take out all the thugs in the next thirty seonds-
Focus, Dick. You need a weapon.
But the knives were all the way across the kitchen, too far away for a trek on his all-but-useless leg. Maybe a pot or pan from the drawer, but the noise of trying to extract one would draw attention, and the thugs probably didn't know which house he was in. Yet.
Okay, fine. Find something else. Plenty of things can be weapons. If you-
Laughter rang out from the street, and Dick froze, an ice-cold panic dropping onto his chest like a bowling ball.
As fast as he could, Dick limped into the pantry, forgoing the search for a weapon in favor of finding a hiding place. He locked the door, his breathing unnaturally loud in the dank closet. The light from the phone screen nearly blinded him as he typed in a number he knew by heart. Trembling hands raised the phone to his ear, anxiety threatening to choke him and drown him at the same time.
If the cell towers went down in the storm, if no one was in the cave, if Joker checked this house first, he was going to die here.
Please pick up, Bruce… Please…
A side note: I am very interested in getting a beta reader of some sort. I have some grammar problems in previous chapters that I haven't gotten to fixing, and it's careless errors that could've been fixed if I had someone with a good grammatical eye. But more than that, I really need someone to bounce ideas off of and keep me writing. If anyone is interested, please let me know! You can message me on here, but my most reliable method of communication is email, which I'll happily give out to anybody who wants it.