So this takes place right after Endgame. Instead of it being the 4th of July, Dick leaves the team the day after Wally dies.
"Business as usual," Dick said nostalgically, but his smirk faded quickly at the thought of his late best friend, and he turned and sauntered towards the zeta tube. Tears prickled in his eyes behind the domino mask. Wally. WALLY.
He couldn't be dead. Not him.
Dick waited for the bright light of zeta energy to teleport him back to Bludhaven, tilting his head upwards to prevent the tears from falling. He had lost his parents when he was eight, his entire family, and then just over a year and a half ago his adoptive brother. But now his best friend? The Wall-man, WALL-E, Baywatch. The guy he had shared memories and secrets with? The man who had fought by his side since he entered the life?
Dick must not deserve happiness. Maybe it was some kind of curse that prevented him from cherishing something for more than a decade before it's ripped away.
The yellow light faded and his stomach churned. He always got a little nauseous after teleporting, but tonight he felt much worse. It probably didn't help that he hadn't eaten since Barbara forced a granola bar down his throat, nearly two days ago.
He began making his way to his apartment, swinging building to building with his grappling gun. Usually the night cleared his head, but right now the whole world was closing in on him, suffocating him slowly. Even though they had defeated the Light and saved the world (what else was new?), he felt emptier than ever. Bruce had even come back, and Kaldur was in charge again, but nothing mattered anymore. He just...he just needed a break. From everything.
He landed on the roof of his apartment, ripping off the mask and wiping his eyes. Maybe he should just let it all out. Just scream at the world, at God, at whoever was pushing the buttons that made his life so difficult.
Worst of all, the issue he wouldn't accept, is that he hadn't ended things like he wanted to with Wally. Their recent relationship wasn't exactly a "falling out", but it wasn't how it used to be. Not at all. Sure, they had gotten Artemis back safe, which lifted the weight of the sky off Wally's shoulders. But the last time he had really spent any time with his friend had been when they'd fought at the Hall of Justice. They'd always beaten each other up a lot, and there had been times when Dick wanted to rip the guy's head off, but this was different. It felt like Wally had lost all his trust in Dick, all his confidence. He hadn't looked at him like an angry friend; he'd looked at him like a stranger. And that hurt.
Too late to mend things up now. Too late to say sorry, or goodbye, or—
Something was wrong. Dick could feel it in the air, in his blood. There had been a shadow bulging out behind one of the roof heaters; he'd figured it was part of the machinery; but it was gone now. Not a good sign.
He hastily placed the mask back on his face and approached the ventilation system cautiously. He held his breath, and then he heard someone inhale sharply behind him.
He spun around, only to be stricken on the head with an exhaust pipe. He crumpled to the ground in surprise, more alarmed at his lack of good judgment than the pain. Blood trickled down his temple while he tried to recompose himself.
Shake it off. Shake it off.
A man was standing over him, tall, with a stocky build, but the spots in front of Dick's vision concealed his face. He thought quickly. Hunched over, he swung his legs around, tripping the man and sending him to the ground with a displeased grunt. Dick stood, slightly staggering, with his eskrima sticks at the ready. The blow had been more severe than he'd thought. He blinked, and waited for the man to gather himself up again.
That was when he heard it. The laughter.
Dick shivered unconsciously. He did not fear many things, he couldn't; not with Bats around. And Joker himself wasn't what frightened him. Dick's biggest fear, his biggest weakness, was the well-being of his loved ones. It was one of the reasons Bruce distanced himself from
everyone. He couldn't risk his enemies targeting them. But Dick couldn't keep his emotions so bottled up, and Joker had used this weakness on more than one occasion to bring him to his knees.
The laughter echoed around him, making Dick grasp his weapons with white knuckles.
"Show yourself, Joker."
"Aw, Bird Boy, you should know by now to call me Uncle J!" The voice sang, ice to Dick's blood.
"What do you want?" Dick was angry at himself. He had let his guard down, and now he was in a vulnerable position. Not to mention he was a Bat; he should be able to spot Joker in a second and have him sent back to Arkham before he could blink. But the rooftop was still, and he saw nothing.
"Well isn't it obvious? I want...you. Hahahahaha!"
That was when the shot rang out, and the bullet sailed through Dick's body.
Dick was slightly aware of himself being dragged. He would slide along the ground for a short period of time, and then the person holding on to the collar of his suit would pause, probably to catch their breath, and then continue again. Each time he moved he felt a singe of new pain, somewhere from the left side of his rib cage. His senses were dulled, and he couldn't think straight, so he came to the conclusion that he had been drugged. Big time.
He tried to distract the growing fear by reciting calculus equations in his head, over and over. It was something Bruce had taught him long ago. Then the dragging stopped, and he was slumped against a wall. His hands and feet were restrained with wire rope, but he was so drugged he wouldn't be able to use them anyway. His eyelids were heavy, making "seeing" rather impossible.
This is just fantastic. What is this, the 12th time I've been kidnapped? Or is it unlucky 13?
The floor was cold to the touch, and the smell in the room was almost too familiar. He was in a hospital; probably the one downtown that had been abandoned after a few criminals set the bottom floor ablaze. Dick checked his waist, already knowing his utility belt would be gone, as well as his wrist computer. His shoes had been removed, along with his wire cutter hidden inside them. He was really wishing he hadn't extracted the locator chip Bruce had implanted last year. He'd wanted privacy, trust. Now he just felt like an idiot.
Bruce. He had wanted to talk to Dick after returning to the Watch Tower, but Dick needed to debrief Impulse on exactly what had happened to Wally, for the third time. Then the next day they'd both become busy with tasks involving the Reach and contacting other leaguers... He hadn't seen his mentor in about six months, and he left without saying more than a few "welcome backs". What was wrong with him?
Dick lifted his hand off his stomach to find it soaked in blood. Someone had bandaged his side, haphazardly, in hopes to stop the bleeding. That was odd; then again, Joker probably had some sick game planned where he needed Dick alive. He peeled up the edge of the gauze to examine his wound more carefully. A clean shot, in and out. It didn't look fatal. At least not yet.
After a few hours and regaining some of his senses, he realized he was locked in an empty wing, the windows and vents boarded up.
Joker was learning.
He'd been captured by the clown four times, and it was obvious Joker hated him more than anyone, or maybe it was just the Robin persona in general. He despised how Dick was the main focus of Batman's attention, how he was a "distraction" to his work. He loathed Nightwing even more for leaving the Bat, for being unappreciative and disrespectful.
He'd killed Jason.
He'd murdered countless people.
And Dick was tired of him intervening in his life.
Speaking of which...
Joker popped his head into the room. "D'aww, looky there at the Bat Brat, all sleepy and full of narcotics."
Dick sat upright, wincing in pain, but defiant. "What do you want from me? Money? Batman? If you want I can call him over for a little reunion—"
"Oh, I hate to burst your bubble!" Joker licked his lips. "But as it turns out, I'm here on the behalf of someone else."
Dick tensed as the clown stepped closer. "You've partnered up with someone? Don't you usually just screw them over and end up stabbing them in the back? Literally?"
"Now, don't get your panties in a twist!"
The sound of a knife sliding across the wall sent a tremor down Dick's spine. Joker leaned in towards him and placed the cold blade against his cheek. His pasty face and yellow eyes screamed with insanity. "I thought after what I did to your replacement you would get the hint. Maybe I should remind you who I am...Grayson." Dick's breath hitched in his throat.
It couldn't be. That was impossible.
"That's right Tweety Bird. I know exactly who you are, and you better not tempt me, or you might just end up like the rest of your family." The knife dug into Dick's skin, sending a trail of blood down his face. It began to make its way to his mouth, like the same scars he was staring at with all the hatred he could muster.
"Joker! Let's go!" A voice called from the hallway. The clown growled, withdrawing from Dick, and he grabbed the hero by the hair. Mumbling, he dragged Dick out of the room, down the hallway, and into another wing.
Dick tried to fight back, but his movements were still sluggish and painful. This was a serious disaster. Heavy on the dis.
The Batmobile was quieter than usual. And that's saying something. Tim shut off his wrist computer, looking out the window with a frown on his face.
"You're worried about Dick," said Bruce flatly.
Tim sighed. "He just left. Without saying anything...It was his best friend, Bruce."
Bruce waited for Tim to continue. Like Dick, sometimes it was just better to let him get things off his chest.
"You should have seen his face, you know, when we met up with the rest of the team. He was holding Artemis, just with this look in his eyes. I've never seen that look before." Tim furrowed his brow. "I just...so much has happened to him, I'm scared that he...that he might..."
The car slowed to a halt inside the cave. "Tim, you're right. Dick has been through a lot, like all of us. But he is also one of the strongest people I know. He has to be. For you, for Alfred, for the team…and for me." Bruce turned off the engine. "Right now he just needs some distance. He'll be fine."
Tim nodded, but something in his gut said otherwise.
"Now, let's talk about you and Cassie."
"Dickie, I believe you've met Deathstroke."
The man clad in black with a goldenrod mask and gauntlets stepped forward. His right eye was blue and cold, the left covered by the black half of his helmet. Dick had come across his path more than a few times, especially recently with the whole "Artemis infiltrates the Light as Tigress, works by his side while Kaldur is temporarily comatose, and tries to save the world as the Reach invades it and almost destroys it" scenario.
Dick was tied to a table that resembled a large ironing board, turned upright like some kind of torture contraption, which it probably was. His hands and feet were bound to the sides with leather straps, his mask gone. Lights blared down on him angrily.
He felt naked without his mask. What did it mean that their identities were compromised? Was Bruce safe? Tim? Barbara?
Deathstroke strutted forward, hands behind his back and chest puffed like some kind of king. He drew his sword, swinging it around a few times and then pointing the tip at Dick's neck. "Well if it isn't Nightwing himself, superb crime-fighter, leader of the sidekicks, son of a bat...and a billionaire." He said bitterly. His voice was like mercury, solid and liquid at the same time.
His eye scanned Dick over. "Frankly, I'm underwhelmed."
Dick glared at him, "Says the guy who Aqualad locked in a submarine." He turned his focus to Joker. "What. Do. You. Want?"
"Ah, ah, ah...Don't speak out of turn, Bird Boy," Joker chided, walking over to a table equipped with all kinds of knives and weapons. After fluttering his hands over his choices, he picked up a screwdriver and walked towards Dick, spinning the tool delicately over his fingers.
"Now Joker, don't you think the boy deserves an answer? We brought him here in the middle of the night without telling him anything..." said Deathstroke mockingly, turning his back to Dick.
Dick noticed his ponytail for the first time and almost said something witty but felt this man was more capable than what he let on. And he let on a lot.
"Seeing that the Light and the Injustice League have both suffered such losses by a group of children, I figured it was high time I went solo again. It was then that I was hired by a new man. He is well known in your home town, perhaps you've heard of him." Deathstroke cocked his head. "He goes by Talon, and he wants us to turn you into one of Gotham's finest assassins, into the most feared man the city has ever seen."
"Please tell me you're joking."
Joker came forward. "Does it look like it?" His crazy eyes widened with amusement. "Oh wait." The clown began laughing again. That terrible, terrible laugh.
Dick could feel his body come alive; the drug had worn off. Toxic, maybe, but short-lived. "Your plan is flawed already. Batman is by far the most feared man...probably ever. Have you seen his bat-glare?"
"We will train you to be great, more powerful than you can imagine, and the people will cower at your feet." Deathstroke was looking off into the distance, as if the dream were coming together right in front of him.
Dick shook his head incredulously. "What makes you think I'll let you? Why would I become a villain and a slave—why would I work for you or for some Hawk guy?"
Joker appeared in front of him instantly, "His name is Talon, and I thought I told you to keep quiet!" He jammed the screwdriver into Dick's knee, making him gasp out in agony. It took a lot to make him scream, but Joker knew very well by now the level of pain Dick could tolerate. "Do you remember Mr. Screwdriver from last time, Dickie? Or perhaps you'd prefer to be reacquainted with the crowbar. I believe it was your brother's favorite."
Dick spat in the clown's face, revulsion boiling in his blood.
Deathstroke clicked his tongue. "You have a lot to learn Richard..."
4:00 A.M. and Bruce was still sitting at the computer, reviewing files and responding to emails. He was ineffably past "far behind" in his work with Wayne Industries, but aside all the future meetings and overdue reports, it was nice to be back.
"Master Bruce, I do wish you would take a small moment to recognize the mint condition of the Batcave. While you were gone, I spent a good deal of time waxing the—"
Bruce sighed, knowing the butler had been expecting something when he entered the cave. "Alfred, thank you. It looks absolutely wonderful, and...I missed you."
The old man smiled. "As I did you, Master Bruce."
Suddenly, a window popped up on the computer, an urgent message from Atom. "Batman...you need to see this."
The video changed to a dark setting, featuring a lone metal table and a windowless room. Joker's repulsive face came into view, smiling excitedly into the lens of the camera.
"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, aliens and animals, put your hands together for your very own, Nightwing!" The clown grinned a little wider and spun the table around, revealing a very bloody and exhausted hero. Batman stood up, eyes glued to the screen. He barely registered Alfred's tray crashing on the floor.
Dick's mask was off, the left half of his face completely bruised. His hair was disheveled, and his puffy eyes screamed with pain and defeat. His uniform was ripped open, showing bright red gashes through sweaty skin. There was a bullet wound in his rib cage and his knee was bleeding as well. It was a punch to Bruce's stomach, and he felt his fingers coil around the top of his chair.
"Enjoy the show."
Dick hadn't felt this terrible in a very long time. He hated feeling helpless, and like someone had run him over with a freight train...
"Grayson, Talon is your great-grandfather..."
"And you're a flying unicorn..."
"...Batman knew, and he didn't tell you...We have proof Dick. DNA, hidden records..."
But Dick was a people-person; he could usually tell when someone was being deceitful. Plus he had brothers, and you learn from experience.
He'd seen the pictures, there wasn't denying the resemblance.
"His name is William Cobb. He was taken in by Haly; the circus has ties with the Court of Owls. They generate groups of young athletes every decade for the Court to take and train as assassins..."
More photos. More blows to the face. More laughter.
"...you were supposed to become an assassin Dick. Everything you learned was for a purpose." SMACK! He felt something, a tooth, fly out of his mouth. To his surprise, (and slight disgust), Deathstroke reached down and picked it up, presenting it in front of Dick's eyes. "This filling is the mark of all Talons. This is who you are. Past, present, future. Your family was going to send you away to become a killer!"
"Oh but they died, Dickie!"
"Yes, their untimely deaths and your adoption by Bruce Wayne diminished your destiny as a Talon..."
"...now is your time to fulfill it. This is your fate, boy."
What they said couldn't be true. They had told him lies. Only lies.
Deathstroke came forward and fastened wires onto his chest, dragging the ends of the cables behind the table. Someone else stepped into the light. His small grin, his pale face, his sickly visible brain…
The psychic placed his delicate, creepy fingers on each of his temples, and Dick could feel him pierce his mind. His eyes rolled back as the images began to play, showing the news broadcasts of his family's death so many years ago, their brains scattered across the floor, limbs bent in horrifying positions.
As if lying to you about your past wasn't enough, Batman didn't even tell you that the man who murdered your parents is still alive. Yes, Dick. Zucco didn't die from a heart attack. He went into a coma, and later was sent to jail. In a couple years, he will get out, just like all the others.
Dick's arms struggled against the restraints, the leather so tight it sank into his wrists. "Stop it!" The images were graphic, and they burned into his eyes.
Suddenly, his muscles flexed, and his body became rigid. A jolt of white hot electricity shuddered through his body, a scream escaping behind his gritted teeth. He could hear Joker's cackle in the background.
"You're not Bruce's son, Dick. He hasn't included you in his will. After a decade, you're still just a sidekick."
The images warped into memories of Jason, happy, alive, and then bloody and singed from the explosion. "You're just another pawn. He put you out, at the age of nine, into the field, likely to be murdered. If you died, as did your replacement, he wouldn't even end the man who killed you, he'd let him live. Because you're nothing."
Another shot of electricity. The pain was unreal; it felt like he was being ripped apart from the inside, like every cell in his body was lit aflame. And there was no way he could pass out, no matter how much he wanted to.
"You're not a hero. You're a disgrace, Dick. While in charge, you let your base be blown to smithereens, you let your best friend die; you put your teammates through hell, sacrificing them all for a mission." That's when Dick began to sense a fear within him, a sensation so dark and frightening, yet familiar. He knew that feeling, and that it was engendered by none other than Scarecrow himself.
All these villains, they had come together for this? What was the point? To see the son of a bat become brain-dead, to see him writhe in pain and then die?
He tried to hold his breath, but the poison entered his lungs, and the memories exploded with terror. Dick yelled for them to stop. His mouth was full of blood from biting his tongue in pain, and tears streamed down his face. He couldn't fight anymore; it was useless. He could feel his heart dying, both emotionally and physically.
"You're afraid, Dick. You always have been. You were raised by the Flying Graysons, who defied death, defied fear, but not you.
"How could you be Robin? How could you possibly assist the Dark Knight when you are afraid, afraid he wouldn't need you anymore, afraid your teammates would die under your command? And now, both of those fears have been realized, haven't they?
"You were meant to be alone, to bring suffering to others. You're determined, clever, and impulsive, traits of a true assassin. It's in your DNA, and like your great grandfather, you are a Talon."
Another round of voltage sent Dick screaming till his voice ran hoarse.
Hope you guys like it so far!