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Bat Out Of Hell

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These days, Nightwing is slowly becoming less “Batman’s old sidekick,” and more his own hero. Personally, Clark thinks he likes what Nightwing’s done with his reputation. The oldest Robin was always the brightest, most cheerful of his little family, and now he’s really emerging from the shadow of the Bat.

Bruce is Clark’s best friend, of course. But Clark isn’t blind, and he sees the paranoia that comes from wearing Batman’s insignia. He wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Officially, Nightwing’s not actually affiliated with a team anymore, ever since the Teen Titans dissolved, but the black-and-blue bat has been slowly being indoctrinated into Justice League missions, to a larger extent than most of the former Teen Titans. An assist here, some tactical backup there- all part of Batman’s plan to prep Dick Grayson for his eventual leadership.

(Once, at the Watchtower, Clark had caught Bruce in a rare moment of emotional sincerity, and the other man had confessed that he wanted Nightwing to be the next face of international- inter planetary justice, the next face of the Justice League. Clark agreed; Nightwing was the best choice by a long shot. He’s seen how Nightwing, even though not technically on the team, had been a guiding force to some of the newer Justice League members. After some discussion with Diana, a plan was set into motion.)

The point is, they’re finishing up one of these missions when The Incident occurs.

It’s standard stuff, rogue magic-users in Dallas. Batman had elected not to come, sending Nightwing in his stead. There’d been an… interesting diversion. 

“Sorry you had to…uh…” Clark trails off, waving a hand to where Nightwing is restraining the last of the unconscious magic-users. He flushes.

Nightwing smirks over at him, smile sharp from residual adrenaline. “Play the stripper? Yeah, I get that a lot.”

Diana walks over, nudges one of the fallen baddies with her boots. “You fought well, young warrior,” she praises. It’s a rare compliment. “You will make a fine leader one day.”

Clark sighs. Never let it be said that Diana is subtle .

Beneath the mask, Dick’s face turns slightly pink. “Thanks, Auntie D,” he says happily.

It’s true. Nightwing had fought admirably, and even in the. Uhm. Disadvantaged position he had begun the fight in, his elegant grace had shone through his fighting style in a way Clark was sure metas like himself and Diana could never grasp fully.

In fact, if Clark’s being totally honest, half the fighting had been done before he and Diana had even stepped in, Nightwing switching from cooing sweetly in the ear of one of the villains to delivering devastating blows so quick Clark doubts a speedster could’ve kept up.

“I think that’s all of them,” says Clark. “Good work, Nightwing.”

Dick opens his mouth, likely to offer more thanks, when the boy freezes and his gaze goes straight to the dark rafters above the warehouse.

Clark tries to get his attention, calls, “Nightwing?” and “D’you see something?” but all that garners is absentminded shush ing.

And, more suspicious glancing. Clark strains his senses, but can’t find anything that would indicate a person or a thing hiding up there. Nightwing doesn’t seem to like what he sees, though. “Someone’s here,” he finally says.

Diana frowns, says what Clark is thinking too. “I don’t hear anything.”

“You wouldn’t.” Dick eases his escrima sticks from their sheaths, sliding into a defensive position so natural it looks like breathing. “Come out, Deathstroke.” His voice is nothing like it was just moments ago. Now it’s hard and angry and nothing like the cheerful boy Clark was so sure he knew.

A pause in the silence, then a figure drops down from the rafters, still lounging in the shadows. Diana startles. 

The mystery man - Deathstroke- begins a slow clap that drips with sarcasm. “Well done , Robin. Here I was thinking you were losing your edge without me.”

“You know it’s Nightwing now. What do you want,” Nightwing growls. Clark moves to stand behind him, but a flash from the vigilante’s black-and-blue fingers is enough to stop him. Stay there

He catches a glimpse of the man’s mask, black and red. One blue eye, dripping in amusement. “Me? I never want anything but money, birdie, surely you know this by now.” 

“Well, there’s clearly none here , so try again,” Nightwing snaps.

“Or maybe I just want to watch you work yourself up trying to figure out why I’m here,” Deathstroke taunts, retreating further into the shadows. “Fun little game of tag, just like we used to-”

“Creepy bastard,” Nightwing grumbles.

Deathstroke ignores the insult. “- but , unfortunately, I’ve made all my plans in Gotham for tonight. Maybe we’ll run into each other?” He glances over at Clark and Diana, audibly sneers. “Maybe your new friends can come and play as well?”

“Leave them out of this. Your fight is with me,” Nightwing practically snarls , sounding more feral than Clark has ever heard him. 

Deathstroke sounded as pouty as a forty-five-ish man with a gravelly voice to rival Batman’s could. “Not much fun anymore, are you, birdie? You used to be so fun to poke around.”

“Lotta good that did me,” Dick says resentfully. 

“Quite,” says Deathstroke. He grins ferally. “Ever heard of cat and mouse?”

“I suppose you fancy yourself the cat?”

“Oh no, Robin. Just a very dangerous, very deadly mouse.”

And just like that, Deathstroke is gone.

Clark and Diana both jump to follow him, but Dick grunts unhappily, “Don’t bother. You won’t find him.” Turning back to look at him, Clark finds the younger man jabbing at his wrist computer. Clark can’t pretend to understand how those things work, but he knows FaceTime when he sees it, and Dick is definitely calling… Jason? 

“Hey, Hood, you guys have a delivery incoming. Deathstroke just showed up, says he’s got plans in Gotham. What’s the ETA on my extraction?” Divk sounds utterly unenthused. 

“Shit. Well, you’re in luck, demon brat should be there in a few. I think two minutes? Oracle said he snuck out with the Batplane again. I’ll call Double R, tell ‘im to prep that little genius brain of his.”

“You’re the best, Little Wing.”

“Yeah, yeah. Hurry up. Deathstroke’s insufferable when he doesn’t get to kick you around. Creep.”

Nightwing huffs. “Will do. Nightwing out.” The call collapses. 

“Will you be requiring assistance, Nightwing?” Diana asks kindly.

“Sorry, Auntie D, not today. Deathstroke’s just annoying, nothing I can’t handle. Lemme just alert the police that they’ve got some clean-up to do here.” Dick says, typing away at his wrist-computer with a tired smile. He opens his mouth like he’s about to say something else, but the conversation is interrupted at the sound of near-silent humming. Clark has to strain his super-hearing to sense the Batplane’s arrival, but Nightwing (ordinary, non-super Nightwing) seems to notice it anyway.

“Looks like my rides here,” he says wryly, then performs a series of dizzying cartwheels that look as natural to him as walking, flipping straight out the door.

Clark follows him outside. The Batplane’s basically silent motor switches off, and a little boy’s face covered with a green domino mask pops out from underneath the plane. Clark doesn’t know any other eleven-year-old that can wear an expression so disdainful as little Damian Wayne. 

“Hey, Little D,” calls Dick once he bounces out of his series of cartwheels. His posture is relaxed and loose, but Clark can tell, after countless years of observing Bruce, that the vigilante is antsy about something. “It’s funny, I heard you were grounded.”

Robin’s mask narrows. “Drake sent me to fetch you,” he grits. 

Nightwing’s face doesn’t move. “Really.”

Robin glares at him and doesn’t say anything. 

“My little brothers. Helping each other.”

“... Fine ,” Robin spits. “I snuck out. But I will not apologize.”

Nightwing just looks at him for a second. Then he slowly starts to smile. “Were you worried about me, Dami?” he asks delightedly, like he’s just been given the biggest cake in the world and then kittens popped out of it and started doing magic tricks. 

“I do not trust the alien,” Damian insists, which, okay, that hurts way more than any insult from a preteen should. Clark sighs. 

“Your older brother is fine, Robin,” he calls over Dick’s sing-song ‘ You loooooove me! ’ “Thanks for letting us borrow him.”

Tt . Come, Nightwing, your presence is required in Gotham.”

“Oh, boy,” Nightwing groans good-naturedly. He lifts his black and blue hands to wave goodbye. “Bye, Clark, bye, Diana! Tell Bruce I’m onto him when you see him next.”

“You sure you don’t want help?” Clark asks helplessly.

Nightwing and Robin exchange a Bat-patented silent communication look. Nothing on their faces gives them away, but Clark gets the distinct impression they’re thinking something condescending, like, poor guy. It’s a strange vibe to get from an eleven-year-old dressed like a traffic cone. “I think we’re good,” says Nightwing. His lips quirk into a wry smile. 

“Father maintains his meta rule in Gotham. Apologies, Alien,” says Robin. He doesn’t sound all that sorry. The boy turns to Diana, offers a solemn nod, which she returns. Seriously, Clark will never understand Diana’s unique ability to be on good terms with all of the Bat’s children.

Nightwing snorts, grabs Robin’s hand and bounds up the walkway of the Batplane. The motor begins to softly whir. Within ten seconds, the plane is rising and headed due northeast, leaving Clark and Diana staring after them.

“Our dark friend’s children are… unique,” the mythical princess says finally, smiling slightly. “I do not think I will ever get used to it.”

As for Clark, he just sighs. “Yeah, that about sums it up.”