Part three of a fanfiction by Velkyn Karma
Warnings: Language is pretty heavy in this chapter. The assassin is very...vocal about how he feels.
Disclaimer: I do not own, or pretend to own, Young Justice or any of its subsequent characters, plots or other ideas. That right belongs to DC, Warner Brothers, and associated parties.
Intensive Treatment was by far Arkham's most infamous building, and despite being abandoned for over a year, and now in the early stages of renovation, it was still undeniably eerie. The dim lighting, rusted metal pillars and floors, dirty surfaces and old-style architecture put Roy in mind of a turn of the century industrial mill rather than a mental institution or correctional facility, and showed Arkham's age. Even its elevators looked more like old lifts than modern ones, and the twisted gargoyles, high arches, and tall, gothic windows that acted as decor only added to the ancient atmosphere. It made the occasional television screen or camera (useless, but not yet scavenged for parts) hanging on the walls seem woefully out of place. And stumbling across the pre-Z-day renovations into state-of-the-art security measures and clinically, almost mercilessly precise defenses and detention technology was jarring, to say the least.
Regardless of which part of the center you walked through—old and dirty, or new and coldly practical—there was always an air of...unease, to the place. It was no surprise to Roy that the center's inhabitants had remained completely unhinged; in fact, he was more surprised that the staff had managed to stay sane as long as they did, if they managed it at all. There was something undeniably wrong about the atmosphere, something dark, unsettling, and angry just under the surface, as though waiting for the chance to strike. Even Roy, knowing full well that there was nothing 'haunted' or 'cursed' about the place, could understand why the civilians had thought as much—things had happened in this building in the past, and you could all but feel the ghosts of lost minds screaming out for vengeance.
The single exception was the floor Dick had started renovating for manufacturing use; cleaned and repurposed, it did not have the same dank, oppressing feel as the rest of the building. As of yet it wasn't quite enough to save Intensive Treatment from the rumors flying about. Even the workers that did handle manufacturing and renovating here did their jobs as quickly and efficiently as possible, to spare themselves the need to go back.
Roy was not heading in that direction at the moment, and avoided the floor entirely, as well as the broken-down, unusable elevator. He took the stairs instead, ignoring how the building fell progressively farther into disrepair and much colder the farther down he went; Dick simply did not have a powerful enough generator to keep all of the buildings heated constantly yet. The stench of mildew and rot, relatively mild on the upper levels, grew worse the farther he descended as well, no doubt from the sewers and catacombs below the building that as yet had not been cleared or cleaned.
He would be very impressed indeed, if Dick managed to successfully clear the ghosts and the grime from Intensive Treatment.
The holding cells were more like what Roy expected of a prison: still cold and unfeeling metal, but more modern, at least. He passed an observation desk and a cell with every square inch painted in question marks, and finally spotted his guards, both standing at attention outside of one of the locked and barred cells.
"Good to see you made it, sir," one of the guards—Cooper, Roy thought—said with a nod. Roy resisted the urge to raise an eyebrow at the 'sir' title again; where on earth was it coming from, anyway? It wasn't like he'd announced his intent to assume head of security yet.
"I want this taken care of immediately," was Roy's only answer, as he turned to observe the man in the cell.
The assassin was in his early thirties, as far as Roy could tell, with a formerly muscular build that appeared to have withered somewhat since the apocalypse and dark lines under his eyes from too much stress or not enough sleep. There were a number of bandages wrapped around one of his arms, which he favored, cradling it carefully with his free hand. Roy might have felt sorry for him, if it wasn't abundantly clear this was the same man that had just taken a shot at an unsuspecting eleven year old only a few hours prior. Now he felt nothing but disgust, and no small amount of fury, towards the man on the other side of the bars.
"You're the little shit's playmate," the man observed, after squinting through the dim lighting at him for a moment. "Come to say hi?" He smirked.
"A little more than that, I think," Roy answered, tone frigid.
"Good," the man shot back, and his smirk vanished, replaced by an angry scowl. " 'Cause I've been wanting to give the bastard that shot me a piece of my mind!"
Roy's eyes narrowed. "That's funny, considering that between the two of us, I'm not the one that shot to kill," he snapped. "You two can go," he added, glancing over at the guards briefly before turning his attention back to the killer.
They seemed uneasy about leaving him, and Beckett glanced around the dank halls almost nervously before looking back to Roy. He wasn't entirely sure if they were just afraid to leave him alone with the prisoner for his own safety, or if they were afraid to leave them alone because they were in the middle of the bones of Intensive Treatment. Either way, their concerns were misplaced. "I'll be fine," he told them curtly. "I can handle myself, and him."
"You got it, sir," Cooper finally said with a nod, passing a small ring of keys to Roy. Both of them shot one last disgusted glance in the direction of the prisoner before heading back the way Roy had just come, though not without keeping uneasy grips on their bows. Roy would have to work on that with them. Intensive Treatment as it presently was had that effect on people, but his guards couldn't afford to show such nervousness so obviously, not when the civilians needed to trust they could handle things post Z-day.
He marveled, briefly, at how easily such decisions came to his mind, and how quickly they had obeyed his orders.
But those were thoughts for a different time. Steeling himself, he turned back to the imprisoned assassin, just in time to catch the man sneering in disgust at him.
"Oh," the man scowled, "So you're a big shot now, huh? And I heard the other one lived. More fuckin' kids runnin' the place. God, this place is fucked."
"It's better than outside. So. Why'd you do it." It was more of a statement than a question, and Roy left no doubt that he expected it to be answered.
But this man wasn't like the dozens of tight-lipped mafia goons or drug ring underlings that he and Green Arrow had stopped in the past, and needed no clever interrogation tricks to make him spill. As soon as the demand left Roy's lips the man sneered, and did not hesitate to answer. "Kid had to go. Too fuckin' dangerous, hoggin' all the power and the supplies, tellin' everybody what to do, turnin' everybody into his pansy little toadies kissin' ass for just a few handouts. That much power goes to a guy's head, an' a spoiled little shit like that, it's gonna be ten times worse. Arkham don't need another corrupt warden like that, 'specially when shit gets tough!"
Roy's eyes narrowed. "You think he'd seize everything and abandon us if things got dangerous."
"Think?" The man nearly shrieked, eyes bulging with fervor. "I fuckin' know! His rich bastard daddy couldn't fuckin' hack it and ran off with his tail between his legs when things got tough. And you think that little shit'll do any better when winter gets hard? When the zeds attack again?" He jabbed his uninjured arm violently for emphasis as he ranted. "'Course he fuckin' won't, he's used to the goddamn easy life! Things get tough and he'll turn coward jus' like his damn daddy, keep everythin' for himself. He ain't got the guts to fight or do the dirty work that needs doin', if it comes to that. An' with everyone fuckin' bowing and scraping and treating him like a goddamn king nobody's gonna see it until it's too late. He'll take us all down with him! No, he'll let us rot and live off our hard work!"
Roy was disgusted with just how little the man understood about Richard Grayson. Dick had dropped the rich-boy pretense when the apocalypse had come in favor of saving as many lives as possible, especially when there was no longer a need to protect the non-existent 'Robin' guise. Dick was neither selfish nor cowardly—even the man's accusations against Bruce Wayne were lies. But it was clear he believed them. The man was fanatical and deranged, that was for sure.
"And that's a reason to kill a child," Roy said icily.
"It's a reason to kill anybody," the man snarled back with conviction. "Especially a weak leader with lives leanin' on him and monsters at the door."
"You really believe that," Roy said quietly. "Don't you."
"Damn straight I do! And I ain't the only one."
Roy's eyes narrowed. There it was—a blatant admission that more than one person on the island wanted Dick dead, or out of the way. It was absolutely inexcusable. Roy would not stand for it, not on the Refuge, not when those people were alive because of Dick's hard work and generosity and selflessness. This was a turning point: Roy had to prove, both to this man and the other nameless threats, that such actions would not be treated lightly, and he would not turn a blind eye to them. This was not Gotham of old, with its corrupt police system and network of crime. This was Arkham Refuge, a safe-haven in the midst of chaos, and it was time they understood what that meant.
"I see," Roy answered smoothly. "You have your convictions. Well, I have mine. You're a threat to my colony—so you're no longer welcome here. I'll escort you to the gate personally. You have one hour after passing through that gate to make yourself scarce."
The would-be assassin sneered at him, and did not seem remotely worried. "Feh, you ain't got the guts. That's murder, your precious Grayson's too scared to get his hands bloody."
But Roy was not phased by the accusation, and his eyes were hard as he stared the man down. "Grayson's not here, is he? I am. Besides, it's hardly murder. Murder would be if I killed you right here and now and dropped your body into the catacombs below. It'd take weeks for them to find you—if they ever did." The man's sneer fell slowly on his face, and he no longer looked quite as sure as he did before. Good—Roy was getting tired of the condescending act.
"No," Roy continued, voice still cold, "you'll be walking out of that gate alive. That's more than you'd have given him, and far more than you deserve. Now if you come back..." He caught the man's eyes again, and waited a moment before finishing with, "Well, you'd best not, for your own sake. As it turns out, it's a lot harder to get into Arkham than to leave it."
"You're serious?" the man asked after a moment. Roy was silent, but apparently it was enough of an answer to him, because he said with an edge of panic to his voice, "C'mon, man, that ain't funny. You know how many zeds are out there? And I got a gimp arm that you gave me! I could die out there!"
Roy snorted; it figured that the man would be a hypocrite on top of everything else. He desired the protection and safety the island offered—protection and safety it never would have offered, if not for Dick's ingenuity and effort. But now that all that work was done, it was okay to murder the eleven year old, since they didn't agree on how to handle things. God, the man was completely delusional—Dick was worth him six thousand times over.
"You could," Roy answered finally. "Or you might not. That's up to you, and quite frankly as long as you're outside the Gotham lines, I don't care one way or another. But if you come back, to the city and especially to Arkham Refuge, one way or another you will regret it."
The man looked more than a little panicked, but stepped up close to the bars a second later, trying to look as intimidating as possible with his bloodied arm cradled limply in the opposite hand. "You...you ain't got the guts."
Roy leaned in close, until their faces were only inches apart. "Just try me."
The man met him glare for glare, but backed down after only a few seconds, stepping back and looking away. Apparently he didn't like what he saw, and wasn't willing to even try calling Roy's bluff. For that matter, Roy wasn't even sure if it was a bluff—his mood was deadly serious, and at that moment he felt harder than steel and coiled like a spring, ready for action. And while he'd like to think that he was simply doing a fine job of intimidating the man, there was a part of him buried deep inside that felt as though, if he were forced to a point at which he would need to take dangerous or permanent action to protect the Refuge's residents—all of them—he might actually seriously consider it.
But that point wasn't now, and thankfully that was a decision for another day. The man believed what he saw—maybe because it wasn't entirely untrue—and seemed to realize his banishment was, in fact, the closest thing to mercy the apocalypse was going to offer him. He swallowed, and after a moment said, "Al...alright."
"Good," Roy said curtly. He released the cell door, slapped a pair of cuffs that his guards must have used to transport the assassin back on the man's arms, and pushed him towards the stairs. The man was smart enough not to fight, apparently realizing that bruises and broken limbs would help him very little outside the walls. The man was shaking, though, and Roy couldn't help but feel vindictive satisfaction, now that the would-be assassin was starting to realize how badly he'd overestimated his chances.
Roy was unsurprised to see Cooper and Beckett waiting outside the entrance to Intensive Treatment, bows at the ready. "Wanted to see if you needed any help with this bastard," the first one informed him curtly.
"I've got him," Roy answered immediately. "Go ahead and warn the gate we're coming. He's decided he's better off not staying here." The assassin attempted to glare over his shoulder at Roy, but knew better than to argue, or protest the claim that he'd chosen to leave.
His guards obeyed, and by the time Roy reached the main gate they were waiting for him. The guards on the wall didn't hesitate to open the gate at Roy's command, watching the would-be killer coldly, and a few fingered their bows as though they wished to use them. Roy stepped past the gates while pushing the assassin ahead, un-cuffed him, and reminded coldly, "One hour. That's all you have until sunset, and you'd best be gone by then. Don't forget what I said."
The man glared at him hatefully—and with more than a little fear, too—but he nodded in understanding. Roy turned his back on him, and seconds later the gate clanged shut behind him.
"He doesn't come back in," Roy ordered his guards—how quickly he was coming to think of them as his!—sharply. "No exceptions. If he tries, call me—I'll deal with him." The men nodded in understanding, and more than one saluted him.
Satisfied, and feeling bone-weary all over again, Roy made his exhausted way back towards the medical facility.
By the time he reached Dick's private room again, Roy was as dead on his feet as it was possible to get without it being literal. The nurses had nothing new to report about his friend's condition, and the main threat was taken care of, so Roy figured he could take it a little easier, relatively at least.
None of the nurses argued when he commandeered a wheeling cot from one of the other, empty rooms and hauled it to Dick's, setting himself up closer to the door. It might have been paranoid, but until Roy could look into this angry fanatic business further he refused to let himself get too far from the potential target, and if he was serious about this whole body-guarding business he might as well commit himself to it one hundred percent. So he rolled onto the cot, facing the door with his bow close at hand, and let himself drift into the same light, wary sleep he'd used when traveling across the zed-infested country.
He figured he'd gotten all of five hours of rest when something finally woke him. It was a noise, but not a threatening one, because he didn't instinctively feel the urge to put an arrow to the string and fire as he rose. He blinked himself slowly into awareness and listened, and was rewarded a moment later when he heard it again: the distinct rustle of sheets behind him, as though somebody was shifting—or trying to get up.
"Do not set one foot out of that bed, Dick," he snapped automatically. "You're supposed to be resting!"
He rolled over and sat up just in time to catch Dick—exhausted looking, a little pale from obvious pain, and inhibited by the sling, but alive, conscious, and coherent—giving him a guilty look, caught in the act of lifting the sheet. He tried to recover by offering a weak-looking smirk, but Roy was onto that game, and gave him a pointed stare until Dick finally lowered the sheet back into place.
"Just wanted to see if you were okay," Dick said, after a moment. "You weren't answering when I called your name, and I thought...well." He gestured with his sling, just slightly, and then immediately winced, clearly regretting the action.
"Just tired," Roy answered immediately, but softer this time. He hadn't meant to worry his friend. "Not hurt at all. It's just been a long day."
"Tell me about it." Dick winced again, and settled back into his pillows, apparently tired of trying to support himself with only one good arm.
For a moment Roy thought he was settling back into sleep, and was just considering salvaging his own nap—even with five hours he still felt bone-tired—but a moment later Dick spoke up again, from his more reclined position on the bed. "How long since...?"
"It happened late this morning," Roy said, becoming more alert as they drifted into more serious topics. "It's...probably close to midnight now."
"I see." A pause; Dick's eyes were closed and he still looked asleep, but Roy could tell he was anything but, and thinking hard. After a moment, the eleven year old said softly, "And...the people who did it?"
"Just one," Roy said curtly. "He's taken care of."
Dick's eyes opened and he turned to look at Roy with a touch of apprehension, although Roy wasn't sure who it was meant for: Roy, the assassin, or Dick himself. " 'Taken care of'? That sounds...ominous."
"He's not dead," Roy clarified. Probably, he added internally, but he wasn't about to mention that part. "I had him...exiled, I guess. He's no longer permitted on the island."
Dick seemed to let out a slow breath that Roy hadn't realized he was holding until now. He looked a little relieved—Roy didn't blame him for that; the man had taken a shot at him after all—but also a little concerned. "It's a cruel world out there," he said after a moment.
"Then he shouldn't have tried to murder a kid," Roy said with conviction. He had no pity for the assassin; he hadn't made a vengeful attempt on the would-be killer's life, but he'd cry no tears if the man got himself eaten out there, either.
Dick frowned at that, but he was smart. Even hazy on his rationed painkillers and dealing with a serious injury he'd probably already come to the same conclusions Roy had stewed over for most of the day. He'd know Roy's decision was the closest thing to mercy they had the option of offering while still protecting the innocent civilians of the colony. It wasn't a pleasant decision, but it was the right one.
Apparently he still felt the need to object on something, however, because after a moment he scowled (weakly, but still a scowl) and said, "I'm not just a kid."
"Yes," Roy shot back, "You are."
Dick blinked, and opened his mouth to argue. Roy had known this conversation was coming, though, and rolled right over Dick's protests. "Look," he said curtly, "I know you don't like the thought of people thinking you're weaker because you're younger, and I know you're smart as hell, and probably better prepared than almost anybody else on the island for this whole apocalypse mess. But the thing is, Dick, you might be smarter, stronger, and more prepared than the average eleven year old, but you're still eleven. You're not even a teenager yet. And you can't do all of this—it's not fair to you. More importantly, other people might still think of you just like a kid, with all the weaknesses of a kid, and will attack accordingly, and you don't have the Robin guise to protect you anymore. Today proved that."
Dick grimaced, and Roy could see the fingers on his bad arm twitching, as though he itched to put the limb to use and was being painfully reminded he could not. After a moment he hissed with clear frustration, "And what am I supposed to do about that, huh? I can't just stop helping these people because they don't know I'm Robin and they think it's okay to take potshots at me for God only knows what reason. You said it yourself, I'm more prepared than anybody else on this island to handle this stuff—I can't just stop because one guy had an issue with me."
"More than one," Roy corrected him. "Don't think this is the last time this will happen. You and I both know better than that; we've seen how this works." Dick looked grim, but nodded in agreement. After a moment, Roy added, "But I'm not suggesting you give up or let yourself get scared off. I'm saying this is too much for one person to handle. You need help—somebody to take a little of the workload off your plate, and somebody to watch your back against future threats. That way you can devote yourself to the remaining tasks with more focus, and be protected while doing it."
"And do you have somebody in mind?" Dick asked. There was a glitter in his eyes that told Roy the kid already knew where this conversation was going, though—and Roy wasn't surprised in the least by that. Dick had always been exceptional at reading people, after all, and Roy had said he was clever.
But Roy only shrugged, as though he was considering a candidate but hadn't quite decided on him yet. "I figured somebody with a similar skill-set as yourself," he said. "The other person better prepared for the apocalypse over everybody else on the island. Somebody with adaptive combat and defense training who can back you up on security measures and simultaneously keep you breathing for another day."
A tiny smirk twitched at the corner of Dick's mouth. "Yeah? Sounds awful specific. I don't know if we'll be able to find somebody with all those qualifications..."
Roy rolled his eyes a little at that, but said dryly, "Well, I already have some rapport with the Refuge's guards, so I suppose I can fill the position until you find somebody more suitable."
"I guess that'll work," Dick said, with a mock sigh. His expression grew more serious a moment later. "But no, really...it sounds like you were doing a good job while I was out. Lot of tough calls to make...and giving people orders is never easy. But it sounds like you handled it well..." He smiled a little. "What'd I tell you? In a crisis there's nobody else I'd rather have at my back."
That meant a lot to Roy, to know Dick had trusted him so absolutely before Roy had even realized he'd deserved it. It was like Dick had known what he was capable of, had the potential to be, long before Roy himself ever discovered it.
But he'd never admit to that out loud, so instead he said, "You'll probably regret saying that soon enough. Watching your back also includes protecting you from yourself, you know. You're taking it easy for the next two months until that shoulder's fully healed—that means eating regularly, not overworking yourself, listening to me when I say you've done enough, and sleeping, because no, it's not only for the weak. No arguments," he added, at Dick's indignant squawk of protest, before he promptly proceeded to ignore any and all of the eleven-year-old's complaints.
Even having recently been shot, and suffering the uncomfortable consequences and weaknesses that followed, it still took Dick a good ten minutes before his futile attempts at arguing and bargaining against his 'un-asterous overprotection' petered out. By then he had worn himself down pretty significantly, and looked like he was drifting back towards sleep. Roy didn't try to sway him—the rest would do him good, and he had a feeling it would rarely be this easy in the future.
But just before Dick seemed ready to drift off completely, the eleven year old spoke one last time. "Hey, Roy?"
A pause for a moment, before Dick murmured sleepily but sincerely, "Are you okay after all this? You seem kinda...a little different..."
Roy blinked at the question, and considered it carefully before answering, "I'm...fine. Actually, all things considered, I'm...better than I ever have been since Z-day."
And to his surprise Roy found it was actually the truth.
And now we all know why Roy was so overprotective in Age of Heroes and how he became head of security :)
Hope you liked it Friar (and...everybody else that ever commented on how much they love the Age of Heroes Dick and Roy dynamic haha).