Diamond District: Iceberg Lounge
Nightwing had left Arkham without a word to anyone. He needed air, he needed to be alone. He had come to the lounge to find Penguin, who had been the one that supplied and smuggled the jammers to Arkham. Nightwing was kneeling on the glass dome of the Iceberg Lounge. He heard a voice in his ear. It was Oracle.
"Nightwing? You out there?"
"I'm here Oracle."
"Batman just contacted me. He's heading back to the cave with Raven. He said that Arkham is back under control, Sharp is being investigated for corruption and medical reports that Joker won't be able to walk for at least six months."
Nightwing's anger began to surface again.
"That bastard should be six feet under, or having his ashes sprinkled into the harbor."
Oracle was quiet, then she answered.
"He also said Raven took a round to the chest and that she's in stable condition. Dick, I'm so sorry. Anything I can do?"
"You've had a long night Barbara. Get some rest."
Oracle was concerned.
"And what about you? You've had a longer night than I have."
"I just need to be alone. Time to cool off. I'll be home later."
"Okay. But I'm keeping an earpiece in. I'm here if you need me."
"Thanks Oracle. But I'll be fine."
Nightwing looked down through the glass. He saw the orchestra playing on the stage. In front of the stage was an aquarium that held a Great White shark that Penguin had named Tiny. The high class socialites of Gotham were inside enjoying their meals at the tables. Nightwing also saw a few actors and some professional athletes also dining. There was a habitat that housed penguins and seals in the middle of the room. Nightwing began scanning the lounge below him. He spotted Cobblepot at the bar that overlooked the lounge. From there Cobblepot could see the entire room and see everything that was happening below. Nightwing pulled a device from his holster.
"Okay Penguin, time to blow off some steam…"
Nightwing placed the device on the glass dome. He adjusted the frequency of the device he stuck on the glass.
"Let's see… 455 Hertz should do it."
Nightwing pressed the button on the sonic device he placed, it began vibrating and shaking. Then the glass dome shattered. Glass rained down on all the people below, a few patrons screamed. The orchestra stopped playing. Nightwing landed in the middle of the room. Glass was still raining down. Cobblepot walked to the railing in front of the bar. He spoke in his fake English accent.
"Welcome to the Iceberg Lounge Nightwing! Oi! Someone git' this man a drink!"
A serving girl approached Nightwing, she had drinks on a platter. She held it in front of him. Nightwing looked at the drinks then the serving girl.
She backed up and walked away. Penguin bellowed out again.
"Drinks not to your liking? Tell me, what else can I do to make your stay more hospitable? Stronger drink? Gourmet food? Some games of chance? Or… Are you looking for something a little more carnal…?"
Nightwing looked up at Penguin.
"I'm here for you Cobblepot."
"For me? I know you've been gone a while so I'll let you in on somethin'. I've reformed! Gone legitimate! Everything here is perfectly legal!"
Nightwing looked around, everyone's eyes were on him. He amplified his voice so everyone could hear him.
"I didn't realize amphetamines dissolved into ice cubes and giving away stolen imports as prize cars was legal."
Everyone looked at their drinks and began to spill them out. Cobblepot tensed, he was trying to keep up appearances but he began to lose his temper.
"I'm afraid I don't know what you mean."
"Really? And what about the military grade jammers that were smuggled into Arkham?"
All the guests at the lounge had their eyes on Nightwing and Penguin. Penguin pulled out a cigar and lit it. He put it in his mouth.
"Like I said-"
He pulled the cigar out and a puff of smoke followed after.
"I know nothin' about that."
"Then explain to me why I heard one of YOUR former crew talking about how you smuggled them into Arkham."
Penguin put the cigar in his mouth and glared. His voice was low.
"I knew I shoulda' started removing the tongues of my guys that walk away…"
He removed the cigar again.
"'Ere I am being all polite and hospitable, and then you break into my home, threaten me and throw accusations around…"
Nightwing looked around the room.
"Only you and Sionis have the contacts and resources for that type of equipment. And Sionis is locked up in Bludhaven's max security wing after I kicked his ass out of my city."
Penguin smirked. Smoke from the cigar lifting into the air. Penguin looked around the room. Then pulled the cigar from his mouth a final time.
"I'm not sure I like you breakin' into my home and embarrassing me in front of my guests…"
Penguin signaled with the hand that held his cigar.
Nightwing watched as twenty of penguins men appeared from the shadows. They circled the entire room. Some were on the same level as Nightwing, others on the stairs, and the rest on the upper balcony and around the private lounges. Nightwing observed the room, he was memorizing the location of every one of Penguin's men. Nightwing smirked, he looked up at penguin.
"After all these years and you still keep the same trigger happy idiots on payroll. Thought you'd learn by now."
Penguin puffed smoke from his lips.
"And I thought you'd learn your lesson by now. Keep your beak outta' my business."
Nightwing inched his hand towards one of the pouches on his leg.
"What can I say? I'm still that curious little kid that took down your human trafficking racket."
Penguin got a scowl on his face.
"I forgot about that… You cost me a small fortune."
Penguin looked to one of his men. Then he began barking orders.
"A hundred grand to the one clips the birdies wings! Get him!"
Gunfire erupted throughout the room. The civilians in the room began to panic, some took cover while others ran for the entrance. Three rounds struck Nightwing in the shoulder, his suit resisted the impact and prevented the rounds from penetrating. Nightwing threw six smoke pellets, the room began filling with a thick dark cloud of smoke.
Penguin began shouting.
"You bloody idiots! He could be anywhere! Fan out and find him!"
Penguin's men began searching the room. All of them began moving throughout the lounge, some were bunched together, some were on their own. The thick cloud of smoke still filled the room. Again Penguin began shouting orders.
"If anyone sees him, call out! He could be-"
One of Penguin's men screamed.
"Ah- Fu- You shot me!"
Another one of Penguin's thugs answered.
"Sorry! I-I thought you were Nightwing!"
Penguin was losing his temper.
"Would you bloody idiots check your targets! When he's in the dark he could take out all of-"
"Let go-! Hey he's-"
The man was silent. Another voice.
"I saw him! On me! He's-"
Another one dropped. Nightwing was stalking each of the thugs Penguin had brought out. The cloud of smoke was blinding them, making them jump at shadows and panic. The smoke began to dissipate, Penguin peered through the smoke and made out a silhouette. He put the cigar in his mouth and exhaled, smoke came from between his lips. Then the smoke cleared. Penguin saw Nightwing standing in the middle of the lounge, he was standing over the thug that had been shot by friendly fire. The thug was unconscious but Nightwing had given him first aid and had staunched the bleeding. Penguin looked around the room. All of his men had been taken down before the smoke cleared. Nightwing looked up at Penguin.
"The best of Gotham huh? Not impressed Cobblepot…"
Penguin glared. He took a step forward.
"If you want something done right…"
Nightwing began climbing the staircase to Penguin's level. Penguin pointed his umbrella at Nightwing and shot at him with his trick umbrella. He was trying to slow Nightwing down, it didn't work. Penguin pulled out a radio and spoke into it.
"Lark! Get out here! And send in everyone!"
Nightwing kept advancing. Penguin began backing up trying to find a way out. Nightwing charged Penguin, he grabbed him by the suit and picked him up off the ground.
"It's over Cobblepot…"
Penguin was squirming, his tough guy façade fell away.
"Please… Don't hurt me… I was only-"
Nightwing still had lots of suppressed anger and frustration from the events earlier at Arkham, from Raven getting shot. He glared at Penguin, his fists clenched tighter.
"I can't promise that…"
Nightwing saw as penguin glanced to the left and smiled. His tough guy persona came back and he started laughing.
"Neither can I."
Nightwing took a punch causing him to drop Penguin and sent him over the railing to the floor below. Nightwing landed on a table that broke under his weight. He slowly rolled off the table, he was still dazed from the fall. Nightwing began to stand up.
"That's going hurt in the morning."
Nightwing looked up at who or what had delivered the blow that sent him over the railing, he saw a darker skinned woman who was built like a body builder and wearing all black. She was wearing leather pants, a black leather jacket that was open. A leather corset was underneath, and a choker around her neck. She had a nose stud and black lip stick. Half her head was shaved with the other half having long hair. Penguin began laughing again.
"In this corner, weighing in at one hundred and fifty three pounds, Lark!"
The woman jumped over the railing and landed on the ground below. Nightwing backed up to put space between the two of them. Penguin walked to the railing.
"I'd like ya to meet my new bodyguard. I found her wandering the streets of London and brought her here… She runs the day to day when I'm not around. Along with handling pest extermination…"
Lark grabbed the broken table that Nightwing landed on and threw it at him. Nightwing deftly dodges the table and took a defensive stance. Lark charged at Nightwing, she lunged and tried landing a right jab. Nightwing flowed around dodging it. Lark then went forward a landed a left fist to Nightwing. The first punch was a feint, she was baiting him to dodge. Penguin called from his platform.
"How do you like her? A real ball buster, am I right?"
Nightwing did a back handspring to put even more distance between the two of them. He was analyzing how she moved, how she fought. Lark advanced on him again, she kept her hands up and advanced like a boxer. Nightwing smirked, he knew how she fought. Lark got close again and reached out with her left, Nightwing flowed around her punch with a half spin and once she was fully extended he landed a back elbow to her rib cage. Lark grunted in pain as she took a step back. The woman advanced again, she did a flurry of punches that Nightwing dodged. Before Lark could land another punch Nightwing struck. He landed a kick from his left to her right side. He pivoted and shifted his weight and landed a kick with his right leg. Lark pushed him away. For the first time she spoke, her heavy London accent coming out.
"Bloody hell you're quick!"
Nightwing just smirked. Penguin bellowed from above.
"Oi, Lark! Quit giving him compliments and smash his face in!"
"Shame… You have such a pretty face."
Lark charged again, and again she moved like a boxer. Nightwing blocked the blows, then Lark raised her hands over her head and brought her fists down hard. Nightwing raised his forearms and tried to block the blow. Her fists were heavy, Nightwing took the full blow and knocked him to the ground. Lark came down with a curb stomp aimed at his neck. Nightwing twisted and avoided the stomp. He landed a kip up and got into a ready stance. Nightwing shifted his stance, putting more weight on his left foot than his right foot. Lark jumped forward, trying to catch Nightwing off guard with a superman punch. He telegraphed it, by the time Lark landed, Nightwing was behind her. Lark spun around trying to catch Nightwing off guard and land a back fist. Nightwing dropped into the splits and avoided the blow, he stood up and landed an elbow to the side of Lark's head dazing her. Nighwing then landed a back kick to the back of her knee sending her to one knee. Nightwing then grabbed her wrist and twisted, then brought it between his legs. He spun and placed her into an arm bar. She was helpless.
"Let me go!"
Nightwing's face was red from exerting pressure on her arm. He looked to Lark.
Nightwing flexed again, there was a popping noise and her arm went limp. She cried out in pain and then lost consciousness. He released her and stood up. Nightwing looked around. Penguin now had more men surrounding the room, the remaining guests had fled the Iceberg Lounge. Penguin was enraged. Nightwing cracked his neck and looked up at Penguin.
"You and me Penguin. Save your men."
Nightwing pulled out one of his escrima and twirled it through his fingers. Penguin put the cigar in his mouth.
"Ah, ah… Put that away bird boy… I got one more trick up my sleeve…"
Nightwing grabbed the other escrima from his holster. He hit them against each other, the blue plasma arced between the two of them. Penguin pulled out the cigar and tapped his umbrella on the ground.
"It just so happens I have a secret weapon…"
"Really? You have another bird themed bodyguard? Can they last more than five minutes?"
"Oh, I'm sure this next one will just ravage you…"
Penguin turned around.
"Oi, lass! Get out here!"
Nightwing heard deft footsteps. He realized that the footsteps were well trained. Nightwing watched as the figure approached. Nightwing smiled wide when the figure approached. The figure crossed their arms and leaned them over the railing. The figure grinned ear to ear.
"Well now, what do we have here…?"
Nightwing saw the figure's white hair and blue eyes. Her blue and orange combat suit shining in the light. She had a sword on her back along with a rifle, a sidearm was sitting in the holster on her leg. Nightwing couldn't contain his laughter or surprise.
"Ravager. It's been a while."
Ravager leaned over the railing farther. Penguin smiled.
"I see you two know each other…"
"Really now Nightwing… You didn't have to go through all this trouble to get my attention. After that night in Metropolis, you could have just called."
Penguin grinned wider.
"I see you two know each other well…"
Nightwing looked to Ravager.
"You know me Rose, I like to make an impression…"
Penguin looked to Ravager.
"This is why I paid your fee. I don't need him or the bat sniffing around here."
Ravager looked to Penguin.
"I'll take care of it."
Ravager launched herself over the railing and landed on the ground below. She pulled out her sword and cut it through the air, she planted her feet and gripped the sword ready to strike or parry. She glared at Nightwing. Nightwing got into a ready stance.
"You don't have to do this Rose."
She glanced to Penguin. Penguin dropped his cigar and pulled out another one. He bellowed out in his fake accent.
"A hundred fifty G's for his head. Two fifty if you leave him alive long enough for me to cut that mask off his face."
Ravager turned back to Nightwing, she twirled her sword around and changed her stance. Then she unsnapped her holster, making it so she could draw her sidearm in a blink. Nightwing rolled his eyes.
"So be it…"
Ravager charged Nightwing, her sword cutting through the air as she attacked Nightwing. She was fast, as fast as him. The sound of her sword hitting Nightwing's escrima filled the room. Ravager did a half spin and brought the sword across Nightwing's chest. Nightwing dodged the tip of the blade at the last second and drove his knee into her stomach. She took the hit and recovered, she swept Nightwing's legs with her heel sending him to the ground. Ravager twirled her sword through the air and placed the tip of her katana to Nightwing's throat. Nightwing glared.
"Well, what happens now Rose?"
Ravager smirked and lowered herself and straddled Nightwing, she now brought the edge of her katana to his throat. She lowered her voice so Penguin and his men couldn't hear her.
"You're not my enemy Dick. I'm here for my own reasons."
Penguin bellowed from where he was standing.
"Well done! I shoulda' hired you years ago!"
He looked to his remaining men.
"Boys! Move in! Nightwing tries anything, kill him!"
Ravager watched Penguin's men move in, she began counting them. She lowered her voice again.
"Penguin hired my dad a few months back. I've been looking for him for almost a year."
Nightwing had a surprised look on his face.
"Deathstroke was here? In Gotham?"
"That's why I hired myself out to Penguin. I thought I could find out where he went or what he was doing. So far, I've found nothing."
Ravager looked around at the rest of penguins men. She looked back to Nightwing.
"And recently, Penguin hasn't been paying me what we agreed. So I figure it's time I get the answers MY way. Now, I know you would be interested in knowing where my dad is. So the way I see it, we take out these assholes, Penguin included, and we get that information. Together. You in?"
Nightwing looked her in the eye.
"I'm in. But just so we're clear, I will NOT let you get in my way when I find him…"
Ravager nodded. She looked at Penguin's men. They were beginning to suspect something.
"Follow my lead. Once I give the signal, we move on three…"
"What's the signal?"
"You'll know it when you see it…"
Ravager noticed Penguin's men moving closer. They were edgy. They noticed that they had been talking. They were about to open fire on both of them.
"Now hit me… Make it convincing."
Nightwing understood. He grabbed one of his escrima that were laying nearby and drove the end of it into her side. Ravager felt a jolt of electricity from the escrima and screamed in pain. Nightwing kicked her off him and stood up. Ravager was holding her side and glared at Nightwing. She threw her head to the side to get the hair out of eyes. Ravager motioned to the wall with her head. Nightwing nodded. She charged him, dropped a shoulder and attempted to tackle him. Nightwing braced and took the hit. Ravager drove him into the wall. The flat of his back was flush against the wall. Her katana again was pressed against his neck. Ravager surveyed the scene around her, Penguin's men dropped their guard but were still watching the two of them. Penguin was squawking from his balcony.
"Do it! Kill him! And send his head to The Bat!"
Ravager rolled her eyes. She looked into Nightwing's eyes and smiled. Then, before Nightwing could kick her away or move, he felt her lips on his. She backed off and then winked at him. That was her signal. She grinned, then whispered to him.
Nightwing nodded. He kicked one of Ravager's legs out from underneath her. Nightwing counted as his kick connected with her knee.
She caught herself from falling and landed a back handspring. Ravager glared at him. Nightwing repositioned himself away from the wall and returned Ravager's glare. They began circling each other. Ravager stopped once she reached a good position, she twirled her katana into a guarded stance and glared at Nightwing. Nightwing stopped circling and pulled out his escrima into a defensive stance. Ravager couldn't find a single opening in his guard. She reversed her grip on the katana, the spine of the blade was flush against her forearm. She put her weight on her front foot, so she was ready to charge. Nightwing saw her guard change and changed his. He reversed his grip with the escrima in his right, the left one he choked up on, balancing it perfectly in the middle. Ravager smiled and mouthed the words to him.
He nodded; it was time to make their move. Ravager threw her eyes to the right. She was telling Nightwing that she was going to his left. He gave her another nod; he was going right. The two charged each other again but this time, just before they clashed, Ravager dropped to her knees into a slide. She swiped her sword at Nightwing's legs. Nightwing tucked and jumped over the blade, he heard it cutting through the air. Nightwing hit the ground with a roll. As he came out of the roll, he heard one of Penguin's men scream. He turned just in time to see a silver streak through the air, then a spray of blood. Ravager had sliced a guard across the chest with her sword faster than the eye could see. Penguin screamed to his men.
"It's a bloody trick! They're working together! Kill 'em!"
Nightwing elbowed a thug that approached him in the jaw, he spun around behind him then delivered a kick to the backside of his knee. Nightwing then delivered a roundhouse kick to the man as he crumbled to his knees. He then advanced to the next thug. The thug raised a combat shotgun at Nightwing. Nightwing twisted his body. The barrel flashed, then the room echoed with the sound of the shotgun blast. All the slugs missed Nightwing, before the thug could fire another shot Nightwing was on him. He grabbed the barrel and forced it upwards hitting the man in the nose with the rail of the gun. He recoiled, Nightwing kicked him in the knee sending the man to the ground, Nightwing pulled the shotgun from his hand and hit the man in the temple with the butt of the gun. Nightwing turned to check on Ravager. Ravager had taken down three guards and advanced on the next one, she swiped at the man's legs with a reverse grip, she twirled the sword and was ready to make a killing blow. Nightwing screamed to her.
"Hey! Non-lethal only!"
At the last second, before her sword pierced the man's chest, she pulled the blade away and delivered a punch from her left dropping him. She advanced onto the next man as Nightwing did the same. Ravager again brought her sword to one of Penguin's men, but this time she did it nonlethally. She cut the man with the tip of her katana just below his left shoulder. Blood sprayed into the man's eyes and he screamed in a panic before Ravager kicked him to the ground. Across the room Nightwing had two men on him, he held each of them off with his escrima. Nightwing ducked under a blow then rolled behind one of the men. At the end of the roll while still in a kneeling position he brought the escrima into the man's side while using a reverse wield. Arcs of blue plasma jumped from the escrima. The man's body tensed as his muscles tightened and the man fell to the ground. Nightwing swept the legs of the other man and with his other escrima delivered a blow as the man was falling to the ground. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Ravager. A thug lowered his rifle at her. Ravager brought her katana up vertically to the barrel of the gun sending it up into the air. Before she could strike again, she saw another man twenty feet away from her raise his gun to her. Ravager spun around the man in front of her. While she was in a spin, she tripped the man she was spinning around while pulling her sidearm from her holster at the same time. At the end of her spin she aimed the gun at the man who had sighted at her, she flexed her trigger finger. Before she could fully depress the trigger a wing-ding struck her sidearm and knocked it to the ground, then another one struck and impaled the hand of the man who sighted her causing him to drop the rifle. Ravager looked to Nightwing who was engaging another thug. She heard him call out to her.
"No guns either!"
She yelled at him.
"Where's the fun in that?!"
She charged to the man who had sighted her and took him down with a flurry of punches. Ravager looked around; half of Penguin's men had fallen. Penguin shouted from his balcony.
"What am I paying you idiots for?! There's only two of them!"
He mumbled under his breath.
"I'll do it myself…"
Penguin pulled out an M60 from behind the bar, he walked to the edge of the balcony and fired it at Ravager. The room erupted into gunfire from Penguin and his thugs. Nightwing watched as Ravager sprinted towards cover but Penguin was spraying bullets right at her. Nightwing ran towards Ravager and into oncoming fire. He felt a few rounds hit his legs and torso, but the suit protected him. He tackled Ravager behind cover. Rounds from both sides started hitting the cover. Rose looked over herself and Nightwing for injuries. Nightwing repositioned himself to peer over the cover.
"This is just like Metropolis!"
"You and I remember Metropolis very differently…"
Nightwing hunkered back into cover and looked to Ravager.
"Is that before, or after you got my clothes off?"
"You remember that?"
"How could I forget? I was sore for three days."
Ravager cracked a grin.
"I didn't hear you complaining. Besides, I had to get your mind off that girl who died… What was her name...? Amy something…"
Nightwing heard a pause in the gunfire. He looked to Rose.
"Can you handle the rest of these guys while I take down Penguin?"
Nightwing nodded and reached for a few more smoke pellets. He put one between each of his fingers, Ravager got ready to move.
Nightwing dropped the smoke pellets and again, the room began to fill with thick dark clouds that concealed the two of them. Before Ravager could move on the approaching guards, she realized Nightwing was already gone. She was amazed. When did he get that fast? Ravager moved to the approaching men. Gunfire started up again. Nightwing had disappeared into the smoke taking out two guys as he advanced to Penguin's position. Nightwing got to an elevated position above Penguin as he was blindly hip firing into the smoke while laughing. Nighwing dropped from his position onto Penguin sending the M60 out of his hands and sliding across the floor. Nightwing's anger was burning again.
"You're done Cobblepot!"
Nightwing grabbed Penguin by the throat and lifted him off the ground and dangled him over the edge of the balcony. Penguin was squirming, trying to get free. Penguin was trying to get air.
"Get your hands off me! Let me go-!"
"Very poor choice of words…"
Nightwing let Penguin go. Cobblepot fell through the air and landed on a table below. The table collapsed under his weight. Penguin began crawling away. Then Nightwing landed in front of him. Penguin realized that he had been backed into a corner. His tough-guy act dropped as Nightwing grabbed him by the throat again. His fake accent had a panic to it.
"Please! Let me go! I'll give you anything! Weapons, money… Whatever you want!"
Nightwing glared. His anger boiling.
"What I want is you in a cell. I want you jumping at every shadow, every rat. I want you looking over your shoulder knowing that I can always- "
Before he could finish there was a female voice from behind him.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you…"
Nightwing turned around and saw Lark standing behind him. She had come to. Lark took another step.
"Put him down."
"And if I don't?"
"Then your pretty girlfriend loses her head…"
Nightwing watched as Lark pulled a captured Ravager out from behind her. Ravager avoided Nightwing's gaze, embarrassed that she had been taken down. Nightwing's years of training paying off, he didn't betray an emotion. Just watched her without reacting in any way. He grinned.
"What do I care?"
"From what I hear, you two know each other well… And I know you hero types don't let hostages get killed."
"Ravager has caused no small amount of trouble for me. And tried to kill me more times than she's helped. Go ahead, see what I care…"
"Thought you'd say that."
Lark pulled out Ravager's katana and put it to her throat. Ravager felt the cold blade against her skin. She gave a look to Nightwing. He understood. She wanted him to forget about her, wanted him to not put Penguin down. She could handle herself. Nightwing glared at Lark, trying to keep his bluff alive. Prove she meant nothing to him. Nightwing's voice was cold and emotionless as he spoke to Lark. His voice even made Ravager get a chill down her spine.
"Think you scare me? Go ahead… She's nothing to me…"
For a second, Lark was terrified. Afraid that he was right. She decided to test him. Lark put a little pressure on the blade. A single drop of crimson blood ran down her neck. Lark saw Nightwing flinch. Ravager knew he was about to relent. Ravager called to him.
"Don't do it Nightwing! You're stronger than this! I can handle myself!"
Nightwing relented. He dropped Penguin to the ground. Penguin chuckled as he hit the ground.
"That's a good boy."
Nightwing turned to face Ravager. As he turned his back on Penguin, the small man made hi move. He kicked Nightwing in the back of the knee sending him into a kneeling position. Nightwing watched as Lark pulled a handgun and threw it to Penguin. Cobblepot snatched it out of the air and put it to Nightwing's skull. Nightwing looked to Ravager, she tried to struggle but the blade was still to her neck. Ravager began to look unsettled, she looked at Nightwing. He just winked. She knew to follow his lead.
"Quiet! It's Penguin to you!"
"Tell me, Oz. You ever heard about 'The Flying Grayson's?"
Ravager's eyes went wide. She stared at Nightwing and gently shook her head telling him 'no'. Penguin looked at Nightwing.
"Eh? Flyin' who?"
"The Amazing Flying Grayson's? The greatest acrobat family on earth...?"
"Acrobats? What you on about you bleedin' fairy?"
"Never heard of them? Shame. So few people remember them theses days. You see Oz, they had this trick they used to do…"
Nightwing looked to Ravager. She saw his gaze and knew he was about to make his move.
"It looked a little like… THIS!"
Before Penguin knew what was happening Nightwing was in the air in a backflip. Then Nightwing came crashing down on top of Penguin again. As Nightwing looked up he saw as Ravager threw Lark over her shoulder then knocked her out by driving the hilt of her katana into the side of her head. Ravager stood up and looked to Nightwing.
"That was… Impressive. I didn't know you could do that."
"I'm not that teenager from Jump City anymore."
Ravager got a flirtatious grin.
"Oh, I think I've noticed."
"Not what I meant."
Nightwing turned around and looked at Penguin.
"Now, to deal with Penguin."
He picked Penguin up again and dragged him across the room to the shark tank. He slammed him against the glass.
"How should I know?"
Ravager walked over with her sword drawn. She held it at the ready.
"Where's my father?"
"I told you I have no idea!"
Ravager smiled. She brought her sword between his legs with the blade facing up. She moved the blade up slowly.
"Tell me or I'll cut it off…"
Penguin began to squirm and panic.
"You gotta believe me… I don't-".
Nightwing's frustration came out. His voice was cold, threatening. Even someone as hardened as Ravager couldn't help but feel fear.
"Tell me something Penguin… Have you ever had a REALLY bad day? A day so bad, that all you want to do is forget about it. But you can't because it worms its way into your memory and scars you… Forces you to change into the person you never thought you would become, but all along you knew it was the person you should have been."
Nightwing tightened his grip, beginning to strangle Joker.
"So when you find yourself locked onto an unpleasant train of thought. Heading to the places in your past where the screaming is unbearable, remember there's always madness. Madness is the emergency exit…"
Ravager was terrified of the man standing in front of her. She had never seen this side of Nightwing before. All his anger and frustration from the night's event, mixed with the anger and frustration he buried within him since Jump City. He was so close to breaking; he didn't even realize how close. Penguin was petrified with fear. He was shaking, heartbeat racing. Nightwing tightened his grip again. Ravager put a hand on his shoulder, comforting him. Subtly, telling him to back off. Nightwing realized what he was doing and released his grip.
"But I am not there yet…"
Penguin slumped to the ground. Nightwing started questioning him again.
"One more time. Where. Is. Slade?"
Penguin was still petrified with fear. He couldn't answer even if he wanted to. Ravager stepped up; her voice was wavering from fear as well.
"I- I'd answer him Penguin. I've never seen him like this."
Penguin tried to answer.
"I- I- I- "
Nightwing's anger fully bubbled to the surface. He screamed. The entire room echoed with his outburst.
"WHERE IS HE?!"
"I don't bloody know! I- I hired him for a job, to clean up loose ends. Then he disappeared haven't heard from him since!"
"You better not be lying… Or I'll show you what a loss of control looks like…"
"I swear I'm- "
"Now about those jammers at Arkham…"
"Stole 'em from a military transport… My boys smuggled them in with a shipment of supplies. Paid off security to 'overlook' them."
Nightwing stood up.
"We're done here."
He turned and began walking away. Penguin called from behind.
"Oi! You can't just break in here smash my place to pieces and then walk out! You-"
Nightwing turned around and glared. Penguin instantly stopped. Nightwing put a finger to his ear. Ravager heard him talking to someone as she jogged up from behind.
"-I've got penguin at the Iceberg Lounge. He's ready for your team. Thanks Gordon."
He took his finger from his ear just as Ravager caught up. She was concerned. Her voice was low so nobody could hear their voices.
"Dick, what's going on? That wasn't like you."
"People change Rose. It's been a long time…"
"Don't give me that bullshit Dick. What happened?"
He looked over to her.
"GCPD will be here in a few minutes. You should be gone by the time they get here."
"You're not going to tell me, are you?"
Ravager put her katana back in the sheath on her back. She turned to leave when she stopped dead.
"If I find anything more about my dad, I'll contact you. I expect the same from you."
"I keep my promises Rose. You should know that."
Just before Ravager made her exit, she heard Nightwing again.
"Thank you, Rose."
"Uh, for what?"
"For backup. And for caring."
"See you around Nightwing…"
Ravager walked to the entrance of the Iceberg Lounge. Before she walked through the door, she turned a final time to look at Nightwing. Only he was gone, he had disappeared into the night like he always did. She smiled.
"Some things never change."
She walked out. Unknown to her she was being watched. Nightwing was standing on the roof watching as she cleared out. He saw the red and blue police lights, then heard the sirens. He smiled.
"See you around Rose."
Nightwing put a finger to his ear.
"Red Hood? You out there?"
After a few seconds he heard a voice out there.
"What do you want Nightwing?"
"You still trying to get your hands on the Iceberg Lounge?"
"What if I am? You've seen the security in that place. It's suicide. Even for me."
"Not anymore. His men have been taken down and GCPD is on its way for Penguin. If you want to take ownership now's the time."
"Wait seriously? How the hell did you manage that?"
"I have friends. You should try it sometime."
"Uh-huh. And this friend… What's her name?"
"Not important. The lounge is yours if you want it."
"Yeah, sure… Hey uh Dick?"
"Of course, Jason. What are brothers for?"
He thought he could hear Jason smile. Probably his imagination. He heard Jason come back in his ear.
"Hey uh, Dick?"
"I heard about Rachel… If there's anything you need, let me know."
"Sure. What are brothers for?"
He looked at the skyline and somehow, he smiled.
Nightwing drove his bike into the cave and parked it next to the bat-mobile. He got off his bike and saw Bruce waiting for him. He was at the computer typing away. He also had been keeping tabs on GCPD's cleanup, Joker's condition, as well as tracking Nightwing. Bruce was still wearing the suit, but his cowl was down.
"I was wondering when you would come home. How was the Iceberg Lounge?"
Nightwing climbed up the stairs to the computer and stood next to Bruce. He looked at the screen and saw that Bruce had been tracking his movements.
"You were tracking me?"
"I was concerned after your actions back at the Asylum. Of course I was tracking you."
Nightwing looked down at Bruce.
"I assume that means you know about-"
Bruce didn't take his eyes off the screen.
"About Rose? Yeah. I knew she had been working for Penguin but she was nothing more than a bodyguard or a bouncer."
"So you're not going after her?"
"No. I trust your judgement. If you let her go on her way, then she's not a threat to us or this city."
Nightwing looked around. He noticed that the cave was empty apart from the two of them.
"Where is everyone?"
Bruce's eyes were still glued to the screen.
"I found Barbara asleep in front of the computer. She was keeping tabs on you. Making sure you didn't need help. I told her to go home. I think she went to Gordon's place."
Nightwing smiled. He had no idea she was so worried about him. Bruce continued.
"Alfred should be asleep. I dismissed him for the night."
Nightwing looked around the cave again. He saw the medical table nearby, there was still bloody bandages lying on it. Then he remembered Rachel.
"And Rae… How- How is she?"
For the first time since he got back Bruce looked at him. Bruce stood up and walked towards the operating table.
"When we got back to the cave, I put her to sleep and operated on her. I removed the shell casing and tried to sew her back up but…"
Nightwing grew concerned.
"She is one tough girl. There were no signs of nerve damage. No tissue damage. I doubt there will even be a scar… I don't understand. After the bullet was removed it's like she had never been shot."
Nightwing smiled. He spoke under his breath.
"She had time to go into a trance…"
Bruce looked at him.
"A trance? What kind of trance?"
Nightwing started to explain.
"Raven can put her body into a healing trance. It's like a coma, except she can bring herself out of it. While she's in the trance her body protects itself from lasting damage and can 'heal' itself in a way."
Bruce nodded. He didn't understand, but he saw it happen.
"Like when she healed you after your fight with the Talon."
"Kind of yeah."
Bruce nodded and went back to the computer. Nightwing pulled his mask off. Bruce sat back down in the chair. Dick looked at the floor and swallowed hard. He still felt massive guilt for almost killing Joker.
"Bruce listen… About Joker… And about what I said… About-"
Bruce held a hand in the air that signaled Dick to stop.
"Dick, don't. You have no reason to apologize. I understand."
Dick stood there in shock at Bruce's reaction.
"But I almost killed him! You've always taught us to-"
Again, Bruce signaled him to be quiet.
"You were right. After losing Damian, and what the Court of Owls put me through… If that had been you that Joker had shot. I don't think I could have stopped myself from killing Joker."
Dick was speechless. He didn't know how to respond.
"But what's important, is that once you realized she was alive, you stopped yourself. All these years, all my lessons about emotional control, and how emotions are dangerous and a weakness. But in the end, it was your feelings for her that made you uphold your ideals."
Richard was still speechless. He had almost killed someone. Again. And yet, all Bruce did was praise him for stopping at the last second. Bruce started typing away at the keyboard again.
"You've had a long night. Why don't you turn in?"
"Uh yeah. Sure."
Nightwing turned and started heading for the elevator. He stopped and turned back to Bruce.
"Thanks Bruce. For taking care of Rae."
"We take care of our own Dick. You know that."
Dick smiled and continued to the elevator. As he reached for the button, he heard Bruce again.
"Raven's in her room. Figured you would want to stop by and see how she was."
Dick nodded as the elevator began to climb.
Wayne Manor: Guest Wing (Rachel's Room)
Rachel stirred in her bed. She moved from one side, then the other. Then she awoke. She opened her eyes and looked around. Next to her bed in a chair she saw Dick half asleep. He had taken his suit off and had a black t-shirt and boxers on. She must have made a noise or something because he opened his eyes and looked at her. His voice was low, soft.
"Hey… How are you feeling?"
Rachel smiled. Her voice was gentle.
"Yeah. I needed air… Time to cool off. To think."
"You? Thinking? That's dangerous…"
"Not this time."
Dick sat up.
"So… A healing trance huh? Could have told me you were going to go into one."
Rachel looked confused.
"I thought you knew…"
"How could I?"
"Uh, your ropes? I snapped them with my magic before I took the bullet."
"Yeah. When Joker turned the gun on me, I read his mind. It was… Difficult. So many voices trapped inside his head… When I knew he was going to pull the trigger I snapped your ropes and then put myself into a trance. Thought you knew…"
"No. I thought it was adrenaline… Thinking you were… I couldn't handle-"
Rachel cut him off.
"Sssshhhh… Dick, it's okay. I'm fine."
Dick swallowed hard and looked at Rachel. He saw her violet eyes staring back.
"Listen Rae, there's something I need to say."
He swallowed hard again.
"Seeing you get shot. Thinking you were… gone. I couldn't handle that… It made me realize something. It made me realize that I've never told you how I feel. How I truly feel. I lo-"
Before could finish, Rachel put a finger to his lips.
"Dick, you don't have to say it."
Dick moved her hand away and stared into her eyes.
"Rae, I have to do this… Please. If I don't say it now, I may never say it."
He put a hand on her cheek and rubbed his thumb across her skin. Rachel put a hand on top of the one he placed on her cheek. Dick kept staring into her violet eyes.
"I love you…"
Rachel's heart raced; she could sense Dick's emotions. They were overwhelming. She had waited so long to hear those words come from his lips. She smiled.
"You have no idea how long I've waited to hear you say that…"
She gripped his hand tighter.
"I love you too… With all my heart…"
Dick kept rubbing her cheek.
"You aren't afraid to love anymore?"
"After tonight? No. Nothing could make me feel safer than to be loved by you."
She reached out and brought him close. She brought his lips to hers. Rachel felt the world around her cease. It was like time had stopped, and the only thing that mattered was them. Their lips parted and Rachel opened her eyes. She saw Dick looking back at her. He broke the silence.
"Strange… We've done that many times but this time it was different. Like it was the first time…"
"It was in a way… A kiss always tastes different after you say 'I love you".
Dick moved his hand away from her cheek. Rachel was disappointed that he moved his hand. She wanted to feel his touch. He started to stand up.
"Well… Get some rest. As much as you need. I'll see you later."
Dick took a step, then another. Rachel reached out and grabbed his hand.
"Wait. Don't go… Stay. With me."
Dick turned his head towards her. She could tell he was trying to control himself.
"That's a bad idea Rachel… You know I can't-"
She interrupted him.
"Stay with me…"
She pulled him down on top of her. She brought her lips to his. She playfully bit his lip. Dick pulled away and gave Rachel a playful look. Rachel grabbed the bottom of his shirt and pulled it off. Dick looked down at her.
"This is a bad idea…"
"No. It's a terrible idea."
She pulled him back down on top of her and felt his lips on her neck. She closed her eyes and whispered in his ear.
"My life for yours…"