End of Summer
 
Choices Chapters
1: Prologue

2: Robin & Huntress

3: The JSA

4: The JLA

5: Starfire, Robin & Batman

6: New Members of the Family

7: At The Manor

8: The Stake-Out

9: New Friendships

10: The Titans

11: Facing The Past

12: Shattered

13: Confrontations

14: Flying

15: Conversations

16: Hitting the Streets

17: On the Trail

18: Face To Face

Choices

Chapter Four: The Justice League of America

by Marilee Stephens

Flash… Green Lantern… Martian Manhunter… Aquaman… Superman… Wonder Woman… and Batman…

Dick looked at the picture hanging on the wall in front of him with astonishment, bemusement, curiosity and a touch of bewilderment. The caption under the photograph indicated that this was the original membership of the Justice League of America. Obviously this JLA, even in its origins, must be different than the JLA he had grown up hearing about.

Looking around the room, he took in the variety of artifacts and other pictures that adorned the walls. The trophy room… Yes, he had heard that they had put together a trophy room in the Watchtower on the Moon, back in his dimension. Having never seen it, he didn't know how many things had been accumulated to detail the history of his League. But it would have to go quite a ways to match the variety of artifacts in this room.

Wandering over to examine a jar, bell and wheel located under one of the glass protective containers, he reflected back to the what had been the start of the latest stage of this insane adventure he had found himself on..

"Are you sure we have to go? Can't you figure out what's up from here?" he had inquired of Jay Garrick after the older man's pronouncement.

"Well, son, I probably could. But it would take longer. Frankly, there are people are Earth-1 that just have more experience in these type of things than I do."

"It'll be okay, Dick", his counterpart had then assured him. Turned out Richard had guessed at least part of why Dick wasn't so eager to go to yet another Earth. "I know that your first inter-dimensional trip wasn't all that pleasant. But this one will be much more controlled."

"Robin's right, Nightwing. And with people from both our Earths working on your problem, we'll be able to get you home that much faster. Plus, there's that other matter dealing with inter-dimensional travel that
we should alert the JLA about, in case their Earth is somehow involved as
well." Superman had risen from the table as he finished. "I'm going… Who else can go as well?"

"I'm in. It's been a while since I've had a chance to get together with Uncle Bruce and the others. I wouldn't mind getting a chance to catch up. How about you, Karen?"

"I don't think so, Helena. Even though he doesn't do or say anything, I sometimes get the impression that seeing me brings back some bad memories for Earth-1's Superman…"

"I doubt that very much, Karen. If anything, seeing you probably brings back a lot of good memories."

"Maybe, Clark… But I still feel a bit uncomfortable. But say 'hi' to him for me."

Dick had been trying to make heads or tails of this when some of the others piped up.

" 'Fraid I have to head back to the West Coast, or I'd love to go… But I can't leave the others by themselves too long. They might blow up the studio or something.", Sylvester had ended with a grin.

"Sly… They will not and you know it…"

"Whatever you say, Karen. Still, I better be off. It was nice meeting you, Nightwing. Hope you get home okay." Star then had jumped up at that, moving over to shake Dick's hand before he headed out the door.

With his departure, Wonder Woman rose from her seat as well. "I am afraid that I will also have to forego this trip as well. In fact, I should be getting home."

Hawkman had nodded in understanding. "That's totally understandable, Diana. Give Steve and the kids my love." The others murmured their agreement.

"Thank you. That will mean a lot to him." As she had turned to Dick, again a sense of awe and majesty washed over him. "I also hope that you have a safe journey home. May the gods watch over you."

"Thank you, Princess;" Dick managed to whisper before she turned and left as well.

"So, so far we have Superman, Robin, Huntress, Flash…", with a quick assent from Dr. Mid-nite, Hawkman had added him to his litany, "Dr. Mid-nite… Anyone else feel up for the trip? Johnny?"

"I don't think so, Carter… My thunderbolt doesn't seem to have been much help here", Johnny Thunder had looked downhearted at the thought.

Dick quickly reassured him, as the others had looked on. "But at least you tried. That's the important thing… right? And you helped us uncover something of the problem with getting me back home. That's going to help."

Johnny had perked up a bit with that… "Say, you're right!" As a pink flash illuminated the room again, he added in an irritated voice. "No, Thunderbolt… I don't need you right now."

The sparkling creature retorted, "But Master John… you said…"

The older man shrugged. "I know what I said… All right, how about you take me home."

"Whatever you say, Master John." With a burst of light, both man and creature disappeared from the room.

Shaking his head, Dick had looked at the others. "Interesting
pair, those two."

Helena smiled at him. "Yes, that they are." Her smile faded as a look of concern had crept across her face. "You sure you're okay with this?"

"Hey… I did it once… I can do it again", he had replied with a faint grin.

With that, the group had broken up while the others went to make some phone calls and prepare for the coming trip. Jay had then gone to try and make contact with the JLA over on Earth-1. After a half-hour or so, he had returned, saying that he had managed to get in contact with their headquarters and that they would be ready on their end shortly. With that, the group that was going to make the trip, along with Hawkman, had gone to a small room. In it was located a device not dissimilar to the one that Dick had seen in the warehouse back in BlŸdhaven, though no light was issuing forth from this one.

With a hum, Jay had activated the device, setting some dials and adjusting some monitors. From the portal of the device, a slow hum and lights had begun to flash. After a few minutes, a beeping could be heard coming from the console.

"That's it, folks. Head through whenever you're ready," Hawkman had stated.

With that, Superman had calmly stepped into the portal, followed by the Huntress. From behind him, Dick had felt a hand clap on his shoulder. "It really will be okay," Robin again assured him.

Taking a deep breath, he thrust his foot forward into the light coming from the portal and he stepped into it. For one brief moment, he had again felt intense cold, and a sense of something shifting inside him, but not nearly to the same extent as before. And then he had felt solid floor underneath him again. Before he had a chance to really survey his surroundings, Helena had pulled him forward, out of the way of Robin, Dr. Mid-nite, and then Jay, who was the last of the group to go through.

Dick had then heard a familiar voice from behind him, where the corresponding console to this transporter was.

"I hope everyone's trip went okay…"

"Wally!!!", Dick had thought to himself, as he whirled to see the red-clad man moving over to the small group.

… And then had gone stock still. It was Wally… and yet it wasn't. While the man in front of him was wearing the Flash costume, it was obvious that he was older. He also held himself in a slightly more relaxed manner than the Wally Dick was used to. Even on initial appearance, this Flash didn't seem to exhibit quite the endless restlessness Dick was used to with his friend. Maybe age? With this, Dick had realized that this was the first "counterpart" he had met to someone that he was really close to. He had met and interacted a bit with his Superman, his Jay Garrick, but he didn't know them all that well. And it was different with him and Robin… Though he couldn't quite explain how. But the feeling that he knew this person, this Flash, and yet didn't know him, had thrown him more than anything so far.

Also, watching this Wally interact with the other members of his group, Dick had noticed distinct differences. Especially in Wally's interactions with Jay. While they were obviously friendly enough, this pair of Flashes, young and old, did not exhibit near the degree of familiarity and family that he was used to seeing when the Wally and Jay of his Earth got together. While intellectually he had understood that these two obviously didn't get the chance to interact much, the feelings from realizing this he had then had were a bit surreal, as again, the world had been warped a bit. A bit of dread… or was it fear, had swept over him at that point. Who else did he know, and yet not know, on this Earth?

He had tried to shake himself out of this uneasy feeling, but it had persisted. Wally… Flash had introduced himself at that point…

"Hi… Nightwing…" The slight pause in the older man's hello had notified Dick that he was also a bit uncomfortable. He was also used to calling someone else by that name.

"Hi… Flash", he returned, holding out his hand to be shaken.

Grasping it, Wally… Flash had grinned. "I have to admit, when Jay told us about you, it caused a bit of a stir. I've put in a call to people who might be able to help with your problem. But I also put in some calls to people who I think will be very interested in meeting you. I hope that's okay."

"I… I guess so…"

"Anyway… A number of them are on their way. Why don't you guys come down to the main meeting area and get settled while we wait for them to arrive?"

"Sure, Wally", Jay had responded, "That'll be fine."

With that, the group had trekked down to a large meeting room. A long meeting table, surrounded by chairs, and several computer banks, sat at one end of the room, while a number of large sofas were clustered at the end.

Indicating the sofas, Wally had requested, "Take a seat. They really shouldn't be long."

The others had settled themselves comfortably and started up a chat with Wally, who had returned to monitoring the computer consoles. Dick, however, still was feeling a bit odd. Excusing himself, he had asked if there was anywhere he could have a moment to himself. Both Helena and Richard had looked at him worriedly with that, but he had indicated that he was okay, he just needed a bit of quiet to think.

The others had nodded in acceptance, though the worried look didn't leave their faces. Wally had then asked if he would be curious to see some of the League's "odds and ends". Seeing Dick's eyes light with curiosity, he had led him to the room he was currently in.

Dick wandered amongst the displays some more. A few things did look familiar, while others… There was a replica of that Starfish thing
that both Bruce and Wally had told him about. The mind-controlling alien. There was a display of the old JLA cave headquarters… One of Dr. Light's old "light-guns"… But some of the displays had no meaning for him, like the one of the chessboard, where the pieces were replicas of the JLA themselves.

Feeling like he should be returning to the others, as he had been gone for a long time, he was about to turn to head back when another familiar voice caught him by surprise…

"Nightwing?", the female voice came from behind him.

"Donna?", he mouthed as he turned. Seeing the woman standing in
front of him, a large smile crossed his face. "Donna!"

The woman moved forward quickly, quickly grasping his hand in a warm embrace.. "Hi. Sorry if I'm disturbing you. But the others were getting worried. The Huntress and Robin were about to send out search parties, but Wally told me where he had taken you, so I've come down to fetch you. That's okay, right?"

"Of… of course it is…". Dick's initial enthusiasm dimmed a little bit as the feeling of "the same yet not" swept over him again. The woman in front of him wasn't the Donna he knew. This one was in her mid-30's. Her hair, while not as short as his Donna's had been when she was Troia, was not as long as when his Donna had been Wonder Girl. No, it was just at shoulder length, and a bit of a blunt cut, though still swept off her forehead via a side-part. But it was the costume that was the most different… At least, it was somewhat familiar, but not.

The top was very similar to the top of his Donna's second Wonder Girl costume, the red jump-suit. It was still sleek and sleeveless, and a curve of gold stars still swept up over her breasts. But the leggings had
been switched for a skirt… A loin-cloth type of skirt, with basically panels of red sweeping down, front and back, from the gold belt that encircled her waist. The belt was different from her Wonder Girl costume as well, as it just ended dipped to a point in the center, without the gold "W" in the middle, though her golden lasso still hung off the side of it. She still had the gold bracelets from her Wonder Girl costume as well. And gold sandals, with lacings up her calf, covered her feet. Finally, a simple gold headband swept under her bangs, in a shape that echoed the line of the belt that encircled her waist. He could just make out a short cape that extended out from the top of her shoulder straps and fell to her waist.

The woman regarded him warmly for a second before continuing…
"It's really thrown you, hasn't it? Meeting us." She indicated a bench off to the side of room. "Want to talk about it?"

"I don't…I don't know. It's such a weird feeling. Like I know you… But I don't".

"Well… If that's the case…", as a familiar smile crossed her face, "Hi. I'm Donna Troy. And you're Nightwing… Or can I call you 'Dick'?"

"Dick will be fine… But…"

"But?"

"Well… Are you still going by Wonder Girl? That is, if you even went by Wonder Girl? Your costume…"

"My costume?"

"Well, it just seems really reminiscent of the costume my Donna wore as Wonder Girl. Though I don't think you can be considered a 'girl' anymore…"

The woman, "Donna", Dick reminded himself, laughed. "No, I don't go by 'Wonder Girl' anymore. My codename's now 'Nike'."

"'Nike'? As in the Greek goddess of victory?"

"That's the one… Though Gar keeps insisting I'm referring to the running shoe company." A look of mingled delight and disgust spread across her face. The sight caused Dick to burst out laughing. A moment later, she joined in.

After a few moments of alternating giggles, snorts and quickly trying to catch their breaths, Dick managed to wheeze out, "So Gar, he's around…"

"Yes, though there are times… Seriously, he's around. And for the most part, he behaves like the responsible adult he's become. But every so often, he has to let one of those terrible jokes of his slip out. Or become the biggest flirt on the planet. I could throttle him…", Donna ended with a smile, removing the sting from her words. "I take it your Gar also has a way with a quip?"

"At times…"

A comfortable silence fell for a few moments. Then Dick asked, "Why 'Nike'?".

"Lots of reasons… I couldn't go as 'Wonder Woman', as Diana still uses that name. And you have to admit, the whole idea of 'victory' is a rather positive approach to take. As well, I wanted to keep with the Greek aspect of my Amazon heritage…"

"Whoa… 'Amazon heritage'?", Dick interrupted.

Donna looked at him quizzically. "Yes… Sure, I wasn't *born* on Paradise Island or anything, but Mother… that is, Queen Hippolyta
still raised me. It seemed appropriate to take a name with a connection
to them. Sort of like you did when you chose 'Nightwing'."

Dick was shaking his head at her explanation. "No… no… I don't understand." Not even wanting to think about what she had meant by her last statement, he decided to clarify the rest. "My Donna wasn't raised by the Amazons. She was raised by the Ancient Titans of myth."

"What?!?" This Donna stared at him incredulously.

"Okay… Maybe we should take this one step at a time. Who was your birth mother?"

"Dorothy Hinckley… Isn't that who…"

"Yes… Yes it is. And your foster parents?"

"Fay and Carl Stacy… Though Fay's remarried to Hank Evans
now…"

"Great… That's fine… And who rescued you from the burning building?"

"Diana… I mean Wonder Woman. She brought me to Paradise Island, where Mother and the rest of the Amazons raised me."

Dick drew up sharply with that. "Well, my Donna wasn't. She was rescued by Rhea and brought to New Chronos, the planet the ancient Greek Titans had settled on when they left Earth."

This Earth's Donna just stared at him in amazement. She shook her head, but didn't say anything else. Dick looked at her in understanding. If anything, she was probably getting a little taste of what he had been feeling since he woke up in that alley. "Weird feeling, huh?"

Donna just looked up at him and they exchanged knowing, if somewhat stunned smiles. "Yeah… So, how did your Donna end up back on Earth then?"

"The Titans sent her back, minus her memories of her time with them, when she was about 13. They wanted her to have a chance to get to know what Earth culture was like. She met up with me and Wally, Roy and Garth and we formed the original Teen Titans… She's one of my oldest and best friends…"

"Well, I was sent to 'Man's World' to see what was up with Diana at one point. That's when I met my versions of you guys. But yeah, my friendship with your counterpart is still one of the best things I've gotten out of the Titans."

"Speaking of the Titans…."

Donna continued Dick's question for him, "…Is the team still around. Sort of. A number of us are members of the League now. Others are League reservists, and some don't really do the 'hero' thing anymore. Other priorities and such. But we're all still Titans."

"I see… I think…"

"Don't get me wrong… Being in the League is great. But it's a bit of a different feel than what the Titans are. Maybe it's because of the size, or the way it works, but the League just isn't as close as the Titans are. It's like we're our own sort of sub-set in the League. We even still use the Tower on occasion for general meetings and get-togethers."

"The Tower?!?", Dick thought rapidly to himself."But if the Tower is still around…"

His train of thought was interrupted by Donna continuing, "I don't know… When you work with a set of people long enough, you just get feeling more comfortable with them than you do with others. It seems that a number of times, if any of us comes across a problem, we'll call on each other first, before we bring other members of the League in on it. We just know what to expect when we work with each other. It's kind of like watching Superman and Batman in action together. They've worked with
each other so much that it seems like they know exactly what each other is thinking. I guess we Titans are like that as well."

Dick's eyes had widened slightly with the mention of Batman and Superman. What did Donna mean by them working so much together? He realized that his Batman had gained a certain respect for Superman over the years, but working together often? No, that didn't sound familiar.

Realizing that there were more differences on this Earth than he had expected, Dick decided to leave that for now. "The League… I have to admit, I was looking at a shot of what seems to be the original membership of the League on this world. It left me sort of confused."

"Confused… How?"

"Well… Superman and Batman didn't join the League when it first started. And Wonder Woman didn't even show up on my Earth until years after the League was first formed."

"Really? That's strange. No, hose were the originals. They stayed as a team, with some others joining, for several years. But that team sort of fell apart when a number of them realized that they just didn't have the time to put themselves fully towards the team anymore. At least, that's how I understand it. Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter, along with a few of the others, created a new team, adding in some new members as well. That's them in that photo over there", Donna stated, pointing out a photograph on a nearby wall. Wandering over, Dick saw a photo containing some people he recognized, and some that he didn't. Peering down, he noted a "In Memorium" plague under the photo.

Donna came over and noticed where his gaze was directed. In explanation, she added, "This team tried their best, but at one point they just got caught up in events that some of them weren't equipped to handle. And," Donna's voice broke, "some of them died for it."

Dick nodded knowingly… He knew what it was like to be on a team and lose members. After a moment, he added, "Then what?"

Donna shook herself slightly. "Then what? Some events occurred that convinced several of the original members that they, as a team, were needed. They found out that there really is some truth in that saying about the sum being greater than the whole of its parts. Not that they hadn't known it before, but they were just hit over the head with it a couple of times. Darkseid's minions trying to take over the Earth will do that to a person, I guess."

"So the originals were back…"

"More or less. Over the years, there's been several others join. Like I said, a number of the Titans have. Me… Garth… Wally… My Dick… Gar… Vic…"

Dick's curiosity was aroused. Somehow this Earth's Titans seemed to have avoided a number of the tragedies that had befallen his own. "What about… Raven?"

"Raven? She's around if and when we need her. But for a long time after the whole incident with Brother Blood… There is or was a Brother Blood on your Earth", Donna enquired. With Dick's nod, she continued. "Well, after that, she stayed with the Titans, while trying to develop her emotional awareness. But after a while, she realized that a lot of what we do wasn't really the way that she wanted to help people. So she started helping out at various shelters and such more. If we need her, she's willing to help. But for being an 'official' member of the team. No…"

"And… Joey? Where's he at the moment?"

Donna smiled… "Right at this moment? He's at a showing of his artwork in Paris." With Dick's look of astonishment, her smile spread to a grin. "He's in a situation a lot like Raven. We need him, he's there. Like I said, once a Titan. But he'd rather concentrate on his artwork and his music at the moment. Especially after what happened to his dad," Donna added on a down note.

"His dad? Something happened to Slade?", Dick wondered aloud.

Donna looked at him a bit quizzically. "Slade? You've actually progressed to being on a first name basis with him?" With Dick's cautious nod of assent, "Well, that's a bit different than the relationship we always had with him. Anyway, he was killed about 5 years ago. With that, Joe took a long look at the life that his father, his mother, his brother… and now he was leading. And he decided it really wasn't what he wanted…"

Slade… Dead… It didn't seem possible. Dick's thoughts must have conveyed themselves to the woman beside him.

"Deathstroke was one of the best. But even the best don't always win, much as we might want to think they do."

Dick silently agreed… Deciding to leave that, he then asked, "How about Danny?"

"Danny? Who's Danny?"

"Danny… Danny Chase. Adrian Chase's nephew."

"Sorry… I remember Adrian Chase, though it's been a long time since he died… But I've never heard of a 'Danny Chase'".

"Oh…" Dick wasn't sure how to respond to that. He hadn't expected to know of people who these people had never heard of.

Just as he opened his mouth to ask another question, "Mom?" came
from the doorway.

Donna beckoned to the small figure that was framed in the door.
"Over here, hon…"

A boy with red curls wandered over. Donna placed her arm around
his waist when he came up beside him. Dick's face developed a stunned
expression as he realized who it must be… But that would mean…

"Hon… This is the young man that I told you about. The one that's another Earth's version of Uncle Dick. Dick, this is my son."

"Robbie…", Dick breathed…

"It's 'Rob.' 'Robbie' is for little kids… I'm 10," the boy added in an irritated voice. He had been looking at Dick with open and avid curiosity. That look changed slightly with his challenging statement.

"Of course… Of course you are. I'm sorry." Dick managed to throw a smile at the boy and his mom, while inside, his mind was racing. Robbie was alive on this Earth. In fact, thinking over the life of the boy he knew, Dick started to put a lot of things together. Like the fact that if this Donna hadn't been raised by the Titans of Myth, than she never became a goddess. And without those "deified" genes, her son would not grow to become "Lord Chaos". And without "Lord Chaos", there would be no Team Titans appearing. Dick's mind spun circles around all the implications. He was definitely going to need time to work through a lot of this.

However, neither Donna nor Rob appeared to notice his distraction. As Dick's mind rejoined the conversation, Rob had continued, "Uncle Wally was wondering why you were taking so long to come back. And Dad called up from home… Diane's acting up again. And he says he can't work on his paper as a result."

Donna cast a glance heavenwards. "Thanks, hon… Tell Uncle Wally we'll be right up. Then I'll give your father a call." As Rob raced out of the room, she turned apologetically towards Dick, "Sorry… Looks like we'll have to continue our conversation later. Okay?" she asked as she led him from the room.

"All right…"

As they walked along the corridor, Donna continued, "I have to tell you, Rob was quite excited to meet you. That's why he insisted on coming with me when I told him why I was coming up here. He wanted to meet a younger 'version' of his 'Uncle Dick'. I'm surprised he waited that long before coming to find us. Speaking of different versions, you knew Rob's name? I take it that he has a counterpart on your Earth."

Dick's mind drew to a halt, even as his body kept walking. Should he actually tell this woman that her son was dead on another world? No… best not say anything about that.

"Yes." Dick's voice trailed off.

Donna caught it. "Dick… Is there something that you're not
telling me. Something wrong?"    Dick quickly shook his head. "No… No…" He remembered the feeling he had when he heard about how the Batman from Earth-2 was dead. He didn't want to subject Donna to that type of feeling as well. Deciding that the subject needed changing and quickly, he queried,"Who's 'Diane'?".

If Donna sensed that he was hiding something, she didn't let it show. "That's my lovely daughter. She's named after Diana, but we shortened it to not get the two confused. Four years old and got her father wrapped around her little finger. You would think having an older daughter, Terry would have managed to avoid that little trap, but no. Now both Jennifer and Diane get away with murder. And it doesn't help that he's working on revisions for a manuscript at the moment. I might love that man… But at times… Well, throwing him through a wall would be too good for him…" Donna stopped outside the door to the conference room Dick had been in before. "Anyway, I hoped that I was able to clear up some of your questions.. And I really would like a chance to talk to you again. Some of the things you've hinted at about your world sound really intriguing."

Dick followed Donna back into the conference room. At least one familiar "face" seemed to have shown up since when he had left with the Flash earlier.

"Well, well, here they are! We were wondering if you two had gone and run off together…", came from the green ape Dick spied sitting on his haunches over by one of the sofas. While speaking, he had bracketed the word "run" with quotation marks made by his fingers.

Donna looked wearily over to Dick. "What did I tell you", she sighed in exasperation.

Hearing that, the ape metamorphosed itself with a burst of light into a dove, and flew over towards them, landing on Nike's shoulder before changing again into a squid, which quickly wrapped its tentacles around the squirming woman.

In a lousy French accent, it teased Donna. "Ah, my dearest Donna… Ze beauty of your anger iz magnifique to behold… Come, my lovely Nike… Let us run… run far away from here…"

"Gar, if you don't get off of me in 1 second flat… You will be suffering from a case of the runs. And I don't mean the kind you do with your feet!"

From Dick's vantage point beside them, he could make out a horrified expression… or what he imagined a horrified expression would look like on a squid, pass over the animal's "face". "All right, already! Donna, one of these days, you really need to get a sense of humor!" In another flash of green, a man materialized in front of the two of them. Turning to Dick, he extended his emerald hand to him.

"Hi… So you're that new Nightwing we've been hearing about. Isn't one of you enough?!" Looking Dick up and down, Changeling continued. "Yep. you do look like Dick did, back a decade or so. Little starker costume though…"

Dick was about to respond when he felt a cool, heavy hand coming to rest on his shoulder. "Give the guy a break, Green-genes! He just got here." Dick turned and his mouth dropped.

"Vic?!?"

"Yep… It's me, Bat-boy… I take it your Vic Stone hasn't gotten his upgrades yet."

Dick could only shake his head "no" in astonishment, though he didn't let on about the "changes" he had heard that his Vic had undergone. But the man standing in front of him looked like all the pictures of Vic he had seen before his accident. The side of his face, and his arms and legs that had always been mechanical in feature before were now shaped like human facial features and limbs. Except they were a bright metallic gold in color…

"What…"

"What happened? STAR Labs finally came up with a polymer system strong enough to handle my internal hydraulics. It ain't perfect yet. They still haven't gotten a handle on how to do a flesh-tone. But this stuff's strong enough for me to be at my full Cyborg capabilities, while giving me a bit more 'human' look."

With that, Gar morphed into a small green monkey and scampered up to Vic's shoulder. Sitting there, he then added, "Yeah, but don't let the his look fool you… He's still the same old grouchy Tin-Head on the inside," while tapping his fist against the metallic side of Vic's head.

"Greenie… I'm warnin' ya…"

"Yeah… Yeah… Whatever… Like you're really gonna hurt me. C'mon, big guy! I'll take you on."

Dick could only smile as the two in front of him exchanged verbal insults. He'd missed this. And he hadn't realized how much.

Helena came up to him at that point. "You okay?"

"I think so. I just needed some time alone. How are things going here?"

"Well., this Earth's Atom…"

"Ray Palmer", Donna clarified.

Helena smiled her thanks. "He's here and going over the data Jay and Charles collected on you earlier with them and this Earth's Flash. Your friend here," she smiled, gesturing at Vic, "was helping them until a moment ago. With the Atom being a physicist with a bit of background on theoretical matters like this. He should be able to help."

Cyborg added with that, "I've also got all my dad's old notes on trying to break inter-dimensional barriers. They might add in a clue or two."

Helena nodded her concurrence, "As well, Superman and Robin are going over what's been happening with regards to the robberies and such with the Superman from here. I don't think they'll be much longer."

"Good.. I have to tell you, Helena, being here is even weirder than being on your world."

"Why?"

"Well, the people here are more like the people I know back home. But they're not…"

"Yes… I can see how that would be upsetting. I'm not sure what we can do about it though."

Changeling stopped tormenting Vic long enough to throw at Dick, "Aw, don't worry about it, kid. You'll get used to us in the long run." Then, he stopped, and a look of bewilderment crossed his face, as if realizing what he had just said. "'Kid'… I just referred to a 'Nightwing' as 'kid'… You're right… This is strange…"

Looking around, everyone could only vaguely smile in agreement.

Just then, a girl came into the room. She was still just pre-adolescent, and a bit on the slight side. Dick caught a flash of red-gold hair and brown eyes before she turned to call out through the door, "And Grandpa, when I come to visit next week-end, you're going to show me how to use the net-arrow again…"

As she skipped into the room, a man with a blond goatee, dressed in green came sauntered in, followed by a blonde woman dressed in a blue and black jumpsuit. These were two more people Dick recognized, and if the girl referred to Green Arrow as "Grandpa"… Well, she would have to be…

"Lian…"

The girl stopped and looked at him when he stated her name. Coming over, she looked him up and down in an inscrutable manner. "You're that young version of Uncle Dick… right?" With his nod of confirmation, she turned her attention to Donna. "Aunt Donna… Are you going to phone Uncle Terry or not?"

"Oops… Thanks, Lian, for reminding me. I better go and do that right now." Donna strode off out of the room while Lian turned and raced over to where Ollie and Dinah had settled on one of the couches. As Dick's eyes followed her, he saw Ollie waving him over.

He went, but a bit warily. He had to remind himself that this wasn't the Ollie he had known through Roy. That that Ollie was dead. But the man in front of him looked so familiar.

"Hey…", the older man greeted him, as Black Canary nodded her hello. "You're the young guy who's gotten lost on the dimensional roller-coaster. Don't blame you. Never was too fond of that type of stuff myself."

With that, Black Canary leaned over and punched him in the arm. "Watch it, Mr. Queen… Or have you forgotten that if it wasn't for that 'dimensional roller-coaster', we would have never met."

"Never, Pretty Bird… Never. Only good thing that ever came out of it", the older man apologized as he lifted his lady's hand and placed a kiss on the back of it. Black Canary just rolled her eyes. She was obviously used to Green Arrow's flattery. Green Arrow then turned his eyes back to Dick. "I wouldn't worry too much, kid. These type of things always seem to work out in the end."

"And they will this time, Ollie… We'll see to that", came a deep voice from the door. Dick again knew it. But while he knew it, he didn't. The pitch and tone was the same as to the man he was used to wielding it, but the timber was different. Turning, he saw the familiar red, blue and yellow costume in the door. And the costume was the same as the one that his Superman wore, whereas the one the Earth-2 Superman wore had been slightly different.

But as this man entered the room, Dick again sensed a difference
between this Superman and the one he knew slightly from back home. Even as the Earth-2 Superman who came in the room behind this one had felt different. With the Earth-2 one, it had been in terms of a sense of
nobility. With this one, it was a sense of sheer power. Dick didn't know how, but he knew that this one was capable of anything he set his mind to.

Both Supermen headed over towards him. Reaching him, the younger Superman extended his right hand. Dick put his own forward, which was caught in an assured grip that conveyed an even greater confidence than he had gotten from his first glimpse of the man. "Dick, it's a pleasure to meet you. Unexpected, but a pleasure", the deep baritone rumbled out at him. "I hope that you found the trophy room interesting. I, myself, find it a good place to go for contemplation every so often." Dick couldn't find a voice to respond to the larger man's musings, as he was still
rendered a bit speechless by the man's presence. Yet, as well, a small
uncertainty began to creep over him. It was hard to explain, even to himself, but Superman's whole attitude towards him spoke of a familiarity that he just wasn't used to. While he had met with and occasionally worked with the Superman of his planet, had felt awe in his presence and at times humbled by the man's actions, and had felt an almost overwhelming sense of loss when he thought the man dead, just as most of the planet had felt, he couldn't really say he knew the man all that well. On many an occasion, he wished he had had the chance, but he hadn't. But this Superman was treating him as if they were old friends. When he thought back on it, he realized that Robin and his own Superman had acted the same way towards each other. Why hadn't he picked up on that before now, he wondered, was it because he felt more "at home" here on this Earth, and yet more "out-of-place" here as well? Simply because he felt he knew more people here than back on Earth-2? Felt like he fit in here better, and yet didn't fit in at all…

Before he came to any conclusions, Superman gave him a big smile and indicated the meeting room table. "Have a seat and let's go over what you know. Kal-L and Richard have gone over most of the facts with me, but I want to get your impressions of what's happened so far, including what happened on your own Earth."

Dick mentally shook himself, trying to drive out all the various distracting thoughts that were flying through his mind and settling down to the topic at hand. He quickly and efficiently outlined what had happened at the warehouse, when he first awoke on Earth-2 and the fight at the chemical lab, as well as his impressions of what had happened when the Thunderbolt had tried to send him home. He used the opportunity to go over each again in his own mind, relating every small detail, no matter how seemingly irrelevant, to the group that had joined him at the table. When he was finished, he looked over the assembled heroes, expecting a barrage of questions. But instead, all that greeted him were looks of confidence, as if he had given them exactly what they had expected of him, as if they already knew that he had done all that he was capable of and thus they didn't expect any more detail from him. Again, the feelings this created in him were a confusing mass of pride and fear, of acceptance and surprise. Should they really expect that of him or not? Should he expect them to act like the people he knew? He just wasn't sure anymore. A nervous knot, one that had been there since he awoke in that alley, but that he had started to ignore, suddenly grew in size, and tension began to sing along his nerves again. The voice that came from behind him, in the direction of the door to the meeting room, didn't help matters.

"Looks like your Batman trained you as well as mine did me," the familiar voice noted as Dick spun in his seat. Lounging in the door was himself, or at least another version of himself. This one was in his mid-thirties, with just the faintest beginnings of white starting to ripple through his black hair. And this one's outfit was much more in line with his own. But that was to be expected, Dick thought wildly to himself. This one had taken up the Nightwing mantle, according to Richard and Helena, years before he had. He wouldn't still be dressed as Robin. But while the costume looked more like his, it was also vastly different in some ways. If anything, it was a lot like the one that he had worn when he had left his Titans and gone back to Gotham, though there were differences even with that suit. This suit was the same dark blue as his, but the brilliant yellow feather pattern still stretched over the man's chest. There was a very thin band of flesh showing, that started just mid-sternum and proceeded up. The collar of the suit fit snugly around the man's… "Nightwing's", Dick had to remind himself… throat, with just the very tips at the front starting to bend away from it, much like the collar of a trench coat which had been pulled up around a throat. Though he couldn't tell for sure without a closer inspection, Dick was positive there was probably an invisible zipper lining the small gap at the front of the suit that zip all the way up if needed. However, where the yellow across the chest remained, as in his previous costume, it was missing on the arms and legs, where he had also had it. And where he had had glider wings, those were also gone. The wrist bands were still present though, and as the man moved his arms, Dick got a flash of something bright on the inner side of the left one, though he couldn't make out the details of just what it was. A larger mask than his current one covered the area around the man's eyes. Eyes that were regarding him with as much curiosity as he was looking over their owner.

"Dick… About time you got here", Donna exclaimed as she and several of the others moved over the greet the older Nightwing… their "Nightwing", Dick thought to himself, as a small spurt of jealousy hit him. Was that part of his feeling of unease, he asked himself questioningly? Not having the Titans in his own life at the moment, he had started allow himself to feel at home with this Donna, Wally, Vic and Gar, if only for a moment, as if his Titans were back. And had the rational side of him known, if only unconsciously, that this would just lead to more pain, thus setting up the conflict within him? He didn't know. Right now, he wasn't sure of anything. But he watched in a bit of amazement and confusion as the others greeted the newcomer to their midst.

"Kal… I heard that you just got back from the memorial service on Rokyn. How are things there?", his Earth-1 counterpart was asking of Superman, even as his eyes continued their sweep of his young counterpart.

"Fine, Dick… Fine. It was painful of course," a weary note entered the man's speech as Dick saw a flash of pain cross his face. He wondered at it's origin. "But the service was wonderfully done, honoring both the people who died on Krypton and Kara." The voice caught on the last name, causing Dick to wonder just who "Kara" had been to this powerful man. But then the voice brightened, as Superman fixed a teasing glint on the older Nightwing. "Still, Ak-Var said to ask you when a new 'Flamebird' might show up. I think he's getting a little annoyed that his old code-name is being ignored."

"Flamebird?", Dick wondered to himself. Where was Bette Kane?
Had something happened to her? And who was "Ak-Var"? He decided he would ask Donna, even as his brain registered Nightwing's response.

"Oh, I don't know, Kal… Probably Alexandra would be the most likely to fit that name. But don't you think she's still a little too young for that type of thing?"

"'Alexandra'? Who the hell was 'Alexandra'?" Friend… girl-friend… wife?!? And what was this about her being "too young"? Had this Dick Grayson taken on a child to raise, much like Bruce had taken him in? More questions erupted in Dick's mind as the men conversed with each other. But even as the questions formed rapidly over and on top of each other, he noted the ease and rapport that existed between the men, almost like a couple of cousins… No… more like an uncle and favorite nephew. He felt a little bereft. How had both the other versions of Dick Grayson developed such close ties to their Supermen while he hadn't. The knot in his stomach grew even more, and his nerves grew tighter.

Helena must have noticed the frown that was growing on the younger man's face, as she edged her chair closer to his. "Dick, are you all right? You look a little ill."

"Wha?… Oh… Huntress. No, it's not that. Just having to get used to some more differences on this Earth as well."

"Are you sure? I know this is tough."

"Yeah. I'll be fine. Don't worry." Dick looked over at her and nodded his assurance. He couldn't explain this problem to her. He knew he couldn't. She was comfortable with the idea of multiple Earths and different versions of people. She might try, but he had a feeling that she just wouldn't understand. Standing, he moved over towards the door, intent on facing his inner chaos by greeting it head on. Just as he was reaching the door, a reassuring sound met him.

"Hello… Nightwing", came a voice from off to his side, a voice that, for a moment at least, calmed the confusion running through him. A familiar voice… One that he knew and trusted to give him the answers he needed. "But", that small voice of reason flashed in his head the moment before he turned to face the newcomer, "everyone else is different here in some regards. Who's to say…?"

"Shut up!", Dick told his inner self as he faced the familiar cowled face in front of him. Yet even as he did so, the increasingly familiar singing of his nerves began again. The powerfully built man in front of him was Batman… He even wore the same costume that his Batman had until recently. But as his eyes focused on the man's face, he knew something was different. It was there, nothing major, but enough for Dick to know that somehow this man, just as the others weren't exactly who
he thought them to be, this man wasn't Batman. At least, not his Batman. For this Batman had, even though it didn't radiate the way this Earth's Superman did, this Batman had a faint smile stretching across the lowest third of his face. And looking up, Dick could see it sparking in the depths of this Batman's eyes. Occasionally he would see this same look on his Batman's face, but always in the privacy of the Bat-cave. He had never seen his Batman look this relaxed when they were gathered with other super-heroes. The juxtaposition of the two now just threw him.

Batman reached out his hand to him, as his smile widened even slightly more. "It's nice to meet you, Nightwing." The warm clasp of the man's hand enveloped Dick's own as he gave it a firm shake. At the same time, his left hand moved up to rest lightly on Dick's right shoulder, giving it a reassuring squeeze. "I hope you haven't been too overwhelmed
by all of this."

Dick could only nod in slight astonishment. This Batman seemed so much more… approachable than his own. Or, at least, how his own would act in public. He wasn't giving off the dark, slightly menacing aura that his Bruce usually acquired whenever he left the cave. But as he wondered at this change, what occurred next tossed all his expectations right out the window.

"Helena", the darkly-garbed man motioned to the Huntress as she moved up beside them, reaching out to give her a huge hug as an even wider grin crossed his face. "You're looking wonderful. So much like your mother…"

"Thanks, Uncle Bruce", the young woman responded, as Dick's eyes widened, alarm racing across his features. What was she doing, calling him "Uncle Bruce" like that in public? Didn't she know… "Huntress," he ground out cautiously, looking at the people surrounding them, "what are you doing?

His voice ground to a halt as he saw the perplexed frowns begin to form on the other two's faces. "What am I doing… about what, Dick?" Helena inquired curiously.

"You know… About giving away anything about Batman's identity in public", he managed to whisper, aware that the voices which had been bouncing around the room around them had started to fall silent.

"Nightwing… What are you talking about? Everyone here knows who I am", Batman's tone took on a more severe tone as he saw bewilderment start to etch itself into the young man's face.

"But… But…", Dick's voice faded with confusion. His Batman was so guarded about his privacy, about not letting anyone except those he fully trusted know his identity. What does this mean? Did this Batman trust all these people? Or was he just not as circumspect as his own Batman? Looking at the face in front of him, he didn't think that was it. The man wouldn't still be alive if that was the case. No, somehow Dick knew that this man didn't take just anyone into his confidence. But somehow he had learned to trust these people around him. To open himself up enough to do so. Dick wondered if his own Batman would ever get to a point in his life where he could do that. A part of him wished that he would, for his own Bruce's sake. Another part rebelled, though why Dick couldn't rightly say.

"It's okay, Dick… We all understand that this whole thing has been very upsetting for you", Superman's calm, reassuring voice came from behind him as the man's strong hands fell on his shoulders, giving them a quick squeeze. Again, that sense of familiarity arose, making Dick's
insides do a quick tumble. He almost felt the need to yank himself out
from under the man's grasp and stalk away, breaking both the physical and the implied emotional bond. This man didn't know anything about him, just as he was realizing he knew nothing about these people. He was deluding himself, and he would have to stop.

""It's alright, Clark. Things must be different on his Earth." Batman's quiet, reasonable voice reached Dick, but instead of calming him this time, as it had done moments before, it caused the singing of Dick's nerves to crescendo to a shriek. Things were different on his Earth. Then why did a part of him wish that they could be more like this Earth. Here, his counterpart was surrounded by friends he could lean on. Here, Batman trusted more and showed his emotions more, much as Dick wished his own Bruce would. Here… Here, he didn't feel so alone. And yet, paradoxically, he felt more alone than he ever had in his whole life.

Batman turned to speak to him. "I don't know what your Earth is like, or what your life is like on it. I take it your Batman doesn't allow too many people know who he is in his real life."

"'Real life'? Batman's real life is being Batman. Anything else is only done to enhance that goal."

"You've got to be kidding?", the older Nightwing countered. "What do you mean, he has no other life? What about Wayne Enterprises, or the Wayne Foundation? Don't they exist?"

"Yes… As a means for Batman to develop new equipment for his war, or to get money to the people that need it. But Batman doesn't involve himself in the day-to-day running of the company. It's only a means to an end for him." Dick's voice started to rise as tension gripped him. Were they telling him that "Bruce Wayne" was more than just a facade for this Batman? That this one had a life outside the cape-and-cowl?

"Dick… Nightwing… Calm down." Batman's words to his partner halted the burgeoning confrontation taking place in front of him before it got out of hand. "This isn't the time or place for this. We have other matters that concern us. Like who's behind these robberies and just how they might related to this Nightwing's predicament."

"Right, Bruce… I think we should concentrate on that", Superman added. "Anyone have any ideas? Maybe we should go through all the old case-files to see who might have the ability to accomplish such a thing."

"Well, the Phantom Stranger once sent Batman and me to an alternate Earth to stop Joe Chill… Remember, Bruce."

"'Joe Chill'?" Dick's mind turned over with the implications of that statement. Who was "Joe Chill" and why would the Phantom Stranger find it necessary send Batman and Nightwing to another Earth to stop him? What had happened? But before he could question that idea further, Batman was answering his counterpart.

"Yes, but the Phantom Stranger isn't the type to go in for robbery, Dick."

"Of course not. But it is a possibility as to how he got here", Nightwing countered with a jerk of his head in Dick's direction. "And maybe a way to get him home."

"If we could get a hold of him, we could ask. But you know he
only seems to show up when he's needed. And he's not here now."

"How about Raven?", Gar piped in. "I know that she hasn't ever
tried the Earth-1 to Earth-2 jump, but she can cross dimensions."

"We could give her a call, Gar… But it's iffy", Donna mused. "Didn't you guys say that the Thunderbolt had tried and couldn't make it.
Something about a 'barrier'?"

"Yeah… The Earth-2 Flash and Doc Mid-Nite explained it to me", Vic added. "I think we're going ta have ta figger out what that is before we can do much."

"Well, have we ever come up against something like that before?,"
Superman queried, leading the brainstorming session that was developing. While Dick told himself that he should be reassured by all this, he wasn't feeling that way. For some reason, something wouldn't allow him to relax. If only he could get away for a few minutes. Find somewhere to meditate, or at least, give himself a moment to sort though all his questions and feelings and put them in the proper perspective. But he wasn't being given that chance.

"What about you, Clark? Can you think of anything?" Batman's quiet voice brought Dick back to the group.

"Well, there was that barrier between our universes and the anti-matter universe we had to breach during the Crisis. To take the fight back to the Anti-Monitor, back when…" the older man's voice again broke as he mentioned that name again, the one that Dick had wondered about earlier, "…back when Kara died."

"Easy, old friend", Batman comforted as he laid a hand on the
other man's shoulder's. "We all miss her. Barbara still occasionally
talks about her as if she's still around."

A pall had fallen over the group. Dick felt wrong about intruding on it, but he had to get some stuff straightened out, if only a few
things… If only to have something else to concentrate on. "I'm sorry, but who's 'Kara'?… And would 'Barbara' be Barbara Gordon?" Dick hoped so. It would be good to know that Babs was around on this Earth as well. Another something that was at least somewhat familiar to hang onto.

Donna reached over, her hand covering his. "Kara was Supergirl, Superman's cousin", she quietly conveyed. "She died in our version of the Crisis. And you're right, Batman's referring to Barbara Gordon. Supergirl was one of Batgirl's best friends, just as Superman and Batman are so close, and they, with Dick, all worked together so often in the past. I mean, it's because Superman used to work as Kandor's 'Batman', using the name 'Nightwing', that Dick first decided to adopt that name, wanting to honor Superman as much as he did Batman. Isn't that why you adopted it?"

The sense of the surreal returned with a vengence. What Donna was saying couldn't be right. Shaking his head, his eyes widened as he tried to make sense of all that had been thrown at him in the last few minutes. All the various things he had accepted as he had grown up… They all seemed to be tossed out the window on these other worlds. Everything seemed so familiar, and yet… "No… That's not right. This… this is all wrong." Dick's voice, barely a whisper, but somehow loud enough to stop the rest of the conversations dead, started to take on a shaking tone. He tried to remain subdued… tried to remain detached, but as all the anxiety that had been piling up in his system over the last two days started to take its toll. "Batman… My Batman may respect Superman for a lot of things, but work together regularly? No. They don't even operate in the same manner. How could they work together. They have totally different ideals. And being 'friends'? 'Best friends'?!? No… I think they've reached some sort of
understanding over the years. But they're just too different. I don't think Batman understands Superman for the most part. He even told me once to remember that Superman is alien… That he isn't human… And to never forget that!"

Stunned silence greeted Dick's statement. Looking over at the faces of the people gathered around him, Dick wished that a hole would open up in the floor beneath him and swallow him. He hadn't meant that the way that it had come out. He knew that his Batman didn't feel the same way about Superman now as he had felt back then, and that even when he felt that way, it wasn't out of some sort of terra-centric prejudice. But that was the way that he had made it sound, and these people wouldn't know better. Some of them were looking at him with concern, some with pity, some with compassion, some with outright shock. And a few with complete anger, including his fellow Nightwing. He wanted to take the statements back, to explain that it was more nervousness or fear that was speaking, not the actual truth of the matter. But he didn't even know how to start. And apparently, none of the others knew just how to respond either. As a result, for a several long moments, no one moved, or said anything. But then, breaking the tense quiet, a nervous laughter rose from over on the couch, where Gar was crouched, taking the form of a hyena. As the others looked towards the shaking form, all Dick heard was the green form's voice, cackling, say, "Geez, 'Wings… Wait until the wife hears that one…"

Even as Dick, stunned, was mouthing the word "wife" to himself, a new voice, a familiar one who at times past had been able to reach down into Dick's very soul, came from the doorway. "Wait until I hear what, Gar?"

Continue to Chapter 5!

    The author wishes to thank Carolina Lithgow-Bertelloni for her suggestion of "Nike" and Donna Troy's new codename.

 
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