A Study in Black and White

by Lara Wilson

Wintergreen found him at his desk examining the photographs once again. It was late, nearly two in the morning, and he knew Slade hadn't gotten more than four hours a night of sleep in the past week. He was pushing himself too hard.

"Learn anything new from them?"

Slade barely glanced up, one finger tracing the outline of the young man in the Robin costume as he flew through the air on a thin line. There was joy and loss there, strength and a skill bred into the bones and muscles.

He needed video.

"Send Tara a message. I need video of him--them," he caught himself, "in action."

"Very good." Wintergreen frowned and made no move immediately to obey him. Slade might forget what time it was, but he wasn't sending covert messages in the middle of the night to a young sociopath who was either asleep or out killing someone. "Will you be sleeping tonight, sir? Or should I remake the bed."

A narrowed eye and frown was turned on him and Slade shoved the photographs towards him. "Sit and tell me what you think of him."

Sinking into a chair and pushing aside his own need for sleep, Wintergreen picked up the first photograph of Robin. The young man was standing, leaning against a wall in what looked like a gymnasium. Even though the photographs were in black and white, there was a light shining in his eyes that didn't come from the glare of a camera.

"He'll be the hardest to catch. The others rely too heavily on their powers, but he has none."

"And he's been fighting the longest. The earliest reported sightings of him were of a boy, a child, not even a teenager." Slade's lips twisted. "You have to wonder about a hero who drags a child into the darkness."

"But that darkness isn't reflected in him, at least, I don't see it. Did he rise above it?"

Slade shrugged and lit a cigarette as he gazed at yet another photograph of Robin, this time laughing with Kid Flash and Wonder Girl. "These are three of the original Teen Titans. Perhaps bonding as teenagers they found a way to stay kids despite their after hours activities. But, they're not kids anymore, and that bonding means they fight as a team."

"Truly a tough assignment."

"There's no way I'll fail this time, though, not with her on the inside. As soon as I have their secrets, I'll strike where they'll never expect. In their civilian lives."

Silently Wintergreen wondered if the long year of planning would bear fruition and, if it did, if Slade would at last rest, but he knew better than to speak those thoughts aloud. As he slowly flipped through the stack of photographs, he hoped this would be a successful mission.

He wasn't sure what would happen to his friend if the mission failed.

If he failed.

His eyes fell once again on the young man in the short pants and silly pixie boots and he hoped Robin wouldn't be Slade's downfall. Intelligence shown from eyes black in the photograph. Intelligence perhaps to match even Deathstroke's.

A worthy opponent, but only if Slade could beat him.

As he looked at his dearest friend, watched him frown and again finger the same photograph, Wintergreen began to doubt he could.

And their black and white world, like the photographs, edged into gray.

End

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