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Lost in Jest

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Pain.

Pain was his first memory. Pain and the dark. The feeling of pain and fear and the surrounding darkness; then suddenly nothing. The feeling of nothing was strange with no emotions or sensations, but he was sure that he was awake. He had to be, how else could he tell that he was slapped in the face even though he couldn't feel it. He was aware of it and that was all. Strange; almost funny. Then he felt the burning, well at least he thought he did. It was dull, as if it were an old memory and had happened long ago. Where exactly was the burning happening? In his throat, mouth and guts? He wasn't even sure if it was happening now or it happened before; if it even happened at all. The feeling of disconnection was alien and yet comforting.

Then, the movies started. The movies were fuzzy and out of focus and didn't make much sense. They sort of skipped around and didn't connect properly. First there was a kitchen, then suddenly there was a stadium or what he thought could be one; broken roof tops that showed the sky and a clown.

A wave of fear came from that clown, but the movies went to fast for him to think to much about it. Then a woman. The woman was singing to him while stroking his hair. Was it his mom? Again, the movies were too quick. They were going to quick for him to see them or think about them and he started to feel dizzy and short of breath, at least he thought so. Time had no place where the movies were. Had he been watching them for seconds or days? Then suddenly, reality.

It was as if waking with a start, like the sensation of when it felt like someone dropped you in your bed and your not sure if that's what truly happened. He took in a breath and looked around. There wasn't much to see, a blue curtain and some sort of equipment. He tried to remember where he was, but his mind was failing him and it hurt to think about it. He looked down and saw that he was on some sort of table ; strapped down at the waist. He moved his hands to unbuckle it and it felt like he was controlling his hands from outside his body. The strap wasn't locked and came undone like a seat belt.

What's a seat belt?

He moved to get down but he suddenly felt heavy. As if someone suddenly put sand in his arms and legs and it made him feel lopsided. He jumped down and nearly collapsed; his body fighting his every move as if it didn't want to go. He wasn't going to let that stop him, his curiosity was too great for that. He moved closer to the curtain, his shoes clicking on the ground. Shoes, it sounds funny when you say it over and over again. He suddenly felt strange, it was that feeling that he first remembered, fear. It didn't go away this time. It stayed and made his chest hurt. He didn't even know what to be fearful of. He didn't or couldn't remember...perhaps on purpose? There was a sound in the air; he knew what it was but for some bizarre reason he couldn't think of what it was called. He wasn't even sure where it was coming from. Ignoring the feelings of everything he moved the curtain back and looked around.

It was that kitchen he saw in his movie, well sort of. In the movie it was complete. Canary-yellow and white wall and floor tiles with splotches of blue here and there, an old fridge and a kitchen table for three with flowers on it. In the movie there where four walls, here there were only two. The two walls that did exist didn't exactly look like what he had seen in the movie. They were dirty and looked like they were well, fake. He looked up, and didn't see the sky like he expected. He did see a playing card, isn't that what they were called, or was it calling card? He looked around and saw that this house was struned around and that it really wasn't a house but more of a play set that wasn't connected to eachother and was being stored in a larger building. Toys of all sorts surrounded the area, especially building blocks and large ones at that.

He felt confused. It was strange yet familiar, as if he'd seen it many times before. He walked out further, and could hear the sound again. It was making him nervous, it sounded so close but when he looked for it he couldn't see the point of origin. There was a new sound as well. It was quiet and came in jagged waves. Crying, yes...that's what it's called, isn't it? This sound was coming from a building block. He walked over to it, hearing the clicking of his feet as it echoed loudly off the walls. The closer he got, the louder that sound got.

'Crying. Don't forget that word,' he thought to himself, 'can't remember much right now, remember that at least.'

He came up to the block and saw that it wasn't a solid block, more of a box turned on it's side. He looked in and saw...what? This was frustrating. He couldn't remember simple things anymore, and he...

A girl, yes that is what it was. It took him a minute but then he remembered that name. A girl, and he was a, boy? Yes, he was sure of that, but it was still frustrating. He looked at the girl and studied her; trying to recall more. She was younger than him, or older...no definitely younger. She had to be; she was small, much smaller than himself. She had to be...what, four or five years old? He pushed the question of 'what's a year' out of his mind and tried to focus on what was in front of him. She had yellow hair, or is it called blond? He shook his head; everything was so swampy in his head. Her hair was in pigtails, held together with pink bugs, of what he didn't care. She was wearing a white shirt with red overalls and little pink shoes and lacy socks. Her face was buried in her knees with her arms wrapped around her legs. He bent down to get a closer look; when he did he heard that weird sound again and she must have too. She looked up suddenly and looked directly at him. Her face and eyes were red; must have been crying for awhile. Her face suddenly contorted into an expression. Why can't he remember the basics?

Fear, yes that's what fear looks like on a face. She was afraid. Afraid of what? He looked behind him and saw nothing but a wall; that wasn't scary but then again what did he know right now? He looked back at her and saw that she was trying to push herself further into the corner of the box; eyes darting all around him.

'It must be me,' he thought. 'She's afraid of me.' He crept closer, getting inside the box; wanting to show her that there wasn't anything to be afraid of as he reached out toward her. Her eyes bulged and she looked right into his eyes. Then that sound again. It was loud this time; it followed him into the box. That sound was making him on edge. That's what she must be afraid of. He stopped and looked around in the box. He didn't see anything, other than himself and the girl. He looked at his outstretched arm. There was...a colored glove covering his hand. A long purple...yes a purple sleeve on his arm. He followed his arm to his torso. Green, green and more purple. He had a green belly. No wait...that was just a...a vest. Purple pants, neatly pressed and white knees. White knees? He looked back up to the girl not looking at the fear in her face but her skin. Her skin was a fair peach color with different hues of red in it. He looked back at his knees and saw stark white with no discernible colors, just white.

Then that sound came back, only this time he saw his stomach heave with each sound. The sound was coming from him, from his mouth. As if it knew, the sound wouldn't stop this time. He tried pressing his hands on his stomach to stop it, but it kept going, so he covered his mouth but it only muffled it. The more he fought it, the louder it got. It was disturbing to listen to, what ever it was called he knew it didn't sound right. It was high and in wavering short spouts. He held his breath hoping to block out the sound but as he did, the sound stopped. He kept holding his breath, not wanting to hear that ugly sound again. With both hands over his mouth he looked down at the girl and saw that her expression had changed slightly. It was still fearful, but there was confusion there as well. He sat down in that box holding his breath, trying to contain it, but his stomach kept lurching; trying to force the sound out.

Laughter. That's what it was called. He remembered that laughter was supposed to be a joyful expression, but why did it make him so sick to hear it? The sound made his head spin and his stomach clench up. His confusion was reaching its peak, he wanted to remember everything but at the same time didn't. He started to feel light-headed and finally moved his hands away from his face and took a gasping breath. The laughter was gone; crawled back down his throat for now. He looked at the girl, this time she was looking at him with less fear but with more, he didn't know what but he didn't want to know. Her eyes suddenly darted from him and looked over his shoulder and the look of fear returned to her face tenfold. She shrank back to her corner and she looked smaller than she really was. He felt something fall heavily onto his left shoulder and then began to squeeze it to the point where it hurt. He turned to look.

The clown had come out of the movie.

 


 

 

There was only one thought in his head while looking at the movie clown; behave. He didn't know why, but it was the only logical decision. The clowns grip became tighter on his shoulder, his fingers digging in purposefully. The only thing he could focus on was the clown's eyes; everything else seemed unimportant at the moment. His eyes were red, narrowed and focused on his own eyes and were full of controlled anger. The clown started to talk to him, but he couldn't really hear what he said. The world began to blur at the corners as loud, painful memories poured out. The memories were coming too fast for him to fully understand and when he tried to focus on one, it only brought a new feeling of pain as if it was happening right then and there. He suddenly felt a violent shake on his shoulder that brought him back. The clown had leaned down closer to him, his face only inches away from his own. He raised his free hand and lifted up a finger and quietly said,

"Focus." with the same gleam in his eyes.

'Behave. I must behave,' was the only thing that ran in his head. He looked at the clowns face, focusing on that and had the feeling that his life truly depended on it. The clowns features were narrow and sharp. Pointed noes with a slender jaw line. Green hair oiled and slicked back revealing a large widow's peak, and a large grin that was devoid of any comfort. The clown looked at him for a few seconds, then leaned back tilting his head playfully, another expression taking over.

"Huh-hey! There we go," he said with a laugh, "don't need you zoning out just quite yet!" The clown stood up, violently pulling him up as well and then pushing him away from the box. The girl inside squeaked in fear as the clown grabbed her. He pulled her out just as violently, picking her up and looking down at her with true anger.

"I thought I told you to stay put!" he said giving her a quick shake. The girl did not answer, only cried all the more. As the clown started to walk away from him with the girl in hand did some clear memories start to come to play. Joker. That was what he was. He remembered that, and he was...what exactly? He tried to have a clearer memory of this man, but when he tried, all he got was pain and the feeling to behave. Meanwhile the Joker took the girl and pushed her into another building block box, but this one had a lid with a lock on it. He put the girl inside and slammed the box lid closed as hard as he could, locking it while muttering to himself.

"You'd think one would be enough but no," he grumbled to himself locking the padlock, "she has to go out and get another brat! She has no right to change the joke like this. After this is done, I think I may just get rid of her at the same time as the bird. Speaking of which, where is she?" He pulled up his sleeve to look at his watch, "She should have been back by now." He walked over to a radio on the fake kitchens' counter and turned it on. Only static first came out of it, but he turned a knob until a woman's voice played on it. The voice was monotone and slow, reading what sounded like police reports. The Joker then turned towards him, and he felt himself lock up.

"Get back behind the curtain, I don't want you running around incase we get a sudden bat infestation." He looked at the Joker and was going to do as he was told, but something in the back of his head told him not to do it. It was a weak feeling; easy to ignore, but it just felt...right. He didn't quiet know what to do, obey or disobey; he hesitated. The Joker saw this and slowly approached him, placing his arms behind him as he walked over to him. He then leaned down at him and said quietly:

"I said, 'get back behind the curtain', right now." He looked up at the Joker, not knowing what to do. The Joker smiled slowly, gently grabbing him by the arm and leading him back to the blue curtain.

"It seams to me," he said while leading him, "that we're not quite done yet. I think one more lesson should do the trick." Suddenly, he felt like he was going to die and wanted to run away. He tried to escape the Jokers grip while the laughter started to come out again. The Joker only held onto him all the tighter. He pulled him back behind the curtain, and tossed him back onto the operation table. The Joker looked him dead in the eye, and said:

"It seems that you need a good long lesson my boy," he strapped him back down at the waist, "now I know this will hurt you much more than me." He laughed at that and picked up a syringe and walked over to him.

He saw the injection needle, saw how large and dirty it looked. Fear took hold of his chest, locking him in place. Somewhere deep in his mind, he told himself if he fought it, it would only make it worse, drowning out the part that whispered him to fight. He didn't see the needle go in but he felt it. Felt how fast and deep into his thigh, aware of the weight behind it. Then the rush of fluid into his thigh and how painful that was alone. Then the burning started. It traveled up and down his leg, crawled its way up into his chest and then the pain was everywhere. His skin felt on fire with muscles seized, hands clawed and back arched painfully forward. If he hadn't been strapped down, he would have surely fallen off of the table. It was painful to breathe, but his chest heaved up and down, desperate for air. His eyes darted around on their own, not able to focus on just one thing while the world rippled. His wold became nothing more than pain and fear. Then, nothing but darkness.

 


 

 

He sat there in the darkness, not feeling or thinking of anything. Back to square one. Soon however, the world presented itself slowly to his eyes. His eyes demanded to stay closed, but he forced them to open. His eyes fluttered in attempt to stay closed as he tried to look around. His head felt painful and heavy to move, but he managed to tilt it to the side to look. He was still behind the curtain from what he saw. His body started to shake, making some of the metal of his straps clang onto the operation table. His chest was still heaving, trying to catch is breath but what little was caught was quietly laughed out. His skin was still burning slightly and his hair that was stuck on his forehead from the sweat made it felt itchy; all he wanted to do was scratch everything away. Then the curtain pulled back. The sudden bright light hurt his sore eyes and they tried to clamp down, but he felt if he did, the pain would surely start over again. The Joker sauntered slowly over to his side, his eyes never looking away from him and he never looked away from the Joker. To do so would be bad, he had to give him his full attention, even if he didn't have any at the time. The joker leaned in closer and whispered in his ear.

"Have you learned your lesson?" He didn't know what to do, but he nodded slowly, hoping that's what he wanted.

"And the lesson was what?" he whispered to him. Now he was in it, he didn't know. He looked into the Jokers eyes blankly, trying desperately to think of the answer.

"That's right," cried out the Joker, hurting his head from the volume of it, "never to talk back or question me! Oh, I knew you were a smart kid!" He began to remove the straps on him. "Much smarter than Harley ever was," he said while ruffling his hair. The act hurt his head, but he didn't dare show that it did, "yes sir, I've never been more proud of myself. Now JJ," he said while walking away, "I want you to come here. I want to show you something important." He tried to jump down and follow him, but his body was weaker than ever, but he knew now that to disobey was worse. He jumped down and collapsed on the floor, but finding what little strength he had left he got up and followed his dad.

Dad? Where did that idea come from? Maybe it was true because after all, his head wasn't working right. Maybe he did all this out of love. He caught up to the Joker, following close at hand. They walked out of the theater and down a crumbled hallway. He didn't really look around, only focused on his dad. His dad demanded attention and he knew what would happen otherwise now. He thought about what his dad had called him.

'JJ, that's my name', he thought. Simple enough, but why did it feel so...artificial?

'Don't question it,' he thought, 'focus on what's happening now. If you don't, it's back into bed with you and that's bad.'

They entered a old room that looked like it had once upon a time been a doctors office. Old file cabinets left to rust and a large oak desk that was probably expensive had papers and blueprints strewn atop it. In the corner was a large disassembled jack in the box; on top of that junk was an old straitjacket. Hanging on the wall was a old oil painting of a man with the title 'Our founder: Jeremiah Arkham'. Someone had drawn a fake mustache and beard on it, with goofy cross eyes and tongue sticking out.

"Everything is almost ready," the Joker said to him as he rounded the desk, "soon bat-breath's final curtain call will start, and you," he said looking up at him with a large grin, "will be the final nail in the coffin. In more ways than one!" He opened up a desk drawer and pulled out a large metal box. He tucked the box under his arms and started to walk out of the office with JJ following as best as he could. They reentered the operating theater and the Joker walked over to the kitchen table and set the box down on it.

"You should consider yourself lucky sonny-boy," he said turning to him, "inside here is a secret that I've kept for all these years. Now I'm sharing it with you." He opened the box to reveal what looked like a comicly large toy gun, safety tip and all. The joker pulled it out and held it up to show him.

"I had a gun smith make this for me after the first time I fought ol' pointy ears as the man I am today," he said with a nostalgic sigh, "It's a custom made dart gun! Inside is your standard 'Bang' flag, it'll pop out the first time you pull the trigger," he said as he did so. True enough, it made a loud toy gun bang sound with smoke, and the flag popped out. The yellow and red flag was bright and looked harmless. "However, when you pull the trigger again," he said while aiming it at an imaginary target, "Pow! The dart shoots out and impales whoever you're shooting at! Of course since this gun was a custom job, that gunsmith wanted a lot for it, a kings ransom, so I gave him a piece of my mind...and his mind made a mess all over the wall!" He chortled at his own joke.

"This gun was made for one purpose only," he said leaning closer to the boy, "to personally thank Batman for making me who I am today. I had planned on using it the next time we met, but as time went on," he said looking up with another wave of happy memories, "I grew to like our merry romps. I'd do something; he'd try to stop me and around and around we went for many years. But now, we're getting older," he said looking at him "and won't be able to keep up the merry game. It's time to finish it," he said with a growing edge to his voice, "to prove once and for all that I was in full control the whole time and that I'm simply tired of the game."

He pulled the back plunger on the gun and the dart retreated back into the gun, he then set it on the table.

"As for you," he said turning back to him and slapping his hands firmly on his shoulders, "you are the build up of the joke, and you will be the one to deliver the punch line. The ultimate joke! The final blow to his frail little ego! It will be hilarious!" He laughed long and hard at the thought and anticipation of the final showdown, knowing that in the end, he had already won. JJ didn't understand most of what was said, he tried his best to listen to his dad but his head was killing him and all he got out of it was that he was going to do something important.

The Joker looked down at his creation and had to smile. Here was his ultimate joke, this...thing he made. It was perfect! True Harley had given him the initial idea, but everything else was of his own design. It was also his most time consuming project. Sure he kept tabs on that Charles...what's-his-name for years but that was simple, this had required twenty-four hour dedication for weeks! He had originally thought it would take three weeks, but it had turned into months of work. The kid was more stubborn than he thought, but here he was now. He remembered when the kid truly cracked; he tried to get more information out of him but all he got was the five-mile stare. He thought he'd over done it, but now here he was. A chip off the ol' block! Well, almost. He had to be sure. He had to make sure that he would obey him, no matter what. The Joker looked him over again, noticed his suit was slightly grubby and his hair messy.

"Well kiddo," he said slapping him hard in the back playfully, "it seems that you need to get cleaned up first! Where is Harley?! She should have been back by now!" He looked at the doorway and thought for a moment.

"Guess I'll have to go fetch her myself," he said angrily, "I'll kill her if she ruins the joke." He pointed to the curtain and said:

"Get on the table and strap yourself in, I'll be over to...tuck you in, in a moment." Not even thinking about it, JJ turned and walked over to the curtain and moved it aside and climbed back on the table. He grabbed the waist strap and closed it over himself, lied back and waited. As he waited, he decided that he was just confused at first. Thinking was the quickest way of getting in trouble here; he had to just be reminded of it. However, a small part of him still nagged at him. He wasn't sure why he felt like this, but after he felt the needle and felt the anesthetic take over he didn't have to think anymore about it.

He woke up slowly, still dazed from the drug. He didn't know how long he had slept but he did feel slightly better though. Perhaps all he really needed was some sleep after all. He decided to wait for someone to come to him, he didn't want to get into trouble again after what happened earlier. He couldn't see much anyway as it was dark behind the curtain, so he decided to try to sleep some more as he waited. As he tried to fall asleep, that nagging feeling came back. Something in his head was trying to get his attention, but he kept ignoring it. He was suddenly aware that someone was yelling. He tried to focus on it but the voice was at a distance. Suddenly the voice boomed inside the room.

"Get back over here you little brat!" He heard the Joker call out. Objects were crashing down and breaking as a chase went on. He remembered that little girl locked up in the box, maybe she got out? He then heard a high loud yelp and then crying from what he assumed the girl. The girl kept crying and what seemed to be struggling, and the nagging feeling got stronger. Despite himself, he got up and peeked out the curtain. The girl was kicking and screaming; trying her best to get away, but a four year old is no match for a full grown adult. The Joker opened up the same box that he had put her in before and put her back into it. He closed the latch again and put another block on top.

"I can't believe this," he grumbled to himself, "here I am, ready to put on my grand finale for ol' bats and Harley has to go missing in action on me! Ungrateful wench! I had to clean up the kid myself, and now," he said kicking the box as hard as he pleased resulting a yelp within, "this other brat keeps running around and crying! What did Harley want with her anyway? Did she think I wouldn't mind?" He looked around and JJ quietly went back on the table, not wanting to get caught off of it. He heard the Joker walk on the tile of the fake kitchen and then heard what sounded like paper.

"Dear Puddin'," read the Joker out loud with venom in 'puddin', "I'll be back home in a day or three. Wanted to get together with Pam one last time before I settle into family life. I hope you will consider..." He stopped reading it out loud, only mumbled. He crumpled the letter up and threw it away.

"Bah! If she thinks I'm going to do the same thing to that kid as I did to Robin, she's sorely mistaken! I don't have time for this! Not this close to opening night!" He pulled out a handgun from his holster and pointed it at the box, but stop when he was about to pull the trigger. An idea popped into his head. He did have to make sure that the bird brain was under his thumb. He turned and looked at the curtain. He had to make sure that he would do what he said. This was too important; the entire joke rested on him able to 'deliver the punch line'. He had to make sure.

Behind the curtain, JJ's mind was racing. That word triggered something in his head; gave the nagging in his head new strength. This was wrong. Everything was wrong. He tried to think of what it could possibly mean, but he couldn't figure why the word 'robin' would cause such a feeling of unease. The Joker called out to him, he would have to figure it out later. He got back down again and walked out from the curtain. The Joker had his hands on his hips, looking down at him with pride.

"Hey there son," he said with glee, "since your ma is out sleeping with another woman, I thought we could pass the time with a little game." He picked up the bang dart gun and held it up again.

"It's called, 'target practice'. It's a fun little game that we're going to play with Batman and his friends, but I want to make sure you know the rules first." JJ kept looking up at the Joker, but the new thought kept coming on stronger and he couldn't stop or completely ignore them. The Joker gently place the gun in his hands, and it slowed his train of thought.

"I know I said that this was made for Batman," as Batman landed on the thug and knocked him out instantly, "but I just want to make sure you know what to do." JJ started to shiver slightly, the movies were starting again and he couldn't risk making his dad angry. A old, kind face of a man whisked by, asking him if he had done his homework, a girl with red hair smiled at another man as they practice...ugh! These movies were horrible! He didn't know what they meant. He had to make his dad happy because he then would be happy too. He looked down at the gun and tried to focus on that; to drive away the movies.

'This isn't right.' said something in his head. He shook his head, trying to silence it. 'You know this isn't right. Fight it.' Fight it, fight what? The world started to spin again. The movies...memories kept playing on. He was flying; soaring in-between buildings while laughing as if he had done it a million times before. He liked this movie and focused on this one. He landed and looked around at the rooftops of the city. He heard a cry. "Help!" He was shaken from the memory when he heard the girl call out for help as she kicked and cried trying to get away. The Joker held her by the arm as she kicked in the air, crying from the pain of being held up.

"Make daddy proud," he said while pointing to the girl, "you know what to do. Deliver the punch line." That last sentence triggered a response, he suddenly became calm and raised the gun and pointed it at the girl. Deliver the punch line. 'Don't do it.' the voice called out again, 'you know who you are, you know.' He started to laugh, of course he knew who he was, it all made sense because everything didn't make sense and that was the joke. The voice didn't get the joke, that's all. He pulled the trigger and the flag popped out; it had a stronger kick than he realized. Pull the trigger again and the girl will be saved. Saved? What no, he meant shot. Then everything started to melt into movies as his head bobbed in the invisible waves. All the movies of the old memories and the new started to fight for screen time. One movie started while another was in the middle of it and it was making his head hurt. He had to do as his dad said or he would get into trouble! One life was mingling with another and he didn't know what to do. The voices were crying out for attention.

'Don't do it.' 'You have to' 'This isn't you' 'Do it' 'He's right' 'Don't shoot'

He closed his eyes, trying to shut the voices up, but they shot open when he heard a new voice, one that was low, strong and confident. Not just a voice, but a true wonderful loving memory.

"I'm proud of you Tim."

...He remembered.

Reality came crashing back when he heard a loud bang and felt himself push back from the recoil. The world suddenly became quiet. Peace at last. He looked on, seeing the girl on the ground all crumpled up from being dropped. The Joker stood there with the most pure expression of shock and surprise. He was looking down at the dart sticking out of his chest where his heart was. He numbly fumbled for the dart and wrapped his hand around it. He looked up at his creation, still in shock.

"That's not funny," he said with a blank look on his face, "that's not..." he gasped and a look of fear washed over his face as he fell down face first. He didn't move. The laughter erupted out of him as he looked on. Nothing in the whole world was more hilarious than this. He was a walking joke to what he was! Of course it was funny! Hilarious! The greatest joke of all! He looked at the gun and all the emotions of the past three months hit him; all the pain, fear and longing. He let the gun go as he laughed on. He was laughing so hard that tears poured out...or was he crying. Yes, he could admit it to himself; he was crying. He fell to his knees, not caring how much it hurt to do so. He had never sobbed so hard in his life. The last time he did so, his mom came into the room and held him tight with gentle strokes on his head, but that was three lifetimes ago. There was no mom, there was no dad, there wasn't even Batman. He wrapped his arms around and hugged himself, his sobbing echoing loudly throughout the decaying insane asylum.

 


 

 

He didn't know how long he had sat on his knees and cried. He cried so much that he wondered if the room would flood with them like in that one story. His chest kept catching raspy breaths as if he was going to sob again, but nothing came of it. His whole body hurt from it. He finally opened his eyes and looked ahead.

There it was, the corpse of his torturer and his...fathers nemesis. The corpse of the Joker. It wasn't just a nightmare that he had hoped it was. He looked down while biting his lip. Not all of his memories of the past few months were unlocked as of yet, but he remembered his past life as Robin. He remembered the quiet understanding way of Alfred, Barbara's infectious laugh and Dick's relaxed ways. The laughter came back, it was loud and maniacal and sounded too familiar to the Jokers. He held his breath and covered his mouth. He didn't want to even think that he could produce such a ugly sound. He could hardly believe that he had lost himself to that madman, and even thought he was his dad! How could he be so weak? He opened his eyes and realized what he had done. He had told him everything! He had betrayed everyone's trust and told the Joker everything he knew. He looked at the Jokers corpse again and at the gun near his knees. He felt sick. He got up and tried to remember where a restroom in this dump was.

He rushed out of the operation theater and turned down a hallway and found the closest restroom. He didn't make it to the toilet but he did reach the sink. What ever was in his stomach lurched out and spilled over into the sink. He didn't have much inside, but he continued to retch even after the fact. He hated this feeling; always had. He tried to stop but his body was insistent in continuing on. Finally it did stop and he put his head on the cold porcelain sink. He breathed in, trying to clear his head and plan the next step. Without looking up, he turned on the faucet to rinse it out. He would find a telephone, call Bruce or Dick, have them fix everything. He stood up and took off his gloves to cup the water to rinse out the bile. He cupped his hands under the water and was going to take a sip when he looked at them.

They were white. Not Caucasian white, but clown white. He took a sip, he was just tired. He spat the water out and panted. Panic was starting to settle in. It was makeup...yes it had to be. He looked into the mirror and choked down a laugh. He looked just like him. White face and green hair; dark ruby lips and...and... He bent down and splashed the water on his face. It was just makeup. It will wash off. He rubbed his face hard with his hands, knowing greasepaint makeup was thick. He grabbed the dirty towel and rubbed his face into it. He paused, and slowly lowered the towel. It was all still there. The midnight black around his large eyes, the red irises, the white of his skin and that horrible grin. It was far wider than the Jokers ever was, showing all his teeth and somehow even more terrifying. The laughter came out again, loud and nerve-racking as ever. It made him retch again as he laughed. He sank to the floor of that disgusting restroom while laughing and retching. He couldn't. He couldn't call for help now. Not like this. He was pathetic. Laughing and dry-heaving on the floor with eyes wide open not looking at anything. He couldn't do this to the others.

He didn't know what to do anymore. He didn't want to let the world know what happened. That face in the mirror was the most disgusting, pathetic thing he had ever seen. He stood back up and looked again in the mirror. It was stupid, what he was wearing was stupid. He looked like if Eddy Munster had designed his clothes. Knee-high socks and that comicly large bow tie? He walked away from the mirror, absolutely hating that kid inside it. He needed something to keep his mind off of it so he slowly put his gloves back on. He didn't...feel right without them on. Hopefully that was just out of frustration. He looked around inside the theater and yep, that guy ain't gettin' back up again. The laugh tried to come out again, but he swallowed it back down.

'Wait, wasn't there someone else here?' Of course, that girl! Where did she get to? He looked around and soon saw that she had huddled herself in the farthest corner of the room. Now he knew why she looked at him with such fear earlier, he was a mess. He walked over to her and got on his knees, trying to comfort her by gently touching her shoulder. She flinched away, eyes never leaving him. He decided to tell her that he wasn't going to hurt her, but when he tried to speak, only that nauseating laughter came out.

He clasped his mouth again, feeling stupid for having to do that so much today. He lowered his hand and tried to say something. Anything that resembled English would do, but whatever he tried only insane laughter came out. He covered his mouth again with both hands. Good God, he couldn't talk. He backed away from the girl and a strange muffled wailing noise came from inside him and he couldn't control it. He backed into the same box that the girl had been in where they first met, curled up and began to cry again. It wasn't like before, where it sounded like sobbing, now it just sounded like sick laughter. It was true, he didn't want to believe it but it was true. He was sick. He was mad, deranged, unhinged...insane. He was insane. He laughed all the louder. Now he really couldn't face...well, anyone for that matter. He was a pathetic, insane joker-kid. He felt something touch his arm and he slowly looked up. The girl had crawled inside with him and sat right next to him, looking worried. She then did something he wasn't prepared for, she hugged him around his waist. He looked down at this little girl. He was the older one, he should be comforting her, not the other way around. He started to shake, it felt nice. He picked her up and squeezed her like a teddy bear, not even considering if he was hurting her or not.

"Not so tight!" said the little girl, the first thing she said all night. He came back to reality and let her go. She rubbed her arms.

"Ow, you hug too tight," she said looking at him, then she looked down and what little maturity had been there was gone.

"I want to go home!"

'You and me both,' he said to himself, 'but I can't go back, they would...' the laughter started again, and he held his breath to stop it. He had to do something. Batman would eventually figure it all out. He would come here and see what has happened. He had to do something about it; had to buy time. He looked at the girl and patted her head and pointed to the ground.

'Stay here,' he thought to her, even though he knew she couldn't hear him, 'I have to do something first.' He stood up and looked over at the body. What if he was faking it? It could just be a big fake out and as soon as he got close, he'd grab him. 'No. Don't be stupid, JJ.' He stopped and smacked his head.

'My name is Tim, not JJ! It's JJ, no I mean Tim!' He held his head and let the laughter fly out. He was going to have to work on some things, but he had to focus on the matter at hand. He was still chuckling when he touched the body, it felt stiff already. He grabbed the Jokers' shoulder and pulled it towards himself to flip the body over. The face was...not what he was expecting. He figured the Joker would die with a large, triumphant smile and expression but this? He had no smile what so ever, no expression...nothing. Blank eyes conveyed nothing, didn't even had a hint of malice within. He looked like a normal human, save the skin and the green hair...

'No, no no don't think like that' he said to himself, 'it makes the laugh come out.' He looked down at the dart in his chest. Falling on it had pushed it further inside, but not by much. He took off his gloves again, thinking if he got them dirty, he would get hurt. He put them in his pocket and grabbed the dart and pulled hard. It was stuck. He stood up and put his foot onto the chest and pulled and pushed as hard as he could, causing a little congealed blood to pool out of the wound. It finally came free and he fell flat on his backside.

'Jeez! That was really stuck tight,' he thought looking at the bloody rod. The flag had bloodstains on it now, as well as his hands.

'Better hurry,' he thought, 'don't want to get caught...red handed.' He laughed so hard at the lame pun, harder than anyone would have. He forced himself to stop. This wasn't normal; he had to focus on what to do next. He remembered from a story that Bruce had told him that a long time ago the Scarecrow had tried to poison Gotham with a fear toxin via a underground river beneath Arkham, this Arkham. He got up and walked down a hall, looking for a way down to the basement. He couldn't believe that they left this place to rot; why not completely demolish it? Look what happened! He'd have some words with the mayor if he ever got the chance. He soon came to a open doorway that led to the basement. He flipped the light switch, hoping that there was power here as well.

The light came on in protest, but then stayed illuminated. He walked down into the basement, walking over broken bits of wall. He looked around and felt so uneased down here, but then he saw the doorway that led to the underground river system. He kept looking around however, looking for a...yes there was one! He picked it up but only saw that it was a coal shovel, but it would have to do. He placed it near the doorway and ran back up to where the body was. Half way back though, his body suddenly felt weak, his legs shook and his head felt light.

'Come on,' he said to himself, 'you have to keep going.' He walked back into the room and reached the body. He picked up the Jokers' legs and didn't realize how heavy they were, or maybe he was weak. He situated himself so he could pull comfortably. He heaved and pulled hard to get the body in motion.

'My gosh, I must be weak!' He had pulled bigger men before like this and now it was if the body weigh three hundred pounds. He had to keep going though, he had to bury the body. It was only right. The Joker may not deserve it, but he was going to get a proper burial by God. He pulled and pulled, thinking that the hallway must have stretched while he was gone. Finally he reached the basement stairwell. He looked down and wondered how he was going to do this. He put the legs down and got behind the head. He pushed up until the Joker looked like a sitting manikin. He pushed further until the body went violently down the stairs, bones breaking all the way. He looked down, the Joker's body was twisted at the bottom of the stairwell. He started to laugh at it but stopped when he realized how sick it was to do so. He went down the stairs and looked closer at the body. Cuts in the skin, broken bones and his neck was twisted funny. He tried to contain the laugh, but he couldn't fully. He grabbed the legs as best as he could; the left one felt like bending funny where he held it and he began to pull again.

He reached the doorway again that led into the underground caverns. As he pulled the body, he grabbed the coal shovel and put it on top of the body and continued on. There wasn't much light down here, only emergency lights that must have been installed after what had happened with the Scarecrow. He soon came to a spot that looked like it had soft soil. He picked up the shovel and tried his best to dig. Coal shovels he decided made lousy normal shovels. He was exhausted, emotionally and physically, but he carried on. He had to. If Bruce ever found out...more like when he... He kept digging until he thought it was deep enough. He dropped the shovel and grabbed the Joker's shoulders and pulled him toward the hole. When the Joker's body was parallel with the hole, he got a idea, he started to search the body hoping to find something useful on him. He found a hand gun, that was expected, however instead of throwing it away or leaving it where it was, he put it into his own pants pocket. It didn't fit all the way, but for some reason he felt better with it in there.

Keys. He took those. Anything else you sick...yes there was. It was deep and hidden inside, but he felt it near the breast pocket of the vest. He pulled it out and looked at it. It was a old photograph, wrinkled and faded with age. It was a picture of a woman, one he didn't recognize. Now it had some blood speckled on it. He looked at it, then at the Joker. If it were anyone else, he would have left it there on the body, but he put it into his own vest pocket. A small petty victory. He pushed the Joker into the hole, surprisingly he landed face up. However he notice that the hole was too short and the Joker's feet stuck out.

'Wonder if Ted Bundy had this problem,' he thought and laughed loudly, it echoed for quite some time. He took the shovel and corrected the problem; right before he started to shovel the dirt back onto the body he took one last look at the face and wondered if he should cover it or at least close the eyes. Then he tossed dirt on it. The dirt stuck to the eyes, not flinching, still dead. He laughed and finished the job.

 


 

 

It took longer than he thought to bury the body but he did it. He looked at the small mound of dirt where the Joker would rot away. Kind of fitting, maybe he'd haunt this place and be trapped here forever. Wait, that was a scary idea. He turned away and walked back up with the shovel in hand. He put the shovel back right where he had found it. He looked down at his hands, blood and dirt covered them. He slowly walked back to the restroom lost in deep thought. He never thought he would be doing...this. He pushed the idea away, he had other things to do right now. He turned on the faucet and scrubbed his hands. He didn't realize that he was shaking so hard until he looked at his hands. Memories of the past three months started to come out...his 'movies' as he had called them. He tried to control his breathing; he didn't want to panic and melt down again like he did earlier. He decided to look again in the Joker's office to see if he could find anything more useful to him.

He found the office again, and went over to the desk and tried to pull the drawers open, but they were locked. Good thing he took those keys off the Joker. He fumbled with the keys, trying all of them with the drawers, however only one worked with one drawer. He opened the drawer and looked inside. There was five large bundles of one hundred dollar bills, some useless papers and some pictures and...he couldn't believe it. He pulled it out and held it up to look at it. His mask, he kept his mask. He gently put it into his vest pocket. He looked around the office, trying to see if there was something else he could use. In the corner of the office, there was a old leather messenger bag. He walked over to it and looked inside, there wasn't anything in it. He put it across his body and adjusted the straps to make it fit properly. He walked back over to the desk, grabbed the bundles of money and shoved them into the bag. He pulled out the gun he took from the Joker and put it into the bag as well.

He looked at the papers and saw they were from years ago and were worthless. He tossed them away and found what looked like three magazines for the hand gun he had. He picked them up and into the bag they went. He picked up one of the pictures and...it was him. He looked at another one, again it was him! The Joker documented everything! He took any pictures he could find in the drawer and shoved them into the bag. He then remembered that Harley had been taking pictures and...filming. He had to find that film! He sat and thought about it...if he was...heh..the Joker, where would you present a film to Batman? Wasn't there a projection screen at the top of the operation theater? He walked as fast as his body would allow him back to the operation theater. When he got there, he looked up and sure enough, there was a projection booth up on the second level.

He started toward the booth when his foot stepped on something. He looked down and saw that he had stepped on the toy dart gun. He looked at it for a moment and then bent down and picked it up. He should have buried it with the Joker...but it was too late now. He walked over to the flag dart and picked it up. He carefully put the dart back inside the gun and pulled the plunger. The bloodied flag retracted back inside, and he reluctantly put the gun into his bag. He looked up and saw the girl looking at him. He completely forgot about her, how could he have done that? He walked over to her and held out his hand, deciding to take her up to the booth with him. She looked up at him and hesitantly put her hand in his. He gripped her hand and they started towards the stairs. The upper balcony indeed had a projector inside it. He walked up to it and saw that there was a film reel in it. He took it off and looked at the film. He could see a tiny Joker in the film, this must be it. He took the film reel and shoved it into the bulging bag.

'There,' he thought, 'it won't stop him, but it will slow him down. I should be long gone by the time he figures it out...after all he hasn't...' He started to chuckle again, why hadn't they found him yet anyway? Batman was the worlds greatest detective after all. His train of thought was interrupted by the girl pulling his arm.

"Um..are we going home now?" she asked quietly. He looked down and nodded 'yes'. As they started to make their way out of the decaying asylum, he couldn't help but wonder how he was going to pull all this off. He wasn't even sure how he was going to help this girl; it wasn't like he could ask her or even write her a note. He looked down at the girl who was clinging tightly on his arm. He didn't feel like one anymore...but, he was a hero once, he could at least act like one for one more time.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

It was a good thing that the rain had stopped, it was a long walk from the old Arkham grounds to the city and the last thing he needed was to get a head cold. The two walked slowly along the road holding hands; the little girl jumping in puddles. Tim looked up at the sky. The clouds started to break up, revealing the stars high above. He'd forgotten how pretty the night sky was, and the smell of the air after a rainstorm. It was strange, several hours ago he was confused and scared of everything and now he felt completely calm. It probably was best not to think too much about it right now, the other last thing he needed was another panic attack.

"How much longer do we have to walk?" asked the girl. He looked down, shaking his head and raising his shoulders. He really didn't know. He wished though that the city was right around the corner, he was tired and his feet were killing him. Stupid dress shoes weren't made for long walks. The girl suddenly stopped and started to pout.

"I can't walk anymore. I'm tired and cold." He rubbed the back of his neck, she was starting to irritate him and his nerves were already long gone. He bent down and pointed to his back. Luckily she understood what he meant and got onto his back and wrapped her arms around his neck. He struggled to stand back up, he just felt so weak. He started to walk on, trying to think of what he was going to do with this kid. He couldn't just walk up to the next person and ask them to take her off his hands.

"You're really bony," she said loudly right into his ear. He decided to ignore her, it was bad enough with everything else. He tried to keep walking with her weight, but after about two hundred feet he just couldn't hold her up anymore. He knelt back down and had to let her down. She let go and came around to look at him.

"Are you tired already?" He looked at her. She thought about it and said, "It's okay, I'll just walk on my own," and started to walk away. He went to get back up, but his legs just didn't want to move anymore. The girl looked over her shoulder and walked back over.

"I'll help you up," she chirped and grabbed his arm and started to tug. He got up and folded his arms in frustration. It was embarrassing, a four or five year old girl was helping him stand up. He was just grateful that nobody really used this road anymore after that new highway was built. He still hadn't figured out what he was going to do with her or himself. Maybe she's on the Amber Alert and the cops will be looking for her. He could find the nearest police car then...yeah that sounded like a good idea. It's not that he could ask her where she lived, or even if she knew her own address. After he gets her safe, then he'll find a place to sleep and stay until he was strong enough to leave town. That sounded simple enough at the moment. The girl seemed to have finally warmed up to him because she wouldn't stay quiet. She kept chattering on and on about her dog and her toys. He was starting to wish it was only a few minutes to the nearest cop.

 


 



Eventually, about two hours later the two came up to the outer city limits. It was a sight of relief for him because he was getting tired of hearing the same story over and over again. He looked around; now he had to be careful that nobody saw him. The longer he could stay hidden and not under Batman's radar the more time he had to prepare to leave. As he looked, he spotted a 24 hour diner, and would you look at that, a GCPD cop car! He grabbed her hand and pointed to the car. She looked up and smiled.

"Yeah, mommy says to go to the police when you're in trouble. They'll help us get home!" Oh crap, he hadn't thought about her talking to the police about what happened! She knew...everything. He looked down at her and pointed to himself and then made a shushing gesture. She looked up at him.

"What do you mean? I don't get it." He pointed to the car, then to himself and shushed again. She thought about it.

"You...don't want me to talk to the police?" He shook his head and pointed to himself.

"You don't want me to talk to the police about you?" He nodded.

"Why?" He sighed. He always sucked at Charade, and besides he really couldn't stop her from talking even if he wanted to. He shook his head again and grabbed her hand and started toward the diner. As they got closer, the smell of the diner got stronger in the air. His mouth started to water from it; he didn't realize how hungry he was. He had to ignore it for now though. They got to the other side of the street of the diner and he stopped and pointed to the car. She looked at him and started to tug at his arm.

"Come on," she said eagerly, "let's go see the police man." He shook his head; pointed to her and then to the diner, then to himself and the ground below.

"You don't want to go," she asked, he nodded, "why?" He didn't answer. She looked at him and gave him one last hug.

"It's okay, I'll go in, and I won't even tell them about you if you don't want me to." He chuckled and hugged her back and as she entered the diner, he turned and ran away from the street as fast as he could. He knew that the cops would soon be there and he had to get as far away as he could get.

 


      



It had been a long time since he had to walk the streets of Gotham alone at night, but it was late enough that most people were in bed or at least at a safe enough place to wait out the night. This time of night was dangerous to be out at all. He lurked in the shadows, darting out only if he had to. This sucked. He never had to be this stealthy before and now after smelling the cooking food in the diner, all he could think about was eating. He came up to a small mom and pop store and looked inside. It looked like it served the neighborhood with a little of everything from groceries to clothes. He walked to the back and saw a second door, probably led into the store's storage area. He walked over to it and saw it was only locked with a cheap lock. He picked up a rock and smashed it off with three strikes. He opened the door and peeked inside, looking around for security cameras or any other form of security. He didn't see any so he went inside.

The store was quaint, felt very eighteen hundres. There were stairs leading up to the second story of the building. 'Probably where the owners live', he thought. Dropping the rock midway in, he walked over to the clothing racks and looked for some clothes his size. There was no way he could go running around in a purple suit and not be noticed. He found a pair of grey sweat pants, a bit too large but it was the only one that would remotely fit him. Then he found a black hoodie; again too big but it would have to do. He put the pants and hoodie on right then and there; didn't want to get rid of the suit just yet. He'd have to burn it so Bruce wouldn't find it. He looked over at a display with some makeup for women. He walked up to it and picked up some skin foundation. He couldn't go around with white skin. He picked up several foundation creams and a couple of 'natural color' lipstick and put them into his bag. He looked over to the clothing again and picked out a hat and a pair of sunglasses and put the hat on and put the glasses into the bag. As he put the glasses into his bag, he pulled out one of the stacks of hundreds he had taken with him. He pulled out about two thousand dollars and placed it on the counter.

'There,' he thought, 'go buy yourselves a better security system.'

He chuckled as he started to make his way over the fridges to grab something to eat. He just grabbed a quarter gallon of milk when the door of the second floor opened up and the lights came on.

"Who's down here laughing like a helium-sucking hyena and is about to get their heads smashed in with a baseball bat?!" yelled out a angry man. Tim ducked down, luckily he was in the blind spot of the stairs, but he was ten feet away from the back door. The man descended the stairs in pajama bottoms and a baseball bat, ready to take a swing at anything. He slowly made his way around the store, not knowing what to run into. Tim looked around, hoping to find something to help him out. He spotted the rock that he had used to break into the place, it was only about three feet from him. He crept his way toward the rock and picked it up. The man was looking around near the store's front window, looking into the clothing racks. He raised his arm and aimed at the window.

'Batter up!'

The rock flew through the air and broke the window, causing the store owner to raise his arms up defensively. With him distracted, Tim ran out the back door and further down the alleyway. He climbed over the wooden wall and then ran across the street and down another alleyway. Hoping he had run far enough, he started to walk quickly down the road.

'Helium-sucking hyena' he thought to himself, 'got to admit, that's pretty good.' He laughed again, but this time he tried to keep quiet. He looked around; it seemed that most of this part of the neighborhood had died. Building doors and windows were boarded up, the buildings themselves looked old and tired. He knew better than to go into places like that. Scumbags and gangs used places like those, it wasn't safe. There was only a few places that seemed to have some life left inside them. One of them was a bakery. He looked inside the window like before and eyed the day-old breads and pastries and his mouth watered again. He looked around and again found a back entrance. This one however had a better lock and there weren't any bricks or rocks to help him out this time. He looked around, and called back to his days fending for himself on the streets, when he had to steal to survive. He lifted the doormat and sure enough, there was a key there. He opened the lock and placed the key right where he had found it and entered. The smell of bread and pies hit him as he entered, but it was faint. This area was part of the bakery, but it was used for storage. Large flour bags piled high and extra ingredients lined up neatly on shelves. There was a large old brick oven in the back of the room, it was covered in flour and dust and had a large crack down the front of it.

'The oven looks broken,' he thought, 'they probably have another one somewhere and just haven't bothered to take this one out.' He opened the gate and looked inside. It was surprisingly clean for a oven. The door was large enough to fit a small man inside and it was deep enough to fit a car. He looked around, hoping to find another way into the bakery to get at the food inside. Unfortunately, this door was locked and there didn't seem to be a key anywhere. He smacked the door bitterly; food was just right there and he was too tired to do anything about it. Running from the shop earlier took what was left of his strength. He turned and looked at the shelves, hoping that there would be...something. He did find something, it was a half of a loaf of sourdough bread. It was probably used for sandwiches for the employees but was left out so it got stale. He didn't care if it was stale, it was food and that was good enough for him.

He sat on the flour sacks that were stacked on a wooden pallet and took a big bite out of the loaf. The bread was hard to chew, but he opened the milk he had managed to take with him and took a swig of it. He didn't realize how bad his hunger was until he started to eat. His arms shook and he nearly choked from not chewing enough. He chortled between each bite, not caring if he was or wasn't, it was just nice to finally eat something. He ran out of bread before milk, so he swigged the last of it as fast as he could. He felt alive again. He wiped his mouth with the sleeve of the hoodie and pulled the hood down, taking the hat off as well. He was still hungry, but what he had would do for now.

'I wonder when the bakery workers come in?' he wondered to himself. He didn't even know the time or date. He could only have a few minutes until they came and found him. He should look for somewhere else to stay, but eating made exhaustion catch up with him. He looked over to the oven and hoped that the workers never opened it. He walked over to it and crawled into the brick oven and left the oven door slightly ajar. It was dark inside, but he didn't care. He crawled to a corner and curled up. He would plan the next step after he woke up, trying to ignore the hunger that was still there, trying to forget that he killed someone...forget everything like before. He tried not to, but right before he fell asleep, a bitter laugh came out again just to remind him of everything.

 




Three months.

Three long damn months and still nothing. He had used every favor at the Blüdhaven police station, looked under every rock and punched every face he had to, to find out anything about Robin and there was nothing. Bruce told him that he had everything under control in Gotham and for him to keep looking outside of Gotham. Bullshit. He wasn't staying away any longer; he should have come sooner. Dick was going much faster than the speed limit on his motorcycle, but he didn't care. He'd be lucky if he caught Bruce and Barbara returning to the Batcave at this rate.

He finally reached Wayne Manor, the place looked more dreary than usual and that was a feat in itself. He parked the bike and took off his helmet. He took two steps at a time up the stairs and rang the doorbell, trying to wait patiently. The door opened and there stood one of the only men in the world he had more respect for that Bruce.

"Master Dick," said Alfred, "it's so good to see you again; though I wish it were under better circumstances."

"It's good to see you to, Alfred," he said without a smile, "how are you holding up?"

He looked Alfred over. Alfred was always the gentle voice of reason and understanding. He always seemed to know what to do and what to say to make everything right again. He was the rock; the anchor of the family and the safe port for any emotional situation. He never looked tired or ever frustrated with any situation. He always had clean pressed clothes and his posture was always strait and proper, but now. He looked tired. It was the only word for it. Dick looked at Alfred's always pressed clothes and saw that they had been slept in. Alfred would have never done that in any situation.

"As well as to be expected, Master Dick," Alfred said with a sigh, "we all have been searching night and day for young Master Timothy."

"I can see that," said Dick looking at his clothes again, "Alfred, you've been sleeping in your suit, haven't you?" Alfred normally would have been appalled at the very notion, but he seemed to sink into his own skin and said:

"While Master Bruce and Miss Gordon are out on the streets, I've stayed behind and monitored the computer in the cave to see if anything is referred to any information that may lead us to Master Timothy. I hate to admit it, but I have fallen asleep at the monitor a few times."

"We're all tired Alfred," Dick said placing a hand on Alfred's shoulder, "and you're doing an important job." Alfred seemed to perk up after that and smiled.

"Do you know when Bruce and Barbara will be back?"

"They often don't return for over forty-eight hours," Alfred said while leading him toward the Batcave entrance, "Miss Gordon's grades are failing, and Bruce Wayne has been on 'extended vacation' for the past two and a half months. Quite frankly, I'm worried for Master Bruce."

"What, for old Bruce," said Dick as they walked down the steps, "for the man who can do no wrong, the man who can solve anything, for the man with no heart or emotions?"

"Master Dick, please," said Alfred tiredly, "I know you and Master Bruce are currently not on the best of terms at the moment but do try to keep it to one insult at a time." Dick nodded, he didn't want to upset Alfred.

"Master Bruce hardly eats or sleeps," said Alfred calmly, "he barely talks to me or Miss Gordon, and," he said leaning in closer and lowering his voice, "he has been ignoring other crimes. He does not even answer the Batsignal anymore." Dicks eyes widened.

"He's never done that."

"I know," said Alfred sadly, "and he's also becoming more and more violent." Dick was going to say something, but stopped when he heard the Batmobile's engine echo inside the cave. He turned and walked toward where the Batmobile would park and calmly waited for the inevitable 'why are you here' speech.

The Batmobile roared one last time before silencing and the canopy opened. Batman jumped immediately out and marched toward the Batcomputer while Batgirl slowly exited the car, clearly tired.

"I thought I told you to keep looking in Blüdhaven," Batman said without even looking at Dick.

"I've looked everywhere there was to look at," Dick said trying to keep his temper down, "asked every favor I had on the force. There isn't anywhere else to look." Batman ignored him, too busy typing on the computer. Dick turned toward Barbara, saw how tired she looked.

"We've searched nearly the entire east side of Gotham," she said taking off her cowl, "and still no sign." She looked over at Batman as he continued his search on the computer.

"Bruce," she said quietly, "we've been up for nearly fourty-two hours. You only had a four hour nap before that and that was after fifty-seven hours of searching. We need food and rest." Bruce didn't say anything.

"Please Bruce," Barbara pleaded, "you need to rest yourself." Bruce turned toward her and shot her a look that would have made the Scarecrow wet himself.

"I will rest when Tim is found, until then I will keep looking."

"And what if you find him," Dick interrupted, "you find him and you're too weak and tired to do anything about it?"

"Master Dick is right sir," said Alfred gently, "you must rest yourself. It would not do any good for you to be at your worst when Master Tim needs you at your best." Batman scowled at all three of them, the lack of sleep was quite evident on his face, even for Batman.

"I'll go out and keep looking," said Dick, "you three get some sleep. We'll do rotating shifts. That way everyone can rest."

"That sounds pretty good to me," said Barbara, Bruce did not say anything. He turned back to the computer and kept typing. Alfred walked up to him and placed his hand on Bruce's shoulder.

"Please sir, for Tim."

Bruce sighed, removed his cowl and looked at his closest friend. Alfred always had a way with Bruce, one that everyone wished they could learn how to do it. Bruce slowly rose out of the chair and finally showed just how tired he was.

"Go check near the west docks," he said to Dick as he slowly ascended the stairs to the mansion, "the clubs and bars down there always secrete information." Alfred followed close behind, ready to help out his master and then rest himself.

Dick walked over to where the costumes were stored away, picking out a spare Nightwing suit. He quickly changed into them and was just about to put on his mask.

"Dick," He looked up and saw Barbara holding herself, tears flowing down her face, "I don't think that we're going to find him alive anymore. It's been too long. It's just been too long." He walked up to her and held her in his arms. She felt so limp in them, she buried her face into his chest.

"We'll find him," he said to her, "no matter what. We'll find him."

"I'm beginning to doubt that as well," she said quietly. Dick sighed, he didn't really know what to say to make it better.

"Has Bruce told the league yet?"

"No, he hasn't," she said sadly; anger started to swell in Dick's chest, "I don't think he is going to tell them either."

"Yeah, his damn ego and pride gets in the way for that."

"Dick..."

He let her go and waved his arm around in frustration.

"Barbara! He has friends that can see through walls, run faster than sound and other abilities that could have helped find Tim and yet," he said putting on his mask, "he doesn't want to ruin his precious reputation! He's Batman! Batman never asks for help! It's his damned fault for taking on another sidekick, a young sidekick! Tim is only ten years old! Yeah I was nine when I started, but I wasn't even allowed outside the cave and in costume for at least a year without extensive training, Tim started three weeks after he was 'recruited'!"

"Dick, stop," Barbara said sternly.

"No Barb, I'm not going to," he said angrily, "it has to be said. The only thing Bruce ever loved in his life was his parents. Everything else is disposable and the only thing he remotely shows any interest in, is if it is useful in his goddamned war. If Tim is really dead out there," he got on a bike and put on his helmet, "it's all on his head." He revved the engine and sped out of the cave. Barbara stood there, watching him leave the cave. She was too tired to do anything right now, she had to get some sleep. She walked toward the computer and looked up at the screen. It seemed that missing girl had been found safely after she had been missing for two days. She smiled, at least that story had a happy ending.

  


 



He woke up screaming. He didn't remember the nightmare, but he woke up screaming. He felt utterly dislocated; didn't even remember where he was. He tried to stop screaming, but it was like the laughter, it just kept coming out. He somehow stopped himself from screaming and had to settle for the laughter that replaced it. The laughter was the worst, it hurt every time it came out and it seemed to have a mind of it's own. It lived deep within him and would only come out at the worst time, just to spite him. He tried to catch his breath again when he suddenly remembered where he was. He listened to see if the bakery workers had heard him. He didn't hear anything. He peaked out of the crack of the oven and saw that nothing had been moved. He crawled out and listened at the door of the bakery. Nothing. The Bakery was closed.

He looked out the small widows and could see daylight, so it must have been a weekend day or a holiday. He sighed, relieved that it was closed. He would have been surely caught otherwise. He got up and stretched, he felt stiff from sleeping on the hard bricks in the oven. He also felt hot with all the layers of clothes. He took off the hoodie and the sweat pants; and looked at the purple suit he was wearing. He hated formal clothes, they were so restrictive. He unbuttoned his green vest, pulled off his outer coat and the vest and tie, pulled off the Purple suspenders and unbuttoned the green dress shirt. He open it up and looked down. There were so many scars. Scars that were white, scars that were a light purple color and new scars that were still healing. They were all over his chest and stomach. He looked around for a bathroom, hoping that there was one in the storage of the bakery. Thankfully there was one. He went inside and looked inside the mirror. He turned to look at his back and there were just as many scars. Burn scars, knife scars; scars of all kinds. Why didn't he remember any of this? He remember bits and pieces, but the rest was a blur; locked away in his head. While in the bathroom, he did his business and as he washed his hands, he looked at his arms. Just as scarred as the rest of him. He would have to wear long sleeved shirts from now on or else people would think he was cutting himself.

He walked back over to the pile of clothes and went to put on the hoodie, but then felt sick. He just got a sick, painful feeling that if he didn't put the suit back on...

'It's just in my head,' he told himself, 'I don't have to wear it.' He put the hoodie on and took off the dress pants and put on the sweat pants. He started to gather up the clown costume, trying to think of what to burn them in. He started to feel itchy. His skin started to itch and burn as if he had rolled around in stinging nettle. He also started to feel claustrophobic and panicky. He took off the hoodie and pants and started to put back on the suit. As soon as he got the dress shirt and pants with straps back on, he started to feel better.

'Great, not only can't I talk,' he thought bitterly, 'but now I can't go without the stupid suit.' It must have been burned into his mind to wear the suit at all times. He felt sick without it. It took some time to put the bowtie back on, but he eventually was returned to his clownish glory.

'At least I can wear clothes outside of them,' he thought. He walked back to the oven and pulled his bag out. He dug inside it and pulled out the makeup he took and looked at it.

'I can put this on and get a bus or train ticket out of town,' he thought to himself, 'but I don't even know what part of town I'm in.' He felt his face and laughed. How stupid was he, he could put on gallons of makeup but he still had that stupid grin to cover up. In this town, it was always a bad idea to walk into any business with anything on your face. It was a miracle they hadn't banned Halloween yet.

He sat back down and put his head into his hands. This was going to be harder than he thought. He didn't really want to leave, but he also couldn't go back to Wayne Manor and face the others. He didn't want to think how they would look down at him. Faces full of disgust. Batman had a strict code. Anyone who broke the law had to face justice. He started to laugh at the thought; covering his mouth again because of it. They'd take one look at him and throw him in the nut box. He didn't want the Mad Hatter as a roommate. His head was still swimming, making him sick to his stomach again. He couldn't just sit here either, eventually Batman was going to find out about what happened. He'll know everything. He'll know he let him down, how weak he had been. The laughter started to get louder, making his stomach ache all the worse. He closed his eyes and tried to think what would be best to do.

'What were you thinking Tim,' said the voice that sounded so much like Dick, 'telling him everything like that!?'

'Guess you're just a little kid after all.' sighed the one that sounded like Barbara.

'Batman should have picked a stronger person for the job,' sighed the voice that sounded like Commissioner Gordon.

'Kid's a loser!' said the Bullock voice. The voices started to talk over one another and everything was just so loud that he just wanted it to stop. They suddenly fell quiet as one voice whispered:

You disappointed me,' said Batman's voice, 'you're not even fit to be called Tim, let alone Robin, JJ.' His eyes darted open and he panted as all the voices finally stopped. Batman was right. Tim Drake was dead. Robin was dead. There could only be JJ now. He felt more comfortable with that name now anyway. Bruce and the others would mourn the death of poor Tim Drake and they would move on, his old name honored for falling in the line of duty.

Yeah, he could live with that.

 




Police reports were the worst part of the job, there was no doubt about it. He had been doing them for over fifteen years, but they never got any easier to do. Harvey Bullock was no stranger to the fact that his choice of words were never favorable with the police board, but that never stopped him from continuing to write them his way. That never bothered him, in fact he sometimes liked having to have internal affairs take another stab at him; gave him a good laugh. What bothered him the most about it was that they just took so long to do when he could be out there on the streets doing some actual good and not doing this paper-pusher crap.

"You must be writing your reports," Renee Montoya said placing the cup of coffee and a half a dozen doughnuts she brought over to share.

"No, I'm doin' my taxes," he said sarcastically, picking out a doughnut and taking a bite out of it, "besides, how do you know what I am or what I ain't doin'?"

"You always look constipated when you do your reports," she smiled at him, "besides there really isn't much work out there right now."

"There's always work to do in this city." he said turning back to his report.

"Well yeah," she said, "but it's weird. Normally we would be out there hunting down a gang or trying to stop the next big drug wave, but here we are, trying to keep awake. Hell, you're almost caught up with your paperwork, I thought that would never happen." Bullock glared up at her.

"Your point?"

"I'm just saying that for Gotham to be this quiet is weird," she said taking a sip of coffee, "I've never seen the crime rates so low, and for so long before." Bullock was about to say something when he saw Commissioner Gordon walk in.

"Hey Commish," he said to him, "what's up? Got any new cases for us to work on? I'm itching to go back out on the street and busting butts out there." Gordon looked at him, and almost seemed sad to say:

"Sorry Bullock, but there's just nothing going on right now." Montoya looked at him. It was strange, crime was at a all time low and Jim looked like he wanted to jump off a bridge.

"Is something wrong Commissioner," she asked him gently, "you look like as if crime was at a all time high instead of a low."

"I'm just worried on why it is." he said sadly.

"What, your worried about the freak now Jim," Bullock said dismissively, "come on, even you got to admit the Bat was always nuts. It's not your fault that he's gone into overdrive."

"It is odd that Batman has been more active," Montoya said, "but are you really that worried about him?" Gordon looked at the two detectives.

"All I can say is if you knew him like I do," he said walking toward his office, "you'd be worried too." After he closed the door, Montoya and Bullock exchanged concerned looks.

Commissioner Gordon walked over to his desk and sat down. He should be happy, they were right, but it wasn't normal for Batman to flat-out ignore him or major crimes. Something was wrong, he could feel it and he didn't even know what it was or how he could help his old friend. He felt a breeze, and quickly turned to the window.

"Batman?" he asked almost eagerly. No, it wasn't Batman, but a friend none the less.

"Oh, it's only you Nightwing," he said sinking back down into his chair, "I was hoping it was Batman." Jim then thought about it.

"Wait a minute," he said turning back to him, "it's 4 o'clock in the afternoon; from what I understand is that you guys are practically nocturnal. What brings you here at this time of day?" Nightwing looked at him, his expression never changed from the cold seriousness that he came in with. Normally, even after he had grown up from the role of Robin, he usually had a smile or a joke to break things up. This was not like him at all.

"Robin's gone missing."

"How long?" Jim asked quietly.

"Three months."

"That's about when Batman started to get more violent. You know he use to break bones in the past, but lately he's been crippling them," Gordon said to Nightwing.

"We've done our best looking for him," Nightwing said, "and we've come up with nothing. I know Batman wants this to stay quiet, but..."

"I understand," Jim said, "I'd like to help in anyway I can. I can get the boys looking..."

"Keep the circle small Commissioner," Nightwing warned, "It's going to be bad enough that I've told you."

"Okay, I have just the two in mind. They'll be the only ones who'll know. I promise you that." Nightwing nodded and turned to leave.

"Before you go," Gordon asked, "can you answer me something?" Nightwing turned and looked at him. "Is there any reason why he didn't tell me sooner?"

"I don't know Commissioner," he said turning back to the window, "you'll have to ask him yourself." and with that he jumped out of the window silently. Jim turned back to his desk and pressed the intercom button on it.

"Bullock; Montoya...in my office now."

 


 



The first thing he was going to go do after this was go to the nearest hardware store and buy a lock pick set. He had been smashing the door handle for about ten minutes and had gone through about three bricks in the process. Hunger was driving him to break into the other side of the bakery and he was getting frustrated, he had to dig at the old oven's crack to dig out some bricks and that took some time to do so. He kept smashing and smashing, hoping to break the door handle soon. Finally, one last smash and the thing finally broke. He backed up and kicked the door where Bruce had trained him to, making the door finally pop open. He had tried doing that earlier, but all he did was hurt his leg. He looked around again to make sure that there wasn't any security of any sort and like before there wasn't. Finally, a little bit of luck in a long time. He picked out a loaf of bread and started to eat it, it didn't matter what kind to him. He only managed to get about six bites in when he started to feel sick.

'Must of ate too quick,' he thought to himself, 'better stop for now.' He put the bread down and decided to look around, away from the window. He looked in the kitchen and saw all the bread making equipment and saw something he didn't expect to see: surgical masks.

'Why would a bakery have these,' he thought to himself. It turned out that there was an employee allergic to gluten, and would wear them so they wouldn't get sick. It didn't matter though why they where there, but the fact that they were there was just perfect. It was still a bad idea in Gotham to ware a mask of any form, but a surgical mask on a kid would just make him look like he had a cold. He grabbed a hand full and ran back into the back of the bakery. He put all but one of the masks into his bag and pulled out one of the makeup foundations and one of the lipsticks and headed for the bathroom. He took off his gloves and then looked at the makeup.

'How do you put this stuff on,' he thought. It's not like he ever asked Barbara on how to do it. He opened the makeup and put some on his hand. It was runnier than he was expecting. He started to put it on his face, over his eyes and down his neck. Soon, his face was a normal color, but with the white undercoat, he looked pale. That was fine, it would help out with his mask. He put on (as best as he could) the lipstick because he was already feeling fabulous anyway. He laughed at the idea and in doing so, he smeared the lipstick on his face. After cleaning that up, he went over to his spare clothes and put them on, including the glasses and the mask he left out. He looked like a sick, gang-banger wannabe.

'Oh well,' he thought, 'it's the best I can do for now.' He tossed the bread he had been eating away into the garbage, he just didn't feel good enough to finish it. He also pulled out enough money he felt to repay for all the damages he had done and a little extra for a security system. He took one last look around the place to make sure he hadn't forgotten anything and then closed the door behind him. He made himself appear small, he didn't want to attract attention to himself as much as he could help it. All he had to do now was find out where he was.

 


 



Nightwing looked in every place that he figured Batman would never think to look for Robin, but still came up empty. He felt tired, not the good kind of tired when you've been smashing in faces all night, but that empty tired when you haven't done anything important. He parked the motorcycle inside the cave and removed his helmet, looking around the cave. Despite his anger with Bruce right now, he always enjoyed returning to the cave. Just something about it made it feel like home. Of course he would never forget the circus life he once had, but this was the second closest thing too it. He walked over to the Batcomputer and looked to see if any reports came in; nothing. He sighed, perhaps Barbara was right. Perhaps it was time to prepare to look for a body rather than finding him alive. It had been a long time, and most kidnapping cases rarely ended with a happy ending. He heard someone enter the cave and he looked up. Alfred descended the stairs with a dinner tray in hand and a small smile on his face.

"Welcome back, Master Dick," he said placing the tray down and lifting the plate cover, "I've taken the liberty in making your favorite dish for your dinner."

"Thanks Alfred," he said walking over to him, "you seem like you're feeling better." Alfred's smile seemed to drop some.

"It does one good to get rest, however mine was rather...hindered by my mind." Dick nodded in understanding. "I fear that you haven't found anything." Dick nodded again.

"Not a thing, but I did do something that Bruce should have done already. I told Gordon."

"You know Master Bruce will be most upset when he finds out."

"He should have been asking for help months ago Alfred," Dick said, trying not to raise his voice, "you know he should have. He's got so many friends that could have possibly found him the first night and yet he chooses not to use them! I'm sorry Alfred, but we need all the help we can get." Alfred didn't say anything, he always kept things to himself but Dick knew that Alfred agreed with him. They heard someone else come down the stairs and saw Bruce already in costume march down the steps.

"Anything?" he asked Dick.

"Nothing. I checked everywhere I thought you wouldn't have already checked, listened for any hints about anything that could have..."

"Rest up and report back here to go check the north side with Batgirl in two hours," he said grabbing a fresh utility belt, "I'm going to go check the south side again; that's where most children end up when they're kidnapped."

"Bruce," Dick said walking toward him, "You and Barbara have checked and rechecked everywhere in Gotham. He's not here. If he's alive, he's probably not even in the country anymore." Batman glared over at him.

"Our best bet is to find out when and where he went missing, and there is always someone who talks."

"Bruce," Dick said finally reaching his limit on patience, "even you have to admit it's getting pretty hopeless that we'll find him alive. If you didn't have such a damn ego, you would have called for help earlier! What ever has happened to Tim," he said finally losing his temper, "is completely your fault!" Batman slowly looked at Dick, and for the first time in his life, Dick was slightly afraid of him and instinctively took a fighting pose. Alfred quietly cleared his throat to gain their attention.

"It seems that the sensors have picked up that the Batsignal has been turned on," he said in his gentle commanding tone, "perhaps you should see what the Commissioner needs of you." Batman didn't react at first, but then walked over to the Batmobile and jumped inside.

"We'll discuss this later." he said coldly to Dick. The car roared to life and sped out of the cave. Dick sighed and turned to face Alfred and for the first time he saw true anger in his face.

"I know we're all on edge Master Dick, but Master Bruce is teetering on that edge and I sincerely hope you just didn't push him off of it."

"You're taking his side," he asked in surprise, "really Alfred!? You of all people should know what he's done is all kinds of wrong! He took someone who wasn't ready out into the field and now look what's happened! Am I the only one who see's him for what he really is? Am I the only one who has the guts to tell him that he's wrong?"

"Master Dick..."

"No Alfred," Dick said, his anger finally released, "it's time to call him out on it. He's had his way for far too long. He's been enabled to do as he pleases!"

"Sir..."

"And you're just as much to blame for letting him do it in the first place!" Dick paused, then started to curse himself. He looked at Alfred and saw that he did hurt him.

"Alfred," he said quietly, "I...I really didn't mean that." Alfred straitened up, knowing his pride had been wounded but he wasn't going to let that stop him.

"No, Master Dick," he said proudly, "you meant every word. Do you think I don't question it myself," he said looking hard at him, "do you think I don't loose sleep at night, worrying about all of you, wondering if this is the night that you don't come home and I read about you in the morning papers? That I don't think about what I have done?" He looked away. "I have quietly wondered to myself all these years, wondering if I had done the right thing in letting Bruce become what he is today. So Master Dick," he said looking back at him, "you are right. In the end, it truly is my fault in the first place in allowing Master Bruce in becoming what he is, it's my fault that Tim is missing right now."

"Alfred..."

"Now if you'll excuse me," he said turning away, "I have my duties to attend to." He walked away, head held high and proud; only masking the pain that he felt. Dick watched him leave the cave and he sat down on the computer chair and held his head. He felt so stupid right now. He never meant to hurt Alfred. He sighed and looked back at the dinner that had been prepared for him. He felt so low right now. He quietly started to eat it, hoping to get some rest before Barbara came down to go out again, hoping that he wouldn't snap at her as well...again.

 


 


Gordon stood there, patiently waiting. He would wait all night if he had to, but he was going to talk to him. He looked at his watch, the signal had been on for nearly two hours. He looked back at the sky. He soon saw him, swinging toward him. Batman landed quietly like a cat, and walked over to him, from the way he walked and carried himself he seemed...agitated that he had been called.

"What is it Jim?" Batman coldly asked.

"It's about time you showed up," Jim said just as cold, "this is the first time in two months." Batman scowled at him and started to turn away.

"I know about Robin," Jim said, making Batman freeze, "Nightwing told me earlier today." Batman didn't move or say anything.

"Listen," Gordon said, his voice melting from the cold hard talk to a understanding tone, "you and the others have done so much for this city and I could never imagine what I would do if my Barbara was gone that long. I was going out of my mind when Freeze took her, but that was only a few days. I can't imagine how you feel right now, but as your friend, let me help you. I owe you that much at least." Jim looked at him, his back was still turned toward him so he continued on;

"I've sent my best detectives on the case," he said "and I gave them strict orders on not to say anything to anyone and they are to report to me as soon as they find anything out of the ordinary. They're following up on an earlier case right now,  but as soon as they're done with that, their only job is to help find Robin. I'll do my part as well. I'll pull favors if I have too; we'll do our best to find him." Batman didn't move for the longest time, he almost looked like a statue. Finally Batman pulled out a grapnel and fired it at the nearest building; swinging away. Jim sighed; Batman and his teammates were like family to him. He was always concerned when Nightwing was Robin and was just as concerned when this young spunky Robin came around. If it were his son, he probably would have never allowed him to do it.

 

 


 

 


"How is she adjusting," Montoya asked Mr. Fields about his daughter while writing down notes.

"She seems to be doing well," Mr. Fields said holding his wife's hands in his, "she acts like nothing happened."

"Yes," said Mrs. Fields, "the doctor said that there was nothing wrong with Casey physically and doesn't act like anyone molested her, thank God," she said rubbing her forehead, "but he thinks that she's not telling him everything."

"What do you mean," Montoya asked, writing notes down.

"Well," Mr. Fields said looking at her, "she won't go into details. She said a woman took her and a man watched her, but that's all. She wont say how she got away or how she got clear on the other side of town...It's just strange." Montoya finished writing her notes and looked over at Bullock, he looked barely interested. She wondered how he solved any case.

"Do you mind if I and Detective Bullock ask your daughter a few questions?"

"If it will help you find out who took her," Mrs. Fields said, "I just can't sleep at night knowing her kidnappers are still out there. What if they tried again?"

"I understand your concern Mr. and Mrs. Fields," Montoya said while standing up, "but we need to find out anything we can about it." They nodded in agreement.

"She's up in her room, second door to your right." said Mr. Fields. Montoya started to walk toward the stairway with Bullock close behind. Montoya knocked on the door.

"Casey? Are you in there," she asked, "Detective Bullock and I would like to ask you a few questions, can we come in?"

"Yes," piped up a small voice inside. Bullock and Montoya entered the pink and white room, toys and stuffed animals strewn about the place. Casey was near one of the corners of the room having a pretend tea party.

"Hello Casey," Montoya said sweetly, "do you know what we are?"

"The police," Casey said looking at them.

"That's right; we need to ask you some more questions about..."

"Here," said Casey giving Montoya and Bullock plastic tea cups and saucers, "we'll have a tea party." Bullock looked at the pink plastic cup.

"There ain't no tea."

"Well, it's pretend tea," Casey said to him, "you have to pretend."

"Yeah Bullock," said Montoya smiling at him, "haven't you ever played tea party?" Bullock glared at her and mumbled to himself:

"I hate workin' with kids." Montoya took a pretend sip of tea and then said:

"Okay, now Casey, we need to talk about what happened three days ago. When the bad guys took you away."

"Yeah, I was at preschool."

"That's right," said Montoya, "and your teacher said that a woman picked you up; she said that she was your mother's sister. She was a mean liar, wasn't she?"

"Yeah," said Casey, "I was scared."

"Why don't you tell us about her then," said Bullock, "and about where she took you?"

"Because I said I wouldn't," Casey said. Bullock and Montoya glanced quickly at each other.

"Who did you promise that too sweetie," asked Montoya.

"Somebody..." said Casey, looking away.

"Was it somebody nice," asked Montoya.

"Yeah, he carried me on his back."

"Can you tell us more kid," asked Bullock, "how he looked, what he wore?" Casey shook her head.

"I said I wouldn't say." Montoya thought of another tactic to maker her say something more.

"Was it fun when he carried you?"

"Yeah," she said, "it was fun walking in the woods. I splashed in the puddles. I wished we didn't walk for so long though; I got tired and my feet hurt after that."

"How long did you walk for," Montoya asked, having a good idea what she was talking about.

"I don't know," she said, "a long time."

"One last question," Montoya said leaning in close, "and it's really important that you're honest with me." Casey nodded.

"Did the bad man and lady look like clowns?" Casey was quiet, but nodded.

"You did a very good job," Montoya said, reaching into her pocket and pulled out her notebook to write everything down, "you're a very brave little girl." Casey smiled at her.

"Come on Bullock," she said, "I have a good idea where they took her."

"So do I," said Bullock, "I can put two and two together too you know, and I've been doing this longer than you have." Montoya and Bullock descended the stairs and went back to Mr. and Mrs. Fields.

"We have a pretty good idea where she's been and who took her," said Montoya, "we'll let you know more when it becomes available." Bullock and Montoya entered their squad car; Montoya picked up the scanner.

"Commissioner Gordon? Montoya here." There was static for a second then a scratchy voice.

"What is it Montoya, have you gotten any further in that kidnapping case?"

"Yes sir," she said, "we think we know who took her and where."

"Great, come back to my office so I can assign another team to apprehend them. I want you with me to work the Robin case." Bullock took the scanner from Montoya.

"It ain't that easy Commish," he said, "we think it was the Joker and his henchwench that took her, and we think they kept her at the old Arkam building. It makes sense because the road near where she was found leads up there." There was a pause.

"Commish?"

"I don't want you two to go it alone, let me call in some help. Wait ten minutes and then start heading toward there, but if you two go in there and they are there, so help me you're badges will be on my desk before the night's through."

"Copy that," Montoya said taking back the scanner.

 

 


 

 


It had taken some time, but he finally was in familiar territory.  JJ had finally found a newsstand that carried a map of Gotham city; he couldn't believe how long it took him to do so. It was getting dark, he wasn't going to make it to the train station tonight. It was still about ten miles away. He looked up at the street signs and then back down to his map, he was near Park Row, more commonly known as Crime Alley. This was one of the worst areas he could be in right now, this was practically Batman's hangout. He had to find some shelter soon, because if Batman saw him walking around the streets after dark, he would swoop down and ask questions that he literally couldn't answer. He looked around and soon found a building that was most likely a drug den, but it was his best bet on short notice. He looked around and saw the fire escape was still intact, but it required him to build a small tower to get to it. He moved some trash cans and built the best tower he could make. After getting a hold of the ladder, he kicked over the trash cans, so it didn't look like someone climbed up like he did. He got to about the third floor when he looked inside.

The building was abandoned, but it looked like nobody had been inside in a long time, at least the third floor. He tried his luck and tried to open the window. Success! He just hoped his luck would carry him out of Gotham at least before it ran out. He crawled inside and closed the window behind him, locking it. The building smelled dusty and like rotting wood. He took a couple of steps inside the abandoned apartment, feeling the floor wanting to give in. Perhaps this wasn't the safest place to say in. He tried to turn on the lights, but the power had been long gone in this place. He tried looking around, hoping the previous owners left a candle or something. No such luck this time. He would have to find a place to sleep in before it got completely dark. He looked around and soon came into a room that looked like it was a baby's room. There were faded cartoon characters on the wall and the only bit of furniture in it was a old crib.

'This will have to do,' he thought. He lowered the cribs side and flipped over the mattress so it wouldn't be so dusty. The window of the room was a perfect spot to look out for Batman or cops, just as long as he stayed away from it, he should be fine. He put his things inside of the crib and decided while he had some light he would explore the house. He looked inside the kitchen, it was bare. He looked at the old living room...there was a large hole inside of it. He crept carefully to it and looked down. It reached all the way to the first floor.

'Nasty fall,' he thought, 'better stay away from here.' He then found the bathroom. He tried turning the faucet to see if there was any water in this old dump. There was, but it wasn't preferable to drink. The water was rusty and smelled odd. He looked around and found a towel. He took off his mask, hat and outer clothes and decided to wash up. He put the towel under the water and rung it out as best as he could and started to rub the makeup off. The water smelled worse up close and the towel was itchy, but it did the job well enough to get the just as itchy makeup off. How could girls wear this stuff all day and every day? He looked into the broken mirror to make sure he got it all. He looked tired. He sighed and gathered his things and walked back toward the bedroom. He put his clothes by his bag and hopped into the crib.

 

If Dick saw him now, he thought, he would never live it down. He made a makeshift pillow out of his clothes and tried to relax. His thoughts were so hard to control anymore, they would jump around and come up with their own ideas. He tried thinking on where he should go to. Perhaps somewhere quiet and with a small population. Maybe like Smallville Kansas. Nothing seemed to happen there...except tornadoes, yuck never mind. He felt a pain in his stomach; he had forgotten to eat after leaving the bakery and he had only eaten six bites of bread. It was fine though, he seemed familiar with the pain now and soon it would go away and bother him later. He sat up, his head was running too fast for him to relax, so he looked inside his bag.

There was still plenty of money for him to get a train ticket of his choice. He would use the money until it ran out...then what? Maybe get a job of some sort? He couldn't go back to school looking like this. Thinking about that was a headache in itself so he put the bag under his clothes and tried to think of something else. He tried thinking of something good, something positive. He tried to remember a happy memory from the past. He recalled one of the only times he and his dad, his real dad were happy together. His dad had taken him to the park to eat a ice-cream cone. Not to the docks where he would have his 'business meetings', not down in a drug house where he would have to wait on the porch steps till his dad was done shooting up, but the actual park. They had a good time just hanging out and talking about the Gotham Knights game. He remembered that they laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed...no wait, that's not how it went. He opened his eyes and looked around, everybody was pointing and laughing at him.

Everybody in the park was pointing down at him and were laughing, he turned to his dad and he was laughing too. Their faces were twisted in horrible humor, looking down at him with contempt and they just kept laughing. He tried running away, but the laughter followed him where ever he went. People in the streets pointed and laughed as he ran by. He ran so fast that he tripped on something, and it made them wail all the louder. He got back up and kept running, covering his ears and closing his eyes, trying to block it out. He ran into something and fell down. He looked up and there they were; Nightwing, Batgirl and Batman all standing around him and laughing.

"Stop it!" he yelled out at them. Nightwing only folded his arms and laughed harder, Batgirl pointed and laughed too. Batman leaned in closer and said:

"It's funny because you're a joke."

"I'm not a joke," he cried out, "I tried my best Bruce, I really did." Batman laughed loud and hard.

"Stop," he said grabbing his head in agony, "stop it, please! I did my best! I'm sorry, I'm so so sorry!" They just kept laughing and laughing. Soon he was laughing too, he laughed and laughed along with them, he looked up at them, seeing them Jokerfied as well and he laughed at that. He turned and ran away, laughing all the while. He ran blindly in the dark, stumbling over invisible objects. All he could see was people laughing at him and all he could hear was that laughter, until he heard the horn. He turned and saw two bright lights coming toward him. Instinct kicked in and he tried to dodge the lights, but he felt himself get clipped by something big and metal. He rolled for a moment and he was suddenly back into reality. He wasn't in the room anymore, he didn't even know where he was. All he knew was that he was in the middle of the road somewhere and that apparently he just got clipped by a car. He ran to the nearest alley way he could see and ducked into a wooden crate, hoping that whoever was in the car didn't see him. He heard the driver open the door.

 

'Dammit...damn, damn, damn!' He tried to not move or breathe. He saw a flashlight beam. 'Oh damn, damn, damn!' Then he herd it, the one voice he really didn't want to hear at all.

"Good lord," said Alfred in a panic, "are you all right? I didn't see you, you just darted into the road and..."

The beam of light blinded him. There was no hiding from it. No more hiding from everyone. He lowered his arms to look at a very shocked butler.

 

 

Chapter Text

Alfred Pennyworth had seen a lot in his life. Working with Batman had it's advantages and disadvantages, and seeing all the horrible outcomes were certainly in the latter category. He thought he had seen it all: murder victims killed in common ways or otherwise, strange motivations of crimes. He'd even saw some of the most bizarre and truly insane crimes, from mutant plant men to those ghastly fish. True he had his own adventures to tell, from the time when those comedians were brainwashed, to when he was kidnapped by Red Claw and his worse experience was with Poison Ivy but he had never expected to come across anything like this.

He looked at what was inside the crate and yet he could hardly believe it. Inside was the Joker. Well not really; he knew better than that, but the resemblance was uncanny. The child lowered his arms and looked back at him. The child's eyes were wide, but he couldn't read any expression in them. They were glazed over, as if he was looking at something beyond himself, that only he could see. His face...it was painful to look at it. Alfred had seen so many twisted faces from the Joker's murdered victims. The ones that were lucky enough to survive those attacks had permanent facial nerve damage. The child's face was twisted and distorted in such a painful expression of 'joy'. The skin was just as white, the hair just as dark emerald green with red ruby lips...but that laugh. That laugh was more...sick. There wasn't any other way of describing it. The child finally focused on him, and tried to huddle further within the box. Alfred lowered the flashlight beam and said:

"Here now my lad," he said gently, as if he was coaxing a injured animal, "don't be alarmed." The child only breathed harder.

"I'm terribly sorry that I hit you," he said, "but I need to make sure that you are unharmed. Won't you come out so I can see if you are alright?" The child didn't move. He wasn't going to give up though, there was not a chance in all the world that he would leave this child alone.

"Come now," he said backing away, "I mean you no harm. I'll give you plenty of room to come out." He stood patiently still, waiting for the child to make the next move.

JJ didn't know what to do. He sat there looking at Alfred. This was bad. This was really bad. This was the next worse case scenario that could have happened. Alfred would want to take him to either the hospital or to the police, he wasn't stupid. However, Alfred would stand there all night if he had to. What choices did he have? Perhaps, when they got in the car, and they drove a little ways away, he'd jump out. He could also get out of the crate and try to make his escape. There wasn't much choice. He slowly got out of the crate and looked up at Alfred. He expected to see disgust or pity on Alfred's face, but he looked just as stern and proper as usual.

"There's a good lad," said Alfred and walked closer and...blocked his escape out of the alley.

'Great, just great.' Alfred gently placed his hands on the boy's shoulders and looked him over. He didn't seemed hurt from the accident, but feeling his shoulders he could tell that he was terribly thin. He took a closer look at the boy's face and neck. It was hard to tell with that large grin and the black circles around his eyes to see if he was thin, but his neck was so thin that he could see the small muscles and tendons underneath the white skin.

"There now," he said taking his hands off the boy, he didn't want to frighten him away, "you seem to be well in order. You look like you could stand a decent meal however, I'd like to take you someplace safe and we can see if we can get you something to eat."

'Stranger danger,' popped inside his head, and he could feel another laugh building up. He fought it though, it was bad enough that Alfred was looking at him the way he was. He choked it back down and took a step back.

"It will be alright," Alfred said to him, placing a gentle hand behind him and slowly pushed him toward the street, "I promise you that."  JJ looked up at him. He could push Alfred away and make a break for it...but that would just make Alfred tell Batman all the quicker. He didn't want to hurt Alfred either. Alfred was the closest thing to a grandpa he ever had, and there was no way he could hurt Alfred. That's why he couldn't tell him who he was...or rather, who he had been. He felt himself start to walk. He looked down and indeed he was walking. It was still strange, not being fully in control anymore. He looked around the street to see where he was, now that he wasn't in a panic. He didn't recognize the street and he hadn't been here earlier. At least his belongings were safe for the moment. Alfred opened the car and stood there waiting for him to crawl inside. He looked up at Alfred, mulling the idea of running away again but Alfred looked down at him with a reassuring smile. He sighed and slowly got inside the car.

The door closed behind him as he looked around inside. He hadn't been in this particular car before. This was an older car, much older. He expected the seats to be upholstered with leather, but instead were linen. The pattern on them reminded him of an old lady's curtains, or wallpaper. Alfred had climbed inside the drivers side of the car. He recalled what the car looked like...a Rolls Royce? Maybe it was one of the old Rolls Royces that was in Bruce's collection. What was it called again, the Phantom or something like that? The car muttered back to life and he could feel that they were in motion. He looked into the drivers compartment and saw that Alfred wasn't looking at him. He reached for the door handle and pulled on it. Locked. He tried the other door, and again locked. How was that possible in this car? He didn't think that older cars had locks on them. He sunk into the seat, hugging himself again. He was trapped now, Alfred was taking him either to the hospital or to the police station and there wasn't anything he could do to prevent it.

Alfred looked into the rear view mirror and saw the boy curled up in the seat and rocking slightly back and forth. He was obviously scared. Alfred put his eyes back onto the road. What to do with the boy? He could take him to the police, but he felt that would only make things worse at the moment. There would be plenty of time for the police. Perhaps the hospital, the boy was thin, and who knew what was still racing in his system. That could cause a rise out of the boy though, he was nervous enough with him as it was. Alfred thought long and hard, and decided where the best place to take the boy to was.

 


 

 

Montoya looked up at the old asylum, left to rot when the city built the new high-security complex. It had seemed to be a better building. It had less escapes than the old Arkham did, much less. The building had been put on a man-made island in the middle of a lake deep within the mountains. Out of sight and out of mind. This one had been a revolving door. As soon as one super criminal was put in, was just as soon as they escaped. She felt so uneased, looking up at it, as if it still had lunatics inside...perhaps it did. Her thoughts were sidetracked when she heard Bullock loudly eating his sandwich. She looked over at him with slight disgust, after all these years working with him she was still not use to his eating habits.

"When's backup arriving?" he asked with food still in his mouth.

"Gordon said that he would get it to us as fast as he could," she said.

"This is nuts," he said wiping his greased covered hands onto his coat, "why would the Joker pick this of all places as a hideout?"

"That's probably it right there," she said looking back up at the ruined place, "who would want to come back here?" Bullock was about to say something when he saw a light out of the corner of his eye. The familiar red and blue flashing was coming down the road.

"Finally," he said getting out of the car, "took those knuckleheads long enough." Montoya got out of the car as well, but was surprised to see only one police car approaching. The car stopped right next to theirs, the driver stepping out.

"Commissioner," asked Bullock shocked, "what are you doing here? I thought you were sendin' us backup."

"I have," he said walking up to them with his hands in his pockets, "I've called in..."

"Don't tell me,' Bullock said already annoyed, "you called your pet freak?"

"Batman has had more experience with the Joker in the field that any of us combined," Gordon said looking hard at him, "and is still alive to say so." Bullock folded his arms in protest.

"Are you sure that this is the smartest thing to do right now Jim," he said looking hard at him, "with Robin missin' and all? What if the freak goes to far, crosses the line? He's always been a few bats short of a belfry if you ask me." Gordon looked at him.

"I really don't know. We'll worry about that if and when, but right now," he said looking hard at his two detectives, "I need you two focused. If the Joker and Harley Quinn are in there, who knows what they've set up in there."

"Yes sir but," Montoya said cautiously, "why are you here, sir?" Gordon looked at her.

"I just want to make sure everything goes smoothly." he said and turned away. 'He's worried about Batman going to far,' she realized, 'it's not just Bullock.' She looked down the road and could hear more vehicles approaching. The Batmobile in all it's glory zoomed toward them, followed by two motorcycles. It had been a long time since she had seen Nightwing, but she was glad to see him. Batgirl was the second motorcyclist. She removed her helmet and looked at the police officers. She looked tired, she and Nightwing. It wasn't their faces that gave it away, but their body language. Their movements were slow and sluggish for them. The didn't hop immediately off their bikes and run toward them like usual, but they got off them like normal people and walked up to them. It was strange. Batman didn't jump out of the car, it seemed that he was doing something inside. Soon though, the car's hood slid back and revealed the Dark Knight. He jumped out and marched over to them.

"As you know," Gordon said to the three costumed crime fighters, "we have reason to believe that the Joker and Harley Quinn are hiding out inside the old Arkham building." Batgirl looked toward the building on the hill.

"Seems appropriate somehow," she said. Batman looked at the building as well. He was killing two birds with one stone. He hadn't even considered looking for Robin in this forgotten place. He was kicking himself for doing so. It was probably the first place he should have looked. If they found Robin here, that would be victory enough. If all they found was the Joker and Quinn, it would only give him something to take his frustration out on.

"We'll go in the front," Batman said looking at Jim, "you three wait here until we drag those maniacs out."

"Not this time," Gordon said flatly, "this time we all go in together."

"I know what we're up against," Batman said coldly, "you'll just get in our way."

"I insist we go in together," Jim said just as cold looking hard at Batman. The four were dumbfounded, they had never seen this before. Gordon had always trusted Batman and Batman always treated Jim with respect. The two leaned in closer to each other.

"Let me handle this," Batman whispered threateningly.

"I will, but not alone," Jim whispered back, "I don't want you out of my sight. You're on edge, and I don't want to have to arrest you if you do anything more illegal than usual. Let me help." Nightwing was the only one at the right angle to read their lips. 'Jim's worried,' he thought, 'probably a good thing he's here.' Batman continued to glare down at Gordon, but then backed away.

"Fine. We'll all go in, but you three stay in the back while we'll go in front." He walked past them and headed up the road toward Arkham. The five others followed quietly behind for a bit, when Bullock looked over at Nightwing.

"Any luck finding the kid?"

"Not yet," Nightwing said quietly.

"We've searched everywhere in Gotham," Batgirl said, "this is the last place we haven't checked. Batman's...upset with himself for not thinking about it sooner."

"That's why we're here," Gordon said, "I could tell he was upset when I told him. I knew he may try something, especially if we find Robin here." Nightwing and Batgirl looked down, but Bullock said to him:

"Don't worry Commish," he said pulling out his gun, "I'll keep a close eye on him." Gordon slowly nodded. He never thought that he would have to keep a eye on his old friend. He had bent the rules for him. Looked away from other laws to allow him to continue to operate in Gotham, but if Batman crossed the line...he'd have no choice but to arrest him. If something did happen tonight to have that happen, it would be his last thing he would do as Commissioner and he would retire in shame. They approached the old large doors to Arkham, surprisingly they were in great condition. Batman didn't miss a beat and kicked the doors open and they all continued inside.

 


 

 

What to do, what to do? He didn't know how to get out of this. He looked up and saw that Alfred was talking on a cell phone. He tried to listen to the conversation, but it was muffled.

'He must be talking to Gordon, or the staff at the hospital,' he thought. Panic started to settle in, he didn't want all those doctors or police looking at him and laughing at him. Without thinking, he tried to desperately open the door. When it wouldn't he started to slam the door with his body. Alfred took notice of this and switched on the two-way speaker.

"I know it's been a long drive," he said calmly "but we're nearly there, and please do stop tearing at the side paneling of the door," he said as he watched the child rip desperately at the linen, "it is the original interior, after all." JJ stopped tearing at the door and sunk down onto the car's floor and held the sides of his head in desperation.

'I should have run,' he thought, 'I should have run. Why didn't I run? This is so stupid. Why did I get into the car? Why was I running in the first place, why can't I control myself anymore? Why, why, why...' he stopped thinking when he felt his head slam into the door of the car. He pulled back and looked around and felt his head.

'That poor boy,' thought Alfred. He had watched that wretched child rock back and forth on the floor of the car while slamming his head into the side of the door, laughing all the while. The child appeared to realize what he had been doing and stopped. He was glad he made that phone call in advance. He looked ahead and pressed a button on the console of the car. It suddenly got darker inside the car. JJ stood back up and looked out the windows. It looked like they had pulled into a tunnel, then he felt the familiar dips and turns.

'It couldn't be.' There was no way that he would bring him here. Then the light came back and he looked out the window on the other side of the car. It was true: Alfred had brought him to the cave. He couldn't believe it. He was feeling a weird mix of pure joy and absolute terror. He so wished that he could see the cave one last time...he had a fleeting feeling that he had wished that several times while with the Joker. He felt the car come to a stop, and could see that Alfred was getting out of the car. Alfred came around to the door that JJ had destroyed and opened it up, looking at the damages. He didn't say anything about it though, he was convinced it was an accident. The boy had stayed where he sat, looking at him.

"Come on out young man," he said calmly but full of command, "I promise that nothing will happen here." Of course he knew that, but he didn't want to face Bruce and the others. He listened, he didn't hear anything. Sure he could hear the water and the bats and the dripping stalactites, but no sounds of keyboard clicking or the gymnastic equipment in use or even the training course. He slowly came out of the car and looked around. There was nobody around. They were out. He sighed in relief. He felt Alfred grab his hand and started to lead him toward the medical bay of the cave. He'd been there a couple of times before; Alfred was the one who usually patched everybody up, unless it was more serious than that. He looked at the medical equipment. It was clean and in order. It felt weird to see it clean. Images of dirty scalpels and needles flashed in his mind, along with other memories. He tried to look at something else, but that just seemed to trigger another memory that danced horribly in his eyes. He held onto Alfred's hand with both of his, his only anchor in reality and he wasn't about to let it go. He felt the grip tighten on his own hand and he looked up, only to see the Joker looking down at him with a wicked grin.

"Ready to play 'Operation' again son, you know it's my favorite game," he said cruelly. It wasn't real, he tried to convince himself that it wasn't real and he buried his face into what he assumed was Alfred's side. He closed his eyes and tried to block out the laughter. It echoed horribly inside the cave and in his head. He felt himself being shook by the shoulders and he opened his eyes. Alfred had dropped down on one knee and had been shaking him to get his attention. JJ didn't look at him, he was too busy looking for the Joker, perhaps he had imagined shooting him after all and had come for his revenge. The laughter was still echoing inside the cave, causing the bats to fly around.

"You need to stop this at once," Alfred was saying to him very sternly, "you need to get yourself under control." He looked at Alfred and realized that it wasn't the Joker laughing, but himself. He tried to slow himself, it was fairly easy this time because he was short of breath. He didn't stop entirely, just to the point it was soft chuckling. He looked down, absolutely humiliated. It really was the worst thing. He had no control over it. He couldn't even look Alfred in the face after that. He felt himself being lifted up and placed onto something. He looked down and saw that Alfred had brought the stretcher to him and was wheeling him toward the medical bay.

"There we are," he said still as prim and proper, as if nothing had happened, "now you just rest here for now. I've something to attend to for the moment, but I'll still be here and will be back to check on you." He walked over to the curtain and pulled it closed, concealing him behind it. He felt better now that he was hidden.

'That was so embarrassing,' he thought to himself, 'he must think I'm a freak...even though I am one.' He listened and could hear Alfred typing on a keyboard. There was no way he could sneak around him right now. He laid down on the stretcher. It was better to wait. Who knew when Batman would be back. Sometimes he would be gone for days on end. When Alfred left him alone, he would sneak out. He sat there in the darkness; for the first time in a long time he started to feel safe. He did know nothing bad would happen here, nothing ever had. He wasn't even laughing anymore. He had to work on that, he couldn't go around forever laughing like that. He heard something. It sounded like someone was entering the cave. He sat up and heard Alfred get up to greet whoever it was.

"It's so good of you to come on such short notice Doctor," Alfred said.

'Doctor,'' JJ thought. His question was quickly answered.

"I know it's bad when you call me personally Alfred," Dr. Leslie Thompkins said in her usual business-like manner, "but you could have told me what it was. Honestly Alfred, you're becoming more and more like him. Always rushing and never getting into the facts." JJ was slightly releaved. He remembered her from that time when he had to get stitches on his leg and she had patched him up in this very spot. She kept a calm, firm voice. It wasn't too warm of a voice, but he still could feel that she had been worried.

"I'm terribly sorry," he said, "but I felt this was a very delicate situation. I didn't want to upset the boy."

"Boy, what boy," she asked, "it's not one of the others? Is it Robin," she asked eagerly, "did you finally find him?" Alfred sighed.

"Unfortunately that search goes on," he said; JJ saw his hand grab the curtain, "however, I did bump into this lad instead." Alfred opened the curtain. JJ looked at Dr. Thompkins. He saw her expression change from calm curiosity to masked shock. He could even hear her gasp. He looked away. Was it really that bad? He wanted to sink into the earth. He felt like a sideshow freak. She walked up to him and held his chin in her hand and made him look up at her.

"Where did you find him," she asked Alfred, her voice in that familiar calm tone.

"Near Seventh Street," Alfred said, "about five blocks away from Park Row. I was on my way back home from grocery shopping."

'Really, that far?' he thought to himself. At least he knew where to go now.

"How did you find him," she asked turning toward Alfred.

"It's as I told you," he said sadly, "I literally bumped into him with the Phantom. I was worried that I had hit a dog at first, but then I saw him. I wasn't going very fast and he seems not to be in any pain." She turned and looked at him.

"Are you in any pain," she asked him, "if you are, can you show me where?" He looked at her and shook his head.

"I'm afraid that the lad does not speak," Alfred said to her. She nodded to him and turned on the lights in the bay. The lights were bright and illuminated everything. She turned back to him and said:

"I'm going to have to make sure that you're not hurt inside. I need you to take off your shirt and vest. Is that okay?" He looked at her, but didn't make a move to take them off.

"It's easier for me to look and feel without your shirt on," she said gently, "I need them off. Don't worry, we'll give them back." It was strange, she was talking more and more gently with him. As if she was talking to a very small child. It annoyed him. He looked down and started to unbutton his vest. When he got it done, he felt his coat being taken off of him. He looked up and saw that Alfred had taken it. He then felt Lesley take his vest off and undo his bow tie. Now he was getting mad, he could do this himself. He didn't need their help. He went to push her away when he felt Alfred try to lift his shirt over his head. He raised his arms so that it would just be done and over with. The two adults looked down at the boy's scarred body. It truly was a sad sight to see. The boy's ribs were visible, and his shoulder blades stuck out so badly; so many scars.

"Alright," Lesley said, "I need you to lie down so I can feel your insides." He looked at her, and did as he was told, but he still felt uneasy. He didn't feel good there and he didn't want her hurting him. She put latex free gloves on and started to feel around his ribs, gently pushing on them.

"His ribs seem to be fine," she said to Alfred, "I don't feel any broken ones." She started to move down and she pressed firmly down, feeling all around. He tried not to laugh, he didn't want to do it now but every time she pressed down it felt like it would just burst out. It just tickled so badly that it sort of hurt and it hurt so badly that it tickled. That was funny.

"I don't feel any pockets of fluid," she said, "I don't feel much of anything. I don't think he's had much to eat lately. It's obvious that he's malnourished," she felt lower down and pressed firmly again, "I think he's at the beginning stages of Kwashiorkor. A blood test will tell us that." she gave one last push down and he couldn't stop it, it just popped out. The laugh came out like a bark, causing her to jump and take a step back. He sat up and covered his mouth. This time it wasn't his fault, she'd pushed it out. She composed herself quickly and looked at Alfred.

"I'd like to run some blood tests. I want to find out what's going on inside, this maybe just a new strain of Joker Venom we have on our hands."

"Very good doctor," Alfred said while turning to prepare the necessary equipment. Leslie turned back to JJ and looked at him, he was awfully thin.

She had seen more than one case of child neglect, some of them weren't intentional but most of them were. They were always hard to work on.

"Alright now," she said to him, "jump down and we'll see how much you weigh." He adjusted his suspenders and did as he was told. He remembered when Barbara thought she had gained weight and would constantly check it almost every day. He changed the scale so it read ten pounds too much...she nearly killed him when she found out. He stepped on the scale and watched Lesley move the weights around. She didn't say anything, but wrote down the weight in her clipboard, along with other notes.

"Alright, you can put back on your shirt if you want to," she said to him, "but leave the coat off for a moment. When you're done jump back up onto the stretcher and we'll get some samples from you." He nodded to show he understood her. She walked away to join up with Alfred.

"I have a feeling he may fight us on this," she said to him, "so I'm going to need you to hold him, if you have to." Alfred nodded in agreement.

"I have the same feeling," he said to her, "from what I've seen, he's not in complete control of himself."

JJ watched them whisper to each other. Of course he knew what a blood test was and what was needed...he had them before in the past but for whatever reason, he was very nervous about it. They approached him, and he saw in Leslies' hand was the needle for the test. Looking at it just made him feel so sick. He didn't want the test done anymore. He felt Alfred put his hands on his shoulders while Lesley put the latex strip around his arm. He started to hyperventilate, wanted to squirm away. He watched as Leslie washed his arm with alcohol. He tried to slip away, but Alfred took a firm grip around his waist. Alfred steadied his prepared arm, so he wouldn't jerk it away when she was ready.

"I need you to be brave now," she said looking at him, "just hold still and it will be over soon." It was pointless saying anything to him she saw. His eyes were looking a million miles away at nothing. She quickly inserted the needle and started filling the vials with blood. Even his blood looked wrong...it was dark and thick. She finished and removed the needle, trying to block out that horrible laughter. She had treated Joker Venom victims in the past and it was always hard to block out the laughter. She labeled the vials and put them down. She looked back and saw that Alfred was trying to talk him back to reality. His laughter soon quieted down and it seemed that he had 'come back' as it were.

"There now," she said to him, "was that so bad? Just a simple little blood withdraw." She put the vials into a centrifuge and turned it on. She was writing down more notes on her clipboard. JJ was getting more nervous. She was going to take him to the hospital...he just knew it. Soon the centrifuge stopped spinning and she removed one of the vials. She walked over to a machine and inserted it into it. The machine started to feed information to the batcomputer. She typed in some commands and the computer started to analyze the blood.

"I'm processing the blood to find out what's in his system right now," she said turning back to Alfred, "I'd trust this computer to work faster than my own equipment. After we find out the new strain of Joker Venom that is in him, we can create and administer an antidote. Then after he, uh, clears up I'll check him into the hospital." Alfred nodded.

"I also have the computer checking his DNA profile. If his blood is in any system, we'll know who he is."

'Uh-oh. That's not good.' He looked at the computer and sighed, there was nothing he could do about it now but just to wait and take the consequences. As they waited, she continued her examination; writing down his blood pressure, listening to his lungs. She took detailed notes, writing down everything that would be useful future references. The computer was whirling with the information it was getting and soon started beeping that it had finished processing the blood. It printed out the results. Leslie ripped off the page and looked at it, then looked at it harder.

"This can't be right," she said to herself. She took another vile and ran it through the machine again.

"What's wrong doctor," asked Alfred.

"I'm hoping it's a computer glitch," she said to Alfred, "but one thing is for sure, his DNA is too damaged right now to give a positive ID, or perhaps he's not in any computer system." JJ sighed, his luck started to return to him. His blood must be too damaged right now...his DNA profile was definitely in the batcomputer's files. The computer finished again and reprinted the results. She looked at them again, and sighed. She walked over to them and said:

"I'm sorry, but there is no trace of any Joker Venom within him. There are traces of other chemicals, anesthetics, and even the Scarecrow's fear toxin...but no Joker Venom."

"Which means?" asked Alfred.

"I'm afraid," she said looking down at the boy and gently placed her hand on his shoulder, "that your condition might be permanent. I think the Joker must have used the same chemicals that changed him on this boy as well."

"My word." gasped out Alfred. JJ looked down...so, it couldn't be fixed. He would just have to dye his hair and wear makeup everyday...that's all. He had already accepted it awhile ago, so it wasn't such a blow, but still. To be told by a doctor was still harsh. Then again, she did say 'might be', so there was a slight chance that it could still be fixed. He looked back up at Leslie and she smiled back at him, putting on a brave face.

"He seems to be stable for now," said reading the notes, "and I would like to take him and check him into the hospital, but I think he's had enough excitement for tonight. I'm sure Batman wouldn't mind a guest for awhile. If anyone can figure out anything about his condition, it's Batman." she said with a small smile.

"You're letting the boy stay here?" asked Alfred raising an eyebrow. This was most peculiar for her.

"I think he's more comfortable here for now, and this system is more high-tech than what the hospital has," she pointed to the paper, "He's extremely weak right now; after he calms down and recuperates here for a day or so then I'll feel more confident in moving him to the hospital. I'm honestly worried about him fighting about going to the hospital and then going into shock if I took him there now."

"Do you have any orders for me doctor," asked Alfred.

"Make sure that he eats something," she said to him, "but make sure it's mild and that he drinks plenty of fluids, and make sure he gets a good nights sleep. Tomorrow make sure he stays in bed and doesn't overdo things. If his condition changes at all, call me and I'll come. I'll return the day after tomorrow to pick him up and take him to the hospital, and I want to make sure that I check him in. I'd like to personally take care of this."

"Very well," Alfred said, "I'll do all as you've said. Thank you again for coming." Leslie gathered her belongings and then turned back to Alfred.

"Let me know when you find Robin," she said, "and I hope it won't be for a medical emergency."

"We will," Alfred said, "shall I see you to the door, Doctor?"

"It's alright Alfred," she said with a smile, "I know my way out. Good night to you both." JJ quietly watched Leslie ascend the stairs. Something told him that he should just let them know; to stop them from worrying.

'No,' he thought slowly shaking his head, 'it's better this way. They'll give up soon enough and they'll move on.' He watched her disappear, swinging his legs lazily as he did. As soon as she left, Alfred walked over to the batcomputer and started to type something, he couldn't tell what it was from his angle. Soon however, his curiosity was answered.

"Oh dear," Alfred said reading the message, "It seems that Batman and the others won't be returning for quite some time. Apparently they're investigating a...uh, disturbance of some sort and shall be out of contact for some time." It clearly said in the message that they were looking for the Joker, but he did not want to sent the boy into a catatonic state.

'This is to perfect,' he thought, 'with Batman and Batgirl gone, I can sneak out of the cave when Alfred is asleep.' He chuckled at the thought, wanting to get back to his stuff at the old building and get out of town. It was going to be harder now that Batman would know about him...he was hoping to have at least a month ahead of him, but it was doable.

"Come along young man," Alfred said to him, "and we'll see to it that you have a proper meal." He didn't hesitate on that, that sounded too good right now. He followed Alfred closely, trying not to look like he knew where he was going. As soon as they exited the caves' hidden entrance behind the clock, he felt a lump form in his throat. He was home. He thought he'd never see it again, and yet here he was getting one last look at the place. He looked around, trying to burn the memory in. The study was always kept so clean. It always reminded him of a library. They walked down the hallway toward the kitchen and dining room, and he could already smell food cooking. Alfred had always made sure that there would be a warm meal waiting for them every night after fighting crime. They entered the dining room and he saw that the table was already set.

"I was hoping that they would be arriving shortly," Alfred said to him, "but as usual they'll have to settle for leftovers. I'm sure that this won't be too exotic for you, I hope. Sit down and I'll fetch you a plate." Alfred disappeared inside the kitchen, leaving him alone. He went to sit down when he noticed that there were four plates set. Four, why four? There was Bruce, Barbra, Alfred...of course Dick. Dick must be in town as well. He looked at the extra spot.

'Alfred usually doesn't eat with us,' he thought, 'maybe he's set the extra one just in case they find Tim...or rather me.' He sat in his usual spot on the table and waited as patiently as he could. Soon Alfred came out with the plate and set it in front of him. It was a roast chicken dinner with mashed potatoes, corn on the cob and green beans. He hated green beans but they looked great tonight.

"Remember what Dr. Thompkins said," Alfred said to him, "eat slowly. I'm hoping that this isn't too rich for you." He nodded and took off his gloves and coat, he didn't want to get them dirty. He picked up his fork and as slowly as he could manage he started to eat. It was hard to go slow, he just wanted to forgo the fork and just use his hands. However with Alfred watching him, he tried his best to keep his manners. It was hard with shaking hands though. Soon, the food was gone, even the green beans that he hated so badly.

"Alright now," Alfred said to him, "I'll wash this up later, but let's get you clean and put to bed." He didn't want to get clean and go to bed yet, he was still hungry. He knew he ate a large plate of food, but it just didn't feel like it was enough. He sighed and followed Alfred. He led him to the guest's quarters. He wasn't really allowed inside this room, it was only for important guests, so Alfred always made sure that nobody would come in and mess it up. Alfred went inside the bathroom and started to draw up a bath for him.

"I trust that you know how to bathe yourself?" He angrily nodded and folded his arms. Of course he knew how to, how old did Alfred think he was?

"Very good," he said "I'll see if I can find you proper pajamas while you bathe. I'll check on you in a while to make sure that you are doing alright." and with that Alfred left the room and closed the door. He heard a clicking sound. He couldn't believe it, he walked over to the door and tried to open it...locked. Alfred locked him inside. It made him feel nervous, he didn't know why but it did. He sighed and decided that he might as well get it over with. He undressed himself and as he did, he carefully and neatly folded his clothes. He felt like if he just left them in a pile something bad would happen. Probably the same thing that kept him wearing them. He entered the bathroom and closed the door behind him. He went up to the bathtub and felt the water. It was a little on the warm side, but it was good enough for now. He climbed in and sat in it for a moment. He took a washcloth and foamed it up and started to wash himself. He had forgotten how nice a warm bath felt. He washed as much of himself as he could, wishing that the white would wash away, but it stayed right were it was. It was going to take a long time for him to get use to it...if he ever did. He was in the middle of washing his hair when he heard a knock on his door.

"I've left your clothes on the bed for you. I trust that you're washing everything now, I hope?" He sighed, wishing he could say 'go away'.

Soon he was done washing, he even washed his face and behind his ears. He got out and drained the tub. He grabbed a towel and wrapped it around himself. It was very stiff and scratchy, obviously not used much. He exited the bathroom and saw his pajamas. No really, they were his. An older pair, ones that he had outgrown. He picked them up and looked at them. It seemed like they would fit him again now though. He finished drying off and put the pajamas on. His arms and legs were a little too long for them, but they still looked baggy on him. He didn't realize that he had lost so much weight. He looked around and noticed that his suit was gone. He started to panic, he had just left them here. He looked inside the drawers, hoping that Alfred had put them away. Nothing in the drawers. He looked around, hoping to find them. He couldn't find them and if he lost them then he was going to die, he just knew it. He was in such a rush looking for them that he didn't even see Alfred standing there; he ran into him and looked up at him. He grabbed Alfred's own clothes and started to point at them, then to himself.

"If you're worried about your clothes, don't worry," he said to him calmly, "I've taken the liberty in washing them. However I suggest that you get some sleep." Alfred had calmly watch the boy go into a fit when he couldn't find the suit. It was a sad sight, he felt so badly for this child. His recovery was going to be a long battle indeed. JJ pointed at the bed with a questioning look.

'What, sleep here?'

"Yes, hop into bed and I'll turn out the lights for you." He sighed and did just that. He felt incredibly small in this bed. He didn't like the feel of the mattress, it was way too stiff for his liking. The light went out and Alfred closed the door and once again locked it. That put a major dent in his grand plan. First he couldn't leave without his clothes, and now he was locked inside the room. He was hoping to be inside the cave, and could escape when Alfred left him alone down there for the night. It was never easy. He laid down and looked up at the ceiling, trying to think and plan on what to do next, but soon his thoughts dulled into nothing as he fell asleep.

 

 

Chapter Text

It was eerie...even though she had been in here many times before it felt completely alien to her. She looked around the decaying walls; seeing that some plant life was starting to take over the old building. Barbara did know why they hadn't completely torn down the old Arkham building, it had something to do with 'historical significance' and was currently in the center of a lawsuit. Some rich descendant of Jeremiah Arkham wanted the old building restored, so he could turn around and charge admission for tours. It was stupid. Only a few people knew about the lawsuit, and her father was one of them. Of course, Bruce Wayne was a backer of tearing down the damned place; he even funded the new Arkham. She stumbled on some bits of debris, she quickly recovered and did her best to keep quiet. It was really eerie, it felt like something was watching them. She looked around and saw the others obviously felt the same way. Her father, Bullock and Montoya had their guns out and ready to shoot if necessary. Nightwing was quietly scanning all around him, watching the corners and shadowed areas. Batman though, he just marched ahead; not really looking around him. He seemed like he was just walking strait ahead, not caring what came of it. Her dad was right to come along, Bruce was dangerously on edge and if they did find the Joker or Harley here...well, she wasn't sure what would happen. She was almost hoping that they wouldn't find anything.

Everybody looked around the hallways. They checked doors and around corners, ready for anything, but the longer that nothing happened the more on edge everyone became. It was odd, usually the Joker would have...presented himself by now. If there was one thing that the Joker was known for, was putting on a show and he loved to be in the center of attention. Knowing what to expect was more comforting, but this quiet was more unsettling. As everyone checked down hallways and cells, Batman knelt down and looked at the dust on the ground. It had been moved. He couldn't tell when, but somebody had passed through here, he looked up and saw that it faintly led strait ahead. He stood up and quietly gave out signs to Batgirl and Nightwing. They nodded and started to take higher positions. Jim saw this, and gave his own signals to Bullock and Montoya. They followed him closely, guns at the ready. Batman marched toward the end of the hall, the plaque at the doorway at the end of the hall read: 'Operation Theater'. He didn't take any precautions like he normally would have, but just loudly opened the doors. He looked around, and saw the fake kitchen and large building blocks and a hanging playing card. They had been definitely here. He walked inside and looked around. It was a typical Joker hideout, but it appeared to have been abandoned. He knew that wasn't the case. They were hiding somewhere around here. He'd tear the place apart and drag them out if he had to. He could see that Nightwing and Batgirl were stationed up where the seats of the theater were, ready for anything. Gordon and the others were quietly looking around. Finally, Jim put his gun back into its holster and said as loudly as he pleased:

"I don't think anybody's home. Could it be that they left and abandoned this place?"

"I doubt it," Batman said, "it's not like them to just leave like this."

"The freak has a point Commish," said Bullock, hating that he was agreeing with Batman, "why up and leave a hideout that even Batman wouldn't know about?"

"I don't like it," Batman said, "spread out and carefully look around. If you find anything, speak up." Everyone did, each picking their own corner to search. Bullock immediately went to the kitchen area and typical for him, looked inside the fridge. Montoya was more practical and looked around on one of the balconies that had been converted into a makeshift 'living room'. Batgirl and Nightwing both entered the projection booth. They looked around but there was nothing.

"Batgirl, come over and look at this." Nightwing said. She walked over to him and saw what he was referring to. It was a old projector, much like they use to have in movie theaters before they went to digital. However, this projector had been smashed apart.

"Why would someone smash this thing up," she asked him, "is there anything inside it?"

"No," he said lifting some parts of it off and looking at them, "and I didn't see any spare film reels lying around either. It looks like this was smashed out of anger...probably with a hammer."

"Or a mallet," Batgirl said, piecing together what may or may not have happened.

Gordon had walked over to a large blue curtain and slowly pulled it back. There had been something set up here, but now it was all smashed up. What little was left or still intact was a old stretcher and some broken bits of lab equipment. He looked around, trying to see of anything that could be of use. He looked down and saw some old surgical equipment and hidden under some broken glass was a bloodied scalpel. He picked up the scalpel with his handkerchief and wrapped it up and put it into his coat pocket. He got up and continued to look around, and spyed some more blood on the ground. He walked over to it and knelt down. Somebody had been hurt or killed here; he could see drag marks on the ground.

"Batman, you'd better come take a look at this." he called out, but he didn't get a response.

"Batman?" he called out again looking around. He wasn't in the room. Dammit, he had left them alone. He stood up and called out:

"You two better go find your boss; tell him I found something important." Nightwing and Batgirl jumped down gracefully from the projection booth and ran out, hoping that Batman hadn't found the Joker on his own. They soon could hear someone shifting papers around and looked inside a old office. Batman was inside and was noisily looking through paperwork; very unusual for the dark knight.

"Gordon's found something important," Nightwing said, "I don't think that the Joker is here anymore though."

"Clearly," Batman said very annoyed, "someone's been through here and has taken or destroyed evidence. Someone's covering something up."

"But why," Batgirl said, "why would the Joker and Harley cover up the fact that they've been here?"

"I intend to find out," Batman growled, "keep looking through here and try to find anything important that may tell us were they went. I'm going to see what Gordon wants." He left the office and entered back into the theater, seeing that Bullock and Montoya had huddled around Gordon. He walked over to them and saw what they were looking at. There was blood on the ground.

"What do you make of this," Gordon said pointing to it, "I've collected a sample of it and will have the lab boys look at it, but I'd figured that you'd want a sample of it as well." As Gordon said all this, Batman had already gathered up some of the blood and stowed it away into his utility belt. Gordon looked hesitantly, not sure if he was willing to share information...then reached into his pocket and pulled out his handkerchief.

"I also found this," he said handing it over to Batman, "I don't know what to make of it, but I trust you'll let me know."

"What is it?" asked Bullock.

"A bloody scalpel," he said quietly, "I don't know what was going on over in that corner, but I'm hoping for the best."

"What," Bullock said, "you think it belongs to Robin or something? That little kid wasn't hurt ya' know." Gordon glared at him.

"We don't know that yet," Gordon said, "and I don't think it's the best time to jump to conclusions."

"Whatever Commissioner," Bullock said angrily, "you go ahead and protect your pet bat as long as you can, but you know that he's stepped into it big this time."

"Bullock," Gordon yelled out, "that's enough!"

"You know it, they know it," he said pointing to the returning Nightwing and Batgirl, "and he knows it! It doesn't take a genius to figure this one out!" Bullock boldly marched over toward Batman, not caring what was going to happen.

"If you'd ask me, he's always been just as nuts as the rest of them and now he's finally gone and got a kid killed for it!" Bullock didn't have time to finish what he was going to say afterward; the next thing he knew was that he was on his back and that the room was spinning. Montoya rushed over to Bullock after Batman sucker-punched him so hard that she saw his head bounce off of the ground once he fell down. She looked at him and was surprised to see him still awake.

"That's enough out of both of you!" Gordon said and much to the surprise of Barbara, pulled out his gun and pointed it at Batman. There was dead silence. Barbara couldn't believe what she was seeing. This was just like that horrible hallucination that she had suffered from the Scarecrow, only this time it was real. Gordon looked hard at Batman and Batman at him. They were at a silent stand off, both waiting to see what the other would do.

"Now," Jim finally said, "it's obvious that no one's here anymore; feelings are raw and on edge. I think it would be best to just walk away from here for now and look at what we have at hand." Bullock tried his best to sit back up with Montoya's help. He looked around and refocused on Batman and saw that the three costumed freaks were leaving.

"Go ahead and try to protect him for as long as you can Jim," he said slurred, "but you know just as well as I do. You know what's going to happen now Jim and you won't be able to protect him anymore." Gordon didn't turn around but said:

"You're right Bullock, for once you're right. If I think who's blood is on the floor there," he said turning back to his detectives, "I won't be able to do anything to prevent it."

The three vigilantes walked quickly back toward the exit. Nightwing was just as mad as Bullock, and he agreed with him. He also thought that the blood on the ground could possibly belong to Tim...if that was true...

"What now?" he asked, not even bothering to mask his anger.

"We go looking for the Joker," Batman said coldly, "I want to check out every known hiding place tonight. I don't want to loose him again, especially if he has Robin. We're going to go press on every mob boss, find every snitch and force any word about the Joker. We're going to make it so hot for him that he'll have no choice but to make his next move."

"And after that," asked Batgirl, "and what if we don't find anything about Robin or the Joker?"

"We rip this place apart until it falls to the ground."

"What about the blood," asked Nightwing, "shouldn't we find out who it belo-"

"We do this my way," Batman interrupted, "first we look, then we'll find out about the blood. End of discussion." Nightwing clenched his fists. If it really was Robin's blood on the ground...he was only willing to go with Bruce's plan on account that he would be able to bust some jaws to get his anger out. As they left the old Arkham ground he couldn't help but wonder if they had missed anything important there. Bullock had ended the search really early and normally Batman would've just brush off his words. 'It's not so easy to do so when it's the truth though.' he thought to himself. For the first time in his life, he agreed with Bullock. There would be no hiding from the law anymore if Batman had killed a kid...indirectly or not.

 


 

JJ slowly woke up. He looked up at the high ceiling and looked on as the world went from blurred shadows to clear vision. He slowly sat up, he was reluctant to get up but he knew that if he stayed any longer than necessary he risked having Batman come home and then everything would fall apart. He got out of bed and squinted around in the dark. He couldn't see much of anything so he reluctantly turned on the lamp on the night stand. The light was dim but gave out enough light for him to see clearly. True to his word, Alfred had washed and pressed his suit and the coat hung neatly on a hook on the wall; the rest of the suit was folded neatly on the dresser. He looked at the clean suit and felt better. One task was completed for him right off the get go. Now all he had to worry about was to sneak out of the cave and find the train station. Easier said than done though, this was Wayne Manor after all, home of the Batman. He walked into the bathroom and looked around. There were some cleaning and grooming supplies for guests already on the shelves. Luckily there was some hair gel among the supplies. It was a good thing too because looking in the mirror he could see that his hair was messed up, and it needed to be fixed. He dressed himself quickly, having to dress himself in the suit so many times he started to become use to the different steps. He put on everything except the coat and gloves and went inside the bathroom. He got a comb and turned on the sink, he corrected the parts of his hair that was sticking up with the wet comb and then reached for the hair gel. He could sort of remember how his hair had been, it was some sort of stylized ducktail. Soon he had the same hairstyle he had before, save the small curl in front. He quickly fixed that and looked in the mirror. Yep, there he was, that stupid-looking clown kid from before. He'd better get use to that kid, he was going to see him for a long time. He washed his hands and turned off the light of the bathroom and closed the door. Then he turned off the light on the night stand. As he was getting his coat off it's hook did he realize that Alfred had probably re-locked the door. Sure enough when he tried it, it was locked. He sighed in frustration. Now what? He sat in one of the chairs and thought about it, slowly putting on his gloves as he thought about it. He couldn't kick the door down, Alfred would hear it. He swore that Alfred had just as good as hearing as Superman, if not better. He couldn't try to unlock it as he didn't have any tools for it. He looked out the window trying to think of something...the window!

'Duh, of course!' He walked over to the window and opened it. The moon was still fairly high in the sky, probably making it to be about one or two o'clock in the morning. He looked around and there was a small ledge that he could shimmy across. It would have been out of the question if he had been any bigger though, and he wasn't sure if it was the smartest thing to do, but he climbed out of the window and carefully closed it behind him. He looked down, he had never been afraid of heights before, nor was he scared now. He was more nervous of falling down, now that he didn't have a grapnel to stop his fall. He slowly crept along the side of the mansion, trying to focus on the window ahead. He soon made it over to it and hoped it was open. He slowly opened the window and crept inside, again closing the window behind him. He tiptoed across the room, trying to be stealthy but if Alfred was still awake, then he would surely already know he was out of the room. Alfred always seemed to know whenever he tried to sneak around...it was really frustrating. He opened the door and peaked down the hallway. Everything was pitch black. He entered the hallway, carefully closing the door and trying his best not to make sounds. He soon came up to his old room. He forced himself to pass it by though, he couldn't risk to stop and look around. He would just have to remember what was in it and leave it at that. He crept down the stairs and down the hallways, trying his best to keep his shoes from clicking on the clean marble floors. He soon came up to the clock entrance to the cave and moved the hands to 3:15, the time that Bruce's parents had died. The clock opened up, and he had never realized how loud it was as it move. He paused and looked around, hoping that Alfred wouldn't pop out from the shadows and scare the living crap out of him. Nothing came from it so he continued down the stairs.The cave was quiet as well; Alfred wasn't down here or anyone else.

'He must be asleep,' he thought to himself. All the better. It would be awkward for him if they caught him here now. He thought about it, it was a stupid risky idea, but he couldn't resist it. He walked over to the trophy section of the cave and decided to have one last look around. He looked up at the robotic dinosaur, wishing that he had been apart of that case. It was a robotic Tyrannosaurus Rex, who wouldn't want to be apart of it? He looked at all the zany and strange contraptions of all the villains had produced over the years. He even walked up to the trophy case that had a copy of Harley's costume. He put his hands on it and wondered if Batman would ever get a Joker suit now that he was gone. Perhaps now that he would know about him, maybe he would get a version of his suit to stand between the two costumes of the Joker's and Harley's?

Probably not.

He tried not to laugh at the thought though, he had to be extra quiet. He decided to take one last look at the costume cases and then leave. He walked over to them and looked at them with so much respect. Batman's costume was bigger than he had remembered it to be. It was bulky and armed to the teeth with armor and internal gadgets. Batgirl's costume favored flexibility over armor, but it was still strong enough to deflect a bullet if need be. Nightwing's costume was a marriage of the two, flexible and strong, but not quite as the other costumes were. Then there was his. He looked at the bright red of the suit. It really did stand out from the other costumes, didn't it? Batman's was gray and black, Batgirl's was black with hints of yellow, Nightwing's only had a bit of blue on it and his was red all over with hints of yellow and black. He really was a target, wasn't he? He sighed and looked at it. Even though it was bright and colorful, he felt as if he failed what it had represented.

Robin was Batman's partner, not just that but the one who would always cheer him up; kept him from being too serious. That's what Alfred had told him and he believed every word of it...but now? He looked at it and wished he could take it with him. Put on the costume one last time and try to regain it's lost glory...but he couldn't...he probably didn't even fit in it anymore. He sighed and was about to turn away when he remembered that there were always spare utility belts underneath the costumes in a compartment. He opened up the Robin case and sure enough, there was one inside. He took it out and looked at it. He remembered that the Joker had taken his away the first moments he had him and had destroyed it; took out something from the broken parts and waved it in his face...something about how Batman couldn't track him now. He opened a compartment on the inside of the belt and sure enough...there was a tracer. He pulled it out and looked at it. It was true...Batman hadn't really trusted him. He had always been watching him all the time. He knew about them from earlier but Bruce said he had taken them all out. He clenched his fist with the tracer. He never trusted him...he had always been a hindrance to him, to all of them. He tried not to laugh at it, but as he opened up his hand and looked down at the tracer, he couldn't help but laugh. It wasn't the normal one he had...it was a bitter one. He was so stupid to think that he had been helping. It was truly better for him to leave now and never look back. He would only be a bigger burden on all of them. He put the tracer back into the case compartment and closed it up. He took one last look at it, silently apologizing to it.

There was one last thing to quickly do before he left. He walked over to the computer and accessed the security cameras of the Mansion and cave. He made sure that he put them on a loop that would last for about two hours and then took the past 24 hours of film and deleted them. He had to make sure that Alfred and Lesley would be the only ones who saw him. He didn't want the others to know. He turned back around and headed toward the elevator. He had decided earlier that he would take the Batboat out. It could take him closer to where he needed to go and would be less likely to be noticed that it was gone from the cave. Kind of fitting really, he first came into the cave via the boat and now he was leaving the cave via the boat. He reached the dock of the boat and stopped and looked at the belt that he had taken. The tools inside would help him one last time and then he would bury it somewhere. He put it around his waist and clicked it closed. It didn't fit anymore. He had lost so much weight that it just fell to the ground when he let it go. He didn't even feel a laugh come on from it, it was so pathetic. He picked it up and opened it back up and closed it around his shoulders and made it into a chest belt. He climbed into the boat and punched in the codes to start it up. As it roared to life he took one last look at the cave. He had been a part of this. He may not have been one of the best, but he had been a part of it. He could at least have some pride in that. The boats lid closed and it started its way toward the underwater exit.

 


 

 

Alfred woke up at dawn, just as he usually did. He slowly sat up in bed and stretched his still tired back. He had never felt his age until recently, he had always sprung out of bed like a schoolboy and was always on top of things. Now he struggled to pull himself out of bed and keep up with the small things, let alone the big ones. Some of his chores were becoming severely neglected. He soon stopped feeling sorry for himself and decided to focus on more important things, like the boy for example. He hoped that Bruce and the others had given that monster a good thrashing this time. He entered the kitchen and started to make a mild breakfast for the boy, thinking that perhaps what he had given him last night was probably too rich for him. As the food was cooking he decided to see if the others had returned home. He looked in Bruce's bed room and could see that it had not been slept in. He sighed and wished that they would hopefully have news today. He had heard Barbara quietly crying several times when she had stayed over and even though Dick thought otherwise, Bruce was taking it the hardest of all. He felt lost. He didn't know what to do or say this time, he was worried that perhaps this would be the time Bruce would finally fall into that pit and never come out again. He prepared the bedside trey with the porridge; juice and water for the boy and started up toward the guest room. He unlocked the door with one hand and opened the door. There was a small lump under the sheets, the boy was still asleep. He set the tray down and opened the windows.

"Rise and shine now young man," he said approaching the bed and taking hold of the blanket, "it's a grand day and-" he flipped the blanket open to see pillows.

"Oh dear," he said out loud, "how did he escape?!" He thought about it. The window! He opened the window and looked down, hoping that he wouldn't see a body crumpled on the ground. Nothing, thank God! He closed the window and searched the room. Sure enough that gaudy suit was gone, and so was the boy. He sighed and rubbed his neck. This sort of stress he did not need. Now he had two small boys to worry about. He decided the best thing to do was to go down into the cave and tell the others about it. They would surely do something about it. He headed down to the cave when he heard the roars of the vehicles arriving back. Thank goodness, he could just tell them now and not have to worry about it. He walked over to them and was shocked. They were all cut and bruised.

"Good lord what happened," he asked them in shock, "was it the Joker that did this to you?"

"No Alfred, it wasn't," said Nightwing tiredly, "we never found him. This is from everyone else in Gotham."

"I'm afraid I don't understand," Alfred said sadly.

"We're trying to find the Joker," Barbara said moving her shoulder, trying to make it hurt less, "we think that he was the one that kidnapped that girl from earlier. We went to every mob boss and every street gang...we even went to Penguins place and told them all that we want the Joker."

"About that you see," Alfred said, "last night I-"

"Alfred," Batman interrupted and handed him something from his belt, "I need you to run these blood samples for me. I need to see who it's from." Alfred looked at Bruce, his cowl was off and he could see the small hint of worry in his eyes. He said no more and took the plastic bag and started the process of analyzing the blood. As the computer did it's thing, he attended to the others, wrapping up cuts and making stitches if need be.

"I honestly can say for a fact that this has been your most reckless endeavor, Master Bruce," he said sternly, "I can't believe you all went and fought all those people when you all are so exhausted. Most of these are beyond my abilities, I'll have to phone Leslie for them. " Nobody said anything. Alfred looked at them and shook his head and phoned her. The computer finished analyzing the blood and Alfred looked at the results. He turned to tell them and could see that they were all on the edge of their seats in anticipation.

"Who's blood is it, Alfred?" asked Dick. Alfred was surprised at them but calmly said,

"It is the Joker's blood in this sample." Bruce, Dick and Barbara looked at each other in shock and relief but then confusion. It was not what they were expecting. Alfred was more confused now than ever.

"Dare I ask what's going on?" he asked.

"We found that blood in the old Arkham building," Dick said, "the Joker had converted it into this weird 'happy home' thing."

"Yeah, it was really weird," Barbara said. Bruce pulled out the handkerchief that Gordon had given him.

"Gordon found this in some lab wreckage and it has blood on it as well," he said standing up and taking it toward the computer, "I have my suspicions about it, but I believe it's from another person. I'll run the test myself and see who's blood this is. I hope I'm wrong though." he said the last bit quietly to himself. Alfred nodded, he already had their missing puzzle piece. The blood was probably the boys. He poured out water in some drinking glasses for them.

"I do believe I have your missing link sir," he said while pouring the water.

"What do you mean Alfred?"  asked Barbara.

"Well Miss Gordon," he said turning towards her and walking, "last night I had-"

"Oh my God," Bruce said quietly. Everyone stopped and looked over at him. Bruce was turned to the side of them them with a blank expression. He looked at the paper long and hard, as if he was trying to burn the results away. He finally looked up at them, as if he didn't know what to say.

"It's Tim's blood."

Dick and Barbara had their suspicions, but now that they knew it was still a shock. Dick stood up and was going to say that he would go back and check out the asylum again when he heard glass breaking. He looked over and for the first time in his life he saw Alfred shaking; he had dropped the tray out of shock. Barbara rushed over to him and held onto him thinking he was going to faint. Alfred had gone so pale so fast that even Bruce rushed over to him.

"It's alright Alfred," Bruce said to him, grabbing a chair for him to sit on, thinking that the shock of the news was too much for him, "we'll get him back. We'll find out where he is." Alfred was breathing hard and looked like he was going to be sick; he looked up at Bruce and quietly said:

"I believe I have already found him."

 


 

Leslie cleaned up the tools she had used to stitch up Bruce's leg. She quietly thought about what was going on and looked at them. She could see that they were suffering in such a way that even she couldn't help with right now. She looked over at Barbara, she was trying not to cry anymore, but was at the computer trying to figure out where Tim could have gone to. Dick had gone down to the training course and was in the process of breaking the robotics in it. Alfred hung his head down, clearly blaming himself and Bruce...she hadn't seen him like this since his parents died. It was a good thing they told her after she reached the cave on what they had learned. After comparing Tim's old blood from the asylum to what she had taken the night before, it was apparent that indeed that boy was in fact Tim. She should have taken him that night. She knew better that this. She knew they were all blaming themselves right now, but in the end it was her responsibility.

"I've recalled the Batboat back to the cave," Barbara said quietly, "hopefully he's still inside."

"I doubt it," said Dick finally finished breaking the course, wrapping his bloodied knuckles, "he knows we can do that. Have you found anything in the security files?"

"No," she sighed, rubbing her tired eyes, "he's completely wiped them from the last 24 hours."

"Why would he do that," asked Dick.

"Perhaps he didn't want to be seen," Alfred said quietly, "he did not want to go with me at first. I thought it was because he didn't know me, but now I know was because he knew me." There was silence for a few minutes, finally Barbara said:

"What about the belt he had taken from the case," she said thinking about how they found about the missing belt earlier, "perhaps the tracker is still inside it?"

"I already activated it," Bruce said quietly, "he had already taken it out. It's in the case."

"Why," Alfred finally said, "why would he leave? Why didn't he tell me, tell us?" he said looking up at Leslie. She put a hand on his shoulder.

"I don't know, but I'm not going to rest until I bring him back," Bruce said while putting on his cowl.

"Stop," Dick finally said, reaching the climax of his anger, "just stop. Okay? Stop. I hate to say it, but Bullock was right. You've messed up big time Bruce, we all have. It's time to stop playing the hero and time to call for help."

"Dick, now's not the time for this," was all Bruce said. Dick's eyes widened.

"Not the time!? How the Hell can you say that!? Look at what's happened and tell me again that it's not the time! It's far past time Bruce! You and your stubborn ways have done this!" he said with his chest heaving. Bruce looked at him and said nothing.

"It's time to call for help Bruce. It's just time."

"I know," Bruce finally said. Dick looked up at him, saw that he was going toward the Batmobile.

"Were are you going?"

"To meet a friend," Batman said, but he sounded...defeated, "I want you two to meet up with Gordon back at Arkham. I think the Joker is still there."

"What, you mean hiding," asked Lesley.

"I mean possibly dead." he said. The lid of the Batmobile closed and he zoomed off. Dick thought about it...it was possible that the Joker was dead, but it seemed unlikely.

"Do you really think that the Joker is dead," Barbara asked.

"If he isn't," Dick said coldly, "I'll make sue that he won't be able to move ever again. Come on," he said putting on his mask, "we've got an asylum to search." The two sprang onto their motorcycles and left the cave. Alfred stood up and looked over at Leslie.

"Do you think that it's possible that Master Timothy could have...killed the Joker in his escape?" he asked her quietly.

"It's possible," she said to him, "but then again it's also possible that Harley could have done it as well. It seems to me that she may have possibly meant to keep him and finally got angry at the Joker about it. Only time will tell us." she said looking at him. Alfred nodded. He really didn't care about that right now, all he wanted was to have Tim back home now.

 


 

 

It had taken the rest of the night to sneak back to his hiding spot and most of the morning to find the train station but he finally made it. He had painted his face back up and put back on the clothes and made his way to the station but he was finally here, and waiting for his train to arrive. It had taken some time to tell the ticket man where he wanted to go and why he was alone...but he had convinced via notes that he had a bad cold in his vocal cords and couldn't talk, and that his uncle was waiting for him. He stayed close to a man, seeing that security was watching him after that, but soon they were convinced that he had been telling the truth and left him alone. Thank goodness that people in Gotham were kind of stupid. He looked at his ticket and looked at the destination. Utah seemed like a nice quiet place. Nothing ever happened there; nobody really talked about it either. If he got tired of the heat though, he'd go up to Alaska. Nobody really lived up there anyway. Just someplace far...far away that nobody would think about looking for him. He heard the conductor call out for his train. He couldn't believe that his plan was working so far. It seemed to be running too smoothly. He handed his ticket to the conductor. He looked down at him and smiled.

"First class is to your left; your cabin is on the right of the train." He nodded in agreement and entered the train. He swam his way past all the people on the train and found the first class section. He found his cabin and put the 'do not disturb' sign on it and closed the door and pulled the curtains down on the door. He sighed...he made it, and not one laugh to give him away. He pulled off his mask and pulled down the curtains on the windows. As soon as they pulled away from the station he would maybe open them again. He sighed with frustration. He couldn't believe he was doing this. He hadn't even planned on what to do when he got there. Where would he go? Go up to the mountains and become a hermit? It really was a dumb plan in hindsight, but there was no going back, he couldn't. The train started to pull out and despite logic he opened the window. He had never been on a train before and it was kind of cool. He looked out the window for a moment, taking one last look at Gotham City.

Good riddance.

He pulled down the curtains again and started to take off his extra clothes. He would put them back on around lunch time, take some food from the lunch cart and then sleep here. It was a sleeper train after all. He walked over to the small sink and washed the makeup from his face...it was just so itchy. After a half hour, he tried to read a magazine, but it was one of those boring business ones so he put it back on the rack. He decided to pass the time by looking at some of the photos in his bag. After the third one though...he decided that it was a bad idea and stopped it, too many feelings came back up.

There was a knock on the window. He didn't move. It could have been a tree branch or just his imagination running away again. He heard the knock again. He ignored it. He put his hands over his ears and ignored it. He closed his eyes and tried to ignore the sound. He thought he could hear the door open, ignore it.

'It's just in your head, nobody knows you're here.' He felt someone gently tap his shoulder. 'Ignore it! It's in your head; it's not real!' He felt someone gently move his hand away from his ear. He looked up with one eye open. He closed it again and wished he didn't see what he think he just saw.

"Excuse me," Superman said cheerfully, "I noticed that you have this big old cabin to yourself. Do you mind sharing it with me for a while?" JJ looked up at him, and Superman sat down next to him on the couch. He couldn't believe it. Really, already caught? He hadn't even left the state yet! He looked up at Superman, but he was too busy looking around.

"Wow," he said looking at the cabin, "this is really fancy, isn't it? It even has a private bathroom! Look," he said pointing to a cabinet, "they even have a mini fridge. Don't take anything from it though, that's were they gouge you for money." He looked down at JJ and could see that he was confused and upset. He smiled and said:

"I don't know about you, but I'm starving. I'll go get us something, wait here." He flashed out the room, leaving only a strong gust of wind. JJ was thoroughly confused now. How did he know about him; how did he find him? Why wasn't he flying him back to Gotham right now? Just as quick as he left, Superman came back zooming in with a plate of food.

"I didn't know what you'd like so I just grabbed one of everything." he said putting the plate down onto the table. He looked down at him again and could hear the kid's heart racing inside his chest.  JJ looked down and covered his face. He couldn't believe it. This was so embarrassing. He felt Superman put his arm around him and he thought it would be heavier than it was, but it felt light.

"Look, I know you're scared," he said gently, "I can see and hear your heart racing, but I can see that you're hungry too. It doesn't take x-ray vision to see that," he looked softly at him, "There's no rush, we'll go when you're ready to go." JJ shook his head and re-hid his face in his hands. He couldn't go back, why couldn't he understand that? He felt the laughter come back. He had been trying his best but now it was coming out like vomit. He was shaking and he didn't know what to do. He couldn't beat Superman, no matter how hard he tried. He could feel his gloves getting wet from the tears; he couldn't stop them. He didn't care. He felt large hands on his shoulders and he looked up, letting the tears flow freely. Superman was in front of him kneeling; looking at him not with contempt or pity, but with a kind smile.

"I can't imagine what goes on in Bruce's head some days," he said to him, "and I can't believe he didn't ask for my help sooner, but I promise you this; if you think he's mad or upset with you it's just not true. I've never seen him like this before. He called me up and begged me to find you, you know. I mean it, he begged me," he said sitting next to him, "I'd never had imagined Batman to ever beg for anything. You know what though," he said looking down at him, "I was angry at him. I still am. I can't believe he didn't ask for help sooner, but when I saw him beg me...I don't know," he said grabbing a muffin, "I guess I haven't seen everything just quite yet." He took a bite from it and mulled over his train of thought.

"I'm going to have a talk with him though," he said looking down at him, "but I want you to know that they have been looking for you since you disappeared, night and day. They want you home." JJ looked down at his feet. Part of him, most of him wanted to believed Superman...but there still was that doubt. He slowly shook his head. No, he didn't believe him.

"Hey, this stuff is pretty good. Try this thing out," he said handing a pastry over to him, "I don't know what it is but it's great. Try it." He looked up at Superman, then back down at the mystery pastry and ate it. It actually was pretty good, but he didn't really care about that right now.

"You know," Superman said, "I've never been on a train before. Kind of a new thing for me. Pa though, he use to take them all the time. He loves old trains. Let me tell you about the time..."

 


 

 

It was weird. Superman just sat there and told him stories about the Justice League and his family; when he was a boy his age and what he would do on summer days. He talked and talked for hours. There were funny stories that unfortunately made him laugh that horrible laugh but Superman didn't seemed to mind, but there were sad stories too. He told him about the time when he had only been about six or seven years old when his dog had gotten ran over by a car and had died. It was obvious that it still bothered him to talk about it. It was really weird, to hear such personal stories from Superman. JJ looked out the window and saw that it had gotten dark outside. He looked up at Superman, who in turn looked down at him with a smile. There was no fighting it any longer. He sighed and picked up his bag and looked at Superman.

"You ready to go?"

He looked at him and shook his head, no he wasn't ready to go...but what choice did he have? There was no outrunning him. If there was one thing he had learned about superhero's, there was really no point in fighting them head on. He looked up to see Superman but saw that he was gone. He got up and got closer to the door and could hear Superman talking to somebody outside the cabin. He then reentered the cabin and said:

"Sorry about that, I was just telling the conductor that you're leaving. You ready to fly out of here?" JJ didn't make any movements, he really didn't want to go back. He felt himself being picked up and was nestled in one of Superman's arm.

"Hang on; here we go!" he said. Then it felt like he was on a roller coaster, the kind that you get blasted up from. He looked down and could see that the train was already nearly out of sight. He buried his face into Superman's chest. It freaked him out to be so high up so fast. He could feel that Superman was flying higher and higher and soon he slowly came to a stop.

"Look, I want you to see this."

He opened his eyes and looked around. There was a sea of white beneath them and above them was another sea of stars. He had never seen so many stars before in his life.

"Isn't it a great view up here," Superman asked, "sometimes when I feel down, I just come up here at night and just watch shooting stars for awhile." It really was a grand sight to see. He looked up a the stars and he could see that there were indeed shooting stars falling down from the sky.

"Come on," Superman said after a few minutes, "let's take you home and get you to bed." He started to fly towards Gotham, but slowly this time. He looked down at Tim, he honestly couldn't believe that the Joker had done this to him, that anyone could have done this to a child. What he really couldn't believe was that Bruce didn't say anything. He wouldn't do it tonight...but he was going to let Bruce know what he really thought about it. For now though, it was best to look up at the stars with Tim, and let them melt the world away.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

They had checked every room, every closet and under every bit of rubble that they could find, but they hadn't found one goddamned thing in regards to the Joker’s or Harley’s whereabouts. They had found however, more evidence of the tortures that Tim had suffered. They had found one room that may have been his cell. There was a lot of old blood smeared on the walls and on the ground. There were also a lot of scratch marks on the door with illegible words scratched or painted with blood on the walls. A security camera had been recently installed inside the upper corner of the cell. He had been watching, watching and laughing. He really was going to cripple him. He didn't care now if Batman or anyone would hate him or hunt him down forever for it, but he was going to break that clowns neck for this. They kept looking and would stumble on more horrors. There were several modified cattle prongs that had blood on them, old worn out surgical tools that had been most likely thrown out and some makeshift ones that they didn't even want to imagine what they were used for. They had even come across what seemed to be the Joker’s and Harley's bedroom. It had been completely ransacked though. Papers and clothes were strewn everywhere. He looked at the bed and some of the objects in the room and didn't even want to think about what went on in here.

“It looks like someone’s already been here and took everything important,” said Batgirl.

“Yeah,” he said, “are you sure we checked everywhere?” Batgirl shook her head.

“I’m not sure, dad and the others had been here longer than us and checked as much as they could until they got that call about that gang war,” she said looking over some paperwork, “ and we've been literally crawling around here all day and most of the night. We checked the outer grounds, all throughout in here...I’m not sure where else to look.” Nightwing looked away, trying to think of what they could be missing. He was just so tired; they all were.

“What about down in the basement,” he asked, “remember that story I told you about how Scarecrow used the underground river to try to poison Gotham?” She stood up and brushed herself off.

“It’s the only place we haven’t thought about,” she said, “but we better be careful, who knows how stable it is down there.” He nodded in agreement and they made their way down toward the old basement. They soon found the stairs and pulled out their flashlights to get a better view.

“Nightwing,” Batgirl said pointing down, “look.” He looked down and could see faint traces of blood on the stairs. They made their way carefully down and headed down into the cave. Batgirl tried to see if the lights worked and to her surprise they did. The emergency lights were faint, but did help them see slightly better. They walked on, and soon came up to a strange sight.

There was a coal shovel on the ground next to a small person-sized mound in the ground and a medium-sized slab of cement.

“What do you make of this,” said Batgirl.

“I don’t know,” he said taking a closer look, “but there is something in here.” He put his hand on the mound and felt it.

“It’s been recently dug here,” he said turning to her, “the dirt hasn’t settled in yet. It’s probably only been moved about a day or so ago. Hand me the shovel and I’ll see what’s in here.” He already had his suspicions, but he had to be sure. She handed him the coal shovel and as he was digging, she took the opportunity to take a closer look at the slab of cement. Nightwing finally came up to something and used his hands to brush the dirt away. He could see part of a green vest.

“I think I know where the Joker is.” he said looking up. He saw her holding the slab and showing it to him.

“ ‘Here lies my Puddn’ ’ ”, Batgirl said sarcastically, “I think we can safely say who put him here.” She tossed the slab away and looked down.

“What should we do now,” she asked, “should we call Batman?” Nightwing looked down. It did appear that this was the Joker, but he pulled out a small knife and took a tissue sample.

“Yeah, we should.”

“You sound upset.”  Nightwing looked up and narrowed his eyes.

“I am,” he said, “I've never wanted to hurt someone so badly before, not even Zucko. I wanted to make him suffer...and now if this is him, I can’t even get that satisfaction.” Barbara didn't say anything. She also wanted to make the Joker pay, but like he said, if this was the Joker then there wasn't anything they could do. She looked up and saw that Nightwing was re-covering the body with the dirt.

“It’s not going anywhere for now,” he said, “for now let’s report back to Batman.” He seemed very tense. They walked out of the asylum, the air really thick around them, finally Nightwing spoke up.

“Barbara,” he said to her apprehensively, “you do realize that this could be it.” She looked over at him; she knew what he was talking about. If that was the Joker, then her father would have to run an investigation. Everyone would know what happened here. They would know about Robin. They would know about everything. She was honestly worried about all of them, including her father. This could lead them to all have jail time after all.

“Yeah,” she said looking at him, “are you just as scared?”

“No,” he said quickly, “Bruce knows how to warp everything to suit his needs, he’ll somehow pull this off.”

 “You sure about that?” she asked him. He didn't say anything. She decided that right now wasn't the best time to think about it, but for now just focus on what they had at hand.

 


 

 

Considering all that had happened and what was coming ahead, he had to admit that this was probably one of the coolest things to ever happen to him. Here he was, flying with Superman! Really the only hard thing about working with Batman was not talking about it. There had been so many conversations at school about Batman, Superman and all the other heros and he could never set the stories strait. Sometimes he wished he could shout out that he had personally worked with Superman in the past and had basically hung out with him. Superman started to slowly turn to the right, derailing his train of thought. He looked down, wondering how high up they were and how fast they were going. He had always wondered what it would be like to fly. This was probably the closest that he would ever come to it, so he took it all in as best as he could. It was dark, but in a way it made it all the more cool. The lights below looked like stars, just like in the sky. He even didn’t mind the fact that he was getting cold.

“We’re almost back to Gotham,” Superman said, he looked down and smiled at him, “do you want to kick it into high gear and go faster?”  JJ thought about it, and shook his head. No, he didn’t want to go any faster, in fact in a way he wished they were going slower. He really wasn’t looking forward to facing the others. Superman’s smile slightly wavered and he looked ahead. What kid didn’t want to fly faster? The first time he discovered he could fly he flew as fast as he could go. He glanced back down at the kid and could see that he wasn’t enjoying the flight anymore. He felt him huddle closer to him; could feel him shiver, probably from the cold. Soon enough Gotham was in full view. He kept flying high though, as not to attract attention from down below. He could see Wayne Manor up ahead, normally most of the lights were turned off and it looked as if nobody lived there. Tonight though, all the lights were on. Perhaps they were trying to make it feel like a home rather than just a house. He slowed down and gently landed near the steps of the Manor. He put the boy down and looked down. He made no movements; stood still like a deer staring in headlights. He gently tried to push him forward, but he resisted.

“Come on now,” he said, “it's best to just get it over with.”  JJ looked up at him.

‘Easy for you to say,’ he thought, ‘you’re not the one who messed up and have to face them.’ He sighed and shuffled forward. It felt like he was walking toward his death, in a way. Yeah it was melodramatic, but it really felt like that. Superman rung the doorbell, and slightly jumped when the door immediately opened up.  JJ suddenly stood behind him, trying to hide himself from view. Alfred looked at Superman with relief.

“I know Master Bruce had called someone to help,” he said, “I hope you were able to locate Tim?” Superman smiled at him. He tried to sidestep to show him, but JJ just sidestepped with him.

“Yes, well,” he said looking down, “it did take some time for him to come with me. I didn’t want to force him.” Alfred ran over to him and kneeled down, pulling him into a hug.  JJ did try to avoid it, but once he was embraced he just let it happen. He was almost being hugged too tightly though. Alfred stood back up and straitened himself up.

“Thank you so much for finding him and bringing him home sir,” he said very happily to Superman, “I honestly don’t know how to repay you.”

“No need,” Superman said waving it off, “but you can give Bruce a message for me. Tell him that I am going to have a word with him. Obviously not tonight but I will be in touch.”

“Of course sir.” Alfred said, resting his hands on JJ’s shoulders. Superman knelt down and said to him:

“I’ll be back to check in on you,” he said, “perhaps later we’ll go flying again and really cut lose.”  JJ looked down and away from him. Even Superman was talking to him like a little kid. Superman stood back up and lifted off from the ground. He waved to them both and flew away. Alfred smiled and waved him farewell. He looked down at JJ and said gently:

“Come inside now Master Timothy,” he said gently, “it’s getting cold and I can feel you shivering. I'm also most certain that Dr. Thompkins would like to see you as soon as possible.”  JJ flinched at the name...it bothered him now. He sighed and turned toward the door. Alfred walked inside behind him and closed the door. He started to walk toward the study when he saw that Tim was standing still, arms wrapped around himself. Alfred walked back over to him.

“Come now,” he said, “they are all so anxious to see you.” His heart slightly broke when Tim covered his face with his hands and shook his head. He didn’t say anything more, but pushed him forward toward the study. 

 


 

Gordon looked through the paperwork on his desk. That gang war was one of the first major things that had happened in Gotham in a long time. They had chosen the worst time to have it too; Batman showed up and only about seven of the twenty arrested were in jail. The rest of them were in the hospital, two of them would be lucky to walk again without needing a cane. He felt a breeze and looked up.

“Any news?” he asked Batman.

“Yes,” he said stiffly, “there is.” Gordon looked up at him. Batman was always a fairly stiff character, but tonight it was worse.

“Well,” he said, “tell me.”

“Nightwing found a body buried underneath Arkham,” he said while Gordon looked over a file, “DNA tests confirmed that it was the Joker’s.” Gordon put the file down and gazed forward, lost in deep thought.

“Is it bad that I’m actually glad,” he said looking up at him, “that it’s finally over with that maniac? Good riddance to bad news,” he looked down and then back up to Batman, “do you have any idea who or what could have killed him?” Batman didn’t say anything at first, a bad sign.

“There was a makeshift headstone, written by Harley,” he said, “but that doesn't mean that she killed him.”

“You think it was someone else,” he asked him, “who do you think could have?” He looked at Batman and finally put two and two together. He stood up and walked over to him.

“So,” he said quietly, “you found him then?” Batman nodded only slightly.

“Is he alright?” Batman didn’t say anything. Gordon placed his hand on Batman’s shoulder.

“Listen Batman,” he said to him, “you and everyone has sacrificed so much for this city. I don’t care what’s happened, but if it does turn out...I will help you as much as I can, but I can only promise so much. Let me know what you learn...and I’ll go from there. For now,” he said locking the file into his desk, “we’ll pretend that we still don’t know about Arkham and the Joker for as long as we can.” He looked up to see that Batman was gone. He sighed and sat back down in his chair. He was getting too old for this.

 


 

 

This was going to be hard. It was bad enough with Alfred and Superman but now with the others? It was going to be absolutely horrible. As they walked down he could hear quite a bit of activity down in the cave. He stopped midway down to look for the others, but they appeared to be on the lower levels. Alfred gently pushed him to continue. There really was no avoiding it now. He sighed and held his breath, if he could do one thing he would try to stop that laugh.

“I have wonderful news,” Alfred called out, making JJ again hide himself behind someone bigger than him, “Master Timothy is home!” The noises down below immediately stopped and they could hear footsteps quickly make their way up to the elevator.  JJ looked down and sighed as he tried to hide himself better behind Alfred. The elevator door opened and Barbara and Dick rushed over to Alfred, but stopped dead in their tracks when they looked down. Alfred sidestepped to the left, revealing poor Tim.

It was just as Alfred had described to them, but seeing it for themselves made it all the harder. The little purple suit, the skin color; that horrible frozen smile. He looked down and wrung his hands together; feet shuffling. They were just, staring at him. He could feel the laughter squirming inside his stomach, building up and trying to make it’s way out. Barbara was the first one to approach him. She knelt down and pulled him into a hug, just like Alfred had done. He wished she hadn’t though, it was getting really hard not to laugh and it did kind of hurt for people to hug so tightly.

“Thank God you’re back,” she said, her voice starting to tremble, “I had started to think you were dead!” She squeezed him harder, feeling just how thin he really had become. She finally relented and let him go, but became slightly worried when he wouldn’t look at her.

“We were out of our minds with worry kid,” Dick said, taking his turn in hugging him, “you sure know how to give us some grey hairs.” Sure, it was a stupid thing to say, but he really didn’t know what to say to him. He looked down at him and saw that he was struggling with something. He balled his fist in front of his mouth and started to bite his finger, shaking all the while.

“Hey, it’s okay,” Dick said to him, “we don’t care what you look like right now, all-” he stopped when he felt himself being pushed away. He let go of Tim and allowed him to push him a little more. He looked at Tim, his smile still frozen there and the only facial feature to convey any emotion was his eyes and all they showed was anger. His eyebrows were furrowed in anger, but just as quick they relented back to worry. He turned and walked away from them, arms shaking. He tried to stop the shaking by hugging himself.

‘Why are they doing this,’ he thought miserably to himself, ‘can’t they just get it done and over with?’ He felt someone place a hand on his shoulder, but he pulled his shoulder away; he was getting really tired of people doing that. He tried to walk away, but Dr. Thompkins stepped in front of him. He looked up at her, she had her ‘no nonsense’ face on. He sighed and looked away, he really wished he could just leave now.

“I think it would be best if we gave Tim some time,” Leslie said looking at them, “he’s obviously tired and has had a long day.” They gave her hard looks. She shook her head and started to push JJ toward the medical bay.

“There will be plenty of time for talk later, for now it’s best to let him settle down.” They looked at each other and sighed. They didn’t really want to just...ignore Tim. There were so many questions to ask and it was going to be hard to just wait.  JJ was grateful that she had chased them away, yet not. A small part of him wanted to let them cuddle and love him, but the other half just wanted to be left alone. He looked back at them, they were still standing there. He hated how they just stared at him. Leslie closed the curtain behind them, giving them privacy. As she grabbed her clipboard, he could hear the others leaving the cave; quietly talking to each other. He knew that they were talking about him; it just bothered him so badly. Leslie looked over her notes, then looked back at him.

“Now Tim,” she said to him still looking over the notes, “I won’t pretend that I’m not curious as to why you didn’t say who you were but I need you to be completely honest with me now.” He looked up at her, and then nodded. She nodded back and told him to jump back up on the stretcher. He climbed back up on it and quietly waited.

“Have you had anything to eat today?” she asked. He gestured with his hand that he kind of did. She looked at him.

“Can’t you talk?” He looked down, and shook his head. She grabbed a spare pad of paper and a pen and handed it to him. He looked down at it and wrote on it.

 ‘No, I can’t. I’ve tried and I can’t.’ She read the note, then started to write on her papers. He wrote another note and waved it to get her attention.

 ‘Where’s Bruce?’

 “He’s out for the moment,” she answered, “but he should be arriving soon.” He looked down and wrote another note; he started to giggle.

 ‘I want to go.’

 “Where do you want to go to?” she asked after she read the note. He pointed back to the note. She wrote more down in her notes. She looked up at him and said:

“Normally, I would take you to the hospital, I may still,” as she said that, he started to laugh hard, “but considering the delicate situation at hand, I think it would be best to treat you here for now.” He tried to catch his breath; the laughter had built up so much that it was hard to stop it from poring out. Leslie turned a valve and handed him a oxygen mask. He looked at it, and shook his head. He didn’t want it. She still put it on him despite his protest. He breathed in-between each laugh, and admittedly it helped. However as soon as the laughter subsided, he pulled it off and tossed it away. She wrote down more notes and looked at him.

“I need to ask Bruce some questions, but until then I think it would be best if you got some rest for now. Lie down and I’ll give you something to relax you.” He looked hard at her, not wanting any more medicine. He had his fill with the Joker’s ‘medicine’. She picked up the discarded oxygen mask and tried to put it back on him, but he kept moving his face away from it; eventually covering his mouth and nose with his hands.

“I promise it’s not going to hurt in any way.” she finally said. After a short stare-down he finally let her put the mask on. She turned on the oxygen and turned another valve. As the oxygen and unknown gas hissed inside the mask, he looked at her as she gathered some supplies and wrote down more notes. As he looked at her the world seemed to become fuzzy at the edges. He breathed in deeper out of reaction and it only made it more fuzzy. He lied down on the stretcher and tried to take off the mask, but his arm didn’t want to listen to him anymore. The last thing he saw before falling asleep was Leslie walking toward him, then nothing.

Leslie turned off the gas and looked down at him. She didn’t give him much, because she didn’t know what all was still in his system. She adjusted him better on the stretcher, so he wouldn’t fall off. She thought about phoning Bruce when she heard a car’s engine. She opened the curtain and could see the Batmobile approaching. TheBatmobile came to a stop and Bruce jumped out. He appeared to be more rigid than normal; suit torn and damaged.

“And where have you been,” Leslie asked, “it's been well over 12 hours since you last checked in.”

“Out," is all he said, walking past her. She turned to watch him walk toward the computer.

“Tim's home now,” she said, causing Bruce to stop dead in his tracks, “I gave him a anesthetic to calm him down. He's behind the curtain over there.” She gestured toward it. Bruce slowly moved toward the curtain and just as slowly gripped it, but stood still after that.

“Is it bad?” He asked so quietly that Leslie almost didn't hear him. There was also a waver in his voice that she hadn't heard from him in over 30 years. She walked over to him and put her hand on top of his and gently lowered his hand; replacing his hand on the curtain.

“You'll have to see for yourself Bruce,” she said opening the curtain. She looked down at the child, then toward Bruce. He moved slowly toward Tim and looked down. She couldn't see what his, if anything, expression was but Bruce just stood there just looking down at the boy.

“I haven't had a chance to run anymore tests on him,” she finally said picking up her clipboard, “but I can only guess what his mental state is. He certainly did not want to return here, as it took Superman hours to coax him into going with him.” She looked up and saw that Bruce was still standing near Tim looking down at him, gently stroking his hair. She walked over to him and placed her hand on his shoulder.

“I'm not going to lie about this Bruce,” she said more gently than she usually would, “but judging from what I've seen so far in his behavior...well, It's beyond what I know in that field.” Bruce slowly turned and looked at her from the corner of his eye; she could see his stubbornness approaching mixed with anger. She sighed.

“I know what you're thinking,” she said to him turning away, “lord knows that only Alfred is probably the only other sole on Earth who knows how you think...but for Tim's sake Bruce...” He only looked all the harder. She sighed again and looked over her notes.

“Alright...I'll humor you Bruce,” she said sternly, “We'll watch him for a few days to see how his mentality is. It's a damn miracle that he's alive Bruce, with all that's in his system but other than that I wouldn't hold out for any more of them.” Bruce walked over to the computer and started to type on it, as if she hadn't said anything. She walked over closer to him.

“Bruce, you can't just give him anti-venom and everything will be fine...most of the damage is psychologic-” Bruce slammed his hands down with such force that it caused her to jump. He breathed heavily through his nose and curled his fingers into a fist on the console and looked down.

“I know you're hurting Bruce,” she said to him, “probably more than any of us, but you have to face reality; Tim may never be the same person ever again. It will probably be a life long struggle to ever regain any sanity.” He turned to her again with full anger in his face.

“He's not insane.” he growled to her. She shook her head.

“You're in denial; you haven't seen or...or heard him Bruce. The way he acts, the way he moves-”

“Enough.”

“-the way he laughs.” They stood and stared at each other, the air thick with tension.

“You just don't know Bruce. You have to see it for yourself when he wakes up.” He turned back toward the computer and started to type on it again. Leslie walked up to him and placed her hand on his shoulder.

“Get some sleep Bruce,” she said to him, “we're all tired and we have a big day ahead of us.” He didn't look at her, but stood up from the chair and walked toward Tim. He lowered himself near Tim's head and whispered something to the sleeping boy, but she couldn't make out what it was. He stood up and turned away walking toward the changing room. She was slightly amazed that for once he was sort of listening to her. She walked back over to Tim and picked up the boy and gently carried him toward the medical bed. She put him in it, took off his shoes and put the blanket over him. She looked down and decided to call her assistant and cancel all her weeks' appointments; it was going to be a long, hard week.

 

 

Chapter Text

Gardening was always the most relaxing thing for her. It brought her peace of mind and soul. She needed it. Pamela never minded when Harley would visit (truth be told she enjoyed the company) and she may have her...quirks that would get on her nerves, but they were forgivable. However, after she had returned back from wherever she and the Joker had been hiding out, all she did was cry and wail. The Joker most likely kicked her out again, she would go back and he would take her back in and the cycle would continue. She shook her head; she always wondered why people in those kind of relationships never saw what abuse they would suffer through. She picked up the seedling and prepped its roots for planting and could hear Harley began wailing again. She sighed and planted the seedling and decided that she should at least find out what exactly happened. It was after all, unusual for Harley in all of her dramas to continue on so much and for so long.

She put the tools away and washed off the dirt and exited the greenhouse. She had no fear of locking the greenhouse because of where she lived. In fact a lot of people knew where she was, even the police, but Toxic Acres had become even more toxic over the years and even hazmat teams became very sick in their suits whenever they had tried to 'evict' her. Even Batman risked loosing all of his hair and ability to produce offspring if he entered it. Yes, she had peace of mind that nobody would bother her here, but in a way it turned it into a kind of prison. She entered the house and could hear Harley wailing and blubbering all the louder. She climbed up the stairs and opened the bedroom door. Of course Harley was there on the bed, face down and crying like a four year old girl.

"Are you ever going to stop," she finally asked not even attempting to mask annoyance, "you do this every time Harley. Every. Time. Give it another day and you'll be angry and then you'll mope around the place until you decide to go back." She looked down at Harley, her face was still engulfed into the pillow, but the sobbing stopped. Harley slowly sat up and sat at the edge of the bed looking down. Harley was always carefree and childlike, but at this moment...she was acting like a normal adult. It was just in the way she moved and the way she just looked. Pamela unfolded her arms and stopped glaring at her; she patiently waited to hear what was really wrong. Harley kept looking down, hugging the pillow and when she finally spoke...it was as if whatever maturity she ever had finally found it's way to the surface.

"He's gone Red," she slowly said, "Mr. Jay is dead."

"Dead," Pam asked raising an eyebrow, "what do you mean by 'dead'? Do you mean 'dead' as in 'is in hiding but will come back' kind of dead or-" she stopped when Harley looked up at her, she could see in her eyes what she meant. Pamela moved over to the bed and sat down on it and let Harley hug her as tightly as she wished. As she hugged her, she mulled over the news. It really didn't matter how or why the bastard was dead, but it probably was the best news she heard in years. She never liked the clown or his lame jokes, but for now she would hide her delight for Harley's sake.

"It will be alright," she said to Harley as she stroked her hair gently, "tell me about it and we'll talk after that."

It was strange listening to Harley speak in such an alarmingly calm manner and so softly, but Pam stayed quiet throughout the whole story and gave her full attention, even during the more shocking bits.

"...and that's when I came back here, Red."

When she finished speaking, Harley expected Pam to hug her all the tighter and tell her sweet soothing things, but she just sat there holding her. She wasn't even stroking her hair anymore. Harley removed herself from Pam and looked at her. Pam wasn't looking at her at all, but looked like she was thinking really hard and what she was thinking about wasn't fun.

"What's wrong Red?" She asked cautiously, she had seen that look before and knew it wasn't a smart thing to speak to her like that. Pam looked over at Harley and finally said:

"Even for the Joker, that was a sick thing to do," she said shaking her head.

"But, Red-"

"And you went along with it?"

"I told you all about it before Ivy."

"Yes, and leaving out some details along with it." It was true that she hadn't fully paid attention when Harley went on and on about her new 'family life', but she knew she would have if Harley had said 'Oh by the way, we totally kidnapped Robin and brainwashed him into our son'. There was a slight bit of tension in the air. Harley really didn't understand why Pam was upset about it. Finally, Pam was the first to speak out.

"So...you know who Batman is then?" Harley shook her head.

"Nah, Mr. Jay never did fill me in on the 'important' details. All I know is that my Puddin's dead and my littl' puddin' cup is missing." Here whatever maturity she had left her and she started to wail anew. Pamela kept thinking to herself. She remembered what she had told Batman and Commissioner Gordon all those years ago about not being able to have children of her own and as she was living her constructed family life...it probably was the happiest she ever had been. She looked over at Harley. Despite what she had done, she still loved her. Harley was her first true best friend, and perhaps now that the clown was gone, could be something much more.

"If it will make you feel any better," Pamela finally said, "we can go out and find out what exactly happened. Perhaps we could even find...him." She highly doubted it though, whoever killed the Joker either took the kid or killed him as well and Harley just didn't find the body. Harley rubbed her tear-soaked face and looked with blood-shot eyes at her.

"R-Realy," she asked with her childlike voice, "you'll do that for me?" Pamela pulled her into a hug and said while stroking her hair:

"For you, I would do anything and everything."

 


 

 

As he slowly woke up, things just didn't feel right. He tried to think of what was so wrong but he just couldn't put his finger on it. It also felt so familiar to him. He took in a deep breath; could smell the dampness of the cave. When he opened his eyes and looked up, he expected to see the familiarity of the stalactites high above, but instead was blinded by a bright light. He tried to sit up but was caught short. He looked down and could see that his waist was strapped down. He started to panic, he looked down at his arms and legs and could see they were just as tightly bound. He couldn't control his breathing, his head was swimming with old memories. He tried to reason with himself, but it was pretty hard to do so. He concentrated on his breathing, trying to get it back under control before the laughter would begin. If Bruce saw him like this... No, he'd make sure that he would be calm for him. He started to count to ten, taking a deep breath with each number. Soon his breathing was back under control, he was also quite proud of himself for not laughing once. He looked back at the strap around his waist, it wasn't very tight but was tight enough to keep him in place. He sighed and wondered why they had tied him down. He rested his head and looked up at the ceiling. Perhaps it was for an examination? Yeah that sounded like the most likely scenario. He sat up as far as he could and looked around. The light was too intense for him to see properly past the ring of light, but he could tell he wasn't in the medical bay anymore. Why move him? So many questions were bouncing around in his head.

He sat back and decide to wait for whoever to show up. Perhaps then he could get the answers he wanted to know. He was tired of being tied down so many times, even if it was among friends. It was even more frustrating that he was getting used to it. He closed his eyes and try to imagine what would happen next. He hoped, that it didn't involve any shots or anything sharp. He felt odd, like he wasn't sick yet, but was getting there. He couldn't even remember the last time he ate, heck he didn't even know what day it was. For all he knew he could have been asleep for days. He licked his dry teeth, craving a cool glass of water. He tried to listen for anyone, but couldn't hear anything. Did he dare to try to call out? Would words form instead of the laughter? He decided against it, he would just wait patiently. He tried to clear his mind of the static while he waited, but being aware of it made him feel... He didn't know what. He decided to try to... remember what had happened. Part of him didn't want to but the other half was desperate to know, kind of like wanting to know a well kept secret. He tried, he tried so hard to recall even a bad memory. .. but all he got was a...what? It was like his body remembered, but not his head. He felt shaky and scared; wanted to throw up and run away.

'No,' he told himself, 'calm down. I'm safe here. Nothing ever bad happens in the cave. I'm safe.' He breathed in slowly, trying to make them less shaky. His throat was so dry. All he wanted to do was get some water and then sleep. Finally he heard something. He looked around but still couldn't see anything. It sounded like someone slowly walking, but with the echo of the cave he couldn't pinpoint the location. He kept looking around and still couldn't see anything yet the sound was getting all the louder. He closed his eyes and tried to listen, but the ringing in his ears. .. why was there ringing? He felt something cool splash on his lips and teeth, tasting the water that hit his tongue. He instinctively began to drink the water presented to him as fast as he could, nearly choking on it. With his mouth turned up the way it was, a lot of the water dribbled out, but he did manage to drink most of it. The water was crisp and cold, it soothed his dry throat, but awakened his hunger. He could ignore it for now, but it would be hard to do so for long. He panted after drinking the glass of water, wishing that more was coming.

He opened his eyes to see whoever gave him the water to see. .. nobody. That was impossible, he had opened his eyes far too soon for anyone to move out of his field of sight. He looked around and still couldn't see anyone. He hadn't imagined the water, he could still feel it on his face and chin. He kept looking around when he felt something rub on his chin. He cried out while moving his head away.

'What the Hell?!' He desperately looked around, he still couldn't see anyone. He felt something touch his head, he jerked away from it. He started to panic. His head and eyes darted around to look at anyone, but he couldn't see anything. He felt something grab his shoulder and it was too much. He started to swing his arms around, trying to get whatever was touching him away. He felt something strong push him back, held his left arm in place. He blinked and could see shadows. He had to get away, by any means necessary.

He felt something near his mouth; he opened his mouth as wide as he possibly could and then bit down on whatever it was. It tried to jerk away; it caused his instincts to bite down harder. He started to taste blood, the metallic taste flooded his mouth and he swallowed it out of shock. He felt not only something grab his jaw but his right hand as well. He pulled his hand away, his glove sliding off his hand, freeing it from the grip of the shadows. He swiped his freed hand blindly in the middle of the shadows, he could feel his fingers raking against something. He started to kick, could feel the shadows give way. He could do this, if he kept up the fight he could break free. He felt his foot connect with something soft, and the shadows broke up more. It was strange, the shadows made no noises, in fact the only noise he could hear was himself but it was if he was underwater, really muffled. He opened his mouth and let that shadow go, he had to look down to try to unlock the strap. He had just barely placed a hand on it when the shadows pushed him back with so much force it knocked the wind out of him. He tried to catch his breath, was slightly aware he was probably laughing, but that didn't matter after what he saw.

Batman was looking down at him. He had seen that same look given to criminals many times before, but never directed towards himself. He was panting and chuckling at the same time, utterly confused. Batman moved away off of him and he could see Dr. Thompkins clutching her cheek, blood dripping between her fingers. Alfred was doubled-over, coughing and trying to catch his breath. Barbara was opening drawers; pulling out gauze and bandages. Dick's back was toward him, but he could see blood was dripping heavily between his legs. He looked up; there was no bright light over head. He looked down, his hands and legs had no straps on them, although his waist was tied down. His ungloved hand had blood and bits of flesh underneath his nails; he could still taste blood in his mouth and on his teeth. He looked up at Batman, who started back towards him holding something in his hand. Before he could react, Batman placed the jet injector next to his jugular and pulled the trigger. It was painful, and the medicine was cold, but it didn't matter to him long. His last thought before he fell asleep was that he was just grateful that he didn't use a needle.

 


 

 

Years.

it had been many years since he felt like this. For the first time since that time in the alleyway, he felt completely helpless and had frozen in time of need. He felt like that scared little boy who had stood by and watched his parents die in that filthy alleyway. He was furious with himself. He had trained with the best, became the best. He had to be. He had trained himself to react quickly and efficiently to any given situation, no matter how horrible it may be. And yet...when he had seen and...heard what just happened, he froze. He looked down at Tim, he could hardly even begin to comprehend what the whole situation was, and that was unacceptable. He turned toward the others. Alfred was beginning to recover from that kick to his abdomen, not choking on his own breaths. Barbara was helping Leslie cover her cheek with a large gauze pad. Dick was trying to stop the bleeding from his bicep. He finally seemed to break from his daze and grabbed a large clean towel and helped put pressure on the wound.

"Kid's got a bite like a bear trap," Dick said through gritted teeth, "nearly bit all the damn way through." Bruce looked at the bite. Tim had bitten directly on his muscle and had nearly severed the whole mouthful.

"Let me see, " said Leslie, who had recovered from her shock and was back into being a professional doctor.. She looked at his arm and frowned at it.

"This is going to require surgery, Dick. The bite is very deep. "

"Can you do it here," Dick asked.

"I'd rather do it at the hospital, " she said looking up at him, "but that will raise a lot of questions. This will scar...no questioning that. "

"Guess they're scars number 674 and 675 then," he said with a smirk.  It quickly faded when she looked at him with no amusement at all.

"This isn't something to joke about," she said, "I need stitches as well on my cuts, and I'll have a hard time explaining where I got them to my colleagues."

"We'll think of something," Bruce said over his shoulder. Leslie looked over at him, then turned toward Alfred.

"Alfred, are you alright enough to help me with Dick's arm?"  He looked up at her, still slightly struggling for breath.

"Just...allow me...a few... more minutes," he said between breaths. Leslie left Dick in Barbara's care and walked over toward Bruce, who was at the sink wetting another towel.

"Bruce," she said approaching him, but he simply ignored her and walked past her. He walked back towards Tim and looked down. Dick's blood started to dry on his chin and neck; his smile just as unwavering.  Unlike last time, his eyes were half way open.  With that and the blood, it made him look all the more creepy looking.  Bruce gently closed his eyes and started to wipe away the blood.

"Bruce, if you ever listen to me ever in your life, please listen now," He kept wiping the blood away, but turned his head slightly towards her.  She took in a breath and sighed it out, knowing what the outcome was going to be.

"This. .. is beyond me. It's beyond you as well. Even I didn't expect that violent of a reaction from him.  The boy is a danger, a danger to us and himself," she looked at his back, knowing he was listening but also ignoring her. She decided to just say it.

"I'm taking him to Arkham."  You could have heard a needle drop. Bruce had stopped tending on Tim, thinking on what he would say.  They all knew that she was right, but still...Arkham wasn't a place you would think of putting a child in.  They all waited; the tension was getting unbearable.  Finally, Bruce slightly moved and said very quietly:

"He just needs more time."

"More time, "she repeated in shock, "how much more time will it take for you to see that this boy is sick?!  How much worse do the injuries need to be before you decide what's best?  No Bruce, I'm sorry believe me I truly am...but, "

"Barbara, " Bruce called out, vice full of command with a hint of anger, "take Tim up to his room and put him to bed," he then turned to Leslie and said to her with barely controlled anger,

"If you ever mention Arkham again and especially to him..."

"I'm not going to humor you for long this Bruce," she growled back, "just because you don't want to believe it doesn't make it not true."

"Attend to Dick's arm and then to yourself," he said walking away, "then after that look after Tim and do not, " he said pointing to Alfred, "let her take him anywhere.  I'll be back soon to check on you later after my patrol." As he was jumping into the Batmobile, Leslie called out:

"You can't hide from this forever Bruce, your going to have to face it sooner or later!" The car roared to life; spinning its' wheels before racing off into the dark.  Leslie mumbled something under her breath, to quitely to fully understand, but she quickly composed herself and turned her attention towards more important matters.

"Come on Alfred," she said turning towards the sink to wash her hands, "prep Dick's arm so we can sew him up. I'll get the anesthesia ready."

"Of course," Alfred said, gathering the necessary tools, he turned toward Barbara who was picking up Tim in her arms, "Miss Gordon, do you require any assistance?"

"Thanks Alfred," she said with a small smile, "but this isn't too hard to do.  I'll be back as soon as I can to help out."

"Make sure you lock the doors and windows," Leslie said, "he's definitely a flight risk."  Barbara didn't say anything, but ascended the stairs with Tim in arm. It really wasn't hard to carry him. She had to carry him before he went missing and it was slightly difficult then, but now it was if she was carrying someone half his age. It was hard to ignore the bones that dug into her flesh as she adjusted him over her shoulder.

Soon they had reached the bedroom and she gently placed him down on the bed.  She looked over him, she decided to make him more comfortable by at least changing his clothes.  As she removed his shoes, it gave her time to really reflect on all this.  When she had first heard about Batman...all she wanted to do was to be like him and her father. When she dawned her own cape and went out on her own, she really believed she was making a huge difference and it was a dream come true when she became part of the team. Now though...those weeks were so horrible and now was a nightmare but, was it all worth it?  It was becoming evident that this whole 'hero' thing really wasn't working out at all. She had read articles and other authors who'd wrote about them...read all the concerns about having children in costumes fighting crime...she had scoffed at them...now she agreed with them. Tim was screwed up, badly. Probably for the rest of his life. Nobody deserved this, especially a child.  She finished changing his clothes and tucked him into bed, making sure that he had enough blankets to keep him warm. She made sure the windows were locked and she locked the door behind her. Her heart was heavy. She realized she was at a crossroad of her life and she had to choose what to do. She kinda already knew what she was going to do...but...it was sad that it wasn't such a hard decision anymore.

 


 

 

He opened his eyes and looked strait ahead and could see the ceiling. He sat up and saw that he was in his bed room. It wasn't as exactly as he had left it, the piles of clothes were gone, books and papers neatly stacked and put away. He took in a deep breath and could smell the familiarity of it. It was strange.  Was this reality?  Had it all been just a horrible nightmare?  He wasn't sure anymore.  He looked down at his hands and saw that they were completely white.  No.  It hadn't been a dream.  He knew better than that.  He rung his hands and breathed in a heavy sigh that was trailed by a quiet chuckle.  He rubbed his neck where he thought where Bruce had injected whatever into him...yep it was sore there...so it did happen.

'Day one of the rest of my life,' he thought miserably.  He got out of bed and looked down, seeing that someone had put some pajamas on him.  They were newer ones so they really didn't fit him at all anymore.  He looked up and hope that his suit was close by.  Trying to distract himself, he walked over to his figure collection and took one of them down.  He figured that it would have been dusty, but apparently Alfred still came into his room and at least dusted the shelves and vacuumed the floors.  He looked around at his room again.  He knew he should feel safe in his own room, but it felt strange and foreign to him.  He wanted to leave.  He put the toy back and walked over to the dressers.  He opened them up, hopeful that Alfred had just put the suit away.  He couldn't find it.  He decided that he would have to ignore the itching and bite the bullet and just ask for it back.  They'd understand, he hoped.

As he turned to leave his room he caught a glimpse of the large changing mirror in the room, a relic of Mrs. Wayne's that had been put in this room long before he was ever born. He walked over to the mirror and looked at the reflection inside.  It was strange, every time he had looked inside the mirror it was hard to believe that kid staring back at him with large hollow eyes and huge grin was himself.  He looked hard at the face of that kid.  The kid's eyes seemed sad, despite what the face said, as if they seen far too much and didn't understand any of it.  He placed his hand on the mirror, feeling the cool surface of it.  He hated that kid, but also felt sorry for him.  It wasn't his fault that he felt the way he did.  He just wished he could find his own reflection and give back this one.

"Hello Tim."

The voice made him jump and turn towards the origin of it.  There, standing right behind him was Bruce.  He couldn't understand why he didn't see him in the mirror before.  He looked up at Bruce, he had forgotten how tall he really was; how his stance almost commanded full attention.  He felt timid and small and couldn't help but to shrink slightly back from Bruce while looking away; trying his best not to laugh or chuckle or make any sounds for that matter.  Bruce continued to look down at him, making him feel all the more...aware.

"Did you sleep well, Tim?" Bruce asked as if he was talking to a fellow business man.  JJ tensed up and felt as if his skin was crawling around himself, random thoughts bouncing around in his head at the same time.  It was impossible to focus on any of them so he finally looked up and just nodded his head.  It was always best to agree and follow orders and if saying 'yes' meant keeping out of trouble with Bruce then so be it.  Bruce continued to look down, his face never giving away anything.  JJ always had a hard time reading anything from him, but he wished he could now.  The way he just kept staring down at him made him feel nervous.  He was trying his best to stand tall and stay relaxed but his body kept fidgeting without his permission.  His fingers and hands kept twitching and jerking; shoulders shifting.  The more he tired to fight it, the more he found it funny.  He could feel the laughter forming so he had to turn away; hurry and find something to keep his mind off it.  He went to a corner of his room were he had spied a rubber ball and started to bounce it.  Bruce followed him to the corner and knelt down close by.

"Tim-" he said gently, as he slowly placed a soft hand on his shoulders.  When he felt the hand on his shoulder, he mindlessly jerked it away quickly followed by rapid giggles that loudly popped out.  He quickly covered his mouth, but they just kept coming out.  He turned to face Bruce, wanting to apologize for this but when he saw him it caused the laughter to momentarily stop.  Bruce had absolutely no expression on his face.  Nothing.  He didn't know what to make of it.  He was slightly breathing hard from the laughter as he watched Bruce stand up and take a step back.

"I'm sorry," he said while turning away from him and walking toward the door, "I can see you need some more time to rest.  I didn't mean to push you.  I'll have Alfred bring you up breakfast; in the meantime get some more rest Tim."  Bruce didn't even look back toward him when he closed the door behind him.  JJ kept looking at the door; could feel a twitch in his face at his eyebrow and eye.  He couldn't believe it . He could feel more laughter boiling and writhing deep inside . It was getting so hard to repress the laughter, to not randomly react without thinking; to judge what was real or not.  He backed into the corner until he hit the walls; then slid down them into a sitting position burying his face into his knees while hugging his legs.  It was just as he had feared it would be.  He had lost any respect he had from Bruce; possibly from the others as well.  He could still feel the growing knot of laughter in his belly, could still hear the not-as-quiet whispers just beyond his thoughts...but it just didn't matter anymore.  He had lost one of the most important things in his life, Bruce's' respect.  It was the closest thing that Bruce could even remotely convey love.  He sighed.  It would be hard but he had to somehow earn back his respect, no matter what.

 

 

Chapter Text

A few hours passed by, and he was still sitting in the corner of the room.  His back and legs were getting really stiff, but that didn't matter. He tried and tried to think of anyway to get Bruce’s respect back, but no good ideas came to mind.  There was no way he could go out as Robin...he was just to thin and weak right now, even he could see that. He finally stretched his back, his muscles burned at it.  He decided to move away from the corner and lie back down in his bed.  He got back on the bed but not into the blankets, and closed his eyes.  He listened to his own breathing; felt his heart beat and chest rising and falling. He tried to keep his mind quiet, but too many thoughts kept bouncing around.  Of all the thoughts that bounced around inside his head was how on earth was he going to make it up to Batman?  It was obvious that Bruce didn't know about...what had happened with....that was the only reason why he wasn't in Arkham right now, he was sure of it.  He breathed in, letting the air hiss between his teeth. He decided to take a break from it...it would come to him.  Despite it all...he started to feel kinda relaxed.  It had been hours since anything bad happened, no laughs, no...weird things.  It was nice.

He heard a knock at the door that jarred him from the peace.  He sat up and started to back up to the headboard raising his arm in defense.  The door opened up and Alfred with a tray of food entered the room.

"I do hope I did not wake you," he said to him, "but I brought you some breakfast young sir."  JJ shook his head, sighed in relief that it was just Alfred.  Alfred came closer and placed the bed tray down on the bed in front of him. 

"I'm sure you have quite the appetite," Alfred said, lifting the lid off of the food, "so I made your favorite."  JJ looked at the food and nearly gagged.  When he smelled the food...yeah it was his favorite, but smelling and looking at it made him really nauseated.  He looked down at it and then back at Alfred; he seemed to know what he was thinking and he re-covered the food and lifted it up off the bed.

"There's no rush right now," he said almost sadly, "but please do be sure to eat it before it get's too cold."  He put the food down onto the desk, then turned back towards him and just stood there and watched him.  JJ looked back at him as well.  It was if Alfred was waiting for something...or just wanted to see something happen.  He looked to the side, then back at Alfred...he didn't know what he expected him to do.  The more he just sat there, the more sad Alfred looked.  He didn't know what he wanted him to do...it was making him nervous and he started to loose control of his breathing.  Alfred seemed to see this and decided he had overstayed his welcome.

"Well sir," Alfred said while making his way out, "if you need anything else, all you need to do is just let me know.  I'll leave you to your meal."  He left the room and JJ could hear the door quietly being locked behind him. He sighed and got out of bed to walk over to the desk.  He lifted the lid and nearly gagged on the smell again.  It was weird...he knew he hadn't eaten anything for awhile...but the smell and look of it was just so unappealing to him.  He sighed again and turned away from the food and crawled back into bed, deciding that perhaps sleep would be for the best.  He tried but he just felt...jittery now and couldn't relax.  He lied there for quite some time...then heard another knock at the door; this time he didn't even sit up.

"Tim," Barbara said gently, causing him to ball up tighter at the name, "can I come in?"  He made no movements, he just wanted to be left alone now.  He could hear Barbara approach the bed and felt her sit down on the bed next to him.  He curled up even tighter when he felt her hand on his shoulder; it was quickly removed...she must of thought that was the wrong thing to do at the moment.  He listened closely, could hear her sigh; could hear the...frustration in it.  She got up and walked away, he could hear her pick up the lid of the food.

"Tim, you really should eat this," she said to him, "it'll go to waste otherwise."  He finally sat up and looked at her.  He shook his head and covered his mouth.  She looked at him and picked up the tray and said:

"Please," she asked. He looked hard at her, but...he decided to at least try for her. He slowly nodded in agreement.  She smiled at that and brought the tray back over to him.  He looked down at it; it looked worse than before.  He picked up the fork and took a bit of it and took a bite, chewed it and quickly swallowed it.  It was half cold and nasty tasting.  He put the fork down and looked back at her and shook his head.  She picked up the fork and scooped up some of the food.

"Come on," she said, "just eat a little bit more." He looked at it, shook his head and turned away from her.  She sighed and put the fork down.  There was now a thick tension in the air.  After a long while he looked up at her and saw that she seemed lost in deep thought.  He shifted and she quickly looked down at him, as if that's what she was waiting for this whole time.

"Is there anything I can get you," she asked him.  She seemed stiff, like she didn't know how to talk to him or act around him...it kinda made him angry.  She looked down and rubbed her knees.

"Tim," she finally said, "I...I really don't know what to say or do to make...to make everything better. I wish I did, I really do."  He could see tears well up in her eyes.  He looked down at his hands.  He wished he did as well.

"I...I don't think I want to do this anymore," she said to him, "I don't want to be in costume anymore."  He looked up at her in shock.  She looked down at him.

"I thought we were making a difference...but after all this, what has happened...I just don't know."  He grabbed her arm and pulled on it.  He wished he could talk now; tell her that she had been making a big difference, they all had.  She looked down at him with shock and concern.  He saw this and let go and looked desperately at her.

"I'm sorry," she said to him, she sounded really upset, "I'm so sorry for saying anything.  God I'm so stupid," she said getting up and headed toward the door.  He sprang up and stood in her way.  He didn't want her to leave; couldn't let her leave without changing her mind.  He grabbed her arm again and dug his fingers a little too tightly into it, trying to stop her from leaving.  She struggled a little bit, but he couldn't let her leave.  He felt her free hand trying to unlock his hands from her arm.  He looked up and saw pain in her face and eyes, he looked down at his hands and saw how tightly he had grabbed her arm, his fingers still digging deep into it.  He let her go and backed away.  He looked away for a moment and then back up to her, but she was already half way out of the room.  He kept looking at where she had stood...he felt sick again.

 


 

 

Barbara quickly walked away, rubbing her sore arm.

“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” she muttered to herself, “I can't believe...” but her train of thought was derailed by running to something.

“Whoa Babs,” Dick asked after stumbling back, “where's the fire?”  His smile went away when he saw her face.  “Babs what's wrong?”  She looked at him, looked at his bandaged arm, bit her lip and looked away.  She could feel the tears on her cheeks, she wiped them away and gathered her thoughts.

“I...I messed up.  I told Tim that I,” She looked away, breathed in, “that I don't want to be in costume anymore. I...It really upset him.”  Dick stiffened up, but knowing that now wasn't the time to get into it, he placed his hands on her shoulders and said gently to her:

“I'll go talk to him; see if I can sort it out.  We can talk about it later, alright?”  Barbara nodded and stepped to the side to let Dick pass.  He didn't run, but his gate was definitely quicker than usual.  She looked down and decided that she would talk to Dick first about this...then Bruce, but for now all she wanted to do was get some much needed sleep in her own bed.

 


 

 

Dick approached the bedroom door; normally he'd never think about what to do but now he was trying to decide what would be the most tactful thing to do.  He paused in front of the door, listened for anything out of the ordinary.  It was quiet, normally a good thing but now it was one of those things that would cause your heart to skip a beat.  He finally knocked on the door and peeked inside.  Tim was standing in the middle of the room, his back towards the door...just standing.  It was kinda creepy, but he pushed that thought away.  It was just Tim standing there in the room and nothing more.

“Hey, can I come in?”  Tim didn't move, didn't even act like he had heard him.  He entered slowly as not to startle him; deciding that talking while entering would be better just in case he...didn't hear him.

“So, I just wanted to make sure you're doing okay,” he said.  'Damn that sounded forced,' he thought.  He didn't even know how to talk to him.  Tim's head tilted slightly towards him, that was a good sign he was at least listening.  “Look kid,” he said moving toward the bed and sitting on the edge of it, “I really don't know how to tiptoe around this so I won't.  You deserve better than that.”  When he said that, Tim fully turned toward him, eyes and smile just as big but he could at least read some relief in them.  Dick smiled at him.

“I never liked being talked down too like a kid, still don't.”  He moved over for Tim to sit down next to him, and to his relief he did.

“I ran into Babs on the way in; she seemed really upset with herself, you know why.”  JJ looked down to the side, yeah he did know and wished he could have told her how wrong she was.

“Don't take it too hard right now kid,” Dick said, “we're all kinda...mixed up right now about things.  We're all tired and...damn Tim, we were starting to think you were dead.”  He could hear Tim sigh from that and saw him turn away.  Shit did he say the wrong thing already?  He played it cool like nothing happened and started again.

“Look, I know there's so much to talk about right now, but I think some of it would be damaging; for right now let Barbara cool off a little.  Bruce pushed her so hard during...everything.”  Tim nodded slowly, eyes closed.  Dick sighed.  “Look...I think the best thing for now is to just...well...I don't know...back off and think things over.”  He looked down and saw that Tim was looking at him from the corners of his eyes, but he seemed calm so he felt it okay to leave now.  He didn't want to over do anything and send him into a catatonic state.  Dick stood up and walked over to the food tray and lifted it up.  It was stone cold by now.  He put the lid back down on it and turned to him.

“You know you should at least try eating something,” he said turning toward him picking up the tray, “if you want to get back into costume.  You can't let yourself go like this.” He saw a glimmer of the old Tim he knew emerge for just a split second in his eyes as Tim nodded.

“Get some more rest,” Dick said to him walking out, “and we'll talk later.”  Dick closed the door behind him.  As he walked away he started to feel bad about lying to Tim like that.  There was no way he'd let him ever wear that suit again, and he'd kill Bruce if he let him.  Hell, he wasn't even sure if he would even lead a normal life after all this.  He wanted to talk to Bruce so badly about all this, but right now he was getting grilled by someone that he would actually listen too.

 


 

 

He knew he would come.  He looked down at his watch, seeing it was almost five'oclock.  He looked back up and looked out the diner window.  He would come.  He looked back down at the menu thinking that something small would do because he knew this wouldn't last long.  He heard the bell ring and looked up, not really all surprised to see Mr. Wayne standing there quickly walking toward him.

“Kent.”

“Bruce,” Clark said politely, but was aware of the tension between them.  He watched Bruce sit down, could see how agitated and tired he was.  This was going to be shorter than he thought it would be.  The waitress walked over toward them.

“What'll be gentlemen?”

“I'll have the apple pie sundae” Clark said smiling towards her.

“Coffee. Black.” Bruce said short and flat.  She wrote down the order and walked away.  Clark looked back at Bruce.  Nothing was said at first.  It was a stare-down of wills, apparently.  Both seeing who was going to talk first.  Clark looked into his eyes though, and could see that Bruce was on an edge.  He backed down and decided to talk first.

“I can't even imagine what's going on for you right now,” he said quietly, “and I don't expect you to tell me any details right now, but I do want to know this,” He re-locked eye contact with Bruce, lowered his hands and look right into his soul:

“Why didn't you call for help sooner?”  The stare-down continued anew; all sounds of the diner muted between both men.  Clark kept looking into his eyes.  Bruce was very good at keeping secrets from everyone, but it seemed he was doing his very best in keeping his guard up and not allow Clark to see anything.  Clark wasn't going to back down on this one; he wanted answers.

“Whatever your reasons were,” he finally said with a darker tone, “it didn't justified the final result, and you know it.” Clark could hear Bruces' teeth grind, fists cracking from making fists underneath the table and could even hear his heart begin to race.  He had hit a nerve, a big raw one. He sat back up and relaxed slightly when the waitress brought over their orders.  She smiled at both men and continued on with her job.  Clark looked down at the apple pie sundae and picked up his spoon, he looked up at Bruce who hadn't even moved.  Clark took a bite of the sundae, and then decided to try something else.

“How's he doing?"

“Well enough,” Bruce said quietly, but very robotic.  Clark looked hard at him, wanted to ask more questions, but he could see that he was pushing too far as it were. That last jab at him had been too much.  It was time to end it.

“Why don't we discuss this another time, and in a more private place.  There are a lot more questions that I want answers too.  There is no getting out of this one Bruce,” he said after taking another bite of the sundae, “either you talk to me, or talk to the League.”  Bruce finally made a movement, one that wouldn't be detected to an untrained eye but he saw it none the less.

“That's right Bruce,” he said, “I haven't told them yet, as far as they are aware is that allyou have had is a few bad months.  However,” He said finally finishing the sundae, “they still have questions, and I'm sure that you'd rather tell them than let them see what had happened.”  He put his hat on pulled his out his wallet.  “The coffee's on me, Bruce. I hope to hear from you very soon on this, very soon.”  After he payed for the meal and walked out, he wondered if he had gone too far, had said the wrong things.  Bruce was a hard man to understand, had gone through things and lost things he hadn't even experienced...yet.  He hailed a cab and could only hope that this would work out for everyone involved in the long run.

 


 

 

Dick shifted uncomfortably while waiting for the door to be answered.  This was worse than when he tried to ask her out on a date for the first time, but now with everything that had happened, that seemed petty and small now.  No answer still.  He knocked harder; listened for any footsteps.  Nothing.  He finally decided to try another way.  He looked around the apartment hallway and pulled out his lock-picking tools; with everything that had gone on, he had to make sure that Barbara was alright and her not answering was very unnerving to him.  He finally picked the lock and entered the apartment.

“Barbara, are you here?” He looked in the bathroom, then the kitchen.  Finally he tried the bedroom and there she was, sleeping soundly and very deeply apparently.  He walked over to the bed and gently started to shake her arm.

“Barbara, wak-” He saw her eyes shot open and before he knew it she had his injured arm twisted behind his back.  He cried out, feeling some of the stitches being ripped open.

“Babs, let go it's me, dammit!”  She gasped and let his arm go.  He grabbed his arm and tried to rub the pain away as gently as he could.

“God Dick, what the Hell are you doing in here at 3 a.m.,” she said while wrapping herself up in her bathrobe, “you scared me half to death!”

“It's not my fault that you could sleep through a bomb blast,” he said turning away from her, looking around her room seeing full and empty boxes.

“Either you're doing some extreme spring cleaning, or you're packing up.”  She sat on the edge of her bed and looked around.

“Yeah, I've been meaning to move closer to school for sometime now, plus I think I just need the change.”  She got up and walked toward the kitchen, with Dick following her.  She started a pot of coffee and sat down at the kitchen table.

“What other kinds of changes are you considering,” Dick asked, “even though we already sorta talked about it?” She looked up at him and then looked down.

“I don't know Dick,” she said to him, “when I first put on that silly fake Batman costume to help dad at that rally, it was only to help out dad because Bruce refused to make a public appearance; but after that, to really experience what it felt like...I couldn't get enough of it. I thought that I would be doing it for the rest of my life, I truly did.”  

“However, during those weeks,” she said looking down at nothing in particular, “not knowing what to do, seeing how helpless he...we all where.  I-I guess what I'm saying is that during that time it kinda tarnished the dream, ya know?  Finally seeing for the first time that perhaps what we've been doing this whole time was...kids stuff.  Now the dream is over and the toys have to be put away.”  She looked up at Dick, seeing the look in his eyes. The coffee maker beeped that the coffee was ready, so she stood up and poured herself and Dick a cup and sat back down.

“I sill haven't made up my mind as of yet though,” she said to him, “part of me, still loves and desires to go out, but the other half now thinks of the consequences of our actions.  Tim's a consequence now, on all of our heads and that's killing me inside Dick,” she said tears welling up in her eyes, “all I can do now is think of how I should have gone with him, how I couldn't find anything, how-” She felt Dick pull her into his arms and hug her tightly, she closed her eyes and quietly said, “how I should have known.”

“We're only human Barbara,” Dick said quietly, “we can only do so much.  You're not some sort of oracle, you're only you.”  He stopped hugging her and held her face in his hands, wiping away a tear with his thumb, “Whatever you decide I'll accept it Barbara, it's your life, but for now keep at it.  I don't think Tim could handle the news that you've quit,”  he turned away from her, “I lied to him Barbara, I gave him false hope to ever be Robin again.  I did it to calm him down and make him happy for the moment.”  He balled up his fists and slammed one down on his knee.

“I lied too him, like Bruce would have done.” She looked at him.

“You don't think Bruce will let him go out again, do you?”

“If he does,” Dick said looking towards her, “I'll make him sorry that he ever met me.”

 


   

JJ curled up tighter in bed.  Whatever Alfred had made him eat wasn't really agreeing with him at all or at least he assumed that's what it was.  He closed his eyes all the tighter, trying to ignore the pain.  He opened his eyes and tried to think of other things.  He had been cooped up in his room for what he assumed for days now.  His perception of time was still...wonky.  He couldn't remember things.  Things that he knew had happened.  Another cramp broke his train of thought and he chuckled in pain.  This was getting old real quick.  He had never had so much trouble with his guts in his life before all this, and now it was consuming him.  It was all he could think about.

He got up and started to pace his room, trying to gather his thoughts.  Of course the big question that popped up in his head was how to make it up to Batman but now all the little questions began to jump out at him.  Why did it take so long for them to find him?  Why couldn't he talk?  Questions he had quietly thought about but always pushed away, but now they screamed for attention...and then another cramp.  What the Hell did the Joker do to his insides anyway?  Then, he remembered the night it had happened, his skin and...it was horrible.  He fell to his knees holding his head, pushing it hard between his hands, trying to stop the memory from playing before his eyes again.  He had been strapped down on something...tubes connected...down his throat...being lowered into...then pain.  The memory was flashing randomly, not really connecting clearly.  He tried his best to hold his breath, keep it in so they wouldn't burst through the door and see him like this.  He got up and as calmly as he could walked over to the bed and buried his face into several pillows and let the laughter fly.

After the fit was over, he panted and sat up in bed, feeling the sweat cooling him off.  Now he remembered, when the Joker did the skin bleaching to him..he had force-fed him something...probably something to make him look like he had wanted...or...maybe he...

No, no that was stupid.  Of course that couldn't happen.  It was impossible.  He tried shaking the idea out of his head and focused on something else.  The first thing that popped into his head was why did it take Batman so long to find him.  That question he didn't like thinking about; it made him...angry.  The question kept asserting itself though, refusing to be denied any longer.  He found himself breathing really hard and balling his fists at it.  You know what, why did it take him so long to find him?  It's not like he didn't know where he....

And...there it was.  The answer popped up just like that.  Batman...knew where he had been.  No.  No, there was no way that Batman would be that cruel to him.  No way in a million years, but it still bugged him; if Batman knew where he had been, then why not act on it?  It's not like it was a...test.  Suddenly it all started to make sense.  Batman...had been testing him.  He wanted to know how dedicated he was to him and...he had failed the test.  It, it strangely added up.  Tim had begged and begged to go out more on patrol on his own; said that he was ready to go a whole night on his own.  Batman had been testing him, it's not like he had done it before in the past with him.  He had been watching him from afar and when he...told...he had failed the test.  He didn't get out of the situation and he betrayed his trust.  It.  Made.  Sense.  This was his punishment.  He let the Joker do this to him as a punishment.  Damn, that's strict even for Batman.

Another cramp and chuckle came out.  He doubled over, trying to stop it from hurting.  As he laughed, the old stupid idea suddenly wasn't so stupid after all.  The Joker put the laughter inside him.  Of course he did.  It explained why he couldn't control it, and why it was so alien to him and why it hurt.  It was really the only thing wrong with him, now that he really thought about it.  He had mistakenly thought that the bad thoughts brought the laughter but it was really the other way around.  He got out of bed and walked over to the mirror. He looked at the kid inside the mirror, illuminated by the moonlight.  He leaned in closer and thought about when Bruce had come into the room.  He was giving him another test; a second chance at redemption.  That's why Bruce had looked down at him the way he did...it took him long enough to connect the dots.

Okay...okay, he knew part of the problem now.  First, he had to show that he still could do the job.  He had to somehow prove to him that he was still capable of being Robin, but how was he going to do that?  'Don't panic,' he told himself quietly 'don't panic, a solution will show itself soon enough,' he felt another cramp coming on, he pushed hard on his gut, 'but first, I have to fix this.'  He thought about it...how does one kill laughter that's been put inside you?  Perhaps he could ask Dick or...no. No that would be against the rules of the test, he was sure of it.  He had to figure out how to kill the laughter on his own.  He felt his gut churn; it knew he knew now.  Damned thing, he'd get the better of it yet.  He went back to bed, but didn't sleep.  He spent the rest of the night thinking ways to get rid of the laughter and how to make it up to Bruce.  He would have to get some of his strength back so he could get rid of it.  He had an idea to do it, but he would have to wait until he was sure he wouldn't be interrupted.  How he would make it up to Bruce..well that would come eventually, but for now he had to focus on the easily fixable.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

He had to be patient. Even though it was hard to be, he had to be patient. That first night when he finally figured out things, all he wanted to do was to go out and fix everything; but even he knew that he couldn't do that right then and there. He had to be patient. He would first build up his strength back up; that included his weight. He had to be in good enough shape to fix things and he wasn't even strong enough to do even the littlest of things. The first week was hard. It was hard to eat everything presented to him, hard to play along and act like he liked it whenever it tasted like dirt to him; hard to not beg for more if it wasn't enough. He also started to quietly work out. He did quiet workouts when people were home, practiced his marshal arts when they weren't. It was excruciatingly hard. He'd get tired very quickly, but after the first week, it started to get easier. Something he had noticed was that he very soon became a creature of habit and started a daily routine:

The first thing he'd do when he'd wake up was to check on his bag. The first thing he had done when Superman had brought him home was to hide his bag. A long wile ago, he had discovered that the bottom of the old wardrobe in his bedroom had a loose board. He had decided to use that old hiding spot of his to put the bag. He didn't think that anyone other than himself knew about it, and he consistently checked it to make sure that it hadn't been messed with.

The second thing he did was what Dr. Thompkins had wanted him to do, rest and build up his strength, although he wasn't exactly doing what she had wanted. As far as he was aware, they had no clue that he was rebuilding himself up to go out again. Then the third thing he always did was always the hardest; when everyone was asleep, he would sneak down into the Batcave and “study”. He had started to sneak out of his bedroom near the end of the first week; when Alfred had brought his meal one time he had secretly placed a small bit of tape on the latch. After that, he had simply took the spare key of his bedroom door off the master key ring. Then after that, he would simply doctor the video footage again like he had done the first time. They had no clue that he would go down into the Batcave. It was hard to not use the training equipment, but they would notice far too quickly if he had. All he would do was access the computer and study what Batman was working on, eventually something would present itself to him but for now it was good to catch back up. After that, he'd recheck his bag and write in his journal. It wasn't a normal kind of journal, he kept track of his weight and stamina and would write down what he learned at the computer and any thought that may have popped into his head. He didn't know why, but he figured he could look back on it if need be for research later. He would then hide it inside the bag, go to bed, and start the process all over again.

Something else he had to be really patient about was the damn laughter. Even though he had his routine, sometimes that stupid laughter would derail things. There was one time when he had been working out...it just wouldn't stop. He thought that perhaps it was Dick that had given him the injection to knock him out...but he just couldn't remember. After that Dr. Thompkins had stayed with him for nearly two days. Stupid laughter. It was doing everything it could to make his life miserable. He had decided what he was going to do about that laughter, but he didn't want do that just quite yet.

All he had to do for now was to be...patient.

 


 

  

Returning to the office wasn't an easy thing to do. Of course there were questions. 'Why gone for so long, Bruce?' 'Where did you go?' 'What did you do?' and so on. Those questions were very easy to answer, however there was some that he wasn't ready for; 'How's Tim?' 'Where's Tim been up to lately?' 'Why isn't he at school?' Bruce had fabricated a good story for Tim's disappearance, that he was out of country attending a finishing school. However there had been Ms. Jean Korbon. Korbon had been at his throat for years now, attempting to uncover some secret of his that she could exploit and ruin his reputation. She had tried several times taking over Wayne Enterprises by this very means, and each time had failed, however like a dog with a bone she kept looking for that Achilles' heel. At best she was a minor annoyance. However, she somehow learned of Tim's “extended” leave and looked into it and apparently had friends over where the school was and had found out that Tim's name had been indeed in the records, but none of the students had ever heard of him.

She had sauntered in that day, interrupting an important meeting and threw the evidence down with the biggest smirk her face could produce. Naturally, Lucius Fox took charge and called security at once and the she became the quiet chuckle of the meeting. Later on that day, however, Lucius got a disturbing e-mail from her. She boasted that she had enough evidence for child protective services to conduct an investigation in the matter and that she had already contacted them.

How could he be so sloppy. An amateur could have found what she had. If he had taken the time to go over the records...but he had Tim to worry about. Dammit. With Korbon's evidence (as he found out about via hacking her own computer) she did indeed have enough valid evidence to prompt an investigation and knowing her usual tactics would post a story in the local tabloids. He did not need this irritating rash at the moment. He had much bigger things to worry about. He glared out of the limos window as Alfred drove him home for the day. Alfred glanced back at Bruce, seeing the ruff waters that lay under a calm surface.

“Dare I ask-”

“No.” The command was barked out. Alfred quietly scoffed at it and continued on:

“well, whatever it may be, it appears to have gotten under your skin quite easily.”

“It's Korbon again,” Bruce sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose.

“Oh her,” Alfred said rolling his eyes, “surely her attempt this time will come to nothing, as usual.”

“Perhaps not this time,” Bruce said resting his head on his hands, “She did some digging around and found a hole in my story about Tim. I was sloppy and she pounced on it as soon as she smelled blood.”

“Is it serious?”

“It could be; she's already contacted child protective services. Her evidence is solid enough for an investigation.”

“Is there anyway you may perhaps, change evidence?”

“Not this time. It's a legitimate enquirer,” Bruce said looking out the window, “a lawful one at that. Korbon has always played strait by the book whenever she has tried to take me down, because she wants the company legally with no strings attached.”

“Hrm...someone like her usually is two-faced in the long run, Master Bruce.”

“I know, but I've never had the need to investigate her, and even if I did it would look very convenient at the time of question.”

“She'd accuse you of mudslinging, despite evidence presented.”

“Right, she'd just say that I paid to have it fabricated, after all that's how she's climbed to power.”

“True, but if child protective services do investigate, how on earth are you going to explain what has truly happened?” Bruce didn't say anything, he sighed out of his nose. He did have one backup plan already in thought witch was the best option to take, but that would require...and explanation on his part.

 


 

Barbara sat up and rubbed her tired eyes. She was trying like mad to catch back up with school but even with the extra time she had now that she quit her daytime job, it was still hard with her night job. It wasn't being Batgirl, far from it. She became Tim's babysitter. However, it seemed...too easy. Tim hardly acted out; did everything that he was told to do, even when it use to get a rise out of him in the past. There was one day that she tested this, she told him that Alfred didn't have time nor did she so he had to clean the bathroom, his most hated of tasks. Instead of trying to get out of it or even doing it later or half-arsed it like usual, he silently stared on it right then and there and cleaned it so well that it rivaled Alfred's cleaning skills. He would just calmly do things, to the point it was kinda creepy. He acted more like a robotic doll than anything. Perhaps it was part of whatever the Joker did to him, some sort of programming that was pounded into him. Just in the way he never protested, never hesitated, did what he was told; it almost seemed fake. Of course there were...episodes, but between them it just seemed way too easy to take care of him.

She still had mulled over the idea of being Batgirl, and in those few times when Tim wasn't a wooden doll he had expressed his concerns about it; albeit once in a very creepy way. The first week he had come home and she had slept over, she had woken up to find herself dressed in her Batgirl costume with him just...looking at her. It freaked her right out, and they started to lock his door all the time rather than just some of the time. He really wasn't the same kid she had grown to love like the little brother she never had. She was gravitating towards retiring as Batgirl though, but to announce it this soon would be very damaging right now. She had to go out at least a few times a week and tell him what had happened or Tim would seem more upset than usual. Dick had to back to Bludhaven and that was a hard week for Tim, even harder for her.

Leslie monitored him diligently; had said that physically he seemed to be making some headway back, but mentally seemed to be...regressing. He wouldn't try to vocally communicate anymore, just point to what he wanted. She theorized that perhaps he had started mentally regressing in age, but when tests were given to him it seemed to say the opposite. She was clearly frustrated; she desperately wanted to take Tim to the staff of Arkham...THAT was laughable. If there was one thing she agreed with Bruce was the fact that the staff of Arkham was incompetent at most times and hardly had any success stories. Then again, once they moved the facility, they seemed to be handling things much better.

She heard the door open and turned to see that Bruce and Alfred had returned home. She smiled and started to gatherer up her books and papers.

“How was he?” Bruce asked.

“Just as quiet as usual; hardly had to poke my head in to check on him. It's weird though,” she said getting up, “it's like he knows I'm coming and is always either standing in the middle of the room or in bed sitting up.” Bruce nodded; those where the same exact spots he would find Tim as well.

“Any phone calls while we were out, Miss Gordon?” Alfred asked.

“Oh yeah, Clark Kent called for you; said that he needed that 'interview' from you soon.” Bruce nodded and reluctantly picked up the phone to call back Kent.

“Thank you for taking the time for all this, Miss Gordon,” Alfred said to her as he walked her out, “I know that some of us may not say it all that often, but we all appreciate you.”

“Thanks Alfred,” she said leaning in and kissing his cheek, “I know.” Alfred waved her goodbye, thankful that even though they were all in a dark place in their lives, at least they could count on one another.

 


 

“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”

“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”

He remembered reading these quotes somewhere...probably school but couldn't remember who said them. That last one was more important right now. He couldn't risk it all now. Not when he was so close to finding it. For the past few nights, JJ had studied Batman's latest cases and there was one that even the Dark Night was having trouble with. It had something to do with human trafficking; it was so well hidden that Batman only just learned about it while looking for Tim...er, that is to say himself. There weren't many clues, but JJ was certain if he solved this case, it would prove that he was still up for the detective work. He poured over what little clues he had quietly printed out and was almost completely absorbed in them. He always had to keep an ear out for that creaky floorboard and footsteps. He had nestled inside the wardrobe...his own little Batcave, looking over the evidence posted up on the walls. The small portable lamp's light was dim, but just bright enough to illuminate the wardrobe. He wrote diligently inside his journal, marking down any clues that had stuck out. Internet printouts of chats he had quietly made while Batman and crew were away and Alfred asleep, underlining any important names.

He wasn't stupid, whoever was doing this trafficking. Apparently he had many, many aliases that lead to different aliases that lead to names of long dead people or stolen identities. It also appeared to be a very small crew...it had to be...the bigger the crew the more likely someone would eventually talk about it. Also, his brain buzzing about it, it seemed that the crew most likely stayed very close to one another, as if they didn't have anyone else to go home to or care about. Also it seemed that the crews needs where meet somehow without them going 'out'. He scribbled fast and furiously into his journal, adding two and two together. He then looked around himself, all the evidence hung up in his little nest. The answer was here somewhere. He looked at the chats then as quickly at police investigations that seemed like they had no connections to one-another at all. His mind was whirling around everything like a dizzying fever. He was close...so close to the answer he just knew it. His eyes daring between chats and signatures...then he saw it. When his eyes had darted between two aliases...it made a logical connection.

He wrote down the names: Robert Pomeroy and Eric Stinney. Those last names were last names of killers...child killers who had killed other kids. Kids...that was the one of the connections. It started to make sense when he looked around him again. They were trafficking kids...for what he didn't know, probably for slaves, be it for sex or other reasons. His mind was racing now, he burst out of the wardrobe faster and louder than he should have, but he was so close he could taste it. The key was in those names...he had seen them in the news papers down in the caves computer. He had to get to the computer...he had to make the connections...he had...to....be...patient. He was too excited, he quickly gathered up his evidence and placed them in his hiding place, but left the journal out. He wrote down his latest thoughts and hid it under his pillow. He started to pace despite himself, the theory was forming perfectly. The dots where lining up perfectly, the ducks quacking in a strait line. If he could only get...and he felt himself forcefully stop with his arm caught on something. He turned and saw that Leslie was sternly looking at him. Whoops. He tired to straiten up for her but she was trying to shush him...oh, now he could hear it. He must have been laughing way too loud or something. It was too late though, now that he was 'caught' he would be given a sedative despite any protest he may give. She wasn't relevant at the moment...nor was the situation, his goal was almost complete. All he had to do was to wait until Batman was out...that's all. He could be patient enough for that.

 


 

Hickory Dickory Dock....

He listened to the clock....

The clock struck one and soon would he...

He had fought it, and he had won. When she gave him that shot, he fought against falling asleep, faking it at first. It wasn't that hard to fight it. He was too excited, like Christmas Eve, you just can't sleep during Christmas Eve. Even as a kid, he always tried to catch Santa in the act...to get an early peak...this was his new Christmas. He got up. He knew exactly what to do. He got his journal, he got the key to the door. He opened it so slowly it took ten minutes to just unlock it. He couldn't screw this up...not now, not when he was so close. If he was caught now, they'd most likely strap his butt down. He paused. He looked hard into the dark, waiting for anything, any sound, any creak of the building.

Nothing.

He walked out of the room, closed the door and gently re-locked it. He put the key in his pajama chest pocket and started his way down. He held his breath between steps, no slip-ups like earlier tonight. He darted into the shadows, even if he didn't need to, he felt like he had too. If he didn't, he could be caught. He made his way to the clock.

Hickory Dickory Dock....

The kid looked at the clock....

The clock struck three fifteen and...uh....well, whatever...

He opened the door and slunk down the steps. He paused midway. Listening. Nothing. Another three steps...nothing still. He stood quietly in the doorway. Nobody. He couldn't wait any more, he sprinted toward the computer and started work right away. Fingers nimbly typed out words and phrases to look up. He opened his journal and look inside. Typed the names, typed his theory out. Looked up newspaper articles matching the names. The computer buzzed nearly as fast as his heart and mind where racing at. He looked up and there it was, a picture of a man. He cross referenced the picture with any-other names, and only one popped up:

William Holloway. Such a common name. He looked up Mr. Holloway. He seemed like your average, run-of-the-mill sort of guy. Early forties, never married...no surviving relatives...no friends.

'I...got....you~.' he thought to himself, feeling his smile stretch a little bigger. He looked up any property or business he may own...huh self employed...heh..heh. He held his breath...not now. He swallowed it down and continued looking...it seemed he owned some property near the docks, not much out there but empty warehouses or it would appear to be.

He wrote down the address. He had to check out that warehouse. There was another building he owned, some old apartments. He wrote that down as well, he'd check both places. He stepped away from the computer and could hardly contain himself. He had done it! He put it all together and solved the jigsaw puzzle! He quickly erased his tracks on the computer and once again looped the video feed, he now had a goal. He would go out tomorrow night. He felt ready. He may not be at his peak but those kids couldn't wait another day. Hell, he'd go out now if it weren't for that sedative Leslie gave him. He went over to the trophy case, pulled out another belt. He also went around and took other equipment that he felt would be needed that wouldn't be missed unless one knew where to look. He went back up to bed. He opened his hiding spot and checked his bag again. He wrote down in his journal, put everything away.

He went to bed. He looked up at the ceiling. Everything was falling into place now. He'd soon past this test. He smiled at the ceiling. Soon, things would be back to normal.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The sudden ringing of the phone jarred Dick from sleep and he mumbled slurred curse words as he tried to pick up the phone without knocking everything off the nightstand.  He finally picked up the receiver and tried to sound more awake.

"Hello?"

"Did I wake you up," asked Bruce. Dick eyed his alarm clock, it glowed 4:17 a.m. in large red numbers.

"Yeah," he said sitting up and stretching his back, "it's alright though, I have to be at work soon anyway," and by soon he meant more like seven a.m. but whatever, he was use to bat-hours anyway, "is something wrong?"  Bruce didn't reply.  This made Dick fully awake; he stood up and leaned on the wall resting his head on his arm.

"Bruce," he asked again, "is something wrong?" The prolonged silence was causing all sorts of scenarios running through his head, each one more gruesome than the last.

"No Dick," he finally said with a sigh, "everything is alright over here so far," Dick couldn't hide the sigh that came with his relief, "I just," and again Bruce went silent.  This was unusual for Bruce; it was if he was trying to find the right words to use.  Dick started to think about what Barbara had told him, so he finally decided to bite the bullet.

"Have you told the League yet?" More silence, but this kind of silence he did recognize.  He could almost see Bruce stiffen up.

"I've...arranged a meeting with them later on today after work," he finally said, "with Clark and Diana and...well," he went silent again.  Dick knew why he was so hesitant to talk about it now, there was no question about that, but there was that part in him that just couldn't help but rub it in some more.

"They're going to be mad, you know that," he said with a small smug smirk, but it quickly faded with a new question, "but why tell them now?" He heard Bruce huff on the other line.

"Korbon's at it again," he said, "she found some holes in my story and has sicked child protective services on me again."

"Oh her," Dick said.  He remembered her all too well; all those years of pestering not only Bruce but himself with her stupid agenda.  He remembered when he had broken his arm when he was 14 as Robin; she tried and tried to get him to say in one form or another that Bruce was the one who had caused it...now that he thought about it, he kinda did cause it.   He sat quietly on the line as well, both men knowing what would happen if she uncovered the truth.

"Oh, I get it," Dick finally said, "you're going to ask the Martian man to pose as Tim for awhile aren't you?  Say everything is all a-ok."  Again he could almost see Bruce stiffening up, but then imagined him slumping down when he heard a tired sigh coming from him.

"Yes." Another long pause.

"So, why call me," he asked, but after a moment's thought he continued "are you worried that he won't do it?" There was no answer.

"Look, I don't know half of what you do with them or how close you are to any of them, " he said trying not to sound like he was jabbing him, "but...I'm sure that they will do what's best for Tim."  He paused, waited for a response. He was just about to hang up the phone when he heard something quiet.  He put the receiver back to his ear and asked:

"What? Say that again?"

"Would you?" Bruce asked quietly again.

"Would I, what?"

"Would you...help if you...were J'onn?" Dick paused. He thought about it and decided to answer truthfully.

"I don't know." And with that he hung up.

 


 

 

Things were going better than he could have hoped for. He had woken up early to make sure he heard the morning breakfast conversations.  He tiptoed as close as he dared to the stairs and had overheard that not only was Bruce going to be at work all day, but he had arranged for a meeting with the Justice League up at the Watch Tower.  That meant not only would Bruce be out of Gotham tonight but Barbara was moving out of her old apartment into a new one so she wouldn't be available tonight as Batgirl as well. It was just too perfect.  He could hardly contain himself as he turned to head back to his room, deciding that now he would move his time table up, as he couldn't really predict when Bruce would return and he wasn't going to just throw caution to the wind with this.

He reentered his room and locked it from the outside just as usual and hid his key within his bag.  He got back into bed; soon Alfred would be bringing his breakfast and his medicine that he wasn't really taking.  It didn't help anyway and he couldn't afford to be groggy tonight.  He kept looking at the door, just waiting for Alfred to come.  He had gotten very good at being patient.  Soon enough he could hear Alfred walking down the hall and inserting the key into the door.  Despite himself, he could feel his hands clench at the sheets, in anticipation or irritation he didn't know.

"Good morning Master Timothy," Alfred said just like every morning, "it's good to see you up and awake this morning."  He set the tray in front of him and lifted the lid.  He looked down at Tim and quietly watched.  It was good to see him finally eat, but it seemed so...forced, just as Miss Gordon would always describe.  He would immediately start to eat, but only one thing at a time.  Usually he would be scolding him for dunking his toast into his orange juice or for stirring everything together into a mush.  Now he would just eat in a rhythm, not going to fast or to slow.  He couldn't even tell if he was enjoying the food or not.  Alfred even prepared some hot chocolate for him as a treat; he wished he hadn't though when Tim picked up the mug and just started to drink it all down without even trying to cool it off.  It had to have burned, but Tim had no reactions to it.  He made a mental note to not bring up extremely hot food anymore.  He watched Tim calmly pick up his medicine and put it into his mouth and drink the orange juice in one go.  He set the glass down and as if like a finished animatronic, stopped moving.

Alfred picked up the tray and looked down at him.  Finally for the first time since he entered the room did Tim make eye contact.  No emotion showed.  Like a doll.  Alfred masked his concerns and asked:

"Is there anything else I could do for you?" Tim blinked and slowly shook his head.  Alfred nodded and said:

"Well if you need anything at all, just call out or ring the bell," he said walking out the door, "I'll be here all day." And with that he left him alone.  JJ sighed and spat out the medicine that he had hidden under his tongue and pulled out from his nightstand an envelope he kept all his untaken pills and put them inside.  He licked the roof of his mouth only out of reaction to the burning that he sill felt there.  He looked at the time...still only nine in the morning.  He still had well over twelve hours to wait.  He decided to work out a little and then get some sleep and he also had to make sure that he had everything ready for tonight.  He quietly went over the plan over and over again in his head.

It had to go without any hitches.

 


 

 

It was tough, but his patience was about to pay off.  He had spent most of the day studying his notes and mentally and physically getting ready and soon it was almost time for phase one.  He looked out the window, sunset was getting close now and...wait.  What was that?  He looked down and could see a car driving up.  He pressed his face to the window, wishing he could hear out of it but as it was locked there wasn't much he could do without breaking the glass . He saw a figure step out of the car...Dr. Tompkins.  He could spot her a mile away.  What was she doing here?  She wasn't due to come for another day or two.  He ran over to where he kept his key and quietly opened the door in time to listen.

"...and I just didn't know what else to do but to call for you Leslie."

"It's alright Alfred, I had a free night tonight so I'll stay with him tonight and monitor him.  Perhaps the medicine..." He locked and closed the door again.  This wasn't good. Why would Alfred call Leslie?  Hadn't he been good?  He did everything expected of him, never acted out, so why call?  This was bad.  Now Leslie would spend the night watching him and writing notes and would want to talk to him...he didn't have time to deal with this.  He had to think quickly.  He had to get things ready now rather than later.  He opened his nightstand drawer and pulled out the envelope and picked out certain pills that he knew were sleep aid pills.  He walked over to his desk and pulled out another envelope and a blank piece of paper and a paperweight made of glass.  He used the paperweight to crush the pills up into a powder on top of the paper and poured the powder into the envelope.  He put the envelope inside his chest pocket and disposed of the paper and put the paperweight back on the shelf, just in time for Leslie to walk in.  'That was close.' he thought.

"Hello Tim," she said kindly as usual, "how are you today?"  She always asked this, why did she always ask this he thought, it's not like he could answer her.  He nodded at her and pulled some more paper out and a pencil, knowing she was wanting to talk.

"Tim," she said to him, "instead of notes, why don't we try just some yes and no questions.  Wouldn't that be easier for you?"  He was looking at her but then could hear the paper crumple in his hand and pencil break.  He looked down at them and quickly put them on the desk.  As he walked over to the chairs he could see that Leslie was writing down what just happened.  Ugh.  This annoyance he didn't need right now.

"Are you feeling angry today Tim?" she asked him.  He shook his head, no he wasn't angry...annoyed was more like it.  He could kinda hear her talk some more, but he just wasn't listening...he had to distract her somehow.  He looked at the time.  He should be leaving soon or his plan would be ruined.  There was only one thing he could do.  He looked at her and held up his hand.  She stopped talking and quietly listened to him.  He then got up and decided how to distract her just long enough.  He walked over to the night stand and opened up his hiding spot and got out his bag.  He dug out the pictures and carefully straitened them up and walked back over to her.  He could see her eyeing the pictures, she wanted to see them.  She was playing right into his hands.

"What are those Tim," she asked, "may I see them?"  She extended her hand toward him.  He pulled them back and turned away.  He was teasing her now...he had to make her move away from the chair.  He could hear her stand up and put her hand on his shoulder.

"Please Tim," she said gently, "if you are ready to share this with me, let me see and help me understand."  He turned back to her and handed the pictures over.  She looked at the first one and he saw her eyes widen.  She quickly picked up her clipboard and walked over to his desk to start writing things down.  Perfect. His heart started to race, could feel the hairs on his neck prick up.  He quietly moved over to her bag and gently opened it.  Inside were all sorts of toys.  He could feel his grin widen when he saw it.  He picked it up, his hands shaking.  Why was he so nervous?  He could hear her mumble to herself as she saw only some of the tortures of what he had gone through...completely absorbed into them.  She didn't even hear him sneak up on her.  She suddenly stopped and rubbed her fingers together and looked down on the desk...the powder...he must of spilled some of it.  He had to act quickly.  He raised the syringe and covered her mouth while he stabbed it right into her jugular and pushed the plunger.  She tried to cry out and pull his hand off her mouth while blindly trying to grab what was in her neck but all too soon fell asleep.  He suddenly started to panic.  What if it was the wrong thing he gave her?  What if it...he looked her over.  She was asleep, still breathing.  Oh man.  He started to shake and sweat and swallowed hard.  He...he felt...he felt great!  He wasn't sure why he felt so great but in a way he didn't like it.  He had to hurry now though...no going back.

He picked her up and gently put her into the bed and tucked her in.  He gathered up the pictures and re-hid them into the bag...now he had to re-hide it, now that she knew...but then again, who cares.  It'll be over soon.  Still...she did deserve to know why he did it, he quickly wrote down in a note what he was going to do...he had to let her know that it would all be okay.  It also kinda felt good to let someone else know.  He didn't feel so alone now.  He reached into the doctor bag and gathered some useful things he would need later tonight and grabbed another syringe that had more sedative in it...this worked out better than his plan to drug Alfred with the sleeping pills.  He took out the envelope and discarded it into the garbage bin and walked out of the room, locking it behind him.

He felt strangely calm for all this...like he had done this a million times before.  Part of him felt really bad about this though, but the other half reasoned that this is how they had been treating him for the past few weeks so fair is fair.  His heart was racing...he knew this feeling but just didn't quite remember what it was.

He saw Alfred sitting in the living room watching an old movie.  He knew better than to just walk up...but for some strange reason he just walked up to Alfred's chair as if he was just walking around like normal...wasn't about to stab him with a needle.  Alfred started to turn his head but was too late to react.  Again JJ put his hand over the mouth and stabbed even harder than last time into the neck.  He could hear it then...he could hear himself giggling.  Alfred looked at him through the corners of his eyes, they were full of fear and confusion.  JJ watched him slip into sleep.  He picked up the remote and lowered the volume of the television.  He propped the easy chair back and put a pillow behind Alfred's head and put a blanket over him.  He looked like he just fell asleep watching movies...it would have been better if he had stuck with the original plan but this was quicker.  He now had the house to himself.  He ran into Alfred's room; sometime ago he had learned that Alfred had hidden his suit inside his room but hadn't gotten rid of it on Leslie's orders.  He gathered what he wanted from it and ran back towards the stairs.  He ran back towards his room and went to go in but forgot that he had re-locked it and had slammed into the door, he laughed it off and opened it back up and went inside.  He changed out of his pajamas and started to dress himself up.  He put on everything of the purple suit save the coat.  That would get in the way if he put that on, too restrictive.  He put on his old Robin boots, surprisingly he still fit into them, perhaps it was because of the flexibility of the fabric?  He also put on his Robin gloves, much better grip than the dress gloves.  He then put on the belt, it fit better than it did before but not as it once did. At least it would stay on him this time. He pulled out the old Robin mask that he had put into his pocket all those weeks ago...he looked down at it...no, he didn't deserve to put it on just yet.  He put it back into the vest pocket for moral support at the very least.

He took a look into the mirror and corrected his hair...he looked like a weird hybrid of Robin and Joker.  Oh well, at least his hair wasn't in that stylized Joker hairdo, but like how Robin would have worn his hair.  He smiled at the reflection, he finally knew what emotion he was feeling.

Happiness.

 


 

 

"Look all I'm saying is that Bats has been ultra broody as of late...then suddenly he calls us all up for a super secret meeting," Flash said to John, "I'm telling you GL, something had to have gone ultra bad in his life to be like this."

"We'll know soon enough Flash," John said sitting down in his chair at the meeting room, "just keep your tights on and slow down."

"I can't help but to feel curious myself," said Diana, "he has been very quiet as of late."

"What ever it was," said Shayera adjusting her wings, "it must have been very important to him."

"What do you think J'onn?" Wonder Woman asked The Martian Manhunter, but he seemed to be deep within thought. He looked around and finally said:

"I must admit, I was curious one day and although I didn't read his mind, I read his emotions...all I could feel was pain and sadness. Whatever happened, Flash is right...it must have been something terrible." The group quietly thought about what was exactly going on. However they didn't have to think long about it. Superman and Batman both walked in.

"Thank you all for coming here," Superman said warmly but unusually flat, "I think I speak for everyone here that, as friends, we've all been concerned for our good friend Bruce, and..."

"What is this a brooding intervention or something?" Flash interrupted.  Superman shot him a glare that made him sink back into his chair.

"No Wally, it isn't," he said calmly, "look...this isn't going to be easy for any of us.  Look, why don't we all be nice and quiet," he said looking sternly at Flash, "for Bruce.  Believe me, this isn't going to be easy for him."  Superman then sat down and calmly folded his hands.  They all turned towards Batman, who was still standing in the door way.  Bruce looked hard at them...this was going to be one of the hardest things he ever had to do; he closed the door and started from the beginning.

 

 

This felt so good; so right. JJ was once again running on rooftops and swinging around from his grapple hook. Oh, how he had missed this! He had nearly forgotten how it felt to swing around, to stand on the side of a building then jump off while doing somersaults and then landing with a roll just to continue on like nothing happened.  Parkour at it's finest.  He couldn't help the laughter that came out, true joyful laughter for the first time in months.  He felt like himself again.  THIS is what he needed, not to be locked up in his room, not medicines or quote-unquote talking about what had happened; all he needed was a little freedom.

He stopped at the edge of the building and looked down.  He could see the apartments now, only about two blocks away.  He pulled out his pocket binoculars and looked down at the entrance.  It looked like your average run-of-the-mill apartments for this neighborhood, but as he looked at the windows did he start to put two and two together.  He had once read on the chats that he had made with a pedophile that the color and position of window drapes mattered.  Blue for boys, pink or red for girls; open meant that the room was 'open' closed meant that it was 'in use'.  He looked at the window drapes.  Most of them were white but the fourth level...blue and pink.  Some open...some closed.  He could feel anger start to swell up in his chest.  'Stay focus,' he told himself, 'Don't let emotions get you tonight, let's go fix this place up and then to the docks.'

He shot the grapple at the corner of a building and swung closer to it then after retracting it, shot it at the apartments themselves.  He landed near a open window near the shadowed side of the building and looked inside.  It was dimly lit, not much inside save the bed, nightstand, couch and tv.  He looked around.  Nobody was in the room, however he could hear noises coming from the room next door...the drapes were closed.  He fought the urge to break in and attack.  Have to do this quietly.  He took out his glass cutter and made a small hole in the glass and opened the window.  As he climbed in, he could instantly smell alcohol and drugs in the air.  He didn't even want to think what had happened in this room.  He crept to the door and quietly opened it, looking down the halls.  It was actually fairly nice looking outside the rooms, but it was all a front.  He closed the door behind him and passed several doors on his way to the stairs, trying to block out the sounds that came out of some of them.

He made his way down the stairs, looked around for any guards or workers or anyone else for that matter...there was plenty of activity on third, second and first floors but nothing like what was going on upstairs.  He stuck to the shadows...had to make his way to the main desk somehow, perhaps the basement; they had to keep records somewhere for this place.  He finally came up to the main lobby...nobody was in there.  Strange.  Not even a guard to watch the place?  He quickly made his was to the desk and started to look through paper work and other things when he saw tucked away in a corner a little button.  It didn't look like a panic button...those were red and more accessible...this one was tucked far away and in a weird spot.  He went to touch the button when he heard a door open.  He tucked himself deep within the service desk and stayed still.  He looked up at the desk clerk, he didn't look like someone that particularly would do this kind of thing...more like a low level street thug in a cheap suit.  His train of though was broken when he heard another door open up, most likely the main door of the lobby.  The desk clerk moved closer to him and asked:

"Can I help you?"

"I'm here to see someone," the man said, he sounded weird...slightly high pitched and whiny...creepy.

"May I ask who, Sir?" the doorman said, but he seemed to know what was already going on.

"Mr. Medina."

"Of course sir," the desk clerk pressed the button, a hidden door opened up behind him, "please follow me."  The two men entered the door and he could hear the door of the lobby lock remotely.  He waited till the door had closed and counted to twenty, then he pressed the button again and entered the mystery door for himself.  He quietly descended the sloping hall, could hear some sort of talking.  Old tools and other equipment was stored down here...more of a rat hole than the rest of the building.  He wouldn't have guessed that this hallway belonged to the same building.  He pulled out from his belt a micro recorder and started to record the audio at least.

"So sir," he could hear the desk clerk, "what can I get for you this evening?"

"Well..um," the other man muttered, he seemed nervous, "well..I-I"

"Don't worry sir," the clerk said cheerfully, "we are one-hundred percent discrete and are willing to meet any of our client's needs."

"O-One-hundred percent," the man stumbled out, "can you guarantee it?"  JJ could smell the sweat coming off the high-pitched man.  He made his way and pointed the micro recorder's camera around the bend of the room, luckily for him the men were facing away from the door.  He looked down at the small monitor he had and while keeping an eye and ear out for others, he quietly listened to the conversation.

"Sir, we pride ourselves here about being discreet and our dependency.  We've been in operation for decades, even the Big o' Bat doesn't even know we exist.  We've served politicians, businessmen and all have had our guaranteed satisfaction."

"Well, alright I'll buy then."  the man said...he was much fatter and older than JJ would have figured.  Long greasy hair...large white pimples...sandals with socks...wow.  The fat man pulled out of his coat pocket a large wad of cash and handed it to the clerk.  The clerk placed the money on a counter machine and it nimbly counted out eight thousand dollars.

"Oh," said the clerk with a smile, "you have enough money here for our gold plan."

"Gold plan?"

"In our gold plan," said the clerk, "you have your choice of anyone here or anyone you may know off the street, and you have access to our first time merchandise."

"First time?"

"It means that no one's fucked them yet sir." said the clerk crudely.

"...Oh."

"Part of the gold plan as well is, you get access to one of our rooms for three days strait," said the clerk, "however I must warn you that if you're into the more...hard core kind of stuff...disposal of merchandise costs extra."  This was really heavy stuff for JJ to listen to.  It was starting to make his head swim with anger.  How could these guys have been in operation for so long?  The man was starting to show the fat man some pictures of the "merchandise".

"Do you have any...ones that won't struggle?" JJ fought back a laugh.

"Well, that depends, this section here," said the man pointing to a page, "have had their legs and arms cut off, but if you're not into that sort of thing, we have rooms with chains and ropes."

The fat man looked over the pictures carefully, then he asked:

"Do you cater to fetishes?"

"Pick your poison," said the clerk with a smirk, "just name it and we'll set it up for you."  The man thought about it and then asked:

"Do you do clowns?" A loud bark of a laugh broke out of him, he didn't even feel it build up.  He slapped a hand to his mouth but it was too late.

"What the Hell was that?" the clerk asked.  JJ rounded the corner and jumped on top of the clerk and with a swift blow to the temple knocked him out and just before the man began to collapse he swung his leg at the fat man's head, knocking him out as well.  He somersaulted away from them, breathing hard from the adrenaline rush.  That...didn't go according to plan but it did the trick well enough.  He looked down at the two and handcuffed them together.  He then picked up the book and was shocked and enraged at what he saw.  Not only were there full grown adults here but children as young as two in here.  He put the book down and pulled out what looked like the clientele list.  Just as the clerk had said, he read some important names here....including his Principal!  Sick!  Then he looked at the figures again...apparently this place ran off of bribes more than just street pedophiles.  If a important person had come here, they would film the entire thing and then black mail them for years.  He closed the book.  He had to catch this dirt bag tonight.  He had to think of a way to get the police here...without hurting any of the innocent people who lived here.  He picked up the books and any other important documents and knew what to do.  He looked down at the clerk...and smiled.

 


 

 

"Thanks for coming Commissioner," said the fire chief, "I know you've been busy and all, but given the situation,"

"Thanks Mike," Gordon said walking with him, trying to avoid the crowds of firemen and paramedics, "was there anyone hurt from the fire?"

"That's just it," he said, "the fires were set in places that would extinguish fairly quickly, but the forth floor had been sealed off."

"Sealed off?"

"Yeah...and some freaky shit had gone up in there Jim," he said, "I'm telling you, thirty years I've been a firefighter...and this stuff is going to give me nightmares.  We also spotted that guy," he said pointing to the desk clerk who was being placed into a ambulance, "hanging upside down with this tied to him."  He handed Jim books and papers, Jim opened a page of the book and then quickly closed it.

"What do you make of it," the Fire chief asked.  Jim looked up at the building then looked down at the books.  He didn't say anything.

 


  

It was just as he figured it would have been like.  After he had finished telling them all what had happened and what he wanted of John, they all exploded and demanded an explanation.  Unsurprisingly, Wally was the most vocal and most upset about the entire thing.  Wally always had a soft spot for children and he was taking this very personally.  He would swing from wanting to pound his head into the ground to wanting to go visit Tim right then and there.  John and Diana where having an argument that he couldn't hear over Shayera yelling at Wally to calm down and....

"Enough!"  The all turned towards J'onn J'onzz who had barked out the command.  He quietly surveyed the group and finally said:

"I too once had a family, and I know the pain and sorrow of what it is like to not know if they are alive or dead," he looked over at them, watched them settle down and try to understand his point, "and I would have done everything in my power in order to find them.  That is why I don't understand why you did not summon us, Bruce," he said giving the man a hard look, "I don't understand why you would push us away when you needed us the most.  I don't expect an answer tonight or even tomorrow, but know this," his look softened and he walked over to Bruce and placed a hand on his shoulders, "I will do everything in my power to help you and your son."  Bruce nodded respectfully.

"Hey you just can't sweep the fact under the rug that he," Wally started up again.

"Listen," Superman boomed in, "look, I know how you all feel.  I was upset as well when I first heard about it...but for now we need to discuss other, more important matters."

"You don't need too," Bruce said to him, "as of right now I quit.  I am officially resigning from the Justice League."  He turned around and left the meeting room.

"No, Bruce," said Superman, "that's not what I..." J'onn placed a hand on his shoulders.

"Let him go Superman," he said calmly, "this was harder for him than you could imagine."

"You read his mind," Superman said.  J'onn looked at him, and slowly said:

"Yes.  Even though I promised I wouldn't, I had to know what he truly felt."

"So...now what," Green Lantern said, "you know...this is pretty heavy stuff.  Are we honestly going to go along with a murder cover-up?"

"Now hold on," Superman said, "nobody said anything about a murder cover-up."

"But that is what this is," Shayera said turning to him, "no mater how you look at this...this is one way or another is a cover-up.  You heard what Bruce wants John to do.  He wants him to keep up the lie that Tim is perfectly fine; apparently from what Bruce had described seems to be the exact opposite."  Superman looked around at them.  He sighed and sat back down.

"So...this is going to be a long meeting, isn't it?"

 


 

 

As he rode his custom motorbike towards the harbor, JJ mulled on what had happened back at the apartments.  As he had stared down at the man, a million thoughts had bounced inside his head while anger formed deep within his chest.  An old thought of his back from the days of scratching at the walls had come back, on what to do with bad guys.  Obviously what was happening wasn't stopping them from continuing their life of crime, but killing them wasn't the answer either.  No.  Killing was bad.  It was wrong to kill people, he had been wrong.  He was trying to make up for that mistake.  He had to figure out a way to keep these scumbags from coming back without killing them.  The answer jumped out of his head and found its way to his arms.  He had picked up a old crowbar that had been sitting near the tools in the hallway...found the man's pocket knife...then guided by anger and a sudden uncontrollable urge to break something... He tired to recall how many times he hit the man, but it almost didn't matter  After all he didn't hit him in any vital areas...just his joints.  He could feel the crowbar tucked into his belt behind his back...it felt right, like it was a missing piece of his belt; the pocket knife tucked away in one of the vest pockets.  He could feel his mouth stretch further into a grin, could feel laughter forming inside.  He swallowed it down, and shook his head. 'No', he tried to convince himself, 'don't enjoy it.'  He shouldn't enjoy hurting anyone...but hadn't he in the past?  Hadn't he gotten a thrill taking down people older and larger than himself, laughing and joking all the while?  He felt nauseated and his stomach flipped.  He had to keep going.  No turning back now.  He revved the bike and speed off faster to the docks.

 


 

 

He had scouted the area...yep according to the paperwork he had found, there were only about twenty men who worked in this operation; one was now down.  That meant that there were at least nineteen men here....that was a lot of men to go through.  The warehouse obviously was the main hub of the operation.  They could ship out or receive people quietly this way...even dispose of them here.  He counted the entrance and exits, only about four.  He counted the men as he went quietly along, full ninja mode.  As soon as he had eighteen men counted, he figured that Mr. Big Nineteen was in his little office.  He had them all listed...he knew the positions...it was time.

He went to the outer guards and with the fluidly and grace that would have made Batman proud, he knocked out the guards without so much a sound.  He then dragged the men into the dark....next thing he knew was taking down another man.  His memory wasn't working so good now.  He shook his head.  No, not now.  He couldn't afford this, he had to stay focused.  He went back up to the rafters and as if his wish was granted for a clear head, he suddenly felt weak and shaky at what was happening.  He cursed himself, he couldn't afford to freak out now.  He felt weird.  Suddenly he heard some men and kicked himself back into Robin mode.

'Don't mess up the test,' he told himself, 'you only have one shot at it.' He was about to pounce on the men when he felt it again..no..no not now!  He jumped down and performed the take down moves without flaw...save that damn laughter.

"What was that?"

"Come on let's check it out."

JJ hid into the shadows again.  That damn, stupid laughter.  He could feel it like a maggot.  He tried to contain it...but it just wouldn't stop.  He held his breath...trying to stay quiet.  He could hear the men coming closer, he wasn't even sure how many he had taken down now...five maybe?  That still left over a dozen men.  He felt himself start to panic.  He then breathed in and told himself:

'Remember your training and what you have to do, you can do this.'  He leaped out and with a loud battle cry took down one man with a swift grab of the shoulder with the hook of the crowbar and a kick to the back of the head.  He then jumped down and threw smoke bombs down to give himself cover.  The men panicked and started to cough, shooting blindly, exactly what he wanted them to do.  He ran throughout the smoke and started to take them out one by one.  His vision started to tunnel, focused on the task at hand.  He was performing the dance beautifully...he could swear that he heard the music playing in the background.  He kicked and spun with the music...what was it called...the corpse waltz?  He knew he had heard it before.  Oh yeah...Danse Macabre Camille Saint-Saëns...corpse waltz was easier to remember.  He started to hum with it, even dance a little with it.  He suddenly remembered, duh you're in a fight stupid!  He stopped spinning and looked around...all down...new location.

'Oh boy don't loose grip on reality bird brain,' he thought to himself.  He looked around.  Counted eight men.  Five to go.  He ran towards where the office should be, hoping his stupid dancing hadn't let them get away.  His head was starting to swim...he shook it, trying to make the sloshing stop.  He suddenly felt himself being grabbed, arms pinned.  He was aware that someone was talking...it didn't matter because he broke out of the hold and without thought began to attack again.  He felt something hit his head, it sent him into a state of rage, he would not fail this test.  He had to pass.  He would do anything as long as he passed.

He looked around...he somehow knew only one man was left and that he was running scared...that...pleased him.  He could see the man, Mr. Holloway running scared down the stairs, trying to get out.  He smiled.  He started clicking the crowbar on the railing.  He then jumped down after the man...but walked after him.  He was feeling...a sense of control.  He was in total control of this.  He heard the man trip; saw him as he turned the corner.  Holloway had run into the bathrooms, a dead end.  He struggled to get up but before he could, JJ swung the crowbar like a baseball bat right onto his raised knee.  The man cried out in pain.  Wimp.  The man turned to look at him and said something, but he backhanded him in the face with the crowbar, his glasses flying to some corner of the room.  He hated people looking at him.  He felt a rage boiling out of him, how could someone like this get away with such bad things for so long...to take someone from their home and use them and use them until nothing was left,

*Thump*

it wasn't fair,

*Thump*

why wasn't life fair,

*Crack*

why,

*Ding*.....~Ding, dong, ding, dong...Christmas bells are ring-ing!~ The world was a blur and so was his thoughts.  He could hear the laughter echoing off the bathroom walls, he didn't care, he let it scream out.  Then it stopped for a moment...like he was swallowing it back down.  He found himself suddenly out of breath and his legs gave out, forcing him down onto his knees looking down at the ground near the man.  Hands sprawled on the ground near the pocket knife, his arms trying to keep himself up.  Another skip in time?  He saw something fall from his face...he looked down at it and saw it was foam.  Foam and drool.  He looked over at the man...oh God what had he done to him....

His arms and legs were all bending at funny places...his fingers as well.  Cuts all over the man, especially his face and by his mouth...he had a Glasgow smile now. The man was still alive...when he saw him look at him he started to scream anew. JJ stood up and backed away from him and could see that as the man screamed...he had no tongue.  He bolted from the bathroom, the laughter breaking out again, this time laughing at him.  He ran as fast as his legs would allow him.  He found his bike and before he could get on he felt sick.  He sank near the bike and could feel himself trying to dry-heave.  He had not meant to go that far.  When he felt like he had to stop criminals...he never imagined on...mutilating them.  He felt sick in his gut again.  He felt angry, it was that damn laughter's fault.  Well...he'd show it.  This was probably the hardest part, phase three.  He looked at the time.  He still had enough time to go back to the cave.  He jumped on the bike and speed off.  As he rode off...he could swear he heard police sirens behind him. Good.  Gordon was a smart man, he knew he'd figure it out as well.  They'd look after the man that he...he swallowed another laugh and rode faster.

 


  

He got back to the cave.  He didn't even prop up the bike, just let it fall down.  He had to hurry.  He pulled off his gloves, ignored the blood still on them.  He washed his hands carefully.  Don't think about it.  He set everything up, got the mirror in place.  Don't think about it.  He pulled out the glass jar, set it next to him.  He felt scared, but he tried to not think about it...however it didn't work.  He felt scared and confused.  Scared of himself.  He had to fix that.  He looked down to unbutton his vest, ignored the blood splattered all over it.  He pulled out what he had taken from Leslie's bag, set them aside.  He could feel himself shake with fear...felt sick inside.  He tried staying calm for this, he lied down on the stretcher and closed his eyes.  He finished unbuttoning the vest and shirt.  He could feel his hands shake as he searched.  He found something inside.  That had to be it.  He sat back up, hand still resting on his abdomen so he wouldn't loose the spot.  He picked up the scalpel.  Oh boy was he really about to do this?  He laid back down and looked in the mirror.  He closed his eyes.

'Just pretend it isn't you.  It's...it's someone else.  You have to do this.'

He pressed down, heard himself quietly yelp.  His stomach clenched up, knowing it was under attack.  He forced his arm to cut deeper.  The pain was so familiar to him. He looked up at the mirror, the cut was big enough.  He then took his left hand and...oh man it felt so wrong!  He stayed quiet though.  He could be proud in that.  He looked up at the mirror but tears were forming in his eyes blocking his view.  He tired finding it again...but oh man it felt so weird and hurt badly.  This was so wrong on so many levels.  He found it...the hard thing.  There it was...that damn laughter...trying to slip away.  He could hardly control his shaking arms, sweat beading on his forehead dripped down and irritated him.  

'You partially deserve this you know', he told himself, 'man up and take it.' He raised his right arm with scalpel in hand and was just about to enter it when he heard someone yelling at him.  He had to finish, now.  He plunged in, didn't care how much it hurt, cut and pulled it out.  He sat up and quickly threw the laughter inside the jar.  He closed the lid on it.  He did it!  He had seconds to spare but he did it!  He laid back and saw that Leslie had recovered very nicely from being knocked out.  He was aware she was yelling at him and at what he assumed to be Alfred.  He wasn't scared anymore.  He had fixed himself.  Everything was going to be okay now.  He grabbed her hand and patted it, forgetting about the blood on them.  He sat up a little way to point and show her that he did it, for her not to worry anymore.  He looked at the jar as she did...and he didn't feel so happy anymore...in fact he was more scared now than ever.

There was a tongue inside the jar.

 

 

Chapter Text

Once again, he was breaking the speed limit.  Going even faster than he had the last time; he had to be going at least a hundred and ten miles per hour.  He didn’t know, he wasn’t even going to look.  Dick tried his best to push all thoughts to the side and concentrate on the road.  At these speeds he could easily kill himself and someone else, but that didn’t matter right now.  What did was just getting there faster.  When he answered the call and the only thing that Leslie would say was ‘he got out’ and ‘it was bad’, he told her he would be there as soon as he could.  Lately he was seriously considering getting himself a aircraft of some kind, especially if this sort of thing was going to be common.

Amazingly he had avoided any cops seeing him speed along the highway, and was finally driving up to Wayne Manor again.  This place, all it seemed to do is warp whoever stepped inside it.  He was beginning to hate coming here.  Flying up the steps and charging his way in, he found the place to not only look cold, but feel cold.  He ran to the clock and then ran down the flight of stairs...it was hard coming down here.  He should be going up, not down.  Tim’s room was on the third floor.  That’s where he should be, not down here.  He finally entered the cave and could see Leslie still cleaning up the medical bay.  The first words that should have come out was ‘what’s wrong’ or ‘how is he’ or even ‘are you doing alright’, but the first thing that fell out was:

“Where’s Bruce, why isn’t he here?”

“For all I know, he’s still up with the Justice League,” she said not even turning her head towards him, almost like she knew that was going to be the first thing said, still wiping down the counter, “he went up to see if they could help in anyway.”

“I know; He called me this morning about it.  Better late then never I suppose,” he mumbled under his breath.  Leslie pretended not to have heard that.

“Did you try to call Bruce?”

“I don’t know the Leagues line,” she said, “I called Barbara and I believe she at least attempted to make contact with him.”

“Where’s Tim,” he asked more quietly, “he’s not up in his room, is he?”  Leslie hesitated for a moment, looked up at nothing and then said,

“No, given the situation, I put him down in the cell.”  Dick looked at her, whatever had happened it was as she said, bad.  He sighed and asked:

“What exactly happened?”

“Well for starters,” she said showing him her neck wound, “he rendered me and Alfred unconscious using my very own supplies from my medical bag, then after that I don’t know exactly what happened.  He did leave me this note though,” she said handing him the note Tim had written for her. He opened up the letter and read:

 

‘Leslie,

 

Sorry I had to knock you out like that, I really wasn’t planning on you being here.  You did make things a little quicker with your bag, so thanks for that for what it’s worth.

I know you don’t understand, but I do. I know everyone thinks I’m sick, but there is only one thing really wrong with me.  The laugh.  Don’t worry though, I’m taking it out after the test Bruce wants me to do.

I have to go out and pass this test now, so once you wake up, I’ll give it to you so you can do whatever doctors do with stuff.

 

JJ

P.S. Tell Alfred sorry for me as well, could you? K thanks.’

 

“What does he mean?  Test, what test,” Dick said after reading the note, “and what does he mean by ‘taking it out’?"  He said the last part as if he had some sick idea what it was. Leslie sunk in her skin and said:

“I guess we woke up ‘early’ or he came home ‘late’, either way when Alfred and I woke up we headed towards the cave.  When we arrived, Tim was in the middle of...” She took a breath in, like she was trying to forget what she saw, “he had cut himself open and was searching around in his abdomen.  When he saw us, he tried to hurry up and managed to cut his stomach open and pulled this out,” She said pointing to a glass jar.  Dick walked over to it and looked at what was inside.  Gross.

“How the Hell...” he said looking to her, she only shook her head in response.

“I don’t know if I even want to know how...that got in there.  Anyway, I suppose any fight that was in him was gone and he allowed me to put him under anesthetic to patch up what he did.”  Dick closed his eyes and rubbed them in frustration.  He walked away from her a little way.

“I told him,” she finally said out loud, mostly to herself, “I told him that boy needed to be put in a hospital.  Now look what’s happened.  He’ll have no choice now...I just hope to God he hasn’t killed anyone.”

“No,” Dick said turning to her, “no I don’t think Tim would do that.”  Leslie looked hard at him, and took the note from him and pointed to the signature on it.

“Does it read ‘Tim’ right here?  No, it doesn’t.  He doesn’t associate himself to 'Tim' anymore, he...” Dick raised his hand up.

“That’s enough, please.  That’s...just enough for now,” he said, exhausted from just the news of what happened.  Leslie did stop; just folded the note up and put it back into her pocket.

“I’m going down to talk to him,” he said walking over towards the elevator, “I let you know if he needs anything.”

“Don’t go in the cell Dick,” she said to him, “I don’t know how he’ll react.”

“You talk about him like he was some rabid animal,” he said not covering up annoyance, “like you’ve given up on him.”

“Believe me Dick,” she said sadly as the doors closed, “I haven’t given up. I’m just taking precautions.”

 


 

 

He had ran as fast as he could go.  At first he thought maybe it was just some random bum from the streets had somehow gotten in.  Then he thought it was the cops.  That would have been a stretch though, most of the cops were either bribed into turning a blind eye or hadn’t a clue what was going on.  Then one of the men said it was probably the Bat.  He had been worried when that was said, however now he wished it was the Bat.  He had looked down at this...well he didn’t know what to think of it first.  The way the kid moved he thought it could have been Robin.  He had seen some of the news film of the kid, what little there was of him and Batman.  However the kid...there was no mistake.  Had he somehow made the Joker mad?  Had he somehow stepped on the clowns' toes without realizing it?  It didn’t make sense though, this wasn’t like the Joker at all.  Everyone in the criminal underworld knew that the Joker loved attention.  He just wouldn’t just attack; he’d demand money first...then attack.

It didn’t matter now, all he knew was that his men that had been loyal for almost twenty years were falling hard and fast.  He did catch one last glimpse of the kid on top of one of his best men, slicing his cheeks open.  Glasgow smiles.  He was giving his men fucking Glasgow smiles.  This wasn’t Robin.  He panicked and ran.  He pushed past his men and ran down the walkway.  Trying to make it out before the kid found him.  He ran in a blind panic after he heard the tapping and the giggling.  He looked back; the kid was walking towards him, like he hadn’t a care in the world.

He stumbled on his steps when he realized he made a wrong turn and ran into the restroom.  He tried to get up, tried to think of what would be the best way to get past the kid, but that thought stopped when he felt his knee cap snap in two.  He cried out and clutched at his leg.  He hadn’t felt pain like this in his whole life, he looked up at the kid.  He didn’t think about age, or how he looked, all he could think about was how to talk his way out of this situation.  Somehow survive this.

 


 

  

“Okay, okay I get it already,” Holloway said in between gritted teeth, “He found out so he wants a cut of the deal.  H-How’s about...70/30...thirty for me and...”

*thwack*

JJ wasn’t interested in what he had to say, what did interest him for a few seconds is the tooth that had skipped across the tile and sat spinning around for a moment.  Mr. Holloway was starting to whine about that last hit, catching his attention again.  The next few moments were as if he was on autopilot, aware yet not.  He hit in calculated places.  He wanted him to not only hurt, but hurt forever.  Hurt for everyone he had ever hurt, everyone he had ever killed, directly or not.  He broke his knees, he broke his ankles.  Broke ribs, broke elbows.  He had stepped on Mr. Holloways’ wrists and broke the individual fingers one at a time.  He heard the crowbar drop from his hand, could feel a new item in it’s place.  He leaned in close to Mr. Holloway and started to either slash quick strokes, or run the blade as slow as he pleased on whatever surface of his skin suited his fancy.  He...remembered which kind hurt the worst.

“For the love of GOD, STOP!” Mr. Holloway bellowed out.  It was really the first thing he had really payed attention to him, so he politely granted his request.  Holloway was shaking, breathing hard and looked up at him with full desperation and pain in his eyes.  For a moment, he kinda felt sorry for him...kinda.

“L-Look,” he said as clearly as he could with a broken jaw, trying to pick his words carefully, “I-I-I don’t know...know why he’s making you do this.  Just...” he laid his head down, what little strength he had left was failing him, “Tell me.  Tell me why.”

That, for one reason or another, angered him.  He WANTED to tell him.  He wanted to tell him what a slime ball he was.  He was sick of being mute, not being able to communicate to anyone without a pen and paper.  He looked down at him, Holloway attempted desperately to back away.  He knew he said something wrong, and that there was no reasoning with this...thing.  He knelt down and grabbed Holloway’s face, could feel the bone shift a little on the right side.  He slashed absentmindedly at his face, as he continued his train of angry thought.  He then looked at Holloways’ mouth.  He wanted a voice again.  He wanted to tell them how sorry he was, wanted to tell them how much he respected and loved them.  He pried the mouth open...it wouldn’t open far enough so he cut the edges.  Opened it wider.  He wanted a voice again.  Any voice would do.  He grabbed the voice... cut it out, and...

 


 

“Tim?”

His blurry recollection of the event was interrupted by the voice.  He didn’t move from his spot.  When he had woken up and had seen where they had put him, he didn’t blame them.  He shrouded himself up in the blanket provided for him and had retreated to the far corner of the cell, his face tucked away in the corner.  His memory was really jumbled around anymore.  One minute he’d remember something as if it was happening right then and there, then the next it was if it was some old movie he had seen years ago and didn’t remember it right.  

“Tim?”

He balled up tighter.  He didn’t care if it hurt to do so.  He could hear Dick approaching closer, could hear him opening the cell’s door.  He didn’t want him in here with him, just wanted to be left alone.  Dick looked at Tim all bundled up tightly in the corner, he almost wished that he was rocking back and forth.  That would at least show some sort of life, Tim just sat there as still as a statue, he couldn’t even tell if he was breathing or not.  He could feel the awkwardness of the situation, so he sat on the provided bed and rubbed the back of his neck.

“Look kid,” he said blankly, “I’m not gonna lie, from what Leslie told me...what she...showed me,” he looked at him, not a movement at all, “I just don’t....God what did he do to you?” he said defeated.  He sat there in the cell with Tim, he didn’t know what else to do.  He didn’t know if continuing talking to him was right or wrong, if he approached him or if his very presence was bad.  He didn’t even know if he could hear him.  After a few minutes he turned his head when he could hear voices from above.  Barbara was here now. They were talking for a long time...not necessarily a good thing.  Finally, he heard the elevator doors open.  He looked over and could see that she was in her Batgirl costume, carrying something in her hands.

“How is he?” she asked him as she approached the cell.

“He hasn’t said or done anything since I came down here,” he said glancing back toward him, “but from what Leslie told me, I’d say not very good.”  He looked down at her hands and at the vial she carried.

“What’s that?” Barbara looked down at her hands and then sighed,

“It’s something Bruce gave me, but I’ll tell you about it in a minute.”  She then turned towards Tim and cautiously approached him.

“Hey Tim,” she said gently, “listen, when Bruce found out about,” she paused, decided to choose her words carefully, “what happened, he had some of the magic users from the JLA whip this up for you.”  For the first time, Tim slightly turned his head toward them. Both hoped that this was a good thing.

“It’s a tonic that will speed up the healing time on your cuts,” she said removing the cork from the vial, “just drink half of it, and then put the rest on the outer one.”  She crouched down near him and waited for him to reach out for the vial.  Eventually, slowly he finally looked up at her and took the vile from her.  She gave him a hopeful smile, but he could see that it wasn't genuine.  He took a sip from the vial and then turned back toward the corner, but there was still movement so they assumed that he was applying the rest on his stitches.

“I’m going to go talk with Dick now,” she said standing back up, “If you need anything else, just let us know.”  She turned around and she left the cell, ushering Dick to follow her. He did and was slightly irritated that she locked it behind her. Once they were in the elevator, he turned toward her and said:

“So...what’s keeping Bruce from being here?”  Barbara shook her head.

“Why was that the first thing I figured you’d ask,” she said tiredly, “look, I know you’re plenty mad at him, but if you saw what I saw.  You’d probably do the same thing.”

“And what would that be,” he asked, raising an eyebrow. The doors opened and she said,

“Let’s take this conversation upstairs.”

“What about Tim,” he asked, “I really don’t want to leave him alone.” Barbara nodded and then took off her mask.

"I'm sure he wants to be alone right now, we're all having a bad night."  Dick nodded in agreement and both of them entered the elevator.  When they reached the upper levels they walked toward the main computer; Alfred and Leslie were both talking to each other.  Alfred had brought down coffee for everyone, tea for himself.  Once the groups joined up, all three of them stared at Barbara waiting for the story that she knew.  Barbara took a sip of the coffee, just the way she liked it.  Alfred was really good at remembering how everyone liked their drinks and food.  She looked down to the side and just decided to get it over with.

“Dad had gotten a call earlier tonight,” she began, “I was over for a visit and picked up on what some of it was about.  After he left, I changed into my Batgirl costume and headed toward where the call was from.  When I arrived, I had just come in time to learn that my dad had figured out where to go next.  At first I was going to stay at the arson site to investigate for clues, but when I overheard Bullock talk with some of the other officers, I decided to follow them to the docks.”

She paused, trying to find the right words.

“Apparently the old apartment building and some old warehouse down by the docks were being used in a human trafficking ring, and-”

“And he found out about it,” Dick interrupted her, gesturing his head toward the cells.

“I suppose,” Barbara said, “once I was inside the warehouse,” she paused again, “let’s just say that there wasn’t enough ambulances to go around.”

“Where any of them dead,” Leslie asked.  Leslie was by nature, a more strait-to-the-facts kind of woman, and if you didn’t know her personally you would have called her cold.  All three of them turned toward her, trying to not offend her but at the same time not be offended themselves.

“No,” Barbara said quickly, giving them much needed relief, “no none of them were dead.  Most will be lucky to be walking again though.”  Dick nodded.  He knew that they all knew more than one way to permanently cripple people.  All of them made the practice to not to unless it was absolutely life threatening.  It seemed to him that Tim flat out ignored it this time and just used those moves exclusively, especially after the descriptions Barbara gave.

“Then there were all the Glasgow smiles,” Barbara said off-handily, “he gave every single one of them a Glasgow smile.”  None of them said anything about it, each one had their own theory as to why.

“So what happened to the man in charge,” Dick said after a moment, “did he get away?”

“I wished he did,” Barbara said, “I saw him as they were taking him away.  His face was...mutilated so badly and his jaw....just dangled there and his tongue was gone.  They were looking for it but they,”

“We,” interrupted Leslie, “already know where it is,” she said pointing over to the jarred tongue.  Barbara looked over at it and asked,

“What, did he bring it with...” and she stopped when she realized what had actually happened.  She swallowed hard and shook her head.

“Well anyway,” she continued, “that’s when Bruce came onto the scene and my dad and him had a short discussion.  Then I guess that's when you called Leslie, because he called up some members of the JLA to make that elixir for Tim, and after it was dropped off he went to follow up with the gangs leader at the hospital for more information.”

“About the ring, or about what happened?” asked Dick.

“Probably both,” Barbara replied.  There was an another awkward pause, everyone was thinking about what this all meant now.

“So what now,” Dick finally said looking around, “it’s not like Bruce is going to attempt to cover this up or anything.  There’s no way this could be.  There’s too many witnesses and there’s too much damage.”

“We’ll worry about that bridge when we come across it,” Leslie said in her usual tone, turning around, “but for now I have something to work on.”

“Are you not returning home,” asked Alfred, “it is rather late you know.”

“I want to talk to Bruce when he comes back,” she said without looking back, “I’ve put up with his stubbornness long enough and because of it, people were hurt.  No more.  I’ve let this nonsense go on for far too long.  What would his father think of me?”  Nobody said anything.  Barbara and Alfred wrote it off as a small tired rant, but Dick was silently applauding her.  Finally, someone on his side of the fence.

“I’ll return upstairs and prepare us some supper,” Alfred said, “would anyone care to join me?”

“I’ll go,” Dick said, “as long as you stay here and watch Tim,” he said looking at Barbara.  She nodded yes.  Both of them knew that if Dick was down in the cave when Bruce came back, there would only be a needless fight.  Barbara looked back down towards the cells, wondering what on earth Batman was doing...and wondered if it really did mean the end of the vigilantism in Gotham.

 


 

 

“What do you make of it Doc,” Gordon said into the telephone after drinking the last of his cold coffee, “Is he going to make it?”

“Yes,” the doctor said adjusting the phone and his glasses, “but he’s going to have a long recovery time.  We can’t wire his jaw shut yet because I’m worried about infection forming where his tongue was.  He’ll be lucky if he will be able to walk or use his hands again.”

“Can we question him?”

“Not yet,” the doctor said writing something down on a clipboard, “He’s lost a lot of blood and had some internal bleeding; the internal damage was quiet extensive.  Whoever did this really did a number on him.  I’ll call back if there is any change.”

“Thanks doc,” said Gordon and hung up the receiver.  He looked at all of the reports that had piled up from tonight.  This is just what he needed, a new maniac to spring up to replace the Joker.  He looked over the pictures taken again.  What was with the Glasgow smiles?  On all of the other gang members, theirs were superficial.  The supposed leaders were full-blown cuts almost ear to ear.  Why?  Perhaps some sort of revenge, or was it just blind rage, or just for the sake of it.  He heard something.  He turned his head and looked into the corner of his room.

“You’re losing your touch,” he said looking hard at the shadows, “I actually heard you.” Slowly Batman emerged from the shadows.  He was surprised, he was half bluffing.  He sat back into his chair.  Looking at him, he seemed more stiff than usual.  Given what had happened, he didn’t blame him.

“So,” he said picking up the pictures of the crime scenes, “have you found out anything about tonight’s crime spree?  The media vultures are already beating down the door about it and I can’t keep them off forever.”

“Yes,” Batman finally said, but it sounded...sad.  Gordon looked at him hard; his mind was starting to put two and two together.  Eventually, he came to a conclusion.

“It was Robin, wasn't it,” He said, just as sadly.  Another long pause.

“...Yes.” Gordon leaned forward and rested his face on top of his clasped hands.

“I had my suspicions,” he said to Batman, “just from what was described to me,” he looked up at him, “one managed to get a look at the attacker.  He described it as ‘a little clown kid’.”  He saw Batman slightly tense up at it.

“So it’s true then? Is that what’s happened to him?”  Batman didn’t say anything.  Gordon raised his clasped hands near his mouth, thinking hard.  There was a question that was burning inside of him so he decided to ask it.

“Holloway’s tongue was missing,” he said very gravely, “have any idea as to why?  Please, be honest with me.”  Batman stood there like a coat rack, perhaps mulling the idea as to lie to him, but he finally said flatly:

“I don’t know why he cut it out; all I know is that when he returned home one of my...associates found him...” he trailed off, as if he didn’t want to think about it.  He straightened up and said as distantly as he could,

“He had swallowed it.”

Gordon nodded and closed his eyes.  Shook his head slowly and looked up at him.

“I know I said I would help you in anyway I could Batman,” he said finally getting up, “and I do still intend to do so, but if this is what’s happened to him, then we need to make sure that he is safe from danger, and causing it.  Safe from himself and others.”

“I know what you mean,” Batman said, “but I won’t allow it.  He just needs more-”

“Time?” Gordon raised an eyebrow, “Listen my friend, I know this hurts, but it’s for the best.  Don’t worry about anything coming back towards you,” he said to him, “I’ll personally make sure that it won't.  He does need more time, but not if he has access to your toys and with your training.  I’m sorry if you feel differently,” he said walking up to him, “but I’m not going to back down from this.  If you truly trust me as I have trusted you all these years,” he put a hand on his shoulder, “let me help.”  He looked up at Batman. He hardly ever saw his soft side, but for the first time ever he could almost swear that he saw tears building up.  Batman quickly walked past the man and came up to the window, but paused and said turning his head slowly:

“I’ll...call you for a meeting spot and time later tonight, Jim.” and he quietly left.  Jim looked at the window.  For the second time in his career, he was going to cover up a crime. First the Joker’s death, and now this.  He sat down and looked at the files.

“Christ almighty, give me strength,” he mumbled under his breath.  If he had looked up, he would have noticed his ajar door slowly close, as the eavesdropper had heard all he needed to know.

 


 

 

He rested his thumping head against the cold walls of the cell, it kinda felt good.  He closed his eyes and tried to listen for the bats, but it was hard to hear them down this far below.  That and they could be out, he didn’t know what time of day it was...funny how that was happening a lot lately.  He waited for the inevitable chuckle from it, but nothing came.  He looked down where his incisions use to be.  Magic was cool stuff.  He rubbed it just to make sure it was truly gone, it didn’t even leave a scar.  Too bad it didn’t take the white away with it though.  He looked at his hands and wrung them, trying to make them less shaky.  He was getting more and more nervous about when Batman would arrive back.  He could have sworn he had heard the Batmobile about an hour ago, but he never came to see him so he figured he was imagining things.  He tried to think of what went wrong again, was it something he did or something they did.  He suddenly pined for his long dead mother.  He hardly ever thought about her as he only had a few memories of her, but he just suddenly wished that she was there to...to do whatever moms do.  Not what Harley did to-

He stopped thinking and held his breath when he heard voices from above him.  He stood up and pressed himself against the bars trying to listen.  It was definitely Bruces’ voice, and he could hear the others as well.  It sounded like they were having a heated argument of some kind.  Oh boy, they were comparing notes about his failed test.  Crap.  Now what?  He looked at the bars.  They were thick; no way he could possibly break them.  He angled himself and thought of trying to see if he could possibly squeeze in-between them.  Nope, his head was just too big for it, but the rest of him possibly could have.  He backed away from the bars and just decided to wait for the inevitable yelling he was going to receive.

He tried to ignore them talking above so high up, but the more he didn’t understand, the more he wanted to know what was going on.  Just when he was about to put his hands over his ears, the talking stopped and the cave was silent.  He listened hard, and could hear the elevators' door open.  This was it.  He took in a breath and tried to sit up straight.  He would take his punishment like a man, be it the worst lecture he’s ever received or beating.  He watched Batman appear from the corner of the bars and approached the cell door.  He stood up.  He was ready for anything.  Batman approached him and then...

Nothing.  He just stood there looking down at him.  This was weird, was this some sort of new tactic that he was trying on him?  Bruce removed his mask and knelt down next to him and pulled him into a hug.  Okay, this was freaky.  It was one of the tightest hugs he’d ever received.  Was this part of the punishment?  Some weird form of reverse psychology?  Bruce eventually relented his grip and pulled back, and JJ looked up at him and was surprised to see that he was...

‘Ouch. What was that?’ He looked at his arm to see what had bitten him.  He saw the injection gun pressed against his arm.  He went to push it away but he could already feel himself start to feel drugged and drowsy.  He felt Bruce pull him back into a hug, and he could barely make out the words before he fell asleep,

“I’m so sorry.”

 


 

 

He could feel the drug still in his system when he started to stir.  He reached up and roughly rub his entire face in attempt to wake up faster.  

'Ugh, who left the light on so bright?'  He sat up in bed and rubbed his arms, trying to make them less heavy....and he felt something on his right arm.  He looked down.  It was a thick plastic hospital wristband.

‘Oh no,’ he thought as he looked at the band, ‘no they didn’t.’ The band read:

Name: John Doe (unknown)
DOB: Unknown; age est. 8 - 12
Weight: 48 lbs
Height: 50.4 in
Condition: Underweight and unpredictable

He looked around.  It looked like a normal hospital examination room, but he knew better.  He looked at the band again and read the words he didn’t want to read:

Arkham Asylum; Children’s Ward.

 

 

Chapter Text

He curled under the hospital-grade blue blanket and rolled over. He kinda figured this might have been an end result of his failed attempt, but so soon? He didn’t even get a chance to explain himself to Bruce or the others. Whatever, it didn’t matter now. He was in Arkham. He didn’t even know Arkham had a children’s ward, heck, he didn’t think about asylums having children wards.

'I guess there must be other crazy kids out there as well.' That thought made him depressed.

‘Perhaps,’ he thought to himself, ‘there are other kids here as well? Then again, this is Arkham.’ He kept rubbing the wristband with his left hand, wishing it wasn’t there. The hospital clothes were a light grey blue, baggy and very starchy, like they had never been used before. It irritated his skin and he found himself scratching himself at his ankles, waistband and neck. He finally sat up out of irritation and looked around the room to take his mind off of it. It wasn’t like the old Arkham’s rooms, at least the ones that held the super criminals. It looked more like an examination room with really expensive looking marble floors, light cream colored walls and really fancy floor and crown moldings. This wasn’t going to be his ‘room’, it was too nice to be. He was about to jump down and look at whatever was in the cupboards but he could hear voices and footsteps outside the room. Their clicking shoes echoed loudly, and even though their voices were hushed he could hear them quite well. His mind started to rapidly think on what to do. Part of him reasoned that even though he was scared, he was safe and this was a good thing; the other half wanted to run out scratching and biting as soon as they opened the door and run for home. The first half won. The door opened and a older doctor he sort of recognized when he was Robin came in, followed by a lady doctor, a nurse, two orderlies, two more doctors that he had no clue who they were and Dr. Thompkins. Thank goodness, someone he did know. He looked at all the people in the room. Why so many; was it necessary for all of them to be here? He could feel their eyes on him and it really bugged him.

“Hello there son,” the elder doctor said warmly, “my name is Dr. Bartholomew. This is Dr. Leland,” he said gesturing to the lady doctor, “Dr. Jones, Dr. Taylor and I believe you already know Dr. Thompkins.” He looked at her desperately in blind hope that she could somehow make them all leave. She slightly shook her head. She wasn’t going to give him any leniency on this. Perhaps it was because of the shot he gave her?

“I just want you to know son,” Bartholomew said leaning down towards him, “that you’re completely safe here.”

‘Yeah right,’ he thought to himself, ‘I’m in the nations most dangerous asylum; safe my butt.’

“Doctor Jones and Taylor here,” he said warmly again, “need to do an examination. Is that alright with you?” He looked at Leslie, but she gave him a cold look in response. Why was she so mad at him? She was even keeping her distance, but she must have decided to throw him a bone.

“I’ve given you my previous examination notes,” Leslie said, “it has everything I’ve found in it.”

“I understand Doctor,” Bartholomew said politely turning towards her, “but we have strict policies here, and they dictate that every new arrival must be examined. Besides, Doctor Jones and Doctor Taylor here are some of the very best pediatricians in Gotham.” He turned towards the two doctors and nodded towards them. They washed their hands and talked sweetly to him, but he wasn’t paying attention to that. He started to back up on the examination bench to the point that he almost fell off. Doctor Taylor approached him and said:

“It’s alright,” he spoke softly, “we’re not going to hurt you in any way.” He went around the bench and gently felt on his neck. It scared him a little and he swallowed hard, the last time someone had their hands on his neck was to strangle him, but the doctor was true to his word and was very gentle. The doctor spoke out loud to what he assumed to be the nurse. He didn’t understand most of the terminology and ignored it. Jones was feeling around his feet, legs and knees, saying what he found. This wasn’t so bad. Jones then asked him to look strait ahead while he flashed a bright light into his eyes. He flinched for a moment, but other than that he stayed well behaved. This wasn’t bad at all he thought as Jones looked into his ears and Taylor felt his back. Just a normal doctor check up. Jones then pulled out a tongue depressor and said:

“You’re doing great! Could you open wide for me?” He hesitated at that; a small ball of anxiety started to form in his chest. He felt his hands grip the bedding tightly. Why did that make him nervous? The doctors caught it though and were writing it down as well. He did open his mouth up though, trying to cover up the weird reaction he had. Jones looked inside his mouth, and with years of dealing with children, he said innocently:

“Alright, can you stick your tongue out as far as you can for me?”

He could feel it coming. He fought the urge and stuck his tongue out for the doctor. He wasn’t fooling anyone though, the doctors on the side were looking more grim and the orderlies were getting closer. He looked at them in the corners of his eyes.

“Okay now,” said Taylor, “lay down on the bench.” He did as he was told, he had to stay good or else-

He felt a pair of hands rest on his abdomen. No. No, he didn’t like to be touched there. He couldn’t contain the small whimpers and giggles as the doctor felt around. He clenched his hands tightly, he tried to stay still. Nope. He couldn’t do it. It tickled and hurt too much. He tried to sit back up and move the arms away when he felt the other doctor gently try to hold him in place. It was too much, he couldn’t keep it in anymore. The laughter was a loud, barky kind of tittering and he absentmindedly kicked and flailed his arms at what was bothering him away. He felt the hands on his shoulders let go. He wrapped his arms around his sides as he laughed hard, tears welling up in his eyes from it. He couldn’t understand what the doctors were saying, but it didn’t matter to him anymore. He was completely embarrassed. Eventually the laughter died down and he caught his breath. He looked up and saw that he was left alone with Dr. Thompkins. He didn’t move his arms away, only hugged himself tighter. He looked at her. She was being unusually cold towards him. He felt bad and figured he wasn’t going to get any sympathy from her. He made a gesture that he wanted a pen and paper. She seemed reluctant at first, but then handed him her clipboard. He wrote something down and handed it back to her:

‘I’m trying to be good.’

Her face softened. She looked down at him and she gently pulled him into a hug.

“I know you are,” she sighed, “I know you are.”

She stroked the back of his head as she held him, but he didn’t hug her back. He saw how she hesitated on touching him. He’d just freak her out. He felt bad, he broke her trust in him. He closed his eyes and felt the tears run down his cheeks, could taste them when they went into his mouth. He went to wipe his cheek, and it made her flinch slightly. Now he felt worse. A hiccup-like sob came out. She finally let him go, seeing that he was more calm now.

“I have to go and talk with the other doctors,” she said looking back, “I’ll see you in a little while. Lie back down and get some rest.” She closed the door behind her and he could hear her begin to talk to them. He did as he was told and curled back into the blanket. He really did try. He just didn’t feel good there and that’s where they always wanted to check. He laid there quietly for some time, trying to push away any thoughts in his head, especially the bad ones. He suddenly heard a knock on the door and he sat up. A nurse and a orderly came into the room with a wheelchair. She smiled sweetly at him with bright bleached teeth.

“Hi sweetie,” she said to him, “we're here to take you to another part of the hospital. Jump on down and sit here,” she said pointing to the wheelchair. He glared at it. He could walk just fine. He did as he was told, but he was very hesitant about the whole thing. As soon as he sat down, the orderly walked over and he started to put the arm restraints on him. JJ started to squirm, and tried not to grab him to make him stop. His free hand's fingers started to grab at nothing, while his restrained one twitched violently. He wasn’t laughing but his breath was starting to sound like it wanted too.

“It’s alright buddy,” the orderly said gently as he started on the next arm, “it’s going to be okay. This is only so you don’t fall out.” JJ looked at him. He may be a kid but he wasn’t stupid. They tied him down so he wouldn’t run away. The orderly finished tying his waist down and he nodded at the nurse. She turned the wheelchair around and she started to push him down the hallway. It gave him a chance to finally look around. This place had a lot of money put into it. The marble floors continued on, the walls were just as nice; expensive paintings lined them. He kept looking around and wondered why it was so quiet here, trying his best not to fidget with his restraints. There were some people talking, but it was just staff members that they passed. When they did pass people, they would stop what they were doing and looked at him. After they would pass they would whisper to themselves. He hated this. He really hated this. Is this how the Joker felt after his transformation, or did he enjoy the attention? The nurse would tell him what they were passing:

“Down that hall is where the lunch room is. We’re passing the nurses station now. Over here is the Comfort Room; that’s where we’re going.” He wondered what a Comfort Room was but as soon as they entered it, he guessed it was like a large activity room. There were beanbag chairs, other large and small chairs and a large brightly colored rug, a bookshelf, a stereo with music. A desk meant for kids, stuffed animals and so on. The walls were brightly painted with pastel colors and cutesy cartoon animal characters. The doctors from earlier were already in the room sitting on some of the chairs. The one doctor that he had managed to kick had a small goose-egg forming on his forehead.

“Alright now son,” Dr. Bartholomew said looking over some notes, “we need to discuss some very important matters. You’ve been checked into Arkham by Dr. Thompkins and myself. The reason why we have done this is to assess you, that is to watch you for at least 72 hours to monitor your behavior. After that evaluation time, the staff and the state will decide the next steps from there. Dr. Leland is going to be one of your doctors here at Arkham,” he said gesturing to her and she smiled sweetly at him, “ along with Dr. Williams, however he’s away on business today. You’ll be meeting him tomorrow in the morning. Now, one of the reasons why you were checked in was that Dr. Thompkins was worried that you were a danger to yourself and others. Do you believe that?” JJ looked down, but shook his head. He didn’t want to think he was a danger to anyone, he just...made a mistake. Dr. Bartholomew nodded and said to him:

“Do you have any questions for us?” JJ looked at him and nodded. Bartholomew waited for him to respond, but when nothing was said he meekly smiled and said:

“I’m sorry, I forgot what Dr. Thompkins had told me.” He walked over to JJ and held up the clip board while he wrote down his question:

‘Where is everyone?’

“Oh,” he said a little sadly, “well actually, you’re the first to be checked into Arkham that is under eighteen years old.” JJ was actually sad when he heard that. It wasn’t all that surprising though, considering where he was, but that meant that there wasn’t going to be anyone to hang out with even near his age. This was bad, but also good. He didn’t really want to be bothered by people anyway.

“I believe you’ve had quite the day, so we’ll let you into your room to rest for a while.” he said to him.

“I’ll come and visit with you after you’ve had your lunch,” Leland said to him, “and we’ll talk more from there.” He felt the wheelchair being grabbed and then he was spun around and was escorted down the left hallway.

‘This must be the boy’s wing,’ he thought to himself. It was deathly quiet in there and the nurses shoes clicked really loudly and it started to bug him. She came up to one of the rooms and started to open the door. He looked in, he didn’t have to wait for her to open it, because just like the old Arkham, this room’s fourth wall was just a large thick glass window. There were only about three rooms with this kind of thing, and he’d bet his life that Leslie told them to make sure to put him in this kind of room. She wheeled him in, and she started to unstrap his waist. Eventually he was free to stand again and as soon as he stood up, the nurse left the room and the door slid back down and he could hear the magnet locks seal the door. He turned and watched her walk away with the chair. He placed his hands on the window and pressed his face on it, trying to see if he could look down the halls. He couldn’t see much of anything so he just pressed his forehead on the glass. This was one of the worst things to ever happen to him. He was tired, scared and lonely. He hadn’t felt like this since that one night at the old-

'No, no don’t go there.'

He backed away from the window and sat down on the bed. He looked over at the corner and there was a small sink and a toilet.

'Nice.'

This was just like a prison cell. He looked at the walls, like the old Arkham they were made of stone, but they had been brightly painted with bright colors and happy animals. He sighed and having nothing better to do laid down to try to “get some rest”. He didn’t like this at all. He wanted to go home, but he had blown it. If he hadn’t lost control of the situation before, he’d be having lunch back at Wayne Manor, surrounded by friends and family. He rolled to his side and curled up, hugging the only pillow that was there. It was better than nothing, and he had a feeling he wouldn’t be getting any more hugs from anyone for a long time. He could taste the tears again.

  


 

 

He sat in the dark as the old film projector noisily hummed and clicked as it ran. After a thorough search of Tim’s room did he find what was in the old wardrobe. Papers and lists that obviously linked him to Holloway’s ring. That wasn’t the only thing. He found the loose floorboard, the same one he had used as a boy to hide toys and candy with. He should have known. If he had looked there at night, he would have found it sooner. He found the pictures that Leslie told him about. He found the film. He found the gun.

He watched the black-and-white film as it displayed its' gruesome tale. He forced himself to watch every second of it, no matter how horrifying it got. He sat there sill as a statue, unblinking and expressionless. He had also read the Joker’s notes. The notes were diligent and precise, noting of any ‘progress’ of his subject. He did read notes of how defiant Robin had been, how he boldly would spit blood at him, give a verbal jab here and there. However, those kind of notes stopped around the end of the first month. He watched as the Joker playfully picked up a modified electric cattle prod and begin to lightly jab it at Tim. Pretending that he was going to ram it hard at him, but then not touching him at all. Every time Tim flinched at a fake jab made the Joker silently laugh.

He also found Tim’s notes. He had been training and waiting for this “test” the first week they had found him. Tim had been thoroughly convinced that he was testing him, and that he wanted him to do what he had done. He clutched his knees tightly. He was just as much to blame for what happened to Holloway and his men. If he had been more attentive, he would have found it and put an end to it. The film finally came to it’s chilling end with one last shot of Tim dressed up in that damned suit and laughing madly, and the film popped out of the projector and spun around and around on the wheel. He stayed sitting there looking at the white wall where the film had been playing. He could still see the images; they were burned into him now, just like his parents murder. He heard a knock on the door and he heard Alfred enter. He could always tell who’s footsteps they were, and Alfred seemed to be walking more slowly these days.

“I’m terribly sorry to interrupt you sir,” he said gravely, “but you have some guests.”

“Tell them that I can’t come at the moment Alfred,” he said quietly, “I don’t feel like seeing anyone right now.”

“It’s Mr. Kent sir,” Alfred said, “and another man I do not recognize.” Bruce looked up at him and stood up. He was relieved yet irritated at their arrival.

“We’ll be in my private study Alfred,” he said to him, “no more calls or visitors today.”

“And what if Korbon calls again,” Alfred asked, “she’s called twice today,”

“Tell her she can go fuck herself,” he said angrily as he left the room.

“Very good Master Bruce, however I shall say it in a more, civilized manner.”

He walked down the halls, and entered the main entrance of the manor. Clark was standing next to another man. Bruce knew that this ‘other man’ was J’onn, and he was looking as stiff and ridged as ever. Clark softly smiled and gave a nod in his direction when he approached them.

“Let’s take this into my private study gentlemen,” he said to them, “I’ve a feeling we’re going to have a long talk about what’s happened recently.”

“I had heard about it. The rumors even reached Metropolis,” Clark said, “some say it’s just another gang war thing, others think it’s something more that was quickly covered up.” Bruce felt himself go ridged at that. He let them pass into the room as he tried to think of a way to explain what happened that night. He locked the door behind him after he entered the room, not wanting anymore interruptions by anyone.

  


 

 

Hours went by, and he hated not having anything to do to pass the time. When he was locked into his room, he at least had his books or some toys to help occupy the time. Now all he had was a blanket and a pillow. Another thing he missed about being in his room was the privacy. Every fifteen minutes a nurse or orderly would walk by to check on him. He knew it was every fifteen minutes because he counted the seconds between the visits three times. It wasn’t like he had anything better to do with his time here. He would watch them pass, and they would watch him as they walked. He must have been a curiosity to them because it was a new person every time. He laid back down and put his hands behind his head and looked up at the ceiling.

‘If I’m the only kid here,’ he thought to himself, ‘then why is there so many staff members here?’ He decided that he’d ask at the next opportunity. He rolled to his side. How long had he been in here exactly? He couldn’t hear or see a clock, and there were no windows down this hall. Perhaps he’d ask for a clock as well. Finally he heard more that one set of footsteps. That was also something that bugged him: the footsteps. They were loud and it sounded like everyone was wearing tapdance shoes. He sat up and looked at the window. As she had promised Dr. Leland was there as well as a orderly. He listened as she typed the password to his door and the magnetic locks. The door raised up swiftly and she and the orderly stepped inside.

“It’s time for lunch now,” she said to him, “and after lunch we’ll have a talk in my office, then you can go to the comfort room if you’d like.”

‘Finally,’ he thought, ‘something else to do.’ He was sick of just laying down and to move around a new area was better than just sitting here, feeling sorry for himself. He got up and followed her as she led the group to the lunchroom; the orderly trailed behind them. The lunchroom was fairly large, but it was nearly empty. There were some staff members having their own lunch there, and they were talking and laughing with each other. There wasn’t anyone in the lunch line at the moment when they arrived; that was nice, they didn’t have to wait. The meal for today was some sort of mystery meat, corn and carrots, a roll, a little carton of milk and of course green gelatin. He took his tray and picked a spot to sit, unsurprisingly the orderly sat next to him. He glanced over at Dr. Leland, who was writing down notes. What was with all the note taking? He really didn’t feel like eating anything though and started to poke his food with the plastic fork. He turned his attention to some of the staff workers who were talking to each other. The workers voices echoed loudly, and it was very easy to listen to them.

“It’s about time we finally have some work to do in this wing,” the one man said, “I was starting to worry that they would transfer me to the extensive treatment building.”

“No shit,” said the other man waving his fork around, “I don’t care that they’ve finally gotten control of those freaks, I still wouldn’t work with them if they were offering me a six figure salary a month.”

“I knew a guy before they built this place; his name was Joe,” said the other guy, “he use to work with several of them,” he took a bite of food and continued, “he was on the team for Killer Croc. When they were transferring all the S.C’s here, there was an accident.”

“What happened?”

“They took their eyes off of Croc for a few seconds,” he said taking a sip of milk, “and he killed three of them. Ripped Joe’s throat out.”

“Christ.” said the second man, he’d clearly never worked with any of the rogues.

“Yeah. I’m glad that I’ve never worked with them.”

“I’m more surprised that they actually got someone in the wing,” said the first man, “I know doc Williams’ been trying desperately to get kids in here. Did you know that they were seriously considering closing the--”

“Are you not hungry right now?” JJ was jarred by the sudden interruption of his eavesdropping, and he looked over at Leland. He quickly looked down at the food, then back up at her and shook his head. No, he really didn’t want to eat at the moment. He could always have dinner. She wrote down some notes and then coming closer said:

“Not even a little bit?” He shook his head. He tried to listen to the conversation again, but when he looked back over, the men had noticed him and began to whisper to each other. Clearly the subject had changed. He put the plastic fork down and looked up at her. She wrote down more notes and asked the orderly to take the tray away.

“Alright then,” she said to him, “it’s time we had that chat then.” She stepped aside for him to get up and when he did, she motioned another orderly to come with them; the original orderly followed them as well. He tried to ignore them, but it was still very irritating. Eventually they made their way to a office room that had her name on a wooden plaque and they stepped inside. Inside the room was a desk, some lounge chairs and of course a psychiatrist couch. Other than that the room was bare. Clearly this wasn’t her main office, just a temporary hub. She sat behind the desk and picked up a file folder and started to look inside it. He sat in one of the lounge chairs and began to rock his legs that dangled from it. He was nervous and was wishing that this would be over soon. Eventually she looked up at him and said:

“Alright, first off I want to ask you some questions. Are you alright with that?” He shrugged his shoulders, it kinda depended on what those questions were.

“Do you have any parents that we can call, or someone you know and trust?” He quickly shook his head. No, his mom and dad were dead, and he wasn’t about to tell her about the people he did know and trust.

“Will you tell me your name?” He narrowed his eyes at that and was half tempted to roll them.

“I understand that you’re nervous about it,” she said sweetly to him, “but can you be brave and tell me?” He tilted his head at that. She pulled out a small whiteboard and a black whiteboard marker. He took them and figured that she got this in advance for him, it was brand-new. He wrote on the board and flipped it so she could read it:

‘Gwynplaine’

She looked up at him and he started to snicker from it. Rather than being upset with him she smiled a little and said:

“I’m surprised, not many children your age would know that. Have you read The Man Who Laughs?” He nodded, and erased what he had written and wrote down:

‘Yes, and saw the movie.’

“Which one did you like more?"

‘The movie.’

“Why?”

‘It has a happy ending.’

“Do you like happy endings?” He nodded at this. He was an optimist, or at least that is what he tried to be. She wrote down more notes and decided to try something else.

“Alright, really though, what is your name?”

‘JJ.’

“Is that your real name?”

‘It works.’

“Is there a reason why you won’t tell me your name?”

‘You bet your butt there is,’ he thought to himself, but he just stayed still and didn’t answer her. She nodded and tried something else.

“Do you have any questions for me?” He nodded and wrote them down and handed her the whiteboard:

Why aren’t there any other kids?

Why so many staff members if there isn’t any kids?

Were they about to close down this wing?

“Ah,” she said after reading them, “I see that you were listening to them at lunch now. Well, for the first one; Arkham, despite our best efforts, doesn’t have the best reputation. When the old asylum was torn down”, she paused when she heard him make a scoffing like laugh but continued on, “Doctor Williams fought very hard to get a childrens wing added to the new one. He felt that it would do some good, but he’s been struggling to convince people that this is a safe place to send their children, let alone having other people check themselves in.” JJ nodded, he could see her point.

“Don’t you worry though,” she said to him with a smile, “this wing is in a separate building from the rest of the facility and you are in no danger from the other inmates, dangerous or not.” He attempted to smirk and shake his head a little.

“And to answer your other questions; yes, because there hadn’t been one adolescent checked in since the place was built, the head of directors was about to pull the budget for this wing and decommission the building. However, since your admittance, Doctor Williams went out to more or less ‘campaign’ for the wing and is seeing if he can get more patients transferred here for treatment. We’re hoping to have more arriving soon.” He nodded again. Okay that did explain some things, but he still didn’t want to be here at all. She tried to hand him the whiteboard again, but he just sat there. He was done “talking”. She saw this, and seeing that he wasn’t going to give her any more answers, set the whiteboard down and said:

“I think that’s enough for now,” she said standing up, “but if you feel like talking to me, you can tell me or an orderly anytime, day or night. I want to help you,” she said putting her hand on his shoulder, “but you’re going to have to let me help you.” He looked at her and nodded. Although, he already knew that. He already knew he couldn’t tell her everything, so there was no point in telling her anything. It’d just waste everyone’s time in the long run. As they left the office, she turned to the group and said to him:

“Alright, it’s 1:20 right now and visitation hour is at four. You can go into the Comfort Room and do as you wish until then. I’ll come see you later tonight before lights out.” She waved good bye to him and whispered something to the orderlies on her way out. That didn’t matter much to him, what did though was visiting hour. Hopefully someone would come see him, maybe Bruce or Dick. He walked into the room and looked behind him. He was left alone. That was nice. He walked over to the radio and looked at the selection of music. Nothing that he particularly cared about, so he turned it on and left it on a news channel. The radio announcer was dryly reciting the events of the day. He pulled up a chair and sat quietly listening to the news. It seemed to be a boring day elsewhere in the world. No major catastrophe of any kind, no kidnapping of anyone important, nothing. He often wondered; Bruce had told him a story of how some of the Justice League had gone to another dimension, did that mean that perhaps there were other dimensions out there where things were ‘normal’? No superheros, no aliens that they knew about, but just everyday boring stuff? He kinda hoped so. He often had read articles relating to all the meta-humans and major political stuff and it made his head spin from it. Things were bad enough as is.

He heard a noise behind him and turned his head, a nurse had walked in, presumably to check on him. She smiled at him and waved. He sort of waved back, but quickly turned back to the radio. She would be back to check on him. He continued to listen to the news. The radio announcer started to talk about the local Gotham news. He was talking about some sort of incident that the GPD was supposedly covering up. It probably was what he had done. He turned off the radio and walked over to the book shelf and looked to see if there were any good books there. He had to get his mind off of what had happened. He didn’t want to think about it right now. Most of the books in the shelf ranged from small children books to some adult novels. The more adult books were high up, so he brought over a chair and stood up on it to reach the books he wanted. 
When he had three of them, he put the chair back in it’s original spot and sat in one of the larger beanbag chairs. He was practically engulfed into it, but it was very comforting. He picked up the first book and started to read it. It was a small book, but he had heard good things about ‘The Red Pony’ and always wanted to read it but never had the time. He looked up, the nurse was back. Every fifteen minutes, someone would pop their heads in and check in on him. This was going to get annoying very quickly.

 


 

 

Hours had passed, and he had stayed still in the beanbag chair quietly reading his books. He had quickly finished ‘The Red Pony’ (parts of it made him kinda sad) and had started a new book. He had always been a fast reader for his age. He was about a hundred and fifty pages in ‘Great Expectations’ when a nurse actually walked up to him and touched his shoulder. He had jumped slightly from it, as he wasn’t expecting it, causing her to jump as well. She quickly recovered from it though and said:

“Okay, it’s four o’clock now,” she said to him quietly; she seemed really nervous around him, “you can either wait in here or you can come with me to the visitation room and wait in there.” He closed his book and stood up. Apparently it wasn’t what the nurse really had hoped for. She nervously cleared her throat and ushered him to follow her. She was clearly more afraid of him than he was of her. He decided to keep his distance with her, if she freaked out, then he’d be the one in trouble. They eventually reached the room and she let him in. The door closed behind him. He turned around and could hear the nurse walk briskly away, and although it was faint, he could here her say to someone:

“I’m sorry, but I can’t do it. Can you take over for me?”

“What’s wrong Jessica,” another woman asked, “is he giving you trouble?”

“No, he’s been perfectly good. It’s just,” she paused, “it’s just...I don’t like clowns. Ever since I was a kid I don’t do-” he pulled his head away from the door and went to go sit down. He sat down in one of the chairs and looked up at the clock, it ticked rhythmically and was slightly comforting to him. It was only four past the hour. Plenty of time to have a good visit.

He sat in the chair and kept looking at the clock. He kept staring at the clock when the new nurse walked in. He kept watching time. He was under some sort of impression that if he took his eyes off of the clock, the hour would quickly pass and he’d loose any chance for a visit that day. It was now 4:30, still plenty of time.

He kept his eyes on the second hand. Watched it go round and round and round some more. He started to panic when 4:45 came. It was just a test. He was being tested to see if he was...being good or something. Someone would be coming very soon. He kept looking at the time. It ticked down more and more to five. He was starting to sweat at 4:55. The nurse that had been in the room with him was saying something to him, but it didn’t matter, someone would be coming very soon. Some sort of joke, it had to be.

He felt her hand try to gently pull him up, but he pointed to the time never taking his eyes off the clock, he still had three more minutes. She sighed and let him go. Suddenly he heard voices outside the room. The nurse walked over to the door and opened it and left him alone for a moment. Finally. Someone had come. There was a commotion outside and he wondered what exactly was going on. He could clearly hear the nurses say that visiting hour was over and that it was dinner time now. The voice on the other end was familiar to him, why didn’t he know it? Finally the nurses seemed to relent and let the visitor in.

He could hardly believe it. It wasn’t anyone he had even thought about coming to visit. It was Bullock, Harvey Bullock. He sat there blinking daftly at him. He was the very last person he would have ever expected.

“Five minutes detective,” the nurse said very annoyed with him, “just five minutes and then you’ll have to leave and wait until tomorrow.”

“Yeah-yeah, I head ya the first time,” he said waving the nurse off, “ya apron-wearing harpy,” he muttered under his breath walking away from the door adjusting his hat. JJ didn’t quite know what to make of this. Apparently neither did Bullock. He stood there rubbing his neck and looking to the side a lot. Eventually he sat down in the chair across from his and finally said,

“So...how’s the food in this dump?” He sat there blinking at him. This was getting to be awkward for both of them.

“Ah the heck with it,” he finally said, “I was never good at stepping around no bushes. Look kid, I know who you are and I know why you’re here,” JJ was slightly taken back, he had to been lying when he said he knew who he was, “and I’m glad that the Commish was able to get you away from,” he paused and decided to rethink his words, “your boss.” Oh, that’s what he had meant by that he ‘knew who he was’.

“Hey look kid,” he said pulling something out of his coat, “don’t go waving this around but I got ya something that might, well...I don’t know just take it.” JJ got up and took the mystery package from Bullock. This was weird, sure Harvey and him had a few conversations in the past but he guessed that he must have felt bad about everything.

“Listen,” he said taking his arm and pulling him very close, “I don’t know if they’re listenin’ to all this but I just want you to know that you’ve got me as a friend, probably your best friend,” he said patting his head very sharply, “and I just want you to know that whatever happens, I’ll make sure that you’ll be okay.”

‘Uh...what,’ he thought as he tilted his head. Bullock was acting really weird.

“Look, I got to go now,” he said standing up and turning away from him, “but I’ll give you a call, or if they won’t let that happen, give me a call will ya?”

Bullock was fiddling with something as he walked away from him, but he quickly pushed that thought away when he heard the door open and he quickly hid the gift behind his back. The nurses gave glaring looks to Bullock as he walked out. He quickly tucked the gift in his waistband at his back and let his arms fall loose to his sides, hoping that it would stay there.

“I’m so sorry about that,” said the nurse, “I hope that he didn’t upset you with questions?” He shook his head. No, he really didn’t upset him. It was actually really weird, now that he thought about it. However that thought had to be pushed to the side for now and he gently followed the nurse to the lunchroom, trying to adjust the gift from Bullock so it wouldn't be so noticeable.

“-and the next time you come here upsetting my patients detective, I’ll be sure to contact Gordon about it!” said Bartholomew in a controlled rage.

“Yeah-yeah I get ya’.” Bullock said walking down the steps. He heard the door close behind him and he stopped and turned his head toward the building. He opened his coat and pulled out the folded handkerchief that he had tucked into his pocket and with the other hand pulled out a plastic bag. He opened up the handkerchief to make sure that they were still there.

When he had patted the kids head hard, he had pulled about seven strands of his hair and had put them in the handkerchief. More than enough. He folded it again and put it into the bag. He put that bag into his pocket and adjusted his hat again. All he had to do now was pay that one lab rat he knew a visit to get a DNA profile on the kid. Another step closer in finding out ol’ Batbreaths all so important identity.

 

Chapter Text

Dinner had been very uneventful, in a way that was probably for the best. He had made sure that Bullocks’ gift was well hidden; it had been hard with the orderlies but they seemed relaxed enough around him that they didn’t pay much attention to him. He didn’t eat all of dinner, and he noticed that the nurses and technicians made a note of it. Seriously, what was with all the note taking. It was like he was surrounded by all the note-writing, strait-A students from school who were writing a paper on him. He had been given the choice to either spend a few more hours in the comfort room, or just go to bed. He chose to go to bed, he didn’t really have much further interest in the other room for now. He was escorted back to his quote-unquote room, and was soon left alone in it. He got on the bed and threw the blanket on top of him, just in case there was a security camera, again this was Arkham after all.

He opened the package that had been wrapped in old newspaper and tied together with what appeared to be an old shoelace. Inside was a small package of gum, a few candy bars, a set of playing cards and a baseball card that was in a protective case. He looked at it and nearly did a double take. He couldn’t believe it. It reminded him of that one time when Gordon and Batman had started talking about some crook to one another while he and Bullock had a conversation about baseball cards.

 


 

 

“You,” he had said doubtfully, “collect baseball cards?”

“Eh,” Bullock said glancing away picking at his teeth with a toothpick, “ ‘Somethin’ me and my old man had in common. After he died, I just kept addin’ to his old collection. It ain’t nothing special.”

“Yeah it is,” he ribbed him, “it reminds you of your dad and all the fun times you had with him. So what cards do you have?”

“Eh, I can’t remember all of them,” he said scratching his side, “but I do know that I have a original 1952 Mickey Mantel rookie card.”

“No way,” Robin said waving his hand, “those things are rare, like in the top ten rare, and you say you have one.”

“My old man got it,” he said looking down at him, “Mantel happened to be his favorite player that year because he shared the same name as that stupid mouse. Wanted to name his first son Mickey; thank heavens mom changed his mind. He kept it in the original pack of cards, mint condition.”

“Unbelievable,” Robin said jumping up on the side of the building to help match his height, “next you’ll be telling me you have an original Honus Wanger card.”

“Nah,” he said waving his hand, “that thing’s way out of my price range.” He looked at Robin and smirked a bit.

“You know, you make a better conversation than the last bird boy.”

“Maybe you two just didn’t find a common ground,” he said to him flipping back down, “maybe next time talk motorcycles, mullets and shampoo products with him,” he said laughing and waving to him as he marched back over to Batman.

  


 

 

It was the Mickey Mantel card. Perfect condition, just as he had said. On the back of it was a note written on a yellow sticky-note:

‘Hope this helps you remember all the fun times.

H.B.

P.S. Tell anyone about this and I’ll pound you into the ground.’

He had to laugh at that last bit. It was a very nice gesture, especially for someone like Bullock. He looked at the card and admired it. This had probably meant a lot to him. He put the card under the mattress, along with the other gifts. He wasn’t sure how long he could keep it a secret, but he would be sure to try as long as he could. He felt pretty good, it did help him remember a good memory. He curled up on the bed and wondered what would happen now if there were other kids admitted. If he could stay good within this seventy-two hour range, perhaps they would let him go home? It was grasping at straws sure, but it was a nice thought none the less. He could hear people coming and he sat up. It was Bartholomew and Leland with some nurses.

“I hope you had a good first day here,” Bartholomew said to him, “and I am sorry about that detective. If you wish, we can ban further visits with him.” JJ shook his head.

“Anyway,” he said gesturing to Leland, “Doctor Leland has told me of your...reluctance to eat. I’m sorry my boy, but you are twenty pounds underweight and skipping meals will simply not due. I’m afraid that you’re going to go on a special diet,” JJ was confused. Wasn’t a diet to loose weight?

“In the mornings, you’ll be weighed, and any progress will be noted.” JJ shrugged, that didn’t sound too bad. He could do that, no problem.

“You’ll meet Doctor Williams tomorrow at nine o’clock,” he said, “and he’ll decided what the next best steps will be in your recovery. For now though, I need you to take this medicine and we’ll let you get some rest.” He looked at the nurse for the first time, it was that reluctant nurse again. He felt kinda bad for her as she nervously approached him and lowered the tray that held a medicine cup and a glass of water. He made sure his movements were slow for her, but she seemed to jitter all the more. He took the medicine and drank the water as best as he could. He was then wished a good night and they left him in peace. After they had closed the hallway’s door, the lights in the hallway and in his cell turned off. It was really dark in the room now and he had to feel his way back to the bed. He jumped in and waited for the medicine to kick in to make him fall asleep. He hoped that he wouldn’t have nightmares again tonight, he didn’t feel like people running in and giving him shots for it. As he was drifting off to sleep, he wondered what kind of doctor this Williams guy was and hoped he was as nice as Leland was.

 


 

 

He was jarred from sleep by the orderly knocking on the window loudly. He sat up quickly and gasped from it. The orderly didn’t seemed fazed by his reaction and said plainly:

“It’s seven now, be ready for breakfast in thirty minutes.” JJ nodded as he placed his hand on his face in relief and sighed. That freaked him out, like most sudden noises as of late. He rubbed his eyes and could have sworn that he heard other voices in the halls now. He got up and tried to look around by pressing his face as hard on the window as he could. He wasn’t just imagining it; there were other kids here now. He didn’t see anyone but he definitely could hear them talking. Had the kids been moved already so soon, or was this another memory gap for him? He hoped that it wasn’t another memory thing. He moved over to the sink and saw that there was a small tube of toothpaste and a simple toothbrush. Unfortunately there wasn’t a washcloth or a mirror to be found. He brushed his teeth and tired his best to wash his face (he opted to use his blanket as a makeshift towel) and waited for the orderly to let him out for breakfast. As he waited, another kid was walking passed his cell, he appeared to be about thirteen or fourteen. As the kid was about to walk past, he caught a glimpse of him and stopped dead in his tracks and nearly stumbled backwards. The kid didn’t say anything, but walked back towards where he had come from without taking his eyes off of him. He couldn’t hear the other kids anymore after a moment. He sighed. This was going to be more fun than he imagined. An orderly came around and let him out of his cell. As he left the cell, he looked down the hall. Some of the other boys were staying close to one another, others just kept to themselves but all were transfixed on him.

“Come on guys,” the orderly called out, “march over to the dayroom now and line up to be escorted to the cafeteria.” The kids didn’t move. He figured that he’d might as well head on in, because they wouldn’t move otherwise. As he headed towards the dayroom, some other kids both girl and boy were already in it. He quietly found a chair to wait for the lineup. He was starting to become more and more nervous and self-aware as the other kids discovered him and would talk about it. Eventually, all the kids that had been transferred to Arkham were in the dayroom. There weren’t many, only about 8 girls and 12 boys, including himself. It was apparent though, he was the youngest and smallest of them all. The youngest out of all of the others was a girl, who was probably thirteen at most.

“Line up!” called out a nurse, “Line up against the wall here and we’ll head over for breakfast.” The kids did as they were told, apparently already knowing what to expect. He made his way over to the end of the line. The older boy ahead of him looked down at him and actually smiled at him.

“First time in the nuthouse?” JJ was surprised, he had figured that nobody would be willing to talk to him, he nodded.

“Don’t worry,” the older boy said waving his hand, “it’s a snap once you get use to it,” he talked about it like he was just going to the store or it was something simple, like it was a everyday sort of thing, “I’ve been in and out of them since I was about fourteen. I’ve got homicidal ideation and anger issues,” he said gesturing quotation marks with his fingers on the last part, “just because I beat up my friend for stealing my girlfriend. Whatever. I was first admitted for depression though,” he looked down at him as they walked, “I don’t have to guess why you’re here though.” JJ looked down at that.

“Don’t worry about it though,” the kid said to him and playfully slapped him hard on the back, causing an orderly to yell out ‘no touching’, “your face isn’t the only messed up one in this group.” The girl at the head of the line glanced back towards them, but quickly looked away from them and started to adjust her hair again.

“So what’s your name kid,” the older boy asked, “mine’s Steven.” JJ looked up at him and with his left hand wrote out the letter J twice. Steven looked down at him and nearly ran into the other person ahead of him when the group stopped for the lunch line.

“Mute huh,” Steven said, “that’s fine. I’ve dealt with other mute people. I like them best. They listen really good and never give you any lip, and they never talk over you.” As they got their food and then sat down, Steven regaled him on what would happen during the day.

“First off,” he said pointing to the orderlies and nurses, “they monitor us to make sure we don’t freak out during meals, but they mainly watch the ones with eating disorders like Jenny over there,” he pointed to an older girl who promptly flipped him off. He blew a kiss towards her and continued on.

“Anyway,” Steven continued, “after that is community group; that’s when we all gather around in the dayroom and we talk about the rules of the place, then we set daily goals and talk about why we’re here and yadah yadah yadah,” he said waving his hand around.

“The next thing to happen will be one-on-one time with your shrink. It depends on how many doctors there are, but usually you see the one in charge of the group, so my guess it’s this Williams guy,” He took a bite of food and scratched his facial hair that was attempting to grow into a goatee, “he talked at the hospital yesterday where most of us was, and convinced them to transfer some of the more “extreme” patients here. I don’t care though,” he said looking down at him, “I’ll be able to boast now that I was in Arkham. If I ever get readmitted anywhere, I’ll just say that, and I’ll get instant respect.” JJ looked at him. He was lying about not caring. His body language suggested that he was actually very nervous around him. At least he was talking to him like a normal person though. The more Steven talked to him, the more curious the other kids got, and also seemed to relax more around him. They probably figured that he wasn’t going to just attack them.

“After that,” Steven said, “there’s progress group, then the daily checkup, recreational therapy,” he counted each one off with his fingers, “education group, visitation hour, dinner, closure group and then medication and lights out: rinse and repeat.” He looked down at the clown kid. The kid looked up at him and seemed like he was paying attention too him. The kid creeped him out, but he figured that the kid needed at least someone to tell him what was going on.

“So,” he leaned in towards him, “can I ask you-”

“That’s enough,” said an orderly to Steven, “let him eat his breakfast, he still needs to be weighed.”

“Sorry,” Steven said sarcastically, “I’ll shut up now.” The orderly walked away from the two to check on someone else.

“You better eat,” he whispered to him, “I didn’t know you were on the watch list. The less you eat, the longer you’ll stay in the nuthouse.” JJ nodded at him and picked up the spoon and started to eat the cornflakes. They had gone mushy and weren’t very nice to eat. He looked over to the nurses and saw that indeed he was being watched.

After breakfast, everyone was allowed time in the dayroom and comfort room. As the day went on, he learned about some of the other kids. Some were here for depression, anxiety, insomnia and suicide attempts. Over all, most of the kids were fairly normal kids with just some issues. Then there were others that were there for more extreme cases. The one girl from the front of the line always covered her face up with a shawl and her hair. Whenever JJ looked in her direction, she would shoot daggers at him. He decided to avoid her. There was another girl that had been very abused, to what degree or for what, he didn’t know. Then there was Max. Max was seventeen, the oldest in the group. Steven warned him about Max and would only say that he wasn’t to be messed with and to avoid him at all costs.

“Just avoid him as best you can,” Steven said to him, “he’ll be eighteen in a few months, and then he’ll be transferred to the adult wings. He enjoys new arrivals and smaller kids,” he said pointing to JJ, “and you’re the smallest one here now.” JJ wasn’t in the least bit scared of this Max guy. Steven just assumed just because he was small and was obviously a ‘Joker Victim’ that he would be terrified of Max. He had gone up against Killer Croc, Bane and all of the heavy hitters of the Rogues. If he survived the Joker and Harley Quinn, then he could dance circles around this Max guy.

 


 

 

Soon it was time for the one-on-one visits with the doctor. He was escorted by a nurse to doctor Williams office. Inside the office was a lot of books and expensive looking things. The desk was something that Bruce would have had in his private study. Doctor Williams was reading a file when he first entered the room, but looked up and stood up when he saw them enter his office.

“Well hello there young man,” he said walking over towards them, “I’m Doctor John Williams and I’ll be your psychiatrist.” He extended his hand to shake his, but JJ didn’t take it. For some reason or another this Williams guy was rubbing him the wrong way. The doctor lowered his hand and chuckled.

“It’s alright that you’re nervous,” he said walking back towards the desk, “I’d be nervous too if I was left all alone in a hospital with no relatives or friends.” JJ looked down at that. He did hit a nerve with that, only because it was true. Williams looked over the file notes one last time before setting it down and then looked at him.

“I can see that you’ve had a very traumatic experience,” he said very gravely, “and I also read the police report on what had happened at the docks,” JJ looked up at him, wanting to sink into the earth, “however we’re going to take this one step at a time. I don’t expect any overnight miracles, but for now we’re going to work on two things. The first thing I want to work with you is getting you to speak with me. That’s the major roadblock with your recovery; if you can’t talk about what happened and let me know how to help you, then we’re at an impasse. The next thing is getting you physically healthy. From what I was told, you show the signs of Food refusal or Food Avoidance Emotional Disorder or FAED...but it’s too early to tell that now. We’ll wait and see what happens, but for now we’ll try to get your weight up as soon as possible.” JJ looked at him, he hadn’t a clue what those were but he was sure he didn’t have a eating disorder...that was a girl thing, he was sure of it.

“I’ve prescribed a tranquilizer for you to take in the evenings to help you sleep, from what the nurses told me was that you seemed to have trouble sleeping,” JJ gave out a quizzical look at him, did he? He didn’t think he did, he was sure that he slept all night, “and a anxiolytics for any anxiety during the day. We’ll monitor it and see how they help.” He stood up and motioned the nurse to escort him out of the room.

“We’ll talk some more later,” he said placing his hand on his back, “for now just go out and interact with the other children until we have group therapy.” JJ looked over his shoulder as he welcomed in another patient for their own visit. For some reason he didn’t trust this Williams guy at all. He shook his head and decided to go see if he could find Steven at the very least. As he walked by some of the other kids, they would stop talking and look down at him. It was getting annoying. He looked up at them, and they would look away or start talking to each other again.

He made his way to the comfort room, he decided that he’d just read his book in peace until this group therapy thing. He entered the room, and saw that there were two others in it. One was the girl that would cover her face and the other one was a boy he didn’t know drawing something on the desk. The boy at the desk paid him no mind, but the girl started to glare at him again. He ignored her and got a chair to pick up ‘Great Expectations’ again and to pick out a few more. He sat in the large beanbag chair again and started to flip the book to where he had left off. Suddenly the music that was playing on the radio was cranked up from the low volume it had been at, to as loud as it could go. He and the other boy looked over to where the scarf wearing girl was, but she ignored both in favor of listening to the music. JJ shook his head and started to read his book. He was use to blocking things out now, and the music was relatively easy to do.

“Chelsea,” a nurse said walking in, “could you turn the music down a little, you’re making some of the others upset.”

“I’m upset,” she said turning to the nurse.

“What can I do to help,” the nurse asked sweetly to her.

“Get that freak away from me,” she said pointing to JJ, he didn’t bother looking up because he already knew who she had meant, “he’s bothering me.”

“Now, he’s been sitting perfectly still in that chair and hasn’t done one thing to you or anyone here,” the nurse said to her in a less friendly voice.

“I don’t like it,” Chelsea screamed loudly, “you know why I don’t like it! Take it away!” JJ finally looked up and saw how upset this older girl was. He stood up and took the book with him out of the room. He knew when he wasn’t wanted and he didn’t want to get into any form of trouble during his seventy-two hour watch time. He found a chair in the corner of the dayroom and started to read again. A little wile later, the same nurse walked up to him and asked:

“Are you alright,” she said to him, “I’m sorry about Chelsea. From what I’ve heard from her files is that she gets, emotional, at times. I’m sure she’ll warm up to you yet.” He looked up at her and nodded, then back to his book. However, she lowered the book and said:

“It’s almost time for the community group therapy session, why don’t I take your book back and you can finish it later on today?” He nodded, and folded the page that he was on at the corner to make a bookmark of some sort and handed it back to her. She took the book and walked away. He stayed seated for a bit more until an orderly announced that everyone should gather around in a circle and get ready for the session. The kids all scuffled over to the center of the room and each one grabbed a chair to sit on. Some sat in them normally. Others turned them around and used the back of them as a arm and head rest. JJ took his time getting to the circle, seeing that he really wasn’t all that welcomed, but he saw Steven who had whistled over at him, and had reserved a chair for him to sit on. He sat next to Steven, and the kid who sat next to him looked over at him nervously, but made no other attempts to move away.

“Alright everyone,” said what was presumed to be the head nurse, “it’s time for our daily community group session. I’m Nurse Sally Peterson, I’m in charge of the other nurses. I know that all of you are new to Arkham, so I’ll go over the rules and regulations that will be followed here,” she cleared her throat and looked down at her clipboard, “there will be no physical contact with other patients. You are allowed to use the phone as much as you like, but for only ten minutes at a time. There will be no food or drink permitted in your rooms, that also includes towels and-” He stopped listening to her and looked around the group of kids. All of them had stopped listening to her has well, obviously they had heard it more than a hundred times before hand in one way or another. Some of them were keeping to themselves, others were glaring at one another. He happened to glance over at Max, who in turn looked at him. He smiled and winked at him. He looked over at Chelsea, who glared back at him. He looked up at Steven who shrugged at him. Oh yeah, these kids were going to be so much fun to hang out with.

“Alright,” said the nurse, catching his attention back, “I know that some of you already know most of everyone here, but there are several new faces amongst you so we’re going to go around and introduce ourselves to each other. Why don’t you start off for us,” she said looking at a kid. The kid said hello, introduced himself and stated why he was here. Then the kid next to him did the same thing. Most of the reasons were fairly normal ones, but soon they got to some of the more darker ones.

“Hello,” said the second youngest kid, “my name is Sophie Anderson, I’m thirteen years old and I’m here because I’m bipolar, and my dad liked to sell me a lot...oh and because I scratched his eyes out.” JJ looked at her. He knew of girls and boys that had been used, heck he had just saved some, but he never really thought about what happened to them afterwards. It was Max’s turn, he casually waved and said:

“I’m Max, I’m seventeen and I’m here for murder and stuff because I have anger issues and whatever.” he looked around the group, seeing if he had made the reaction he had wanted. He looked over at JJ and when he saw the look of disinterest in him, his eyes narrowed a bit.

“I’m Chelsea,” said Chelsea standing up, so far the only one who had, it wasn’t even her turn, “I’m seventeen and I’m here because of this,” she took off her scarf and moved her hair away from her left side, her one side of her face had some acid scars on her face, making her one eye squinty and she had a slight smile on her face, there was also old Glasgow scars on the corner of her mouth, “I got this when I was fifteen. I got them because my dad happens to be a bureaucrat that ticked off the Joker. The Joker came to my birthday party and did this to me.” She glared at JJ, he blinked back at her. What had he done? He had nothing to do with it and she should be grateful that she survived a Joker Venom attack, let alone the Joker himself.

“Have you tried plastic surgery,” Max offhandedly asked, “I’m sure daddy can afford it.” She glared daggers at him and was about to say something but was quieted down by the staff. She stat back down and recovered her scars and eye. Soon it was his turn. He hoped that they would just pass him by, but unfortunately the head nurse spoke for him.

“This,” she said putting her hand on his head, “is Jay. That is so far as much we know. He doesn’t speak as of yet; we believe he is between the age of eight to twelve, and he is here because of an undisclosed incident.”

“It’s obvious what happened,” Max mumbled to himself.

“That’s not fair,” Chelsea said in near hysterics, “we have to tell everyone why we’re here and yet it gets a free pass?!” The other kids murmured in agreement and looked up at the nurse, then down at him. He tried to stay still, but now he could feel tense and he could feel the laughter build up in his chest...or was that embarrassment...or even anger?

“Sit down Chelsea,” the nurse calmly said, but you could still hear a hint of anger, “I cannot disclose the reason why he is here due to an ongoing investigation. If you have another outburst Chelsea, you’ll have to go into solitary.” Chelsea glared at the nurse, but sat back down and folded her arms in silent protest. JJ was very thankful that the last outburst from Chelsea was the last bit of drama involving himself. Shortly after the group therapy session, he decided to go back to the room and listen to the news or something. As he sat in front of the radio with the same boy at the desk drawing, a nurse walked in with a small bowl of porridge and a small carton of milk. He turned his head towards her, and then looked at the tray.

“Alright now,” she said handing him the tray, “you need to eat this snack, and after that I’ll take the tray away.” He looked down at it. He didn’t want anything right now. He looked back up at her, she obviously wasn’t going to leave until he ate something. He ate half of the small bowl and drank the milk, then handed it back to her. She looked down at it, then at him and smiled and finally left him alone. He turned back to the radio and turned it off. He stood up and was about to walk out but he caught a glimpse at what the boy was drawing. It was a pencil sketch, but it was a really good one. He walked over and looked over the other boys shoulder. The boy noticed him looking, and rather shooing him away, he moved the picture closer so he could have a better look at it. He looked at it and nodded his approval at it. He wished he could draw like that, and this kid was only about fourteen. The other kid smiled softly at his approval, but then quickly took his picture away and turned away from him. JJ looked behind him, and there was Max.

“Drawing another masterpiece, George,” he said leaning over the two, “how come you never let me see them?” George didn’t say anything, but kept his drawing close. He seemed to go more and more ridged as Max talked to him.

“What’s the matter,” he said to George, “cat got your tongue or something? Let me see what you have.” He reached over and took the sketch from George and looked at it.

“I’ve seen better,” he said as he crumpled it up and threw it in the trash bin. George kept very still and very quiet, his eyes cast downward. Max seemed to enjoy the reaction from George, but when he looked down at JJ, he saw that he wasn’t very impressed.

“So,” he said putting his hands on his hips, “you’re the one we heard about on our way here to Arkham. The staff on the bus told us not to mess with you because what you were supposedly capable of,” he leaned down and poked JJ’s chest very hard with each punctuation, “I don’t think a little freak like you could do any of that,” he said grabbing his shirt and slightly lifting him up, “you’re way to young and way to small. If you want to survive here, you’d better stay on my good side.” Max looked at the kid. He wasn’t flinching, not even once. The kid just looked at him, and again he didn’t seem very impressed. That made Max mad, he loved making other people cower from him, but this kid wasn’t having any of it. He suddenly let the shirt go and turned around to the doorway.

“What’s going on in here,” asked an orderly.

“Nothing,” said Max, “I was looking for the remote for the t.v. so I came in here to look for it. I was just asking these two if they had seen it.”

“The remote is always at the nurses station,” he said looking hard at Max, “it never leaves there. If you want the television channel changed, ask a nurse.”

“Oh right,” said Max walking past the orderly, “sorry. I forgot the new rules. I’ll remember next time.” He glanced quickly behind him at the clown kid, he was still staring at him with that freaky smile and freaky eyes.

 


 

 

The next two days went from interesting, down to tedium and repetitive activities. As they went by, he learned each of the kids’ habits, boundaries and what triggered an outburst from them. Sophie would be fairly normal from one minute but then would either regress down to an enraging, sobbing mess or would advance on people and would rub uncomfortably on them. He had made a point to stay away from her, as he didn’t know how he himself would react if she did any of that stuff on him. Chelsea had demanded that either he should stay in his cell at all times, or she would call her father up and have the place shut down. Of course the staff didn’t listen to her demands and she never followed up on her threats. Instead she just decided to be passive-aggressive with him and would leave the room if he happened to enter it, or she would leave if he was already in a room. That suited him just fine. Live and let live.

Max, however, had made it his goal to somehow get a reaction from him, and each time failed. It seemed that all Max could care about in his world was to be the one in control. He loved pushing everyone’s buttons. Everyday JJ would watch him torment a kid one way or another, and it did get under his skin to watch him make a kid go into a fit. However he did nothing to stop it. He didn’t want to ruin any chance he may have on going home. He did start to notice a change in the kids. Some of them seemed to either be regressing further into their shells or acting out more and more. Even Max seemed more and more agitated than usual; the staff members started to notice this as well. As he was walking near the phones, he could hear Jenny practically begging her dad to let her come home because she didn’t want to go back to “the room”. He wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but he could hear her dad say ‘no, it’s best this way for now Jennifer. I’ll come over today and we can talk about it more, okay?’

That sort of bugged him. Bullock had been so far his only visitor. He would patiently wait in the waiting room, but no one would come. He would sometimes stay up and would wait for some masked vigilantes to come dropping in to see him, and again nobody would come. He couldn’t call them, he figured that if he did, they would trace the phone call to see who he was trying to call and that would be disastrous. He was starting to get more and more depressed about everything. He thought he had been very good, he didn’t even have one episode of laughter or anything. Perhaps this was part of the punishment.

On the morning of the third day, he had some hope as his seventy-two hours were now up and they would decide what to do next. He got up from bed and started his morning routine of brushing his teeth and waiting for the orderlies to let him out. However today was different. He listened for the other kids and didn’t hear anything. Perhaps they let him sleep in? Finally an orderly he hadn't met before came in and told him to follow him. He did as he was told and followed the orderly down some halls he didn't recognize. He looked around, this didn’t lead to the bathrooms or any of the other activity rooms. He had a mix of curiosity and slight dread as they walked down the halls. Eventually, they came to a room and the orderly opened the door and stood to the side to let him in. As he walked in, there was Doctor Williams and some more staff members he hadn’t met. Williams looked down at him disapprovingly.

“I’m very disappointed with you Jay,” he said looking down and tapping his folded arm with his right hand, “I thought we had discussed your weight problem, and yet from what the staff has told me, and from what your chart shows is that you’ve lost weight.” There was a dangerous edge to his voice, he recognized it right away. He quickly glanced around the room without moving his head, this room was nearly empty, save for some lighting equipment and counters and cupboards. He couldn’t see anything beyond the men standing in the room, but he had a feeling that this was “the room” Jenny had mentioned to her dad.

“You have no idea how hard it was to convince people,” Williams said standing just as stiffly, “to send their kids here; even harder to find backers and get the necessary funding for this place. You don’t know this, but when you first arrived here, I was told by Commissioner Gordon to take special care of you and if I did I would get a special favor in return. Not only that, but after your first day, Bruce Wayne had found out about you. He told me that if I was to get you healthy physically and mentally as soon as possible, he would become a permanent funder and supporter of Arkams’ children’s ward, and that I was to report everything weekly,” he glared down at him, “I will not loose that favor and funding, just because you don’t want to do as you are told.” JJ looked at him and he could feel himself starting to shake slightly. He knew something bad was about to happen, he’d seen the same look in the Joker’s eyes before. Not as intense as the Joker’s, but it was still there.

“I can’t just write whatever I want down on your chart and hope Mr. Wayne believes me. I need solid proof of your physical recovery, and I know for a fact that Mr. Wayne is known for taking matters in his own hands. He’ll come and will want to see you in person. I’m forced to take more drastic measures with you,” he said sidestepping away from him and moving towards a counter to pick something up, “now behave and get in the chair.” When Williams moved away, he could finally see it. It was a chair with straps on it. They were going to force feed him. He looked up at the orderlies and made the mistake of taking a step back. One orderly picked him up and carried him over to the chair and sat him down in it. He tried his best to restrain himself from fighting back, but it was starting to get really hard. He couldn’t help the small whimpering laugher that came out as the orderly tied his arms and legs down. He looked down and tried to move his arms even a little bit, but they had been strapped down too tightly. He stopped struggling when he heard the voice and looked violently up when he heard it:

“Now don’t fuss anymore my little puddin’ cup,” Harley cooed, “it’s almost ready.” He blinked and there she was, standing in the fake kitchen back at the old Arkham. He looked around, there was no mistake. He looked down and saw his arms strapped down on the wooden highchair.

‘No,’ he thought to himself and tried to shake it away, ‘it’s not real! This isn’t happening!’ He tried to reason with himself, but it felt so real that it was scary. It was a memory, he knew that much, one that had been tucked away deep within his mind, but was now playing horrifically in real time just for him to sit back and enjoy. Harley was humming ‘Hush little baby’ as she stirred the pot of baby formula on the stove. She would look back at him and blow a kiss or wave affectionately at him. He struggled anew to get out of the highchair, trying to slip his lower arms out of the straps that ran through the tray, but was stopped by restraints on his upper arms.

“There we are,” she said waving the wet wooden spoon around, “all ready!” She put the spoon down and tested the formula’s temperature with her finger. She yelped and waved her hand around and put her finger in her mouth to stop the burning sensation.

“Just right,” She said picking up the hot formula and poured it into what appeared to be a large plastic pitcher, however when she had started to bring it over, he could see it had been modified at the bottom. It had some sort of rubber mask tilted at an angle. He turned his face away when she tried to put the mask on, and turned it again when she tried again.

“Now-now puddin’ cup, don’t fuss,” she said and with one swift motion of her free hand, she pulled a leaver on the back of the chair that caused the sides of the headrest to move and lock his head in position. He tried to move his head or shift his torso, but his chest had been tied down as well, and Harley was finishing strapping down his neck to the chair with a velcro strap. Now he could hardly move his head. Harley placed the rubber mask over his nose and mouth and pressed down a button on the pitcher’s handle. The scalding formula rushed down into the mask and burned any exposed skin. He kept his mouth shut and tried to scream with his nose, but his breath was caught short because it had nowhere to go. He started to panic, he couldn’t breathe. Either he drank the formula or he would die by drowning or suffocation. He opened his mouth to let the scalding formula in and he nearly gagged on it. It was thicker than he had expected and it burned badly in his mouth. His eyes watered from the burning and taste. He had to ignore it and drink it as fast as he could to get any breath of air.

“There we go,” Harley cooed and started to stroke his hair, “that’s my little man.” It was horrible, it burned all the way down and seemed endless. His lungs began to burn and felt ready to burst, they needed oxygen and weren’t getting it. He looked over at Harley and begged her with his eyes. She simply brushed the hair out of his eyes and smiled sweetly at him. Harley wasn’t going to let him breathe unless all of it was gone. He was at the point where his body didn’t want to drink anymore and it was painful with each forced swallow. Finally after an eternity he swallowed one last time and Harley removed the mask. He tried to breathe in deeply, but all he could do was cough and sputter small gasps of breath. His mouth and throat were burned badly, and he could hardly breathe due to the new pressure in his abdomen. He blinked and the tears ran down his face. Harley sighed and pulled out a wetted hand cloth and started to wipe his face.

“It does a mothers heart good,” she said as she wiped his nose and mouth, “to see such a healthy appetite in her little man.”

She pinched his cheeks very painfully as she said that, but he didn’t care. He felt sick. He had drank far more than his stomach could hold and it hurt very badly. He panted heavily, his tongue slightly sticking out.

“Uh oh,” Harley said removing the chest and arm straps off of him and moving the tray to the side, “don’t worry, mommy knows what to do.” She picked him up and put his head over her shoulder and started to pat his back. His mind screamed at him, his arms and legs were free now, he should fight back and run, but his body refused to listen. He was drained emotionally and physically and just laid in Harley’s arms like a limp doll. Finally he belched and Harley held him all the tighter, humming sweetly as she sat down in the rocking chair and started to rock. Sweat beaded on his forehead from the pain and humiliation of it all. He hated this, he hated her.

He suddenly could hardly breathe, and he started to gag again. He blinked and looked around. He wasn’t with Harley anymore, but back to the present. He looked around and looked at Williams. He suddenly felt the long tube that was in his mouth and down his throat, struggling for breath as he attempted to laugh with the all too familiar feeling full past his limits.

“That should do for now,” Williams said pulling the tube out slowly, “monitor him though and make sure he doesn’t vomit it up. We’ll meet again in three hours for the next feeding.”

“Why so soon,” asked one of the orderlies.

“We have to hurry and get as much weigh on him as soon as we can,” he said annoyed with the question, “and the more we do it, the faster it will happen. Put him back in his cell, we have to make sure he moves as little as possible. Get the room cleaned up,” he told another orderly, “if those other four wont start eatting as well, we’ll have to get more chairs. No don’t let him walk,” he yelled at the one orderly, “pick him up and take him back, tell the nurses that he isn’t feeling well.” The orderly did as he was told and took JJ back to his cell and put him back into bed. He looked at the orderly as he set up a chair to watch him. This was bad. Really bad. Bruce would have a fit if he knew what was going on. That’s why the other kids were acting weird, Williams was doing something to each and every one of them. No wonder Jenny was begging her dad to get her out.

He didn’t know what time it was, but he knew he wouldn’t be anywhere near ready to eat again in three hours. He felt sick, his head swimming from the flashback. It felt real, like it just happened. He could even still smell Harley's greasepaint. He couldn’t do it again. He just couldn’t do it again. Flashback or not he couldn’t do it again. He turned away from the orderly, covering himself up in the blanket and wondered what he could do.

He could call Gordon, he’d put a stop to it. However, now that he thought about it he wouldn’t be allowed near a telephone for at least a day or two, especially if he was to be kept in his cell and watched. There was no point telling any of the kids, they were in the same boat, and he was sure that any kids that had already told their parents would be disciplined. Maybe this is how they kept everyone in line in the adult wing, they stopped being nice and forced them to comply. He didn’t know. He decided that he would try. He would try his best today to struggle through it and maybe at his hearing with the other doctors...maybe then.

Then a bad thought came to him. What if Williams was going to keep him here as long as he could to get more funding from Bruce? He pushed the thought away, he couldn’t go there, not now. His mind searched for something else to think about, to distract him from the pain and from darker thoughts. He quietly pulled out the Mickey Mantel card from his hiding spot and looked at it. He had to remember the more fun times. He closed his eyes and tried to think of anything, but nothing came to mind, and that was funny. He started to chuckle at the joke his life had become.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Bullock knocked loudly on the door, hoping that she was in there and hadn't gone to lunch yet.

“Come in,” called out a voice from behind the door. Harvey opened the door and shuffled his way inside.

“Sorry for comin’ in right before lunch Janet,” he said to the District Attorney, “I know I don’t have an appointment or nothin’.”

“You always come in at the worst of times detective,” she said putting down her purse and sitting back down in her chair, “look, I’ve got a very important meeting after lunch, so I’ll give you five minutes.”

“Thanks,” Harvey reached up and started to pick his teeth with a fresh toothpick, “look, I know we haven’t been exactly eye to eye on certain things,”

“Like how you usually get evidence that becomes inadmissible in court because you usually, how do you put it, ‘bend the rules’,” Van Dorn said slightly glaring at him, “thereby making my job all the harder to do?” Bullock adjusted his neck tie, trying not to lose his patients with her as she already had with him. He chuckled at it and nervously said,

“Yeah, well, that’s not why I’m here. As I was sayin’ we haven’t always agreed on a lot of things, but there is one we’ve always have,” she looked at him and quickly looked down at her wristwatch, “that we don’t like a certain rodent vigilante.” Janet looked up at him and slowly folded her hands on the desk.

“That may be true. I don’t particularly care for his...style of crime enforcement,” she said slowly, as if picking her words carefully, “and after that trial nonsense that he and I had gone through at the old Arkham, I did realize that although he may not create crime necessarily-”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” Bullock interrupted her walking closer to the desk and pulling out some folded up copies of papers. He handed her the papers and as she looked over them he continued, “the freak messed up big this time.” Janet carefully looked over the papers, read the reports. She read each and every paragraph very carefully. She took off her glasses and sat back into the chair.

“When did this all happen?”

“A couple of days ago,” Harvey said sitting down in one of the other chairs, “not long after the dock incident.”

“I had heard about the docks,” she said, “but nothing else about this.”

“Look, Van Dorn,” Bullock said leaning forward, “I know you don’t owe me no favors, and I can’t take any of this back now, but please for anyone’s sake don’t take this out on Gordon.” Janet looked up at Harvey and put her glasses back on.

“For all the good he’s done over the years,” she said slowly looking over the file, “I’ll see what I can do.” She then re-read a certain paragraph.

“So,” she said carefully, “where is he?”

“In Arkham,” Bullock said throwing away his toothpick, “went and saw him there myself. Gordon finally yanked the Bats leash and gave him no choice. Don’t worry, he ain’t gonna go anywhere, and don’t worry about gettin’ a DNA profile,” he said scratching his face, “I’ve got a lab-rat working on that as we speak.”

“I’m sure you do,” she said looking hard at him, “but knowing your methods, it’ll never hold up in court. No,” she said folding up the papers and putting them into her desk, “I’ll need to get it legally if it’s to hold up in court.”

“Now hold on,” said Bullock, “don’t be goin' and blowin' this sky high. Trust me, the Bat is really unstable, even more so now. Besides, Gordon will have my badge and my butt if he finds out that I went and told you.” Janet looked at him, he really did seem like he was starting to regret telling her anything.

“Look,” she said calmly to him, “we’ll play this by ear. I do hear things too you know,” she said standing up, “more things than you realize. I have actually talked to some of the people involved at the docks, and they did mention something about a ‘mini-me Joker’. Of course I didn't believe them, but now,” she paused, “ I’ll approach Gordon later, see what he knows,” she said looking at him, “I’ll see what I can do for the kid.”

“Thanks Van Dorn,” he said standing up as well and headed towards the door.

“Bullock,” she asked him before he left the room, “why tell me all this?”

“Things like this are bound to come to light one day, sooner or later,” he said to her, “and I just want Gordon and the kid to be left out of it as much as possible. Both of them deserve at least that.” He walked out of the room, pulling out another toothpick to just chew on, hoping Gordon wouldn't have a heart attack over this.

 


 

 

It was worse than he had thought it was going to be. He had tried to sleep off the first round, but true to Doc Williams word, they had come back for him for round two. They had taken him back into ‘The Room’ and tied him back down into the chair. He wasn’t the only one in there this time though, there were two others: another boy named Mike, and Jenny as well. He looked over to them, they had obviously had been here longer than him, Jenny with a feeding tube down her nose while Mike had a tube down his throat. He looked up at Williams, he didn’t seem to be enjoying what he was doing to them but did it none the less. He felt the head strap go around his forehead and saw the other orderly approaching him with the tube with gloves on.

"It’ll go more smoothly if you swallow along with it,” he said as he started to insert the tube into the side of his smile. Trying to stay on Williams’ good side he opened his mouth to let the tube in. He gagged as the tube was inserted and it felt really weird as it went down. He tried not to fight it, he had to be good or else he’d be stuck here for the rest of his life, and he’d never be Robin or even see any of the others again. He was convinced the reason why they hadn’t come was to put him through another test. To see if he would finally behave and do what he was told. Finally the orderly stopped pushing the tube down and walked away, presumably to get the pureed food. He tried breathing in normally, but his body naturally fought against it; it wasn’t meant to breathe with both windpipe and esophagus open. That’s when he heard the gagging sound. He looked over as best as he could over to where the gagging was coming from. Mike had started to gag on his own tube and was really struggling against it. As he coughed and retched against the tubes, some of the mushy pale food that had been forced down made it’s way back up through his nose and mouth.

Stop, Stop,” yelled out Williams running over and started to pull out the tube, “you rushed it too fast!” He pulled out the tube and Mike coughed really hard as he tried to get whatever it was out.

“I'm sure it went into his lungs,” Williams said, “by the way he’s coughing. Did it go down the wrong way?” Mike nodded as he continued to coughed. “Alright, that’s enough for now. Take him over to Leland and have her listen to his lungs, we have to make sure all of it comes out or he may get pneumonia.” Williams looked over at his direction.

“Go slow this time,” he said to the orderly behind him, “we can’t afford another mishap.” He looked up to see if he could look at the orderly but movement in the tube caught his eye. ‘Here we go,’ he thought. It was a weird feeling, but he tried his best to ignore it and stay calm. That was his only goal. However, only after three minutes after the orderly had began did he reach his limits again. He tried to signal that he couldn’t hold anymore, but either the orderly didn’t notice or care. Now it was getting painful. He counted to ten, tried to recall a song, anything to distract him. He looked over at Jenny in attempt to think about something else. She looked just as upset as he was, but she had her eyes closed. He felt the orderly push harder on the plunger of the syringe, and he gasped from it. His eyes started to well up, this was absolutely miserable to go through. It caused him to have similar flashbacks to when he was with Harley and the Joker. Harley was always the one to feed him, and it was always forced and way too much. He was never allowed to eat for himself, and it was always after long stretches of nothing at all.

Finally, after another eternity the feeding was done and he was taken back to his cell. He wasn’t exactly ‘aware’ when he was taken back to his cell, so he had no idea when the next one would be. He didn’t even want to think about it. He was completely uncomfortable now, and all he wanted to do was sleep it away. After trying his best to get comfortable, he tried to sleep again, as he obviously wasn’t allowed to do much else, not that he would want to now. He finally fell asleep again, but just as soon as he did, was he awakened for the next round. This time though, he started to slightly struggle against the orderlies despite wanting to cooperate with them. As they had before, they took him back to The Room and again started to put him in the chair. He was aware that he was crying, not sobbing but crying as he tried desperately to get away. He looked around again, Mike wasn’t there this time, but Jenny was, still had the small tube in her nose. Williams looked over at them as they entered the room and watched them as they strapped him in. He walked over to him and he desperately looked up at Williams. He knelt down to look at him and placed his hand on his shoulder.

“I know you don’t understand,” he said almost regrettably, “but you have to trust me, this is for your own good. I know I was...short with you earlier,” he said as he felt his neck to read his heart rate, “but believe me, I really am trying to help.” He looked down at the child, even though he seemed calm, his heart rate told him otherwise. He picked up a spare syringe and a vial of tranquilizer, and could hear a quiet audible laugh-like whimper as he approached the boy. He gave the injection as gently as he could, and though not asleep, the boy seemed far more calm and gave no further protest throughout the procedure.

When placed back into his cell and put once again into bed, he was slightly aware of what had happened, but still didn’t care. He wasn’t sure if it was the medicine or just another way of coping. He lay there hardly moving for a long time but finally lifted his head slightly up to see if he could see anything around him. The hallway was dark, and he didn’t hear any noises. It had to been at least nine or ten o’clock, when lights out happened. He laid his head back down, it was still spinning from the medicine. He tried to take a deep breath to see if that would clear it out, but found that he couldn’t. He suddenly realized in his drunken stupor that he didn’t have his meeting with the other doctors...the one that would have determined what would happen with him. He shallowly sighed, there wasn’t anything he could do right now, not that he didn’t feel like doing anything. He decided that in the morning he would write up a complaint to Williams about his missed meeting, but for now he tried to roll over to get in a more comfortable position, but found it too much work and just settled for sleep.

 


 

 

He had slept soundly during the night thanks to the sedative, but when morning came so did reality. He sat up in bed and stretched his back and limbs, feeling stiff from lack of use. He brushed his teeth and tried to straiten his hair as best as he could, hoping that he could take a shower today, hopefully not with the others though. He sat back down on his bed and tried to listen for anyone talking. He couldn’t hear anyone, perhaps he was up early. He wondered if he would be forced to go back to The Room for breakfast, he hoped not. He rubbed his abdomen to see if there was any change. It was much stiffer than it had been before, and he still had no desire to eat anytime soon. They were giving him way too much at a time; this was going to kill him if they kept it up. He was done. He tried to be patient and good, but not if it meant his death. He heard a door open and saw a orderly slowly walk in. He stopped at his cell and looked in. However, instead of opening the cell or just leaving, the orderly took out a pad and pen and started writing notes. He would pause and look around, as if he was looking for someone. Then just as fast as he came, the man looked around one more time and then left. JJ pressed his face to the window again to see if he could see him leave.

'That was weird.'

He didn't act like a regular orderly, he seemed to be sneaking around. He shrugged it off and waited for someone else to come in, his wait was short as another orderly came in the hall and this time opened his cell door.

“Come on,” the orderly said to him, “I’m to take you to be weighed in.” Well, okay then, that wasn’t so bad, yet. He stood back up and was finally allowed to walk on his own toward a examination room. He sat quietly at the examination room with the orderly as they waited for a nurse to come by. A sudden urge to run away overcame him, but part of him tried to be patient and see where this was leading up to. When she finally did come, they began by measuring his height, and then for some strange reason measured his arms and legs around the middle of them. Then they measured his chest and stomach. Odd, but okay. Finally he was allowed to stand on the scales. He couldn’t see what it was, but the nurse wrote the number down and that was the end of it. As they left the examination room, he hoped that he was going to be sent to the dayroom to wait with the other kids, but when the orderly stopped him from going back the way they came, he knew that he was to go back to The Room. His heart sank, he wasn’t sure if he could keep doing this. His throat was raw enough from that stupid tube. In the end the orderly had to pick him up to take him to The Room because he refused to walk to it.

Unfortunately, they soon came to it and once again he was placed into a chair. This time though he was alone. What, did Mike and Jenny get a second chance at eating on their own or was he just a special case? He waited for the inevitable tube, but he could hear whispering behind him. He sat still and tried to listen in on it.

“What’s this for?” asked the orderly that had brought him in.

“It’s orders from William,” said the second voice, “he saw the weigh-in chart and wanted the portions doubled.”

“Doubled,” asked the first orderly, “is he nuts? There’s no way a kid his size could-”

“I said that too,” said the other man, “but he said if we didn’t, he’d either fire us or transfer us to the S.C. Wing.” Nothing was said for a moment.

“Alright,” said the first orderly, “I’ll do it. I need this job badly and I can’t afford to loose it, and I sure as Hell don’t want to be transferred over there.” That didn’t sound promising in his case at all. He started to fight against his straps as hard as he could in hopes that the orderly didn’t tie him down properly. He started to panic, there was nothing he could do, helpless once again to the mercy of others. He closed his eyes and waited for the inevitable. Suddenly he felt someone playfully ruffle his hair with a warm laugh.

“Don’t worry about it squirt,” said a familiar voice, “you’ll get it next time.” He went to look up but a towel was thrown over him.

“Here, dry off and we’ll try it again in a few minutes.” He took off the towel and saw that he was back in the batcave. He looked around, he saw Nightwing and Batgirl standing near the gym equipment and talking.

‘This isn’t real,’ he thought again, ‘it’s just like last time.’ He looked down at the towel and rubbed it between his fingers. It felt incredibly real. If he hadn’t already known where he was, he would have sworn that it was. He looked up at the other two, still talking. Barbra looked over at him and smiled and waved for him to join them. He slowly walked over at first, hoping that the dream...delusion...what ever it was, wouldn’t end, then he ran over and buried his face into Batgirls’ side and hugged her as tightly as he dared. It felt so real.

“I don’t care if you're not real,” he cried into her side, “just don’t let it end.”

“What are you talking about,” asked Nightwing.

“You’re breaking my back,” said Batgirl through gritted teeth, “ease up will ya?” Without letting her go, he turned his face away from her and said to Nightwing:

“You know what I mean. None of this is real, but I don’t care anymore. I’d rather be in a dream world than reality.”

“So,” said Nightwing casually, “you’re giving up?”

“Yes, yes I’m giving up,” he said letting her go and turning towards him, “I can’t take it anymore. Williams is either gonna kill me or keep me at Arkham for the rest of my life, you guys wont visit me or call me, I’m alone there. I’m all alone,” he said defeatedly.

“You know that’s not true,” said Batgirl.

“Yes it is,” he said to her bitterly, “you guys don’t care anymore."

“No, what she means is,” said Nightwing to him, “you really haven’t given up yet, not really.”

“What, so you know more about me than I do?” he asked him. Nightwing smirked at him playfully and tapped his finger against his forehead.

“We’re in here, remember?”

“Oh,” said Robin thoughtfully, “I actually forgot for a moment. This all feels so real.”

“As real as you want it to be. Look kid,” he said kneeling down, “remember when you were trying to master the rings over there,” he said pointing to the hanging equipment. Robin looked over at them.

“Y-Yeah,” he said turning back to him, “I think that’s what this is...a memory of it?”

“Yep, and do you remember what happened afterward?” Robin thought about it.

“I kept at it, even though you told me to stop.”

“Yeah, you kept at it,” he said to him, “and you never gave up until you actually got it right. Then you kept doing it for another twenty minutes even after you got it right.”

“I don’t get it,” he finally said after thinking about it, “why this memory, why now, why like this?”

“Well, sometimes everyone needs to be reminded of things that are important to them, and I guess that this is your way of doing it,” said Batgirl.

“I still don’t understand,” he said to them. He looked at them, they seemed to be waiting for him to come up with the answer on his own. He stood there in quiet thought for a moment. Finally he slowly said:

“So, what you’re saying, or what I’m telling myself is,” he said very carefully, “is that I need to keep working at it. I can’t wait for change to happen, I have to make the changes happen.” He looked up at them and they smiled down at him.

“You got it,” said Nightwing ruffling his hair, “you can’t just sit around and hope for the best. Take action and get things done.”

”But what kind of action? I thought I knew what Bruce wanted me to do and I messed up big time,” he said to them, “I kinda realize I jeopardized everything. I’m sorry for what happened at the docks, and I am sorry it went overboard, but I’m not sorry for shutting it down.”

“That’s not important right now,” Batgirl said, “what is though is for you start doing something.”

“But what is it I’m supposed to be doing exactly?” They looked down at him. They probably didn’t know either, since in a way he was basically talking to himself.

“What should I do,” he asked them again.

“You’ll know when you find it,” said Nightwing.

“Yeah but what about Williams,” said Robin to them, “he’s going to kill me if he keeps up what he’s doing.”

“Tell him to stop it,” said Batgirl, “he’s not a bad guy, he’s just rushing things to get a fast result. Tell him that he’s hurting you; give him a second chance.” Robin folded his arms and glared at her.

“Yeah, I would if I could.”

“You can,” said Nightwing, “you just choose not to.” Robin took in a deep breath. He was starting to loose his patience with his figments.

“Whatever,” he said to them trying to think of a new topic, “look I still don’t get it, but I’ll try, but I still don’t know what exactly to do.”

“Wake up,” said Nightwing.

“What?”

“Wake up,” said Batgirl. He suddenly realized what they meant. He latched onto Nightwing as tightly as he could.

“No, wait no,” he begged, “not yet! I don’t want to! This is the first one that was nice! I don’t want to leave, not yet, Please!” He held on tightly, hoping if he willed it to stay, that it would continue going. However like all good dreams, they eventually come to a end and he suddenly realized where he was. He opened one eye and looked at the pillow that had formally been Nightwing. He was back in his cell. He sighed. He looked back down at his white hands, then rubbed his eyes with one of them. He was tired and he felt sick again. He looked up and saw that he wasn’t being watched this time around. He sat up and felt even worse. He held his head in his hands and tried to think about what just happened.

‘So,’ he thought, ‘I have to take action, but what did they mean by it?' his head hurt and was swimming. All he wanted to do was sleep again. He stood up despite it making himself nauseous and walked over to the door of the cell. He looked at where the keypad on the other side was, if he had a tool of some sort, he could easily pop the plate open. He was surprised he hadn’t thought of it before, however he wasn’t interested in that at the moment. Near the keypad was a two way speaker that had a nurse call button on it. He pressed it, he wanted out and he was sure that they would let him out at least. He had never acted out as of yet so he was sure they would let him out when he wished it. As he waited, he rubbed his sore gut. He wasn’t going to be fed like that again, he was going to make sure of it. Finally a nurse walked over and pressed on the speaker.

“Is there something you want,” she asked nicely. He pointed towards the dayroom. She seemed to get what he wanted, but looked hesitant.

“I’ll go ask Doctor Williams,” she said, “and I’ll see what he thinks is best.” With that she left. He sighed, it was better than nothing. Maybe Williams would come over and they could talk, relatively speaking of course. He waited and waited for them to return, he was started to become nervous. Why was it taking so long? He finally could hear footsteps.

‘Finally,’ he thought standing up and folding his arms. The nurse and Williams approached the door and for the first time since coming here, he payed attention to the noises the buttons made and where he was pushing. First finger down, then rose up then zigzagged down to the opposite corner of the first. One and three were the first and last buttons of the code. He made a mental note of it. Williams entered the room with a clipboard and pen in hand.

“The nurse said you wanted to talk about something?” he asked as he handed him the clipboard. He took it and wrote down a long note and handed it back to him folding his arms afterwards.

'You're killing me. I can't do that again. I refuse to do it again. I want to talk to Leland about it. What you're doing is wrong. NOMORE.' Williams looked at the note, then back down at him. He sighed and rubbed his eyes with one hand.

“Alright,” he said to him, “I'll let Leland know you want to speak with her. However I think you would probably prefer a shower first. After that you can speak with her.” JJ nodded in agreement. That sounded fine to him. He felt gross and wanted to wash his hair.

“Follow the nurse to the showers,” said Williams, “I'll go talk to Leland.” As he left the cell, he watched Williams walk back towards where the offices were. He did believe that he was going to talk to her, but he hoped that it wasn't just to cover his tracks.

 


 

 

“I told you that you were rushing it,” Leland said to him, “and now look what's happening. First Mike gets a lung infection. Then Jenny complaining to her father about the feeding, making him considering filing a formal complaint, and now,” she said turning to him, “you've upset a very unstable patient.”

“A possible unstable patient,” corrected Williams, “so far he hasn't acted out.”

“Yet,” said Leland, “look Doctor, we have no idea what the Joker and Harley did to the boy, and from the reports, it's best to keep it safe for everyone. I've been going over your reports Williams,” she said frowning, “and he's right, at the rate you're pushing him it could cause a lot of internal damage. You need to cut back.” Williams rubbed his neck in frustration.

“You need to cut back on all of them,” she said more softly, “I know you're a good doctor, but you know more than I that you're possibly causing a lot of mental damage.”

“I know,” he said sadly, “but...you really, really have no idea what I had to do, to get these kids in here. And when Wayne offered life time support...it was a godsend Leland. I just don't want to loose this.”

“I just hope we can smooth this over,” she said to him, “he seems very upset with you, and I don't blame him. Don't force him. Let him be with the other children for now.” Williams nodded in agreement.

 


 

 

It was nice to have hot water wash down on him, and it was also another comfort that he was the only one in the showers. That meant he could have a private stall along with a private shower. He had always been shy, and now he was all the more shy because of all the scars on his body. He was use to hiding scars though, he had to when he was Robin, but now there were so many that it was impossible to hide them. He scrubbed his hair, trying to get the cheap shampoo to clean it out. He looked out of the stall a little and could see a couple of orderlies waiting for him to be done. He sighed. He was tired of having someone perpetually watch him. It wasn't like he was going to do anything. Soon he was done, and when he was done drying off and changing into a new clean set of clothes , a nurse dried and styled his hair. For some reason they wouldn't let him operate a hairdryer. That was silly. He expected to be escorted right to Leland's room, however they instead let him back into the dayroom. That was fine, he kinda missed being around people, and this way he could meet up with Steven or someone else. As he looked for someone, he noticed that Max was watching him but rather than his usual quips or anything, all he did was smile at him. Like he knew something he didn't.

“There you are kid,” said Steve walking up to him, “I heard that you had a few feeding rounds with Mike and Jenny,” he said smerking while he poked him in his stomach, “looks like it too.” He was annoyed at that and pushed his hand away from him.

“Hey, I'm not saying anything,” Steven said throwing up his hands, “but all I'll say is you look good. You don't look so starved now.” JJ decided to ignore him and hoped he would change the subject.

“Hey uh,” he said nervously, wondering if it was going to be the right thing to say, “lunch is coming up soon. Do you want to sit together again?” Lunch was the last thing he wanted, but he was willing to go sit with him. Perhaps Leland was waiting till after lunch to speak with him, that was fine. Soon enough the lunch lineup happened and everyone tried to get a good position. However, when normally Max would push his way to the front of the line, this time he made sure he was last. He was still smiling at JJ. JJ looked back at him, wondering what he was up too. Soon they reached the line to receive their trays, however when it was his turn to get a tray, the lunch lady said:

“Oh, hang on there's a special lunch for you here,” she said pulling out a brown bag, “It's from Leland, apparently.”

'Weird, but okay,' he thought as he took the sack. He also grabbed a milk, not really intending to drink it, perhaps he'd just give it to Steven. The two sat down and just as curious as he was, Steven poked at the bag.

“What do you think it is? Hey, there's a note on here,” he took the note and opened it and read it out loud as JJ slowly opened the bag and pulled out something wrapped up.

“Here is your favorite, I hope you like it cold.” JJ opened the wrapping and when he pulled the last bit away....

It was a cow tongue. A cold, raw cow tongue. He could hear Max snickering in the back of the room. He spun around to look at him with wide eyes. He knew. Somehow he knew. He wasn't alone in the joke, as other kids were snickering and pointing at him as well.

“What the heck is this,” asked Steven poking the tongue, “what's the joke? What ever it is I'm lost on it.” Now some of the kids were openly laughing at it. JJ looked down at the tongue. He thought he should feel humiliated or embarrassed or heck even anger, but he didn't feel any of that. Instead he felt the all familiar buildup of laughter growing inside. He knew he should try to keep it down, to not let that laugh come out, but now...he didn't care. He started to laugh along with the other kids, he could take a joke, even if it was at his expense. He laughed hard at it, looking down at the pale thing. He wondered why on earth anyone would want to eat a tongue anyway, and how Max was even able to get the stupid thing. Soon he didn't hear the other kids laughter or voices. His was the only one echoing in the lunch room. He looked up at Steven who had scooted away from him, then back over towards Max, who was the only one in the room still smiling. He had finally got him. He found his weak spot and exploited it. He was still laughing when the orderlies came and took him away from the others, he laughed harder when he felt the needle, he even kept laughing when they thought him calm enough to leave him alone.

He closed his eyes as he felt the medicine attempt to relax him, still giggling from it all. He finally realized how much it actually hurt to laugh now. He still had a very full gut and it was hard as a rock. He finally tried to stop himself from laughing but whenever he just let it loose, it was very hard for him to contain it again. He focused on his breathing and tried to count to ten.

He suddenly realized how stupid he was. That was exactly what Max had wanted. He wanted him to react to it. Stupid. How stupid could he be? Now all he'll hear from Max is tongue related things. Ugh. This was bad. How did he find out? Did he know more? Finally he felt embarrassed about everything. He buried his face in his hands, and tried to force the laughter back down. He could hear the keypad being pushed, he looked up and there was Leland, the orderly waited outside of the cell.

“I am so sorry on what happened,” said Leland to him kneeling down to his eye level, “Max has been punished for it. Are you doing alright?” she handed him the whiteboard. He took it and wrote down what he wanted to talk about.

'My stomach hurts. No more. Tell him no more.'

“I know,” she said to him, “we've already discussed it. I've told him to cut back on the portions and the number, but I'm sorry to say that you still have to stay on it.” He quickly erased the board and as he turned it, tapped it violently.

'I said no more. I don't want to do it anymore.'

“I'm sorry, but it's not up for discussion,” said Leland firmly, “I know it's hard for you, but it's necessary. Doctor Bartholomew and myself agreed with Williams with the feeding.” JJ felt angry now. Nobody was listening to him. Didn't his opinion matter? His vision started to tunnel , he was sick of people mocking him and looking down at him and not listening to him. He sighed hard, he had to stay good as long as he could. He would wait for Bruce to come, Williams said that Bruce was likely to come. He'd tell him what was happening and he'd fix everything. He will take him away from this, he was sure of it. JJ tried to hide his annoyance, however he wasn't very convincing. Leland saw that he was just becoming more upset, so she decided to end the conversation in hopes that he would calm down.

“We'll talk more about it later today,” she said, “I have to go deal with Max for now.” As the two left, he banged his fists on the glass window, trying to get their attention back and just out of frustration. Nobody was really on his side. He slammed his head against the glass, then walked back over to the bed and sat back down on it. He was very close to loosing his temper with everything, so in trying not to loose it he reached down for his baseball card to take his mind off of it. He didn't feel it, so he lifted the coverings and looked under the pillow...it was gone. His card was gone, everything was gone. Did an orderly or nurse find them? He looked around his room, as if it would somehow contain the answer. He finally sat back down and again placed his head in his hands. His head was killing him now and this was just turning out to be a really bad day.

He decided to try to practice meditation while he waited in order to calm himself down. He wasn't very good at it, he never had much patience for it. He breathed in and breathed out, trying to clear away any static in his head and any negative feelings. It must have done the trick, because after awhile he was feeling much more calm about everything, despite knowing what was going to probably happen soon. Then he heard the clicking of the shoes. It was time for the next round. He wasn't going to be dragged back to that room though, he was going to stand his ground this time and outright refuse. However when the group came up to the glass, this time Dr. Bartholomew was with them and a small glimmer of hope came with him.

“Hello there son,” said Bartholomew to him as he entered the cell, “Doctor Leland has told me that you are...concerned about your current treatment.” JJ smiled and nodded at him, finally someone who would hopefully understand.

“I understand your concerns young man,” he said sternly, “however this is for your own good. I've read the reports, and I've also discussed it with Commissioner Gordon and we both feel it for the best in your physical recovery.” JJ's heart sank with that. Bartholomew was probably his last best chance in having it stop, but now that he had Gordon's blessing to continue doing it...there was no more fighting it. He had to be good. If he wasn't, he'd be here forever. He sighed and sadly nodded in agreement. Bartholomew smiled and patted him on his shoulder.

“There's a good lad,” he said to him, “we'll get the last one for today done, and later we'll discuss about how you would feel about a nasogastric tube rather than the orogastric one we've been using. For now why don't you go interact with the others in the dayroom?” JJ sighed, there wasn't much he could do for the moment. They led him back to the dayroom; a thought came to his mind, that if he could write a letter to Bruce and have it delivered to Gordon...yeah that could work. He slowly made his way back towards the comfort room, but he couldn't help notice that some of the other kids were eyeing him along the way. Only a few of them still seemed to think that the tongue thing was still funny, others seemed more wary of him now. Whatever. As he entered the room, George was still in his spot on the desk coloring away. George turned to look at him, and gave him a small smile and nod. He returned the nod as he grabbed a pencil and paper and walked over to where the radio was. He turned it on to the news, just to have some sort of noise to listen to as he tried to think of what to tell Bruce on what was happening. As he was writing, he happened to catch the name 'Wayne' with the newscaster, so he paused to listen.

“That's right Tom,” said the woman on the radio, “Millionaire Bruce Wayne was in the news again this morning, however it wasn't for another charity dinner.”

“Yes it seems,” said a male voice, “that Mr. Wayne was in court today. He was formally arraigned of child neglect by fellow business woman, Kristie Korbon and the state of New Jersey. The charges come from the supposed long absence of Wayne's young charge, Tim Drake, which was reported by Miss. Korbon and was backed up by Child Welfare Services.”

“Yes, this isn't the first time Korbon has gone after Wayne, she had done similar charges in the past with Mr. Wayne's first charge, Richard Grayson,” said the woman, “however in a brief interview with Tim Drake, he denied any wrong doing on Waynes' part.”

JJ picked up the radio and looked aghast at it. He hadn't been at any courthouse! What were they talking about, he was right here! He almost dropped the radio, but calmly put it back down. That wasn't possible. He was right here, had been the entire time. Who could have posed as him? It...aggravated him. Is that why nobody came to see him? Because they were busy making a new Tim...a new Robin to take his place? He had heard of cloning...did they do that with him? Made a new fresh Tim to replace him while he rotted away here, forgotten? It was a stretch...but not that far of a stretch. It did explain why nobody would come and see him. He looked down at the letter he was writing, he ripped and crumpled it up and threw it away. He felt so angry right now. He walked out of the room without turning off the radio and was just going to ask to be taken back to his room when he felt himself bump into someone. He looked up and saw Max glaring down at him. This he didn't need.

“Well freak,” he said quietly, so the orderlies didn't hear him, “based on your reaction, it seems that report was true. Man, you are one sick little fuck,” he said jabbing him hard in his gut, “to be eating shit like that. Why'd you do it anyway, huh?” Max continued to poke him harder and harder. So, Max must of broken into the patient files and looked his up. As Max kept jabbing and talking to him, he felt angry, yet calm at the same time; ignoring any further remarks. Max seemed like he was trying to make him act out again, poking him harder and harder. However, JJ wasn't stupid. He knew from school and law that usually the one that strikes first is usually punished more. Deep down inside though, he wanted Max to take a shot at him.

'Do it,' he thought to himself, 'do it. Take a swing at me. I know you want to. You think I'm some stupid kid that doesn't know how to fight. Fucking do it. One swing at me and you're dead.' JJ was quivering in anticipation, he truly wanted him to try something. He could see in Max's eyes that he was seriously considering taking a cheap shot at him. Finally, Max stood strait up and turned away from him, seemingly looking like he was just going to walk away. However a split second later, and JJ could instantly see that he was going to attack.

His telegraphed moves were very easy to spot. Time seemed to slow down. Max was spinning around to what looked like he was going to give him a right hook. As Max's arm was swinging close towards him, JJ gracefully dodged it, while grabbing the extended arm and without even thinking, kicked Max so hard in the ribs that he could actually feel the ribs breaking. He wasn't done with him though. Not by a long shot. Max wanted a fight, so he was going to give him one he'd never forget. He hadn't felt so angry in such a long time, and now all his rage was pouring out and any sane logic was pushed to the side. As his leg was still lodged into Max's ribs, he used it as a stepping stool to propel and spin himself over Max's head, bringing his arm around with him. He could feel the shoulder dislocating and cracking with the momentum of his weight and speed. Then he wrapped the arm around Max's back while he swipe kicked his legs from under him, causing Max to crumble down. Then as Max's head was closer to his own head height, he grabbed the left arm and jumped up and kicked his head so hard while twisting the arm that the collarbone and shoulder broke as Max's head and torso was forced forward. Max rolled away like a rag doll away from him after one final kick to the head, completely knocked out from the last kick. JJ didn't even break a sweat. He looked down at the 'all mighty' Max who was now laying motionless on the ground. Blood was beginning to slowly puddle away from Max's turned face. He must have broken his noes with the kick.

He could hear himself laughing very loudly, it sounded way, way to similar to the Jokers. He didn't care. Suddenly he was flat against the floor. The wind was knocked out of him, and he felt someone's knee digging painfully into his back; hands holding him down with such a tight force that he couldn't breathe. He was completely pinned to the ground. He was just about to try to fight them off when he felt another needle go deep into his side. He yelped at it, it wasn't a gentle injection. He could still hear the laughter and listened to it as it slowed down, and soon his world was black again.

 


 

 

The world still seemed like it was in slow motion when he woke up. He closed his eyes and shook his head and decided that when he was a grown up, he would never touch a single drop of alcohol, if this was any indication of being drunk, or waking up with a hangover was like. Finally the world stopped spinning and he looked up. He wasn't in his room. He went to sit up, but was caught short. He looked down and saw that they had tied him down on a restraint bed. He had a restraint strap across his chest that looped under his arms, two wrist restraints, one strap that went across his upper legs and two ankle restraints that spread his legs out slightly. He sat up as far as he could and looked around. He was in what he guessed was a solitary room. It was padded. Nice. He sighed and laid back down. Moron. How stupid was he? He had one job and he blew it, again. Still, he did feel satisfied that he finally put Max in his place. He thought he was going to be the big man when he was transferred to the adult wings? Ha! Good luck with two broken arms. He chuckled at it. He heard a latch open and looked over towards the door, someone was looking in.

He sat up a little, and wondered if he could see them back. However the little view door was closed and they were opening up the main door. He watched as Bartholomew and two orderlies walked into the room. He turned away from them. He didn't want to hear a lecture from them. Doctor Bartholomew was the first to speak. 

“We need to have a serious discussion right now,” he said to him, looking down at him and casting a shadow over him, “about what happened.” JJ made no motions as to acknowledge them. If they wouldn't listen to him, why should he listen to them?

“I watched the security footage of what happened, and it did show that Max was the first one to attack, however you caused some serious damage to him,” he said gravely. 

'Good.'

“Not only does he have two broken arms, but a broken collarbone, skull, and neck,” said Bartholomew as he read the report, JJ finally turned his head to look at them. Really, that bad? He didn't hit his head that hard, did he?

“He had to be transferred to the county hospital,” continued Bartholomew, “and they're not sure when he'll be able to give a statement; we'll get a statement from him when we can. However,” he said more strictly, “you're going to stay here until we decide what to do with you.” The three of them left the room and closed the door behind. JJ looked at the door for a long time, then turned his head to the ceiling and looked at that. He closed his eyes and took in a deep breath. This place was starting to get to him. He wasn't going to stay here any longer than he had too. He had questions that needed to be answered. Who or what was posing as him? Why wouldn't anyone visit him? He looked back up. He made up his mind. He was going to take action and take back control. He was going to leave. He was going to break out.

 

Chapter Text

Why would anyone want to live in Gotham City?

That was a question she had heard so many times she had lost count. The answer was simple. The only reason why people would live in the nations most crime-ridden city is it was home. As silly and sappy as that sounded, it was true. It was home...her home. Selina Kyle had been away from Gotham for nearly a year now, running around in Asia and sampling some of the finer treasures that it had to offer. However the inevitable longing of home had called her back. She had to rebuild up a new persona for herself, now that Selina Kyle was a wanted criminal; who would be caged up if she ever resurfaced again. The hardest part was parting ways with old friends. Friends like...but that was the past. It was best to keep looking forward.

She gazed over the city as she crouched between gargoyles, remembering that despite it all, Gotham could be beautiful at night. She closed her eyes and took in a deep breath. Smelling car exhaust, smoke and the promise of rain. Home at last. She smiled and decided to have a romp in her old territory. Perhaps she would run into him tonight. She had heard the rumors though, read the newspapers. Some part of her, the one that she usually listened too the most, told her that perhaps it wouldn't be wise to provoke him. Despite the warning of her deeper instincts, she did crave some sort of companionship that only an old friend could provide. Batman was one of the only ones who knew of her true self, and in a way was part of the problem. Things had been fine when Batgirl was the only one that knew of her...darker nature, but when Batman found out about it when she had attacked that cosmetic maker...it broke her heart, probably his too. Again with past matters?

“Probably becoming more sentimental,” she muttered to herself, after all, wasn't that what brought her back here? She was about to leap off the side of the building when she thought she heard something. She paused, and held her breath. She listened again, there definitely was someone up here with her. She tuned around and took a defensive stance.

“Come out, or else you'll be needing about eight hundred stitches,” she said as she prepared to either fight her way out or run. Slowly, a cape flickered in the light. She sighed and relaxed a little.

“Oh, it's you,” she said as she tried to laugh off her fear. He didn't move from his spot, didn't make a sound or make the first move. Strange for him. Something was different, she could feel that much at least. She decided to play it safe.

“It's been awhile Batman,” she said to him as she relaxed her pose. She waited for him to say or even do anything. It was very strange for him to just stand in the dark shadows for so long.

“Aren't you going to ask me what am I doing here,” she asked, trying to make him say something. Again he stayed silent. She decided to tell a small white lie.

“The truth is,” she said, “I've come back to Gotham to meet an old friend of mine. Heard he's having some trouble with some things, so I thought he would like someone to talk about it. Even though he probably wants nothing to do with me,” she said a little sadly, “but hay, what else do I have to loose?” She waited for the “your freedom” line she set up for him to say...but again he stayed silent. Now it was getting annoying.

“Aren't you going to say or do anything?” She paused and waited for something. Finally after what felt like minutes did Batman finally make a move, but not towards her.

“Just keep your nose clean Selina,” he said pulling out his grapnel gun, “I mean it. I don't have the patience for you anymore. If you do pull something while you're in Gotham, you'll sorely regret it.” With that he flung away, leaving her to stare down at where he had been standing. Something definitely happened while she was gone. She had planned on a few robberies while she was in town, but now her curiosity was perked. She had to know what happened with him. This still could be fun, but she had to keep her whiskers clean for now...he seemed more serious than ever before. She decided to head back to her new apartment and think of where to start. For now, her hunt was over, but there was always tomorrow night.

  


 

 

'Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in...' he sighed and opened his eyes. Being in solitary wasn't exactly the worst thing that had ever happened to him, but now he was just getting bored. He had already counted the buttons in the room (there was exactly one-hundred and thirty six of them) and he had already thought about every movie, t.v. show, book and song he could think of. Now his mind wanted to wander and that...wasn't a good thing anymore. He sat up a bit and looked down at his restraints. He moved his arms and legs a bit, and then arched his back as far as he could, not trying to get loose but it was just something to do. He huffed and turned his head back toward the door in hopes that perhaps someone would eventually open it and...then what? Take him back to another room and lock him in that one? He turned his head back toward the ceiling and looked up at it. He tried distracting himself again by listening to himself, hearing his breathing and heartbeat...and the quiet chuckles. He hadn't noticed them before. Had he been doing them the whole time? Was he ever quiet anymore? He closed his eyes and held his breath, wanting to hush them up.

As he exhaled, his idea of escaping came back to him. Sure he probably could do it, given enough time and determination (and that is exactly what he had plenty of, especially the latter) but then what? Again he was left with the dilemma of what he would do afterwards. There was one thing he did know for a fact, even with the horribleness of what happened at the docks he still desired to be a crime fighter. Even with all that had happened to him and now, he still believed in justice and protection of innocent people. Some part of him...kinda knew that...he probably wouldn't be allowed to ever be Robin again. That quiet small tiny part of him that was still the old him was whispering that to him, and he had to agree. He wanted badly to be Robin again...but having time to really think about it (after all what else was there to do now but think) Bruce would probably never let it happen, but not because what had happened to him.

As he had sat there strapped down on that table and had time to reflect and really look at himself, he kinda realized something. He had always been a little more...darker than the others. He had always enjoyed the fights, enjoyed the rush of it...enjoyed hurting them. He had lost his temper once with Clayface, and now he kinda realized that if Bruce hadn't been there to...to stop him...he could have possibly killed Clayface. Maybe that's why Bruce had taken him in, and had watched him like a hawk? Had Bruce seen what he was turning into, or rather what he was, and was trying to stop it? In the end he supposed it didn't matter. He was hurting people whether he meant to or not now.

'Perhaps I should stay here,' he thought to himself, 'maybe I've been sick my entire life.' He only thought about it for a moment though. He didn't want to be forgotten here, and live his life away in this place. He wanted to make a positive difference, despite his darker nature. He wanted to help. Perhaps his darker side could help in with that. He had thought back to that night, as he had smacked and slashed at Holloway. He came to realize another thing. Batman's way of things wasn't working out. Sure some people would go strait after a run-in with Batman, but most of them kept going on and on. There were so many bad people out there on Gotham's streets, even more that kept getting away with things, like The Penguin and Rupert Thorn. Batman had a very noble code but he kinda realized that he was nothing more than a disgruntled janitor. Always cleaning up a new spill, and as soon as that was done a new one would be there waiting for him.

Of course there was no way you could one-hundred percent stop crime, but he could at least slow it down and stop some of the worst offenders. However killing them was still out of the question. That was always and forever would be wrong. Holloway however was probably still in the hospital, never to hurt anyone ever again. His mind would jump from one subject to another, going over wanting to be Robin again to accepting never to be Robin; then back and forth up till the point his ideas were just a whirl-pooled mess and it greatly confused him to think about it any longer. He finally just sat there and looked up at nothing, and then finally thought back to not his old crime fighter life, but his Tim Drake life.

He did wish that things could just go back to the way it was. All he wanted was his old life as Robin again and the family that came with it. He stopped thinking about it when he heard the laughter and felt the tears. Had he been crying? He wished he could wipe his face, it was getting itchy now. He sniffled a little and was just about to recount the buttons on the walls when he heard footsteps. He sat up again and looked at the door.

'Finally,' he thought, 'about time they came back. It's been hours.' He wasn't sure what he was expecting but when the orderlies came in with the...equipment his heart sank. Really? Is this all they cared about? Another problem was the other orderly, Greg. He didn't like him. He usually was the one who did the feedings and he wasn't ever gentle about it. He sighed in frustration and turned his head away from them. This was getting really old. He looked at the two when they approached him, he was toying with the idea of fighting it but then again it'd just be worse for him. He decided to just cooperate with them and get it over with, luckily midway through the feeding the two orderlies started talking to each other.

“So Greg,” said the one orderly, “why are we doing this now instead of later?”

“Because Bartholomew and the others got a phone call,” said Greg, “I guess someone important is coming to see the kid and I guess they want to make everything look good as possible.” JJ perked up at that. It had to be Bruce coming to visit. He relaxed slightly at it, thinking now perhaps he could somehow convince him to let him come back home. Tell him he'd learned his lesson and that he'd be a good soldier from then on. His train of thought was interrupted when he felt Greg rush the last of the mixture. He glared up at him, he was getting really tired of him doing that every single time, After they finished with the feeding, it was time for him to go back to his cell and wait for whomever was coming for the visit. After standing up from the strap-down table, he stretched his arms, legs and back and was more than golden to let them take him back via the wheelchair. He had to make sure that he be absolutely good for this. He had convinced himself that this was his evaluation meeting and despite what had happened with Max, that his behavior was good enough to possibly allow him to go home. It's not like he wanted to go around kicking in everybody's face that he saw on the street. When he was left alone in his cell, he took the time to wash his face and brush his teeth. He even tried to straiten up his hair in the back but without a mirror it was kinda hard to see if it was right or not. Then he sat on the edge of his bed and patiently waited for the next step. He couldn't help but build up what was to come, almost halfheartedly believing that he would soon be going home today. He excitedly stood up when he could hear the clicking of approaching footsteps, but then was slightly taken back when he could hear the voices.

“I understand your concerns Mayor,” said the all familiar voice of Bartholomew, “but I can assure you that despite one isolated incident, he's been perfectly calm and obedient with staff and other patients.”

“I as well understand doctor,” said a voice that was firm and from the sound of it unhappy, “but if what District Attorney Van Dorn's reports say is true then, I want to see to this matter personally.” JJ did recognize the voice. It belonged to the new mayor of Gotham, Mayor Doug Hayes. He had been in office for only about a year, due to the old mayor Hamilton Hill deciding that Gotham was just too hard to control anymore, and had moved away to Blüdhaven to enjoy retirement away from any of the standard risk of living in Gotham. He had heard a lot about the old mayor from Bruce and Alfred, in that while Hill didn't fully agree with the idea of Batman, he did put up with it and accepted any help offered from him. Hayes however, was a different story.

Hayes was a younger man, hansom and really did seem to be genuinely concerned about Gothams' crime rate, safety, and upholding the law as much as Batman. That is where the similarities ended though. Hayes was adamant at ridding Gotham of not only the super criminals but The Dark Knight as well. He stated clearly in his campaign that if elected mayor he did plan on getting rid of Batman after taking control of the criminals. True to his word, as soon as the new Arkham was considered a success in keeping the psychos in, he started focusing onto Batman. However with a lot of public love, and Gordon and the GCPD backing him up, Hayes had a hard time finding support for his side of the fence, and in so stayed fairly quiet for some time. As the group of people came to view, there was of course Dr. Bartholomew and some orderlies but then there was Mayor Hayes with what looked like a male secretary and a woman he didn't recognize. Hayes was looking over him with a very stern expression. Perhaps he was in trouble with the mayor about the docks? The woman he didn't recognize tried to not stare too long at him and adjusted her glasses to distract herself. The secretary was busy writing something down, but would make quick glances at him. JJ approached the glass and looked up at them. The mayor knelt down to match his eye level and looked at him. He seemed to be looking at everything about him; taking mental notes. His face did soften quickly though and he gave him a small smile.

“Did you contact Gordon?” asked Hayes turning to his secretary.

“I called Gordon as soon as we left the office,” said the secretary, “He said he'd meet us here as soon as he was able to do so.”

“That's fine,” said Hayes looking up at him, “saves us a trip to the station.” He turned back to JJ and shot him another reassuring smile.

“Can we go in Bartholomew,” he asked without looking up, “I'd like to talk to him without the Plexiglas between us.”

“Well,” said Bartholomew apprehensively, “he hasn't said a word as of yet, and I'm not sure if that would be-”

“I want to talk to him like a human being,” said Hayes standing up and turning to Bartholomew, “and I'm sure it'll be fine. Respect goes a long way and I feel like he hasn't had any of that in a very long time.” JJ looked up at him. He was starting to like this Hayes guy, finally someone willing to work with him rather than just talk down to him and treat him like a freak. He nodded approvingly at Bartholomew and stepped away from the glass. Bartholomew sighed and opened the cell door and let Hayes with his secretary and the woman in. Of course the two orderlies and Bartholomew followed close behind them.

“I'm Mayor Doug Hayes,” he said to him, warmly extending his hand, “this is my assistant John Hues and this,” he said waving to the woman” is District Attorney Janet Van Dorn.” JJ took his hand and was surprised how firm he held his hand and shook it. He looked up at Janet and gave a little nod in her direction and attempted to say 'hi' but all that came out was a weird quiet 'hee' laugh-like sound. She kept a straight face despite the weird noise and looked like it didn't bother her all that much, but he was done attempting to talk again.

“I'm sure you're wondering why we'er here,” Hayes said to him. JJ had already put two and two together and figured that they were here over the docks thing and possibly about Batman. He knew that Hayes really didn't like him so he was probably going to try to get something out of him.

“We're here to talk about what happened,” he said to him, yep, he called it, “about The Joker and Harley.” That caught him off guard. He took a step backwards without realizing it, causing Bartholomew to get more apprehensive about the whole thing.

“Mayor Hayes,” he said gently, “I understand you have questions that need to be answered, but you must realize: that is a very delicate subject. I don't think he's ready to talk about that.” Hayes looked at him and decided to try something else.

“Alright then,” he said looking back at JJ, “is it alright if I ask you some other questions then?” JJ slowly nodded, he knew that Hayes was trying to get to Batman without upsetting him.

“I know what happened to you was really bad,” Hayes said, “and I know you probably feel a sort of loyalty to him, but we need to know who Batman is.” JJ folded his arms and tilted his head. He wasn't about to tell him anything.

“I'm sorry, but he's just as responsible for what happened to you, and I want to see justice for you done. Can you help us out?” JJ shook his head. He wasn't going to tell him one single thing about it. Hayes looked disappointed but he seemed to understand. He decided to change the subject yet again.

“Do you like it here?” JJ gave a quick glance at Bartholomew, but then shook his head and then pointed to the notebook that Hues was holding.

“He has had some concerns about his current treatment,” Bartholomew quickly interjected, “but I assure you that they are necessary for his recovery.” Hayes glanced over at Bartholomew and was about to say something but everyone turned when they could hear approaching footsteps. Gordon was walking fairly quickly, probably hoping that he would have beaten them to the asylum but he quickly entered the room with the rest of them.

“Sorry I'm late,” he said adjusting his coat, “traffic was bad in midtown.” He walked passed the adults and made his way over to JJ.

“How are you doing son,” he asked putting his hand on his shoulder, “you holding up alright here?” JJ looked up at him and then buried his face into Gordon's chest as he hugged him. Finally, someone he knew. He may not be Bruce or any of the others, but he was just happy to see a true friend. Gordon returned the hug and patted his back warmly.

“It's good to see you too son.” Gordon looked up at the others in the room, he cleared his throat and gently pushed JJ away from him, but left his hands on his shoulders and was about to say something when he was interrupted by Hayes.

“We need to talk Gordon,” he said flatly, “you know what about.” Gordon looked at him and slightly nodded in agreement.

“Let's take it somewhere more private,” said Hayes as he quickly glanced back down at the child as he walked past to leave the room, “It'll be better for everyone involved.” As the adults left the small room, Gordon looked down and said:

“I'll come back after this and we'll talk some more.” He took his hands off of his shoulders and as soon as he left, Bartholomew closed the door and guided the group back up the hall. JJ sighed, all he could do now was wait to find out what was really going on. He knew Gordon would tell him, and in one way or another, would tell Batman if something was really going on. He sat back down on the bed. He still had a bad feeling about the whole thing, kinda realizing that this was all his fault, all because of what happened at the docks. Hopefully it'll work out in the end.

 


 

 

Bartholomew closed the door after he instructed his secretary that they were not to be interrupted and turned back towards the group. Hayes was sitting on the edge of Bartholomew's desk with his arms folded. He was looking particularly hard at Gordon.

“You know we have to go after him now Gordon,” he said to him, “he's gone on for far too long.”

“Listen Hays,” Gordon said.

“No, you listen Gordon,” Hayes said raising his voice and stepping away from the desk, “I understand that Gotham has been a cesspool for years and yes, perhaps at the time we needed someone like Batman to help keep the crime rate down. In the end though he has been breaking the law for years now, and he used you to keep up his little war.”

“Now hold on,” Gordon said, “he's never used me-”

“Oh, so you're saying you used him?” Gordon's face was starting to look like he had eaten something sour.

“I don't care what you say or what good he has done in the past,” said Hayes walking away from him, “but Batman's actions have caused severe damage to that child, probably permanent. Janet,” he said turning to her, “would you be so kind as to read off the list of charges that we are pressing?” Janet opened up a file folder and adjusted her glasses.

“Child abuse which includes neglect and emotional; possible physical. Child endangerment, child abandonment; those are the ones related to the child but when captured we also plan on charging him with assault and battery, aggravated assault and battery, harassment, stalking and manslaughter.”

“Manslaughter,” Gordon cried out. Hayes nodded.

“Involuntary Manslaughter,” continued Janet, “the reports of the autopsy of the Joker show that he was shot to death by what appeared to be a dart gun,” she looked at Jim and lowered her glasses, “if it turns out to be the child that killed him, then the state is prepared to charge Batman with the crime because based off of the doctor reports including Bartholomews,” she said gesturing to him, “the child is clearly deranged and therefore will most likely not see any trial. That of course that may change if the child passes a competency evaluation.”

“This is absurd,” Gordon said turning to her, wondering how on earth she found out about the autopsy report, “you and I both know that what's happened to Robin isn't his fault.”

“Gordon,” said Janet, “you're fooling yourself. Whoever Batman is should clearly know that putting a young child in dangerous situations could lead to horrible consequences and that is precisely what has happened. I know,” she said closing the file, “that his heart maybe in the right place, but his actions have led to the mutilation and severe emotional and psychological damage to a juvenile. Out of all the good Batman has done, you can't deny that Gordon,” she said softly. Nothing was said for over a minute; the room was quiet and all that could be heard was breathing and the occasional squeak of a floorboard when someone shifted their weight.

“Gordon,” said Janet, “I expect your full cooperation in this. If not I'll have no choice but to press aid and abet charges on you and none of us in this room want that. 

“You're probably the best Police Commissioner this city has ever seen,” said Hayes, “and the people love you, second only to Batman. I know that you have some...emotional ties with Batman so I'm having an outside investigation working on this case, but please,” he said to him, “if you have any idea who Batman or any of the others are then tell us now and I can guarantee leniency.”

“I know what you all are thinking,” Gordon said to them, “but, no. I do not know who he is behind the mask, nor any of them. I also know the law,” he said looking at Janet, “the night I had him bring Robin to me I outright told him to tell me Robin's true name and he said nothing...he didn't say one word during the exchange.” Hayes sighed and folded his arms again. He did believe Gordon, he had no true reason to lie. Gordon was looking hard down at the ground, it had to have been Bullock who had told Janet, there wasn't anyone else other than himself and Montoya. He closed his eyes and sadly applauded Bullock...in the end he was right in doing so. He knew that much, but now his best friend was in deep trouble with the law and it was his duty to uphold it.

“We need you to come downtown and make your official statement with the head investigator,” said Janet, “but first we need those blood samples we talked about doctor. We need to find out who he is as soon as possible. Here's the warrant for it,” she said as she walked over to him and handed the document. Bartholomew looked over the paper carefully.

“Yes,” he said looking at the document, “I'll have a nurse get them strait away...but...I'm not sure how he'll react to it.”

“I'll go,” said Gordon, “perhaps he'll be more calm with me around.” Bartholomew looked over at Hayes and Van Dorn and both nodded in agreement.

 


 

 

JJ wondered how long the meeting would go on for, it had been almost thirty minutes now and he wondered if Gordon had forgotten. The footsteps jarred his thinking and he turned back toward the window. He felt relieved when he saw Gordon, and as the nurse typed in the codes, he saw that Gordon whispered something in Hayes and Bartholomew's ears. Bartholomew handed him a small whiteboard to bring with him. The door opened and Gordon stepped inside. He stood up and again gave Gordon a hug. When he let him go, Gordon sat on the bed and motioned for him to sit next to him. JJ sat between him and the others who were still outside the room.

“We need to talk about something important,” said Gordon handing him the whiteboard, “about what happened.” JJ took the board and pen and wrote down on it:

'Is it about Max?'

“Is it about Max,” Gordon repeated aloud, looking up at the others, “I don't know anything about that.”

“Max is a patient here,” said Bartholomew through the two-way speaker, “there was an...incident involving him and Max. Max is currently...in the county hospital.” Gordon nodded, understanding what he meant. Gordon looked back down at Robin and in turn he glanced away from his gaze.

“No,” said Gordon changing the subject, “no what I need to talk about is, well,” he didn't quiet know how to put it for him. He wrapped his arm around him and held him close, just as he would have done with Barbara when she was his age.

“We need a blood sample from you,” he said to him, “because we need to find out who you are and,” he said taking in a breath, “to find out who Batman is.” JJ looked up at him. Even though he kinda already knew what they were there for, it was still a shock to hear Gordon just tell him flat out. Gordon pulled him close and was hushing him. Dammit was he laughing again?

“I promise it's going to be okay,” he whispered to him as he held him, “I'm going to do my best to help you all.” He relaxed in Gordon's arms, he believed him, but he still caused all this. If he had just stayed home that night, hadn't gone out for patrol...none of this would be happening. He held onto Gordon tightly as he heard the nurse walk in and Gordon held onto him as she drew out the blood. He was trying so hard to be good for this, but even then he still struggled against him as the withdrawal happened, there were too many memories and too many feelings. He tried to ignore the quiet voices taunting him as he bled out after he violently ripped out the small IV cord. Tried to ignore the horrible wailing laughter that echoed around the room as it taunted him. Everything was just too much right now, the realization of his actions, the possibility of everyone he knew going to jail. He buried his face into Gordon's side, trying to muffle the noises coming out, but he could hear Dr. Bartholomew trying to get everyone out of the area in attempt to pacify the situation. He knew he was going to get another tranquilizer, but he almost wanted it. He turned his face from Gordon's side when he felt Bartholomew grab his arm to administer the tranquilizer, and as he did he caught one last look at Mayor Hayes as he walked away. Hayes had a mixed expression of anger and pity.

Unfortunately, Bartholomew only gave him enough sedative to calm him down, not enough to make him fall asleep. This was one time he wanted to sleep the pain away. He lazily blinked as Gordon kept rubbing his back and telling him that it would all work out.

“I'm afraid you'll have to leave now,” said Bartholomew, “he's had a very long bad day today.” Gordon nodded and stood up. As he walked away, JJ slowly turned his head to watch him leave, but Bartholomew turned his face back towards himself and shone a bright light in his eyes. He eventually stood back up and left him alone in the cell, he had said something to him but he didn't really listen to it. The lights eventually turned off in the hallway and it was apparently time for sleep. He hoped that the tranquilizer would be enough for him to go to sleep quickly, if not let him have a somewhat peaceful nights sleep. He couldn't help but to think one last time before he fell asleep about what was about to happen and hoped that Bruce and the others would be able to handle it.

 


 

 

This was all he needed now, an attack in the ward to make the parents pull their kids out. He had personally gone to the county hospital to check on Max. He was still unconscious when he had arrived, and he couldn't personally see Max because they were prepping him for surgery. The kid kicked his head so hard that his brain was swelling up, and they had to crack his scull further to make room for the swelling. That kid was ruff on him, but the doctors told him that he was probably holding back on him too. The kid could have killed him, if he had truly wanted too. Williams rubbed his head in frustration. Leland was right, he had a part in aggravating the situation. The kid was far more unstable than he had realized. Perhaps after Bartholomews' meeting, he would talk to him and Leland about separating him from the rest of the children. The phone started to ring, he looked up at it and wondered if it was his sister calling him. He picked up the phone and answered:

“Doctor Williams speaking.”

“Hello Williams,” said the voice on the line, “how's Arkham holding up for you these days?” Williams face paled. He sat up in his chair and tried not to let his voice waver in response.

“Yes, hello Mr. Thorn,” he said nervously scratching his hair, “e-everything is going very nicely here. We have several patients here under our care and we hope to help them-

“Isn't that wonderful to hear,” said Rupert Thorn rocking his desk chair, “and I'm so glad to hear that you're finally making things work out for you. Perhaps you're finally in a position to start paying me back?” Williams wiped his forehead, he was starting to sweat .

“I-I know I owe you a lot of money Mr. Thorn,” he said as calmly as he could, “but we're still waiting for some new grants to still come through, and we've only been up and running for less than a week. I...It's going to take some more time before money is available to me.”

“Oh, I understand perfectly,” said Thorn almost playfully on the phone, “these things take time to build up, and from what my boy's have been telling me that you have a, let's just say, a difficult patient who isn't making things very easy for you.” Williams heart sank down to his feet.

“What...do you mean,” he cautiously asked.

“Oh, come now Williams,” said Thorn laughing, “you don't have to pretend you don't know what I'm talking about. I hear things Williams, things like rumors and let me tell you, there's several big ones flying around in the criminal underworld right now. Do you know what one of those rumors is, Williams?” Williams didn't say anything.

“I also have people who know how to sneak into places, people who also tell me what they've seen,” he continued on, “now I'd like to know something Williams. Is it true what they say about the Joker?”

“I can't confirm nor deny that,” Williams said to him, “I really don't know for sure.” Thorn mulled over the answer for a moment. Then turned to look at his fireplace for a moment.

“Alright,” he said to him, “I'll let you have that one at least, but I know for fact what you have over there and don't bother 'confirming or denying' any of it.”

“What do you want Thorn?" 

“Let's make a deal Williams,” said Thorn, “I'll wipe your debt slate clean, you won't owe me a single dime for what you've borrowed from me and I'll deny ever even knowing you. In exchange for that, all I want in return is the kid.” 

“Now hold on,” Williams said, desperately trying to take Thorn off the trail, “we don't even know if the kid really is-”

“Don't you pull that shit on me Williams,” Thorn yelled into the phone, “I know about the teen in the hospital and I also know that Mayor Hayes and the DA office is about to press charges on Batman, my advice to you is to shut up right now and let me finish explaining our little deal. If you don't give me the kid, then...well, you already know.”

“Look, just give me more time,” Williams said, “I'll have the money soon and then-”

“I see you don't seem to understand, so let me repeat myself: I get the kid, and you don't end up in Gotham River, do I make myself clear?”

Williams slumped into his chair. He was stuck in one Hell of a hard place. Either do what Thorn tells him to do, or he could go to the police and have jail time for money laundering.

“Look,” Williams said, hoping to buy more time, “I get what you're asking for, but you need to know that he's...very unstable right now and if you know about the teen in the hospital then you know about the docks as well.”

“So...that's also true,” asked Thorn. 

“Yes, and if I were to just hand him over right now, who knows what would happen. Give me time to calm him down, and when he's more stable I'll call you and set up a time.” There was no quick response from Thorn, Williams neck itched from the sweat dripping down into the collar of his shirt.

“Alright doc,” said Thorn, “I'll give you some time to fix the brat, but don't take too long or I'll have the boys come fetch him for me, and I'll have them drag your sorry ass along with him. Stay in touch.” Williams heard the phone click and listened to the dial tone of it. He was in it deeper than ever now. What the Hell was he going to do? If he did the right thing, he'd go to jail. If he did what Thorn wanted, he'd be killing a kid and would have a angry Batman after him...and then he'd go to jail. If he did nothing or ran, he was dead. Thorn wanted Batman's identity, he was sure of it. Why else would he want him? All of them had talked about it more than once in meetings. Hell after he was admitted the entire island's security was tripled, but apparently that wasn't enough for someone to sneak in and find out he was here. He put the receiver down and held his head in his hands, he had no idea what the Hell to do.

 


 

 

“Right, let me know if you need anymore information on it. Goodbye.”

Bruce hung up the phone and started looking over the paperwork again. This trial was going to be a bigger headache than he had imagined. Korbon and her lawyers had been very thorough, it was going to be nearly impossible to convince the courts about the border school mishap. He slammed his hand on the desk. If he had just put more time into the story and had been more careful, none of this would be happening and he could focus on more important matters. He looked over the papers again and again, trying in vain to somehow find the answer in the pages that Korbon had somehow missed.

“Sir?”

“What is it Alfred,” he said without looking up from the paperwork. He heard Alfred enter the study and quietly pick up one of the papers to look over it himself. Finally after a moment Alfred said:

“Sir, wouldn't it be more prudent to ask of help from your friends in the Justice League in this matter? I'm sure that they'll be somehow able to help you out in this court nonsense.”

“No Alfred,” he said looking up at him, “I won't do that. This is a lawful trial and I won't have it be tampered with in any way.” Alfred had a small look of disappointment in his face for a moment but then it turned into repressed anger.

“I'm sure that with all the good you have done for not only Gotham, but the world in large, that you're allowed one boon in life. Perhaps this is the time to use it, sir.” Bruce looked up at him and opened his mouth to counter-argue with him but found himself not coming up with a good enough answer. He closed his mouth and looked back down at the paper work. He put his head in his hands and quietly said:

“I should have done that months ago.” Alfred didn't know what to say at that, he went to move over to him and try to comfort him but then the doorbell rang. He cleared his throat and turned towards the door to hurry along to the entrance. He soon reached it and opened the door and was genuinely surprised to see who it was.

“Miss Kyle,” he said looking her over, “it has been a very long time madam.”

“Yes, it has been Alfred,” she said kindly to the old man, “is it alright if I come in and see Bruce? I've heard the reports and...I know they can't be true Alfred and I wanted to see if there was anything I could do to help.”

“Of course,” he said stepping aside for her, “please do come in. I'll go fetch him for you, please wait in the lounge.” She smiled and entered the manor. She instinctively rubbed her arms, wishing she had brought the cute small jacket that matched her dress; she had forgotten how cold it always was here. She nervously looked through her contents of her purse as she waited. If she had been dressed as Catwoman, she'd have all the confidence in the world, but now she was just Selina Kyle; who was hoping that Bruce wouldn't call the cops on her for just showing up. She could hear footsteps and she stood up to look toward them. Bruce came in, not dressed in that silly old yellow and brown suit he use to dress up in but was more casual that she was at the moment. She at first couldn't tell if he was upset with her or just upset in general but as he approached her, he smiled at her like he hadn't done so in a very long time. As he came nearer he opened his arms and she embraced him back.

“It's good to see you Selina,” he said as he held her in the friendly embrace.

“It's good to see you too,” she said as she stepped back and quickly wiped a small tear away from her eye, “I was afraid of you not wanting to see me.”

“Why would you think of that,” he asked her.

“Oh you know,” she said waving her hand, “with being a wanted felon and all.” Bruce looked down at her and she could see that he was probably mulling over the idea of calling the police, but he seemed to made up his mind and said:

“Look, let's not worry about that right now, let's just...talk.”

“Alright,” she said sitting down on the couch, “that's the reason why I came anyway. I wanted to see if you needed anything. I can tell this has been hard for you.”

“Harder than you could possibly imagine Selina,” he said quietly. Nothing was said for a moment, she was waiting for him to say something. Finally she decided to break the ice.

“Is there something I could do to help out?”

“I really don't think so Selina,” he said, “Korbon has me pinned down and I don't know how to get out of it.”

“I hope you don't mind me asking Bruce,” she said to him, “but..is any part of it true?” Bruce quickly went to say something, but then cleared his throat and folded his hands in front of his face and rested his chin on top of them. He looked at her through the corner of his eye and then looked strait ahead.

“It is true that Tim never attended the school,” he said to her very flatly, “but there was a very good explanation as to why...but the problem is I can't say why he wasn't there.” Selina listened to him, and carefully thought about it.

“It's a 'Damned if you do, damned if you don't' scenario then,” she asked offhandedly.

“Yes.”

Selina wasn't going to ask him about it, if he wanted her to know he'd tell her, and she did believe that he at least didn't intend any harm on the kid, so whatever did happen was probably bad. She went to say something, but she was cut off by him.

“I'm sorry, I don't want to talk about it anymore.”

“I understand Bruce,” she said standing up, she could see that he was upset about it and wasn't going to talk about it any further, “but my offer still stands Bruce. If you need anything,” she said pulling out a piece of paper, “call me at this number anytime, even if it's just to talk.”

“Thank you Selina,” he said to her, “it's good to know I have friends on my side at least.” He gave her another hug and walked her to the door. She smiled at him and waved goodbye to him and he closed the door. He couldn't help but to smile, she was telling the truth the other night. He was sure that it was a half-truth, but it was good to know she was still Bruce Wayne's friend. He walked back towards the lounge when Alfred practically ran into the room.

“Sir,” he said to him, “I think you should see what is playing on the television right now.” Bruce walked over to the remote and turned on the t.v. and changed it to the news station. On it was Mayor Hayes, having a press conference. The head line of the report was: Batman: Most Wanted Man in Gotham. Bruce turned up the volume of the television and listened to Hayes.

“There can be no more hiding behind the lines of the law anymore for him,” he was speaking to the press, “he has stayed hidden in the dark for far too many years, broken too many laws. Now his reckless endangerment of a child has ended badly, as many have predicted it would. That is why I have no choice but to file charges on Batman. He is to be apprehended on-” The television was abruptly cut off when the small end table was thrown into it. Alfred jumped and looked at him. Bruce was seething, and didn't say a word as he ran down toward the cave's entrance. As Alfred went to make a move towards the broom closet, the phone began to ring. He picked it up and answered:

“Wayne Manor.”

“Have you seen the news,” asked Dick, “it's playing here in Bludhaven too.”

“Unfortunately so Master Dick,” Alfred said sadly, “Bruce just destroyed the television and went straight to the cave. Is there anyway you could come and-”

“I'm sorry,” Dick interrupted, “but I got orders here at the BPD...there's a warrant out for Nightwing, he's to be arrested and brought in for questioning as well. I'm assuming the same goes for Batgirl as well.”

“What are we to do, Master Dick?”

“I, I really don't know,” Dick said, “I thought that Bruce would somehow...I don't know...fix it like he usually does.”

“I'm sorry Master Dick,” Alfred said, “but I'm getting another phone call.”

“I'm sure it's Babs,” said Dick, “look, tell her to lay low for now. I'll come to Gotham as soon as I'm able to but for now....I don't know I guess just stay tight for now. It's all we can do.” Alfred nodded even though the gesture couldn't be seen by Dick and sadly said his goodbyes as he hung up and started to talk to Barbara.

 


  

She was shocked out of her peaceful trance of planting new flowers with probably the most annoying noise she had ever heard in her life. She looked around thinking it was a police siren at first, but when she saw Harley dancing around waving a newspaper in the air, she just shook her head and turned back to the flowers. Suddenly the door of the greenhouse was literally kicked in, breaking some of the glass in the frames and the noise produced from Harley was all the louder and somehow more shrill. Harley was dancing around and waiving the paper with such force that she was knocking down plants left and right.

“Harley,” barked out Ivy as she turned to face her and grab her to stop her rampage, “settle your ass before I kick it out! What the Hell is going on?! Harley had the biggest grin on her face, probably the biggest one she had in months.

“Read the paper, read the paper,” Harley yelled out with as much excitement as a sugar-filled kid, “just read the paper!” Ivy took the paper from her hands and tried to flatten it out as best she could. She looked at the Headline:

“Bat On The Run: Police to arrest Batman on sight and bring him in for child abuse charges.”

Ivy read the article carefully. She couldn't help the laugh that came out. The Batman, who believed in justice above all other things, was now on the wrong side of it. He was a crook now just like her. Now he'd know how it would feel to have to hide all the time.

“Did ya read it?! Did ya read it?!”

“Yes I did Harley,” she said handing it back to her, “and it was a good laugh too. Best news I've heard all year.”

“No, not that,” she said thrusting the paper back into her face, “read this part!” Ivy moved Harley's arms back so she could read the paper as she held it up:

“Hayes reported that the child was being taken care of in an undisclosed hospital.”

“He's gotta be at Arkham Red,” Harley screamed out, “my little man is still alive and is only one job away! Okay, we're gonna need to do a job to get back into the nut bin. First we'll need some dynamite, a crate of whoopee cushions, twenty gallons of pie filling and-”

“Are you completely stupid Harley,” yelled out Ivy, “there is no way you should even think about going out right now!”

“Why not Red,” Harley asked, hurt from her yelling at her, “you'd said that you'd help and-"

“Think Harley,” Ivy said to her tapping her head, “not only is there probably tight security on PJ-”

“JJ,” Harley corrected.

“...on the kid,” Ivy continued, “but if Batman even heard about you doing something, and based on what mess you've caused...I'd kill you Harley."


“Ah, Bats don't kill nobody,” Harley said waving it off.

“Harley,” Ivy said, “your actions changed the game permanently. He's probably snapped from all the pressure and of all the stress of all this...and you have no idea how he'll act. No. I'm not even going to tempt it Harley. It's too dangerous right now.”

“But Red..."

NO. It's. Not. Happening. Not right now,” she said to her, “we'll play it by ear, let things cool off...then maybe we'll go get the kid, but for now we stay put.” Harley started to pout, but she seemed to get the idea and quietly left the greenhouse. Ivy started picking up the overturned plants and started her own plans on how to possibly get the kid out. She was sure that now that Batman was on the run, he'd probably was planning on doing the same thing himself. It was a race against time now. If Batman got a hold of him then there would be no hope of ever getting the kid for her. Harley had to stay out of it though...he'd probably beat her to the point of crippling her, and that would be lenient for him. She would have to do it alone and she would have to do it soon.

 

Chapter Text

Gordon was on his fourth cup of coffee by the time the interview started to wrap up. It probably wasn't the best thing for his heart or his nerves, but since he had quit smoking all those years ago, he had to allow himself at least one habit to keep himself sane. It was slightly aggravating to be the one being investigated, but he had to admit that the officer was very thorough. Gordon's advanced experience and age probably helped him out as well, as he easily recognized when the interviewer tried different gimmicks to lead him into saying something. Easily avoidable for him, but for someone who wouldn't know the tricks would have probably fallen into them. It's not like he had anything to hide anyway.

It was quite late by the time the interview was finally over, and he was relieved that it was, but now it was Bullocks turn for his own. As the two passed each other, Bullock tried not to make eye contact with him. He was probably thinking that he was angry with him. Truthfully, he slightly was, but no matter his methods Bullock always tried to do what he felt was the right thing to do. He still was going to have a long talk with him later though, he wasn't going to just get off the hook for this. This could easily cost them all their jobs and perhaps more. He rounded the corner to get his things from his office when he saw Barbara waiting for him.

“Barbara,” he said walking up to her, “what are you doing here? It's late, and don't you have school in the morning?”

“I know,” she said to him, “but I figured that you'd be tired and I wanted to drive you home.” He was about to say something like, 'I can drive myself around thank you very much', but he could see that she was using it as an excuse to talk to him. She always did things like that when she wanted to have a serious discussion with him, like inviting him over for dinner. It was something that reminded him so much of her mother.

“Alright sweetheart,” he said to her, “just let me get my coat and we'll head for home.” He walked into his office, grabbed his belongings and as he exited the office and started to turn to lock the door, he caught a fleeting glimpse of Montoya coming out of her interview. She gave him a tired look that was crossed with regret and concern. No other gesture was exchanged with the two; she looked like all she wanted to do was go home. This was going to be hard on all of them if this ever saw court. He locked the door and slowly followed Barbara to her car. Nothing was said between them from the station to the car, but as soon as both of them were buckled in, Barbara turned to him and said softly:

“How are you holding up dad?”

“As well as to be expected,” he said with a sigh, “this whole thing has just...” He trailed off, half lost in his own train of thought and not really knowing what to say. Barbara slowly nodded and started the car. The ride home was quiet, it seemed that both of them were waiting to get home to finally talk about it, and were just using the ride to think things over. When they did get home, Barbara went to the kitchen and turned on the lights.

“Can I make you something to eat dad,” she asked him.

“No sweetheart,” he told her, “it's late, and you know I get heartburn if I eat too late, but thanks for the offer.”

“Are you sure you're doing okay dad,” she asked him, “do you want to talk about it?”

“You know I can't talk much about it Barbara,” he told her, “it is an investigation after all, but,” he said sitting down onto the couch, “I suppose that's why you wanted to pick me up.” Barbara sat next to him and pulled him into a hug.

“Is it bad dad,” she asked while still hugging him.

“It is,” he said not sugar coating it, “but I hope things work out. I don't know what Batman is going to do, but knowing him, he'll think of something.” He felt her nod in agreement.

“I just wish this never happened,” he said to her.

“What,” she asked him, “the investigation?”

“No, the whole thing,” he said letting her go, “it's just that...seeing what happened, it's been hard.”

“I know,” she said very quietly. Nothing was said for a few moments, both of them seemed like they were trying to think of something positive to say about it but coming up with nothing.

“Is there anything I can do to help,” Barbara said finally. Jim thought about what happened earlier tonight then came up with something.

“I think there is, but it may be hard for you.”

“What can I do,” she asked.

“You know I went to Arkham today,” he said, “and saw how lonely and scared Robin seemed to be; perhaps if you could, would you be willing to go and visit him?” Barbara paused at the request, and Jim naturally assumed that it was because of the situation. However, during the argument that had taken place the night Bruce took Tim to Gordon, they had halfheartedly agreed not to visit or make phone calls. They couldn't risk any chance of the doctors making a connection between any visitors and them being part of Batman's crew.

The truth was, Barbara had already visited Tim once despite what Bruce had instructed. She had used the excuse of using an outreach program that she was a member of, and was visiting children in various hospitals who didn't have anyone who could or would. They led her back into the rooms where the cells where, and they did allow her to enter his room, but they remained close so she had to keep any conversations bat-free. It really didn't matter anyway that she did that though, Tim was completely catatonic. She had tried for nearly twenty minutes to get him to respond to her, but he just sat there, eyes strait ahead looking at nothing, no movement or anything indicating he knew she was there or even who she was. She had driven home almost in tears after that.

“I already have dad,” she said to him, deciding that telling him a truth was better than more lies, “I did it for that outreach program I do, but he was unaware of anything at the time. I'll try again later on today though."

“That's my little angel,” Gordon said giving her one last squeezing hug and then standing up, “I don't know about you, but I'm going to bed.”

“Good night dad,” Barbara said to him as he turned toward his bedroom, in turn he nodded to her and went inside. Barbara's smile faded, and she tried to think of the best way to let Bruce know what her father wanted her to do. It'd have to wait until morning though, she still had some things to take care of for her dad and it wasn't going to get done just sitting around.

 


 

 

“Morgenson, have anything for me?”

“Nothing yet sir.”

“Smith, what about you?"

“Nope, haven't seen one sign of him Redhorn.”

“Greyson, any news,” Redhorn asked, however he received no reply, “Greyson?” He walked over to Dick's desk and found him nodding off, hands and arms propping his head up. Bludhavens' Chief of Police wasn't known for his kindness or patients, he leaned in inches from Dick's ear and yelled out:

“Greyson!” Dick jumped and was instantly jarred from his half-asleep state, spilling his coffee in the process.

“Hope your nap was worth it Greyson,” said Redhorn, “have you heard anything of Nightwing?” Dick rubbed his eyes trying his best to quickly wake up.

“I've checked all of his frequent sighting locations,” Dick managed to mumble out, “but nothing.”

“Damn,” said Redhorn turning away and thinking, “he's probably either laying low or has gone back to Gotham. We'll just have to keep watching out for him. You two,” he pointed to two detectives, “follow me.” The three of them left the report writing room where Dick had been making his reports. He yawned again and tried to clean up his spilled coffee. He was pulling double duties, as was all of the police in Bludhaven looking out for Nightwing. Redhorn was most likely so adamant on his capture not for justice in-itself, but for the large reward placed on his head along with Batgirl and Batman. Redhorn was one of the most crooked cops he had ever known and was most likely either going to keep the money, or was under the orders of Blockbuster...perhaps both. He was sure Redhorn was going to set a trap for him with those two detectives; it was a good thing he was so predictable.

He had mulled over the idea of returning to Gotham, but he was still very angry with Bruce in allowing Tim be placed into Arkham. He was the only one who had been fully apposed to the idea. Alfred agreed to...institutionalizing Tim but agreed that Arkham was the wrong choice. Leslie wanted Arkham because she felt it had the most experience with Joker. She also felt she would have more access to him since she also had considerable experience when it came to Joker's victims and was often called about them. Barbara was torn between keeping him out of any hospital, and to placing him in one, in the end though she sided with Bruce.

Bruce had been unusually cold, even for him. Tim was to go to Arkham and only Arkham. No visits, no calls, no contact whatsoever. It would be there where he could best watch him, but Dick knew it was only to keep him under his thumb. That had started a bitter but brief argument on how that was, 'how he handles all of his problems', and was probably preparing a spot to, 'hang up the little suit in his museum.' Dick was still nursing his jaw from that last line of the argument, and in retrospect it was really a dark jab at Bruce. Whatever. It was still true. He was using his down time and resources in research into, well there wasn't any other way of putting it; he was going to try to adopt Tim.

Bruce hadn't fully adopted Tim, not yet. He was merely a guardian for him, just like how Bruce was for him as well. If he could get Tim away from Gotham and away from Bruce, the kid would have a fighting chance. He did also have connections in the Justice League after all, some who really didn't care about what had happened. After the media storm...everyone knew. Queen wasn't particularly happy about it either, he wouldn't be surprised if Queen wouldn't try adopting him as well, if he knew that Bruce didn't have full custody.

Still, he was beating himself up over this. Why hadn't he done this sooner? Bruce was a poison, he knew that. He remembered what he had said to Tim that one night, 'This isn't exactly a normal childhood'. Damn straight it wasn't, he should have said and done something before. Bruce merely convinced Tim that it was his decision to be Robin, that he had earned it some how.

It was a pretty lie though. It was some of the best years of his life. He couldn't deny that, but he was a child himself during those years...he didn't know or even think of any serious consequences. Now though, he was fully aware of them, and he would never endanger anyone like that. If he did successfully adopt Tim, he was prepared to move out of state, even out of country if he had to; to keep Tim safe and help him recover. He was fully prepared giving up Nightwing, he had to be. It could still come out, everything. He finally got the desk cleaned up and his reports filled in. It was time to go home and just get some sleep.

 


  

“Lois? Lois,” said Clark as he tried to hand her the coffee she had asked for, “Lois?” She wasn't even working, just looking down at her pen while twirling it around. She seemed deep in thought.

“Lois,” he asked again, this time she snapped to attention and looked up at him, he smiled, “glad to have you back. Here's your coffee.”

“Thanks,” she said very flatly, not rude for her but very unusual. She put it down and seemed to settle back into her thoughts.

“Something wrong Lois,” She looked up at him again, then back down. She seemed to be deciding if she was going to talk or not.

“Can I talk to you Smallville, “she said finally, “in private?”

“Um, s-sure Lois,” Clark said straightening up a little too quickly catching Lois's attention. She playfully scoffed at him and said,

“It's not that kind of talk Kent,” she said standing up, “come on, I know where we can talk privately without any interruptions.” She led him towards the floors' janitorial room, which was normally locked at all times unless the janitor was working. She took the handle and while pulling up on it she jiggled it back and forth.

“One of the janitors told me about this neat trick,” she said while straining with the door, “when he got sick of getting called all the time to come clean up my spills.” A few more twists of the door and the lock gave out and the door opened up. She opened the door for both of them and said as they stepped inside:

“Don't worry about anyone coming in here,” she said closing the door, “it re-locks after it's closed.”

“So,” said Clark after clearing his throat and nervously put on a smile, “what's so important that you'd drag me in here?” His smile disappeared after he saw how upset she seemed to be; her mask removed.

“Lois?” She sighed and seemed to finally decide to tell him.

“Listen Clark,” she said, “remember when I was considering moving to Gotham's branch of the Daily Planet? Well...to cut to the chase I-,” she looked up at him and squared her shoulders, “I know who Batman is.” Clark went to say something, even pretend shock but was interrupted by her.

“Now hold on,” she said raising her hand and started absentmindedly pacing the small room, “I know what you're thinking: 'Lois, how could you just sit on the hottest story of the decade?' 'How did you find out?' 'Are you being paid off to stay quiet?' Well, I'm not and-” she stopped short when she felt him grab her shoulders and gave her a very kind yet serious look.

“Lois,” he said calmly, “I know you don't sweat small stuff and if you don't want to tell me any details,” he said smiling to her, “you can leave them out if you want to. Just tell me what's wrong.” She seemed to decompress when he said that.

“That's what I like about you Kent,” she said, “you're never after the story for glory or fame...you just want to tell the truth. Well, the truth is Perry asked me if I was willing to go to Gotham to cover the Batman story and for some obvious reasons I said no. I told him to give it to you.”

“And what are the not-so-obvious reasons,” asked Clark, “it's not that that's bothering you.”

“You're right,” she said, “it's my conscience nagging me. I don't know if I should or shouldn't.”

“What?” he asked her.

“Should I tell them who Batman is,” she said turning to him, “I know it should be easy, but it isn't for me. On the one hand...and then on the other...It's driving me crazy. I don't know what exactly to do. I wanted to ask you,” she said turning away from him, “because I wanted someone I could not only trust, but someone who was neutral.”

“You mean about Superman?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said turning back towards him, “I know Superman would want me to do the right thing, but it also involves his friend,” she said, “ and I don't know how much he knows or doesn't, but that's not the point. The point is that, I just don't know if I told would help or hurt. I've...sat near the phone for hours at points trying to get the nerve to call him up or someone else, and I just can't bring myself to do it. So...that's where you come in Clark,” she said looking at him with the sincerest look that he had seen from anyone, “what should I do?” Clark rubbed his neck and adjusted his glasses.

“Truth be told, Lois,” he said quietly, “I don't know either. This sort of thing, from what you've kinda told me, is somewhat personal. I can't tell you to do something that you're this deep into. This decision is going to come from your heart, and I can't make that for you. I'm sorry to be less than helpful on what you had hope for, but,” he said placing a hand on her shoulder, “I know you'll do what you believe is the right thing.” She looked downward, clearly not hearing what she had wanted to hear but seemed to accept it.

“Well,” she said sadly to him, “it's not the strait-up answer I wanted, but thanks for the advice on it. I'll let you know what I'll decide to do.” She went to open the door but paused at it. She walked back towards him, and surprising him she gave him a quick little hug.

“Thanks for being my friend, Kent,” she said releasing him, “I know I don't say that often enough but really, thank you.” She opened the door and cried out.

“Jimmy! What are you doing,” she said slapping the side of his head.

“Hey Miss Lane,” he said trying not to smirk, “if you and Clark just wanted a quiet moment at-OW!”

“You're dead Olsen! You hear me, dead!” She continued chasing him away as he playfully laughed while running. Clark smile from it was gone quickly though. This put a big kink in the Leagues plan. A really big one. He'd just have to wait and see what she was going to do.

“Kent, Lane! In my office now!” he turned his head toward Perry and briskly walked toward his office while Lois struggled putting back on her high-heal.

“What were you doing anyway Lane,” Perry asked her as she entered the room.

“Swatting an annoying fly on the wall,” she mumbled to him.

“Whatever Lane,” said Perry going back to his desk, “I know you said you didn't want the Batman story,” he said looking at her, “and I get that. There's an even better story that I managed to get for you two,” he said smirking, “trust me, It wasn't easy to get. You two will be part of a small number of reporters allowed inside Arkham, and you two are part of the even smaller group allowed to interview the kid.”

“Hold on,” said Clark slightly shocked, “you're telling us that they're allowing interviews on a minor?”

“Crazy, ain't it,” said Perry, “not surprising that it's Gotham though. I don't know why the state is allowing it or even the hospital, but that Williams guy was almost begging for it. Weird guy, always sweating and looking over his shoulder. That's not the point though, I worked all the favors that I had and even beyond that to get you two in the same room as the kid, so don't waste it. Don't ask stupid questions but try to get a good story out of it as well.”

“Perry,” said Lois, “I'm not sure that-”

“I know you don't like sharing bi-lines, but tough,” he said turning to her, “you two leave for Gotham tomorrow. Here's your press-passes, airplane tickets and hotel,” he said handing them the items and quickly shoving them out of his office, “and for God's sake you two, if you want to make out, then do what the rest of us do and do it by the water-cooler.”

“But we weren't-” Clark tried to explain but the door was slammed in his face. He looked down at the passes. They were hand written and on official document paper. He was thinking of his own questions to ask them, like how they even could allow this. He turned to where Lois had been standing but she was out of normal sight range, but he could still here her mumble under her breath about it. This whole thing was beginning to snowball out of control.

 


 

 

“Are you out of your mind,” Leland said; borderline yelled out, “how could you go over our heads and just allow this to happen!”

“Doctor calm down,” said Bartholomew calmly but who was also very angry, “I'm sure Doctor Williams will give us an explanation,” he said turning back to him, “and it better be a damn good one too.” Leland looked down at him, Williams seemed nervous in the chair, but not about what was going on. He had seemed very agitated and more withdrawn than normal.

“Look,” he finally said, “I know you think I'm doing this for some publicity stunt or something like that, but believe me I'm not. I know that the DA's office and the press have been clawing at the doors ever since this became public, so I figured that if we gave them something to chew on, we could move him.”

“ 'Move him',” asked Bartholomew raising an eyebrow, “what do you mean by that?” Williams stood up and walked over to the window, looking out of it but being careful to not be seen.

“I got thinking,” he said quietly, “now that Batman's wanted, what is there stopping him from taking him away now? What if Batman tries? What could we do to prevent that? Not only that but, from others trying to take him away too?” he said walking back towards the two doctors.

“I know a very trustworthy doctor far out of state who has a practice in a very small privately funded asylum, and he's willing to take him in with a very select staff of his choosing, and off the books. I'm not doing this to step over your heads, I'm trying to do what is best. I've wrecked any trust he could have had in me, so this is the best thing I can do for him. If he's away from Gotham, away from Batman or anyone who would exploit him, then all the better chance he has of any recovery.” Leland and Bartholomew looked at each other.

“I do see your point in this,” Bartholomew said rubbing his chin, “and the child's' safety is our main concern, but why act without telling us?”

“I-I was hoping to do this with as few people knowing as possible, and I don't know who to fully trust in this,” Williams said, who immediately bit his cheek in anger for letting that part slip out.

“What do you mean by that doctor,” said Leland, who was still angry with him tap-dancing over their heads.”

“How do we know if Batman doesn't have an inside man in Arkham already,” he said turning to her, mixing half truths together, “if we freely speak about, it then he'll just follow where he goes. Like I said: the less people know, the better.”

“Okay then,” she said, “then how about you tell us where this friend of yours works and I'd like to give him a call. Perhaps even send out our records for him to study.”

“I said less is more,” he said to her, “I know you don't fully trust me but, If you'd like to give him a call I'd be more than happy to give you his number, but like I said, Batman could be listening for anything, even right now.” Leland sighed and folded her arms.

“Then why tell us if you're so-”

“That's enough,” Bartholomew interrupted, “what's done been done now,” he said looking at the two, “so our first priority is to make sure those reporters don't cause more trouble than they're worth. The second thing is I as well also want to talk to this friend of yours,” he said to Williams, “I'm not just going to ship out one of my patients to who-knows-where just solely based off of unproven hunches.” Williams gritted his teeth but stayed silent. He knew it wasn't just based off of nothing but, there wasn't more he could do for now. He'd just hope that they would agree to the re-location quickly and silently.

  


 

 

Hacking the computer's network was harder than he had expected. JJ had figured that it would have only taken about twenty minutes, but it nearly ate up his hour of computer time. He kept looking up as well, he knew his time was short now, and was sure that the nurse would come in soon. It was also lucky that after what had happened with Max, nobody dared to irritate him in any way. Even Chelsea had completely backed off. It wasn't all good though, he had tried to approach Steven earlier, but he quickly and quietly left the room and had asked one of the orderlies if he could go back into his own room. It was only just to avoid him in the safest way he could think of, he figured. It was sad and kinda lonely, but he'd be gone soon enough.

He finally got into the city's records that had building layouts. He quickly found the ones he wanted and started printing them out. He looked up again, his nurse was poking her head into the room. It was that same nervous nurse from before, Jessica. Why did they keep putting them together? It was obvious that she was freaked out by him, even more now than ever after the fight. His time was up. He quietly wiped the internet trail clean and logged off. He stood up and walked up to her and pointed to her clipboard. She handed it to him and he wrote down that he had made some prints and that he wanted to go get them. She nodded and both of them made their way to the nurses station. He hoped that nobody had taken the time to actually see what he had printed. Luckily nobody was at the station at the moment and she allowed him to pick the papers up for himself. He could pretty much make her do as he wanted, because she really didn't want to even deal with him, let alone anger him.

She led him back to the comfort room, where George was forever coloring away and was probably the only person in the asylum who still somewhat trusted him. He reached over George to grab a red marker. Anyone else would have probably flinched but all George did was move slightly out of the way for him. JJ sat in the spare desk and looked over the prints. The building's layout was fairly complex. He highlighted any possible weak spots and air vents that could be useful. Soon he had a rough idea on where he could go to get out of the building, the problem still was getting off the island.

The island was connected to the mainland via a long, three-part rotating road bridge. Nobody left the island at all after hours, they couldn't. The bridge was always closed off every night, and it required three pass-codes to reactivate it. It was probably the best idea they had. The only one who would be willing to swim the lake would be Killer Croc, but they must have done something to keep him from even getting to that point. He thought about swimming it or making a boat, but that would take time that he didn't have. Plus he didnt want to put time in something that would be clumbersome to move around, and the lake was too cold this time of year. He wasn't going to leave tonight. He couldn't. He still needed to figure out his door code, the bridge codes, and figure out what to do after that.

This was going to be harder than he had thought.

 

 

Chapter Text

“Thank you for calling Kirkland Mental Institute, how may I help you?”

“Yes, good afternoon, I am Doctor William Bartholomew. I am trying to get a hold of,” he paused while looking at the name, “Doctor John Mortenson.”

“Please hold,” said the voice on the phone; it suddenly cut to some relaxing music. As he waited, Bartholomew tapped a pen on the top of his desk and looked over his printouts of Kirkland Mental. It did seem like a very reputable place, but he wasn't just about to send a patient over there without at least talking to the head psychologist or letting him know of the unique nature of this particular patient. Suddenly a soft spoken voice interrupted his thoughts.

“This is Doctor Mortenson.”

“Hello doctor,” said Bartholomew, “I am William Bartholomew, of Arkham Asylum.”

“Yes, I've been expecting your phone call,” said Dr. Mortenson cheerfully, “I spoke with one of your doctors in regarding of a patient transfer. He seemed very eager to do it as soon as possible.”

“See, that's what I want to speak with you about,” said Bartholomew, “not to discredit Dr. Williams, but he did go over my head when he contacted you without consulting me first. It's about the patient he wishes to transfer to you. I have done some research on Kirkland and it seems like a very fine institute.”

“Kirkland Mental has gotten many awards in our care of patients,” said Mortenson, “and we are currently number one in the nation when it comes to patient care and privacy.” Dr. Bartholomew couldn't help but feel that was a not-so-subtle stab on current events. He cleared his throat and continued:

“I wanted to talk to you about this...particular patient and the very, uh, unique nature that is with him. You...may know what has happened recently here in Gotham City?”

“It's been all over the news,” Mortenson said, “everyone is talking about it. It's a shame because I had always assumed that it was only a matter of time something like that would happen.”

“The patient we are referring too is directly involved in it,” Bartholomew said, “and is a young minor.”

“Oh...” said Mortenson, getting at what Bartholomew was hinting at.

“I have serious concerns of not only of his own care but for, well...your own well being and for other patients safety. There was a serious altercation that involved another patient who is still in the county hospital. The fight only lasted for five seconds but left the other one in critical condition. This child is small and young, but can be incredibly dangerous if he chooses to be.” Bartholomew waited for a response but it didn't come for several seconds. Mortenson seemed to be second guessing his agreement.

“I think I would like to have a more open discussion with you and would like to meet with you in person.”

“You still wish to take him?”

“Yes,” said Mortenson, his voice starting to become less friendly and more serious, “I think I agree with Williams in this situation.”

“Agree on what, Doctor?”

“I don't mean any disrespect in saying this but,” he paused for some time, “outside of Gotham...Arkham has a bad reputation. I know how many violent and extreme psychotics you have to handle on a daily basis and I know it seems you've finally have a grip on the situation...but people are talking. It's the biggest story of the year, you know? Everyone I know also has deep concerns over this, and I do feel after what Dr. Williams has told me, it would be the best situation for...what did you say his name was?”

“He won't tell us his name,” Bartholomew said, “I don't believe he is capable of speech due to the trauma he's suffered and he refuses to write it down for us. Despite all he's been through, he is still extremely loyal to whoever Batman is.”

“Perhaps it's a case of Stockholm Syndrome,” Mortenson mulled quietly to himself, “I mean who knows if this Batman hadn't kidnapped him first?”

“Hmm, I don't think so,” said Bartholomew, “it seems to go against what he fights for.”

“So,” said Mortenson not hiding his annoyance anymore, “kidnapping children is bad, but putting children in a costume and having them fight dangerous criminals isn't?” Bartholomew went to say something else but was cut off.

“I'm sorry Doctor,” said Mortenson, “but I would like to speak with you and your other doctors in discussing the transfer. The sooner we start, the better.” Bartholomew sighed.

“Very well,” he said, “I don't think flying you out here for just a interview is feasible, but if you would like a interview with my doctors and myself, then how about a internet phone call around 6:00 tomorrow, my time?”

“No that won't do,” said Mortenson, “that's 9:00 for me...why not 1:00 for me, that'll be 4:00 for you.”

“That will be fine,” Bartholomew lied, “I'll let my doctors know later today of the internet call for the meeting tomorrow and 4:00. Good afternoon.” Mortenson wished him good bye as well and Bartholomew hung up the phone. He rubbed his head, 4:00 was when the reporters were to come to the Asylum but he didn't want to tell him that. Either way, the state board and the board of directors were going to have his head on a platter if this interview went wrong in any way.

 


 

“Always be prepared for the worst, Tim,” Bruce had told him when he first started training, “When you're out on the streets in costume, it is not like how movies or cartoons make it out to be. Criminals won't-” His train of thought was interrupted from another blow from the crowbar, possibly breaking a rib; making every breath afterward painful. He gritted his teeth and continued the memory:

“-hesitate to harm or kill you. The best way to make sure that doesn't happen is-” a hit in his right arm made it feel like it was on fire, “-to make sure you stay alert at all times. If you do get caught,” a punch to his face made him see stars, “remember this: Stay calm, try to assess the situation and think of a way to get out of it. If you can, trick them into either approach you or-” another blow to his head knocked it against something metal and he couldn't remember the rest of the memory. He panted and tried to think of where he left off but stopped when he felt his head being crushed under the Joker's hand.

“Well, now that you're all warmed up and tenderized,” he said poking his fingers under his mask, “let's start having some fun!” He ripped the mask off of his face and put it into his pocket before Tim could blink. Tim went to say something but the Joker grabbed him by his neck and started to push him into the metal table, choking him.

“Nu-uh,” Joker tutted with his finger, “children are meant to be seen and only heard when they are told to speak. You don't-” Joker paused when Tim spat blood and spit into his eye. He slowly wiped it out.

“Such a ill-behaved child,” he said with a mock sad sigh, “although I can't fully blame you; bad parenting will do that. Oh, my-my-my,” he said while strapping him down onto the table, “I've clearly got my work cut out for me. However I won't give up on you,” he said grabbing a modified cattle prod, testing the prods with his finger, “and as my grand pappy use to say: all children need is a little tough love.” He turned on the prod, sparks and electricity danced between the sharpened prongs. All Tim could do is mentally prepare himself for what was coming as the Joker thrust the prod forward and--

He woke up with a gasp as he blindly jumped off the bed as fast as he could, still reliving the nighmarish memory, trying to dodge the prod. He ended up ramming into the sink though, jarring him from what had happened in the past and reminded him where he was in the present. He backed up from the sink holding his ribs, air hissing through his teeth as he breathed in. Tears welled up as a reaction to the pain, and he couldn't breathe properly due to the blow but that was in his favor: no breath meant no laughter. He sat back on the bed and doubled over, trying to dull the pain. He stopped and looked up when he heard the running water.

He'd broken the sink. It sat slightly crooked with the porcelain cracked and the water running behind the sink down into his cell. He stood up and went over to it, hoping all it needed was to be straitened and it'd magically fix itself. He grabbed the sink with his left hand (his right still cradeling his aching ribs) and pulled up on the sink in a desperate attempt to straighten it, but as he pulled on the sink and water touched his hand, he was shocked. Not by much, just a small zap but it startled him and he jumped backwards, away from further pain. He stumbled backwards and tripped over his own feet and ended up hitting the far wall, then slid down completely wedged into the right corner of the cell, between his bed and the glass. He'd hit his head on the glass as he fell and reached his left hand to rub the sore spot.

“Get it open already!”

He looked up and there were already several orderlies standing outside the door, trying to open it.

“Go turn off the water,” said one of them to another, “the main shut off valve is in the janitors closet down the hall, hurry!” The orderly sprinted away as they got the door open. The second orderly went over to the sink and tried to straighten it like JJ had. He was expecting him to jump away as soon as he too was zapped but he never did. He was confused, wondering why he wasn't being shocked like he had been. His view was blocked by the third orderly as he leaned down to pick him up.

“Are you okay,” he asked him. JJ nodded and moved his hand away from his head. The orderly quietly muttered 'Oh' under his breath. He pulled out a handkerchief and pressed it on his head where he'd been holding it.

“Here, hold this to your head,” he told him, “I got to take him to the medical bay to the staff physician,” he said turning to the other orderlies.

“That's fine, we got this,” said the orderly by the sink, “we'll call maintenance and house keeping as soon as the water is,” and as if on cue, the water stopped running. The orderly chuckled at the coincidence and carefully walked out of the cell over to the phone on the wall. As the other orderly led him out, he looked at the glass and there was a reasonably large sized blood splat where his head had hit and had streaked down to where he'd been in the corner. He took the handkerchief off and quickly looked at it, it was soaked in blood.

 


 

 

“You did quite a number on yourself young man,” said the older doctor as he flushed out the large gash on JJ's head, “but you're handling it very maturely.” As the doctor started stitching up the gash in his head, he turned to the orderly.

“What happened exactly?”

“Well, we heard noises so we checked the security feed,” said the orderly, confirming what JJ had suspected since the start, “and we saw that he was having a nightmare so we sent James over to handle it, but before he got there, he jumped up and ran into the sink.”

“I see,” said the doctor as he finished stitching up the wound.

“He hit it hard enough to break the sink, and he tried to fix it, but for some reason he jumped away from it and fell down. I think he might have hurt his ribs though, he wont drop his arms from his chest.”

“Let's look at those ribs then,” said the doctor lifting up his shirt. He looked at his chest and gently pushed down on each rib, but when he got to the forth rib, JJ flinched hard and pulled away from him.

“He may have cracked one of his ribs,” the doctor said to the orderly, “could you go get one of the nurses? We need to get a chest x-ray to confirm it. I'm going to call Bartholomew to let him know what's happened.” As the orderly left, JJ looked down at his chest and saw that there was a bruise already there and each breath he took did slightly hurt.

“Yes hello Bartholomew,” said the older doctor on the phone, “I'm sorry to wake you at this hour, but you need to know about an accident that happened with one of the adolescent patients.” The doctor turned away for a moment as he listened.

“Yes, it's that patient,” he continued, “no it only involved him. What I was told is-” JJ stopped listening to the conversation when the nurse walked in with a wheelchair. She helped him down from the examination table and only strapped his arms and legs down. She even put a pillow between his sore side and the chair.

“Yes I'll call you back as soon as we get the x-ray results, uh-huh, talk to you later.” He hung up the phone and grabbed his cane.

“Alright, let's get going to the labs then,” he said to the nurse, “and the sooner we get done, the sooner you can go back to bed,” he said looking down at him.

Soon enough the x-rays were done and the doctor said that even though his ribs had been broken in the past and some were still healing, there were no new breaks. The doctor gave him some pain medicine and a little juice box, as a treat for being so good while he'd been stitched up. It was actually nice to have some juice but he was just hoping that they'd decide what to do with him soon. All he really wanted to do is try to go back to bed. Eventually they decided that since it was only for one night, they placed him in one of the other 'normal' rooms. They placed a nurse outside of the room in case he needed anything else, but also to make sure what had happened earlier wouldn't happen again. He kind of hoped it wouldn't happen again either. Nightmares were one thing, but re-living memories was a whole lot worse.

 


 

 

As Dick finished packing his clothes, he decided to look around his loft apartment one last time to make sure he didn't forget anything, namely forgetting to lock up all his equipment. All he needed was a snoopy reporter breaking in; trying to find some scrap of evidence against Bruce and then finding all of his Nightwing equipment. He'd already chased away three media vultures looking for any scraps this week alone. Why were they hounding him so hard anyway? He hadn't even lived with Bruce in over six years. He shook his head and picked up his suitcases.

He'd decided that with the investigations in Gotham and Nightwing being a huge target here in Bludhaven, it would be best to hang up the tights for awhile and move back to Gotham; more for support than anything. Besides, he had his own business in Gotham that the others didn't need to know as of yet. He had called ahead and Alfred prepared a guest room for him; Alfred seemed pleased that he was returning back to Gotham. He walked into the elevator and hit the ground floor, fumbling for his car keys. As he left the elevator and walked toward the lobby door, he saw a group of reporters waiting for him. He sighed and quickened his pace, squinting with the bombardment of flashing lights and moving his head away from the microphones.

“Mr. Grayson, over here!”

“Would you like to comment on it?”

“Look this way!”

The voices of the reporters mixed into a chaotic whirlpool that spun around him, flowing along with him as he tried to reach the underground parking.

“Please, I have no comments at this time,” he kept repeating over and over. Eventually reaching his car and trying to click the right button on the car's remote key-chain did he hear a new word: adoption. He raised his head.

“What?” He looked around and in the middle of the reporters was a smaller woman who was half-crushed between everyone else, her arm raised high, trying to reach closer to him. She retracted her arm with the microphone and repeated her question.

“Witnesses have seen you at the county court houses and have also stated that you have been filing for birth certificates and have made inquiries about adoption process. Is it true that you have been filing adoption papers with the state,” she thrusted her arm back to his face.

“I...” he waited too long to answer, and the reporters jumped on it. The reporters voices started to mix again as each one tried to have their question heard and hopefully answered. Dick tried to hurry and put his things in his trunk, trying to ignore them. He tried to block all of them out but one loud voice managed to be heard:

“Are you concerned about Tim's safety with Bruce Wane?”

“Yes.” Dick's eyes widened when he realized that he had said that out loud. The cameras started flashing all anew and the reporters tried to have him comment further on it. He quickly stated:

“What I mean is, I'm worried about all this media attention that's going on and how it's affecting Tim, now please, I have to go.” He got into the car and the reporters finally parted for him to leave. As soon as he was out of sight he slammed his hand into the stearing wheel. Not only did he throw a big meaty bone to the reporters with that, but he was planning on keeping the adoption as quiet as possible. Now everyone was going to know about it. Bruce was going to tan his hide. Worst of all, he realized, he gave Korbon a bullet to use against Bruce.

“What's done is done,” he told himself out loud, “just gotta move on.” He had a sneaking suspicion that because of this; as soon as this whole thing was over, his ties with Bruce were going to be severed for good, be it him to cut them or Bruce himself.

 


 

 

The morning came, and it was finally time to get up. JJ hadn't gone back to sleep since the accident, even though he wanted too. He had been too wound up and upset to do so. He just laid quietly on the bed and waited the night out. Instead of being let out, Dr. Leland came in the room with the nurse that had sat outside his room.

“I've been told about what happened last night, can I see your head?” He leaned his head down for her to look. She parted his hair a little to get a better look.

“Are you feeling alright?” He put his hand near the cut and shrugged while looking away.

“Do you want to talk about what happened with me?” JJ was going to shake his head and 'say' no, but he paused and thought about it. He looked up at her, and slowly nodded.

“Alright lets go to my office and discuss it,” she said with a smile. They went to her office and he notice that the room now looked like it was an actual office this time, with bookshelves and pictures. It felt cozy. Leland grabbed a note pad rather than the white board. She also grabbed a colored folder. She placed the items on the red couch and pulled up the large chair closer to it. She ushered him closer.

“Let's try something first,” she said before handing him the note pad, “but only if you're comfortable with it. I want you to try to tell me what happened, even if it's just one word. If not then we'll use this instead,” she said gesturing with the note pad, “and we'll talk about it with these,” she pointed to the folder. He looked up at her, then away licking his lips. He wasn't sure if he really wanted to try.

“Take your time,” she said, “don't worry what comes out.” He took in a breath and tried to slowly say something along the line of 'alright', but the furthest he got before stopping was a weird distressed sounding whine. He shook his head and pointed to the notepad. She handed it to her and he quickly wrote down something and showed it to her.

'I don't want to hear it.'

“Hear what,” Leland asked. He felt embarrassed writing it down, wasn't it obvious what he meant? She read his answer and nodded.

“That's okay,” she said warmly, “we can work on that later but for now, write down what happened so we can talk about it.” He wrote down everything that happened from the nightmare to the accident. It took him some time, about ten minutes to write it out, but he didn't want to have to re-write anything after it so he put in all the details he could remember. He handed it over to her and she read it slowly and carefully. She added the paper to her notes and wrote something down next to his text. She picked up the colored folder and pulled out some flashcards.

“These are some speech and emotion therapy cards,” she said to him as she handed them over, “they have pictures and words on them as you can see,” she said pointing to one that had a picture of a nodding head and the word 'Yes' underneath it.

“Some cards even have short sentences on them. We'll use these cards to communicate quickly on how you feel, and answer some questions with them. How do you feel about that?” He looked through the cards and pulled up a card and showed it to her, it said 'Bored'.

“Well,” she said smiling, knowing he was just being smart with her, “we'll try to keep it interesting. Now,” she said leaning in closer, “I want to ask a serious question. In the nightmare, when you were hurt by Joker, did that happen to you in real life?” He pulled up a card.

'Yes'

“How long did he hit you like that?” He shrugged, he really didn't know, it was probably a long time though.

“How did it make you feel?” He held up three cards:

'Confused'

'Embarrassed'

'Scared'

“Were you embarrassed because you were caught?”

'Yes'

“And you were scared of what the Joker was doing.”

'Yes'

“Why were you confused?” He paused. He looked through the cards but he didn't see one that quite fit with what he was feeling. He shrugged.

“Were you confused on why you were held hostage?” He shook his head, he knew why even back then. It was Leland's turn to pause, wondering if what she'd ask would be bad or not.

“Were you confused about Batman?” JJ looked up at her then back down at the cards. He slowly flipped through them again and pulled out a card:

'Hurt'

“You were hurt,” she asked, “what were you hurt about?”

'Sad'

“You were sad and hurt about Batman, why?” He started to involuntary make that low whining noise again. This wasn't amusing anymore. He flipped through the cards but she kept going.

“Were you hurt when he didn't come?” The noise got louder bordering on laughter as he pulled several cards out:

'Angry'

'Don't touch'

'Leave me alone'

“Are you sur-” He suddenly threw all but two cards back at her, scattering them around the room as the laughter rang out. He waved the 'Stop' card at her and then threw that at her as well. He sat back down with the last card still in hand as he tried to stop laughing, covering the side of his face with his free hand. There was a knock at the door.

“Doc, are you doing okay in there?”

“We're fine in here,” she called out to the voice. She walked over to JJ.

“I'm sorry I upset you so badly, We're done for today,” she said reaching out for the last card he clutched too, “we'll talk about it when you are ready and not before.” She reached out for the last card, but he seemed reluctant to hand it back to her.

“Go and be with the other children,” she said to him, “I'll talk to the others and let them know where you are, besides,” she said standing up, “I need to talk to them anyway. If you want to talk to me again, next time we'll talk about what you want to and I'll not push so hard on you.” He slowly nodded at that and finally let go of the now crumpled card in his hand. He stood up and went to pick up the cards that he'd scattered.

“I'll clean this up,” she said as she escorted him toward the office door, “you go and have fun with the others.” He looked up at her and finally left the room. As she picked up the cards, she took the final crumpled card and looked at it.

'Home'

 


 

 

He was led back into the dayroom where all the kids were waiting for breakfast. He looked around for a empty chair but there wasn't any so he decided to sit on the floor in a corner of the room. He figured that nobody would be willing to bother him, plus he was already not having a very good day...again. Almost everything in this place while not completely horrible, it was miserable none the less. No wonder nobody wanted to stay and they'd try to escape as soon as possible. He rested his head on his arms and tried to relax as best as he could. He felt something nudge his leg. He looked up and was quite surprised to see Steven nervously standing over him.

“Hey, um,” he said scratching his head, “look...I'm sorry that I've been avoiding you. It's just, well...I got freaked out after, well you know. I-I kinda didn't believe what the rumors were and, I gotta admit it was kinda cool how you took Max out so fast but...yeah,” he trailed off, not knowing what or how to say anything else. JJ stood up and looked at Steven.

“I just didn't want you to, well...get mad at me too, you know? I mean, I just...” Steven started to mumble the rest, not sure if what he was saying was safe or not. JJ was a little put off, but he figured it was justified and if he was in Steven's shoes he'd probably would had done the same thing. JJ balled his fist and very slowly and gently raised his arm and playfully punched Steven's arm, to let him know it was alright and he wasn't too mad at him. Steven seemed very relieved.

“I'm glad you get it,” he said with a quiet chuckle, “I was worried...well, never mind. So uh,” he said to him slightly cautious, “do you know if you can have breakfast with us today? If so, do you wanna sit together again?” JJ nodded, he figured on what Leland said that he could have breakfast normally, for a change. Steven nodded.

“Okay great,” he said walking with JJ, “that'll be fun. We got some new kids in this morning too, but well...they already got told about what happened and I'm not sure if they'll be willing to even get near you.” JJ shrugged. There wasn't much he could do about that, plus he really didn't care, he was going to leave soon anyway. True enough, the new kids did give him space at the lunch line, quietly whispering to each other. Soon they had their trays and found a table to eat at. The only other kid at the table other than JJ and Steven was George, but he never paid anyone attention. After about ten minutes of silence between them, Steven finally asked:

“So...um, is it true,” he asked lowering his voice, “that you really were Robin?” JJ paused, he was taken aback from the wording. He was still Robin...sorta. He nodded in response. Steven seemed very pleased at the answer.

“That's so cool,” he said almost giddily, “no wonder you could do all those cool moves on...oh yeah, Max,” he said taking a bite of food, “I heard about a update on him. He's finally awake, but...he seems to have some brain damage. I guess he's forgotten how to read and he doesn't talk very well anymore, just baby words.” JJ felt bad, he only wanted to teach him a lesson. “Ah, don't sweat it Jay,” Steven said nudging him, “you probably saved his life in the long run, and you made it so he really can't hurt anyone again now. Could you imagine him stirring shit in the adult wings now? They'd kill him. Now he'll just be a quiet dude in one of those behavioral counseling center places that manage their lives for them.” JJ did kinda feel better after Steven said that. He was right, Max now, although permanently injured, wouldn't and couldn't hurt anyone anymore. Isn't that what he wanted to do now anyway? JJ shrugged and continued to eat.

“Aren't you nervous,” Max said, “about later today?” JJ looked up, he didn't know what he was talking about.

“Haven't they told you yet,” Steven said leaning in, “I guess there's gonna be reporters here later today to ask questions about you. I guess they're gonna ask you questions too.” JJ nearly dropped his fork in shock. He remained still and calm enough that Steven continued on:

“Yeah, I guess some of the kids are going to stay here but most of us are going outside today on a field trip. They're apparently taking us to a malt shop for ice cream. It'll be fun,” he said looking down, “but...I guess you're not going to be with us huh? Sorry, I didn't think about that.”

JJ wasn't paying attention to him at the moment, he was thinking about the reporters. At first, he was absolutely horrified at the idea, but as he thought about it, he realized it was an opportunity. Here he had a chance to get his side of the story out. JJ had read a article on the internet while searching for the asylum plans about how Batman and everyone else was now wanted. He couldn't even finish reading the article it upset him so much. With this interview, he could not only help Batman but perhaps even take away some public scorn for him. This was going to be a good thing. He sighed, and rubbed his head. What would he talk about? Which stories would be the better ones for them to hear? How much was too much to tell? He felt something brush against his arm and it broke his train of thought.

“Are you listening,” Steven asked, “I asked if you wanted me to ask if it'd be alright if we brought you and the other kids back some ice cream and if you wanted any, what kind do you want?” JJ sheepishly nodded and on the table he spelled out: chocolate malt

“Alright,” said Steven as he turned away, “hey George, do you want me to ask for you too?” George didn't say or do anything.

“You're sure, because I'll ask for you.” No response. Steven shrugged and decided that he at least attempted. JJ stood up and started to gather his tray up, but Steven grabbed his arm.

“Dude, finish your food or you'll go back to the tubes.” JJ looked down, there wasn't much left but he really didn't want that to happen either so he begrudgingly sat back down and kinda listened to Steven.

“I guess that the reporters are coming around three or four, because we're leaving around one. It takes about an hour to get back to Gotham from here so...huh...maybe it wouldn't be a good idea to bring back ice cream, it'll be all melty. I'll try anyway.” Meanwhile, JJ was still quietly thinking about what he was going to talk to the reporters about. He decided that he needed to write it down or else he'd forget or get confused about what he wanted to talk about. He stood back up, not finishing his meal but he didn't care; waved Steven goodbye and went back towards the dayroom.

He grabbed some paper and a pencil and sat in George's usual spot, he was sure he wouldn't mind. He went to write something but he just couldn't think of just one thing to focus on. He tapped the pencil in thought, perhaps he should start off with a brief summary of himself. He tried to think of how to write it down and ended up not writing it, because he couldn't think of what he wanted to say. He did write down the most basic things though, he wrote as number one that he would not be revealing anyone's identities including himself because they all deserved that at the very least. His list was small but hopefully it was enough to satisfy the media. He folded the paper up and put it in his pocket.

He had also thought about the high possibility of them wanting him to answer questions, but they'd be expecting him to speak to them, not just pass notes around. He decided that it was just going to have to be like that. Every time he tried talking, all he did was just embarrassed himself. If he was ever going to try speaking out loud again, it would be when he was absolutely alone and not under 24 hour survalence. He looked up at the clock, it was almost ten o'clock. If the interview was supposed to be at four, then he had plenty of time to think of new ideas. They would most likely would clean him up before the reporters would come so he didn't worry about that too much. All he had to do now was wait until it was time.

 


 

 

“Could you move your elbow, Smallville,” asked Lois, “it's digging into my arm.”

“Sorry,” he said moving his arm away, “it's just so cramped in here.”

“Not to mention stuffy,” said another voice behind him, “hey driver how about cracking the windows here?” All the reporters that were going to the asylum had planned on driving themselves, but apparently it was now a major asylum policy that no foreign cars would ever be permitted onto the island. Only company cars that were outfitted with the latest and greatest modern DNA, fingerprint and voice recognition technology would be used. It seemed extreme but the asylum representative that met up with them assured that it was thanks to that very technology that made any attempts to steal a car virtually impossible for any inmates. If a registered inmate tried to start the car, the car would lock itself and send out an alarm. However because of that rule, all the reporters were now stuffed into one of the larger vans, but it wasn't built to room so many adults.

“Jimmy, I swear to God, stop taking so many pictures of the forest,” said Lois who had lost her temper due to the cramped and musty accommodations, “I honestly don't know how you talked the chief into letting you come with us.”

“Wasn't my idea,” said Jimmy as he kept taking pictures, “boss man wanted lots of pictures of the asylum.”

“I just wish they'd brought two cars,” said a female voice in the far back, “I don't see why they didn't.”

“It's company policy now,” said the representative in the front seat, “the fewer cars on the island the better, even our new cars are parked away from the asylum just outside of the swing bridge.”

“About this bridge,” asked Clark, “why is it so complicated? Surely it would have been fine to have it like a boat bridge in the middle.”

“The bridge is designed that even if an inmate does get to the outer limits of the asylum, they would not be able to not only reach the bridge from land but from water too. They would have to swim the mile length, and if they did try swimming to any other side of the lake, they'd find out that they couldn't get out of the water because of a eight foot high concrete wall surrounding the-”

“Isn't that dangerous,” asked a reporter, “if they did that and got tired, they'd drown.” The representative smiled and continued on:

“We'd thought of that as well. On the lake is several small floating sentry stations with two to three guards to each one; every station comes with emergency equipment and motorboats. Each station is connected to each other and to the main island, so if an alarm goes off, they are alerted to it and they keep an eye out. If they spot a inmate trying to swim, they pick them up.”

“Seems like a lot of wasted tax payer dollars if you ask me,” said a reporter.

“It seems to be working though,” said Clark, “from what I've researched, there hasn't been one single escape from the asylum so far.”

“And soon you'll all see how we've been keeping that record going,” the representative looked to his right and smiled, “we're approaching the bridge checkpoint now.” All the reporters looked out as well and they saw that at the bridge checkpoint in the distance they could see one of the three spinning towers that held up the bridge. All the reporters had to step out of the van and be screened for any contraband items. As soon as they were cleared, the gate guard phoned over to the main island to rotate the bridges. The bridges started to slowly turn and as soon as they locked into place they finally continued on. As they started to get closer, Jimmy and the other photographers started taking pictures of the lake stations that the representative had spoken of. Clark looked out the window leaning over Lois to do so. The asylum wasn't what he'd imagined it to be. He'd imagined that it would have been more 'prison like' but this place was built more like a old Victorian asylum. It was an admirable attempt to make it more home-like, but all it did was make it look like it was haunted.

“This place is wild looking,” said Jimmy as he started taking pictures after they got out of the van, “don't you think so Clark?”

Clark didn't say anything; all he hoped for that this would go down smoothly. He looked over at the other reporters. Most of them he didn't recognize at all but he did see two of the more famous Gotham reporters: Summer Gleeson and Jack Ryder. He walked over to the two. Summer was the first one to spot him approaching.

“It's funny,” she said to Clark, looking up at the building, “I was here for the grand opening of this place and I was hoping it would be the last time I'd have to come here.”

“I just want to know why we're here,” said Jack as he glared up at the building, “do you know how many laws are being broken right now with this interview? Jack Rider,” he said extending his hand towards Clark.

“Clark Kent,” he said warmly to him while shaking his hand, “I was thinking the same thing.”

“Something stinks here,” said Rider, “I want to know what it is.”

“Hey,” said Jimmy to particularly no one, “here comes the shrinks.” Indeed there were several people coming out of the main building, one of them being Doctor Bartholomew. The reporters got out their voice recorders and notepads as they approached the group of doctors while the photographers started taking pictures.

“I'm Doctor William Bartholomew, head psychologist of Arkham Asylum,” he said to the reporters, “I would like to welcome you all to our fine establishment. First off, I'm sure that most of you, if not all of you,” he said looking around, “are questioning the unusual nature of this inquiry.”

“If you replace 'unusual' with 'illegal' then sure,” said Lois out loud. The other reporters murmured but said nothing. Bartholomew nervously cleared his throat and continued on:

“All of your questions will be answered in regarding that,” he said, “however I would like to remind you all that when the time comes for the interview, that some questions will not be allowed for legal reasons. Now then,” he said turning towards the door, “If you follow me I would like to show you around our new juvenile wing before the interview.” The reporters followed the doctors in, scribbling notes and looking around. However, Clark was more interested in the reporters themselves. He knew just based off of the special reporter I.D cards that everyone was wearing that Ryder and Gleeson were the other two reporters who would personally interview Tim. He wasn't too worried about Gleeson, but Ryder had a reputation on pressuring information out. Lois wasn't too gentle either when it came to her methods of interrogation. Clark was starting to have a bad feeling about the whole thing.

 


 

 

The day didn't go too slowly this time, it went from a bad day to a much better day. Steven kept him entertained for the majority of the day. Interacting with people, even if they were older than himself, was something he didn't realize he had missed doing. Soon enough it was time for the kids who were going to go to town had to start getting ready. He opted to wait out the other kids having a shower and insisted on having his afterwards. Thankfully the staff was understanding as there were two other girls waiting out their turns as well. At least he wasn't alone in the whole 'washing in front of everyone' thing. After he had his shower, they took him to a room he hadn't been in before. Apparently it was used for haircuts for the inmates. In all good reality he was glad that they were giving him a hair cut. He couldn't remember the last time he had one and his hair was getting uncomfortably long.

The hairdresser seemed really nice and talked to him the whole time, however he rarely responded because he couldn't shake or nod his head. She even asked if he wanted his hair dyed a different color and he seriously considered it, but decided not to do it with his cut on his head; it probably wouldn't have been the best thing to do. She combed his hair back to help hide his large gash and then grabbed a small mirror to let him look at it. Looking at it was kind of a shock. It was almost exactly how he use to comb his hair normally. Even his hair flopped to the side like it use too. He didn't know why but it kind of made him feel upset. He hid it though and nodded his 'approval' of it to the hairdresser. As he was led back to the dayroom, he saw that Dr. Leland was in there waiting for him, however there was another woman doctor of Asian descent with her. Leland seemed very agitated with something but she quickly covered it up when she saw him enter the room.

“Well hi there,” she said to him, “I really like the new haircut. Listen, I need to talk to you about something-”

He interrupted her by pointing to the white board she had. She obviously had brought it for him. She handed it to him and wrote down:

'I already know about the reporters.' She instantly looked like she smelled something foul. She looked at him.

“How did you find out?” He didn't say anything, he didn't want to get Steven into trouble. He just shrugged. She sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose.

“Well, as long as you know,” she asked him more sincerely, “are you alright with it? You don't have to talk to them if you truly don't want too.” He shook his head and pulled out the list he had compiled and slightly waved it. She seemed that she was hoping that he would have said 'no' and she stood back up.

“Alright, if you feel comfortable with it then we'll let you, but the second something happens then we're going to cut it short. Unfortunately I'm not going to be there with you because of a meeting, but Dr. Park here,” she said introducing her, “is going to be in the room with you and the reporters. She's our newest resident here in the adolescent wing.” Dr. Park smiled down at him and adjusted her hair behind her ear.

“It's very nice to meet you,” she said reaching out to shake his hand, “I've heard a lot about you.” As JJ shook her hand he hoped it was good things they had said, but he was sure they let her know about the bad stuff too. They all turned towards someone quickly approaching them. It was Dr. Williams but he seemed very agitated and unkempt.

“I'm sorry I'm late,” he mumbled to Dr. Leland, “I've been having some trouble with...things.” All three of them looked at him. Williams looked like he hadn't slept very well in some time. Then the smell hit them. He stank like he hadn't bathed in days, but from what JJ could see his hair and face was clean, so he wasn't sure why Williams smelled so bad.

“Are you doing alright John,” asked Leland, “you look really stressed out.”

“We'll find out soon.” was all Williams said. Leland walked over to him and whispered into his ear:

“You should hurry and go in the showers; you stink. You and I both know it's your body reacting to stress and you look-”

“I said I'm fine,” he said sounding aggravated, but he seemed embarrassed. He mumbled a quick apology and said that he would be back as soon as he could for the meeting and left the room. Dr. Park walked over to Leland.

“Is he alright? He looks really stressed out.”

“He's been acting strange lately,” said Leland to her, “I think something else is going on that he's not telling us about. We'll worry about it later,” she said turning away, “right now we got to get ready for the reporters.”

“Why did the Arkham board members agree to this anyway,” Park asked.

“They didn't,” Leland replied, “they had no idea. Dr. Williams went over everyone's heads. I'll be surprised if he somehow keeps his job after this. I'm sure most of us are going to be written up for this though,” she said looking back towards JJ, “this is a complete violation of HIPAA.” Dr. Park nodded in agreement.

“All we can do now,” said Leland, “is to make sure that the reporters don't ask upsetting questions or further break HIPAA laws. They'll try to get whatever they can get out of us and him, so keep your guard up, and watch him like a hawk,” she said very quietly, “he's usually a very well behaved boy but he can do serious damage very quickly.”

A nurse walked into the room and said to the two doctors:

“The reporters are on their way now.”

“Thank you,” said Leland to her as the nurse walked away. She turned back to JJ who had placed himself between the two doctors.

“Are you absolutely sure you want to do this,” she asked one last time, “I just don't think you're ready for something like this.” JJ nodded, he felt more than ready for this. He needed to do this, for the others sake. Leland looked defeated but said nothing more on the subject. She straightened up and ushered in another nurse and some orderlies. JJ looked up at her, she seemed like she really wanted to stay with them for the interview if it had to happen. Sure he was slightly nervous about the interview as well, but he had thought about it very carefully, he was even mentally prepared for any Joker related questions. After all, what could go wrong with a few simple questions?

Chapter Text

"Elbassid mrala dna klocknu rood."

The door slightly quivered for a moment but then quietly opened up. Zantana quickly looked around again to make sure that there wasn't anyone in the hall. Seeing nobody she quickly entered the room and closed the door.

The room was cold and bare, as to be expected. The air smelled stale compared to the hallway. Batman as far as anyone was aware, had never used the room more than a small handful of times. He would only use this room if he was extremely exhausted or had to quickly shower to get ready for a business meeting with his company.

Zantana knew that he did keep some personal belongings here, not much but some. She opened up the dresser drawers but nothing was inside but white shirts. She had just started shifting through the shirts when she heard someone quietly clear their throat. Quickly turning around she saw Diana standing in the door way, not looking very pleased.

"It's not like you entering off-limited areas," Diana said while walking towards her, "especially knowing that there are sensors that pick up any magic use within the Tower. Why are you in here?" Zantana sighed and decided just to tell her:

"Years ago, when Bruce was training around the world, my father Zatara took him in to teach him the art of escaping locks. For three months we knew him only as John Smith. I didn't think anything of it, just another person who wanted to be an apprentice, but my father knew otherwise," she said turning away from Diana, "he knew who he really was the entire time." Zantana smiled at his memory.

"My father taught me everything that I know of performing and of true magic. Of course he only started teaching me true magic after I turned eighteen but that's another story. Anyway, years ago I was framed for a crime and Bruce helped me out of it," she said turning back towards Diana, "and I left him a poster of mine that had a personal message on it. He kept that poster all these years." Diana's stance softened and she unfolded her arms.

"That certainly sounds like Bruce," said Diana with a small smile. Zantana smiled back.

"Yes," she chuckled, "and I know he kept it up here; I saw it once when he and I were teamed up for a mission and I wanted to return it to him."

"You mean you and he weren't," Diana asked raising an eyebrow. Zantana burst out laughing.

"Oh no," she said trying to quiet back down, "Even back then he wasn't interested. I was, but it was puppy love. No, he and I are very, very good friends and nothing more. I thought that you two were an item." Now it was Diana's turn to smile.

"A few dates, but it never went further than that. He never wanted too. It's as if as soon as he starts getting happy he pushes away what's causing it."

"Yeah, kinda makes you wonder exactly why," Zantana quietly replied. Nothing was said between the two, but after a few seconds of silence Diana started looking for the poster.

"So," asked Zantana as she started searching her own corner of the room, "has the League decided on what's going to happen now?"

"Bruce has already resigned the League and wont answer any of our messages," Diana replied, "but that hasn't stopped all the problems. We've been getting en quiries about the case and we can't ignore them forever."

"It's all over the news," Zatana agreed, "everyone's talking about it. Reporters, analysts, people on the street. They've also been talking about the League again too. It's like the laser strike all over again."

"It's not just on the outside," Diana turned to her, "it's inside too. Many of the League members are threatening to quit; some even threatened to go to the authorities themselves unless we turn Bruce over."

"You're kidding," she said in disbelief, "after all he's done for the world and everything else? Besides how many other people know who he is up here; there's you six," she said pointing to Diana referring to the original members, "and myself...who else is there?" Diana shrugged.

"I'm not sure but many of them think that there is something larger to all this," Diana said, "some even think he's trying to hide even darker secrets," she said with a bit of distaste in her voice. Zantana had heard the very same rumors everyone had said in the past over and over again, but even she couldn't help but wonder now too.

"Here it is," Zantana said after looking under some clean sheets. She picked the very well preserved poster and looked down at the note she had written him years ago. Diana looked over her shoulder to read the note too.

"So, did he ever?"

"Ever what?"

"Write you?" Zantana smiled sadly.

"No."


As Barbara drove the long lonely mountain road towards the asylum she tried to focus her thinking. There was just so much going on in her life right now that there was hardly any breathing room. First was the investigation going on with her father. It worried her because after his brief but tough battle with cancer, it left him physically weaker than he was ever willing to admit. She hadn't seen him like this since mom had died and she honestly worried about his heart giving out. 'You're just fussing' was all he would tell her. Maybe she was but it did worry her; he wasn't a young man anymore. He and mom had her when they were just turning forty, so it's not like he was like her friends dad's who were almost twenty years younger than himself.

The next thing she worried about was the very real possibility of everyone going to jail. There were so many sleepless nights of her running scenario after scenario of what she and everyone else would do if all of their identities were revealed. Each one was different then the other, some more grizzly than others. She had never even considered it before, now realizing how childish she had been acting all along. In a strange way, she owed her beginning doubt to the Scarecrow with his fear toxin all those months ago.

Eventually she would have to stop thinking about it due to all the anxiety it caused. She had enough with that from school and of course Tim. She sighed, perhaps now she knew how he felt, to a lesser degree of course. She looked down at the small care package she put together for him, hoping that this time he would be aware enough that she could at least interact with him. Finally she approached the bridge checkpoint. The guard approached her car and motioned her to roll her window down.

"Good afternoon," he said, "welcome to Arkham Asylum's bridge checkpoint. Please park your car over there," he said pointing to the guest parking lot, "and come to the checkpoint station for inspection and ride over to the asylum." She did as she was told, handed her keys over at the station booth and handed over her care package. The station guard opened it up and searched the box's contents. The guard glanced up at her and recognized her from last time.

"Back again for another attempt," asked the guard as he looked through the box. She smiled and nodded.

"I just hope he'll be responsive this time," she told him, catching the other guard's attention, "if not then I'll leave it for-"

"Hang on," said the other guard approaching them, "who are you seeing today, Miss? May I see your driver's license?"

"I'm sorry," Barbara said to him while handing her card to him, "I'm with Gothatm's Guardians. It's an outreach program for kids who-"

"I'm sorry Miss Gordon," said the guard handing her card back to her, "but I'm afraid that I can't let you in."

"Why not," she asked genuinely shocked.

"There's a press conference going on over at the asylum today," he said to her, "but it's not just that Miss Gordon; due to the ongoing investigation that your father's involved in, we've been instructed to bar him, and in extension you, from any further visits." Barbara stood there flabbergasted.

"I'm truly sorry Miss Gordon," he said handing her keys back to her, "but it's court ordered. I'm afraid you'll have to take it up with Max Echardt, the lead investigator. I also can't allow the package to go through," he said sadly handing it back to her, "I really am sorry. You can tell the organization that they can send other volunteers over if they wish to do so." She gathered her things, excused herself from the two as politely as she could muster and quickly left the station, frustrated not because she was now barred entry but what the guard had said: press conference. Why on earth would there be a press conference at the asylum, now of all times? There was really only one explanation.

She got into the car and as soon as she was out of sight of the guards she activated her hands free phone and called Bruce's private line. She tapped her fingers nervously, knowing he was going to be mad about how she found out about the conference but she needed to let Bruce know. She pushed the thought away when she heard his voice on the line.

"Bruce Wayne speaking."

"Bruce it's Barbara," she said, "listen, dad asked me to go visit Tim today and-"

"Did you," he asked sounding annoyed. She couldn't help but be taken back from his tone.

"As a matter of fact I did," she said defiantly, "and I'm glad I did because I found out that there's a press conference going on right now at the asylum." She waited for him to respond but received none.

"Just thought you'd like to know about it. I'll call-" but she stopped when she heard the phone click. She gripped the steering-wheel tighter and gritted her teeth. Now she was beginning to understanding why Dick was always so angry with him.


"And over here," said Bartholomew leading the reporters, "is our dayroom where the children interact with each other and do many activities throughout the day." The reporters looked around while taking notes while the one photographer took pictures. Clark looked around for Jimmy and could see that he had broken off the main group while taking several unnecessary pictures and was several yards away. He shook his head and kept writing down notes and carefully listening, making sure that staff wasn't talking about a cover-up of any sort. Bartholomew then stopped in front of a door and turned to the rest of the group looking very solemn:

"Alright now," he said very gravely, "beyond this door is were our patient in question is waiting for us. I want to let everyone know that if anyone of you intentionally try to cause any trouble beyond this door with said patient, you will be immediately escorted off the island. There will be five questions allowed to be asked with the whole group and the two parties that were given more access will be allowed fifteen minutes of time in a separate private room. There will be no loud noises, shouting or raised voices and no photographs beyond this point," he said looking at the photographer, "please be understanding for our patient's needs."

Bartholomew then turned towards the door and started to open it. As the group entered the room, Jimmy who was still down the hall, noticed that the group was leaving him behind and he quickly trotted over to catch back up. As he entered the room, the reporters had already swarmed around where he presumed the kid was. He quickly made his way up to the right side of the group and found a prime spot near the front and knelt down quietly.

Meanwhile, JJ looked over the reporters and was actually relieved. He had imagined a whole room filled with people but there was only about ten reporters. Of course they stared at him, that was expected but they seemed to keep their feelings well hidden and were great at pretending that they didn't care how he looked.

Among all of the reporters he only saw two somewhat familiar faces. The one was of course Lois Lane, that reporter lady Bruce had dated while in Matropolus before he was Robin. The taller man next to her though, looked very familiar to him but he just couldn't place where and why. The other one was Jack Rider, the news guy that had been through his own Joker experience. Out of all the reporters, he was hoping that Jack and perhaps Lois would be one of the reporters that he got to speak too. He should have been paying attention to what Bartholomew and Leland were saying but as he gazed over the reporters, another one caught his eye. The man was further in the back and moved out of his field of view when he saw him looking at him.

'Isn't that the same guy who-'

"Hey, look this way," he heard someone whisper. He turned towards the voice and was instantly blinded by a flash of light. He quietly grunted from the shock and began rubbing his eyes.

"I said no photographs," said Bartholomew very angerly but quietly towards Jimmy, who in turn shrunk back sheepishly. Bartholomew walked over to Jimmy and confiscated the camera. As Leland continued talking with the reporters, JJ tried to follow along but he couldn't hear her as well anymore. The camera's whirling was still ringing in his ears and all noises were becoming muffled. He kept blinking but his vision started to go grey at the edges. His chest felt tight and he was starting to struggle for breath.

'No, not now,' he bitterly thought. He fumblingly tried to quietly grab what he assumed was either Leland or Park's hand. When he did grab something, it gently squeezed back but no reassurance came from it. He was starting to shake and his insides felt like they had melted and sank into his legs. He closed his eyes and took slow deep breaths, hoping that it'd help clear out the fog. To his surprise it actually did help and soon he felt as if the worst of it was over. He was really proud of himself, he looked at the reporters and they didn't seem any the wiser. He looked up at Leland and Park; Leland was speaking with the reporters but Park (who's hand he had grabbed) was looking down at him through the corner of her eye and it was obvious that she knew what happened. He looked away, he had hoped that he got completely away with it but it was hard to fool a doctor who knew what to look for.

"I have to go with Doctor Bartholomew to a video conference, but Doctor Park here," she said gesturing towards her, "will be able to answer any of your questions." As they left the room, Dr. Bartholomew and Leland both gave hesitated looks over their shoulders. As soon as they left, Dr. Park took in a deep breath and reluctantly took charge.

"Alright," she said clapping her hands together, "I think if you're all ready, I think we can begin. Please remember to keep it to 'yes or no' questions," she turned towards JJ, "go ahead and pick out a reporter." As he turned to look at them, the reporters called out and started waving at him to grab his attention. It didn't bother him but Dr. Park was looking down at him, quietly worrying that the reporters would quickly over-whelm him again. He picked out a female reporter in the front near him. Without hardly missing a beat, she quickly asked:

"While you were with Batman, have you ever been injured enough that required professional medical attention?" JJ paused. The answer was yes, but the question he faced was should he answer truthfully or lie? He quietly thought about it, but his shifting eyes and hesitation to answer the question unfortunately, had already told them the truth. He reluctantly nodded yes, hoping that telling the truth would be the better outcome. The reporters began waving frantically again at him and calling out louder than last time. He picked out another reporter who in turn asked:

"Did Batman or anyone else make you do anything you felt uncomfortable doing?" He shook his head and he picked out another reporter:

"Is Batman biologically related to you?" He shook his head again, but then quietly wondered if that was the right thing to have done. He picked out another reporter, hoping this would be an easier question:

"Were you kidnapped by Batman?" He scoffed at that, almost laughed at it. He had heard that more than once before. He shook his head in reply. He picked out the last reporter:

"Do you feel safe here in the Asylum?" He paused again, then shook his head. No, he hated it here, and he really didn't feel safe here, not like at home.

"Alright," said Dr. Park, "That's all the questions answered for this part of the conference. If you'll follow Nurse Peterson, she'll lead you all to the lunchroom where Dr. Bartholomew and Leland will come shortly and answer any further questions you may have." The reporters finished writing their notes and started to gather themselves up to follow Peterson. Dr. Park watched them leave and then turned her attention to the remaining four reporters. She motioned over one of the orderlies and asked him if he would escort JJ to the room where the interviews would take place.

"I'll be there in a minute," she said to JJ, "but I want to talk to the reporters. Do you still want to do this or would you like a minute to-" JJ quickly shook his head. He really wanted to continue, it was too important not too. He could see her point though; he hadn't thought that this conference would be that difficult but apparently his mind had other plans. He was just happy that she hadn't told Leland about what happened and stopped the conference. As the two left, Park turned towards the remaining four and walked over to them.

"Look," she said gently to them, "I'm not completely comfortable about continuing the interview. He had a panic attack just from that camera flash; I'm not sure if he could handle another half-hour."

"I get what you're saying," said Rider, "but trust me, it's better to do this now and only have one interview, rather than have another one down the line. You don't want to make the kid go through this all over again in the future do you?"

"We promise were not going to force him to do anything against his will," said Clark gently, "there are guidelines when it comes to interviewing minors. We're not out to embarrass or hurt him." Dr. Park didn't seem all that convinced.

"Very well," she said, "but please be considerate, this is hard for him even if he doesn't realize it himself."


JJ looked around the room where the interviews were going to happen. The room was smaller but not cramped, brightly lit with comfortable chairs. Obviously it was meant for such things like interviews or at least something similar in nature. On the small table between the chairs there was a medium sized white board, it's purpose was easily guessed. He tried to relax before the real interviews started but he still felt sick and anxious from earlier.

'It was just a stupid flash from a camera,' he thought to himself as he rubbed his forehead, 'I shouldn't have freaked out over that.' He kept thinking about it, wondering why he would have. He looked over at a picture hung up on the wall.

'The camera,' he finally decided, 'it wasn't just the flash but the camera and noise of it too. Probably from when Harley and Joker took all those pictures...but I don't hardly remember any of it.' It was frustrating. To him, it would have been one thing if he had clear memories of those events, but having none of them and still living the ramifications of them, made him feel like his 'episodes' were unjustified. It also upset him because since he didn't remember most of what happened, he didn't know what to look out for and therefore didn't know how or when it would happen again. It was like walking on egg shells with himself and he hated that. The door's handle started to turn; he sat up in the chair and decided that he'd worry about all that later, he had more important things to worry about right now.

Dr. Park and two of the reporters walked in. It was the more familiar reporters, Summer Gleeson and Jack Rider, who were with her. The reporters started to approach him, so he stood back up to greet them properly. Summer was the first one to speak.

"Hello, I'm Summer Gleeson," she said as she sat down.

"I'm Jack Rider," he said sitting next to Summer, "we're with WGOB for Gotham Insider."

"Before we begin," said Summer towards Dr. Park, "when will Doctor Bartholomew be back? I would feel more comfortable with him in the room with us."

"I'm sorry but Doctor Bartholomew is in the middle of an important meeting with Doctor Leland and Williams. I'm not sure how long they will be but I was asked to be the guardian during the interviews until they return."

"Before we begin to be on record," said Jack, "we need to make sure you understand what we are here for: We are reporters for WGOB here to interview you," he said quickly glancing at JJ, "to get your side of the story of what happened." Here Summer gave a quick glance over at Jack, he always was vague on what exactly he was specifically investigating and this time it could get both of them in serious trouble. Before she could quickly speak to clear up what he had meant, Jack spoke over her:

"Now I want you to know that at any time during the interview," he said speaking directly to JJ, "if you want to stop it, you can. If there is a question you don't wish to answer, you don't have too."

"I would also like to state," said Summer trying to get all the information out, "that this story will be published in the news papers, online and also aired on television. That means a very large number of people will see and read this, so if you don't want to continue with the interview, that's fine." JJ quickly shook his head, he wanted to continue, even if it meant embarrassment on his part.

"I also want to quickly explain what on and off the record means: If you want to say something but don't want it published in the story, that's 'off record'. If you want it to be included, that's 'on record'." JJ nodded to show he understood what she meant.

"Alright then," said Summer turning on a small voice recorder, "first off I would like to ask for your formal consent to interview the child?" JJ couldn't help but raise his eyebrow at that. He had a name, several of them. Couldn't they at least use the name he gave them?

"Yes, you have my permission," said Dr. Park. Before another word was spoken, JJ quietly pulled out his list that he had made and reached it over towards Summer and Rider. Summer took the list and quietly read it while Jack read it over her shoulder.

"Is there a reason why he wont verbally speak doctor," asked Jack respectfully.

"Traumatic events can cause what is known as 'selective mutism'," said Dr. Park, "and in most cases even if the person wishes to speak, they can't. Even if there is nothing physically wrong."

"Does it take something very traumatic," asked Jack, "like-"

"I think Doctor Bartholomew can answer our questions on that later," said Summer, annoyed that he was wasting what little time they had. She turned back to JJ and asked:

"While in costume, have you ever been injured?" JJ quietly wrote out his answer on the whiteboard to which was read out by Dr. Park:

'A few times.'

"Was Batman ever aware of those injuries," asked Jack.

'Yes but they were always treated.'

"Could you tell us how you were kidnapped by The Joker," asked Summer cautiously as she didn't know if it would upset him or not.

'I was on patrol when I heard someone call out for help. There were two men attacking a woman so I knocked out the men and had my back turned on the victim but it was Harley in disguise and before I could react she knocked me out with a large mallet.'

"Were you alone when that happened," asked Summer.

'Yes.'

"Did anyone know you were out on your own," asked Jack.

'Yes, Batman knew.'

"Did he know where you were," Jack asked, sounding somewhat surprised. JJ paused, he honestly didn't know if Batman did or didn't because of the tracer in his belt.

'I don't think so but I'm not sure.'

"Did Batman train you to fight," asked Summer changing the subject.

'He did. I knew some things before but he taught me most of it.'

"How long and often did you train for," she continued to ask. JJ thought about it and wrote his answer down:

'I trained for most of my free time. It's a lot of fun, but not as fun as it is on the streets. I had trouble at first with a lot of the acrobatic stuff but once you get use to it, it's not so bad.'

"During training," asked Jack, "did you ever practice fighting with anyone?"

'Yeah, with Batgirl and Nightwing when he was in town but most of the time it was with Batman.'

"Did he ever hit you while training," asked Jack. JJ went to write the answer but paused. He suddenly realized that answering this could actually hurt. He looked up at the reporters, then over to Dr. Park who was giving him a concerned look. His hesitation had already put assumptions into their heads. He wrote: 'No comment,' thinking that it was the best answer he could give when in reality it was one of the worst things he could have done.

"Where you ever hurt during training," asked Summer with the smallest hint of concern in her voice. JJ took in a deep, shaky breath. Nervously he gripped his arm and absentmindedly dug his nails deep into it. He quickly started to write something but midway through, Dr. Park said:

"I think we should stop the interview now," she said while resting her hand on JJ's shoulders, "he's clearly getting...excited." Summer and Jack stood up, quietly accepting the doctor's orders.

"Thank you for your time," said Summer to him, "if you need anything else, here's our cards," she said handing their information over to Dr. Park, "we'll wait for Doctor Leland, Williams and Bartholomew to finish their meeting. We still have several questions to ask them."

"Of course," said Dr. Park standing up, "if you follow the blue line's outside they'll lead you back to the main waiting area where the rest of the reporters should be." The two reporters quietly left the room where they were instructed to do so. After they left Doctor Park turned her attention back towards her charge. He had curled up into the chair and by the way he looked, she wasn't sure if he was in deep thought or having a small psychosis episode. However when she approached him he shot her with a quick glare before looking away again.

"I'm sorry if you're upset with me for that," she said, "but I felt you needed the break." JJ rolled his eyes at that. He was getting sick of people treating him like he was going to crack on them. Sure he was getting nervous but it was an interview, who doesn't get nervous for interviews?

"I'm going to tell the other two tha-" began Park but before she finished, there was a knock on the door.

"I'll just be a second," she said, and went outside. JJ sighed, frustrated that she was going to cut it short but as he waited it seemed that someone was arguing with Dr. Park. He quietly walked over to the door to see if he could hear any of it but it seemed he missed most of it. He quickly made his way back to his chair just in time for Park and the two remaining reporters to come in. JJ noticed that Lois was looking particularly smug as she walked in.

"Let's make the interview brief please," Park asked politely, "he's getting tired and these interviews have been very stressful for him."

"We will," said Clark as he sat down, "should we go over mandated reporting regulations or-"

"We've already discussed that," Park interrupted, "and we understand them, let's just get started." Clark sheepishly adjusted his glasses and took out his note pad. Clark then extended his hand towards JJ.

"Hi, I'm Clark Kent with The Daily Planet," however as he waited for JJ to take his hand, Dr. Park walked over towards him and politely cleared her throat.

"I'm sorry," said Dr. Park, putting her hand on top of his arm and lowering it back down, "but there is a strict 'no touch' policy with visitors on asylum grounds. It's for patient and visitor safety."

"Of course it is," mumbled Lois. As the adults began to settle down, JJ wondered what kind of questions they would ask. He knew Lois already knew who Batman was and, by extension, who he was. If she was going to pull a story about it she would have already done it so he was confident she wasn't going to. She didn't seemed bothered by him, the other guy didn't seemed bothered either. He couldn't help but keep staring up at him because it was starting to bug him how familiar he seemed to be.

After they sat down, Lois clicked the recorder on and asked:

"Do we have your consent to interview the child in question, Doctor?"

"You do."

"Alright," said Lois as she turned her attention towards JJ, "So let's get started then. As stupid as the question sounds, do you enjoy it here in Arkham?" JJ scoffed quietly and shook his head. Lois smirked at that and leaned back.

"That's a given, nobody really wants to be in the hospital, do they," she asked. JJ nodded in agreement, but was then distracted when he noticed that Mr. Kent was looking over him very carefully. He seemed to be thinking about something, spinning a pen slowly in his hands.

"Tell me," Clark quietly asked, "have you had any bad experiences here in Arkham? Anything...you would call, oh I don't know, abusive towards you?" Everyone was slightly taken aback from the question, and while JJ quietly wrote out his answer, Dr. Park decided to say something:

"I'm not sure where you would get that idea from Mr. Kent," she said politely, "but here at Arkham we take the upmost care of all our patients."

"It just must be from growing up on a farm but," he reached over with his pen and carefully parted JJ's hair from his lowered head revealing his stitches, "I can't forget the smell of the stitches on the cows and horses when I had to take them to the vet." JJ quickly ran a hand thru his hair to recover the stitches . "How did this exactly happen," Clark asked, his last question more towards Dr. Park.

"I'm sorry but that's confidential information due to HIPPA," she said slightly getting defensive. Lois turned off the recorder.

"This is off record," Lois said, "but don't you think this whole situation is breaking HIPPA?"

"That I agree," said Dr. Park, "but I can't say what happened. You will have to ask Dr. Bartholomew to release that information." Clark turned the recorder back on and the interview continued. As JJ flipped the whiteboard around he gave a cautious glance at Park, hoping that she wouldn't get to upset.

'Well the doctors have been force feeding me, it hurts and I don't like it but they say I have to do it.' JJ expected for them to react to that and would hopefully get them to maybe do something about it, but was surprised that they just wrote down a note and quickly moved onto the next question.

"Have you had any good experiences here," asked Clark. JJ paused at the question, he had to think about it. Finally, he wrote down his answer:

'No, not really. I really don't want to be here and don't say it's a attitude thing either.'

"Really," said Clark, "not a one? Have you had any visitors," he asked more softly, "like family members or friends?"

'No,' he quickly wrote down, 'no one has really come to visit me.' Sure Bullock came the first day but he didn't consider that a true visit. Thinking about that instantly caused another mood swing for him changing from being defensive to more somber.

"Have you had contact with anyone outside of Arkham," asked Lois.

'No. Nobody's tried to contact me, and I haven't tried either.'

So you haven't had any contact with the people known only as Nightwing, Batgirl, and Batman," Clark asked more carefully not knowing how he'd react. JJ simply shook his head.

"Why haven't you tried to call anyone," asked Clark.

'They might trace the call.'

"Does it make you upset that nobody's tried to call you or see you," asked Lois. JJ almost didn't answer that question, but as he showed his answer he gave her what could only be discribed as a sarcastic glare:

'What'd you think? But I do understand why.'

"Why," asked Clark.

'It's too risky to come over to visit with everyone wanted. It's my fault that everyone is in trouble right now, so I get why they can't come.'

"'Your fault'," said Clark, "what do you mean by that?"

'Isn't it obvious?' Clark didn't press any further for details.

"If Batman and the others were arrested and unmasked," asked Lois, "how would you feel about that?" They waited for him to respond to the question but he just sat there staring blankly. Lois gave a quick glance at Dr. Park who was looking at him as well and she seemed slightly concerned. Lois looked back and saw that JJ was looking at her desperately, and had written a statement down:

'Please don't tell.'

"This interview is over," said Dr. Park standing up trying to pacify the situation, "clearly he's getting upset. You two can find your way out through the door on the right outside the room." She tried to gently escort JJ out of the room but he kept squirming out of her hands but eventually she managed to get him under control enough to leave the room. As they were walking back towards the main lobby, Clark couldn't help but feel slightly angry at Lois.

"Did you really have to ask that last question," he asked her, "that really upset him. He probably thinks about that all the time here."

"I know," she said quietly, "but I had to know what he thought."

"What?"

"I wanted to know if he wanted Batman arrested or not," she said, "but, damn me I don't know. I thought I'd know what to do after this but now I'm not so sure. He clearly knows I know and doesn't want me saying anything but now? I thought I would know what to do after this, but now I'm more conflicted more than ever. Sorry I screwed up the interview Smallville."

"It's fine," said Clark, "it was obvious it was going downhill fast anyway. Come on," he said to her, "I want to hurry and get a statement from this Bartholomew and Leland. I have a lot of burning questions for those two."