No. No no no no no. This was not supposed to happen, ever, especially not after losing Bruce. He couldn’t lose someone else, not after that, it would kill him. Then who would protect Gotham? Jason? His hands flew over the keyboard as he attempted to find anything, even the smallest blip that would tell him where Joker had taken him. That was if he hadn’t killed him yet.
Shaking his head hard the now appointed Batman forced his eyes open as he flew through data, looking at everything he could, trying to discover everything he could. Intensified crime, strange happenings, unusual fires, any of them could lead to the joker, and any of them could mean life of death.
His eyes drifted over the area where Damian had been snatched, the whole building having been rigged with knockout gas that was not only colorless, but odorless also. They had gone in after a group of thugs for a petty drug store theft, had chased them into the building. Within seconds he was out. He had woken tied to a chair, bloody and bruised, but his cowl still in place. There had been a note that said “didn’t want to spoil the surprise” in green pen and a large smiley face on the back.
“Where are you Damian?” He almost flew out of his seat when the computers com link went off, his hand coming down firmly on the answer key.
“Still looking, but I can tell you he isn’t down near the docks.” Jason’s voice sounded tired, strained, and more than just a little angry. More than likely Dick would see the need for medical teams at the docs in a few minutes.
Dick sighed heavily as he ran his hand over his face, rubbing off the dried blood he had refused to let Alfred remove. The silence sat heavy on the phone, neither able to think of anything to say.
“We’ll find him Dickiebird.” Jason finally said. “If the kid doesn’t kill the fucker first.” The words did little to ease the rock of fear in Dick’s stomach.
The blood was washing off his gloves just as well as usual, which wasn’t very. The search had not been going well at all. So far none of the usual haunts had any information for him, even when he beat some of the guys within an inch of their lives for information.
Throwing the roof hose to the side he stood up and looked over the city. He could bust as many heads as he wanted, make as many people bleed as he could, but that didn’t mean he would get the joker. The same fuck who had blown him to hell and put him through some of the worst pain he had ever felt. Had taught him what death felt like.
He wasn’t going to let him teach that to Damian.
It took only seconds to reach the street as he made his way to the next place on his list. There was blip on his communicator, a tiny blip that sent a surge of endorphins through him of both hope and fear. He pressed his finger to the side of his helmet to activate his com link.
“You find anything Dickiebird?”
“Wrong bird,” came Tim’s voice. It was winded and slightly blurred, like he was running.
“Are you roof hopping and talking on the phone?” Jason asked, trying to put a joking air to it, vaulting a fence as he went.
“Can’t stop, just updating, no one knows anything in the slums. No missing homeless, nothing like that.” Tim’s voice cut off as sounds of the wind took over followed by a sudden thunk and grind, signaling a jump and roll.
“Alright, thanks for the update kid. We-“
“We’ll find him. I know.” Then the line went dead. Jason would have sighed if he could, but currently there was no way to, not with how quickly he was breathing as he weaved through the back alleys. He didn’t stop moving till he had reached the next group. They had nothing to tell him either, just spit our more excuses and blood onto his gloves.
It wasn’t right. He and Damian may have never fully connected, but that didn’t mean he hadn’t come to care about Damian at least a little bit. They were finally getting to the point that they could stay in the same room without a death glare. Damian had even stopped twitching in threatening ways at him to put him on edge.
When Dick had sent out the message about Damian’s abduction Tim had already been on patrol, having just finished stopping a few petty crimes in the heart of Gotham. That had been almost twenty four hours ago.
Now he had checked anywhere he could think of where the Joker might be snatching people; slums, sewers, crack houses, but so far he had found nothing. The most he had gotten was from a gibbering man who said the clown at Wayne tower stole his wallet. When he had gotten more the man had started spouting things off about different types of birds.
He hit the next roof hard, felt something strain, and kept going. He could still keep looking, keep searching. He wasn’t going to be worthless, he was going to help save him. Besides, he hadn’t gotten to get him back for the sucker punch he had gotten that first time back in the cave. Saving his ass from Joker would be the best pay back. The communicator in his ear blipped.
“Still nothing Dick, checking over-“
“Master Drake you need to come home.” Alfred’s voice was so tired and thin Tim almost faltered in his running.
“I’m fine Alfred.”
“Master Drake if you keep going like this, if all of you keep going like this, none of you are going to have the strength to do anything. Please, come home. Let Master Todd-“
“Red Hood needs help Alfred. He can’t scan the whole city in one night.” Tim pretty much snarled. He hated it when he knew Alfred was right, just a sentence and he knew Alfred was speaking the truth. That didn’t mean he wanted to hear it.
“No, but we have every contact we know looking. We have taps on all police scanners, Master Dick has gone so far as to alert the Titans, and Jason is still out there.”
“And I should be out here too-“
“No, you have been out long enough.” The snap in his voice had Tim slow to a skidding halt on the roof. Alfred sighed on the other side of the connection and Tim could practically see him rubbing at his forehead. “Come home Master Timothy. You need to rest. You can’t do anything for him if you’re exhausted.” Tim watched the people down below; saw them holding hands and laughing. A couple stumbled drunkenly to a cab as last call was bellowed into the streets.
“I’ll be home soon Alfred.” He clicked off his communicator and stared down. For a moment his eyes crossed and the distance to the ground doubled. Turning he pointed his feet towards where his bike was stashed. He really did hate it when Alfred was right.
It was exhausting watching them. He could see where Jason and Tim were at all times as he was finally allowed to bandage up Master Richard. His face was still horribly bruised, his body covered in cuts. Alfred would glance up now and again to see that one or the other had already moved three blocks, and was thankful to see that Tim had headed his pleas and was on his way home. Jason had already had a good night of rest before Damian’s capture and was decently rested. Tim had not been so lucky.
“Alfred,” Dick asked quietly, hands arched in a way that made him think all too much of Bruce. It made the heaviness in his heart double.
“Yes?” He replied, finishing the bandage on the man’s upper arm.
“Do you think…do you think this is my fault?” His voice was quite, unsure, and so very different than what it was usually. It hurt to hear.
“I think that the Joker is a deviously clever bastard with too much time on his hands.” He pinned the bandage in place, fixing it over a wound that had stopped bleeding for a long while, but was no less prone to infection.
“That doesn’t answer my question.” Dick replied simply. Alfred did his best not to sigh.
“No Master Richard, I do not believe it is your fault. I don’t think anyone could have expected what he did.”
“Which is why I should have expected it,” Dick suddenly yelled, hands slamming down on the desk in front of him. “Bruce would have realized it, would have seen it.”
“Master Dick please your wounds will-“
The ding on the computer cut him off as they both looked up. On the map Damian’s tracker had come online, blinking in the center of the map.
“My God,” Alfred muttered as he looked at where he was located. “How did he ever get in there?” Dick was already radioing the other two.
When he had woken up the first things he had felt were the chains. Thin, tiny chains that had no give to them as he pulled at his wrists. That didn’t mean he was bound, just meant he had fun getting out of them. Even blind folded he had known there were six men in the room. The Joker’s voice had been just that, a voice, coming in over an intercom against the far wall. No one noticed his small movements as the Joker cracked a few more horrid jokes that his lackey laughed at uneasily.
They hadn’t noticed anything till the chains had hit the floor and he had his blind fold wrapped around the first thugs throat. It hadn’t taken him long to dispatch them, though it had been very annoying with the Joker providing both sides with curses and praise and the random gun shots.
“Well will you look of that! The bat brat beat my time by a good twenty four hours. I thought for sure my little concoction would have you out for at least two days.” The thin lipped, green haired villain had cackled at him. Damian had said nothing, just waited for him to finish his tirade to get to the point. When he did finally reach the end Damian had picked up one of the guns and shot the screen and speakers until there was nothing but a slight electric buzzing left.
He had found his belt and items where the Joker had said they would. Moments later he climbing up the multiple flights of stairs and pipes out of the old inner sewer system till he pushed aside the first sewer grate that showed light. Lifting it he had flicked on his locator and pulled himself into the buzzing florescence of the parking lot. The name Wayne stood out in stark white against the gray of the lowest level of the parking garage.
Jason had been there in five, Tim in Ten, and Dick in thirteen. Jason had stood there for a moment looking him over before clapping him on the shoulder with one hand and ruffling his hair with the other, saying something about coming out better than he had. Tim had tried to give him a handshake which Damian had begrudgingly gave when he saw how exhausted he was. Then Dick had shown up last, Alfred told to stay at home just in case. Dick had done his best to stay back for a moment, but before he could say much else he had scooped Damian into a hug.
“Oh thank god,” he had whispered, getting a huff out of youngest. He had hugged him a few more moments before pulling away. “I thought…” he paused when he saw Damian’s face. Damian knew what he was looking for. Marks, cuts, anything. He wasn’t going to find any though, because they hadn’t left anything. “What did he do?” Dick finally asked. Damian bristled a bit as he was finally able to pull away from the embrace.
“He was bored.” The youngest said as he walked passed them, anger brimming in his chest. All that work to catch him. All that work to make his family worry, and all he got to do was beat six measly bastards into the floor and had nothing but some barely there bruises on his wrists.
It had been perfect. Perfect! The youngest bat brat had never shown more emotion than in that one look. The kid hadn’t even shown that much emotion when he had been beating him with a crowbar; just anger and a need to cause pain. But this time Joker had seen the tension, the pent up energy, all for nothing. The kid would go home, sit in his room, and seethe. And the best part? He would know that he had finally caught him, gotten him when he had least expected it, and had just let him go. That was it. It was one of the best jokes he had ever played.
“Sweet dreams.” He chuckled at the blank screen, smiling wide as he fingered his newly obtained wallet. Oh how he loved a good joke.