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It begins with a batarang to his neck and ends with a bullet.

Certainly an odd way to put it, but Jason's used to seeing his life as a compilation of beginnings and endings, most of them violent, when he really thinks about it.

His birth and the first time his father hit his mom. The first time his father hurt her and the first time he turned his rage on Jason instead. When his father left. When his mother first used. Her slow deterioration, one ugly milestone after the other. When the heat went out. When the water first went. Jason's first theft, his first break-in, his first fight, his first... Yeah, lots of firsts in that particular vein. His mom dying. Living on the streets is another series of firsts. Seeing the Batmobile. Slugging the Bat himself with a tire-iron.

Afterwards, a better time. A long, long line of minor milestones until a monster ripped it all apart with fire and fury.

Waking up alone.

Realizing that he was buried six feet under and trapped, with nothing but his panicked heart-beat to keep him company. Digging his way out. Wandering around, asking for a man who wouldn’t come. Breathing in green fire and choking on liquid rage in turn. Seeing a boy in his colors for the first time.

Learning of the ultimate betrayal.

Bruce refusing to finally set things right. To finally bring the Joker to justice.

A batarang to his neck, when Batman chose the Joker over his own son.

It begins with this batarang and will end with a bullet, but right now, Jason still has to survive the batarang first.

He’s slumped on a dusty couch in a run-down safehouse, chugging sports drinks and juice and waiting for death to decide if it wants to give it another go or not. The ceiling above him is hazy and strangely far away, dotted with bright spots and too dark shadows creeping in at the edges of his sight. His hands feel like ice and his neck has stopped hurting a while ago and Jason kind of wishes for the Pit to actually be useful for once and burn the lethargy in his body away with rage – but all his rage, all his righteous fury has long since burned out and turned cold instead.

Jason thinks he can taste ashes in his mouth and feel ice crystals splintering in his chest and he doesn’t know if it’s the lightheadedness of blood loss or the fading of the Pit in the face of impending death, but suddenly he has an epiphany.

It’s ingenious.

It’s ridiculous.

It’s actually been done before, if ultimately shoddy and largely unsuccessful, but then again, Jason’s whole life – his whole identity – has been based on cast-offs and second-hand chances up to this point, so what’s one more in the greater scheme of things? Besides, Jason’s been always good at making it work for him anyway.

The most brilliant thing is that Bruce will never expect it, because all he seems to remember of Jason is the brash kid, the reckless Robin who never listened to anybody and got himself killed in the end. He has forgotten the boy who spent hours doggedly catching up on school work, who patiently worked his ways through classics, the darling of his teachers, so clever, so determined…

And he forgot the boy who died because he wanted to protect!

Well, it’s his loss, really, because Jason’s going to use it against him. He’s going to turn all of Bruce’s precious rules on their heads and Bruce won’t be able to do a thing about it.

Jason knows he shouldn’t laugh, can feel the moment the wound rips open again and soaks the bandage in a fresh spurt of blood – but he can’t help it, because who knows, maybe, if he works hard enough and is just a little bit lucky for once, he will even manage to make the Bat obsolete at the end of it.

A man can dream after all, right?

If he survives, that is…

 


 

Here are the things his colleagues know about Officer Jay Peters:

He was born in Crime Alley, lost his father to crime (both literally and figuratively), his mother to drugs and then ran the usual Gotham Gauntlet of streets, orphanages and foster homes until – fortunately for him before his name appeared in connection with any crime – Social Services for once actually managed to find a relative willing to take in him in. In Europe of all places.

Fresh-faced and all grown-up – and in more than one opinion, more than slightly insane – he finally returned to Gotham years later as a man on a mission. He graduated at the Police Academy at the top of his class and has the reputation as one of the best shots – if not the best shot – of the whole department.

He has a white stripe in his hair that he sometimes unsuccessfully tries to dye and that he jokingly explains with being hit a few too many times on his head as a kid. Officers who meet him for the first time tend to laugh at this. Officers who’ve served with him longer don’t, because another thing about Jay Peters is that he has way more scars than anybody else is comfortable with and yet the only one that seems to bother him personally is the long, ugly line at his throat. From his father, he answers whenever he’s asked, and then he usually smirks too sharply to be entirely comfortable.

He does that a lot, actually.

Smirking, smiling, grinning, laughing, chuckling with a razor-sharp edge that would make his friends and colleagues wary, especially here, in Gotham, the Cradle of Crazy, if it weren’t for how much Jay cares.

He cares about the grimy street kids, the beggars huddling in the alleys, the working girls shivering at the corners and about everybody else life has left behind, spit on and forgotten. He volunteers at soup kitchens and orphanages, for charity work and community projects, he fixes roofs and windows and whatever else he can, and rumor has it that he even donates part of his meager wage whenever there’s a need somewhere.

Jay Peters loves Gotham, the Bowery and especially Crime Alley and its inhabitants with all his heart. And, to the surprise of everybody else, they love him right back.

They greet him like an old friend and not the cop he actually is, they trust him and feel safe with him and whisper secrets and observations in his ear that they usually would rather take to the grave than to give any “pig” for free. Send anybody else in the cesspit that’s the Bowery and they would face silence at best and danger for life and limbs at worst, but Jay somehow holds the key to Gotham’s beggars’ kingdom in his hands, he has the heart of the people and everybody knows that he will use it to help them however he can.

You can take the boy out of Crime Alley and put him in the Police Academy, some of the old guard joke, but you can never take Crime Alley from the boy.

It’s all in good fun and Jay laughs along with them, loud and sharp and as if he’s in on a joke nobody else even knows exists. And yet…

And yet, sometimes, if the older officers have had a drink or two too many, they whisper among themselves about other things instead. About a rumor, the unseen shadow that’s been ruling the Bowery and the East End for a few years now, and how even they are apparently putty in Jay’s hands…

And yet, the next morning at the station nobody asks and barely anybody cares, because Jay helps them get results, they solve more and more cases and people finally start to trust into the police again. Rather a crime lord than the Bat, is the overall thought. Rather a human being than a freak. Who cares who exactly Jay’s friendly with as long as he doesn’t show any favoritism towards any gang or criminal and the police can actually get their job done for once.

So, what else is there to know about Jay Peters.

He’s a riot on parties and can hold his liquor like a champ.

He’s a favorite among the other officer’s children, being gentle with the little ones and a willing partner-in-crime to the older kids, causing many a ruckus and lots of half-indignant, half-amused shouts of “Jay!” at every family day.

He’s sometimes reckless, sometimes a bit impatient, but he’s young yet and idealistic and he will learn with time. And more often than not, it’s actually proven that he was on the right track all along in the end.

The most curious thing about Jay Peters may actually be that Commissioner Gordon looked at him as if he’d seen a ghost the first time they met, but other than that, there’s really nothing strange about him.

Every officer in the GCPD is more than willing to serve right next to him.

 


 

Another day, another hostage-situation.

It’s business as usual in Gotham, or at least it would be, if the criminal in question wasn’t be the Joker.

Nothing is usual about the Joker.

Ten hostages huddling in the building behind him, giggling and choking in the first stages of poisoning with Joker’s trademark toxin. Another woman in his arms is crying instead and silently praying now and then. Anybody else and she might try to beg for her life, but every Gothamite knows that Joker knows no mercy and that begging will only make it worse in the end.

The deranged clown himself is strutting about, safe in the knowledge that nobody will dare to do anything to him as long as the hand slung around his hostage holds the trigger to a set of three bombs hidden somewhere in the city. He’s raving and ranting with grand, sweeping gestures of his free hand and whenever he takes a step too far out of the entrance of the café, the knife in it catches the light.

There are three squad cars arrayed around the café. Ten police officers with their guns trained on him and watching his every move. All of them have a clear line of fire. And yet none of them can do anything as long as the madman holds the city itself hostage to keep himself safe.

As long as the damn Bats haven’t found and disarmed the bombs once again.

Because naturally, it’s about the damn Bats, it’s always about them. One of the crazies shows up and the police can do nothing but wait until they’ve finished their playtime with whatever Bat they’ve sworn to take vengeance on this time around.

And the Joker is always the worst.

As if there’s been a signal only he could hear, the Joker suddenly changes his modus operandi. Instead of continuing to tug the woman along, he suddenly pulls her close and in front of him. The knife goes to her throat. At the same time he takes a large step back until he’s well protected by the entrance of the building behind him.

Only seconds later, the officers are informed via radio that the bombs have been disarmed and that the Bat is on his way. The news don’t help them one bit.

The Joker laughs, aware of the same thing as them: The by now loudly laughing hostages behind him don’t have however long Batman needs to arrive. They will be dead long before then.

And yet, here they stand.

Useless.

Helpless.

Ten officers of the law, kept in line by a freak in purple and green until another freak in a bat costume arrives to maybe save one hostage out of eleven and then arrest the damn clown only to start the same vicious circle again and again and again.

Jason feels it in his gut: No today.

He stands behind the leftmost squad car, gun at the ready and waiting for the perfect moment. It took years to get to this point, years and loads of hard work and patience even Jay himself is a bit impressed with and today will be the day everything will finally pay off.

The Joker is talking again but Jay tunes it out. Who cares what the mad psycho is saying when there are lives at stake?

One shot.

Jason only needs one measly shot, but if the fucking clown is good at one thing, then it’s at surviving. He’s constantly moving and staying out of the cross-hairs without giving any indication that he even has to think about it. The poisonous green eyes are resting completely on the sobbing woman in his arms instead, with the knife hovering dangerously close to her mouth.

Apparently he thinks that it’s time to dust off a classic again.

But not today.

Jason takes a chance and gives a soft whistle.

It’s not loud and almost immediately gets lost in the chaos around him. But as always the Joker is frighteningly aware.

Green eyes flicker over to him and the blood-red mouth turns down into an irritated pout. Then he freezes for just a second, the green eyes narrow, a frown appears, then a rapid sequence of shock, disbelief and outrage appears on his face.

Jason allows himself the tiniest of smirks.

Got you!

A shot sounds…

And the Joker is dead.

 


 

Jason was reckless, he knows.

He endangered the life of the hostage, he knows.

He should have waited or at least informed one of his colleagues of what he planned on doing in order to increase the chances of succeeding.

Maybe there will be an investigation by internal affairs in his future, maybe not.

But for now Jason or rather, Jay Peters, has the rest of the day (and until the dust settles) off.

When he passes by the Commissioner on his way out of the door – naturally they got the big boss on the scene once everybody else had actually processed what just had happened – he suddenly feels a hand on his shoulder holding him back.

“Thank you.”

It’s not louder than a murmur, but heartfelt, and this is what Bruce just doesn’t get.

Jay steps out of the office and into the bullpen and for a moment there’s silence, every eye in the room resting on him. Then, slowly every officer in the room stands up and starts applauding. Some salute, some seem honestly moved to tears, and Jay has to fight hard to keep the grin off his face – and his own tears in.

Because it’s over, the nightmare is finally over, and all of Gotham can finally move forward for once.

This is what Bruce just doesn’t want to understand.

There are things on his desk, some hastily wrapped as presents and others plain. A bottle of champagne even, and he has no idea who managed to organize that in such a short time.

He begs out of the party, though, telling them that he’s too tired and too overwhelmed by the day’s events. His colleagues – his friends – are more than accepting and understanding. It doesn’t happen every day, after all, that one of Gotham’s crazies finally bites the dust.

Especially through a cop’s hands instead of another one of their ilk.

Jason just opens the champagne so that everybody can have a drink, wishes them good luck and goes.

He gets briefly delayed in the entrance hall by his Captain. Apparently there are more gifts arriving at the station by the minute and she is worried that along with all the positive attention his deed has gotten him, there will also be enough freaks out there who will now gun for the officer who killed the Joker.

She offers him a security detail – at least, until the excitement calms down a bit and something else catches everybody’s attention – but Jay declines with a smile that's more than just a hint too sharp.

Let them come, he wants to say, but instead he just mentions an old friend he will hide out with for a while.

The Captain hesitates for just a moment.

Then she nods at him knowingly and lets him go.

Always the old guard, thinking they know everything…

But then again, Jay sees absolutely no reason to correct them.

 


 

It’s dark out now and the Bats are waiting.

They cower on the roof opposite the station, almost unseen in the darkness if you don’t know what to look for.

But Jason does.

Somewhere further west, somebody lights off fireworks and the brightly colored glow throws their shapes in sharp relief for just a moment. A different colored shower of lights answers from the east, then more and more appear in the dark clouds above Gotham.

A city celebrates.

And the Bats huddle further back into the shadows as if to hide from the light.

Jason smirks.

Bruce is still so blind, and yet, for the first time in his life, he doesn’t care.

It doesn’t matter anymore.

Jason beat Batman at his own game (the Joker, too, now that he thinks about it) and now, that the Joker is dead, cleaning up the rest of the city will finally be possible, too.

The police have confidence like never before and the criminals are shaken now that their Clown Prince of Crime has been toppled from the throne. The Red Hood has quietly but thoroughly taken over most of the gang activity of Gotham by now and rules it fairly but with an iron fist.

It will be hard and exhausting, but Gotham will be safe in time.

Jason is sure of it.

Jason will make sure it is.

And the Batman and his brood will become obsolete in the end.

Change is finally in the air and every true Gothamite can smell it.

It began with a batarang and ends with a bullet.

Jason looks up at them, at him, and mouths, “I won.”