The Good Samaritan
Barely twenty-one years old and already an alcoholic. What would his mother say? She wouldn't care. She's a drug addict, Jason thought vindictively. He was dangerously close to falling off the rooftop ledge where he was currently sitting. Boy, it would be so easy, to just let go and fall and just…die.
Sometimes Jason wondered if he's better off being dead.
“Why would you think that?”
Jason sighed, rubbing his eyes. Did he say that last part out loud? “I don't know. What do you think? Maybe because I'm having a conversation with a goddamn hallucination?”
His hallucination was a middle-aged man in a business attire this time. With a gunshot wound in the middle of his forehead. He was murdered, most likely.
“I think I'm pretty real.” He said, resting his elbows on the parapet. Jason thought the man looked like someone who came out of Boardwalk Empire. He was impeccably dressed, giving an air of authority.
“That's exactly what an imagination would say. Probably trying to convince me that I ain't crazy.”
“I used to be alive just like you, kiddo,” the man said, looking sad. Ah hell, now Jason felt like a jackass. He finally met a hallucination that wasn’t trying to kill him and he's being an asshole. “I supposed it's my own fault for being an idiot.”
“Yeah?” Jason said, lighting a cigarette and inhaling deeply. “What did you do?”
“I…got in with a bad crowd. Borrowed some money from a loan shark and couldn't pay. They killed me right before I got home. My daughter found my body.”
“Jesus,” Jason winced, glancing at the man. “Sorry.”
“Ah well,” the man waved his hand. “It's been a long time since then.”
“Is that why you're still here?” Jason took a swig of his Vodka.
“I actually don't know why I'm still here.” The man said, furrowing his brows. “It took me some time, yes, but I’ve gotten over my death.”
“Where's your daughter now?”
The man blinked. “I… I don't know.”
“Maybe that's why you're still here,” Jason said. “You probably need some closure before you can go.”
“Huh.” The man flashed him a sad smile. “You're probably right.”
“Let me help you,” Jason blinked, as if not realizing what he had just said. He’s either really drunk or just plain crazy for even suggesting that. Oddly enough, he didn't feel any regret in deciding to help. He'd want someone to help him too if he somehow ended up as a wandering ghost. He pulled out his phone. “What's your name?”
“Vincent Moretti. What is that thing?”
“Mobile phone,” Jason said, tossing his cigarette aside. “I'm guessing you're from the 50s then? Or the 60s?”
“Close enough,” said Vincent, rubbing his chin. “I’ve been back a couple of years then. After the War. So… 1949?”
“Is this where you used to live?”
“Haven't tried to leave yet.”
Jason began typing. “Okay, so… Wow, you really are not my hallucination.”
“Why don't you do that later?” Vincent said, oddly unenthusiastic. “We can talk about you instead? What's a young man like you doing up here drinking and trying to get yourself killed?”
Jason froze, unsure how to answer. He had never talked about his death to anyone before. Not for lack of trying on Grayson’s part, though. “I…”
At Jason's hesitation, Vincent let out a chuckle. “I know your type, Boy. Got a friend just like you back in the army. Always trying to act tough when he's clearly suffering as much as we do.”
Jason sniggered, despite everything. And he didn't know why, but he did tell Vincent everything. How he used to be Robin, and that he was murdered. How the anniversary of his death was quickly approaching and his nightmares were getting worse. And how he's been reliving the moments of his death more often than not lately. He even told Vincent about Bruce.
“Seems to me like you’re experiencing Combat Stress Reaction, son,” said Vincent after a while. “It’s probably worse because it's almost the anniversary of your… passing.”
“I can believe I'm talking to a ghost about my PTSD.” Jason laughed, taking another swig of his Vodka. His flask is almost empty much to his disappointment. He had intended to drink until he passed out. It's the only way he could sleep without having nightmares.
“Why not?” Vincent's eyes crinkled with mirth. “Dead men tell no tales, you ever heard that? It's not like I can tell anyone. You'd still be the tough guy everyone thinks you are.” Then he hesitated. “And it sounds like you should talk to your father too. He'd want that. I know I would.”
Jason's eyes turned cold in an instant. “I don't want to talk to him. Why would I— He—he doesn't even—”
A scream cut him off. Below him, a woman was surrounded by three men. Another two men were lying on the ground unmoving. It looked like she could take care of herself but Jason doubted she'd be able to handle another three at once.
Beside him, Vincent had grown pale and taken a couple of steps backward. His expression terrified as if he'd seen something so horrifying. “Don't go down there. It's a—”
Jason leaped down before Vincent could finish.
In the end, Jason only killed one of the thugs. The woman took care of the rest. She cracked the others’ skulls with a single hit from a worn baseball bat.
“I appreciate you trying to help, Darling, but I've got it handled.” she tossed the bloody bat into a nearby dumpster.
“Obviously,” Jason said dumbly, staring at the woman. Then to the four thugs she had killed single-handedly.
He went rigid when she turned to look at him. She's the most beautiful woman he had ever laid eyes on. Even more so than Donna Troy herself. Her black hair was flowing gently in the wind. But it was her eyes that captivated him. It was a deep shade of purple. Her gaze sharp and penetrating, as if she could see even the deepest part of him that he kept hidden.
“Oh my,” she said, licking her lips. “It is you. The one who escaped from Death’s clutches.”
Jason tensed, eyes narrowing. His hands instinctively moved toward for his guns but his mind was telling him to stop because she's no threat. He didn't want to do anything to hurt her. “Who are you?”
“Why, I'm Dantalion.” She said, tugging on her necklace and showing him her pendant. A peculiar one, like a sigil. “A Demon. The Great Duke of Hell.”
“You're a woman."
“I have many faces. It just so happens that I am partial to this form.” Dantalion tilted her head to the side, crossing her arms. “Doesn't change the fact that I'm the Great Duke of Hell herself. Or did you not just see me kill all these men myself? Without breaking a sweat, I might add.”
"That doesn't prove you're a Demon."
She approached him. His feet were rooted to the ground despite his gut screaming at him to run as far away as he could.
“Believe what you will. Though, I suppose I should reward you for your assistance. How about... I offer you a deal, hmm?”
“I don't want anything from you.” He gritted his teeth. He's not such an idiot to ever ask something from a Demon. If she's even a real Demon.
“Are you sure?” She trailed her finger on his chest. “There's nothing you desire? Nothing at all?”
“I—” Jason’s voice wavered. A deal with the Devil? Now, that's tempting. It didn't happen to anyone. He could ask for— then he blinked and shook his head. “What did you do?”
She raised an elegant brow and smiled as if satisfied with something. “You’re strong-willed, aren't you? That’s good. Now, about that deal. I could hide you from Death. What do you say?”
“Hide me from Death?” Jason frowned. “You mean immortality?”
“No, not at all.” She smiled again. A cold cruel smile that sent chills down his spine. "You have Death's mark on you, my dear. It's the reason why you're questioning your existence. How often do you think about killing yourself? It's because Death wants you back."
“Really?” He stated flatly. “So Death's looking for me.”
“No,” she rolled her eyes. “Why would he do that? Humans are insignificant. He's Death, he doesn't have time for you. But his mark is a guarantee of an eternity of suffering.”
Jason looked at her. “Aren't you afraid of what he might do to you?” She glared at him and the ground trembled slightly. “Death doesn't make an exception, does he? There must be a consequence for defying him.” He hastily added.
“Only if he finds out.” She shrugged. “But since I'll hide his mark, he wouldn't. Ever.”
He didn't believe her. How could he? The whole notion was ridiculous. But all of sudden there was the anger inside him was growing. The familiar feeling of hatred, regret, and helplessness.
Her smile was wide now, she didn't even bother hiding it anymore. “Or is it revenge you want, my dear? Against the one who wronged you? Now, who could that be? Someone whose name starts with a J and ends with an R?”
“Why don't you kill him for me then?” Jason said through gritted teeth. His body was shaking and trembling with rage.
“Very well,” she said. Then her eyes turned red and taken aback, Jason took a few steps backward. Then the ground started trembling and behind her, fire lit up on the pavement, spreading into the shape of her pendant. It looked like she just opened a gateway to hell.
Something crawled up. A disfigured man so thin he looked like a skeleton. His whole body was littered with third-degree burns and he crawled toward her, dropping a very familiar knife at her feet before screaming and disintegrating into ashes.
Then everything disappeared into a cloud of yellow dust as soon as she picked up the knife. “You know what this is,” she said putting the knife in his palm and closing his fingers around it. “He carved up your body with it. Remember how he tortured you and taunted you? I killed him for you.”
“You killed him.” He said absentmindedly, still staring at the switchblade. ‘Why so serious?’ was engraved on the blade. Along with ‘Joker.’ There's no mistake. This was the Joker’s knife.
“My most decorated torturer will be waiting for him. He'll suffer, I promise you that,” she said. “Now, what are you going to offer me in exchange for that?”
“Anything.” He whispered, clutching the blade so hard that his hand started to bleed. She took his hand and licked the blood. “Anything you want.”
“Your soul. For all eternity.”
“You have it.” He repeated. And then she kissed him, with his blood still on her mouth. He kissed her back, even with a burning pain on the base of his neck where her hands were.
“Come find me later,” she pulled away, slipping a card into his pocket before slipping past him. An antique dagger with her sigil engraved on the handle appeared on his hand. “The only knife that can kill Supernaturals. You're gonna need that now.”
She had disappeared when he turned around. So he slipped both knives inside his jacket and pulled out the card she had slipped into his pocket. On its face was a picture of a woman with horns and wings. In front of her was Jason, with chains all around him. His shoulders were slumped forward, and he was being strangled with a rope by the woman. On the bottom was the name of the card. ‘XV. The Devil.’
He turned it over. A message appeared. An address of Perdition, the new club at Diamond District. And then it hit him that he had just made a deal with the Devil. He had intended to refuse, he truly did. But then all could feel was a rage so intense that it blinded his common sense. All he wanted was his revenge on the Joker. He wanted the Joker to die an agonizing death.
“Oh God,” Jason said, staggering backward and breathing heavily. He winced when he felt the burn on the back of his neck again. “What have I done?”
He had only ever wanted to save people. But if this was what he got from helping people then he should start learning to mind his own business.
To hell with everyone else.
A little bit about Dantalion from Goetia - S. L. MacGregor Mathers (1904):
"The Seventy-first Spirit is Dantalion. He is a Duke Great and Mighty, appearing in the Form of a Man with many Countenances, all Men’s and Women’s Faces; and he hath a Book in his right hand. His Office is to teach all Arts and Sciences unto any; and to declare the Secret Counsel of any one; for he knoweth the Thoughts of all Men and Women, and can change them at his Will. He can cause Love, and show the Similitude of any person, and show the same by a Vision, let them be in what part of the World they Will. He governeth 36 Legions of Spirits; and this is his Seal, which wear thou, etc."
Jason learned that he wasn’t dreaming.
And that his brothers really do care about him.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Living a Nightmare
Jason’s in a dream. A terrible dream where he’s reliving his death over and over again. But it wasn’t the Joker that killed him this time, it was a man who was wearing his face.
One second he was face down on the ground, writhing in agony from broken bones and having difficulty breathing, the next he was the one doing the beating and he couldn't stop. He didn't want to stop.
“Kill him,” a voice whispered in his ear. A feminine voice. “Do it.” There was a familiar weight of a dagger with Dantalion’s sigil in his hand instead of the crowbar. “What are you waiting for?”
“I can't,” he said, trying to throw the dagger away. It stayed glued to his palm.
Dantalion clucked her tongue at him. “I'm disappointed, my dear. Very disappointed.”
“I can't kill him,” Jason insisted. “He's me.”
“No,” she said, turning to leave. “He was you.”
“Yeah, kiddo,” Jason’s blood turned cold. He'd never been able to forget that voice. The Joker's voice. “You're like me now, remember?” Then Jason was once again on the ground, unable to move. The Joker raised the crowbar, grinning widely. “You really should stay dead the first time and maybe Batsy won't be so sick of you. Now tell me again. Forehand?”
He swung the crowbar down, shattering a rib. Jason screamed. “Or backhand?”
Someone was shaking him awake. Jason jolted and swung his fist at the intruder. “Oh God,” he clutched his pounding head and flinched when something burned the back of his neck.
It was Dick, in civilian clothing, looking at him with a worried expression. “It's just a dream.”
“The hell you're doing here—” Jason rasped, glancing around. “—in my apartment? Wait, how do you know where I live?”
“You told me when you live,” Dick said calmly. “You called me, not making any sense and then you passed out. I was so worried—”
“I called him,” Vincent said and Jason jolted in surprise. He was sitting at Jason’s kitchen table, chin resting on his palm, looking rather amused at the whole situation.
“—so irresponsible!” Dick finally said, blissfully unaware that there’s a ghost only a few feet where he was currently sitting on the edge of Jason’s bed. “Are you even listening to me?”
“I'm sorry, Dick.” Jason rubbed his forehead.
“Are you alright?” Dick asked tentatively.
“Why wouldn't I be?”
“The Joker’s dead,” said Tim from the door, holding a glass of water and aspirin.
“Tim!” Dick glared at him.
“I thought he knew,” Tim handed Jason the water, looking sheepish. “That's not why you're drunk?”
“No,” Jason said flatly, clutching the glass tightly with both hands. “The Joker’s dead?”
Tim and Dick shared a look. Jason wondered if they thought he was the one who killed the Joker. Then Tim held out his tablet and nodded when Jason looked up at him. He took it hesitantly and instantly wished he hadn't.
It was a horrifying sight. Jason felt a bile rising up in his throat. The Joker looked like he'd been mauled by a beast. It was a painful death, no doubt. There’s blood everywhere, splattered all over the wall. Jason’s hand trembled, but he swiped at the screen and there it was, the familiar sigil of the Devil. An inverted pentagram.
“Jay?” Dick called his name softly, concerned.
Jason shrugged Dick’s hand off his shoulder and ran to the bathroom, throwing up every the content of his stomach, which was mostly alcohol. He hadn't eaten anything since yesterday.
“It wasn't a dream?”
“I tried to tell you not to go down and help it.” It was Victor who answered, leaning against the bathroom wall next to where Jason was slumped over puking his guts out.
“The Demon,” He explained, regretfully. “You can't see their true form but we can. I warned you, remember?”
“It wasn't a dream.” He repeated in a flat monotone.
“What wasn't a dream?” Dick knelt down next to Jason, rubbing his back.
“She killed him,” Jason said, slightly panting. “I saw it, Dick. I saw her kill him.”
“You can't tell him,” Vincent said, kneeling on other the side of Jason. “She’ll hurt him. You know she would.”
“Who killed the Joker, Jay?” Dick asked reluctantly, looking at Tim who stayed outside of the bathroom.
“I don't remember.”
It was Dick who answered. “What is it, Tim?”
“What's that on the back of your neck?”
“What?” Jason rubbed the back of his neck and instantly flinched. It felt rough and hot to the touch. Jason grasped the sink and pulled himself up, slightly turning to the side to try to get a good look at whatever was on his neck. It was Dantalion’s sigil. She'd tattooed it on his skin when she kissed him yesterday.
He remembered making a deal with her. A deal. With the Devil.
“No, no, no, no, no.” He said, slamming his fist into the mirror in frustration. It shattered, and he kept punching, his blood splattering everywhere.
“Jason. Stop it! You're hurting yourself!”
And then they both were wrestling Jason down, with Dick trying to seize Jason’s flailing hands and Tim pulling him backward.
“Get it off me! Dick, get it off me!” Jason yelled, trying to scratch it off his neck.
Dick shouted something at Tim and then everything blacked out.
“I don't think he did it, B.” Was the first thing Jason heard when he came to. So Bruce thought he killed the Joker too? But the Joker’s death looked like it was caused by a feral animal. Was that what Bruce thought of him? A monster? “He's being a twenty-one year old, Bruce. Getting blackout drunk and then getting a drunken tattoo. He wasn't even anywhere near Arkham tonight!”
“Ow, fuckity fuck.” Jason groaned and rubbed his eyes. His injured hand was already bandaged, and he was back on his bed.
“I gotta go. He's awake,” Dick said, cutting off whatever Bruce was saying. He shoved his phones into his pocket before turning to face Jason. His expression concerned “You feeling any better?”
“Not really,” Jason said. “You knocked me out, asshole.”
“We didn't exactly have a choice,” Tim said from where he was sitting, absorbed in whatever he was doing with his computer. “You were a bit… unhinged.”
“Fuck you, Replacement,” Jason said, although without any bite. He conceded to having overreacted a bit.
“I wouldn't put it that way,” Dick glared at Tim, making him look away, embarrassed. “But yeah, you were acting a little bit erratically.”
"I wasn't myself. It's nearly the—” Jason stopped himself. At his brothers’ worried expression he averted his gaze, lowering his voice to a whisper. “It's almost the anniversary of my death.”
“So you think it's a good idea to drink yourself to death?”
“I can't help it, alright?” Jason snapped. “The memory keeps on playing over and over again in my head. I have to make it stop.”
“But not like this. You can't keep doing this to yourself, Jason.” Tim closed his laptop. “The Joker's dead, okay? He won't hurt you anymore. He won't hurt anyone ever again.”
“Yeah,” Dick interjected, probably worried that this particular topic might trigger another episode. “And you're lucky your drunken tattoo looks pretty cool. Next time you might not be so lucky.” Jason bit the inside of his cheek. If only you know the truth, Dick, you wouldn't be saying that. “And look, you’re invited to Perdition’s grand opening. I have no idea you and Lorelei Diavolo know each other.”
“The new club at Diamond District?” Dick said waving the card he’s holding. A very familiar tarot card.
Jason started to panic but then he took a deep calming breath. “Let me see that.”
Only it was no longer a tarot card but a regular one with a message addressed to him. Written by none other than Lorelei Diavolo. Diavolo. Demon. Jason thought it was bold of her to pick such an obvious name. Odd, until yesterday, he didn't even know such a person existed.
I hope you will join me for the opening of my new club, Perdition. I look forward to seeing you there tomorrow night.
“You're really going?” Tim said in disbelief. “I thought you don't like this kind of event.”
It wasn't as if he had much choice in the matter. It's more of an order than an invitation. “Nah, this time I really have to go.”
“Bruce will probably be there too.”
Jason sighed. Of course, he’d wouldn't expect otherwise. Bruce was, after all, the most influential figure in Gotham. Celebrating the grand opening of a high-end club without inviting Gotham's richest man would be nonsensical. “I know.”
Tim snickered. “You're serious! What? Is she your girlfriend or something?”
“Or something,” Jason grumbled.
“Well then, now we gotta go too.”
“You got an invitation, Grayson?”
Dick grinned. “Duh, I'm the ward of Bruce Wayne. Of course I got an invitation. Not as personal as yours though.”
“Aw, Jay,” Dick said, pleased that he managed to change the subject. Jason’s back to being his usual self. “Don't be like that. We’d like to meet your girlfriend!”
Jason grimaced. No, he was most certainly not going to introduce a dangerous demon to his family. “I’d really rather you wouldn't.”
As soon as Dick and Tim left—after the hundredth time Jason reassured them, “No, I won't go and buy another Vodka as soon as you leave.” and “yes, I'll call you if I'm about to go crazy again.”—Jason went to find Vincent at the fire escape, where he was sitting, staring at Gotham’s skyline.
“Tell me how you called them here,” Jason demanded angrily. “You're a ghost, Mr. Moretti. Ghosts can't touch anything.”
“I might have borrowed your body for a bit.”
“You what,” He said, dangerously. “You possessed my body?”
“I did you a favor,” Vincent explained calmly. “You passed out. Right next to five dead bodies. Are you saying you'd want me to just leave you there?”
“Of course not,” Jason sputtered. “But that doesn't mean you can just take over my body!”
“I wouldn't if it's not an emergency,” Vincent said still with his calm demeanor. It was really starting to piss Jason off. “Regardless, we don't normally do that. You need an explicit permission to possess someone. But you agreed to help me, remember? It binds me to you.”
“Dammit!” Then he looked at Vincent. “No offense but I really don't like being bound to anyone. Not with…”
“I get it.”
“It's not your fault, you know.” Vincent said.
“What's not my fault?”
“You couldn't have possibly refused her.” Vincent shuddered. “I've heard them talking about her. The other ghosts. She’s very persuasive.”
“I still shouldn't have done that.” Jason chuckled deprecatingly. “I should hav—”
“You don't understand,” Vincent interrupted. “You can’t refuse her. It's what she does, making people do what she wants. You feel what she wants you to feel.”
“Fuck.” Jason closed his eyes and rested his head on the window’a frame. “What do I do now?”
“I don't know, son,” Vincent said, trying to lay a comforting hand on Jason’s shoulder. It passed through him, sending uncomfortable chills through Jason’s body. Vincent pulled his hand back, as if ashamed to have forgotten he was dead for a moment.
“Thanks. You know, for—” Jason waved his hand around. His head was spinning a bit, he must still be intoxicated. “For helping me earlier. And, uh, I know you're only here because of my promise but I'm… uh… I’m glad. So, yeah, you know? Thanks.”
“You're welcome, kiddo.” Vincent gave him a warm smile. "I understand why you might think your father doesn't care. But your brothers, they really do care about you, don't doubt that."
"Yeah?" Jason's tone was hopeful.
"I saw how worried they were earlier. And they were very adamant about your innocence."
Jason tried to keep himself from smiling and failed. He coughed, reaching for a cigarette pack he kept on the window sill and wondered why there weren’t many friendly ghosts like Vincent. Was Vincent a good father when he was alive? Jason wondered.
If only it’s this easy to talk to Bruce.
It's probably because I love Mad Men so much but in my head, Vincent Moretti is Jon Hamm.
Anyway, here's chapter two. I hope you like it. Also, guys, constructive criticism is always welcome!
Thanks for reading!
There’s a party in Hell and Jason just meet another Demon.
“Y’know, you're kinda indifferent about this whole thing,” Jason said, pondering on whether he should wear a tux or a regular suit to Perdition’s grand opening. Knowing that it's an upscale club, tuxedo would be the appropriate choice.
“What thing?” Vincent asked, leaning against the railing of the fire escape. Jason pitied the man, truly, it must be hard to be a ghost, unable to smoke or even drink for decades.
“Don’t you want to move on?” Jason asked, deciding to go with something less formal. A black dress shirt and a black suit ought to be enough. Without the tie, of course. He's not a big fan of ties, not with the image of him being strangled to death was burned into his memory. Jason shoved Dantalion’s card into his inner pocket, disgusted. He’d need the invitation to get into her club.
“Sick of my presence already?”
“That's not what I meant and you know it,” Jason said, lighting a cigarette and leaning against the window frame. “It's just… your daughter is alive, you know. Don't you want to meet her? She even has kids already. You're a grandpa, old man.”
Vincent grimaced. “I… need more time.”
“Okay, sure,” Jason said. “I don't mean to pressure you or anything.”
“Ah, it's okay.” Vincent rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Do you believe in God, son?”
Jason looked at him, puzzled. “Why would you ask me that?”
Jason brought the cigarette to his lips and inhaled deeply. Did he believe in God? “I, ah, I don't know.”
“You don't know?”
“I used to,” Jason said, eyes far away. “Now I'm not sure anymore.”
“You want to elaborate?”
“I wanted to believe in God,” There's the pain on the back of his neck again. It seemed to burn every time he said that particular word. “It's just… the things I've seen and the things I've done… Can a murderer even still believe in God?” Jason choked on the word God. “Obviously He exists. I mean if there are Demons and there's Death, it only makes sense that He exists too, right? But then, why? Why is there so many evil in this world? Why isn't He doing anything to stop it? Why?” Jason raked his fingers through his hair, frustrated. “I…I don’t think I do. Not anymore.”
“What about you? Do you believe in G–Him?” Jason asked, suddenly curiosity got the best of him.
“My relationship with God is very complicated.” Vincent suddenly looked upset. “Let’s just say, I understand better than anyone”—he paused— “well, maybe not anyone. But the point is, I do understand how you feel about everything.”
Jason furrowed his brow, “everything meaning?”
“Let’s just leave it at that, shall we?” Vincent said ominously. Jason suddenly had a feeling that Vincent didn't mean it figuratively when he said his relationship with God was complicated. “Anyway, don’t you have a party to attend? You don't want to be late, trust me.”
“You're probably right,” Jason said, tossing the cigarette out the window. “Sure you don't want to come with?”
Vincent shook his head. “I’d rather not be near Demons.”
“Alright then. I'll see you later.”
“You might want to bring Dantalion’s knife,” Vincent yelled from the fire escape just before Jason left the safe house. “You never know what might happen with Demons.”
Must be one hell of a party these Demons were throwing, judging by the number of people lining up at the entrance. Lucky for Jason though, the moment he stepped out of his car, the valet seemed to recognize his face and ushered him to the VIP entrance.
And he was immediately greeted by the sight of Dantalion—or Lorelei Diavolo as she's been masquerading as—flirting with none other than Bruce Wayne, himself.
“Jason, darling, there you are,” she said turning to face him as if she had eyes on the back of her head. She probably had, Jason shuddered inwardly. He directed his attention at Bruce instead, who simply stared at him, impassive as always. “And you look dashing.”
“Sorry, I'm a bit late,” Jason directed a fake smile at her, grimacing inwardly when she planted a kiss on his cheek. He turned to face Bruce and offered his hand for a polite shake. “Mr. Wayne, it’s an honor.”
Bruce was quick to assume his socialite persona, “I could say the same, Mr…”
“Peterson. It’s Jason Peterson.” Jason said, grabbing a glass of champagne from one of the waiters. He couldn’t be sober if he’s going to be in the presence of Demons.
“And you two are…” Bruce gestured to Lorelei’s hand on Jason’s arm.
“We’re dating,” Lorelei supplied before Jason could say anything. If it’s true that she could sense what he’s feeling, then Jason must be careful with his emotion. Even if he’s beyond disgusted and angry.
“Yeah, what she said.” He replied, wrapping an arm around her waist instead. Then he glanced around, observing his surroundings and had to stop himself from whistling appreciatively. She did know how to throw a party. Perdition had a sophisticated darkness to it, with an awful lot of selective lighting that allows for mood changes. There was a piano, surrounded by plush seating and a grand ice luge near the bar. “Nice party, babe. I'm impressed.” And he truly was impressed, almost managing not to wince inwardly at the term of endearment.
“So how did you two meet?” Bruce finally asked.
“Oh, I was her knight in shining armor.” Jason slightly smirked. “Wasn't I?”
“Yes,” Lorelei said. “Who knows what those awful thugs would do to me. Now, who said chivalry is dead, huh?” Lorelei suddenly turned to Jason and grabbed the empty champagne flute from Jason’s hand. “Why don’t you entertain Mr. Wayne for a bit, hmm? I'll go get us more drinks.”
She left before he could object. Dammit.
“You’ve never mentioned you have a girlfriend,” Bruce said after a few moment of silence. “She's very beautiful.”
“Thanks,” Jason finally decided to say, swallowing the urge to tell Bruce that he should stay the hell away from her. “Where’s Dick and Tim? They mentioned they might come.”
“Tim’s underage, Jay,” Bruce said, grabbing two glasses of champagne from the waiter that walked by and offering one to Jason. He accepted it gracefully and took a sip. “Dick is… somewhere around.”
That worried Jason a bit. Most of these people could be Demons after all. One of them might get an idea and decided to con Dick into a deal. Besides, Jason couldn't be near Bruce without recalling that he had suspected Jason of murdering the Joker. Not that Jason would admit this out loud but it stung to be seen as a savage. “I should probably go look for him. It's, uh, nice seeing you, Bruce.”
“Wait,” Bruce interjected before Jason could make an escape. “Jason, wait.”
“I really should—”
“Are you doing okay?”
Ah, there's the fake concern. “Why are you asking me that?”
“I was drunk and wasn't myself last night.” Jason interrupted forcefully. “I'm fine, Bruce. I always am.”
“Are you? Really?”
Jason couldn't be having this conversation right now. What he needed was alcohol. A lot of alcohol. “I'll talk to you later. Try to enjoy the party, Bruce. Just not too much.”
So, like the coward he was, Jason ran away before Bruce could stop him. And like an alcoholic that he also was, he went to the direction of the bar.
Which was where Dick found him not long after, sipping his second glass of Bourbon. Bruce must have sent him here. “I don't think you should be drinking, Jay.”
“It’s a party, Grayson. What’s a party without drinks?” And just to spite Dick even more, Jason took another sip.
Dick sighed. “Just promise you won't drink too much.”
Jason rolled his eyes. “Sure, whatever.”
“So, this is quite the party, huh?”
An obvious attempt to change the subject but Jason appreciated that. “I'm actually surprised myself.”
“So when are you gonna introduce her to me, huh?” Dick grinned before his expression turned serious. “It's just… Jay, you sure you know her well?”
No, not at all. “Well enough,” he said instead, worried for a moment that Dick had managed to find out the truth. “Why? What's the matter?”
“I think she might be involved with organized crime.”
Jason frowned. “Why’d you say that?”
Dick looked nervous when Jason stared at him expectantly. “Did you know the previous owner of this establishment committed suicide?”
That didn’t surprise him one bit. But Dick looked even guiltier when Jason let out a bitter chuckle. “You implying my girlfriend is a criminal, Dick?” Although, she probably did kill him though.
“Of course not,” Dick replied hastily. “I just want you to be careful. That's why we’re here. As in Bruce and I, we wanna make sure she's not involved, okay?”
Jason wanted to bang his head in frustration. They’re playing with fire was what they're doing. Dantalion could hurt them both. He must have look agitated that Dick was immediately apologizing. “You leave her alone, you hear me? Dick, you better—”
Oh, sinnerman, where you gonna run to?
Sinnerman where you gonna run to?
Where you gonna run to?
All on that day
Jason stopped midway through his angry tirade. He couldn't help but feel that it was directed at him. He clutched the tumbler tight in his hand, before pushing past Dick to look at whoever’s singing the song. Predictably, it was Lorelei, smirking at him as soon as she sensed his approach.
We got to run to the rock
Please hide me, I run to the rock
Please hide me, run to the rock
Please hide here
All on that day
But the rock cried out
I can't hide you, the rock cried out
I can't hide you, the rock cried out
I ain't gonna hide you there
All on that day
What's the matter with you rock?
Don't you see I need you, rock?
Good Lord, Lord
All on that day
Dick appeared next to Jason, most likely to make sure that he hadn't left because Dick had hurt his feelings. And Jason couldn't hear what Dick’s saying because he didn't expect Lorelei to outright mock him like this.
So I run to the Lord
Please hide me, Lord
Don't you see me prayin’?
Don't you see me down here prayin’?
But the Lord said
Go to the Devil, the Lord said
Go to the Devil
He said go to the Devil
All on that day
So I ran to the Devil
He was waitin’, I ran to the Devil
He was waitin’, I ran to the Devil
He was waitin’, all on that day
He didn't even hear the song ended, too angry at being ridiculed.
“I didn't know she can sing, Jay,” Dick whispered, impressed, despite his earlier suspicions. Then he added quickly when he noticed Lorelei was making her way in their direction. “Just… remember what I said.”
“I see you’re making friends just fine,” She said all charms. “Care to introduce us, darling?”
“We just met,” Dick said. “But he didn't mention anything about dating the most beautiful woman in Gotham.”
She smiled and it made something churned in the pit of Jason’s stomach. “I wish I’d met you sooner.” At that, Jason glared at her and cleared his throat.
“You know what, Dick,” Jason said. “Why don't you give us a moment to talk?”
“Looks like I made him jealous,” Dick said playfully, although he did look worried. Huh, Dick must have mistakenly assumed his annoyance as jealousy. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Was that song directed at me?” Jason asked when he was sure Dick was far enough from hearing range.
“Wouldn't you say it describes you perfectly?” She said in that posh British accent of hers.
“Me? Sinnerman?” He rolled her eyes but acquiesced when she gestured for him to follow.
“Yes,” she said walking toward the VIP area. She waved her hand toward where Bruce was conversing with one of his acquaintances. “The rock. Your father figure. Sadly, he didn't care about you. He chose to save your murderer.” Ouch. “And haven’t you lost your faith as well? That's why you're in this mess in the first place.”
“I'm in this mess because you tricked me,” Jason spat angrily.
“Wrong,” she said, stopping so suddenly that he almost bumped into her. “You wanted my help. Deep down inside, you are desperate for it.”
“I never wanted your help. You manipulated me!”
“Don’t be so rude, boy.” A deep voice with the same posh accent. A tall, dark-haired man was leaning against the wall. Possibly the most good-looking man he had ever seen too. He had the same violet eyes as Lorelei. Another Demon.
“Who are you?”
“This—” Lorelei said, putting a hand on the man’s arm. “—is my brother. One of the Princes of Hell, Asmodeus.”
“Yes, although I prefer to go by Seth these days.” Seth’s eyes turned to black for a second.
“I really should have expected this,” Jason rubbed his temple in frustration. “Just how many of you people are here?”
“More than you can imagine,” Lorelei said. Then she nodded upwards to the second floor, “And they’re all very excited to meet you.”
“So?” Bruce asked as soon he spotted Dick.
“I don’t think Jay’s happy I flirted with her,” Dick said sheepishly, glancing to where Jason was standing with his girlfriend. He did not look happy, brimming with anger but still trying to appear calm. “I think they're fighting now. Uh oh.” She gestured for him to follow her. “You don't think he confronted her about it, do you?”
“Dick,” Bruce chastised as if speaking to a kid. “Jason’s not stupid.”
“I'm not saying he is, Bruce,” Dick said, still watching Jason from the corner of his eyes. Now he's talking to someone else, a very important man, it seemed. “I'm just worried he might be…emotionally compromised. And you didn't see him yesterday. He was… well, as Tim not so subtly said, he was unhinged.”
Dick immediately backtracked. “Not murderous, if that's what you're worried about. He’s not exactly coping very well. I'm sure you've noticed he's been drinking a lot. Oh, you didn't know.” Bruce's mouth thinned into a tight line. “It’s… ah—”
“It’s almost April 27,” Bruce said. “I know.”
“Just… don’t be too hard on him.”
“They went upstairs,” Bruce said suddenly.
“That’s the VIP area,” Dick said, as he watched Jason, his girlfriend and the man disappeared behind the stairs. “I tried my luck earlier there earlier. They said family members only. That's not good, is it?”
Then he could see Jason again, shaking his hand with several other people. He took another glass of whatever’s offered and what looked like to be a cigar. Someone was lighting it up for him.
Dick sighed. Way not to make you or your girlfriend look suspicious, Little Wing.
“You know,” Jason started, crossing his legs and exhaling a cloud of smoke. He’s more of a cigarette kind of guy and didn’t know how to appreciate cigars. All he knew was that this cigar had a woody scent. Like fresh cut wood. Next to him, Lorelei was smoking a cigarette. “You need to be more careful. Some people think you might be involved with organized crime.”
“You mean Bruce Wayne thinks we’re criminals,” she said, playing with a lock of her hair. Hell, Jason cursed inwardly, noticing how beautiful she was. She looked exquisite, in a black dress that complimented her pale skin. Her lips were painted dark red, it reminded him of blood.
Seth rolled his eyes. “Is this about Frank?”
“The former owner of this establishment,” Lorelei explained. “We didn’t do anything wrong. He's drowning in debt, you see. He had no choice but to sell this place.”
“Did you kill him?”
“Of course not,” Seth said affronted. “Apparently, he was reluctant to part with this place so he committed suicide and… also, the reason why we need your help.”
“Don't tell me you want me to dispose of the body,” Jason said. “No, not happening.”
Lorelei laughed. “No, darling, nothing like that. You see, this is where your ability will come in handy.”
“You mean seeing dead people?”
Seth visibly brightened. “Yes, precisely. You see, his spirit has turned malevolent. It haunts this place. So, we need you to get rid of it.”
Jason shook his head. “Nope, still not happening.”
“You're assuming you have a choice in this matter.” Seth flashed his teeth and two sets of fangs appeared threateningly. “You might want to remember there are humans downstairs. And oh, what about Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson? Humans are fragile things, you see. You don’t want to know what would happen, say, if one of my associates lose control, do you?”
“Your services won’t be without payment, of course.” Added Lorelei, dangling two set of keys. “How would you like a new penthouse or a new car? Or both?”
“I don't need anything from you.” Especially not after what happened yesterday.
“Trust me,” she said, tilting Jason’s chin so that he's staring into her pitch-black eyes. “All I need in exchange for these are your services. Besides, your soul is already mine.” As if that's the cue, her mark on the back of his neck burned painfully. “How would you like a new life as Jason Peterson?”
“Why are you doing this?”
“Because we also want a fresh start,” Lorelei said. “This is no different than what you've been doing all these years. You kill monsters, do you not? Murderers, rapists, drug dealers.”
“Yes, and they're humans.”
“Oh, fine. We’ll help you in any way we can,” Seth added. “Really, Jason, we only need you to get rid of the ones that are drawing attention to themselves. Let the others blend in with the rest of the humans. We all deserve a second chance, don’t you agree?”
A fresh start for all of us, Jason thought. He'd be doing good things, protecting lives as always. Lorelei’s right. She's always right.
“I knew you're a reasonable man,” Seth said, and then he turned to Lorelei. “Do you think I can share him, sister?”
Lorelei looked amused but didn't say anything to object. And Jason knew then, that in their eyes, he's nothing but a property. Something to be owned and shared by these people.
Perdition, Jason thought numbly. How fitting considering that he's truly in Hell.
Jason's first case as a hunter.
“Leaving so soon?” Dick grabbed his arms, despite Jason’s very best effort to sneak out.
“Got a case I need to take care of,” said Jason trying to be nonchalant. Which wasn't exactly a walk in the park when he's still pretty high-strung. Yeah, being in the presence of two higher Demons would do that. A waiter walked nearby holding a tray of champagne, Jason reached out to grab one.
Only to have Dick stopping him, “I think you've had enough drink for tonight, Jay.” Dick pulled him lightly to the side. Jason acquiesced as to not draw any attention to themselves. “Are you in trouble?”
“Does she have something on you?” Dick replied impatiently.
“No, Dick.” Jason decided to say. “Why can't you just be happy, huh? I finally met someone and the first thing you assume is that she's got something on me? What the hell?” Then he saw Lorelei on the second floor, along with Seth. Their gazes were fixed on Jason. She waved lightly. Jason waved back. He understood the underlying threat. “I think my girlfriend is starting to get jealous.”
“Of two acquaintances talking? I don't think so." Dick said without a beat. "This isn't like you at all, Jay. I know you.”
“Haven't you heard? Love does things to people.” Jason lied. “I gotta go.”
“What kinda case you've got?”
“One that is not your area of expertise. Or Bruce’s. Or anyone else’s for that matter.” Except maybe Constantine. Things like this would be right up his alley.
“So let me help.”
“Dick,” Jason started, quickly thinking of an excuse that could get Dick to back off. He certainly wasn't going to bring Dick along to a ghost hunt. He could already imagine a hundred ways it could end sideways and Jason wouldn't be risking Dick's life. Any excuse would be good. The so-called case of his had to be something simple. Non-threatening. “It's just a regular civilian job, alright? Because I do have one.”
“Yeah?” Dick tilted his head, refusing to back down. “What kind of job?”
“Ah…” Jason hoped he managed to appear embarrassed convincingly while his brain struggled to think of something. “I'm a Private Investigator.” Wait, what?
“Are you serious?” Dick looked flabbergasted.
It was the first thing that came to Jason’s mind since Victor had just told him he used to be a Private Investigator. “Yeah,” Jason said.
“Private Investigator?” Dick said dubiously.
“Uh-uh,” Jason nodded. “So I ree–ally need to go. Leads to follow. People to interview and all that. Ciao, Dick.”
“God, you are so drunk.” Dick sighed.
“Only a little bit,” Jason waved his hand around. There's no point in denying that, honestly. His head felt light and his vision was starting to spin but this was nothing Jason couldn't handle. “I'll be fine.”
“Yeah? I don't think so.” Dick was holding Jason’s car key. Jason let out an indignant ‘hey’ when he pat down his pocket only to find it empty. “See? You didn't even notice I took it. I’m not letting you drive home, Jay.”
“Oh, come on. Stop sulking,” Dick said, from where he was sitting. The driver seat. Which he got after talking Jason’s ear off about being a responsible cop and big brother and how Jason would risk getting arrested on DUI if he kept on being stubborn. “I even let you smoke in the car!”
“Okay, first of all, I don't need permission from you to smoke.” Jason took a long drag of his cigarette and decided against blowing the cloud of smoke into Dick’s face just to make his point. He blew it out of the window instead. “Second of all, this is my car.”
“But seriously,” Dick said. “Tell me about your case? Come on, I'll even help you.”
“There’s this thing called client confidentiality, Dick. Ever heard of it?”
“But I'm not asking about your client. Just what your case is about.”
Jason propped his arm on the window’s frame and put his hand on his forehead. The wind slightly ruffling his hair. “You're really not going to drop this, aren't you?”
“Fine.” Jason rolled his eyes and flicked the butt out his cigarette out of the window. “It's about the suicide you mentioned earlier.”
“Oh. Oh,” Dick said, turning to face Jason. “So you're investigating her?”
“Mmm. You can say that.”
“I’m still gonna help you.”
“Wha— excuse me?” Jason said, indignant. “You think I’m incapable of handling this on my own?”
"Of course not,” Dick said. “It's just... Come on, Jay. A loner private eye? The woman you're investigating? A femme fatale? This is a classic film noir’s recipe for disaster.”
He couldn't help it. Jason laughed. “Do you know how ridiculous you sound right now?”
“I'm being serious! You know there aren't many happy endings in noir films.”
“I know,” Jason said. Truth to be told, he didn't see a happy ending for himself too. When this was all over or when Lorelei’s finally bored with him, she'd probably send a pack of hellhounds his way to drag him down to hell anyway. “Maybe you could, I don't know, revive the genre, Dick? I'll even leave you a journal when I die. You can make a movie out of it. Bruce can be the producer.”
“That’s not funny.”
“Not even a little?”
“No,” Dick said, clenching his grip on the steering wheel. Uh oh, Jason thought. “Now I really am not going to let this go. Either you let me help you or I'm telling Bruce.”
“I'm just joking!”
“Really?” Dick said, glaring at him. “Because it sounds like you're not joking at all, Jay. It seems to me that you're expecting something to go wrong.” He paused, his eyes widened in realization. “Oh, God. Something is gonna go wrong. And you don't think you're gonna make it.”
“What? No! You're blowing this out of proportion. I'm just—”
Dick slammed on the brakes. Jason lurched forward, only to be snapped back by his tightening seatbelt. “Someone was in the middle of the road.”
“Did you see him?”
“I didn't see his face,” Dick said, looking around.
Jason felt it then. A prickling sensation that made his blood run cold. This is a ghost. A malevolent one. “Stay in the car.” He told Dick and grabbed his gun from the glove box. His scabbard was still safely strapped to him underneath his suit. Jason mentally thanked Vincent for reminding him to bring his dagger.
“Dick, for love of God,” Jason ignored the pain at that particular word. “Listen to me. For once. Stay in the goddamn car.” Then he slammed the door shut and muttered. “Come on, you fucker.”
“You’re trying to kill me,” someone whispered from behind him. A raspy voice. It was cold and emotionless. Jason felt himself being slammed against the car door, unable to move. “Stop. It.”
“I probably would if you didn't just try to kill me,” he said when the ghost appeared in front of him. A man in his thirties, with a noose hanging around his bruised neck. His eyes were red from the broken blood vessel. He had hung himself, no wonder this ghost seemed to have difficulties talking.
“The Demons sent you—”
Jason fired his gun. Once. Twice. Thrice. It disappeared and Jason fell to the ground. It took seconds to register that there's a choking sound from inside the car. His eyes widened. Dick.
He had one hand wrapped tightly around Dick's neck and another on his chest, trying to rip his heart out. DIck was flailing around, trying to grasp onto something that wasn't really there. “Stay the fuck away from him.” Jason fired his gun. The impact shattered the driver’s side window but the ghost only flickered in and out of existence, smiling all the while.
“J– Jay, what…?” Dick gasped out in confusion. Jason flung his dagger and it buried itself into the man’s neck. It let out a horrible piercing shriek and promptly vanished. The knife fell onto Dick’s lap. “Holy—” Dick's eyes were wide as he tried to scramble backward as best as he could. “What was that?”
“I'll explain later,” Jason said climbing into the car. His heart was still hammering in his chest. A ghost had almost killed Dick. “You good? Can you still drive?” Dick opened his mouth but nothing came out. He nodded instead and winced when Jason ripped open his shirt in a haste to check the injuries. Dick's chest was bleeding but it was a superficial wound. Jason breathed out a relieved sigh and grasped the back of Dick’s neck. “You’re gonna be okay. Now, get us the fuck away from here.”
“I really don't think you should have any more drink tonight, Jay,” Dick said when he saw Jason about to pour Vodka into a second glass.
“Fine.” Jason rolled his eyes and shoved the drink into Dick’s hand. “Let me see your wound.”
“He just caught me off guard, Jay. I'm fine, really.”
“Shut up and let me see your wound.” Jason’s glare was so intense that Dick instantly shut his mouth and proceeded to take off his top. His neck didn't seem to bruise. Good, Jason thought. There were deep gouges along his chest, several would likely require one or two stitches. So Jason just did just that and braced himself for a conversation he knew would be coming.
“So, you wanna explain what happened?”
“What do you think happened?”
“Like we were attacked by a ghost?” Dick took a sip of the Vodka and grimaced. “Ugh. How can you stand this thing?”
Jason rolled his eyes “You recognized him then?”
“That's the victim, isn't it?” Dick said, taking another sip and again, grimaced. He put the Old Fashioned glass on the table next to him. Jason grunted angrily, just about to thread the line in when Dick suddenly moved. “Sorry. Elias Francis Conrad? The dead victim.”
Jason didn't actually know yet. He only just heard about it tonight and hadn't had the chance to investigate anything. Lorelei refused to tell him anything. But according to Frank’s journal that was somehow in her possession, Frank was insane when he committed suicide seven months ago.
“Yeah,” Jason said, cutting the thread when he was finally done. A pretty decent job, if he did say so himself. “He committed suicide and—”
“You spoke to him.”
“I heard you talking to him,” Dick suddenly said. “After you got out of the car. You said, ‘I probably would if you didn't just try to kill me.’ Who were you talking to if not him?”
“He's pretty sharp, that brother of yours.” Jason jolted in surprise. Vincent was crouching on the fire escape, holding what looked like a flask. Note to self: ask Vincent how he got the flask.
“It's nothing.” Jason clenched his fists in frustration. Don't do that! He wanted to yell at Vincent for appearing so suddenly and surprising him. He hated to be caught off guard. Especially since Jason couldn't sense his presence like other vengeful spirits.
“You were talking to him, weren't you?” Dick said. “You can talk to a ghost?”
“Oh, he's got you there.”
Jason raised his index finger and barely managed to stop himself turning around and saying something to Vincent. “It's more complicated than that.” He said instead.
“See, Dick,” Jason began. “I really don't know how to explain this to you.”
“Why don't you let me, then?”
“Wait, what?” Jason turned his head so fast that he was surprised he didn't get a whiplash from it. What was he planning to do? Possess Jason's body? Show himself to Dick? “Absolutely not.”
“I was just kidding, kid,” Vincent said, laughing. “I really don't see a way out of this though. But hey, honesty is the best policy. Talk to him. You’re gonna need his help... Just don't tell him anything about your deal with Dantalion.” Then he disappeared. But not before purposely knocking a book—Jason had stupidly left lying there—off window frame. It fell to the floor with a dull thud.
Jason turned to Dick who was now looking at him with a satisfied look, then as quickly as it had appeared, it morphed into an expression of abject horror. “Oh, for fuck sake, he already left. There's no one there anymore.”
Jason rubbed his forehead frustratedly, his gazed fixed on Dick’s abandoned Vodka on the table. Dick snatched the drink off the table so fast and gulped it down in one go, coughing and grimacing afterward.
“What are you, five?”
“You were going to drink that,” Dick said. “Now, can you just tell me what's going on? And don't bother lying because now I'm a hundred percent sure you can talk to… them. And from what it looks like, you can see them too.”
“You're right.” Jason finally said after a few moments of silence. “Ever since I came back. I see dead people everywhere I go. I can talk to them too. Happy? Is that what you wanna hear?”
“Jay,” Dick said, expression sad. “You've never said anything.”
“Why the fuck would I tell anyone I came back a freak?” Jason snarled, clenching his fists. His nails dug painfully into his palms. He strode over to the window and slammed it open, lighting a cigarette.
“Don't say that. You’re not—”
“Even they think I'm a freak,” Jason interjected. “They're always angry, do you know that? They keep on asking me why I get to be alive. I'm supposed to stay dead.”
He should have. He had no business being alive anymore. The Joker’s dead. And since everybody hated him anyway, why’s he still here? Why? Why couldn't he stop torturing himself? He's better off dead.
“Don't say that,” Someone was in front of him, much to Jason's surprise. A firm grip on the back of his neck. “Don't you dare say that. Jason, you're my brother and I'm so very glad you're here. Alive. How can you even think that?”
Jason blinked, still dazing stupidly. “Dick?”
“I'm here, buddy.”
“I’m really supposed to be dead.”
“That’s not true.”
“But it is,” Jason insisted, eyes still vacant. “They said so.”
“Don't listen to them,” Dick said, squeezing the back of Jason’s neck. “Don't listen to any of them, okay? They don't know shit.”
Jason let out a shaky breath and squeezed his eyes shut. “I'm fine now.” He lightly pushed Dick away. “Thanks.”
“Jason, you're not alone here,” Dick said, too worried to feel hurt. “Don't do this to yourself.”
“I'm going to Hell,” Jason whispered, then—horrified at what he just said—tried to downplay it as a joke. But his laugh came out deprecating and didn't ease the worry on Dick’s face at all.
“You're not a bad person, Jay.” Dick frowned. “You’re violent and you've got a short fuse, yes, but never evil. Never.”
Jason genuinely laughed this time. “I got it.”
“I'm being serious.”
“I know.” Jason was grateful. And Dick seemed to see that because he smiled and gave Jason’s neck one last reassuring squeeze before pulling away. “I'm not really a PI, Dick.” Jason blurted out before he could lose his nerve. “Or I guess I kinda am? Just not the usual kind.”
“What kind of PI then?” Dick asked.
“You know how Frank’s spirit is a vengeful one?” Dick nodded, hands twitching as if to touch his chest wound. “My employer wants me to banish it.”
“With an exorcism?”
“Yep,” Jason said. “Gotta find out where he was buried and then burn the bones.”
“Can you, you know, talk to it first?”
“Unless it’s a non-violent spirit, I can't.” Jason frowned. “You still think Lorelei killed him?”
“Well… her family seems—”
“Dick, seriously, drop it,” Jason said, frustrated. “Why don't you give his journal a read before accusing her or her family of anything, huh?” Then he grabbed Frank’s journal from the counter and dropped it on Dick’s lap.
“Where did you get this?” Dick said suspiciously, flipping through the pages.
“Lory gave it to me,” he said. “But feel free to check its authenticity if you don't believe me. Who knows? It might be a forgery, right?”
Jason finds out that Angels do exist.
It was the real thing, of course.Tim had confirmed that it was Frank's handwriting. It was enough proof to persuade Dick to drop whatever suspicions he had toward the Diavolos, albeit unwillingly. "He's insane," Dick had concluded, after reading multiple entries about monsters and Demons. But Jason knew better than to dismiss that as mere hallucinations.
“Do you think he could have made a deal with her too?” Jason asked. A cigarette hung loosely from between his lips as he loaded empty shotgun shells with rock salt.
“If he made a deal with her, his soul wouldn't be stuck here. Her hellhounds would have dragged it to Hell when he died.”
Vincent absentmindedly nodded, playing with the same flask he had yesterday. “Big dogs. Demons use them to collect souls. And sometimes...to kill people.”
Jason thought about the Joker and his gruesome end. “Was that what killed the Joker?”
“Yes,” Vincent said. “And it will come for you too. Sooner or later.”
Boy, he didn't mince word, did he? “Still,” Jason said, trying to change the subject. “He wrote about Demons so I don't think it's a normal suicide."
“Because it's not. Dantalion manipulates people’s feeling, I told you. Hallucination is a particular specialty of hers.”
Jason agreed. There were several occasions when she tampered with his emotions after all. Uncontrollable rage, lust, fear… “Fear,” He said. “She made him paranoid and it drove him to insanity, fuck.”
“That's exactly what happened.”
“The man’s not a saint,” Jason said. “But he didn't deserve this.” Elias Francis Conrad’s corrupt, but the extent of his crime was just that of typical powerful men that had lost themselves in power. Except maybe Bruce. Don't be naive, a voice in his mind sneered. So maybe Bruce is different but what about his parents? His grandparents? Nobody can be that rich and powerful without sacrificing their morals. They're probably criminals who decided to legalize their 'business'.
“Demons don’t just go approaching random people, kid,” Vincent replied. “He's guilty of something. Something so horrible it made him desperate.”
Jason regarded Vincent carefully. “You know an awful lot about Demons.” At his silence, Jason decided to continue. “Why is that?"
“You trying to imply something?” Vincent asked, crossing his arms and leaning back against the wall. Something about his expression was unsettling. He was too calm.
“I think you're not who you say you are.”
“Why don't you tell me what you think I am then?” Vincent made a gesture of impatience. “Go on, enlighten me. Prove that you're a good investigator.”
“Like I said, you know too much about Demons,” Jason willed himself to be brave despite knowing that at any moment Vincent might call his pet hellhounds. “And you came to me when I was-- Your timing was too perfect.”
“Ah,” Vincent said, chuckling. “You meant the night you were gonna kill yourself.”
Jason forced himself not avert his gaze, and failed miserably. “I'm not suicidal.”
“Look me in the eye and tell me you weren't about to jump that night.”
“Let's not forget you mentioned something about having a complicated relationship with G–God,” Jason said instead, all but confirming Vincent’s accusation judging by the satisfied smile.
“That's not enough, I’m afraid.”
“There's the fact that I can't sense you no matter how hard I've tried. So, I don't think you're a ghost,” Jason added hurriedly when he noticed Vincent was about to leave. “But I don't think you're a Demon either.”
“Because I'm neither a ghost nor a Demon.” A pair of black began to grow from Vincent’s back and the gunshot wound disappeared from his forehead.
“You're an angel."
“A fallen angel,” He corrected, motioning to his wings. It's black. “My name is Vassago.”
“Fallen angel,” Jason repeated monotonously.
“Yes,” Vin— Vassago said. “I might be cast off from Heaven but I still have my wings. And unlike the rest of my...siblings," he practically spat the word. Jason sensed a deep resentment there, something akin to hatred even. "I don't condemn souls to Hell. I'm not one of those Demons. I'm not."
"Do you?" Vassago looked genuinely upset now.
"Yes, I do," Jason reassured him. "You've helped me several times now. With Dick and with-" Jason swallowed, recalling the events of the night he met Vassago. What he had almost done. Then he recalled his confrontation with Bruce a few years back. Jason might have killed people, yes, but to be thrown in Arkham like he was a psychotic murderer who killed for pleasure? That hurt. "Look, you've seen me, right? I know how you feel."
Vassago chuckled to himself. "Yes, I suppose you really do."
"Why did you fall?" Jason asked absentmindedly, then backtracked when he realized he was being insensitive. "Uh..."
"Pass me your cigarette."
Jason did just that. "An angel who smokes, heh."
“I was in the army, kid,” Vassago said, putting a cigarette in his mouth. There's a tiny spark and the cigarette lit itself. “And I really worked as a PI when I returned from the war. I wasn't lying when I told you my name’s Vincent. I've been living a human life since I was cast off." Then he let out an amused chuckle. "A real good investigator, I was, since I can see the past and future. Probably pissed off a lot of people too, since they sent someone to off me like that."
“It's not like I really died," Vassago dismissed.
“I used to think God's faith in humanity is misplaced, you know. I resent Him for doing nothing, it's why I decided to help...And the reason Father cast me off."
Just like me, Jason wanted to say. “You don't think so anymore?”
“Humans are complicated creatures,” Vassago said. That's not a no, Jason noted. “Anyway, I think we’ve gone off topic, don't you agree?”
“I guess,” Jason knew dismissal when he heard one. So, he decided to make more rock-salt ammo instead. “Well, all I gotta do is burn Frank's bones, right?”
“Sprinkle his remains with salt before burning it. He'd try to stop you, of course, this is why you need your brother’s help.”
“I’d rather not involve Dick if I can.”
“You’ll welcome to try,” Vassago said smiling. “Although you won't succeed. He's very protective.”
“I know where his body is,” Jason said. “I can just do it now.”
“At least wait until he's back at Blüdhaven if you don't want him involved. Tell you what,” Vassago said, crossing his arms. “I'll teach you a trick. It'll come in handy, trust me. What do you say?”
Nothing comes free, Jason reminded himself. “In exchange for what?”
“Smart boy.” Vassago looked rather pleased. “What I want is a memory. Something painful. Something buried. I'm sure you have plenty of them.”
“Probably. But first, I need to know what kind of trick you have in mind."
“The magic kind,” Vassago said as a fire began to grow from his palm. “You weren’t born a magic user so you probably can't do much.” The fire died out. “But you have Death’s mark and that alone is a powerful source of magic. Just… depending on how you use it, you'll be shaving off your lifespan."
Vassago almost laughed at Jason's disappointed face. "The mark's what keeps you alive. This kind of trick’s not too bad,” Vincent said as the fire appeared on both of his hands. “But this kind” —the flame began to form some kind of sigil midair—”You use it to trap spirits and Demons or summon them. Binding or protection spells will cost you a few years, but summoning? That's a one time use only. It'll drain all the magic in you and you'll die. The place where you're going after? Not a nice place to be, kiddo. Don't use it unless you really have to. Accept your family's help when it's offered instead.”
“Teach me how to do it,” Knowledge’s always a good thing, Jason told himself. He'd use it only for emergencies.
"This memory will haunt you every time you close your eyes, kid. You won't be able to forget it. Are you sure?”
Jason nodded. It couldn't be worse than his nightmare of being murdered. “I'm sure. Teach me.”
“Alright then,” Vassago said, looking every bit like the fallen angel he was with his black wings unfurled. “If it makes you feel better… One day, you'll use it to save someone’s life. Someone important to you.”
I suck at this, Jason thought angrily as a tiny spark flickered from his palm. No success so far, even after spending the last three hours thinking of fire and muttering the word in Latin as Vassago had instructed. He hadn't even been able to lit a cigarette the way Vassago did.
“You asked me if I want to move on,” Vassago said suddenly, watching as a Jason attempted to lit his cigarette with magic. “I do.”
“I promised you I’d help, didn't I?”
“Kid,” Vassago said quietly. “A long time ago, I made a promise to a friend of mine. Told him I'd make sure your death won’t be in vain. Now that I know for sure it won't be, I’m leaving.”
So much for having someone to talk to, Jason tried to appear as apathetic as he could. “Who's this friend of yours?”
“Doesn't matter now, does it?” Vassago said, suspiciously evasive. “Don't worry. We’ll meet again before Death comes for you the third time.” He disappeared before Jason could so much as opened his mouth to ask what he meant by that. No sign that a fallen angel had ever been in Jason’s dingy safe house if not for the black feathers littering his floor in the shape of a sigil. The same one he had created earlier when he demonstrated his magic. This must be his sigil.
Jason walked over to his bookcase and trailed a finger on the spine of a leather-bound journal. Damian had given it to him back then during his time with the League and told Jason that he should consider journal therapy (Talia's probably the one to suggest it). He had never written anything, considering it as a memento of their relationship before the Pit Madness had fucked with his head and made him shot Damian.
Since Gotham was apparently crawling with Supernaturals, he probably should keep a note of them. As long as Jason's alive, well, Damian would never encounter these monsters. But when Jason's dead... the Brat should know how to defend himself.
Jason glanced back at the rock-salt ammo he had prepared. I need to test them out myself first and there's only one way to do it.
According to Lorelei, Elias Francis Conrad’s spirit haunted the 4th floor of her building where he hung himself. “Nobody’s touched anything ever since,” she had told him on the phone. “His spirit doesn't belong in Hell so we can't touch him. He also hurts humans who wander around and most definitely will try to kill you.”
Which was the reason why Jason decided to ask for Dick's help despite his initial reluctance to get his brother involved. Since he was told to accept help when it's offered, well, he might as well try to call Dick. “You still in Gotham?” He asked as soon as Dick picked up.
“I just got back to Blüdhaven. What’s up, Jay?”
Jason had expected this. He did, after all, know that Dick's working tomorrow. There's also a reason why he decided to call DIck only after he got to Perdition. So that Dick wouldn't be able to complain later that Jason didn't try to ask for help. “Remember my case?” Tucking his phone between his shoulder and chin, Jason pulled out his shotgun from the car trunk. “I was gonna ask if you wanna come with but don't worry. I've got it handled."
“Please don't tell me you're gonna kill it now,” Dick said.
“I’m already here actually,” Jason said, strapping Lorelei’s dagger on his side. He slipped the can of salt and lighter in his jacket pocket. “Wish me luck, Goldie.”
“Wait, wait. Hold on a sec—”
He hung up and turned off his phone, slipping it into his other pocket.
“What took you so long?” Lorelei said as soon as she opened the back door. Her tone impatient.
“I had to do my research,” Jason said flatly. “Since someone refused to tell me how to kill a spirit.”
“Can’t make it that easy for you now, can I?” She gestured for Jason to follow her. Glancing at his shotgun, she said, “Firearms won’t harm them.”
“I know that. Its loaded with rock-salt ammo,” Jason said, not missing the subtle flinch that followed. So, it's not only ghosts that were weak against salt, huh? Interesting.
“Since this is your first hunt, Love, I'll even let Morty come with you.”
“You named your hellhound, Morty?” Jason asked, incredulous.
“Watch your tone or you'll hurt his feelings,” She said as a huge black dog with mangled fur and glowing red eyes materialized beside her. He growled at Jason, baring his sharp fangs threateningly.
“Err… Sorry,” he said when Morty took a menacing step toward Jason. Watch it, Jason reminded himself. This is the creature that mauled Joker to death.
“Hellhounds don’t just drag souls to hell,” Lorelei said kneeling in front of Morty, scratching at his ears. “They protect the secrecy of supernatural creatures. Our guardian, in a sense.”
“A guardian, huh?” Jason said, kneeling down too. He forced himself not to cringe when Morty approached him slowly, still snarling like he wanted to rip Jason to shreds.
“He's the one who killed Joker, you know.”
“You killed the clown, huh?” Jason reached a hand out to touch the hellhound, feeling a rush of warm affection washed over him. Morty sniffed his palm before licking it. “I guess I should thank you then.” Jason grinned. Morty seemed pleased when Jason scratched at his ears. “You're just an overgrown mutt, aren't you?”
“Salt can hurt him,” Lorelei reminded. “Be careful with that firearm of yours.”
“Yeah,” Jason stood up. “I’ll get rid of that vengeful spirit of yours now.”
"A little bit," Jason admitted since there's no point in lying to her.
"Don't be, darling." Lorelei planted a peck on Jason's cheek. "He'll protect you. You are, after all, one of us now."
One of us, Jason thought. A monster who hunt monsters. What does that make me?
A little bit about Vassago
From Daemonolatry Goetia by S. Connolly:
Vassago is also good counsel regarding friendship and other interactions with people. He can advise you in negotiations.
From Goetia – S. L. MacGregor Mathers (1904):
The Third Spirit is a Mighty Prince, being of the same nature as Agares. He is called Vassago. This Spirit is of a Good Nature, and his office is to declare things Past and to Come, and to discover all things Hid or Lost. And he governeth 26 Legions of Spirits, and this is his Seal.
Hell is full of good intentions or wishes. Jason just can't seem to stop digging himself deeper into trouble.
You've got this, Jason tried to reassure himself when he felt something churned in the pit of his stomach. It's pathetic and it's beyond him. Jason wasn't a newbie, for Hell's sake. It's not his first time being out on the field, it's not even his first helping ghosts. Granted, the previous two weren't as vicious as this one and they'd always moved on the minute he was done doing them favors.
“The lift doesn't go to the top floor so we have to take the stairs from here,” Lorelei said, pulling him out of his thoughts.
“Right,” Jason nodded, distracted. He sensed it, the familiar presence of the dead. Along with the feeling of helplessness and pain. “Something's wrong," Jason said, pulling Lorelei into a stop. "The presence feels stronger somehow.”
“About that," she began. “There’s an accident about a week ago. Let's just say Frank’s not the only ghost in there anymore.”
“You're fucking kidding me," Jason turned to look at her. She still had the same nonchalant look on her face, as if the fact that another person had died here meant nothing at all. "What the hell happened? How many others are there?”
“Just one curious human child,” Lorelei shrugged. “She's not malicious, don't worry. Some of my Demons are actually quite fond of her. Did you know? Tortured souls remind them of Hell.”
“Sounds like you don't need me at all.”
“Francis’ spirit is getting rather out of control, even to my Demons. I don't need the attention of those so-called supernatural hunters on top of the rumors our involvement in his murder, surely you understand that?" Lorelei raised an elegant brow at him, crossing her arms. "We didn't kill her if that's what you're thinking. Francis did that. So why don't you go up there and get rid of him, hmm? You can even let him suffer a little bit first if you want?" When Jason didn't answer, Lorelei grasped his arm and gave a threatening squeezed. “Don't get squeamish on me now.”
“I'm not squeamish, alright?” Jason snapped, his voice echoing in the stairwell. "Shit," he rubbed a hand down his face, letting the duffel slipped from his shoulders to the floor with a dull thud. "You're fucked up, you know that? All of you. How can you just... act like everything's fine? A girl is dead!"
"I'd watch my tone if I were you," she said, eyes turning black. "Did I or did I not call you here to get rid of them? I'm trying to prevent another 'accident' like this from happening again."
"What'd you do with the body?"
"I got rid of it," she said. "She's still here so obviously something's still tying her to this world. You'll need to find and burn it."
"What about Frank? Anything tying him here?" Jason decided to ask, following her warning to tread carefully.
"His bones are still here," Lorelei replied. "In a box in the living room."
"How is that possible? His body was autopsied and his death was ruled as suicide."
"It wasn't his real body," Lorelei shrugged. "I did what I had to do to keep my Demons happy."
"Of course, you fucking did." Jason let out a sarcastic chuckle. "Bit you back in the ass now, didn't it?"
"Just do you what you have to do," she gripped his arm painfully, ignoring the slight flinch Jason couldn't quite hide. "Remember, you agreed to this."
"Fine," Jason said through gritted teeth.
"Do be careful," she said turning around to leave. "I'd hate to have your family hounding my back."
Jason knew a threat when he heard one, although he wasn't sure why Lorelei thought his 'family' would care. He stopped having a family the moment he came back. Before that, even. The reason why they kept on trying to reach out to him was that they felt guilty. He shouldn't have forgotten that. Ever. Swallowing painfully, Jason picked up his duffel bag
It was like stepping into a horror-themed escape room, designed for the sole purpose of these monsters twisted amusement. The feeling of agony and despair was even more intense than he expected. It didn't look like anyone of them touched anything either. The furniture was covered with white sheets. There were fragments of plaster all over the place.
Beside him, Morty gave a menacing growl, the fire that engulfed his body intensified. Jason cocked his shotgun when he sensed the familiar cold presence of a ghost.
“Still as fucking creepy as ever,” Jason muttered when a woman came stumbling toward him with something jutting out of her gut. A piece of metal, it looked like.
“Help… me,” she said, voice rasping. “Help me.”
“Lady,” Jason began hesitantly, with his shotgun carefully trained at her head. “Where is he?”
“Please help me,” she said, hands reaching out toward him. Morty let out a dangerous snarl.
“Back off,” Jason said, finally getting a real look at her. She's young, in her mid-twenties most likely. Died from blood loss due to the multiple stab wounds. “You don't want to antagonize him, trust me.” Jason nodded the hellhound in front of him.
She took a couple of steps backward dutifully. “Help me.”
“Tell me what happened to you.”
“I came here to make a paranormal documentary with my crew. They left me behind… when he appeared,” she said, eyeing Morty as if he'd jump and tear her to shreds the second she took her eyes off him. "Please, I can't leave. He'll find me. He'd always find me."
“He killed you?”
She didn't answer, staring at him intently. “You’re different…”
Uh oh, Jason thought. “Calm down, I'm here to help you.”
“You're not dead...but not quite alive either,” she said in a monotone, ignoring him. It's pissing him off, the fact that this happened every time. The way their expression would change completely. Any trace of bewilderment would be replaced by jealousy and anger. They would look at him as if he's the one who had hurt them. “You shouldn't be alive.”
“You know what? Fuck you.” Jason fired the shotgun. The moment the pieces of salt made contact with her, she disintegrated into black dust. “You’ve got my full permission to do whatever you like next time she appears, boy. Not malicious, my ass.”
The feeling grew stronger as he got further inside the apartment. One particular room, a living room from the looks of it, was in a state of disarray. There were shards, pieces of broken ceramic and bloodstains on the floor, with trails leading halfway to where he stood right now at the door. She probably had gotten a few feet away before something dragged her back and tossed into a coffee table. Judging from the amount of blood, she had probably bled out there too.
If she had come here with her crew, then why was it that none of her friends had tried to find her or call the cops? There's no missing person report as far as he knew. Lorelei must have done something to bury this incident.
There was an old broken video camera lying near the fireplace. Jason knelt down and dropped his duffel to the floor, laying his shotgun next to his feet. The camera was broken, the screen shattered but the memory card was still intact. This must be the one connection she had to this world, the one thing he needed to destroy to get rid of her.
Let's see if you've left anything behind, Jason took out the memory card and dug in his jacket pocket for his phone, about to turn it on when a menacing growl grabbed his attention. There she was again, looking downright murderous and seconds away from attacking him. Morty tackled her before she could, pinning her to the floor and biting her.
Her scream was the most horrifying thing he'd ever heard. It's the same painful scream a living person made when being mauled. Jason fumbled to turn his phone on, muttering curses at the time it took to load. He shouldn't have turned it off, even if there were 37 missed and 23 messages from Dick.
“Dammit,” Jason cursed, quickly shoving the memory card in and transferring the most recent file into his phone. He ripped open the bag of salt and poured it on the camera, along with the lighter fluid. She screamed again, and a lamp went flying straight at him from across the room. He snatched the blowtorch from his duffel, narrowly avoiding being hit on his head. He chucked the memory card in as well and lit the blowtorch before she could throw another thing at his head. She let out one last agonizing shriek as her body burst into flame.
Her scream would just be another thing haunting him tonight, Jason just knew it. His heart was still beating so fast he barely sensed anything until he looked down and notice that a fire poker was sticking out of his stomach. Jason fired his shotgun at the ghost behind him, ignoring the pain as the recoil jostled his body. Then holding the metal sticking out of his body with one hand, Jason rummaged through the storage cabinets next to the fireplace until he located an ornate wooden box. Just as Lorelei said, there were his bones inside, along with the rope he used for his suicide.
He tossed it into the fire and cursed when the fire began to die down as he poured whatever was left of the salt onto it. Frank appeared in front of him as he went for the blowtorch, sending it rolling away before he could grab it. Morty tackled Frank from the side, knocking Jason backward into the wall. The impact drove the fire poker went further into his body until he had to double over because of the pain.
His vision darkened when he tried to move and reach for his blowtorch. "Calm down," he muttered, still clutching his stomach. "I can light a fire, I can do that. Just focus on something. Focus or die. Focus or die." And he really didn't want to die. Not when he could finally do good here in Gotham. The city's crawling with monsters and he's the only equipped to handle it. No, he couldn't die.
Jason watched as the fire grew until it finally engulfed the wooden box. Until the ghost of Elias Francis Conrad writhed and burst into flame before finally disintegrating into dust.
“Ah hell,” Jason sat slumped on the floor. A bitter taste of copper in his mouth. There's blood on the back of his hand when he wiped his nose. Vincent was right, this was a neat trick Jason had in his arsenal now. It was his desire to live, his desperation to survive that enabled him to channel it properly. “Stop it,” he said to Morty, who was now licking Jason's blood off his face much to his chagrin. "And, uh, thank you for saving my life."
Jason pulled out his phone and dialed Lorelei's number. "That didn't take long."
"Well, I did have a little bit of help," Jason said, trying to stand up to no avail. His stomach felt as if it were on fire. "Could you, uh, come down and get me? I'm not unscathed. I'm actually kinda hurt."
“Alright,” she said. There's rustling and Jason heard her hurried footsteps. “There's someone on the rooftop waiting for you.”
Jason blood turned cold. “Please don't tell me it's Batman.”
“No, not Batman. The red one."
“It's Red Robin,” He cursed angrily. “How long has he been up there?”
“He just got here. My brother is with him right now.” Not good. Jason didn’t want any of them near Tim either.
“I'll see you in a bit.”
Then he hung up and proceeded to call Dick, who answered on the very first ring. “Why the fuck would you call Tim?”
“You weren't answering your phone!” Dick defended. “I thought something was wrong.”
“I turned it off!” Jason snapped. "What did you tell him?"
"Nothing much, just that you might need some help," Dick said. "Where are you? Are you okay?"
Jason glanced down at his stomach. The blood was starting to seep into the fabric of his shirt, spreading wider and wider. His head was starting to feel light. "I'm fine."
"I don't believe you," Dick said, suspicious despite Jason's very convincing lie. "You're hurt and you're probably downplaying the severity of your injuries."
"I'm really not," Jason said. "Dick, the Diavolos aren't exactly fond of you, vigilantes. It's not a good idea to call Red Robin here."
"And that's not suspicious at all to you?"
“Would you just stop?” He said, looking up when he heard the sound of heels clicking nearby. "You know what? I'll call you in a bit. Lorelei's here."
“In here,” he said, ending his call with Dick and slipping his phone back in his pocket.
Lorelei wasn't too happy at the sight of him. She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. "Did I or did I not tell you to be careful earlier?"
“Got distracted. Sorry."
She knelt down next to him. "My hellhound didn't help you?"
"He did. He saved my life," Jason said. “Can you do something about this? Red Robin's upstairs waiting for me. Can't exactly show up like this after I just told Nightwing I was okay."
"You'll bleed out if I remove this."
"I just need a minute to tell them I'm fine." Jason squeezed his eyes shut. "Can you do it?"
Lorelei sighed, kneeling next to Jason. "It'll hurt."
"I can handle-- Fuck!" Jason curled his hand protectively around his wound. Before he could even blink, she had snapped side with the hook end and wrench it out of his stomach in one quick motion.
"There," she said, after muttering a string of Latin. The bleeding stopped but the pain didn't dissipate. "This needs to be looked at as soon as possible or you're going to bleed to death."
"It'll just take a minute," Jason said pulling himself up and tried his best to ignore the pain. "I'll tell them the job's done and I'm celebrating with you."
"As you wish," she said, looping his arm around her shoulders. "Though I doubt he'd believe you."
Of course, she just had to be right because, despite Jason's best effort to pretend that he's fine, Tim could tell that Jason's favoring his side. "Your right hand's twitching." He said, crossing his arms. "You're trying hard not to touch your wound, I can tell. How bad is it?"
It hurts and it's literally killing me, Jason wanted to say but decided against it. "It's really not bad." Jason even rolled his eyes, just to make it even more convincing. "You know Nightwing's tendency to be overbearing. I'm fine, really."
"I'm gonna have to borrow Jason for a bit if it's okay with you," Tim said to Lorelei who was standing near the rooftop door. "I have some things I'd like to discuss with him."
"No can do, Red," Jason said before Lorelei could even think of replying. "We're actually gonna celebrate tonight if you know what I mean." Jason winked, knowing that this kind of discussion would make Tim uncomfortable. Some people were just uneasy around PDA like that. Riling Tim and getting him to act like a blushing virgin though, that's just an added bonus. After all, Jason delighted in his brothers' discomfort.
"I don't need to know that."
"Well, I've kept her waiting long enough." Jason chuckled. "I'll see you soon, Red."
Jason had pretty much collapsed onto the couch as soon as they got to Lorelei's private floor. His wound had started bleeding again so Jason decided he had no other choice except to let Lorelei took care of it. She's rather adept at this too, much to his astonishment. "You're pretty good at this."
"You sound surprised," Lorelei said absentmindedly as she pushed the needle into his skin.
"It's just unexpected."
"When you've lived as long as I have, Jason, you're bound to pick up a lot of things along the way." She said, cutting the excess thread. "I was a doctor in World War I."
"Really? You? A doctor?"
"It was a long time ago," she said, dabbing an antiseptic substance with too much pressure than necessary. "We're not as bad as you people made us be, you know. Humans are trivial but we don't kill them unless it's absolutely necessary."
"What about Frank? And the girl?" Jason recalled her ghost saying that she came with a crew.
"Francis made a deal with one of my Demons," Lorelei explained. "He grew paranoid, surely you've read the journal I gave you?"
He did read the journal. He just didn't know what to think about it. Frank was an accomplished businessman until all of a sudden his behavior had become erratic, trying to find a way to outwit the Devil, making him an easy target for conmen everywhere. He practically squandered his wealth until he bankrupted. "You mean it wasn't your doing?"
"He was a schizophrenic, Jason." Lorelei looked irritated. "I didn't do anything."
"What about the girl then? What did you do with her friends?"
"Her death is not my fault," Lorelei said, covering his stitches with gauze. "They trespassed on my property. Asmodeus and I had been more than generous to let them live. They will be fine as long as they keep their mouths shut."
"And if they don't?"
"We deserve the chance to have normal lives just like you," She said simply. "I'll do what's necessary to protect my kind."
"Even if means killing them too?"
"It's better than the alternative. It's why I need you to get rid of them before they draw the attention of your... occult detective," she practically spat the word.
"Occult detective?" Jason repeated. "Like Constantine? John Constantine?"
"Yes, I don't want John anywhere near us." She said, expression grim before she schooled it into her usual calm demeanor. "Enough about this. Let's talk about your reward. I promised you a car and an apartment, didn't I?"
"I don't need any of that," Jason said. "I just want your word that you, your brother and all your Demons will stay away from the Bats. Don't ever make any deals with them."
"Eh," she shrugged. "I don't see why not. Though I can't guarantee Asmodeus would agree to that. You'd best ask him yourself."
"It won't be free, will it?"
"Of course not," she said. "If you keep this up, Jason, it'll end badly for you. Sooner or later you'll see that you don't belong with them anymore."