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Back in Black

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Jason crouched on the rooftop of a nearby building staring down at the target. The warehouse sat brightly lit, a beacon on an otherwise abandoned street. He didn’t have to wait long before two covered trucks pulled into the back entrance. His eyes narrowed as a pair of gangly teenagers stumbled out of the vehicle, followed by a set of thugs holding them at gunpoint.  Jason sighed. Checking his holsters, he stood up. Honestly, it was reassuring in a way to know the shady parts of Gotham didn’t change in his absence, some things never changed. It was time to get to work.

 

Jason had been tracking Black Mask’s shipments into and out of the city for the last week. Everything he’d found pointed back to this location, whatever was going on here it was some seriously shady shit, even by Gotham’s standards. If he had to guess based on the whispered reports he’d say it was some type of experimental drug treatment or organ black market gig. The homeless, street kids, prostitutes going missing, people no one would miss, all from Crime Alley and the Lower Bowery. The fuckers.

 

Jason finished loading his backup magazines, thumbing brass into the nearly full clips. His vision tinged green at the edges thinking about it, he was dead and buried for two years and Bruce didn’t know shit about the city he swore to protect. It made him sick. Still, he wasn’t ready to hit  Bruce over the head with his hypocrisy yet. There were still pieces that needed to fall into place. He needed to stay off the Bat’s radar for a little longer as he tightened his grip on Gotham’s criminal underbelly. And tonight was just a push in the right direction.

 

Jason grappled down silently onto the warehouse roof, finding a fire escape hatch, he gripped the panel and yanked. The hinges creaked in protest as they were forced open. Jason glanced around nervously, but when no of the guards below made any motion that they overheard, he slipped inside pulling the hatch closed behind him.

 

The first thing he noticed inside the warehouse was the faint scent of antiseptic and bleach filtering through his mask. He scrunched his nose in distaste. It smelled clinical. Unlike the dingy exterior of the building, the interior looked state-of-the-art. The walls were painted a crisp white,  the concrete floors were scrubbed so clean they practically shined.

 

Jason glanced around. He was crouched on a series of catwalks that zig-zagged above the base floor.  He took careful note of the exits below him, casing the place. He could hear the distinct hum of electricity around him, something in this building was sucking up a hell of a lot of power.

 

The lower floor was divided.  A series of freight containers covered the area by the massive loading doors the rest of the warehouse was separated by glass walls that sorted the space into neat rooms and hallways. Jason grimaced under his mask. It looked like someone had retrofitted it into some sort of hospital. This didn’t bode well for anyone, organ theft seemed more and more likely.

 

Jason dropped behind the large metal shipping crates. He leaned low and snuck along the top following the armed thugs as they escorted the kids down a hallway. The plan was simple, find out what operation Roman Sidious was running here and fuck up his shit. The kids were a new barrier, one he didn’t expect, but he’d get them out before he blew this place to hell. He ground his teeth. The kids were off limits, and soon Gotham’s gangs were going to pick up on that fact or they were going to die, painfully.

The thugs paused in front of a room and nudged the two kids inside. Jason could see another pair of shoes and the bottom of a long white coat. He couldn’t quite make out anything else in the room from his current position, but Jason would bet his favorite AK-47 that there were doctors in there. He jumped down to the hallway, careful to keep his weight forward as he stalked towards the room, drawing one of his pistols. He paused along the wall just before he got to the room, careful to stay out of view as he peered inside.  

 

The two kids clasped their hands together, clinging next to each other as their eyes darted wildly around. In front of them, a man in a white lab coat holding a clipboard assessed the teenagers.

 

“Is this all you could get?”

 

Thug one grunted.

 

The scientist sighed, jotting down a note on the clipboard. “Well I guess it will have to do for tonight, but if you bring in this few tomorrow I’ll tell Black Mask. We need more subjects or we’re never going to get anywhere.”   

 

The two thugs seemed unconcerned and shrugged off the threat, shifting their assault rifles to their shoulders, and moving to stand by the door. The scientist moved closer to the teens, appraising them. He pulled stethoscope and gestured for the boy pull off his shirt. The boy jerked back and darted towards the door but wasn’t fast enough to escape; one of the thugs moved, slamming the kid down on the floor. The girl screamed and threw herself at the thug, trying vainly to claw him away from her companion.

 

“Knock it off, you idiots!” The scientist hissed, “We need them unharmed to keep the validity of the test! And, since you two only managed to find two urchins in all of Gotham, if you mess them up now I can’t run any trials tonight!”

 

“Not my fault you can’t handle two punks, Dr. Erwin.” The thug scoffed.

 

The scientist -Erwin, rolled his eyes and grabbed a syringe off a tray. He inserted it into the boy’s neck with brutal efficiency and shoved the plunger down. The boy jerked but slowly stilled. The girl let out a whimper from the corner she backed herself into.

 

“You’re next girlie!” The other thug chuckled.

 

“There, now let him up, I gave him a sedative.” Erwin said, as he gathered a new syringe and drew blood, “I just need some baseline results for these two and we’ll be ready to start.”  

 

The doctor checked the boy's pulse, heartbeat, took a skin sample, and swabbed the boy's saliva. He bagged and set aside the samples, then approached the girl cowering in the corner.

 

“Wh-what did you do to Matt?” The girl stuttered, pressing back further from the scientist. Erwin ignored her, instead reaching out and tugging the girl up. The girl lashed out, racking her nails across his face, digging into any flesh she could reach with feral desperation. The doctor howled and reeled back. “I asked what you did to Matt you bastard!”

 

Jason smirked. You can take the kid out of Crime Alley, but you can’t take Crime Alley out of the kid.

 

“The bitch scratched me!” The doctor said, staring at the kid as if she’d grown a second head. He held his hand up to his face dabbing at the blood, “Just, just put her in containment! We have one test subject, that will have to be good enough tonight.”

 

The doctor gestured to the glass door. The thugs moved in a slow saunter holding their guns high as they backed the girl up to the door and slid it open, forcing her inside. One guard stood watching as the other grabbed the sedated boy dragging him into the side room before he slid the door shut and locked it.

 

Jason bit down a growl that was resonating up his throat. Behind the two kids rested a series of beeping machines plugged into a canister. All he could see was some black liquid. It could be a toxin, a nano-parasite, or something else entirely. He couldn’t tell from this distance.

 

The girl had gathered Matt up in her arms and was murmuring to him softly.

 

The scientist picked a radio, holding it up to his ear and pressing down the call button, “Okay, subjects 42 and 43 are in containment, release the locks.” There was a click and a hiss as the container popped open.

 

Jason didn’t think, he just moved. He shot twice, one bullet for each of the thugs’ heads. He didn’t bother with the door, instead firing once more. The glass shattered, falling to pieces as cracks webbed out from the bullet hole. Jason’s combat boot kicked up shattering the glass that remained as he shoved his way into the lab room.

 

The scientist whirled in surprise dropping the radio as he tried to find the threat. Jason aimed and pulled the trigger. The man screamed in pain as a bullet ripped through his left thigh. Jason rolled his eyes. What a baby, he hadn’t even hit the femoral artery.

 

Jason took a sick pleasure in making sure his footsteps were obnoxiously loud, stepping over the fallen glass shards as he approached the ashen scientist, his gun held high.

 

“Hey there Doc,” He said his mask giving the tone a robotic twang, “What’s up?”

 

Erwin's eyes widened as he caught a good look at him. The man whimpered. Jason stomped on his injured leg, hard. The man screamed like a banshee. Jason punched forward catching Erwin right in the teeth, the idiot needed to shut up before every man in the warehouse heard.  

 

The doctor slumped backwards to the floor, blood from his mouth dripping down his lips. He let out a low whine before falling into inaudible mumbles as he gripped his face.

 

“What was that Doc? I don’t think I heard.” Jason said making it a point to lean in close to the man’s face.

 

“I said fucking bats!” The scientist wheezed, spitting blood onto Jason’s mask. Jason didn’t hesitate to pistol whip him. The man’s skull made a satisfying crack.

 

“Do I look like a fucking bat?” He hissed low and dangerous, shoving the pistol barrel into the man’s forehead.

 

“N- no!” The man stuttered out.

 

“That’s what I thought. Now let me tell you how this is going to work Erwin. You’re going to tell me what kind of operation Black Mask is running here and if you’re a real good boy I might even let you walk out of this alive.”

 

The man gulped, sweat gathering on his face. It was times like this Jason loved wearing a full face mask, it gave nothing important away, things like the fact that there was no way in hell Jason was letting this kidnapping shitstain live.

 

“It’s trials!” The man blurted out, “Some top-secret compound Black Mask thought could be weaponized and sold on the Black Market! Please, I’m begging you, I’ll do whatever you want just please don’t kill me.” The man held his hands up over his head.

 

He frowned under his mask. A weapon? Some sort of bioweapon from the look of it.

 

“So what Doc, you and your compadres thought you could just snatch people off the streets of Gotham and do whatever you want with them? I don’t know what kind of bullshit degree you got, but generally, human experimentation is a no-no. How many people do you have in here anyway?”

 

“We’ve…” the man started slow, licking his bloody lips nervously, “We’ve done 41 tests, no living subjects.”

 

“Fuck!” Jason cursed, the man flinched away from him. He shoved the discarded radio in the man’s hand, “Call up and tell them to unlock the door and shut off whatever you bastards started!”

 

“I… I can’t,” The man wailed, “Lab safety procedures -- we can’t have those things getting out. The test started, no one will open it now.”    

 

A deep growl reverberated around them and Jason’s head shot up to gaze into the containment room. The black liquid in the container had seemingly disappeared.

 

He watched the girl turn to face the other kid in the containment room snarling and crouched low, taking a predatory stance. The sedated boy backed away looking alarmed.

 

“Molly? Molly, it’s me, it’s Matt. What are you doing? What’s happening?!”

 

Then Molly lunged, her greasy brown hair stringing around her as she threw herself at the other kid. He screamed as they careened into the wall. The glass cracked behind them. The girl bit down on the kid's arm, tearing off a chunk of his flesh. Blood smeared across the girl’s face as she chewed.

 

Holy Fuck !” Jason whispered. He needed to get the other kid away from her now.

 

He knocked the radio out of the scientist’s hand and shot the guy low in the gut. It was a slow, painful way to go. Jason heard him groan and drop fully to the ground. He stepped over the body in a rush to get to the glass door.

 

There was a keypad by the door. Jason wasted no time shooting it. Sparks flew out, a light flashed red and then yellow. The door slowly began to slide open.

 

“Hey, kid get over here!”

 

The boy’s wide eyes focusing on Jason as he desperately scrambled away from the girl. The girl looked a Jason and cocked her head to the side examining him as she chewed. The boy managed to find his way to the door and Jason yanked him the rest of the way out and slammed the door as the girl lunged.

 

“I don’t understand what’s happening? She was fine and then she just lost it!” The boy rambled, clutching his gushing arm. Jason tossed him a roll of bandages laying on the examination counter.  

 

“I know. Get behind me.”

 

The girl’s lips quirked into a toothy grin, bright red blood glinting between her teeth. A shiver went down his spine. She looked like a fucking animal.

 

Her mouth began to move, shaking with each syllable, “B-ba-bat.”

 

That was all the warning Jason got before the girl flung herself full speed against the glass. She collided and some part of her body snapped. The glass shook but held.

 

Jason gripped his pistol tightly aiming it at her form. She probably knocked herself unconscious but-

 

She stood up. Something cracked as she stood, bones grating together in a way God never intended. Jason winced. Her shoulder was bent back at an odd angle. Definitely broken Jason assessed. The crazy smile was still plastered to her face.

 

“Bat! Bat! Bat!” The girl slurred out in a sing-song voice. Then she threw herself at the glass again.  The glass shuddered and the woman pounded her fist against it. Spiderweb cracks raced out from her fist as the glass’s integrity gave way. Jason’s eyes widened, this glass was reinforced, there was no way-

 

The girl's fist slammed through the glass. Her eyes narrowing as she seemed focused on Jason’s red helmet. What the fuck was in that black liquid cocktail?

 

“Shit,” He cursed, stepping back and putting a hand on the kid’s chest to force him behind him, “Kid you sure you didn’t get any of that stuff on you?”

 

“N-no.”  

 

“Good.”

 

Smash! The girl’s fist came down again, her fingers tugging at the shards of glass trying to widen the hole.

 

“Containment Breach. Containment Breach.” Blared monotonously on repeat from a series of overhead speakers. Alarms flashed red around them.

 

For her small skeletal frame, there was no way she naturally had that kind of strength. Jason was already herding the boy towards the door when the girl managed to pull the rest of her frame through the hole she’d made in the glass. Cuts ran along her body as she forced her way forward. Baggy brown clothes were shredded on the edges of the smashed glass.  

 

The girl didn’t pause as soon as she got her feet under her she darted forward with unnatural speed, tackling Jason to the ground.

 

“Kid, take this and get out of here!” Jason yelled, scrambling to his thigh holster as he tossed one of his pistols at the boy. Matt fumbled it but managed to get a hold on it, before nodding and darting out the door. Crime Alley kids didn’t need to be told twice.   

 

Jason tussled with the delirious girl, trying to get out from under her as she tried to tear off his mask. She was strong. Her fist came down inches away from Jason’s face leaving a small crater in the concrete. Jason rolled his head to the side and blinked.

 

“Holy hell!” He muttered.

 

The girl's arm was enveloped in a black gooey substance. It pulsed across her skin, writhing as if it were alive, as she pulled her arm up to get another hit in. Jason watched in horror as her closed fist cracked against his mask. His head cracked against the concrete and his mask went dark for a moment before flickering back to life.

 

Fuck, she hit like a super.

 

She was strong, but Jason himself was no pushover. Besides he was better trained. He arched his back using his weight to counter hers and flipped them. He pinned her down, sitting on her chest with his knees situated across her shoulders. The black substance jerked across her skin, vibrating angrily as it tried to scrape against Jason. Jason drove his knee further into her injured shoulder trying to distract her. She didn’t so much as flinch when he pressed down on her injured arm. It was like she had no concept of pain. The black ebbed away, receding into the girl's skin.

 

Well, that couldn’t be healthy.

 

Jason frowned. Maybe this was some kind of Bane Venom, he wasn’t sure. He didn’t have a fancy lab like Bruce. But if he could knock her out he could leave her somewhere safe for the Bat’s to find and hopefully cure. The perk of being a hypocritical bastard, they get all the toys.

 

He dug around on his belt pulling out a syringe of paralytic and jabbed it into her thigh. The girl screeched, bucking with all her inhuman strength to get him off. A few minutes later the tremors started as the chemicals started shutting off typical muscle function. It wasn’t pleasant and the kid was going to be in for a rough wake-up. Normally he saved this stuff for kidnappings and interrogations of the slimiest lowlifes gnawing on Gotham’s streets. But, this was an emergency and he’d used what he had. It would have been an embarrassment to his training to do any less.

 

Jason slowly rolled off the girl noticing as he did so that her fluttering eyes were a filmy white as if she was blind. He frowned he needed to get her medical attention ASAP.

 

He hoped whatever this was it wasn’t contagious, just in case he left the kid on Leslie’s doorstep. The last thing Gotham needed was a zombie epidemic.

 

Jason picked the girl up throwing her over his shoulder as he left the terrorized lab behind him.

 


 

 

Jason made it down all of two empty hallways before all hell broke loose. He really should have known that it was going to be one of those nights.

 

He heard the sound of rushing footsteps before he saw anything.

 

He took two more corners and was tugging out his grappling line to retreat back to the catwalks when he rounded on a group of armed men.

 

“There’s the intruder.”

 

One of the guards so wisely pointed out.

 

Jason sighed setting the girl down against the wall. This was so fucking typical, break into a facility to blow it up and instead find unethical experimentation and get shot at. If Talia could only see him now.

 

“Kill them both! Retrieve the Symbiote.”

 

The order echoed down the hallway as the men raised their weapons. He could hear the click of a trigger.

 

He moved.

 

Jason dove into the fray, a knife in one hand a pistol in the other. He brought his weapons down with brutal efficiency, carving through his enemies in a fluid dance.

 

One of the men aimed for his head and fired. Jason dodged left, hearing a hiss as the bullet scrapped against his hood. He grimaced, at this rate he’d have to build a whole new mask before he went out tomorrow.

His knife found its way into his assailant’s throat. He could hear bullets whizzing about, but didn’t bother to slow down. At this range, they’d be more likely to hit each other than him.

 

Blood splattered around him and he could hear his heartbeat. Green burned at the edges of his vision. Jason felt his pulse quicken as a nameless rage washed through him. He roared. He wanted to tear, to feel their blood drip on his hands, to choke the life out of them.

 

Kill. Kill. Killkillkilllkilll. Something whispered. Who was he to deny it?

 

Eight men dropped to the floor dead.

 

Jason wasn’t sure how long he stood there, breathing and trying to get a hold of the unfiltered violence singing in his head. When his mind finally found its way back to his body he picked his way across the room to where he left Molly.

 

The girl rolled her head over to look at him again. Her eyes were still white but they seemed less coherent than before. She was no longer smiling.

 

Jason blinked in surprise at the movement. The paralytics should have lasted longer than this.  

 

He reached over to pick her up when he felt something wet seep through his gloves. Jason glanced down to see deep red across his palms. He knelt down looking the girl over.

 

Blood stained through her ragged clothing pooling on her lap. He tugged her shirt up. Just below her left lung was a gaping hole.

 

Fuck, she’d been shot. He reached around her back looking for an exit wound. There was nothing.  

 

“Shit!” Jason cursed, fumbling to tear off a piece of his shirt to bind the wound. It wasn’t meant to end like this, but between that weird chemical and the amount of blood she was losing he could tell she wasn’t going to last much longer.

 

“Hey, hey Molly can you hear me? It’s going to be alright.”

 

The voice came out robotic and he frowned. He reached behind his ears for the clasp and pulled his hood off. The girl deserved to see a real human face before she died.

 

Molly wheezed.

 

“No, you don’t need to talk.”

 

He was using his Robin voice. The voice Bruce had taught him to reassure civilians. He hadn’t used that voice in two years, not since Ethiopia. Not since-

 

Jason cut the thought off. No time for that.

 

“It’s going to be alright. I promise there’s nothing bad on the other side. You can trust me I’ve been there.”

 

Molly whined and Jason took off his bloody glove to run a warm hand through her hair. He picked her up gently holding her close to his body as he swung them up to one of the overhead catwalks.

 

“It’ll be alright. It’s a hell of a lot better than here.” He murmured, laying her down on the metal pathway.

 

He’d take her body with her when he left too. Bury her someplace nice and quiet. The one thing about being an up and coming crime lord is for once in his life he had money to spare.

 

“Ma-Matt” She managed to gurgle out, a dribble of blood rolling down her face. He shifted her onto her side, her lung was filling with blood.

 

“Yeah, I’ll tell Matt what happened to you and make sure he got out of her safe. I’ll burn this place to the ground too. This isn’t going to happen to anyone else.”

 

Molly nodded weakly, meeting his eyes, her eyes were back to a dusty brown.

 

“Who’r yu?”

 

“Jason.”

 

“C’rm ally hero,” She managed to gurgle out past the blood.

 

He cracked a smile. Like recognized like, “Don’t know if I’m much of a hero anymore, but I can promise you that I do vengeance.”

 

Molly dipped her head in a nod, “Giv’m hell.”

 

“Will do kid.”

 

After that, her breathing became shallower as she struggled with each breath. It wouldn’t be much longer now. She was already fading out and a collapsed lung didn’t feel pleasant. If she wasn’t already in shock from the chemicals they’d given her then she certainly was now.

 

He wasn’t sure how long they sat in the quiet like that. He could hear thugs scrambling around down below them, but that didn’t matter as soon as Molly passed on and he got her body out of here he was going to burn this place to the ground and then knock off every one of Black Mask’s distributors he could find.  

 

Molly let out a one last choked breath before she sighed and was still.

 

Jason eased her to the floor and closed her eyelids. She was dead.

 

He reached past the corpse to where he set his hood. Something warm and wet slithered across his ungloved hand. What in the hell?

 

Jason instantly snatched it back and held it closer to the light to inspect it. His eyes saw nothing but his pale skin. He shivered the hairs on the back of his neck standing at attention. A warning feeling came from the pit of his stomach. Something told him he should get out of here.  

 

He tentatively reached back over snatching his mask and inspecting the inside. He could have sworn he felt something. He shook his head trying to dismiss the feeling. It didn’t matter he had places to be and buildings to burn.

 

He shoved his hood back on his head and the locks clicked into place. He carefully lifted Molly’s body and slipped out through the overhead hatch he entered through. He’d get her someplace out of the way and then come back and finish the job.

Chapter Text

It was well after 3 am when Jason stumbled into the warehouse for the second time. He smelled like sweat and blood. Not for the first time, he was grateful for the ingenuity in his mask’s design, glad that his hood hid his face and limited his sensory input. He wasn't sure he could handle how bright it was inside. Pain throbbed at the back of his head. He could feel a headache forming behind his temples, pounding lightly as he made his way through the shadows in the corridor.

Sometime between removing Molly’s body, making funeral arrangements and returning to the warehouse he started feeling a little off. Under his mask he was sure he was a little pale, hell, he could feel himself shivering through his armor. He hoped he hadn’t caught a bug from whatever else they’d cooked up in the freaky lab. With his luck though he wasn’t holding his breath.

Jason sighed. All he wanted after this shitstorm of a night was his crappy shower and the mattress bunched in the corner of his safehouse.

Normally, he’d handle Black Mask’s forces with a bit more calculated cruelty and showmanship. As far as Gotham’s Crime Lords went Black Mask was one of the worst and in Jason’s book that meant the man had Bat signal sized target on his back. But after the events earlier and the developing headache, he didn’t have it in him to drag this out.

The building was crawling with hired thugs. He’d noticed more on the perimeter as he approached the building, but that was nothing compared to inside the warehouse.

Jason let out a low whistle. There were well over fifty armed men marching around the halls. Black Mask certainly had deep pockets. A smile crept onto his face. Maybe, tonight wouldn’t be a total bust and he’d get to piss off Black Mask more than anticipated.

Jason fell back to his training. He slipped past the swarm of guards like a shadow.

Two corridors deeper and he slid into the nearest lab room. This room was more or less intact and filled to the brim with various carefully sorted chemicals. Jason scoured the shelves until he found the red border of a carefully placed hazard sticker. He grinned at the simple lines of an exploding beaker.

Highly explosive, perfect.

There was more than enough here to set off a chain reaction of chemical explosions, but Jason wasn’t taking any chances. He’d promised Molly some swift justice and he planned to deliver in a blaze of glory. No one could say that the Red Hood didn’t keep his promises.

He carefully lifted the containers and attached his pre-made detonators along with a cylinder of C-4 he pulled out from his belt.  His fingers finished twisting the wires and he attached the timer to the detonator.

Jason stood up and cast one last look at his handiwork. The mess of wires blinked into view as the red numbers of the timer flashed.   Who would think that the blown-up birdy would be so handy with bombs?

He could hear the faint echo of the Joker’s laughter in the back of his skull.

‘What a hoot, bird boy! You’re leaving me in stitches! Developing a great sense of comedic timing just like your Uncle J! Brings a tear to my eye. Who says you can’t teach an old bird new tricks, Pumpkin?’ The clown cackled madly.

Jason forced his eyes closed as he felt the rage fizzle to the surface. He took one breath and then another, trying to calm the burning anger in his belly and keep the green out of his vision. His fist shot out involuntarily, knocking a set of beakers off the lab bench. They clattered to the floor, shattering.

Shit.

The sound brought him back to the present as the footsteps outside the lab stopped suddenly. Jason forced his eyes opened and towards the door, his hand was already slipping to the knife on his belt.

A crack of light streamed in through the door as a guard cracked it open. Jason held his breath and slowly slid the knife from its sheath.

A pair of blue eyes widened as they caught sight of Jason. That was the last thing they ever did. In one move Jason gripped the man’s shirt pulled him into the room and shoved his knife in his throat before he could even blink.

Jason lowered him to the floor quietly as the man gurgled and choked on his blood. In one fluid motion, Jason yanked his knife out wiping the knife on the man’s pants. Then he stood and closed the door.  There was a gasping intake of air as the man struggled to breathe. It wouldn’t matter, the man would die of blood loss in two minutes. The body didn’t take well to having its jugular severed.

He felt the thrill of the kill sing in his veins, mixing with the bubbling anger of the pit. Together they formed a swirling chaotic melody that only he could hear. It drummed in his head beating against what little sanity remained.

He was so angry all the time. Jason knew something was wrong with him. He’d known since he came back. What was dead was meant to stay dead or there were consequences. Ever since his resurrection he practically ran on rage. The fire in his veins didn’t let him do anything else. He barely ate. He hardly slept. The burning kept him moving. It helped his knife and bullets find their victims and only then did the fire subside temporarily.

He was more of a wraith than a human at this point.  Somehow, he couldn’t bring himself to care.

He clipped one last wire, set the clock and ran like a bat out of hell. Pun intended Jason thought amused.  He was out of the warehouse before anyone noticed his presence.

Jason made it two blocks away before the thing went up like the Fourth of July. It was a blazing column of fire and light. He let out a low whistle at the impressive display. Black Mask’s Warehouse would be nothing but ashes soon.

He could feel the heat on his skin even from here. The warmth did nothing to dampen his growing shiver. He tucked his leather jacket a little bit tighter around him as if it would fend off the cold.  

Those scientists and any other bastards that were in that warehouse were toast now. And honestly, he didn’t mind one bit. Karma’s a bitch.

Jason found his way into the nearest alley and watched the glowing embers soar into Gotham’s polluted sky. He unclipped his mask and tugged a cigarette out of his inner pocket, flicking a lighter he watched the end smolder to life. The cigarette felt heavy between his lips. He took a long drag, breathing out slowly and watching the tobacco smoke rise into the air.

All he could say was what a fuckin’ night.

In the distance, he could hear the wailing sound of sirens. He turned and slipped deeper into the alley, disappearing into the darkness.


 

Jason made it back to his safehouse in one piece, though he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. He kicked his boots off by the door, so he didn’t track blood all over the floor. Next, he peeled off his stained outerwear, tossing it into a corner.

He’d take care of it later, preferably after he slept. Clothes were easily replaceable, and, in all honesty, he’d probably have to burn those to get the human tissue out. His nose crinkled at the thought; he’d liked that jacket too.

His feet shakily made their way across the cold concrete floor before he settled on his mattress. The springs in the padding protested as he sank down. The mattress wasn't anything fancy, just a tortured piece of furniture he'd dug out of one of the side streets. Still, it beat the hard ground or the cardboard boxes from his childhood. He grumbled to himself, his body felt twice as heavy as it did earlier. He definitely caught something.

The bathroom entrance was across the room, he wanted that shower, but he could hear Talia’s voice berating him for giving into worldly pleasures when he had not insured his safety yet. Of course, by safety inner Talia meant weapons. He groaned internally at the rationality of it, the same cold logic the Al Ghuls seemed to apply to everything.

Ah, but what did Jason know. He could probably use a bit more rationality in his life.

He let out a sigh as he forced his body back up.

His safe house was a little sparse on furniture, all he had was a hot plate, his mattress, and a tiny dinged-up coffee table. The rest of the space was devoted to more practical things like munitions.  He dragged the coffee table over to his mattress. At least he could try to be comfortable while he worked.

The knife Talia gave him was first. It was one of the best weapons he owned. He carefully wiped the remaining blood and grit from its blade. Then thumbed it, checking for sharpness, he smiled in approval when his thumb came away bloody. Jason stuck his finger in his mouth, sucking away any blood as he gave the knife a final wipe down before sheathing it and setting it under his pillow.

Next came his guns, his two side holsters and the smaller handgun he’d strapped to his leg. Jason emptied the bullets and carefully took apart his prized weapons piece by piece, laying the steel out on his worn-down coffee table.

He went over each part of his weapons, inspecting for any damage or sign of deterioration. They didn’t have so much as a scratch on them, but Jason liked to be thorough. If his time with the League taught him anything it was that, although anything could be used as a weapon the right equipment sure made the job a hell of a lot easier.

Jason huffed at the memory of Talia’s barely restrained look of insult —on her, it was really a slight frown and pinched eyebrows, but on an Al Ghul that said a lot— when he’d told her he wanted to pick up marksmanship. She didn’t come outright and say it not with Slade Wilson, the one and only Deathstroke, regularly on the League's payroll. But he could still tell that it was a disappointment for him not to be focusing on the more traditional arts.

Jason snorted.

He isn’t sure what she expected from him. His life was just a long line of fuck-ups before his death and he doubted it was going to get any better now. But he was really past the point of caring. Why fight the tide when he could flow with it? If life wanted to fuck him up, let it. He’d take it and still come out swinging until they put him back in the ground. That’d probably be sooner rather than later anyway.

His hands worked like clockwork while his mind wandered. When he glanced down he already had one of his handguns cleaned and reassembled. He sighed as he finished piecing the other two back together. It’s not like he had anything better to do. Between his after-hour activities and his insomnia, he didn’t sleep much anyways. Cleaning was relaxing; the repetitiveness and familiarity gave him some semblance of structure in his otherwise chaos-ridden joke of a life.

When he finished with his guns he reloaded his clips and placed one on each side of his bed within easy drawing distance.

His hood was next. Drugged up Molly really did a number on his internal systems' integrity. He flipped the hood over in his hand. The back had a singular crack that ran from the crown to just above were the mask clipped around his neck.

That was… that was impressive. One more hit and his hood would have shattered. There was no way to patch this. He’d need to rebuild his hood from the basics, rip out the tech inside and start over. Thank fuck, he’d had the foresight to stock up make a few backups before he returned to Gotham.

This hood was a lost cause, but some of the tech inside wasn’t. Jason pulled out a screwdriver and began prying it apart.

The trickiest part was a series of small switches that had to be flipped in a particular order. If any of them were missed they fried the tech in his mask, that and more importantly, they triggered the start to the internal bomb.

He smirked if someone managed to steal his tech, the bat or an enterprising criminal either way they were going to be in for a nasty shock.

Sometimes the more rational part of his brain told him he was a masochistic bastard for walking around with a bomb inside his helmet. The rest of Jason’s brain thought it was the funniest fucking joke he’d ever made.

His mind went back to wandering, focusing on fine-tuning his plan as his hands worked. Tomorrow he’d have to send out his contacts and check on Matt. Make sure he found his way to Leslie’s doors and he wasn’t infected with whatever bio-toxin ate away Molly from the inside. He’d have to tell him about Molly too.

Then he’d need to do reconnaissance. Blowing up the warehouse might have stopped the toxin from getting out for a short time, but if there were other labs or supply ports working with whatever that black liquid it would only be a matter of time until it added to Gotham’s usual brand of crazy. He’d need to make sure the scientist behind that concoction were dead and Black Mask didn’t have any in storage.

A drop of sweat rolled down his chin and landed on the open circuitry. It sizzled and sparked. And Jason cursed up a storm, whipping his fingers away before they got shocked.

Fuck! He was sweating like a pig.

He dabbed the sweat off on his sleeve. It came away wet and sticky. Jason frowned, getting sick was not in his plan.  He looked down between his hands noticing that his body was shaking. He didn’t feel cold if anything his safehouse felt warmer than usual in the cold January air.

Whatever. There was just one piece he needed out of his hood and then he could take a nice hot shower, drink enough cold medicine to knock out an elephant and get a good four hours of sleep.

The hood's internal bomb rested just below a metal plate in the middle of the helmet. Jason placed the screwdriver under the plate and pried upwards. His hand shook. The screwdriver slipped past the plate coming down hard on the explosive cylinder. The back of his compromised helmet gave way to the direct pressure, leaving Jason with the skeletal remains of an active bomb on his coffee table.

Fuck. Today just wasn’t his day.

Jason tossed the screwdriver aside, scrambling to get a grip on his wire cutters. The mess of wires was wrapped throughout the circuitry of the hood. The LED light on the detonator flashed red rapidly.  He thrust the cutters in finding the nearest series of green wires and clipping them all. The blinking light stopped, and Jason dropped the wire cutters. They dented his coffee table in the fall before bouncing to the floor.

Jason let out his breath. That was close. He felt like banging his head against the wall.

“Stupid Todd,” Jason muttered to himself, “That was stupid. You should’ve just gone to bed.”

Idiot.

The word echoed around the walls of the room.

Someone just spoke.

Someone was in his safehouse.

Jason was on his feet in a flash, one of his pistols in his hand as he whirled around to face the intruder. There was nothing. No one was there just the familiar shadows of his safehouse. A cold sweat spread up his spine as laughter surrounded him.

“Who are you!? Who the fuck is speaking?!” Jason growled, “Get the fuck out here now and maybe I won’t break every bone in your body.”

His threat fell on empty ears. Nothing stirred as he glared out at the dingy room.

Cute~

Jason’s finger closed around the trigger firing three bullets into the shadows.

You missed. Really what were you even aiming for Jason?

Jason snarled. “Why don’t you come out and say that to my face!”

A dark voice laughed in his head. Jason’s eyes widened.

You really are funny for a meatsack.

The laughing grew louder. He clutched his head until his knuckles turned white. Pain speared through his skull. It felt like every synapse was firing at once.

“Come on Todd you can take it.” He whimpered. “This is in your head. Just the familiar psychotic nightly lullaby. Nothing new at all. You just need sleep.”

He couldn’t stop the unease from crawling up his spine.

“Get your fucking life together Todd,” He muttered to himself.

This wasn’t the first time he’d had lucid episodes or hallucinations. They’d been more common after his revival. This voice though, it was new it wasn’t the Joker or Bruce or even himself in his old Robin costume. He needed to call Talia she’d always managed to ground him. He reached across the table for his burner phone.

I don’t think that’s a good idea, Jason. The voice whispered darkly.

“Fuck you!” He said to the imaginary voice as his fingers clenching around the phone. Then suddenly he was throwing the phone across the room. It shattered as it met the wall in his apartment. He frowned down at his hand like it was a foreign entity, that wasn’t what he meant to do.

The laughter returned, I told you it was a bad idea. Now I think it’s time we have a chat.

Jason felt his legs turn and propel him towards his shoddy bathroom. He clenched his muscles and tried to grab onto the walls as he was forcibly marched into the room.

What the fuck?

His bathroom was bare, a few cracked tiles on the edge, a steel sink that would fit in better at a butcher’s shop than in a house, and a greying porcelain toilet bowl were all that greeted him. He felt his body march up to the grimy mirror overhanging the sink.

He watched his hand raise and wipe the glass in one smooth motion. Fuck what was going on?

“That’s fucking disgusting,” He said as his hand lowered with a new layer of dust covering it.

It’s your house. The voice whispered.

And yeah it was, the bathroom had been next on his list of insomnia cleaning. He just hadn’t gotten to it yet. He griped internally. Apparently, even the voices in his head were critical of his life choices.

Jason stared into the mirror he saw his own blue-green eyes staring back at him. This was… he’d had this dream before. Usually, with the clown laughing in the background, but still this was familiar territory. He didn’t remember passing out, but that didn’t mean much these days, he was lucky to sleep for three hours. Now he just needed to wake up and this awkward out of body experience would end.

The cold laugh started again, I’m afraid you aren’t asleep Jason.

Something started moving against his back. He froze his eyes leaving the mirror as he tried to turn his head and swat at whatever was on him.

Tsk, tsk. No manners, street brat.

His heart pounded. His fingers brushed against something cold and smooth, it felt like a liquid. He pulled his fingers forward. His hand was clean beyond the dust layer. There was nothing there.

Jason turned back to the mirror.

Boo.

He froze. Something black stared at him. It looked like a face, the thing had wide white spots, that were probably meant to be eyes. Its mouth was open, and Jason could see his teeth, all of them, sharp and needle-like. Beyond that, a long pink tongue lulled out of the side of its mouth.

Hello there.

Jason did what any reasonable Gothamite would do. He pulled out his pistol and shot the thing twice in the head.

The thing reared its head back, letting out an offended huff. It blinked at Jason like it couldn’t believe he did that. Then it tilted its head to the side and rolled two lead bullets down its tongue. They clattered to the floor.

Jason looked between the bullets, the non-dead thing, his hand and the mirror. What the fuck was going on?

He noticed a tendril of liquid black following the head back somewhere behind him. He pivoted around only to be met with open air.

Jason, Jason, Jason. The thing chastised as it slunk around to face him.

He could feel its liquid form creeping across his body. Oh god, was this thing attached to him?

Rude the voice chorused.

“What the fuck are you?” Jason breathed. The thing stretched forward so it was now level with his eyes. If it was possible its toothy smile spread even wider.

I am Venom and you are mine.

He blinked, then let out a soft laugh, “Yeah buddy, I don’t think so. Besides, Venom? Is that shit supposed to mean something to me?”

The thing sighed. Sighed at him like he was some annoying dumb little grade schooler and not an up and coming crime lord that’d seen some shit.

As the initial shock of the creature wore off and Jason felt his instincts kick his brain back on, “You’re from that lab,” He realized, his brain finally putting the pieces together. The black liquid, the sudden change in Molly’s actions, “You were that thing inside of Molly!”

Seems you aren’t as dumb as you look. The thing said smirking at him. Then it leaned in closer the white film of its eyes staring blankly at him.

We found you and you are going to help us, Jason. The first order of business is finding food. I haven’t eaten anything since I nibbled on my last host’s pancreas she didn’t even taste that good.

“YOU FUCKING ATE HER!”

Green flooded his vision full force; a low growl clawed its way up his throat.

Jason’s hand shot forward to try to grab Venom’s throat, but his hand merely slipped through like water clanging against the steel sink. Jason howled and clutched his bloody knuckles to his chest.

She wasn’t compatible as a host that means she’s just fuel in the tank. It’s an eat or be eaten world out there. Venom’s tendrils moved slightly in a way that gave the impression of a shrug. Jason spat at him like an angry cat.

“What the fuck even are you?”

The creature flashed its bone white teeth again. Let us say we are not of this world. That’s not important, not now anyway, what's important is you are going to help us.

“News flash you bastard! There is no us! And I got plans for this city and they sure as fuck don’t involve you, so why don’t you take your slimy parasitic ass back to whatever pit you crawled out of and go-”

Jason choked on the last word as a bunch of black slime clenched around his throat like a noose.

I’m not going anywhere, Jason. The thing purred. We can either do this the easy way where I get everything I want, and you help me, or we can do this the hard way where you fight me every step of the way and inevitably lose.

Venom’s face inched closer to Jason’s his long pink tongue licking down the side of his face, leaving a trail of saliva as it went.

Then I ride your body until it’s a useless husk, consuming every part of you from the inside before I move on to a better host. It looked at Jason like he was eyeing an especially juicy and tender steak. So what’s it going to be?

Jason would never claim to be the smartest man in the room, no that trophy would always go to someone else. But if there was one trait he prided himself on it was his ability to be the mouthiest smartass anyone ever met, even upon pain of death. That’s why despite years of training with the league and before that Batman when he opened his mouth what came out next was 100% crime alley kid.

“Yeah, how about we go with the option: fuck you!” Jason spat at the alien. Venom laughed.

Dinner it is.

Venom unhinged his jaw and suddenly he was staring up at a large mass of teeth coming for him. The blackness consumed him.

 

Chapter Text

Jason could feel Venom slip back into his skin. The parasite ran along the insides of his veins like wildfire, torching everything in his path. Jason could see how the creature got his name it hurt like nothing he’d felt since the pit. He couldn’t tell if he was screaming. He couldn’t tell much of anything right now.

 

Some small part of Jason refused to back down. He’d been through hell, he wasn’t about to go down to some alien parasite, not when he still had a bullet with the Joker’s name on it. He clung desperately to that resolve; a safety raft in a sea of pain as his anger burned brighter.

 

He saw green.

 

Someone screamed in pain and Jason’s foggy brain provided that for once it wasn’t him if only because his tongue felt like cotton in his mouth. Green crashed against something black in his field of vision. The acid-like pain was replaced by the more familiar burn of the Lazarus pit.

 

It hurt. It hurt like a bitch. But if the inhuman howls were anything to go by he wasn’t the only one feeling it. Jason felt his muscles spasm as they gave out and the floor rose up to meet him.

 

He laughed as Venom screamed. His head hit the tiled floor of the bathroom with a solid thunk and darkness took him.

 


 

 

Jason felt like he was floating. Not in a warm calm and drowsy state like when he used to wake up in the manor a lifetime ago. No, it was more like he was floating in a turbulent sea where everything was threatening to drown him. He felt thin and rung out, unable to tell up from down as he was tossed in every direction.

 

Every nerve ending in his body ached as he forced his hands under him. The world spun around as he tried to sit up, black dots flashed in his vision. A wave of nausea rushed up from his stomach and he spat bile on the bathroom floor.

 

Shit, it felt like he had a concussion. He raised his hand to his head trying to feel for any blood, but his fingers came away dry. What happened?

 

He fumbled around, crawling over to where he thought the light switch was. It was all he could do to keep moving. God his head was killing him.

 

“Okay Todd, get your shit together.” He muttered, trying to piece the night back together. He remembered going out, an explosion in a lab, then he came home right? He came home and then-

 

Oh, SHIT!

 

“FUCKING HELL NO!” He spat through his teeth, “Where are you? You fucking parasitic bitch!”

 

A black figure rose from his shoulder and slowly shaped itself into a head. Two blank white eyes stared at him. Venom was stretched as far from him as physically possible despite the thin black plasma connecting him to Jason’s skin.

 

Dead meat! he hissed at him, Something is wrong with you. You’re dead meat.

 

Jason blinked at that. The alien slime monster was swaying slightly the eternal toothy smile coming across as a thin line. If Jason didn’t know better he’d say the creature was pacing. Suddenly Venom’s head was at his eye level. Jason leaned away as he peered at him.

 

What are you?

 

Jason let out a low laugh at the unexpected turn in circumstances, “You hitchhike out of that lab in my body, threaten to eat me, and now you want to know what’s wrong with me?”

 

I can’t leave. I tried to while you were unconscious on the floor. Whatever is wrong with you, it won’t let me separate. Dead meat isn’t supposed to walk around! Venom growled baring his teeth.

 

Jason stared at the creature. His mind trying to piece together what the hell just happened. Apparently, the body-snatching creature was afraid of him. Dead meat, huh? That wasn’t exactly accurate last time he checked he still had a pulse. But, then again who knew how much dying and coming back to life fucked with his body’s chemistry.

 

We can’t- that’s not how this works. Symbioties can’t bond to dead things it’d be pointless-

 

His stomach rumbled loudly, cutting off Venom’s tirade half-way. They both looked down at the unceremonious interruption. Jason ignored it. Hunger was a fact of life. It’d been that way since he was a kid, it became a necessity when he trained with Talia now was no different, especially since he had a body-snatching alien he needed to deal with.

 

We need to eat.

 

“There is no we!” Jason snarled, “Besides I think we have more important shit to sort out right now like how to get rid of you!”

 

Venom swayed angrily from side to side. His eyes narrowing as he enunciated slowly like he was talking to a child, We need to eat. I can’t absorb food from your body it’s toxic something is wrong with you.

 

Jason grinned as his battered brain put the pieces together, “In other words, you can’t leave, and you can’t eat me so you’re starving in there.”

 

The alien said nothing. The silence was its own kind of affirmation.

 

Huh, it looked like the problem would sort itself out in time with minimal effort on his part, all it required was a little fasting. He could do that.

 

Venom seemed to catch on to Jason’s train of thought. His eyes narrowed as he inched closer to Jason’s face, I think you misunderstand, just because I cannot leave does not mean I cannot make life miserable for you, dead meat sack. If you starve me I will take joy in separating each nerve in this useless body and watching, you writhe in agony until you beg me to end you.

 

Jason snorted at the threat. “You know it’s the smallest dog that barks the loudest.”

 

Venom leaned back and cocked his head to the side. Explain yourself human.

 

“What I’m saying is I think you’re full of a lot of goddamn shit.” Jason hissed as he glared at Venom, “And I’ll die again before I let you out to eat people in my city, you parasit-”

 

Don’t call me a parasite! Venom roared. His body flared up as he lunged forward sharp teeth hovering inches away from Jason’s neck, We may be stuck together for the foreseeable future. The Symbiote narrowed his eyes, But don’t ever make the mistake that I’m harmless.

 

Jason froze as Venom slithered closer, tightening one of his black tendrils against his neck. The unnatural whiteness of the creature’s eyes bore into Jason’s own. The alien opened his jaw wide, the light-catching against his teeth. Jason could only watch in horror as Venom twisted his mouth and drove his fangs into Jason’s throat with a sickening snap.

 

The pain was brittle, pinpricks blossoming into all-out agony as Venom tore a chunk of flesh away. Jason opened his mouth and a wet gurgle echoed across the room. Blood crawled up the back of his throat, metallic and salty on his tongue. Wetness seemed to cover him as the blood poured down his neck and pooled on his clothing.

 

Well shit… this wasn’t how he planned to go. He’d figured gang violence or assassination would be how he went the second time. Shot to death in an alley would have been more statistically likely. But, then again, Jason thought, his mind feeling fuzzy. Whoever bets on alien body snatchers biting your throat out in the bathroom?

 

With that thought, he sank to his knees and passed out cold for the second time that evening.

 

When he came to his head felt foggy. He lifted himself off the cracked tile floor with a groan as he ran a hand over his face. He was getting really fucking tired of waking up on his bathroom floor.

 

You passed out from blood loss. I patched your neck back together.

 

Jason flinched at the sudden voice. He groaned at the sight of a black entity attached to his shoulder.

 

Jason ran his fingers along his neck for signs of the injury. There was nothing, not so much as a scratch. Jason got to his feet and stepped closer to the dinghy mirror inspecting his throat.  Dried blood clung along his collar staining the cloth a dirty brown and making the shirt stiff. Other than that, his throat looked as good as new.

 

What the fuck did you do freeloader?!”

 

Venom’s eyes narrowed to slits, I’d watch that mouth of yours.

 

Jason glared right back, “And I’d watch where you put those fucking teeth of yours!”

 

Venom suddenly smiled, which honestly was unnerving. Jason watched his long pink tongue lolling out of the side of his mouth, The smallest dogs bite the hardest, Venom threw back at him with a chuckle as he seeped back under Jason’s skin.