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THE BATMAN FROM ANOTHER PLACE

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Motionless, the Red Hood stood his ground above the rooftops of Blüdhaven waiting for the black and blue Nightwing to appear. Even for the warzone that the city was the first Robin had always made it a point to be early to the party. Five minutes late would have been unlike him, but thirty?!? "I sure as hell am not paying for dinner tonight Grayson." The statuesque figure greeted him as he finally made his way to the balcony. "Jason...I-I can't take this anymore." A scoff escaped his lips, "You think I can?!? Do you think I LIKE hurting you?" Richard John "Dick" Grayson dropped his famous Escrima sticks on the ground before tearing off his mask, revealing his identity to the naked city. "That's not...That's not what I'm talking about Jay. I'm talking about THIS!" He outstretched his arms and gestured to the world around him. It would be uncharacteristic of Jason to show kindness toward anyone affiliated with the Wayne family, let alone worry and yet...Jason removed his helmet and tried his best not to scream. He found it next to impossible to keep his voice in a hushed whisper. "ARE YOU FUCKING CRAZY?!? PUT THAT BACK ON! DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE?!? DO YOU KNOW WHO COULD BE WATCHING?!?" Dick shook his head and sighed. "Those who ARE reading...I mean watching don't know who we are Jay. We're wearing masks even when they see our naked bodies." Jason pinched the center of his forehead. 'Yep, the Boy Wonder has finally cracked.' He thought to himself. "What are you talking about?" With a sad smile, Dick reached behind his back and pulled out a black, medium sized, rectangular object with various buttons. After pressing one of them Dick brought the said object up to his lips. "Cooper...3:15am. I need you." Trying to hide the fear in his voice, Jason's voice became even more harsh. "'Cooper'?!? What happened to 'Oracle'? What the hell is going on?!?"

A door leading up to the balcony slowly opened. Whether it was jammed or the unseen "Cooper" wanted to make a dramatic entrance remained to be seen...When Jason finally caught a good look at the stranger he gasped. Although he favored Cary Grant, Gregory Peck and Robert "Napoleon Solo" Vaughn all in one, "Cooper" looked like something from out of this world for he was a three dimensional being. "Cooper" smiled cheerfully, yet cautiously at Jason. The fellow even bowed his head politely! "Hello Mr. Todd. My name is Dale Cooper. I'm a special agent for the FBI. I've heard a lot about you. Don't worry you're not in any trouble." He outstretched his hand for Jason to take. Speechless, Jason glanced at Dick who merely nodded in approval. Jason wearily shook the man's hand, "W-What can I do for you?" Cooper shook his head rejecting the notion. His bright and chipper voice was somehow calming. "Jason, despite the fact that I work for our country's UNCLE Sam I am not President Kennedy. Quite the opposite of his famous speech, I am in fact here to do something for you. I am only here to help."

"How so?" After all that he had been through Jason was skeptical of anyone wanting to truly "help" him. "Jason, I am well aware of the fact of just how much differently I look from you and Dick. Would you believe there is a dimension beyond that which is known to man? A dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity? A middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition that lies between the fit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge?"

"No. I wouldn't believe that at all. It sounds like a load of bunk to me." Dick shot Jason a glare for being rude. Cooper raised his hand. "Dick, As much as I appreciate it this is quite alright. I'm not at all surprised you don't believe it, Jason. After all that methodology came from CBS. Bat-channel is ABC. I, too, come from ABC." Jason rolled his eyes. "I thought you came from FBI." Cooper raised a finger at Jason. "Ah, but wouldn't you know that Alfred Pennyworth once worked for FBI on ABC and that is how I met and became acquainted with your vocal family butler!" Jason scrunched his face in confusion. "Alfred worked for the FBI?" Cooper nodded proudly. "The best we ever had. It just goes to show what poor of a student Bruce is." He winked at Jason making him smile. "Alright. I'll buy that. What else are you selling?"

"Jason, what I am about to show you cannot be unseen. I will take you to a place both wonderful and strange. From there where you want to go will be entirely up to you and Dick." Nightwing gently grabbed the Red Hood's gloved hand. "I've been there before Jay. It may be frightening, but I want you to know that I've got you." Jason scoffed, "What made YOU care about me all of a sudden?" Dick kissed his lips before whispering gibberish in his ear he somehow understood like a second language.
"Tuo dnif noos ll'uoy."
("You'll soon find out.")
Despite all resistance, Jason found himself melting inside Dick's embrace and closed his eyes...

~--~--~
~--~--~
Upon opening his eyes, something told Jason he wasn't in Gotham anymore. For directly in front of him sat what looked like an evil "Munchkin". On his right, Dick smiled at Jason comfortingly. On his left, Cooper stood in a solitary position. However Jason still could not shake off the uneasy feeling of just who or what was sitting in front of him. It looked like a small man wearing a red suit, the same shade of which colored Jason's helmet. The "man" held a menacingly mischievous gleam in his eye as he ever so slowly rubbed his hands together. His demeanor reminded Jason of the Joker. The man must have caught on to this because he suddenly stopped moving altogether. Instead he glared threateningly at Jason as if in warning.
"I'm not scared of you."
"Eb dluohs uoy. Ma I ohw wonk uoy od?"
("You should be. Do you know who I am?")
"No. I don't believe I've had the pleasure and it sure as hell isn't one now."
With the snap of a finger, the man made a flame of hellfire burn bright in front of Jason's face.
"Mih ot yas uoy tahw hctaw."
("Watch what you say to him.") Dick and Cooper spoke in unison. The son of a bitch had hypnotized Dick. No wonder Dick had kissed him. He felt sick to his stomach and as used as a two-dollar whore. Was "Cooper" a demon too?
"Mra eht ma I."
("I am the arm.")
The "man" began to laugh uncontrollably imitating the Joker.
As soon as Jason realized the Joker COULD have been imitating the "Man", silence filled the room as if nothing had happened.
"Tsaq ti si or erutuf ti si?"
("Is it future or is it past?")
Jason merely blinked a few times allowing his mind to process everything.
"Why me?"
The "Man" tilted his head to the side and smiled.
"EVIL! EVIL! EVIL! EVIL! EVIL! EVIL!"
("LIVE! LIVE! LIVE! LIVE! LIVE! LIVE!")
-
"EVIL! EVIL! EVIL! EVIL! EVIL! EVIL!"
("LIVE! LIVE! LIVE! LIVE! LIVE! LIVE!")
-
"EVIL! EVIL! EVIL! EVIL! EVIL! EVIL!"
("LIVE! LIVE! LIVE! LIVE! LIVE! LIVE!")
Jason was good at puzzles he knew what it meant.
~{"EVIL" repeated six times, three times in a row. "6-6-6"}~
~--~--~
~--~--~
One blink later and Jason found himself lying in Dick's arms. The unmasked Nightwing was gently stroking his hair. Dick knew what it meant when Jason's streak of white stood straight up. That son of a bitch controlled everything and everyone at his whim. Yet Dick still felt guilty. He gently kissed Jason's lips which Dick found to be a representation of his soul. Rough and tender, but somehow naturally sweeter than sugar. "Where were you?" Dick closed his eyes unable to answer. "Jason, I call him 'The Man from Another Place'. I wouldn't necessarily call him a demon, but certainly not an angel. Because of him horrible atrocious crimes have been committed. Some could say he exists within the innermost dwellings of our consciousness. As human beings we often find ourselves at a crossroads asking should we do something good or evil. Some would say this has plagued man ever since he found himself on dry land standing upright on two legs. Some also say that Eve was made from the rib of Adam. Some listen to MSNBC and some listen to Fox News." Jason reached inside his jacket pocket and pulled out a cigarette. Dick lit it for him. "What happened?" Cooper approached Jason, offering him a hand up. Jason looked up at Dick before shaking his head. A smile flashed on Cooper's lips and was gone as quick as it came. "You passed out before we could do anything. It happened so fast..." Jason sighed, "That's the second time this has happened." Concern grew in Cooper's eyes. "You've met him before?" Jason shook his head, "No...I don't know. It's the second time I was unable to be saved." Realization dawned on Cooper's face. "Ah about that..." Jason nodded. "I know. It was him." Cooper shrugged, "I wouldn't necessarily say that...Dick, it's now or never." Dick looked up from the cold roof he was sitting on. "I don't know how to say something like this." Cooper nodded understanding, "By trying. It's easier than you think." Dick stared down at Jason's trusting eyes. "This isn't the real world Jason. Look at Dale and than at me. What's the difference? You and me...We're cartoon characters. They say money is the root of all evil and when it comes to Gotham they're absolutely fucking right." Dick reached above their heads, grabbed an edge of the panel and handed it to Jason. "Either the sky is falling or we're living inside of a comic book..."

"D@mn this comic $uck$ @$$!" Deadpool stared at the artwork. "Stealing the fourth wall is MY shtick!"

"Maybe today, but you half-assed attempts wouldn't be around if it weren't for people like us. I don't know just who in the fuck you're trying to kid, but I'm Chevy Chase and you're not. Take it from me Kid a new day is just around the corner and so is someone ready to steal your act!" A white man with a black afro sporting a Lakers jersey swung his golf club in the air in pride.

"Now, I've noticed a tendency for this tale to get rather silly. Now I do my best to keep things moving along, but I'm not having things getting silly. Those last two characters I wrote were very silly indeed, not to mention offensive and a bit suspect I might add. Now, nobody likes a good laugh more than I do...except perhaps my sister and some of her friends...oh yes and Captain Sullenberger. Come to think of it most people like a good laugh more than I do. But that's beside the point. Now as the late great Fred Herbert would say, let'sh shtart thish again..."

..."We're living inside of a comic book. We're nothing more than characters inside of a story that has been told by various writers for more than eighty fucking years. Degradation exists Jason, we're living proof of it." Cooper nodded. "Tell me about it. I'd hate to relive the last of my series again. After Laura's story ended things got REALLY weird. I'm just glad my friendship with Denise led her brother Fox to save my life. I'd hate to think where things could have gone if he and his partner hadn't shown up...In fact, we're not gonna talk about Annie at all."

"I-I'm-I'm not so sure about that...I distinctly remember breaking the fourth wall in Annie Hall! In fact..."
"RIGHT! I warned...Woody?!? What the devil are you doing here?"
"Wh-Why Montgomery P..."
-BANG-
"...Shtart again..."
"Fine I didn't want to be in this story anyway. I-I really have better things to do with my time like hell-helping my girlfriend with her homework!"
-BANG BANG-

"...Degradation exists Jason, we're living proof of it. It breaks my heart to remember how innocent this world used to be and what it turned into." A troubling thought occurred in Jason's mind, "Is it my fault?" Dick kissed his forehead. "Of course not. I wouldn't have traded meeting you for the world...You are my world Jason." The younger, former Robin smiled brightly. "You're mine Dick, but what about Barbara and the other girls?" Dick sighed, "What about them?" Dick rubbed the back of his neck feeling ashamed. "I'll tell you. You deserve to know...The writers...They contractually obligated me to have those relationships. They forced me. Hell I'm just glad nothing was shown explicitly." Jason threw out his cigarette, sat up and hugged the disheveled Nightwing close to him. "Heterosexual propaganda." Dick nodded, "Do you actually think someone with a name that could easily be mistaken for 'Dick Greasin' and having a body like mine belongs to that of a heterosexual male or a homosexual one? You know my best assit...I mean asset." Jason shushed him, rocking Dick back and forth. "You don't have a best asset Dick. Each and every part of you is perfect. As much as I hate labels Dick I don't think your homosexuality has been that easy to hide." Dick laughed. "Damn straight! They tried to write us as brothers, but at least they didn't do to us what James Cameron did to John Connor and Kyle Reese's relationship...There is one last thing I should tell you. It certainly makes everything else I've told you easier to live with. Jason...I wish you knew how hard it is for me to say this..." The unmasked Hood continued to gently rock the first Robin back and forth. "The writers killed you." Dick suddenly sat still. He sighed. "Everyone saw you as 'my replacement'. Readers hated you and so a poll with multiple telephone numbers were notched up. 'If you want Jason Todd to die call...' or 'If you want Jason Todd to live call 1-900-720-2660' I guess I don't have to tell you which one I chose. You don't know what living on a policeman's salary is like Jay and I still spent everything I fucking could to call that number repeatedly. Each and every time I was told 'We're sorry characters are not allowed to vote.' That didn't stop ME Jason Peter Todd. The vote was drawn and...I knew the panel was coming...I tried so goddamn hard to move my ink stain of a body. I still to this day wish it was me in that situation instead of you." Jason began to rock Dick back and forth once more. "As stubborn as I am, even if we had the choice, I wouldn't have let that happen. I could never blame you Dick...hey...hey it's okay...You know I love you." Dick muffled himself in Jason's shoulder. "THAT'S WHY IT HURTS! OH Jason I wish I could put into words how much I love you, but 'love' is not a big enough word. All those times 'you' blamed me for your death...I knew they weren't coming from you, but from writers mocking me and making a profit out of it. It...It was like you were a puppet. Oh Christ what a horrifying, mortifying...They...They're still doing it Jay. I've got to get out of here Jason! I can't take it! I just can't take it anymore!" Jason balled his fists up in anger, but eased as the memory of a song he knew emerged in the back of his mind. "How deep is OUR love? I real-lee need to learn...'cause we're...leh-vin in a word of fools...brea-a-ken us down...when they all should let us be...we belong to you and me...I believe in you. I believe in you Dick." Jason earned a kiss that he immediately repaid in full. "I believe in you too Jay. There is a way out of here though. Dale came to me in a dream, Jay, and he told me about it."
"He's right, Jason. You see after Fox 'Mulder' Bryson saved my life...He tends to just go by 'Fox Mulder' because of the work he's involved with he's incredibly reluctant for anyone to know his genuine surname. I'm honored to be among the select few who do and thanks to my mouth you now do as well! Well after he saved my life I went on vacation with my wife and visited her parents down in North Carolina. An incident happened there when I was a teenager and it's always stayed with me...Painful memories often stay with you through the years no matter how many tears are shed. I was driven to reminisce familiar sights and in one of them I found a funny looking rectangular object that I thought was some sort of toy. It wasn't. Like a beam of light, my energy leaped and contorted into several different...Are you familiar with the 'Quantum Theory'? I somehow found a hole leading from one portal in space and time to the next. I met my...I guess you could call it 'counterpart' who played me in a television series. My world was forever turned upside down after I knew this, but I gained several good friends out of it. Two of whom I am currently speaking to."
"I see how the Twilight Zone fits into this. Did Rod know?"
"And how! It is still classified information, but after finding out about you two I knew you deserved to be let in on a secret of just how exactly death can be cheated. There is, in California, a place known as 'Hollywoodland'. I'm sure you're aware of it. What many don't realize, however, is that while this city is built-up of several sections, one of them is a place called 'Toontown'. It was named after 'Tinseltown', a bit of a pun really, where cartoon characters live and work on and off the set and screen. Larry Fine and Moe, Curly and Shemp Howard helped finance the residential district. Of course if you both would like another option of a place to live a certain town named 'Pleasantville' comes to mind. Regardless, I came here to Gotham to help you both escape and form a new life where you will be more than happy, but safe as well. When these comics started back in the '40s, there was hardly any threat of danger. Believe me when the boys at Warner's and DC, that's Comics not Washington, see you you'll be set for life. You both are entitled to much more than just payment from a mere lawsuit. If Warner's knew your true story I could easily see another 'Casablanca' on the horizon. I'm also doing this in the name of an American icon who helped the war effort by the name of Vic Morrow."
"Jesus just how connected are you with the Twilight Zone?"
"More than I could ever say, Jason. More than I could ever say."

"Listen I know I'm being selfish in asking this, but do either of you realize that you're practically living inside of an Edward Hopper painting? One of my favorites in fact. Are there any diners near here where I could get a cup of coffee?" Dick flashed a smile, "Are you kidding?!? Only the best one in the whole damn world is just a short block from here! Oh Jason he has to try a little slice of heaven..."
"A slice of heaven for an angel...Make that two angels. My treat this time Dick."

Nightwing in full regalia, a masked Jason Todd with helmet planted firmly on the seat beside him and special agent Dale Cooper seated on the opposite side of the counter. "Phillies" was known for being open all night even if it was empty of customers. Phil had a lot of people working for him and even more who owed him their time. He owned four diners which were damn near impossible to differentiate. One in Gotham, Blüdhaven, Chicago and Las Angeles. Two Dicks were in love with their respected locations. One had the surname of Grayson, the other Tracy. "Evening Frank." Jason and Grayson greeted him in unison.
"Morning actually."
"It's still dark isn't it Frank?"
"Yeah. So?"
"So it's evening."
"Very funny Hood. I just hope your money is where your mouth is."
Jason reached out a fifty dollar bill from his pants pocket and slapped it on the table.
"Will this cover it?"
"That's a lot to be carrying around Hood even for what you're packing."
"Yeah well I might just be packing something else tomorrow night." Jason earned a swift kick from Dick which thankfully went unnoticed. Acrobats are known for stretching after all, the mere thought of it was obviously counted as another asset by his lover.
"The usual?"
"Would we be having anything else Frank?"
"I just hope part of that fifty is included as a tip."
"It could be if I was so inclined..."
"I get it. I get it...What would you like Mistah?"
"Darkest coffee you have. Black as midnight on a moonless night. Do you have any pie?"
"Cherry and Chocolate Fudge."
"I would love a slice of Cherry."
"You got it."
"How deep is that Chocolate Fudge Pie Frank?" Another kick.
"You look at it and tell me Kid." Dick's crimson face suited Jason's helmet like a match made in heaven.
"Boy you're really pushing for that tip aren't ya?" Another kick. Jason wondered if he was going to walk out of the place with a limp.

"This is...excuse me...a DAMN fine cup of coffee!"
"What are you a nut?"
"Well Sir as the expression goes, 'You are what you eat' I would like to point out the fact that while certain nuts are used to make coffee I suppose it makes me 'nuts'. Not just one."
"He's from out of town."
"I can tell."
Frank didn't get much of a tip that night, but Jason did try to warn him.
Sure enough the next issue of "Nightwing" and "Red Hood and the Outlaws" were completely blank from cover to cover. The first film the two saw on a date? RKO's "The Purple Rose of Cairo". (Red + Blue = Purple) It might have just been their imagination, but they felt as if the film was somehow trying to embrace their love and celebrate their victory to freedom...The fundamental things apply as time goes by.