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Forged in Fire

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Rage. That was what he had been filled with for as long as he could remember. Jason Todd grew up on the streets with a drug addled mother and a career criminal father who took off and left them to fend for themselves. From the moment he had been born, Jason’s life he been cruel, unfair, and nobody cared, nobody batted an eye.

And when his mother finally died, when he was only twelve, he was forced to employ the skills his father had taught him to survive. He stole, often times employing violence and then escaping the cops by hiding in the sewers with the rest of Gotham’s unfortunate. It wasn’t until he was fourteen when things started to turn around for him.

Fortune, it seemed, favored him that day, that fateful day when his entire life changed. He found the batmobile, parked and left alone on the streets of the Bowery, and with a tire iron in hand, he went about trying to steal its tires. He’d gotten the last one off when he looked up and was staring down Batman. His first thought? Shit.

But that turned out to be the first bright moment in his life. Batman took him off the streets and to an orphanage, not the shitty run down hell hole in the Bowery, but in Midtown, a rather decent place. At first, he had been pretty angry because he felt abandoned once again, but only because those were the only two things he’d known his whole life; abandonment and anger.

But it turned out to be just another shit hole after all; the man in charge was training these kids to be criminals, and those who refused the work were starved for several days at a time. Fortunately, Batman returned and revealed his secret identity to Jason; Bruce Wayne, billionaire, playboy philanthropist. The man adopted him, much to his surprise, and trained him to become Robin, Boy Wonder. It was truly the happiest moment in his life.

Fighting crime alongside Batman, being the son of Bruce Wayne, but more importantly, being able to live a real life, to not have to live in fear of starving, to not have to fight tooth and nail to merely survive, it was...there were no words. Jason could scarcely believe that his life had turned around so drastically.

But then he met Dick Grayson, the first Robin, now Nightwing. Dick became like his older brother, someone else other than Bruce who cared for him, who gave the time to get to know him. Someone almost his age. By this time, he was 15 and Dick had recently celebrated his 18th. But this brotherly bond they shared, slowly started to turn into something more...at least for Jason. He began to admire Dick; his personality, his compassion for others, the way he looked past all of Jason’s faults to see the good. And then on the physical side, there was absolutely no denying that the man was gorgeous. Well built body, strong and agile, the body of an highly skilled acrobat and fighter.

But, more than that, Dick had managed something Jason had never thought possible. Dick soothed his anger, calmed his rage, and chased away the darkness. When he was with Dick, he could forget the darkness of his own past. Bruce took him in and gave him a new life, but Dick saved him.

He didn’t know if it was love, maybe a sort of platonic brotherly bond more than anything else. He wasn’t really sure, because he’d never experience...well, any of this before. From the moment he showed up at the manor, Dick welcomed him with open arms. The first thing the older boy had done when he showed up was hug him, and that threw him for a loop. Nobody had ever truly cared for him before...

And then, when things finally started to look up for him again, the darkness came back. Because then...he died...

* * * * *

The Red Hood stood on the roof of Gotham Cathedral, looking out over the city below. He was decked out in heavy black Kevlar armor with a red bat symbol on the chest, with light Kevlar at the joints for maximum flexibility. He wore a black jacket with dark camouflage paramilitary pants, black metallic gauntlets and boots with small blades on the sides. But the most telling feature was his blood red mask with ghost white lenses. It had been five years now, five long years but he was home at last and things hadn’t changed at all. That was a problem he had returned to correct, to clean up after his mentor.

The first phase of his plan had been completed; sneaking his men into Gotham City. Next would be to take over the gangs and go after Black Mask. And lastly on his shit list; the Joker. He wasn’t going to make the same mistake Bruce made; he was going to out two, right in the Joker’s skull. He wasn’t going to let anyone stop him or get in his way.

“Sir, what are your orders? We’ve slain all their lieutenants as ordered,” one of his men asked over the comm link. The Red Hood was silent for a moment, watching as the cars below flew past.

“Take their heads. Send word of a meeting. Gather up the city’s crime lords. We’re going to have a little chat,” he replied.

“Right away, sir,” came the reply. He pulled out a grappling hook and dived off the building, firing the gun and then swinging off into the dark of night.

* * * * *

Seven men and a woman sat around a table in an abandoned warehouse, several bodyguards surrounding each of them. The room was thick with the smell of tobacco smoke, but also apprehension. Nobody seemed to know who called this ‘meeting’ and that seemed to put them all on edge; especially considering the heavily armed bodyguards each one of them possessed. The atmosphere tensed because violence could break out at any moment.

“...You didn’t set this up? Then whose party is this?” Leon demanded to know, approaching the table and pointing at each of them. They all looked at each other, trying to determine who set this up, when suddenly their bodyguards started dropping dead. Panicked, they all jumped to their feet and attempted to escape, but they soon found themselves surrounded by heavily armed men. They wore Kevlar armor hidden beneath simple street clothing and wielding high-tech military weapons.

“I’m the one who called the meeting. Now sit down, shut up, and listen, or I’ll blow you all the fuck away,” came a voice from the catwalks above. The Red Hood stepped out of the shadows and revealed himself, toting an AK-47. He leaned against the railing and looked down at the scum below.

“And who the fuck are you?!” One of the drug lords growled. The Red Hood made a mock gasping sound.

“Oh my, where are my manners!” He tossed a duffel bag onto the table below and said “you can call me the Red Hood. Or boss. Open it up and have a little peak.” The Crime Lords looked at the bag wearily before one of them reached for it and tugged the zipper open. Inside the found the heads of all their lieutenants. One of them doubled over and threw up and the others staggered back in a mix of fear, shock and disgust.

“Black Mask is a boil on Gotham’s ass, a boil I’m going to lace. And you’re going to help me,” Hood said smoothly, pacing back and forth on the walkway above. He turned to the drug lords below and pointed his gun down at them.

“Here’s the deal; you kick up forty percent of your profits to me and you get to go about your way, keep the other sixty percent, and oh yeah, most importantly, you get to live.” The Red Hood leaned against the railing and added “oh yeah, and no dealing to children. If I catch you on any schoolyards, using children as mules, dealing to children, involving them in anyway, I’ll hunt you down and blow your brains out.” He stood up straight then and fired off a bunch of rounds onto the table below.

“Understood?”

“What about Batman?” One of them, a woman asked. Red Hood laughed in amusement and waved his hand dismissively.

“Batman wont be a problem. You’ll have my protection, but it extends only to Gotham...You let me handle Batman and Black Mask, you just go about your business. The only difference is now you work for me and my crew.” The Crime bosses exchanged looks, skeptical, but given their current situation.

“Sounds like a deal,” one of them replied.

“Good. Let them go,” he called to his men who lowered their weapons. The Crime Lords moved to leave, but The Red Hood stopped them, clearing his throat.

“One more thing,” he said in a low tone. They looked up at him patiently, waiting for him to speak.

“Spread the word; Black Mask’s days are done and Gotham belongs to the Arkham Knights now.” The Crime Lords exchanged another round of glances before shuffling out of the building. Hood hopped down from the catwalk above and leaned his gun against his shoulder, heading for the exit with his men trailing behind him.

“What’s our next move, sir?” one of them asked. Red Hood glanced over his shoulder and laughed.

“Our next move? Now we build our network. Go to the homeless, spread the word. They’ll be our ears and eyes throughout the city,” he turned to his men waving his arm out in an arc in front of all of them.

“Let it be known that they have our direct protection. Anyone harms them, we blow their asses away. If any of them decline to work for us, let them go their own way,” he continued, turning toward the exit. He kicked down the door and finished “they will be well taken care of. Gotham’s Elite have freeloaded long enough. It’s time to make a change. Is that understood?”

“Yes sir,” they all said in unison before dispersing. Red Hood looked up to the bat symbol in the sky and his eyes narrowed.

“And you, my old friend...you’re right at the top of my shit list.”

Chapter Text

A black haired twelve year old boy stood in front of China Docks with a ‘package’ hidden in a side bag. Young Jason Todd had been taken in by the local street gangs, the leader of whom chose him to ‘deliver the goods’. So here he was, nervous, but unafraid, looking around nervously and waiting for the Dealer.

“So, you’re the little runt that’s got the goods?” came a voice from behind him. A man in a hoodie with a buzz cut and a scar beneath his eye stepped out of the shadows and Jason clutched the bag tightly. This was not the man he was to deliver to.

“Who are you?” Jason asked boldly, eyes narrowing. The man laughed and approached him, pulling out a knife.

“None of your business, punk. Just give me the goods, and I wont rip you open like your friend over there,” the man sneered, nodding toward the dead man in the shadows. Jason squinted and realized then, that that was the man he was supposed to deliver to. For the first time in his young life, he felt a pang of fear; he could die here.

“Fuck off, this isn’t for you,” Jason snapped, standing his ground. The man laughed in amusement and approached him.

“You’re a brave little fuck. Brave, and stupid. Give me the god damn drugs, or I’ll gut your sorry little ass,” the man snarled.

“Fuck you!” Jason shouted, running past the man. The thug grabbed the strap of the bag and brought the knife toward Jason, but he slipped his arm out of the strap and avoided being sliced. The man growled and lunged at him, but Jason retaliated with a classic; he kicked the man in the balls. The man cursed in pain and doubled over and Jason ran from the scene, forgetting completely about the drugs.

When he returned to the safe house, the gang boss, Marcus, glared at him.

“Did you get the job done?” He snapped. Jason shook his head.

“The guy was dead. Some druggie killed him. I barely got away,” he replied, catching his breath. Marcus growled angrily.

“Did you get the damn drugs at least?!” He growled, taking a threatening step forward. Jason flinched but shook his head, earning a slap in the face.

“Get the fuck out of my sight you worthless little piece of shit.” When the hand collided with his face, the first thing that filled Jason was anger; he could have been killed, and this dirt bag only cared about his drugs?! He wanted to lash out, to strike back, but he was surrounded by men and could easily be killed.

“Aw, I think the little punk is gonna cry!” one of the men taunted. They all pointed and laughed and Jason stormed out of the building.

* * * * *

The Red Hood glared down at China Docks, sitting on top of a building across the way. A huge drug shipment was set to come in tonight for Black Mask, and The Red Hood and his men were determined to see that it didn’t get through. He saw several of Black Mask’s men gathering around a shipping crate, ready to pry it open.

“Time to move! Engage!” he called over the comm link. Suddenly, his men jumped out from the shadows, armed to the teeth and surrounded Black Mask’s men.

“Orders sir?” one of them asked.

“Execute,” he replied. With the sound of gun fire, all of Black Mask’s men had been gunned down. Red Hood grinned widely as, right on time, Batman made an appearance.

“Withdraw. Let Batman take over. We’re not prepared to engage him just yet,” The Red Hood instructed.

“Yes sir,” his men replied as they quickly scattered back into the shadows from whence they came. They weren’t ready, but he was. The second half of tonight’s mission was his alone; letting Batman know that he was now in charge of Gotham.

“Robin,” Batman muttered, turning to the boy behind him, who couldn’t have been any older than sixteen and said “contact the GCPD. I’m going to investigate further.” Robin gave a curt nod and set about doing as he was told. Batman moved slowly around the dead bodies littering the docks to the shipping crate loaded with drugs. His eyes narrowed, finding that fact...curious. Why kill Black Mask’s men, but leave the drugs behind? There was a small fortune here.

“Well, well, well, if it isn’t Batman,” came a voice. Batman turned around, hardly surprised, knowing the man was there.

“Not surprised to see me, are you?”

“Hardly. Your Arkham Knights have been causing quite a stir on Gotham recently. Judging from the gear, I guess you must be the Red Hood.” Hood gave a mock bow.

“You are correct.” The two of them stared each other down in silence for several long moments until Robin came up beside Batman.

“It’s done, the GCPD is on their way. Is that the Red Hood?” Robin asked, silently wondering why they weren’t engaging him. But this man was new, and Batman didn’t know anything about him. Yet.

“Waiting for me to make the first move, huh? Classic. And predictable. But I’m not here for a fight. Not tonight,” the Red Hood said smoothly.

“Then why are you here? For the drugs?” Batman asked. Red Hood snorted and pulled out a lighter, lighting it and tossing it into the crate, letting the drugs burn.

“I could care less. I’m here to warn you; Gotham is mine now. Stay out of my way,” he said in a low, threatening tone, drawing a single handgun. But neither Batman nor Robin moved a muscle.

“What do you mean, yours?” Batman asked, eyes narrowing.

“I mean exactly that. You have failed time, after time to save Gotham. Well, I aim to fix what you can’t, to mend the things you’ve broken, and save Gotham from itself. So stand out of my way, and let someone with a spine handle the crime fighting from now on, got it?” He snarled. He glanced over toward Robin and then laughed out loud.

“Well, isn’t that adorable! What’s that, the third Robin now? Take my advice kid; run. Head for the hill and don’t look back,” he said darkly, glaring at Batman. Batman’s eyes narrowed as Hood continued “this man will get you killed. You’re nothing but a pawn to him, expendable. He doesn’t care about you. He didn’t care about his last Robin, and I’d wager he didn’t give a flying fuck about the first. He uses people until they no longer serve their purpose.”

Robin took a threatening step forward, growling at the man as he drew a batarang from his utility belt.

“What would you know about it? You’re just a thug!” The Red Hood chuckled in amusement.

“More than you know, kid,” he muttered.

Try as he might to control his anger, something about the man’s words struck a chord in him. Batman quickly threw several batarangs at the man, but he drew another pistol and fired several rounds, hitting and deflecting them all, then retreating, by grappling up to the building behind him. Batman gave chase, following suit with Robin behind him.

The Red Hood raced across the roof tops, jumping from building to building, sliding down a shingled roof and down to a fire escape below, crashing through a window of an abandoned building, leaping down through a hole in the floor, crashing through another window from the second floor and down onto a motorcycle below, racing off into the night.

Batman and Robin followed his path, but as soon as he hopped onto the motorcycle, they knew he’d be lost; he could go where the batmobile could not.

“What now, Batman?” Robin asked. Batman was silent as he watched the trail of where the man went.

“For now, we return to the cave and follow up on the leads we’ve collected so far,” he replied, typing a few commands into his gauntlet and summoning the batmobile. He and Robin hopped into the car and sped off, but no sooner had they begun the trip home, that Oracle contacted them.

“Batman, it’s Oracle.”

“Go ahead,” Batman replied.

“I just got a report in, but The Arkham Knight’s are attacking the Cape Carmine Lighthouse. Black Mask has apparently been using it as a safe house and has well over a million dollars worth of drugs and equipment there. It’s looking like it might be a bloodbath.”

“On it Oracle, Batman out. Batman turned the car and headed for the clocktower that Oracle used as a base and stopped the car outside, popping open the droor.

“Wait here with Oracle, Robin.”

“But-”

“That’s an order!” he snapped. His expression softened as Robin hopped out of the car.

“It’s too dangerous,” he said simply, racing off toward Cape Carmine.

* * * * *

Jason pulled off the helmet as he slipped into his safe house in Uptown Gotham. It was a decent enough apartment, bought and paid for with the money he’d gained from the kickbacks he got from the gangs. Whatever he didn’t need, went to Gotham’s homeless, specifically the children.

He peeled of his gear and flopped down onto the couch, heaving a sigh. Things were going smoothly so far,going according to plan. There were three major players in Gotham; Black Mask, Penguin, and Mario Falcone. Going after Black Mask was part of his revenge plan.

Going after Penguin would cut off Batman from a valuable source of Underworld information, and going after Mario Falcone was to get the Falcone stranglehold off of Gotham once and for all. For decades now, the Falcone Crime Family had their filthy hands all over Gotham’s justice system, strangle it, using it to keep operating using fear and intimidation, and in some cases, violence and murder.

The Arkham Knights were here to change that and since Batman’s way had failed to work, then they were going to use force, lethal force if necessary. In five years, one fact had been made clear to Jason; people don’t change, not really. Once a criminal, always a criminal and the only people capable of change, were children if they were given a chance. But if you grew up with the wrong parents, if you were raised in the wrong neighborhood, if you were denied that chance, then you turned into an amoral monster like most of Gotham’s thugs.

Many of Gotham’s children had no choice but to turn to crime, to the thugs more than willing to use them for their own ends, in order to survive. Jason’s anger boiled every time he saw a child dealing drugs, every time he saw a teenagers selling their bodies just to survive, just to make ends meet.

Because he’d lived hat life, and he’d been saved by that life, by someone he foolishly believed cared about him. But when it came down to it, when he had been captured and killed, his murderer was let go, sent back to Arkham to break out and repeat the cycle again. And his anger only rose when he saw that Batman had a new Robin. At first, he was pissed that he’d been replaced, like he never mattered. But then, he became furious, because another child was being used, treated like a solider and would likely be heartlessly discarded.

Batman-no Bruce Wayne-had to pay. Him and the Joker. And when he was finished with them, Gotham’s corrupt core would be next on his shit list. Under his rule, he could keep the peace. By getting his hands dirty, controlling Gotham’s crime, other people wouldn’t have to. So yeah, part of him was being selfish, using all of this as a justification for revenge, though he personally saw it as Justice, but he was willing to sacrifice his own needs and wants to see that no innocent would ever again suffer.

And to that end, his men were under strict orders; you catch any thug using and abusing a child in any way, shape or form, you kill it.

Chapter Text

Dick sat in the living room, reading the book Artemis Fowl. He’d seen Alfred reading them on occasion and decided to give it a read and found he really liked it. He was so bored, especially since Wally’d left to go home for the night, but he didn’t realize how interesting his night was about to get.

He watched as Alfred made for the door, swinging it open for Bruce to come through, who flashed Alfred a smile. But there was someone else with him. A young boy, no older than fourteen and in rather raggedy clothes came in behind him, looking around the manor in awe.

“And who is this, might I inquire?” Alfred asked. Bruce turned and patted the boy on the back.

“This is Jason Todd. He’ll be living with us from now on,” Bruce said, glancing down at the boy and flashing a smile. Jason looked around the room again, slack-jawed expression on his face.

“I’ll be...living here?!” he asked incredulously.

“Yes,” Bruce said, then knelt down in front of the boy and placed his hands on his shoulders, looking directly into the boy’s eyes as he said “and you’ll never have to steal or go hungry again.” Dick watched closely, his heart aching for the poor boy. He was lucky enough to have had a family that loved him before they were taken away, but this boy, it sounded like he didn’t have anyone. And then his heart damn near shattered at what happened next.

“I...have a family...I don’t...I” Jason started to cry. He fell to his knees and hugged Bruce as tight as he could and just cried, because for the first time in his life, he didn’t have to fight to survive. He didn’t have to steal, he didn’t have to beat anyone up, he could live. He could live a real life! He didn’t have to live in fear and darkness anymore. And Bruce held the boy as he cried.

Dick hopped off the couch and Alfred and Bruce watched him curiously. Jason dried his eyes and looked up at Dick, eyes wide.

“You’re Dick Grayson,” he said with a bit of awe in his tone. Dick gave the boy a warm smile and hugged him tight to his chest.

“Welcome to the family. I’m so glad you’re here! I guess that makes me your big brother!” Jason smiled widely at the idea, fighting down a blush; because honestly, he wasn’t sure how to deal with these kinda of emotions...specifically, crushes.

* * * * *

Nightwing swung from roof top to roof top with acrobatic grace, flipping through the air with ease as he made his way to Admiral Docks, where he’d heard that Bane and his street gang were trying to muscle their venom business back into Gotham. That wasn’t going to happen, not on his watch, and frankly, Nightwing still held a bit of a grudge; Bane had broken Batman’s back last time, so this was personal.

Besides that, there were these “Arkham Knights” he’d been hearing about. Bludhaven would be fine for a week or two without him, but for now, Batman needed help, whether or not he wanted to admit it. And he never admitted it.

Batman and Robin were busy clear on the other side of Gotham dealing with a drug deal, The Red Hood’s men, so Nightwing, with Oracle’s help, made his way down to Admiral Docks to deal with Bane. He sat perched on top of a building across the way from the docks, watching Bane’s thugs loading up crates of what he assumed was venom onto trucks.

“Well, time to get to work,” Nightwing muttered to himself, drawing his escrima sticks. He jumped down from the top of the building and silently moved across the way to the docks, unnoticed, and then the hunt began. One by one, he began picking Bane’s men off as he moved toward the ship where he guess Bane was hiding Of course, things didn’t go quite as planned, because he heard the roar of engines and the squealing of tires, followed by the sound of gun shots. And then-

“Gotham belong to the Arkham Knights! Bane was warned not to show his face in Gotham again and now you all get to pay the price!” came a voice from the streets behind him. Nightwing cursed under his breath; he had to hurry if he wanted to keep Bane alive.

He had mixed feelings about these ‘Arkham Knights’ were he completely honest; on one hand, they were actually keeping crime low, while dealing with the other gangs. On the other hand, they were killing people.

Nightwing jumped up on top of the crates and waited while Bane’s men raced toward the commotion; he felt bad for them because they didn’t stand a chance. The ‘Arkham Knights’ fought and operated more like a well-trained mercenary unit rather than a simple street gang. Once most of his men were out of the way, he moved onto the ship and quickly disabled the few men on the upper deck of the ship. Fortunately, he didn’t have to look too hard for Bane, because the man came up from below to check out the commotion himself.

“Nightwing. Why am I not surprised?” Bane growled. Nightwing snorted and waved his hand dismissively

“Now’s not the time Bane. The Arkham Knights are here to kill you. I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that,” Nightwing said quickly and Bane just laughed in amusement. But he wasn’t laughing long. Some of the Arkham Knights were moving onto the ship to come after him.

“Stop! You defeated his gang, there’s not need to kill him!” Nightwing demanded, escrima sticks at the ready. It’d be a tough fight, since they were so heavily armed and well trained, but there was only four of them on the ship at the moment; the rest were still engaged with the rest of Bane’s gang.

“Sir, Nightwing is here on the scene. Orders?” one of the men asked.

“Do not engage,” came a voice from above. Nightwing looked toward the source to see The Red Hood himself hop down from a shipping crate suspended above them.

“Anyone who harms Nightwings, gets a bullet to the head, understood?” Hood barked. Then men simply answered with a unanimous ‘yes sir’. Bane growled and charged in at the Red Hood, smacking Nightwing out of his way. The Red Hood stood his ground, waiting for Bane’s attack, and then, as he drw near, he ducked a punch and slammed the man in the stomach. Bane, who was hopped up on venom, retaliated immediately, and grabbed Hood and lifted him into the air, but Hood had other ideas. He drew a gun from a holster and prepared to fire.

“No!” Nightwing shouted, throwing a wing-ding at the gun. He knocked the gun out of Hood’s hand, then delivered a kick to the back of Bane’s leg. The man growled and threw Hood, who landed on his feet and lunged in for another attack. The combination of Hood’s aggressive fighting style and Nightwing’s more on-the-fly style overwhelmed Bane. In mere minutes, their two combined efforts brought Bane to his knees. Then the Red Hood drew another gun and pointed it at Bane’s head.

“No! There’s no need to kill him! He’s defeated!” Nightwing called. The Red Hood looked directly at him, but said nothing. Nightwing took a step forward and shook hs head.

“Look, I understand what you’re doing. In your own weird way, you’re trying to clean up Gotham. I don’t agree with your methods, but I can see you mean well,” he began, licking his lips he he considered his next words carefully “but you don’t have to kill all the time! Please, just tie him up, contact the GCPD, and let them take over from here.” Silence filled the air as the Arkham Knight’s had their weapons pointed at Bane, Hood’s gun pointed at his head, attention on Nightwing, the suspense in the air almost choking.

“I’m glad you understand...but not quite,” Hood said smoothly, holstering the gun.

“I’ll spare his life, for your sake, this time. But you should know,” The Red Hood began, turning his back on Nightwing as he gestured for his men to disperse “your mentor taught you wrong. Throwing these thugs in prison so they cam break out again doesn’t work.”

“Wait!” Nightwing called after Red Hood as he grappled up to the crates in the distance, making his escape into the night. Nightwing looked after him as he left and couldn’t help but feel a twinge of familiarity with the man. He’d never met...whoever that was before, had he? So why did he feel like he knew him? And his voice, it sounded familiar, but he couldn’t place it...

“The GCPD is on their way. Nightwing, are you alright?” came Oracle’s voice over his comm link. Nightwing hesitated for a moment before grappling up to the top of the crates, and from there, back to the building across the way.

“Yeah, just thinking.”

* * * * *

“I asked him not to kill Bane and...well, he didn’t. It was weird,” Dick explained, having joined Bruce and Tim back at the batcave. He paced a little bit as he peeled of his mask and shook his head.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Bruce replied, sitting at his computer and staring up st the screen. Articles, video footage and image clips littered the screen. He’d been trying to figure out who this guy was, but to no avail.

“Whoever he is, he’s well trained and so are his men. They’re more like a militia group than a street gang,” Tim chimed in, pointing at the screen. Bruce gave a glance back and silently agreed. They were trained far too well, armed and geared up far too well, to be simple street thugs. They were men on a mission, and something in him told him that the mission wasn’t limited just to ‘cleaning up Gotham’s crime’ as the Red Hood had said. They had to have an ulterior motive, but what that was, he couldn’t puzzle out.

“What was strange was I felt like I knew him,” Dick said softly, rubbing the back of his head. He sifted through his memories, his own thoughts, trying once more to figure out why he seemed to almost know the Red Hood.

“His voice, and they way he fought, it seemed so familiar.”

“Now that you mention it, there were a couple of times I got the same vibe,” Bruce replied, eyes still staring at the screen.

“Tea Master Dick?” Alfred asked, carrying a tray with Dick’s favorite Earl Gray. Dick flashed the old man a smile and took the cup, sipping the tea with a satisfied ‘mm’ sound.

“Master Timothy, Master Bruce, perhaps you should take a break,” Alfred suggested, placing the tray down in front of them. Tim gave a nod and took a cup of tea, giving it a few sips.

“Why don’t you go rest, Tim. You did good tonight,” Bruce said smoothly. Tim sighed and gave a nod.

“Yeah, alright. I guess I am a little tired,” he replied, a yawn escaping his lips.

“G’night,” the sixteen your old called as he retreated from the cave. Dick moved to stand beside Bruce, looking up at the screen.

“We need to find out who this guy is. So many things are puzzling about this guy. The sooner we figure this out, the sooner we can put this all to rest,” Dick said smoothly. Bruce just gave a curt nod, not offering a word. Were he completely honest, what they’d discovered about the Red Hood so far reminded him of someone who had been dead for four years...Jason Todd, his greatest failure.

* * * * *

Jason cursed loudly as he slipped into one of his safe houses in the Bowery, throwing his helmet across the room. He raked his hands through his hair and took a few, deep breaths. Dick wasn’t supposed to be here, and having him here in Gotham complicated things.

He still had feelings for the man, and Dick was the only person who’d ever managed to help him control his anger and rage. And that fact had made itself painful apparent tonight. He’d thought he’d out grown those feelings, but he was dead wrong. He found out tonight, the hard way, that it was difficult for him to kill when Dick was around. Dick asked him, pleaded with him not to kill Bane and he...he just couldn’t.

“Fuck! God dammit Dick!” Jason cursed, kicking the helmet across the room again. He wasn’t worried about breaking it, the thing could take a lot of punishment and not even get a scratch. He sighed and threw himself down on the couch. Dick being in the equation meant he’d have to rethink a lot of things. He didn’t want to hurt Dick, didn’t want to kill him. But he couldn’t ignore him either. He’d continue to get involved, get in the way, and complicate things. The only thing he could do was push forward, and try to compensate for his presence.

“Dammit.” He growled, tilting his head back against the couch. He’d tried so hard the last four years to stop caring about him, and he thought he had and tonight had been a test, a test he failed miserably. He was still in love with Dick Grayson.

Chapter Text

The music was blaring in Iceberg Lounge, the base of operations of Oswald Cobblepot, a.k.a “The Penguin”. Cobblepot sat in his personal booth, surrounded by three very beautiful women, dressed in his usual tuxedo and top hat. He took a puff off of his cigar, other hand clutching a cane. He was a short man, standing at only five feet tall, stocky if not a bit chubby, and very dangerous. At first glance, he might appear to be a bit of a joke, but the joke would be on you, when he sliced your throat with the blade at the end of his cane.

However, despite how dangerous the man was, he was known amongst the slime of Gotham as the “Gentleman of Crime” and chose to deal the more quiet area of criminal activity. His intelligence and aristocratic personality was unique amongst the rest of Gotham’s trash. And the one thing he was most valued for, on both sides of the ‘war on crime’ was his information. The Penguin was an expert information broker. He used his intelligence and connections, both Underworld and otherwise, to sell, trade, and buy information.

It made him virtually untouchable, save by Batman, Nightwing, or psychopaths like the Joker, of course. Other than them, everyone else knew not to piss off The Penguin. One never knew what information he had, information that could be used to destroy you if he so chose. And thus, Batman had tolerated his presence in Gotham for many years, using him as a source of intel.

That was, until tonight. The Red Hood had no doubt that he knew about the Arkham Knights, but that was all he knew. All he would know. Because Hood had taken precautions, trained his men in stealth as well as combat, and thus they kept their work shrouded in shadows. So when The Red Hood strolled into Iceberg Lounge and pummeled the crap out of The Penguin’s bodyguards, the short man just watched warily.

The Red Hood sat calmly at the table across from Penguin and folded his hands on the table in front of him.

“Good evening, Penguin. Or would you prefer Oswald? Cobblepot?” Hood asked politely. He knew Penguin’s type and he’d respond better to courtesy than violence. Besides that, there were innocent people in this club so he didn’t want to risk harming anyone.

“Well, well, well, if it isn’t the infamous Red Hood. You and your Arkham Knights have made quite a stir in Gotham recently,” Penguin said casually as one of the women filled a glass for him.

“Wine? It’s the finest vintage.”

“Pass. I’m here to talk business,” Hood replied, waving his hand dismissively at the wine. Penguin shrugged and sipped the wine himself. He stared at the Red Hood in silence for a few moments, watching him, thinking.

“Business you say? And what business would that be? Surely ‘criminal scum’ like me is beneath you?” Penguin mocked. The Red Hood chuckled in amusement at the comment and reclined in his chair, steepling his fingers.

“That’s just it, Penguin. I’m cleaning up Gotham, this, I’m sure you know,” he began, watching as the man sipped his wine. He loathed dealing with this man, however, he needed to cut off Batman’s information in the Underworld. And if he could gain Penguin’s intel for himself, all the better “but crime cannot be stopped. It’s simply not possible.”

Penguin laughed at that comment and raised his glass “finally someone with some common sense! Batman always was a fool, fighting a never ending battle.”

“Yes, indeed. So I have a proposition for you; work for me, join my information network. I’m taking control of Gotham’s crime, and you’ll be free to do as you please, as long as no children or innocents are harmed. Refuse Batman’s call for intel, lie to him, whatever you need to do. In return, you can keep going about your business, keep your own profits all to yourself, and you’ll have my men’s full protection.”

If he was intrigued by the offer, he didn’t show it. Instead he shook his wine glass a little, staring into the red liquid pensively. He looked up at Red Hood and grinned.

“So in other words, you’re offering me invulnerability,” the Red Hood nodded “full control of my own network and profits” another nod “and the protection of your men?”

“Yes.”

“And your men, how to they differ from any other muscled thugs in this city?” the man asked. Red Hood gave a dark laugh.

“My men are trained mercenaries, lethal in armed combat and deadly in unarmed combat. Each man is worth a dozen of yours and they’re all trained to be able to go head to head with Batman himself, and best of all is they’re all completely loyal to me. Uncorruptable.”

Penguin was silent, considering The Red Hood’s words. Hood sat in silence as well, watching Penguin for a reaction, any sign that he might decline or accept his offer. After sipping his wine and handing the glass off to one of the women, he folded his hands and looked up at the Red Hood.

“Very well, it sounds like we have ourselves a deal,” the man said with a wicked grin, extending his hand. Red Hood chuckled a bit and took the offered hand.

“A deal it is then.”

* * * * *

Batman hid the batmobile away in an alleyway and jumped out of the car, cape flapping behind him. He shrouded himself in it as he entered Iceberg Loung in search of information on the Arkham Knights.

“Hey!” Nightwing called from the roof above, dropping down to join him.

“How many times do I have to tell you? You need help, so stop trying to ditch me!” Nightwing said, half annoyed and half amused. Batman just glared at him but offered no words as he moved toward Penguin’s booth, Nightwing behind him.

“Ah, if it isn’t my old friend, Batman,” Penguin said casually, raising a glass of wine to the man “and you brought Nightwing along with you! I’m honored.”

“Enough with the pleasantries, Penguin. I’m here on business. I want information,” Batman said in an even tone. Nightwing looked around the room, arms crossed in front of his chest. He was keenly aware of the stares he was getting, or rather, that his ass was getting. This sort of thing seemed to happen every time he entered a club, regardless of whether he was Nightwing or Dick Grayson.

“Hey there hottie! How about you take a break and come dance,” a drunken blonde woman said to him with a seductive wink. Nightwing just smirked and gave a shrug.

“Sorry lady, on the clock.” She made an ‘aw’ sound and retreated to the dance floor. He turned just in time to receive a batglare.

“What?” he asked innocently, giving a shrug. Batman turned his attention back to Penguin, who laughed at him.

“You’re looking for information on the Arkham Knights, are you?” he asked. Batman wasn’t the least bit surprised that the man knew what he was after. But the Penguin didn’t seem in a sharing mood tonight.

“Well, I’m afraid I have nothing for you. The Arkham Knights keep their work shrouded in shadows. Even my most reliable Underworld contacts have absolutely nothing on them. Save for a number.”

“A number?” Nightwing asked.

“One-hundred-fifty.”

“One-hundred-fifty?” Batman asked. Penguin gave a curt nod, sipping his wine.

“Yes. That is the number of well-trained, well-armed men that the Red Hood has throughout the city. And they’re well trained in stealth, I understand. You may have even passed a dozen or more of them without even knowing.” Batman and Nightwing exchanged glances; no words needed to be said to understand what the other was thinking: damn.

“He was here, earlier, in fact. You just missed him,” the Penguin said then, seemingly taunting them. Batman turned on the spot and glared at the man.

“What did the Red Hood want?” Batman asked. Penguin smirked and pulled out a cigar, lightning it up and giving it a puff. He glanced up at the two vigilantes and gave a shrug.

“He wanted information on Black Mask’s latest dealings. So I gave it to him.”

“And where would he be now?” Nightwing asked.

“Let me see...ah right, I told him you could find Black Mask’s men moving weapon shipments from Sheal Docklands.” Without a word, Batman spun on the spot and Nightwing followed behind him.

“What’s the plan?” Nightwing asked. Batman looked over his shoulder at Nightwing and gestured toward the batmobile.

“We stop the Red Hood and put an end to this, tonight.”

* * * * *

Batman and Nightwing arrived at Sheal Docklands, but didn’t find what they were expecting. Instead of Red Hood and his Arkham Knights intercepting one of Black Mask’s weapon shipments, they found, instead, Falcone’s men moving drugs off of the docks.

“Looks like Penguin gave us wrong information,” Nightwing said evenly, not the least bit surprised. Batman glared down at the men below and drew a batarang.

“Regardless, we’re here so we may as well deal with this,” Batman growled. He dived down into combat with Nightwing behind him. The Falcone mobsters raised their guns in retaliation, but Batman threw the batarang, and Nightwing threw a few wing-dings, knocking the guns out of their hands.

It wasn’t hard to take them down from there, considering their sore lack of martial prowess. Once the Falcone mobsters were down, Nightwing and Batman got to tying them up and then contacting the GCPD to come and pick them up.

“Going to pay another visit to Penguin?” Nightwing asked. Batman glanced over his shoulder at Nightwing.

“No point. It’s obvious Red Hood got to him. He won’t talk now,” he said evenly, heading for the batmobile with Nightwing behind him.

* * * * *

Bruce sat at the computer in the batcave just staring at the screen once more, trying to piece together the Red Hood’s identity from what little he had on the man. He was a master of stealth, trained in combat with various types of weaponry, and if it wasn’t for the fact that he was here in Gotham out on his own, with his own identity, he would have sworn that the Red Hood was a League of Shadows assassin, given his training.

It was a mystery, then, who this guy could be. But something about him seemed so familiar, that it drove him to try and figure out who it was. Heaving a sigh, he pinched the bridge of his nose and pushed himself away from his computer. He moved over to the display cases in back which housed the old costumes and he stood in front of Jason’s. Jason’s case held a holographic image of him up above the case. He looked up at it and felt a twinge of sorrow. Sorrow that he’d failed him. He placed his hand on the glass and looked at the Robin outfit; a solid red uniform with a black and yellow cape, green boots and gloves, and a black domino mask.

“I’m sorry, Jason,” he murmured to himself. Bruce smiled fondly at one of his many memories of Jason. Jason had always had a lot of anger and rage, but more than that, he had a passion for everything he did. Determination drove him forward, to prove he was better than people thought he was, to become better than he was last month, last week, yesterday, even five minutes ago. Bruce was convinced that he didn’t need to worry about Jason anymore. And then he died...because he failed to save him. He failed Jason...

* * * * *

Jason and Bruce sparred in the cave, his final training before he’d officially become Robin, Boy Wonder. The two of them fought back and forth and while they did, Bruce could see the fire in Jason’s eyes, could see him channeling his anger and rage, and giving his full effort to this match. In truth, with his years of experience over the boy, he could end the match at any moment, but he wanted to see what Jason could do.

Jason lunged in, feigning a frontal attack. Bruce retaliated, swinging a fist at the boy. In a quick motion, he flipped into the air, a very Dick Grayson type of move, and brought his foot down for a kick. Taken aback by the sudden move, he raised his arm to block the attack, then delivered a punch to Jason’s gut, sending him sprawling back across the mat on the floor. Jason landed with an ‘oof’.

Bruce extended his hand with a smile on his face, impressed with Jason’s performance.

“Dick teach you that?” Bruce asked, helping him to his feet. Jason chuckled a bit and accepted the hand, getting back up to his feet.

“Yeah, I’ve been asking Dick to teach me some of those sweet acrobatic moves he knows,” Jason replied. Bruce chuckled in amusement and patted the boy on the back, leading him over toward the case that held the Robin costume he’d soon be wearing.

“I think you’ve earned this, Jason. Tomorrow night, I’ll put everything you’ve learned to the test, and if you pass, you’ll officially become Robin,” Bruce said with a proud grin. Jason laughed and pumped his fist into the air.

“Awesome!”

Chapter Text

The Red Hood stood at the edge of a building, looking down at Black Mask and Mario Falcone below. It was amusing, watching two enemies meet in order to make a truce to take him down. Not that it would work; he had both Black Mask and Mario Falcone’s offices bugged, had men planted amongst each of their ranks, so he knew every plan, every dirty little secret, and added to The Penguin’s intel, he knew almost everything.

This meeting was not in the least bit surprising. Since the Red Hood began making huge dents in Black Mask and Falcone’s ‘businesses’ they’d begun to get desperate. The both of them, Black Mask and Mario Falcone, had each hired several different assassins to take him down, each one ending in failure.

Now was the time to make the final strike against Mario Falcone; he still needed Black Mask for his revenge. The plan he had laid out was still fresh in his mind, and his men were all awaiting his orders, each hidden away alongside a small force of each of the Drug Lords under his command’s own men, at the Falcone’s largest distribution centers and hideouts. All he needed to do was give the word...

“The Red Hood is a problem that needs to be solved. I think we can both agree that we can’t keep clawing at each other’s throats until he’s dealt with,” Black Mask said evenly. Mario Falcone gave a nod.

“On that we can agree. However, the problem remains; he has The Penguin under his thumb, half of Gotham’s drug dealers, and these men of his, they’re like trained mercenaries! How do we fight that?” Black Mask snorted.

“All of our assassins have failed so far, but if we kill the Red Hood, none of that matters.”

“Too bad the Red Hood doesn’t have any plans to die tonight, or any other night,” Hood called from the rafters above. The two men looked up and saw him, Mario pulling out a gun and Black Mask hightailing it out of there.

“Hey, where are you going?!” Mario shouted, firing the gun off at the Red Hood.

“Picking my battles wisely!” Black Mask shouted back. The Red Hood laughed in amusement as he dived down from the rafters above and lunged in at Mario, slapping the gun out of his hand and then choke slamming him into the ground. The man looked into the white lenses of Red Hood’s mask, his eyes full of fear.

“My, my, my, is that fear I sense, Falcone? The same fear that all the people you’ve killed had in their eyes, right before they died?” Red Hood taunted, slamming him into the ground again. Mario choked out a strangled cry, trying to beg for mercy. Red Hood pulled out a gun, but a wing ding flew past and knocked it out of his hand. Red Hood looked up and to his surprise, saw Nightwing standing there. Hood punched the man in the face, knocking him out cold.

“Nightwing. What are you doing here?” Red Hood asked. Nightwing snorted.

“Do you really have to ask? I’m here to stop you from killing Falcone. He belongs in prison, not in a casket.” Red Hood snorted, waving his hand dismissively.

“The only thing a scum bag like Falcone deserves is a bullet.” Nightwing and Red Hood stared each other down for several long moments. Nightwing had disabled his comm device and his tracker; he wanted to talk with the man face to face, without the intervention of Batman, or Robin.

“And what do you deserve? You’re running around killing people! Playing judge, jury and executioner!” Nightwing snapped.

“I deserve justice!” The man shouted back. He cursed mentally for that slip up; he knew Nightwing, the man was perceptive, a master detective. Even the slightest hint could tip him off to who he was.

And Nightwing seemed a little put off by the sudden outburst. He expression softened as he looked directly at the man.

“Tell me who you are. Tell em what happened to you, and maybe I can help you,” he said softly. Red Hood flinched slightly despite his best efforts to conceal his reaction. He took a step back and shook his head.

“It’s too late for that. Far too late,” he replied. Nightwing pushed forward as Red Hood retreated.

“It’s never too late. I can help you. You want to do good, I see that. You’re fighting crime, but you’re using crime to fight it. But there’s another way.”

“Yeah, and what way is that? Batman’s way? Because he’s done such a wonderful job cleaning Gotham up,” Red Hood spat. His hands moved to the back of his helmet and pressed a button on it. Nightwing watched carefully, eyes widening slightly; the man was actually going to reveal himself.

Slowly the helmet came off, and a look of horror spread across Nightwing’s face. The helmet was tucked carefully beneath the man’s arm and the face underneath belonged to-

“Jason!”

* * * * *

“Robin!” Dick shouted as he threw a wing-ding at the man with the gun behind him. He’d been grappling with a thug when another came up from behind him with a gun. That pissed Nightwing off, someone trying to shoot his little brother! Like hell!

Robin took the guy he was grappling with down, then spun and kicked the guy behind him in the head. He grinned over at Dick and gave him a thumbs up.
“Thanks, but I totally had it under control!” Nightwing snorted as he approached the boy and shook his head.

“Yeah, you had it completely under control,” he said, rolling his eyes. Robin snorted and playfully punched Nightwing in the gut. Nightwing laughed and shoved the teen away. Batman dropped down from above moments later.

“Two-Face has been taken care of and the GCPD is on their way,” he said, turning to Robin. He flashed a small smile and patted him on the back.

“You did good tonight. I’m proud.” Robin’s face split into a huge, cocky grin.

“Well, what’d you expect? I was trained by two of the very best!”

* * * * *

“Yes,” Jason said simply. Dick knew that face by heart and even though it looked older, more refined, it most definitely belonged to Jason. Dick shook his head a few times, double-taking and triple-taking to make sure what he was seeing was actually real.

“But how...you...you died!” Dick said incredulously. Jason died in an explosion set off by the Joker. He was dead when they found him, dead when they buried him, but here he was, standing before him, alive. Jason merely chuckled in amusement and brushed a lock of white hair out of his face.

“I did die. But apparently, death didn’t quite agree with me,” Jason replied jokingly. Dick shook his head and growled at the man.

“This isn’t a joke! You’re killing people! Jaybird-”

“No! Don’t call me that!” Jason shouted angrily, slashing his arm through the air.

“You and Bruce lost the right to call me that when you both failed to get justice for my death!” Jason shouted. Dick flinched at the accusation and took a step back.

“You mean-”

“I’m sorry, Dickie,” Jason suddenly said, bowing his head.

“I know you’re not a killer, you never were...that was unfair of me, but Bruce-”

“Tracked the Joker down and-”

“And let him live!” Jason interrupted. Jason put his helmet back on and turned his back on the man.

“So I decided to get justice for myself. And for the people of Gotham, and do what that man has been so cowardly to do himself,” Jason growled. Dick shook his head and followed after the man, but Jason pulled a gun on him.

“I’m leaving, and you’re going to let me go. Unless you want me to put two in Mario’s head, you’ll let me leave. Right now.” Dick took a step back and showed no indication of following. Jason turned his back and grappled up to a building across the way. Dick sighed deeply and looked down to Mario and then contacted the GCPD.

“Jason...” he murmured, looking back to the building Jason had vanished toward.

* * * * *

Bruce and Tim were already back at the batcave when Dick arrived; Tim practicing with his bo staff and Bruce plugging away at the computer. He glanced up at Dick and flashed a look of concern; the man looked utterly out of it.

“Dick, is something wrong?” Bruce asked, getting up from his seat. Dick just kept walking, staring wide-eyed at the floor unable to believe what had just transpired.

“Dick? Hey Dick, are you okay?” Tim called, moving toward the man. Dick didn’t seem to register Tim’s voice either, until he felt hands on either of his shoulders. Finally, he looked up, first at Bruce and then at Tim.

“What’s wrong, you look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Tim said softly. Dick snorted, because frankly, he wasn’t entirely sure he hadn’t. But he knew he hadn’t; Jason was alive! But now, he was debating whether or not to tell Bruce. Or, for that matter, if the man would even believe him. Regardless, the man needed to know.

“Jason,” Dick started, licking his lips. He hesitated and Bruce quirked an eyebrow.

“What about him?” Dick looked directly at the man.

“Jason is alive. Jason is alive, and he’s The Red Hood,” Dick said in a low tone. Bruce stared at him wide-eyed, Tim too, and Dick knew immediately that neither of them believed him. Bruce shook his head and his expression darkened as he returned to his computer.

“No. No, it’s not possible. Jason is dead,” Bruce said evenly. Dick sighed deeply and approached the man.

“It is possible, and I saw it with my own two eyes. The Red Hood is Jason!” Dick said sharply. Bruce waved his hand dismissively.

“Dick, you’ve been stressed, you probably-” Dick grabbed the back of the man’s chair and spun him around to face him.

“Do not say I was imagining things, god dammit! I know what I saw, and you have to listen to me! It’s Jason! The Red Hood is Jason! The training, the attitude, everything points to Jason!” Dick growled at the man. Bruce just glared at him and pulled away, getting back to his work.

“Go rest,” he said simply. Dick sighed, completely annoyed as he stormed out of the cave. Though, were he completely honest with himself, he couldn’t blame the man for not believing it. He could hardly believe it himself. In fact, were the roles reversed, he might have reacted the same way.

For now, all he could do was, in fact, rest. Whether or not Bruce chose to believe him, Dick knew what he had to do; he had to save Jason. He wasn’t so sure Jason wanted to be saved, however, and it seemed like Jason didn’t think he needed to be. But he did need to be saved, because deep down, Jason was more than a little brother to him...

* * * * *

“So the Red Hood managed to push the Falcones out of Gotham,” Black Mask muttered, looking out the window of his office. Four of his men stood near the front of the room, at attention, waiting for orders, with Ms. Li in front of them.

“Yes sir. During the course of the night, the Red Hood launched four simultaneous attacks against all of the Falcone’s largest warehouses and safehouses. The Falcone’s have been crippled with only the option to either leave Gotham, or go to prison” Ms. Li explained. Black Mask growled angrily, because that meant he was the last, largest target left in Gotham.

“Dammit! How can one man cause so much trouble?!” Black Mask shouted, throwing his chair out the window. He turned to Ms. Li and his men, scowl on his face and asked “how, I ask?! This piece of filth, this nobody, shows up in Gotham and suddenly he’s top dog?! How does that happen?!”

“We don’t know, sir. He’s extremely resourceful and intelligent. Ever since he arrived in Gotham, he’s been making power plays and clearly strategic moves. Taking the city’s most successful drug dealers under his wing, gaining The Penguin’s intel, taking Falcone territory...” Black Mask snorted and waved his hands dismissively.

“I don’t care! Just get him dead! I want his head for a trophy!” Black Mask shouted.

“Yes sir. We’ll see that it’s done.” Black Mask returned to his desk and opened one of the drawers. Inside was an old Joker card. He growled lowly and slammed the drawer shut. That would be his trump card; if anyone could kill this little stain in the wall, it would be the Joker...but not yet...

Chapter Text

“Jason!” Dick shouted as he shook the teen awake. He was on his way to bed after a mission in Gotham. He’d come from Bludhaven, investigating a series of murders that led to the killer here in Gotham. He and Batman had successfully taken the man down and he was offered his old room back at the manor for the night.

But as he passed Jason’s room, he heard troubled moans and groans and found the boy writhing on the bed, mumbling in his sleep with a look of panic and fear on his face. He went to wake the boy, but stopped dead in his tracks when he heard the things the boy was saying.

“No...stop, please don’t...it hurts...Ah! Sto-op!”

Had Jason...had he been...raped? And then it all came back to him; he shied away from hugs, occasionally flinched when he was touched if he didn’t know you were there, and despite all his flirting, the sight of any kind of actual intimacy seemed to make him...uncomfortable.

“Jason!” Dick called again, shaking the teen awake. Jason woke up with tears in his eyes and looked into Dick’s eyes, more fearful than ever.

“I...D-Dick...you...what did you...” he paused, having noticed the look on Dick’s face and realizing he’d heard something.

“It...it wasn’t my fault! I-I didn’t have a choice!” he began to plead. And Dick felt so much sorrow and anger in his heart at how desperate the boy looked and sounded. Dick hugged him possessively and kissed his hair.

“I know. I know. Sssh, it’s okay. You’re still my little brother and I love you.”

“He...he just...I mean,” Jason murmured, tears rolling down his cheeks as he clutched Dick’s shirt in his fists and cried. He sobbed into the man’s chest, and Dick felt his heart break all over again. His life had already been so cruel, but this too?

“You don’t need to apologize or explain, okay?” Dick whispered into the boy’s hair.

* * * * *

Nightwing, Batman and Robin had been tracking suspicious activity among Black Mask’s men, specifically a gang he’d recently forced under his thumb. He’d been going after a lot of the local gangs lately, seemingly to build up a force against The Red Hood’s. This particular gang, they soon discovered was kidnapping children, runaways and homeless kids, and selling them into prostitution. This was something Nightwing was sure The Red Hood would be looking into, considering he man’s own past. He remembered how his own heart broke when he had discovered what had happened and the thought the other children would and were suffering the same fate? Unforgivable.

“Nightwing, you’re with me. Robin, go and find the missing children and free them. Understood?” Batman said smoothly, eyes focused on the thugs below. Robin gave a nod and Nightwing’s attention was spent on keeping his eyes open for the Red Hood. He knew the man would be here.

“Nightwing,” Batman barked. Nightwing just gave a nod in response but Batman hesitated.

“Are you-”

“I’m fine, let’s go.” No sooner than they were ready to storm the place that they began hearing gunfire. The gang retreated out onto the streets and some of them attempted to escape, but the Arkham Knights followed them, gunning them down.

“We need to move,” Batman said and Nightwing nodded in agreement, the two of them jumping down from the building to engage the Arkham Knights. That was, until they noticed the Knights covering Robin and the children’s escape.

“Any of those fuckers harms a child, blow them the fuck away!” came the Red Hood’s voice, putting a bullet in a gang members skull.

“Hood!” Nightwing called, jabbing one of the Knight’s in the back of the head with an escrima stick while he was busy wrestling with a gang member. Nightwing then kicked the gang member in the head and knocked him out too.

“Ah, Nightwing, Batman. Good of you to come! Here to stop us from saving children from sexual slavery?” Red Hood taunted. Batman and Nightwing exchanged glances.

“Work with us, this one time,” Nightwing offered, earning a glare from Batman. Red Hood sighed and shook his head.

“Stop killing the bastards. We need a couple for interrogation anyway,” Red Hood said smoothly. He approached Batman while he men worked, switching effortlessly to non-lethal combat.

“Oh don’t worry, you’ll see things my way one way or another, Bruce,” Red Hood said in a low tone. Batman’s eyes narrowed but when he went to speak, Hood glanced toward a man taking off down the street.

“Hold that thought,” he said, racing after the man. Batman followed, but Nightwing stopped him.

“Let me.” Nightwing took off in pursuit of the Red Hood who was after one of the gang members trying to make his escape. The man rounded a corner and threw some trash cans in the way which Hood effortlessly leaped over.

“Where ya going dirtbag?! Don’t tell me you’re scared of little old me!” Red Hood taunted, pulling out a gun and shooting him in the back of the leg. He man howled in pain and crashed to the ground, clutching his leg.

“Yeah, doesn’t feel so good, doesn’t it, prick?!” Red Hood shouted, stomping on the injured leg and earning a loud crack. The man cried out, begging for mercy, but Hood had none to spare.

“I’ve been looking forward to this for eight years you son of a bitch,” he growled lowly, anger and rage boiling to the surface “so imagine my surprise and utter joy at finding your worthless ass here! I’m going to do what should have been done a long time ago! No lawyer or Crime Lord is ever going to bail your ass out again, because I’m sending you on a one way trip to hell!”

“Hood, stop!” Nightwing called from behind him. Hood spun on the spot, viciously kicking the man in the ribs.

“And why should I? This trash has been taking advantage of children for years! Give me one good reason I should put one, right in his crotch!” Red Hood hissed lowly, jamming the barrel of the gun into the man’s groining, earning a whimpering cry.

“Because it’s wrong and you know that. Deep down, I know you do.” Hood spun on the spot and slowly approached Nightwing, whipping off the mask.

“It’s not wrong to kill the motherfucker who raped me,” Jason growled darkly. Nightwing’s eyes widened as he stared at the whimpering man on the floor.

“Jay-”

“Don’t touch me. Get the fuck out of here, I’m going to splatter his brains all over the god damn concrete.”

* * * * *

Jason whimpered softly as one of the gang members punched him in the stomach. He’d been charged with his boss to steal drugs from the rival gang, but when things went south, they left him behind and so he had been captured.

“You’re a tough little prick, huh? Think you can steal from me?!” the ring leader shouted angrily. The man kicked him in the stomach again and Jason groaned in pain as he clutched his stomach, laying on the ground.

“Nobody steals from me, ME, JEREMY FUCKING KING!!!” The man hollered again, hauling Jason up to his feet and slamming him against a wall. Jason ran the back of his hand across his face, wiping the blood away from his nose. Jeremy looked at him with a wicked grin and said “those drugs were expensive, so you’re going to have to pay me back.” Jason’s eyes went wide in terror as the man began undoing his belt. He struggled and tried to escape, but two of the his men restrained him and held him down.

“No! Stop it! Let me go!” Jason screamed. The man had no remorse, showed no mercy as he took Jason, right there in the street, crying in pain, ignoring his desperate pleas. And there they left him, beaten, bloody, broken, humiliated and crying...

* * * * *

“Hood!” Nightwing shouted, bolting forward to stop him. Jason backhanded him shooting him a dark glare as he jammed the barrel of the gun into the man’s mouth.

“Yeah, suck on it! Tell me how it tastes you piece of shit!” Jason shouted angrily at him, repeating the harsh, cruel words the man had spoken to him years ago. Nightwing was on him again, throwing him aside, but Jason recovered quickly and kicked him in the stomach, sending him toppling over backwards.

The man tried to crawl away while Jason and Nightwing fought, but Jason was not having that. So he went for a cheap shot, and delivered a kick to the back of Nightwing’s shin, causing him to crash to his knees and Jason hauled the man up off the ground and slammed him against the wall.

“Burn in hell you fucking pig,” Jason said lowly, putting a bullet in the man;s head and throwing his corpse aside.

“This is justice,” Jason said in a low tone, turning to Nightwing and holstering his gun. Nightwing growled and pulled himself back up to his feet as Jason pulled his helmet back on.

“It’s not justice! It’s vengeance!” Nightwing shot back, staring at the lifeless corpse of the man. Jason glared at Nightwing and then spoke into his comm link.

“Kill them all.”

“No!” Nightwing shouted, lunging at Jason. Jason grappled up to the building above to make his escape and gunshots could be heard from around the corner. Dread filled Nightwing as he raced back to the scene to find Batman disabling the Arkham Knights as best he could while they started executing the rest of the gang.

“Dammit,” Batman growled angrily, dropping another unconscious Knight to the ground. Nightwing looked around and shook his head; this was unnecessarily, needless. But a part of him...actually agreed with Jason. And if he were honest with himself, if he’d been the one who had been raped, could he have been any more forgiving? Could he not have killed the man who’d done it to him?

“Dammit, Jaybird,” Nightwing cursed under his breath.

“Robin, return to the batcave when you’re done. We’re going to take the Knights into custody,” he ordered over the comm link. Three different vans pulled up moments later, each one teaming with criminals and more Arkham Knights.

“You’re not taking them anywhere, Batman. They’re coming with us! Don’t be stupid and let the Knights go. The Red Hood has authorized your release under these terms,” said one of the Knights. Batman and Nightwing exchanged glances, considering their options.

“It’s stupid to fight them. They’re well trained and we’re injured,” Nightwing whispered to Batman. Batman growled but gave a subtle nod in reply. As much as he hated the thought, he agreed with him. He wasn’t an idiot, and he could see the problem as plain as day.

“Very well. Take them,” Batman said darkly “but this isn’t over. Not by a long shot.” The Knight who gave the order gave a smug grin as he led the rest of the Knights to collecting their fallen comrades.

“You’re right, it’s not over, Batman. It’s just beginning.” He turned to his men and gestured toward the vans.

“Roll out!” he shouted, hopping into one of the vans and they peeled away from the scene, leaving the dead thugs and pedophiles to rot in the streets.

“Let’s get out of here,” Nightwing said, patting Batman on the back. He summoned the batmobile and helped Nightwing into it, then raced off down the street, back to the batcave.

* * * * *

Jason threw his helmet across the room of his safe house and yelled angrily, ranking his hands through his hair. Coming face to face with the man that had raped him had driven his anger up through the roof, and even though he’d killed the man, he still felt so angry. Dick didn’t know who it was that raped him, but he knew he had been. So why, why would he ask for that scum bag’s life to be spared?!

“Bruce,” he growled to himself, throwing himself down on the couch. Of course, the man had him brainwashed, believing that simply locking these people away was going to make it stop. But it never did. That son of a bitch had gone to prison but was broken out, time and time again and kept raping children. And then Jason discovered he’d started a little pedophile ring, so he did what needed to be done; he ended them all. He would have been content to throw the rest of the gang in prison, but if he were honest with himself? Seeing Jeremy King, seeing that sick fucking pig free, on the loose and working with those people?! He saw red, and his anger had gotten the best of him.

But he wasn’t going to apologize for that; they were all guilty, they were all in on it, selling children, treating them like property, like prostitutes. But his mind circled back to Dick; why couldn’t be understand? He knew why he couldn’t, but he couldn’t help but to ask himself that. Dick wasn’t a killer and he could forgive that. Dick had always been so happy, always grinning, looking up even when things seemed to bleak and hopeless. And he admired that.

“God dammit,” he muttered to himself, heaving a sigh and raking his hands through his hair as his face heated up again. There it was again, the fluttering feeling he used to get as a teenager whenever he thought about Dick, whenever the man touched him, or looked at him with that impossibly gorgeous grin plastered across his face...

He sighed again, pinching the bridge of his nose as he got to his feet. There was only one solution to this problem; get hammered until he couldn’t think straight, then go to sleep and prepare for the events yet to come. Black Mask was going to pay dearly for his hand in harming those children.

Chapter Text

Batman arrived at Arkham Asylum to have a little “chat” with the Joker. The Red Hood was his old persona back before he became the Joker, so surely the demented clown should know something about this new Red Hood. He loathed the thought of visiting the demented clown, but he was running out of leads and he needed to find out who The Red Hood was. Discover that, and everything else would fall into place.

The clown’s cackling could be heard down the hallway from his cell as Batman approached, expression dark, glaring at the door, thoughts of ending him running through his mind. They always were and it always took everything he had to refrain from killing him.

“You look good. Been working out?” The Joker asked with a smirk, looking up at Batman “could probably use a little bit of sun, but then, who am I to talk?” He gave a twisted laugh, head tilting back and cackling like a maniac. Batman chose to ignore him and slapped a folder down on the table, filled with pictures of The Red Hood.

“He’s calling himself the Red Hood. What do you know about him?” Batman asked evenly.. Joker looked down at the picture with disgust and snorted, turning his attention back to Batman.

“That he has horrible taste. When I wore that number, it was more flashy, more classy Maître D' than...what the hell is this? Mercenary punk? Goth Marksman? Oh wait, Gotham already has one of those, doesn’t it?” The Joker replied with another demented cackle. Batman glowered at the clown and snatched up the folder, but something the man said most definitely caught his attention.

“The new birdboy you have seems so boring. Still, better off than his predecessor. Kinda hard to do worse than worm food,” the Joker said darkly, sick grin on his face as he looked right at Batman. The man’s expression darkened and his fists tightened. The Joker took note and grinned even wider.

“Yup, little old Jason was one hell of a party guest! Tough as nails, but a kid is still a kid. Break enough bones, spill enough blood, and they cry like everyone else,” the Joker went on. Batman clenched his fists, gritted his teeth. He knew he should leave, but something kept him there. That something being that darkness in him, that darkness that whispered in his ear ‘kill him’.

“You know, he believed you were going to come save him. Fought to the last. You’d have been proud of him-”

“I was. I still am. Jason was a fine, strong young man” Batman said suddenly as memories of Jason’s time at the manor came flooding back to him.

“He cried when he realized you weren’t coming. He cried when he realized he was going to die! And the look of betrayal on his face! Oh, I wish I’d gotten a picture!” The Joker said with a sick, cackling laugh.

“That was one of my finest moments, frying one of your precious birdies! Bwuahahaaaa!” Batman snapped and lurched over the table, grabbing the Joker by the throat and throwing him into the wall across the room. He covered the distance in second, hauling the clown up against the wall and tightening his grip on the man’s throat. The Joker let out a choked laugh and looked right into Batman’s eyes.

“So...you gonna do it this time, or just leave me in another body cast for six months, hmm?” Batman growled and threw the clown to the floor. The Joker coughed a bit and then giggled hysterically.

“Oh, so disappointing. But back to the matter at hand; do you really think I’d stir up so much trouble and not make sure ya knew it was me?!” the clown asked, sitting up and leaning back against the wall. He let out another blood curdling, soulless cackle as Batman stormed out of the room, leaving the Joker to rot in his cell...

* * * * *

Jason sat on the roof of his old apartment building in Downtown Gotham. He’d run away from the manor to come back here, where things were familiar. There were a lot of dark, depressing memories he’d rather forget, but there were also some good ones. Like ones where his mother wasn’t doped up and she was...a mother.

He remembered on those days she and Jason would bake together, laugh together, and some times she’d sing to him. There was no particular reason, she just did. He didn’t have many good memories here, but those he did have always eventually brought him back here.

But there was another reason he’d come here; to remind himself of where he came from. So he wouldn’t forget who he was, living in a posh manor, rich, famous in the public eye. It was nice to finally feel accepted, appreciated, loved, to...have things...but he didn’t want to become one of them. He wanted to remember who he really was. And so he sat in silence, taking a deep breath, the chilly night air filling his lungs.

“Hey, this seat taken?” came Dick’s voice from behind him. Jason glanced back to see Dick in his Nightwing gear and flashed the man a smile, shaking his head. This wasn’t the first time he’d run away from the manor. The first three times, Bruce had had come looking for him, because he was worried. The first time really threw Jason for a loop, because he’d never had anyone who actually worried about him at all. But eventually, Bruce let him do his thing, knowing he’d always come back.

“Aren’t you cold?” Dick asked, sitting beside him, their legs dangling over the edge of the building. Jason shook his head.

“No, I’m fine. But how did you find me?” Jason asked, mildly perturbed. Dick chuckled in amusement and wrapped his arm around Jason’s shoulders, planting a kiss on his head. Jason snorted, cringing slightly as he playfully shoved the older man away.

“You’re such a sap,” Jason joked. Dick chuckled in amusement.

“Well, I’m a detective, Jaybird. And cut the crap, I know you like cuddling as much as I do.”

“Yeah well...just don’t tell anyone. I’ve got a reputation to maintain.” Dick laughed in amusement.
“Sure thing Jaybird. Your secret is safe with me.

* * * * *

Jason sighed deeply as he lay on the couch, arm draped over his eyes, feeling completely drained. He’d been busting his ass over the last week now and his men finally stepped up and demanded he rest. Usually, he’d punish disobedience like that, however, to know his men had that degree of loyalty to him was...well, needless to say, that aside, he knew they were right and that he needed the time off to rest and recuperate. He was confident his men could handle things for a few days.

“Hello Jaybird,” came a familiar voice. Jason shot up, grabbing up a gun and pointing it at the man sitting in his window, purely instinctual. It was Dick, decked out in his Nightwing gear. Jason growled darkly and pushed himself up off the couch, glaring at the man.

“How the fuck did you find me? What are you doing here?!” Jason hissed. Dick chuckled in amusement and peeled off his mask.

“Detective, remember? I came to see you, Jaybird.”

“Don’t call me that,” Jason hissed, keeping the gun close. Not that he was actually going to use it. Dick looked around the apartment and cringed, a look that Jason caught, because next he said “what? Not pristine and clean enough for you?” Dick looked over at him and shrugged.

“Well, I expected something a little more...well, more. Considering you’re the second biggest Crime Lord in the city and taking a forty percent cut off the streets,” Dick pointed out, making himself comfortable on the couch.

“Yeah, well this may come as a surprise, but I don’t keep very much of it. Just enough to get by. The rest goes...elsewhere,” Jason said with a gentle blush on his face as he retreated into the kitchen. Mentally, he was thinking of ways, things he could say to get Dick to leave. He didn’t want him here, couldn’t have him here, for obvious reasons. Well, obvious to himself, anyway. Yet at the same time, he kind of liked having him here; it reminded him of old times when it was just him and Dick, hanging out together, talking or playing video games, whatever.

He returned to the living room, cracking open a beer and wordlessly offered one to Dick.

“Pass,” Dick replied. Jason just gave a shrug and chugged his own, flopping down beside Dick.

“You shouldn’t be here,” Jason said evenly. Dick glanced over at him and shifted his position on the couch.

“And why is that, Jaybird? Just because you’ve turned into an asshole-”

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome, but it doesn’t mean I don’t still love you. You’re my little brother, after all,” Dick said with a warm smile. Jason caught that look, that god damn irresistible smile, and his stomach started doing flips. He hoped Dick didn’t realize just what he was doing to him, just by being here. But chances are, he did. Detective, afterall.

“You’re not going to convince me to back down,” Jason said adamantly, hauling himself up off the couch. He turned in the middle of the room and looked directly at Dick.

“I’ve made up my mind. This is how things are going to be. You keep getting in my way and-” suddenly, Dick was up off the couch, standing right in front of him with a hand on his waist. Jason struggled to his his reaction, to beat down the blush.

“And what, Jaybird? What are you going to do to me?” Dick asked softly, staring directly into Jason’s eyes.

God dammit, now is not the time...

“Dick-”

“Jason, it’s not too late for you. Come home, come to the manor and let’s talk this through, please. We can out this all behind us,” Dick pleaded with him. And Jason wished to accept it, solely for Dick’s sake, but he couldn’t. He knew what he had to do, and he was resolved to see it through to the end.

“I can’t Dick. I’m not backing down, not for you, not for anyone,” Jason said flatly, pushing away from the man and trying to escape the situation. He moved toward his bedroom door, but Dick stood in his way.

“Jason-”

“No! I fucking died, Dick! I died! And my killer was let off with a slap on the wrist!” Jason growled, shoving Dick away from him. He glared directly at the man, daring him to challenge him.

“Bruce was devastated Jason! He searched day and night for the Joker for over a month! He barely ate, barely slept, and when he caught up with the Joker he literally beat him within an inch of his life! They had to ship him off to Arkham in a body cast!” Dick countered. Jason snorted and waved his hand dismissively.

“And yet the man who killed me gets to keep on living and keep on killing! How fair is that, Dick?! Huh?! Does that sound like justice to you?! Bruce fucking betrayed me! He let my killer go!”

“He-”

“No! No more excuses, no more lies!” Jason shouted, throwing the beer can across the room. It crashed against the wall beside Dick’s head, beer spewing from the can all over the wall. But Dick caught something in Jason’s eyes that startled him. Are those...tears?

“I honestly believed he cared about me! I was stupid.You’re stupid too, if you don’t see it! We’re nothing more than soldiers in his little war against crime! Assets to be discarded when we outlive our usefulness!” Jason shouted angrily, a single tear sliding down his face.

And for the first time in a long time, Dick could see Jason’s emotions crystal clear in his very own eyes. He was hurt, feeling betrayed, and why would he not feel that way? His life before the manor was cruel, vicious, fighting each day just to survive, nobody caring about you, giving a second thought to your well being.

“Jason,” Dick said softly, slowly approaching the man again. Jason’s breath hitched, taking a step back as Dick grew closer to him. What happened next, took him completely by surprise; Dick kissed him.

Jason’s eyes shot wide open and his whole body suddenly relaxed. The next thing to go was his brain; it was almost like it was going to overload.

Dick is...Dick is kissing me!

Why is Dick kissing me?!

Dick is kissing me!

W-what do I do?!

Dick is kissing me!

And then just like that, his brain shut down and his arms wrapped themselves around Dick’s waist, kissing back. He could feel Dick smiling into the kiss, could feel his face burning up, and then a primal hunger stirred in him, desire welling up in his stomach.

In a frenzy of lust and movement, clothes were discarded, little nips, licks and kisses were traded back and forth over each other’s skin, as the two of them moved to the bedroom. Everything happened so quickly, like a blur as their kissing, their touching, everything, suddenly became to heated. Both of them were consumed by lust, pure and primal, desire and need wrapped around the both of them

Before they knew it, they were both naked on Jason’s bed making out, hands touching, exploring, hips grinding into one another, their cocks pressing and moving together, moans and pants of pleasure filling the room as they moved together.

Jason locked his lips against Dick’s while one hand clumsily searched the nightstand for-aha, there it is-a small vial of lube. Jason popped the cap off with his thumb, parting from Dick long enough to coat his fingers. He only had seconds before Dick grabbed him, bringing him in for another heated kiss.

A lubed finger nudged at his entrance, eliciting a moan from him that Jason gladly swallowed, sliding his tongue into the other’s mouth, sliding against Dick’s own. Dick moaned again, tongue pushing back, the two of them fighting for dominance. Then a second finger entered him. Then a third.

“Jason,” Dick breathed, before being consumed by another kiss. Jason reached down between them and began coating his cock in lube, moaning softly into Dick’s mouth, the man wrapping his arms around his back, holding him still as they kissed, but Jason was too far gone for that. He broke the embrace and positioned himself at the man’s waiting hole, only giving a glance up at Dick who could only manage a nod, his face twisted in lust and pleasure.

Jason guided the tip of his penis inside, pushing slowly, giving Dick time to adjust. Without any words, he looked up at Dick when he heard a pained whine, but Dick just gave a nod and he pushed forward until he was seated fully inside him. He leaned down again, crashing their lips together, Dick’s hands wandering over his back, nails digging into his skin when he began to thrust his hips forward.

Jason set a rough, fast, almost brutal pace as he slammed into Dick. The sounds of pleasure moans and groans and skin slapping skin filled the room. Said moans devolved into screaming as Jason hauled Dick up off the bed and into his lap. The acrobat’s arms and legs wound themselves tightly around Jason’s body as he fucked Dick hard and fast, hips thrusting up into him and Dick driving down hard.

Jason kissed and nipped at Dick;s chest, Dick hands threading through Jason’s hair, burying his nose in locks of black, and then he screamed as a particularly hard thrust against his prostate threw him over the edge. He screamed and came hard, splattering both their chests in cum. Jason groaned deeply, still thrusting into Dick. His cry of pleasure was muffled as he buried his face in Dick’s chest and came hard inside him.

The two of them sat there, Dick in Jason’s lap, Jason still buried inside him, the two of them gently kissing each other, basking in the afterglow. Exhausted, they fell back on the bed, still attached but too tired to care. The two of them fell asleep in each other’s arms almost as soon as their heads hit the pillow...

Chapter Text

Lances of light pierced the window through the blinds, striking Dick’s still-closed eyes. The man grumbled and rolled over before the memories of last night came crashing back and he bolted up. Shit, what the fuck did I do?! He knew the answer, so the better question was why did he do it? No wait, he knew the answer to that too.

He looked around the room but Jason was nowhere in sight. He sighed softly and pulled himself out of bed, blushing a bit at his own nudity, coupled with the memories of last night’s events. He and Jason had had sex, and holy shit if it wasn’t amazing! But what disturbed him is the fact that it had happened at all; that was not something he had planned.

So Dick pulled himself out of bed and to his surprise, he found some clothes tucked folded and waiting for him on a nearby chair with a side bag beside it. He looked around the room for his Nightwing gear and tucked it into the bag, pulled on the clothing and making his way out of the room. To his surprise (again) he found Jason out on the balcony of the living room, smoking a cigarette. He approached cautiously and Jason turned his head, briefly, blowing the smoke into the air.

“Those things will kill you, y’know,” Dick said with a teasing tone. Jason snorted and put the cigarette out, tossing the butt over the rail and down into the street below without a care.

“Relax Dickie-bird, it’s something I do only rarely. And only when I’m stressed,” he admitted easily. Dick felt a twinge of guilt and wondered if he’d caused that. Jason apparently picked up on that because he said next “relax, it’s not you. Not entirely.” He passed Dick and went into the living room, flopping down onto the couch and scrubbing his face with his hands.

“I won’t lie though, I was tempted to take off last night. Shit, I’m not even sure how that happened,” he muttered. And the guilt was back. But also...

“Do you regret it?” Dick asked slowly, moving into the living room. Jason looked up at him with a raised eyebrow and snorted.

“Not for a moment. I’ve dreamt of fucking you since I was 16,” Jason admitted without a trace of shame. He lips twitched and tugged into a cocky smirk. Dick quirked an eyebrow and joined him on the couch.

“Really?” he asked. Jason snorted again.

“Yeah, really. I’ve had a crush on you since I was fourteen for god’s sake. So no, I don’t regret having sex with you,” Jason said with a dismissive hand wave. The two of them sat in silence for a time, Jason with his arm draped over his eyes and Dick looking nervously around the room. He felt like he should say something, anything, but he didn’t know what.

“You know, I didn’t plan for...last night to happen,” Dick finally admitted, glancing over at Jason. Jason lifted his arm for a moment to look into the man’s eyes, then came another snort.

“I’m aware. I was pretty certain you hadn’t come with the intention of getting a dick up your ass,” Jason joked. Dick frowned, not because of how crude the man was, he was used to that because Jason had always been a bit of a perv. No, he frowned because he was more crass than he remembered.

“Classy, Jason. Very classy,” Dick snorted. Jason chuckled in amusement and playfully nudged the man’s leg with his foot.

“You know me, Dickie; classy and sophisticated has never been my style.” Jason sat up and looked at Dick and said “but enough about that. You should go.” Dick looked over at Jason and tried to conceal his reaction; he felt a little sad that Jason was trying to get rid of him.

“Jason-”

“I’m not changing my mind. This is what I’m doing,” Jason snapped. Dick flinched at the reply, the tone in Jason’s voice, but gave a nod and got to his feet, moving for the door. He stopped, looking back over his shoulder, expression turning from neutral, to sorrowful.

“Jay,” he began slowly, hesitating. Jason made no move to look at him and just remained staring passively into the empty space, laying on the couch, so Dick continued on his own “I’m not done yet. I’ll save you.” He hesitated for another moment, looking for any kind of reaction from Jason, but none came. He shook his head and said to him “some of us still grieve for your loss, Jason. Even if you don’t realize it, we still love you.”

“You should get going before daddy bats gets worried about you. He can be insufferable when he’s worried. I wish I’d known what the was like,” he said, muttering the last part in a low tone, barely audible. But Dick caught it anyway, but he chose not to remark on it.

“Alright. I’ll see you soon Jaybird,” Dick said softly, leaving the apartment behind.

Jason sighed deeply at the sound of the door opening and closing, and pinched the bridge of his nose. Last night was...amazing. He’d been in love with Dick for a long time, and having sex with him was like a dream come true. But it was also a nightmare; it caused all sorts of problems and would likely impact his ability to perform at his best if they ever crossed paths again, which they would. At this point, it was only his anger that would keep him going. He wanted Bruce to suffer, like he’d suffered. He wanted him to know what betrayal felt like. That was what was driving him at this point.

His anger had always been both the source of his strength, and his greatest weakness. It blinded him at times, made him reckless in fights, but now, he’d eliminated that weakness. His training over the last five years hadn’t made him any less reckless, but now he could fully control his anger and when the time came, Bruce would feel the full force of it.

* * * * *

Batman and Robin had been tracking a gang of drug peddlers through Gotham for a good week when they finally found one of their major safe houses. They followed the lead to Crime Alley, to the apartment building where some of the thugs were holed up.

“Don’t move!” said one of the thugs with a hand gun. Robin glared up at the man.

“Or what? You’ll shoot me?” He lunged at the man faster than he could react and kicked him through the door, shattering the wood. The other thugs inside were taken by surprise and pulled out automatic rifles and fired at him. He dodge rolled to avoid the gunfire and then flipped forward, taking two of them out and jumping into the air. A third with a shotgun aimed at him but he threw electrified batarangs and forced the man to drop his gun. He then delivered a blow to the face and knocked him out. Batman joined him moments later.

Grinning, Robin grabbed one of the men by the chin and said “twenty rounds a second and you were still too slow!” But he heard something and a man with a hand gun rounded the corner.

“I’m not too slow!”

“I got him!” Batman called, throwing a batarang. The man got off a few shots which Robin dodged, then the gun was knocked out of his hands. Robin lunged forward and brought his elbow down on his collarbone, a crack echoing through the room as the man fell to the ground, shouting in pain..

“I had to take him down!” Jason defended, when they got back to the cave.

“You shattered his collarbone!” Bruce growled. Jason snorted in response and waved his hand dismissively.

“He was a drug dealing pimp! He got what he deserved!”

“He could have talked! We needed information! You put him into shock!” Bruce replied. Jason’s expression softened when he realized his error and slipped past Bruce, running a hand through his hair.

“I’m sorry, it was stupid, but he deserved it.”

Bruce sat in the cave, going over the data again, still trying to piece together the Red Hood’s identity. He had no leads and the Joker turned out to be another dead end. And yet all the evidence pointed at Dick’s claims; that Jason was the Red Hood. But that couldn’t be possible, because Jason was dead. That single thought sent a twinge of guilt and sorrow through him, every time it entered his mind. Jason is dead because of me. I failed him. He scrubbed his face with his hand and looked back up to the screen.

Tim was training against some sparring dummies, working mostly on his martial arts, but also practicing some of the acrobatic moves that Dick had taught him. He occasionally glanced over in Bruce’s direction; the man had been sitting there, staring at that data for hours now.

“Is everything okay?” Tim asked, stopping his training and grabbing up a towel, dabbing his brow with it. He approached Bruce, grabbing a water bottle off of a tray Alfred was carrying and flashing him a smile. He took a swig from it, stopping beside him.

“Yes, everything is fine Tim. Just-”

“Trying to figure out who the Red Hood is?” Tim finished with a smirk. Bruce’s expression remained neutral and he just gave a nod in response. Alfred placed a tray of tea beside him and he glanced up at the man, giving him the same expressionless nod.

“Sir, Master Dick is here,” Alfred said smoothly, without turning around. Dick huffed from behind him as he approached the three of them.

“How did you know it was me without even looking?” Dick asked in amusement. Alfred, stoic as ever, simply turned to him and inclined his head.

“I raised Master Bruce, you and Master Tim. It has become a sixth sense,” Alfred replied. Dick smiled at the man, but also noticed he avoided mentioning Jason. Alfred had taken Jason’s death especially hard. Jason was Alfred’s favorite and he understood why; Jason threw more passion into everything he did than any of them ever had. As a kid, he was cocky, abrasive, sometimes aggressive, but also full of life. It was just as easy to love the kid as it was to be angry at him, to hate him.

Alfred seemed to smile more around Jason than anyone else, but he understood it; Jason had a certain charm about him that made him lovable, even when he was being an asshole. So Dick wondered what it would do to Alfred to see what Jason had become...

“Sorry if I worried you, Bruce. But as you can see, I’m completely fine. Patrol took an...interesting turn last night, that’s all,” Dick replied explained. Bruce looked him over once or twice, then gave a curt nod, turning his attention back to the screen. Dick looked up at it, looking over all the evidence they had collected. He realized Jason had to have left this all behind intentionally; he wanted Bruce to suffer and it appeared to be working.

Bruce still seemed incapable of accepting that Jason was behind that mask. Dick understood that, he really did. It would take something tangible, like seeing Jason’s face, or a DNA test, for him to finally accept it. He knew Bruce viewed Jason’s death as his greatest failure, so he understood why the man couldn’t bring himself to even consider the possibility. So for now, Dick opted to drop the subject and let Bruce figure it out for himself.

“Y’know, you should take a break, Bruce. You’re running yourself ragged,” Dick said with a smile, patting the man’s back. Bruce glanced up at him but shook his head.

“No, this is important, I-”

“Need to rest, sir. I agree with Master Dick. Batman can’t protect the city if Bruce Wayne is exhausted,” Alfred cut in. Bruce spun in his chair to look at Alfred and made to protest, but Alfred cut him off.

“Master Bruce, you’ve barely slept at all in the last week. You have a business meeting in three hours, but I can see to it that it is postponed. You need to rest sir. You have young Master Timothy, Master Dick, and Miss Gordon to help you. Let them.” Bruce was silent for a time, eyes moving over each of them. Alfred made a convincing argument, and as stubborn as he was, he couldn’t argue with that logic.

“Alright,” he said simply, pushing away from the computer with Alfred behind him. Dick turned to the computer and looked over all the data. Obviously, he didn’t need to see it to know Jason was behind the mask, but all this evidence pointed to him regardless.

“Do you really think it’s Jason?” Tim asked. Dick looked at the teen and nodded.

“I do.”

Chapter Text

Water...drowning...couldn’t breath. Pain. The Joker’s laugh in his head. He was swimming then. Tearing through the surface. Screaming. Fighting. Running. Jumping. Hiding...

His mind was cloudy. Couldn’t think, couldn’t...couldn’t think, couldn’t focus. But he remember he...he died. He died...He died! Pain again. The Joker’s laugh. Defiance. The Joker’s laugh. Realization. He was going to die. The Joker’s laugh was the last thing he heard. The Joker’s sick fucking laugh!

Talia found him first, took him somewhere, he didn’t know where, a house or something. She told him everything. Everything. While he lost his life, Bruce allowed the Joker to live. He fucking died, and all the Joker got was a trip back to Arkham! Anger welled up inside him. Betrayal...and then tears slid down his face, betrayed again by someone he cared about. He had been used, again. A child soldier, expendable, thrown away when he no longer had use. Rage filled him, but more than that, revenge.

Jason Todd was done with being used, he was done with just letting it go. It was his turn to bite back. He was going to kill the Joker. And then he was going to kill Bruce. The man who pretended he cared, then discarded him, like he was nothing. And so his training began...

The Red Hood looked out over the city below, the rain pouring down hard as he stared down a the bustling streets, listened to the sound of the traffic going by. It was time. Hood tapped the side of his helmet, opening a channel to his men, stationed all over Gotham City.

“It’s time. Operation Knightfall begins now.”

* * * * *

Batman was sitting in the cave, going over some data with Oracle. They were in a precarious situation, the Red Hood and his Arkham Knights having taken over huge swaths of territory. They controlled the Lion’s Share of Gotham now, at roughly seventy percent, and Black Mask was getting even more and more desperate.

To make matters worse, they’d lost a valuable asset in the form of Penguin; Penguin had access to valuable Underworld information, information that was now cut off to them, now that he was under the protection of the Arkham Knights. In any other situation, Batman would just break down his door and beat information out of him.

But this was a much more delicate and precarious situation. The Arkham Knights could be anyone, they could be anywhere, and he didn’t know anything about them, beyond the obvious fact that they were well trained mercenaries.

Even with Robin and Nightwing’s help, the situation was spiraling out of control. More to the point, Bruce was beginning to consider that maybe...Dick was right, that The Red Hood might be...

The Red Hood seemed to know all his tricks, always seemed one step ahead, seemed to know what he was going to do before he did it. Finding the man’s identity was becoming the least of his problems. What was more, The Red Hood and his Arkham Knights were actually becoming popular among some people, because crime was at an all time low since he and his men had come to town. So the question often entered Bruce’s mind; do I stop him, or do I let him be? On one hand, taking him out would cause a power vacuum, leading to a dramatic spike in crime.

On the other hand, he was killing people. There was no room for mercy, it seemed. All but the lowest of criminals were executed on the spot. The only people he seemed to spare, were kids, pick pockets, common, non-violent criminals. Regardless, he was still murdering people. For that alone, he had to be stopped.

“Batman,” came Oracle’s voice, along with the frantic clicking of a keyboard. She looked up at her monitor, a concerned look on her face.

“Police scanners have lit up all over Gotham. The Red Hood is making a power play; he’s going after Black Mask directly. Two of Black Mask’s major warehouses, and China Docks, currently under his control, are also under attack. The GCPD is responding as best they can, but-”

“I’m on it, Oracle. Alert Nightwing and Robin. I want Robin to go with Nightwing to China Docks,” Batman said evenly, heading toward the batmobile.

“What about you?” she asked. Batman paused and turned back to the computer, giving her a dark look.

“I’m going to put an end to all of this. I’m going after The Red Hood,” he replied, hopping into the car.

* * * * *

Gunfire rang out as The Arkham Knights tore through Black Mask’s main building. The thugs were no match for the trained mercenaries and were dropping like flies. All the while, The Red Hood and a couple of his men, made their way directly to Black Mask’s office. Black Mask came out of his office, with Ms. Li and four bodyguards with him, and glanced down the hallway to spot The Red Hood and his men, with two of his own men.

“Fuck!” Black Mask shouted, taking off in the opposite direction, Ms. Li and two bodyguards behind him, while the remaining two pulled out automatic rifles. Hood laughed in amusement, and made a simple gestured toward the two bodyguards. His own men initiated combat, while Hood gave pursuit.

He ran along the ledge on the outside of the building, and swung to the adjacent one, via grappling hook, watching as Black Mask, Ms Li, and his two bodyguards hopped into a car. He grinned widely and then pulled himself up to the top of the building, where right on cue, Batman was waiting for him.

“Well, well, well. I was wondering when you were going to show up. Took you long enough,” Hood taunted with a mock bow. Batman shot him a dark glare and threw his cape aside.

“It ends now, Hood. All of it. It’s over.”

“It’s far from over. We’re just getting started.”

Batman and Hood lunged in at each other and started trading blows. Batman threw a punch, which Hood deflected, sending one of his own at Batman’s stomach. Batman stumbled back and was struck by a kick to his face. He was thrown backward, but caught himself and flipped back onto his feet in time to block a punch from Hood, using his momentum against him to throw him over his head.

Hood flipped over Batman’s head and landed on his feet, pulling out a dagger as he landed and spinning around to swing it at the man. Batman ducked back from the blade, once, twice, three times, before he grabbed the man by the arm and wrenched the dagger free, pushing Hood away and throwing the dagger away.

The two stood there, staring each other down as the rain poured down heavily on them. Then Hood started to laugh.

“Oh, now this brings back some memories! I’d forgotten what it was like to watch you fight!” Hood called with another laugh. Internally, Batman felt a hammer blow fall upon him, but he maintained his neutral expression.

Hood took a few, non-threatening steps forward and said “all this time, you’ve been trying to figure out who I am.” Hood snorted and placed his hands on either side of his helmet as he continued “I fed you all the answers, so it should have been obvious, but you couldn’t bring yourself to believe it. Well now, I’m not going to give you a choice.”

Hood slowly pulled off his helmet and tucked it underneath his arm.

“Jason,” Batman said in a low tone, eyeing the man in shock. Dick had been right all along, and he had refused to see it. The evidence was as plain as day, but there was a part of him that didn’t want to believe it, didn’t want to believe that the boy he raised and trained from the age of 12, could possibly be the merciless killer he was staring at now.

“Yes.” A silence settled between the two men as they stared each other down. Batman was still mentally processing this, while simultaneously beating himself up for not seeing it sooner.

“How?” he asked. Jason laughed in amusement and tapped the side of his head.

“I think you know how, but just in case dementia has hit you in your old age,” he closed his eyes and inhaled a deep breath.

“Ra’s Al Ghul.”

“Of course.” Jason donned his helmet once more and turned to leave, but Batman charged at him.

“I have other business to attend to, but I promise you, we’re not done here!” he called, throwing down a smoke bomb. Batman quickly donned a re-breather and charged after him, watching as Hood leaped off the building. He followed, but when he looked over the edge, the man had vanished.

“Batman, come in,” came Nightwing’s voice over the comm link. Batman stood in silence for a few moments longer before he growled to himself and walked away from the edge of the building.

“Batman.”

“It’s the strangest thing, Red Hood’s men had the advantage, but they’re...retreating,” Nightwing explained. Batman’s eyes narrowed as his mind began to wonder what Jason was planning now.

“Oracle. Oracle, this is Batman, come in.” They got no response, save for the sound of static. Something wasn’t right.

“Nightwing, Robin, meet me at the clock tower,” Batman instructed.

* * * * *

Nightwing, Batman, and Robin arrived at the clock tower, and what they found was not good. The place had been broken into, and as they ascended and arrived in th tower’s core, they found the place ransacked, and Oracle was missing.

“Shit! The whole thing was a damn diversion!” Nightwing growled, punching the wall. Batman patted his back and glanced back around the room.

“We’ll find her, Dick,” he said in a calm tone. Nightwing glanced back at the man and knew he was right. Jason would never hurt Barbara, and he’d never allow for any harm to come to her. He felt his heart ache, unable to believe Jason would go to these lengths to get back at Bruce. But at the same time, he didn’t believe Jason hated Bruce as much as the man wanted them all to believe. Despite everything, his desire to help Jason remained strong. Perhaps because he was in love with him, or rather, still in love with him. He’d never fully been able to accept that part of himself, because Jason was his brother...but not really.

“I found her wheel chair,” came Robin’s voice over the comm link. Nightwing and Batman descended from the clock tower and found her wheel chair discarded out back behind the tower, the fence behind it destroyed as well as tire tracks leading away from the scene there.

 

“No, Jaybird. What’ve you done,” Nightwing murmured to himself, kneeling beside the tire tracks.

* * * * *

Barbara came to and found herself tied to a chair in what appeared to be a run down apartment building. She looked around the room and saw several armed men standing at the doors and windows. Moments later, The Red Hood himself strode through the door.

“Was she harmed?” she heard him ask one of his men.

“No sir.”

“Good. That order stands. No one is to harm her, understood? Anyone so much as lays a finger on her and I’ll snap them in half,” Hood growled. The man saluted him and gave a nod.

“Yes sir.” Hood then turned to her and she glared at him as he approached.

“I’ve got nothing to say to you, so spare me,” Barbara snapped. Hood laughed in amusement and stopped before her, crossing his arms over his chest.

“It’s okay. Whether you talk or not, Bruce won’t come. He didn’t come for me, he won’t come for you,” Hood said evenly. Barbara flashed a surprised look at him.

“Bruce?” she asked. Hood pulled off his helmet and Barbara gasped, eyes wide as if she was looking into the eyes of a ghost.

“Jason?!” she gasped. Jason tucked his helmet beneath his arm and nodded.

“Jason, this is wrong! You need to stop!” Barbara pleaded. Jason snorted and threw the helmet across the room in his anger.

“Wrong?! This is justice! He left me to die, he betrayed me, and now he’s going to know what that feels like!” Jason growled. Barbara shook her head vehemently.

“No, Jason! No! He lost you, and he mourned you! We all did! We loved you! He loved you!”

“Don’t lie to me!” Jason shouted, kicking the remains of a broken chair across the room. He turned back to her and shot her a dark glare.

“The Joker tortured me for hours, and then he killed me. And what does he get?! A slap on the wrist and a trip back to Arkham, where he can just break out and kill someone else!” Jason growled, leaning closer to Barbara.

“Tell me, how is that justice?! How is that fair?! I lost my fucking life, and that clown gets to keep walking free, gets to keep killing!” Jason shouted angrily, pacing away from her. He stopped before the door and picked up his helmet, placing it back on.

“How’s Alfred?” he asked softly. Barbara swallowed and looked up at him.

“He misses you. We all do.” Hood looked back at her over his shoulder once more before he left the room.

“Phase One of Operation Knightfall is complete.”

* * * * *

Black Mask was surrounded by his men, Ms. Li standing beside him in a small, padded room with the Joker sitting right across from him, eating chips. He had to pull some strings, make a few pay offs and kill a few guards to make this meeting happen.

“I hope you understand the trouble I’ve gone through to arrange this little...get together here,” Black Mask began, watching the Joker warily. This was a bad idea, but he was desperate; the Joker was completely in-fucking-sane and utterly unpredictable.

“A lot of money. A lot of...dead meat,” he finished. Silence pervaded the room. The Joker remained passive, looking completely uninterested as he popped another chip into his mouth.

“Look, I’ve got a problem,” he continued, pointing at the Joker “and you are absolutely the man who possesses the gifts to take care of this...problem. I need you to murder the Red Hood. You think you can handle that?” And still, the Joker remained passive an uninterested.

He coughed a bit and asked “may I have some water?” Black Mask raised his hand in the affirmative and one of his men poured him a small glass of water. The Joker took it, examining it for a few moments before smashing it against the table and slitting the nearest guard’s throat. Before anyone could react, he grabbed the dead guards’ hand gun and executed each and everyone of Black Mask’s men, save for Ms. Li.

Black Mask flinched as the sadistic clown started to cackle like a madman, frown deepening. His earlier assessment was correct; this was a nightmare.

“I’m going to need something to wear. And I have a short little shopping list of things I’ll need before the big party!” the Joker said casually.

“Alright. Anything else?” Black Mask asked. The Joker glanced around the room and said “I’ll need some guys. But not these guys because, well, they’re kinda dead.” The Joker let out another bone-chilling laugh...

Chapter Text

Bruce stormed into the cave with Alfred behind him; he was completely distraught, unable to believe that Jason was The Red Hood all along. How could Jason-how could his son-do this?! No, he knew he had to get answers from the one man who had them; Ra’s al Ghul.

“Sir, please, you couldn't have known!” Alfred called after him. Bruce spun on the spot and shot Alfred a glare.

“It was stupid and careless! I didn’t even check to see if the body...if it was him,” Bruce growled. He shook his head and retreated into the cave with Alfred trailing behind him.

“Whoever Jason was before, this dark miracle or curse that brought about his return, it is not your fault! You loved him, he has to know that!” Alfred tried, but Bruce wasn’t listening; anger and grief had taken a hold of him. He spun on Alfred and his expression soon became sullen.

“It is my fault Alfred,” Bruce began, shaking his head “I raised him, trained him. I put him in danger, and then he died. My soldier, my responsibility, my fault,” Bruce said softly, moving toward the batwing. He glanced over toward Tim was was garbed in his Robin gear, and shook his head.

“No, Tim. Stay here.”

“But-”

“Tim.” Tim noted the firm tone in the man’s voice and could tell he was barely restraining his own emotions at this point, so the teen simply nodded.

“I’ll keep an eye on the news feeds while you’re gone,” Tim said simply, moving toward the computer. Alfred watched the teen go, then turned back toward Bruce, looking up at him with a sorrowful expression.

“I know you vies Master Jason’s death as your greatest failure, but-”

“It was my greatest failure Alfred. Jason was my responsibility. I did this to him. No sixteen-year-old boy should be facing down murderers and psychopaths,” Bruce said solemnly. The jet’s engines roared to life and he took off, headed for Ra’s al Ghul’s palace.

* * * * *

Batman landed on the roof of Ra’s al Ghul’s clifftop palace, his jet flying off to wait out of sight. Like a shadow, he slid down to the terrace and silently dispatched the two guards in the area. His blood was boiling at at this point; he’d hoped the long flight would help calm him down, but the closer he drew to Ra’s palace, the angrier he got. He was barely keeping himself in check now as he stealthily made his way through the palace.

Two more guards down, he reached a picked the lock on a nearby door and slipped inside; the door had taken him to Ra’s al Ghul’s own study, and there he was, standing in front of a window overlooking the cliff side, streaks of gray in his hair, and obviously unaware of his presence. Batman wanted nothing more than to slam his face into his own desk; he clenched and unclenched his fists, then snuck up behind him and grabbed him by the back of his robes, slamming him into the ground and twisting his arm behind his back.

“What did you do to Jason?” he ground out, voice trembling with pent up anger and aggression as he pressed harder “act like you don’t know what I’m talking about and I’ll break your god damn arm, and that’s just to start.” Ra’s let out a pained groan and lifted his head slightly, able to glance Batman out of the corner of his eye.

“If you haven’t disabled the roof censors, my guards will be here in under a minute,” he ground out, voice strained by the pain at Batman twisted just a little harder.

“Answer me. Now,” Batman hissed, tightening his grip. Ra’s growled in pain, writing a bit underneath Batman’s weight.

“I’m willing to but-” Ra’s began, distracted by the pain in his arm, and the sound of cracking joints. At least they weren’t broken. Yet.

“-But it will be more expedient if you hand me the communicator in my pocket and I call off my men.” Batman glowered at him, then reluctantly grabbed the man’s communicator and held it in front of him.

“Commander, this is Ra’s al Ghul. Stand down. I’ll be entertaining a guest in my study.” Batman waited for a few moments to see if any guards would burst through the doors. When none came, he let the man up.

“Now talk. I’m running out of patience,” Batman growled. Ra’s twirled his sore wrist a bit before walking over to his desk and pouring himself a glass of wine.

“You remember when we last became embattled?”

“You were planning to blow up banks,” Batman said disapprovingly.

“Accurate, if inelegant.” Ra’s sipped his wine, watching Batman over the rim of his glass.

“I was in the midst of toppling the economy of Europe, but you were onto me. I sought a distraction, so I hired the Joker.” Batman’s eyes narrowed, easily pictured the grinning sadistic clown, meeting with Ra’s and running all kinds of demented ideas through his warped mind, thinking of ways to ensure that he was the only one who got what he wanted.

“When your paths crossed in Bosnia, it was to appear you had stumbled upon him.” Batman froze in place as he recalled the memory; while he subdued Joker’s men, Robin chased after the Joker...and that was the last time he’d seen Jason alive...just recalling the memory caused his blood to boil in his veins, because the man responsible for it was standing right in front of him.

“He was paid extremely well for what was intended to be a wild-goose chase,” Ra’s continued, staring into the innards of his wine glass. “Then… he murdered the boy. That was not by design.”

Batman remembered the explosion, being mere seconds too late, digging Jason’s broken body out of the wreckage, hoping and praying for some sign of life. Anything. But he’d been too late. Jason lay silent in his arms...

“I’m afraid I overestimated my ability to control the Joker,” Ra’s said, setting his wine aside if he had suddenly lost his taste for it. He looked up to meet Batman’s eyes, “just as I underestimated his madness. It grieved me, sir,” he continued heavily, “to be a party to something so brutal.”

“You’ve never shied away from drawing blood,” Batman replied, his eyes narrowing behind the cowl.

“True… but always with purpose. Always with greater goals.” Ra’s’ expression darkened. “This was simply an unnecessary casualty. As penance, I chose not to make war with you again and… to attempt to rectify this disservice.”

“Rectify?!” Batman spit out, lips drawn into a snarl.

“Yes,” Ra’s replied.

“I had hoped to return to you what you had lost. I have walked this world for nearly six centuries. As you know, I achieve this by bathing in the rejuvenating waters of the Lazarus Pit.” Batman was starting to feel nauseous; he knew where the conversation was going...

“Along with its healing properties, it has long been rumored that it is capable of an even greater feat: to raise the dead.” Batman balled his hands into fists, fighting to control his anger, while simultaneously combating the urge to vomit. He knew Ra’s had done and it made his skin crawl, made bile rise into his throat. What he’d done to Jason was...unnatural and wrong. He’d seen what the pit did to Ra’s, watched him use it to rejuvenate himself, and the thought of Jason being subjected to that...the madness, the agony...

“Procuring the remains of your partner was not difficult,” Ra’s said, his tone becoming more businesslike and straightforward as he turned to the enormous window as he continued “you had come to Bosnia under the guise of Bruce Wayne and you chose to depart as such. You even concocted the cover story that young Jason had died in a bombing in Sarajevo. This made it easy for me. All it took was a few payoffs to replace his body. I felt confident that you would not perform an autopsy. Even if you had, we still would have bought enough time. But, my plan…”

Silence. As Batman waited for him to continue, he began thinking of all the ways one could kill a man. He wasn’t actually going to do it, but...right now, it was so very tempting. Ra’s turned back to Batman with a frown on his face.

“Well, detective, it had unfortunate results. He returned to this world, but returned... damaged.” Ra’s closed his eyes for a moment, lost in thought. Batman could see Jason being submerged into the pit; his gut twisted, unable to imagine the agony, the madness, and utter terror the teen must have felt. He was only 16 when he died, and to be revived in such a...twisted manner?! Batman swallowed hard, forcing himself to push the thoughts aside. He replaced it with another: The Joker wasn’t the only one I should have put in a body cast...

“The boy escaped and dived out the window, leaping off the cliff nearby,” Ra’s said finally. He briefly considered telling him that Talia had in fact found Jason. Talia was well trained, but Ra’s was no fool.

“My army searched for months, but we were never able to find a body or pick up a trail. I thought him dead yet again. But I hear you have been having trouble at home.” Batman raised his head and Ra’s glanced back at him, continuing “I have returned your son to you as a blight upon your house.” Ra’s turned away towards the window again, but not before Batman caught a glimpse of an agonized expression. He slipped away, having heard enough.

“He burns the very kingdom you...” Ra’s noticed Batman was no longer in the room. “...protect.” Ra’s pressed a button on his communicator and one of his assistants entered the room.

“Shall I alert the guards to pursue him?” asked the man.

“Don’t be foolish,” Ra’s snapped, shaking his head “they would never catch him. Besides… I have done enough.”

* * * * *

Nightwing went searching for Jason, dropping by every safe house he knew the man had, but he was at none of them. Wherever Jason had gone, it was clear he didn’t want to be found. But Nightwing had to find him, had to talk him down before things escalated too far. Things had already spiraled out of control, but he was confident that if he could just talk to Jason...

But no matter where he looked, there was no sign of Jason or his Arkham Knights. It was as if they just up and left Gotham. He tried to track Barbara via her tracer, all of them wore one in case of a situation like this, but it wasn’t active. Of course Jason would think to get rid of it. He’d searched all over Gotham, save for one place: The Bowery, the place where Jason grew up.

“Dick,” came a voice from behind him as he sat perched on top of a gargoyle. He turned and saw Talia behind him and quickly got into a defensive stance. Dressed in black skin tight pants, a black leather jacket with a cropped shirt underneath, black gloves and boots and her sword mounted on her back, the brunette stared at him with green eyes, and gave a dismissive hand wave.

“I did not come to fight you,” she said casually. Nightwing remained in a defensive stance, watching her carefully. She did not seem perturbed. Talia approached him, but remained at arm’s length.

“I came to warn you.”

“Warn me? About what?” Talia eyed him and her expression became rather dark.

“The Joker is loose. And I fear Jason’s madness hasn’t quite reached its peak,” she said carefully. Nightwing’s eyes narrowed and he shook his head.

“No, Jason isn’t mad. He’s angry, vengeful, but not insane. I can-”

“I’m the one who found him after he was revived. I’m the one who trained him, who financed his training,” Talia interrupted. Nightwing shot her a dark glare; it was no surprise to hear that Talia had a hand in this. What had she done to Jason? What did she say to him?

“Why?” was all he asked. Talia whipped her head back, flinging her hair out of her eyes.

“Everyone deserves justice, but more importantly, they deserve to get it for themselves, when no one else will,” she said sharply. But there was something else. Nightwing wanted to speak, but she interrupted once again “but...I have created a monster. The Lazarus Pit has...side effects. It makes those who use it more...aggressive. And I underestimated Jason’s anger.”

“What did you say to him?” Nightwing growled. Talia shook her head.

“I told him everything. Too soon after his Resurrection. I didn’t give him time to process things. This is my fault, but-” she looked up at him with a haughty expression and said “he will finally do what you and Bruce have been too cowardly to do. Kill the Joker.” before Nightwing could respond, Talia took off.

“Nightwing, we have a situation in Uptown Gotham. It’s the Joker,” came Batman’s voice over the comm link. Nightwing didn’t need an explanation; if the Joker was involved, things were going to get lethal.

** * * *

Robin was alone and laying on the cold stone floor, tied up and struggling to break free. The Joker came into the light, wielding a crowbar and a wicked grin. He approached him and Robin shivered slightly as a laugh erupted from the Joker, devoid of reason and sanity.

“What’s wrong little birdie? Not going to sing for me?” The Joker taunted, raising the crowbar and striking his jaw. Robin grunted but otherwise remained silent.

“Ouch! That looked like it really hurt!” Robin spit at him, the glob landing at his feet.

“Fuck you.” The Joker laughed and leaned down, grabbing the boy roughly by his jaw.

“Always so quick and witty. It’s as amusing as it is annoying,” the clown said evenly, striking Robin with the crowbar again. Robin groaned in pain as he collapsed to the floor. Robin muttered something and the Joker knelt down beside him, fisting his hair. He made a mock murmuring sound and whispered “a little louder, pumpkin. I can’t quite make out what you’re saying past the gurgling blood.”

“I’ll...feel better when...Batman...”

“Oh I don’t think so! You see, Batman isn’t coming!” The Joker replied as he got to his feet, cackling like a maniac as he struck Robin again, and again.

“What hurts more?” The Joker asked, raising the crowbar again and striking him again “A, or B?” The maniacal clown struck again, and again, “forehand, or backhand?” And the beating continued...and when it finally stopped, he dropped the crowbar right in front of him and straightened his tie, making for the door.

“Okay kiddo, I have to go now, but it’s been fun, right?” he taunted, looking back at the bound boy on the floor. Robin grunted, coughing up more blood onto the floor. The Joker grinned like a madman and said “well, maybe a smidge more for me than you. I’m just guessing since you’re being all quiet.” The Joker pulled on a fur coat and pulled open the door, turning back one final time.

”Oh, and please tell the big man I said hello,” the Joker said, letting loose a bone-chilling laugh as he left Robin in that shed, slamming the door shut behind him. Robin struggled to his feet and made for the door, but when he reached it, he heard a ticking sound.

He looked back and saw a bomb, 10 seconds on the clock. He struggled to open the door...but it wouldn’t budge. He closed his eyes, resigning himself to his fate; he was going to die alone. Just as he’d live most of his life...alone. But there was only one regret he had; not telling Dick how he really felt. That he was in love with him.
With only seconds on the clock, he began to whistle the tune of the song that his mother used to sing to him...

3.
2.
1...

The Red Hood and his Arkham Knights were prepared for the Joker; he wasn’t going to cause too much mayhem on their watch. They could have stormed Arkham Asylum and killed the Joker right there, but Jason wanted to make both he and Bruce suffer, like he’d suffered.

So when the news hit that the Joker was out, his men, still hidden in the city, kept tabs on the clown. He’d tied up Black Mask and captured a school bus full of children and filed it to the brim with explosives and lured the GCPD to Amusement Mile. Black Mask, Ms Li, and several of Red Hood’s Crime Bosses were all tied up and tied to the base of the old Ferris Wheel. The Joker was standing on top of the funhouse with his arms outstretched and with a megaphone shaped like a clown’s head.

“Welcome all to the party of the century!” he called with a sadistic laugh. He looked down to Harley Quinn; the woman had pigtails, half of her hair red, half of it black, with a half black, half-red jacket, with pants, shoes, and gloves designed in the same manner. She poked her head out of the door to the bus and smiled brightly, giving everyone a wave.

“I’d like to introduce my assistant for today’s show, Harley Quinn! It’ll be a helluva blast!” The Joker called, laughing hysterically. Amusement Mile was surrounded by squad cars, riot trucks and helicopters, the situation being quite precarious.

But soon enough, gunfire broke out from inside Amusement Mile. The Arkham Knights descended on the Joker and surrounded him, having killed the clown’s men.

“Well, well, well, the guest of honor has arrived! And where is The Hood?” the Joker asked. The helicopter shined the spotlight on the top of the Ferris Wheel, where the Red Hood stood with his arms crossed.

“Heeey! Look at you, Mister Hood! Or do you prefer Red?” The Joker asked, pointing up at the Red Hood.

“Y’know, I used to wear an outfit a lot like that! Mine was more flashy M’aitre D than Mercenary Punk! You kids today!” He called with a sadistic giggle as he signaled for Harley to start the bus. The engine gave out a few times and the Arkham Knights were poised and ready to strike.

“I’ve been waiting a long time for this, Joker. This...reunion, if you will, has been a long time coming,” The Red Hood called down to him. The clown looked up from the bus and toward Hood.

“I’m sorry, but that seems to suggest that you were behind this little clambake!” The Joker glanced back at the bus as it finally started, then grinned back up at the Red Hood.

“I was. I had grand plans for Gotham City. But the main goal was making Black Mask so desperate that he had to bust you out of Arkham.” The Red Hood gave a mock bow and a laugh “and so here we are.”

“So, I’ve been bamboozled. Oh my.”

“I wouldn’t undersell it. It took a lot of work to bring about our reunion.” The Joker quirked an eyebrow at the anti-hero and crossed his arms over his chest.

“You keep saying reunion. Have we met before?”

“Yes.” The Joker started to giggle hysterically.

“Well then, here’s to warm memories! Harley!” he called, turning back to the bus. Harley gave a wave.

“All set mista Jay!”

“Lights, camera, action!” he called. Harley gunned the bus and drove it right toward the Ferris Wheel. The Red Hood and his Knights remained still, unmoving, unflinching. Then, Harley dived out of the bus as it drew nearer to the Ferris Wheel. Then the Batwing flew over head, and fired an EMP gun at the bus, killing the engine. The bus stopped just a few feet away from the Ferris Wheel. The Batwing made a turn and a hook dropped down to grab the Joker, but the Arkham Knights were already moving on the clown.

The Joker cackled hysterically as he tried to escape inside the funhouse, but the Knights managed to subdue and capture him. The Red Hood looked up toward the Batwing and started typing away on his gauntlet.

“Batman. If you want to Joker, you’ll come to Axis Chemicals. Don’t be late.” He threw down a smoke bomb and vanished, and the Arkham Knights repeated the feat, slamming down dozens of smoke bombs and making their escape.

The GCPD moved in on the remainder of the Joker’s thugs and apprehended Harley Quinn. Batman flew overhead and made his way to Axis Chemicals. Then Nightwing came over the comm link.

“Batman, it’s Nightwing. The Joker-”

“Nightwing. Go back to the batcave. Held Tim find Barbara. I’m going after Jason,” Bruce said firmly.

“Bruce-”

“Dick...this is my fight. Just find Barbara.” There was a silence between them as Batman waited for an answered.

“Okay.”

Batman glared as the old chemical plant appeared in the distance. Axis Chemicals, the birthplace of the Joker, where it all began. And hopefully, where all of this would end.

Chapter Text

Nightwing and Robin headed toward the Bowery on the Wing Glider to where they’d traced Barbara’s location to. It seemed all too easy, but then, Dick knew Jason would never hurt Barbara. So perhaps he wanted them to find her? Regardless, it wasn’t hard, because down below, they found an abandoned building surrounded by heavily armed mercenaries. The Arkham Knights. This would be a tough nut to crack; from what intel they had, the Arkham Knights were trained to combat Batman and his allies. They couldn’t just storm the place and forcefully take Barbara. Jason would never hurt them, but the same could not be said of his Knights.

They did have one thing playing in their favor though; the Knights were fiercely loyal to Jason and it seemed likely he would order Barbara to be unharmed. They would not disobey an order, which meant there was a very high chance that Barbara was alive and inside. Getting in, however, would be the problem.

“There it is,” Nightwing said to Robin, glancing over at the teen. Robin looked over at Nightwing and gave a nod; he was under strict orders to follow Nightwing’s orders, which wouldn’t be a problem since he admired the man like an older brother.

The two of them hopped off of the glider and landed quietly in the shadows of the building. Nightwing placed a finger over his lips and Robin soundlessly nodded as the two vigilantes snuck inside the building, watching the Knights’ patrol routes carefully before making their quick moves. This was where Nightwing would usually ask Oracle to scan for traps; they’d really come to rely on her.

“Careful,” Nightwing whispered back to Robin. Robin gave a nod, but no sooner had the entered the building, that the Arkham Knights had swarmed their location and surrounded them.

“The boss was right, they showed up just like he said they would,” one of the man said with a laugh. Nightwing growled and glanced back at Robin, moving in front of the teen. He didn’t get the chance to speak before one of the men interrupted.

“Relax. We’re under orders not to kill you. You’re here for the girl?” he asked. Nightwing and Robin exchanged confused glances, then gave a nod. The man nodded in reply and gestured for them to follow.

“Keep your wits about you. This could be a trap,” Nightwing whispered. Robin nodded in reply.

“I know.” The two of them followed the man with a circle of Knights around them. To say it made them nervous was an understatement, but they were trained to conceal their emotions. That didn’t mean they weren’t ready to strike at a moment’s notice.

The Knight’s led them through the building, and Nightwing felt a little idiotic for not having recognized the place before...

Jason had run away from the manor again, though run away would imply that he didn’t like it where he was, but that was far from the case. Bruce had allowed Jason to do his own thing, recognizing that it was something Jason needed. But that didn’t mean he didn’t worry from time to time. This time, he’d been gone for two whole days. He was prepared to go looking for Jason himself, but Dick offered to go in his stead.

And so he found the teen curled in a ball on an old mattress, face buried in his knees, inside of an old, abandoned apartment building. Dick felt his heart sink at the sight, moreso at what he heard; Jason was crying.

“Jaybird?” he asked softly, slowly approaching the teen. Jason’s head snapped up, eyes red and swollen from crying tears still trailing down his face. He didn’t say anything but turned away, refusing to look at his older brother. Dick bit his lip and stopped moving, unsure if he was wanted here right now, but still concerned for the boy.

“Today...is the anniversary,” Jason said softly, sniffling a bit. He didn’t have to say anymore; the tears, the sadness in his voice, and the word “anniversary”. Today had to have been the day when his mother died. Dick knew, because for a lot of years, he too would cry on the anniversary of his own parents’ deaths.

“My mother died...today. Three years ago,” Jason said softly, wiping he tears away on the sleeve of his black hoodie. Dick moved across the room, slowly, and sat beside the teen, ignoring how dusty and ruined the old mattress was. He sighed and wrapped his arms around the teen and pulled him close.

“I know how you feel, Jaybird. It’s okay to cry,” Dick said softly. He looked around the room as Jason cried in his arms. Jason rarely cried, rarely showed any of his emotions, on purpose at any rate. And to see him so raw, so vulnerable now...well, Dick could sympathize.

“Is this-” Dick began, as Jason pulled away from him and nodded.

“Yeah. This was our old apartment. As soon as she died and I was alone...I didn’t have a choice but to leave,” Jason said bitterly “because those...thugs, they just...came in and took everything.” Dick was just silent, let the teen talk, just as Bruce had done for him...

The man leading them pushed open a door and revealed Barbara sitting in a chair, tied up and beside a dusty old mattress. Nightwing recognized this room right away, but something was off. This was all too easy. And right on cue, just as he was expecting, they were double crossed. Nightwing spun around when he heard a switch flip and the door clam shut. He tried to approach the door, but Barbara stopped him.

“No, don’t touch it! Everything’s been electrified!” Barbara called. Nightwing glanced back at her then growled lowly to himself

“Dammit, I shouldn’t have ignore my instincts! I knew this was a trap!” Nightwing growled. Barbara chuckled in amusement and shook her head.

“It’s okay. We all underestimate Jason,” Barbara said softly. Nightwing shook his head, clearly not amused. He sat down beside Barbara while Robin looked around the room for...something.

“Robin, may as well have a seat. We’ll be here for a while.”

“Aren’t we going to try and get out of this?” Robin asked. Nightwing gave a nod.

“Of course. I’m not just sitting here after all. I’m thinking,” he said, flashing the teen a smile. Electric traps were hardly anything new to him, but regardless, he hadn’t exactly come prepared for one because...well, he trusted Jason. Part of him still did.

“Dick. Barbara...Replacement,” came Jason’s voice. The three of them looked around the room for the source when Nightwing spotted a speaker in a dark corner of the room.

“Jason! Let us out, please Jaybird! You don’t have to do this!” Nightwing pleaded with him. Silence. The three of them looked around at each other.

“It’s too late for that, Dickie. Much too late. The people who fucked me are going to pay, in full,” Jason replied. There was a pause, followed by a deep breath as he continued “I’m sorry for the deception. But I needed you out of the way.” Dick barely caught the last part, it was spoken so softly it was easy to miss ‘you’re the last person I want to hurt.’ Before he could respond, there was a click. Jason was gone.

Nightwing sighed deeply and knelt down in front of the speaker, raking a hand through his hair. He felt a hand squeezing his shoulder and looked up to see Barbara smiling at him, giving him a knowing look. She was too perceptive for his liking.

* * * * *

Batman arrived on the scene, staring down at Axis Chemicals ahead. Alfred was at the computer advising as Oracle would have been. The building was swarming with the Arkham Knights so there would be no dropping in through the roof because they were there too.

“Master Bruce, be careful. I fear...young Master Jason is...lost to us, sir.” Alfred said softly. Bruce’s eyes narrowed but not in anger, but understanding.

“No, Alfred. I’ll save him. I’ll bring him home.”

“Take care of yourself Master Bruce. And good luck.” Bruce switched the computer off and dropped out of the batwing, landing in the shadows of the buildings nearby. He looked up at the factory, the memories of his greatest failure flooding his mind; there was no doubt that Jason chose this place for that specific reason.

Batman had been chasing the Red Hood across Gotham and finally trapped him inside Axis Chemicals. He crashed through the roof and cornered the Red Hood on a walkway above several vats of chemicals. The Red Hood flinched and walked backwards, pleading with him, that he was innocent.

“No! Please, wait! It’s a set up! I’m not a crook, I swear!” Batman pulled out a pair of hand cuffs and attempted to apprehend him, but the man tripped on his own cape as he attempted to remove his helmet. He fell back against the railing, too weak to hold his weight, it shattered and he fell. Batman raced forward and grabbed at the man’s hand to try and save him, but it was too late; he fell into the chemicals below.

A few short days later, the Joker made his first appearance in Gotham city...

* * * * *

The Joker was tied to a chair in an office of the chemical plant, blood dripping from his mouth as he laughed darkly. Jason had since revealed his identity and fondled the crowbar with bloodlust in his eyes as he stared at the clown.

“So...you came all the way back from the dead for little old me? I’m flattered!” The Joker said with a hysterical giggle. Jason grinned and slammed the clown’s jaw with a backhand stroke with the crowbar. Jason’s blood sang with vengeance as the crowbar struck.

“That looked like it hurt,” Jason mocked, fisting the Joker’s hair.

“But let’s try that again. Tell me what hurts more,” Jason said darkly, swinging the crowbar again “A” and again “or B?” He gnashed his teeth and swung backhand, then forehand “backhand or forehand?” The Joker grunted and groaned in pain as each blow struck. Jason swung at him a few more times before he kicked the chair, toppling the clown over.

“Revenge is a dish best served cold,” Jason said casually, kneeling down beside the Joker. He smiled sweetly at the clown and patted his face with the back of his hand “and I’ve been waiting five years for mine. And it’s every bit as satisfying as I imagined it would be.” He chuckled in amusement and pushed back up onto his feet. The Joker coughed a little, then let loose a broken laugh.

“I wonder what daddy bats would think-” Jason froze in place, fists tightening at the mention of Batman, jaw working angrily “-to see his little birdie turn into such a delightful psychopath!” Jason’s anger melted from his face, replaced with a grin as he turned and looked down at the broken clown.

“Trying to get under my skin? Well, that won’t work. Because you see,” he said evenly, striding slowly across the room and kneeling down beside the Joker. He grabbed him by the collar of his Jacket and hauled him up, face to face, and said in a deathly calm tone “when I’m done with you, he’ll be next. And then you can both kill each other for eternity in hell.”

Jason strode out of the room, body tense with pent up rage. Just as he slammed the door to the office shut, one of his men contacted him via comm link.

“Sir. The Batman has been spotted. He’s headed this way. ETA 5 minutes.” Jason grinned to himself and donned his helmet.

“Good. Phase 3 of operation Knightfall begins. Be sure to give the Batman a warm welcome.” The Red Hood chuckled to himself as he walked to the railing nearby and knelt down beside a large black case. He opened it up and revealed a disassembled white and black sniper rifle that looked straight out of a sci-fi movie. As soon as he assembled it, blue LED lights lit up on it. He looked down the scope and cycled through the different types, from Infrared, Thermal, Night, and X-ray. The Red Hood grinned to himself and got to his feet, hefting the rifle over his shoulder.

“You know what to do. You’ve been trained for this. Do not fear the Batman, for that is one of his greatest weapons; fear,” Jason called out to all of his men. The Knights looked up to their leader and roared.

“You are trained to combat him. You are trained to hit him where he is weak. You are trained not to fear him. But to kill him. Phase 3 of Operation Knightfall begins,” he said, arms outstretched. He clenched his fists and said “and when the Batman falls, we will rebuild a better, stronger, safer Gotham!” His men roared and cheered at his speech, and then one of them contacted him via comm link.

“Sir, the Batman is here.”

“Good. Take your positions. You know what to do.” The Red Hood knelt down, aiming the rifle and sighting down the scope, leaning it against one of the rails.

“You were right, Bruce. It ends now. All of it. It’s over.”

Chapter Text

“Aha! Got it!” Nightwing said cheerily, having finally disarmed the electric trap. He got to his feet and wiped his brow looking back toward Robin and Barbara. He frowned and turned on the x-ray in his mask, taking a look through the building to see what kind of opposition they had. There were at least thirty, heavily armed Arkham Knights stationed throughout the building. It seemed likely that the bulk of Jason’s men would be at Axis Chemicals to face down Batman.

“Okay, this is going to be a tough nut to crack,” Nightwing said smoothly, pacing the room a bit “and we can’t just burst out and tear through the place. They’re trained to fight us.” Barbara glanced back and forth between the two of them and grinned wickedly. Nightwing smirked and asked “so I take it you have a plan?”

Barbara gestured toward the trap and said “I can rewire the trap if you can move me over to it. I’ll explain the plan as I’m working.” So Nightwing and Robin untied her and helped her get to the trap, where she got right to work, while explaining her plan.

Once everything was set, they tied Barbara back up in such a way that she could untie herself again when the time came, and then the made some noise, punching walls, kicking in the windows, and right as expected, one of the Knights came into the room to investigate, shutting off the trap. He pointed a gun at Nightwing and Barbara, and looked around quizzically.

“Where’s the kid?!” The man barked. He heard a laugh and looked up; Robin dropped down behind him by the door way, and as the man approached, Robin flipped the switch, triggering their rewired trap, tazing him and knocking him out cold. Nightwing picked Barbara up bridal style and carried her out of the room, since they left her wheel chair behind to minimize her chances of escape. Jason had been thorough. But not thorough enough.

“Robin,” Nightwing whispered, nodding toward two Knights down the hall. Robin gave a nod and jumped up to the roof. The place was falling apart, so it was relatively easy for the teen to climb across the exposed support beams and drop down to disbale the two knights. Nightwing followed after them, all of them heading for the roof. Nightwing had called his Wing Glider which would be here at any moment, except-

“They’ve escaped! They’re heading for the roof!” they heard one of the Knights call, firing a few rounds off at them.

“Shit, let’s move!” Nightwing shouted. Barbara grabbed a wing-ding from Nightwing’s belt and threw it at the man pursuing them, hitting the gun and knocking it out of the man’s hands.

“Even a cripple can be dangerous!” She shouted back to him.

“Have I ever told you how hot you are when you get all aggressive?” Nightwing teased. Barbara flashed him a wink and a grin. The trio made it to the roof, and right on time, the Wing Glider flew over head. Nightwing threw Barbara up toward it, and she grabbed it with a grunt, then Robin grabbed on, but Nightwing stayed behind.

“Take her back to the manor! I’m going after Jason!” Nightwing called.

“Nightwing!” Robin called after him, but the glider was already taking off, back toward the manor. Nightwing watched it go, then turned back in time to see a bunch of Arkham Knights headed his way.

“Not tonight” he muttered to himself, pulling out a grappling gun and firing it off to the building nearby. With a flip, he dove off the building and swung through the air, the Arkham Knights shouting after him.

* * * * *

Batman approached the building from the shadows, watching the Arkham Knights carefully. Gun fire rained in his direction, and he knew immediately that testing their defenses was the right decision. They seemed to know most of his tricks, but there were some things he knew that he hadn’t taught Jason.

The Two Arkham Knights pursue him, to a distance. As expected they were leashed to their posts, a wise decision; Batman would usually lure away the guards and take them down while they were alone, but these men were trained well and refused to move from their posts. The other Knights on the roof and surrounding the building were all on alert as well. This would be a tough nut to crack. Tough, but not impossible.

Fortunately, Batman had come to this very chemical factory many times; he climbed into a grate a distance away from the factory and used it to get past the Knights. Once he reached the building, he leapt out of the grate and took down the Knights near the entrance. But as soon as he was inside the building, a bullet ricocheted off of a pipe nearby.

“You haven’t lost your touch, Bruce!” came The Red Hood’s voice. Batman’s eyes narrowed as he ducked into the shadows; a sniper rifle, and if he had to guess, equipped with several difference types of scopes with armor-penetrating ammo. Batman ducked back into the grates, remaining completely silent as he moved underneath the floor.

“He’s using the grates! Keep your eyes peeled and your wits about you! Don’t let him scare you!” Hood’s voice rang out over the factory. Batman moved forward, using the tactical view of his mask. Suddenly, he heard a grate open and a thermal grenade was dropped down into it. Batman hurried down another path as the grenade went off. Soon, more were being dropped down the grate. Finally, he dived out from underneath two of the Knights and knocked their heads together, earning a sniper shot in his shoulder. He growled in pain and grappled up to the walkways above, throwing smoke bombs down and following up with a batarang, knocking the guns out of the Knights’ hands.

The Knights swarmed his location, but he was gone.

“You can’t hide, Batman! I’m going to kill you, and then I’m going to kill the Joker. And then you can both rot in hell together!” Hood shouted, as another sniper shot ricocheted nearby in the support beams of the roof where he was hiding. Batman glanced at his shoulder; the bullet hadn’t penetrated like he’d expected. It was a ricochet, so he had been lucky in that regard.

He didn’t have time to scan for Jason, because soon enough, the man was firing on him again. He had to move or risk getting shot. The Knights spotted him and began firing at him, but Batman had other plans. He fired his grappling gun at a venting duct grate and crashed through it, sliding down the vent and back down into the grates below, the Knights searching for him above.

One of the Knights pulled the grate up and Batman popped up through it, slamming down a smoke bomb. That’s when they made the mistake of swarming the location. Using the smoke as a cover, Batman began taking them down, one by one. Until a sniper snot nailed him in the arm. Batman growled but powered through the pain.

He turned and spotted the Red Hood retreating into a nearby office. Batman disabled the last of the Knights and followed him, kicking the door to the office down. Hood removed his helmet and clapped, laughing as he came to stand beside a bound Joker.

“Well done, Batman! I expected no less from the man who trained his killer,” Jason said darkly, glaring the man down. Batman glanced over at the Joker who appeared to be unconscious, then back to Jason.

“Jason-”

“Shut up! I don’t want to hear any of your excuses, any of your lies!” Jason snapped angrily. He drew a gun and jammed it into the Joker’s head, waking the clown. The Joker looked up, first at Hood, then at Batman, and started laughing.

“Well, well, well, the gang’s all here!” he said with another laugh. Jason backhanded the clown to silence him, then pointed the gun at Batman.

“You couldn’t save me, couldn’t get to me in time. I forgive you for that. But what I can’t forgive,” Jason ground out, jamming the gun back into the Joker’s head “is the fact that you let this piece of death worshiping garbage live!” Jason shouted, pointing the gun back at Batman.

“I died! I fucking died! And the man who killed me gets to keep on living, keep on killing! How is that justice?!” Batman remained silent as Jason spoke, letting the man have his say. Jason chuckled and shook his head and said “so I was just a pawn. Expendable in your little war on crime. So I figured, I’ll do what you couldn’t. So here I am,” Jason said in a deathly calm tone, glaring Batman down “getting justice. Getting the justice that I was denied! By a man I trusted like a father!”

“Jason, please. Let the Joker go. End this. We’ll go home, and talk this through. This doesn’t have to end in death. I’ll do anything to fix this.”

“Anything, you say?” Jason asked, quirking an eyebrow, intrigued by the offer. He drew a second hand gun and looked down at it, turning it over, examining it, before tossing it to Batman.

“Alright, you want to fix it? Then do what you should have done five years ago,” he said in an even tone, pointing his gone at the Joker “and kill him. Kill the Joker, grant me the justice that I deserve,” he said, and then he gave a shrug and flashed a thoughtful look “and then maybe we’ll talk.”

Batman looked down at the gun in his hands as if it were a snake, poisonous, dangerous. He looked up at Jason with a sorrowful look and shook his head “I can’t do this, Jason. Not this. I’m sorry.”

“Why not? Because it would be too hard to cross that line?” Jason asked, anger in his tone. Batman shook his head.

“No! God no! Because it’d be too damned easy!” Batman replied. Jason looked a bit confused by the comment.

“Too easy?! If it was so easy, then why-”

“Because if I kill him, if I allow myself to go down that path,” Batman said softly, dropping the gun and shaking his head “I don’t know that I can come back from that.” And then suddenly, Jason laughed. He laughed and shook his head. Then he glared at Batman and kicked the Joker’s chair over, the clown hitting the ground with a groan and a thud.

“See, that’s your problem! Your mercy! Your willingness to spare even the most heinous of criminals!” Jason snapped, taking a threatening step forward “your weakness is your mercy. And-” Jason went on, but he was suddenly cut off when the Joker slammed him in the back of his head with the chair, having cut his bonds and broken free. Jason collapsed to the ground, passed out cold and the clown planted his foot on his back and rested his arm on his knee.

“Well, well, well, how the tables have turned! This makes for a much more satisfying conclusion, don’t you think?” The Joker said with a hysterical giggle. Batman glared at him and prepared to strike, but the Joker grabbed up a gun and held it to Jason’s head.

“Uh uh uh! Wouldn’t want the little birdie’s brains all over the floor, would you?” The Joker said in a low tone. Batman growled and relaxed, watching the Joker carefully; he couldn’t lose Jason again. Not like this.

“Poor little birdie! Came all the way back from the dead to make this shindig happen!” The Joker said, sick grin splitting his face “but he underestimated little old me! Only the Batman can kill me!” The Joker laughed hysterically and kicked Jason in the side. Jolted awake, Jason groaned and rolled over on his side.

“Wakey wakey! Don’t want to miss my big show now, do you?” The Joker cackled. Jason glared up at the Joker, ignoring the gun in his face.

“Aw, aren’t you adorable! You almost have daddy bats scowl!”

“Fuck you. When I’m done with you, nobody will be able to identify the remains,” Jason growled. The Joker turned his attention back on Batman and that’s when Jason struck; he threw the clown off of him, throwing him off balance, and throwing him to the ground. Jason sat on top of him and started raining punches on his face.

“Oh, c’mon now! I hit you much harder than that! Surely you can do better!” The Joker taunted. Jason’s scowl darkened as he kept striking. Batman attempted to pull him off, but Jason shoved him away.

“Back off!” He shouted, he looked back down at the clown, and gasped, feeling a knife slide past his armor, in between his ribs.

“Jason!” Batman shouted, rushing to the man’s side, but Jason shoved him away as the clown got to his feet.

“Don’t touch me,” he ground out, hand covering his knife wound. The Joker laughed hysterically and pulled a syringe out of his coat.

“Y’know, Bane sure does love his venom! I wonder what his new formula does? Let’s find out, shall we?” he asked, giggling hysterically as he injected himself. He groaned in pain as his muscles practically doubled in size; this new formula seemed more potent, but it also came with a side effect. Jason knew, because he’d seen it first hand. The term ‘roid rage’ didn’t quite cover it.

The Joker charged in at Batman with a roar, swinging at the vigilante. Batman dived out of the way, but it appeared that this new venom didn’t just enhance his strength and reflexes, it drastically enhanced them; The Joker turned on a dime and grabbed Batman by the leg, throwing him into a nearby wall. He groaned as he pushed himself to his feet in time to see the Joker hauling Jason up off the ground with a fist tightening around his throat.

“Well isn’t this quite a turn of events! The little birdie comes back from the dead, tears Gotham apart and captures me in some revenge plot! And now the birdie is the victim of his own game!” The Joker taunted. Jason groaned, struggling to break free as he could feel the air slipping from his lungs.

“Screw...you,” he ground out. The Joker giggled and as he opened his mouth to speak, he shouted in pain and dropped Jason onto the floor, electricity sparking through him. Nightwing stood behind him, escrima sticks sparking with electrical charges.

“You...shouldn’t be here,” Jason groaned. Nightwing ignored him and knelt down beside him.

“You’re welcome,” he said evenly, examining the man’s wound.

“It’s shallow. You’ll be okay.”

“But you wont,” came the Joker’s voice, backhanding Nightwing and sending him throttling across the room. Batman growled and lunged in, langing a few blows, but the Joker barely seemed phased as he punched Batman and sent him flying backward.

“The venom makes him extremely aggressive, but also,” Jason growled, getting to his feet “it lowers intelligence, and wears off very quickly. We just have to stall for time and then I blow his head off.”

“No, Jaybird,” Nightwing replied, getting to his feet “killing him-”

“It exactly what intend to do,” Jason said with a cocky smirk on his face. He pulled a trigger out of his utility belt and pressed the button; red LED lights lit up on bombs scattered throughout the factory with two minutes on the clock.

“Listen up, the place is about to blow, get out now!” he sent over the comm link to his men. The Joker charged at him and swung a fist, but Jason jumped up and avoided it, using his head like a stepping down and throwing a handful of shurikens at the clown. The Joker laughed hysterically as the blades dug into his arm but otherwise seemed unaffected. Nightwing and Batman attacked then, working in tandem, Batman striking high and Nightwing striking low, and Jason going for the middle. The combination of attacks sent the Joker stumbling backwards, crashing out of the office and over the railing, down to the floor below.

The trio followed after him, but had to duck back when he threw an entire chemical vat at them. Jason and Nightwing attacked from above, while Batman slid into a grate and attacked from below. They had one minute and thirty seconds to end this and get out alive.

“Hmm, decisions decisions! Stop the Joker, or save ourselves? Tough call, isn’t it?” The Joker said with another laugh, ducking an attack from Batman and backhanding Nightwing out of the air.

“Hoo hoo! This venom recipe is wonderful! I’ll have to beat it out of Bane later. Maybe mix it with my Joker toxin! Yes, I can see it now, a bunch of steroid-crazed laughing lunatics tear apart their own city! Now that’s a party!”

“Burn in hell,” Jason growled as he jumped onto the Joker’s back from behind and dug a knife into his side. The Joker howled in pain before he grabbed Jason and threw him to the ground, pinning him with his foot.

“You little birdies have been a thorn in my side! But what’s the fun of facing down just the Batman? Well, you know how the old saying goes,” The Joker said, grinning like the devil as he pressed his foot down harder, pulling a pained groan out of Jason “can’t kill a bat without breaking a few birds!” Jason screamed in pain as the Joker gave a quick kick to his ribs.

Batman growled and threw his full weight into a tackle, sending the Joker toppling over.

“Jason, are you okay?” Batman asked, huffing a breath as he held his hand out to the man. Jason just stared at him in shock for a few moments before pushing himself up to his feet.

“Just fine,” he muttered. Thirty seconds left on the clock.

“Nightwing, we’re leaving!” he called, glancing over at the Joker who’d turned back to normal. Jason growled and shoved Batman away from him, pulling out his guns and approaching the Joker.

“No, he dies now!” Jason shouted, but just as he aimed the gun, the Joker sat up and cackled, throw a knife at Jason. The knife struck his shoulder, casuing him to stumble, and then the Joker pulled out a gun of his own.

“Time to finish what I started! Do be a good boy and stay dead this time!” he cackled, both he and Jason firing at the same time. The Joker fell over dead to a bullet in the head, but Jason...

“Well shit...not how I expected my day to go,” he muttered, looking down to the bullet wound in his stomach. He toppled over and groaned in pain, all the sounds around him suddenly becoming muffled. He saw Batman and Nightwing hovering over him, but that was the last thing he saw before he blacked out...

Chapter Text

Jason’s eyes slowly opened, his vision blurry at first. He scanned his surroundings a little before he sat up in a bed...in a room? His room? Something didn’t seem right though; what was he doing in his old bedroom in the manor? He groaned in pain and threw the blankets off, looking himself over. He had bandages wrapped all around his waist where he’d been shot, and bruised a few ribs. All his small wounds had also been bandaged and he’d been left in nothing but a pair of jeans. Then he started to panic a bit; where the hell was his gear?!

He needed his gear, needed his weapons, his armor, he felt naked without them. Naked and vulnerable. And he was in the manor to boot! Enemy territory, unarmed. Jason’s eyes narrowed with the determination to escape as he pulled himself out of bed. Escape might have been a bit over dramatic, because he hadn’t been bound or anything but the window was sealed shut, likely to keep him from-

“Sneaking out, Master Jason?” came Alfred’s voice from behind him. Jason spun on the spot, his expression softening when he spotted the old butler. He was carrying a tray with some water, a washcloth, and some bandages on it. Alfred, unperturbed, moved across the room and placed the tray down, before moving toward Jason who looked like a deer in the headlights.

Alfred flashed him a smile before ushering Jason back into bed.

“Alfred-” Jason began to protest. Alfred ‘tsk’d and shook his head.

“I will not hear any protests, Master Jason. You’ll pull your stitches! You need to rest and recover,” Alfred said casually, rounding the bed once more and dabbing the washcloth in the water,

“Besides, I need to redress those bandages,” he added in. Jason was surprised, to say the least, at how well he was being treated. After he tried to kill Bruce and turned Gotham upside down...but then, he and Alfred always seemed to get along well. He loved Alfred like a father, or well, more like a grandfather.

“I assure you,” Alfred said smoothly, peeling off one of the bandages on Jason’s arm and gently cleaning the wounds there “that Master Bruce, Master Dick, nor Master Tim are permitted to see you without your permission.” Jason looked at Alfred in surprise the man just flashed him a knowing look. He had been tempted to ask how Alfred had managed to convince Dick, and especially Bruce, to leave him be, but then he remembered, this was Alfred after all.

“Why? Why help me?” Jason finally asked, opting to look out the window instead of at Alfred. Alfred stopped on his bandages for a few moments and he could feel the man’s eyes on him, but the silence remained, until Alfred had finished cleaning and redressing all his wounds, sitting him up to get at the ones on his stomach, back, and sides. He was kind of a train wreck. Jason felt like he was a kid again, with Alfred fussing over him like this, but he didn’t have the heart to protest; it felt good to have someone care about him, to be honest. And frankly, he missed Alfred.

“Because Master Jason,” Alfred finally said, pushing him back down onto the bed “despite everything, you are still family.” Alfred lifted the tray off of the nightstand and glanced down at Jason, flashing a smile “and family does not give up on each other.” With that, the man left the room, left Jason to his thoughts. Jason closed his eyes and let his thoughts wander; the last thing he saw before he blacked out, was both Dick and Bruce hovering over him with worried looks on their faces.

But he wasn’t ready to forgive Bruce. Not by a long shot. But he didn’t have time to think further because Alfred returned minutes later.

“Master Dick would like to see you,” Alfred said smoothly. Jason glanced toward the door and saw Dick behind him with a somewhat worried look on his face. Jason just waved him in and Alfred gave a nod, moving aside for Dick to enter. The man flashed Jason a smile before pulling a chair up beside the bed. Alfred departed, closing the door behind them, just as Bruce came into Jason’s view.

“Hey, how’re you doing?” Dick asked. Jason sighed and raked a hand through his hair.

“I feel like shit. How do you think?” he snapped in reply. Though it didn’t hold much anger, it was more playful than it sounded. Dick chuckled in amusement and shook his head.

“Well, at least you feel something. We were afraid you were-”

“Going to die? Yeah, tried that once already Dickie-bird. It didn’t quite stick,” Jason interrupted. Dick snorted, holding back a laugh. He swatted Jason’s arm playfully.

“That’s not funny! You almost died, Jaybird,” Dick replied, both amusement and annoyance in his tone. Jason just flashed him a cocky smirk. The two of them sat in silence for a time, seemingly absorbed in their own thoughts. Then finally, Dick cleared his throat and said “we...have a bit to talk about, actually.” Jason looked up at him and quirked an eyebrow.

“Do we? You’re not going to try and convince me to make nice with Bruce, are you? Because-”

“No. I meant...about us,” Dick interrupted, face tinted pink. Jason laughed and scrubbed his face with his hands.

“There is no us Dickie-bird. We had sex, once. It was lust, nothing more. No need to make a big deal out of it,” Jason replied. Dick frowned, looking entirely unconvinced.

“You told me you had a crush on me, remember?” Dick pointed out, tone full of amusement. Jason blushed a bit and shook his head. He didn’t really want to talk about this, about the fact that...well, frankly, he wasn’t good enough for Dick.

“Can we forget it for now? Really not in the mood what with my entire body aching like I was run over by a steam roller,” Jason said flatly. Dick quirked an eyebrow, but then heaved a sigh and gave a nod.

“I understand.” Another silence pervaded the room.

“How long was I out?” Jason asked. Dick sighed and raked a hand through his hair.

“About three days.” Jason went silent again and then he turned on his side and closed his eyes.

“Tired,” he muttered. Dick gave a nod and retreated from the room. He stopped in the doorway and looked back over his shoulder at Jason before closing the door behind him.

* * * * *

Bruce sat in the batcave, staring up at the computer intently. It kept his mind off of things, to focus on work, instead of the possibility that he might lose his son for a second time. When he brought Jason back to the batcave, he was barely responsive, barely alive. He feared Jason would die a second time. It was only through sheer luck and perhaps a miracle, that Jason survived his wounds and Alfred was able to save him.

But no, Bruce decided; luck and miracles had nothing to do with it. Jason had always been a fighter. It was Jason that had kept himself alive, he believed. He wanted to talk to him, to try and mend things, but Alfred refused to let him see him. He had been angry at Alfred, but he knew the man was right; considering how hard Jason had tired to kill him, how angry he had been, his first sight upon waking should not have been the object of his anger.

“I talked with Jason,” Dick said softly, coming up behind the man, hands raking through his hair. He stopped behind Bruce, hand resting on the back of the man’s chair.

“He’s still angry at you. Probably will be for a while,” he added. Bruce didn’t respond, just kept staring up at the screen. Dick looked down at him with a neutral expression; he knew the man was covering up the fact that he was blaming himself for all of this. It wasn’t his fault, but that was typical Bruce, always blaming himself for everything.

“It’s not your fault, Bruce,” Dick tried anyway. Bruce finally looked up at him and shook his head. But he didn’t speak, didn’t argue because they both knew neither side was going to relent.

“How is he?” Bruce finally asked. Dick sigh and gave a shrug.

“Physically, he’s awake, and doing okay. He’s in some pain, but he tries to hide it. Typical Jason, right? Always playing it cool, trying to be tough,” Dick joked, even earning a smirk from Bruce. The memories came flooding back, good memories for a change. Sure, he blamed himself for Jason’s death. He allowed a fourteen year old boy to become Robin, he failed to rescue Jason, and, looking at it from Jason’s perspective, he began to understand why Jason felt so...betrayed. Given the life Jason had been forced to...endure...before Bruce adopted him...

Adopting Jason was not a mistake, not a regret. In the two, almost three years that Jason had been with them, he’d become like a son to Bruce, like Dick before him. So no, adopting Jason was not a regret, not a mistake, and not a failure on his part. He had accepted responsibility for what had happened to him, what he had become, but Jason was still his son. Family does not quit on each other, Alfred once told him, years ago.

“I think he needs to see you though, Bruce,” Dick finally said, interrupting the man’s thoughts. Bruce looked up at him and attempted to protest, but Dick interrupted him “no, Bruce. Trust me. He may think he doesn’t need to see you, but he does. We can convince Alfred to let you in to see him, but you have to see him. You can’t keep avoiding each other forever.” Bruce stared up at him for a few moments before he gave a curt nod and pushed himself up from his chair.

The two of them ascended the stairs to Jason’s room, having convinced Alfred to let Bruce see him. However, when the entered the room, Jason was gone. The bed was empty, the window was open, and a note sat on the nightstand. Dick picked it up and read it silently. Sorry Dickie. Sitting still isn’t my style. See you soon.

Dick sighed deeply and raked his hand through his hair.

“Dammit Jaybird,” he muttered. He flipped the paper over and, curiously enough, found more on it. He smiled and handed it to Bruce. Bruce frowned and looked at it, reading it mentally.

P.S. Tell Daddy Bats I said thanks. And maybe next time, I’ll be less inclined to blow him up with dynamite.

Bruce managed a small smile and crumpled the paper up, tossing it in the waste basket. He sighed and retreated back down to he batcave. He caught sight of Jason’s old Robin uniform out of the corner of his eye and moved toward it. It was sitting in a glass display case, having been restored to perfect condition, a memorial to the previous Robin, to his son.

Alfred came up from behind him with a sad expression on his face.

“Sir, in light of recent events...would you like me to remove that?” Bruce was silent for a time, staring at the costume before he looked back to Alfred. He shook his head and pulled his cowl on.

“No. It doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t change anything at all,” Bruce said softly before heading to the batmobile. He stopped in front of it, a memory flashing through his mind that brought a smile to his face.

"Okay, come on, let’s go! If you can’t suit up quickly at home base, I’m concerned how you would handle it in the field!” Bruce called after Jason

“Perhaps he’s primping. As I recall, Master Richard spent nearly half an hour admiring his reflection the first time he donned his cape,” said Alfred, tray of tea in hand. Bruce smiled as he picked up a cup of tea off of the tray and gave it a sip.

“Jason, get on out here or I’m going on patrol without you!” Bruce called again. Jason jumped down onto the desk of the computer with a shout. Alfred flinched, startled and nearly dropped the tray.

“Ha! Gotcha!” he said, hopping down onto the floor.

“Would’ve. If I hadn’t seen you slip behind the computer base three minutes ago,” Bruce said with a small chuckle of amusement as he sipped his tea. Jason grinned widely and pointed at the man.

“Nah, I totally got you!”

“How does it feel?” Bruce asked. Jason laughed as he gave a few experimental punches and kicks.

“It. Feels. Awesome!” Jason said cheerily, giving another jab at an invisible opponent “check me out! I’m Robin, the Boy Wonder!” Jason laughed as he flipped through the air, practicing the moves Dick had taught him.

“This rocks! Now let’s go old man! There are bad guys out there that need chasing!” Jason called, back flipping on top of the batmobile.

“This is the best day of my life!”