Young Justice -:- Hooked
Summary: An Arkham breakout goes from bad to worse when Robin finds himself trapped with the Joker, who wants to play a little game with the Boy Wonder…
Setting/Spoilers: Set early season one, around the time that Artemis joins the team (but that's mainly for context, this is a Dynamic Duo adventure, no team participation)/Not really any spoilers
Pairings: None – but there is lots of Daddy!Bats
Genre/Rating: Hurt/Comfort/Horror with a healthy dose of Angst and Suspense/Rated T for multiple scenes of torture and graphic violence
Disclaimer: If I owned Young Justice, the Joker would have been way more psychotically badass.
Author's Note(s): Hello Again! As people seemed to like my other YJ Fic Identity and because the people in this fandom are so entirely awesome, I thought I'd write another story. I do have ideas for a sequel (and a sequel to the sequel…!) but this story is unrelated. This time around we're focusing purely on Robin and Batman (in that order).
I felt that the YJ Universe's rendition of the Joker was a tad… underwhelming, so this is my attempt to rectify that. I've spent my past two paydays on lots of Batman titles and I'm loving the New 52 – especially the Death of the Family arc with the Joker being his psychotic self. Hopefully I've captured at least a little bit of that character in this story…
But I have rambled more than enough. Just read and ENJOY!
Chapter One -:- Mistakes
"Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream…"
Robin clenched his teeth and tried to block out the Joker's atonal singing. He was in enough pain as it was without making his ears bleed as well. But then again, he figured that if he lost any more blood, he wouldn't be hearing much of anything anymore. He would be dead. Well… if it gets me away from the Joker…
"Merrily, merrily, merrily, life is better when you SCREAM!"
The crowbar hit the back of his knee on that last note, and Robin couldn't help the grunt that passed his bloodied lips. The Joker pouted at him, disappointed. The expression made his white skin crack as it was pulled in the opposite direction of the perpetual grin. "Now, now Bird Boy, I told you. When I say 'scream' you have to do just that. Every time you mess it up, you know that we just have to start again…"
The Joker looked at Robin as if expecting some kind of response, but the young hero had long since run out of witty comebacks. His sense of humour had gone out with his dignity a while back. Joker sighed, grabbed Robin's elbow and pulled. "Are you even listening to me?"
The yank sent Robin swinging again, shooting shockwaves of pain from his shoulder through to every nerve end in his body.
They were in a warehouse, presumably somewhere in Gotham, though Robin couldn't even be sure of that anymore. Pigeons fluttered in the rafters and faint moonlight shone through the high windows, casting the boy and his torturer in shadows. The floor was concrete, and stained with blood. Robin was in the middle of the vast space, suspended from the ceiling by a hook that had been run through his shoulder, like bait on a fishing line. His feet hovered about a metre above the ground, his entire weight pulling at the wound and making it feel as if it were tearing wider with every swing.
If he opened his eyes, which he didn't particularly want to do, he would see the outline of the elaborate bomb that the Joker had set up to greet the Batman with.
Joker did love his bombs.
Until Batman came for the grand finale, all that was left for them to do was play the psycho's games. Robin hated Joker's games. They made him realise that his tolerance for pain had never truly been tested. Just when he thought it couldn't possibly get any worse, another bone would break, or the crowbar would get him in a pressure point, or his shoulder would be stretched to the point where he thought for sure that his arm couldn't be attached anymore.
"Now, let's try this again," The Joker said, as if he were talking to a child. Which, really, he was. Robin was only thirteen. He would deny this later (if there was a later) but honestly, he was just a kid. And he was scared and alone and trapped with an unpredictable psychopath with a penchant for torture and really bad singing. "And don't forget your part, Wonder Boy. From the top now!"
The Joker pushed him, making Robin sway like a pendulum again, the movement twisting the hook and spilling fresh blood onto his cape-less uniform. Robin could barely hear the Joker's singing over the blood pumping in his ears, his whole body feeling as if it were being torn apart.
"Sing with me! Merrily, merrily, merrily…" the Joker lifted the crowbar, his grin growing inhumanly wide. Robin tensed for the hit, gritting his teeth against the fear that simply wanted out. "Life is better when you SCREAM!"
The metal smashed into his lower back and made the chain jolt. Robin couldn't help it.
Nineteen Hours Earlier…
How in the heck did Harley get on the rooftop? Robin thought to himself as he darted out of range of Harlequin's mallet. He launched himself into a flip, using her shoulder as a springboard as he pulled a baterang from his belt and threw it at the Mad Hatter, making the Alice in Wonderland themed madman drop his weapon with a clatter. Once he was back on the ground he dropped to avoid another swing of the mallet, took Harley out with a leg sweep and then cartwheeled out of the way so that he could take stock.
This was an Arkham breakout on a scale that Robin had never seen before. Usually one or two of the unstable inmates would get free, cause some havoc and get marched right back into their cells, but not this time. This time the whole lot had decided to come out to play.
Most of them had vanished into the city, keeping low profiles so that they would have some time to enjoy their freedom – which was the smart move. But some of them, like Harley and Hatter, were hanging around, purposely seeking a fight with the Dynamic Duo - which was the stupid thing to do. But then again, they had just broken out of a mental hospital, not a Mensa clubhouse; they couldn't exactly be called clear thinkers.
"Stop moving Bird Boy!" Harley whined as he dodged all of her predictable strikes, her two-tone jester's hat flailing and making the bells jingle incessantly. "I want to soften you up!"
Robin blinked at that statement, but didn't have time to ponder it any further when suddenly Two-Face was behind him, his scarred hand grabbing him by the cape. Robin choked as his collar strove to cut off his air supply as Two-Face lifted him into the air. But he quickly hooked his finger under the catch, releasing the cape and dropping him back to the rooftop. He rolled onto his back and kicked out, separating Two-Face from his precious coin as it flew from his normal hand and rolled across the asphalt.
Two-Face staggered around, searching desperately for his coin, accidently knocking into Harley who pouted angrily at him. Robin smirked at the three psychotic villains as they devolved into playground fisticuffs, more concerned with beating each other than paying the Boy Wonder any mind.
"Okay, now stay still!" Robin jibed as he pulled out another baterang and threw it. The pointy end hit smack in the centre of Harley's mallet, before exploding out and capturing the three of them in dark red foam. As the liquid hardened, the three villains attempted to escape but their struggles were useless, making Robin cackle at them before he remembered that they weren't the only escapees.
He could hear the sounds of a fight coming from the alleyway a couple of blocks over, an inhuman roar carrying in the night air. Robin quickly took a running start and leapt across the gap to the next rooftop, using momentum and his skills as an acrobat to close the distance. He skidded to a stop on the apartment building above the alley and looked down at the fight taking place below.
It was Batman vs. Solomon Grundy, and by the looks of it, Batman wasn't winning. The hulking zombie was twice as tall as the Dark Knight and a thousand times more ugly. Decaying skin and ratty clothes draped across his huge frame, the stench of long-dead flesh reaching the Boy Wonder even from his high perch. Several baterangs stuck out of the giant's pressure points, but they were clearly doing nothing to slow Grundy down.
As Robin watched from above, Grundy grabbed Batman by both his arm and leg and spun, launching the Dark Knight into the building hard enough to send vibrations through the bricks and set Robin off balance. When his mentor didn't immediately get up, Robin fired off his grapple gun and jumped off the roof, barely slowing his descent as he landed hard on Grundy's shoulders.
The impact jarred his legs but Robin just easily jumped into a flip, spinning and hitting Grundy in the chest with two exploding baterangs of his own. But as he landed in a crouch on the concrete, he realised just how ineffective his attack was. Grundy simply waved away the gunpowder smoke and brushed off the sharpened weapons before growling threateningly at the young vigilante. Perhaps it was time to reassess his fighting technique.
Robin was cartwheeling out of the way of Grundy's wide right hook, when suddenly he felt a chill shiver down his spine. He could feel someone watching him intently, and as he darted back and away from Grundy he glanced up at the rooftop to see a shadowed figure glaring back at him. Even in the darkness of the night, Robin could see the malevolent intent in the shadow's cold gaze.
The young vigilante realised his mistake a millisecond too late. While he was distracted by the shadow, Grundy stepped up and threw a wild punch that wiped Robin out like a surfer failing epically on a giant wave. All the air was expelled from his lungs as Grundy's fist smacked into his stomach and literally sent him flying into the unforgiving brick wall. His head hit mortar and bright lights danced across his vision, leaving him dazed and struggling to remember how to breathe.
He could sense Grundy closing in for the kill, but Robin couldn't get his jellified limbs to co-operate with his survival instinct. Fantastic, the teen thought to himself with an internal eye-roll, I'm gonna die in alley, killed by an overstuffed zombie. Asterous.
But then he felt heavy fabric brush against his legs and he blinked through the haze to see Batman intercepting Grundy's fist. The Dark Knight kicked the zombie with enough force to send Grundy staggering backwards, and then he glanced down at Robin over his shoulder. Seemingly satisfied that his partner wasn't dead, Batman closed the distance between him and Grundy and smashed a left hook into the giant's cheek, following it up with a right uppercut.
Robin climbed back to his feet, ignoring the pounding headache and the massive bruise that he would surely have on his stomach in the morning. He glanced up to see the shadow still watching them, looking very pleased with itself. And then it pulled away from the ledge and vanished into the night.
"Go after him!" Batman ordered as he shoved Grundy against the fire escape, the metal whining as it bent under the giant's weight. Grundy growled in frustration and grabbed up a piece of rebar and smacked it against Batman's back. The thick Kevlar absorbed most of the hit, but Robin still winced at the sound of the metal hitting his mentor. "Go, now!"
Robin didn't want to leave Batman fighting Grundy – the huge mass of dead flesh was clearly proving a challenge. He took half a step towards the two battling titans to help, but Batman threw him a look that left no room for argument. Robin gritted his teeth, drew his grapple gun and then propelled straight upwards and back onto the roof.
The shadow was waiting. On the flat roof of an apartment building a block over, Robin could just make out a thin figure wearing a long coat and holding a cane like a Victorian gentleman. The figure tipped his hat at Robin in invitation and then made an impossible leap, disappearing onto a lower rooftop.
Robin grumbled under his breath in annoyance as he began his pursuit. He wanted to be back in the alleyway helping the Batman take down Grundy, not chasing some nobody he didn't even recognise across the rooftops of Gotham. And it didn't help that he had a sneaking suspicion why his mentor had sent him away.
He had screwed up. The covert young justice team had only been set up for just over a month. In that time they had already gone up against Block Buster, Mister Twister, Cobra, Amazo… and Robin had realised just how out of his depth he really was. He had thought that his four years of experience in a city as harsh as Gotham had prepared him for anything. He couldn't believe just how wrong he was. Compared to his super-powered teammates, he was weak, useless… a spare part. If it weren't for the fact that they needed him to hack a computer every now and again…? Well… there was no point Robin even being there.
He had hidden his growing insecurity for weeks. He didn't want to look any more pathetic than he already felt. But that morning he had admitted to Batman that he was having doubts about his role on the team. Bruce had studied him through the slits of his cowl, but he hadn't really said anything either to confirm that Robin was right or reassure him that he was wrong. But then again, Batman wasn't exactly one for words. Robin didn't know what he had been expecting.
Well, that's not true. He hadn't been expecting this.
One hit from Grundy and suddenly he was being side-lined? Sent after some shadow because Batman feared that Robin was right about his uselessness? It wasn't fair! It wasn't…
Robin skidded to a stop moments before he would have plummeted to his death. The figure he had been chasing had vanished again after leading the Boy Wonder onto a church roof. The old building was taller than those that surrounded it, and if Robin had let his momentum carry him any further he would have had a date with the concrete. He rebalanced himself on the thin apex of the steep roof and scanned his surroundings, scolding himself for being so off his game.
Robin had been so lost in his own thoughts that he hadn't realised that they had crossed half the city and wound up in Old Gotham. The bright lights of Wayne Tower lit the skyline and cast the old clock tower in shadows, giving Robin the landmarks he needed to orientate himself. Below him to the right the small graveyard attached to the church glowed, lit by small solar-powered garden lights. A small lane snaked round in a L-shape to his left, dividing them from a row of mismatched houses and apartments. Across from the wide alley in front of him there was single-storey warehouse with a long dead neon sign announcing it as some kind of nightclub that was clearly not open for business.
But there was no sign of the figure in the long coat. Robin swore under his breath and reached for his communicator, preparing himself for the lecture he was about to get. Instead he got nothing but static.
Dread built up in Robin's stomach as if some instinct of his already knew the nightmare that was about to follow.
He felt a shift in the air and turned just in time to block an attack with his Kevlar plated glove. The micro-computer built into the fabric hissed and sparked in complaint, but Robin ignored it as he twisted and struck out with a kick that sent his assailant sliding back. Anyone else would have tumbled off of the six-inch wide stone cap on the roof's apex, but this guy was incredibly nimble. He grinned at Robin as if glad that the young hero was finally putting up a decent fight.
Robin finally recognised him. Springheeled Jack. In the Boy Wonder's defence, this guy wasn't exactly a Gotham regular – in fact, he wasn't even American – he was a villain from England… a long, long way from home. The British serial killer had been transferred to Arkham following his recent capture by Knight and Squire (the English version of a vigilante duo) for some sort of research or treatment or something. Robin hadn't really paid the story any attention; he had kind of been focused on Mister Twister's attack on Happy Harbour at the time. Now he was regretting it.
Springheeled Jack was tall, at least six foot, and reed thin like a drainpipe. He dressed like the old fashioned gentry in an expensive looking suit and smart dress shoes that did not look appropriate for roof-hopping. He wore white gloves with gold claws that curled around the opal that adorned the top of his ivory cane. A relatively short top hat balanced on his dark hair as he peered under the brim and gave Robin that serial killer grin.
When he jumped he coiled like a spring and launched himself so high that he had to have some sort of rocket propulsion built into his costume. Robin barely had a chance to get out of the way of Springheeled Jack's landing, he was so fast. The teenager folded in half backwards – Matrix style – to avoid the claws that would have raked across his chest, and then performed an amazing leap of his own, flipping so that he landed behind the villain and struck him in the back with a roundhouse kick.
Their fight would have been spectacular to watch if there had been anyone around. They were both excellent acrobats, their battle looking more like a deadly dance than an actual fight. The balance beam that was the roof's apex didn't prove to be much of a hindrance to either of them. If anything, they were in their element. If it weren't for the fact that Robin was all too aware of how close those golden claws were to gutting him, he would have said that he was kind of having fun.
That changed very quickly.
Robin overestimated how long the roof was. As he somersaulted over Springheeled Jack and riddled him with baterangs like a pincushion, he realised in mid-air that he had nowhere to land. Unless of course you counted the concrete thirty or so feet below them. Which he didn't. He reached for his grapple gun as the milliseconds counted down to his immediate demise. He was aiming for the church tower beside the roof that had been their battlefield, hoping to use his momentum to swing round and take out Springheeled Jack from behind.
But the serial killer had other ideas.
Just as Robin pulled the trigger, Springheeled Jack launched at him, performing an airborne rugby tackle that caught Robin right beneath the ribs and knocked his trajectory off completely. The grapple gun was ripped from his hands as suddenly he was flying diagonally backwards towards the roof of the nightclub.
This is really going to hurt.
In fact, Robin blacked out. He was aware of the wind whistling in his ears and Springheeled Jack's grip around his waist. He felt his back hit something hard, he heard the whine of bending metal and something that sounded like maniacal laughter some distance away.
And then nothing.
Finally, Solomon Grundy went down.
Batman grunted with grim satisfaction as he stepped back from the newly hogtied zombie and surveyed the damage. He could feel bruises forming all down his left side from where he had hit the wall, and he suspected that he had cracked a few ribs at the very least. Blood dribbled from the cuts that littered his body and though he would never admit it out loud, he was exhausted.
It had been a long night. But it wasn't over yet. He pulled a small tablet computer from his belt and tapped at the screen. It wasn't as high tech as Robin's wrist computer, but it did the job. The device had been compiling data from police reports and the prisoner tracking bracelets that hadn't been disabled, creating a map of Gotham covered in red dots signifying the Arkham patients that still needed returning to their padded cells.
Batman pocketed the computer and pulled out his grapple gun. As he fired off a line he dropped a tracker on the unconscious Grundy so that the GCPD would be able to find him. And then he was swinging through the towers of Gotham City towards his next target.
As he soared above the streets, a prickle of paranoia ran down his spine. It had been a while since he had sent Robin after Springheeled Jack, but he had received nothing but silence from his protégé. This wasn't unusual; he had always taught Robin to keep his focus during a fight and he knew that though the boy was young he was perfectly capable of taking care of himself – despite Robin's recent doubts.
Batman released the grapple line and dropped onto the flat roof of an apartment building, several blocks away from where the computer told him his next target was. He couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. Very wrong.
He had long since learned to trust the instincts that his fellow Justice Leaguers and sometimes even his own protégé dismissed as his Bat Paranoia. He tried his communicator, wary of distracting Robin if he was in the middle of a takedown, but his gut telling him to take the risk. He was met with static, and suddenly every instinct was screaming at him to get to his son's side right now.
He took out the computer again and ran the tracking programme. The processor worked too slowly for the anxiety and fear that was building in Batman's stomach. Finally, the tracer flashed briefly in Old Gotham before the signal vanished.
Batman tried not to think about all the possible reasons why the signal would be cut as he immediately leapt across rooftops and dropped down where the Batmobile was parked. He wasn't as fast as Robin was at travelling via grapple line, and right now he needed speed. He climbed behind the wheel, the engine roaring to life, a thousand horsepower waiting to be unleashed. The tires squealed in protest as Batman put his foot to the floor and thundered onto the once-quiet streets.
He made it across the city in record time, with a record number of traffic violations; breaking every speed limit and running every stop sign. But some small part of him that he refused to listen to told him that it was still too slow.
He rumbled through the streets of Old Gotham until he finally spotted the spire of the church and skidded to a stop. His trained eyes scanned the dark houses and the graveyard until they settled on the abandoned grapple line hanging down from the church tower, the gun still attached and tapping against the stone wall in the light breeze.
Batman's gaze turned on the old warehouse that had briefly been turned into the nightclub that now sat empty and abandoned. He glanced up at the neon sign that flickered and buzzed mockingly.
THE LAST LAUGH
Batman's heart beat wildly against his chest as his stomach twisted into knots so tight he thought that he might actually be sick. But he fought to keep his outward mask of calm and control as he crossed the street and kicked open the chained shut doors, the rusted metal giving easily under the assault. The loud bang echoed around the empty space, sending the resident pigeons and rats scattering in fear. The streetlight outside created a thin rectangle of light and cast a long, dramatic shadow of the Dark Knight as he stood at the threshold.
He took in the scene in an instant. There was a huge hole in the roof, as if something had fallen through. The structure must have been quite weak as the corrugated metal had bent easily, providing just enough resistance to slow whatever had fallen through and make the landing painful, but not fatal. Batman stepped forward and knelt amongst the wreckage, his focus drawn to a black glove. He picked up the wrist computer, ignoring the sparks of the exposed wiring as he quickly realised just what had fallen through the roof.
Suddenly, loud cackling laughter erupted from the nightclub's old sound system. Batman clenched his hands into fists as his anxiety turned into pure anger.
"There you are, Batty Boy! So good of you to join us!" A familiar voice greeted him through the speakers mockingly. "You know, you just missed us – what a shame, eh?"
"What do you want, Joker?" Batman demanded as he rose to his feet.
"Why… to play a game of course!"
Batman growled, glaring straight ahead as he felt the lens of a camera honing in on him and the Joker's mad eyes watching him in delight. "Where's Robin?"
"That's part of the game, silly Bat!" the Joker retorted. "I like to call it 'Hide and Shriek'! I'll hide the little birdy, and you come and find him!"
"How?" Batman ground his teeth to try and keep his rage in check. It wasn't working. He could practically hear the grin in the Joker's reply and it made his blood boil.
"Oh, that's easy Batty! Just follow the sound of his screams!"
Wow, I am really cruel to our favourite Boy Wonder. And this is only the beginning… The things I've got planned… well… you'll just have to wait to find out!