It's late and I had this random idea that was poking at the back of my head. Basically, I think a lot of grief could be put to rest of Bruce, Dick, and Jason all saw what the others went through during and following the Death in the Family arc. Of course, they never talk about it. This is my little solution to that. Going to be a two to three chapter story, from what I can tell.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything, and the dialogue from the "memory" is taken from the comics. I wanted to be as true to the original story as possible. Anyway, on to chapter one!
How the hell he got sucked into a mission with Nightwing and Batman was beyond him. He was way too old for this shit. Okay, he was twenty-one, but mentally he just couldn't fathom tolerating either of them the way he had when he was thirteen. Not since his death, not since his resurrection, and certainly not since the family decided he somehow didn't have any sort of moral compass, let alone sense of real justice at all.
Yet, there he was, strung in to help out since the Replacement and the Demon were busy doing who-the-hell-cared back in Wayne Manor, and Golden Boy apparently wasn't enough of a soldier on his own for myopic motherfucker, Bruce.
Of course, Jason had answered the call, much against his better judgment. He was supposed to be steering clear of the mess that was the bats. Paving his own way and living his own life. Aside from a drunk dial every now and then and some interrupted fights, he had been successful.
There were times he had entertained the idea of returning back "home". Whatever the hell kind of mess home was. Then, he came to his senses. Mostly, anyway. He blamed the pieces of him that didn't see reason for his presence there tonight. At least there wasn't a shortage of thugs to take his anger out on. Right when another rush of self-loathing filled him, he smashed his gloved hands into another gangster's face, effectively breaking his nose.
"Nice hit," Nightwing told him nearby.
Jason rolled his eyes, though it wasn't like his older "brother" would see it behind his helmet. A small price to pay for hiding his betraying emotions the rest of the time. Nightwing didn't stick around either way to see any response even if he could. Another group of thugs pushed its way forward. Nightwing smirked briefly before slamming his escrima sticked onto either side of one's head and lunging for another.
Batman had taken to dealing with the group's leader. The massive brick wall of a man was looking a little worse for wear, but Red Hood realized his former mentor wasn't much better. Without thinking, Jason ran forward, throwing his body into the obstacle ahead. He didn't think about Batman owing him or even showing up the man who had spent hours teaching him similar drills almost a decade ago. No, he just high-tailed it and collided with the meat head, keeping his shoulder perfectly positioned to do the most damage.
Okay, maybe he cared a little if the other two survived the night. Not that he would say it out loud, especially without a drop of liquor in his system. He cared, and he hated that every time he thought he had quelled that part of him, it came back with just another team-up. That's all it took. Every time.
His shoulder crunched into the brick wall's ribcage, eliciting a deep yell from its target. Perfect hit. Too bad the wall was quick to recover, sending a sharp punch to Red Hood's side.
Damn it, that hurt!
Before he could retaliate, Batman seemed to find his strength, striking his opponent in the gut with a punch that could break concrete. Jason could practically hear it ricochet off the man's spine, and he doubled over, choking on his own rising bile.
"Nice hit," Jason said. He could swear he saw Nightwing smile out of the side of his helmet.
He could also swear he saw a smirk form just barely below the bat's cowl. As soon as it was there, it left, reverting back into a scowl as he continued to deal with the heap in front of him. Red Hood turned to teach more of his lackeys a lesson, pushing away the temptation to pull out his guns. His two compromises: no guns and no killing. Not tonight. Not in front of them, at least.
As the fighting continued, Jason wondered why he had been called on to help to begin with. Sure, there was a slew of half-cocked, ripped bastards with more of a death wish than most of their run-of-the-mill idiots. That didn't mean it was something Batman couldn't handle, especially with Nightwing's help. So why the three of them?
As if on cue, a pounding pain threatened to rip Jason's skull in half. He yelled out, holding his helmet as if it were the only thing keeping his head intact. A migraine unlike anything he had felt since the rush of pain from the Lazarus Pit screamed and pounded. He practically fell into the nearest column of the warehouse, barely supporting himself on shaky knees. Wave after wave of nausea washed over him.
What the fuck was this?!
He looked up to see Batman and Nightwing feeling the effects, too. Jason pushed himself off of the column, ready to launch at the thugs surely causing their pain or die trying.
Only, they were out cold on the floor beneath them. Even the brick wall was lying flat on his back, his mouth foaming like some rabid Saint Bernard that had been shot with an elephant dart.
"What the hell is going on?!" Jason managed to shout.
Nightwing yelled something incoherent in return. Or, maybe Jason just didn't have the mental capacity to understand whatever he had said. Either way, conversation seemed to be out of the question.
Red Hood was ready to knock himself out just to make the pain stop when image after image flickered through his head. It was like watching Tim shuffle through files on the Batcave computer. At first the pictures were blurry, passing one another too quickly for Jason to focus on any of them. Then, as the pain in his skull reached its pinnacle, the pictures became more focused.
"…Accepted the fact that I'd probably never see you again" a voice said in his ringing ear.
Not just a voice. Her voice. Sheila's. Perfect, he had just been thinking this day could really suck more. Nothing said "happy patrol" quite like a PTSD-induced hallucination. So much for the progress he had apparently been making.
"God, it must have been hard for you," his younger self said.
He looked up to Nightwing and Batman to see if the same thing was happening to them. If they were reliving the less-than-stellar moments in their lives. They certainly looked pained, the lines around their mouths creased in deep scowls.
Except they were looking at him. Their eyes, hidden behind white-out eyelets, stared at him. Not just at him, through him.
"What the hell is going on?!" he shouted.
Another wave of skull-shattering pain ripped through him. Then his vision momentarily went black.
"You stay here and keep an eye on that warehouse until I return. Take no action until I get back. I repeat: no action!"
Jason groaned, his eyes blinking back the spots that came with his rising consciousness. Awesome, apparently he was still in the warehouse. He didn't feel any ropes around him or any gaping wounds, so it was unlikely he had been taken anywhere by anyone. That was new considering he had just passed the hell out during a bust.
"Just for once, please listen to me, Jason!"
What? Was that Bruce's voice? Oh, damn, he thought this had been over. The last thing he needed was to be on his face in some warehouse reliving his worst nightmare until he just passed out again. He felt the dirt on his face, pebbles digging deep into his cheek.
Wait, face? He could feel dirt on his face? Where the hell was his helmet? Sickness rose in his stomach, reaching his throat until he felt his domino mask. Alright, that was still there. Fucking hell, at least he wasn't totally screwed.
So why the hell did he feel so out of sorts? He opened his eyes to see the light-brown dirt covering the ground where the concrete floor had just been. Though his head was still pounding, the pain began to die away as he processed the sight around him. No, this couldn't be right. He had been here before, but it had been years. Six years, in fact.
Of all places, he just had to be back in Ethiopia.
The call came from just behind him, reaching his ears rather than out from his memories. The shock of it was the only thing to give him enough energy to turn around, facing the Batman he had come to know since his resurrection. The older, harder version. Slumped next to him was Nightwing, holding the side of his head like he had been hit in the temple by a two-by-four.
"Where are we?" Dick asked.
Bruce exchanged a look with Jason, the realization having already dawned on him. Though still lost, the knowledge that something was overwhelmingly, horribly wrong fell over Nightwing. He glanced around, trying to get his bearings. Jason almost felt bad for him. If this whole scene was going to play out just as it had in his nightmares, Dickiebird was in for an uncomfortable sight. If it continued on to the end, Bruce was in for a worse one.
He wasn't sure when it happened, but the shadows of voices that had long since passed moved from the narrows of his mind and out in the open. For a memory, this was one hell of a vivid one. And now Batman and Nightwing were privy to it.
Not Nightwing and Batman—Dick and Bruce. There was a flickering over all of their masks until, like a glitch in a video game, the eyelets fell away to reveal three pairs of vivid blue eyes. Their masks were still perfectly in place, but now they were seeing into the person behind the costume. It made what was going to happen so much worse, Jason realized.
He looked up and surveyed the shack he had been in so many times before in his dreams and in the depths of his panic attacks. It was like coming home to the worst part of himself, and this time he had company. Jason wasn't sure how or why, but there they were.
"We need to get out of here," Bruce said, the rest of his face still hidden behind the cowl. At least whoever was fucking with their minds was keeping their identities intact.
"Somehow, I don't think it's that easy, boss," Jason replied.
Voices rose just outside of the shack, familiar and foreign.
"Mom?" the first said.
"You're in big trouble, Mom. I know all about it… the Joker… everything."
Just then, Dick turned to look at Bruce and Jason, his expression begging them to tell him this wasn't what he thought it was. Their silence confirmed it, and he clenched his jaw.
Jason wanted to punch him in it. He could practically see the self-righteousness making its way up Dick's stomach, filling his chest, holding his spine rigid. Jason knew what Dick thought about this day. What Bruce thought about this day. He didn't need them to see it, even if it would shove their ill-formed beliefs in their faces. This was sacred, and they didn't deserve it. Not after everything.
"Come on, Mom. Play straight with me. I can help you," the young teen's voice started up again just outside the door.
"Sure, tell me about it," she replied.
"Mom… there's a lot about me you don't know."
In the shack, the older Jason closed his eyes. Maybe this time, if he closed his eyes and thought hard enough, he could pretend like that never happened. Pretend like he had never revealed himself to her. Pretend like this was just another dream, but that this one could end differently for him.
No such luck.
"Come with me," Sheila said.
The door opened, revealing a blond woman with her hair curled at the nape of her neck, her white shirt clean and neatly pressed.
Not for long, the older Jason mused.
Dick and Bruce watched as the Robin-clad Jason entered the shack, his eyes scanning the area carefully. He looked so small now, just before puberty had allowed him to reach his full height and shape. Five-feet, four-inches, muscular but still slight from years of malnutrition. Was he really that small when it happened? Even Jason had a hard time believing it.
"You told her you were Robin?" Dick asked.
There was no accusatory tone. Just a question, his eyes watching the memory-pair wander into the structure.
"It was the only way I could think of telling her I could help. I hoped it was enough to let me convince her to get out of there," Jason answered.
"Instead, you took on the Joker," said Bruce.
A white-hot rage filled the youngest vigilante. "No, I didn't."
Bruce and Dick seemed ready to argue, or at least to ask what the hell he meant by the obvious lie, when they looked up to see Sheila taking the younger version of him into the corner of the shack. The fifteen-year-old version of him kept his eyes on trained on his mother, ready to jump to her aid at a moment's notice should she need it.
"Just step over here and you'll understand everything, Robin," she said.
He nodded, approaching the corner where medical supply boxes were stacked high. Syringes, gauze, and medical tape. Red Hood wanted to laugh. Ironic to die in a place meant to save lives.
The humor of the situation was short-lived. Together, the three modern-day intruders watched as Joker revealed himself and two of his thugs, a pistol pointed straight at Jason's chest.
"What?!" the teen exclaimed. "But you said…"
Her voice cut through the shack as her hand reached for a revolver of her own, training it on her young son. Red Hood could hear Dick's voice hitch, could see Bruce shifting out of the corner of his eye. He could hear his heartbeat in his ears, their voices dulling like someone had pressed a pillow over him.
"Stirring up trouble… investigation…" they said.
"She betrayed you." Jason was surprised to hear the statement coming from Bruce. More than that, he was surprised to have it sound like Bruce. Like the Bruce he knew before everything. Like the Bruce that would have trusted him before believing he was capable of some of the atrocities he immediately pegged him for now.
"Yeah. She did," he replied.
"Sorry about that, kid. Looks like you chose the wrong person to trust, this time," said Sheila. "What should we do with him?"
Joker's red lips curled over his yellowed sneer. "Something I've wanted to do for years."
Without warning, metal cracked against bone as Joker pistol-whipped the teenager across his cheek. Before the boy had a chance to process the strike, another joined it. It was all Bruce could take. Memory or not, the man lunged at the vision, more fiercely than he had attacked the wall of a man back in the warehouse. This wasn't Batman attacking, this was Bruce Wayne. This was a man who refused to watch the teenaged Jason get beaten in front of his eyes.
Except, there was nothing he could do to stop it. As he thrust his fists at the Joker, they sliced through him like a hologram. Thin air. It was all just thin air and bad dreams.
"WHO'S DOING THIS?!" Bruce yelled.
Nothing. Just the sounds of fifteen-year-old Jason's strangled yells. The older version barely registered Dick approaching his side, the young man's eyes trained on the vision he had never been a part of. It was only when the crowbar came out that Dick even blinked.
"This is going to hurt you a lot more than it's going to hurt me!" the Joker taunted.
Over and over, metal cracked against the breaking body of the fifteen-year-old. Each time, the older Jason winced. Each time, Dick pursed his lips together tighter, his eyes still focused on the carnage. Each time, a rippling yell escaped Bruce and he tried once more in vain to stop the abuse.
The beating was longer than Jason had remembered. Or was it shorter? He couldn't be sure. He doubted the heap of blood and broken bones even knew how much time had passed, or even what time was.
Maybe that was why he didn't hear the clock at first. He just saw spots mixed with visions of a crowbar and his mother smoking in the corner.
When the beating finally stopped, Jason heard Shiela shouting. Her words were muffled except for every few words. She was pleading; he could tell that much. The rest of it was lost to the thumping of his pulse and the sound of Bruce's yells.
Hope you enjoyed! Reviews would be really appreciated! If this wasn't pure insanity from a late night, then I'd be happy to continue.