A/N: Hey guys, I've written Bat-Fiction before but I have never posted any that was slash so I hope you slash lovers enjoy it. If you don't, read some other stuff. This is mostly being written for my roommate who is absolutely in love with Dick Grayson. I should also warn that I have never written sex scenes before so hopefully they don't suck. Heavy introspection in the first chapter and multiple POVs. There is mention of rape, and other such atrocities, so be aware of your triggers and keep in mind this story is rated M for graphic violence, intimacy, language, brief mentioning of child pornography, rape and other criminal acts.
Pain had never been a motivating factor for his second ward. It was just something he learned to ignore. Or at least that's how he knew the boy saw it. The truth was all to clear to Bruce; pain was all that kept him going. Pain was turned to rage and rage had always been the boy's greatest allie, it was his greatest strength and it was also his greatest weakness. Rage was the boy's constant companion and it was something he wasn't even aware of.
Because Jason Peter Todd never, ever looked in the mirror. He never bothered to learn who he was, how he operated, or how he coped with day to day life and it's stresses. He simply existed. He reacted in all things. Never did he plan ahead and always he felt justified in his actions.
Bruce had recognized his incredible stubbornness after spending a mere five minutes with him. Rage and stubbornness; it's what made him work so hard. He worked harder than his first ward because it didn't come as naturally to him as it had Dick Grayson. He had to study longer because he wasn't as book smart as Dick had been. Everything about Jason's style and personality seemed the opposite of Dick's.
His first Boy Wonder was loyal, loving, happy, easy going and naturally talented in many ways. The boy was charming and open which made him likable. He was curious and investigative which meant he caught on quickly. Dick was mostly playful and expressive, two things that allowed Bruce to always know what the boy was thinking or even what he was up to. He was fast, lithe, short, graceful and fearless and that made him the perfect acrobat.
Jason Todd was suspicious, skeptical, cynical, critical, and pessimistic with few natural abilities outside of brawling. He was mean, antisocial, sarcastic and ungrateful which left him unliked by most. He never put his nose where he felt it didn't belong nor did he really care how things worked which meant that he missed things or fell behind. Jason was brooding and never talked about himself or especially about how he felt; leaving Bruce in a constant state of concern. The boy was a little thicker and a bit taller with uncertain footing and a fear of failing which led to a lack of confidence.
It was the rage that kept him striving for better, that pushed him harder than any of Batman's Robins. Jason knew where his shortcomings were by measuring himself against Dick and he forced himself to fit in the mold of Grayson. It didn't matter that his body was built differently, Jason was going to make sure no one thought him lacking in physicality. He spent hours upon hours practicing until all of that anger burned out and he was left exhausted on a training mat.
Several times Bruce thought about ending Jason's training but in the end he saw the progress that pure determination had brought about. His motivation carried him through until he finally learned that he didn't have to move just like Dick. The boy developed a style all his own and Bruce couldn't help but be proud and impressed by his perseverance. His nights fighting by Jason's side had been frustrating, worrisome, dangerous and yet he looked back on them with fondness.
He sat at his desk and looked over the children he'd mentored, he'd trained and fought along side of. Richard Grayson, Barbara Gordon, Jason Todd, and Timothy Drake. He missed them all when they were absent and he thought about each of them with the same affection that he felt a father would to the younger ones and that a brother would feel to the older ones. They were his family, chosen by him during moments of anguish and loneliness, moments of empathy and moments of desperation.
So, why? Why had he thought so much of the six years deceased, Jason Todd, lately? For the past three weeks he looked on the boy's picture and contemplated their time together. He looked to the calendar and sighed. He'd hoped that it was just a subconscious awareness of some special date, but it just wasn't so. There was no birthday, anniversary of their meeting or of the boy's demise. So, why? Why was he on his mind?
He hated moments of introspection. They left him feeling anxious, angry and maybe a tad depressed. Normally the billionaire was so distracted with his company, the city, his surrogate family, or even his friends in The Justice League, but tonight was a rarity. His arm was broken, Dick was out being a cop for Gotham PD, Tim was out patrolling, Lucious was running his company just fine and while Alfred was around, he was busy being Tim's contact in the Bat Cave.
He sighed and found himself turning the picture of Jason down on it's face. He couldn't look at the irritable teenager anymore. It was going to break him, it was going to drive him as mad as the Joker. Thinking of the Joker obviously didn't help but he found himself winding down that path anyhow because he wanted so badly to blame the 'Clown Prince of Crime'.
Of course that was ludicrous because in the end, Bruce knew exactly who he blamed. Dick would tell him he couldn't blame himself, Alfred would declare it preposterous, Tim would point out how illogical a thought it was, but their reactions wouldn't make the truth any less true.
The fact of the matter was that if Batman and Bruce had simply trusted Robin and Jason, he wouldn't have lost him. Had he not put a wedge between himself and the young man, if he'd just believed in him enough to ask him what happened to Felipe, Jason never would have needed to seek out his real mother. Bruce knew he'd been the one to drive the boy away, to send him running into the arms of a woman who never put him first and never would. All Jason ever wanted was to be accepted and yet Bruce had held back.
He rested his head in his hands as he tried to focus on something else, anything else, but the arguments sprang to life in his head anyhow. He could hear himself berating Jason and the boy's angry response.
"You're only saying this because Dick's little bitch warned you about me!" He'd bellowed only to be punched in the jaw by Dick. "Batbitch hits harder than you do, Goldie!"
Bruce had stepped between them and shoved Dick away before turning on the younger. "Jason, enough! When will you grow up?"
"When will you ask me what happened?" Jason had retorted with a red face and narrowed angry eyes. "Why won't you ask me what happened up there, B?"
"Because it wouldn't change anything!" He'd shouted back.
Bruce took a deep breath and stood from his desk and walked around it to face the blazing fireplace, as his response continued to haunt him. He never once asked him for his version of events. Not because Bruce knew the truth, but because he didn't know the truth. He had no way of knowing for sure what happened to Felipe and he would have to trust whatever came out of Jason's mouth or worse, accept it if he had flung him out the window. If he had pushed him it would put an end to their already tumultuous partnership and what would that change? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
He also didn't ask Jason because he knew he wouldn't believe him if he denied it. He didn't trust the boy, how could he? The boy was only one outfit away from being a criminal himself and that's what had shaken Bruce to his core that night. The realization that he thought little of Jason, that he would never see him as the Boy Wonder; Jason would forever be the tainted Robin, the one who if not for him, would be part of the criminal element. Bruce hated himself and Jason for forcing him to realize that he was an elitist snob who couldn't see beyond the boy's past.
"Bruce?" He turned to face Dick, surprised that he was here at the mansion. "You doing ok?"
Dick stood in the doorway wearing a black motorcycle jacket and light wash blue jeans. His long wavy hair was pulled back into a pony tail and he was holding his black and blue face helmet under one arm, telling Bruce he'd still been riding that damned bullet bike everywhere.
"Yes of course. What can I do for you, Dick?" He asked with a weary smile. He knew he wasn't fooling the young vigilante but at least he wouldn't press him about it.
"Look, I know that this isn't a good time, with you being side-lined and all, but I thought you needed to see this for yourself." The young man reached into his pocket with his freehand and pulled out a DVD case.
"Why don't you just tell me what's on it, Dick, there's no need for theatrics." Bruce chuckled, trying to shake the bad feeling that whatever was on that disk was going to crush him.
"You need to see it, Bruce. I don't know anyway to explain what's on it other than to have you watch it." Dick frowned which only served to concrete that hollow feeling in Bruce's stomach. If Dick Grayson didn't smile or laugh, even at a lame attempt at a joke, than the world was indeed about to come crashing down on him.
Bruce walked over to his desk, turned on his lap top and put in the DVD. He watched as five masked men took the bank patrons hostage rapidly. Men and women had quickly dropped to their bellies and allowed the masked criminals to rob them of their wallets, phones, jewelry, watches and of course, money. Everything seemed to be going just the way the the robbers had planned until a large figure walked into the bank with two handguns and began firing away at them.
The man was wearing dark gray tactical pants bloused around black combat boots, a dark brown leather riding jacket and what looked like a red motorcycle helmet. The gunfight was brief as only three of the robbers even had a chance to fight back, though they quickly fell to the stranger's superior marksmanship. Once all five men were dead or dying, the gunman gathered their weapons and simply left the bank without saying a single word. He left behind a cardboard sign that looked similar to one the homeless carried. It read: No More Fear In Gotham.
"This isn't good." Bruce frowned. "This happened just the other night, but I was unaware of a masked vigilante's presence. Tim was rounding up Penguin and his men."
"It's not the first time this freak has shown up. GCPD has been tracking him but nothing was said until they were sure it wasn't you or one of ours." Dick sighed. "Keep watching, there's another three videos on that disk."
The second was a nightclub and immediately Bruce knew what was going to happen as soon as he recognized the dim lights surrounded by a cloud of cigar and cigarette smoke. It was a local spot for the up and coming Mancini mob family, one he'd been keeping an eye on until he'd heard about a gas leak that caused an explosion and killed everyone inside.
"This is the earliest activity we've been able to find of him." Dick explained as he waved his hands toward the screen.
Bruce's blue eyes darkened as he recognized the man in the same outfit saunter into the club and head straight for the kitchen in the back. The hostess yelled something unintelligible at him, causing the black haired man to flip her off as he walked by her, though not once did he face the camera. Just like in the bank, the video only caught his back so far.
The screen immediately jumped to another camera view where the man walked over to the gas stove. He got down on his knees and then after a moment he stood and walked out of view. The next shot was of the man walking toward the back exit, his red helmet on so that once more his face wasn't captured. After ten seconds he saw another card board sign with the words: Death Is Coming For Gotham's Scourge and then the screen turned black.
"The security company downloads the video off sight and they just barely got this to us today." Dick sighed. "We've been having them comb over the weeks prior to see if he worked there, but so far we've found nothing. We simply assume he was a new-hire who was interviewed off site."
"Since most people are recommended to mob jobs it makes sense." Bruce frowned. He waited patiently for the third video to start playing. "Do we see his face in this one?"
"Sort of." Dick frowned.
At first, Bruce couldn't tell what he was looking at until he realized it was from a body camera. A beat cop was chasing the man in the leather jacket in broad daylight. They were running through one of the larger city parks, dodging and ducking past people, benches, dogs and hedges. For being a taller, larger man, the suspect was quite agile and acrobatic. It was no wonder the cop was having a hard time keeping up.
Finally, after leading the cop under a bridge, he stopped running abruptly and turned to face the man. It was so unexpected that the cop ran right into the man who Bruce could now see was wearing some kind of body armor beneath a gray t-shirt. The cop didn't step back which meant Bruce only saw the man's chest and a brief glimpse of his chin.
After a few seconds the man pulled a gun and shot at the office her who fell backward. Bruce was ready and paused the video just as the man's face came into view. The face was partially obscured by a red domino mask, much like the ones his own Robin's wore and what Nightwing currently wore. The image was also blurred which prevented any recognition of the rest of his face. Sort of was a perfect answer to his question. He was about to look away when he saw a sign was held up to the body camera. No Blind Eyes For Gotham's Corrupt.
"Do we know why he killed the cop? Why he thought he was corrupt?"
"Yeah, and this guy's definitely a murderous vigilante, Bruce." Dick nodded. "The cop had just been turned in anonymously for keeping and distributing child pornography. They were just starting to set up an investigation when he was killed. They hadn't even had a chance to call him in."
"Have they found any more evidence to back up those charges?" Bruce questioned immediately as he started the third video over again.
"Actually, yes. Too much for it to be a frame job," The first boy wonder went to a chair across from his desk and plopped down in it, exhausted and stressed out. "This is bad Bruce, real bad. We can't have a vigilante running around that kills people, especially cops. It's going to put the rest of us in danger."
Bruce heaved a sigh and nodded. He agreed with Dick completely. If criminals feared that they would simply be gunned down they were going to start shooting at them first. Even the most masterfully trained couldn't dodge every bullet. Eventually one was going to hit it's target and it would be game over. He couldn't let that happen to his boys. He'd already lost one, he refused to lose anyone else.
He looked back to his laptop and then waited for the fourth video to begin. From his peripherals he noticed Dick's frown deepen. Whatever had caused Bruce's premonition of dread was coming quickly and it was effecting his ward as well. He braced himself for something Joker-ish and prepared for the worst since it was usually the Joker that inspired this kind of dread.
Immediately Bruce saw that this was one of the new city cameras that had been installed in the Burrows to help police identify criminals in an area no one was willing to talk to them in. They had been installed secretly so that they wouldn't be destroyed and so far they had been doing their job perfectly. Police needed help from Batman less and less when it came to gathering evidence against muggers, gang bangers and even a few rapists.
According to the camera it was four am on December second, just two days ago. A man was dragging a younger, smaller person into a corner. It was hard to tell the gender since the smaller person was fighting with everything they had, but the attacker was holding a firm grip with one hand in their hair and the other snaked around their waist.
Bruce's stomach flipped as realized the that victim was a child, possibly no older than thirteen. He pushed away his own moral outrage and forced himself to look at it with the cold insensitivity of an analyst searching for clues.
The man looked up as the kid stilled their fighting. They were both staring right toward the camera. The assailant appeared to laugh and then bit his victim painfully in the cheek. Just as the rapist started to pull down the waist band of the pre-teen, his face contorted in pain. He let go of his victim and grabbed his left shoulder where a bullet had just ripped through it.
The next view showed the man running only to be grabbed and tossed into the snowy ground by the enraged vigilante. He pulled a knife from a belt strapped around his thigh and approached the trembling would be rapist. He dropped down on his haunches and played with the knife, saying something inaudible, all the while the rapist stared fearfully at the blade.
Bruce watched in both horror and satisfaction as the vigilante attacked and quickly ripped the pants off his victim and castrated him with the knife. The man screamed as tears ran down his face but his punishment didn't end there. The masked man stabbed and beat the rapist for nearly fifteen minutes as he bled out from the wound before he finally took his blade and cut his throat open. The man tried to keep the blood from rushing out, terror seen in his face and his posture as he realized he was dying.
The screen went black and he couldn't help but be relieved until he realized the counter still had another thirty seconds. Black was replaced with an image of the dead man with a cardboard sign that read: Gotham Will Suffer The Filth No Longer! The Red Hood.
"The Red Hood?" Bruce blinked and shook his head. "Who would call themselves that?" He looked to Dick and saw that he seemed just as disturbed by the use of one of Joker's monickers. "Who would even know that history?"
Dick shrugged and turned to face the fireplace. "It's why I brought it here. I don't know if this is a sick new game the Joker's playing or if it's some warped cop who's finally had enough. The Joker did tell you the last time you saw him that he should give crime fighting a go."
Shaking his head Bruce joined Dick in front of the fireplace. "No, it's not the Joker. There was anger in the posture of this 'Hood' character. He wasn't just killing them, he was punishing them."
"Punishment?" Dick frowned. "So he's made himself judge, jury and executioner?"
"Exactly." Bruce confirmed. "The fourth video gave us one clue as to the identity of who he is."
"You think he was a victim of rape." His ward pointed out.
"Yes. That wasn't just punishment taking place in the fourth video. It was vengeance and it was far more brutal and drawn out to be anything less than personal."
"It's going to take a long time to narrow down the results of known rape victims in the Burrows and that's not even counting the ones who ended up not pressing charges."
Bruce was silent for a moment as he considered his first Robin's point. He pressed the com link in his ear. "Robin, return to base immediately." He frowned as he waited for a response. "Robin, do you copy?" Again there was no answer. "Alfred, when and where did Robin last check in?"
"His last location was Crime Alley two hours ago." Alfred responded.
"Crime Alley, two hours." Bruce repeated. "Thank's Alfred. Dick-"
"I know, Bruce, I'll head out now."