Blood and Water Flowed Out
Summary: Talia offers her Beloved three things: a picture, a story, and a choice.
Disclaimer: DC abuses them more than me, mostly, and expects a profit from said abuse. I don't.
Notes: This story was written in March/April 2007, before anyone had tried to redeem Damian and well before it was revealed that Talia was making Damian clones. It's an alternate ending to the Damian storyline which was Batman 655-658. The story begins before the last three pages of Batman 657. Though there are plot spoilers, there may not be enough context for someone who has not read Morrison's work.
But when you're gone, I'll take my rightful place at my father's side … as Batman's son! I'll inherit everything.
The cave's security alarm sounded in his gauntlet interrupting Batman's search for the Spook's killer. Nearly two hours earlier, the hostages had described the culprit as a young, dark haired boy with a sword. But they couldn't tell him anything he hadn't already known. His own throat had been at the edge of that sword recently. Batman knew the cuts it would make and had recognized the boy's hand immediately. With the alarm, there was little doubt that Damian's trail would lead to the cave. While the child assassin had been well trained for his age, an alarm in the cave could not be ignored, even if Damian had set it off himself for a diversion or a trap.
Fourteen minutes later, Batman was out of the Batmobile and in motion even before he had entirely taken in the amount of destruction to the cave. The dinosaur was missing a leg, the dice were smashed on the floor, the Joker's card was filled with bullet holes, and the display cases were smashed. No, he corrected himself, only Jason's case - the armored green shorts lying in an alarmingly large pool of blood.
"Alfred. Tim." Their names echoed around the cave making the space seem impossibly large. Batman was running again, steering through the wreckage in search of his companions. "Tim." The teen was unconscious in the med bay with an IV connected to blood from the cave's emergency supply. A quick glace at the machines confirmed that Tim was alive, though the treatment was minimal at best and the disarray of the supplies suggested the task had been done in haste. "Tim, where's Alfred? This isn't his work." Tim couldn't reply.
Bruce let out a tight hiss of guilt as he cataloged Tim's injuries, among them the markings of a small fist and brass knuckles across the jaw, and began properly treating them. Stabilizing Tim was his first priority, though he felt a pressing need to find Alfred as well as pursue Damian. But there was something else off about the cave, something pulling at the back of his mind that he needed to investigate.
He was staring at the scene when his computer received a call. When he saw Talia's stern face he almost hung up.
"Beloved, I trust our son is well."
"I don't have time for this, Talia."
"Oh, I think you should find time. Do you really think my plan ends at ninja bats?"
"What do you want?"
"To offer you three things: a picture, a story, and a choice."
"I told you, I don't have time."
"Take a look at the photo I sent you. I assure you it's authentic and taken from your own security system. You could watch video, but as you said before you don't have time for it."
The image had been taken from one of his own security cameras, though that was a reflexive observation. His concentration was centered on the boy lying crumpled on the floor and overshadowed by a man, a man wearing a red hood.
"Of course our son is still young so the beating may serve to teach him his place. Would you care to move to the live feed?"
The footage was clear despite the dark warehouse. Damian was slouched unmoving, chained to a pole in the center of the room. Jason, maskless, sat cross legged slightly off screen, a crowbar by his knee.
"I simply supplied Jason with the information your biological son was in the cave and suggested he meet the boy. Tim's beating was quite coincidental as Damian was going to take his place as Robin. Odd that before he left Jason would choose to administer medical care to his rival. I suppose it is a brothers-thing I cannot understand."
"Get to the point."
"First a story. Have you ever wondered what became of your adopted son after you buried him? I know not all the details until he was recognized a few years ago as Robin by some homeless person. The defenses you trained into him remained though his mind was gone. Still, those defenses were a clear indicator of his identity for anyone who knew how to look. I assure you, my Detective, that no one outside my organization who was involved in my purchasing of Jason is alive to identify him anymore. My father allowed me to keep my pet for a year before he grew bored with your boy, though I had not lost sight of his value as he had. I restored his memory in the Lazarus pit and returned him to you."
"What do you hope to gain from this?"
"I will collect my debt and gain my family. We will be a family, Beloved."
Jason moved of screen, drawing Bruce's eyes back towards the video. The crowbar come down incredibly fast, dislocating the boy's left shoulder. Jason pushed the shoulder once with the crowbar before disappearing off screen again.
"It seems Jason grows impatient. Now I offer you a choice: which boy lives?"
"I did not take Jason into my father's home without some insurance. Jason's heart can be stopped with a mere push of a button before he can beat our son to death. It would be prudent to choose soon as I'm sure the explosive charges Jason set in the building will be far more effective than the Joker's were."
"End the game, Talia, you would never allow your son to be hurt."
"Like my father never hurt me?"
"End it." Batman brought his fist down on the computer console, tiny tendrils of pain moving up from his knuckles bringing him focus. He should have been searching. He should have been contacting someone to find Jason. He should have been doing anything but talking to this mad woman while watching Jason beat Damian. The crowbar came down on the child's left kneecap.
"Jason is working for himself, I cannot ask him to stop. Pick one to save, Detective, or I will pick both to die."
"Don't kill my son." It was a strangled cry, a plea from what little there was of a man beneath the suit. What little had been recovered since the loss of his son.
"Which one: blood or water?"
The crowbar came down once across the child's forehead.
Damian had severely injured Tim because he wanted to take Robin's place.
Jason had severely injured Tim because Tim had taken Robin's place.
Damian had killed the Spook to gain Bruce's attention.
Jason had killed a large portion of Gotham's mafia to gain Bruce's attention.
Damian was young and could be changed away from his mother.
Jason had died before as he had been away from his father.
Damian had been a weapon in his mother's war.
Jason had been a weapon in his father's war. His war.
"Jason." The name was wretched out of him as it had been one time before, the sound all but a sob. He could get to the warehouse in seven minutes. He could stop Jason in three. He could get the boy medical treatment in five. He could get Clark to do it all in one. He could save both.
The bloodstained crowbar clattered to the floor. A man's body followed it.
"I am sorry, Beloved, much more and there would be brain damage. Do bring our son to me, there is the matter of the prime minister's wife."
She severed her connection, but not the video surveillance. The Batcave was as still as the warehouse, the father's heart frozen in beat with his son's.
Notes (2007): A few years back there was a challenge by Syl, Batman (or other DCU character) in an inescapable deathtrap had to chose between Dick or Tim (or other two). I guess that was the start of this, along with the common threads Damian and Jason have been given recently.
You remain unavenged.