A/N: I don't own any of the characters, not even the events, because some of them did happen in the original Batman comics.
Chapter 1 - Family Dinner
On a muggy Friday evening, at the end of the work-week, the Napiers sat at the tiny round oak table for dinner. Food was already on the table, peas and carrots, mashed potatoes, and some meat Jack would have rather not known of what pathetic animal it had once been a part. Probably some cow moaning sadly from mad-cow disease, stumbing crazily around it's filthy pen on it's last dying days. Or maybe it was one of those cows that had been abducted by aliens. If it was not Grade A meat, then it was Radiation-Symbol-Toxic-Waste meat. It was all they could afford.
His father seemed calm enough for the time-being. He had only chugged down a few beers as soon as returning from the assembly-line factory in which he worked, twelve hours a day so he could get over-time and rare breaks. There was a rumor going on that there was an actual slave-driver at the factory. If anyone knew it was Jack's father. He was probably the only white man working there. Everyone else was an illegal immigrant, working for five dollars an hour.
If there was one word Jack could use to describe his life, it was miserable. Misery seemed to ooze out of the walls like the blood in that movie, The Amityville Horror. There were some horrors now and then in this house too, and Jack wasn't sure which he preferred, the misery or the horror. He guessed probably the misery, it was more quiet. He hated the yelling and screaming. He hated things breaking and most of all, he hated blood. And he'd seen plenty. Probably buckets all put together... Just thinking about buckets of blood made him nauseous. He dropped his fork with a clang on the plate, food still stuck to it. He felt a little weak. There was a glass of water with ice in it. With a shaking hand, he took it and drank some. The water was still warm from the tap. He teased a block of ice into his mouth, feeling chilly drops run down his throat, cooling his esophagus as they flowed. He felt better.
Dinner was half-way over. So far, tonight seemed like one of the nice nights. Sure, there was tension. Jack usually felt like he was sitting inside some viscous substance up to his eyes, which made his movements slower and duller, which made him work harder and therefore, tire quickly. Of course, all this was the result of misery assaulting the mind on a constant basis.
Jack's mind was wandering when his father spoke. He had not heard the first words.
"My friend paid for it," his mother said, nervously pulling her hands off the table and under.
"Y-Yes. She was getting hers done for her daughter's reception. So... So she treated me."
Jack sat on his mother's right, and he leaned slightly to the left to look what all the fuss was going to be about. Her nails were a bright tropical-bird red with white and yellow nail-art. Of course his father would have noticed something like that. She was looking for trouble. Not exactly subtle, Mom, he thought sarcastically to himself. But he dared not say anything. His eyes went to his father's face, on Jack's right.
His father was a thin man, much like what Jack imagined he would look like if he ever lived to be forty. He might kill himself before then. His father's hair was unhealthy and stringy, strands hanging around his eyes. His bony shoulders were stiff and sharply angled. One hand held a fork, and the other, a steak-knife. Jack knew how deft his father was with a knife. He sliced and diced dead chickens into pieces all day long to be processed and made into ready-made chicken wings and tenders that people picked up in the frozen aisles of the grocery market. Faster than a striking snake he could slash the knife without even a hint at effort.
His father put the fork down. Only the fork. He pointed at his wife's hands. "Put them back on the table," he ordered, chewing some wiry meat.
Striving to appear calm, Jack's mother slowly put her hands back on the table, on either side of her plate. She swallowed apprehensively, watching her husband's movements and eyes.
Jack had noticed over the years that his father stopped blinking if he was going to do something physical. It was almost like he was staring off into space, but Jack thought it was his brain mapping out exactly what he was going to execute at what second.
His father continued to chew the meat, but clearly that meat was determined to stay one huge brown hunk. His father spat it out onto the floor, making both Jack and his mother jump. Jack turned slightly towards his father, just in case he was going to try something. At sixteen, Jack realized he probably couldn't do much against a grown man, but he could slow him down.
His eyes were still blinking. A good sign.
"Why didn't you tell your friend to give you the money instead?"
"That wouldn't have been... nice."
Jack's father lowered his head a little, cocking it to the side. "Nice? Did you say, nice?"
Jack's mother gave small nod.
"Why didn't you tell her you didn't want it?"
"Because she was doing something nice for me. I just said okay."
"Are you going to this reception?"
Jack's mother shook her head stiffly.
"Then why didn't you say no?" His eyes were not blinking anymore.
She started to take her hands off the table again and Jack's father slammed the handle of the stake knife down on the table. "Put them back on the table!" He roared.
She had started crying a little, looking like a berated girl after she was caught having sex.
Jack's father looked at his plate and then back at his wife. "You call this food?" He sneered. He slapped the plate off the table, making it shatter. "You've never cooked a decent meal in your life!"
Jack sagged back in his hard chair. He stared mournfully at his own plate. This really shouldn't have been called food. Especially not the meat.
"All you do is waste my hard-earned money," his father accused. He stood up, knife by his side. Jack sat up again.
Staring warily at her husband, Jack's mother started to take her hands away again.
"Put them back!" Jack's father shrieked.
She gave a small scream and jumped out of her own seat, backing away. She kept her hands in fists, trying to hide the bright nails.
"You spent the money yourself, didn't you?"
"No!" She denied, mortified.
"All you do is waste money!" They weren't even at the table anymore. Jack was left by himself, unacknowledged and lonely. He looked at his father, who was a looming monster over his wife. She cowered in the corner, and Jack realized how small the kitchen really was.
Jack's father slapped his wife and pulled her hair. "What the hell is this? Your hair isn't this color! More money wasted!" He rubbed her lips roughly, smuding her red lipstick which was still on her face from work. "You don't need this!"
She pointed to the table. She was angry and frustrated now. "And what about that!?" She screeched, her voice shaking from fear.
For a second Jack thought she was pointing at him, but he realized a moment later that she was talking about the beer.
"You drink everyday!" She moaned. "You! You waste your money! Not me!"
Jack stood up. He knew his father was going to do something. She had said too much.
Just as he grabbed his father around the waist to tackle him to the floor, Jack's father raised his hand to backhand his wife, but he had forgotten he still held the knife. He accidentally slashed her across the face, slitting her gaunt cheek. She screamed in pain, her hands shooting up to her face. Jack managed to tumble his father, and then looked up at his mother. She screamed again, in agonizing pain. She lowered her hands, tears streaking down her face. She stumbled away, looking like a hideous runaway circus clown, her left cheek red with blood and the other side with lipstick.
Jack felt tears stinging his eyes. He looked at his father's face, which was aghast, for once.
Jumping finally to his feet, Jack's father ran after his wife, letting the bloody steak-knife clatter to the floor.
Jack sat there on the floor for a while, hearing his mother's crying and screaming from deeper inside the house. He saw drops of dark blood on the hard wood floors and several tiny blood spatters on the walls. He saw some on his shoes too, and his jeans. There were more on his shirt and when he touched his face his fingertips came away bloody. He hadn't even felt those drops hitting his face.
Jack felt a powerful wave of nausea hit him just then, in the instant after the second he realized that his mother's blood was on his face. It was probably also in his mouth. As he thought so, he imagined he could taste the salty metallic taste in his mouth. Jack leapt up to his feet and ran outside, dropping to his knees and heaving his undigested dinner onto the patchy, dying lawn.
God, how he hated blood.
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