Bound, beaten and broken. A new foe with a class all of his own appears out of nowhere to endanger Terry and everything he holds dear. But as personal as this vendetta seems, maybe he's not so new?
Okay, it has been brought to my attention that one or two of the characters appears OOC without his backstory. Sorry, but this fic doesn't work if I put it in there, so bear with me on this. But trust me, he makes perfect sense if you know the kind of life he has led.
It is also important to note this fic is based on the assumption that all cartoons/comics/TV shows with conflicting histories are actually based on different parallel universes or 'timelines'. It also assumes that each cartoon has multiple timelines as well, each with a different future, but at some point sharing the same history. All my fics are based on these assumptions.
Italic and asterisk: Memory/flashback
Good Night, Little Bird
*"It's Batman! Run!"*
He tries to cradle his head, but his wrists are bound behind him.
*"Please! Batman, don't hurt me!"*
Wha—… What happened…?
He opens his eyes, but the moonlight blinds him. Even after his eyes adjust, the dizziness blurs his vision.
*"You shoulda thought of that before you thrashed that restaurant!"
The last words he can remember finish echoing through his mind, leaving him even more at a loss to explain his new circumstances.
"Wake up… Batman." The man's words are laced with poison.
Terry doesn't like how the voice emphasizes the name 'Batman'.
"Ugh. Where am I? Who are you?" Terry can see a dark figure moving through the shadows across the room. The man's movements seem slow and precise, though it's hard to tell without more light.
"Not important. What is important… is who you are…" Terry's eyes go wide as he realizes he was wearing the suit before this mystery villain had gotten him, yet he is seeing the room through his own eyes, not built-in digital screens. There is a flash of motion and suddenly the room disappears, his view blocked by an expressionless, black mask. Terry stares into the familiar, dead eyes of the Batsuit. Polyplastic lenses were one of the many improvements on the old design that robbed Batman of any humanity Gotham might have thought he had. The intent was to scare criminals, and Terry has to admit, it works well—he is absolutely terrified.
The hate and loathing attached to his surname worries him. He knows my name! I hope it's only me he's after…
"Son of Warren and Mary McGinnis. Born August 18, 2023 at Gotham General; three twenty-eight in the morning." The man gives Terry a moment to absorb the gravity of his situation.
He knows about my family! Probably Bruce too, but the Old Man can take care of himself. I think. I hope. I have to get out of here, make sure they're okay. God… Mom, Matt, Dana, Max…Slag it! I can't leave them to deal with this guy! Terry strains against his bonds, but the handcuffs are solid, biting deep into his flesh during the struggle.
The masked man seems unsatisfied, either by Terry's silence or the guarded glare Terry's giving him. The man straightens and Terry is able to see the uniform clearly in the moonlight. A simple, functional, pitch-black suit—similar in design and build to Terry's, though obviously not the same one; there are numerous differences between the two. From the neck flows a hooded cape, nearly floor-length, and held in place by a black connecting chain across the throat. An obsidian utility belt encircles the waist, with some sort of symbol in the middle, but the cape is blocking the window's illumination. The arms, legs and cowl lack the adornments of the Batsuit, so it can't even be an altered version, but the center of the chest, where the large blood-red bat normally resides, is dominated by a cobalt bird. Maybe a crow or something. The final difference between the two costumes is the long length of rope hanging at his side. The rope had been dyed purple and one end, though partially obscured, might have been twisted into a noose.
Oh man, this guy's gonna kill me! Come on Terry, think! What would the Old Man do?
"If you're trying to think of a way of escaping—there isn't one. I know all of Batman's moves—there's no way out."
Terry is surprised, but defiant. This guy could just be blowing smoke, or it could be that someone actually took the time to study him before effecting a capture. God knows the guy was damned efficient at it; Terry never even saw it coming. Either way, he at least has to give Blue Crow props for intimidation; even the Old Man couldn't have done better.
"What do you want from me?"
This time the dark figure smiles—a cold, menacing smile.
"I know who you are, Terry…"
The smile is chilling, but what worries Terry the most about this man is the calm, even tone he's kept to his voice. Terry can feel the anger and loathing, but the emotion seldom makes it to Blue Crow's voice.
"…or should I say Darkwinter?"
Dark Winter? Terry is dumbfounded. Up until now, it seemed as though Blue Crow know everything about him, but Terry only has the one secret identity. Maybe this guy doesn't know quite as much as he pretends?
Terry smiles—for the first time since he awoke, he has hope.
"Sure you got the right guy? I'm sorry, but I've never even hur—ck!" Terry is cut off by a strong hand wrapped around his trachea.
"You really think a simple name change is going to fool me? Tony to Terry or vice versa, I don't care; I know your face, I know your voice, I know it's you."
The explosion of raw emotion stands in stark contrast to the, until now, stoic poise of Blue Crow. Terry knows he is in trouble. Big trouble.
The man pulls back and glares at Terry for the next several minutes, his arms crossed.
Terry is left wondering when the next mood swing will come as he marvels at how utterly still his kidnapper's body is. Wish I could learn to do that.
"Waiting for what?"
Without warning, Blue Crow's fist connects with Terry's jaw in a powerful uppercut, rocking the chair back. Terry recovers as quick as he can, but to his surprise there is already a foot headed straight for his chest when he turns back. The kick instantly propels both Terry and his chair into the wall behind him. Judging by the force, he wouldn't be surprised if there was a big hole there now.
"Come on! I know it's you; you can stop pretending now!"
Note to self; no more talking. The kick to his chest is painful, but it has one, helpful side effect; when the chair Terry is tied to hits the wall, sections of the old wood fragment. A few more hits like that could free Terry and even this fight up—if he can take them.
Blue Crow is still staring at him, waiting for a response. He can admit it; Terry is more than a little afraid of the consequences if he answers this time. Not quite sure what to do, Terry hesitates too long and Blue Crow takes the initiative.
Crossing the distance between them in only a couple strides, his adversary grabs Terry by the collar and yanks him and the slightly mangled chair close.
"Fine. I don't need you to admit what I already know. You want to know what I want? I want you to know what you did, you bastard; I want you to know what you did to an innocent girl, whose only crime was—ARGHHHHH!"
Once again, Terry is unexpectedly hurled against the wall. When he braves a glance, he can see Blue Crow turned the other way, that eerie calm returned.
"It was nearly forty years ago, back when I was still just a dumb kid. Back when I had friends, family—a life. Back when I actually still cared. That all ended when you came into the picture.
"Things had been going pretty good for a while, when suddenly a new 'hero' showed up. He called himself Darkwinter. He showed up randomly—sometimes even weeks apart—and left as soon as he was done. He even left right in the middle of an arrest one time. I spoke to you a few times; I could tell you had a few screws loose, but there was nothing I could do about it. In two years, I never discovered a single clue that could reveal your identity, and for some reason you mental state didn't hurt your fighting ability. There wasn't much else I could do, so I kept tabs on you as much as I could and left things alone."
Terry can tell Blue Crow is angry at himself for not doing more, even if he says there is nothing more he could have done. If only Terry were a little more like Bruce, maybe he could use that insight to his advantage.
"Your reputation grew, but more because of how different you were from the rest of us, than any real skill. You could fight, and you had some powers, but that's all. Why the hell anyone ever called you a 'hero' I will never know, but everyone treated you like one—in spite of your recklessness and allusions of homicidal tendencies.
"Darkwinter bugged me, but at least things seemed to be going alright at the tower. My friends and I had put together a team. Long before you came into the picture, we had been defending the city by ourselves, saving it from alien invasions and toxic monsters. When we weren't fighting crime, we would have fun playing games, watching TV, and eating pizza. But Ra—"
"You used to be a superhero?"
Blue Crow whips back and glares at Terry's rude interruption. Terry only has a split second to wince, knowing what was coming next.
Blue Crow savagely beats Terry senseless, delivering blazing fast punches, and muscular kicks. The obviously seasoned combatant knows better than to hit Terry in the head too many times, so Terry is fully conscious for the entire beat-down.
Pain receptors jolt every other second as Terry's mind begins to swim. He wonders when—and if—the attack will ever end. Just as he starts to float away toward happier memories, reality begins edging back into his mind. He begins to question why when he realizes the pain is now constant and Blue Crow is…just somewhere else.
As Terry lay on the floor coughing up blood, Blue Crow decides to resume his story without waiting for his victim to recover.
"Everything had been normal at the home, but one of my friends—who is normally locked up in her room all day—was spending a lot of her time out. Rae didn't have any friends except us. She didn't have anywhere to go except where we went. So you can see why I thought this was such unusual behavior. Especially considering how sudden this change came about… it only took two weeks.
"I kept an eye on her for a while, trying to understand what had happened—why she was acting so different. I never got anywhere though. Rae can't lie to me—no one can—but she can hide things from me… even her secret boyfriend, Tony McGinnis. I still remember the day we first met face-to-face, like it happened yesterday. I'll never forget that day...
*Cyborg and Beast Boy were on the couch playing one of their video games. I was only there a few seconds before Beast Boy's car ran into a wall and Cyborg began his victory dance. His face turned beet-red when he spotted me, as though I'd caught him doing something I haven't seen a thousand times before.
I decided the best thing to do was ignore it. Besides, I had more important things to deal with.
"Hey guys, have you seen Raven?" I asked.
"Nope." Cyborg said.
"Nah… she called earlier though."
It took everything I had to not throttle Beast Boy for not telling me immediately. Not that he'd know how worried I was, but you'd think he'd tell me this anyway. I kept my cool in spite of myself.
"Well, what did she want?"
Beast Boy isn't the one to leave a message with, so it didn't surprise me he had to take a second to think about it.
"Um… I think she wanted to know if you were here. Oh! And she wanted me to make sure you stayed until she got back."
Another red flag Beast Boy obviously missed. Since when did Raven ever want to make sure anyone stayed somewhere she was going? Raven was always happiest when she was alone.
"And you didn't think to tell us this earlier?!" At least Cyborg caught it.
"So she's coming back now, right?" I stared Beast Boy down. I wanted my answer, not more apologies. Now really wasn't the time for that.
"Um…yeah?" Beast Boy was completely lost; he really didn't know what was going on and I didn't have time to explain it to him. Let Cyborg do that.
I turned to leave, but then stopped for one last question.
"What does she want me here for?"
"Dunno. She didn't say."
After twenty agonizing minutes, Raven showed up on the Tower's security cameras. She wasn't alone though. A man, a few years older than her, probably too old, was with her. Black hair, blue eyes, and the look of power. He held himself like a king, as though everyone was beneath him and should bow down to his superiority. I didn't know it at the time, but I should have been more worried abou—*
"I'm sorry, but how old was this guy? And what 'look of power' do I have? And what about those supposed powers? Don't you think I'd've used them by now?!" Terry couldn't stand it anymore; he had to speak up. This is ridiculous! That isn't me at all; how can he think that's me?
Blue Crow is not happy. At all. Terry knows his mouth will get him killed some day and the way things are looking, today might be that day. It takes only six seconds of a staring contest before Terry looses his resolve and breaks eye contact, hoping maybe this will placate the volatile ex-hero.
Blue Crow is silently considering his options, but Terry knows how quick he can turn. With all this noise, half of Terry hopes someone will call the cops. The other half of him knows just how unlikely that is; even a 911 call can mark you for dead in this city. Who would risk it?
Slowly, Blue Crow approaches Terry. He stops only inches from stepping on Terry's nose. Bending over, he gets into a crouch, watching Terry almost like one would watch an interesting insect.
Unnerved, Terry forgets himself and peers up at the impassive, black mask.
His voice level, Blue Crow explains, "When someone truly believes their own lies, they can fool anyone. I just refuse to listen."
Getting up, he returns to his story.
"As I was saying, I didn't know it then, but getting rid of him was the last thing I should do. But I had no idea bad things were. She trusted you—sometimes I think more than me.
"Anyway, she brought you up to meet us. Beast Boy—his usual, over-excited self—ran up to shake your hand as soon as you two stepped off the elevator. Cyborg greeted you almost as warmly, but both of them excused themselves quickly when they saw my reaction to you. I saw you. The real you, not the one you convinced Raven you were. It was all over your face, in your walk, your stance—everything. I knew what you were and you knew it; you weren't surprised that I hated you. I don't remember what you said, and frankly, I don't care, but you spent the next twenty minutes trying to convince me you were okay, that you weren't the threat we both knew you were. We knew it wouldn't work. We both knew I wouldn't listen to you; that's why you waited so long to meet me—why you persuaded Raven to keep you a secret. The whole thing—the whole conversation—was just an act. An act to convince Raven that you were trying and that I was just being stubborn. An act I played right into—not because I wanted to, but because I didn't know what else to do. You were too good. It was a flawless performance, really, and it did exactly what it was designed to do. The rift that had been forming between me and Raven over the past year tripled in size that day. A rift that I'm sure I can thank you for. And there was nothing I could do about it."
His head hanging low, this is the first time Blue Crow has shown any emotion other than anger. Terry can almost feel sorry for the guy, but the sting in his face and chest reminds him what a monster this guy is.
Blue Crow's story had had him distracted—and by the looks of it still does—and Terry had been taking full advantage. One hand is already close to loose, and Blue Crow, having paced all over the room during his story, was now across the room staring at a corner. Terry wonders whether this extended respite will somehow come back on him, but he isn't one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Working his wrist to a slow cadence so as to not make any sounds, Terry finally pulls a hand free. After the first one, the second is released and slips out easily. Silently celebrating, Terry bends to work on his feet, but his bruised chest riots painfully. Alarmed, he tries to suppress a scream but a low grunt escapes his lungs.
Blue Crow breaks from his reverie and whips around to watch with shock as his captive rushes to finish the escape. In a flash, the enraged kidnapper charges. Terry sees it coming and does his best to roll himself and the chair toward the center of the room. Blue Crow easily adjusts and delivers a solid kick to Terry's jaw, giving the poor kid whiplash. By now, the pain just adds to the din clouding his mind, and Terry recovers fast enough to block the next kick, headed toward his exposed stomach.
After so much abuse, the broken remnants of the chair have all but fallen away from Terry, only tethered on by the rope binding his feet, and Terry kicks them off to roll away from the next attack. His roll is stopped short by a pile of boxes and junk, plus the wall behind it. Blue Crow misses anyway. Frustrated, Blue Crow pounces on Terry and proceeds to choke him. Terry struggles desperately to loosen his adversary's death-grip, but even the massive amounts of adrenaline pumping through his body can't completely counter his fatigue. Strength waning, Terry reaches a hand for Blue Crow's face and frantically paws at it. He has no idea what he is trying to accomplish, but Blue Crow jerks back in response, knocking into the pile of boxes. The mask comes off in Terry's hand and gazing up at Blue Crow he sees there was another mask beneath the first. But this one isn't a full mask; it's in the old style, only surrounding the eyes, revealing Blue Crow to be a man around thirty with black hair and blue eyes. But it isn't the face that captures his attention, it's the mask. He knows that mask. He's seen it every day for the past three years—even stared at it occasionally while the Old Man was upstairs. He remembers that mask, sitting in the Batcave, collecting dust on a mannequin, its owner long retired. That was Robin's mask.
When Blue Crow had fallen against the boxes, he had jarred loose a flurry of papers and a large object. Not even caring what it is, Terry grabs the blunt weapon and drives it into the man's skull with all the strength he has left. Temporarily freed, Terry hobbles for the window they'd been fighting under and half climbs, half falls out onto the fire escape. Blue Crow is close behind, but approaching sirens distract him for a moment.
A moment is all Terry needs. He can see a trash bin only a couple stories down, full of loose trash and cardboard boxes to break his fall, so he leans onto the railing and swings his legs over to drop ungracefully into the bin.
Unfortunately, Blue Crow is too quick and with a flash of his hands, the purple noose encircles Terry's neck as he falls.
Too late, Terry realizes what happened, and the rope pulls taut.
As Terry hangs over the railing, Blue Crow finishes his story…
"She loved you, Tony. She loved you, but you couldn't love her, could you? So you just took off. Six weeks later, we found her hanging out her window…Now you die the way she died."
A/N If anyone can think of any other alterations or improvements I can make to this story, please let me know. I've never had more trouble perfecting a story.