A/N: I really don't have anything else to say other than "reviews make writer happy."
Disclaimer: If I really owned Teen Titans and everything that goes with it, I just don't think I'd be writing fanfiction about it.
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A Patchwork Christmas
Chapter Three: Against the Things That Go Bump in the Night
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"So it's official then? The Holiday Killer is in Jump?" Bennet asked, his voice crackling slightly over the long-distance connection. It was a bit of a bad one; there was a small winter storm squalling around Gotham at the moment.
"Yes, I'm going to need the folders on our previous seven murders." Gordon spoke into the phone, absently checking the file folders on the desk. He had been given a recently renovated office in Jump's main police headquarters. There was no one using this office, so it was turned over to him for the duration of his stay. All that was in it was a desk and chair, a computer and a phone, but it was serviceable and all Gordon felt like asking for.
Well, maybe his own espresso machine and a good supply of Styrofoam cups. Then he would be set for a while.
"And this recent murder matches the other seven exactly?"
"All the way down to the little details." Gordon said, flipping the cover open on one folder and eyeing the picture that was paperclipped to the front page. "I'm staying in the city until we can catch the perp. I think there's a good chance we can apprehend him this time."
"Commissioner..." Bennet sounded a bit skeptical about their chances this time, but given the last time, that was to be expected. "Bats couldn't even get anywhere near the bastard. Last I heard, he was still laid up. And he ain't taking any painkillers either. And I heard that this morning."
"Don't worry, I've got a good feeling. I hear there's a very good vigilante team in Jump." Gordon said, grinning at the picture of Robin inside the folder. It was an extraordinarily bad photo; his hair much messier than was normal for him; an exhausted and ill-tempered air about him; the kid looked like he had been pulled in for this picture after a long and particularly harrowing night with no warning whatsoever.
"Really? What little bird did you hear that from?" Bennet asked curiously.
"I didn't hear it from just any little bird. Turns out, there's a particularly rare breed of robin in Jump." Gordon said casually, professionally ignoring the muffled noises of triumph the detective was making. "There are five members to this team and that's five extra sets of eyes and ears that just might be able to pin down the Holiday Killer once and for all."
"Remind me to thank them when they got the bastard behind bars for good." Bennet said. Paper rustled in the background. "I'll rush-deliver the files to the Jump City police station soon as I leave the office tonight. You should have them by this time tomorrow."
"Thank you for doing this, Bennet." Gordon twisted in his chair slightly, glancing out the window and the swirling snow.
"Not a problem Commissioner."the detective said."And tell the robin that all the folks back home say 'hi'."
Like usual, Bennet hung up without a farewell and Gordon did likewise. It was a habit that most members of the Gotham P.D. developed in short order. Things tended to happen so fast there with little breathing room, sometimes there was no time for the formalities. The little things -- like saying 'goodbye' on the phone and even introductions on a few too many occasions -- always got lost somewhere in the shuffle. In fact, Gordon was fairly certain that there were several people in his office that he had never formally met before and only knew by sight alone.
The Gotham Police Commissioner swiveled the chair around to fully face the window. He couldn't help but notice that it was grime-free; flecked only with snow and not various-- whatever it was that came out of Gotham's often cloud-filled skies. Upon arriving to this city, he had been very surprised at just how clean Jump was. Clean and orderly and relatively peaceful; even this office had been newly-renovated. It was nicely placed too; overlooking the main square of the city. And the city itself had a low crime-rate, a distinct lack of chemical plants that were easily broken into and people who didn't spit insults at total strangers and start fights just because that person resembled the same person who bumped into them the day before. Gotham residents were unusually high-strung, but given the city's horrendous crime-rate...
The real psychotic freaks of nature were all safely locked away in a state-of-the-art asylum. The middle-class criminals were doing time in jail. And the petty thugs who caused trouble just for kicks were laid low by the weather. Not counting the Holiday Killer, the city was pretty quiet.
Not like Gotham. The city spent its holidays under constant police surveillance. There were a large number of parties that any villain would give their left arms to crash. But there were no sirens wailing through the air here. It was so quiet... Gordon had totally forgotten what it was like to be in a completely normal city. It was so normal that it seemed almost -- abnormal.
Living in Gotham had altered his perception of normalcy.
It was also a large part of the reason Gordon had decided to stay and lend a hand to the police. The Holiday Killer fit Gotham's perception of normal oh so perfectly that J.C.P.D. wasn't going to have any great ideas for bringing him in. And as far as Gordon knew, he and Robin were the only people here who knew just how to handle that level of normalcy.
No matter where one was, there shouldn't be only one person standing guard against all the freak and ghouls and the things that go bump in the night. It wasn't right to let only one person be the guardian.
"You have the same bad habits." Gordon commented, seemingly to the empty air but the office wasn't as empty as it had been a moment ago.
"You heard me coming?" Robin asked from where he stood near the closed door, slightly surprised.
"No offense," Gordon started, swiveling the chair around. "But I'm used to listening for Batman's entrances and exits. Compared to what he can pull off, you're a herd of tromping elephants. Those don't help either." he added, inclining his head to Robin's heavy, steel-toed boots which were currently caked with melting snow. Robin peered at his footwear for a moment, not really seeing what was wrong with them.
Gordon took the few seconds of silence that came next to really look at the Boy Wonder. It had been two years since he had last seen the kid and Robin had grown up some. He still looked as scrawny as ever, he was still gelling his hair up and he still dressed like a traffic light, but he had lost that slight chubbiness that came with kids below the age of twelve. He had definitely come into his own these last two years but Gordon would bet anything that Robin was still intimidated by Batman. Hell, who wouldn't be? That man would make the Terminator think twice.
"How--" He had to clear his throat. "How is everything back home?" Robin asked hesitantly. He had never really stopped thinking of Gotham as his home, but he was always hesitant to ask about it.
"They're fine." Gordon replied and a rather awkward silence descended on the office while the two occupants grappled for things to talk about.
The last time the two of them had actually spoken to each other had been right before a sting operation that went to pot halfway through. The last time Gordon had seen Robin had been about five months after that failed operation and the boy hadn't looked terribly happy with-- well, just about everything. A week later, Batman had turned up on the roof of the G.C.P.D. building alone and when asked where Robin was, he had replied: "Robin is on his own." It hadn't been until the end of the night did Gordon realize that that was Bat-speak for "Robin split town to go solo."
It was all over the papers the following day; most in big, bold headlines all asking: "END OF THE DYNAMIC DUO?!!" Disturbingly, there had been quite a lot of unnecessary panic in the streets, though not without good reason.
The split had worried the police as well, both the clean and the corrupt. Robin's presence had been the counterpoint to Batman's coldhearted-ness and both the clean and corrupt officers had feared a relapse of sorts; that Batman would just sink right back into that icy persona he had adopted for much of the early part of his career. Only Gordon -- for he was the only person who knew the vigilante well enough to catch it -- noticed that for a few weeks, Batman had been visibly checking himself before he went too far. The Dark Knight had obviously been very aware of the lack of his young comrade. To this day, Gordon had no idea what had caused them to part ways. Batman wasn't telling and he doubted that Robin would either.
"How's Batman?" Robin asked, the words escaping his mouth before he could think to stop them.
One of Gordon's eyebrows hit his hairline. There was a question he hadn't really expected to hear.
"He's fine." the Commissioner said after a moment. "Or he will be. Our killer did a number on him, but you know him. He'll be up again in no time."
A smile twitched on the corners of Robin's mouth before it was ruthlessly squashed. It had certainly been a somewhat unpleasant shock to run into Commissioner Gordon this afternoon. Gordon's mere "good to see you again" statement had obviously raised questions among his friends; questions Robin did not want to answer. If he had said that yes, he did know Gordon, that would have led to the question of how he had met the commissioner; something that could possibly lead back as far as how he had gotten into the vigilante business in the first place. He had wanted to go solo and he wanted to stay solo and keeping the past buried seemed like the best way to do it. Keeping the past an utmost secret wasn't always the best course of action, but as far as Robin had been concerned at the time, it was the only course of action he'd had.
"It's still good to see you again." Gordon added when the silence began to stretch too long. "I just wish it had been under different circumstances."
"Forget it. These would have been the only circumstances." Robin muttered, watching as the Commissioner's eyebrows disappeared into his receding hairline. "I'm not going back to Gotham."
"Never?" Gordon inquired, lacing his fingers together.
"Never." Robin said firmly. "There's no point in me going back. Batman can obviously handle the city without me and he made that perfectly clear."
Gordon might have disputed that if he actually knew what words had passed between the two of them. He also might have told Robin that he was wrong, but the boy was at the stage of a teenager's life where they thought they were invincible and always right. Robin would have to hear the words from Batman himself before he could be persuaded to believe otherwise.
Too bad Batman was really bad at translating his feelings into words.
Well, Gordon didn't know what he could say to Robin to get him to start thinking the opposite.
Damnable stoic bat.
"What are you expecting from him?" the Commissioner asked.
"What?" Robin had not been expecting such a question.
"What are you expecting Batman to do?" Gordon asked again. "He's far from a perfect man--"
"I know." Robin interrupted, his voice growing heated. He really didn't want the conversation to turn this direction. "But the least he could do is get out of that dank cave every once in a while. Y'know, actually join the living; look tan like the swinging bachelor he pretends to be instead of pasty white from spending all his time underground."
If Gordon raised his eyebrows any higher, they would be in danger of disappearing into his hair forever. There was something lurking between the lines there; he could almost feel it. This went so much further than Robin just wanting to see his mentor get out of the cave. Maybe he wanted to see him get out of the cape and cowl as well...
Okay, that was it. As soon as he was done here, Gordon was going to lock both Batman and Robin in a small room that had a very heavy door and no windows and let them duke it out until they came to an understanding.
"I came here because I wanted to talk to you about the murders, not -- him." Robin wore a disgruntled expression briefly and he made a throwaway gesture. There was a particularly venomous note to the pronoun. Gordon sat forward with an expression that said 'start talking kid'. So Robin did.
"I've thinking about what you told us earlier. You said that there had been seven seemingly random murder victims in Gotham, all taking place over the course of two weeks and over Thanksgiving, which is how the killer got his tabloid name. And the perp had slipped town nine days prior."
Gordon nodded. "We suspect that he left the city because Batman got much too close to unraveling the plan and that, of course, would have ruined the nice little operation the perp had had going on. The seven people murdered in Gotham had come from all different walks of life; from every rung on society's ladder. From the bottom to the top--"
"There is a connection." Robin interrupted. "It's small, but there is one. The very first murder was someone from the Narrows, right? A homeless man whose death means very little to society as a whole. And the first murder here happened on the wrong side of the tracks."
"Another homeless man." Gordon said, realization dawning. "If the Holiday Killer is going to follow the pattern he used in Gotham, then someone just a little ways up the ladder should be the next victim."
"I'd keep the police circling the low-income housing district." Robin recommended.
But the question that nagged at both of them was, what on earth had done that?! The eight victims hadn't been just killed. They'd been mauled! Eaten, for heaven's sake! Great chunks of their bodies had just been missing! Something had been roaming around last night and it had been seriously hungry. Obviously, it hadn't found what it had wanted in the trash bags and had then turned to the nearest source of food. The poor old homeless man last night had just been very, very unlucky.
So... Were they looking for a very big dog?
Or perhaps an animal had escaped from the zoo.
No, they would have heard about an escaped animal; particularly if it was a carnivore.
They sighed in tandem without meaning to. Robin had checked the J.C.P.D. files when they had gotten home and Gordon was certain that he had the G.C.P.D files well memorized these days, for all he had poked through them. New files had been entered into the databanks regarding this case, but it did not contain any more information beyond what they already knew.
Beyond what they knew, at any rate.
Batman had a notorious and frankly aggravating habit of with-holding information until the very end.
Gordon glanced up towards the former junior partner of Batman and Robin's eyes suddenly widened. It was the Gotham Commissioner's only warning before the window burst behind him in a shower of broken glass. He had the quickly passing thought that maybe he should have moved the desk so that his back would be to the wall instead of the window while Robin rushed forward, a hand reaching for his belt. But one did not survive in Gotham P.D. without developing seriously quick reflexes and it was these quick reflexes that had saved him many a time in the past. It was these quick reflexes that had Gordon well away from his desk before what was responsible for breaking the window had even touched the floor.
It came in the form of person wearing a full mask and dressed all in black, crouched on the desk in a remarkably predatory fashion. One arm was twisted behind his/her back, clutching a long pole that ended in a wickedly curved silver scythe. Robin likened the intruder to a falcon watching carefully from its perch, waiting to pounce on its hapless prey.
Except that its prey wasn't very hapless this time. Robin had already pulled out his collapsible bo-staff and Gordon's free hand lunged for his standard-issue, semi-automatic handgun; to pull it free of its holster and turn it on their attacker.
But the attacker seemed to see both moves coming. He sprang off the desk, three of his limbs flung out like a belly-flopping spider; the hand holding the scythe still behind his back. Robin spun out of the way, not quite seeing what happened to Gordon, but knowing the man was fine regardless. The vigilante swung his bo-staff around, seeing that the intruder had left himself wide open. But the falcon-like man was somehow able to change his direction of travel in mid-air and the next thing Robin saw was the sole of a boot. Stars flashed in his vision when the boot made contact with his face, narrowly missing his nose. The momentum behind the kick sent him flying into the wall.
He was on his feet before he had finished falling and angled the staff downwards in a ramming position. Falcon had still not used the scythe; his left hand darting forward. Robin took two steps forward and saw the shining barrel of a gun being pointed in his general direction.
For a split-second or two, Robin was frozen, staring down into the black depths of that barrel. He didn't know why he had frozen; he'd had guns pointed at him plenty of times before. Occupational hazard of the vigilante business with one simple rule to go along with it.
Don't get shot.
He heard the firearm click and there was a single throbbing *crack!* as the gun discharged. Instinctively, he threw himself to the floor as the heavy slug shot past both him and Falcon. The masked man had sidestepped smoothly out of the way, turning his body around to face the new adversary; turning his back on Robin. The Boy Wonder looked up to see Gordon down on the floor on one knee with his gun held in steady hands, re-aiming for Falcon.
"Careful!" Gordon barked sharply at the Boy Wonder, rising to his feet and into a position far more agreeable to the situation.
"I got 'im!" Robin shouted assuredly, jumping back to his feet, bo-staff ready to parry any attacks from the masked man. Falcon moved forward to meet him, but it never got that far.
There were several cops on duty who were still in the building and they had dropped everything at the sound of the gunshot. They burst through the doorway now, handguns held in ready-to-fire positions. At the sight of reinforcements, Falcon wasn't about to stick around. He never attempted to kill with witnesses on the scene. In a swift movement, a heavy boot came up and slammed into Robin's side, just a half-inch shy of his kidney.
The reversal came too fast for Robin to properly react in time. Falcon was out the window and into the flurry of snow in the time it took for Robin to fall to one knee. He straightened up instantly and was following Falcon out the window, determinedly ignoring the new ache in lower part of his ribs.
"What the hell?!" one of the new arrivals shouted in surprise, only catching sight of the fluttering edge of a black, titanium-fabric cape as it whipped out of sight.
"Commissioner Gordon! Are you alright?" the youngest of the newcomers asked, darting to the Gotham Commissioner's side. The officer only looked to be in his mid-twenties, maybe fresh out of academy training.
"I'm alright--" Gordon peered at the youth's name-plate through lopsided glasses. "Jacobs. Just caught me off-guard, that's all."
Lt. Valenti had slunk up to the broken window cautiously and was now looking over the city square.
"That was one of the Holiday Killer's men, wasn't it..." he said, glancing over his shoulder to the commissioner.
"It was me he was after this time. He knows I'm here." Gordon said grimly, getting to his feet and adjusting his glasses.
"And that was Robin going after that son of a bitch." Valenti said, a faint smile on his face. "Good. I feel better about this already."
The other four smiled appreciatively at the quip. The Titans, and Robin especially, were Jump's cavalry.
"Don't get complacent. It's men like that who took down the Batman." Gordon said sharply, killing the light-heartedness with a decisive blow. Somber faces abounded; none of the police really wanted to lose a member of Jump's cavalry, no matter how much they complained. The five officers in the room looked expectantly at the Commissioner and it took Gordon a second or two to realize why.
In the current absence of Chief Reilly, he had the absolute authority to order the men around. Guest he may have been, but he was to be treated with the respect his position demanded and any orders he gave were to be followed.
"Robin is going to need back-up." Gordon said. It was time to show the J.C.P.D. how to deal with a Gotham-spawned criminal. "Let's get a move on."
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Robin regretted, to an extent, his off-the-cuff decision to go patrolling in this blizzard-like weather with the sharp, cold wind cutting right through his uniform and then going to have a chat with Gordon that had put a couple of second thoughts in his head -- he wasn't going to dwell on them at the moment; there wasn't time -- but he didn't think he could have withstood anymore talk from his team about the Dark Knight before cracking. Gordon, at the very least, knew when the subject was turning too sour to pursue it further and the fact there was a longer history between them helped a bit.
It also meant that Gordon could read him easier and he rather didn't like that part.
Nevertheless, the Gotham Commissioner's presence here was surprisingly welcome.
Largely unaware that the police were mobilizing behind him but suspecting as much, Robin tore across the snowy rooftops after the fleeing man. The bastard was damn fast and with the current weather situation, it was getting difficult to keep a bead on him. The glaring neon lights from various store signs didn't help the matter either, but the winter weather had chased everyone indoors for the night so Robin encountered no resistance from the local populace. Besides, he had already sent out a distress signal to the Tower and he had confidence that the rest of his team would mobilize swiftly.
He also had confidence that he would get further in this than Batman had been able to. He just needed to find the right time to make his move.
He had a bad feeling that the time was coming up sooner than he liked.
C'mon! Where are you going?! Robin wondered as he pelted across the top of the community building. Falcon was a full rooftop ahead and still moving fast. They were leaving the center of the city behind rapidly. If they continued in this direction, they would soon come to the waterways; the place where clean water from the sewage treatment plant went to rejoin the natural cycle. Beyond the treatment plant was nothing but nature for a good thirty to forty miles in two directions. Forty miles of nature and trees to get lost in and that was if one chose to traverse in a straight line. Robin hadn't been back there very often; he didn't know the trails. He would get lost very easily and it wouldn't take much effort.
Furthermore, the waterways were also the best places to enter the city's network of sewer tunnels. Robin had been in there a fair few times before and he could probably find his way back to the J.C.P.D. building and a few other places through the tunnels.
But now came his dilemma. Should he A: let the masked man escape into the sewers with a tracer attached to his back? Or B: beat him into the ground and demand information?
Option B was very, very tempting as he hadn't just gone and wailed on any baddies in a while, but Option A was more likely going to garner much more satisfactory results.
And then there was Option C.
Robin didn't even want to think about Option C. He really didn't want to use that one. That one--
Robin didn't get the chance to really contemplate the possible ramifications that accompanied Option C. Falcon had obviously grown tired of the chase and had decided that it was time to step this up a notch. Robin had been busy thinking about his options and he hadn't seen the man come to a halt, so he had run right into him. Mortified at his own brief lack of attention, the Boy Wonder leapt backwards a good ten feet, his heavy boots slipping and sliding on the ice and snow that was obtaining the consistency of the concrete it had collected on. The two of them were standing on the ground now, next to one of the run-off canals that led back into the ocean. The water below was partially frozen and flowing sluggishly.
Falcon was standing in a casual manner that brough to mind RedX and Robin ground his teeth at the unusual likeness. But it wasn't that thief. RedX had last been sighted causing trouble somewhere way south -- near the Mexican border, in fact -- only just four days prior and the Flash had been in the area on an apparent sight-seeing tour; camera and everything. Needless to say, RedX hadn't gotten too far before he had been apprehended. He was no doubt locked up right now, meaning there was no way that he could be here in Jump. Besides, the thief had made it very clear that he was only out for himself.
Robin took the brief seconds of inactivity to have a good look at his opponent. Clothed all in black with a mask and visor protecting his face, Falcon was distinctly lanky limbed and beneath the swaths of black cloth, appeared to be bit on the skinny side as well. There were no suspicious bulges in the clothing that suggested hidden weapons or even femininity. The silver scythe clutched in the hand that was still curled behind his back appeared to be the only weapon.
But appearances could be highly deceptive.
That Robin knew well. He would have to keep his guard up.
Falcon raised his free hand and made a taunting 'come on' motion, shifting his weight as if to walk forward. Robin planted the bottom tip of the bo-staff into the snow and gave a challenging smirk. He could almost feel his opponent sizing him up. Neither of them looked like very much, but Falcon had already demonstrated exceptional swiftness and fairly good stealth skills. Born and raised as an acrobat, Robin would be a circus brat 'til the end of his days.
"Shugain bea gasur!" Falcon shouted. "Racan mise!"
Robin blinked when the entirely foreign words registered in his mind. He had no idea what the man had just said, but the tone was enough to go by. It was a challenge. He was daring Robin to fight him.
And Robin did not often back down from a challenge.
Probably one of his larger failings, but he too often turned a blind eye to the more obvious of his flaws.
So the challenge was accepted.
The next phase was the familiar one of posturing where both opponents gave a very short demonstration of what they were capable of. Robin gave the bo-staff a few sharp spins to indicate that he had a very good grip that wasn't going to be broken any time soon. Falcon at last took the scythe out from behind his back and started -- for lack of a better term -- whirling it through the air with one hand in a twisting pattern that would have made any marching band's color guard absolutely green with envy. The curved blade made an ominous buzzing noise as the air whooshed over its surface. Despite his external fascia of confidence, Robin felt the smallest trickle of cold doubt creep down his spine.
He hoped his team or the police would get here soon.
He shook the cold doubt away, called upon every ounce of fighting experience in his possession and made the first move.
The right tip of the bo-staff came swinging up for the unprotected left side, but once already, Falcon had proven himself to be inhumanly fast. The staff collided not with flesh and bone, but instead with the scythe. Robin felt the impact all the way up both his arms and for a wild moment, he swore that his shoulders had been knocked out of their sockets. That scythe was not made of normal materials, he could tell. There was something eerie about the way the bladed edge gleamed in the orange light from the lamp post overhead.
Falcon pulled back, taking the scythe with him. He dug one heel into the ground and thrust forward, forcing Robin onto the defensive. He had never fought before against someone wielding a scythe and he was quite at a loss on how to properly block. He settled for dodging out of its path and staying out of the long swinging radius. That wouldn't be enough. He knew that instinctively. He would need to defeat this guy sooner or later.
Five moves later during which he acquired a few new bruises and a scrape from falling once on the ice, something became very obvious to the Boy Wonder. Something he didn't like.
He wasn't going to be able to defeat the man.
When he realized that, he paused for half a second. In that half-second, Falcon lunged forward and Robin instinctively fell back. The scythe's blade just grazed his torso, cutting right through the tough material of his costume and leaving a thin paper cut-like cut on his chest, right at the base of his sternum.
Then he hit the ground.
The cut was shallow, but the unusual amount of pain that came with it was enough to distract Robin from stopping his fall. Strangely enough, it was his elbows that took the brunt of the impact.
Falcon was standing over him in a flash and the scythe was plummeting down towards the teenager. Robin whipped the bo-staff horizontally across his body, just in time for the blade to slam into the staff, the épée biting into the metal like it was butter.
"Torad." Falcon snarled, applying pressure with the scythe. Robin heard a distinct crack and it had come from the bo-staff. It was breaking and if Falcon continued to apply pressure, the staff wasn't going to last much longer.
He realized that there was nothing directly beneath his head except for open air. Ten feet down was the canal; all cold water and ice.
Another crack. The staff was starting to fracture. The scythe only had an inch and half left to go before it cut through entirely and the only thing that would stop it then was Robin's own ribcage.
He twisted his head around and looked down at the waterway, and then thought back to his previous options. Options A and B were a bit null right now. They were no good anymore.
So then... Option C it was.
Robin pulled his legs in as much as he could and kicked out at Falcon. His feet impacted with the older man's abdomen and sent him staggering back several feet. Space enough. The teenaged vigilante scrambled back to his feet and threw an exploding disk at the man. Under the cover of the explosion and the ensuing smoke, Robin took a deep breath, quelled his wailing fear, and hurled himself into the icy water of the canal.