Chapter three is finally here! Many thanks to Undead Dungeon Master for beta-reading for me.

Thank you everyone!


It's been two days since Tim's panicked call from California. Bruce had taken the Batjet immediately to pick him up, leaving Gotham in the care of Batgirl and the imported Nightwing. It's been a while since I've worked the streets of Gotham, but it came back quickly. For a while, I could almost pretend it was still the old days, before Tim and Jason had even put on the mask. But reality refused to be denied for long; Bruce had called back a few hours ago with an ETA.

I finish up with a purse snatcher I had found on the way and headed back to the cave. Barbara is probably already done with her rounds and impatiently awaiting the jet's return.

I gradually make my way down the stone stairway, as if to a dirge. Swirling thoughts and worries consume my attention. I wonder how Tim is—what condition he's in. If…if he's still alive.

Reaching the bottom of the stair, I finally notice the distinct quiet surrounding me. Even the bats are silent. Refocusing my eyes, I take in the grisly sight laid out before me. Everything; the walls, the tables, the display cases—even the computer—is covered in sprays of dark claret, some still dripping. I stare, aghast, at a floor, slick from pools of spilt blood. Numerous tracks, streaking the blood across exposed ground, tell a tale of terror and torment, as victims scrambled through their own blood, trying vainly to escape their horrific fate. My mind swimming, I take two shaky steps forward, and spot a heel sticking out from behind an examination table. One body could never have held this much blood, but my brain isn't thinking; it's only intent is to reach my friend and help her.

Racing to Barbara's side, hope in my heart, I know full well the likelihood that she still draws breath. By the time I reach her, my uniform is more red than black or blue, but I don't care; I have to help her.

"Babs! Talk to me! Are you okay?" My voice is cracking, and my vision clouds with tears as I cradle her limp form. Feeling the coldness of her skin, no sound or movement from anyone but me, I know the truth, but cannot accept it. She can't be dead! I just talked to her! This is the Batcave for crying out loudit's supposed to be safe! Hell, we'd found Tim; he was coming home. Everything was going to be alright now. She can't be dead!

"No, no, no, nooooo." I sit in a pool of red, a sticky mess, sobbing into Barbara's matted hair, rocking her gently. "Please…Wake up."

—oOo—

When I had finally finished crying over Barbara, there were still three more bodies for me to grieve for. Three more of my friends waiting to be found and mourned. What was wrong with me? I knew all this blood couldn't have been her's—how could I be so selfish, spending all my time on her?

Tim I'd found curled up under the Batcomputer. I couldn't see him before because the chair, dumped over on its side, had partially obstructed my view. Of course, it didn't help that now everything was painted in various hues of crimson.

As with Barbara, Tim had been slashed repeatedly with some sort of knife or sharp object; I won't know definitively until the autopsy. The wounds bit deep in places, but all of them in nonessential areas that probably didn't impede Tim's ability to feel what was happening to him. He suffered before he died—he suffered a lot.

The fear and pain etched on Tim's face is haunting and almost more than I can take, but rigor has already set in. I do my best not to catch his despaired gaze while I study the scene further; I need to learn all I can about what happened here if I want any hope of catching this murderer. From the position of the body, I realize I can also infer that his attacker had already moved on to something else when he died. The poor kid slowly bled to death.

Alfred's body shouldn't have been a surprise—he was always here—yet somehow it was. He would have been in plain view, splayed out across an examination table, but someone had draped a once-white sheet over him. Alfred wasn't last. My heart skipped a few beats at this realization; who else had been here, and more importantly, is he still alive? Knowing the answer to the first question, I dart around in a desperate search for another body, my own trembling.

Reaching the display cases, I notice the Batman suit seems to be sagging slightly on the mannequin. My heart lurches as my detached state wavers in the face of a cruel reality. Getting closer, I can see the face beneath the mask isn't the usual formless white ball, but a pale, flesh tone with defined features.

"Bruce…"

—oOo—


This is an origin story written for a new AU Nightwing I came up with. I plan to use him later, but I'm not really sure when that will be, nor what side he'll be on. I welcome any suggestions you might have. People on this site have good ideas, and I'd be remiss to ignore that.