Hello! For those who don't know me, I am Starie! I usually write Hardy Boys fanfiction but once again I find myself wandering...
For those who already know me: I am sorry that it's taken me so long to post ANYTHING up. I took an unintended hiatus because of sheer amount of studying that I have to do. I'm supposed to get my soul back from the books once May is over with, but I dodged them for a bit to write this oneshot up.
This story is inspired by my friend on deviantArt, kyuubikun. She had a journal of the three Robins (with Jason beating the heck out of the other two) and we talked before she mentioned wanting a Jason/Dick story. My mind worked in its usual way and came up with... well, this.
This being said, it's not much for romance, but there are pairings: Jason/Dick, Tim/Kon, M'gann/Artemis/Kaldur, Wally/Roy, and onesided Bruce/Clark. Despite all of this pairing madness, this fic is quite serious.
Other notes include:
-There's swearing, violence, hints of sex, and other crazy things in this long piece I call a oneshot.
-Every one liner that is in parenthesises, italicized, and has no other punctuation and what appears to be grammatically incorrect are supposed to be thoughts in the way that they are... well, thought: that is to say, short, runs together, and not puntually correct.
-References The Great Gatsby, The Pircture of Dorian Gray, and the poem "The Raven." Also eludes to a psychological study done by the University of Iowa on aggressive music and how the mind connects aggressive/ambigous word pairings.
-Tim is the Robin for the Young Justice crew.
-It's a bit AU and OOC at times. It'll be obvious to those who study it in depth. Otherwise, it should all make sense.
-I'm not Superman's biggest fan. Still waiting for him to be nice to Superboy. (Which will probably take another few dozen episodes...)
I do not own Batman, Young Justice, Justice League... and pretty much every single character in this story. I do, however, own the last three seasons of The Batman on DVD.
It was Superman who voiced the first comment against the couple.
Dick had a mixed reaction to what should have been a simple fact. He felt as if he really should have been expecting a reaction that fell from the "nonapproving" side of the spectrum. The information that was being judged wasn't the most acceptable thing that was brought forth to other people, so to speak. It was one thing to be gay. It was another to have fallen for the guy one was supposed to consider a brother despite the circumstances of both their adoptions. What cinched the deal was that it was Jason, of all people. Not Tim, who (despite being beyond the point of sweet and innocent) fell under Bruce's strict moral code.
Jason was a killer. That made the most difference out of them all.
A smaller part of Dick screamed once the comment made the full impact on his heart. Superman, of all people and aliens and whatever else existed in their corner of the universe, was criticizing. The person that was supposed to be the poster boy of all things good and right in the world, which included acceptance of others, was criticizing the fact that Dick was gay. There was a long list of things that the younger of the two would have been able to understand if the Man of Steel had called them out. Jason being a killer was at the top of that list. Sexual preference, on the other hand, was so far off the list it wasn't even on.
"What about you and Barbara?" Kon-El asked. His blues eyes were squinted in the way that meant a person was judging their appearance, as if that alone could mark a man as a sinner. The name hung in the air of the Watchtower, drawing in crowds of others like them. After all, never in their world had they heard an actual name that could give away the identity of Batman and his children.
"It's been years," Dick replied back, his voice having the eerie quality of Batman's that made anyone shit themselves. It was calm yet at the same time dared anyone to try and question him. The words themselves had a whole story behind them that Dick did not feel like sharing for the public to hear. Barbara had been the one to set Dick on the path he was currently on. She understood that the teenager lusted after both sides of the population, but had a heart that could only key into another one's so perfectly that, in order to compensate for the lonely nights, tried to fit into others with no avail. She broke it off with a promise to help him find his other half in the insane world that they coexisted in. In fact (which the cosmic irony not lost on Dick) she was one of the forces that pushed him and Jason together.
He loved that girl more than he could love a sister.
His conscious part of the mind felt the unknown, dark corners of the unconscious part recounting how he ended up in the conversation. It couldn't have been from Bruce: the man kept his secrets well enough that no one would be able to recreate the man if they tried. Tim followed Bruce's footsteps quite well in that regard and would have never said a word without permission from both sides of the couple. The only other person could have been…
(going to murder Stephanie maybe strangle her so Jason can do the rest)
Flash looked at Superman, then at Dick, before bringing his gaze back to Superman. Unlike his protégé, Barry's mouth wasn't constantly filled with quick one liners in attempts to diffuse situations with humor. He was wiser, therefore it was somewhat expected to hear him say, "Supes, why are you trying to interfere with his love life?"
"His love life consists of a murderer." The statement didn't settle amongst them well. Especially when Dick threw a punch that actually sent the other man reeling towards the nearby wall.
"He's not a murderer." The statement lacked the Batman quality of a calm overtone. It channeled as much anger as Bruce's could, but dropped rather than infected.
Fierce, blue eyes shone back-
(too much like the sky to be Jason's too bright too naïve too
-in the same criticizing manner that just seemed odd for Superman. "Then what do you call it? What does Batman call it?"
(calls Barbara out but not Bruce not aster at all)
"In Gotham-" Dick began in a voice so steady that it scared even him. None of his previous anger shone in the two words, but there was some other weight in them that dared anyone to question him. It implied that those who try will be killed with just a glance. The tone was beyond what Bruce used and one that Jason would be proud of. "-there is a difference between a killer and a murderer. Murders have intention. Killings just happen."
The world seemed to freeze at the words. The only one to show any kind of life beyond shock was Dinah, who instead gave a look that meant she fully understood what he meant. Growing up in Gotham did that to people.
"I'm outta here," he muttered finally, heading to the transporter. No one had said anything, but nothing was needed for Dick to realize what kind of world he was living in. Judgment had been cast: Nightwing was insane to fall for someone who would kill, which went directly against what the Justice League stood for. The pure idealistic side of everyone in the League could not stand to let Dick's choice of love be. It just simply wasn't done that way.
But nothing was ever so simple.
It was Tim-
(not Jason he's out on his own runs back later)
-who was sitting carefully on the ledge of the window at one o'clock in the morning that woke him up. Dick had been expecting someone from the family to find out and come over to the hole of an apartment that Jason had currently called "home." It didn't matter to the first Robin who it was, as long as they came late enough so that, by then, any possible tears that had to be shed were already dried up and tossed away.
The bed that he had fallen asleep in was hard and had the springs attacking where they could, leaving red and unfavorable marks upon his toned body. The sheets were colored with age, dirt, and the nights where it was easier to collapse than tend to the wounds. It was probably the worst bed that Dick had slept in in his whole two decades of living, but it was okay. His hand found the pillow before pushing the rest of him up to greet his youngest brother. "Did Superman-"
"He can't touch Jay. It's Batman's territory, after all. And even besides that, we carry around enough Kryptonite to kill him." The youngest of the Robin's slid off the edge so that his feet were actually touching the floor before closing the window in a graceful, quiet motion. What little moonlight and artificial light from the street lamps revealed hints of the black, red, and yellow that made up the current Robin costume. "The way we've been trained, no one can touch Jay but Dad. And Dad understands everything too much to try."
Dick's head tilted slightly with his agreement. Bruce had been thorough with each of their training out of pure concern of the dangers of the world. What each did with their training was a whole other matter, but it was their choice alone and that made any appreciation that the three had grow. It was what bonded the dysfunctional family together in the end. Even Jason was given the utmost care and concern from Bruce, receiving some financial aid and gadgets and such. Kryptonite was a part of the deal, as being on the wrong side of the so called "Man of Steel" who seemed to have a limitless array of powers wasn't the most ideal place Batman wanted to find any of the Robins in.
"I'm guessing you heard," he said finally, pulling himself together to sit up without any support of his arm. The sleep disappeared from his eyes with the rush of adrenaline that filled him every time he woke in the middle of the night.
Tim let out what sounded like a mocking kind of grunt. "Who hasn't? Turns out the Justice League has bigger mouths in it than the bitches at school had."
"…it still sounds weird to hear you swear."
"You can blame Kon for that." Tim's posture changed. The rigid position of his body fell slightly at the thought of his teammate from the Young Justice group. "We've… we've been seeing a lot of movies as of late. Mostly action and mysteries and stuff. And aggression-"
"I know the study, Baby Bird. We did the experiment for school together, remember?" The memory of a happier, simpler time of their lives-
(because it had lies because we thought it was not as bad because we lied to ourselves)
-where the two had replicated a psychology experiment for Tim's school project filled Dick's head. Jason had agreed to be apart of it on his own will, which the brothers had found amazing since it usually took a lot of coercing to get him to do anything with them. It was during the time where the eldest of the trio began to notice things about the second Robin. If he wanted to label it, Dick would have said it was the beginning of the crush that grew to what it was.
"Yeah… well…" Despite the lighting, Dick was certain that Tim was blushing at the thought of Superboy. "Stephanie is probably getting an earful from Dad. He's not happy that the rest of the League is trying to meddle with our love lives. Not to mention it gives him a reason to yell at Clark-"
"Has he ever needed a reason?" A chuckle escaped his bruised soul. "Just lock them in a room, tell them they can't get out without having sex, and let the sexual tension do the rest. God, if-" The words paused as his breath trying to grasp back the small joy from his chuckle. "Damn it. No wonder they never got together. Clark is a fucking homophobe."
The Robin mask shifted up slightly with the gesture of raising an eyebrow that went on beneath it. "Seriously? This mess is because he's a homophobe? As in-"
"Yeah, Superman. This shit is so messed up." The bed suddenly looked comforting, calling for Dick to lose himself in the sheets and let sleep reclaim him. After all, sleep only held the illusions of dreams and nightmares. And sometimes the things out of his control looked better than everything around him. His eyes closed halfway with silent want and sadness. "It's also the fact that Jay is who he is-"
(killer insane uncaring total bastard
"-but the first thing he reacted to was the fact that I was gay. Asked about Babs like I was causing her great pain or something."
"…she's the one who shoved you together."
"Yup." Dick cast his gaze upon the floor, glancing at the shadows playing against the marred wood. "Thanks for checking in on me, Tim. But don't you have patrol or homework or something?"
"Well, I had this crazy older brother I had to talk to. You've seen him: toting guns, sneering at everyone he sees-"
"Sarcasm doesn't suit you well, Baby Bird." His weight suddenly dropped him against the bed, his head landing in dead center of the pillow. "Tell Kon I said hi. And I'll talk to Dad in the morning."
A pause filled with silence greeted the statement. Dick's stomach churned with uneasiness when Tim didn't answer him back instantly. The eldest brother shifted his head back slightly so that his blue eyes, scarred by the horrors he had witnessed since the fateful day at the circus, focused on what red of the Robin costume he could see in the bad lighting. "Tim."
"I… Ah, Clark somehow managed to snag the chance of coming here to interview Bruce Wayne tomorrow. He told his boss he might stay longer to relax. We think he wants to track you and Jason down."
(shit fuck why would he even tempt Bruce to kill him fuck)
"We have to relocate, don't we?" Dick finally said, his voice taking upon the same Batman tone that he used earlier that day against the Man of Steel. It didn't affect the current Robin as they both knew the anger was towards the same man that it was for earlier.
A curt nod told him everything. "Dad hopes it's only temporary, but since the whole League knows what happens… well…" Tim took a second to gather the right words to describe the situation that the first two Robins were trapped in. "Dad is a lot of things, but he isn't Superman."
The sentence explained everything. While there was a long, ongoing list of what Bruce Wayne was, being the optimistic Kryptonian who could charm just about anyone wasn't one of them. Even as the official leader of the League, there was only so little he could do before Superman could undo it all and declare Dick a criminal that had to be caught alongside Jason.
It wasn't the sinner of the two that dragged them both into the darkness that the Justice League deemed as evil. Rather, it was Superman's ability to label love as sin that sent them both for death.
The midnight move was not as taxing as Dick thought it would be. He had overestimated the amount of things that he thought that they definitely needed to take (as both he and Jason had learned that even pure necessities could be cut down enough to fit into a small bag), giving him more room in his plan to actually figure out what to do. In the end, he reasoned to himself that it would be best to use one of Bruce's safe houses for a day until Jason found out that the aftermath of the mess was bigger than expected. Once Jason reacted to the news (which could take hours for the other to calm down and think in ideas that were something other than murder) he would surely pull a contact out of midair that could set the couple up far away from the other heroes and allow Jason to continue the shady business that he called justice. The thoughts made sure that Dick was not sent into any sort of panic that would have ensured him messing everything up. He was relatively calm as he packed the bags, placed them into the car, and prepared to drive away from the place he called home. It was only when he had gotten quite a distance away from Gotham in the lonely car that he lost some of his composure. But everything was okay even in that bleak moment; somehow, the world was still aligned with the rest of the universe and continued on as it usually did.
He lost track of the time of took him to reach the safe house. It had to have been several hours, as that was the only explanation for why the sun was rising when he finally parked the car. Instead of checking exactly where he was, Dick had locked the door, found a bedroom, and collapsed into a deep slumber that lasted most of the day.
He woke up towards twilight, ungracefully and hungry. His feet led him into the kitchen of the house with his stomach on full agreement as his mind began to finally take in the house he brought himself to. It was too big and nice for it to be one of the places Batman would use during an investigation. Rather, it was a house that Bruce Wayne had bought on a whim and used a few times a year when business led him to the area. The sheer size would easily host several night parties without the need to spill into the yard (not that it ever stopped it from ever happening). The furnishing was extravagant and expensive and absolutely pointless to have beyond the point of showing off wealth. The structure was pure of the nightly grime and sin that the true identity of Bruce Wayne carried around with the cowl. In essence, it spoke of the rich but really meant nothing to the owner.
Dick was not surprised to see the hints of his arrival had left an impression that was like black paint on white. It proved and condemned his existence in the space, yet at the same time greeted him as if he was a friend. Out of everything in the hell he called his life, it opened its arms and allowed him in. Despite being meaningless, Dick found the house to be like Bruce: caring for the well being of his children despite whatever sins the world had marked them in. It made the young man feel better.
He opened a box of cereal and took a glass of tap water from the sink to accompany it. He sat in a corner of the kitchen, next to a wooden cabinet and cold glass that offered a glimpse of the outside world. Shadows overtook his presence, offering what little comfort that they could.
And somehow, things in Dick's niche of the universe were okay.
The arrival of Jason waited past the point of the meal by several hours. By then Dick had relocated back into the room with the bed. He was reading one of the several books that adorned the small shelf that hid under the nightstand. It was a hardcover copy of The Great Gatsby. The irony of the book in the house was not lost upon the first Robin. In fact, he would go as far as to say that Bruce put it there on purpose as a joke for those who have actually read the small book. The other half of the explanation was that it had been a favorite piece amongst all of the Robins. It held the pain of love and the illusion of what the rich life was, which they had been able to understand with life as a charge of Bruce Wayne. Even Jason had admitted that it was a good book.
The footsteps did not stop his reading. Instead, it was the stop of the rhythm of a broken man. A hand found its way to the curve of his back the same time the bed dipped under additional weight. Dick closed the book and placed it gently upon the nightstand. Neither said a single word for the moments that crawled by.
In the end, it was Dick who talked first.
"Not your fault Clark is a fucking homophobe." The curse fell in place with the words because it was Jason who said it. With Jason, curses came naturally. Tim could never make it work simply because he wasn't-
(marred or deadly or uncaring or Jason)
-the type to swear. But Jason was. "Besides, you actually have enough brains to not talk about it so openly. Stephanie, on the other hand, should learn to shut the trap hole she calls her mouth. Honestly, why the hell was she allowed to find out? In fact-"
"Jay, stop. Please." A sigh fell into place after the words. "We have bigger problems."
"Damn right. Need a Kryptonite-"
The other man sighed. "Blüdhaven. There's a place there for us to settle there. Cheap, relatively better than the shit hole I had in Gotham, and full of enough people to keep us both in work."
"And the League?"
"Hasn't touched it. They never learned how to handle places like Gotham and Bruce never taught them. We'll be fine." The hand moved itself lower onto Dick's back. "And I have backup plans if the little fuckers do figure out where we are."
A smile began to paint itself upon Dick's face. He made no move to change his position on the bed with his stomach pressed against the pure white sheets. But a simple turn of his head brought his gaze upon blue eyes that were so different than any others he had known. The scars on Bruce's eyes had dulled from knowledge and wisdom and simple time. Tim's were just a shade too bright from the lack of experience of the harsh cruel world that came with his young age, and the scars suffered from looking at horrors were still too new and not completely him. Clark's were a blazing sky blue that stood against everything Gotham was. But Jason's were just right, with a shade of blue that perfectly matched the horrors that had left their mark upon him. Under the red mask that the second Robin now donned there were his gorgeous blue eyes that said so much in silent rage.
Jason closed his eyes and brought his lips to Dick's shoulder blade. "We'll show the world wrong, Dick. I'll teach those fuckers a lesson for you." The kisses moved to his other shoulder blade before following his spine down his back. It became a moment of whispered promises that hid under passion because they don't know where to place themselves. Contact of skin became a security blanket for the scared child in them both to hide under while the storm howled. There was stillness in their frantic movements as Jason tried to prove his love and devotion in the only way he knew how to. Trinkets meant nothing to either of them.
They never called the act "sex." It was the difference between a killing and a murder.
Dick knew that there were distinct lines in the difference of definitions that could easily be mistaken with the wrong type of mindset. He could not blame those who did such a thing as long as the line was still there. So it was with great irony that the young man became one of those people with a single bullet and rush of emotions.
His steps found themselves in Gotham long after Clark left. He arrived with a promise to Jason to return before twenty-four hours had passed and a wish to give a proper goodbye to the dysfunctional group of people he called his family. Physically, he only had the motorcycle that his lover had lent him and the clothes on his back.
That was before the sharp cold metal of the gun tucked into his waistband reminded him that there was always more to simple appearances.
Something called him to Barbara. If Dick had any words to describe it, it was a "moral obligation." He had not taken the time to leave her any sort of farewell at the time of his disappearance, which left an unpleasant burning at the back of his throat the more he thought upon the subject. The woman was, after all, the reason for why the first two Robins had gotten together. (Dick also had a suspicion that she shoved Tim towards Kon and wouldn't have been at all surprised if he found out that this was the truth.)
The adrenaline started to course through his veins once he noticed that the door that separated the apartment from the rest of the world was forced open. The tell tale marks were too simple to make it an ordinary attempt: rather, it was only the plain cover of the tragedy it was about to tell. Dick's fingers unconsciously dropped the box of chocolates upon the dingy floor and took up the gun.
His memory started to play tricks on the young man as he inched the door slowly open. It was as if-
(stress makes memory sharper)
-it was telling him that-
(but too much can destroy a person)
-he was going to something that he would-
(mind can morph morals in order to justify)
It was a flash of skin bleached white that set him off. Red lips adorned the white contrast in a twisted grin that had filled Dick's nightmares since his first encounter with the man at the tender, impressionable age of nine. The purple and green outlandish suit just gave the demon an appearance of dark humor that was so much like Batman-
-in the regard that he had taken something ambiguous and shoved a sinister air down its throat. A white glove was grasping a gun that was very similar to the one that Jason had made Dick take, but there was an obvious difference. The weight of the cold metal was comfortable to the murderer while it was a stranger to the once vigilante. A simple pull of the trigger never weighed upon the conscious of the other. Dick could barely think of pulling the trigger without his gut pulling him into a wave of sickness. Experience versus novelty.
The murderer just smiled widely. "Ah, Babs! You never told me you had guests besides your dear old dad! Why, if I've known-"
The swirl of red hair at the demon's feet was all that was needed to pull the trigger.
The sound of the gunshot seemed to echo in the room as if it had no where else to escape to. Joker's grin never left his accursed face, but the barest hints of shock had begun to register in his eyes before they rolled back into his head. The collapse of the warm corpse brought no life into the blues eyes. Dick's hand started clutching to the cold metal, shaking under the pure force of understanding. Suddenly nothing was right in his world-
(not a murderer)
-and somewhere in the darkness he wondered-
(but a killer)
-if he had been too late.
A second could have passed. So could an hour. Maybe even a day would have escaped his notice as the blood finally began to stain the floor. His shaking hand brought down the metal weapon in its shaking grasp, not sure what else to do. But it was Barbara's bare whisper that pulls him back to the world.
And then Dick recalled leaving through the window and being thankful that he had avoided anyone or anything that could have recorded his presence and he was on the bike and-
None of it mattered to his mind. All he knew was that he collapsed onto the tainted bed back in the place he was now forced to call home and shook as the sheets soaked up his tears.
The gun was, of course, indifferent to it all. And by morning, so was he.
By the time Jason woke up from his own slumber that took place after his questioning proved fruitless, Dick was able to steady his body so that it would not shake with every attempt of moving. He sat at the corner of the bed that was not touching any of the walls, his head slumped down by the weight of his thoughts. The window sat opposite of him. What little that could be seen of the world outside consisted of bright blue sky and contrasting grays of buildings that fell under the sun's gaze. The gun was sleeping upon the nightstand. Dick, not tearing his eyes away from the cold metal, managed to whisper in a calm voice, "I killed Joker yesterday."
The light that filtered into the small room was pure sunlight that was barely tinted by the state of the window. The heat that came off the beams felt like nothing to the older of the two men. Everything in the room was tainted by age and only beginning to get the experience of being with the two former Robins. The bed was almost no better than the last one that Jason called his own, with the only minor difference of the red marks from the springs being of a lighter shade. The floor was covered in dents from previous owners and guests, each hiding their story from the rest of the world.
"I should have."
"He was planning to kidnap Barbara to hold as ransom against the Commissioner. I thought she was actually dead for a few seconds." Dick tossed his head back. His black hair followed the motion mindlessly. "I managed to hit him right in between the eyes. Son of a bitch."
A silence began to settle itself between them before Jason asked, "And Babs?"
"She's fine. Was just tossed out of the wheelchair and didn't get a chance to sit up to kick the bastard's ass. Didn't need my help…" Dick's gaze found itself upon the floor. "Damn it."
The direction of who the words were meant for was not lost upon the other man. His hand landed upon Dick's shoulder softly. "I wanted my first kill to be the son of a bitch to get back at him. Didn't work out that way. I got some mugger as my first. What set me off was that the fucker couldn't keep his mouth shut on his plan to rape as many women he could that night for some bet or somethin'. I just pulled out a gun and put a bullet through his head like it was nobody's business."
"Dad could never finish that case properly. Someone managed to destroy all of the evidence," Dick reminisced. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised that he just dropped it."
"He probably knew that it was me then."
The brighter of the blue eyes fell upon the floor. "Hey, Jay?"
"You think Dad's… gonna forgive me?" The question spilled out from the cluster of fear that had been sitting with the young man since he pulled the trigger. "Because you're…"
(disregarding uncaring dangerous handsome lustful killer)
"Well, you. And I'm not."
Jason sighed loudly and dramatically. "Tim said how Dad isn't Clark, right?"
"Well, at the same time they're not similar, they are. Wasn't it you who said 'It's impossible for opposites to attract' or some bullshit like that?" The tone had suddenly become tired and lazy. Dick could understand: the words were part of a truth too old that it had become boring to repeat it. "It doesn't matter. What matters is that the old man would probably kill himself before letting this get to him. There are some things that even he doesn't like to see happen but let it does anyways. We'll just be a part of that list."
It was the "we" in the statement that brings lust into Dick's eyes. He turned his head slightly before falling upon Jason. Their lips met over the pillow as another ritual of proving their love to each other started. There was no rush as morning had just woken up. The touches were deliberate and had more thought in their placement. The kisses were more precise. The results left more of an impact on his soul than the echoing gunshot in the apartment.
The bullet in the corpse no longer mattered to Dick. It was part of the outside world, and all he cared for was what was between Jason and him.
Kon was the one to deliver the news of the aftermath. The ever present scowl on his face was tired by travel, yet his eyes were intensely taking in the surroundings. He arrived at dinnertime so Dick, naturally, offered him some food. The two subs didn't last long between the trio.
The clone's gaze settled onto the wooden table that was faded from use. "Bruce said that he wasn't upset. He said that you two found the difference between a killer and a murderer."
The couple shared a glance. There was something disconcerting about hearing their father make the same distinction between the two as they did. Jason had done so because even he felt as if there was a difference when he extracted his brand of justice on the world. Dick had learned it when he had fallen for Jason. Tim had learned it as well as the only measure to allow himself a peaceful sleep at night after finding a corpse from Jason's work. But for Batman to use their definition meant that he had chosen love over logic, which was impossible for he was Batman.
"You sure it wasn't Tim who said that?" Jason asked. The chair he was sitting on creaked as he shifted his weight. The wood that made it up was different than the one that made up the other chairs or the table, yet they all shared the same scars.
Kon shook his head. "Tim said be careful. Bruce went on a... Tim called it a tirade. He said that he could never define the line and that's why he's Batman and not someone else."
It was a backhanded compliment, but as even those were rare from the Dark Knight his two previous sidekicks knew that there was more to it. The fact that Bruce went on a tirade about what had happened was not lost on them either. Bruce was never one to talk out every single problem he saw out in the world. Rather, he either dealt with it or made enough snipes about it that one could sense his displeasure.
"How about everyone else? Do they know it was me?" Dick asked.
"No. They thought that it was a random grunt who wasn't happy. That's the official police report, too." Kon turned his head ever so slightly towards the eldest of the three. "You okay?"
Jason's hand squeezed Dick's hand on the table as a sign of his reassurance. He knew what it was like to feel after the first kill. A murder was too complex for him, but a simple kill was too easy. "Never felt better," Dick answered.
Kon nodded. "Uh, Bruce also told me to give this to you." A black velvet box fell onto the table with a soft, graceful thump. The first Robin could only stare at the jewelry box as his mind began to rack itself with questions. "Something about providing the weddings rings so you can skip the wedding."
Jason opened the box with rushed, harsh movements. Two wedding bands lay inside, each made of simple gold. Nothing made them special from physical appearance, yet compared to the surroundings they were two beams of light in shadows. And as with everything in Batman's world, they meant more than simple appearance.
Since that day the two wore the bands. They were not simple trinkets as other pieces of jewelry or objects, which could have been lost by will or not. The difference was beyond the other simple lines of their life: this time, it was like night and day.
There were more deaths within the month that changed the normal balance of the everyday lives of the hero community. Both led back to a single truth: that Dick had fallen for the second Robin and by some miracle his feelings were reciprocated. However, that truth that tied everything together was not the motive, but rather the saving point.
It had been slightly over a week when things went crashing for Young Justice. The sun was hiding in Blüdhaven but not in the downcast way that foretold rain. It was simply hidden from the city painted in gray overtones and undertones, the hints of blood blending it with ease. Dick had joined part of the population that always carried metal-
-as he roamed the streets. The weight was no longer a burden, but a comfort. That realization drew another line in his mind that defined two distinct, different groups. The problem became the fact that the new line was really just a blur of another idea.
He had been at the apartment on that faithful day. The sweatpants he had managed to find out of the pile of clothing the couple had left upon the floor from the previous night were still too loose to fit comfortably on his structured frame. The monotone blue with faded white lettering fell in extravagantly long waves before pooling at his feet. The blue tangled with the small amount of red cloth that fell at Jason's feet. The younger man had wrapped his arms around his lover possessively, pressing the palms of his hands against the small of Dick's back. In return, Dick had threaded his fingers through the midnight black hair with a smile of content. The mornings, while sharply contrasting those they shared in Gotham, had become kinder than exile would have made them appear.
A knock brought the shared gaze to a halting break. Jason's hands pushed deeper into Dick's back. "Who's the fucker-"
"Jay," Dick repeated, enjoying the way the name fell off his tongue, "don't go swearing out the little old lady who lives down the street and wants to give us cookies."
"They still exist?"
"Well, it's nice to dream." He quickly glanced around the room for something that would hide his chest from any possible prying eyes. "Where is my-"
"Too late." The sound of the door opening quickly followed the statement.
(same skills for all Robins)
"Jay, you- Dad!"
Bruce Wayne stood at the doorway, his face indifferent to anything that he was seeing. His clothes were not the type that screamed of money like the safe house. The corners of cloth were rounder than the sharp suits of the billionaire. The teenage girl that stood by his side with a blank expression only made the soft scene that more urging.
"Artemis." The blonde girl only looked up slightly at the sound of her given name. Her blue eyes were-
(shattered broken dull
-cold. Her entire body was slouched into the black and white clothing that she had donned. The contrast between the two colors did nothing to divert attention from the mix of Vietnamese and Caucasian features in her.
Jason watched her with a calculating gaze. His blue eyes flickered to hers before he stated, "You killed someone."
Artemis did not protest the fact. Instead, her body seemed to have stiffened from the words and at the same time was pulled down by the weight of the meaning. Her eyes dropped down to the floor, the blue hue growing darker under half opened eyelids.
Dick stepped up and brought the girl into his arms. Slowly, he took her into the small room that they were forced to call a bedroom and sat her down at the edge of the bed. She did not react to any of the movements or the state of the room. It was as if she were a puppet and nothing more to the world, blending into the dullness of the area.
"It was your father, wasn't it?" Dick asked softly. He had known quite a bit about her background and it was the only thing that made sense to him. Unlike him and the Joker, there was something bigger needed to set the girl off to kill the man.
"He murdered Mom." The statement came out short and emotionless. However, the torrent of tears that fell afterwards broke whatever façade the girl was trying to hold upon herself. She collapsed sideways onto the bed. Her eyes were shut tightly as her head landed on his lap. "He killed her as if she meant nothing to him right in front of me. And then he said I had to get over it because she was weak and… and…"
Dick placed a hand on her shoulder. It was full of muscles that were strong but suddenly giving way to grief and pain. He knew that Artemis was not crying over the killing or the moment or the fact that the Justice League had now labeled her a killer. She was crying over her mother and what little peace she had lost from her actions.
"What did Kaldur and M'gann say?"
A fist clenched against his knee. The answer came in a hushed tone that hid anything but faux indifference to the events. "M'gann was just sad. She told me everything was going to be okay and that she'll protect me. Kaldur didn't say anything." Her body started to shake slightly. "He'll convince M'gann away from me. They won't love me anymore because they have morals and I'm just a killer to them."
"You never know."
(look at Jay and me)
"But it's Kaldur. His whole thing is about following rules and stuff. Just being with me and M'gann at the same time was a stress for him to understand." The tears began to dry on her cheeks, but the blue eyes were still shut tight against the rest of the world. "They don't come from Gotham. They can't understand."
Dick nodded his head, despite realizing that she couldn't see the motion. His hand began to rub small circles onto her back. It was the same action that his mother took when he had nightmares-
(but they were only illusions this is reality)
-and could not fall back to sleep.
"It doesn't matter." Tim's whisper ghosted over the room, bringing both Dick and Artemis out of their thoughts. The youngest of the Robins sat under the window, legs crossed and his elbows leaning against them. His head was propped up by his hands. The posture should have given him the appearance of a bored teenager at school. But it was the eyes that shocked Dick. They were a vibrant blue that was different than the ones of other heroes. Instead of sky blue that sung of happiness, they had a distinctly Joker like quality. "They'll know the difference between a kill and a murder very soon. Once Wally-"
"Tim," Dick said, his tone soft yet harsh and commanding, "what did you-"
"I murdered his father. The stupid son of a bitch-"
"-deserved it. And the others… Well…" A chuckle erupted from the teenager. "I had to help Artemis."
The girl reacted violently when she heard her name. The jerky rising turned into a sprint off the bed, and finally ended with collapsing by Tim's side. They just stared at each other for a second or two before collapsing into each other's arms and started to cry together.
The eldest boy-
(we're all children again)
-allowed his feet to bring him back outside the room. The brown and gray tones of the room washed over him as his sense of understanding the insanity he was living through began to find a balance with his mind. The sight of the youngest Kryptonian did not help matters. "Do you-"
Kon gave a curt nod. "They just found out about Tim when I was leaving. Clark sounded really upset about it all. I think he said something about Bruce corrupting children to become killers." His stance was rigid and straight, contrasting completely to the way his eyes screamed about how tired he was. "They'll find us soon, won't they?"
Dick didn't bother asking what the clone's intentions were. Relief had coursed through his veins at the mention of "us" because it meant that Tim was not alone to face the demons-
-of the world. Instead, he asked, "What about the others?"
"Wally wasn't back yet," Kon reported, "and Kaldur refused to talk to anyone. M'gann was staring at Artemis's room. She wouldn't react to anything else."
"Doesn't matter," Jason muttered, stepping out of the doorway that led to the kitchen. "We have to figure this shit out before the fuckers in space actually realize what the hell their supposed to do." Casting a glance at Dick, he added, "Dad left because the League called. Kon came in then and explained everything."
"You have a plan?"
"Yup. Need to bring Baby Bird, but he could do with the air." A fingerless biker glove was pulled off of the floor and slipped onto his right hand. "I'll bring the birdie back once I get everything set up. If we're lucky, I won't have to blow any shit up."
(only twenty years old)
-of the whole group nodded at words. There was silence that filled in the place where usual couples would wish their significant other luck or be well off. But they could not be that normal couple for the world was against them and only offered small shelters.
If they hadn't lived in Gotham, who knew how long they would have survived.
It was late when Jason arrived back to the apartment with a calmer looking Tim. The stars hid behind lingering clouds. Dick had taken occupancy near the window, his eyes rarely leaving the pavement outside in fear that he would suddenly see Tim's body there. The other two teenagers were on the couch, both heads hanging low at the thought that Tim had murdered someone. There had been some chatter every once in a while, but it always fell when thoughts of their youngest teammate began to rise.
The arrival of the two Robins was loud and pronounced: Jason had simply kicked the door open as hard as he could. A large bottle of what Dick had to guess to be hard liquor was tucked under one arm, while the other held a large box. Jason went straight towards the few cabinets within the kitchen as Tim sat himself between the two teenagers on the couch.
Artemis asked the first question. "Was it to help me?"
"Yes and no." Tim shut his blue eyes that had managed to lose color within a short span of time. "Wally kept coming back with hidden bruises. I tried to get someone to listen but... Well, I guess the League had better things to do. And Bruce was always busy so..." His back met the couch as he searched for the words. "I probably would have done something just as bad even before the shit between you and your dad happened."
"It doesn't matter, really," Dick reasoned. "It's all whelming, but it's done. There is nothing that can change it."
"But what do we do now?" Kon asked.
"You stay." Jason's voice preceded his reappearance as he entered the area, five shots of the clear liquor balanced upon the box. "The fuckers at the League are probably planning to search you three out, so we'll go in hiding for a bit. Some of it should blow over enough so that when we're done with training-"
"Training?" asked Dick.
"Yes, training. One of my contacts has the stuff we need and the experience to help. Not the best of people, but she'll get the job done and give us shelter."
Dick felt as if he should have glared at the other when he came to realization of who his lover was talking about. His head was spinning at the idea of training with her of all people. But Jason was right. She would willingly help and better them so that they could-
(and then what?)
The small glasses were passed around. No one gave a hint of protest at the age of the group. It was too late to care and only the burn could heal them. Jason was the first to down his share of the drink before he opened the box and began to take out the contents.
"It's the same kind of gun me and Dick use. Shouldn't be too hard. It'll save your ass of you need it." There were three of them, one for each of the teenagers on the couch. Kon examined his with great intensity once Jason handed him one. The other two just cast it a glance before tucking it away for later use. The mask of indifference the two wore reminded Dick on just how much Gotham could desensitize even children to the world of violence. He should have known: he was the first amongst them to suffer under its constant appearance.
The next thing to come out of the box was a crossbow. It wasn't loaded, but Jason treated it with the same care as if it had been. It was new or gently used, with the metal and wood outshining its surroundings with the barest of help from what little artificial light that was able to filter through the small window. After a quick examination, the second Robin held it out for the only girl amongst them. "Your mother was once Tigress. She never wanted you to take her path of life, but there's no time to choose. Make the name proud and make those who cross your path suffer."
Artemis gave a curt nod. Her eyes had tears forming at the edges, but were quickly brushed away before she took the crossbow. "She always said that I had to make the choice in the end," she muttered softly into the night air. "Thank you."
Jason glanced at Dick after she said that. The elder one of the two knew that being thanked for such a thing was nothing that Jason had ever expected to happen. It was a symbol of the world that they knew suddenly ending.
Dick looked at the small glass in his hand before downing the liquid within it. The rough burn within his throat reminded him of crying.
The next item out of the box was the last thing that Jason had gotten. It was a large black t-shirt that he unceremoniously tossed over to Kon. Even in the darkness Dick could see that his lover had folded the shirt so the chest, bare of any shields or symbols, was facing outwards. The clone instantly understood what it was meant to stand and began to pull off his shirt to replace it.
Everyone was quiet as the act was completed. They all just stared at the red shield on the piece of black cloth as it fluttered to the floor, crumpling upon itself. The peace wasn't meant to be long lasting, as the other two teens took a hold of opposite ends of the collar of the shirt and pulled it in different directions. The rip brought the shield apart.
And their world was at least stable.
Things fell into place afterwards. Training did everything promised and more. Their lives came into sync. A glance between them could have meant the end of the world. It was destructive and beautiful all in one swoop. And the part that really cinched it for all of them was that they loved it.
Arrogance also grew, but their mentor made sure that it was in the right place. It was always the skills that were being improved rather than the confidence in themselves. The laws of reality always said that there was someone out in the cruel world who was better than them. There was no room or time for arrogance to take hold and kill them. So it came as no big surprise that they were not gloating at the job that they received to steal something that the Justice League was watching with close interest. Instead, the five studied their areas over and over.
It had been a year since Dick had seen Bruce face to face, with or without their masks. He didn't get a chance of a proper farewell to the man who was his first mentor and had saved him from the world known as Gotham. The young man had to take them second handed from Jason. So he found it slightly ironic that he was the one to end up being captured and interrogated by the man in the cowl.
"What have you become?"
Dick knew that he was inside the fictitious existence of the Justice League base on Earth. The floor plans had been burned into his memory as he had trained, but he hadn't planned on visiting the floors that went below ground level and actually had a purpose. Everything with the general floors was made of metal and stone, both cold and dull to the world around them. The metal spoke out more to those who occupied the area, but only slightly. The actual room that Dick found himself trapped in was bare of anything but the chair and the door, both stationary and made of metal. There was also a camera amongst the setting, but it remained hidden from him.
The first Robin rubbed his wrists together to allow the cuffs to touch behind his back. "We honestly don't know anymore."
Batman glared at him from under the contacts within the cowl that hid his eyes. "I'm serious."
"So am I. If you want, I can make a list of what we have done, but what we are is different." The sad news was that he allowed himself to be caught and subjugated to the questions. One of them had to for the plan to be pulled off. "I've tarnished the image of Nightwing by killing while in costume. I tote a gun around for protection and do shady business. I imagined murdering Superman several times."
"And I was one of the two people who were turned to when they slipped into darkness. It was ultimately Artemis who decided that we were able to help her."
(and not you)
Dick watched the cape for any sort of hints of what could be going on beneath it. The Dark Knight was known for his array of gadgets and ninja-like qualities, but there were always the hints that they had to look out for. "Jason and Tim wanted to say hi, by the way. Well, at least Tim did. And he wanted to tell Wally that his father was a son of a bitch, but didn't want to assume that Grandma West was a bitch. And Jason said that Superman should get his head out of his ass because that's where all the gray is."
No one else would have noticed it because Bruce had managed to keep his stoic mask on for so long that every reaction was suppressed. Any physical reaction that came out was lucky enough to survive the thick filter that the man put upon himself in order to survive Gotham. But Dick had time and experience on his plate. Besides Barbara, he was the only one to watch as Batman became the hero that he was and picked up the slightest of quirks that would have been lost on others. (If he really wanted to give the idea thought, he would guess that Alfred had also acquired the skill, but used it for overall wellbeing rather than calculating things.) So the slight millisecond that it took for Bruce to keep himself composed was not lost on the first Robin.
"Tim suddenly changed. He could be mentally unstable." The words came out in a forced, monotone voice.
"No, that murder was premeditated by definition. It was just the timing that he had to think about. And since you all thought that condemning a girl who was high on anger and grief about watching her own father kill her mother was okay, he figured that he wanted in on the fun." He felt as if it was close to being done with. "Oh, and he was getting sick of Clark. But we all were, so it's understandable."
Dick received the same, replayed response from the man he considered to be a father: feigned indifference. "You act as if Superman started it all."
"Because he did." He made sure that his arms wouldn't try to move in an attempt to cross them in his usual manner. "When you think about it, he's the one who pushed us away because he was a homophobe. And who knows, maybe we would have been there to stop the deaths. I know for sure that Joker wouldn't have been killed."
The words brought a chill into the contained air. Dick just looked at the man, looking for a sign of approval or-
(he doesn't understand there's another line Tim proved it)
-disapproval for the killing that he had long gotten over with. But the man under the cowl made no movement that went towards a specific emotion: rather, he went still with the last statement. It would have made logical sense for the unresponsiveness to mean that the man was trying to grasp the deeper meaning of the words. But it was Bruce Wayne, and it was rare (if ever) that the man had not accounted for one situation linked to another. He was the greatest detective the world had, after all, and that title only came with the mindset that defined him. Therefore, there was something else in the equation that Dick had yet to factor to explain the stillness.
(came to terms with us? true maybe Jason is better at that we're supposed to be loved but he doesn't want to
"Love," he muttered softly. "You're not old enough to be a hermit, Bruce."
The elder man flinched at the word. "What does that-"
"It has to do with everything. Look what it's done to you." The first Robin could feel his lips beginning to contort into a smile. If they did, he felt sure it was a knowing, mocking smile that they had once passed to each other on a regular basis. It wouldn't have been one of Jason's where the mocking was the defining feature or Tim's with sympathy underlying it. It just would have been his. "Unrequited love can be deadly, Bruce. I've seen so many people die because of it. And no, before you ask, it wasn't before we murdered or killed them."
"And why are you telling me this?"
"Because there's someone else watching you. It isn't one of us, so you better check around."
A low, monotonous alarm interrupted whatever conversation that could have developed from the last sentence. Bruce gave Dick one last glance before he turned, the black cape sweeping the floor as he did. It followed him out the doorway and became one with the shadows before the metal barrier closed. The thud of the lock closing echoed in the small room. It was followed by the chains of the handcuffs hitting each other as the metal contraption fell to the ground.
(still feels too easy)
The metal door was no challenge either: the lock had already undone itself electronically before the man had a chance to get up to stretch him muscles. A smirk was growing on his lips as he placed a hand on the door. A gentle push moved the metal barrier. Light from the single light bulb from the interrogation room fled out the door to chase back the shadows that stretched everywhere to hide the rest of the hallway. The floor plans that Dick had spent hours studying filled out the rest of the way, extending what stone and metal that he could see to the rest of the building.
(still too easy he should be here)
"Kaldur," he muttered into the darkness, the smirk never leaving his face. There was nothing to indicate that there was another living soul in the area. "Are you the raven in this instance?"
The eyes behind the mask slipped closed, further surrounding Dick in darkness. The costume that he donned followed his every movement, including the still vibrations of his heart underneath the blue pattern on black. There was nothing that his ears could pick up but the electronic noise left by the light. The rest of the world was perfectly still.
"You know what I was talking about, Kaldur," he continued on. "You've probably read the work several times. You're supposed to answer with 'Nevermore' remember? After all, I'm supposed to be the madman here."
There still wasn't an answer.
"Totally not whelmed. You can at least humor a guy." The smirk grew more vicious. "I could lie to you and say that Artemis became a hooker or something because she had to fill the gaping hole in her heart with guys and girls having their wicked way with her, but you probably want the truth. It's a precious thing after all or whatever bullshit they say about it.
"Well, fact of the matter is she's upgraded herself from killer to murderer. If you had happened to actually step in and help her in her emotional time of need maybe it would have been different. But it was like I was saying earlier-"
He brought his body to the left, feeling as the Atlantean miss his target completely. The sound of the soles of his feet hit the stone sat in the air before evaporating away.
"-it was all Superman's fault. Events have a funny way of playing out." He didn't dare open his eyes. "Jay says I blame everything on the Kryptonian. Maybe I do. Doesn't stop me."
Dick shifted his position again. A gust of air sailed passed his head, blowing a few stray locks of hair off of his cheek. There was another telltale sign of the Atlantean's position in the hallway vibrating though the stone, giving the older man an idea of where to expect the next attack. His eyes were still closed. "You read up a lot, don't you? Tim said that you were the book type of the group. Funny how you fell into that stereotype. I like literature a lot too."
At this point, the man knew he was rambling to the younger hero but he fell beyond the point of caring. "There was a line from The Picture of Dorian Gray that probably fits Artemis well. It said that each of us is capable of having Heaven and Hell within us. Can you believe that, Kaldur? Can you just imagine what she had to go through? Her mother dying in front of her and no one but killers to turn to. Not that we aren't the best damn company she's had, but emotional support from a lover usually helps."
He could fell the anger beginning to make the hallway tense. There was something disappointing about the fact-
(he should have lasted longer if he didn't care)
-that Kaldur was already going to lose the fight. At the same time, Dick was relived to see that there was some sort of longing that Aqualad had for one of the two girls he had claimed to love. It made his job of keeping his current family intact much easier.
"She does miss you," he muttered softly. "She wanted to believe that you did love her. Jay took so long in trying to convince her out of it, and even now she thinks about you. But you only think of us as killers, right?"
The silence returned to settle back within the darkness.
"She took the name Tigress because it was her mother's title before things went to hell."
"How can I be sure to trust you?" Kaldur asked, finally filling the air with his own voice. "As you have said, you are all killers."
"Because she's family-"
(even if Dad's brainwashed by unrequited love)
"-and that always comes first." The smirk faded into a teasing smile. "And how am I supposed to trust you? You could just want to crush her heart and turn us all in." Dick opened his eyes slowly so that whatever light was available wouldn't blind his senses from the sudden rush.
The other stepped into the light cautiously, his hands placed slightly in front of the rest of his body to prove that he was not much of a threat to the other. His eyes were tired. At the sound of the question his whole posture collapsed upon itself. "I have no way to prove it. Even Artemis will find reason to doubt my love after the time that has passed. I have caused her much pain."
"But you love her enough, right?"
"It does not matter. I sent M'gann away from her. She was left with no lovers."
Nightwing found no need to contradict the statement. "It'll work out. Half of it depends on getting out of here."
"Your things are being sent to-"
"Yeah, I know. STAR Labs, where Bruce Wayne is supposed to make an appearance." Dick glanced at both sides of the darkness before walking to the left. There was nothing past the light of the room behind him to offer any guidance for his eyes. "Which is why all the good stuff was with the suit in the wash. Couldn't afford to get it dirty over this little thing."
Dull footsteps followed behind. "You knew you were to be caught."
"Anyone could have pulled me out of the situation, but then the League wouldn't have been pulled away from the real prize." He knew that the hallway was lined with security features (with every modern and alien piece of technology available to them except for possible lighting) but had no reason to fear them. The one sided fight and the conversation had provided too much time for Tim to have disabled them all. "It became a matter of prioritizing."
"There is nothing here that would be of interest that you were physically needed for."
"And that's where you all were wrong. On a floor that's two above this one there's a holding cell designed specifically for speedsters. And as killing in self defense fell under the title of possible master criminals, the League thought it would be a grand idea to lock away a seventeen year old without any contact to the outside world or any counseling about what had happened."
Dick could feel Kaldur's eyes widening in shock within the darkness. "Wally."
"We've been sneaking ourselves in to help the kid, but it isn't much sometimes. Kid wouldn't let us break him out of here unless someone actually hired us to do so."
"But that means that he could have left here months ago."
"True. Apparently, your constant company of not helping was slightly more entertaining than us. Not like he has a choice now: we're getting paid."
(technically only Artemis is)
The mental map said that there were five steps left before the corner came about. To Kaldur, who had probably spent as much time as Dick memorizing the layout of the floors, it was a simple turn and follow. But to a protégé of Batman it always meant more. It was the only way they could have survived in a place like Gotham. Even after the fact, his latest mentor had shown him so much about using their surroundings to the point of abuse that not doing so was an insult.
The ceiling had just enough room for Dick to tuck his legs in before extending them out again. It was only a rough guess on his part but it was all he had. Tim had assured him that if the situation had risen-
(just like Dad always thinking ahead and saving our asses)
-that the move would work. Jay had confidence in his abilities to make the situation work even if it did fail. The other teens had voiced their trust in the matter. It wasn't needed but appreciated by the first Robin, as the words came back to him. It was a quick run before he used the wall to springboard off of and land behind Kaldur-
-so he could slam the other teen into the wall. The brute force of the motion along with the fact that the wall was made of cold, solid metal was enough: Aqualad was knocked unconscious before he was able to do anything.
The kitchen was simple in both design and materials. The cabinets were made of wood and had a dark colored stone to adorn it as the countertop. There was a stove and refrigerator as well, both having the monochrome metallic look that reminded Dick of the hallways of the Justice League base. However, the things within the kitchen (in fact, the whole base) each had a use beyond showcase. There was never any time to show off wealth for them and even if there was, they would not have cared for it.
The couple consisting of the first two Robins occupied the room. Jason had wrapped his arms around Dick's waist and pulled the older man towards him. Their bodies fitted together like worn puzzle pieces. "Where's Aquadouche?"
"M'gann is scanning his mind to see if he was just tricking me. His actions say otherwise, but we can't put anything against the League just yet." Dick's fingers found themselves tangled with black hair, bringing their heads closer together. "Even then, he doesn't understand us. He's just not a killer or murderer."
"Yet. We said the same thing about Tim, remember?" Their lips touched before they allowed a small bit of space pass through. Jason continued to talk, the breath of his words warming Dick's mouth. "And now the kid is just as bad as me. Never thought I would see the day."
"It's all pretty-"
"Don't say it."
"You know what we should try? Bondage. A gag that would make you shut up is what I really need." Jason pressed his palms harder against Dick's back. "Hm, you gagged and bound. Now I know what I want for my birthday."
"Since when did you care for birthdays?"
"Since I can get-"
"PG-13 please! I'm in the room!" A burst of ginger suddenly appeared by there side, with brilliant green eyes that managed to match the hair all too perfectly blinking up at the couple. "Tim said it was bad, but I'm pretty sure that sex in the kitchen was against the rules somewhere."
The words did not pull the two apart from one another, although they did retract their heads in order to get a better view of Wally. Dick smiled at the young speedster. The teenager looked happy in comparison to the bleak, monochrome room that they had first found him in. The act of killing his mother in order to protect himself-
(what kind of mother would hurt her child would think of killing her child)
-had left a mental scar on Wally. The Justice League had forgotten that every kill did not mean that someone was going to turn into a villain. They locked Wally away as they tried to sort through their own problems with the situation at hand, never checking upon the young hero to see how he was mentally coping with it all. Even Bruce had suffered the lack of insight to the affair and left Wally to his own nightmares alone. There should have been a trial. At the very lease the Martian Manhunter should have scanned Wally's mind to understand what had happened. But they locked him up just as they would have done to the other former heroes. They just couldn't understand.
"Soooo... M'gann paid for this job?" Wally asked brightly. "Because that would be breaking our rules."
Jason shook his head in annoyance. "I think you might be one of the insane ones who never wanted freedom. And she was the first to offer payment, but because she was one of us we couldn't do it." As an added afterthought, the second Robin said, "Not that she isn't paying Artemis right now..."
"Dude, TMI. And I would have gladly turned myself back in if she did. That means there's another party. So spill!" The ginger crossed his arms childishly and began to pout. "Please?"
The couple shared a look. The pale blue eyes before Dick danced with amusement.
"Well... Technically our mentor wanted you to join us, and we listen to her," Dick said. "So..."
"If you turn yourself in, she's the one who's gonna hunt you down and drag your ass back," Jason finished. "So don't do anything stupid."
"No. Seriously?" After receiving confirming nods from both men, the teenager shot his gaze downward. "Fuck."
"Who were you expecting?" Jason asked. The pressure on Dick's back lessened the more the frown on the second Robin's face grew. His eyes grew darker with the pain from his own experience. "And don't lie to me, kid."
"I…" The emerald eyes blinked twice, revealing their scars to the world. "Well, Uncle Barry came to see me earlier in the week. And I… well, it was stupid to think he had a change of heart, I guess. And Roy-" The first two words spilled out of his mouth before Wally suddenly clammed up. "I said that out loud, didn't I?"
Jason was the one who provided a nod for an answer as Dick's mind went racing. Roy Harper had still not registered himself as a hero to the Justice League. There had been multiple attempts to formally recruit the archer, but each time they were turned down. What made the action curious was that the recruitment was for a direct membership to the League rather than to what remained of Young Justice. There had to have been a large reason for Roy to turn down what they thought to be his dream, even when they accounted for his stubbornness.
"I thought the son of a bitch cared, you know?" Wally muttered, more to himself than the other two. "Right before I… well, I told him that I liked him. As in like like him. And he just…" Tears began to form at the corner of the emerald green eyes. "He pulled a Supes on me. Screamed at me where Mom could hear, and of course she was a homophobe because of Dad so when Roy left…"
A hand shot out from the side, offering a shot of the same liquor that the group of killers (and Kon, who had yet to kill at that point of his very short life) drank a year before. When Wally just stared at the drink without any other indication of knowing what to do, Artemis shook her head. Her deep green and black clothing stood still as she glared at her former teammate. "Drink it."
"Does it look like I care? Just take the damn drink." The harsh blue eyes of Tigress dared for anyone to disagree with her. As Wally knew what her temper was like before she took on her mother's former title, he simply took the drink and downed it with his usual speed.
(gonna regret that)
Wally's face contorted almost instantly. "What the hell was that?"
"You don't want to know."
"Just think 'combustible.' Because anything beyond that we have no idea." Dick turned his head back forward. When Jason did not mirror his movements, the older man use his fingers (still entangled within the other's hair) to force their eyes to meet. "What's in there?"
"Don't worry about it."
"God, too fucking early for this." Artemis tossed up her arms in annoyance. "Wally, do you know that the idiot your in love with is in the cellar of this place?"
"He tried to save you himself earlier this week," Dick explained. "He barely got in before the people on watch realized he was breaking in. Superman, Green Arrow, and…" The last name-
(why would he)
-was stuck within his throat. There was a boundary in his mind of how much truth a person needed before it would simply be too much. That one name would have overstepped the line and-
"Uncle Barry was the other, wasn't he? He knew that I was going to confess that night," Wally muttered, his voice broken by his own tears. Scanning the others for confirmation of his conclusion, the teenager cried more freely. "I trusted him too much. I thought he cared."
"Well, Roy's downstairs in the infirmary. He won't tell us anything-"
"And we had to restrain him before he tried again," Artemis added.
"-but he'll be happy to see you. Might make his bruises and cuts feel better." Dick turned his gaze to the young woman. "How's Kaldur?"
"M'gann senses that he's pissed at you for knocking him out, but other than that he does actually have regret." Her long blonde hair followed the movement of her head as she took her turn to look upon the tiled floor. "His sense of rules is too much. He'll probably run by the end of the week."
"We won't let him." The last of the former Robins entered the kitchen through the archway that separated the room from the hallway, Kon following behind. The once bright blue eyes were faded and darkened by training and jobs given to the group. Countless nights in front of computer screens added to the wariness that fitted him as well as a cloak, accenting the deep red of his clothing. "Next time, warn us of the sudden kitchen meetings, will you?"
The other newcomer's scowl had softened at the sight of the others, but nothing more. His large presence (enhanced by the pure power that radiated off of him) no longer set the others on edge, even after they witnessed him crush a skull with his bare fist. The likeness between the clone and the Man of Steel had diminished over the long year until the powers and basic physical appearance were the only things that linked them. The killings and murders had left an aura with Kon that was now his defining feature.
Tim continued to speak. "I think we should pull off Operation Surgery. We have the manpower behind us and now the data to make what we need."
"We do?" Dick asked.
"The League's not completely useless in this case. Clark thought it would be a good idea to link his Kryptonian database to the mainframe in case something happened. There was enough in there for me to narrow my estimates to a small window. The room for error is too small to be too much of an issue." The blue eyes scanned the counters. They settled upon a crystal bowl that held dark red apples. "You do know that some people think that it was the pomegranate that was the forbidden fruit, right?"
"What? No way!"
The world was still spinning on its axis, and everything between them had settled into a content place.
Dick had stopped counting the time with days. He had started to count with events.
Oracle was almost arrested by the Justice League for her connections to unsavory people. But when Batman had gone to confront the woman before the League could arrest her themselves, he had found that her apartment was empty of everything but a note. The location that it led him to was the bridge that overlooked part of Gotham Harbor, with a wheelchair waiting eerily for the man. From its position, any person to have fallen off the bridge would have been killed by the impact of the water. In the file that was stored within the database, someone had left the comment, "It isn't the fall that kills you. It's the sudden stop at the end."
Barbara Gordon had found it entertaining when she read it to the rest of the group.
Alfred Pennyworth had taken an extended vacation to his home country to visit his own blood relatives at their house. What the League had not found out about was that the butler had a rather large argument with Bruce Wayne over the state of the relationship between him and his adopted sons. The elder man had used every bit of wisdom in the fight and had won logically, but there had been no actual changes to the man behind the cowl. Alfred used the tension as an excuse to leave to see his family.
The butler had left on better terms with the three Robins.
Harley Quinn had the shortest ending. After a night of blowing up areas of Gotham in her anger over "Puddin's death" she had taken a whole bank worth of hostages. The threats had suddenly ended at three in the morning. Three minutes afterwards, Batman walked into her bleed corpse.
It was the day where Kaldur had commented that murder and killing should have been harder on the conscious. He was able to sleep well the night afterwards.
There had been other events that had catalogued themselves into Dick's mind. While they were not the hallmarks of his memories, they had left an impact. They defined the grace in his steps and the power in his attacks. Every slash of his knives-
(slice their throats)
-and every pull of the trigger-
(I'm sorry Mom Dad)
-had a story behind it.
"Fuck, this is too cliché," Jason complained as he leveled the barrel of his gun with the head of one of the security guards of the building. The gunshot had finished echoing throughout the hallway before the body was able to collapse upon the ground. "And simple. Tigress?"
"Three seconds." The sounds of a crossbow letting loose a torrent of arrows came to Dick from behind, quickly followed by the sound of bodies hitting the floor. "Yeah, cliché. Evil island, evil building, and the millions of guards. Damn, this is taking too long. Don't we have a big explos-"
The island shook with thunderous booms filling the air. Any wildlife that had yet to be touched by the destructive humans suddenly fled the area, littering the crystal blue sky with dark bodies of creatures of flight.
"That's cheating. No way did M'gann not warn you about that," Dick complained. The two metal rods in his hands were soaked with crimson liquid. It gathered at the end that was closest to the ground before dripping off to the tiled floor dyed in the same color. "Did she say how many that took down?"
"A lot. Anyone within the reserves that were not in the hideout or running to us is heading to the boat." The young woman closed her eyes for a brief second. A look of calmness passed before returning back to the mask of aggression and anger. "Top floor. Cliché as well."
"Broken. Stairs are full of the dead and dying. Wally's providing a speed service to top floor, so I'm gonna assume-"
"Lead the way. We're done here." Jason gave the scenery one last glance. Dick followed his lover's eyes across the window that made up the barrier of the inside and outside. The sky was a brilliant bright blue against the deeper blue of what ocean could be seen past luscious green treetops. A few hints of rocks that formed mountains on the island could be seen past the plant life, diversifying the view only to add to it. The blood sliding down the glass pane obstructed some of the view of the island. Dick found himself watching as the crooked path that the blood took to reach the host of bodies beneath matched the natural contours of the world outside.
It was amazing to the first Robin that, after being in the business for over a decade, that the media would choose that moment of time to claim that it was the end of the world. In his view, the world had simply become a big Gotham for them to play in.
He rarely (if ever) could find himself accrediting the media to be doing something useful for the vast population that it served. His experience with it had not gone over fondly to both parties. At other times, Dick would find large inaccuracies in the reports that would allow for large audiences to be drawn in. The claim of the world ending fell under the annoyance he had for the inaccuracies of the reporters, although it was also a rare time where he could understand the panic. Not everyone could survive in Gotham after all.
So despite whatever magic (it had to have been magic-
(Bruce hates magic)
-because nothing else would have made sense) had overtaken the world, there was no sense of panic amongst the former heroes.
"Dick?" Wally's voice pierced through his thoughts. "Uh, you done? Because everyone else is-"
"Yeah. Just… thinking." He turned his head slightly towards the speedster, observing the blood that ran off of his black costume. "It's a beautiful island. Shame that these fuckers thought that it would be aster to live here."
"Yeah. Here, just hold on."
Blood of enemies mixed with each other as Dick allowed himself to be carried away to the top of the steel architecture that clashed greatly against the beauty of the island. In the brief turns on the staircase that forced Wally to decelerate to turn, the young man caught a glimpse of the blood seeping into the floor and slipping down each step, along with the bodies that seemed so natural to the setting of the cold, dead materials. The white shades that were used to construct the inside of the structure made it too easy for the blood to overpower the presence of anything else. Even the guards were overpowered by the sheer amount of crimson liquid that painted the stairs and walls.
The end of the staircase was marked by two large metal doors that were meant to keep the rest of the world on the other side. However, it was evident that it was a complete failure as they were wide open, each sporting several dents that centered on one spot that was the size of a fist. There was less blood on the metal than there had been on the window.
The rest of the team was already there. Tim was at the large computer typing away commands with a bored expression adorning his blue eyes. The data that was called upon flashed on the screen before disappearing to make way for more text. Kon stood next to the large chair, his blue orbs staring at the prisoners who had been caught since the beginning. Kaldur stood on the other side of the chair. His fingers were restless upon the gun within his hand, as if warning the helpless against any thoughts of hope. His lovers were at the opposite end of the room. M'gann was eyeing the prisoners warily, her fingers interlaced with the one's on Artemis's free hand. Her other hand was on the trigger to the crossbow that Jason had given her after her second attempt at life fell apart. Roy was apart of the group as well, his eyes narrowed at the mere sight of the prisoners.
After detangling themselves from each other, the last two of the group joined their lovers. Jason offered Dick a smirk. When the older man of the couple returned it, the scarred blue orbs looked back upon the prisoners. "They've been here for hours. Another few shouldn't be too bad for us."
"We could leave them here for days," Tim corrected. His eyes never left the screen, but his typing paused for a moment. "Luthor actually has brains. It's really nice that he also had the funds to do crazy shit like this."
"How are we supposed to show our appreciation then?" Dick asked. What had once been a Batman-like tone in his voice had been replaced with the sadistic, mocking one that he used. His eyes expressed the same manner as he shot the man in question a look. Lex Luthor was unable to return the gaze as his whole body was crumpled upon the floor in pain. His own blood was spilling out from a wound on his leg, staining the business suit he had donned. "And who's the friend?"
"Mirror Master," Wally piped up. "Stupid guy. World would be better without him…" He turned his emerald eyes to Roy. "Can you push him out of a window for me?"
One of Luthor's prisoners reacted to the words. He lifted up his head and stared at his former protégé. "Wally, that'll kill him."
The muttered words shook Flash's companions. Superman's eyes, dulled by the exposure to Kryptonite and mimicking red sun radiation, widened at the word "kill." His muscles tensed as he strained them against the odd metal restraints that enclosed each of his whole limbs. Green Arrow, with a similar condition of the Man of Steel, stared at Roy with an expression that allowed anyone to read his full emotional palate. Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, and Batman had taken the same approach to their expressions: a stoic face that said nothing of the sight of their students covered in blood.
"I know! They're own fault for building a twenty story building on a beautiful island, really." A flash of insanity slipped into the pure emeralds, causing Barry to reel his head back in shock. Despite the death of the Joker, those who had simply looked at him could always remember the insanity within his eyes. It was the same kind that had appeared in Wally's.
As the teenager took a few steps towards the man who was bleeding even worse than Luthor, Dick strode over to the containment area of the heroes. The last step turned him about, twisting his body so his back was facing the prisoners. "He's been like that since he was locked up. Had to justify himself to himself somehow. Of course, no counseling from anyone but yours truly didn't exactly fix him. We like to think that's he better in that world that he casts himself into once in a while. Must be pretty with all of the red there."
Batman growled at the last sentence. "You knew that he needed the help. So why didn't you-"
"Us? He was your prisoner at the time, not to mention part of your precious Young Justice. Wasn't it supposed to be your responsibility?" Whatever hatred that Dick had developed for his first mentor in the business of being a superhero had simmered way before that one moment. It was now buried within his hatred of the Kryptonian who had changed Bruce so much. It was the other man who had been the other side to Bruce Wayne's heart and managed to block it at the same time with his homophobic ideology. No mattered what the Dark Knight could claim, human nature was made for social situations and therefore demanded him to change to get as close as he could to the other man. The Robins had lost the Batman that understood their world and who could honestly forgive them. All that was left was a shell hell-bent upon keeping the rules of justice-
(not even his own rules Clark's rules)
They all wanted their Bruce Wayne back.
One of Roy's arrows pierced the large glass window. Cracks formed from the center before spreading out to the edges, distorting the image of the other side of the island. Those who watched were entranced as the beautiful image of the island wildlife was warped before losing the artificial shine to it. The shards fell to both sides of the holding, making the difference between the air qualities disappear with a gust of ocean breeze. The arrow fell outside of the building.
"Perfect! Now we just have to launch him…" A look of puzzlement crossed Wally's face. "Well, I guess straight down wouldn't be too bad. It would probably be a waste of energy to catapult him to an angle. You mind, Roy?"
"Shut up, Oliver. No one cares anymore." The young man took hold of the villain's collar, pausing slightly to watch the pool of blood at had stained the dying man's face slide down to gather and drip onto the floor. In a fluid motion, Roy brought the man's face to his. "Can't say it's been a pleasure."
"No…" The voice was cracked with the edge of death. "Please."
"Funny. Innocents say that to your face all the time before you slaughter them, and now you expect us to be nice to you?" Roy's arm kept steady as he dragged Mirror Master towards the opening. "Lemme tell you something: we're no heroes."
Whatever else Oliver was going to say was caught in his throat as Roy tossed the man out of the window. The screams faded as the distance increased before ending with a loud, horrible crash. A trickle of blood that had escaped the fall made its way down the glass that remained. "Whoops. You were sayin' somethin' Ollie?"
"He's a bit furious," M'gann said. "He doesn't feel like talking to someone who killed."
"Too bad, then. We're all killers and murderers here."
The Martian shot her uncle a look that seemed too innocent for anyone in the group to have. "I chose Artemis, Uncle J'onn. I love her too much to betray her."
Aquaman's face settled with a disapproving, thoughtful glare that was directed to his own former student. "And you, Kaldur'ahm?"
"I am sorry, my king, that my intentions were confused at first." Despite the formality, the Atlantean did not bow as he usually did. "But I made the right choice in the end."
"The right choice? Murdering-"
The sound of the gunshot echoed as the bullet hole next to Orin's head became apparent. "I apologize but it was necessary. And do not doubt my love again. I owe it to Artemis and M'gann." Kaldur lowered the firearm, his fingers no longer drumming against the cold looking metal.
"And just because we all know this is gonna come up…" The chair Tim was in swiveled to the side so the teenager was looking at the captured League members. His blue eyes had hints of the insanity that Wally's had, but it was contained by his own anger at the men. "Kon chose us because he loved me. Not because he was supposed to be a weapon for Cadmus. And if you had actually looked past that, Clark, maybe this situation would be different."
Superman opened his mouth to retort, but stopped short when a child, no more than a year over ten, stepped into the room. He was clad in a white jumpsuit that contrasted with his black hair. The blue eyes were set in the same glare that made him seem remarkably like-
"Damian," Dick said, watching the child. "I thought you were escorting your mother."
"She can handle herself, Grayson." The remark was quick and sharp. It reminded the first Robin of the custom ordered sword that sat in the sheath that hung at Damian's waist. "Or must I remind you of who trained you for the past few years?"
"We're good. It was just a comment, after all."
"Where is Miss, Damian?" Kaldur asked. His fingers began to drum against the gun again.
The boy shot the Atlantean a look that could easily be interpreted the way it was meant to be. "Coming, fish boy. Go play with your fat girls or-"
"Don't you want to meet your father?" M'gann interjected. Her bright face did not lose anything to the storm of possible insults or glares. "He-"
"I know, fatty. The one in the middle wearing the suit with the bat."
"…I was going to say 'be in shock.'"
Damian made no form of apology. Instead, he marched right up to where Batman was subdued by the metal restraints and looked up at the man. "Is this his actual height?"
"He's about an inch or two taller if we let him stand straight," Tim commented, turning his attention back to the computer. The third Robin always tried to avoid talking to Damian, sparing the others the pain of listening to a drawn out argument between them. While they were all sure that there was some form of respect between the two, it was usually hidden under the aggression that built up. "Why?"
"I imagined him to be… taller."
"Sorry, kid." Jason looked towards the view of the island. His blue eyes danced with the sunlight that was hitting the waves, giving them the illusion of glittering for the rest of the world to enjoy.
Batman glared at his former sidekicks. "Who is he?"
"Your child, my love."
It was at that moment that the end of the world was definite for the six Justice League members. A woman who appeared less than a day over thirty entered the scene. Her long hair trailed after her gentle footsteps, dampened by blood. Her own eyes were piercing and scarred by their own horrors, but were never tired in the same way that Bruce's were.
"Talia al Ghul." The name fell roughly out of Batman's mouth. "You said-"
"I lied, my love. It was the only way to save you." The muttered words brought a hushed atmosphere to the large room. Even the blood seemed to pause in their movements. "But the one man who could have fixed it ruined you. So we must ruin him."
"Sorry Bruce. Superman did start this all," Dick added. His attention turned to his mentor. "May I?"
"Of course. As the first son and the first to suffer, you deserve to deliver the heart."
Barry's outburst brought laughter to Wally. His eyes danced with mirth as he gazed at his former mentor. "What does it sound like? Supes corrupted Bat's heart, we take out his."
"He's right, Bruce. You've changed." Tim dropped his finger onto one button. The multiple screens, including the large one that he had been staring at, suddenly went blank. "And it wasn't just because of us."
"So we decided to try and fix it all." Dick held a hand out, catching the small wooden box Artemis had unceremoniously tossed towards him. His other hand found the small golden latch. The click it made when it was opened was small, corresponding to how much the Robins would miss the Man of Steel. "Well, not exactly fix. More like make everything even."
"Basically put, old man: he ruins your heart, we take his. Literally." Jason smirked. He walked over to Damian, keeping his gun leveled with each of the heroes in turn. "It just became an issue of how to get the metal and Kryptonite to merge without destroying each other. Couldn't let Superman die when we just begin the makeshift surgery."
"So we hacked and got what we needed. In the end, we made the perfect thing," Tim said.
"A scalpel." The small metal object shone with reflected sunlight. It fitted nicely into Dick's hand. He strode up next to Superman, watching as the man's eyes followed the small piece of Kryptonite-infused metal. The wariness in his eyes was suddenly lost to heightened fear. "You scared, big guy?"
(you deserve it)
"Just imagine what it felt like for us. The big superhero disapproving who you love. Getting shunned by the world you grew up with because you thought a friend was killed and you made an impulsive move of revenge." Dick placed the tip of the scalpel against the cloth representation of the Shield of El. "To find that teenagers had no one to turn to but you, who have been reduced to nothing more that a killer. And the one man who should have cared was lost to you because he loved the man who ruined your life."
"Dick." The name fell off of Batman's tongue. "Don't-"
"Bruce." The pressure the small knife had from his wrist slackened. "There wasn't just a difference to killing and murder. There's also pointless killing, surviving, and justice."
(and you left us in the middle)
"I used to call you 'dad,'" he muttered softly. He was aware of the blood of his enemies dripping off of his clothing, warm and almost fragile in existence. "Do you know how badly it hurts to not be able to call you that? To see the man that fixed you just change into a stranger that you don't know?"
(it might be you but it's mostly him because you did love us once you just forgot)
"I failed you all as a father." The truth was blunt, stinging the air with its words. "I don't expect it to be fixed."
"I can't say sorry either, Bruce. It just would be a fucking lie." Dick could feel the tears beginning to form at the edge of his scarred blue eyes as he kept his gaze steady upon the red and yellow shield. His grip around the scalpel tightened as it began to press against the brightly colored costume. He was sure that Superman had a mix range of emotions with the most prevalent being-
(hatred for Bruce for loving the way that he does)
But what mattered was the man who he could not bring himself to look at. What made him was his lover who stood by him as he fell from whatever grace Nightwing had before being condemned as a sinner. The family he had kept despite the hell he had found himself in was what made up his life.
"What are you going to do afterwards?" Clark asked. Dick brought his head up to look at the Man of Steel. His eyes were still the bright blue-
(like the sky)
-that they were when he had made the remark against the coupling of the first two Robins. They were, for the large part, unscarred by the horrors of the world and remarks that condemned him. They were unaware of how much pain the man had caused the next possible generation.
(untouched by their own judgment)
"Survive. What the hell do you think we've been doing for the past few years, fucker?" He pressed the blade into the costume, which it cut through with ease. The skin cut apart the same way, drawing fresh blood for the air to oxidize into the brilliant crimson color-
-that they had grown use to.
Outside of the metal building, the lush green plant life thrived beneath the sun. Bursts of colors from the floral assortment that made root there could be seen with ease. Small pathways of water ran down paths already made to the ocean surrounding the island, the clear liquid wiping away the dirt and leaves that had tried to get in its way. What remained of the wildlife waited in the shadows for the screams to stop. Some deeper knowledge told them that all would be well on the island once the screams stopped and the large alien object made of monotone colors collapsed. They were content that what fled would come back to peck at the bodies alongside them and that the rain would wash away the blood.
And the world was still turning on its axis as if nothing had happened at all.