Nightwing woke up with a splitting headache. What had happened? More importantly, where was he? He tried to remember but his head was all fuzzy. Trying to think made his head hurt even more, so he stopped and decided instead to try and decipher where he was. It was a warehouse definitely—but where? Gotham? Blüdhaven? Star City?
Heck, he could be any number of places! He had no idea how long he had been out. There were no windows in the warehouse that he could see, so he couldn't even tell if it was day or night. How long had he been out?
Next, he tried to stand but found that he could not. His hands and feet had been bound together with thick cord. He knew he would not be able to break it. He would have to cut it with something, but when he went for the knife in his glove, he found it was gone. He tried the one in his boot—also gone. Damn! There would be no escape for him if he could not cut through the ropes. What was funny was that whoever had kidnapped him had not removed his gloves or his boots. They had not removed any of his clothing in fact, just his weapons. It was like whoever had kidnapped him knew exactly where to look. Well, there was no point in struggling if he could not break out of his bonds. He would just have to find another way out.
Suddenly, Nightwing heard footsteps approaching, getting closer and closer. It was completely dark in the warehouse, so he could not see who it was, but when he heard the voice, he knew.
"Oh, good. You're awake. I was beginning to think I had knocked you out for good."
"Jason," he hissed.
"What are you doing this time?" Nightwing asked.
Jason ignored him and instead walked around and around Nightwing, seemingly checking on something.
"Well you haven't gotten through your bonds yet. I'm surprised—though I did take your toys away," he said with a smirk. "You're not much without these are you?" he said as he held Nightwing's knives up in the air in front of him.
Against his better judgment, Nightwing began to struggle against his bonds to no avail. "Whatever you're planning, Jason, Bruce will figure it out."
"Ah, yes, but in time? I don't think so, not this time. Anyway, that's kind of the point. I want him to find me! Well, you anyway. I placed strategic clues all over the city that will lead him straight here, eventually."
"Why, what's the endgame?"
"You know, it's so brilliant that I am actually surprised I thought of it," Jason said. beaming with pride.
"You're a psycho!" Nightwing said. That earned him a kick in the stomach.
"Anyway, as I was saying… a plan so brilliant I'm surprised I thought of it."
"I found a way to finally push Bruce over the edge, to finally make him kill the Joker."
"Wait what? Why? Why would you want to do that to him?"
"Because the Joker needs to die, and Bruce needs to kill him."
"Okay, so where do I fit in this little plan of yours?"
"Ah, that's the most brilliant part. You are going to be the catalyst that finally pushes Bruce over the edge. I'm going to kill you and make it look like the Joker did it. Then, when Bruce finds your bloodied and bruised corpse, he will be so devastated and distraught that the Joker has killed another one of his Robins that he will kill him without a second thought."
Nightwing was horrified and had involuntarily begun to shake as Jason outlaid his whole plan. It was pretty brilliant, actually; he had to admit that. What had horrified him so much was that it was brilliant—and what if Bruce didn't figure it out? No, don't think like that, he said to himself, Bruce will figure it out he's Bruce. But will he figure it out in time?
"So, what do you think? Pretty brilliant, huh?"
"Jason, you're insane. You can't—you—Bruce will find you. Bruce will find out. He will know it's not the Joker."
"Maybe, but he won't know it's me. Besides I've left clues all over the city indicating that the Joker kidnapped you and brought you here. So shall we get started, hm?" Jason said, picking up a crowbar. "I figured I'd better rough you up a little because that's what the Joker would do. He wouldn't just go for the kill."
Nightwing was so horrified that he just lay there on the floor, frozen in terror. Jason was going to kill him, and there was nothing he could do about it. He could not escape. Jason had his knives, and Bruce—well, Bruce obviously was not going to get there in time. Oh God, he thought, maybe Jason's plan would work. If Bruce found him dead, there was no telling what he would do or how he would react.
"Jason, please—don't. You don't—you don't have to do this. We can help you, Bruce and me. We can help you. We can bring you back to the family. Please."
"I don't need help. I need the Joker dead, and I need Bruce to kill him. So, let's get started, shall we?" Jason said as he raised the crowbar above his head, an evil glint in his eyes.
Dick lost track of how many times Jason hit him with the crowbar. He stopped counting at ten. He almost passed out a couple of times but somehow managed to stay conscious. His entire body ached, and he was pretty sure he had several broken ribs and maybe even a collapsed lung. His breath was coming in short ragged bursts. He only hoped it would all be over soon.
Jason stood over him, slapping the crowbar, which was now covered in Dick's blood, in his hand.
"You are just taking too long to die, Grayson," Jason said. "We are gonna have to speed this up a bit," he continued as he pulled out a gun.
A few minutes later, Dick had a bullet in his left shoulder and two bullets in his left knee. He watched as the blood pooled around him on the floor. He was shivering violently now, involuntarily.
Jason was still standing over him, brandishing his gun. "Hm… what to do? What to do?" Jason said as he paced around Dick. "Do I kill you now? Or do I beat you up a little bit more? Hm…"
"Oh, dear God! Please help me. I can't take much more," Dick thought.
"You know what? I'm having fun, so I think I will just beat you a little bit more, then I'll kill you. Although, you might bleed to death before then. Oh, well," Jason said as he raised his gun to shoot again.
All of a sudden, there was a crash from above, and Dick saw Bruce standing there only a few feet from him. Dick had never been so happy to see Bruce in his whole life.
"Son of a bitch!" Jason shouted and raised his gun to shoot, but Batman was ready with his batarang and quickly knocked the gun out of Jason's hand.
"I knew it was you, Jason. It didn't take me long to figure it out. I knew the clues you left for me weren't from the Joker. They were too carefully planned out, too meticulous. Nothing the Joker does is ever that careful or that planned out. It didn't take me long to figure out that it was you who had planned this whole thing. This plan had your name written all over it."
"You've ruined everything!" Jason shouted charging at Batman. Batman took him out with a series of quick blows, then he raced over to Dick's side.
Dick was shivering violently. He had lost a lot of blood, but he was alive. That was all that mattered. Bruce was afraid that he might have been too late, that Dick would be dead by the time he got there.
"B-B-Bruce…" Dick stammered.
"Shh… Shh… It's alright, Dick. It's alright, and everything is going to be okay now," Bruce said soothingly to calm Dick as he assessed his injuries and cut his bonds.
He took a large compress out of his utility belt and placed it over the wound in Dick's knee. He knew he needed to stop the bleeding and get him back to the cave as soon as possible if Dick was to have any chance of surviving.
"Dick, can you hold this here?" he said indicating the bandage on his knee. Dick nodded. He needed to stop both wounds from bleeding, and he couldn't hold the bandages on both of Dick's wounds at the same time. While he was doing this, he lifted Dick's shirt up and ran his hand over his side. It was badly bruised and Bruce could feel several broken and dislocated ribs. Even though he was barely touching him, he could see Dick wince in pain. A few minutes later, the bleeding had stopped, and Bruce decided Dick was stable enough to be moved. He secured a large bandage over both of Dick's wounds and carried him to the car.
"B-B-Bruce… I'm sorry."
"What? Why are you sorry?"
"Because I failed you. I got captured by Jason, and he pulled you into his trap."
"Dick, don't even worry about it. Don't even think like that, okay? I'm only sorry I took so long to find you. Let's just get you home, alright?"
When they got back to the cave, Alfred removed the bullets, set his ribs, and gave him some morphine for the pain, as well as something to help him sleep. Thankfully, he did not have a collapsed lung or any internal injuries. When he woke up a few hours later, he explained to Bruce what had happened.
"He was hoping that by killing me and framing the Joker for it he would push you over the edge, and you would kill the Joker. Bruce, I was so scared. I was so scared, not of dying, but of his plan working, of his success in pushing you over the edge and destroying you."
"The truth is, Dick, I don't know what I would have done if I had found you dead. I'm not going to lie; I would have been devastated, but I hope that I would have been able to keep it together enough to figure out what had really happened and not fly off the handle."
Dick nodded, and there was silence for a minute.
"What do you think happened to him, Bruce?"
"I don't know, Dick. I just don't know."
"I don't think he will ever be able to come back. I used to think that there was a chance that he would he come back to us, but after tonight, I just don't think it will ever happen. I don't think it is possible," Bruce said sadly.
"Yeah," Dick agreed sadly. He had never really gotten to know Jason, but he had always hoped that they would someday eventually get to know each other and become friends. Now, that seemed impossible.
"I will go and let you get some rest because you need it after what you've been through."
"Okay. Bruce, I want you to promise me that you will not blame yourself for this. This was not your fault."
"Okay. Thanks, Dick," Bruce smiled and headed upstairs.
As he fell asleep, Bruce could not help but reflect on the differences between his two sons. How was it possible that they could be so different? Dick and Jason were at two completely opposite ends of the spectrum of good and evil. Despite what he had done tonight, Bruce could not bring himself to hate Jason. He still considered him his son, and he still hoped that someday he would come back to the fold no matter how foolish that hope might be. He thought about Jason all alone in that cold cell. It broke his heart, but it was where Jason needed to be right now. He would visit him tomorrow and try and talk some sense into him, at least let him know that he was there to support him and that they were still his family. Bruce only hoped he would listen to him.