DJG: And, here by popular demand, the sequel to 'What It's Like', which I have appropriately titled 'How It Goes'. I'd recommend reading 'What It's Like first if you haven't, otherwise you won't really get this story. Warning: Your eyes may start bleeding from sheer length of this thing. I got a bit carried away.
Muse: A 'bit'? A 'BIT'? The first story was 6,000 words. This one is over 20,000 words!
DJG: *shrugs* Never was good at math.
Muse: *face palm*
EDIT: I'm replacing this extremely long oneshot with shorter chapters, and taking the time to fix mistakes and change a few things around without altering the original too much. Sorry to anyone reading this for the first time, because 'How It Goes 2.0' won't be uploaded completely for a few days.
The Joker grinned wickedly as he entered the common room of Arkham Asylum. He, of course, was a free man-technically. Breaking out counts, after all. Almost every major Gotham villain was either in this room or listening in by CB radio from hiding spots all over the city. The Joker had bribed half of the security staff to be allowed a mere half hour of time with this particular audience at 11:30 pm, and boy, did he have plans. Ever since he had escaped from the warehouse without blowing up the Red Hood and Red Robin, he had been laying low.
The reason why would be explained during this meeting.
"Greetings, everyone! For those of you who don't know me, I'm the Joker! I'm here to announce a bit of a…contest for you! The prize is simple…whoever wins will get out of Arkham and stay out. Forever. Isn't that just to die for? Oh, and if you're already out, you will receive one billion dollars instead!" he laughed loudly, several villains making faces of disbelief at each other.
"You say this is a contest. Riddle me this, what do we have to do to win?" the Riddler asked.
Joker grinned widely. "I'm glad you asked, my gingery friend. All you have to do is…bring both the Red Hood, and a boy by the name of Jason Todd to the warehouse at Pier 31 before 6:30 am Wednesday morning! It's Monday now, you do that math for yourself to see how much time you've got… Oh! And they've got to be alive, that's an important little detail…"
Harley Quinn frowned innocently. "But, Mistah Jay…what's so special about some kid? The Red Hood I get, but-"
Joker smiled widely. "Why, puddin', that's the best part! See, Jason Todd…just so happens to be the son of the Batman!"
Jason grumbled various curse words as he scrubbed the white paint off of his helmet, which was proving not to be an easy task. Water hadn't worked, bleach hadn't worked…it had taken almost two weeks for Jason to locate a very rare, and very illegal type of acid to melt the shit off…and even that was having problems! Not only that, but he had felt slightly nauseous all morning and had a killer headache. It wasn't really improving his mood.
Finally, the colorless acid bath he was soaking the helmet in began to turn white…and then pink. It had melted off the regular paint, too.
"Fuck." he muttered, wiping sweat from his brow. He would pull it out, but he didn't know just how long the rubber gloves he was wearing would hold up in the stuff. It probably wasn't a good idea to be outside of his apartment/hideout in broad daylight with the freakin' Red Hood helmet in a small tub of acid, but this was the bad part of town. He was in the alley, anyways. Not many would bother getting close to a dark-haired teen with violent eyes and an angry expression sitting in an alleyway…
The guy trying to sneak up on him with a gun obviously fell into the percentage that would. He raised the firearm, but didn't get a chance to fire before Jason leapt backwards and, in one fluid motion, kicked the guy in the back of his kneecaps, causing the would-be murderer's face to land in the tub of acid.
The man kicked and flailed for a moment, before suddenly going limp, dark red clouds turning the acid a striking color of crimson. Jason winced. "Geez….didn't think it would kill him!" he murmured, pulling the guy's body away and tossing it to the side. He'd take it to the hospital later. Let them figure out who it was.
Then, he carefully picked up the tub of acid, making to carry it back inside. Without warning, a gunshot rang out, striking the tub's bottom. Jason dropped it with a hiss as his leg was scorched by the leaking acid. He dropped the tub and quickly rushed backwards, pulling his twin pistols from his pockets. He fired in the direction the shot had come from, emptying half a magazine in a few seconds.
After a moment, he heard a far-off cry, knowing he had struck the other shooter, as well.
Hopefully he wasn't dead, Jason had a few questions for him. He made a face as he realized the only reaction to the shootout was that people had stopped walking on his side of the street and were giving him the occasional odd look. Idiots. Then again, shootings were common down here in the slums.
He quickly rushed up the fire escape, wincing from the pain in his left leg, but gingerly leaped from one rooftop to another until he found a man lying in a puddle of his own blood. One bullet had torn through his collarbone, the other through his stomach. He wouldn't live.
Which meant no need to worry about secret identities.
He grabbed the sniper by the front of his coat, lifting him up to meet his eyes. "Who sent you?" he demanded.
The man groaned. "N…not tellin' y-you…"
"Oh yes, you damn well are! Trust me, I can make your death much more painful that this! So talk! Now!" Jason snarled, shaking the man a bit.
"…I-it was…th…the J-Joker…h-he's got a…a hit ou' on y-you…J-Jason T-Todd…" the man suddenly shuddered and stopped breathing, his last words making the second Robin's blood run cold.
The Joker didn't scare the Red Hood. The Red Hood was afraid of nothing.
But the Joker scared Jason Todd. He scared Jason Todd a lot. The Joker had murdered him what seemed like a lifetime ago. Was he being watched right now? Had his apartment been bugged? It seemed likely. But if the Joker knew his real identity…
…what other identities did he know?
Dick Grayson, police officer by day, vigilante crime fighter by night, frowned. Gordon had just gotten a phone call from some guy down in the slums, something about gunshots. Not a surprise, really, but since it was a slow day, he had been sent to check it out.
The first thing he noticed as he pulled up to the address was the smell of blood. Not many people seemed to notice it, but Dick had been around it enough to know the scent. Following it to its source, he found a man lying facedown in the side of the alley.
"Sir? Sir, are you-" Dick cautiously rolled the man over and immediately recoiled, gagging violently. The man's face had been completely melted off. Luckily, the blood blocked most of the icky details from view. Another noticeable feature was the gun still clenched in his hand.
Head still reeling, Dick cautiously walked up the steps to the closest door, knocking firmly.
"Who's there?" a frantic, and oddly familiar voice demanded.
"My name is Dick Grayson, I'm with the GCPD. I need to ask you a few-"
The door was thrown open, revealing Jason Todd standing in the door with a bloody towel in his hand and an annoyed expression on his face.
"What do you want?" Jason grumbled, leaning heavily against the doorframe. He kept his face abnormally blank, not showing any signs of recognition.
"Do you know anything about that man in the alley?" Dick asked curiously, glancing down at his brother's injured leg, bleeding through a long, cleanly cut hole in his jeans. As he looked closer, he realized they hadn't been cut…they had been burned.
"No. Why would I? Do I look like a criminal to you, officer?" Jason asked, his voice containing a warning tone.
Dick's eyes scanned past Jason and into the room, not seeing anything suspicious. At the same time, he felt something wasn't right. Jason had called him 'officer'…and he had done it without being sarcastic or following it with an insult. There was also the way he was picking his words carefully…not cursing or even acknowledging he knew Dick at all.
He was either being held at gunpoint or being recorded by someone. And since Dick could see no one else in the house…
"Sir, what happened to your leg?" he asked in his most professional voice, willing to play along, for now.
"Nothing. Just…an accident."
A long pause as Dick glanced over and saw the tub tipped over, a bullet hole in the bottom of it.
"I see. I guess I must have the wrong house, then. I'll be on my way." he said, turning to go.
"Wait!" He turned back around, seeing Jason half in, half out of the doorway. "Have you had lunch yet? There's this great diner a few miles away, on the intersection of East and Locust. They have the most amazing strawberry and apple pancakes there. Around six pm is the best time to get them, when they're fresh."
Dick's eyes widened. "What if I prefer blueberry pancakes?" he questioned.
"Then I guess you'll have to bring your own, because they don't have any blueberry pancakes. I don't think they ever have had blueberry pancakes."
Dick nodded, understanding the code Jason had come up with. An address, a time, and instructions to go there with Bruce.
Before he left, he bent down beside the tub, noticing the sides of it had began to warp and cave in on themselves. At the bottom was the Red Hood helmet, changed since the last time he had seen it. Then again, the last time he had seen it, it had been defaced by the Joker with white paint, black eyes, and a large red smile. Now, it was void of the regular red paint, too. The metal itself had somehow taken on a red color that reminded him suspiciously of blood, but the liquid it was sitting in was clear.
"You better hurry up and get down to that diner, or they might change the menu so that raspberry or worse…boysenberry…are the only kind you can get! Oh, and make sure you bring your own water; theirs is disgusting because they're so cheap." Jason called from the doorway, before slamming the door shut.
Dick quickly got into his car, grabbing the radio. "Boss? I need to take the rest of today off. Something's come up…my brother needs help."
"We need all the men we can get right now, Grayson! Half of Arkham busted out last night, we just found out- Jesus Christ Ernie, get out of the way you damned piece of-listen, Grayson, can you get someone else to help him? We've got everyone on our Most Wanted list out running rampant! We've got to keep this quiet or there'll be CHAOS in the streets!"
Dick gritted his teeth, spinning the car into a 180. Looks like there wouldn't be apple pancakes after all. "10-4, boss. I'll call my little brother and have him talk to my father."
Bruce Wayne, AKA Batman, resisted the urge to yawn as the business meeting droned on and on. Judging by Alfred's amused expression, he knew Bruce was bored out of his mind. Such is the price he pays to keep up appearances.
Without warning, Tim Drake burst into the room, receiving several dirty glares from other people in the meeting.
"Tim! What're you-!" Bruce began scoldingly, half hoping his son had brought news of something that would cut the meeting short.
He didn't disappoint.
"I just got a call from Damian's school, he's in the nurse's office with an allergic reaction! They want your permission to send him to the hospital!"
Bruce grew momentarily concerned, then realized that if that were truly the case, Tim would have been much more worried. "What did he eat?"
"Strawberries!" Tim said frantically, putting on the cute, innocent little kid act. It work surprisingly well.
Bruce's eyes widened. Jason, huh? Well, then, that was something different altogether.
"Tell them that I give them my permission to take him to the hospital, and I'll be down to see him as soon as his meeting is over…" Bruce said, looking appropriately abashed at the thought of staying there any longer.
"Mr. Wayne…I'm sure we can finish the meeting without you. Please…see to your son." one of the businesswomen piped up.
Bruce smiled gratefully. "Thank you. I appreciate it."
He left the room quickly, Tim and Alfred following behind him.
"I take it Master Jason has done something foolish?" Alfred asked.
Tim shook his head, thinking of the phone conversation he had with his eldest brother.
"Actually, some guys tried to kill him."
Bruce made a face of steely concern. "Is he all right?"
"I'm not sure. Dick said it looked like he had some chemical burns on his leg, and Jason asked him to bring some clean water to him, but I didn't see the injuries, so I don't know how bad they are. Oh, and the guy who tried to shoot him died a painful death by getting his face melted off."
Bruce narrowed his eyes as he walked down to the Batcave, followed by Alfred as Tim ran off to suit up. "Meaning Jason was playing around with acid of some sort. What would he need it for, his weapons of choice are firearms, so why…?"
Alfred spoke up. "Might I make a suggestion, sir? Perhaps Master Jason was trying to get that awful paint off of his helmet. I know water nor bleach nor any other household cleaning solution was effective in removing it."
Bruce frowned as he pulled the cowl over his head. "You know…I'd like to assume Jason's smart enough to not to use acid to clean his helmet, but…you make a very good point. Computer! See if you can locate any type of acid that is corrosive enough to harm human flesh but can also be used for cleaning purposes."
The computer scanned for a few moments, before revealing a few results. "Most likely result: Stinger. A very rare acid that is popular in Eastern Gotham City for its unique killing abilities. It corrodes flesh on contact but can be held in containers for one hour intervals, no matter what the container is made of. A test was done by local scientists. They put Stinger in two containers side by side. One container was made of six inch thick solid steel. The other was made of plastic. They both wore through at the exact moment, one hour after being put inside. Stinger is believed to be a combination of phenol, hydrofluoric acid, and battery acid. It is colorless and odorless. It is currently the rarest acid in Gotham City, but is classified as a drug rather than a murder weapon."
Bruce frowned. "Stinger, huh? Hm…I've heard of it, but…"
Tim appeared suddenly, having put on his Red Robin outfit. "Dick texted me directions to where Jason told us to meet him. I also brought a few bottles of water…that should be enough, right?" he asked, looking up to Bruce curiously.
Bruce ponder the sixteen year old's question for a moment. "I think we should bring some more, just in case. If it turns out we have too much, we'll make him drink it, okay?"
Tim grinned. "I'm sure that'll make him happy."
"He'll be overjoyed."
Tim's phone suddenly went off again, and he flipped it open, reading the screen for a moment before freezing, mouth hanging open in shock. "Er…that's a bit of a problem…"
Bruce arched an eyebrow.
"Dick said that the reason he didn't go see Jason himself is because half of Arkham broke out last night! They don't know why or how, but they don't want people to know about it. What are we going to do?"
Bruce narrowed his eyes. "Hmm….half of Arkham breaks out the night before Jason is mysteriously attacked? I would understand if it was the Red Hood, but not his civilian identity…we need to look into that."
DJG: I hope that I don't make people made by taking forever to fix mistakes. I just noticed a huge blunder I made and have to fix it. Well…to me, it's huge. I somehow got confused as to what character was supposed to be where during the following chapters and accidentally wrote Jason into being in two places at once. Never fear, however, because it actually gave me a great idea. ^^