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– An Extra Chapter –
In Which Tim Drake Gives His Own Version of the Events
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First of all, I can't believe you managed to talk me into doing this, because this is seriously one of those events in my life that I would rather put behind me altogether.
Second of all, I can't believe you managed to talk Jason into this thing in the first place, and third of all, I can't believe you are still alive and visibly unhurt after doing that.
Would there happen to be any sort of hidden mental trauma lurking about? If so, then I would really like to know beforehand, because I've had it with all these bloody psycho-… all these gravely mentally disturbed and often thoroughly sadistic maniacs who keep popping up in my life over and over and over and…
Wait… where was I?
I still can't believe you talked me into this, but I guess the damage has already been dealt, so we might as well get this thing over with so that I can forget all about it and move on with my life…
First of all, regarding the subject of my predecessor Jason Todd, what would you really like me to say? He went missing and was presumed dead for a long time, only for me to find that he had ended up in a parallel dimension courtesy of an explosion which really should've killed him.
As for how I ended up in said dimension, I do believe that the subject has already been touched upon, but I suppose I might as well elaborate.
Long story short, Bruce had gone missing and was presumed to be dead by most people in the cape community. I knew he was alive, but none of my friends or family believed me; as such, I went solo and went looking for him, only to incidentally uncover an unknown network of assassins, nearly getting myself killed by the aforementioned before Ra's al Ghul – whose pawns had been stalking me – sort of had me captured and brought to his lair (one of them, at least). It would suffice to say that I did not exactly appreciate being kidnapped by ninjas, even though said ninjas also ensured that I did not bleed out courtesy of an acquired wound in my abdomen. Either way, a fight eventually ensured – me, in costume, versus a shitload of ninjas – and with all that blood loss messing with my senses and physical coordination, I somehow managed to trip over my own feet, right into a Lazarus Pit.
Then again, perhaps it was fate. Blaming it on fate is better for my ego than attributing it to my own clumsiness. Either way, I fully expected to either drown in there or be hauled up by al Ghul's men, so imagine my surprise when I found myself washed ashore on some very familiar beach…
Initially, I was pretty disoriented; crossing dimensions and timelines can do that to you. However – and quite thankfully, I might add – I did have the presence of mind to ditch the costume, or at least the more… eye-catching parts of it.
By then, my mind – ever analytical – had already set about constructing possible scenarios for just how the Hell I had ended up back in the immediate vicinity of Gotham, when my last memories clearly stated that I had been somewhere in Iraq or thereabouts, battling ninjas next to a steaming green pool of damnation.
In hindsight, I fail to see the relevance of you knowing them, though on the other hand, I also fail to see the harm in it. Hence, a pick of some of the major ones are featured below.
Okay, here goes.
Scenario Number One: I had died and gone to the Afterlife/Heaven/Hell, which looked suspiciously much like the outskirts of Gotham.
Seriously, no comment.
Scenario Number Two: I had gone insane (with or without the help of a Lazarus Pit).
Again, no comment.
Scenario Number Three: A combination of the aforementioned.
Scenario Number Four: I had been drugged.
And so on, finally leading up to Scenario Number Forty-Two: I had been transported to some alternate timeline and/or dimension.
Don't ask me about the rest of the previous forty-one scenarios. Please. As I have already mentioned, I'm trying to put this all behind me.
Anyhow, what followed on my agenda was – obviously – to confirm or disprove these possible scenarios.
How, you ask?
Once night had fallen, I put my costume back on and took a stroll, a stroll which ultimately led me to a very familiar graveyard.
Once there, I kept a keen eye out for familiar names and dates, dreading them at the same time. Most of them were the ones I remembered, but then, I happened upon one grave which seemed fairly recent judging from the elegant gravestone and the seeming absence of grass to cover up the thick black soil. Something about it bothered me, and once my eyes came to rest on the inscription, I was baffled.
Todd, Jason Todd. Day of Birth: unknown. Day of Death…
To me, it was a date of the distant past, of the time before I was Robin, and even before I uncovered the identities of the so called Dynamic Duo.
To say that I was shocked by this revelation was a severe understatement.
Then again, it would suffice to say that it was overrun by disbelief when I crouched down, detective instincts kicking in, and was soon able to conclude that the grave had not only been filled quite recently; it had also been disturbed – possibly even dug up – even after that.
But why? By whom?
Finding myself in some sort of past – not wounded anymore courtesy of the Lazarus Pit's healing properties, but certainly winded, alone, utterly confused and starving in addition to being drenched due to a sudden and utterly unexpected downpour – I did what most people would have done; I went home, as in, I went back to the place I could recall having lived in prior to me getting involved in this hero business. As much as I would like to claim that there was some sort of logical thinking behind this decision, there probably wasn't; back then, I was operating more on instincts than logic, and those instincts had already concluded that I really shouldn't try my luck at breaking into the bat cave before I knew more about the situation I had apparently ended up in.
Don't ask me how I got there; I honestly don't know how I got there, because the next thing I knew, I was waking up on the floor in my old room to the somewhat blurry sight of my past/alternate self dabbing my forehead with cold water.
I was pretty much out of it for quite a while – partially due to exhaustion, partially due to the both mental and physical strain of being transported into another dimension – but when I finally regained my senses I thanked higher powers for my younger counterpart's seeming lack of common sense and overbearing curiosity in the sense that he hadn't alerted the proper authorities upon finding me in his home.
I never told him outright who I was, but I imagine that he saw the similarities and drew his own conclusions from that. Besides, even if he did know who I was back then, it'd hardly matter nowadays.
Nevertheless, my counterpart proved invaluable to me, even after I had regained my health. For one thing, he was the one who started bringing me newspapers while I was still bedridden, and he was also not late to share his interests with me, as well as his obsessions. By then, he had managed to assemble an entire boxful of newspaper clippings, the vast majority of which revolved around Batman and said guy's nightly companion – Robin, the Boy Wonder – in one way or the other. I have to admit that an odd sense of nostalgia hit me then, when I found myself looking at them. The robin in this world was blatantly Dick Grayson – I'd recognise the grin anywhere – but even so, what struck me the most was probably the hint of sorrow I could detect in his features, a kind of sorrow I myself could not quite recall having seen back in my own days following them about.
It was around then that I – through my counterpart – learned that the way this Dick Grayson had ended up with Bruce Wayne differed from the way the one I knew did. Details were scarce, but eventually I was able to piece together that this Dick Grayson had been institutionalised for weeks without Bruce turning up to get him, following which he had disappeared for months, only to later resurface by Bruce Wayne's side as his ward. Those months… what could he possibly have been doing?
I thought I had an answer when I found an investigative report regarding the assassination of Tony Zucco. Later, after a bit of hacking on the laptop I was oh-so-helpfully provided with, I unearthed a police report claiming that the missing Dick Grayson had been found and rescued by Batman from an incident with the Joker, an incident during which said boy's companion – a teenager only identified as Jason – had perished.
I instantly connected the dots between this "Jason" and the gravestone I had encountered earlier, and the connection was only strengthened when the newspapers begun to feature notices of sightings of Batman and Robin in Blüdhaven, chasing a vigilante called the Red Hood.
Back then, the connection I saw wasn't all that solid. As a matter of fact, it was probably more of a hunch than anything. However, this hunch of mine proved accurate later on.
Newspaper headlines eventually proclaimed the death of the Red Hood at the hands of the Joker, but I knew better.
A few months later, a Red Robin surfaced, just as Bruce Wayne announced his intentions to adopt not only Dick Grayson, but also his newly attained charge Jason Todd. I would be lying if I said I was surprised when he did, seeing that I had since long confirmed this Jason Todd's identity as not only the former Red Hood but also as the current Red Robin. With that kind of info at hand, there was really only one thing I needed to investigate before deciding my next move, namely whether or not this Jason Todd had any sort of connection to the one who was still listed as MIA back in my own dimension. In hindsight, you people probably figured that I was immediately able to confirm such a connection, which I wasn't, though I did suspect it.
You have to remember that I had already concluded that I had somehow managed to land myself in an alternate timeline in an alternate dimension, a conclusion which did prepare me to accept the possibility of an older Jason Todd. However, said individual's seemingly miraculous revival from the dead not only once but twice did seem rather peculiar, to say the least. When I found out about the existence of a younger Jason Todd, I had my answer. Then, the issue which remained on my part was how to approach the other.
Believe it or not, but it was actually my younger counterpart who suggested following him around in red hoodies. If not for the possible benefits, I would have discouraged my younger counterpart's somewhat stalker-ish tendencies, but at the time, I did think it would be a good idea to get Jason at least somewhat used to our presence before approaching him directly, seeing that he had given indications on numerous occasions that he did possess a fair deal of paranoid and potentially violent tendencies.
With said tendencies in mind, I did actually actively discourage my younger counterpart from making any sort of direct contact with him, but in one way or the other, they apparently encountered each other anyway – on a stormy rooftop, no less – a meeting which apparently led to Jason bringing the kid home with him, allowing him to spend the night there on the couch. I have to admit that I hadn't been expecting that kind of behaviour – not from him, at any rate – but I was even more surprised at the level of attachment my counterpart came to develop towards him.
Either way, Jason's subsequent involvement with my counterpart eventually led him to me, and I provided him with a rudimentary explanation of the situation we were in and provided a rudimentary theory on how to solve the so called problem at hand – aka the imminent collapse of said dimension, among other things.
I can't say that he was very happy to hear that, just as I can't say that he was very happy to see me in the first place, and even more so when I had to temporarily crash on his couch for a bit to avoid discovery by my younger counterpart's parents.
While over there, I got to know the Roy Harper of that dimension. Over there, said archer also bestowed upon me the – hated – nickname Imp, short for the nickname Jason had given me, the [Red-Hooded] Imposter. Lovely, huh?
Anyhow, then, I accidentally managed to out myself when I walked in on a video call between Jason and Batman, or rather, I did not really out myself, but I realised it was only a question of time and all, now that Batman had laid eyes on me – in the flesh, sort of.
In short, I knew I would probably have to spill my guts eventually if I wanted some sort of assistance in – you know – solving the imminent crisis at our hands. Hence, I told him the truth – though I omitted chosen parts of it, mostly those involving Jason. However, seeing that this was Batman and all – a different one compared to the one I knew, but still very similar – I'd figure that he'd already figured Jason out ages ago and simply refrained from confronting him on it for one reason or the other. I don't know why, and quite frankly, I doubt it even matters.
Either way, he did include the both of us in forming a team of Outsiders, perhaps to subtly point out that that's exactly what we were – outsiders, ones that didn't actually belong. Then again, I happen to know for a fact that he did consider naming us the Outlaws, but I guess he didn't want to give Jason any further ideas on how to practice his personal brand of vigilantism.
A partially symbolic gesture or not, I have to say that I had a great deal of fun in the team, even though it was a temporary constellation and even though the time we spent together proved very short. As for why I rather enjoyed being a part of it, I can only speculate. Maybe it was because it gave me the opportunity not only to get to know my estranged predecessor, but also to get to know the alternate Roy and Kory, or maybe it just felt good to be a part of a team – of something, at any rate – after all the time I spent alone, chasing Bruce's ghost around the world with Ra's and his League of Assassins at my heels (among others).
Yeah, ghost – in a figurative sense, not literally. I had already managed to secure evidence of his continued livelihood and all. But, seeing that he was somehow lost in time just as I was somehow lost in an alternate dimension, I didn't really think about him all that much back then, since I had enough problems of my own to deal with.
Oh yes, problems.
Well, Jason's refusal to cooperate was one, but the major one was me. Thrown into a world where my loved ones were still alive and well, I actually found myself considering the alternative to send my alternate self back in my stead. It was a foolish thought, I make no attempt to deny that, but something about that world just felt… right? I mean, truth to be told, I wasn't even sure I had a place to go back to – the Mansion was still in shambles to the extent of my knowledge, my parents and most of my friends were dead and I had lost my position as Robin to the usurper. Even if Bruce had managed to return, I had little doubt he would have his hands full with Damian, and I have to admit that I thought there'd be a certain honour in becoming known as the second Robin who didn't come back.
Throughout the years, during late nights down in the cave, I vividly recall seeing Bruce sitting there before the computer, having shed his cowl, staring intently at the screen, just as I can vividly recall the time I myself spent in Jason's old room, regularly cleaned but otherwise exactly the way he left it.
In the end, maybe I was just envious of him, or maybe I wanted to be more like him and thus prove myself worthy of being commemorated in such a manner. Even though Jason Todd was dead to the rest of the world, Jason had always been alive and would always be alive – if not in reality, then within Bruce himself.
So yeah, I was envious; jealous even.
If going out with a bang – or in my case, with a splash – was what it took for me to be remembered, so be it; I had already been stripped of my rightfully earned position and already been cast into the shadow of my assassin-trained successor, so at least this way I could go out while I was still shining brightly as Red Robin instead of just slowly fading into obscurity.
Dark thoughts, yeah, I know, but we all have them at some point, and I – of all people – am not an exception.
Now you might wonder exactly who or what managed to set me straight, right?
Believe it or not, but it was actually Jason who did it, even though he is by no means the greatest therapist in the bunch… or perhaps he is – perhaps he is actually rather brilliant at it, through his physical (read: violent) approach?
In any case, seeing him – a person who's been through even more shit than me – grudgingly accept his responsibility to set things right again instead of taking the easy way out (like me), actually made me pause and think, which in turn made me realise just how selfish I had been up until that point.
Evidently, you can't be all selfless and goody-goody all the time (that is, unless you're Dick Grayson, apparently), but there's a limit to everything (besides the aforementioned). Obviously.
As for the so called Doomsday Incident, I have little else to add; Jason pretty much covered it all, even though he did slight my involvement not only as a fighter but also as a tactician. Then again, after all the trouble I've caused him, I think I actually deserved that one.
Getting back home proved to be less of a hassle than I had anticipated, probably because I practically had someone else build the device for us. Needless to say, it still accomplished its purpose and brought us back in one piece, right into solving someone else's mess and into resolving one of the Joker's multiple hostage scenarios with the least amount of damage and casualties.
It would suffice to say that we managed – mostly because there were two of us, and because we were actually cooperating (sort of…), coordinating our respective actions and maybe first and foremost, because our presence was entirely unexpected.
The element of surprise and whatnot, you know?
In any case, I still had to stop Jason from killing the Joker. If not for the fact that Batman and the little de-…Damian were present, I would probably have turned a blind eye to it and feigned ignorance about it if questioned. But alas, it was not so and as such I did feel it was my duty as a bat to stop him. I'm actually rather surprised I managed to do so, seeing that he could've easily pressed the trigger in my physical absence. Then again, knowing him as I do nowadays, I'd put my money on that he had either run out of ammo by then or just suffered some other kind of technological malfunction.
Either way, the day was saved – in Gotham, at least – and ended in some mildly awkward family reunion, at least once Nightwing turned up and Bruce returned, dragging Jason along.
And then someone – some highly meddlesome individual who shall remain anonymous – decided that Jay and I would definitely benefit from some therapy to cope with the stuff we'd been through, and that's when you came into the picture. Now, I have to admit that I was a bit sceptical to begin with, but afterwards I do feel just a tiny bit better about the way things are. Then again, most of the stuff responsible for that is hardly anything of your doing.
First of all, my best friend's alive again – which is a great improvement – and I regularly kick Damian's ass in sparring (only to get my own ass handed to me by Jay and Dick, but that's highly irrelevant).
Second of all… I just feel strangely at home nowadays, like I'm a part of something – a real part of something – instead of just the third or fifth wheel and whatnot.
Third of all… well, off the record, I gained a "new" brother (sort of) and in addition, I also gained insight into said brother's mind.
Oh yes, I did hack your records.
No surprise there, huh?
As for what happened to my alternate self, he apparently continued the legacy, stepping up as the new Robin when the alternate Dick ditched the colourfulness of Robin for the black and blue of Nightwing.
How do I know all of this?
Well, believe it or not, but my alternate self did manage to somehow, with or without help, send a freaking suitcase – made out of some alien metal – to me. Opening the thing was a hassle, but then Jay turned up unexpectedly with – guess what? – the key, leading me to the perfectly natural conclusion that this had been planned long beforehand and featured at least some degree of cooperation from Jay.
Then again, I would say he was just as surprised as I was when the thing clicked open to reveal a shitload of photographs and newspaper clippings, all of them neatly dated and their backsides thoroughly commented on, along with a bunch of letters neatly enclosed in envelopes, five of which were addressed to Jason and four of which were addressed to me.
No, I will neither disclose the sender nor the content of those letters.
As for the pictures… well, Jay certainly had a mild freak-out at the one featuring a smirking Red Arrow standing alongside Cheshire – you know, that crazy female assassin – with (wait for it…) a baby in his arms, proudly held up for the camera.
However, it seemed as though the thought of Roy reproducing with a crazed assassin wasn't all that unbelievable to Jay – he only snorted at it, looking like he had rather expected that kind of outcome – and it was only once he had read the backside of it that he honestly blanched and started swearing under his breath. I didn't ask what it was all about, but I do have a hunch and I'm not sharing it with you, period.
As for the other pictures… well, maybe later, if at all, in which case I'll email you.
This is Tim Dra-…Wayne, signing out.
P.S. Just off the record, a fine piece of advice: Don't try to publish this in any shape or form, because if you do and Jay finds out about it, I'm totally giving him your home address.