My thoughts on what if Dick died that night instead of Jason. Would Jason still have been the Red Hood? Would he has still gone out and seek revenge over the Joker? Lets find out!
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo...
It was a clear starry night in Sarajevo, not a single cloud in sight was seen on this fine night. All the people of Sarajevo are sleeping peacefully on this fine night... Everyone except for one, at a Manor in Sarajevo. Standing in front of his window, staring over at the mountains from afar, Ra's Al Ghul watched over the horizon, with his assistant standing behind him. Without warning, Ra's dropped his golden-cup and spilled his red-wine all over the tile.
"I should never had allied myself with a madman," he told himself. The old-villain turned away from the window, and slowly made his way towards his assistant. "Where are they?" The younger mad stared down at his clipboard, pushing some of the papers over the clipboard.
"In a warehouse, sir." The assistant replied, looking a bit nervous when Ra's made his way towards him. He also looked worried when he saw what else was on the paper. "And he has the boys," he added.
Within the City of Sarajevo, in an Abandoned Warehouse...
On his knees, sitting in the center of the room, was a raven-black hair man who wore a black-bodysuit with a blue-bird engraved on his chest. Both of his hands were handcuffed and gloveless behind his back, his boots removed to show his bare-feet, and the lenses from his mask removed to show his Cerulean/Sapphire-eyes, with his right-eye slightly red and swollen. He groaned in pain, as he glared up at who was in front of him.
A crowbar slapped him hard in his face, and caused him to fall to his right-side. He grunted, then started coughing, as he struggles to catch his breath.
"Wow, that one looked like it really hurt." The person in front of him said, watching the man on the ground gasping for air. The person then smiled, his lips covered in red that formed a smile on his face. The person then brought the crowbar down on the fallen man, making him grunt and causing his cries to echo within the warehouse. The place was filled with crates and barrels, with cobwebs and dirt that shows this warehouse hasn't been used in a long time. But for some odd reason, the lights in the ceiling still works.
As the figure continued on beating the man on the floor, another figure against the wall began to slowly awake, after being knocked out from the crowbar without warning. This time, the second figure on the wall was only a teen. He wore a red-tunic, with a dark-yellow 'R' surrounded by a black-circle and a yellow-ring on the left-side of his tunic. His leggings were also red, has a black cape with a yellow-underbelly, a yellow utility-belt around his waist, and a black domino-mask like the man on the floor is wearing. He also has black-hair, both of his hands handcuffed behind his back, his boots and gloves were also removed from his hands and feet, lenses removed to reveal his forest-green eyes with his left-eye swollen, and a gag covering his mouth to prevent him from talking.
When he finally gain consciousness, as much as he still has from being whacked in the head from a crowbar, his ears got him to turn towards the direction of the whacking and the grunting in the center of the room. The teen's eyes widen in horror, as he watch the man on the floor land on his back and still gasping for air. The man then coughed very roughly, feeling something within his stomach wanting to come out, but it wasn't the feeling of vomit in his stomach.
"Whoa, now, hang on. That looked like it hurt a lot more." The teen on the wall looked up, and glared at the figure who was beating the man on the ground, who was like an actual big-brother to him. The man on the ground simply stared up tiredly at the figure above him, watching the blood-covered crowbar lightly tapping on the figure's hand... Which was the Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime. "So lets try and clear this up, okay, Pumpkin?" He asked the injured person on the floor, as he watch his prey struggling for breath on the blood-covered floor, with more blood slowly gliding from his lips and with his eyes closed. "What hurts more?" He asked, raising the crowbar over his head. "A?" He then brought the crowbar back down on the man, aiming for his ribs.
The Joker then started cackling, as the man on the floor continued on breathing with blood still gliding from his mouth. The teen on the wall tried to call out for the man on the floor and yell at the psychotic clown beating the injured vigilante, but the gag completely silenced his cries and making it impossible to hear over the Joker's laughing. The man on the floor turned his head away from the ground and stared at the villain, making a bunch of mumbling sounds that was barely close to a whisper. The Joker leaned in, making a bunch of grunting sounds.
"A little louder, Lamb Chop." He whispered, placing his left-hand behind his left-ear. He then placed that hand on the younger-man's head, ruffling his raven-black hair. "I think you may have a collapsed lung. That always impedes the oratory."
When he grabbed the younger-man's head, the injured one spits at the Joker's face with his own blood, glaring at the Joker's orange-red eyes. The teen on the wall smirked at what the injured man just did, snickering underneath the gag in his mouth. The psychotic clown glared at his prey, and slammed his head onto the floor. He then stood up straight.
"Now that was rude." He told his prey, pulling out a handkerchief from underneath his shirt and wiping the blood from his face. "You used to have manners when you were the Boy Blunder and following the Bats, Bird Boy. You trying to set a bad example to the Second Bird Boy?" The man on the floor turned his face from the floor and smiled tiredly at the Clown Prince of Crime, with more blood gliding down is lips and with some of his teeth covered in it. Once the blood was off his face, Joker placed the handkerchief back in his shirt. "I suppose that I'm going to have to teach you some manners, so you can once again follow in the Bats' footsteps and have the Second Boy Blunder learn a better example on following yours." He then thought about it for a second, until he changed his mind. "No, I'm just gonna keep beating you with this crowbar." He decided, raising the crowbar in the air once again and placing a foot on the injured person's back, cackling from the thought of beating the First Robin who is now known as Nightwing.
The teen, now known as the Second Robin, stared at the crowbar in fear. While Nightwing, with his left-eye raised and while his right-eye closed and pressed against the floor with the right-side of his face, simply just stared at it until he slowly closed it, so that he wouldn't have to see the material covered in his own blood or see where the clown would hit him at.
Back in Al Ghul Manor...
"Where is the Detective?" Ra's asked his assistant, walking back towards the window he was just standing in front of to stare at the horizon again. The assistant stared down at the papers in his hand.
"He's on his way," the other man answered. Then there was a pause. "But, sir, he won't make it in time." Ra's Al Ghul closed his grey-eyes and bowed his head in shame, as if he knew that the Batman will fail on saving both lives, who he has cared and loved more than life itself. "One of his sons will die tonight."
Back at the Warehouse...
Joker made his way outside of the warehouse, using the same handkerchief to wipe the blood off of his gloved-hands.
"Okay, Kiddies, I gotta go." He said, putting away the handkerchief back into his shirt and pulling a big coat that laid over his left-arm. "It's been fun though, right? Playing with your Uncle J, and all." He then turned his gaze towards the inside of the warehouse, where he saw Nightwing laying motionless on the floor and Robin simply glaring at him. "Well, maybe a smidge more fun for me than you both. I'm just guessing since you both are being awful quiet." Robin's glare seemed to have harden even more from his words, biting through the gag that was still keeping him quiet. Joker then put on his winter coat. "Anyway, you both be good boys. Finish your homeworks and be in bed by nine." He then reached for the hood with both of his hands, his smile still implanted on his face, even when his make-up of a smile is still on. "And, hey... Please tell the big man I said, 'Hello'."
He let out an insane cackle, as he closed the door behind him. Once his cries were finally gone, that moment was when Nightwing slowly opened his swollen eye and held the gaze towards the door. He then turned that gaze towards Robin, who was having a bit of trouble on getting his hands in front of him while laying on the wall.
'Jay may have been trained by Bruce, but he certainly didn't gain any patients... Just like Bruce.' Nightwing thought to himself, as he turned to his right to lay on his back. He then brought his legs up and over his top half, to get himself into a crouching position on his feet. He then had his chained hands behind his feet, and slowly slipped them both behind the cuffed-hands. Now with his hands in front of his chest, he used whatever strength he had left to push himself up and get him to stand. He then hunched over a bit, feeling a wave of dizziness coming in from standing after being whacked by a crowbar like a piñata. He then turned his gaze back to Robin, who was still on the wall and trying to get the gag out of his mouth with his teeth. 'Hold on, Jason. I'm coming.'
Right when he took a step towards the teen, however, it caused the young man to collapsed back on the floor and land flat-down on his face. In seconds, he used his bound hands to lift his upper-half off the ground. With Robin yards away, Nightwing began to crawl his way towards the teen, grunting and wincing with each movement he made his body use to crawl. It seemed like forever but had only took Nightwing a whole minute to be by the teen's side and to slowly remove the gag out of his mouth. Once it was free, Robin was finally able to talk.
"Nightwing! Are you alright? Are you going to be okay? How serious are your wounds?" His questions alone simply help cause a headache to form in Nightwing's mind, as the older hero helped the teen get his hands in front of his chest just as he did.
"Talk... Later... Leaving... Now..." He gasped out, as he struggled to help his brother get to his feet while getting himself back up at the same time. Once Robin was fully to his feet and still a bit lightheaded from getting whacked in the head earlier, the teen quickly grabbed for Nightwing when the young man almost went back down to the ground.
"Hang on, Bro." He said, as he got Nightwing's arms to hang around his own throat and slowly limped their way towards the door. As they neared the door, they left a small trail that Nightwing has left while getting to his brother to help him out. Once they were in front of the door and when Robin couldn't hold Nightwing's weight any longer, they fell to their knees and the teen reached for the door handle with both of his hands. When he pressed down, the handle didn't go all the way down. Instead, it just stopped halfway. 'What?' He thought, as he tried shaking the door handle and pushing down much harder to force the door to open. 'Come on, stupid door, open up!'
No matter how much he pushed down, the door refused to open and let the two vigilantes out. Unknown to them, that the Joker had locked the door from the outside right after he closed the door. Once they both realized that they would have to wait until Batman comes to get them, Robin's hand slid down on the hard-surface of the steel door and turned to his right, so that the injured man could be at his left once he leaned his back against the door. With Nightwing now laying against the door on his right-shoulder and with his arms off of the teen's throat, they waited...
Beep!... Beep!... Beep!... Beep!...
Robin's eyes snapped open when he heard the beeping sounds.
"Dick, do you hear that?" He asked, leaning off the door to find where the source of the sound was coming from.
That time, Nightwing also lifted himself off the door too, only much slowly than the teen did.
"Yeah, I hear it, too." He whispered, also searching for the source of the sound.
Beep!... Beep!... Beep!...
On the third sets of the sound, they both turned to their left... And both of their eyes widen, with their swollen eyes only opening halfway, when they saw a total of sixteen small-bombs connected to each other. In the center, was the timer. 0:35 it read, and it was slowly going down.
"Dick..." Robin whispered, his eyes held fear in them and his breath turned into panting. "It's a..." He then swallowed past a lump in his throat, which seemed to stay within his throat and feel as if it was getting bigger.
"No..." Nightwing whispered to himself, watching as the timer now read 0:30.
Beep!... Beep!... Beep!... Beep!
"He's going to make it, right?" Robin asked, turning his gaze towards the young man with the fear still held in his forest-green eyes. Instead of answering the teen at his side, Nightwing only turned his gaze from the bomb towards his cuffed-hands. "Dick, tell me that he's gonna come and save us before the bomb goes off." The younger man only closed his eyes, as if he just realized the truth he wanted for a long time and is finally accepting it.
"Not this time, Jason." He told the teen, turning his right-eye's gaze at Robin, which only opened as much as it could from being swollen. "I'm afraid Bruce isn't going to make it."
"No! You can't believe that, Dick!" Robin yelled, causing Nightwing to wince from the volume level his voice had gotten. "Bruce always comes and rescues us. He'll be here!" Nightwing only shook his head, regretting on doing it, and then fully turned his head to stare at the teen.
"If we're suppose to be rescued, don't you think he would've came by now?" He asked, ignoring the slow beeping that the bomb was making.
Beep!... Beep!... Beep!...
'Twenty-five seconds left.' "Jason, if he was going to rescue us on time, he would've shown up while Joker was beating me like a piñata. He would've freed us by now, and we would probably be heading back to the Batcave right now after dropping off the Joker to Arkham Asylum... I'm sorry, but he isn't going to make it on time."
Robin opened his mouth to speak again, but went silent when he realized that his brother was right. Batman had always saved them when they were in the middle of danger, or when they were near the end of the danger. Still, he hoped and pray that Batman would rescue them before the bomb goes off. The thought of dying and the sound of the bomb nearing its ending, however, was getting the best of him and causing him to slowly panic.
"What's going to happen to us?" He asked, cuddling as closely as he could next to the injured man that had kept him safe from Joker and other villains of Gotham for four years, rather he was Robin or Jason Todd. "Are... Are we going to die?" Silenced was all that answered the teen, as the bomb kept beeping.
'Twenty-seconds...' Nightwing thought, as he turned his gaze from the teen towards the bomb, watching the numbers slowly going down. The injured man know that the chances of both surviving is from very slim to none, and knew that death is coming to once the bomb goes off... However, he does know one thing that could be possible. And with that thought, he slowly lifted both his hands up and had them wrap around Robin again, only he had them go around the teen's shoulders.
The moment he felt warmth, the teen gasped in shock and lifted his gaze to see his brother pulling him towards the blue-bird pattern on the black-bodysuit.
"Dick? What are you doing?" He asked, feeling a pair of strong hands that are bound pulling his torn-cape off of his body.
"Going to make sure that we won't die together," was all the man said. Before Robin could ask, he felt the hands and his cape pushing him towards Nightwing's chest, where he could hear his heart beginning to beat slow.
Beep!... Beep!... Beep!...
"Shh... Everything's going to be okay, Jay."
'His voice, it sounds more tired and low than before...' "Dick, what's going on?"
"I already told you, I'm not going to have us die together." When he heard the words again, the teen felt something very wrong on how Nightwing answered his question.
"What do you mean?" He could feel his fear increasing, as he continued to hear the beeping that the bomb kept making, but it was a different kind of fear he was having. He then felt his cape covering his head, that ended around his chest instead of midpoint of his thigh. "What are you doing, Dick?"
Beep!... Beep!... Beep!... Beep!... Beep!...
"Keeping my little brother safe from harm, and that's what I'm going to do... Even with my very last breath, I'll make sure you live and Bruce won't have to lose almost all he has left on Earth."
Now Robin finally finds out what Nightwing was going to do, and why he felt this odd fear building in him. He struggled to push the cape off of him, but only got his head to pop out.
"Dick, no!" He cried, tears starting to form in his eyes. "You can't! I won't let you!"
Nightwing simply gave him a tiring smile, and his eyes gave him a gaze that told the teen that he was going to do it and he won't regret what his actions will cost him.
"Don't worry, Jay." He whispered, as he pulled the cape back over Robin's head and held him as much as he could into his chest. "I'll always be there for you, even if you can't see or hear me, I'll be watching you." He shifted his cuffed-hands to a different angle, so that one of them could be placed on Robin's chest and over his fast-beating heart.
The tears finally spilled from the forest-green eyes of Robin, and then he buried his face into Nightwing's chest.
"Don't leave me, Dick... Please...! I love you..." He begged, slowly shaking his head against Nightwing's bodysuit. He then felt a pair of lips being pressed against his forehead, a way that his mother would always kiss him goodnight before being tucked into bed when she used to be alive.
"Close your eyes, Jason, and don't open them until it's all over." Robin felt Nightwing shifting his body towards his, knowing that the injured man is preparing himself to shield the teen from the blast that was sure to come. He then felt the cape closing around his face when he finally had closed his eyes, making the only thing he could see at that moment is the darkness. All he could hear was the bomb beeping and the thumping of Nightwing's heart, which seems to have gone slower than he last remembered. "Take care of Bruce and Alfred for me, Jason... Take care of Gotham City, and help them keep the city a better place... And always remember, that I'll always love you... I love you, too, little brother." Robin then felt the man shift his body a bit more.
Beep!... Beep!... Beep!...
'Five-seconds left...' Nightwing thought to himself, as he closed his right-eye all the way and halfway for his left-eye. 'Bruce... Thank you, for everything... And please, take care of Jason and raise him properly... Not the way you want him to be like me, not as a soldier boy...' He then lowered his head onto Robin's covered head, and slowly counted down with the timer. 'Three... Two... One...'
Outside of the Warehouse...
Batman quickly hopped off his Batcycle and sprinted towards the building through the snow, thinking and believing that he was going to rescue Nightwing and Robin on time... Until an explosive came, and the warehouse was suddenly engulfed in flames. With quick reflexes, he shield himself with his cape, as fire and parts of the warehouse went everywhere it could reach and touch. Its blaze and fire, that has released itself into the sky and onto the land, danced like an overflowed volcano that just released its mighty wrath. It seems to have last forever, but had only last for two minutes until the fire had finally calmed. But the damage was permanently. Instead of a warehouse, that was just there seconds ago, is now replaced by a hole in the cold-ground. A small crater, surrounded by scraps of metals and burning wood falling from the sky and laying onto the cracked earth.
Once it was safe to come out of the metal shield he borrowed from the warehouse before the explosion, Batman ran towards the crater, panting for breath from the cold while keeping a sharp-eye for any signs of the two boys he has raised as young children. When he couldn't see anything but fire and rubble, he ran towards another area.
'Dick... Jason... Please, be alright.' Batman thought to himself, allowing his mind to pray for the boys, as he searched frantically for Robin and Nightwing. Just before he decided to head towards another location of the wreck, he heard something through the flames... A person! It was a sound of a person... 'Weeping?' Batman wondered, as he followed the sound of whoever it was weeping. And according to his thoughts and parental instinct, he knew that the weeping belonged to one of his sons. 'Jason...'
Though he had heard many children weeping while rescuing them as Batman and though he would hear his two sons cry when they would have nightmares as children or teens, Batman could never forget the cries of one of his children. Jason, even to this very day, would cry from nightmares of his father abandoning him and having to be abused by him before he was left out on the street. But even when Jason has proven himself of being a tough kid, Batman was still confused on why Robin is crying?
'Unless... Dick!' The Dark Knight sprinted even faster, adrenaline pumping and giving him more speed to get him to his sons quicker. 'Please, have them both be okay... Have them both alive, please!...'
When he found himself in the center of the explosion, his fear has been revealed: Robin, thank god, was alright. He has a couple of burns on his right-hip and thigh, covered in ash from head to toe, has a couple of scrapes and bruises on his right-arm and stomach, and seems that the worst injury he gotten at the moment is a sprained ankle. To put it short, only his right-side has suffered the injuries, with a bump on his head to add. Batman let loose a breath of relief, as he slowly made his way towards the teen.
"Robin... Thank god, I was worried tha-" Before he could continue his words, he stopped dead in his track when he noticed that Robin hadn't acknowledged his presence or had heard a word he just said to him. He also noticed that his cape was covering his right-shoulder, and seems to be holding something in his arms. "Robin?" Panic began to set in once again, noticing that Nightwing is nowhere in sight. "Robin, where's Nightwing?" His only answer was Robin's continuous weeping, and simply held whatever was in his arms closer to him. "Jason!" Batman yelled, finally gaining the teen's attention when he watch Robin lift his head from his chest. "What happened? Where's Dick?"
Robin shakily gasped for air, as he slowly turned his gaze to the right. Now he showed his face that has a left-eye swollen, lenses removed from the domino-mask, and tears streaming down his cheeks, with a small blood-line rolling down the right-corner of his lips. He simply shook his head.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. Batman widened his eyes through the cowl, fearing on what Robin was going to tell him. "There was nothing I could do for him... I couldn't do anything for him, especially when Joker..." He then turned his head back towards the figure in his arms, covered by his cape. "He protected me, he shielded me from the blast..." He then lifted the figured closer to him, cradling it in his arms as he placed his head on top of it. "He's gone!... He's dead!..."
That was all the Dark Knight needed to hear, and immediately went to Robin's side in an instant. When he kneeled beside the teen, he then realized that a person's body has been covered by ash and pieces of wood, with the upper part being covered and held by Robin and his cape. Gaining a closer like, he then noticed a blue-bird in the center of the chest. Fear finally gripped his heart, as he went to removing the rubbles off of the body to find a teared bodysuit with bare feet to be revealed. He then made a move to uncover the figure from underneath Robin's cape, and slowly pulled it aside. He gasped from the face of the person being held in the teen's arms, and his grip on the black and yellow cape slowly slid out of his fingers.
"No..." He whispered, allowing himself to drop his Dark Knight impression and to react as he pleased, which also meant on being Bruce in a bat-costume. Robin continued on weeping, even when his cape had been removed and is now crying over the face of his now dead brother.
Dick's face still held the peacefulness, even after he had been awaiting death in the face. Even with the lenses gone, his mask stayed in one piece, as if it would continue on hiding his identity, even in death. And his eyes, his Cerulean/Sapphire-eyes, which are closed and hiding underneath his eyelids, will never be opened or to see another day or night of life again. Without the blood, burns, tearing of his body and suit, along with his heart no longer beating or his lungs drawing him anymore air to breath, he looks to be sleeping. And that's what he is to Batman and Robin, who both had slowly removed the mask and domino off their faces.
Ever so slowly, Bruce gathered the fallen Nightwing into his arms and slowly rose to his feet. The younger-man's arms and legs hanged down, along with his head laying limply and his hair being blown softly from the wind that passed the three Bats-... Scratch that, the two Bats and their fallen Bat. Bruce's Navy-Blue eyes watered, tears already made.
"Dick..." He whispered, closing his eyes and allowing the tears to stream down his face, just as Jason had allowed his to. The teen stayed on the ground, grabbing his cape to replace his brother's presence, until he lifted his head and let loose a scream of pain. Bruce made no move or command to make him stop, and he didn't care if the police or firefighters came to find them with their mask and cowl off. What matters to them, is the person being held within the Dark Knight's arms. Because now, they just lost somebody very precious and important in their lives: An ally, friend, and partner... But most of all, a brother and a son.
And now with Dick gone, both Bruce and Jason has fallen into the dark abyss once more. And this time, there won't be anybody to pull them out.
Five Years Later; Gotham City...
"The hell you say! You didn't set this up? Then who's party is this?"
"I thought it was you east-side losers. You already rolled over to the Black Mask and I figured you were gonna ask us in."
"Rolled over? The mask whacked six of my men in a month. Six! Some of my best people..."
"So you set up this meet?"
"No. Thought it was Chi-Chi."
"It wasn't my meet."
"Oh, the hell with this. I'm gone. You brain donors wanna hang around-"
"Sit down, Freddie." A voice out of nowhere called out, bringing everyone's attention towards the upper-level to see a black-figure within the shadows. "It's my meeting."
"It's him!" Chi-Chi cried, standing out of his seat.
"We didn't do nothing." The figure then walked out of the shadows, to them on being a person wearing a biker-jacket and a red-helmet. In his hand, an AK-47.
"Well, we all know that's a lie." The man said, glaring at the man who just spoke.
"Who the hell are you?" One of the owners asked, as each of them pulled out a gun.
"Smoke him!" Freddie yelled. Right before they could fire, the man wearing the red-helmet shoot at them first. Rapid fires of bullets hitting the table, causing the people to fall out of their chairs and to cover their heads with their hands.
"I said, 'Sit down!'" The man ordered again.
"You wanna die?! There's easier ways to kill yourself!"
"Yeah, like yelling at a guy who's holding the AK-47." The man then held his gun up, and away from the people. "Listen to me, you drug-peddling scumebags. I will be running the drug trade from now on. You eight are one of the prosperous street dealers in Gotham. I'm offering you morons a deal: You go on business as usual, but you kick up forty percent for me. That's a much sweeter deal than Black Mask is leaving you. In return, you will have total protection from Black Mask. But you stay away from kids and school yards. No dealing with children, got it? If you do, you're dead." Freddie decided to speak up.
"Okay, crazy man, this is all very generous. But why in the hell should we listen to you?" To answer his question, the man in the red-helmet threw down a duffel bag onto the table. Out of the eight, Freddie was the only one brave enough to walk towards the table and un-zip the bag. When it revealed to what was inside, everyone backed away from it. Chi-Chi, who was the only one of the eight street dealers, vomit from the sight from the inside of the bag.
"Damn..." One of the men said.
"Those are the heads of all of your lieutenants. That took me two hours. You wanna see what I can get done in a whole evening?" The man then aimed his AK-47 at the people again. "Make no mistakes! I'm not asking you to kick in with me. I'm telling you." He warned, and then let loose his gun at the people and the duffel bag that held the heads of the lieutenants. When the gunshots finally stopped, the people looked up and saw the person in the red-helmet gone. Two of the men turned and stared at each other.
"Forty percent works for me."
At the Pier...
After to have finally been able to defeat Amazo, by Batman putting plastique into the android's eyes, both Batman and Robin now faced the three men who they have captured taking a truck into Black Mask's shipment.
"This shipment was meant for the Black Mask. I doubt you're behind this. Who do you work for?"
"I swear. We're not working for anybody. This is our gig, all our idea." One of them insisted, obviously hiding the truth from the Dark Knight. Batman turned to Robin, who was holding a controller in his hand.
"Let it go," he ordered.
"Right..." The young adult answered, pushing the button and letting Amazo's body to come down on the three men. Instead of landing on them, the body dangled in the air and spraying the three men with oil, which is represented as the android's blood. They screamed from the sight and feeling of the oil, which finally got them to talk.
"We'll talk, we'll talk! Just stop. stop!" One of them begged, screaming in fear. With that said, Amazo's body was lifted away from the three men. "The Red Hood. We're working for the Red Hood. We don't have any choice, He's got-!"
Before he could continue on what he was going to say, a bullet came out of nowhere and shot the man in the gut. Then another got the second man in the chest, and a third one got the third man in the guts as well. Both Batman and Robin ran towards different directions, hiding behind two carts.
"The shots came from the rooftop. A sniper." Robin informed, though he couldn't see where the shots were coming from.
"A good one," the Dark Knight added. He then grabbed a pair of binoculars from his belt, which quickly zoomed in towards one of the building, until it caught sight of a black-figure, concealed by a black-cloak, running away from the ledge, where a sniper sat with the barrel of the gun aiming in the exact direction where the three men now sat dead.
"See him?" Robin asked.
"Yeah..." With a push of a button, the Batplane swooped in and released a cable-rope for Batman to grab for.
"Hey, wait!" Robin called out, watching his mentor soar away into the air and leaving him with the three dead bodies. "Right, leave me with them."
As Robin made his way towards the three men, he felt this odd feeling in his stomach when he heard that Batman caught somebody on the rooftop. However, he brushed that feeling aside, as he hid the controller he had into one of the pockets of his utility belt. He then pressed a button on his glove, which soon called for a speedboat in fifteen seconds flat at the bottom of the Pier.
'Time for some action.' He thought to himself, as he leap on top of the speedboat and pushed it into overdrive. 'It's time to start the game, and to end all of this mishave.'
Hours Later, Now in Batcave...
"Good thing I had perfect timing. Take a look." Jason told Bruce, who are both in their costumes but with their mask and cowl off of their faces.
The twenty year-old pulled out a flash drive from underneath his glove, and hooked it up into the computer. According to what Batman told him, he lost the mysterious hooded person when he went into the old chemical factory. He tried to catch him, but the Red Hood caused the place to go up in smoke and burn the building to the ground by tossing a small bomb into one of the tanks full of unstable chemicals. Once the computer showed an image of a couple of buildings, it zoomed in towards the black-figure and then fixed the image to show a person in black and wearing a dark-brown cloak over his head.
"I got this shot from a snitch. He says this guy's been making some serious moves."
"The Red Hood?" Bruce questioned, noticing that the figure has its face hidden within the cloak and made it impossible to tell if he was wearing a helmet or not. He also noticed that he wasn't wearing the biker-jacket, but the boots were a bit similar to what the Red Hood was wearing.
"Might be, though he doesn't bear any resemblance to the original." Jason replied, watching Bruce bring up a couple of newspaper that showed pictures of people wearing red over their faces.
"Several criminals have utilized this persona."
"One criminal of particular interest, though. But he's locked up."
"Not his M.O. either. There's been an uptick in heavy trafficking, but crime is down."
At that time and moment, Alfred had decided to pop in out from nowhere, bringing a tray that held two cups of coffee and a cup of sugar in between the two drinks.
"Indeed it is," the elder agreed. "Master Bruce got almost three hours sleep in the last two days. True busman's holiday." The butler stopped beside Jason, as he allowed the black-hair man to scoop up two teaspoon of sugar into one of the cups and to stir it.
"But he is locked up. Like, a lot locked up. Maybe we should go for a visit." Jason insisted, turning to face Bruce, only to find him no longer in his seat. Instead, he was already at the Batmobile and starting it up. Jason groaned in annoyance, as he placed the cup back on the tray Alfred still held and grabbing for his mask from the side-table. "Could you just once say, 'Let's get in the car'? Is that so hard?" He called out, running towards the black-car and hopping into it before it closed and took off out of the cave.
As the Batmobile head towards to Arkham Asylum, Alfred went into doing his usual dusting in the Batcave. And first place he goes to dust first, was the spot that used to be worn by the Bat-Family's light. Inside a glass-case, far from the Batcomputer but close enough for everybody to see, is Dick's Nightwing costume.
"Master Richard, if only you were still here.. You would've been twenty-three years old, if you were still here with us." The elder said to himself, staring sadly at the costume. Though its tears had been repaired from the blast, it still didn't seem right without its owner wearing it. "I miss you, my boy... We all miss you, especially Master Bruce..." Alfred then let out a sad sigh, as he went into dusting.
At Arkham Asylum...
Joker, as usual, likes to mess with his enemies, even when he's in Arkham, his ankles bound by leg irons and hands trapped in the straight-jacket he's been forced to wear.
"You look good. Been working out? You could probably use a little sun. Then again, who am I to talk?" He then let out his insane laughter, as usual, thinking he just made a funny joke when it was actually annoying.
Robin turned his gaze to Batman, who just kept watching Joker laughing until he finally stopped. The Dark Knight then placed down two pictures onto the table Joker sat in front of. One of the Red Hood in the biker-jacket, that Robin claims to have found in one of the dealer's jacket, and the other in black and covered by the cloak.
"He's calling himself the Red Hood. What do you know about it?" He asked, as the Clown Prince of Crime leaned down to get a better look at the two pictures.
"That they both have horrible taste. When I wore that number, it was classy." Joker answered, turning his gaze to his enemies. "More flashy maître d' than motorcycle fetish, or old-time Robin Hood. Oh, these kids today." He then turned his orange-red eyes towards Robin, who seemed to be seething in rage.
"If you're behind this in any way, we will find out." The twenty year-old warned, leaning over to Joker. "You're not-"
"Oh, Bird Boy, you're always so less fun these days." Joker interrupted. "Though you're all grown up, you're still not in your big-boy pants, yet. And sadly, you're nowhere better than the original Boy Blunder, right?" He asked Batman, knowing that he'll be pushing his buttons. "Not even tougher making with the yuks when you're worm food."
Before Robin could have a grab at him, Batman beat him to it, and threw Joker at the door. Before he could hit the floor, the Clown Prince of Crime was then grabbed by the neck and held against the wall, with his feet only inches away from the ground. He made a bunch of grunting and strangling sounds, and yet he still put his smile on his face.
"You gonna do it this time? Or you just gonna put me in another body cast for six months?" The Dark Knight tightened his grip onto his throat, but then let Joker fall back to the ground. Robin seemed like he was actually enjoying Joker's pain, but knew he has to keep his cool as well. "So disappointing. But back to the matter at hand... This new hoody, or hoodies. You really think I would stir up so much trouble... And not make sure you knew it was me?"
He then started cackling all over again, and even as Batman and Robin left the Joker and his room, they could still here his cries of mad laughter echoing down the halls.
Hours Later, in the Batcave...
"It's ten cases of assorted SMGs and PDWs... Along with 5000 .45 caliber ACP rounds, your personal favorite. And two cases of RPGs. It's all bought and paid for, so this is strictly a delivery, not a buy. In view of recent events, I've taken the liberty of doubling security. And switching the drop spot." Once the word has been given out, Batman turned off the transmission and gestured Robin to come follow him towards the Batmobile. Right before he made his way towards the car, Robin turned his gaze at the suit within the glass case.
'Don't worry, Dick. It won't be long now, and soon your death will be avenged... Along with other innocents lives who also been killed by those worthless scumebags.' He thought to himself, and quickly made his way towards the car before Batman gets suspicious on why he's taking so long. Unknown to the both of them, that somebody else has been listening on the conversation from another area of the city.
Right where they were told it would be, they found the co-pilot and pilot out of the helicopter on the ground, with a couple of men tied and cuffed. When they saw who was in the copter, they saw the mystery person being covered by the blackish/dark-brown cloak. Robin, who was holding a bazooka had that weird feeling building up within him again.
'What's going on?' He wondered to himself, as he aimed the bazooka towards the helicopter. 'Even though I haven't been expecting somebody else playing in my plan, why do I have this bad feeling about this?' When it hit the copter, it released an Electromagnetic Pulse and caused a major shut-down to the helicopter. Robin then turned, and smiled at Batman. "You wanna know why I like running with you? The toys."
"Stay sharp, Robin. We're not done." The Dark Knight ordered his partner, staring at the person who he can only see a pair of eyes from the darkness. He then saw the figure moving the copter off to the side, where it will fall towards the streets, people vehicles of Gotham.
"Is that going to hold?" Robin asked, as the cable began to fall even quicker.
"No!" Batman answered, grabbing the bazooka and running towards the edge of the building.
"So you want me to-? Should I-...? Okay, I'll just take care of this." Insisted Robin, as he grabbed for his staple gun and began to shoot a bunch of staples to hold the remaining cable he still has. Once he was done with that and knew that Batman has taken care of the other part of the helicopter, he released his own Grapple Gun and soared through the air. As he swooped down, he grabbed for one of the Dark Knight's hand and pulled him through the air as well. Before they almost missed it, they saw the person in the dark-brown cloak run off and also soared through the air. Only for him, he didn't have a grappling hook, and landed near a construction site. After he landed, which was more of a barrel roll, he was immediately back on his feet and was running swiftly in the night.
Robin and Batman weren't too far behind him and once they were on the construction as well, it was run off towards the mystery person. When the figured turned to look behind, Batman threw a Batarang at him, causing the mystery person to turn and vanish behind a couple of blue-tarp. He then crashed into a couple of wooden-pillers, grabbed for a gasoline, jumped out of the window, and threw the tank back up. Before Batman could also jump out, he noticed that there was a small-bomb connected to the tank and immediately ran back before the bomb went off. Both he and Robin went behind a bunch of wood-stacks to shield themselves from the flames, and quickly caught up to their mystery person.
The person under the cloak turned to see them, and this time decided to do some speed and agility. And that time, he launched himself off the steel pillars, did a flip or two, and would land to the next steel pillars before he would do so again to the next. Though the Dynamic Duo wouldn't do much of the flips, they did have to leap a couple of times before they could stay on the figure's trail. Right when they thought they had him, the figure leap off the pillar and landed on another rooftop and kept on running and leaping off from rooftops to rooftops. When he turned a corner, he hopped onto a 'GCPD blimp' and threw a bunch of Shurikens towards the Dynamic Duo. Batman quickly backed up to the wall when the small bombs quickly flashed red and avoided the small explosives. Robin showed to be quiet surprised.
"He's good," he said.
"Yes, he's putting on quite a show." Batman agreed, as he pressed onto his cowl to activate his night-vision lenses, which also had a video recorder inside of it. When he no longer sees him on the blimp, he turned to his right to see the figure running away on the rooftop. Once he caught sight, both he and Robin ran towards the blimp and launched themselves off of the flying ballon to get onto the rooftop to their prey. Batman landed nearer to his fleeing opponent, and quickly threw a Batarang with one of his toughest rope attached to it towards the figure when he jump off the ledge. When he pulled back, the rope wrapped itself around the opponent's right-leg. Right when he thought he got him, the figure quickly pulled out a knife out from of his thigh and sliced the rope off of him before it would pull him up.
"He's very good." Robin commented, watching the figure leap off the side-wall of a building and landing over a ledge of another. There appeared to be no way for him to escape this time, and looks to be stuck. "Nowhere left for him to go, now." Right when they went to grab their grappling hooks, the mystery person did quick thinking and launched himself towards the Bus-Station. There, he grabbed for one of the ropes to swing around, and allow himself to crash through the window. Batman and Robin hopped onto the same ledge their opponent was on earlier. "That's impressive."
"Nothing we haven't seen before." Batman said, and both he and his sidekick also hopped off the ledge towards the Bus-Station.
"If you say so."
Once they landed inside the station, they did a quick scope for their prey. So far, they saw nobody at all.
"Think we lost him?" Robin asked, thinking that their mystery person had fled before they were able to catch up to him. Suddenly, they heard a bunch of beeping sounds and turned to their rights to see three small-explosives that were like the last one on the gasoline tank, flashing in red.
"Move!" Batman ordered, as he and Robin ran towards the train tracks. Right when they reached the tracks, the bombs exploded and pushed the two towards the center of one of the tracks. Luckily, both appeared to be uninjured from the blast or the landing. They both looked at the figure, who was only standing there and with his face still covered. He had his back turned to them, but his eyes stayed on the two.
"You may be the same Batman and Robin to everyone, but you're not the same Batman and Robin I once knew." His voice, which sounded a bit low and tired, told the two. They soon heard a train coming their way. "Be careful-!" Before they could hear him finish his words, the train finally came and covered the figure from their visions. When the train made its way towards the Dynamic Duo, they both quickly leap off of the tracks and landed safely away from the rushing train. When the train finally went by, the figure was gone. Batman narrowed his eyes to where the figure was just at, feeling it wasn't going to be the last they'll see of him.
Now in Batcave...
"He's got some moves, huh? And as much I hate to belabor a point, our friend here has some skills." Jason pointed out, as they both watch the video Bruce had recorded when they were chasing their opponent. "He's been trained and trained well. Like right there!" At that moment, when the figured cut the rope with his knife, Bruce paused it and rewinded the recording. When it played the same part, he had it go into slow motion to watch the figure cut the cable. "He sliced that cable off his ankle, before it went taut. You don't just do that. That has to be practiced. Learned."
"And then there's the knife."
"What about it?"
"You know how many knives that can cut my lines?" Jason shrugged.
"No. Not many." Bruce agreed.
"Well, anyway, it would be best if we continue on sear-"
"Go rest up, Jason." Bruce told the young man.
"What? But, Bruce, I can still help. I'm perfectly fine."
"I know, but you're going to need all the rest you can get. Besides, you had already helped enough... Thank you."
"Alright, but if you need me, wake me up." He then turned to Alfred, who had happened to come out of hiding, as usual. "He did just thank me, right?"
"Indeed he did, sir."
Once he knew that the twenty year-old was gone, Bruce brought up the recording at the Bus-Station.
"You may be the same Batman and Robin to everyone, but you're not the same Batman and Robin I once knew." Bruce narrowed his eyes, when he realized that the person's voice sounded very familiar. "Be careful-!" Then the train past, and that was when they lost him before he could continue his words. He then rewinded the voice, only to separate the sound of the train away from the person's voice. "Careful, Br-!" He then scanned the area so he would hear the entire message. "Be careful, Bruce!" He then stood out of his seat, staring completely shocked at the figure's image of the screen. He then moved away from the Batcomputer and towards the glass case, to stare sadly at the Nightwing costume, but mostly at the blue-bird on the chest.
"And then I told him, 'Riddle me this. What's green and purple, but covered in red and yellow?' He then tried to whack me with his cane, but I blocked it! Then I ducked, and kicked him in the d-"
"Jason." Bruce warned the boy, as he typed into Riddler's profile and posting a couple of newspaper images on his latest crime.
"Anyway, I kicked him in the... You know, and he fell down the stairs on his back! I then landed on top of him, and told him 'You, when I land on your sorry butt!' It was amazing, Dick! I wish you were there to see me kick Riddler's a-"
"Jason!" The eleven year-old rolled his eyes from the scolding he gained from his adoptive father, but giggled when Nightwing pulled him into a headlock and gave him a playful noogie.
"That's great, Jay." The fourteen year-old praised the boy, smiling down at the boy who just came into the Bat-Family for only two months and soon became Robin in a month and a half, before releasing him out of his hold. "Wished that I was there with you guys, too, but Blüdhaven has been swarming with villains lately and there wouldn't have been enough time to come by and meet up with you guys, let alone go on patrol." The eleven year-old nodded his head in an agreement.
"Still, I wish you would've came and fought the Riddler with us, Dick." Jason said, sounding very disappointed that his big-brother, despite being two and a half years older, couldn't be with him or Batman during the fight with the Riddler. He also wished that Dick had stayed with them, instead of living in Blüdhaven for whatever reason to live far away from Gotham City. Seeing the disappointed look on the preteen's face, Dick made a quick decision to cheer him up.
"How about we go out and get something to eat at Jessie's Parlor, Jay?" That quickly brought the boy into a good mood, and ran off to go change into his civilian and out of his Robin uniform. Bruce let out a sigh of relief.
"Thanks," he told the fourteen year-old. "Hopefully, Alfred and I can get a few moments of peace and quiet." Dick simply gave him a quick nod.
"It's the least I can do," he replied. "Besides, I did promised him that I would take him out to celebrate on being Robin when I would come over and visit again." He then noticed that Bruce is giving him the stare again, a stare that sort of made the billionaire look lost in thought but still present and aware of the world around them. Dick let out a sigh. "Is there something wrong?" Bruce simply turned his gaze and rubbed the back of his neck with his right-hand.
"There's something we need to talk about," he replied. The fourteen year-old narrowed his eyes at his words.
"And that would be...?" Bruce let loose a sigh.
"About you working in Blüdhaven, instead of here in Gotham." Dick immediately know what he's getting at.
"I'm not coming back, Bruce." He stated, making his way towards the hangers that held different kinds of helmets for the motorcycles. He grabbed for the red-helmet that had a black-bird figure on both side of the helmet, which was Jason's helmet, while his helmet was on the seat of his bike, which was black with a blue-bird painted on top of it with its wings spread.
"Dick, you're only fourteen." Bruce pressed on, watching his ex-partner making his way towards his ride. "You're still a child and living on your own, especially in Blüdhaven, is very dangerous."
"And doing aerial stunts on the trapeze with no net to catch me and going out fighting rapists and psychopathic killers is also dangerous, Bruce." The teen then shook his head, not bothering to turn and stare at his ex-mentor. "I'm no longer a kid, like Jason still is."
"Even so, you're still too young to be living out on your own." Not sure if he's doing the right thing, he went over to the teenager and placed his left-hand on the teen's left-shoulder. "Dick... I'm not always good with words, but I'm asking you to come back home." Dick simply shook his head.
"Sorry, Bruce, but you made it loud and clear that I was suppose to no longer be welcomed here. Remember the last time I came here?" He then turned his face to the left, which held a dark-purple bruise from the jawline to underneath his eye, with a very-big fist-print on it. Bruce winced from the sight of the teen's face, knowing very well that he was the cause of it, though it appears to have gotten a bit worser instead of looking better when it should've healed over a month ago.
"Dick, I know what I did was stupid and wrong, but I didn't mean to-"
"No, Bruce, you did meant it." Dick interrupted, pulling his shoulder out of Bruce's grip. "I could tell that you did, Bruce; the look in your eyes said it all, the fire and hate was written inside of them, and both that and the punches you gave me were enough evidence to tell me that I no longer have a home in the Manor. I was also not allowed to come into the Batcave and you even told me to give the keys back to Alfred, who kept on insisting that I keep them, which I didn't." They soon heard a pair of footsteps coming down. "Besides, I only came back here to make sure you treat Jason better than you did me." The smile on Jason's face stayed completely on his face, as he pulled on his black-biker jacket over his shoulders and running in his ripped-jeans that Alfred kept on saying 'Aren't proper pants to be wearing in public or privacy'.
"I'm ready, Dick!" Jason cried, running over to the teen and not noticing what was going on between the fourteen year-old and Bruce until he saw the angry look Dick held in his eyes. "Dick? Is something wrong?" He turned to Bruce, seeing his blank look on his face. Thinking the wrong way about the look, the preteen ran up in front of the fourteen year-old and wrapped his arms around Dick's waist. "Does Bruce not want me to go out?" Feeling the younger boy's distress, the fourteen year-old wrapped his right-arm around Jason's shoulder and gave him one of his fake smiles.
"It's nothing, Jason." He told the boy, giving Bruce a sneak-glance. "We were just discussing about something that isn't important, or worth talking about at all." He then pulled Jason off of him, and guided the eleven-year old towards his bike. "Let's go, Jay. We better hurry, or else Jessie's Parlor will close, without us getting anything to munch on." Jason, though felt a bit worried of the presence in the air, nodded his head and sat in the back of the bike to put on his helmet. As Dick got in the front and felt the eleven year-old wrap his arms around his waist, he started up the engine of the motorcycle. He then turned his gaze back to Bruce. "We'll be back soon, and don't worry, I'll have Jason back in one piece before I leave Gotham tonight. I'll see you all in a week... Tell Alfred I said 'bye'."
He then started up the gas, and quickly took off towards the exit of the Batcave. Even when the light of Dick's cycle was gone, Bruce stayed where he stood, his expression a bit shocked and actually hurt.
"Dick..." He whispered, and then turned towards the direction of the staircase to the house above the hidden cave.
End of Flashback One...
Bats fluttered in the air, feeling and sensing the anger of the Dark Knight from below, as the billionaire walked back and forth beside the Batmobile and in front of Jason, who was leaning against the vehicle.
"I had to take him down." Jason explained to the billionaire, feeling no guilt on what he just did on the mission.
"You shattered his collarbone!" Bruce yelled at the fourteen year-old, glaring down at him.
"He's a drug-dealing pimp! I didn't think I had to prop up some pillows before I took him out!" Jason yelled back. glaring at his adoptive father.
"We needed him, he would've talked! but you put him into shock!" From the shadows and observing the conversation near the Batcomputer, Dick, in his Nightwing-costume, shook his head from the sight. Then, there was a small moment of silence.
"Sorry... That was dumb... But he deserved it..." Jason said, and then slowly made his way away from the Batmobile and towards the direction of the staircase out of the Batcave. When he was certain that the young-teen was gone, the seventeen year-old decided to make his appearance.
"You know, he isn't the only one to blame for what happened." Dick told Bruce, as he came out of the shadows and now stood feet away from the Batcomputer. Bruce turned his gaze to the older-teen, and let loose a low moan.
"Don't tell me you're on his side, Dick." He said, as he slowly made his way towards the seventeen year-old and the Batcomputer.
"I didn't say that I was on his side, Bruce. I'm just saying that he isn't the only one who messed up on the mission."
Bruce raised one of his eyebrows.
"What are you talking about?"
Dick rolled his eyes.
"While on the mission, did you tell him that you were going to have one of them talk? Or tell him not to take it too far?"
Bruce narrowed his eyes from Dick's words.
"He knows very well not to take it too far!" He argued, glaring down at his ex-protégé in front of him.
"But you didn't tell him that you were going to have one of them to talk or to have one of them unharmed to get the information you needed." Dick pushed on, showing the billionaire that he isn't going to back down from his words or anger. "Bruce, if you don't let him know on what the whole plan of the mission is going to be, he'll keep on making mistakes and won't know what to do when in the battlefield." He then turned away from the billionaire and made his way towards the staircase, where Jason had used to leave the Batcave.
"Where are you going?" Bruce called out, his anger still rising from the older-teen ignoring him. Dick ceased his walking, and glared down at the man in his Batman-costume.
"Ain't it obvious?" He answered. "I'm going to check on somebody who needs help, and who needs to know that he can make up for his mistakes... Besides, that's what older-brothers are there for, even if they're not or no longer part of the family." His words alone somehow gotten through the billionaire, and even when the seventeen year-old was gone, Bruce could still hear the words replaying themselves in his mind.
'Even if they're not or no longer part of the family...' His navy-blue eyes widen when he heard the pain and rage in Dick's voice when he said those words.
'Is that the reason why he left?... Am I the reason why he ran away and is living in Blüdhaven to this day?' He then pinched the bridge of his nose, feeling the tired feeling being numb and waiting until his mind could finally calm down. 'I'm such an idiot, and have been blind from my own stupidity to why he behaved so differently around Jason or why he seemed mad about me adopting Jason.' He then shifted his body towards the Batcomputer. 'It seems that I have a lot of things to make up for, before I can have him back home.'
End of Flashback Two...
After recalling the past they had, Bruce walked away from the glass case. Knowing that he has to find out if his hunches are true.
After having to fight the Fearsome Hand of Four, while fighting by Red Hood's side, who appeared with no cloak covering his face, Bruce was able to grab for one of their Katanas that had Red Hood's blood on it. As the computer analysis the blood, he stared at the computer that had a picture of five faces: Red Hood, Nightwing, the figure under the cloak, Dick when he used to be Robin, and the last Dick Grayson picture of him in his civilian clothes when he was eighteen.
After the computer has finished analyzing the blood, the results came in: Three out of the five pictures came out 'NO MATCH', which were Nightwing, the First Robin and the last picture taken of Dick. One picture came out 'UNKNOWN', which was the figure under the cloak. And the only one that came out 'MATCH; KNOWN DNA SAMPLE', is the picture of Red Hood showing him wearing a biker uniform and the red-helmet.
The sound of glass breaking caught his hearing, and Bruce turned in his seat to see Alfred, staring completely horrified at the screen. Bruce felt the exact same with Alfred, for he couldn't believe it as well. However, there were four questions that crossed his mind: Why are the picture of Nightwing, the First Robin and Dick Grayson came out negative? Why is the figure under the cloak came out 'UNKNOWN'? How come Red Hood was the only one that came out 'MATCH'? And if whether his hunches is correct or not, is Dick truly alive?
At the Cemetery of Gotham...
Alfred went towards Bruce, who had a crane scooping and dropping dirt at the side... Where he was digging up Dick's grave. On the tombstone it reads: 'DICK GRAYSON; ALLY, FRIEND, BROTHER & SON.' Once he finished digging and saw the coffin, Bruce hopped out of the machine and went into the hole, a crowbar in hand.
"Do you need more light, sir?" Alfred asked, watching Bruce aiming the end of the crowbar towards the opening.
"No. I can see fine." Though he felt it was disrespectful on disturbing somebody's grave, he still need to make sure that he wasn't going on a wild goose chase. With just one prying from the crowbar and with all of his strength on opening the coffin, they found Dick's body as they left it: His body cleaned from wounds, both his hands on top of his stomach on each other, his eyes closed, dressed in a business suit. He still looks to be sleeping, even in death. Alfred seemed rather relieved when he saw Dick's body, though it still pained him to see his first deceased grandson-figure dead.
"Well, there you have it." He informed. "He's still at rest." However, Bruce knew something was wrong.
"No, he isn't." He told the butler, grabbing for the collar of the shirt and lifting the body out of the coffin. "That's not flesh." At that moment, Dick's hair actually fell off of his head. And with that piece of hair off, they both now realized that the body they had buried was a dummy, which people use to practice on their CPR. He then let go of the boy, not caring that it landed very roughly onto the floor and not back into the coffin.
Now Inside the Batcave...
As they made their way down the stairs, Bruce took off the light-green suit he had worn while digging up Dick's grave... And it was clear on his face, especially to Alfred, that he was beyond pissed.
"Master Bruce, you can't blame yourself-"
"It was stupid and careless." Bruce interrupted Alfred, making his way towards the changing room. "The body was made of high-end latex. If I'd bothered to look inside when I brought him home..." The door soon slide closed when Bruce went inside, blocking the butler from entering.
"Sir, please, remember how distraught you were. Even I found it hard-!" The door then opened, revealing the billionaire in his Batman costume and his cowl down behind his head.
"Stupid and careless!" He told the butler, reaching for his cowl from behind and heading towards the Batwing.
"Where are you going?" Alfred asked.
"To talk to the man who did this." He then turned his gaze towards the butler. "Tell Jason I'll be gone for a while, and make sure he doesn't pull off any stunts when he goes off patrolling while I'm gone." Once he was inside the black bat-like jet, the lights went on while the engines began to warm up to take off. Unknown to the both of them, a young man in a biker-costume from the shadows had seen and heard what the Dark Knight has done.
'He's going after him,' he thought to himself. His hands clench into fists, and the forest-green eyes hidden underneath a pair of domino-mask grew even more angry and rage. 'Sorry, Bruce, but I have to be the one to take down the Joker... I'm sorry, but I have to be the one to avenge Dick's death.' And without bothering to watch the Batwing depart, he made his way towards one of the bikes in their hidden parking lot. He chose a black motorcycle, with the front having a blue head-image of a bird and its wings spread out on both sides of the bike. The coloring and designs were pretty obvious that the bike belonged to Nightwing. 'Don't worry, Dick, I will be the one to avenge your death!'
Hours Later, Now at Sarajevo Manor...
Though the manor of Sarajevo appears to be unprotected at the outside, but on the inside and close observation, Batman could see gunmen and watchmen watching and walking around the premises. It was all too easy for the Dark Knight, and he immediately struck some of the men with no problems whatsoever.
Inside the Study of the Manor...
The moment Ra's put down his glass that was no longer filled with his wine, he noticed something wrong. And so, he got out of his seat and made his way towards the windows. It took him six-seconds to actually see a shadow coming towards him, and another seven-seconds to find himself on the ground with some shards of glass after being pulled through his own windows by the Dark Knight.
"What did you do to Dick?" Batman asked, his voice holding fury and hate towards the man underneath his hold. "Act like you don't know what I'm talking about, and I'll dislocate the shoulder. That's just to start." Ra's Al Ghul winced from the tight grip Batman is doing to his hand, but struggled to answer him.
"If you haven't disabled the roof sensors, my guards will be here in under a minute." He replied, in a warning voice. However, it was clear to the six hundred year-old man that the Dark Knight doesn't seem to care about being caught.
"Answer me," he ordered. His hand tightened onto Ra's right-hand, that was behind his back at the moment, and caused his arm to make a couple of popping sounds and a couple of groans in pain.
"I'm willing to!" Ra's winced. "But it'll be more expedient if you hand me the communicator in my pocket, and I call off my men." Though Batman doesn't seem to trust Ra's that much, from knowing what he try to do to him and to both Dick and Jason from the past, but he needs the answers he requested in private. And so, he saw the small device laying on the left-side of Ra's thigh, and pulled it towards the villain's head. He pressed the button on the right-top of the radio-communicator. "Commander, this is Ra's Al Ghul. Stand down. I will be entertaining a guest in my study."
After giving his commands to his men, The Dark Knight finally released the villain from his grip and allowed him off the floor. Ra's then rubbed his injured hand, as he stared at the Dark Knight, who slowly made his way inside the study.
"You clearly show no respects to those older than you, Detective." He said, as he also made his way inside. Once he was inside, he made his way towards his desk and pulled out a bottle of red-wine he usually drinks. As he slowly pours the red-liquid, he decided to start the conversation. "You remember when we last became embattled?"
"You were planning to blow up banks," the Dark Knight answered.
"Accurate, if inelegant." Ra's told the Dark Knight. "I was in the midst of toppling the economy of Europe, but you were on to me. I sought a distraction. So I hired the Joker. When your paths crossed in Bosnia. It was to appear that you had stumbled upon him." Ra's then paused for a bit, drinking some of the red-wine from his cup, and then continued on with his explanation. "He was paid extremely well for what was intended to be a wild-goose chase... However, I have not known that your eldest would had been joining you both during that time. Then, he murdered your eldest and nearly your second son. That was not by design." Though he was a villain, it was pretty clear from the expression on his face that he has truly regretted on what he had done during that five-year plot. "I'm afraid I overestimated my ability to control the Joker, just as I underestimated his madness." He then turned to stare at Batman. "It grieved me, sir. To be a party to something so brutal."
"You've never shied away from drawing blood," the vigilante stated.
"True, but always with purpose." Ra's replied. "Always with greater was simply an unnecessary penance, I chose not to make war with you again... And to attempt to rectify this disservice."
"Rectify?" Batman repeated.
"Yes... I had hoped to return to you what you had lost." Ra's Al Ghul explained, continuing on with his story. "I have walked this world for nearly six centuries. As you know, I achieve this by bathing in the rejuvenating waters of the Lazarus Pit. Along with its healing abilities. It has long been rumored that it is capable of an even greater feat: To raise the dead." Batman narrowed his eyes from the last part Ra's has told him, but said nothing and allowed the villain to continue on. "Procuring the remains of your ex-partner wasn't difficult. Your had come to Bosnia under the guise of Bruce Wayne, and you chose to depart as such. You even concocted the cover story, that young Dick had died in a bombing in Sarajevo. This made it easy for me. All it took was a few payoffs to replace his body. I felt confident that you wouldn't perform an autopsy, for even if you had, we still would've bought enough time. But my plan... Well, Detective, it had unfortunate results." It was clear that the next part was going to be very important to the Dark Knight. "He returned to this world, but returned damaged."
Batman clenched his hands into fists when he heard those words, especially when he just heard that Dick Grayson, his eldest and peaceful son, would actually go insane from being revived from the Lazarus Pit.
"My army searched for months, but we were never able to find a body or pick up a trail. I thought him dead yet again." Before the Dark Knight could say anything, he noticed an odd look in Ra's grey-eyes. "But then, after being missing for six months, he came back." The Dark Knight's eyes widen from the news. "He had recovered from the effects of the Lazarus Pit, completely sane as he was before, and has asked for my help. And so, I agreed to help the young man, as an apology of my actions and judgment, told him exactly what has happened and what went wrong, and has stayed with me during the five years while being pronounced 'dead' in Gotham." Batman looked around the study, as if hoping to find his eldest son in the room with them. However, it was pretty obvious that the First Robin isn't with them.
"If what you say is true, then why did he decided to comeback after being pronounced 'dead' for five years?" Ra's gave him a sad smile, a smile that Batman never thought he would see when he wasn't insane from coming out of the Lazarus Pit.
"When he went missing for months, it was because he was fighting off the effects of the Lazarus Pit and when he was well enough, he was able to find a way back to Gotham City. He'd only stayed in Gotham for a week to observe you and Jason at your home or night patrol, and then he went to Blüdhaven... Only to find the Sister City of Gotham completely destroyed. If you recall, Detective, Blüdhaven has been destroyed by a radioactive bomb without warning and completely killed off nearly the entire people in that explosives. And even to this day, the City of Blüdhaven still remains a complete wreck and nobody dares to stay within it in fear of being killed off by the radiation, and the police in Gotham still hadn't found out who was responsible for the destruction of Blüdhaven."
The elder-villain then let out a deep sigh, which was a mixture of regret and relief.
"However, thirty children and twenty-five teenagers from that city miraculously survived and were shipped off to Gotham City for help and special treatment... And it was the work of their Hero of Blüdhaven, who was the one that saved them from being the last victims of Blüdhaven to be caught in her radioactive death-trap and to help them get to Gotham City, before he chose to return to Sarajevo." He answered, staring at the sky. "According to his words and explanation, he didn't seem ready to head back home and decided to stay with me until he knows the right time to return. But when we heard you were having trouble at home, he knew immediately that he had to go back and help you..." He then slowly made his way towards the windows, as he always do when something is on his mind. "Though it may seem that I have returned your son to you, I had to pay a terrible price and caused a blight upon your city. This Red Hood burns the very kingdom you-" When he turned to face the Dark Knight, he found himself alone in his study. "-Protect..." He pulled out another communicator a pushed a button, which signaled his assistant to come into his study.
"Shall I alert the guards to pursue him?"
"Don't be foolish. They would never catch him." Ra's answered, making his way out of his study and passing his assistant without giving him a glance. "Besides, I've done enough... Especially on what I've done to a young man who I see as a grandson, and to what my daughter has to go through when she heard about her son-figure dead and to have witnessed his dreadful resurection from the Lazarus Pit." He then grabbed for another communicator in his other pocket, and pressed a blue-button on the left-side of it. "I've told him what happened... He's heading back to Gotham."
"Right... There's a major problem back here, and I fear that I know who's the cause of it." Ra's let loose a deep sigh.
"Then I wish you luck, Child."
"Thanks, cause I'm going to be needing it, especially Bruce and Jason."
In the Batwing...
A lot of things were on Batman's mind, most of them of what Ra's Al Ghul has told him, as he flew back towards Gotham City.
"Sir, please take this to heart." Alfred, who was speaking from the communicator of the Batwing from the Batcave, said to the Dark knight. "Who Dick was before, how we lost him. And this dark miracle or curse that has brought about his return. It's not your fault. I know you view his death as your greatest failure, but-"
"No matter what you say to me Alfred, none of my past failures will ever come to measure up as my greatest failure than his death." Batman told the butler. "Do you remember how he was when I brought him into the Manor?"
"Of course, sir." Alfred answered. "He was broken, traumatized, and mostly in pain. Especially when you brought him to the Manor, after being at the Juvenile Detention Center for nearly a whole month... However, deep inside, he was many things more: Fearless, courageous, caring... And gifted."
"Yes. Different than Jason in so many ways... But both full of potential, with Jason of power and Dick of knowledge. Even though I knew it was a mistake on having an eight year-old to fight by my side, I knew, even from the beginning, that he was made for greater things and to help others in need. If I hadn't made him into Robin, Dick would've grown in a solitude and isolated life. He would've closed himself off from the rest of the world and us, even if Tony Zucco were to had been captured and taken into justice... He would probably even go as far as to contemplating suicide." Batman then lowered his gaze at the wheel, where his hands clench around the controllers. "Then I got him killed, and nearly lost Jason if Dick hadn't protected him with his life... My partner... My friend... My solider... My son... My fault. I own that." He then lifted his gaze back to what's in front of him, which was still clouds. "I'll carry that like everything else. But now there's this. This Red Hood, who may possibly be Dick, is using what I have taught him and is turning it on me. It's a hell of my own making, Alfred."
"Sir, this is not your doing. You loved him. You loved both he and Jason. He knows that!" Alfred pushed on. "It should be enough! And the DNA Test, it showed that four out of the five pictures didn't match and three out of the five pictures are of Master Richard. That should be enough!"
"...It's not." Silenced was all the Dark Knight heard on the other line, until his communicator beeped again.
"My word. Sir, patch into the media feed, now!"
At the Gotham Bridge...
"Hey, look at you! Mr. Hood!" Joker called out to Red Hood, who was standing on one of the pillars of the bridge, while the Clown Prince of Crime stood up straight on the truck that held Black Mask and the dealers who used to work for him. "Or do you prefer 'Red'? I used to wear an outfit a lot like that. Mine was more flashy maître d' than motorcycle fetish or Robin Hood style. If that were you in that brown-cloak, that is. You kids today!" He looked back to his right-hand, that held the lighter he was trying to light up and drop it into the truck when he had poured gasoline inside. So far, it wouldn't stay lit and only gave out a couple of sparks. "I'm sorry, could you hold on? I was just in the middle of string fire to your gang."
"Go ahead. You think I care if that scum dies?" Red Hood told the Clown Prince of Crime.
"Don't know. I just wanted your attention."
"You always had my attention. But what I really wanted was an audience with you." Red Hood told the villain, fury and hate boiling and started to be heard through his voice from underneath the red-helmet covering his face. Even with the both of them on separate spotlights from the choppers, his attention was fully on the Clown Prince of Crime. Joker stopped lighting the lighter, completely clueless.
"I'm sorry, that seems to imply that you organized this little clambake." He called out, pointing at the Red Hood above him.
"I did. Sure, I had lots of plans, but the endgame was getting Black Mask to desperate that he'd cut a deal. He was the only one with the connections to get into Arkham, and get you out." Joker turned his head to the opening of the truck beside him.
"So I've been bamboozled, oh my." He said, looking a bit surprised.
"I wouldn't undersell it. It took a lot of work to bring about our reunion."
"Reunion?" Joker repeated, now looking truly a bit confused. "Have we met before?"
"Yes, we have... Along with a brother of mine."
"Well, here's to warm memories!" He then finally got the lighter to stay lit, and held it over to the whole of the truck. Red Hood only glared at the Clown Prince of Crime, as the Joker dropped the lighter inside. He then spread his arms out, as if he just preformed one of his greatest tricks to an audience. However, just before the flames could touch a single drop of gasoline, the Batwing from the sky released a large amount of extinguishers from above and was able to put out the fire from inside the truck. Red Hood turned his attention to where the Batwing was at, and watch it circle itself back to the bridge. Then, a grappling hook came down and captured a foamed-covered Joker.
Just when it seems that Batman has won, he was wrong. Red Rood immediately ran over to the captured Joker, and made a quick grab for the line. He then pulled out his knife and cut the line, causing both he and Joker to fall into the waters. Batman flew over the waters, looking down at his sonar to find the two, but could find nothing in the waters. As he made a quick turn around, he soon got a message.
"I got him," a voice from his communicator told him. "You want him? Meet me at Crime Alley." Batman narrowed his eyes from the Red Hood's demands, but mostly about his voice when it was closely heard over, and flew away from the waters towards the direction of Crime Alley.
Without him knowing, a certain person wearing a black-bodysuit with the brown-cloak over his head had watched the whole seen and had heard from a hidden cummincator and tracker on the pillar to attach itself onto one of Red Hood's boots what he wanted.
'It's time...' The figure thought to himself, as he spread his arms out like a bird and took off through the air, with the gliders underneath his arms allowing him to soar through the air and to fly towards the direction of Crime Alley.
At An Abandon Warehouse...
Joker, now all tied up, was thrown to the floor and landed on his chest. He coughed a bit, but then started laughing. He then turned his gaze to the Red Hood, who just happened to enter the room, and then got to his crouch-like position.
"Okay. So, what's the plan? Slumber party? Charades? A little Truth or Dare? Yes, I'll start with dare." While he was babbling, Red Hood has placed a duffel bag on the floor and is now unzipping it. He then pulled out a crowbar, without having to look what was inside of it and having his gaze at the Clown Prince of Crime. "Well, maybe I'll just go with truth." Joker quickly said, looking a bit scared at what was going on. The Red Hood made his way towards the tied Joker, lifted the crowbar over his head, and began to beat the crazed-maniac with it like he was a piñata. All that was heard was the Joker's grunt of pain, and the sound of some bones breaking. Then, Red Hood just stopped.
"Tell me, how does that feel?" He asked, not caring that the Joker was having a bit of trouble breathing.
"You know, it only hurts when I laugh." Was all the Clown Prince of Crime gasped out, moaning and grunting from the beating. However, his face then turned into his usual smiling self. "But, hey, I gotta know. Who are you? You said we knew one another, along with a brother of yours, and you do seem really familiar... We double at the prom? Or maybe blow up a school bus together?" Red Hood, gently patted the crowbar into his left-hand.
"No, I'm just something you helped make... Because of a stunt you've tried to pull on me and my brother."
"That's pretty cryptic, but interesting. Tell me more." It seems that the Red Hood wanted him to say those words.
"Sure. Listen up." He then pulled the Joker by the collar of his shirt, and once again began to beat on him like a piñata.
Now in Crime Alley, Minutes Later...
"Hello." A voice from behind Batman startled the Dark Knight from reliving the past, and turn to see the Red Hood and a flash of lightning. "So glad you could make it." Soon, the rain began to pour down.
"This ends tonight. All of it." The Dark Knight told the Red Hood.
"Nobody knows that better than me."
Then, the Red Hood quickly pulled out a couple of shurikens from underneath his hacker and threw them towards Batman. However, the Dark Knight backflipped in the air to dodge and hid behind a couple of trashcans. He then placed two jet-blasts on the trashcans, and caused them to charge towards the Red Hood, who was running towards the vigilante. The Red Hood flipped in the air to dodge them, but only to have a cord to wrap itself around his legs and to have Batman to pull him forward and to fall into a puddle on the ground.
"Ha. Oh, you and your gadgets." He then leaned towards the cord and cut the line, while placing a taser on the line and causing a surge of electricity to shock the Dark Knight. "You're not the only one with toys." Just when he ran towards him, Batman threw some balls that were miniature explosives, and caused them to land underneath Red Hood. "Crap!" He said, and was soon blasted up on the wall of a building. Using the knife to stop, he then pushed himself towards the building across and to climb up a fire escape, with Batman hot on his tail.
Lightning flash across the sky, releasing its horrible wrath. Just as the Red Hood began to run, the Dark Knight jumped on him and caused the both of them to fall. However, when his cape touched the ground, the Red Hood had his knife to trap the fabric to the roof and prevent the vigilante from fully getting up from the ground. He then started punching him in the face, as if he were a dummy and a punching bag. Then, the Dark Knight pulled himself free from the knife and pulled out two Batarangs from his utility-belt. He was able to punch the younger man in the face, causing a couple of sparks from the helmet. The Red Hood made a quick jump towards his knife and charge at the vigilante once again. Metal clashed with metals, which followed by Red Hood elbowing the Dark Knight in the back, with Batman doing the same and causing them to twist against each other to different directions.
Red Hood got to a kneeling position and launched himself forwards, only to miss and be blocked by Batman's crossed-arms. He then let go of his knife, only to have his left to catch it and to shift away from the vigilante. He then cut the utility belt off of Batman's waist, and even to cause a scratch at the neck area of the cowl. Red Hood then shifted his knife to his right, and the Dark Knight charged at him. He made a quick grab around the Red Hood's waist, kept on running until they went over the ledge, and to both hit a statue over an old church-building.
The knife was out of Red Hood's hand, and said person landed harshly on his chest. He struggled to push himself off the wet ground, as Batman made his way towards the fallen fighter. Just as he grabbed for the jacket, Red Hood immediately snatched at the cowl and flipped away from the vigilante to grab for his knife. With the knife back in his right, along with the cowl being held in the same hand, he laughed when he could see Bruce Wayne wearing the Batman costume.
"Look at you," he told the billionaire. He then stared at the mask and tossed it towards the billionaire, who caught it with his left. "I guess we should keep it even." He placed both hands behind his helmet, with the knife pointed up in his right and away from his head. With the helmet dropped to the wet ground, Bruce could now clearly see who was the Red Hood all this time: His first adoptive son, his friend... His Second Robin, Jason Todd-Wayne.
"Jason..." He said, glaring at his twenty year-old son, who wore a dark-green domino-mask on his face. The flash of lightening and the roar of thunder caused Jason's image to his younger, injured, fifteen year-old Robin-self and then back to what he is to this day.
"Yes." Jason said, keeping the smile on his face.
"I don't want to fight you."
"All evidence points to the contrary."
"Please, Jason. Hear me out. I know what happened."
"Oh, you mean that talk you had with Ra's, huh? I just figured that out on my own. I thought you were going after the Joker, until I hacked into the Batcomputer database when I saw the Joker at the bridge and you weren't there, and reviewed the whole thing on screen that you were actually going to have a talk with Ra's Al Ghul. A talk that you didn't bother to have me go with to hear... Does it make it easier for you to think that not being told or to have known that your deceased child has been dipped in Ra's fountain of youth while staying 'dead' to Gotham and our family would turn me, your living son, rabid?" He stared down at his red-helmet in front of him. "Or is this just who I really am all this time, to only be awaken after witnessing my brother's death right in front of me?"
He kicked it towards Bruce, who stopped it at his own foot. He then noticed something wrong, and was right when he saw a trigger being pulled into Jason's left-hand. It was the same trigger that Jason had used when they were talking with the three thieves at the Pier, which explains on why he only found the sniper on that rooftop and not the real shooter of the gun. Jason pushed the button, and the helmet lit up to have it explode when the billionaire leapt away from the hard-red material. The blast caused one of the statue to stumble forward. Jason ran towards Bruce, who has put on his cowl back over his head, and then started the whole fight once again when the statue fell. The moment Batman rolled away, he was soon held captured by Jason, who gotten behind him and placed his knife against his neck.
"Tell me, what bothers you the most: That your greatest failure has been alive this whole time? Or that I can never be a better Robin like your solider boy, who you tossed aside when he was eleven years old?" Instead of answer, Batman grabbed for his hand that held the knife and tossed him over his back and had him in front of him.
"You're ruling through intimidation and murder. Just like a criminal!" He told the twenty year-old, pushing the knife away from him and yet trying to pull it out of Jason's hand.
"I'm doing what the city needs, and what we needed the most!" During the struggle, Jason shifted the knife down and plunged it into the ground of the roof. He then grabbed for a cable from his jacket, went around Batman, tied it around the Dark Knight's back, and fired a grappling hook up. He let go of Batman, and let the cable pull him up next to another statue. Jason climbed on a statue of a king, while Batman went to remove the cable around him, and then jumped on top of the Dark Knight.
He gave him a hard punch in the chin, causing him to lay on his back, and began to punch the Dark Knight repeatedly in his face over and over again. With each punch Jason delivered, seemed to have increased its strength from his anger pouring into those punches. Finally able to stop the punches, Batman grabbed the twenty year-old's fist, get his right-hand free from Jason's foot trapping it, and returned a punch back at him. Batman soon had him pinned to the wall and made a quick grab for a lighter hidden underneath his left-glove.
"Hidden goodies all over, huh? We're both just a couple of walking armories." Jason commented, watching the Dark Knight pulling out the lighter in front of them when he pulled the black-hand away from his kevlar-glove.
"Maybe so, but let's see how you do without your own toys." Even though most of what Jason has are his own creation, Bruce made no hesitation on lighting up the lighter and letting it burn the brown-biker jacket. Fire immediately eats away the jacket, as Jason struggles out of Batman's hold on him and punches him over the ledge. With quick reflexes, Batman grabbed a hold of the ledge when he fell over and watches the burning jacket hovering down. Now in just his bodysuit and gone was his biker-jacket, Jason quickly grabbed for his grappling hook and leapt away from Batman. The hook quickly wrapped itself on another ledge of another building, just as Batman was able to gather his hold and launch himself after the twenty year-old. He barely missed grabbing Jason's boot and nearly had let go when the twenty year-old tried to kick him off, until they both hit the wall and caused the Dark Knight to almost fall off the ledge of the building.
Jason, who landed on the ledge, quickly made a beeline away from Batman when he struggled to pull himself up. He then turned, pushed himself off the ledge, and went through the window of an abandon building of a bathroom. The Dark Knight immediately caught up to him, and sent a powerful kick towards Jason. The kick not only pushed him off the ground, but it also caused the twenty year-old to crash through the hard-material of the bathtub.
"Enough. It's over!" Batman told Jason, who obviously doesn't want to fight the young-man who was like a second son to him. However, Jason refused to listen and charge at the Dark Knight to continue their fight. His punch missed Batman by a mile, and the Dark Knight lifted his right-arm to elbow Jason in the ribs and to crash against the tiled-walls. He then punch the young-man in the guts, knocking the wind out of him, and then grabbed his head to slam it against the other-side of the tiled-walls.
With one piece still on the wall, Jason grabbed for it and used it as a knife to cut the Dark Knight. After three missed swipes, Batman slapped it out of Jason's left-hand and punched him in the jaw. Instead of falling to the floor, Jason used his hands to catch himself and to flip himself back up to his feet. He then sent another punch, only to hit the wall and form a small-crater than to have hit Batman. The Dark Knight then kneed Jason's stomach, wrap his right-arm around his neck, and tossed him to a sink that shattered and to an empty toilet that only cracked from his head. As Jason lifted himself up, Batman yelled and slammed both his arms at the twenty year-old's head when Jason tried to shield his face with his arms. Then for the third time punched his stomach, grabbed his head to knee his face, and pulled on the collar of his bodysuit to slam his head against his own. Then, he grabbed for the collar of his bodysuit with both hands this time, and held him against the tiled-walls.
"You say you'll never become the perfect soldier boy like Dick. It won't happen." Jason glared at the Dark Knight. "Not like this!" Then, with all of what remaining strength he has, he punched Jason so hard, that the young-adult went through the tiled-walls and into a room that looks to be a one-room apartment. After tumbling and hitting his back against the wall, Jason landed flat-down on his face and the Dark Knight soon stood over him. "I know I failed you and your brother, but I tried to save you both. I'm trying to save you now, for both our sakes and your brother's sake as well." His words seems to have angered Jason even more and right when he quickly got to a leaning position, he pulled out a gun strapped behind him and aimed it at the Dark Knight.
"Is that what you think this is about?!" He asked, slowly getting out of his leaning position to a standing position. "That you almost let the both of us die?! I don't know what clouds your judgment worse: Your guilt, or your antiquated sense of morality." The Dark Knight stayed quiet. "Batman, I forgive you, for not saving both my brother and I on time... But why? Why on God's Earth..." He turned at the door at his left, and kicked it open. There, tied to a chair and covered in bruises and blood, was a semi-conscious Joker. "Is he still alive?!"
Joker lifted his gaze, and turned it to see Jason in his domino-mask and the Dark Knight. He then smiled, as usual, not minding that the blood is still hanging down his lips and onto his chin. He then started cackling, as if he heard a funny joke.
"Gotta give the boy points!" He said, hobbling out of the closet in the chair. "He came up with this idea, for the last five years, just to make this shindig happen." He stopped only inches away from Jason. "So, who's got a camera?" Batman simply glared at the two, but mostly at the Joker. "Ooh! Ooh! Get one of me and the kid, first. Then you and me, then the three of us. And then one with the crowbar. Then-" When he had said the word 'crowbar', it seems to have trigger Jason's anger even more and got him to kick the Joker to the floor to get him to shut up. He then held the gun towards the Clown Prince of Crime's head.
"You'll be as quiet as possible, or I'll put one in your lap, first." Jason warned the Joker.
"Party pooper. No cake for you." It was obvious that even if he was going to be staring death in the face, the Joker still has to make everything a joke. Jason lifted the gun back at Batman, getting back to a standing position.
"Ignoring what he's done in the past. Blindly, stupidly, disregarding the entire graveyards he's filled. The thousands who have suffered, the friends he's crippled...! The endless numbers of families he caused to separate and be taken away... You know, I thought-... I thought Nightwing and I would be the very last people you'd ever let him hurt." His gaze seem to turn sad, and slowly lowered the gun down a bit. "If it had been you that he beat to a bloody pulp. If he had taken you from this world, Nightwing and I would've done nothing, but search the planet for this pathetic pile of evil death-worshipping garbage...! And sent him off to hell!"
He straightened the gun back towards the Dark Knight, who had yet to have said anything.
"You don't understand," he finally said. "I don't think you've ever understood."
"What?" Jason asked. "What your moral code just won't allow for that? It's too hard to cross that line?"
"No! God Almighty, no!" Bruce yelled, feeling his own rage boiling. "It'd be too damned easy. All I've ever wanted to do is kill him. A day doesn't go by I don't think about subjecting him. To every horrendous torture he's dealt out to others and then end him."
"Aw. So you do think about me." Joker said, sounded a bit touched at his words.
"But if I do that... If I allow myself to go down into that place..." He then glared at the twenty year-old he had raised from an eleven year-old boy. "I'll never come back, and Nightwing will never forgive me if I cross that line." Jason's eyes narrowed when he mentioned about the First Robin.
"Why? I'm not talking about killing Penguin or Scarecrow or Dent." He pointed the gun back at the villain on the floor. "I'm talking about him. Just him. I'm doing it because... Because he took Nightwing away from us." His hands shook into fist, with his right still holding the gun over the trigger instead of against it. "He took my brother away from me!" His words alone seem to have yet to change the Dark Knight's mind.
"I can't. I'm sorry."
Jason's teeth clench against each other, and it almost looks as though through the domino-mask that tears were beginning to form.
"That is so sweet." Joker commented, though he actually didn't mean it.
Jason aimed the gun back at Batman.
"Well, you won't have a choice." He said, and then used his left to pull out another gun from behind him. He then tossed it forward, and it landed into both Batman's cupped hands. The vigilante simply stared down at it, knowing at his son wanted him to do.
"This is what it's all been about." Jason told him. "This: You, me, Nightwing and him. Now is the time you decide." He then stepped down hard onto the chair, causing the ropes to release the Joker, and then made a quick grab of his purple-jacket to get him to stand. He then had him in a headlock. "If you won't kill this psychotic piece of filth, I will! For my brother!" He then pointed the gun at the Clown Prince of Crime. "If you wanna stop me, you're gonna have to kill me!"
"You know I won't-!"
"I'm gonna blow his deranged brains out! And if you wanna stop it, you're gonna have to shoot me! Right at my face! And we'll see how Nightwing will react or really wants us to do, rather if he truly is alive or not!"
"This is turning out even better than I'd hoped."
"You, shut up!" The younger male yelled, bashing the end of his gun against the Joker's temple, which, somehow, didn't knock the insane clown out or even give him any sort of sign of a concussion.
Batman simply glared at the young man for five seconds, and then let the gun fall to the ground. He then turned away from the two, heading towards the window that has most of its glass out. Jason stared completely stunned at what his mentor, his father, just did, until his rage came back into full force.
"It's him or me, you have to decide!" Batman didn't cease his walking. "Decide now! Do it!" He aimed the barrel of his gun towards the Dark Knight. "Him or me?! Decide!"
Before Batman could get his extra Batarang hidden underneath his glove or for Jason to pull the trigger, a flash of black-metal came swooping in through the window and landed in the opening barrel of the gun, which then caused the weapon to blow up in the twenty year-old's hand. Jason screamed in pain and let go of the Joker to hold his injured hand. The Dark Knight's head turned, surprise that something out of nowhere just stopped Jason from pulling the trigger. The Joker then started to cackle at what just happened, even though he's still on the floor, while Jason slowly got back to his feet.
"I can't believe you got him!" He told the Dark Knight. "You expert, rooting-tooting, eagle-eyed, goth-loving marksman! I love it. You managed to find a way to win! And everybody still loses!"
"Too bad you're mistaken the one who truly stopped Red Hood from killing either you or Batman, Joker." A voice out of nowhere told the Clown Prince of Crime, gaining and startling everybody's attention on what just happened. The voice was coming from the window, and when they all turned towards the window, they were completely shocked at who they see.
It was the man in the black-bodysuit and the cloak over his head, who's white-eyes from the darkness glared at them all, but mostly at Joker. Jason's eyes widen in shock when he heard that voice and noticed that the bodysuit hidden underneath the brown-cloak looked a lot like Nightwing's costume, only it seems to have a couple of tears and shreds in them. The mystery-person, who was leaning against the windowsill, slowly made his way to stand next to Batman and turned his eyes at the vigilante.
"Sorry for coming here late, Boss Man, especially when I used to have perfect timing... And for all of this to happen." The tired voice told the Dark knight, and soon turned back to Joker and Jason, who was still holding his blood-covered injured hand.
A lump has magically formed in the twenty year-old's throat, staring completely shocked at the figure next to Batman.
"D... Nightwing?" He whispered out, ignoring that the Joker was right in front of him and stepped over the Clown Prince of Crime to get to the figure. "I-Is that you?" Ignoring the pain coursing through his hand, Jason lifted his right-hand towards the cloak and slowly pulled it off of the figure's head. Once the hood hung behind the person's head, Jason and Batman couldn't believe their eyes: There, standing before them, was the one person who has pulled them from that dark abyss all those years ago: The First Robin, the current Nightwing, Dick Grayson. Even through the black domino-mask, Jason could sense and see that the Cerulean/Sapphire-eyes is staring at him.
"It's been a while, hasn't it, little brother?"
Not caring that the Joker was here and had heard what the young-man had called him, Jason immediately had his arms wrapped around Nightwing and pulling him into a bone crushing hug.
"Nightwing, you're alive!" He cried, a smile suddenly placed on his face and tears streaming underneath his dark-green domino-mask. However, Nightwing didn't return the hug back and simply stood tall. In fact, both Batman and Jason realized he has gotten a bit taller than before but Jason has completely tower over his brother by half a foot and is nowhere as tall as Batman to even overpass his chin. "I'm so glad... That day when you-...! And when the bomb-...! Oh, thank god!"
Nightwing finally made movement, and has placed both his hands on Jason's shoulders to pull him off. When they were eye-to-eye, the twenty year-old could see disappointment and regret in the Cerulean/Sapphire-eyes of Dick Grayson.
"Brother, I can't believe what you've done." Nightwing said, his tired voice adding the displease tone he has in his voice.
"What do you mean, Bro?" Jason asked, noticing that the person in front of him was now staring at who's behind him and knew that Nightwing is staring at the prey he just caught. "Joker? But, Nightwing, he deserves what he has done to you and all of those innocent lives!"
"Even so, Hood, that doesn't make it right at all!" Though he was yelling, Nightwing's voice was obviously too tired or possibly damage to increase the volume of his tone. Batman decided to stay out of this, knowing that Nightwing could get through to Jason much more than he can, on his own. "Do you realize what you've done? Do you realized, after all these years, that you would plan something so stupid and unforgiving?"
A new set of anger rushed through Jason's blood.
"I had to. I did this all for you! Aren't you happy to see and know that at least one person in our family still cares about you, and hadn't forgotten a single day on what that psychotic bastard did to you?!"
"Not as much as finding out and hearing that my own brother would turn himself into a killer for five years, just so he could avenge my death, only to soon kill off every other villain who don't deserve this kind of sentencing of death."
His words, alone, struck Jason hard in the chest, and the Dark Knight knew that Nightwing is speaking the right words that the twenty year-old has to hear.
"But, Di-... Nightwing, he took you away from us. Our friends, our family!... He took you away from me!"
"And how would you think that I would've reacted if he has taken either you or Batman away from me?" The hands on the twenty year-old's shoulders tightened. "If either one of you, or even the both of you were killed, I would've possibly crossed that line, even if I had our grandfather there at my side... But I know that if I do that, I'll be no better than those scums who kill for pleasure or for no reason, whatsoever." He turned to the Dark knight. "And if either of you killed, even if it were for a good reason, I'd never forgive either of you. For killing is not only crime, but it also brings back painful memories on when my parents died... When they were murdered by that scum who killed them, when he came to get protection money."
The lump in Jason's throat has somehow increased, and had somehow made it a bit impossible for him to breath normally.
"You know? When I first became Robin... No, right before I became Robin for the very first time, I wanted nothing more than to kill that bastard!" Nightwing then shook his head. "However, I knew that deep down, my parents wouldn't want me to snoop down to his level. and even if I did kill him, that wouldn't bring them back or make me feel any better. In fact, it would've made me feel even worse and turn me into a no-good killer like the man who killed my parents." He then smiled at Batman, who also gave him a smile back. "And that's one of the greatest and toughest lessons that Bats has ever taught me, and I would follow that rule until the day I draw my final breath of life."
He then turned back to Jason, who's eyes from underneath the domino-mask went wide from his words and explanation.
"Nightwing..." He whispered, then lifted his injured hand and watch the blood dripping off of his skin and onto the dirt-covered wood-floor.
"That is why we don't kill our enemies, Hood. Because letting them live not only proves that we're stronger than them, but also how better we are than they are... And most of all, how we're nothing like them, no matter what they say."
Tears once again formed underneath Jason's domino-mask, and once again pulled the twenty-three year-old into a tight embrace. Then, as if to shock both him and Batman, Jason began to weep.
"I'm sorry," he said. Though it was low too for Joker to hear, it was heard clearly by Nightwing and Batman. "I'm so sorry... It was all too hard for me to move on, especially when you died for me and not having justice to be served for what you've done for me, for us..." Nightwing gave him a smile, and began to stroke his hair.
"It's okay, little brother." He said in a soothing voice, even though his voice still sounded low. "It's alright, everything is going to be alright."
He soon felt another presence joining them, and suddenly felt a strong pair of arms wrapping themselves around the two men in their twenties. Even without eyes, Nightwing could tell it was Batman who's holding them in his hold. Jason turned his gaze towards the Dark Knight, with his chin laying on top of Nightwing's head and keeping his brother within his hold.
"Batman, I'm-..." It was pretty clear that he was loss of words and the Dark Knight made it easier for the twenty year-old by shaking his head and gently patting him on the back.
"We'll talk about this later," he said. "For now, it's time that we end this and take that scum where he truly belongs."
That time, Jason smiled and nodded his head in an agreement, and the three men released themselves from their holds. Just then, Joker's laugh has soon interrupted their quiet moments.
"This was all very touchy and all, but I'm afraid it's time we end our little get together!" He declared, still cackling at the three vigilantes in front of him. He then held out a controller, which was very clear to the three of them that it was meant to activate a bomb. Jason's eyes widen in horror at the sight and reached for his side pocket, to find out his controller was gone and that the Joker has probably grabbed it when he had him in a head-lock.
"No..." He whispered, turning to the two at his right. Joker then pushed the button and high-screech was soon heard form the old chimney, where a pile of bombs were set inside. Soon, the high-screech was gone and 00:20 was inscribed on the timer and started to count down. Batman quickly ran towards the bomb, but Joker quickly leap at the man.
"No, don't spoil it!" Both Jason and Nightwing glared at the Clown Prince of Crime, as they watch the madman holding the Dark knight down and holding him by the neck. "I'm the only one who's gonna get what he wants tonight! Yes! Bing, bang, boom! We all go out together! Don't you just love a happy ending?!"
He let out his terrible sound trait laugh, only for it be caught off when something slammed him off of the Dark Knight and held him down to the floor. It was Nightwing, and he had a hold on both of the madman's hands with his right and keeping his head down with his left, as the Clown Prince of Crime continued on letting out his maniac cries of laughter, while they muffled from his face being pressed into the floor. Jason was trying to deactivate the bomb while the commotion was going on, but even if he was smart on setting the bomb, he lacks in his hacking and deactivating skills.
The numbers flashed 00:10, which means the four men are running out of time. Nightwing then turned to Batman, who has finally got to his feet.
"Go!" He yelled, keeping his hold on the Joker to prevent him from getting away. Both Jason and Batman widen their eyes at his words. "Get out of here, now!" To Batman, it was a plea of a boy who was forced to become a man at the age of nine, who didn't want to lose his second family. However, to Jason, it was all like a repeat of the five years incident.
"But, Wing, what about you?!" The twenty year-old asked, who tried to make his way towards the twenty-three year-old.
"I'll be fine, Bro, I promise." He turned to Batman. "Get him out of here!" The Dark Knight seems to be having trouble on listening to the man he has raised at the age of eight, for his mind soon flashed to the warehouse in Sarajevo going up in fire and finding him dead in Jason's arms. "Batman, get out of here before the bomb goes off!"
"But, Bro, if we go-!"
"Jay!" Jason quickly stopped from Nightwing's word, from being called 'Jay' like he used to call the twenty year-old when he was still a preteen. "I promise you both, that I won't let myself die. I shall not leave you both or our family like last time, not again... You both know on how well I keep my promises."
And those words alone speak more to what they say about him. Because out of the whole members of the Bat-Family, including Alfred, Dick was the only one who has ever kept his words and would never go back on his promises unless it was necessary. Knowing what the young man is doing, Batman nodded his head and quickly grabbed for Jason by pulling him by the collar of his bodysuit. The bomb now reads 00:05, meaning they both had to leave the warehouse now. Before he let loose his spare grappling hook from inside his left-glove, Batman gave Nightwing a final gaze.
"Dick..." He whispered, earning a nod from the twenty-three year-old.
"Go..." Nightwing whispered, and soon watched the pair soaring out the window. He then turned his gaze at the timer, which now read 00:03. Using quick thinking, he hauled the Joker over his shoulder and ran out of the room before the bomb reached to 00:00.
At the moment it hit the four zeros, the building went up in smoke and flame. That moment lasted ten minutes, much more longer than the warehouse in Sarajevo lasted five years ago. Both Jason and Batman stared at the scene from the building across, both hoping and praying that Nightwing has indeed escaped the blast and hasn't been taken away from them once again.
Hours Later, at the Batcave...
"Sources close to the district attorney's office have intimated the case, will likely dropped due to lack of evidence. But the Black Mask is still under investigation for his alleged complicity in Joker's escape from Arkham. The guards charged with aiding and abetting the escape were found murdered in the Gotham courthouse jail. While the alleged crime lord, Black Mask, was released on one million dollar bail for his suspected involvement, and is currently awaiting a hearing. Meanwhile, the Joker has been returned to Arkham Asylum. Officials claim extra measures have been taken, to ensure another escape would be impossible."
"Prior to his arrest, Black Mask was being strong-armed by the mysterious Red Hood."
Bruce turned off the news that has been played on the screen, and turn to see Jason, still at the glass-case of Dick's Nightwing costume. Ever since the two of them went back home after waiting for police to come by and take Joker away, Jason hadn't spoken a word to either him nor Alfred. In fact, all he did was made his way towards the Nightwing costume and just stare at it.
"Sir." Bruce turned to stare at Alfred, who has made his way to the billionaire. "In light of all the recent events, would you like me to remove that?" Bruce turned back to Jason, who is still staring at the black-bodysuit and the blue-bird implanted on the chest.
"No..." Bruce said, and slowly made his way towards his second son. Even though he's been train to sense the presence of others, Jason made no move to face the billionaire and continued on staring at the black-bodysuit. Bruce also stared at the suit through the glass, and then let loose a big sigh. "Jason, you've been standing here for three hours." The twenty year-old didn't say a word to the billionaire, and simply kept his gaze at the suit. Bruce then let out another sigh, and placed his left-hand on Jason's left-shoulder. "Jason..."
"When is he coming?" The twenty year-old asked, not bothering to turn and face his adoptive father. "He said he would be alright. He should've been back hours ago!"
"I know it might be hard to wait, Jason, but everything must take time for us if we wish for something or someone to come to us."
Jason simply pulled his shoulder out of Bruce's grip.
"He promised us, Bruce. He promised me, that he would be alright!" His cry alone caused some of the bats from the ceiling of the Batcave to flying off to different parts and direction of the cave. Alfred winced a bit from the tone of his voice, but made no move to tell the young-man to keep his voice down. He knew very well that he has regretted what he has done all those years ago, but seems to be mostly regretting on leaving Dick back at the warehouse with the Joker. "But he isn't back. He's probably killed by the bombs, just like that time back at the warehouse. And this time, he was on his own and alone with the Joker..." He then clench his eyes shut, with tears streaming down his face. "This is all my fault... If only I could turn back time and re-do what I'd planned all these years..."
He then felt a pair of arms wrapping themselves around him and pulling him into a chest, which was Bruce who was hugging him. Dick's words echoed inside of his mind, the conversation they both had when Jason had injured that drug-dealer by shattering his collar bone.
'You know, he isn't the only one to blame for what happened... Bruce, if you don't let him know on what the whole plan of the mission is going to be, he'll keep on making mistakes and won't know what to do when in the battlefield.' And that's what he is going to do, and is going to admit to the younger-man that this whole mess was also his fault.
"You're not the only one to be blamed for, Jason." The billionaire told the twenty year-old, as he placed his right-hand at the back of Jason's head and the left gently rubbing his back. "If only I had known how much his death had done to you, how much it traumatized you on watching a loved one die in front of you, I would've done whatever I could to help you heal... But I didn't, for my stupidity and refusal to mourn over his death had caused me to have you suffer Dick's death on your own... And for that, I'm truly sorry."
The twenty year-old gave him a sad smile, though he hid that smile against Bruce's shoulder, until a thought came to him.
"You're going to take me to the Arkham Asylum, aren't you?" The thought of being sent away and no longer part of the Bat-Family that saved him from the age of eleven, both scares him and pains him so deeply, especially when he just saw his brother, after being dead for five years. However, as a Bat and a hero, he would go to Arkham and take out his punishment as a true hero would. He then felt a rumbling sound from Bruce bringing him back to reality.
"Though I should, for all you've done these past years, I'm not going to."
Jason gasped in shock and pulled his head back, so that forest-green eyes could stare into navy-blue eyes.
"What? But, Bruce, all that I've done is unacceptable! I should be punished, or better yet, killed for everything I've done and the numbers of people I killed."
Bruce simply shook his head.
"Even so, I was also the cause for your actions, and not noticing them or your choice of becoming Red Hood until now... And for that, I will also take responsibility and help you find the right path once more, like I have done for you when you were eleven... And just how I helped Dick, when he was eight." The billionaire gave the twenty year-old a smirk, when he had noticed the shock within Jason's forest-green eyes.
"Does this mean-? I can-?" Bruce nodded his head.
"I'll allow you to become Red Hood," he replied. "However, since you're going to be Red Hood from now on, you'll have to put up the Robin suit in the case."
Jason put on a smirk on his face.
"And leave it in there until a new Robin is found," he finished. Bruce nodded again, and the two once again leaned into each other in their embrace. Jason's smile soon vanished when he turned his gaze at the Nightwing-Costume through the glass case. "Do you think he's really alright out there, Bruce?" The billionaire shrugged to his question.
"If I know Dick, he'll be probably licking his wounds while dragging his half-dead weight body to the Batcave."
Instead of comforting him, Bruce's words seems to have gotten Jason even more worried on why Dick hasn't came back hours ago from the destroyed building and the Joker has already been sent back to the Arkham Asylum.
"Bruce, what if he didn't survive the blast?" He asked, his hands clenching on to Bruce's cape. "That costume he wore didn't feel like it had kevlar, or a bulletproof vest when I hugged him. He was completely defenseless from the blast...!" The tears once again streamed down his cheeks. "He could've been killed, again. He could've died from protecting that psychotic clown."
Silenced was all the twenty year-old heard after his talk, neither Alfred or Bruce could say a word that could comfort the young-man, until the bats from the ceiling began to screech and fly through the air.
"Jay, I'm hurt. Literally, I am." A voice from the shadows said, startling the Bat-Family from their thoughts of what could've happen to the Batman's First Robin. The voice was coming from the staircase, when the sound of footsteps caught their hearing. "You, of all people, should know that I always keep my words."
Jason turned his head towards the staircase, and his jaw hung open when he saw who was at the staircase: It was none other than Richard John Grayson, who seems to have lost his mask for it was no longer on his face when he had pulled the hood off his head. His face, completely covered in bruises, with cuts on his right-cheek and one from his left-temple down over his eye bleeding. Other than that and with the thought that his body is also bleeding and damaged from the sight of some bloodstains on his cloak, he appears to be all right... And alive, which is what Jason really needed to see for, himself.
Bruce smiled at his first partner and son when he came into view from walking next to the Batcomputer and Alfred, as he turned to his stunned second son and slowly released him from his hold. The butler appears to be completely lost for words, as he stared at the young-man who he sees as his own grandson, alive and breathing.
"M... Master Richard?" He stuttered his question, slowly making his way to stand in front of the twenty-three year-old. The young-man gave the elder man a tired-smile and, if it weren't for the blood gliding down from the corner of his lips, his smile, alone, would've been able to help calm Alfred from thinking he may have gone insane.
"Yep, it's me, Alfie." Dick reassured, placing both his hands on the butler's shoulders and looking him over from head to toe. "Man, you sure hadn't changed a bit during these five years. Not in the very least, Alfred."
With a shaky hand, Alfred placed his right-gloved hand at the young-man's left-cheek and felt the warmth radiation off of the slightly-paled skin. His dark-blue eyes stared straight at the sparkling Cerulean/Sapphire-eyes, the pair of eyes that he has missed to see ever since he left at the age of eleven and only gets to see him once or twice a month before that dreadful day the Joker caused them to close into an eternal sleep. Tears glistened his dark-blue eyes, and the butler, without any hesitation, pulled the young-man into his arms for a relief hug. The hands that were on Alfred's shoulders went around his arms, returning the embrace the best he could give with his body wounded from the blast.
"My boy... My dear boy...!" Alfred whimpered, allowing his tears to fall and gently patting the twenty-three year-old's head, running his gloved-hands through the raven-hair that has always felt smooth under his touch, whether he'd be wearing gloves or not. Dick simply gave him a couple of tired chuckles.
"Hey, it's okay. Alf." His voice made the butler shiver from how tired and possibly damaged it sounded to his hearing. "Everything's going to be okay now, you'll see."
Alfred nodded his head against Richard's head, smiling to his choice of words.
"I know it will, Master Richard. Now that you're here, and our family is back together, once more."
Right when Dick went into removing his left-arm off of Alfred, a figure rushed in and showed that it was Jason who came into the hug-fest and had his own arms around the two. The butler chuckled at how the twenty year-old was behaving, for he would rarely come up for hugs to anybody when he was eleven, even if it were Alfred or Bruce. However, it was no big surprise to Dick for Jason to come to him for hugs, whenever he would come by and visit the Manor or Gotham City while patrolling as Nightwing. Jason buried his face into the twenty-three year-old's raven-hair, feeling his beating heart through the bodysuit beating a bit abnormal through his own bodysuit. Nevertheless, it's beating is one of the important signs to let him know that his older brother is truly alive.
"You're here..." He whispered, nuzzling his face against Richard's hair. The twenty-three year-old simply chuckled, as he patted Jason's back with his left-hand.
"Of course I'm here," he said. "Remember? I always keep my promises, and always give my words, even if it ki-" Jason tightened his right-arm around Dick, making him wince from the added pressure to his wounds.
"Don't... Not another word about that... Please," he whispered.
Richard gave him a curious look on why the twenty year-old didn't want him to finish his sentence, but already knew why. It was the word that told those what he used to be until Ra's Al Ghul secretly brought him back to life, a word that pains loved ones when they had either witnessed or hear of their own loved ones gone from this world. And so, Dick didn't question Jason, and simply held both he and Alfred to him the best he then turned his attention to Bruce, who simply stayed in his spot next to the glass-case of his costume and smiled at the billionaire, who smiled back at the twenty-three year-old. And both knew, at the moment, that their family is not only repaired, but is back together. And somewhere in the future, their makeshift-family is going to get bigger and soon.
Four Months Later...
Alfred slowly made his way towards the Batcomputer, where Bruce awaits for him in his Batman-costume.
"Okay, let's go!" Bruce called out, as he grabbed for one of the cups from the tray Alfred still held in his hands. "If you can't suit up quickly at home base, I'm concerned how you would handle it in the field!"
"Perhaps he's primping." Alfred suggested, smiling at the thought of the young-boy posing in front of the mirror in the changing room and admiring himself as Robin. "If I recall, Master Jason spent nearly half an hour admiring his reflection and Master Richard spent fifteen minutes doing the same thing... The first time they donned their capes."
Bruce simply smiled from the thoughts of his two sons when they were still children, feeling pride swelling in his chest on having them fighting by his side.
"Tim, get on out here or I'm going on patrol and will be fighting with your brothers without you!"
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a young boy at the age of twelve came down in-between Alfred and Bruce, wearing a Robin-costume, and landed on the counter of the Batcomputer.
"Ha!" He cried, causing the butler to drop his tray and the cup to the floor.
"My word!" Alfred gasped, staring completely startled at the young-boy that spooked him.
Unlike the costume Dick and Jason had worn, the twelve year-old's uniform was actually like Jason's when he was in his teen years, only it has black-shortsleeves and his 'R' was surrounded by only a black circle with no yellow-ring around it.
The boy then flipped off of the counter, and onto the floor in front of the butler and next to the billionaire.
"Gotcha!" He told Alfred, smiling very wildly, while Bruce drank some of his hot chocolate with no sense of fear on him at all.
"Would have, if I hadn't seen you slip behind the computer banks three minutes ago." Bruce told the boy, still smiling down at the twelve year-old. He then went into drinking the rest of his warm drink.
"No, I got you." The boy insisted, pointing a finger at the billionaire. Once Bruce has finished his drink, he placed the cup on the counter.
"How does it feel?" He asked, already knowing the answer to his question. To answer his question though, and while Alfred went to picking up the cup and tray off the ground, the boy made a bunch of grunting sounds while punching and kicking the air in front of him.
"It feels awesome!" He cried, as he kept punching and kicking. "Check me out. I'm Robin, the Third Boy Wonder!" Bruce chuckled at the sight. "Are you kidding me? This rocks!" He then immediately ceased his fight with air, and pulled at Bruce's right-hand. "Come on, old man, we've got bad guys who need chasing! If we don't, Dick and Jason will take away all the fun!" Bruce simply laughed at the child's eagerness, as he allowed the boy to pull him towards the Batmobile.
"Well, if you would've came out sooner rather than hiding or posing in front of the mirror, we would've been out fighting with your brothers by now."
"I know, but I just couldn't help it. I mean, I finally get to be Robin! And right now, I want to go out there and fight with my brothers as Robin for the first time!" He then decided to release the Dark Knight from his grip and once he was in front of the Batmobile, he did a black-flip and landed on top of the hood of the black-car. He then slid inside and the car soon took off after Batman went inside the vehicle as well. "Do you think we'll be able to catch up to Nightwing and Red Hood, Batman?"
"If traffic doesn't slow us down, then we may be able to reach them before they're done capturing the bad guys."
At the Gotham Banks...
"Take them down to the station, boys!" Commissioner Gordon told his men, as they took the seven thieves out of the bank, who were either knocked out and being carried or conscious and allowed the cops to take them to the trucks, with all of them cuffed behind their backs. As the cops took their new prisoners to the station, Commissioner Gordon turned his attention to the two who rounded the thieves for them. "Well, thanks again, you two."
The two in front of him were covered by the shadows of the entrance of the bank. One of them, even though hidden in the shadows, you could see something shiny in front of his face. Or better yet, on his face.
"No problem, Commissioner." The other person answered. "We're just happy to be doing our job, is all." James Gordon nodded his head, as he turned his attention to the figure next to the shorter one.
"And I'm glad to see and hear that you're no longer killing them off," he commented the person. "Some of my men are still a bit uncomfortable about you working beside us, but they're starting to get used to you helping us and not killing." The figure nodded his head.
"It's my way on repaying for what I've done all those months ago, and to show that I mean no harm and only wish to help protect the citizens of Gotham." The Commissioner nodded his head.
"Well, if you keep this up, Gotham City will soon forget what you've done in the past and will come to see you as another protector of Gotham." Even in the shadows, James could imagine a smile on both of the vigilantes' faces from his words. With both of them nodding their heads and after watching the cops putting the thieves away, they both pulled out their grappling hooks from their pockets and shot them up at the rooftop of the bank.
"Have a goodnight, Commissioner." The taller-figure told the Detective, and the two vigilantes soon went up and were soon gone once they went over the rooftop. However, in the light of the moon, revealed the First Two Robins of the Dark Knight: Nightwing and Red Hood. After coming back to the Manor in four months, both Nightwing and Red Hood had yet to change their uniforms. However, their appearances had changed.
Underneath the red-helmet, Jason had dyed part of his front hair white and has seems to have increased muscle-mass, which could be seen underneath the sweater-jacket of his dark-brown biker-jacket. On his chest is a red-bat symbol, almost exactly like Batman's bat-symbol on his uniform.
While Nightwing seems to have gotten skinnier and his raven-hair appears to have gotten a bit longer and wavy, that he may need to put it in a ponytail if it gets in the way of his face or get a haircut, but he proves to be a lot stronger than he looks and had some muscle-mass showing through from underneath his bodysuit. His bird on the chest has also changed and is now a red-bird instead of a blue-bird.
Though they both seem to be okay, underneath their uniforms, howerver, are scars that appear so deep, that not even time itself can help them to fully heal: With one with physical scars, the other with emotional scars and both almost received mental scars from what they been through.
Though Jason has gained a few scars from his days as a pickpocket when he lived on the streets and though he has carried battle scars as Robin or Red Hood, his emotional scars were his deepest scars that hurts him the most of all.
Ever since his father had ran out of town and left him out on the streets at the young age of eleven, his father has caused a painful scar to open even deeper from his heart, which has been created when his mother passed on when he was eight years old. The moment Bruce has taken him in, he felt a part of his scar closing and slowly healing, thanks to both Alfred and Bruce's teachings and being there for him. However, it was Dick who had helped heal the most of all. When he had first met the First Robin, who came by to visit and gather whatever belonging he left behind at the Manor, he was very friendly and very kind to Jason when he was eleven. However, whenever Dick and Bruce were to meet eye-to-eye, he would sense a sort of anger or rage issue between the two. Despite the two at times arguing with each other, the older-boy proves to be somebody the eleven year-old can rely on and to be the best big-brother anybody could ever ask for.
So, the moment he watched Dick protect him from the Joker's beating and after the blast has killed off the half-dead Nightwing, it triggered a sort of anger and pain Jason has locked up inside of him when his mother died and when his father left him out on the street, and caused the scar in his heart to re-open, which it caused that scar to increase its size. Jason felt as if his own brother had abandoned him and Bruce, like his father did all those years ago. However, just like his own mother, when she couldn't fight off the sickness any longer, he's was forced to leave them and Jason knew that if Dick had a choice, he would've chose to stay with the Wayne Family, even if he was given the chance to be with his parents. And during those five years of not having his big-brother to guide him or to be there when he needed him, and with Bruce becoming more cold than he was before, while getting him to act like a soldier boy like Dick, Jason became more violent than before, either as himself or Robin, and has nearly killed off all of their victims during missions. He would've killed them, if Batman wasn't there to stop him before he could've done the finishing blow.
His nearest mental scars he almost abtained was when he finally gets to see his brother after all these years, but only to leave him behind before the bomb went off. It has not only scared him from the sight or brought back the memories of the eldest bat's death, but it made him think that he helped the Joker kill off his own brother for the second time. When he and Bruce went back to the cave, the twenty year-old was thinking on giving up his fighting career and kill himself to rejoin his brother in death and he would've done it, too, if Dick hadn't came back to the cave to show the young-adult he has kept his promise.
And during the months that has passed, Jason soon recovered from the guilt and pain he had carried for so long, and was then given the chance to prove everyone of Gotham that he has changed. However, because of experiencing painful memories, his Emotional Scars caused him to have the fear of losing his family, but has also made him become overprotective of his big-brother.
As for Dick, he also carries emotional scars, past scars that has made him to the crime-fighter to this day.
The death of his parents when he used to live at the Haly's Circus, at the young age of eight, had scarred him from that day on while watching the two grabbing for each other in the air and having one of the ropes to snap when they made contact with each other from the platform above the Big Top. And then, after three days since their deaths and attending their funeral, the boy was then taken away from his circus family when he has finished packing whatever belonging he could take with him, and was then placed at the Juvenile Detention Center when James Gordon found out that the Gotham City Orphanage couldn't take in anymore children. Three weeks on living in the 'Min-Arkham' or the 'Junior Asylum', has caused Dick to become withdrawn and to isolate himself from everybody. He would be used as a punching bag from those older than him, would be placed outside, even on rainy days, and gained a terrible case of Pneumonia.
Just when it seems that he may end up dead at the JDC, Bruce Wayne came at the nick of time and got him out of from Hell, itself. With some help and assistance from Alfred, both men were able to help the boy pull through from his Pneumonia. However, it took weeks for his bruises and scars to completely heal and nearly two months for him to finally open up to the two adults. But before that, in the middle of his second week living at Wayne Manor, Dick had found the Batcave in his weak condition and in the second week of his second month, he was then made into Robin after he has taken the man who killed his parents to justice.
But just as many good things, it all had to come to a terrible twist of a sad ending. When Dick was ten years old but was nearing the age of eleven, things went terrible for the boy and the stress from everybody of Gotham comparing him to Bruce or talking about him behind his back, finally got him to snap when he almost got himself killed from a mission with Two-Face. Both he and Bruce ended up in an argument and before the billionaire could stop himself, he beat the poor boy and even went far to tossing him against the wall, without the slightest thought of knowing that the boy is carrying very heavy wounds and that he could further injure or could even... Well, kill the child. He then left the boy in the Batcave, not bothering to check up on him when he left to change out of his suit, and then went back to the house. Once he was left in the cave alone, covered in his own blood and having to add more wounds to himself, Dick knew that he was no longer welcomed to Wayne Manor and decided it was time to fly away. And so, after a couple of struggles attempts to get back on his feet and to change into his civilian clothing, despite getting them stained and covered in his blood, he got on his motorcycle and drove himself out of the cave by setting it on autopilot.
He then stayed with Clark Kent, secretly known as Superman, in Metropolis for a few months until his wounds fully healed and once he gotten his new costume ready and added the new paint onto his cycle, he drove towards the Sister City of Gotham, Blüdhaven. It wasn't easy living there, especially when he was an eleven year-old boy. However, luck seems to be always at his side, for he was able to find an abandon apartment to live in and was even lucky to find some money out on the streets and buy some food. However, because of his age, he had to be careful and make sure the cops don't catch him, or else they would take him to the Blüdhaven Orphanage or to the station and identify him as Bruce Wayne's Ward. Or better yet, his Ex-Ward.
Dick made sure to cut off any contact outside of Blüdhaven and only then did he decided that Blüdhaven can finally know her newest guardian, Nightwing, is now protecting her and her people like Batman is protecting her sister. Though, at first, the police only saw him as a child wearing a costume and tried to get him to come down from the rooftops or away from the crimescenes, until they realized after capturing some of their escapees and sly thieves that they knew he was no kid to mess with or any ordinary kid. It only took the citizens of Gotham and Blüdhaven three months to find out Robin was no longer working with the Dark Knight and come to a conclusion that Nightwing is the Batman's Boy Wonder.
Dick had hoped that his new identity and secret wouldn't come out until February or March, but he was wrong and received a visit from the Dark Knight on a cold December Night. As he predicted, Bruce wasn't too happy to see and hear the preteen working in Blüdhaven, like the rumors of Gotham has said, especially when he found the boy not in his room or in the Batcave where he left him. The Dark Knight even went to threatening Dick to comeback to Gotham by saying he would burn his old Robin costume, which was made by his mother before they fell to their deaths. However, even such a threat as to destroy whatever remains he has from his past life, the boy still refuses and chose to play his ex-mentor's game by giving him a threat of his own: If Bruce were to force him back to Gotham or even as to set a single foot in Blüdhaven by the witness of the preteen's eyes, he would gladly kill himself if that's what it takes to get Bruce to stop searching for him and making him into his 'soldier boy' once more. And to prove his point, the boy held out a Birdarang and placed one of its sharp-edged wings at his right-wrist, even made a small cut appear over the skin when he pulled the glove off of his hand. That was all it took for the Dark Knight to finally leave the boy and his responsibility as Protector of Blüdhaven.
During the three years as being Blüdhaven's Protector, Dick grew strong and was able to cover the Emotional Wounds from everybody, especially Batman and Alfred, whenever he would come by and help out the Dark Knight when he heard trouble back at the Sister City of Blüdhaven. After having to be living on his own, the fourteen year-old has proven himself to be alright on his own and that he could take care of himself without the billionaire or the butler's help. But that didn't mean he was alright on having a new Robin taking his place and wearing his old uniform that has been his costume his mother made for only her 'Little Robin', or be happy when he found out that Bruce actually took in another child and had adopted the eleven year-old when Bruce didn't adopt Dick, who had lived for three years of his life at Wayne Manor.
Instead of taking it out on Jason, he concealed his hurt and anger inside of himself until the first month and a half had passed and that was when he spilled his hatred and anger at the Dark Knight. Him spilling his feelings at the playboy triggered the same rage three years ago and has done what he did to Dick that caused him to leave: He attacked the boy and once again left him in the cave, after he declared that the teenager was no longer welcomed to the Batcave, Wayne Manor, or even Gotham itself. However, that all changed after Jason has called Dick for help when Batman was kidnapped by Poison Ivy and would've been mutated the Dark Knight into a plant-slave if the two boys hadn't intervened and ruined her plan. Before Batman and Robin could thank Nightwing, the young teen was already gone and had heard no words from him since that incident. Feeling the need to hang out and be with his big-brother, Jason was able to convince Bruce to send Dick a letter and ask him to come by and visit, which the billionaire has agreed to since he felt completely guilty of forbidding the teen to comeback to his home and to had beaten him like a punching bag not once, but twice with no self control of his actions at all.
As the years gone by and despite not living in the same house, Jason and Dick eventually formed a strong brother-bond, which caused Dick to become an overprotective big-brother for the teen and Jason on turning into a caring little-brother for the young adult. Alfred's bond with Dick hadn't change in the least, for the young-adult had always been and will always be the butler's first grandson, even if they're not related. However, Bruce could feel his bond with the raven-hair teen getting to the point of breaking and only hanging on by a mere thread. And during the four years on having Jason as Robin, the billionaire has tried countless of times to talk to Dick and have him move back to Wayne Manor whenever he would come by and visit, but it resulted to the same answer.
Though it may seem that Dick has received many Emotional Scars more than Jason, he has in fact earned more Physical Scars than the Second Robin. Even to this day, Dick still carries the many scars of his past wars and fights he had to endure and struggle through. But the worst scars he still carries on, despite the Lazarus Pit bringing him back to life, was the wound Joker has implanted on him in that warehouse five years ago. He could still recall the numbers of wounds the Clown Prince of Crime gave to him, the many beatings the psychotic clown used the crowbar on him... The endless feeling of pain that had coursed throughout his entire after Joker has left him and Jason in the warehouse, and when the bomb engulfed him in its raging fire.
Dick's back, arms and neck, which has been covered by many shirts and his Nightwing-costume throughout the years, still held the horrifying burns he received from protecting his brother and still had the scars from the crowbar digging into his flesh and muscles to break bone and puncture organs. The wounds even held some of the pain whenever somebody touches them, and the medicines themselves couldn't help heal them or take away even part of the remaining pain.
Dick's nearest Mental Scars he received was from Ra's Al Ghul, when he brought the teenager back from the dead with the help of the Lazarus Pit. Even when he was dead, Dick could feel a burning feeling of power coarsing through his body and gravity heavily building up inside of his lungs. Rushing water filled his mouth, nose and ears. But the strange part from that, is his face down to his body felt wrapped up, almost like he was a mummy. The moment he opened his eyes, all he saw was mixture of green and white, along with the mad power taking control of him. The raging power allowed him to break through the water and inhale the much needed air he needed for his lungs. However, instead of calmly coming up for air before he resurfaced, the mad power caused him to scream in pain. Once he has resurfaced, his scream continued on until he purged the water that has entered his lungs and ripped the bandages from his eyes.
Panting for breath and the mixture of rage and power surging through himself, Dick lifted his gaze and stared wide-eyes at Ra's Al Ghul and Talia, who he had seen as a grandfather and a mother-figure when he was ten years old, only on the days they weren't fighting each other and actually wanted to make peace with one another and Bruce. They were completely startled at him staring at them, and the young man could feel the rage and pain building up inside of him. Dick also felt the power, the need to use it and to kill them and their servants with his own bare-hands. He then felt afraid from his discovery, his gaze looking rather scared and yet still held some rage in his Cerulean/Sapphire-eyes. In an act of fear and by animal instinct, Dick turned away and immediately made his way out of the Lazarus Pit. The servants that has helped Ra's with the ritual tried to stop him, but the young man took them all down with a couple of punches in the guts and a few kicks in the legs. With nobody stopping them and knowing very well that Ra's or Talia won't use anything to harm him than they already had used, he climbed and leapt his way up the rocky-walls that leads to the staircase of the Al Ghul Manor. Once he was inside and found himself inside of Ra's study, he made a crazy decision and ran towards the windows, where he took that leap of faith through the glass and fell hundreds of feet down the canyons and the cliffs.
Luckily for him, he fell into the current that dragged him towards the City of Sarajevo. After gaining some strength after passing out, the young man spent six months on getting back to Gotham City, while surviving on stealing and gathering food or clothing on his long journey. After the second month has passed and when he found himself at the Sahara, the effects from the Lazarus Pit finally worn off and with his mind finally cleared, he went towards the nearest village of the Sahara and hidden away in a ship heading towards New York.
For a whole week, after reaching Gotham City for two days after sailing in a ship, the young adult stayed hidden while watching over Batman and Robin, who both grew cold and darker than Dick knew. At the Manor, when they were Bruce Wayne and Jason Todd-Wayne, along with Alfred at their sides, Bruce would isolate himself in his room or leave for work without saying a word to the two and Jason allowed himself to break down with Alfred, repeating the same words 'I killed Dick' and 'He's gone because of me'.
Despite wanting nothing more than to walk through the front door and announce himself back from the dead to his family, he left the heartbroken Bat-Family and silently made his way towards the direction of Gotham's Sister City, for hearing a tragedy has happened to his city a day before he made it back to land from sailing the seas: A radioactive bomb has struck Blüdhaven and the city as a deserted war-zone, with many of her people's corpses littered across her grounds. Getting there by foot, with no grappling hook and having to sneak onto different kinds of cars, took the eighteen year-old six hours. Luckily for him, right when before he left Sarajevo, he gone by his gut and has secretly took a gas-mask from a shop and a brown-hooded cloak, which would be able to protect him from inhaling the radiation that still lingers to the city and to cover his appearance but made sure that his black-suit would make him closely like his Nightwing uniform. Though it was possible that everyone died in the blast, Dick felt he must go back to his city and search for survivals, no matter how obvious it seems that he'll only find corpse of Blüdhaven's citizens.
His second nearest Mental Scar was the moment he finally reached his city, where he could see massive fires still raging in front or onto the buildings and the smoke of radiation circling the city. The sound of fire eating away the buildings was all Dick heard, no sounds of citizens screaming or cries for help. As the young-man searched, the past-scars implanted his heart began to tear and crack at his beating blood-giver whenever he sees or finds a dead citizen. The past-failure of not always rescuing a person in need almost made him crack and to scream in rage, until he heard a couple of sniffling sounds at Blüdhaven's Orphanage. That was where he found the children and teens, scared and injured but alive and awake. That information and the children alone is what kept the young-vigilante from breaking down and quickly lead them towards the direction of his secret headquarter, which was still functioning and useful, even after not having to had been used for six months since his death.
After making a few adjustments to his speedboats and motorcycles to make sure that all vehicles would get the children to safety and then head to the Batcave instead of returning to the secret headquarter, Dick lead the children on the speedboat with him away from the death-trap of their city and towards the nearest hospital of Gotham. After going through the rough waters and after dropping off the children and teenagers, knowing they would be alright, and feeling that he can't go back to his family just yet, he spread his arms out through the winds, which he has implanted the gliders into his suit, and flew towards the direction Sarajevo until he found a boat heading towards the same direction he was going.
Once there, he made his appearance to Ra's Al Ghul at his study one night. There, the villain called for some of his men to help the young adult while explaining to Dick what has happened six months ago and why he was in Sarajevo instead of Gotham or the warehouse with Jason. After some explanations and what they've been doing the past months, Ra's allowed the teenager to stay with him and to even train him until he was ready to head back to Gotham. Instead of just staying for just a couple of months, Dick had stayed for five years until he heard something terrible has come to his old city. Knowing that he must return and save his family, Ra's Al Ghul had one of his private jet to fly him back to Gotham City and gave him some clothes that are similar to his Nightwing uniform, only it doesn't have that much armor than his Nightwing uniform does and looks to only be worn for running and to protect him from the harsh weather.
After the whole Red Hood and Joker incident and having to stay in bed for weeks until his wounds were finally healed, Dick was finally able to make his appearance as Nightwing to Gotham once more... And this time, Nightwing is staying in Gotham, permanently. Which was a great relief to Gotham City, especially to the Bat-Family, on having their First Boy Wonder back from having to been dead for five years and defending them once more.
"Wing! Hood!" A voice from behind called out to the two adults, causing them to turn and see the new Robin and the Dark Knight coming up from scaling behind the bank's wall. Jason, with his face hidden underneath the Red Hood, smirked at how excited the twelve year-old looks, while Nightwing kept his gaze throughout the whole rooftops and building of Gotham as far as he could see and listening very carefully for anymore calls from the police on his communicator. "Did we make it?" Red Hood simply shook his head.
"Sorry, Little Wing, but Nightwing and I just finished putting away a couple of thieves five minutes ago." Hearing that they were too late to help out and fight, Robin lowered his head and his gaze in shame. Batman simply shook his head.
"Tim was too busy observing himself in the mirror and decided to hide behind the Batcomputer to scare Alfred and I, who was only able to get Alfred and waste a bit of time of first time on patrol as Robin." Red Hood simply shook his head again, chuckling from the information.
"Should've known, just like what we did when we first became Robin. Ain't that right, Wing?" No words answered the twenty year-old's question. "Wing, you heard what I said?" Again, nothing answered Red Hood. Batman, Robin and Red Hood turned their gaze at Nightwing, who was still gazing at the city and standing still almost like a statue. "Nightwing?" He then noticed that the First Robin was pressing onto the communicator in his right-ear, which meant he was listening on police radios. He then released the communicator from his fingers, and then turned to the others. He then stared down at the Third Robin, and smiled.
"Are you up to face the Penguin, Robin?" The boy's sad-look quickly turned to excitement all over again, only it was bigger than the one back at the cave.
"You bet!" Robin cried, running over to his big-brother and pulling onto his right-hand. "Let's go!" Red Hood snickered at the sight of their new brother, as Batman simply shook his head at the sight of his third son still acting childish, though chuckled in amusement. He then turned to Nightwing.
"Gotham Museum?" He asked, heading towards the left-side of the bank's rooftop.
"Gotham Zoo. Bullock and his group found out that the Penguin was planning on controlling and stealing all the birds, and have them do his bidding when they noticed the Gotham Zoo gates has been left wide-open after closing time." Nightwing answered, as he was finally able to free his hand from the twelve year-old's grasp. Red Hood patted Robin on the head.
"Looks like you're going to fight your very first super villain, Timmy!" He said in a teasing voice, knowing on how much that name annoys the new Boy Wonder.
"I told you to stop calling me that, Jay!" Even though they were out as their heroes, they were be themselves and it was alright for them to be calling them by their actual names, as long as there was no villains or civilians hearing in on their conversation.
"And that's the reason why we call you that, Timmy, because you're our baby brother!" Red Hood commented, locking the boy in his right-arm and giving him a playful noogie.
"Only until Bruce finds another kid to take in, or when he decides to finally settle down and have kids of his own!"
Batman simply shook his head at the sight of his younger sons playing, and seeing who would get the last words.
'Even though Jason is an adult, he sure doesn't seem grown-up. Which makes me wonder if Tim is actually older than him, or why he's more the mature one than his brother.' He thought to himself. 'Oh well, at least that tells me that Jason hasn't given up on his childhood.' He then turned to Nightwing, who was staring out at the town again. 'I wish Dick still had his innocence of a child like Tim and Jason still have.' Nightwing then spread his arms out, showing the gliders underneath his arms.
"If you two are done playing around, we better get going before we have to fight a massive army of birds by the Penguin." He told his younger-brothers, not bothering to turn or see them pulling away from each other and getting out their grappling hooks.
"We're ready, big bro!" Robin cried, smiling with excitement and shooting the grappling hook at the building far and across the street. He then turned to Batman, then to Red Hood and finally Nightwing. "This is the best day of my life!" He then launched himself off the ledge and swept away in the air. Red Hood shot his at the same building, shaking his head.
"Just like how it was the best day of our lives, huh, Dick?" He asked Nightwing, who simply nodded. "And he's right... This is the best day of my life." He then launched himself off the bank's rooftop, and soared towards the same direction his little-brother went to. Dick remained in his spot, the wind blowing against him and his gliders, which are waiting patiently to be used to fly in the air.
The sound of heavy footsteps caught his hearing, signaling that the Dark Knight was coming his way and could be preparing himself to follow his younger-sons. Instead of hearing or watching a grappling hook to launch onto the building from across, he felt a hand being placed on his right-shoulder.
"You okay?" Batman asked Nightwing, who seems to appear had spaced out.
"I'm fine..." The twenty-three year-old answered, not bothering to turn and stare at the Dark Knight.
"You sure? You've been awfully quiet, and seemed to be missing out on some family time lately. Alfred's worried about you, since you haven't been eating for a few days. Tim had seen you going on patrol by yourself and Jason noticed the lack of sleep you're getting." With his left still on Nightwing's shoulder, Batman used his right-hand to place it on the twenty-three year-old's left-cheek and slowly turned his Cerulean/Sapphire-eyes to stare into his own Navy-Blue eyes. "Dick, we're all worried about you. Hell, even I'm worried about your health and you being quiet most of the time."
Nightwing simply lowered his gaze and let loose a tiring sigh, as if he was tired but isn't actually tired at the moment.
"I don't want to fail them," he replied. "It's my fault that Blüdhaven has been destroyed, and almost all of those people had died from the bomb." He then turned his face back to the city, as he gently pulled Batman's hand off of his face. "Ever since that night I came back and found my city a complete death-trap, I knew it was all my fault. I should've been there for them, but I wasn't and they had to pay their lives for my mistake." The hand on his shoulder tightened its hold on him, but he didn't bother to stop or brush it off of him. "Now that I'm back in Gotham and whenever I stare at her buildings and people, I knew that I can't let her fall, like I did with let her sister city."
Before Nightwing knew it, he was pulled towards the Dark Knight and enveloped into a hug. The hand he removed from his face has went over his chest and latched onto his left-shoulder to keep him in the hold of the Dark Knight. Nightwing's arms simply hung low, with the gliders still attached underneath his arms, but he did lean against Batman's chest, where he could hear his heart beating against the kevlar.
"It wasn't your fault, Dick." Batman told the young-man, placing his right-hand on Nightwing's head and stroking the raven-black hair. "You didn't fail them, and their death wasn't your fault... You died protecting Jason, because Joker intended on killing you both and making me almost lose everything and those who I love more than life itself." The Dark Knight planted a light kiss on Nightwing's forehead, and tightened his hold on the young man. "If there's anyone to blame for what happened to Blüdhaven, it's the Joker, for taking you away from this world."
Nightwing held a sad smile on his face.
"But I'm still here, thanks to Ra's and the Lazarus Pit... Though I wished he would've brought me back that didn't involve the Pit."
Even though Batman hasn't been killed or brought back to life by the Lazarus Pit, he could tell how much it hurts his son and what he has to experience from being revived by the cursed Pit.
"I know, Dick. I do, too."
It was pretty obvious to the Bat-Family that Bruce and Dick's bond has been repaired, and became much stronger when they announced that Dick is going to live in Wayne Manor with them once more. But that wasn't the only greatest news the Bat-Family has heard, for something else has made the two grow much closer than before: When Dick was at the age of seventeen, Bruce has finally had the courage to get the adoption paper and had secretly adopted the young adult. It was meant to be a surprise and he was about to tell Dick after they would finish their encounter with the Joker when he was eighteen, but fate had to take him away before Bruce could get the chance to tell Dick of the adoption paper. The billionaire was going to throw the papers away after the funeral had been held, but something inside of him prevented him from throwing the paper away and had kept the adoption paper at his desk for five years. He was actually going to throw the paper away once he and Jason were done taking care of Red Hood, but his mind changed when he dug up Dick's grave and went to go see Ra's Al Ghul in Sarajevo.
So, after to be dead for five years finally went to the thing of the past and with Dick once again living in Gotham and Wayne Manor once more, Bruce finally gathered the courage to take Dick to his study and present the adoption paper. It was a complete shock for the young man, but it definitely made them both happy and have their bond restore. Even when Bruce brought home Tim and added him into the Bat-Family, it didn't bother either Jason or Dick on having a new little-brother or a new Robin to join the crime fighting.
Nightwing pulled back from Batman, though the Dark Knight didn't release the younger man from his hold.
"Thanks, Bruce." He said, placing his hand on top of Bruce's arms. "I really needed that." The Dark Knight nodded his head, with a smile placed on his face.
"Glad to be of help," he said. "And don't forget: We're always there for you, even if you don't see or feel us." He then placed his right-hand over Nightwing's chest, covering most of the red-bird decorated on the black-bodysuit, where the twenty-three year-old's heart beat in a perfect rhythm of life. "Something you told Jason, who told me what you told him before you died." Nightwing smirked at his words and then placed his own right on top of Batman's hand on his chest.
"It's something that my parents would tell me, back when I used to live at the Haly's Circus, whenever I get nightmares." He explained. "It's their way on reassuring me that I'll never be truly alone."
"And they were right, because you'll always have a home and a family: The Haly's Circus, and us." Nightwing nodded his head, as he released Batman's hand from his hold.
"We better get going, before those two get themselves in a big mess with Penguin and the birds at the Zoo." He insisted, spreading his arms out to straighten the gliders and prepare them to help him fly. The Dark Knight simply nodded his head and then spread his cape out, who is also preparing himself to fly. Nightwing stared simply confused at his actions. "You don't have any gliders, Boss."
"No, but I can still glide in the air. Besides, I have my grappling hook if my arms get tired... And I also have my eldest Robin to help me stay in the air." Nightwing smiled at his words.
"You know it," he said. With no more words to exchange to each other and ready to face danger once again, both father and son launched themselves off the rooftop and soared after Red Hood and Robin, side by side. Though they may not know how their missions will turn out or if they would survive the toughest challenge to see another day, all they know is that they'll always be with their family: Either by memories in their minds, or the love in their hearts. 'Tim and Jason are right: This is the best day of my life... No doubt this is also the best day of Bruce's life... Truth be told, this is the best day any of our lives, and no matter what the future has in stores for us, we'll be ready for it, together. As long we have each other, we'll be there to answer those cries for help: Riding the Wings of the Night.'
Well, there you have it! Though I believe its not what you were all expecting, but oh well. Hope you all enjoyed it!