A Not So Urban Legend
Summary: Fill for hc_bingo, prompt "Combat". Spoilers for TDKR, especially the ending even though a certain part of this deviates from that ending. A creature in the sewers leaves John in less than perfect shape.
Author's Note: …I picture Nolanverse!Nightwing's costume as having a hood. That is all.
Disclaimer: I don't own The Dark Knight Trilogy. It belongs to Warner Brothers and Christopher Nolan.
"Yeah, I know."
"At the risk of sounding unsympathetic, suck it up."
"You've never broken a rib before?"
"Well, yeah, but just because it's happened before doesn't make it hurt any less now!"
Sometimes John wondered if Bruce's time as a crime-fighter and the years of training that had led up to it had warped his ability to feel pain. He hid his own injuries easily enough, but John had seen the older man shirtless before and knew just how nasty the bruises and the cuts and the scars looked. That much pain accumulated over so many years had to build some kind of tolerance to it.
John, on the other hand, was not as hardened. Had he gotten into fights as a kid? Hell yes. Black-eyes, bumps and bruises galore. Had he gotten roughed up when he was part of the Gotham PD? Of course- he'd even been narrowly grazed by a bullet once. But in the time that he had become Bruce's apprentice, the bird to his bat, he had easily sustained more injuries than all of his childhood and police-related incidents combined.
And while Bruce had a number of excellent skills, healing seemed to escape him.
"You're wrapping it too tight! I won't be able to breathe!"
Bruce frowned, paused, and then huffed a little sigh and began to unwind the bandages. John sighed in relief, but then grimaced when the exhale disturbed his damaged ribs. "Alfred wasn't kidding."
"Alfred wasn't kidding about what?"
"You being a crap doctor? Because I can believe that."
Bruce gave him a flat look as he motioned for the younger man to turn on the bed. They had temporarily ignored the stitches needed for the gash on his shoulder blade in favor of the ribs, as John had complained the most about them. "Tell me about our lizard problem."
"It wasn't a lizard." John muttered, trying hard not to slouch. "It was an alligator. Crocodile. Big, scaly thing with sharp teeth and freaky-ass eyes." He jumped and hissed through his teeth as Bruce dabbed disinfectant onto the cut, and very nearly let off a few words that would have earned him a dozen different kinds of punishments back at St. Swithin's.
"'Freaky-ass eyes'. Very helpful."
"You've got a computer, Google 'crocodile eyes' and see what you get." John was quiet for a few minutes after that, not trusting himself to talk as Bruce began to stitch him up.
A string of violent maulings down by the docks had led Bruce and John to the sewers: The same ones that hundreds of John's fellow officers had been trapped in months beforehand. Suspecting that perhaps one of Bane's less than savory associates had stuck around following his death, John had descended into the sewers to investigate. Bruce had stayed in the cave, tracking John and telling him where to go.
John had stumbled upon the creature's lair, a nest of bones and grime and God knows what else, and had been poking around when the subject of his search appeared. The beast had been formidable in size, towering over him at about nine feet and however many inches of muscle and scarred, leathery skin and scales. The pointed teeth and razor-sharp claws had aided in creating a full picture of viciousness and terror.
Unfortunately, John did not have years of League of Shadows training, and had been a cop during a year of relative peace in Gotham. He didn't have the lightning-fast reflexes that Bruce had, and didn't have years upon years of just general worldly experience that might have allowed him to react a little more quickly to a giant crocodile-monster in the sewers (He was reasonably certain Bruce wouldn't even have flinched. The man had seen things).
To make a long story short, the crocodile-thing had managed to get in a few pretty good shots at John before he finally decided that he wasn't equipped to handle the situation and fled. The claws had been sharp enough to rip open the otherwise durable material of his black and blue suit, even ripping the hood off; that was where the scratches and gashes had come from. And of course, the thing had been big enough to knock him around quite a bit, which had led to the broken ribs and a very painful bang to the elbow that left his arm numb and tingly for a while.
More alarming than anything else, though, was the sound of Bruce panicking over the earpiece. He didn't freak out like a typical person would, but his tone was so sharp and deep and his voice was so loud, booming into John's ear that there was no mistaking that Bruce was panicked about John's wellbeing. It was somewhat frightening to hear such an otherwise composed man lose his cool- especially when that man was Batman.
Shocking how quickly he becomes human once the mask comes off and you get to know him. John mused.
"How bad did you make it look?"
"Better than it would look if I made you do it yourself." Bruce said mildly, and John took the hint. When he felt the older man's hands leave his back, John hesitantly gave his arm a little flex to see how bad the pain was. "Ah- don't do that. At least not for another day or two."
"I bet Alfred told you the same thing, and I'll bet you were out on patrol the same night." He sensed rather than saw Bruce roll his eyes.
"Alfred couldn't have physically restrained me from leaving. I can definitely restrain you." John chuckled, but knew better than to challenge that- at least until his ribs and back were healed.
"So what are we going to do about big, green and ugly?"
Bruce's thin smile faded, and was replaced by that expression of deep, brooding thought that John had become accustomed to over the months. He walked over to the chair in front of the computer and sat down, leaning back and thinking for a moment. He brought one hand up to his chin, and the action pulled up the sleeve of Bruce's dark t-shirt, revealing an old, jagged scar.
John laid back on the cot, waited until his ribs and back could adjust, and then asked, "Where did that come from?"
Bruce looked up, blinking in surprise. Whenever he went into one of his inner-musing sessions he usually went pretty deep; snapping him out of it was often like waking him up from a nap. "What?"
"On your bicep, the scar. Where did that come from?"
Bruce turned his arm so he could see it more clearly, though for a moment, and then nodded. "Ah, right: The Rottweiler."
John snorted before he could stop himself, and was repaid by a shot of pain in his ribs. "Batman got his ass kicked by a dog?"
"Batman got his arm bitten by a big, vicious Rottweiler that was trained by a slimy drug-dealer to kill people on command." Bruce said with an edge to his voice. "Let's find a dog-fighting ring for you to break up next week and see how you measure up."
"Challenge accepted." John grinned.
"Fantastic." Bruce drawled. "But first we'll need to take care of our crocodile friend." His eyes narrowed. "And now I'm curious to figure out exactly how something like this came to live in the sewers. Or how it came to be at all."
"Maybe there's something to that urban legend about flushing baby alligators down the toilet after all."
"Wouldn't be the strangest thing I've ever seen." He just managed to hear Bruce mutter before he turned to the computer and began clacking away.
"It can't have been there too long," John suggested, feeling the urge to shift and trying to resist. "Bane and his men would have run into it down in the sewers."
"Unless they put it there." Bruce responded without looking at him.
"Possibly. Bane had associates from all over. I don't presume to know what they encountered on their travels."
"Or maybe he is one of Bane's associates. If we're looking at some kind of mutation-thing- I mean, it was walking on two legs and kind of looked human-like in shape- maybe this guy got hit with something and stayed in the sewers because he knew them. Assuming he's from out of town."
"If he's as horrific as you said he is, not knowing his way around Gotham probably isn't the only reason he sticks to the sewers." Bruce's fingers stopped moving abruptly, and he turned to face John again. "Did you hear anything about people getting killed this way during the occupation?"
"No." John toyed with a remark along the lines of gladly shattering each of his ribs for the chance to see the crocodile-creature have a go at Jonathan Crane, but found the subject of Bane's occupation of Gotham still a bit too tender for his liking.
"Hm." Bruce went back to tapping at the keyboard, and John fell silent as he watched. Aside from the ribs and back, most everything else just ached on a scale between one and ten. The fight- John wasn't even one-hundred percent certain if it qualified as a fight, as he hadn't thrown that many punches of his own- hadn't lasted very long, just long enough to let him know he wouldn't be winning it. He expected to wake up with an array of colorful bruises later on.
Something occurred to him then. "You're not planning on going after that thing, are you?"
"It nearly made mincemeat of me. Just doesn't seem like a good idea for you to go alone."
Bruce's eyes flickered away from the screen for a moment, though his fingers didn't stop moving. "No offense, John, but you and I are in different weight classes. If I can take down a group of assassins, I can take down a lizard-monster."
"And get carved up in the process."
"It wouldn't be the worst that's ever happened to me."
John wondered if he should ask, because he had found that some of the leads Bruce left him with were just not meant to be followed. Curiosity got the better of him, though. "What is the worst that's happened to you?"
There was a pause, Bruce's fingers hovering over the keyboard hesitantly. His eyes, however, remained fixated on the screen. John couldn't tell if he was surprised or bothered at the request, or if maybe he was just thinking.
A moment or two passed, and finally John looked away, giving up on getting an answer. That was, of course, when Bruce chose to speak. "Worst I ever had was Bane snapping me in half like a twig and then leaving me to recuperate in hell on earth." He remarked, and his voice was a mixture of mild and dark. When he started to type again, it was at a slow, cool pace.
John sensed that they had gone into 'Don't Ask' territory, and silently kicked himself. Bruce had not really disclosed what had happened during his fight with Bane, other than that he had gotten the crap beaten out of him and dragged off to a prison somewhere in Asia (Or maybe it was Africa, John couldn't remember and did not want to ask) during the occupation. He hadn't realized that his injuries had been so severe.
"Sorry I brought it up."
"It's fine. I'm alive, aren't I?" A little darker that time. Not for the first time, John had no desire to know exactly what was bouncing around in Bruce Wayne's head at that moment. After another minute or two, the dark knight rose from the chair and shut the computer down. "I'm going to go see Mr. Fox. Knowing him, he has the prototype for a freeze-ray somewhere in R&D and, if I recall correctly, both alligators and crocodiles are cold-blooded."
"Awesome. I'll just lie here, then."
"Unless you want to hurt your ribs further or rip your stitches open, I recommend you do just that." Bruce's tone was flat at best. Yeah, no, John was in the doghouse.
The younger man settled back on the bed and sighed as Bruce ascended to the manor.
"Definitely too soon."