This is a small idea for a story that has been on my mind ever since I read Batman Inc. #8.
For now, it's just a one-shot unless inspiration demands me to write more. I hope you like it!
Spoilers for Batman Inc. #8.
Disclaimer: I do not own Batman or any of it's characters.
Two days ago, 05:09 am. Phone call from Red Hood to Red Robin.
"Damnit, Drake! I need you to come! I can't handle this by myself... I... I need your help."
"Jason, what is going on? Are you alright? Are you injured?"
"No... it's not me."
"Should I call Bruce...?"
"No! Not yet. He's not ready. He's not ready to see him."
"Just come with me, Tim. Please..."
Red Robin picked up his bags as soon as the strange ship landed. The Red Hood opened the door and waited until his little 'brother' came on before lifting off again into the sky without saying a word.
Tim sat next to Jason and waited. He was patient but his predecessor's request was beyond odd. He had literally forced Tim to drop everything, including his mission, and leave his team for an unknown amount of time without explaining why.
It was only because of the desperation he heard in his older brother's voice over the phone that had made him accept the invitation/voluntary kidnapping.
Still, even Tim Drake had his limits.
"Are you going to give me the silent treatment for the whole trip?" Red Robin asked, staring at Jason with a hint of exasperation. "C'mon, Hood! I did what you asked. I came with you and I didn't even give my team a proper explanation because, hell, I don't have one. Just tell me what is going on."
Jason sighed under his red helmet and put the ship on autopilot. Tim was expecting a sassy or angry answer, but the Red Hood remained silent.
He took off his red helmet and rubbed his forehead. Tim had never seen Jason so tired before. So lost.
"Jay?" the younger boy asked, his voicing shaking with worry. "What's wrong?"
Jason stared back at the replacement that had become his little brother over time. He knew he should look like shit, but being unable to sleep for weeks usually did that to a guy.
He thought he could handle it by himself, that it couldn't be so difficult. He was wrong.
Tim was still looking at him with worry written all over him. It almost made the second Robin smile.
"Did you hear about the fight between Batman and Nightwing against the League of Shadows?"
"Yes. Not from Bruce or Dick, since they were... distraught about the whole thing. Barbara told me and I looked up for more details on my own. Apparently, Talia was smuggling something and they went there separately to stop whatever she was doing now" Tim almost spat the last phrase with disgust. "Dick hasn't been talking to Bruce... or any of us for that matter, and Batman, after what happened to... Damian, he's never been the same. He's heartbroken. They both are. They weren't happy to work together."
Jason nodded but said nothing. It was still hard to talk about Damian's death, even after a year the shock, the remorse and sorrow wouldn't go away.
"Anyway, they fought against Talia's thugs" Tim went on. "They were smuggling scientific equipment and... cloning devices, that's when a kid showed up. Barbara said he looked just like Damian, but that he didn't seem very... sane. He tried to convince Batman and Nightwing that he had come back and they... they didn't react very well."
Jason lowered his head and touched his hair, that's when Tim finally noticed the white streak on his bangs. Jason had forgotten to dye it black like he used to, Tim would have to ask him why later.
"Of course they didn't believe he was Damian" Tim said. "Talia had cloned him once and she was obviously going to do it again. It must have been so painful for Bruce and Dick."
The Red Hood nodded and looked at Tim in the eyes. "Do you know what happened to the kid?"
"He flipped out when they refused to believe him. He threw himself to the ocean and drowned."
"He didn't drown" Jason muttered.
"I'm telling you he didn't drown. Don't ask me how but he managed to survive. We found him by accident two months ago at a secret laboratory owned by the Shadows. A cloning facility" Jason looked at the bright blue sky outside the window. "He murdered every single scientist and clone. We found him in the cloning tanks, destroying the remaining fetus and embryos."
Tim gaped and moved uncomfortably on his chair. "God! How...? Why are sure it's the same kid?"
"Because he's not a clone."
"When he saw us, he tried to kill us. First, I thought he was another clone who had gone mad, but then I saw it... he had a white streak of hair" Jason touched his own white bangs. "Just like mine."
"But...?" Tim stammered, his blue eyes wide with disbelief. "That's not possible. Talia wouldn't... he can't..."
"He remembered me. He called me 'Todd'" Jason continued, forcing his shocked brother to face him. "He remembered dying and he asked for Bruce and Dick... He said that they shunned him because they didn't believe him. He burst into tears while he told us that they thought he was an imposter like the clones he had just killed."
"Memories can be implanted, that still doesn't prove it's really him"
"I know, that's why I knocked him out and took him to our headquarters" the older young man said. "Kori still has her Tamarean technology, so we checked his blood. Fuck... there was enough Lazarus on his bloodstream to bring back two grown men. Not even I had that! And before you ask, yes. I compared the Lazarus on his blood with the one still lingering on mine. They're a match."
Tim stared wide-eyed at his brother. It couldn't be... Talia wouldn't bring back Damian from the dead, would she?
"It's him, Tim. I'm positive."
Red Robin let out a breath he didn't even know he was holding. This was huge! Damian was alive!
"So what are you waiting for? Call Bruce. Call Dick. They need to know!"
"What do you mean 'not yet'? They have to know he's alive! He's back!"
"Because he's not the same Damian who died!" Jason yelled, shutting Tim up.
"He's not the same kid, Tim. He changed... The Pit... how can I explain you? The pit works like a poison. It increases your fear, rage, hatred, despair into unbearable levels. You become a shell of your self, like animatistic shadow of what you used to be" Jason explain, pain written all over his face. "It takes a lot of time to wear off and even when it does..." Jason looked at the Red Hood helmet. "There's a part of you that never comes back from the grave."
Tim stood up and grabbed his brother's arm. "Maybe it will never be the same, but he's here now, just like you are. You managed to recover and he will too. I'm sure of it. So what if he's acting like a psychopath. He was like that when we met!"
Jason shook his head. "That's not all that happened to him."
"He didn't just lose his sanity, Tim. I don't know if they gave him something else after he was resurrected or if it was because he swam on those cloning thanks. The point is... over the last two months he's been... aging."
"Aging? What do you mean?"
"As in aging faster than normal. It was barely noticeable at first, but then I realized that his clothes didn't fit and that he was getting way too tall."
Tim couldn't help but gulp. "How bad... I mean, how old is he?"
"We managed to stop the aging process, but we can't reverse what has been done to his body. The computer says he's biologically sixteen."
"Sixteen? Damian's sixteen?" Tim cried out. Holy shit, he was just three years younger than he was.
"Yes and it's freaking him out" Jason sighed. "He doesn't recognize himself in the mirrors, so he breaks them all. He can't hear his own voice either without going insane or catatonic, so he barely speaks anymore" the Red Hood buried his face in his hands. "I don't know what else to do help him. He wants to go home so badly that it hurts. He calls for Bruce and Dick every day and it kills me. They didn't recognize him before so how are they going to react to him now? He doesn't even recognize himself. That's why I need your help, Tim. I need help to make him get better, or at least well enough to face them without having another nervous breakdown. He improved a lot, but that's not enough."
Slowly, Tim placed a hand on his brother's shoulder. True, he and Damian had hated each other, just like Jason had hated Tim when he learned he had been replaced. But no matter what, Robins stayed together, even in insanity.
"We'll help him, Jason" Tim muttered. "Damian is gonna be alright, it's still him in there. We just just need to help him find his obnoxious self. Just like you did."
Jason didn't know if Tim had just called him obnoxious, but he smiled anyway.
"Thanks, little brother."
Still, they both knew they weren't the ones who were meant to do this. It should be Bruce and Dick, but for now, the second and third Robin would have to do.
If Damian came back to life and became his own hero, what would his superhero name be?
Thanks for reading.
Rest in peace, little Robin.