Author's note: This scene is particularly graphic, just be warned. A lot of the dialogue is borrowed or adapted from the film "Batman: Under the Red Hood", but since it's Dick and not Jason going through hell there will be variation. Updates will probably be sporadic, I'm sorry to say, but please bear with me if you like my writing :)

Chapter 1: The Punchline

They had been here for hours, the air ringing with maniacal laughter. Robin's wrists were rubbed raw from the Joker's rope. His chest burned as he struggled for air while the Joker stood over him, stroking a bloodied crowbar. Robin's breaths rattled in his throat until he coughed up a mouthful of blood all over the grimy floor of the shed.

"So quiet," the Joker said, crouching beside Robin's shuddering form. "What's the matter, Bird Boy? Bat got your tongue?" Robin glared at him, unimpressed. "Hm, tough crowd." The Joker made a mock frown, which somehow managed to look less disturbing than his usual grin. "I need some new material." He smacked the crowbar into his palm twice before he got up, chuckling softly. "Or maybe just an old favourite."

"I'd rather you just kill me," Robin said quietly, spitting more blood out of his mouth, "than subject me to more of your comedy." It was a wonder he could speak at all, let alone form coherent sentences.

"But where's the fun in that?" The Joker began to slowly rotate the crowbar in his hands. It made Robin nauseous just looking at it. The last thing he needed right now was to start retching and put even more strain on the body that was already beginning to fail him. He had to pull himself together, hang on and grasp the remaining shreds of hope in his trembling fingers. Surely Batman couldn't be that far away. Robin certainly wasn't going to get out of this himself, not with his ribs broken and his spine searing and blood welling up from deep inside, slowly drowning him.

"Maybe some more physical comedy will get this show rolling along." The Joker pressed the edge of the crowbar against Robin's cheek. "You haven't sung for me yet, Birdie." He dug the crowbar into Robin's shoulder and rolled him over onto his back. Robin cursed under his breath as his spine creaked and scraped against itself. "Ooh, didn't like that, did you? Tell me what hurts more: forehand…" Crack. "…or backhand?" Crack.

That last strike whipped every last ounce of air out of Robin's body. He gasped to get it back, but started to choke and had to cough it back up, trying to roll onto his side to give the blood somewhere to go. Even with the blockage cleared, it was still almost impossible to breathe. His body screamed for air that he just couldn't take in.

"Was that too hard?" the Joker asked, putting on a particularly creepy approximation of a nurse at the bedside of a dying patient. "How are we feeling?" Robin tried to gasp out a reply, but the words died and crashed on the floor about an inch away from his lips. The Joker knelt down. "What? Speak up, lamb chop. You might have a collapsed lung. Always impedes the oratory."

"I'll…" Robin cleared his throat, "…feel better when…" The words were taking so much out of him, using up air he didn't have, and he had to take a break.

"When what?" the Joker prompted.

"When Batman kicks your—"

"Oh, I don't plan on sticking around, kid." The Joker used the crowbar like a walking stick to help him stand. "By the time the Bat gets here, you and I will be long gone."

Robin had to take a moment to gather his strength to speak again. "Where?"

"Ah, the young are always so impatient." The Joker tutted, waggling his finger. "Somebody needs to be taught a lesson." Robin braced for the impact, but couldn't stop himself from letting a cry when the crowbar dug into his kidneys. "Oh, you're going to sing now?" Another strike left Robin completely breathless and gasping. "It's about time. I was starting to worry I wouldn't get to hear your lovely birdsong one last time." He said something else, but Robin's own cries drowned him out as the beatings increased.

Please let it stop, he begged. At this point, he didn't care how it ended—be it Batman coming to save the day or his own death—as long as it juststopped. His vision blurred, but in his current state he couldn't tell if it was from tears or the Joker's beatings knocking something loose in his brain. The sob escaping his throat cleared up his confusion a little.

The Joker's cackle cleared the cobwebs in his head. "Sorry, kid. I got a little… excited." He patted Robin's cheek. "There, there. It's nearly over." He let out a small giggle. "Don't you worry about the Bat, now. I'll explain everything to him, in excruciating detail. Everything we said, every little sound you made, every drop of blood you were rude enough to spill on this lovely floor."

"Fuck you," Robin breathed.

"All this time I have been planning and scheming, thinking of ways to finally defeat the Bat." The Joker tossed his crowbar aside and walked out of Robin's field of vision. "Nothing was good enough, was it? Not my Joker toxin, not even that nuke I borrowed—"

"Stole," Robin corrected.

"I was going to give it back," the Joker said, sounding scandalised. "Well, sort of." He let out another one of his cackles. "I suppose that doesn't matter now, does it? I finally found the perfect punchline: you. And the best part, the most genius part, is that it's not just the Bat I can break. Sure, that's my main gig, but how do you think your little team will fare without you?"

"You're pretty... confident for a… for a dead man." The sentence took all of Robin's strength to choke out. "They'll come for you. All of them." His vision was starting to waver. It was unlikely he would remain conscious for much longer.

"Oh, we both know the Bat won't let that happen." The Joker walked back into Robin's line of sight. "He'll come after me alone. And then the fun will begin." He picked up his crowbar. "Well, kid, I'm off." He started for the door. "Be a good boy, do your homework and be in bed by nine." Then he was gone.

The instant the door crashed shut, Robin sprang into action, rolling onto his side and climbing over his bound hands so they were in front of him. He scrambled onto all-fours, dismissing the idea of standing up in case the change in altitude made him pass out, and crawled for the door. He had to get out of here. He tried the handle, but the door was locked from the outside, most likely with a padlock. The Joker had taken his utility belt, shoes and gloves so he didn't have anything to pry the door open.

Robin sat against the door, too out of breath to even let out the sigh of frustration that pressed against his throat. Was there another way out? There were some high windows, but even if he had the strength to reach them, they were too small for him to fit through.

A soft beep caught his attention. On the opposite end of the room, where he had avoided looking because he just knew he would have left a trail of blood behind him, a table sat stacked with explosives. The little red numbers on the timer had twenty seconds left. Robin bashed his shoulder against the door a few times and tried the handle again, but all he managed to do was conjure some black spots in his vision and send a new wave of agony throughout his entire body.

There were now ten seconds left. Robin's mind whirled, thoughts flying through his head at a million miles an hour. He was finished. The Joker had won. Batman would arrive too late and be left with the task of carrying Robin's broken body out of the smoking rubble. Bruce had always teetered on the edge of the abyss and it hurt Dick's heart to think he might be the final push needed to send him over.

Dick regretted never fighting Bruce over keeping his identity hidden from the team. They would be devastated by this. Kaldur, Conner, Raquel and Artemis would put up a strong front like always, of course. M'gann would cry openly and Zatanna would retreat into herself like she had after her father became Doctor Fate. Wally, the only member of the team who knew his identity… the thought of that stupid smile disappearing from his face…

Three seconds left. Robin closed his eyes, resigned, and counted.