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Ghost of Gotham City

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Robin groaned as Batman’s voice growled through his mind. Report. Right. Just like they’d practiced. Assess your injuries, hide nothing. Doesn’t help to be a tough guy on the field. This isn’t the streets anymore. 


Jason really didn’t want to focus on all the different kinds of pain he was in, but he was Robin now. Dick--the perfect child, the original Robin, Bruce’s favorite--was off in Bludhaven doing his own thing and Jason was Robin. Dick didn’t think Jason could do it. He wasn’t the golden boy, he wasn’t a circus freak or special in any way. He was just a kid off the streets and Dick didn’t think he would last a fortnight. That’s what he’d told Bruce, anyway. 


“He’s a baby, Bruce! Put him out there and he’ll get himself killed in two weeks!”


Well joke’s on Dick, today was the fifteenth day he was out on the field. Technically longer as he was only counting the days he’d gone out as Robin. Take that, Dickface. 


Robin. Report. 


Right. There was that growly echoey voice in his mind again. He needed to report. 


Well he could taste blood in his mouth so a busted lip was one. That was easy enough. There was something warm and sticky running down his right arm so definitely something there. Either a knife wound or he’d grazed a bullet. Somewhere in the back of his mind whispered it was probably the bullet. He could vaguely remember a lot of gunfire anyway so that sounded right. His chest hurt with every breath he took so ribs were broken. Felt like two of them. Wrists and ankles were also both stinging with what felt like the slow ache of constant rubbing against tight ropes. Rope burns, right, why had he blanked on the name? 


He winced as pain shot from his forehead through the tip of the back of his neck.


Oh yeah. That’s why. Definitely had a concussion. Speaking of the concussion, he couldn’t shake the feeling he was forgetting something else. Something big. And very important. 


A boot flew into his side before he could further contemplate the holes in his memory.


Right. That’s what he forgot. This wasn’t time to report, the injury count was still going up. Make that three broken ribs.


He gasped for air as he struggled to pull himself up and find a way out of the ropes that still bound him. It shouldn’t have been this hard, Bruce had taught him how to slip ropes, this should have been easy. But he could have sworn the ropes they used in practice had been looser. 


The ground shook and jolted his concussion as the thug who kicked him stalked forward. 


“No stupid jokes to make now, eh little bird?” 


Now? Jason must have been making stupid jokes when this--whatever this was--started. But he couldn’t actually remember how he got here so he was just going to have to assume it involved stupid jokes. Which was not that big a stretch. Dick said it was an essential part of being Robin anyway and there was no way he was just going to sit back and let Dick be better than him without a fight. 


But the jerk standing over him was laughing as he pulled his foot back for another kick. This really wasn’t good. Everything seemed to slow down as the blow came closer and closer. Jason was almost annoyed at it by the time it landed. Almost. He didn’t have much chance for annoyance as he felt something else crack and curled up as tight as he could to protect himself.


He could barely breathe. He’d had the wind knocked out of him too many times to count or remember by this point and it got harder to recover every time. Somewhere above him the thug was still jeering at him but he wasn’t alone this time. The fog in the back of Jason’s mind cleared enough to hear other voices join in the laughter. 


Other voices.  


There were more of them. 


Even if Jason did manage to slip the ropes and get his feet under him, he’d never be able to take out that many guys. The only way he could think for this to get any worse was if the building were on fire or rigged to blow. Not that that silver lining did anything to help his situation…


“Where’s the big bad bat now, brat? Coming to save you?”


The laughter in the background didn’t stop as the man continued. 


“He doesn’t care about you. He left you for us.”


Jason could only just barely make out the thug’s grin through the haze he currently called sight, but it was enough. Jason already knew Bruce wasn’t coming. He’d just have to hope he could hold onto life long enough for these idiots to get bored and toss him in a dumpster. He’d have to make his way out from there, Bruce wasn’t coming, but he’d manage. Just like he always did. Or he’d die. One way or another.


Someone shouted something Jason couldn’t quite make out and the whole group of them roared with laughter as Jason winced. Would it be too much to ask them to keep it down? Probably. They’d only make it louder and right now, the snarky remark wasn’t worth the pain. 


Until it went quiet... 


Totally dead silent. 


And dark. 


When had the lights turned off? He must have closed his eyes and missed it, but it felt nice. Cool and dark, the ground soft beneath him… Nearly comfortable. He could close his eyes and no one would even notice. It’d be nice. 


“Where is he?!” 


Someone was shout-whispering and it didn’t sound like they knew what the whispering part meant. 


“Are we sure it’s him?” 


The second voice, thank goodness, actually knew how to whisper. He could almost fall asleep as long as the first voice didn’t--


“Just who else do you think it is?!”


Jason nearly swore before he was cut off by gunfire and screaming. 


His screaming, he realized in horror. High pitched and pained. Pitiful. Humiliating. Good thing his idiot brother wasn’t here to see this.


He tried to shut himself up but the room was filled with even more cries of pain. Which, he was delighted to realize after a moment, was not coming from him this time. He could hear bodies hitting the floor and the room began to reek of iron and blood, but something in the back of his mind whispered this wasn’t right. There weren’t any sounds of fists being thrown and Batman didn’t use enough force to make the room smell this foul. But if it wasn’t Batman then who…? 




Jason had to bite down hard to keep from crying out as Batman’s voice boomed through the dark room and the floor began to shake with the pounding of feet all fighting for the door.


But this still... wasn’t right. Something was off. And his brain was being painfully difficult which made it almost impossible to figure it out. But something was definitely off.


Batman never told criminals to run. 


Of course.  


He told victims to run sometimes but never the crooks. He just dealt with them, he didn’t like it when they ran. That made things harder. So why was he…?




Jason jumped and winced immediately as he jolted several injuries. There was someone right next to him. He could feel their eyes on him even if he couldn’t see them back. And he had no idea how they managed to sneak up on him. 


“Robin, it’s ok,” the voice whispered, clearly trying to calm him down. “I’m gonna get you out of here.”


He was young. And he was a boy. Two things Jason’s brain finally caught up to him enough to realize. The kid only sounded a little younger than him though. And something about his voice sounded familiar. But Jason couldn’t place from where. But he was pretty sure wherever it was was something bad as it left him shivering in dread.


He jerked away and out of his thoughts as something ice cold brushed against his bare ankles. He started to speak but the kid cut him off.


“I’m sorry, Robin! I’m sorry, I just need to get these ropes off!”


Wait, did that mean the ice was the kid’s hand?! Whatever, not important enough to spend brain power on.


“Knife,” Jason whispered. “Right compartment of my belt.”


The kid didn’t say anything but he must have heard as a small weight lifted from Jason’s side and within another minute the ropes around both his ankles and wrists fell off. 


“Can you stand?” 


Great question. Jason didn’t know if he could, he definitely didn’t want to, but they needed to get out of here before those goons came back. 


“I can help you…”


Even as the words reached the older boy’s ears, those ice cold fingers slipped under his arms and around his torso, helping him to his feet. 


Jason didn’t want help. This was humiliating. This whole thing was humiliating. But he didn’t have much of a choice. And he was tired. 


He tried not to wince as he got his feet under him, every twist of his torso stinging the bruises and cracks in his chest, but he wasn’t going to let himself fall lower than he already was. So he kept his pain to himself and put one foot in front of the other. 


“Step over,” the kid hissed under Jason’s weight right as his foot ran into something sort of squishy. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know what it was. So he did what he was told and stepped over, despite the pain it sent shooting through him. Besides it all, he felt blind. One of the blows to his head must have damaged his mask because the night vision had stopped working long before the lights went out. At least his escort seemed to possess the proper technology. Or he was just really good at seeing in the dark. 


A few more steps brought them presumably out into the hall where they made their way to an elevator and then down more floors than Jason’s pounding head cared to figure. 


The door opened with a ding before they stepped out again and made the last few steps to the door of the building and out to a car. Whose car was a mystery, as was how it got there, but he could vaguely make out the bright paint job before he collapsed across the back seat. 


Someone was talking. What they were saying he couldn’t quite make out, but the car started moving as soon as they did. Which felt like hell against all of his injuries, but the ride thankfully only lasted a minute before the kid was helping him up again. 


Jason couldn’t tell if he blacked out after that or just stopped remembering, but the next thing he knew he was sinking deep into the cushions of a couch. He forced his eyes open to find he was in a room softly illuminated by red lights, mostly bare with no more than the couch he was on, a coffee table, some medical supplies, and a small kitchen with a single coffee pot on the counter. 


The kid who saved him was standing next to the box of medical supplies and pulling out a roll of bandages. Now that Jason could actually see him, he was tiny. Unusually small. He didn’t look any more than ten years old but even smaller for his age. He had red eyes and floofy black hair. 


No, wait, the red eyes were probably just a trick of the light. He couldn’t actually make out the kid’s true eye color then, but they looked like a pale color, so probably green or blue. Speaking of pale, the runt made Bruce look tan and that man never saw the light of day. 




The kid was right next to him now, right beside his arm. 


“How are you feeling?”


How was he feeling? Jason could answer that question about a thousand different ways right now, but he made himself bite back the snarky remarks. This was only a kid he was talking to, after all. And the kid may have just saved his life. 


“Hurts,” Jason muttered. “But alive.”


The kid gave him a small apologetic smile before holding out his hand. 


“Can you swallow?”


Jason looked down at the pills in the boy’s hand, and for a moment, he felt sick. Everything in him screamed not to take pills from a stranger. But he hurt so much, maybe this time he could forget about the streets. Forget about everything he’d seen and the people who’d gone missing and just take the pills. 


There was a glass of water on the coffee table that Jason had somehow missed, but he took it now and downed the painkillers before he could talk himself out of it. 


The kid was by his side when he looked up again, wrapping the bandages tightly around his arm. 


“--gonna need stitches,” the boy was saying. “But this should last you until Batman gets here at least.”


Jason nearly snorted. “Batman isn’t coming.” Because he wasn’t. He hadn’t come when Jason needed him, why would he come now? Jason was nothing to him, just some stray Bruce had taken in off the streets. And he failed him so why would Bruce come?


He wouldn’t, that’s why. 


But when Jason saw the look on the kid’s face, he almost regretted saying it. 


“Of course he’s coming! Batman always comes!”


Not on the streets, he doesn’t. Jason couldn’t even begin to count all the people he’d heard screaming in the back of an alley while no help ever came.


“He saves people! Just like Robin does! You can’t give up on him!”


Jason looked down into the kid’s clear blue eyes and wasn’t sure what he saw. 


“Naw,” Jason--Robin shrugged as his head grew heavier. This wasn’t worth fighting. Batman wasn’t coming but he was safe now. All he wanted to do was lie down and fall asleep. All he wanted to do…




The kid’s voice grew fainter and more far away with every breath Jason took.


“--n’t fall asleep!”


Oh no? He was pretty sure he could and was doing so.




Jason ignored him completely and closed his eyes. 




Jason snapped his eyes open but the kid was gone, the room empty save for an oversized shadow in the corner that he could have sworn wasn’t there before. 


The shadow was getting closer. Something about it very familiar. 


“Jason…?” Batman--no-- Bruce whispered through the dim light. “Son, are you alright?”


Alright? Jason really had no idea. It was entirely possible he had just been hallucinating. But he was alive, so that was something. 


Warm fingers began gently, soothingly, carding through his hair while a gauntleted hand ran over his torso to roughly gage the extent of the damage. But the touch was gentle. Barely hurt despite the pain he knew he was in. 


The room was spinning and Jason didn’t like it. He closed his eyes, focusing instead on the hand in his hair. Relaxing into the touch. He knew he shouldn’t fall asleep, but he didn’t care.


Robin.” Batman’s voice spoke quiet but sharp in his ear. “ Report.


Jason groaned but Robin did as he was told.


“Grazed bullet in the right arm. Busted lip. Several broken ribs. Wrists and ankles rope burned. Concussion. Don’t know where my shoes went…”


He trailed off after the last sentence as he was lifted off the couch and gently cradled in strong arms. He didn’t care to stay awake any longer. He could vaguely hear Bruce talking to him, telling him to keep his eyes open, not to fall asleep until they made it back to the cave, but Jason couldn’t listen. The room and everything in it was fading out like a phantom in the wind and there was nothing he could do to stop it.