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'Are you quite sure you won't be in need of anything else during your stay Master Duke?'

Duke winced once again at getting called master by a guy several times his age. Not to mention getting called master at all. 'No, seriously I'm fine Mr. P you've been great, and I'll let you know if anything comes up I swear.' 

'Very well sir,' The old man turned to go, but paused at the door again, looking down at him gently before saying in a kindly voice, 'I'm aware that the manor can be quite a startling place at first, and it's understandable : your surroundings are very different to what you're used to. But you are by no means the first talented young man to deal with a culture shock after crossing this threshold, and we do wish you to feel welcome here.'

'I- yeah thanks, and it's really really nice of you guys to let me stay here while my parents are... well while the state says I'm not equipped to look after them, but you seriously don't have to put yourselves to any trouble I mean it's great to not be stuck in a squashed in foster home with twenty eight other kids and all, but I'm cool with just a place to sleep-' he cut off as the elderly butler placed a warm hand on his shoulder.

'Give it time,' he said sagely, and Duke nodded.

- Patience. It wasn't a quality he'd ever really lacked, he'd been prepared enough to bide his time during zero year hadn't he? Waiting for the day he had the right riddle, and with the 'We Are Robin' gang too.. He'd never rushed, taken it one step at a time, every time, every mission, knowing that movements weren't built in a day.
But somehow when it came to this, he really just wanted the day when this thing with his parents became okay, somehow.. to get here already. Or at least to know when that day would be, if that day would ever be, if they'd ever...

Alfred spoke again breaking him from his reverie, 'and I hope that some day you'll come to see this household as a second home for yourself, a real one. A place you'll know you can come back to even when life has moved on.'

Duke honestly didn't think that would happen, but the old man seemed sincere, and if nothing else he knew it was a place he could count on for that kind of work. He opened his mouth to respond again but Pennyworth was already giving his shoulder a final squeeze and making a graceful exit through the walnut door of his room.

Duke heaved a sigh of relief and flompfed back down on his freshly made bed, throwing his rucksack to the ground across from him with a thud.

Problems. We all have them. Some are just bigger than others. When you're a teenage vigilante sporting Robin colours, problems seem to multiply at every turn. 
It shouldn't be so hard to talk to an old man, even if he's pretty certain that he was the guy behind The Nest, it shouldn't make him this uncomfortable. And yeah, he might still be getting used to the whole butler thing, but the mansion itself was a way more - present - issue.

The place had a Ballroom for crying out loud! Two, actually, he'd stumbled on another while looking for a bathroom this morning. It wasn't just ridiculous it was honestly kinda sickening, he'd known Bruce Wayne was mega rich, he'd always known that, but seriously!?
The place was extreme.

He wasn't even from the roughest part of the city like Daxton or Dre were.. well he wasn't from the Narrows or around Crime Alley.
But Gotham's East End's apartment blocks still weren't the most well to do places and this was other level. He'd known there tended to be a 'gap' between most of Gotham's natives since he'd been old enough to get told what kids not to talk to at pre-school to avoid trouble, not just the scruffy ones or the ones with a mean look, the ones who looked desperate.

His Mom and Dad had always explained it like this 'It's not about self-interest Duke, or unkindness, though it might feel like that now, it's about keeping yourself safe until you do have the power to make a difference.'
He'd taken the making a difference thing probably more literally than they'd intended, but hey.

When it came to the Gotham Gap Riko was probably closer to this side of it, she was one of the better off Robins in the gang, in a money sense at least, she'd even gotten relocated to Gotham Academy for a while during the craziness when the Robin Hunt was going down. And that place was pretty damn fancy, he'd seen the brochures.. back when he was still thinking about a scholarship, back when he still cared about getting an education in the regular sense so he could make his parents proud.

But this was just.. he'd seen homeless people starving in the streets, not up close and personal - but he'd walked past it. The way you do when you're still waiting on having a way to fix the problem. He'd seen it - and if this was life for the rich a couple blocks away, it put a whole new spin on Gotham.
What that was he was still wrapping his head around.

His phone gave a buzz beside him, so he took it out of his pocket and glanced at the lit up screen - it was a shot of Riko And Izzy both in Robin costume striking poses either side of a disgruntled gargoyle.

He snorted, and texted back,
'only you two could irritate an inanimate object'
a moment later another reply buzzed in 
DaxAtax: Where is that?
Robina: top of monarch theatre, stumbled onto it in the dark, almost broke our necks
R-iko: Isn't it cute!
Shug-R: who would make a gargoyle that looks that fed up on purpose?? O.o
R-iko: more importantly what should we name it?
DaxAtax: is it a boy gargoyle or a female gargoyle?
Robina: why are all my friends so weird?

Duke was typing his reply when a sudden Crash came from below his room and raised voices started streaming out.
'FUCK YOU BRUCE!' 
  ... there's a growling stern voice speaking next and that's probably Wayne's reply but his words are a lot more muffled than the first guy even if he's talking at a near shout as well.
Which is funny because he's pretty sure Mr. Wayne doesn't yell, even if he's angry, Duke just can't see him as the type to.

Duke's not usually fond of getting in the middle of other people's arguments especially when he doesn't know the full story, but he's already moving in a rush out his doorway and onto the stairway before he can think better of it. 

He's on the stairwell while Bruce continues to raise his voice at whoever he's arguing with, Duke doesn't catch the exact words but there's a tightness to the tone of voice that makes Duke's stomach stiffen and tense as he keeps moving down the steps.
And then there's Bruce coming into view below, right in front of the grandfather clock that usually marks the passage down to the cave, (which is some serious science fiction stuff right there sometimes Duke can't even take in what's become normal for him, hidden passageways in Batman's house, how cool is that?) But right now the clock's in one of the hallways in front of the stairs instead of where it usually is in the main study, and he can't really tell how bad the damage is yet from this far away, but it looks like some of the glass is broken too.
Guess he knows what the big smashing sound was now.

And when he glances up at Bruce's face again he thinks that maybe now would be a smart time to go back up to his room and mind his own business for a while.

But he doesn't do that, maybe because he's too used to being Robin. (Even if he's becoming something different now.)
He's still kind of invested in the habit of Not minding his own business when he probably should. He also sticks around because anyone who puts that look on Bruce's face and is able to damage parts of the manor before he can intervene, is someone he needs to be keeping an eye out for.
There's also the fact that it could be an assailant and Bruce will need back up, or more likely, they're going to need him to step in before Bruce rips them apart. 

The next instant the unknown voice is speaking again still out of view, Duke inches down the stairwell a bit more to try and get a look at him without making too much noise, Duke doesn't really care that much if they see him- it's not like he's trying to hide the fact that he's snooping- but it ends up not being something he has to worry about.

Bruce is facing the guy, not even looking this direction, all attention on him, shoulders squared grimly as if they've been cast in concrete and he has to carry them and their weight that way forever.
The man's voice isn't as loud as it was when Duke was still in his room, but it's bitter and heavy and the contrast in it makes Duke feel guilty just at the sound, it's a lot more upsetting to hear than shouting.

He doesn’t know what it was about, but it looks like he's only catching the tail end of what was a really awful fight.
'Just forget it, I should've known better than to come here.'

The man walks past Bruce quickly and Bruce doesn't turn to keep his eyes on him or try to do or say anything more as he goes past, doesn't even look at him - but Duke gets his first real glance at the guy's face. Black hair, tousled, pale skin, and blue eyes that look like a dying fire. And he's surprised at how young he is even at a glance, the dude looks only a couple years older than him, which doesn't really mix with the expression on his face as he leaves, it's too old for him.. and it's not...

It's a weird feeling Duke gets, while the guy exits the hallway without turning to look back even once.
And when he looks back at Bruce, he's still doing his best imitation of a stone statue staring at the broken old clock on the ground.

And Duke can't say anything, can't announce his presence, can't let Bruce know about him trespassing on this horrible private moment. The atmosphere is too isolating, the manor's halls too quiet. There's nothing you can say when there's this much emotion in a room. So he goes back upstairs to his room and leaves Bruce there to stand and stare down at his broken clock for who knows how long, for how many hours...

Bruce is nice and he's always been pretty cool to him but he doesn't really talk to Duke about things like this much -personal issues- he knows all Duke's personal struggles and baggage but it's a one-way street, and Duke is honestly cool with that- they work together sure and they like each other fine, but they don't really know each other that well yet and It's fair- he can't expect the guy to tell him everything about himself just because he knows Duke's story.
He hasn't really cared about Bruce's personal business outside the job up until now after all.




It's still daylight outside when the man comes back, Duke only sees him coming because he's been sitting in his windowsill reading up on state jurisdiction
(State jurisdiction refers to exercise of state court authority. The state court has the right to make a legally binding decision that affects the parties involved in a case. It can also refer to a court's power to hear all matters, civil and criminal, arising within its territorial boundaries. ect. ect.) and for some reason he glances down at the right moment.

The guy looks like he wants to be anywhere but back here and at first Duke doesn't understand why he would come back, sure the issues coming out of the cave looked hella unresolved but he'd seemed pretty burnt out at the end, so had Bruce, so had the fight itself. It didn't seem like the kind of argument anyone would want to rekindle in a hurry.

Then he notices that he's making a beeline for something that isn't any of the manor's entrances, He came back for his motorbike. 
It's parked out on the grounds right beside the tree Bruce pointed out to him when he got here as a means of getting out of the manor through his room quickly without leaving a trail. (Most foster parents don't make it a point that you know the best method for sneaking out your window when you arrive. Bruce Wayne isn't most foster parents, as it turns out.)

It's a nice motorbike in fairness, sleek, every piece of dark silver-black metal geared towards speed and function, it's raw looking but what parts of it that have a paint job are a fierce red.

The only problem is that Duke knows he's seen a motorcycle like that before, things click a second time when the guy -he's wearing a leather jacket, honestly he should have known- pulls a red helmet out of the hollow inside of the bike's seat.

Duke knows he's trying to leave without getting into another conversation with anyone, but the Red Hood was one of the least cryptic of the original Robin's when he last saw them and Duke's kind of aching for a real conversation with someone his own age.

When he talks to his friends lately he usually ends up being the one guiding the conversation, side effect of being team leader maybe, he does still love talking to them but..

Red Hood pulls on his helmet before moving his bike away from the tree and Duke decides he might as well give it a try.

'Hey.' He calls down through his open window, Red Hood looks up sharply, startled, hand immediately on his holster. But then his shoulders relax slightly once he sees who it is.

'Hey Hatchling,' he says jokingly and the hood's filtering his voice just enough to make it hard to recognise from his real one. 'didn't realise the Bat was keeping his eggs in one basket.' 
 So much for not being cryptic.

'The other Robins aren't here. It's just me.' It'd probably be easier if the other members of his crew were staying here with him, then he wouldn't have to lie to them.

'No kidding, so he's taken you on then?' He asks.

'Guess so,' Duke replied 'I'm not going to be his Robin though, I'm going to be something else.'

'Fancy,' and Duke can hear the smirk in his voice even through the filter. It doesn't feel like the statement's meant as unkindness though so Duke lets it go.

'So..' Hood continues conversationally, leaning his back against the bark of the tree as his helmet tilts up at Duke. 

'Do I get to hear your name?'

Duke pauses for half a second.


'Batwing.'

Telling it to someone else, someone seriously out in the vigilante circle, other than Batman - makes it feel a lot more real.
He kind of liked how it felt official all of a sudden, definite now, with just a word.
The Red Hood doesn't say anything for a moment.

'Hood? What do you think of it?' Duke doesn't know why he asked that, an open-ended question like that was just asking to get slapped.

Hood's helmet nodded at him slowly. 'It's a good name, suits you.'

'Thanks.' Duke smiled.

There was a companionable silence and Duke thought that maybe Dax's complete hero-worship of the Red Hood since working with him one-on-one wasn't such a bad thing after all. Even if the guy had been known to kill drug lords and gangsters sometimes.. Duke winced slightly at that thought and shook his head, okay yeah nevermind, moving on.

Hood was looking away to the distance at some of the grey clouds that seemed to constantly drift past and over the manor, Duke climbed a little more out of the window so he could sit on the ledge, hugging one of his knees to him and letting the other hang down over the sill, his shoe dangling loosely below him and knocking into the brick of the wall every now and then.

'.. Are you feeling okay now?'

Hood glanced up at him, or his helmet looked up? it felt like a glance- 'What are you talking about?'

'I heard yelling from my room earlier and I came out onto the landing in time to see you leave,'

'Ah, Bruce tell you what it was about?' 

'He doesn't know I saw.'

'Just so you know he probably does, he's kind of freaky like that -it's a bat thing.' Hood replied conversationally.

'I'm pretty sure he was distracted, but if he did notice I doubt he's gonna bring it up, I kinda get the impression he doesn't like talking about that sort of thing.' But to be fair, who did? 

'Goodness Gracious! We have a fast learner on our hands! No wonder Batman picked you.' 

Duke chuckled, 'So, are you okay? It looked pretty bad.'

'Eh..' Red Hood shrugged, 'It's nothing new, I'm used to it.'

'Still can't be fun.' Duke knew how much those kind of verbal fights took out of you, too much, worse than an actual fight sometimes.

'Heh, depends on the topic of the argument really,' Hood joked, a hint of conspiracy and mischief dipping in his tone.

'You seem like you have to deal with those kinds of fights often enough to know.' Duke pointed out.
From what little he knew of the guy's personality and the things he'd done in Gotham, that at least seemed obvious.

'I'm not a good person Hatchling,' Hood told him easily.

'Is that what the fight was about?' Duke asked conversationally.

'Heh.. you're just the type the Bat likes kid, observant.'

Duke thought that answer was given away a little to easily, his gut told him he was being led to a ready answer, distraction-style so he wouldn't think any deeper on it. Duke didn't like that kind of thing, it rubbed him the wrong way- but if Hood didn't want to talk about the real reason for the fight earlier he guessed that was his business. 

'So when are you due to patrol?'

'uh.. 10 in the cave for pre-talk but we set off at 11' he replied thrown by the topic shift.

'Ugh, regular as a clock, he never changes the routine without an emergency.' Red Hood said in disgust.

'Clockwork's a bit off in tonight's case don't you think.'

'I was wondering if you'd catch that.'

'Hard one to miss.'

'Ha.' He says in a clear monotone despite the filter, pulling the sleeve of his jacket up to check his watch 'Fascinating as the discussion's been I'm starving, I think I'm gonna head before he bothers to notice that I hacked the surveillance cameras again.'

'Sure, it was nice talking to you.'

Red Hood pulled his bike out to face away from the manor before looking back over his shoulder 'You seem bored out of your mind stuck in there,'

'What makes you think that? I'm getting a lot of stuff done.' Duke smirked, picking up and waving his book a little to demonstrate.

'Because you decided to have a heart to heart with someone who never so much as spoke to you during Robin School? Kid, you're nice and I can think you capable of checking if i was okay if we ran into each other on a job, sure.
But stopping me when I'm making an in and out of picking up my gear is a different thing and you know it. Plus I remember how awful the wait for action on a sunday evening gets here. Reading about anything good by the way?'

'Judicial law.'

'Oh God, now I have to save you.'

'No you don't.' Duke insisted.

'Kid I've read every Gotham state law book written in the last two decades, you do that stuff for work because it's part of the job to know what you're talking about when you fight criminals, it's not something you do in your own free time. For fuck's sake.'

'To be honest I'm reading it for personal reasons.'

'Really? Well that's very ni- WHAT IS THE FUCKING MATTER WITH YOU??'

The shout nearly makes Duke fall off the ledge, 'What the hell man?' he whispered angrily 'I thought you didn't want Batman to know you're here again.'

'Okay okay, but c'mon what else are you going to do while you're cooped up in there, write poetry?'

That was pretty on the nail Duke thought, refusing to glance back at the notebook of raps he had on his desk.

'Cooped up in the huge ass mansion I just started living in you mean?'

'Point.'  Hood allows, 'but yeah cooped up, you can hardly be able to go around the rest of the house and relax as if it's your actual home already right? Unless you're the demon spawn and used to throwing your weight about in huge penthouse suites that is.'

'Demon Spawn?' he asked.

'Current Robin.' Hood replied.

Duke raised an eyebrow at him but Hood shrugged him off.

'The We are Robin crew are a different thing - the movement is nice kid and I think it's probably something Gotham needs even if the others in the family don't agree, it's getting there..
But most of the 'super community' would say that the thing that makes a robin Robin, is the fact that he's hand trained by Batman. There's no getting away from that for your friends. That's not meant with offence by the way, it's just the way it is. 
And the Bat Brat despite his seriously bad attitude is Robin, he's gone toe to toe with every rogue in Gotham from Bane to the Joker. And the 'We are' gang just aren't up to that level, at least not yet.'

A part of Duke wants to tell him he's wrong and that - like a lot of other adults- he just doesn't see the potential for what they can do.

But the thing is that the Red Hood isn't denying the fact that the group is necessary (because the voice of an entire generation saying no to crime is a lot louder than most people would think) and he's not saying that their skills aren't going to improve eventually. 
It's hard to argue with the guy when the rest of what he's saying is making sense too.

Duke saw the fourth Robin face off against the Giant Bat-cop Robot suit the police were desperately using to try and keep the Batman name alive.
(Never mind the fact that the name would be going down in Gotham history forever regardless of what they or anyone else did, Batman was a legend after all.)

He and all of the others were about to scatter rather than get caught by the thing, knowing they weren't going to be a match for it. It wasn't some cowardly decision either, it was practicality and choosing not to fight with someone who wasn't a criminal, and someone who would almost definitely catch them anyway.

But the shortie had faced it down like it was just a pebble in the road, actually more like it was a seriously dislikable insect he had to squash, and had fought it hand to hand without a moment's hesitation.
Duke couldn't see any individual one of his crew being able to do that on their own, they might be able to take the thing down with a long hard fight in a team sure ... if things went their way .. if some of the machinery was broken in the early stages of the fight... if they were lucky.

Duke tried to picture his entire gang facing off against Bane. And he shuddered, the guy could break a grown man's back with his hand like it was a twig, crush a skull in like it was an orange, twist necks like opening a bottle, he couldn't help but sum up the hypothetical injury list in his head, the likely fatalities if even one of them got too close. 

He'd seen video footage of Bane fighting before, almost all Gotham people had at some stage, it was T.V gold and the news networks loved to show it, that seemingly impossible strength, and then show Batman besting him against all odds.
Actual infantry armies had been proven to be pretty much useless against the likes of Bane. And Duke and his friends wouldn't be able to rely on their numbers against someone like him, because it just wouldn't make a difference.

The thing was that the more he forced himself to think about what the red hood was saying the more he realised that he couldn't see any of his friends as being capable of going up against someone like Bane.
Or The Riddler.
Or Poison Ivy.
And they might have been able to deal with 'Smiley.' but it had been difficult. And that guy was never anything more than a twisted fan of the original.
And the original was that guy.
The. Villain. The one every person in Gotham knew and feared, even the other villains, the one who'd destroyed Gotham city again and again, who'd filled entire graveyards, murdered thousands ....Who'd kidnapped him and his family and gassed his parents.

He'd seen the Joker, and he wasn't... that wasn't something his gang could fight against on their own, or at least without help from a . . . real vigilante.

So instead of going off at Hood like some of his friends might, he thinks about how horrific fighting those people and watching his friends go down (one after the other) from toxin would be, disappearing into the fog of it.
And he swallows hard before answering the hood.

'Yeah, maybe..'

Red Hood nods at him. And he's glad he didn't blow up at the guy for trying to get him to understand where the 'real' robins were coming from when they first found out about him and his friends.

And he did understand it back then, why the police and Robo-Bat-cop and then the public and then the actual Robins themselves had kept saying that it was way too dangerous for kids to fight the kinds of fights they'd chosen to.

Knew it even before Travis was assassinated by the Owls without any of them realising, Duke had chosen to pull back from the gang as a result of that one.. 
But he'd understood it even before Travis was killed too, he couldn't have seen what happened to Troy with the explosion back in all of their first days as robin without knowing just how dangerous it was to be a robin, couldn't have seen some of the other things he'd had to see growing up in Gotham -zero year to name a specific- without being realistic about how much they were risking. That's one of the reasons he somehow ended up with the role of leader.. He'd taken a wider view than the others of how close to death every single one of them was on a constant basis.

But somewhere along the line he must have started to forget just how much they didn't have going for them, how the real threats were still out there breathing down their necks, and how they weren't ready for a single one of them... 
Not really.

Troy's robin name 'The Troy Wonder' was still logged into him and his friend's chat room, no one had ever removed it.

With an unspoken reminder like that he wondered how he or any of them could have forgotten just how out of their depth they all were.
Maybe because that was the early days, they'd improved a lot since then after all, dealt with a lot more thugs. But that didn't change the fact that those were just that, thugs, and the real monsters were still out there. Just not bothering with the likes of them yet.

'I'm not up to that level yet either, I wouldn't be able to face down any of Batman's major rogues on my own without some serious planning.' He knew that. Deep down, he'd known that- but not the way he did now after this conversation.

 'That's what the training's for kid, the intensive 8 month long one? That should even your odds at least a little bit so don't get freaked out just yet. Though you probably should be freaked out to be honest, you know what you're signing up for right?'

 'yeah I know, I just started the training, he says we'll take our time and get there bit by bit, he also said it might be a while longer than 8 months for me to be fully trained for whatever it is he's planning'

'That makes sense, most of us started pretty young after all, Red Robin was probably the closest of us to your age when he started.'

'Yeah?' Duke asks, curious.

'The Bat hasn't told you anything?'

'I figured out Dick and Damian's identities on my own a while ago, during the robin war, but I don't really know anything major about them and I haven't been able to figure out who you or Red Robin are.'

'Is that so? Well Dick's was pretty fucking obvious, he thought he was being so sneaky faking his own death when his identity got made public. Despite looking the exact same as Dick Grayson whenever he wasn't using the stupid swirly face thing and then constantly forgetting to use his swirly face thing. And then getting surprised whenever anyone figured him out.' Hood pressed his hand to his helmet in a facepalm.

'Yeah I did tell him it wasn't the hardest problem I'd solved. For a super spy he doesn't really keep his secrets well hidden.'

'He doesn't have a sneaky bone in his body, the only reason he managed to keep it hidden from us for so long was because he completely avoided us all up until Bruce went AWOL after the thing with the joker.' Hood sighed harshly. 'And I guess you got Damian from him being Bruce's blood son?'

'Yep.'

'But Bruce hasn't filled you in on anything else?'

'Not in regards to you guys no, he doesn't really talk about any of you unless it's in reference to information one of you has supplied.'

'Right... and has he told you why he became the Batman? What inspired him to do it or anything like that?'

'I wish.'

'Fucking Bruce and his fucking communication issues.' Hood swore thunking the back of his helmet against the bark of the tree, Duke laughed.

 'Okay fuck whatever, you've had me here talking a half hour he's definitely going to figure out I came back if I don't leave now. You sure you want to stay and read soul destroying textbooks till patrol?'

'Why do you ask?' Duke prompted.

'Why do you think I fucking asked?
I'm hungry and really fucking don't need to deal with the bat right now, so I can't stay here and keep you entertained and you're obviously wasting away in there all day, probably writing poetry in the spare time between mind numbing legislations. If you want to continue the conversation you're going to have to come down here and let me get us something to eat.'

'What's wrong with poetry?'

'Christ, can you hear yourself kid?' Hood cackled.

Duke smiled 'ok, but I'm pretty sure Mr. Pennyworth's already making food for later though.'

'Alfred's cooking is divine and should always be appreciated by whosoever is graced with it's gift,' Hood said in a firm voice, unexpectedly seriously. 'so I guess I'll understand if you decide to stay in your room all day instead.'

'You're a known serial killer and I really shouldn't be considering this.' Duke pointed out.

'Only ever killed criminals : rapists and human traffickers beware.' He shrugged, a definite smirk in his voice.

'You going to fill me in on all the mysterious 'Robin History' if I go with you though right?' Duke asked.

Coz yeah he definitely wanted to know about it. Who wouldn't? Anyone in Gotham would that's for sure, any kid in the we are robin gang would pretty much kill themselves for the chance.

'Yeah whatever I don't really care and better you hear the full thing in one go instead of in bits and pieces over the span of a couple years.'

'Bruce would probably fill me in before that in fairness.'

Hood cocked his head at him 'And here I thought you were a fast learner.' He pressed off the tree, moving forward, straddling his bike and fitting into place on it in one smooth motion, like it was second nature. 'C'mon then.'

Duke leant back into his room reached over and grabbed his jacket off the press, rising up to a half stand on the ledge as he put it on, before jumping down and to the right, grabbing the closest branch of the tree to him at an angle, swinging up onto it and slowly climbing the rest of the way down.

Once he got to the ground Hood passed him a black bike helmet that he'd produced from somewhere, Duke strapped it on and got on behind him. Hood grabbed his hands and fastened them securely around his waist 'Hang on tight Hatchling, you don't want to fall off at the speeds I fly.'

Before Duke could reply Red Hood had hit the ignition on the bike, revved it up and accelerated so fast across the lawns of the manor, Duke thought he'd be leaving fire tracks behind them like in some old cartoon.

'Are the tires ok on the grass?' He shouted to him. 'All-weather tires' Hood replied, 'custom made, they're fine.' Duke decided to forget that he'd been talking about whether the grass would be ok. And just enjoyed the Thrill of the moment: The rush of cold brisk wind at the parts of his face not hidden behind Hood's shoulder and his helmet, the sheer gut-wrenching speed of their movement, the adrenaline spiking all his nerves on end at once, and that unspeakable un-nameable feeling rising up in the pit of his stomach and ribs at the danger, strange but new, filling him as they soared over the grounds.

Next thing they were on the dirt path leading away from the manor's estate and then onto the highway, speeding past cars and blurring lights.
The thrumming roar of the bike vibrating beneath them and around them like some kind of metal dragon's cry. 

'Wow.' Duke couldn't help but breathe out, as they sped down the open highway leading down to Gotham City. The smoothness of the ride as they moved and the rumbling freedom of it was kind of overpowering.
Speeding past the rest of the world. Speeding would have been the right word for what they were doing too.

But Hood had already coined what the feeling was. They were flying. 

 



By the time they rolled into what had to be one of the more sinister and grimy looking parts of downtown Gotham, Duke was seriously committed to getting a motorbike and license when he turned eighteen.


He was a vigilante, he could probably get one before then and ask Batman for lessons to boot.

Red Hood slowed slightly and swerved the bike into a still position with a single juddering spin, when Duke glanced up to take in their surroundings he realised the only place that looked to be selling hot food was a seriously worn down and scruffy looking cafe across the street.

Greasy Sal's read a faded layer of an obviously repeatedly graffitied sign. Lovely. Duke grimaced pulling his hands back from their clutch in the front of Hood's clothes.

Hood swept his leg up off one side of the bike and stepped up onto the kerb of the path. Stretching his arms and shoulders out slightly after the ride, then turned back to look over at him.
'Hatchling?'

Duke got up, unfastening his helmet as Hood strode forward, in the direction of the run down cafe, why you would go somewhere that outright told you the food was going to be greasy Duke didn't have a clue.

'uh.. Hood?' he called after him. 'Yeah?'
'aren't you going to.. chain up your bike or something? We're in a pretty bad part of town.' He could feel him grinning under his hood. It was weird that he could already understand his body language when the guy was always wearing a full-on face mask, wasn't it?

'It's fine it won't get stolen, so come on, I'm starving.' Saying this Hood turned back and headed toward the cafe.

Duke took a final (loving) glance at the bike before going after Hood and catching up to him at the entrance door of the diner. 'Are you sure?'

'heh, Yes, I'm sure it won't get stolen kid now c'mon.' he opened the door and Duke was distracted by the gust of warm air and smells that assaulted him.

Really, really good smells.

'Hey Sal' Hood called in, 'my usual and something for the kid too.'

'What do you mean always with this 'something' for the kid? What does the child want?? You tell me Hood. How you try and make me cook you this 'something' all the time for them when I don't know what is!' Roared a bear of an old Italian man from the back of a bar table, his accent a strange mix of Gotham Bowery and lilting south Italy that sounded off yet fluid in Duke's ears, as he spoke waving his tree trunk arms in exasperated frustration at Hood.

Red Hood looked down at Duke 'What do you want Hatchling?'

'What kind of food do they have?' Duke asked, Was it wrong if he assumed it was italian because of the owner?

'Now you ask me what kind of food I have when you don't even know what kind of food you wanting?? Ah-' The old chef broke off into something that sounded a lot like the tone you use when hissing or yelling swear words as he rumbled about preparing something for Hood and stormed off into the kitchen through a door behind the partition, Duke didn't really know enough of the language to make it out but they could still hear Sal explicating loudly in Italian behind the door and Hood laughed as someone else in the Diner yelled at Sal to can it.

'All kinds here kiddo, wanna start off with a pizza?'

'Sure, pepperoni with olives.. uh what's the health inspector stance on this place?'

'Only thing really Greasy here is the cheeseburgers and they're good that way kid, trust me.' he answered, manoeuvring them to an unoccupied booth in the very back, the place was bigger than it had looked from the outside. And it was really warm too, Duke wondered how they had any working heaters in this part of Gotham, this close to Crime Alley, wasn't the grid always supposed to be going down on them this time of year?

'If you say so man.'

'Pick up another homeless stray to feed for the night Hood?' Called a waitress passing by, 'Nah Marnie, this is just the brand new thorn in my side, he'll be having a pizza by the way.'

She circled back one hand on her hip, one holding a small notepad 'Will that be any kind in particular sugar?' she asked smiling cheerfully down at Duke.

He smiled back, 'Pepperoni with Olives, thanks'

'Not a problem Hon, you ask Sal for your usual Red?' Hood nodded to her and she winked at him as she left their table.

Hood took his Helmet off, carefully undoing some kind of latch mechanism Duke hadn't noticed before, laying it on the inner seat beside him. He was wearing a black domino underneath.
'When did you put that on?' 'When you were grabbing your coat kid, do you always ask this many questions?'

'Do you always need this much prompting in a conversation?' Duke replied jokingly, looking round and taking in the chatty atmosphere of the place he'd been sure would be deserted save for them.

'I'm just the strong silent type I guess.. But seriously I can't wait to see the look on your face when you take your first bite here'

Duke made a face. And Red Hood snickered 'Not like that, I meant the look of sheer wonder, joy and satisfaction you're gonna be wearing, the food here's great.'

'Is that so?'

He nodded, 'One of the best joints in Gotham.'

Duke wasn't convinced yet, but decided to let his judgement sit a while.

It wasn't like he hadn't eaten in run down gotham cafés before and there wasn't much left that could lower his expectations for these sorts of wrong side of the tracks businesses. Though he didn't get Hood's attachment to this one, places like this were usually at least half-decent nine times out of ten. But in Gotham that odd time out kinda loomed.

If the Red Hood was a regular, they probably wouldn't try to poison his food Duke reasoned, hopefully at least- and food was food no matter where it came from, no matter how shady the area or the staff...

He huffed, 'Deals a deal, I'll eat, but my history lesson?'

'If you wanted me to school you that bad-' 

Duke gave him a look, and Hood's eyes sparked with an almost childish mischief before he shrugged again. Duke got the impression that he was the type of guy that loved to pull pranks and mess with people when he was bored, no wonder Daxton liked him so much.

'Yeah ok, fair enough and I don't break my word,' he said 'So, where should I start... Uh.. ok so, Bruce. You don't know why he started this whole thing of his against crime to begin with do you?'

'Nope.' Duke answered trying not to let how eager he was for this conversation to get going show.

'His parents were murdered in an alleyway in front of him when he was a kid.' Hood told him plainly.

'Yeah, I read about the fact that they were a victim of gun violence before but is that really all-'

'That made him the way he is? I don't know kid. I think it did change him though. It might seem strange in a city where shit like that happens all the time but yeah, that was what gave us Batman.'

'But-'

'Cool it, and let me talk.'

Duke shut up.

'It's probably not just that they were killed in front of him when he was even younger than the bat brat that did it... Though that definitely had some serious trauma impact too.
It was the randomness Hatchling, the fact that this was just a regular mugging in Crime Alley, and it happened to be Thomas and Martha Wayne with their son.
Their was no rhyme or reason to it. They were just trying to take a shortcut getting home from the theatre and ran into the wrong creep. There was nothing more to it, no grand reason for why they had to die. It was just... Gotham.'
Hood explained gently.

'Bruce has always had a pretty strong sense of Justice, but that.. meaninglessness of their death, the apathy of the police at the time when it came to tracking down the criminal responsible; to doing anything to stop it from happening again..
-And the Gotham city police department might seem corporate, or straight-laced or easily manipulated to you now kid but back in those days they were... a lot worse...
A different breed to what we have now... As corrupt as corrupt could get, and in a city like this one.. that was pretty bad.
They were more like criminals than a lot of the two-bit thugs they arrested to keep to their quotas, in those days being a cop in Gotham was one of the cushy jobs, a job that meant they could boss civilians around whenever they got bored and pick fights with harmless homeless people in the streets who didn't have anywhere else to hide - they were nothing more than that. Scum.'

Duke flinched back a little at the utter disgust in Hood's tone as he spat that last word, the venom dripping from it, he stared at a coffee stain on the table and focused on listening to him as Hood continued to explain.

'That awful hand B got dealt... it might've been just another tragedy in Gotham to some people but... it gave him his drive. Bruce wants to get rid of all crime kid, he wants to stop it from happening completely, ever again, not just punish the shits that carry it out; stop them from ever being willing to, he wants to find a way to wipe out crime completely, defeat it.'

'But that's impossible!' Duke couldn't help but burst out,

Defeat crime? It wasn't a person or some faceless entity you could just punch or knock out or lock away somehow! It wasn't a thing that could be conquered.
That was like trying to catch your own shadow, as incomprehensible and uninformed as trying to completely rid the world of sadness, or war, or sickness, or poverty, there were things that wouldn't ever go away so long as there were people to- Duke shook his head, thinking like that was just out there. Really one of a kind, different.
But a small voice inside of him peeped up, betraying those previous thoughts, Robin's voice, the part of himself that was always getting him in trouble : If anyone can do it, it's Batman. But then Hood was talking again- cutting off his whirlwind of thoughts.

'Preaching to the choir here kid, you know it and I know it, but Bruce is crazy enough to try. And he thinks he can do it someday too.'

'That's.. just..' Duke struggled, his mind racing again. 'Wow' he finished lamely.

'Bruce grew up in a mansion on the right side of Central Gotham, knowing, believing and getting told since birth that he could do anything he set his mind to when he grew up.
You and I are from gotham's streets and we know the reality here's a lot more.. unchangeable than anyone can...' Hood broke off for a moment, thinking.
Duke waited for him to continue.

'It feels impossible to change a place like Gotham, with all its monsters, sometimes.. But we try anyway. And we keep trying even when it feels like we're not making any difference, when the world feels like a wall and nothing's ever going to change for the better, you just keep going. That's the thing about vigilantes Hatchling, we're a pretty idealistic bunch, some more so than others, and we're all completely bat-shit crazy in one way or another.' 

'You think it's crazy to want to change the world?' Duke asked.

'Hell no, that's normal. But it's crazy to try, even knowing you can get yourself killed doing it. Even knowing that you probably will.
 And it's crazy to believe that every time you put your life on the line for other people you're making a damn bit of difference to the rest of the world.'

Making a difference, huh. Duke thought. 'You think that it's insane.. but you're still a vigilante yourself, so does that mean that you think heroes..'

'Can save the world? Nah, but I think people can. And I think they do.' The Red Hood shrugged easily, 'It's a hell of a world.'

'Wow.' Duke muttered, a little awe struck by the scope of it. By how much of what Hood was saying about Gotham and about her heroes was resonating with him personally. How much of what he'd said so far reminded him of things he'd thought right before launching himself into a fight with or without the rest of the We are Robin Gang on his side, about how sane some of the things he'd been doing were. About how unusually sane he'd felt for a vigilante in comparison to the ones he'd met so far.

'I wasn't expecting such a positive.. look at it all, from you.' Duke said slowly, not attaching of all people to the end of the sentence.

'I guess I'm crazy too...'

There was a pause between the two of them were they just looked and considered one another for a space, each thinking their own thoughts about Heroes and Gotham and Saving the world.

Duke nodded to him, 'Yeah.. I guess so.'

'Heh.' Hood smirked looking away and peering through the grime of the window beside them at the dusty blinds resting on the shop front.

'So why do you think your bike's not gonna get stolen again?' Asked Duke, making an attempt to change the subject away from the heavy stuff for a while.

'It's fine.'

Duke wondered how Hood could be so careless about it, if it was his ride in the middle of downtown Gotham without even a minimal attempt at locking it, he'd be freaking out paranoid about it right now.
Hell, it wasn't his and he was kind of worrying about it, it was his ride home after all. It was also as of tonight one of the most beautiful things he'd ever seen.

'They won't steal it.'

'You keep saying that.'

'They know it's mine kid.'

'Oh.

'Yep.' Hood smirked. And Duke guessed he had a right to be a little smug about it.

'Well that makes more sense.'
 
'Yeah.'

Duke could picture him hunting down anyone who so much as dared to put a scratch on it, he was sure that was something a lot of Gotham's wannabe thugs could picture too.
And the end result of a fight with The Red Hood just wouldn't be worth the risk of a bike.

'So you're a Badass and everybody knows it,' Duke sighed, 'Right. Got it, uh so when-'

 He was interrupted as plates were banged down in front of them and Sal hefted his meaty hands on his hips, uncomfortably similar to Marnie's earlier mannerisms.

 'There!' He cried waving a hand at their meals, 'your something!' 

 Duke stared at the old man, not understanding how to respond. But Hood smiled across from him, hiding a grin behind his hand.

'Thanks Sal, as always, you're the best!' he told him warmly.

 'You know it boyo.' Sal twanged with a grit-filled chubby smile of his own that looked almost threatening in the smoky half-light of the diner, before sweeping off again. 

'He's a character,' Duke felt himself grin.

'Soft hearted as they come, always leaves leftovers out for the homeless kids to pick at, as if he doesn't know what they're doing.'

'That's pretty cool.'

'Yeah, it is. Now less talking more eating.' Apparently deciding to take his own advice he bit into the steaming beef burger Sal had brought out for him. 'Mmmmgh' he moaned chewing it.
Duke felt himself smiling again, Red Hood was pretty funny when you got past his attitude and general unpredictability. 

Duke looked down at his own glorious meal, his previous hangs up gone. He was fairly hungry himself now and the pizza smelled goddamn divine- like everything else in this place did, and it looked pretty incredible too. Warm sauce and gooey cheese melted over the ciabatta crust, deep dish the way he liked it, no skimping on the olives or the pepperoni either and equal distribution on all the slices, was that intentional? He wondered.
The thing was a work of art, a monster of a work of art: it was a seriously large pizza (Hood's burger was fairly big too, were all Sal's portion sizes this huge?) and Duke didn't think he was going to be able to finish it- which sucked because letting good food go to waste wasn't something he enjoyed, especially when it was right in front of him, he sighed.

Picking up a slice and carefully biting into the heat of it:  delicious, comforting, wonderful, fantastic, 'mmmmmmghhhh' Duke moaned loudly at the taste as he started shovelling the pizza down his throat and ignored the burning sensation on his tongue, focusing on the other sensations and tastes, damn when was the last time he'd had pizza this good? He didn't think he had. And it was so gooood. Rich, tasty, warm. mmmmgh.

....

'Oi, Hatchling' Hood interrupted poking him on the forehead, he looked up still eating 'Pace yourself kid, there's no rush, no one's gonna steal it from you, you look like you're gonna choke at that rate.'

'I'd argue but I'm too busy eating' Duke said through another mouthful of heaven. His mother's voice chiming in his ear about bad table manners.

Hood laughed 'Savour it kiddo, didn't you wanna keep me here to drill me for Robin information?'

Not since he was a kid and his parents were cooking for him and mother-henning him as he ate, had he appreciated a meal this much. But he was also eating it too fast, he was already halfway through the pizza moving onto his fifth slice, it would be gone soon, his heart wept at that thought.

'Yeah ok' he panted heavily 'okay, you're right but wow.'

'Yeah I know,' Red Hood grinned proudly, before tilting his face away and shoving the wide grin behind his hand, his eyes smiling too as pleased as if it was his own accomplishment that Sal was such a genius, it was the first real smile Duke had been present for that wasn't hidden under his helmet. 'The food here is all pretty wow alright.'

 'I think I just found religion.'

Hood cackled 'or an addiction kid, they're pretty much the same thing.'

'You've ruined all other pizza for me. You've ruined me.'

'Aw, you sweet-talker.' Red hood replied sarcastically.

 Duke laughed at him, enjoying another bite of pepperoni. 'Okay, so, mm, right- Robin History.'

'Sure you don't need another moment alone with your meal?' Hood teased.

'Ha.Ha. no, I've got way too many questions stored up still, remember, you brought this on yourself.'

'Lay it on me Hatchling.'

'So to start with, what's your name then? Or do I just keeping calling you The Red Hood ?'

Hood paused and smirked for a second.

'Jason. My name's Jason.'

Duke frowned, he'd looked up info on Bruce and WE enough times to know that he didn't know any Jasons and definitely not ones that looked the way that Hood did.

'You're gonna get a crease between your eyebrows if you keep that up whenever you're thinking kid'

'That's another thing, How old are you? You keep calling me kid.'

'I call you kid because of the difference in life experiences, kid.' Hood said finishing off the last of his burger and starting in on his fries.

'Right.'

'Ugh it'll take all night if we do it like this and you're not asking the right questions anyway' Hood - Jason moaned.

'The right questions?' Duke prompted, sipping his coke.

'Shut up for a bit.'

 Jason squeezed his eyes shut rubbing at his temples, 'Ok, do you know how many robins and batgirls there are in Gotham? Real ones I mean, I'm not counting your friends.'

 'Uh, I think I do, I met the four of you during Robin school, and everyone knows about Batgirl and Batwoman.'

Jason groaned, Duke raised an eyebrow at him, 'Hood?'

 'Right, I see our problem's gonna be foundational..' Duke squinted at him as he rubbed his hand over his eyes and the domino mask he was wearing, 'Ok, here's how we're gonna do this, I'll take it from the top.'

He held out five fingers in Duke's face 'There've been 5 Robins total,' then four fingers '4 Batgirls' then down to two fingers 'one Batwoman and one Batman' one finger 'with 1 Huntress'

'...and also oracle who if you keep up this work long enough you'll meet on the comm lines at some point. And Bluebird, but she's new, and almost as untrained as you are.'

'That's.. a pretty big family.'

'Says the guy leading an army of rugrats, Gotham's a big city, with a lot of criminals- everyone other than batman can't always be available but someone usually is. And it helps in large scale emergencies to have a lot of hands on the ground that you can trust.'

'Makes sense.' said Duke biting into the last slice of his pizza with relish, full and satisfied already.

'Also there's some overlap too, so not that many. One of the Batgirls is also oracle for example.'

'Right, so..?' Duke prompting him to start.

'The first Robin you've met, the original boy wonder, he became nightwing and then a superspy.'

'and the second?' 

'He died.'

'What?'

'Fell in the line of duty, Joker killed him.' 

'Oh.' said Duke feeling a heavy weight gathering in his stomach, not sure what to do with that knowledge.

'It's his uniform that's in the case in the batcave.' Jason added.

'Ri- that's.. ok so, the third is you?'

'Nah the third one came on the scene 6 months after the second robin died. Red Robin.'

'That's a quick replacement.'

'Funny you should mention that.' Said Hood grimly, before continuing on.
'Red Robin currently leads the Teen Titans so he's usually busy.'

'With superboy?'

'heh, yes with Superboy, they're best friends, he's friends with all the kids on his team, he's a popular dork.'

'Wow.'

'You think that's something, wait till you see how chummy Superman and Bats are.'

'You're kidding.'

'I'm not, they don't seem like they'd get along huh?'

'N- well they're just.. really different so I figured..' He knew they were on the league together but. . .

'Ha yeah I know, Bats is dating Wonder Woman by the way.'

'No'  Duke shook his head incredulously.

'Yep.'

'You're messing with me.'

'I wish Hatchling,'

'What the hell...' Duke huffed out a breath wincing 'that's.. need some time to process that one, I guess I'm just not used to seeing them as real people, I mean Batman and you guys are one thing, we see you on a regular enough basis here in Gotham, well we hear about you enough even when we don't see you, I mean not that we don't hear or see things about meta supers like Flash and-'

'I know kid, it's a lot to take in.' Jason cut him off gently, 'But.. it's the world you're living in now, and it's a hell of a world, so get used to it hatchling.'

'Right. um so Nightwing's the first, the second died in action, the third is Red Robin and...?'

'The fifth is the Bat Brat, (I can see the question coming shush I'll get to number 4 in a minute), likes to call himself 'The true son' of batman and make out he's better than any fool who's ever worked in the vigilante business before him, including league heroes.'

'I got the attitude before, but dang.'

'Not sure if it's a fake it till you make it thing or he's just that deluded, probably the latter, you've met him so you get what I'm saying right?' Jason took out a pack of marlboro lights and slipped one between his lips, reaching into his leather jacket for a lighter.

'Right, I went to the movies with him a couple weeks ago but haven't really seen him in the manor since I got there.'

'He's had some personal stuff to deal with, his mom's a famous assassin and his maternal grandfather's a raging super villain who can't stay dead.' Jason grimaced at some memory, lighting his cigarette. 'Not the sanest pair, and coming from me that says something.'

'Seriously?'

'Seriously.' Hood said, smirking. 'So he's probably dealing with them and their issues at the moment.'

'You keep saying these crazy things and I keep expecting you to be making it up. Man, just when I thought I was used to this sort of thing.' Duke said laughingly, 'Seriously though, Hood?'

'Keep that sense of wonder Hatchling,' Jason said taking a drag of his cigarette, 'It's good for you.'

'Right.. so the fourth..' Duke started, waiting for Jason to finish the statement with an answer about himself.

'Currently Batgirl.'

'What?'

'She was Robin for just a year, but she went against B's orders and saved his life in the process so he fired her.'

'What?'

'He does that sort of thing.' Jason shrugged his shoulders, Duke stared at him but he offered no further explanation. 'The reason she's number 4 is because all that went down while Robin Three was 'retired' and he came back as Robin again once B fired her. Now she's batgirl, she was also Spoiler for a while before she became Robin.'

'Wait Spoiler is one of the Batgirls?'

'Yes kid, she's Batgirl. She also dated Red Robin for a while, no clue how he managed to swing that..'

Before Duke could reply he continued with the list 'The other Batgirls go as follows: one doubles as Oracle nowadays though she was doing it full time for a while, she's the original Batgirl and leads the Birds of Prey, the next was called Orphan, before she became a bat, she was trained by her crazy villain dad since birth so she's got some serious skills, she graduated Batgirl and goes by Black Bat now.'

'Black Bat's real?'

'Yes Hatchling, Black Bat's real.' Hood chuckled. 'And the third Batgirl I don't really know, she's called Hawkfire now, but I've never worked with her. The current one is the ex Robin and ex Spoiler chick I explained about before.'

'Right.'

'Following me so far?'

'But what about you? where do you fit in? I'm pretty sure you said you were a Robin.'

'I was.'

'But you just said there were only five and you've gone through and listed them all off just now right?' Duke pointed out in confusion.

'Right..'

'Hood.' 

'Yeah, about the second Robin..'

'The dead one?'

'The dead one.. a year after the Joker tortured him to death and killed him and his mother...' Ok that was some new and horrible information Duke thought. 'He came back to life..'

'Wait so -' Jason cut him off with a look, before glancing away for a moment.

'It wasn't a pleasant or- Gods it wasn't a planned revival if that's what you're thinking Hatchling,' 

Duke paused.

'He woke up in his own coffin screaming for Batman to save him.'

'Shit.' Duke swore softly.

'Yeah, it had been a year after his death, by all rights his body should've been decomposed.. or something. But he wasn't.
He woke up with all the same injuries he'd had at the moment of his death, a crowbar had cracked his skull, shattered his sternum, one of his lungs had collapsed.. about forty other fractures.. and burn wounds... ' Hood trailed off as he listed the injuries to Duke.

Duke couldn't think of anything to say to that so he kept quiet, willing him to go on.

'At first he didn't realise he'd died at all, because of the injuries.. He thought it was just another sick game that Joker was playing with him..' Jason continued his voice growing quieter and quieter beneath the chatter of the rest of Sal's evening regulars.

'But he'd figure that stuff out later.. when he woke up in that coffin and forced himself to stop screaming he was more worried about suffocation.'

Jason continued his voice distant and disconnected from what they were talking about, as if it didn't have anything to do with him. 'There was nothing inside the coffin to work with, nothing in the pockets of the suit he'd been put in for his funeral, no hint or trace of what he'd been. What his work had been, Batman isn't the sentimental type so putting something in with my- the body that could hint at the night time identity of the owner to someone who dug it up, was never in the cards.'

'How.. How did the kid get out?' Duke asked his eyes on Hood.

Jason glanced at him 'He took the belt off his trousers and used the buckle of it to stab at the padding and inner lining of the top of the coffin, pulling bits of it out kind of frantically, fast as he could, then used it to pierce the wood of the box too. But then the belt buckle broke..'

Hood took another drag of his cigarette, blowing out a long whisp of smoke before continuing.

'So he used his hands. His fingers, his nails... broke all his fingers getting out of that coffin. Dirt streaming down through the hole he'd made, onto his face, by the time the hole in the box was big enough for him to force himself through and crawl out of, he was choking on the dirt, drowning in it. And then there was 9 feet more of soil to get through.' Hood finished darkly. Not saying anything else for what felt like a very long time.

'Eventually he crawled his way out of the grave, breaking the surface gasping for air only for cold water to hit his face as a storm rained down. Of course it would be raining.' Hood snarked, 'Unfortunately, no one realised the dead bird was alive again.'

'Jason.' said Duke, voice touched with concern and whispered disbelief.

'Well someone did figure it out, about an hour after he stumbled and half-crawled his way to the hospital, still bleeding out..' Hood breathed out the smoke again slowly, 'Dear old Demon Spawn's granddaddy.'

'The.. undying supervillain you mentioned?'

'Top marks for attention span kid' Hood teased, but his voice didn't have any bite to it, it was almost gentle. 'Ra's Al Ghul, founder and leader of The League of Assassins, he's been alive and more or less youthful for the past 400 years.'

'Wow.' 

'So he was understandably pretty curious as to how I'd made it away from Death herself.'

'Herself?'

'Story for another time kid.' Jason shook his head, his half smile looking broken and weary on his face, his eyes heavy with that same too-old for him expression that Duke had seen on him after the fight with Bruce earlier.

'He had his men in Gotham for business, there was some tense stuff going on between him and Bruce at the time - not all out war, you understand, but.. tension. So Ra's wanted to prepare things while he could, had all his people tasked with sending him reports about any weird, suspicious or exceptional things going on in the vicinity, anything that he might be able to use in the future somehow. The hospital incident with a mystery boy covered in wounds and grave dirt showing up out of nowhere in the E.R. qualified, what they had to say about me caught his eye and Ra's being Ra's... he was able to put the puzzle pieces together once he had them look into things. On seeing a photo of me he realised who I was and that I'd come back,' Jason's mouth twisted a little wryly, 'before anyone else could.'

He sighed heavily, 'And he wanted to know how I'd come back pretty badly, so he got his agents to take me from my hospital bed the next morning, once they were relatively sure I wouldn't die immediately from being moved..'

'So did you tell him?'

'I.. wasn't myself back then hatchling, apart from the more traumatising incidents after I woke up in my coffin I don't really remember a lot of that period of time even now.. but no I didn't tell him anything.'

'Then-'

'I couldn't, I was all but mute.'

'What?'

'Every now and then I would call for Bruce or for Batman, sometimes even for my mom and Alfred. Especially when I got upset about something, but.. other than those odd calls for them I was brain dead.'

'Wait, what do you mean brain dead Hood coz-'

'I was a vegetable, kid- lobotomised, bird-brained, soft, not-all-there, whatever you want to call it I wasn't . . . I . . . when I came back, I wasn't fully back. I mean yes I was back, I was alive, but, when my body died.. When a body dies- the brain cells are one of the first things that start deteriorating, dying, disappearing. And there was no scientific fix for that, no way to get them back. I came back from the dead but I was severely brain damaged as a result.'

'That's. . .' Duke didn't know what to say to that. 'But. . you figured out how to get out of your grave, you crawled to a hospital, you. . .'

'Muscle memory,' Hood shrugged, 'I was trained so well, that even in the state I was in, whenever my life was put in danger my body reacted instinctively, whenever Ra's goons tried to attack me or pin me down to beat information out of me, I fought back and knocked them out on auto pilot. I guess that's one of the things you can't deny about Batman, his training's no joke...'

'... Talia, Damian's mother was the only one I didn't hit back when she punched me, I'd known her when she was dating Bru- the Bat, and I knew her then even though I was autistic at that point
...So she was the one they used to calm me down for their tests. As for why I came back in the first place they never found out, neither have I.'

'But you're you right now, right? You definitely don't seem ... brain dead.'

Hood flapped his hand at him calmingly 'Let me finish, kiddo.'

'Nothing was working, I wasn't deteriorating any more than since I woke up, but, I wasn't getting better either and frankly, Ra's was losing interest in the mystery.'

'Ra's has a .. pit that keeps him, rejuvenates him, at a price.' Hood sighed 'The Lazarus Pit, it's a magic.. thing.. that can bring back the dead or dying to full health and can heal any wound, or at least that's the legend about it anyway. But.. the pit has a side effect- it drives the user violently insane.'

'Damn,' Duke murmured, looking down at his empty plate, listening to Hood's voice as he continued.

'Feral bloodlust. Those revived near or from death become so consumed by the negative effects of the pit that they become bloodthirsty, especially once engaged in a fight or battle.
By giving into the impulse and killing, the person's bloodlust subsides for about a month. The longer a person goes without satisfying this bloodlust in any form, the more easily enraged into a psychotic frenzy the person becomes.' Hood rattled off the diagnostic dryly, his eyes going distant again.

'Hood..'

'The pit feeds on your own actual feelings of anger and manipulates and.. plays with them and twists them... and you... and makes your rage- whatever rage you're feeling.. so much worse.
The hardest part is that you don't know which parts are the pit and which parts are you, because it feels like it's you.' Jason stubbed his cigarette out on the glass cigar-dish between them on the table.. his eyes darkening beneath his domino as he spoke. 'The Lazarus pit's side effect is that it makes you want to kill people indiscriminately, it makes you want to burn the world, to watch it burn, to destroy every one you meet, kill every miserable sack of meat and blood that dares walk the face of this earth.. Just kill and murder and hurt.. Till there's no one left to do it to.'

'So you were.. that's how they healed your.. brain after coming back to life. You were exposed to the Lazarus pit?'

'I was water boarded in it.'

'Oh.'

'Yep.' Hood nodded. 'Ra's has bathed in it so many times by now that he can more or less control the Pit's crazy nowadays, apparently that's what happens with repeated use, but for me.. I was just.. that night.'

'Right.' Duke said, nodding at him sadly, brown eyes condoling.

He sighed, 'When I first rolled into Gotham there was a lot of things going on with me, I wasn't me.. at least not .. the me that I was when I was Ro- when I died.'

'So that's why you killed so many.. why you killed all those gangsters in that bloodbath back when you first appeared as the 'Red Hood' on the streets here in Gotham.'

'Something like that yeah.'

'But Jason, you didn't kill indiscriminately.. you killed yeah and you're still killing.. but you only killed criminals.'

'It doesn't make all that much of a difference Hatchling.'

'Yes it does.' Duke said fiercely, Hood blinked.

'Jason, you said that the Lazarus pit made you want to kill every person you saw.'

'Yeah.'

'Even women and children?'

'Yeah.' Jason replied darkly, his eyes getting a hooded look to them.

'But you didn't?'

'Fuck no, I'd never hurt a -' Jason broke off 'I wouldn't do that.'

'Even with magical evil mind control juice in your veins all but forcing you to?'

'I didn't.. go outside when it felt.. like I was in place where I'd...where i could.. where I'd hurt anyone innocent..' Hood said slowly, voice thin, his words coming out stilted and hesitating as he cast his thoughts back to those times, dark days and long hours, not registering the direction Duke was trying to lead the conversation. 'Or I only went to very specifically scum ridden places.'

'Hood, has anyone else on first time exposure to that Lazarus pit, held themselves back from that? Like the way you did?' 

'... Not that I know of.' Hood answered reluctantly.

'So then-'

'It doesn't matter. I tried to kill Batman, and Red Robin.' 

'But the pit was feeding off your negative emotions, you weren't in your right mind Hood.'

'It doesn't change anything, that was me that killed those mobsters, and it's still me that kills thugs and rapists on the streets here. I'm a murderer with a code sure, but I'm still a murderer. Especially in Batman's eyes.'

'But Jason-'

Jason hissed the next words almost unwillingly, with his eyes squeezing shut as if they were pulled from him. The words ripped out from some aching bleeding hole.

'He put me in Arkham. Four cells down from the Joker.'  

Duke shut his mouth.

'He locked me up within hearing range of that disgusting.. within hearing range of his laugh kid, you don't unders- that.. Arkham, kid,
with all the rest of the rabid crazies and mass-murderers in this fucked up hell-hole town. As far as most of the family's concerned that's still where I belong, the fact that the pit was influencing me doesn't change that... It doesn't change anything.' He continued, voice bitter.
'I crossed their line. And I still do it, because I still believe that the justice system here doesn't work. That rabid animals like the Joker can and should be put down so they can't hurt anyone else again the next time they escape, like they always do. I've always thought that and that's not going to change now either..'

Duke was silent, keeping the rest of his thoughts to himself.

'Look, sorry, but can we move the rest of the topic away from me?' Hood asked, his voice almost a whisper now and Duke felt guilty for making him think about so many.. life destroying.. things. Wondered how often the guy tried not to think about them.

'Sure, no problem... but wow, was not expecting that conversation to end with you coming back from the dead.' Duke breathed out heavily. 'Intense.'

'heh, yeah, bet you thought I was hard to predict before.'

'No kidding,' Duke huffed heavily.

'I'm dead serious.'

Duke winced and looked at him 'Is that appropriate?'

'It's my death, it should be. But you really had no idea before? Damian did call me 'failure robin' 'easy to kill robin' and 'zombie'  a lot during the whole robin war thing, you didn't wonder about it?'

'Coming back to life is not something I usually... I guess it's just not something that's expected to happen in normal polite society dude..' 

'I've never been good at acting polite,'

'I believe you.'  

Hood snickered at the awkwardness, before turning to call over his shoulder 'Hey Sal!'

There was a moments silence before something in the kitchen behind the bar stools and partition started clanging and smashing and then Sal was bustling out the door 'What is it? Are you done with the silly whisper conversations you don't let Marnie or I come to table for?'

'Almost,' he laughed, '2 more cokes before we hit the road, and I think we're done.'

Duke noticed Hood's laugh more this time, whenever Jason tried to laugh for social reasons his grin only went up in more of a baring of his teeth than anything else -it was still good looking on his face... but the grin ended up looking more sharp and aggressive because of it, feral. And the sound of the forced laugh had the same pattern and sequence each time, it was a strange habit.

Whenever he'd properly smiled tonight he'd tried to turn his face away or hide it in his hand somehow, earlier when Duke complimented Sal's cooking too. Duke wondered what that was about, but figured he should leave well enough alone, he'd pressed the guy pretty hard for personal answers and stories tonight already and there was something that could be said in Gotham for minding your own business.

'So.. my parents are mental patients.' he told Jason as Marnie came over with their cokes, a bendy straw in each. Jason raised an eyebrow at him.

'Before.. When Joker came back, with his face fixed.. he used me and my family as bait for Batman during the Endgame.'

'Oh. Yeah that sounds like something he'd do alright.' Jason said, not saying what they were both thinking about his death: He killed me for a joke after all.

'He gassed us, Batman got me out at the last second but my parents..'

'Uh huh?'

'They stayed behind telling Batman to get away with me.'

'They sound like pretty great parents.' Jason said solemnly.

'Yeah.' Duke nodded biting into his straw slightly, 'They were nowhere to be found after the whole mess was over, neither was Batman, but you know the story with that.'

'Yeah..'

'I spent months searching for them, looking for them everywhere, it's part of the reason I fell in with the We Are Robin gang, I was pissed that the state.. that somebody wasn't doing more to find my mom and dad. I knew that it was unreasonable, that lots of people had lost parts of their family but I...'

'I get it.' Jason nodded, Duke didn't know what he was talking about or referring to, but for some reason the way he said it made Duke feel sure that he actually did and it was comforting.

'Eventually I found them in a shelter for the homeless, the city had a bunch put up for unclaimed civilians who'd been effected during [Endgame]. And they..'

'Yeah?'

'They're still ... all they do is laugh and grin.. hysterically.'

'Shit. How long have they been like that?'

'Months,' Duke shrugged 'Ever since Endgame. They haven't had a single moment of recovery, temporary or otherwise..' They probably never will either, a dark traitorous voice sang in his head. 

'No cure yet?'

'Only the stuff that was distributed to the general population and that doesn't work on the people that were caught in the main blast of the gas.'

'Shit.'

'Yeah.'

'So you're staying with the Bat while..?'

'The States looking after them right now.. says I'm not equipped.' Duke tried not to let bitterness seep into his voice.

'Which feels pretty rich coming from a body that couldn't find them to begin with.' Hood finished for him.

'Yeah.' Duke nodded, 'I keep having nightmares, before it was just.. them disappearing into the gas as Batman pulled me away but now..'

'Their faces under the venom effects.' Hood guessed.

'And the laughs..'

'Theirs.. and The Joker's?'

'Yeah, mixed together, how'd you know?'

'I'm an expert in this shit by now, PTSD is my calling. Haven't slept a restful night that wasn't a result of being drugged or knocked out since I came back to life, if I'm being honest.'

'How long ago did you come back to life?' Duke asked curiously, 'It's cool if you don't wanna say, you did ask to avoid-'

'Nah it's fine, putting shit off limits in a conversation is bullshit and it never works.' Jason shook his head. 'I came back about three years ago, speaking of- what age are you Hatchling?'

'Fifteen. Sixteen pretty soon though.'

'Well shit.'

'What?'

'Nothing, nevermind.'

'You're so easy to talk to man.' Duke told him exasperated.

'Shut up,' Hood said smirking slightly, 'Ok, before, I told you you were pretty close to Tim's age when he started.'

'Tim?'

'.. Fuck. Forget I said that.'

'Wait, as in Tim Drake?'

'Nevermind, if he asks how you know just tell him you figured it out because he runs so much of WE with Bruce and the times he leaves the city matches up with the times Red Robin's out with the Titan's or some smart shit like that ok?' 

'Tim Drake is Red Robin?!' Duke hissed a bit too loudly, luckily it was hidden under the chatter of the rest of Sal's. 'Ex-Nay on the Red Robinay kid.' Jason whispered looking back over his shoulder hastily. 'Oh well, I was about to tell you more general Robin info anyways.' he muttered.

'I can't believe you just let a secret identity slip in the middle of a conversation. '

'Breaking B's security protocols is kind of one of my things anyway.' He mused.

'Jason!' Duke said, half uneasy, half trying not to laugh.  

'We've been talking a while and you know most of the guys' identities now anyway it's fine, we can trust you.. Though Red Robin's kind of paranoid about this shit, keeping an unknown variable... whatever, he'll be pissed if he ever finds out but what's done is done.  So let's cover it up as much as we possibly can till he does something worse and then we tell him. '

'Isn't giving away someone's identity by accident like that a big not-done thing in superhero society?' Duke said trying not to break into a smile again.

'It's ... a no-no.' Hood admitted his voice overly casual as he sipped his coke.

'So then when's Drake ever going to screw up as bad as that? He seems pretty good at keeping his nose clean.'

'Ah, see that's the thing about family Hatchling, you can always count on them to screw something up for you eventually.' Hood replied, then sighed 'But with Tim it'll probably be a pain in it's own right like messing up the multi-verse or something by accident on a mission gone wrong... He does things like that. Anyway- We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. For now don't tell anyone.'

'Sure man, your secret's safe with me..'

'The way you said that makes me feel like you're definitely gonna blackmail me at some point with this, huh.' Jason asked him, a spark of mischief lighting in his eyes again.

'Probably yeah,'

'Well played Hatchling, well played.' 

'I didn't even do anything! You played yourself.' Duke said, laughing.

'It's that attachment to logic and mundane common sense that's gonna make you one of my more annoying little brothers, isn't it?'

'Little brothers?' Duke asked, knocked off his train of thought for a moment. 'But I'm just a foster kid for Wayne, it's a temporary-'

'Doesn't matter, you eat Alfred's cooking and you're a vigilante getting trained one on one by either Batman or Batwoman.. makes you part of our shitty internship, crime fighting family, army, thing in my book.'

'No offence but I don't think becoming a part of a family is that simple, I've had a lot of foster parents in the last couple months and I'm not going to be staying with Bruce forever, once I'm cleared to look after my parents I'll-'
 
'You can have more than one family kid, for better or worse, I've had three. It's not a trade-in type of deal, you don't give up one for the other or rank them, they just are. It's.. that kind of thing.'

'I don't think I fit in with the bat clan's idea of-'

'Hatchling, families are weird mish mash things, case in point: I hang out with an alien princess and a lackadaisical super genius most of the time, and I'm closer with them than I thought I was capable of being with anyone. You don't have to look or think the same and you don't have to all fit together like some seamless little perfect .. quilt thing. The bats are patchwork at best when it comes to this stuff.
Dick was just his ward, most of the Batgirls aren't adopted or anything legally similar either, Tim and Black Bat were adopted like I was but to be honest I don't really count in that respect anymore what with being legally dead, and Damian's the only blood related one in the bunch. All still seen as bats. It's shit but it's what we've got and it's the way it is, I've been wanting out of it for years actually.' He grimaced slightly as he said that.

'So it's like the vigilante version of a mafia family?' Duke asked.

'Not a bad comparison kid.' Jason smirked. 'A little too accurate actually.'

'Bruce would be a terrible Godfather though,' Duke shook his head. 'I can actually kind of see it.'

'Oh god yeah, all the other supers in the league come over for intelligence favours and crap as it is,' he scoffed. 'Oh and Dick replacing him as Batman/Godfather in the sequels and being unanimously liked less once he takes over?'

'Or that Bat-robot thing that the GCPD had for a while.'

Jason sniggered hysterically into his sleeve, muffling it best he could,  'Shit. Shit. I just pictured the creepy thing with an Italian accent.'

'Ha! I'm going to be thinking of that every time a mention of the batcop replacement comes up in a briefing.' Duke moaned while Jason continued to chuckle.

'But seriously, what's the deal with you pushing the family stuff Hood? it doesn't seem like something you'd encourage.. what with being on bad terms (according to you) with almost everyone and saying you wish you could get out of it.'

Jason considered him a moment, 'I guess I think.. I don't know, I think it'd be good to have someone like you as a brother.'

Duke blinked at the unexpected honesty while Hood rushed to explain himself.

'Not in some sentimental way. Not that I don't want- fuck, um, I mean you're.. a good listener and shit? There's too many people in the family that just talk without hearing anything anyone else is saying, I'm pretty bad at that actually.' Hood hesitated before going on, sounding unsure of himself.
'We've all got a mountain of different issues, and baggage that we're carrying but.. it's nice that there are... I mean..Everyone in the family except for me is some kind of genius at something, they're all seriously great. From Oracle to Red Robin, even Nightwing and Bat Brat to be honest, they're once in a generation kinds of people.. really just.. like a collection of brilliance.. and they're all good at dealing with different things, so you can have one to go to no matter the problem.
I mean I don't have them at my back anymore, except maybe for Tim and I kinda don't want to unburn some of my bridges but you... they're good people to have looking out for you, to talk to when you going through something, or don't know how to face a particular case, or when you don't know how to deal with Bruce or just as people you know have your back.. What I mean is that.. I think.. it'd be nice if you had them Duke.'
Duke froze, but Jason didn't seem to register that it was the first time he'd ever used his name, continuing to talk. Duke had sort of assumed he just didn't know it. 'I mean not that you need them and you probably have your robin gang for that kind of support anyway plus you seem more or less well adjusted to your issues, whatever issues you have, I don't really know. Way more adjusted than me -but that's not hard to do. Fuck I don't know how to say this right and I'm fucking it up. I mean shit I'm not saying this to freak you out or draw you into some kind of weird cult family thing or- Shit I can hear what that sounds like, but you seem pretty okay and I just think you kind of...
I get the feeling that.. you've had to look after yourself and other people for a while, and you probably like parts of doing that and don't have a problem with it and I get that, it's just I feel like you should.. it'd be good if..'

'You want me to have people who care about me looking out for me?' Duke asked altruistically so that he didn't have to go on any longer, feeling a surge of affection after the uncharacteristic rambling.

Jason rubbed his hand over his face in slight embarrassment.
'Yeah.. basically.' He replied without moving the hand away, voice wry and slightly muffled.

'Thanks. And you think I'm a good listener and sane enough to balance them out a bit?' Duke prodded.

'I never said you were sane but sure.'

'I figured it was implied when you went on about how all of you are individually messed up and full of baggage, and then when you mentioned that I was well adjusted.' 

'You got all that from that incomprehensible rant? I'm not sure I understood what I was trying to say there kid.'

Duke laughed 'You're not the best under pressure huh?'

'I'm great under pressure brat.' He said defensively, 'Not so much the social kind but..'

'But..?'

'When it comes to split-second decisions in situations where the choice you make has to save your life and everyone in an entire apartment block, mid-combat with a meta after a structure compromising explosion, I'm one of the most effective under pressure people you could get. Shit like that, I'm great. Real situations - It's a practical skill.' 

'I believe you.' Duke grinned.

'Oh fuck you.' Hood said, flicking Duke on the forehead. 'I was raised by Batman, the emotionally constipated old bastard makes me look like a communication prodigy.'

Duke hadn't really seen Bruce as all that emotionally constipated, but the other original robins seemed to mention it a lot. 'I'll take your word for it.'

'.. and I plan on sticking with the training for a while anyway so.. I guess I'll be Wayne-adjacent for the foreseeable future. If the other original Robins and the Batgirls don't have a problem with me it'd be cool,' He decided not to try to get into what would be cool about having the heroes of Gotham city as family. 'at least till my folks are ok again.'

'Sure,' Hood smiled slightly. 'Welcome to the Wayne family of Weird, kiddo.'

'So you're my Big Brother now?' Duke questioned, feeling a little incredulous.

'Uh, the least desirable one you could get to start with but-'

'I think you're the one that'd be the closest thing to a normal brother in that bunch anyway.'

'Says a lot about your idea of normal.'

'Jason.'

'Okay, okay, yeah I'm your big brother kid. Happy?'

Duke shrugged, smiling.

'Good, coz you're stuck with me now.'

'Stuck with you?'

'Fraid so Hatchling.' Jason said smirking slightly and ruffling Duke's slightly bewildered head as he rose, taking out money to pay for their meal from one of his pockets.

Duke felt the events of the latest turn in the conversation catching up to him and started to feel a little overwhelmed by the level of commitment he'd just agreed to.
The Red Hood, murderous vigilante, executioner of Gotham, bad boy of the bats, now Duke's older brother. 

'You're a terrible influence as it is.' Duke muttered helplessly, not feeling sure how to address the weird bubbling mix of anxiety, relief and warmth all of Jason's words had prompted out of him.

'You know it boyo.' Jason twanged in an awful imitation of earlier Sal, Duke guffawed and Hood winked as he left the table to go pay for them.

Duke checked his phone as he watched Hood go up and joke with Sal,
There was a slew of new messages from his friends about the gargoyle and the rest of their encounters for the day, but nothing important so he ignored it and started typing.

Red Hood kidnapped me and took me out for a night on the town.

Almost immediately replies started buzzing in, the phone vibrating repeatedly in his hands.

Shug-R: What??
DaxAtax: Where are you now? LET ME JOIN YOU. 
Robina: Do you need us to come and get you out of there? Are you ok?

A second later the messages started flowing quicker than Duke could keep up with.
R-iko: Wait you're with that guy that made a bunch of the robins he was teaching at the training camp cry?
Shug-R: That doesn't matter the short one did that too - The Red hood is a killer with 86 confirmed kills
Robina: Duke - ARE YOU ALRIGHT?
Shug-R: Robina call Lark by his codename.
R-iko: Where did you even run into someone like him??
DaxAtax: This is so unfair, I'm serious, where are you right now man?  Hood is the coolest. TAT
Dre-B-Robbin: So now you need us to come bail you out? Moron.
Dre-B-Robbin: This is what you get for not bothering with the gang for the last two months -_-
R-iko: Guys, he's not replyingg~~
Shug-R: I'll track him by his phone, he's got his GPS on for once, fill me in on your locations and i'll direct you where to go to save him.
DaxAtax: Yess! Tell me where Red Hood is!
Dre-B-Robbin: Shut up Dax.
Robina: I'm over by the Bowery with my family but I can get away for a while
R-iko: Burnside, finishing up patrol, aunt thinks i'm at a friends.
DaxAtax: You're all freaking out for no reason Hood's cool, he wouldn't do anything to him.
Robina: SHUT UP DAX

Duke rolled his eyes, trying to type his response faster,
It's fine. I'm fine. I'm having fun.

Shug-R: he speaks
Robina: Do not scare us like that again Lark
Dre-B-Robbin: Having fun, huh? You better not be at a strip club...
Robina: Wut?!
DaxAtax: Hood wouldn't take a kid somewhere like that guys chill
Duke facepalmed.
Not at a strip club, WTH guys.

R-iko: If not then where r you?
Shug-R: He's in downtown Gotham
Dre-B-Robbin: not creepy at all shug
Shug-R: F u Dre-B 
Dre-B-Robbin: not if you payed me.
Robina: Guys, cool it.

Duke ignored them and instead typed: Red hood's actually pretty cool

DaxAtax: I told you so!
Robina: Not helping me be less concerned man.

I'm serious. he's ok.

Dre-B-Robbin: The fact that you're serious doesn't make you more sane. 
Shug-R: I hate to agree with Dre-B, but 4 real Lark, an okay murderer?
Robina: How can he be ok?
Kat-R-ina: Lark if he's holding a gun to your head and making you type this write something weird so we know
R-iko: like what?
Kat-R-ina: like aardvark or something
Dre-B-Robbin: well now hood's definitely gonna know.
Robina: still sure you don't want us to bail you?

I'm sure. He is pretty cool though, he's been mainly filling me in on stuff.

DaxAtax: where are you in downtown gotham? I wanna join, it's been ages since i saw the guy
R-iko: what kind of stuff?

Duke considered what he was going to say but ended up just typing:
Robin history mainly

DaxAtax: I want to take that class \OAO/
Dre-B-Robbin: Robin History? What like how the bat met them all?

Uh huh, oh btw, did you guys know Batman and Wonder Woman are dating?

There was a heartbeat's worth of radio silence while the penny dropped. And then his phone started juddering and buzzing like crazy again in his hands as all the messages came in at once.

Shug-R: WHAT
Robina: Are you serious!?
Robina: R U SERIOUS RIGHT NOW??? 
Dre-B-Robbin: Holy Shit.
Shug-R: omfg this is the coolest thing that's ever happened to me
Dre-B-Robbin:That's cos it's not happening to you
R-iko: i think i just wet myself a little from excitement. Am not ashamed.
Shug-R: F U DREB
DaxAtax: That is awesome, Dark knight got game, see only red hood would tell cool things like that to someone that wasn't a mega superhero yet.
Dre-B-Robbin: shut up Dax, and missing a - there shug?
Kat-R-ina: I was so sure she was dating superman though
Dre-B-Robbin: if she wanted all brawn no brain she'd have gone for Doomsday 
DaxAtax: #DarkNightGotGame #Gotham #Batbooty #WonderBat
Robina: WONDER WOMAN IS DATING BATMAN! GOTHAM WINS!

Duke was laughing when a notification chimed in the chat.
{Dre-B-Robbin has been disconnected from the chat by your beautiful admin Shug-R, bow to your supreme overlord lest you face a similar fate, peons.}

DaxAtax: O.o yeah he's not gonna be happy about that. 
Robina: Take that Metropolis! 
Shug-R: Just showing him who the real boss is. I'll add him back in l8r.
Kat-R-ina: The real boss is Batman. HAVE YOU NOT BEEN PAYING ATTENTION

Duke glanced up as Hood beckoned him to go with his hand.
Gotta go guys, Hood's taking me out for another motorcycle ride. =3

R-iko: ok yeah that sounds cool
Kat-R-ina: show off much?
Shug-R: be careful around him Lark I'm not kidding about the murderer thing.
DaxAtax:Take me with youu 

I'm turning my GPS off again.

DaxAtax: T^T you are a terrible friend.

Next time Dax, ttyl gang

Duke shut his phone down, grabbed Jason's helmet from the seat and got up to go, hurrying slightly to get to where Jason was standing waiting by the door. Duke passed it to him and turned to thank Sal and Marnie. Sal loudly welcomed him to come again, and Marnie made quieter but smiling entreaties too.
Jason ruffled Duke's head again, pulling him into a rough headlock before putting his Hood on and moving away towards the bike.

Calling back over his shoulder 'We still got time before I have to get you back for patrol, wanna drive around the city a while and help me stop a few muggings?'
Duke followed after him grinning, feeling warm despite the cold wind of an evening in Gotham.
'Sure.'