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Ghost

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Prologue

           

            Jason Todd was starving. At least he thought he was, as the whole sensation of having a stomach, the odd squirming that obviously meant it was empty and even the fucking flow of air through his mouth and nose was bizarre. But he hadn’t hunted down a dumpster meal (he had no cash or even loose change on him, which was terrifying) because of the bleak stone before him.

            Jason Todd it read, and the birth date was correct. No epitaph, but Jason hadn’t really known or cared about anyone anyway.

            One problem: the stone said Jason had been 15, and he was pretty sure he was 12.

            It probably should have freaked him out that he couldn’t refute his apparent death. The dented beyond repair belt buckle still in his grip was digging into his skin, but he couldn’t seem to uncurl his fist. He didn’t remember losing feeling in his fingers.

            Last he checked he was twelve and a few months and was in the process of jacking the Batman's tires. He needed to eat and who could resist that gorgeous car? Not like the Bat would go to the cops to complain.

            The ground at his feet was upturned and there was a gaping hole with a coffin at the bottom, broken open from the inside. The long drop was blacker than night and his shoulders seized, his body pulling him back, anything to get away from the dark, from the walls, from the fear that seemed a distant but vivid memory. His nails were gone, all twenty of them, skin peeling and fraying from the tops of his fingers and toes, and he wasn’t sure why it wasn’t painful. His knees, elbows and heels were much the same.

            Dad… he’d been screaming for a father, his father. But Jason had never relied on Willis Todd and felt his eyes sting remembering that his mother wasn’t here for him either. Who had he been desperate for?

            The clothes on his body were faded and worn and the more than few bugs and worms had Jason nearly throwing them all off before his body realigned with the temperature to inform him that it was cold. He tossed the ruined jacket over the hole and looked down. His shoes might have been expensive once, but they were frayed to hell, the soles completely gone and the rest falling off his feet. Whoever dressed him got the sizes wrong. A buttoned white shirt and pants were shredded at the cuffs and shins, but the wristwatch (seriously expensive, what the fuck!) would get him some money. Enough until he figured out what to do.

            The dirt looked like shit. Also smelled like shit. Which he was sure he smelled like too. His nose was still adjusting, and Jason had sneezed eight times in the last few minutes. He really should have left, but where to?

            The stone with his name glared at him, demanding that he crawl back under it and stay dead like a dead person.

            Jason had never been good at listening to others.

            Ignoring the fire that bled into his legs and arms, he hobbled out of the cemetery, tears falling with every breath.

*          *          *          *          *

            Humiliating.

            The restraints were utterly child's play. Damian should have been out of them the second the buffoons had left the room. Unfortunately his sprained wrist would not cooperate. His other hand was wriggling desperate in its chain, trying to gather enough sweat to slide out. He'd already dislocated his thumb for the attempt.

            Humiliating. Undoubtedly Grayson would order him to remain in the Manor for an unseen amount of time after this debacle.

            Where was the infuriating man? He'd disregarded orders to come here, but Grayson always tracked him.

            Minutes passed and the slight wound at his side asserted its presence. It would be infected soon if he did not receive treatment. Where was he?!

            There was shouting outside and Damian took the moment to arrange his face. It wouldn't do to let Grayson see that he was not in control of the situation. The man who slapped the cuffs on him bolted into the room and face planted when a long bar connected with his head. All was silent as a tall figure stepped over the body. Too silent, not Grayson who would have been ranting at him by now. The steps were not as light as Nightwing's, but light enough to be suspicious. The person was also sticking to the shadows.

            "Who are you? I demand that you identify yourself!"

            The figure flinched back. "No need to get your greens in a twist."

            The voice was male and out of puberty, but sounded young, like Drake. His maybe savior stepped into the light, long limbs, wide shoulders and narrow hips. “If I’d a realized a Bat was in here, I mightn’t have bothered. Leotard Boy should be here soon; thought I heard his luscious ride outside.” A plank of wood was in his right hand and his left hand pulled off the ski mask. "Better, Boy Wonder?"

            Damian stared. It wasn't possible.

            "Robin!" Grayson flew into the warehouse and before his eyes, Damian's savior melted into the darkness, leaving the wood behind.

            Nightwing unlocked the restraints without noticing the witness and it added to the validity of what he saw. Also proved Grayson was not up to his father's level. Father would have noticed... he thought. Picked up like a damsel, Damian forgot to scowl, his eyes combing the shadows where a nearly invisible figure saluted him before vanishing completely.

            They arrived at the cave quickly enough. Father was on a League mission and Drake and Cain were still on patrol. Damian gritted his teeth when Grayson and Pennyworth forced him into his bed after wrapping his hands and torso. At least Grayson hadn't asked why all the thugs were knocked out when he’d arrived.

            How could he explain that the ghost of Jason Todd had done it?