Barely Surviving in a World Antithetical to My Existence - DomesticatedOpossum, Vampirenote13 (2024)

Chapter 1


(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Sunday Just Before Dawn

There was a body on the roof.

Technically, Jason didn’t know it was a body yet, but someone was sprawled out on their back, legs hanging off the edge of the building and arms starfished out. They wore a baggy hoodie with the hood pulled over their head so Jason couldn't get a good look at their face without getting closer.

"Hello?" The voice modulator reduced the question to a demand, but Jason didn’t have time to f*ck with the settings right now. "You good over there?" The person didn’t so much as twitch. With a deep sigh Jason approached them. His boots crunched in the gravel by their head as he leaned over to get a better look at their face.

They were a teenage boy, probably not much older than Tim. His eyes were closed, but he didn't exactly look dead. He looked exhausted though, the bags under his eyes and the paler than was probably healthy complexion spoke of that.

"You asleep?" he tried one more time. When the boy didn't stir, Jason gently nudged his shoulder with his boot.

The boy's eyes flew open, later Jason would swear they flashed Lazarus green, and his hand clamped around Jason's ankle. Startled, Jason flailed, his steel toe boot connecting squarely with the kid's head with a sickening thunk.

"f*ck," the kid groaned as he curled up in a ball, both hands on his head.

"sh*t, sorry. f*ck. Are you okay?" Jason panicked, crashing to his knees next to the kid, his hands hovering over the boy, not daring to touch lest he do more damage.

"The f*ck was that for?" the boy sat up, one hand pressed to the cut leaking blood above his eye. His hood had fallen down and Jason noticed the wireless earbuds in his ears. He didn’t recognize the brand, but they looked expensive. That was probably why the kid had come up here. If he was homeless, and judging by just how thin the teen was Jason was betting he was homeless, then he probably didn't want the other street kids seeing the ear buds and stealing them to sell. Jason was actually surprised the kid hadn't sold them himself, but maybe they weren't actually as expensive as they looked, or music was just more important to the kid.

"I'm so sorry," Jason pulled out his med kit and set it between them. "I'll fix it." The teen eyed him warily but pulled his hand away from the cut so Jason could see it better. It didn't look bad, head wounds always bled a lot, but he still wanted to get it cleaned and bandaged. Jason didn’t exactly wash his boots, and Gotham was a filthy place.

Jason went to touch the teens forehead, before realizing he still had his gloves on. He quickly pulled them off and doused his fingers in the hand sanitizer that Tim probably added to his kit because it hadn't been there the last time Jason had used it. Hands thoroughly de-germed, Jason gently touched the teens forehead.

A sensation rolled through Jason unlike anything he'd felt before. It was like someone had run a net through his brain and caught every negative thought, every bit of anger and rage and scooped it out. He barely had time to process how quiet it was in his head for the first time in years before someone shoved him down onto his ass.

Jason blinked the tears out of his eyes, (was he crying?) and looked up at the boy who was now standing over him. The cut hadn't stopped leaking. The blood covering half the kid's face only added to the expression of pure rage distorting his features.

"Why'd you have to kick me in the head asshole?" he shouted. "What? A guy can't listen to music without you butting in and trying to give me brain damage?!"

Jason didn’t know how to respond. Usually this was where the pit would boil over and he'd lash back, but nothing stirred. His mind was quiet, and he was more confused with the abrupt change of behavior than anything.

"What? Not even gonna say anything? Whatever asshole. Have your roof if you want it so bad." The teen turned and walked away, jumping to the next roof before disappearing from Jason's line of sight.

Jason just sat on the roof wondering what the hell had just happened and where the pit rage had gone. It took him far to long to realize the answer to that question had just been shouting in his face.

Danny remembered when he first got his powers and how often he'd get angry. Angry with his parents for constantly attacking him and threatening to dissect him. Angry with his friends for pushing him or not sympathizing with how hard his situation was. Angry with school for expecting perfection despite how hard he was already trying. And angry at the way the world had suddenly put so much pressure on his shoulders after his accident.

What bubbled under his skin now was worse than the rage back then, born at the time of new ghost powers mixed with puberty. Where that anger had been something he could power through or ignore, now he felt consumed, full to bursting with undirected emotion.

His head was still pounding from where Red Hood’s boot had impacted his skull. The pain only added to the inferno of anger as he stalked through the streets.

It was not the random drunk's fault that he ended up the target for all of the poorly restrained aggression consuming Danny, he just picked the wrong homeless teenager to bump into. The scent of cigarettes and alcohol burned Danny’s nose as he confronted the man. The fact that the guy was faultless and a little inebriated did nothing to stop Danny’s eyes from flashing green nor the feral snarl that escaped him as he fisted the man's greasy shirt in one hand and decked him in the face with the other. The blow had none of the strength it would have back home where the ectoplasm that fed his powers was abundant, but he still managed to break the man's nose.

For the stranger’s credit, he didn’t just stand there and take it; most people in the Narrows were happy for an excuse to take out their aggression on each other and this guy was no exception. The man swung back and got a solid hit on Danny.

Danny practically snarled as he tackled the man to the ground, an impressive feat considering the guy had nearly a foot and 100 pounds on the teen. They rolled around in the street trading blows, bruises staining skin wherever they made contact. Every burst of pain just fueled the venomous rage within Danny, singing at him to hit the man again.

He was only vaguely aware of the flashing lights that pulled up beside them, staining the puddles in the street red and blue. He didn’t stop trading blows with the man, both of them back on their feet, even when someone shouted at them to stop.

His attention was finally pulled away from the fight when someone grabbed his shoulders and physically yanked him away, the drunk man received the same treatment. The anger within him boiled higher as he spun and aimed a punch at the officer's head. He was stopped before making contact when something stabbed at his side and electricity coursed through him drawing out a pained scream and the memory of dying.

The taser was pulled back and Danny dropped to the ground, his muscles uncooperative but still madder than a pissed off honey badger. Someone rolled him onto his belly, the oily scent of asphalt filling his nose. His arms were pulled back and cold metal enclosed on his wrists. Someone had handcuffed him.

A clear thought finally broke through the wall of rage. 'Am I being arrested?'

When he'd woken up behind a dumpster that morning, he'd not imagined he'd end up being thrown into the back of a police cruiser just a few hours later. He huffed in frustration, fighting against the cuffs binding him now that he no longer had anyone else to take the aggression out on.

He could feel his eyes still burning a toxic green and wondered if the officer had even noticed. If they had, they probably didn't care, there were so many toxic chemicals tossed around by villains that a lot of people in Gotham were a little bit mutated. Glowing eyes probably wasn't the strangest thing this officer had seen. She most likely thought he was just some random punk who'd gotten gassed by some weird strain of Joker venom at some point. At least it wasn’t Red Hood who’d broken up the fight, or worse Batman. That would not have ended well for him. They tended to look closer at weird sh*t and the last thing Danny needed was a curious detective trying to figure him out.

Sunday, Mid day

There wasn't one moment when the rage disappeared, it faded slowly leaving behind a pounding headache. The exhaustion that had settled deep in his bones wasn't nearly as intense as it had been that morning, but Danny still felt drained.

As he stared out through bars of his cell, he was reminded of all the times Walker had locked him up. That had been Walker’s Prison though. This is the first time he’d been arrested by humans, and there were no friends coming to his rescue.

The holding cell was small with barely enough room for the two beds mounted to the wall. He’d chosen to sit on the lower bunk, thankful they hadn’t given him a cell mate. He'd still been pretty angry when they'd tossed him in there. He didn't need to add to his already impressive collection of bruises. His healing factor wasn't what it used to be. They'd definitely arrested the guy he'd picked a fight with, but they must have put in a cell somewhere else because Danny hadn’t seen him again.

The grimy fountain and toilet across the room were a potent reminder that he’d been stripped of any privacy. The only silver lining in this sh*tty situation was that he didn’t really need to use those amenities at the moment.

A metal door groaned open on worn sliding tracks somewhere nearby, the sound echoing off the cold concrete walls. Heavy footsteps pounded down the hall, sounding more like war drums warning of bad times as they approached Danny's cell.

The officer glared at him, a look of disgust painted across his face like Danny was an unpleasant pile of trash he'd been sent to deal with. The officer slid the cell door open before jangling a pair of cuffs on his index finger. Danny pushed off from the lumpy bed and stood, hissing softly when the motion pulled on the bruises littering his skin, a sharp reminder of why he was in here. At least the worst of the damage was hidden under his hoodie.

He offered his wrists to the officer, and had to restrain a flinch at the feeling of cold metal restraining him once again. Before, his rage had masked his discomfort, but now he remembered all the times he'd been bound before. It wasn't a pleasant train of thought.

Wordlessly, the officer gestured for Danny to follow and he was escorted down to a more open area of the police station. The bare cement walls had been painted a muted gray that was less harsh on the eyes. Danny noted the expensive security cameras dotted everywhere. At least he knew where the GCPD's budget went. Advanced monitoring equipment was way more important than programs to help people get back on their feet after being released.

He was made to stand against a wall with a backdrop he recognized from every cop drama ever as another officer with an expression just as tart as the first one, took his picture. He had to resist the urge to make a face as they were taking his mugshot, he knew the officers wouldn't find it funny with how serious they were treating him. Maybe someone had mentioned the glowing eyes and now everyone was worried he was a dangerous meta.

Danny winced as the officer roughly grabbed his upper arm, meaty fingers digging into the bruises there. The officer practically dragged him over to a machine. His hand closed around Danny's wrist, causing the cuff to bite into his skin. Each of his fingers were pressed to a small reader on the machine. It was clearly reading and recording his fingerprints. Danny had expected them to dip offenders’ fingers into ink and press them onto paper like he'd seen in movies, but either that practice was outdated or the machine was part of whatever higher budget the city seemed to have given their police force. Gotham definitely had more crime than any city back home.

A familiar ethereal rustling caught Danny's attention. He scanned the room around him and noticed something that he'd been too distracted to notice before. Every single officer had a small shade looming around them. The sourpuss who'd been man handling him and was still looking at him like he was trash had one hanging off his shoulder like a mischievous cat guarding its tower.

The officer working on the computer the fingerprint scanner was attached to had a shade sitting on the desk in front of him, doing its best to catch the officer’s attention, to no avail. This shade was almost fully formed too, and it glanced briefly at Danny with a blank expression before continuing to wave its hand at its anchor.

Shades always had made Danny uneasy. They weren’t quite the fully formed ghosts he was used to. From what he'd been able to gather, they were just a little ectoplasm shy from being able to interact with the world around them, forced instead to anchor themselves to a person or place they had had strong emotional ties to in life lest they fade away entirely. It was a sad state to exist in but he hadn’t found any way to help them. He'd tried talking to them, but without his powers, he didn’t have much luck understanding them. It made his weakened core sting slightly at his inability to help.

When they were done processing his photos and fingerprints, officer sourpuss led him further through the station. He was pushed with more force than required into a sterile-looking room. It was exactly as Danny expected an interrogation room to look like. A desk with three chairs, two on one side, one on the other, was the only thing in the room. A shade was sitting in one of the chairs, acting like it was looking through a file sitting on the table even though nothing was there. It must have looked through hundreds of files in its life if it was still mimicking the action in death. Considering no one else was nearby, Danny figured this shade was anchored to the building itself. Shades attached to buildings tended to be weaker than those attached to humans, more likely to lose themselves repeating familiar tasks over and over, but they also tended to stick around a lot longer. Buildings could stand for hundreds of years, and their Shades tended to linger.

Officer Sourpuss shoved Danny down into the lone chair opposite the shade. He locked Danny's cuffs to the table via a chain that was attached to the table for that purpose. Danny caught sight of his reflection in the one way mirror and grimaced. He'd washed the blood off his face in the cell, but he still looked like sh*t with his busted lip and black eye. His mug shot was definitely not a flattering picture if this is what he looked like.

Officer Sourpuss left him there, slamming the door loudly behind him. It was just him and the shade now. The shade paused its repetitive motion and looked directly at him. It opened its mouth like it wanted to say something, but all that Danny could make out was a faint static. Neither he nor this particular Shade were strong enough for it to make itself understood to Danny. Danny sighed deeply but didn't try talking to the Shade. It wouldn’t be wise to be caught on camera talking to himself.

Shades normally weren’t powerful enough on their own to set off his ghost sense, so it came as a shock when he felt a rush of cold air in his throat. He quickly turned his head to look at the door just as it was thrown open by a new officer. He just managed to suppress the urge to shudder when he noticed all the shades anchored to the man. Some were fully formed, reminding him more of Sydney Poindexter than the vague shadows most shades appeared as. There was one shade in particular that stood out to Danny. A very jovial looking man wearing the same GCPD uniform as the other cops he’s seen thus far was standing very close to the living officer. The disarming smile he gave Danny was a sharp contrast to the disgusted sneer that his living counterpart was displaying.

The Shade sitting across from Danny scattered, likely intimidated by the newcomer. It ignored the door where the deeply haunted officer stood and instead fled straight through the wall. The living officer, his badge said his name was Collins, and his shade counterpart replaced it as they sat across from Danny in the two open seats. Danny could faintly hear sobbing and screams coming from the cloud of Shades clinging to Officer Collins. He tried to suppress a shudder when officer Collins looked at him with an almost predatory gaze. The shades surrounding him told a tail of death wherever this man went, and Danny couldn't help but be afraid.

“Are you hungry? Thirsty?” Collins asked, an unkind gleam in his eyes.

Now that his attention was directed to it, Danny’s stomach growled softly and he struggled to remember the last time he’d eaten. He wasn’t sure how long they'd left him in that detainment cell to cool off before they had pulled him out. He was unsure how to answer, but in the end he nodded sheepishly.

“Good," Collins practically growled, a sickening sneer of pride twisting his mouth. The man slapped some folders onto the table, startling a flinch out of Danny. Collins cruel grin twisted impossible wider and Danny couldn't help but give him a flat, unimpressed look. He wasn’t sure why he’d expected a less rude response. At least Officer Sourpuss hadn't bothered to even pretend kindness.

“Your fingerprints and pictures came up clear on the database. First time offense, but Aggravated Assault is never taken lightly.” Officer Collins drawled like a practiced script and it made Danny pause.

Collins had said he'd been charged with aggravated assault but that didn’t sound right. He hadn’t even had a weapon on him. As far as his admittedly spotty memory of the fight went, it had been all fists. Either they were trying to scare him, or they were actually trying to pin a more serious crime on him.

Collins didn't seem amused by Danny’s lack of response, but his head was still hurting, and he genuinely didn't know what he was supposed to say.

“Why don't you start by giving me your name, kid. Won’t do you any good to withhold it. Your bio-metrics are already in the database now that we have you in custody. Would be a shame if you got lost in the system as a John Doe…” the threat hung in the air, already thick with the volatile emotions of the shades.

The strongest of the pack of shades, the other officer, gave Danny a sympathetic look. “You should cooperate with Collins, kid," he urged. "It's just your name. That's all we need.”

Danny was rather shocked by how clear the voice rang out from the dead cop. He was almost surprised Collins couldn’t hear it, but by the unchanged expression on the living cop's face it was clear he didn’t hear his companion so Danny did his best to school his expression. He wished that the dead Officer, Barney, according to the shade’s name tag, was the one running this interrogation. Maybe the man who shared a name with the happiest purple dinosaur on the planet would have actually gotten him something to snack on or better yet some coffee. Exhaustion had been a constant companion since Danny had ended up here, and after the day he'd had he could definitely use some caffeine.

Alas, Officer Collins was running this circus and was still waiting for Danny to give him his name. Danny wondered if he should lie. Just give Collins a fake name or maybe say he didn’t remember his name. Red Hood had kicked him pretty good, he could try faking amnesia. But cops were probably used to that trick, and if he pushed it too far they'd take him to Arkham and that was not a place he wanted to be. Lying was his best option. He still hadn’t figured out if there was another Danny Fenton in this universe but if there was he didn't want to screw the guy over.

“Tucker Manson.” Danny blurted out without really thinking. He hoped his friends back home never found out about this incident or the jokes would be non-stop. Officer Barney gave him an encouraging thumbs up and Danny only felt a little guilty about lying to the poor guy.

A different shade, one Danny hadn’t noticed yet, peeled out of the cloud that hovered behind Collins. The shade was a teenager who looked strangely like Danny with black hair and muted blue eyes. He seemed like he was trying to mess with Officer Collins’ pen as Collins noted the fake name in Danny's file.

“Well, Mr. Manson,” Officer Collins drawled, his tone strangely gentle and Danny realized he was just humoring him. Collins wasn't buying the fake name. “I hope you know a good lawyer because right now things don’t look very good for you. Witness statements were taken that indicate that you assaulted the victim first, he was only fighting back in self defense. Would you like to tell me why you picked a fight with such an upstanding citizen?”

Danny probably would have explained why he'd picked that fight, if he'd had a valid reason. He could try saying he hadn’t been in control of himself, but it wasn't like he was drugged or something. He'd just been really angry after Red Hood kicked him in the head. Actually, now that he was thinking about it, the kick hadn’t actually pissed him off all that much. It wasn't until after Hood touched him that he lost his cool. But that wasn't something he could blame the fight on. What was he going to say? 'Sorry I picked a fight with a random guy. I was just really pissed off cause someone touched me'? He didn't think Collins would like that answer much. Besides, in cop shows they always said you shouldn’t say anything without your lawyer. Anything you said could incriminate you and make the situation worse.

So Danny did something he almost never did, he shut his mouth, settling instead for shaking his head.

Officer Collins sighed in that, 'I'm disappointed in you' way that Danny's parents and teachers often did. “We’re done here then.” Collins got up and released Danny from the table. Danny was surprised he didn't push harder, Collins had seemed determined to play the bad cop. Instead he motioned for Danny to follow him out of the room, handing him off to Officer Sourpuss who'd apparently been waiting to lead him back to his cell. Normally, Danny would hate being locked back up in that cramped space, but after being in a room with the walking Shade Attraction, he’d happily sit in that barren cell where no one, living or dead, would bother him.


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Chapter 2


DomesticatedOpossum: More content for you!!!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Sunday, Around 3PM

When Jason woke up after patrol, his mind was still quiet. The raging inferno that he'd assumed were his thoughts was silent. The Pit was just, gone . That kid had stolen or absorbed it, or something because the hatred and anger Jason had thought was his own wasn't there anymore.

He grabbed his phone off its charger and looked at the time. It was 3:00 pm, but that wasn't what caught his attention. It was Sunday, and Bruce had sent his usual text with a calendar invite to Sunday Dinner at the manor, that man was nothing if not organized. Jason had never attended before because he didn't feel like losing control and hurting the replacement Tim again. He'd never fully understood his own reasoning for hating the kid, but every time he so much as thought about Timmy the rage boiled over. It didn't today.

Jason opened his phone and for the very first time accepted the invite. Immediately his phone started blowing up as several birds texted him. He took a deep breath in preparation for the usual surge of irritation the constant pings usually caused, but nothing happened. He felt fine, calm even. He opened the first text from Dick. It was just a random collection of excited emojis. Jason laughed and the noise startled him. He couldn't remember the last time he'd laughed.

Sunday, Around 6PM

Jason was nervous. He usually didn't have enough room for nerves, but apparently he did now! Having actual emotions again was going to be hard, but it was still better than before.

Jason gunned his bike through the rich suburbs and into the richer mansion district. He'd been to the cave several times, and Alfred had dragged him upstairs for tea a few times, but he hadn’t entered through the front door since before he'd died.

The gate opened for him before he even had a chance to touch the intercom, so he just leaned forward and sped up the drive. He parked just a few feet from the front door, being careful not to scratch Dick's police cruiser, the last thing he needed was for Dick to pretend to arrest him for damaging police property.

"Hi Alfy," Jason greeted the man who opened the front door before he'd even had a chance to knock. They really weren't giving him any chances to chicken out of this.

"Wonderful to see you my boy," Alfred said warmly. "I do believe Master Tim owes Master Dick fifty dollars. There was some debate about the likelihood of your arrival tonight."

Jason laughed, that was something he loved about the old butler, he never minced words.

"So what are we having?" Jason asked as he followed Alfred inside and towards the dining room.

"Jason!" Dick cheered as they entered. Jason found himself suddenly being crushed in one of the man's patented octopus hugs.

"You cost me fifty dollars Jay!" Tim exclaimed. Jason laughed and wrapped his arms around Dick before picking him up and swinging him around.

"Please mind the table," Alfred warned but didn't try to stop them. Jason set Dick down and took a step back.

"You're in a good mood today," Dick observed.

"Yeah," Jason breathed. "I think I finally got my head on straight." He followed Dick to the table and sat down next to him. Across the table, Damian eyed him suspiciously and Tim looked calculating.

"It's good to see you Jay," Tim offered his fist and Jason happily bumped it. Tim tilted his head like a confused dog.

"I'm glad you chose to come today," Bruce said from his seat at the head of the table. Jason looked at the man, and despite expecting it, was still surprised when his usual anger didn't manifest. He put his hands behind his head and leaned back in his chair.

"Don't flatter yourself, I mostly came for Alfred's cooking," Jason drawled.

"Are you on drugs or something?" Damian demanded.

"What? No!" Jason sat up straight again.

"Antidepressants?" Tim asked. "I find they're extremely helpful."

"No, I'm not on anything," Jason spluttered. "I'm just feeling, I don't know, more sociable or something."

"Let's not pester the man," Alfred scolded as he re-entered the dining room pushing a rolling cart with several dishes on it. Jason caught sight of lasagna and some kind of casserole.

"Yeah, don't pester me," Jason agreed, sticking his tongue out at the younger boys. Damian looked affronted but Tim laughed.

"What has everyone been up to?" Bruce wisely changed the subject as Alfred started serving everyone.

"I think I figured out where the Marconi's are getting their weapons from," Tim started.

"Timmy!" Dick scolded. "No case talk at the table." Tim crossed his arms and pouted.

"I'm looking into signing Titus and myself up for a canine obedience competition," Damian said.

"When is it?" Bruce asked.

"Shortly before school resumes in September."

"That's only a month and a half away," Tim noted. "Are you going to be ready in time?"

"Tt, Titus is already perfectly trained. I just need to teach him a few more entertainment type tricks and we're sure to win."

"Sounds wonderful Damian," Bruce praised, and Jason could just see Damian's ears turn pink. "Just let me know when it is so I can make sure no one schedules me for a meeting that day."

"I will email you the information, father."

"What about you Dick?" Bruce asked.

"Okay, so, we've been trying to catch this guy who…"

"Hey!" Tim interrupted. "You said no case talk!" He pointed a forkful of lasagna at Dick in an accusatory way.

"This is for my actual job!" Dick argued.

"Being a vigilante is a job, " Tim snarked back.

"Boys!" Bruce scolded. The man took a deep breath before turning to Jason. "Jay, what have you been up to?"

"Sorry B, I don't exactly have a life outside Red Hood," Jason admitted, poking at his food.

"Wait, really?" Dick asked. "Do you want to hang out sometime? We could go to the movies!"

"Uh, maybe," Jason shrugged. He immediately wished he'd just agreed because the silence that followed was awkward.

"I think one of my classmates is an alien!" Tim blurted out. Damian turned to him and gave him an incredulous look.

"What? Why?" Dick asked, latching into the change in topic.

"They didn't know what caviar was! And then when I got them some, they said it was disgusting!"

"That's because it is disgusting," Jason stage whispered to Dick who burst out laughing.

"What?" Tim demanded. "They're totally an alien!"

"Timmy, your privilege is showing," Jason said.

"Okay fine, not liking caviar is one thing, but not knowing what it is?" Tim's words trailed off.

"You go to Gotham U right?" Jason asked.

"Yeah, why?"

"Normal people go there too."

"Hey! I'm normal!"

"I don't think anyone in this family is normal," Dick muttered into his cup.

"Jay, did you bring your gear?" Bruce asked. Tim slapped the table and glared at Bruce but the man ignored him.

"No, was I supposed to?" Jason asked.

"Aw man," Dick whined. "We could have patrolled together."

"Won't the criminals in Bludhaven realize Nightwing is never there on Sundays?" Jason asked.

"No, I don't patrol in Gotham every Sunday. I'm not stupid."

"You should meet us in the cave tomorrow before patrol!" Tim exclaimed. "B has some upgraded gear he's been dying to give you."

"I'm pretty sure you're the one who insisted on making that equipment personally," Bruce teased. Jason couldn't help the grin as Tim turned bright red.

"What, you think my gear isn't good enough?" Jason snarked.

"Improving someone's equipment is how Timothy shows his love," Damian said firmly, and Jason immediately dropped the snark. He hadn’t realized the kid gave a sh*t about him. Sure he was acting like they got along, but he'd thought that was just to be civil in front of the others. Jason definitely wouldn't hold it against the kid if he hated his guts. But if Tim made him new gear as a sign of affection?

"I'll come by tomorrow to check it out Tim," he assured and the kid's face lit up. Jason's heart melted and he realized he was f*cked. There was no way he was ever going to be able to deny Timmy anything ever again.


Monday, Before Dawn

Danny was bored out of his mind. They'd taken his phone before they'd tossed him in his cell the first time, along with his earbuds. He'd had his wallet stolen his first night in Gotham, and while the phone was useless as a phone, it had all his music on it, some of which didn't even seem to exist in this world. Hopefully they didn't try to get into it.

He'd moved past hungry a while ago and now his stomach was actually painful, gurgling unhappily and cramping. He hadn’t seen anyone since Officer Sourpuss had dumped him off in his cell with nothing to do but stare at the wall and regret not putting more effort into feeding himself. He’d tried napping a few times but he'd been a light sleeper before he was living on the dangerous streets of Gotham. The loud, busy station kept him from drifting into deeper sleep.

Danny actually found himself nostalgic for Walker’s prison. The ghost would have already thrown him in with the other inmates, that at least would be interesting. And for all his faults, Walker had never denied him food. This whole situation was starting to feel more like torture with no other cellmate to talk to and nobody bothering to feed him. He imagined it was to discourage repeat offenders; no one would want to go through this sh*t every time they were caught.

The lights shut off with a thunk, plunging the holding cells into near darkness, only the dim emergency lights still lit the hall. Danny figured it was probably night. He was surprised he'd been there that long. It'd been the f*cking ass crack of dawn when Red Hood had kicked him in the head, and he'd gotten into the fight with the drunkard not long after. He felt like, in all that time, the officers had neglected a few steps. He was pretty sure he was supposed to get a phone call at some point. He didn’t actually have anyone to call since he didn't know anyone in this world, and even if some of the tech here was more advanced, he was pretty sure they didn't have phones that could make interdimensional calls, but it hadn’t even been offered.

There had to be more steps than just keeping him locked up after telling him he’s gonna get pinned for Aggravated Assault. On top of all that, he was very clearly a minor. He was only sixteen and considering he took after his mom, he was short enough that people often mistook him for younger. He definitely should have talked to a social worker by now. It was illegal for kids to be homeless.

Danny had managed to drift into a fitful sleep when he was woken by that metal door sliding again. It was the first sign of life in the station for a while, other than himself but he only half counted.

"Man, they really need to use WD-40 on that door," he muttered to himself, the screeching of metal grating in the silence.

His next exhale came out icy cold and he sat up on his cot, muscles tensed, looking around to spot the threat. His eyes were better than a normal human's, and with the emergency lighting helping, it was easy to spot the newcomer. He'd really hoped it wasn't going to be Officer Collins, but his luck wasn't that good. The cop who literally reeked of death glared down at him. Danny scrambled to his feet, uncomfortable sitting down with the threatening man standing over him. Collins was still nearly a foot and a half taller than Danny, but he felt slightly better on his feet.

“Someone post my bail?” Danny couldn't help but joke, crossing his arms protectively. Nobody was going to, but Collins didn't know that.

“No, Mr. Manson. There hasn’t been anyone to reach out to claim you,” Collins looked smug as he twirled the cell keys on his finger. “I have some more questions for you though, so it looks like you are coming with me, punk.”

Danny really didn't want to go anywhere with Collins, but he didn't have much of a choice. Collins made him turn around so he could cuff his hands behind his back this time. Danny didn't like putting his back to the man, and on top of that, Collins put the cuffs on a bit too tight. He worried about losing feeling in his fingers if they stayed on too long, but he didn’t have the courage to ask the man to loosen them. With how he'd been treated thus far, the man would probably just laugh.

He tried to ignore how vulnerable he felt as Collins led him around the station, everything a lot eerier without the bustle of the staff.

Tired of the uncomfortable silence, Danny couldn't help but open his big mouth. “So, I guess you pulled the short straw for night duty?” It was a stupid question and Danny regretted asking it almost immediately.

Collins didn't answer him, which really wasn't a surprise. The whole situation reeked of bad vibes, which was more Sam's area of expertise but Danny could still tell something was wrong. It didn't get any better as the officer led him into an empty interrogation room. Danny was distracted for a second by the security camera hanging limply in the corner of the ceiling, clearly broken. It should have been a red flag, but Danny's exhaustion caused him to miss it.

Collins grabbed the hair on the back of Danny's head, and before he had a second to react, shoved him face-first against the table. Danny didn't know what it was about his face that made humans and ghosts alike want to slam it into things. Whether those things were fists or tables didn't seem to matter, as long as Danny ended up with a black eye. He just barely managed to contain the whimper of pain that tried to escape; past experience had taught him that if he made a noise it would only entice Collins to further pummel him.

“You know," Collins drawled. "We ran the name Tucker Manson through a few different databases. We just couldn’t find a single thing. Not even a missing kid or runaway report. Your physical description didn’t quite fit any reports either. You know what that makes you? Non-existent, Mr. Manson. A twink like you slips through the cracks so easily, as simple as a misplaced folder. Nobody’s looking for you anyways, so why would it matter?” Collins' tone was like a cat that had caught the cannery, pure predator. Danny had glimpsed the monster inside Collins in their previous conversation, but now it'd come out to play.

“It’s ok," Collins cooed. "I can still find a use for you.”

The smell of death in the air felt stronger with Collins’ grip pressing him into the table, the man's hands wandering in a way that grossed Danny out. He struggled against the cuffs but that only drew a laugh from the monster finding pleasure in his discomfort.

“He’s gonna kill you," a staticky voice whispered in his ear causing Danny to tense up even more than he already had. Unable to turn his head, Danny barely managed to spot the young, black-haire shade in his peripheral vision. There was more color to him this time, and Danny could just make out the ring of bruises around his neck like a gruesome collar. The shade's sky blue eyes were swirling with rage, the powerful emotion triggered by Danny's situation was giving the shade more power.

“H-he’ll play with you first, break you, t-then get rid of you like he did w-with me… Don’t scream or he’ll be even r-rougher.”

The only thing Danny wanted to do after that was scream, but he bit down on the inside of his cheek instead, trying to focus on that and not what was happening.

A hand snaked its way up Danny’s shirt and barely grazed the edge of his binder before his self preservation instinct took over.

“No!” he screamed, the word reverberating eerily. He kicked backwards as hard as he could and was rewarded with a satisfying creak from the predator’s kneecap. Collins' grip loosened enough that he was able to twist his head around and bite down on the monster's hand, the taste of copper bursting across his tongue.

The officer let go, and Danny rolled off the table, his knees banging painful on the concrete floor. Collins was cussing up a storm and struggling to draw his gun with his busted and bleeding fingers. Danny scanned the room for an exit, but the door was closed, and probably locked. There wasn't anywhere to run so he backed up into a wall, hands throbbing painfully, just trying to get as far from Officer Collins as he could. The man was looking at him with unholy anger, the gun finally drawn and aimed at Danny's head. All the shades around him were unleashing a cacophony of screams in tune with the man’s heightened emotions.

Danny squeezed his eyes shut as he pressed into the wall. f*ck it, he knew he’d pass out later but a secret identity was only worth anything if you weren't dead, and if he stayed in this situation one second longer he was definitely dead, or worse. He willed himself intangible and invisible, the cuffs clattering to the floor as he let himself fall backwards through the wall. He barely heard the “What the-” from the monstrous cop before he was through. He rolled to his feet and found himself in a hallway he didn’t recognize. It didn't matter though, with his powers still active all he had to do was run straight and he'd be outside eventually.

He was surprised to find it was not as draining as using his powers in this world usually was. His energy was lasting longer than he'd estimated it would, but he could tell it was still going to take a toll, especially as he hadn’t eaten in a long time.

He dropped his powers the second he burst through a wall and right into an alleyway. His legs gave out a second later and he landed painfully on his butt. He gasped desperately for air as he tried to calm his panicked heart. His limbs shook slightly from the effort of using his powers, but that would stop once he got some food. He couldn't help but dread how close he'd come to ending up just like that shade kid as he dragged himself to his feet. He had to lean against the alley wall for support at first but he had to keep moving. It was imperative he get as far away from the station as possible before his body completely gave up and he passed out.

As he stumbled along, he remembered his lost phone and earbuds, still locked up in the station. There was no way to get them back now. At least the sun was coming up. Soon it'd be busy enough on the streets that Danny was sure to be lost in the crowds. It'd been a rough 24 hours, and all Danny wanted to do was fall asleep listening to his music, but that was impossible now. Not for the first time he cursed himself for getting himself stranded in the world. It was all his fault and there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it but keep trying to stay alive, and hope his friends came for him. If they didn't come soon, well, they had to come soon.


Let us know how we're doing! We love hearing from you!

Chapter 3


We've upped the rating to M. We've ended up exploring Collins a lot more than originally planned so the rating now reflects how f*cked up he is. Please be gentle with yourself.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Monday, Just After Dawn

Danny's body finally gave up and he landed on his knees on the grass. He'd made it further from the police station than he thought he would, pushing himself so far past exhaustion that his vision was starting to go dark on the edges. He'd managed to get halfway across Gotham, back to the small park on the border of the Narrows.

It was the same park he'd found himself in on that first day in Gotham. It was barely worth the title of park, with just a few benches, overgrown trees, and a broken swing set. The city clearly hadn't cared enough to fix it, but some inventive person had replaced the missing and broken swings with ones made of old boards and rope. They definitely weren't up to code, but Danny had seen enough kids playing on them that he didn’t think they were in danger of breaking any time soon.

The decorative fountain still worked, which made absolutely no sense to Danny. Why the city decided the fountain was worth the money to maintain and the swings weren't was beyond him. Or maybe the city wasn't actually maintaining the fountain. If they were, the water probably wouldn't occasionally turn slightly green and glow, which it definitely did on occasion. It was probably just some toxic chemical, but it didn’t seem to harm the ivy that wrapped around the fountain.

Even neglected, the park was still Danny's favorite place to be in Gotham. It was strangely comforting, and the blob ghosts that hung out in the park were a definite plus. The little guys were alway so happy to see him, rubbing up against him and demanding pets. He always felt better when they were around.

Danny tried not to spend too much time in the park, just to avoid suspicion. The longest he'd stayed was close to 24 hours, but that'd been when the lack of a decent ectoplasm supply had finally caught up to him and using his powers had knocked him on his ass. He tried not to stay in one spot that long, but the park was always a pleasant spot to rest for a little.

As he found a tree closer to the back of the park and sunk down against it, he was already planning where he'd go next. He really couldn't stay in one spot long now. Before it'd just been a precaution, but now he would have people actually looking for him. A few blob ghosts crawled up onto his lap like needy kittens, buzzing softly as they cuddled up to him, and he regretted that he'd have to make them get up soon. No one else seemed to be able to see them so he was the only one to ever give them attention. One even found its way into his unreasonably messy hair, claiming it as its new nest.

With a deep sigh he settled down. He could afford to nap for a few hours at least, finally letting his eyelids win the war they’d been waging since he ran from the police station.

Just a little nap would be fine. He'd moved on in a few hours.

Monday, Late Afternoon

Danny managed to find some humor in the fact that his whole childhood had basically prepared him for living in the streets. When the food your parents made was more likely to come alive and eat you , and even once you killed it the radiation it gave off made your skin crawl, you learned to just either eat the irradiated food anyways or find the next best thing.

Dumpster diving for food behind a local burger place wasn’t the worst experience he’d had, it wasn't even his worst experience with a dumpster. The fact that before he’d found himself homeless in this other world he couldn’t claim the number of dumpsters he’d ever been in was zero should have been a sign of his likelihood to encounter them again.

The point was, this wasn’t his first dumpster dive and, unless his friends turned up in a few hours, it probably wouldn’t be his last. He usually found perfectly good food that was still in bags. He wasn’t sure why the restaurant would waste it, but it was probably expired or something. He wondered if halfas even get food poisoning, or tetanus for that matter. He'd cut himself on more rusty metal since coming to Gotham than he'd have thought possible. And he hadn’t gotten sick from eating literally garbage, so either he couldn’t get food poisoning, or the food restaurants threw out was fine.

He didn't have a ton of luck today though. Normally there was a clear trash bag or two with old buns, but the only thing he found was a takeout bag with a chicken sandwich and fries. The bag was only a little soggy. He guessed that it wasn't made the way the customer wanted and that's why it'd been thrown out because it seemed fine. He really would have preferred a burger, but he wasn’t about to turn his nose up at food. He was too tired and hungry to care anyway as he sat down with his back to the wall and bit into the sandwich.

Even if it was a little gross, he really didn't have the option to be picky. He was constantly hungry now, ever since the end of that first week in Gotham when his powers started to give out. He hadn’t realized there was a shortage of ambient ectoplasm in this world at first, and he had no way of knowing how it was going to drain him. Even with all the food he stole and scrounged, he was still losing weight like a starving man. He hardly had any baby fat left anymore, his face and ribs hollowing out. His best guess was that without the ectoplasm to fuel his powers, his body was forced to burn more calories to sustain them. But they were burning more than he could get, thus he had to eat anything he could get ahold of.

Someone was watching him. His ghost sense didn't go off around people, except that monster pretending to be a police officer, but he could still sense someone staring at him. He looked up to find a woman in an immodest outfit, red hair tied back, handbag clutched tight, watching him with an unhappy expression on her face. He swallowed his food, and held back a sigh. If she was going to tell him to get lost he was going to scream.

“Hey kid, you know the local soup kitchen is still open, right?" she asked. It wasn't what he'd been expecting her to say. "Either way, if you just asked, Tony would hook you up with fresh food." She gestured to the bag in his lap and Danny realized the words, "Tony's Famous Burgers," were plastered on it. He figured he was really losing his edge if he didn't even know the name of the restaurant who's dumpster he'd been regularly raiding. He needed to pay more attention to this sh*t.

The woman was still talking. "He doesn’t like seeing kids go hungry and I doubt he would like to see someone eating from his dumpster. You’re just gonna get sick eating trash like that.”

Danny just shrugged. “I was hungry and I don’t really feel like bothering anyone right now…” It wasn't like he could go to the soup kitchen anyway, especially now. A homeless kid was definitely going to be noticed and even possibly found by that demon wearing human skin. The idea of even the possibility of being found by Officer Collins again made him shiver slightly. The woman frowned at him, clearly having noticed his shudder. She sighed before walking away, and Danny slowly released the tension that had built up in his shoulders.

He thought that would be the end of that interaction, just another person displeased at his situation but unwilling to actually do anything about it. He took another bite from his meal, trying not to focus on the taste.

Danny startled a few minutes later when she appeared at the mouth of the alley, a familiar takeout bag clutched tightly in her hand. He eyed her warily as she approached. He didn’t really want to get up yet, he wasn't sure his legs could really take his weight, but she didn't seem to be a threat. The woman set the bag on the ground in front of him, backing up once she did, her hands raised like he was a wild animal she was trying not to scare, which he supposed was fair.

Curious, and still extremely hungry despite having already eaten most of the chicken sandwich, he humored her and opened the bag. His mouth watered at finding a warm burger with fresh fries. It was the best thing he'd smelled in days and was far more appetizing than the dumpster food.

“Why?” he asked dumbly, head tilted in confusion.

“Nobody likes to see kids go hungry in this neighborhood. I know you’re not a local if you didn’t even know that. So just ask for help next time, kid.” She chuckled slightly, like help was something Danny was worthy of. “Name’s Marie. You let Tony know next time you need food. He’s always got plenty of leftovers for the alley kids.” She was looking at him expectantly, and it took him far too long to realize what she wanted.

“... Danny," he muttered, unsure about giving his name out but unwilling to lie to the first person to be kind to him. "Thanks, Marie. I appreciate it.” Danny couldn’t quite meet her eyes, but he gave her a smile before turning his attention back to the food. He was going to savor this meal. It was probably going to be his last fresh one for a while.

Monday Evening

Everyone involved with the Batfamily, as Dick lovingly referred to it, was given a set of professional-quality lockpicks and the training to use them for a reason. Finding a way into buildings you weren't supposed to be in was one of the lesser-discussed parts of every vigilante's life. Sometimes, you just had to do a little breaking and entering to get information for a case. The skill was coming in handy tonight for Tim who was currently waiting in his Red Robin costume for the key witness of the case he’d picked up to come home to their tiny apartment.

The kitchen was kinda gross, dirty dishes piled in the sink and several empty cans of beer rolling around in the corners with the dust bunnies. The coffee maker had been left on and smelled like burnt coffee, only savages burnt coffee! The disrespect towards heaven's beverage lowered Tim’s respect for the man even further, which shouldn't be possible as Tim didn't have any respect for cops. At least Dick worked in Bludhaven so Tim didn't have to acknowledge that the man was a walking oxymoron on top of being a normal moron.

He was jolted out of his rambling thoughts by the sound of the front door opening and used the shadows of the kitchen to his advantage, blending in perfectly to the badly lit corner. Officer Collins trudged through his apartment, his footsteps dragging with clear weariness.

Tim found the man's lack of situational awareness worrying. He didn’t notice Tim when he turned on the dim light over the stove and walked straight past him on the way to the fridge. There was no way he'd survive long as a cop if he was that blind. Then again, maybe normal people didn't have their guard up in their own homes. After all, most people didn't have vigilante siblings and surrogate parents who were liable to just appear behind you with no warning no matter where you were. Regardless, Collins clearly wasn't at his best tonight. He still didn't notice he wasn't alone when he pulled open the fridge to get a can of beer and the light swept across Tim's corner. The man popped open the can and took a deep swig, slamming the fridge door closed with his foot.

Tired of waiting, and a little embarrassed for the man, Tim coughed to catch his attention.

“Holy sh*t!” Collins shouted in surprise, dropping his drink. Beer gurgled out everywhere, the can rolling across the floor only exasperating the issue. The man scrambled for his holstered gun and pointed it at Tim. Tim was momentarily distracted by the way the beer was soaking into the worn socks on the man's feet, that had to be uncomfortable.

“Who are you?” Collins demanded, eyes narrowed with suspicion, or maybe he was just trying to make out Tim in the dim light.

“Lower the gun, Officer Collins. I just have a few questions about a case.” Tim flipped on the light before raising his hands to show he wasn’t armed. Collins glared mightily at him for several long seconds before complying with a huff.

“You work with the Bat," Collins grumbled unhappily as he turned his back on Tim. He grabbed a nearly empty paper towel roll that was sitting on the counter. He seemed content to just let Red Robin hang back as he ripped the few remaining pieces of paper off the roll and dropped them onto the beer puddle, toeing at it with his already wet socks.

“Which one are you again? Red Rocket?”

Tim could feel his left eye twitch slightly under his mask, but was careful not to let his irritation show as he shook his head.

“Red Robin," he corrected as he pulled a folder out from under his cape and placed it on the kitchen’s poor, abused table. “You filed this report, correct?”

Collins looked up, abandoning the mess. “This about that meta punk? How’d you even get that file? Our digital security is top of the line!”

Tim smirked, knowing he had Officer Collins’ full attention now. “Oh please, I’ve been hacking into the GCPD since I was six," he couldn’t help but boast.

“How old are you now?” Collins asked, a hand on his hip as he looked Tim over. There was a look in the man's eye like he thought Tim would be an interesting challenge. Tim knew he was short, but he was still Bat trained. Thug cops always thought they could take him, but they hadn’t been right yet.

“That’s not relevant.” Tim waved a hand at the file on the table, trying to bring the interrogation conversation back on track. “I have a few questions about your ‘report’, Office Collins.”

“Everything is in there, but fine. Just make it quick, yeah? I have to be back at the station at six.” Officer Collins was clearly trying to sound disinterested, which Tim found strange. He'd figured the officer would be invested in finding his escaped suspect. Unless he was trying to make Tim uninterested in the case through some weird social pressure. The end result of course was now Tim was more interested in the case.

“I’ll be brief,” Tim assured. “Your report says you removed the suspect from his cell at 4:45 am. There’s no mention as to why.”

“Was that supposed to be a question?” Collins chuckled. Tim didn’t see the humor.

“Why did you remove the suspect from his cell?” Tim drawled, annoyed at having to rephrase.

“It says it in the report. I was interrogating him.” Collins defended, giving a slight shrug. Tim wasn’t happy with that response, it only brought up new questions instead of answering any.

“The record states the suspect was already interrogated the day prior. And 4:45 am hardly seems standard practice for an interrogation,” he pointed out.

“You know kid, you’re really bad at just asking what you mean.” Officer Collins quipped, an unpleasant grin twisting his face. The man was clearly treating this like some strange game, where Tim was just trying to do a job, a job that was technically Collins'.

Tim gave the officer a patented Bat-glare, and watched with glee as the man second guessed sassing the vigilante in his apartment.

“Fine, the punk wasn’t talking before! Gave some dumb false name, so I figured he might be more willing to talk if he was a bit groggy. Ain’t nothing in the rules saying that ain’t allowed.”

“I’m sure there likely is something stating that but regardless… Your report says the suspect used ‘Creepy Meta Powers’ to escape you. Would you be willing to clarify what that means?” Tim asked, careful to phrase it as a question this time. The report hadn’t really explained the escapee’s powers much, so he was hoping to get the answer from the source himself.

“See, now that was a question.” Collins smirked slightly, before his expression darkened, dropping his air of disinterest for the first time. “I’m not sure how else to explain it. The punk made me see really weird sh*t, like Fear Gas kinds of weird. Almost like ghosts or something. He literally vanished and instead there was a creepy dead kid floating there.”

Something didn’t feel right about that statement to Tim, there was more Collins wasn't saying. “Did you recognize the ‘ghost’?”

“Nope,” Collins answered almost instantly, like he had that answer prepared.

Tim just knew Collins was twisting the truth somewhere, but he suspected if he pressed the man would completely shut him down. “What happened after that?”

“Dunno. Punk was just gone. For the life of me, couldn’t figure out how he escaped the station. My best guess is that he just used those weird powers to make sure no one could see him and then slipped out when someone opened the door.” Collins sighed. “My coworkers are still laughing at me for getting ‘Jedi Mind-tricked’.”

Tim hummed in contemplation, crossing his arms and tapping a finger on his bicep. “That’s quite the leap,” he muttered, more to himself than Collins. The facts weren't adding up at all.

“I dunno how the f*cker’s powers work, ok?! We’re trained to deal with super strength and flight, not f*cked up mind powers!” Collins looked agitated and Tim could see he’d pushed some buttons. The man probably had a meta phobia.

Tim sighed, resigned to look into another avenue for his case, he was pretty sure the report had said something about confiscating a cell phone from the suspect. The station couldn't get in, but they weren't Tim. “Thank you for your time, Officer Collins. That will be all.”

“Great,” Collins very nearly growling his words. “Next time, lets meet on the roof of the station, not my f*cking apartment.”

Tim had to agree. Collin’s apartment was a sh*thole, he wasn't willing to come back here to talk to the man again, not that he had any plans to, the Officer had barely cooperated. “I don’t intend for there to be a next time.”

“Whatever. Just lock the door on the way out.” Collins grumbled, before looking back to the mess of beer-soaked paper towels on the floor and sighing as he resigned himself to clean it up.

Tim took that as his cue to leave through the window instead, partly to be contrary, and partly because he'd have to walk past the man to get to the door. Something in the back of his mind was warning him that there was a danger here, but he'd have to examine it later. His phone had been buzzing in his pocket for the entire second half of his conversation with Collins which meant something was going on with his siblings. They were the only one's to text him that insistently.

Collins watched Red Robin leave through his window and licked his lips. He hadn’t been able to see the kid's eyes under the mask, but somehow that just drove his desire to have the kid more. He wanted to find out exactly what color they were, to find out what they looked like filling with fear . He didn’t even care at that point if they weren’t blue.

Collins hadn’t realized any of the Bat's brood were still so young, discounting the current Robin, but the youngest was never out of sight of one of the others. Collins hadn't given much thought to the Bats and Birds before, not like the other officers at the station who tended to obsess over them. He figured it was a native thing which he most certainly wasn't.

He'd never really wanted to live in a big city like Gotham, but after his second win, he'd very nearly lost everything when someone f*cker pointed the finger at him. Nothing stuck, but he knew he'd need a different place if he wanted to have fun again. Gotham was perfect. There was already so much crime happening, a few little twinks disappearing was hardly noticeable. And now that he was an officer? Well, it was just too easy.

Except for that little slu*t the other night. He'd cheated. Using f*cking meta powers to escape. It wasn't fair if Collins didn't know the rules. But Red Robin. He wasn’t a meta, but he would be difficult. Collins couldn’t just grab him off the street. If he didn't have a rock hard alibi, someone would think of him. All those little vigilante punks talked, they'd know Red Robin came to see him. It had to be very clear he wasn't the one to clip the little bird's wings.

He mulled over his options as he mopped up the spilled beer with an old t-shirt, he was out of paper towels. He'd been about to give up plotting for the night, when he remembered that gang member they'd picked up with the meta twink. He'd been one of Falcone’s, so of course they'd let him go. Collins didn't have an in with the Falcones, but he had arrested a few members of some lesser mob groups. They'd probably do him a favor in exchange for a couple get outta jail free cards. Hell, some of them might even do it just for the chance to have a few minutes with the bird. Collins figured he could probably share. But he was going to finish it.

He'd wait until he was sure the others didn't know where Red Robin was before he enjoyed his prize. He wasn’t going to get caught that easy. And even if he was, which was extremely unlikely, he was secure in the knowledge that Batman wouldn't kill him. After all, the Joker had murdered one of his Robin's and the man didn't have the spine to put the clown down.

He went to bed, his mind full of plans to contact the mob members in the morning. He still had some of the drugs he'd used on Ezra. He didn’t know how the meta had made him see the teen again. Maybe his powers did work like fear toxin, making you see sh*t that was already in your mind. He certainly remembered the twink, the fear in his eyes as Collins fingers crushed the life out of him.

At least he wasn't going to have to worry about anyone f*cking up his plans this time. He'd gotten the reputation of having 'bad luck' with partners and the station was having difficulty assigning him a new one, which suited him just fine. His plan would be impossible to pull off if he had a partner sticking his nose where it didn't belong. Again.


DomesticatedOpossum: I got distracted by Final Fantasy 16, so this chapter is later than intended, but it's here now!
Vampirenote13: Sorry we got distracted by Final Fantasy. 14 has me claimed x)

As always, comments are love and come join us in the discord!

Chapter 4


And we're back again. This fic is so much fun to write, passing it back and forth is like an inspiration feedback loop!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Monday Evening

“I’m here!” Jason announced as he pulled off his motorcycle helmet. He slung it on the handlebars of his bike and hefted the duffle with his Red Hood gear more firmly over his shoulder. It'd been a pain riding with it, but he didn't have a car or an easier way to get his stuff to the cave.

He wandered away from the section of the cave that had become a glorified parking lot and found most of his siblings already gathered.

“Jason!” Dick didn’t even give him a second to react before throwing himself at his brother for a hug. Hugs had always been rare in Jason’s life, even more so since he came back to life. His family had been, rightfully, worried about him reacting poorly to any physical contact, so it took a moment to process what was happening, but once he did, he squeezed his brother back.

“Don’t you ever patrol your own damn city?” Jason joked, trying to distract from his awkward reaction to being hugged.

“Come on,” Dick grinned mischievously. “I wasn’t gonna miss the chance to hang out with my little brother.”

“We’ve hung out on patrol before.” Jason pointed out, rolling his eyes to add to his exasperated tone, but he couldn’t stop himself from grinning.

“No, I’ve followed you around on patrol while you shot in my general direction.” Dick corrected, crossing his arms. He was still smiling but his shoulders hunched up like he hadn’t actually wanted to bring it up.

Jason knew he hadn’t meant it harshly, but it still felt like he’d been dunked in cold water. “Sorry. I wasn’t ever actually trying to hit you, you know that? Right?” It was suddenly very important to him that his brother understood that. Even if he’d been angry, and he had been angry, he would never have forgiven himself if he’d actually hurt Dick. He’d stopped wanting to hurt any of them after what he’d done to Tim.

“I know,” Dick’s expression softened before lighting up with that obnoxious smile of his. “You’re forgiven.”

Jason wasn’t sure if he really deserved forgiveness, but he’d happily take it if it meant he got to keep his brothers around. That thought reminded him that one was still missing from their number.

“Where’s the Coffee Addict?” Jason asked, looking around at the spots the kid could regularly be found at, which was pretty much just the computer chair and the coffee pot which Alfred regularly tried to remove from the cave when no one was looking.

“Tim? He went out early,” Dick shrugged. “He said he’d found a weird police report during class and wanted to take a quick look into it.”

“Really?” Jason raised an eyebrow, that seemed a strange place to find something like that. “He found a police report during class? What class, criminal psych?” Jason forced a laugh, but guilt churned in his gut when he realized he didn’t actually know what classes Tim was taking during the summer semester. He really wished he’d paid more attention to his family's goings on.

“Drake was hacking into the GCPD during macro economics, instead of paying attention.” Damian cut in, a sour expression on his face. “You’d think a high school drop-out would try harder.”

Jason resisted the urge to remind Damian that Jason was also technically a high school drop-out. Kinda hard to finish English lit when you’re dead.

“Damian,” Dick scolded. “You and I both know Timmy is smarter than all of us.” The words were flattering, but there was still a hint of a teasing tone to the man’s words.

“Hmph. Not when it comes to self care.” Jason muttered. Tim was kind of infamous in the family for his lack of self preservation. They’d lost count of how many times he’d forgotten to drink water during a heatwave and had to be dragged back to the manor for a fluid IV after passing out. There had once been a chalkboard duct-taped to the cave wall counting all the times Tim had fallen asleep in strange places after staying up for days on end because he was incapable of putting a case on pause even for his own health.

“On that, we agree Todd.” Damian nodded solemnly.

“Aaaanyway,” Dick drawled, clearly trying to steer the conversation away before they decide to stage another Tim intervention. “I’ll text Tim to let him know you’re here. He might kill me if I gave you the new gear he worked on for you without him.”

“I’m surprised he didn’t wait, must have been a very interesting case?” Jason prompted. Tim was crazy about cases, but he’d seemed super eager to show off the new tech to Jason even more. It was a little strange he’d put a case first when Jason had promised he’d be here tonight.

“He didn’t believe you’d come.” Damian huffed, crossing his arms and sinking further into the beat up couch he was sitting on. Jason couldn’t help but feel that Damian might not have believed he was going to show either.

Dick shot a glare at Damian, but didn’t correct him, which only solidified what Jason was already suspecting. None of them had expected him to show up. He was hurt, but he couldn’t blame them. Coming to one family dinner didn't erase the months of ignored invitations. It had been for their own good, but he’d yet to explain what changed, so it was reasonable that they thought yesterday was fluke.

“That look doesn’t work on me, Grayson.” Damian only scoffed at his brother's attempt to glare him into behaving. Jason noticed him looking towards where his Robin gear was set out, the look in his eyes like he wanted a knife in his hand, or a very sharp Bird-a-rang.

“You’ve never seen the look he’ll give after you’ve eaten all of his cereal,” Jason said, attempting to restore the lighthearted tone of the conversation with some humor. There’d been a reason he never touched the cereal in the manor when he used to live in it. The first time he’d accidentally eaten out of one of Dick’s boxes of cereal had been scary enough.

“Tt, I wouldn’t touch that sugary garbage.” Damian said as he turned to face him. He looked slightly less annoyed though, he wasn’t slouching nearly as much.

“Did you ever act like a kid?” Jason wondered aloud. He tried to imagine Damian doing any stereotypical ‘kid’ things. It was hard to picture Damian doing the dumb things he used to do when he was a kid, sh*tty childhood aside. He’d still played with chalk and action figures. He figured Damian’s first ‘toy’ had probably been a knife.

“No.” Damian rolled his eyes, like the very thought of acting like a child was beneath him.

“Wanna spar while we wait for Tim?” Dick offered when Jason’s attempt at levity landed flat on its face.

“Dunno. You trust me not to break something?” Jason raised an eyebrow, wondering what his older brother’s game plan was. Was he testing him? Trying to find out if he actually had a handle on the pit rage?

“You won’t hurt me.” Dick smirked, already starting to stretch his arms with challenge in his eyes.

Well, if Dick wanted a challenge, who was he to say no?

Tim was still mulling over the mixed information he’d managed to pry out of Officer Collins when he arrived back at the cave. Dick had practically blown up his phone telling him to get to the cave ASAP, but beside the assurance that no one was dying, the man hadn’t explained why. The reason became abundantly clear when he found Dick in the middle of hand springing away from a brutal barrage of Jason’s kicks and punches. He had a moment where panic seized him before realizing that this wasn’t the sloppy fighting of a Pit Mad Jason. This was a mutually agreed upon sparring session his brothers were participating in. The bright grin on Dick’s face only confirmed that nothing was wrong.

“Jason! You came!” Tim said when he found the courage to approach. He wasn’t sure if he’d ever stop that little jolt of fear when he saw Jason fight like that, the memory that night in the tower still burned into his mind. But despite his surprise, he was genuinely happy that his brother hadn’t blown them off again.

“I said I would, Baby Bird.” Jason broke away from the fight. He grabbed a towel off guard rail and dabbed at his face before making his way over to Tim and ruffling his hair. Tim halfheartedly tried to slap his hand away, but with their height difference the effort was futile.

“That’s f*cking adorable…” Dick whispered, clearly to himself. Tim recognized the look in his brother’s eyes that said the man really wished he had a camera to capture the moment. But he’d been banned from using Tim’s after the last time he’d ‘borrowed’ one of his cameras and returned it absolutely shattered. Apparently, the man had tried to take a picture using his feet during a handstand, on the top of the WE building. And Dick’s phone camera was currently useless thanks to Oracle. The man had unwisely taken an unflattering picture of the woman passed out at her keyboard and shared it with the family. Now the camera on any phone Dick touched ceased to function.

“You said you had some new gear for me?” Jason grinned down at him, and Tim suddenly remembered why the man had agreed to come to the cave.

“Yeah!” Tim exclaimed, grabbing Jason’s arm to lead him to his work table where, despite not believing the man would come, he’d carefully set out the gear he’d built. “I know you got a lot of your stuff from the Batcave or B’s stashes across Gotham-'' Jason’s expression twisted unhappily, but Tim wasn’t sharing how he’d come by that information. “But all that stuff is several versions outdated now. I didn’t want to mess with your look too much, but I made you a new armor under-suit that should fit comfortably under your current gear. It’s a lot more bullet resistant.”

“I thought you said it was bullet proof?” Dick trotted behind them, looking over Jason’s shoulder at the gear being presented, resting his chin on his brother. Jason was definitely the bulkier of the two, but Dick was still the tallest of them all, Bruce included.

“Nothing is bullet proof .” Jason scholded, shoving Dick off him. Tim hummed in agreement, they all had the scars to prove it too.

“Nothing is anything proof.” Tim explained. “It’s all resistant. You can have heat resistant, water resistant, bullet resistant, but not proof. It’s just never going to be a guarantee…” Tim counted on his fingers as he listed the resistances he usually had to worry about when making vigilante gear.

“But Superman is bullet proof!” Dick argued, frowning. Tim immediately imagined making body armor out of cloned kryptonian skin, before dismissing the idea as too gross.

“Not if you expose him to Kryptonite.” Damian had finally gotten off the couch and made his way over to them. He looked over the gear Tim had made with an appraising eye. Tim hadn’t really shown it to anyone before, not wanting them to laugh at him for making something for a man who barely talked to them. “If exposed to even a tiny sliver, even a dagger might defeat him…”

“Speaking of,” Tim bounced in his seat excitedly as he picked up the belt, pointing out one of its pouches. “I’ve improved the pocket where we store our kryptonite shards. We were having issues with chipping and trying to find every little piece before Clark visits is a pain… Now it's padded better to prevent that.”

“I don’t even have kryptonite?” Jason frowned. Tim had actually already known that. His brother was lucky he hadn’t run into a situation where he needed the space rock, you never knew when you might run into an evil Superman clone, or an evil Konnor clone, or an evil Jon clone. Seriously, their kryptonian friends got cloned a lot, even the ones who were already clones!

”Oh, well… You do now!” Tim grinned slyly, opening the pouch to reveal there was already a piece of the green stone in it.

“Can I see your helmet?” Tim asked, holding out his hands.

“Sure, but why?” Jason questioned even as he was already walking towards where he’d dumped his duffle bag of gear. He fished out the helmet and passed it over to Tim.

“I’m adding a com upgrade and a new HUD I designed,” Tim explained. “I would have done this ages ago, but you hadn’t been around for me to add it sooner… It should only take a minute.” Tim took the helmet over to the main computer and hunted around for the right cable for a second before plugging it in.

“Sooo, Little Wing?” Jason had been trying to follow what Tim was doing, but now Dick was staring intently at him while poking his shoulder teasingly. “You doing anything tomorrow?”

“Sleep, then patrol. Why?” Jason wondered just what his brother was getting at. He’d been pretty clear to his family earlier that he didn’t have anything resembling a social life. Which was kind of depressing, he realized that, but it had been to keep those around him safe from his more violent days.

“Do you wanna see a movie with me? Or all of us, we can bring Tim and Damian! Make it a brother bonding time!” Dick was grinning ear to ear, clearly extremely pleased with the idea.

“Tt, I’ve already told you I didn’t want to see your ridiculous excuse for entertainment.” Damian glared, his annoyance practically dripping off him.


“I don’t really get toys.” Tim commented as he worked on Jason’s helmet, which should have been more alarming. Apparently Jason had the most normal childhood out of all of them, which was just f*cking sad.

“Timmy, that’s just depressing.” Jason pointed out. “But, what movie are we talking about?”

“Barbie!” Dick gushed.

Damian groaned and Jason could tell it wasn’t the first time Dick had tried to bring up going to see that particular movie.

“I’m down for that," Jason said, chuckling slightly at his little brother's exasperation.

“WHAT?!” Tim shouted in disbelief.

Dick made a noise like a squeaky toy being stepped on as he threw his arms around Jason for another hug. “Yassss Queen!”

You want to see the Barbie movie?” Damian questioned, looking at Jason like he’d lost his marbles or was under the effects of some mind control.

“Yes? Is that so surprising?” Jason wondered. It looked like it would be a really funny movie. He thought his brothers would have had better taste than this.

“You don’t exactly scream target audience,” Tim pointed out and Jason couldn’t exactly fault him for that assumption.

“Hey! I’ll have you know Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus is a cinematic masterpiece.” Jason asserted, fighting to keep the grin off his face lest anyone feel bold enough to challenge his claim.

The room fell quiet when nobody knew how to respond. Jason hadn't meant to f*ck up the conversation again, but now he felt a little awkward. “What? We were broke! We watched what we could get our hands on!”

The silence dragged for another minute before Tim generously broke it. “Hey Jay, try the helmet now and tell me if the HUD is responding to you. It should only react to your voice.” He unplugged it and brought it over to Jason.

“What can it do?” Jason asked, rotating the helmet in his hands to peer into it as if he could physically see the changes Tim had made.

“It’s got similar functionality to your standard digital assistant; It can look things up for you, set timers, stuff like that,” Tim explained, playing with his fingers and not quite making eye contact. “But more importantly, it’s also got access to the BatComputer, so you’ll be able to search stuff for cases that we’ve worked on. I’ve also got a few functions I turned on, but you can decide if you like them or not.”

“Like what?” Jason was curious as he put the helmet on. True to Tim's word, the HUD looked updated and it would probably take a little to adjust to the new set up.

“Well, there’s a program running that will automatically run any ID and tell you if it’s real or not,” Tim offered as an example.

“Any ID?” Jason clarified, already thinking of how useful that feature could be.

“Yup. Even FBI badges.” Tim straightened up, clearly proud of himself. Jason imagined it'd probably take a lot of work for the kid to get that feature functioning properly. “If you prompt it, it’ll pull up relevant data on the person too.”

Jason couldn’t help but whistle at that. “Impressive, Timbit.”

The tips of his brother's ear flushed pink, clearly not expecting Jason’s praise. “Most of the programs already existed, I just tied them together.”

Jason snorted. “You don’t know how to accept praise, do you?”

“We’re working on it.” Dick promised, placing a hand on Tim’s shoulder.

“I don’t see what’s worth praising about it?” Tim said, his confusion evident.

“It’s f*cking impressive!” Jason insisted. He was willing to drive that point into the ground since his brother didn’t seem to understand that he was more than just good enough . “Thank you, Tim, this sh*t is going to help a lot.”

“You haven’t even tried it on under the suit yet.” Tim’s tone was doubtful, a frown tugged at the corners of his mouth. “You might not like how it fits…”

“I’m sure it’s fine, either way I gotta get dressed for patrol.” Jason eyed the door that led to the showers and changing room. “I’m not gonna run into a naked Bruce if I go into the locker room, am I?”

Damian scoffed. “Father is running late today.”

“He got roped into a new project at work.” Tim explained, like the know it all he was. “He should join us part way through patrol, though.”

“Heeeey,” Dick interrupted, his bottom lip stuck out in an exaggerated pout. “You never said if you wanted to go to the movies tomorrow.”

“I do,” Jason chuckled, amused with his older brother’s shenanigans. It was a nice change from the anger the high pitched tone would have normally brought out. “Just text me the time when you get the chance.”

“Awesome! We’ll bring Baby Bird and Lil Peep.” Dick pumped his fist in victory and danced around in a happy jig.

“Lil Peep?” Jason asked. He knew they all gave each other nicknames like their lives depended on it, but he hadn’t heard that one before.

“Yeah! I’m Big Bird, you’re Little Wing, Tim is Baby Bird…. Damian needed a bird-themed nickname.” Dick smirked slightly, amusem*nt dancing in his eyes.

“I dislike being associated with a subpar marshmallow…” Damian grumbled, sulking into the couch again, there was gonna be a Damian shaped divot there if he didn’t stop soon. Jason was sure the only reason Dick didn’t currently have a knife in his leg was because he was probably Damian’s favorite brother. Probably. Jason wasn’t sure Damian had a favorite anything. Maybe a favorite knife. He definitely had a favorite knife.

“Hatchlings say peep, Dami. It has nothing to do with the objectively best seasonal treat! “ Dick insisted, as if defending his naming theme was going to make Damian like it any better.

“You like circus peanuts,” Jason deadpanned. “You don’t really get to make statements about what is and isn’t good candy.”

“What do you want from me? I grew up in a circus!” Dick shouted, but he couldn’t stop the smile that lit up his face at the friendly teasing. “Circus peanuts are the best.”

“This f*cking family is a circus…” Tim rolled his eyes, but he was smiling too.

“At this moment, I’d prefer the circus. There are less fools there.” Damian narrowed his eyes at his brothers.

“So anyways, I think I’m just going to change,” Jason announced as he wandered off towards the locker room. He felt like he’d made some progress toward mending the gap between himself and his brothers, but he knew he still had a lot of time to make up for before they were truly comfortable around each other.

He looked around the locker room, and was surprised to find one of the lockers actually had his name on it. And it wasn’t just his old one, the whole space had clearly been renovated since he’d last been in here. It sent warmth through his chest knowing that they’d wanted him in their lives enough to remember something as insignificant as a locker. He’d just pulled his shirt over his head when he heard footsteps approaching.

“Hey Jay!” Tim started. “I forgot to tell you something about the body suit-” Tim’s voice trailed off as he rounded the corner and caught sight of Jason. The eager grin dropped from the boy’s face as he took in the mess that was Jason’s chest. Jason could barely hear the “Holy sh*t” that his brother breathed out.

“What’d you need, Baby Bird?” Jason asked as he grabbed for the armor he’d left on the bench beside him, trying to pretend like the reaction wasn’t bothering him. He didn’t want the kid to think he was upset with him.

“I-I thought the pit erased scars.” Tim stammered and suddenly Jason realized this was probably the first time Tim had seen the full extent of the damage the f*cking clown had bestowed on him. Timmy hadn't been around when Jason was buried.

“Oh, uh… Yeah, it um, didn’t?” Jason could imagine what Tim was thinking. He didn’t like looking in the mirror sometimes because of the reminder of what and who had scarred him so badly. He’d had a point when he’d been pissed at Bruce for letting another kid throw himself into a life where this sh*t was liable to happen. He’d gone about expressing that point in the completely wrong way, but it’d still been valid. The scars that hammered that point home hardest were probably the burns that spread across the majority of his limbs, and the small carved J carved over his heart. In a fit of anger and despair, he’d cut another scar into to try and change it into an X, which had only kinda worked.

“Talia couldn’t figure out why.” Jason mumbled, unable to make eye contact with his brother.

“f*ck.” Jason glanced up and found that Tim was frowning. The expression was making Jason uncomfortable, so he hurried to put the new armor on. He didn’t need his little brother giving him that look of pity, he didn’t need it. He didn’t deserve it, not from Tim.


Now that Jason had room in his head for other emotions, nerves weren't the only thing he was becoming reacquainted with. A low thrum of guilt had been churning in his chest since he'd taken the previous night off patrol to sit on his kitchen floor and listen to the blessed nothing in his head. But now he took a moment to examine it.

Sitting on a roof, eating ice cream with his brothers for the first time ever, he should have felt amazing. Instead he felt like sh*t. He didn’t want to think about how he'd gotten so lucky. Luck wasn't something he was very familiar with, but it was only thanks to his encounter with that strange kid that he was able to spend time with his brothers like this. It wasn't fair. That kid didn't deserve to deal with Jason's rage, but he probably was. Jason needed to find him before he was consumed by his guilt. He didn't want to trade being consumed by one emotion for being consumed by another.

He really needed to put out some feelers for this kid, just to check on him. He didn’t know if the anger could be taken back. He definitely didn’t want to take it back, but some random kid didn’t deserve it. He’d keep an eye out for him tonight. The four of them were planning on sweeping the whole city that night, so they’d be in the Narrows for a bit.

Oracle could probably find the kid, or hell, Tim could in heartbeat. Jason looked over at the said Baby Bird where he was deliberately ignoring Dick’s attempts to get him to take a bottle of water. Despite his dislike for the liquid, there was still a smile teasing the corners of his mouth, nothing like that unhappy expression he’d had at the sight of Jason’s scars. But now he just looked like a happy kid, unburdened by Jason’s issues. He couldn’t dump this on his brother, not now that he’d just found some balance with everyone. He’d try to find the kid on his own at first. It couldn’t be that hard to find one kid. Jason found people who didn’t want to be found all the time. It would be a walk in the park.

Tuesday Afternoon

The dumpster Danny had looked in that morning for food only had candles, occult merch, and incense so he was still hungry. There'd been a little red duck-shaped candle amongst the other trash that had caught his attention though. Somehow, it didn't have a wick, which was probably why it'd been thrown out. It reminded him of Sam and her red occult candles that she had sworn kept evil spirits at bay, so he'd kept it. Considering the Manson household was never touched in ghost attacks, he figured there was probably some truth to her claim. He figured it might even keep Officer Collins away.

Belly empty, and pocket full of candle, Danny found himself back at the park sooner than was probably wise. But he was so tired, and it was really the only place he felt safe. The leader of the blob ghosts, one he called Cat for its tendency to purr, would wake him if something truly dangerous was about to happen. His appearance at the park was usually met with a whole swarm of the little ghosts demanding attention, but today it was only Cat who turned up to greet him.

"Heya, Cat. Where are the others?" Cat vibrated before taking ahold of Danny's hand with tiny nubby limbs and attempting to drag him deeper into the park. There was no strength behind the action, but Danny followed anyway, curious about what had the little guy so excited.

Cat led him into a cluster of trees, and he felt terror clench his heart when cold air rushed up his throat. He dropped into a crouch before taking a few more steps forward. A rumpled looking man, who was thankful not Collins, sat on a park bench among the trees. He was wearing a trench coat, and had a lit cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Cat left Danny's side to join the other blob ghost current flitting around the stranger, who appeared to be feeding them? He had a palm-full of colorful little stars that the ghosts were eagerly picking up and stuffing into their mouths. Danny didn't know they could eat. Then again, the stars (candies?) were glowing faintly, so they clearly weren't normal.

The stranger looked up, and an unusual feeling of calm flooded Danny's chest when their eyes met.

"Aye? So yer the one these blighters have been tellen me 'bout," the man said in a thick British accent.

"You can talk with them?" The fact that that was his first question and not, 'who the f*ck are you,' spoke both to his level of exhaustion and the fact the blob ghosts clearly liked the man.

"Not in words 'xactly," he explained. "But it's fairly easy for beings of pure emotions to communicate with an empath. Not that I'd call myself an empath . But yeah, I can un'nerstand em."

The man slid over on the bench and patted the seat next to him. Danny hesitated for a moment, unsure if he wanted to be so close to the man, but Cat looked at him and chirped eagerly, so Danny took a deep breath and sat down on the very end of the bench. He didn’t fully unclench his muscles in case he needed to bolt, but the man seemed content to ignore him and feed the ghost blobs.

"What are you giving them?"

"Spirit candy," the man moved his hand so Danny could get a closer look. They reminded him of those old timey fruit shaped hard candies, but star shaped instead.

"Ya can try em." Danny wasn't sure he wanted to take literal candy from a literal stranger, but then the man took one and popped it in his mouth, not bothering to close it so Danny heard him crunch into the treat. "These ones 'er lemon flavored I think."

Danny was curious, so he took one and bit into it like the man had done. He guessed he could taste the lemon, but it was very mild. Then it felt like he'd just had a shot of espresso as a rush of energy flooded his system.

"Woah," he muttered, and the man chuckled.

"They're alright. Like pure caffeine to ghosts and spirits though. Better not ta give em too much or they get a little more real than is safe for em. People might think the place is proper haunted and get some two bit occult type who don't know nothing to cast em out."

"Are you an 'occult type'?" Danny asked.

"Of a sort. Name's John Constantine." He didn’t offer his hand to shake, instead proffering the candy again. Danny took a few more and stuck them into his cheek to suck on.

"Danny." He'd been giving out his name a lot more than he was comfortable with lately, but this man clearly wasn't normal and seemed to know Danny wasn't either.

"No last name?" John asked.

"I've got one," Danny muttered.

"You 'member was it was?"

"Is," Danny corrected. "And I know it, just don't feel like sharing."

"Ah, so not dead then. Yer somethin' else." Danny felt a jolt of fear as the man got extremely close to the truth, but he didn't have long to dwell on it as John kept talking. "You don't happen to know anythin' about a surge of power 'round here 'bout two weeks ago?"

"You mean like the power grid?"

" A power grid, yeah. Just not the one yer thinking of."

"No," Danny lied. He was sure John was talking about the day he ended up in Gotham, but didn't want to talk about it.

"I would've looked into it sooner, but I was off world."

"Off world?" Danny asked.

"Hm," John hummed in the affirmative. "Never would've thought demons would decide to start f*cking with the sun, but here we are. Justice League needed help with it before the bloody things ended all life on earth."

That first week Danny had been in Gotham, before he'd resorted to spending all his time sleeping and feeding his powers, he'd holed up in the library trying to find a way home. He'd come across the Justice League then, a team of superheroes straight out of a comic book. He didn’t remember seeing John's name on any of the ever changing lists of members he'd found, but there had been one name that was on every single list, Gotham's own Batman.

"Was Batman on that mission?" Danny asked, trying to be casual. He was curious about the local vigilantes but didn't want to accidentally draw attention to himself by researching them too much. Tucker had once written a program that would alert them if someone got a little too interested in Danny Phantom online and for all he knew, the Bats had a similar thing in place.

"No," John snorted. "We had ta leave someone competent on earth, else the whole place would've gone to sh*t. He's good people though. The lot of em are. Here." John dumped the rest of the spirit candy into Danny's hands before standing and stretching, his back cracking in a way that sounded painful.

"Was nice to meet ya Danny, but I gotta get going."

"Thanks for the candy, John," Danny said, a little startled at the abruptness of his new friend.

"Most people call me Constantine," he said. Danny wrinkled his nose. He didn’t really like using someone's full name, a leftover quirk from the dysphoria his own dead name gave him. Going by Danny had been safe, a way to feel comfortable and accepted. Calling John Constantine felt uncomfortable.

"Connie?" he offered as a compromise. John looked like he was about to protest, before his shoulders slumped.

"Sure kid," he breathed. "Ya can call me that."

"Thanks, Connie."

"Whatever kid. See ya around." And with that, the shadow of the tree literally reached up and swallowed the man. Danny sat there, stunned. He'd sensed an aura of power from Connie, but he hadn’t been expecting that. As he finished off the last of the candy, he couldn’t help but feel better knowing he had such a powerful person as a friend. Maybe he'd survive Gotham long enough for his friends to find him after all.


DomesticatedOpossum: Connie is so much fun, I can't wait to write more of him!!!!!

As always, come pester us on discord. We have a channel there where we plan out this fic, and it has a link to the master document if you want spoilers!

Chapter 5


DomesticatedOpossum: I got a new (old) laptop and a new rainbow keyboard!!! It's been much easier to write with them!!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Tuesday Afternoon

Constantine wasn't sure what exactly the kid was. The energy surge in Gotham meant ghosts were involved somehow, but even the most powerful ghosts weren't that physical. But the spirit candy had an effect on him, so he had to be ghost adjacent. He'd considered zombie, but the kid was definitely breathing, and zombies didn't tend to do that. There was a distinct aura of death around the kid, but Constantine couldn't tell if it was entirely from whatever was wrong with him, or the fact he looked like he had been starved for the past month. It was possible the two were related.

Whatever was wrong with the kid, it was draining him, badly. His soul felt weak and frail. Souls didn't usually need a lot of energy to maintain their hold on their bodies, but this one was wrong. It was like someone was trying to power a computer with a potato battery, his soul just wasn't getting enough juice.

The spirit candy had definitely helped, but that wasn't a permanent fix. He planned to ask around, but he wasn’t sure if Danny's situation was fixable. There had to be a way to at least manage it though. With how thin the kid was, he clearly wasn't getting enough to eat. He figured that would be a good place to start. A good meal could fix a lot.

Jason woke up screaming, which wasn't unusual. He dreamt he was back in that coffin most nights. He hadn’t had the dream the last two sleeps however, it'd vanished with his rage.

His phone chirped on his nightstand, and annoyance stung him. It might have been almost noon, but that was f*cking early for a vigilante, especially him. His brothers knew that. They should have more respect than to text him at this time.

Cool dread pooled in his stomach, just barely overpowering the anger that had suddenly bubbled to the surface. Whatever that kid had done, it had been undone, or simply worn off.

He couldn’t live like this. He'd finally had everything he wanted, and he'd barely gotten a taste of it. They were supposed to go to the movies before patrol tonight. He had plans dammit! He didn’t want to blow his family off anymore.

But he had to. He wasn’t safe anymore. He could feel that burning rage slowly filling him, like a hose left on drowning the flower bed. Everything beautiful and good, just gone.

Jason didn’t realize what he was doing until his fist was lodged in the drywall. He yanked it out and scrambled backwards, falling off his bed, back flat on the floor. Tears spilled down his cheeks as a sob wracked his chest. He hadn’t punched a wall in months. He had more control than that. Or, he'd had more control. That carefully constructed leash on his anger, the one he'd spent so long crafting, was just gone.

He curled into a ball, his breath shaky as tears pooled on the floor. He had to blow off his brothers, there was no way he was putting them in danger if he was this out of control. And he had to find that kid. He wasn’t going to touch him, wasn't going to force him to take the rage away. But. He might know what had happened, maybe there was another way to recreate the effect. Maybe he wouldn't have to go back to being alone.

Tuesday Evening

Tim definitely wasn't upset. He knew that things had been going too well with Jason. People didn’t just change for the better like that, not overnight. Especially people with the kind of trauma that Jason had. The man had just been having a good couple of days. There was no reason to feel disappointed that he’d blown them off because it had been bound to happen sooner or later. It was unfair to Jason to be upset, it wasn’t the man’s fault his metal health was a work in progress. So Tim definitely wasn’t upset. Not even a little bit.

Tim's feelings aside, he did suddenly have a hole in his schedule. Tim didn’t do well when he was bored, so he found something to distract himself occupy his time. Throwing himself into a case as Red Robin was his usual go to, so he looked over his open cases. He had a few that were more urgent, but the increasingly weird case of one Tucker Manson drew his attention. The name was definitely fake as Officer Collins had indicated, but there was still a potentially violent meta running around free in Gotham, and that wasn’t something he could just ignore.

Tim went over the file he’d gotten off the GCPD servers and saw that they’d taken a few personal effects from the meta, and that he hadn’t taken them when he’d escaped the station. That felt like a good enough place to look, so despite the fact that the sun had only just started to set, Tim geared up and hopped on his bike.

Breaking into the station the kid had been detained in was even easier than getting past their cybersecurity. All it took was looping a few cameras to cover his tracks and crawling through a few vents even Robin probably wouldn’t have even fit through, that kid was bulking out ridiculously fast, which was completely unfair. Sure Tim had only just started taking testosterone, but the kid was so much younger than him!

He’d mapped out his route through the vents beforehand, so it took no effort to find the evidence room. He dropped to the floor, and had to dig around for a while before he found the box filled with what they had taken off of Tucker’s possession. It shouldn't have taken even that long, but apparently no one had bothered to clean out or organize this place in a long time. Tim was considering mentioning it to Gordon.

The only things he found belonging to 'Tucker Mason', were a set of neon green earbuds, and a well worn flip phone. The ear buds weren't a brand he recognized, they looked nothing like any currently on the market. The flip phone was a little roughed up, but it was in decent enough condition considering flip phones had stopped being manufactured all together about a decade ago. It had a decal on it, a white logo that looked like a stylized D stood out against the black of the phone. He wondered if it alluded to the kid’s true identity or if it was some obscure media reference. He didn’t recognize it, but it was impossible to be up to date with everything despite how much he tried to. He'd run it through an image search back at the cave.

Tim pocketed the meta’s limited belongings before closing the box and placing it back exactly how he’d found it, not that it'd matter much. No one was going to notice one misplaced box in this mess. It was seriously a security issue. With nothing more he could learn without a computer in front of him, he scrambled back into the vents. He didn't really feel like going on patrol tonight and risk running into bothering Jason, so he was happy to pull an all-nighter figuring out the phone. He hadn’t recognized its brand either, so he figured it might be custom built. Why someone would spend that much effort on a flip phone was beyond him, but hopefully the contents would shed some light on the matter.

He left just as professionally as he entered, making sure nothing was out of place and there's no way anyone would suspect there had been a vigilante in the evidence storage. He considered leaving some hints to his presence, just so they actually bother cleaning up the place, but that was just sloppy. He also really hadn’t liked his last interaction with Officer Collins and would hate for the man to seek him out for a hostile confrontation. It was better if that had been a one-time meeting.

Tim had f*cked up. He'd gotten co*cky and now all his evidence was gone, well, not all his evidence, but a good chunk of it. He'd assumed the phone was lower tech than it actually was because it was a f*cking flip phone . He'd assumed it wouldn't have a lot of security on it. So after he'd plugged it into the BatComputer and broke through the password, he'd just started downloading the data. The transfer had barely been going a second before a little pixel art character popped up on screen.

Panic instantly seized Tim's chest as he hurriedly unplugged the phone, but it was too late. It'd already wiped and bricked itself. He let his forehead hit the keyboard. The computer let out a soft tone indicating the keyboard was locked because too many buttons were being pressed at once, a necessary safety feature in the often rambunctious cave.

After a moment to collect himself, Tim sat up. The character on the screen was still there, a dark skinned boy in a red hat, waggling his finger like Tim had done something naughty. There didn’t seem to be any hostile intentions to whatever security program it was, but even if there had been, it wouldn’t have mattered. The BatComputer was one of, if not the most, secure computer in the world. A program on a flip phone was no threat to it.

A window in the bottom right brought Tim some hope. Apparently, due to the BatComputer’s shear speed, it had downloaded several files before the security program had activated. Giddy, Tim opened them.

The first thing the BatComputer had managed to download were several MP3 files. Tim played one, and found it was rock music. The band was listed as Dumpty Humpty, which wasn’t a name he recognized. A quick search later turned up nothing. There were a few indie bands with the same name, but none of them were rock bands, and definitely didn’t have any of this music listed in their works. It seemed too professional a recording to just be a garage band, but Tim didn’t know what else it could be. The band that had performed the songs didn’t have any online presence.

Tim had also apparently managed to download the phone’s contact list. This ended up being a dead end however, as all the contacts were listed under nicknames, and therefore weren’t useful. Also, the phone numbers all appeared to be out of service, or belonged to businesses in Minnesota, which just added to the strange mystery of the phone.

Tim was getting a strange feeling, so he looked closer at the phone and earbuds. He tried looking up the brands, but came up with nothing, the sticker on the phone also wasn’t a logo that existed anywhere. It didn’t make any sense. It was almost like the devices were from some alternate world. They didn’t look like alien tech, Tim had seen enough to know. They looked like they were from earth a decade or so ago, but not from a company that ever existed, with music that didn’t exist.

Tim looked at the last bit of data the BatComputer had managed to get before the phone bricked itself. It was photos, but most were too corrupted to tell what they were. One album however, appeared perfectly fine. Tim opened it, and something clenched in his chest. He’d thought the meta was an adult, but it was hard to tell in the mug shots with how bruised he was. But these pictures were recent according to the meta-data, and they definitely showed the meta.

“f*ck, he’s just a kid…” he muttered when he saw the first picture. The black-haired teenager was at some kind of parade or festival, his arms stretched around two other teens as they all posed for the camera with huge grins. A glitterbombed had just gone off near them judging by the ridiculous amount of glitter covering them. ‘Tucker’ was wearing an achingly familiar flag like a cape, soft blues, pinks, and whites standing out against his black NASA t-shirt and jeans. Tim felt a pang of kinship at the sight.

To ‘Tucker’s’ left was a heavily make-uped black-haired female. She was decked out in black with bands of white, gray, black and neon greens. Her green eyeshadow made her bright purple eyes stand out more, her outfit was completed with spiked boots and multiple piercings. Her whole look screamed Goth Punk to Tim.

To ‘Tucker’s’ right was the most toned-down of the group, a dark skinned boy wearing a yellow-turtleneck, cargo pants, and a red beanie. The dark framed glasses he wore failed to hide the almost sheepish look in his eyes as he waved a small flag with magenta, blue, and yellow stripes.

Tim looked over the photo a few times, unable to stop the aching in his chest. This teen didn’t look like he belonged in Gotham , let alone in prison. Combined with the phone that shouldn’t exist, he knew now that there was more going on here. Maybe the meta had just come into his power and was scared. If Tim could just talk to ‘Tucker’, he could help him. It didn’t seem like anyone else had even tried.

The others might have said he cheated but Tim thought of it as using all his available resources. He'd cashed in on a favor Oracle owed him to use her unparalleled access to the city's security cameras. The cameras were only one half of what Oricle needed in order to actually find ‘Tucker Manson’ though. If all she’d had to work with were a handful of pictures where the subject's face was obscured by injuries, she probably wouldn’t have been able to find him. But combined with the pictures Tim had managed to salvage off the phone, it was going to be a breeze.

It was a matter of moments for the woman's incredible programs to sweep the city. She found ‘Tucker’ just as he was heading for an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of the Narrows. It was technically Jason’s territory, but even if the man had blown them off tonight, Tim didn’t think they’d regressed back to the ‘shoot first ask questions never’ stage of their relationship.

Tim climbed back onto his bike for the second time that night, and made for the Narrows. As he drove, he checked in with Oracle a few times to confirm that the teen hadn’t left the warehouse. He hadn’t, so Tim figured that the teen was bunkered down for the night. He hoped he didn’t startle the teen by waking him, but this was going to be his best chance to talk to him, if only he had any idea what to say.

The warehouse Tim arrived at was unassuming. It had seen better days, but clearly Red Hood’s presence in the area had kept organized crime from claiming it for their own purposes. The windows were long broken with no hope of being replaced, and there was fresh graffiti still drying on the wall.

Tim was careful to park his bike a bit away from the entrance so as to hopefully not alert the meta that was dwelling within, he really didn’t want to scare him off before Tim had a chance to say his piece.

He scoped out the area as he tried to plan out his route. There were some empty shipping containers around, remnants of a time the building had been an active warehouse, that would make good cover as he approached. The front entrance was ajar, but if the meta was awake he was likely watching it. A window would be a stealthier option, if he could get up to one quietly. Alternatively, he could try to gain roof access and find a service entrance.

As he mulled over his options, he heard a car park nearby. He ducked around behind the empty shipping container so as not to be spotted, but otherwise paid it no mind, figuring it was just some drug dealers coming to make a sale. This was still the Narrows, and Hood didn’t usually crack down as hard on drug dealers who weren’t selling to kids. Nothing was ever truly abandoned in Gotham. To that point, another car drove by the lot, music blasting loud enough to wake the whole neighborhood.

The noise of the vehicle meant Tim didn’t hear the footsteps behind him, and his first sign that he wasn’t alone was the quickest prick to his neck. It wasn’t the first time someone had gotten the drop on him, and he’d trained for this exact situation.

Tim spun swiftly around, grabbing his bo staff from his belt in the same motion. He extended it smoothly as he faced the three masked thugs who glared down at him from under ski masks. He wasn’t sure what they’d managed to inject him with, but he didn’t have time to worry about it as he reached for his panic button. He only managed to push it once before his fingers refused to cooperate and the device slipped from his grip.

Tim felt a dread surge through his chest as he realized it wasn’t activated. The device had been calibrated so that it had to be pressed three times in sequence to send out the distress signal. It had been designed as a safety feature to prevent false alerts, but tonight it was nothing but a curse as his muscles quickly turned to lead.

Tim swayed unsteadily in danger of falling before he was roughly grabbed by one of the men. His mouth felt dry as he opened it to scream for anyone to come help him, but all he managed was a weak noise that died in his throat.

“The boss man said not to hurt you,” the man holding him said in a thick Gotham accent. “Said you looked too pretty to be bruised up or anything like that. I disagree with his taste in Birds, but what do I know? A job’s a job and it doubles as payback against you dang Bats. So c’mon birdie, don’t even bother struggling. I think that co*cktail could knock out a man double your size,” the thug snickered as tossed Tim over his shoulder, his ribs bruising with the rough treatment.

Tim felt so helpless at that moment. He’d been kidnapped before, but never as Red Robin, bane to thugs and villains alike. He’d always been taken as Timothy Drake Wayne, someone who was seen as a way to get paid, and therefore more useful alive.

His thoughts quickly became fragmented and foggy as whatever they had injected him with overtook him, flowing through his veins unhindered. Tim later wouldn’t recall when exactly he fell unconscious during his kidnapping as his mind drifted away on an ocean of fear and panic.

Danny was actually relaxed as he bedded down for the night. He was still feeling pretty decent after his time with Connie in the park. The spirit candy had given him quite a bit of energy which he was extremely grateful for. He didn’t feel dead on his feet for once, instead, he felt the kind of tiredness he used to after beating up a few ghosts with his friends and sending them packing.

He found the empty warehouse a few nights ago, and decided to settle down there again. He was just setting up his sleeping area for the night (some cardboard boxes and packaging peanuts he’d managed to snag to make a makeshift bed), when his sensitive ears picked up on a commotion happening outside.

His curiosity had always been stronger than his self preservation. He recalled his dad boasting it was the Fentons’ best trait. So even though curiosity had gotten him killed once, like the cat that couldn’t resist, Danny snuck over to the window and peeked out to see what all the fuss was.

What he saw made his blood boil. It wasn’t that undiluted rage that had overtaken him the other day, but he still found it hard to think clearly as he watched a group of men undressing one of Gotham's masked vigilantes. They seemed to have gotten the outer layer of his suit off, and were struggling with his body armor, slashing at the chest plate with a pocket knife.

“Once we get all the trackers off of him, the boss is gonna have fun with this bird, right?” one of the thugs sneered cruelly.

“Yeah. Keep the mask on though,” the short, round one ordered. “He said he wanted to keep the face a surprise. Something about really wanting to know his eye color but wanting it to be a surprise… I don’t look too much into it. The boss’s got weird tastes. But, I don’t know if he realized Red Robin is so…. Small. Doesn’t matter to me either way. I’m sure the Boss will have his fun with him regardless.”

Danny’s body reacted before his mind could even make the decision to jump out the window. He had to draw on his powers a little to prevent himself from going splat on the pavement, but he had the energy to spare at the moment. He just didn’t have it in him to let someone get hurt. His friends joked that he had a hero complex for a reason. He charged up to the goons, muscles tensing in preparation for a fight.

“Hey, pick on someone your own size!” he quipped. It wasn’t his best line, as the vigilante they were undressing appeared to be his own size, or even slightly taller, but it was all he could think of at the moment.

“Don’t tell me there’s another Bird here,” one of them groaned as they all turned their attention to him. “Wait! He’s just a scrawny kid!”

Danny flashed them glowing green eyes in challenge, the spirit candy really had helped him a great deal. Still, he didn’t think it was enough to ‘Go Ghost’, but he had access to his basic powers and that was going to be more than enough for this.

“I’ll give you to the count of three to let the kid go,” he ordered, trying his best to sound intimidating.


The two not currently holding up the unconscious hero were already pulling out weapons. A manic look gleamed in their eyes promising they wouldn’t go easy on him just because he was young and scrawny.


They charged at him, knives flashing and bats swinging. Danny only smirked as the cool sensation of intangibility washed over him. The men ran right through him, passing harmlessly through his body and knocking into each other instead.

“Three!” Danny yelled as he leapt at the guy holding Red Robin, avoiding the sloppy strike the man aimed at his head and instead getting a solid blow in on the man's nose. The crunch under his fist was extremely satisfying.

The thug dropped Red Robin, recoiling back as his hands flew up to hold his nose in pain, completely uncaring as his hostage aimed to smash his head on the ground. Danny caught the hero by his cape before he also broke his nose, and was quick to move his arms under the half-dressed, passed out vigilante. He threw one of the hero’s arms over his shoulder and wrapped his own around the man’s waist. He let intangibility wash over them both right before one of the thugs who’d ran right through him a moment before tried to swipe at them with a crowbar.

His ghost powers gave him the extra speed he needed as he moved Red Robin safely out of the combat zone before throwing himself back at the goons. His next breath came out ragged, and he realized with a start that he had to end this quickly, his powers wouldn’t last much longer. He took as deep a breath as he could before drawing up as much of the power left in his core as he was able. There wasn’t much there, but he only needed a little. His eyes lit an impossible bright, icy blue as frost flowed from him, freezing the ground all around them.

Ice spiraled everywhere, climbing up the mens’ limbs and trapping them all in place. Danny swayed unsteadily, struggling to keep his balance. He’d used a little too much power, burning up the last of the energy boost that candy had given him. But it had been worth it, every bastard was stuck fast to the ground.

He wearily headed back over to where he’d dropped the vigilante. In the struggle, the last of the hero’s top armor had come off, leaving him just in a tight fighting black shirt. Danny frowned as he got his first good look at the vigilante’s face. Even with the mask, it was obvious the guy was really just a teenager like himself, his features too soft to be any older than 18.

Danny wasn’t even sure what to do with him now. He couldn’t just leave the teen out here, not while he was unconscious and half undressed. He decided the only thing to do was bring him inside the warehouse and keep an eye on him until he woke up, or one of his buddies came to collect him. As he scooped Red Robin into a bridal-hold, he realized he was way lighter than he was expecting. He knew he was the kettle calling the pot black, but this guy seriously underfed.

A strange noise drew his attention back to the bad guys and saw they had what looked like little blow dryers that they were trying to melt his ice with. Normally, his ice didn’t melt unless he wanted it to, but with the added heat from their devices, (which he had no idea why they had!) he felt his control slipping. They would be free in only a few minutes at this rate, and Danny really didn’t have it in him to fight them again.

“Well boys, it’s been fun,” he said cheerily, drawing their attention away from their task. “Don’t make any more bad decisions tonight or I’ll make you into proper ice sculptures,” he bluffed, but by the fear on their faces he thought they bought it. As one final show of power, he turned both himself and Red Robin invisible.

He struggled to keep a hold on their invisibility as he headed for the warehouse, using up every last scrap of energy he had to get away from the thugs unseen. He really hoped the goons just thought he’d teleported Red Robin and himself away and didn’t bother to look in the obvious hiding spot. If Red Robin's luck was any better than his own, the thugs would just call the night a bust and bolt back to their hidey holes.

Once the both of them were safely inside the warehouse, Danny dropped the invisibility and struggled to not immediately drop Red Robin. That bone deep exhaustion was back, and Danny just managed to set the teen down on the packaging peanut, cardboard box bed he’d made early. It wasn’t cold, but he didn’t like the way the hero looked so vulnerable, stripped of his armor. He hadn’t been able to grab it before getting them away from the thugs, and it wasn’t safe to go back for it.

With a sigh, Danny pulled his NASA hoodie off over his head. He wrestled the other teen into it, struggling to get his arms to go through the holes for several minutes. Once that was done, he sat down heavily beside Red Robin, his back to the teen and eyes locked on the door. Despite his growing exhaustion, he was going to keep watch until the guy woke up, or someone came to help. He wasn’t going to leave him alone like this, but once he knew the other teen was safe, he’d leave. Even here in this hostile world, he just couldn’t shake the need to protect that burned deep in his core.


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Chapter 6


DomesticatedOpossum: we actually have a full timeline of when everything happens in this fic, so we've decided I'm going to add little time markers to the chapters. Hope this helps anyone who was confused about what day it is.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Tuesday Evening

“Hydration check!” Oracle called out, something she did regularly, especially during the summer. The many vigilantes she coordinated were as bad at self care as they were good at fighting crime, so making sure they didn’t run themselves ragged during the heat was important.

“We’re stopping for water now,” Batman said, always one to take hydration seriously. He was with Damian tonight, so despite the fact she didn’t hear the boy check in, she assumed he was having a drink as well.

“I have strawberry flavored water tonight!” Nightwing cheered. He’d stayed in Bludhaven that night, since Jason had apparently blown them off, and the man had spent several nights in a row in Gotham, something that tended to make the crime rate in Blud soar.

Oracle’s girls were out of country on a covert mission, so she didn’t bother trying to contact them. Not that she needed to, they were much more self-sufficient than the boys.

“Red Robin, Hydration check,” Oracle repeated. Tim still didn’t answer. This wasn’t surprising, Tim hated drinking water, and would rather survive on coffee alone. It wasn’t the first time he’d pretended not to hear a hydration check to get out of drinking, though, the last time he’d done it he’d ended up nearly falling off a roof from dehydration. Oracle thought he’d learned his lesson, but apparently not.

She switched to a different line to check on Jason. She didn’t always do hydration checks with Jason, as the man was actually pretty decent at taking care of himself, but he was the one closest to Tim’s current location, and according to the others, he’d been less aggressive lately. She figured he could check in on the teen and make sure he wasn’t unconscious on a roof, again.

“Hydration check Hood,” Oracle’s voice came through Jason’s coms. He never stayed on the group channel with everyone else, but she would often check in on him, even before Tim had upgraded his helmet.

“I had a drink ten minutes ago, were you not watching?” Jason asked, his tone a mixture of actual anger and sibling snark.

“I’m not omniscient,” she replied. “I need to go yell at Red Robin though.”

“No,” Jason said firmly. He was in the middle of sweeping the city for that strange teen, he didn’t have the time, or control, to encounter this brother.

“He’s not responding to the hydration check!” Oracle’s voice was almost whiney, at just the right pitch to grate on Jason’s ears. “You know what happened the last time he did that.”

“Fine,” Jason sighed. Despite thinking it was still dangerous, it was probably more dangerous to just leave the teen to drop dead from dehydration. Plus, Oracle actually sounded worried, something that was hard to do to the unflappable woman. “Where is he?”

“He’s at an abandoned warehouse in the Narrows, well, on the edge of them anyway.”

“The old soap factory?” he asked, figuring that was the one she meant.


“The f*ck he doing there?”

“Following a case, what do you expect?” Oracle asked, her tone annoyed. Jason had expected he’d come to yell at him for disappointing Dick, but a case made more sense. It was just kind of expected Jason was going to disappoint them and therefore he wasn’t worth scolding for it, he wasn’t sure if he had the right to be upset about that. He wanted to be someone worth scolding, at least then he knew people thought he had the capacity for change. But apparently Timmy didn’t think he could actually get better, despiste how hard he was trying!

Jason had to tamp down on that line of thinking before the anger consumed him. He hopped on his bike and headed towards the warehouse instead.

There was ice outside the warehouse, half melted and slippery, but definitely out of place in the summer heat. Jason pulled out his gun loaded with rubber bullets, he didn’t trust himself with the real kind tonight. Not wanting to alert any potential ice villains, he didn’t make a sound as he crept up to the door. He listened, straining his ears for the sound of a villain monologuing, or goons bitching, or any other sign that Red Robin was being held captive as some villain’s plan of the week. There was nothing but silence. Jason made his call and entered, gun raised.

He barely had a second to process the scene before him, a figure that wasn’t Red Robin standing over a body that he thought was probably his brother, before something bright red sailed at his head. He fired, hitting the figure in the shoulder as the red projectile bounced harmlessly off his helmet.

The figure went down, landing hard on their butt with a cry as they clutched their shoulder. Jason glanced down to look at what had hit him, and found a lump of red wax in the shape of a rubber duck, the head slightly squashed from bashing into his own.

“What the f*ck, why?” the figure demanded, and Jason recognized his voice. It was the kid. The one he’d been looking for. He wasn’t wearing that oversized hoodie anymore, and Jason could really see how rail thin he was, the bruise from the rubber bullet already staining his skin, visible where the t-shirt was slipping off his boney shoulder. Behind him, on a pile of cardboard, lay Red Robin, missing most of his gear but wearing what was definitely the kid's hoodie. He was unconscious, but otherwise looked unhurt.

“What happened to Red Robin?” Jason asked, the helmet distorting his tone, making it come out more like a threat than a question. He could see the moment the kid misunderstood, fear coloring his expression, blotting out the pain that had been there a second ago.

He knew the moment before the kid moved that he was about to bolt. The kid might have been tiny, but he was fast. He scrambled to his feet and shot toward a back door Jason hadn’t noticed before, and Jason went after him. He didn’t want to scare him further, but he wanted to lose him even less.

His gloved hand closed around the kid’s wrist, and the kid screamed, a noise like a terrified animal caught in a trap. Jason pulled the teen to his chest, wrapping him in a bear hug to trap his failing arms.

“Calm down!" he said, uselessly. The teen kept fighting, and Jason struggled to hold onto him. With all the squirming, Jason didn’t notice the sleeve of his leather jacket riding up, until the kid grabbed his wrist, boney fingers locking around the bare skin.

That jolt went through Jason again, like someone had opened a drain in his head and all the rage flowed out. He didn’t go limp this time though, he kept his arms locked around the kid.

Pain seared through Jason’s wrist as the teen bit him, and not only did he bite him, he shook his head like a savage dog, tearing up Jason’s skin and sending droplets of blood flying. The pain shocked him enough that he let the kid go. Jason clutched at his bleeding wrist as the kid bolted for the door. Jason regained his senses just in time to run after him, but the teen had completely vanished into the night. It shouldn’t have been possible for him to disappear that quickly, but he was just gone.

“f*ck,” Jason swore. He wanted to go after him. He needed to go after the kid, but his little brother was unconscious, and needed his help more. He turned around and went to check on Tim, and was just about to reach out to him when a drop of blood slipped from his wrist onto the floor. He cursed and examined the wound. It barely looked like a human bite, more like a feral racoon had savaged his arm. Human bites were nasty though, their mouths full of bacteria, so he quickly pulled out his wound sanitizing spray and cleaned it, gritting his teeth against the sting. He clumblily wrapped it up with his no dominant hand, and resolved to have Alfred stitch it later. That taken care of, he finally was able to assess Tim. The teen’s pulse was good, but he wasn’t responding. Jason easily picked up the kid, he still didn’t weigh enough, and tossed him over his shoulder into a fireman’s carry.

With Tim secured, he turned towards the door before his attention was caught by the duck laying innocently on the floor of the warehouse. Its vacant wax eyes seemed to taunt him, like it knew it was the duck’s owner Jason actually wanted, and it was just a lame consolation prize. He wondered where the teen had even found it. He had to admit, it was cute, but a wax duck didn’t exactly seem a practical thing for someone to buy to keep on their person or assault people with. Maybe he had some emotional attachment to it, or it had been a gift?

Jason shuffled his way over to it, being careful not to jostle Tim too much as he bent down to grab the duck. With one hand still keeping his brother secure, he shifted it around in his hand for a better look. He realized it wasn’t just a random wax duck, it was a candle without a wick, like some kind of manufacturing error. There was still a sticker on the bottom, advertising that it was rose scented and that it apparently floated in water.

He carefully pocketed the duck, making sure to put it somewhere he wouldn’t accidentally sit on it. If anything, finding out if any shops in Gotham sold red duck shaped candles that floated would be a good starting point the next time he had a chance to look for the teen. Tim was his priority at the moment though, so he headed out of the warehouse, keeping his eyes peeled for anything or anyone else who might still be in the area.

Most of the ice had melted now, and he noticed the rest of Tim’s gear scattered around the lot where it’d previously been hidden under the ice. He was going to have to grab that before he left.

Tim groaned softly from his back and relief flooded through Jason. “Hey sleeping beauty, you’re safe now,” he cooed gently, trying to address any fears his brother had before he had a chance to misunderstand where he was.

“Hmmm, Jay?” Tim shifted slightly, probably trying to stop Jason’s shoulder from digging into his ribs, but otherwise seeming content draped across Jason’s shoulders as he yawned softly.

“Yeah Red, do you remember anything that happened?” Jason prodded gently, giving Tim a free pass on the whole ‘names’ thing since Tim was clearly either concussed or drugged, and there was no one around to overhear anyway.

“I think… I was looking for Tucker?” Tim paused, and Jason wasn’t sure if he was thinking or had gone back to sleep before he continued. “Hey, do you think we can go watch Barbenheimer later? You couldn’t before and I was really sad…”

His little brother’s words nearly shattered his heart. He already felt like sh*t for blowing off the movies with his brothers, but hearing that from Timmy just made it worse. Tim had to be really out of it though if he was willing admitting that Jason had upset him. On a good day it was nearly impossible to get the kid to admit he hadn’t slept or had forgotten to eat again. He wasn’t sure who this Tucker was either, maybe a classmate?

“Yeah, Red. We can watch whatever you want, Baby Bird.”

“Good. If you blow us off again, I’ll have to change your voice modulator into an anime girl voice,” Tim slurred his words a bit as he threatened him. It would have been hilarious if Jason didn’t think the kid was fully capable of following through on it. With how out of it Tim was though, he wasn’t sure how serious he should be taking that threat. Tim probably wouldn’t even remember this conversation later. Right? Jason really hoped he didn’t anyway.

“Scout’s honor,” Jason assured, chuckling softly as he awkwardly collected all of Tim’s scattered gear and balled it up, throwing the new ball into one of his bike's saddle bags.“You were never a boy scout.” Tim protested.

“Stalker,” Jason scoffed softly.

“Or do you mean Robin’s honor?” Tim continued like he hadn’t heard. “That’s a funny one… You know, I didn’t get it at the time, but you as Robin were gender goals…”

Jason wasn’t sure if he was supposed to be flattered by that. He knew the kid was trans, but he’d never really had time to stop and really immerse himself in that community. He should probably actually have a conversation with the kid about it when the younger wasn’t completely out of it.

“If you say so, Baby Bird. C’mon, time to get you home. I should give B a heads up so he has time to prepare every blood test imaginable before we get there.” He knew Bruce tended to go overboard when they were injured, and he definitely wasn’t looking forward to it.

He gently lowered Tim off his back and sat him on the bike, climbing on behind him. He didn’t trust that the kid could remember to hold on for the whole ride, and for the sake of his own sanity, he wanted to keep an eye on him. Finally, he decided it was time to tap on his com. He didn’t know if Oracle had been watching or keeping the others updated, but he figured he should just go straight to the top.

“Hey, B. I got RR,” he started.

“What happened?” Batman demanded, absolutely no humor in his voice, so Oracle must have told him something was up.

“I’m not exactly sure what went down but he’s not too roughed up. Definitely either f*cking concussed to hell or coming off of some really strong sedatives, I’m going with drugs because there’s no other sign of head trauma. It looks like a fight went down and they tried to remove all his gear but something must have spooked them off, maybe they heard me coming.”

“Hnn,” Bruce grunted, which Jason translated as, ‘I’m concerned but there isn’t anything I can do until you get Red Robin back to the cave, so please hurry.’ Bruce tended to go a bit non-verbal when he was stressed, and the rest of the family had become very good at understanding stressed Bruce speak.

Jason did as requested and gunned the bike toward the manor. He hoped he could get away with just dropping Tim off, making sure Alfred got the kid set up properly, and leaving before Bruce could corner him and demand a dumb report that he was going to have to leave half the details out of since he wasn’t going to mention the kid who somehow had the power to literally make the Pit shut up.

It was unlikely escape would be that easy, but Jason could dream, right?

Bruce had never wanted this life for any of his children. Dick was only supposed to be Robin long enough to get closure, but after his parents' killer was captured, the boy had made it clear that he'd continue with or without Bruce. The only choice had been to keep training him, to keep watching his back.

Jason had been an angry child, angry at the unfairness of the class divide in Gotham, and angry with Bruce for being born with a silver spoon, as the boy often said, ‘shoved so far up his ass he didn’t know how to live without it.’. But once he had learned that Bruce was Batman, and that Jason could help as Robin, he'd made it clear he'd do it with or without Bruce's help. So Bruce had trained him. It hadn't been enough though.

Tim was different. He'd shown up one rainy night, underfed and tiny, and had threatened Bruce. He'd told him that if Bruce didn't train him as Robin, he'd do it anyway, because Bruce needed that reminder of what he was fighting for. It was unfair to let the boy be responsible for Bruce’s emotional wellbeing, but he’d seen the determination in the boy’s eyes and knew he was going to lose that fight, as he’d lost it twice before.

Damian had been a different story entirely. The boy had been raised for war, raised for this life. He would have seen Bruce denying him the Robin mantle as a fundamental failure. There hadn’t even been a choice there. None of his kids had given him a choice.

But when he got the call from Jason that Red Robin had been attacked and was drugged, he seriously considered attempting to strip them all of their costumes. It wouldn’t have worked. Despite Batman being one of the most feared beings in the city, his children weren't afraid to defy him. He supposed that was a good thing, he didn’t want his children fearing him, but it made it difficult to keep them safe.

Now though, Jason and Tim were sitting on a couch in the TV room, the younger having refused to let go of his brother from the moment they got back. All through Alfred drawing Tim’s blood and checking for injuries, he’d clung to the man like a koala, refusing to let go. And Jason had surprised Bruce by tolerating it, more than tolerating it, he’d been down right gentle with the teen, running his fingers through Tim’s hair and cooing gently to him when something seemed to spook him. It all made Bruce deeply happy.

Bruce wasn’t happy with Tim’s blood work though. There was a significant amount of rohypnol, (roofies), in his system, along with traces of various other sedatives. It all combined to raise Batman’s hackles and set him on edge. Someone had tried to do something very bad to one of his kids, and had gotten away with the attempt. According to Jason, the attackers had left before he’d arrived, however, Jason was also claiming that he’d found the hoodie Tim had come in with in a nearby dumpster and had chosen to put that on the teen rather than his own gear. It was a lie, but not one Bruce was ready to confront the man on. The man was also lying about the bite on his wrist, claiming he’d received it earlier in the night from a raccoon. It wasn’t a raccoon bite, Bruce had seen enough of those on Damian to know, (that boy tried to pet every creature they ran across on patrol). It didn’t exactly look like a human bite either, the canines had been longer than was typical. He wasn’t sure why Jason was lying, but he didn’t think it was about anything that would put the rest of the family at risk, so he was just going to leave it alone for now. Hopefully his trust in the man didn’t come back to bite the rest of them.


Wednesday Morning

It was almost twenty four hours later when Constantine returned to the park. He’d done as much research as he could, and had asked around in several of his circles, but he hadn’t been able to figure out exactly what the kid was. He was just going to have to make it up as he went, which wasn’t a new thing. Bullsh*tting was how he survived most of his encounters with things most humans had no idea existed.

The park was quiet, and the dew on the overgrown grass was making the hems of his pants wet. He wasn’t greeted by the ghosts that made the park home, most of whom had once been loyal pets and were now waiting for their owners to pass on so they could follow them into the next life. Since he wasn’t getting swarmed, he figured Danny must already be here.

He wandered deeper into the park, looking around trying to find the kid. Under a gnarled tree, he spotted what he thought at first was an oversized ghost. He had the terrible thought that he’d given them way too much spirit candy, before he got closer and realized it was actually the whole pack of ghosts, piled up on top of something. They looked at him, their eyes big and pleading, before they moved off what they were guarding and he realized it was the kid.

“sh*t,” he swore, dropping to his knees. The kid looked bad. Worse than he had yesterday, which shouldn’t be possible. He’d definitely been doing better after the candy, but now he looked even closer to death and he seemed to have lost his hoodie. He was curled up on his side, his loose shirt slipping off his shoulder, exposing a vicious bruise coloring his skin.

“Aye, kid, you alive?” Constantine asked, not sure if that was really an appropriate question as he was pretty sure the kid was at least tangentially dead, but he didn’t want to ask if he was okay, because he clearly wasn’t.

“Connie?” Danny groaned, opening his eyes and looking up at him. Constantine didn’t like the way the kid’s eyes seemed drained of color, or that he couldn’t seem to quite get them to focus on Constantine's face.

“Yeah, kid. What happened?”

“Bad night,” he groaned, closing his eyes and letting his head thunk back against the ground. Constantine couldn’t resist the urge to chuckle darkly at that.

“I can tell. Come on, up ya get.”

“Just leave me to die, again,” Danny groaned as Constantine hauled him to his feet, the boy’s skin several degrees colder than was probably healthy. Constantine didn’t miss the again comment, but he filed it away to deal with later.

“How you feeling about breakfast?” he asked, as he watched the kid sway dangerously.

“Food,” the kid groaned, not even bothering to open his eyes as he was led out of the park. Constantine had to practically carry him the last few blocks to the dinner, and he wasn’t happy about how easy it was. Danny weighed practically nothing, which was not good.

“What do you want?” Constantine asked once they were both sat at a table in the corner of the little diner.

“Coffee,” Danny muttered.

“Ya can have coffee, but I meant to eat, kid,” Constantine said gently, nudging the menu in front of the teen. Danny finally opened his eyes, he seemed to be struggling to keep them open, and looked down at the menu for barely a second.

“Waffles, as long as they aren’t sentient,” the kid said, bafflingly. Constantine was more worried now, if the kid was this incoherent then he was worse off than he thought. He watched as the kid shrank in on himself when the waiter came over, a big blond guy. Danny looked like he was trying to disappear, and Constantine had to order for him when it was clear he wasn’t going to speak up.

Constantine ordered three more plates of waffles for the kid, one after another, as each one disappeared moments after they were placed on the table. It was more than enough proof for Constantine that whatever was wrong with the kid was physically draining him and he wasn’t able to get enough food on his own. He really needed to find someone to take care of this kid while he looked for more information on what was going on. He was certainly not suited to looking after a teenager, but he knew someone who was. Danny was even his type, as gross as that sounded.

“Had enough?” Constantine asked as he watched the kid finally slowing down on his fourth plate of waffles. Danny nodded, and Constantine was pleased to see some color coming back to his cheeks. He noted the binder he could see under the kid’s shirt where it kept slipping off his shoulder, and he wondered once again what had happened to his hoodie.

“You lose the hoodie or something?” he asked. Danny looked away, almost sheepish, and shrugged.

“Someone else needed it more than me,” he muttered. So the kid had a hero complex, that was just another point in Bruce’s checklist of adoption requirements. It was going to be a breeze getting the man to watch the kid while he looked for a way to help him.


Vampirenote13: This is a hydration check for you readers too, go drink some water if you haven't in a while. X)

One of the artist in our discord has started making Danny Phantom stickers, they're adorable and need to be seen, come check them out!

Chapter 7


(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Wednesday Morning

Tim had absolutely no desire to open his eyes when he woke up, choosing instead to curl up closer to the warmth beside him. He wasn’t used to sleeping for longer than a couple hours at a time, but it felt like he'd been asleep for a while longer than that. He tried to recall last night, did Dick end up staying in Gotham? Did they have a movie night or something? Why hadn’t Dick gone back to Bludhaven? It had been a long time since his older brother had held him like this, Tim curled up against his chest, head tucked safely under the older’s chin. The last time it had been because…

Oh. Last time had been because he’d been injured. Had he gotten hurt in the field again? What had he been doing last night…

Tim’s heart beat faster in his chest as he remembered bits of the night before. Jason had called off going to the movies together, so he’d tried going to look for Tucker, and then, he’d gotten ambushed? Yeah, someone had stuck him with a needle and drugged him. The feeling of warmth and safety quickly faded to dread. He now didn't want to open his eyes lest he find he wasn’t cuddled up to an ally, much less one of his siblings.

‘Calm down,’ he told himself. He didn’t need to panic yet. There wasn’t anything tying him up, just an arm casually tossed across his waist. The enemy was asleep, he just had to scoot back a tiny bit and open his eyes…

Jason was holding him close, looking far more peaceful than Tim had probably ever seen him. It almost hurt to compare the serene expression Jason currently had to hatred and rage Tim was more familiar with. Tim forced himself to take a few calming breaths, realizing he was safe. Jason wasn’t going to hurt him, not again. The small noise and movements Tim had made were apparently enough to wake the man however and Jason’s eyes fluttered open.

“You’re so grounded,” he grumbled tiredly. That wasn’t what Tim had expected to hear.

“I don’t think you can just ground me, Jay,” he frowned. The drugs must have messed with his memory more than he’d thought, because he was failing to come up with anything he’d done that was worthy of grounding him over.

“Doesn't matter, Bruce is gonna ground you anyway.” Jason shot back, removing his arm from Tim’s waist to rub at his eyes while Tim silently mourned the loss. Then he noticed Jason’s wrist was wrapped up in bandages.

“... What’d you do to your wrist?” Tim asked, worried for his brother and also taking the chance to change the topic away from his alleged grounding. If he was really grounded, he was sure he’d hear it directly from Bruce later.

“A raccoon bit me,” Jason answered almost instantly and with a smugness that had Tim furrowing his eyebrows slightly in disbelief.

“A racoon… bit you,” Tim repeated, waiting for Jason to dig himself further into what felt like an obvious lie. When he didn’t take the bait, Tim just sighed. “Jason, what were you even doing when a racoon had the chance to bite you?”

“I’ll have you know I was busy saving your ass, you’re welcome by the way. The raccoon got mad when I went through his dumpster…” Jason’s lie was ridiculous but Tim couldn’t help but laugh at the mental image of Jason fighting with a raccoon. “You shoulda seen it, Baby Bird, I think that was the biggest raccoon I’ve ever seen. Might be a mutant.”

“Ok ok, I get it. You know you’re gonna have to get a rabies shot then, right?” Tim played along, grinning with challenge at his brother. Jason’s face paled at the thought, and Tim fought not to laugh harder.

“Do I have to? You know, I think the raccoon was probably somebody’s pet. It was definitely fully up to date on its vaccines…”

“Nope. You’ve got to get your shots since you played with the raccoon, Jason.” Tim teased, his heart felt light as they talked. He didn’t think he and Jason had ever been so open and just downright silly with each other, like actual brothers for once instead of hesitant allies. Tim liked it, a lot. He knew he was going to have to deal with Bruce’s mother henning soon, and he was probably going to have to actually process the new trauma he’d collected at some point, but for now, he was content to lay here with Jason, just teasing each other, safe and warm.

John Constantine was in the cave, and Bruce absolutely did not have the energy to deal with the man. He’d been up all night monitoring Tim for any side effects from the drugs in his system, while also trying to find any leads on the people who had attacked him. Neither Tim nor Jason were much help on that front, Tim didn’t seem to remember anything after leaving the cave for the second time that night, and Jason claimed not to have seen anything. Plus, Damian was in a mood, which Bruce couldn’t really blame him for. The youngest was always a bit upset when patrol was cut short as he wasn’t allowed out on his own. Normally, Bruce would let him go out with Jon if Batman was unavailable, but if people were targeting the younger vigilantes, it wasn’t a risk Bruce was willing to take.

“What do you want, John?” Bruce asked gruffly, not looking up from his phone where DIck was incessantly texting him.

“I need a favor from ya,” John said bluntly. Bruce grunted. He really wished the man would use the door, or the zeta tube instead of just appearing from nowhere as he tended to. He’d asked about it once, about how the man could sometimes seem to teleport and sometimes had to take more conventional means of transport. The man had shrugged and said something incompressible about ley lines, and how they had to be in the right mood.

“I’m a bit busy right now,” Bruce huffed, Dick really needed to work on his spelling, or just re-activate auto-correct. Bruce could not tell what his oldest had been trying to say. ‘Hiww os yimny 🤕🧐❓️❓️,’ wasn’t English. And Jason was upstairs asleep with Tim and therefore unavailable to translate.

“What does this say?” Bruce asked, shoving the phone under John’s nose. The man squinted at it for a second before responding.

“Just cause I can read arcane text, don’t mean I can read Dick’s spelling,” Constantine scoffed. “I really need yer ‘elp with somethin’ though.” Bruce grunted again and returned to texting Dick.

“I need ya to adopt a kid,” John said, trying desperately to just get the other man’s attention. Bruce waved him on like he was listening, but didn’t look up from his damn phone. The man was the Bat though, surely he could multitask. “He’s a good kid, Bruce. There’s something wrong with him though, some kinda meta or somethin’, and I need someone to keep an eye on em fer a bit. Just while…”

“I’m kind of busy at the moment John,” Bruce growled, finally looking up from his phone. Constantine trailed off, unsure what to do. He wasn’t sure how to respond to the tone Bruce had given him. He’d really expected the man to jump at the opportunity to help, but he’d used the Batman growl on him, like he was one of the Bat’s enemies or something.

“I just thought,” Constantine tried again.

“Unless the world is about to end, I need you to leave,” Bruce said, his eyes cold. Constantine let his arms drop to his sides, his shoulders slumping. He’d really thought he’d found a way to help Danny, but apparently he’d been wrong.

“Right. I’ll just… go.”

“That’d be for the best,” Bruce grunted and turned back to his phone. Constantine sighed and let himself slip back into the layline’s warm embrace. He was just going to have to take care of the kid on his own. He could do that, he’d saved the world before, he could take care of one teenager. How hard could it be?

Danny wasn’t sure where Connie had gone. The man had left him on their bench in the park with a bag of those spirit candies, instructions not to eat them all, and a promise that he’d be back in an hour or so. He’d thought about eating more than Connie had recommended a few times, but the man had looked strangely serious about the instruction, so in the end he decided not to risk it. He ended up feeding the rest to the crowd of blob ghosts. He knew he should be saving them, but that felt too much like giving up.

Being alone with nobody to talk to sucked though, as now that he wasn’t feeling like death he could reflect on what had happened the previous night. He had saved Red Robin from some disgusting guys, reminding him too much of what had almost happened to him. But he’d been reckless and burned through too much of his meager energy going all out with his abilities like that. The fact that his ice had even melted to whatever those heat devices had been was bad. Even the boost the spirit candy had given him hadn’t been enough to let him properly use his higher energy powers. In his world, his ice wouldn’t have melted unless he willed it, no matter how much someone attacked it with a glorified hair dryer.

And then there was Red Hood, who Danny wasn’t sure how to feel about. In hindsight, he realized Hood had probably just been really worried for his fellow vigilante, and while he very much didn’t like being shot at, he imagined he probably would have had the same reaction if he’d found some random person hovering over Sam or Tucker. He’d probably looked pretty sketchy with Red Robin compromised like that. He would have at least asked a question before attacking though.

Being shot really f*cking sucked. He’d been shot by ecto-weapons plenty of times back home, but his ghost half always seemed to numb the pain of his injuries a little. Hood’s shot had hurt a sh*t ton, though he supposed he was lucky it hadn’t been an actual bullet or Connie might have found a very different scene at the park.

He realized he might have started it by throwing sh*t at Red Hood first. To be fair, he was just trying to protect Red Robin, and at least he hadn’t hurt Red Hood! It’d been kinda stupid to throw the duck really, what did he think a candle was going to do? The stupid duck hadn’t been lucky in the end, otherwise the situation would have turned out better, and he wouldn’t have gone all rage mode again. At least he hadn’t attacked anyone this time.

He didn’t know how he hadn’t put the pieces together last time, but now he was sure that anger had come from Hood. The anger had also come with an energy boost, which he hadn’t noticed last time, but he’d been a little bit too busy beating the sh*t out of someone to notice. This time, he’d been able to use it to turn invisible the moment he stepped out of the warehouse and get away from Hood.

The anger had been a little easier to manage this time, but his knuckles were still a bit sore from beating the sh*t out of that poor tree. At least it hadn’t been someone’s face, and whatever energy he absorbed had mostly healed the cuts.

Cat crawled into his lap and started buzzing softly in an imitation of a purr, which shook Danny out of his thoughts for a second as he idly petted the ghost. The ghost blobs had finally been the thing to calm him down, their mere presence had been enough to soothe him, and once they started rubbing up against him, all the anger flowed out of him like water. He didn’t know if they’d done something, or if it had just been a placebo, but they’d helped either way.

A cool summer breeze blew through the park and Danny shivered slightly. He really missed his hoodie, even if it was a summer, Danny tended to run cold. And it’d been worse since he’d gotten here, like the lack of energy was affecting the ice in his core, preventing it from self regulating and freezing him. Whatever the cause, he was cold. The hoodie had also been his one last link to home. First he’d lost his wallet, then his phone, and now he’d managed to lose his favorite hoodie. Still, Red Robin had needed it more at the time and he wasn’t the kind of person to let someone else suffer for his comfort.

He was jolted out of his moping when Connie appeared in that weird way he did. Danny was still unused to the unspoken kinship they seemed to have, both being involved with the supernatural in some way. Danny still wasn’t sure what Connie's whole deal was beyond being an ‘Occult type’ but felt it was too forward a question to ask. The man hadn’t asked about him, though he’d clearly wanted to. Danny was grateful for his restraint, he really didn’t feel like talking about it, so it was only fair he respected the other’s secrets too.

Some dark part of himself also didn’t want to get to know the man. Thinking about having time to get to know Connie well enough to discuss himself turned his stomach. The only reason he was even barely surviving was that he still believed that Sam and Tucker would be here any second now to whisk him away from this world that seemed antithetical to his existence. He just wanted to go back home. Getting to know people, becoming more than acquaintances, felt like giving up.

Yet, as Connie approached him, he held out a hoodie. It was black, technically too big for Danny in the way he loved, and had the word Gotham on it. It was clearly from a tourist trap, but Danny couldn’t help the sob that escaped him. He buried his face in his hands, blocking out the look of shock on Connie’s face, as he cried. Connie had gotten him a gift, an actual gift like that meant that they weren’t just acquaintances. Only people who cared gave gifts like that. Only people who cared noticed things like a lost hoodie and went out of their way to replace it.

Connie sat on the bench beside him and passed him the hoodie. Danny sobbed as he pulled it over his head, he knew he was probably confusing and worrying the man, but as he was engulfed in the warm fabric, he felt just a little bit safe for the first time in ages.

He threw himself at Connie, wrapping his arms around the man. Connie didn’t seem to know what to do for a second, but quickly recovered and gathered Danny up.

“Aw, luv. It’s okay,” Connie murmured, and Danny just cried harder, burying his face in the other’s chest. He knew he was getting Connie soggy, but the man didn’t seem to care as he ran a gentle hand down Danny’s back. “I’ll fix this luv, you’ll be okay.”

Danny thought that he just might be. This world might suck, but Connie was proof that he wasn’t going to survive it by avoiding people any longer. Even in this f*cked up place, people cared about him, someone who didn’t have any right to exist here. Even if it took a while for his friends to find him, he thought he might be okay.

Connie hadn’t planned on getting the kid the hoodie, but the ley line had been temperamental and spat him out in the wrong location. He’d been aiming for the park, but instead he’d found himself downtown surrounded by tourists and shops selling tripe to tourists. It’d been as he was standing in the middle of the sidewalk, looking like an idiot arguing with the ley line, that he’d noticed the hoodie in the shop window. He’d thought it was odd they were even selling them this time of year as no one would be wearing them.

Then he remembered his kid had been wearing one, but had apparently lost it. With a sigh, he entered the shop and examined the selection. He didn’t know what size he should get the kid. He thought he’d been wearing one that was a few sizes too big before, but was unsure if that was what the kid actually liked, or if he’d just lost enough weight that it no longer fit him. He thought he remembered trans kids tended to like oversized hoodies, Tim definitely did, but he didn’t want to be rude by making assumptions. He was about to give up when a large one fell off the hanger and landed on his shoes.

“Alright, I get it,” he muttered to no one in particular. He picked up the hoodie and looked at the design. It was a very basic black hoodie with the word Gotham, printed on it in Batman’s signature yellow. Why the vigilante who wore almost exclusively black had become associated with such a bright color was beyond him.

After he’d paid for the hoodie, the ley lines welcomed him back easily. This damn city was getting too alive for his comfort. Usually places had to be inhabited for a few thousand years before they gained a consciousness, but Gotham was always one to buck tradition.

He really hadn’t been expecting the tears upon his return to the park. He didn’t think a hoodie warranted them, especially as it was really just a sad consolation prize, not that he was going to tell the kid that. What was he even going to say? ‘Sorry I’m such a f*ck up that I was unable to get you a safe place to sleep, here’s a dumb touristy hoodie instead? And sorry I can’t just take you with me, that’s a sure fire way to get you killed, or possessed, or trapped in hell because while most entities don’t want to deal with the paperwork involved in f*cking with me, they are more than willing to destroy the lives of the people around me.’ Yeah, he was just not going to try explaining that nonsense.

"Oh, hey kid," Constantine broke the hug and gently removed the teen from his lap. He bent down and rummaged through the overgrown grass, grumbling when he couldn’t find what he wanted. One of the ghosts, the boldest of them, approached with a small stone in their hands and handed it to Constantine. He thanked them, then glared at the kid, who looked sheepishly away. He'd given the ghosts more candy.

"They're gonna scare people if they start moving things regularly," he warned.

"They were hungry," Danny grumbled. "Plus! You try saying no to that face!" He gestured to the ghost with his hands, both of which were lost in the depths of his new hoodie sleeves.

"The ghost isn't the one I'm worried about sayin' no ta," Constantine grumbled, too low for the kid to hear.

"What do you need the rock for?" Danny asked, redirecting Constantine's attention to it. He held the stone carefully in both hands and muttered a spell over it before handing it to the kid.

"What's it do?" Danny asked, turning the stone over in his still covered hands.

"If ya 'old it and say my name, I'll know ya need 'elp," Constantine said. Danny's head jerked, eyes meeting Constantine's. He looked like he was going to start crying again.

"I might not be able ta come right away," Constantine warned. "I've got monsters that need dealing with, and can't just leave that."

"I get it," Danny muttered, looking slightly disappointed.

"If ya need 'elp and I ain't around, find Red Hood." The kid's shoulders stiffened, but Constantine didn't have time to piece together why. "He's a good man. He'll 'elp you."

"Sure," Danny muttered. Constantine sighed and ruffled the kid's hair before standing up.

"I have ta go. Keep that stone one ya and stay outta trouble."

"Will I see you tomorrow?" Danny asked, a look dangerously like hope in his eyes.

"I'll do ya one better. I'll see ya fer dinner." And with that, Constantine let the ley lines swallow him once again.

Wednesday Afternoon

Jason just had to get out of the manor for a bit. Bruce had, predictably, grounded Tim. The kid had tried to fight him on it, but Bruce showed some actual emotional maturity and explained that it wasn't anything Tim had done that earned him being grounded. It was just that Bruce needed one night where he didn't have to worry about Tim giving him a heart attack. Tim had relented and Jason had been volunteered to Babybird-sit. He didn’t know how that had happened, but if he was going to be stuck in the manor all night, he was going to stick googly eyes on everything Bruce owned.

The closest store to the manor was a massive f*cking mall, which was just such a Bristol move. 'Oh you want to go shopping? Why not spend three hours and several thousand dollars while you're at it?' It annoyed Jason.

He'd failed to find a parking spot outside the Staples, so he had to walk back through the mall to get to his bike with way too many googly eyes now in his possession. As he dodged the crowds of people seeking shelter from the summer heat, his eyes were drawn to a bright pink monstrosity in the window of a build-a-bear. Apparently, the plush toy company had made a deal with the Barbie movie and were selling themed bears. It made guilt roil in his gut as he remembered the promise he'd broken.

He opened the group chat and typed out a quick message asking if the others wanted to go see the movie tomorrow night. He got a resounding chorus of yes. He was about to continue on his way, when he remembered how excited Dick had seemed for the movie, and how many plushies the man owned. Even more than that, he knew the image of Jason going into a build-a-bear would be one Dick would cherish forever.

The employee impressed Jason by only hesitating for a moment before asking if he’d ever been to a build-a-bear before. He knew he didn’t look like their usual customer.

“My brother is really excited for the Barbie movie,” he explained. “I wanted to get him that bear.”

“Oh, we can definitely do that. Did you just want the one?” they asked. Jason was about to say yes, when he noticed one of the other movies the store was promoting was a new teenage mutant ninja turtles one. He figured he might as well get one for Tim. He picked out a Donatello, since he also had a bo staff.

“Do you want the outfits for those two?” they asked.

“Oh definitely,” Jason grinned, turning back to the selection to find something for Damian. He was on a roll now. He didn’t think Lil Peep would actually want a plushie, but it was the perfect opportunity to annoy the brat. There was a Superman bear that would be perfect for the task.

He was just about to hand the plushies over to get stuffed, he was not doing the heart ceremony no matter how much it would disappoint Dick, when the clearance bin caught his eye. There was a striped tail sticking out of it, and he just had to know. He pulled it out, and found it was in fact a raccoon. He almost burst out laughing, it was too perfect. He didn’t know when he’d get a chance to give it to the kid, but he figured it would be a good way to start making up for kicking him in the head, and also shooting him…

“Wow, you found a lot today,” the employee said as they sat down at the machine that was apparently going to stuff the bears.

“I have a lot of brothers,” Jason explained. Sure, the homeless kid wasn’t a brother, but he didn’t feel like explaining that situation to a random build-a-bear worker.

“Do you want them all softer, or a little firmer?” they asked.

“Softer is fine,” Jason said. “Oh, actually. Can you understuff the raccoon? It will be funnier that way.”

“Sure,” they said as they started on the task. “Have you looked at the outfits yet? There’s one for Barbie and the turtle.”

“Uh. I’ll look while you do that.” Jason found the outfits for the Barbie bear and the turtle, but what really excited him was the NASA hoodie he found. It didn’t look exactly like the one the kid had put on Tim, which Jason had had Alfred wash and stash away for later, but it was pretty close.

“Who’s the hoodie for?” the employee asked as Jason came back. They were just finishing up the raccoon and Jason was pleased to see it was suitably understuffed, perfect to match the underfed kid.

“The raccoon,” Jason explained. “And I found this for the Superman one.” He held up a little batarang that had a little elastic loop so the bear could hold it.

“One of your brothers a superhero fan?” they asked.

“Something like that,” Jason grinned. Once all the bears were stuffed and dressed, Jason got them those silly cardboard houses to take them home in. It was going to be a pain to ride his bike with them, but the joke wouldn’t be as funny otherwise. He was going to have to drop the raccoon off at his apartment first though, he wasn’t ready to explain the kid yet, and if the others saw the raccoon, they’d definitely be curious. He’d get the plushie to the kid soon. But tonight, he and Tim were going to drown Bruce’s stuff in googly eyes.


If you had build-a-bear on your fanfic bingo card, it's time to mark it off!

*Edit: Bruce didn't actually hear what Connie said, he wasn't listening. Oops 😬 Brucie messed up.

Discord link↓↓↓↓↓ Come join the chaos

Chapter 8


-DomesticatedOpossum: Sorry for the wait, I got distracted by watching all of My Hero Acidemia, and then getting a cold. I'm better now, so here's your chapter!!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Wednesday Afternoon

Tim was still reeling from Bruce's announcement that he and Damian were both grounded, benched, and forbidden from leaving the manor until further notice, when Jason just up and left without saying where he was going. The man claimed he was doing a ‘supply run’ to get stuff he’d need for babysitting duty. The simple fact that Bruce felt they needed a babysitter only annoyed Tim more. Tim was almost an adult, and Damian was a trained assassin, did they really need a babysitter?

To be fair, maybe Tim didn’t have the best track record of staying out of trouble. And maybe he was prone to getting bored and feeling cooped up when benched which just led to him getting into more trouble. And maybe Damian had once almost burned down the house trying to make a sandwich. A babysitter maybe wasn’t entirely unwarranted. But their assigned babysitter wasn’t currently here, and Tim was getting along fine with the lack of supervision, if you didn’t count Alfred checking in on him once in a while.

Jason was taking long enough getting whatever ‘supplies’ he needed that Tim seriously debated his chances of getting away with looking at a few case files in the cave. He was actually on his way toward Bruce’s office when the aforementioned babysitter pulled into the garage and the slamming of doors spurred Tim to find out what the man had needed so badly.

“Where’d you run off to?” Tim frowned, noticing Jason was carrying a filled trash bag that clearly contained several boxy objects, along with a reusable plastic shopping bag that had the Staples logo on it. The nearest Staples was at the Bristol mall and suddenly it made sense why Jason had been gone so long, the mall could be a distracting place. It didn’t explain the mystery trash bag though.

“Had to get these.” Jason was very nonchalant as he tossed Tim the bag from Staples, which Tim did not fumble. When he opened it, he discovered the bag was filled with googly eyes of all sizes, including two absolutely giant ones the size of dinner plates.

“Okay…” Tim drawlled, confused. “What are these for? And what’s with the trash bag?” Tim tried not to get distracted, but he couldn’t help think of interesting possibilities for the googly eyes.

“The googly eyes are for f*cking with B since he grounded you.” Jason explained with a mischievous grin. Tim restrained himself from reminding the man that technically, Jason had wanted him grounded too. He was a little touched that his brother wanted to mess with Bruce on his behalf though. “As for the trash bag…. Where’s Lil Peep?”

“I think he’s in his room. I wouldn’t bother him though, he said he was going to paint,” Tim explained. Disturbing Daiman while he was making art was a great way to get stabbed, and the gremlin was still a little mad at Tim for getting caught out in the field. Tim’s capture was the sole reason Damian was unable to go out as Robin, and until Bruce was convinced whoever had targeted Red Robin was dealt with, Robin would remain benched.

“Too bad, I don’t want to wait.” Jason brushed off the warning, a sly grin teasing the corners of his mouth, and Tim couldn’t help but wonder what he had up his sleeve that he was willing to bother Damian over.

“Whatever Jay,” Tim rolled his eyes playfully. “It’s your funeral…” He didn’t realize what he was saying until the words were already out, and the hand he slapped over his own mouth didn’t help any. Dread pooled in his stomach as his words hung in the air. He’d accidentally poked fun at one of the most taboo topics in the household.

Jason looked like a deer in the headlights, caught in an unexpected situation, Tim’s words slowly sinking in. Tim figured he was about to die himself when his brother just burst out laughing, a full-hearted laugh that startled Tim so badly he jumped.

“Jay, it wasn’t that funny. Stop laughing, look, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that,” Tim begged. He failed to see what was funny and felt his face heat up with embarrassment.

Jason managed to sober up after a moment, taking in a few deep breaths to replenish the oxygen he’d failed to take in during his laughing fit. He placed a gentle hand on Tim’s shoulder and squeezed. Tim liked it, it was nice.

“Baby Bird, it’s ok,” Jason assured softly. “That was f*cking hilarious. I really didn’t expect that one from you, but it was nice to have someone not dance around my past for once. Now let’s go bother Lil Peep before I change my mind and give all your presents to Dick.”

Tim was still a little embarrassed, but he nodded as Jason linked his free arm with his and dragged him up the stairs towards Damian’s room. Jason hummed as they walked, something soft and calming that Tim couldn’t identify. It was still a little disorientating to see his older brother in such a good mood but Tim really hoped it lasted. Happiness fit so much better on Jason than anger ever had. He wasn’t made to be a violent weapon. He was made to be the gentle protector, the big brother who saved his siblings then cuddled them into submission.

Tim was jolted out of his thoughts when they stopped at Damian’s room. Tim wasn’t surprised to see the door closed but Jason just knocked like he didn’t have another death wish.

“Hey Lil Peep,” Jason called out when his knocking got no answer. “Open up or come out for a second.”

Damian didn’t reply but Tim heard shifting around in the room for a minute before the door opened a crack. Damian peeked out from behind it just enough that his eyes and nose were visible.

“What is it you require, Todd?” Damian scowled.

“I’ve got something for you,” Jason grinned cheekily, motioning for Damian to come out of the room.

Damian looked like he was debating the request for a moment before he sighed and squeezed himself out of the door before closing it behind him.

“This better not be another facade about hanging out with us,” Damian crossed his arms and glared up at Jason.

If Tim didn’t know the man, and if he hadn’t been trained to closely monitor micro expressions and body language, Tim wouldn’t have noticed the way Damian’s dig landed. But it definitely hurt Jason, and Tim knew Damain knew it too. But the man quickly shook it off and his smile brightened again.

“No, no facades here. Look, I got you both something,” Jason declared as he set the trash bag down and opened it. Tim spotted three boxes in it that were suspiciously house shaped… Wait… was that Build-A-Bear?

Tim was forced to set down the Staples bag as one of the houses was shoved into his arms and he glared down at the box suspiciously. He was trying to decide if this was supposed to be an insult or a joke. Jason had been acting better lately, sure, but he didn’t really scream the type to get stuffed animals from Build-A-Bear as a gift.

Damian looked just as hesitant when Tim caught sight of his face in his peripheral. Jason stood there proudly for a moment before his shoulders fell and he sighed.

“You’re supposed to open it, it’s not a bomb, kids. Yeesh.” He was trying to sound lighthearted, but Tim could hear the hurt buried under his words. “When I was your age Dami, I would have torn it open the moment it was in my hands.”

Jason was trying, Tim realized. He was trying so f*cking hard to be, something… Something more than he had been. Tim forced himself to stop hesitating and open the damn box. He was still careful about it though, being very gentle with the fragile cardboard. Damian was following his example, thankfully, and Jason smiled as Tim managed to free the plush from its too small house, Tim was sure these things used to be bigger.

“Oh.” Tim’s chest tightened suddenly as he held Donatello up. He didn’t know if Jason remembered what he liked or if it was just a coincidence that he’d gotten him this particular plush. He decided it didn’t matter either way as he wrapped his arms around the turtle, holding it like it was the only thing currently keeping him tethered. He smiled up at Jason, his expression not watery at all…

“Thank you, Jay. I love it.”

“Is this a joke?” Damian demanded and Tim turned his attention to his younger brother, currently holding a Superman-themed bear up awkwardly, like he wasn’t sure what to do with it. If it had been any other day, Tim would have assumed Jason was messing with the kid, but then Damian shifted the bear’s paw to show off the little Bat-arang it was equipped with, and Tim understood. Jason had actually been paying attention to the brat. Tim didn’t think anyone else had realized how close Damian had gotten to the youngest superboy, but Jason clearly had.

Damian coughed like he was clearing his throat, an obvious attempt to cover whatever emotion was trying to leek into his voice. “I believe Jon is going to require a Batman bear,” the kid declared. “He might get jealous of my new acquisition otherwise...”

Jason chuckled, reaching out and casually ruffling Damian’s hair. “I’ll make sure to take you next time I’m headed for the mall.”

Tim could see the shock Damian tried to hide at being touched, and was sure Jason didn’t miss it. Tim was surprised Jason had even been willing to risk losing his fingers to touch Damian’s head, but the youngest didn’t retaliate, a rare thing indeed.

“Thank you, Todd,” the youngest Wayne muttered and Tim actually had to pinch himself to assure this wasn’t a dream.

“So anyways,” Jason drawled, drawing the focus away from Damian before the kid got too embarrassed and fled. “How do you two feel about messing with Bruce? He grounded you both didn’t he? I think you deserve a little payback.” Jason nudged Damian playfully with an elbow, and waggled his eyebrows at Tim, very obviously trying to sell the prank idea. “I’ll even let you have the honor of pulling off the biggest surprise…”

Damian’s forehead furrowed in thought as he rubbed at his chin. “Father really didn’t need to ground me just because Drake is prone to disaster,” he mused. “I am a little displeased with him at the moment. Very well, Todd. What is this plan you wish to propose? If it is suitable I will assist.”

Jason bent down, picked up the Staples, bag and pulled out the largest pair of googly eyes. “Art, beautiful art,” he declared, his expression oozing mischief.

“I do believe this is an acceptable plan,” Damian agreed, tucking his bear under one arm to take the bag from Jason and look inside. “I even know the best place for the largest ones.”

“Oh?” Tim asked. “Where’s that?” The grin Damian leveled at him would have terrified Tim a few months ago. It was the same one the brat had given him before he’d pushed him off the dinosaur. But this wasn’t a few months ago, and Damian wasn’t the same monster he’d been then. Now, the grin only excited Tim for the chaos they were about to cause.

“I believe the Batmoble could use a little accessorizing,” Damian said. “And I know where father keeps the strongest adhesives.”

“I like the way you think, Lil Peep,” Jason declared. “To the BatCave!” Tim rolled his eyes as he followed them down. Bruce was definitely going to kill them for this, but it would be worth it to see the look on his face when he couldn’t get the googly eyes off. Giving Jason another chance had definitely been the right choice. His skills were much more fun when used for chaos.


Thursday Afternoon

“Are you guys ready to see a movie about one of the most culturally important inventions in the world?” Dick knew his poker face sucked, but he still tried to smother the ear to ear grin as he walked up to his brothers. Dick had met them in the theater parking lot rather than go out of the way to stop at the manor first, and he was pleased by their exaggerated reactions to his outfit. His blinding magenta crop top and brightly colored booty shorts, that probably hadn’t seen the light of day since the 90s, were a roaring success judging by the disgusted expressions on his brother’s faces. The blonde wig had been a last minute addition but it had a few people in the crowd heading to the theater gaping at the Barbie among them.

“Dick, no…” Tim groaned, clearly embarrassed to even be in Dick’s presence right now, which was exactly what Dick had been going for. Embarrassing younger siblings was a sacred duty of the oldest, and Dick had had too few opportunities to get all three of them at once. Dick noticed a few people in the crowd were even taking pictures and for once, it wasn’t because of their near celebrity status as Wayne's.

“I thought we were seeing Barbie?” Damian narrowed his eyes in suspicion, either over Dick’s words or his completely appropriate and not at all over-the-top outfit, one of the two. .

“We are,” Jason confirmed. He was clearly doing his best to ignore the attention their group was attracting thanks to Dick’s costume. Dick was surprised that Jason had actually come dressed for the occasion in a tie-dye hoodie with the words ‘I am Kenough’ printed on it. Dick didn’t know how he’d managed to get ahold of one so fast, as they were sold out everywhere, unless the man had made it himself…,

“dickhe*d just thinks he’s funny,” Jason snarked, drawing Dick out of his thoughts. He made sure to pout and give his brother his signature sad puppy eyes before responding.

“That was a great joke…” he muttered, sure his brother would buy the act.

“You’re a joke.” Jason muttered under his breath without any heat. He perked up suddenly and made a ‘wait a moment’ gesture before he turned back to the car he was leaning on, one of Bruce’s muscle cars that he probably hadn’t gotten permission to borrow. He reached into the back of the car and pulled out a familiar house-shaped box.

“Heads up!” Jason practically shouted as he tossed the build-a-bear house at Dick, who managed to catch it out of pure instinct.

“What’s this?” Dick asked, rotating the box in his hands. He knew what it was, but it was fun messing with Jason, especially when he was in such a good mood. He was also hoping his brother would explain why he’d just handed him a build-a-bear as, despite his improved mood, it was still out of character for the man.

“Dunno, I saw it and thought of you,” Jason smirked slightly, and Dick saw the uncertainty in his brother’s eyes. It wasn’t a gag gift then; Jason clearly wanted Dick to like it.

“It’s as sparkly and obnoxious as him,” Damian scoffed, successfully breaking the tension, but Dick wasn’t sure if it’d been on purpose or not.

“How do you know that?” Jason demanded as he turned his attention to the youngest of the group. Daman just shrugged like he thought it wasn’t a big deal.

“I looked while you and Drake were busy putting googly eyes on all the bat-arangs,” the youngest explained dryly. “I desired to know what kind of monstrosity you were getting Grayson.”

“Wait, hold up!” Dick tucked the box under one arm so he could hold both hands up. “You guys did what to the bat-arangs? And you didn’t invite me?” Dick tried to sound playful, but he was actually a little disappointed they hadn’t asked him to join in that kind of fun. He was going to have to drag the whole story out of them later, and maybe look at the security footage.

“Just open the damn box, Dick.” Jason actually sounded a little annoyed then, so Dick hurried to do as he’d been told lest he ruin Jason’s good mood.

He tried to be careful with the box, but he’d always been the one who absolutely shredded the wrapping paper on his presents, so the box might have gotten a little damaged as he quickly dug out his gift. From the cardboard chaos he pulled a very bright pink bear. She had gorgeous eyelashes and was dressed in the iconic Barbie swimsuit.

“Oh, Jay….” Dick whispered reverently. His heart practically overflowed with joy at the adorable thing and he had to fight back tears. Without letting go of his new bear, he threw himself at Jason, wrapping his arms around the bigger man and lifting him off the ground in a tight hug.

“I LOVE HER!” he exclaimed.

Jason had frozen for a moment at the unexpected contact, but Dick chose to pretend he didn’t notice as the man relaxed after a second.

“I knew you would,” Jason scoffed, but Dick could hear the fondness in his voice. “Now put me down, I can’t breathe!” Dick loosened his hold a fraction, but didn’t let go and instead started twirling the two of them around in the parking lot, making an absolute scene.

“I swear to god, I will kick you in the dick, Dick…”

“Okay, that was amazing,” Jason admitted as they left the theater. He playfully crashed his shoulder into Dick’s.

“I know, right?!” Dick exclaimed, pumping his fists in glee while still holding onto the bear Jason had gotten him. He hadn’t let go of it since unboxing it, despite Damian’s attempts to get him to leave it in the car. If they hadn’t wanted him to take his Barbie bear to see the Barbie movie, they should have given it to him afterwards.

“I still would have preferred to see Oppenheimer,” Damian stated flatly, but Dick knew he hadn’t disliked the movie. The fact he wasn’t verbally ripping the story to shreds was proof of that.

“Same little bro,” Tim chuckled. Dick wasn’t buying that lie for a second. He’d seen the way Tim had almost been out of his seat a few times. That boy was as queer as the rest of them.

“You two are so uncultured,” Dick sighed dramatically. “I didn’t raise you two this way! Where’s your sparkle?”

Jason snorted, a noise which seemed to startle even himself. “Besides, we know Dick can’t sit still long enough for Oppenheimer.”

“Hey!” Dick protested, pouting.

Tim just snickered along with Jason. “You do have ADHD, Dick. He’s not wrong.”

Dick opened his mouth to protest more but Damian chimed in with, “Yeah, Annoying Dick Head Disorder.”

The group grew quiet for a moment, everyone shocked at the kid who was wearing a pleased smirk on his face, clearly happy to have surprised them all. .

“Did the gremlin just make a joke?” Tim was the first to break the silence, looking at Damian like the youngest of the group might not be real.

“I knew there was a kid in there somewhere!” Jason laughed while Dick covered his face and groaned in mock disappointment.

“Who taught him that? How dare they teach Lil Peep that?!” he exclaimed.

“Calm down Dick,” Jason laughed, throwing an arm around the oldest. “He’s just growing up a little.”

Dick was about to continue the ribbing as they stepped outside onto the street, but before he could, someone in the crowd caught his eye. The teen was wearing an oversized Gothman touristy hoodie, but he didn’t look like a tourist. He had the hard edged expression of a local, but even for a native he was on the underfed side. The hoodie was definitely new though, so Dick knew he at least had someone looking after him.

As the distance between his brothers and the teen grew, he felt more comfortable to point the kid out to his brothers in a hushed tone.

“Dang, that poor kid looks like he needs a sandwich. I thought Bruce upped social services funding.”

All three of his siblings' attention snapped to the teenager he’d pointed out and he wasn’t sure how to feel when Damian was the only one to laugh, mistaking his concern for a joke.

“He does look like someone who father would take interest in, Grayson,” Damian observed. “Maybe it was wise that we hadn’t invited father to come along, busy schedule or not.”

Jason and Tim still hadn’t said anything and Dick turned to actually look at Jason, finding a pained expression on the man’s face.

“Jay, you good?” Dick asked, concerned. It had been a bit since Jason had freaked out on them, not counting his ditching them a few days ago. Dick wasn’t sure if that look on his brother’s face was Pit-related or not though. There was definitely anger in his eyes, but it didn’t seem like anything more than his usual anger at the general state of the child protective services in Gotham.

“Oh, uh, peachy.” Jason straightened his posture, glancing back once more into the crowd, but Dick doubted he could see the kid anymore. With what seemed like some effort, Jason met Dick’s eyes.

“Just peachy, Big Bird,” he repeated, his smile looking forced.

“So…” Tim drawled after a moment, breaking the tense silence that had fallen over them. “We could come back another time to watch Oppenheimer later, right Jay?”

It warmed Dick’s heart to see Tim look at Jason like he currently was. Like he expected Jason to say yes, and like he wanted to hang out with him. The moment Tim had turned up in DIck’s life, he had been distraught that Jason would never get to meet him. Jason had always been good with younger kids, and Dick had known he would have made an excellent older brother. It’d taken them a while, but Jason was finally in place where he could be the brother Tim should have had from the beginning. It made Dick briefly wonder if the kid he’d pointed out might need someone like that too. The hoodie might have been new, but he really did look to be in bad shape. Maybe Nightwing could patrol Gotham tonight and maybe feed a poor kid on the streets. Even if he couldn’t find this particular kid, there were plenty of others who needed help.

Maybe if he was in town, he could convince Bruce to let Tim and Damian out. He knew his younger siblings were already getting cabin fever, and with all three adults out, they would be safe enough. And Damian needed more practice interacting with other kids anyway. There was no way Bruce was arguing his way out of this one.


-DomesticatedOpossum: Dang, that sure was a lot of fluff, I hope nothing bad happens next...

Discord link↓↓↓↓↓ Come join the chaos

Chapter 9


(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Thursday Evening

Jason knew he had sh*t luck. All his life the world had taken an interest in f*cking with him in particular. So he wasn’t that surprised when he ran into Raccoon in civies with no way of getting him alone to talk. He'd considered just grabbing the kid and booking it, but he didn't think that'd actually help that much, and he didn't feel like getting bitten by Raccoon again. Plus his brothers might actively stop him if he tried that. So he resolved to wait until he could get back to his apartment and grab his Red Hood gear.

He felt a little bad for making Dick take the kids back to the manor, and he doubted Bruce would be happy that he was taking his rich person car into the Narrows, but he parked it in the back corner of an underground lot and threw a cover over it, so it would probably be fine.

It’d barely been an hour from when he’d seen Raccoon to when he was back at the theater, this time crouching on the roof and scanning the still dwindling crowd for the kid. He didn’t see the kid’s signature mop of dark hair, or oversized hoodie in the crowd, but every other time he’d seen him, Raccoon had been in uncrowded, hard to reach places, so he started checking the nearby rooftops.

“Pspsps,” he muttered as he landed on another roof. “Come out please.”

“What the f*ck are you doing?” Red Robin demanded and Jason swore violently as he whirled around.

“Holly sh*t Baby Bird, you scared the crap out of me!” Jason put a hand to his heart in what even he would admit was an overly dramatic display. RR sat on the wall that wrapped around the roof of the building and looked smug, like it’d been his goal to startle the man who was known for his violence.

“Are you trying to call a cat or something?” RR asked.

“A raccoon actually,” Jason quipped as he put his back to RR and continued hunting around the rooftop.

“A raccoon?” RR asked as he got off the wall and started trailing behind Jason.

“The raccoon actually,” Jason clarified. “You remember, the one who bit me.”

“The one that bit you in the Narrows?” There was a hint of disbelief in his voice that Jason decided to get offended over.

“Yes. I’d know that raccoon anywhere,” he insisted.

“I doubt it’s the same raccoon Hood.”

“Tells me how much you know about raccoons. What are you even doing here? Aren’t you still grounded?”

“Nightwing convinced B to let us out as long has we had ‘adult supervision.’” The kid actually did the air quotes, so Jason knew that had been B’s exact wording.

“I don’t see Nightwing around now. Did you ditch him?” Jason asked. Tim gave him a look like he was stupid which he actually did find offensive.

“You’re my adult supervision, Hood,” Tim explained.

“Ah hell naw!” Jason exclaimed. “I got stuck babysitting the last two days. I got sh*t to do tonight that isn’t compatible with watching your scrawny butt.”

“But Hooood,” RR actually whined, which Jason was not expecting. “Nightwing also has Robin, and you know how much of a stickler for B’s rules that kid is.”

“No buts,” Jason stood his ground and planted his hands on his hips. He glared down at Red Robin, an expression that was completely wasted with his helmet on, but the kid seemed to get the message. RR’s shoulders dropped and he sighed dramatically.

“Fine,” RR grumbled. Jason rolled his eyes and activated his coms.

“Yo, Nightwing. I’ve got one of your lost chicks. Come get him before he gets himself into more trouble.”

“In a sec, I’m finishing something up,” came Nightwings distracted reply.

“You need help?” Jason asked.

“Negative Hood,” Robin answered. “We will be over in a minute.”

“Well that’s weird, but whatever,” Jason shrugged and sat down in the middle of the roof. He pulled out his work phone and started going through his contacts. Looking for Raccoon here was a bust, but the kid had been in the Narrows the previous two times Jason had seen him, so he figured one of his contacts might have seen him around and know where to find him.

“What were you actually looking for?” RR asked as he sat down across from Jason.

“I was actually looking for that Raccoon,” Jason sighed. “I told you it looked like it was used to being around people, like a pet or something. It probably can’t take care of itself.”

“I thought you were joking that a raccoon bit you,” RR admitted.

“You’ve seen the bite, what do you think bit me?” Jason asked, looking up from his phone and taking in the sheepish expression on his little brother's face.

“I thought maybe I had,” RR carefully didn’t make eye contact. Jason took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

“You were already unconscious by the time I found you Baby Bird.”

“Yeah, you said.”

“So why did you think you bit me?”

“Cause the raccoon story was stupid, and I thought maybe you didn’t want to tell me that I bit you.” RR still wasn’t meeting his eyes so, keeping his movements slow and nonthreatening, Jason reached out and tilted the kid’s chin till RR was looking at him.

“Why are you so hung up on whether or not you bit me?” Jason asked softly.

“I don’t want to hurt you,” RR swallowed. Jason resisted the urge to sigh, knowing RR wouldn’t take it the right way.

“You didn’t hurt me,” Jason said firmly. “And even if you did, I probably deserve it,” he added under his breath.

“You don’t deserve to be hurt, Hood,” RR said firmly.

“Neither do you.”

“So it really was a raccoon?” RR asked, lightening the mood considerably.

“Yes,” Jason sighed dramatically. He knew he was going to get sh*t for it later, but he’d already started calling the kid Raccoon in his head, so really a Raccoon did bite him. It just wasn’t a raccoon.

“You want help looking?” RR asked. “We’ve probably got a few minutes till Nightwing gets here.”

“Sure kid,” Jason stood and hauled the teen to his feet. “You know how to call a raccoon right?’

Danny decided his luck had to be particularly rotten with how often he kept running into Gotham’s vigilantes. This time it was Nightwing who had nearly given him a heart attack by dropping into his alley. He'd tucked himself into a particularly clean and inviting alley across from a massive movie theater that seemed to be celebrating some weird Legally Blonde rip off.

As if one vigilante wasn't enough to ruin Danny's night, there was also a Robin hanging menacingly off a firescape overhead. The kid was watching intently, like he was expecting Danny to attack Nightwing, which was a ridiculous notion as the homeless kid was the least threatening out of the three of them. Not that Danny wouldn't attack the vigilante if he thought he had to, but even he had to admit he probably wouldn't win in his current state.

Nightwing paused his approach to whisper something harshly to himself, or more likely, to whoever was on the other end of his com link. It raised Danny's hackles knowing someone he couldn't see might be listening into their interaction, and Nightwing muttering something about finishing something up didn’t help his anxiety.

Finally, the man focused his attention back on Danny and held his hands up as if to show he wasn’t a threat. Not that Danny bought it, but the lack of a weapon pointed at him helped a bit. He still reached a hand into his pocket to touch the stone that Connie had given him. The thought he had it on him gave him some comfort while facing these two unknowns.

“I’m not here to hurt you.” Nightwing's tone sounded genuinely nonthreatening, like he'd had a lot of experience talking to jumpy alley kids. His body language was calm and soothing as he kept his distance, hands still up. “I honestly just thought you looked like you could use a hand, I brought you food…”

Danny burst out laughing at that, he couldn't help it. One half of Gotham seemed to want to feed him, while the other half wanted to beat the sh*t out of him and the constant back and forth was giving him whiplash. He realized Nightwing was looking at him a little funny and he choked down his laughter.

“Sorry," he muttered. "You just aren’t the first or even the second person to offer me food at this point. In fact, some people watching the Legally Blonde movie at the theater already gave me some pretzels. They thought I was Tim Drake, which is funny because have you ever seen that guy in a magazine before? We don’t look anything alike aside from black hair and blue eyes…”

Nightwing's nose scrunched up as he processed what Danny had said and it was just Danny's luck that the vigilante focused on the wrong thing.

“Legally Blonde?” Nightwing asked, his confusion evident. Danny mentally cursed. He'd already run into a few instances where media differed here, but he really hoped Nightwing just wasn't familiar with the movie.

“Y-yeah?” Danny stammered as he tightened his hold on his comfort rock. “You know, the blonde girl dressing in all pink proving blonde stereotypes wrong?”

“Do you mean Barbie?” Nightwing sounded more confused and Danny decided this was definitely a difference in dimensions and not a lack of knowledge. But Nightwing had given him a name so he latched onto that.

“Oh! Yeah, totally! Barbie, Barbie’s great. She is amazing and can do anything a man can do in a courtroom all while dressed in the pinkest suit on the market. Yup, that Barbie.” Danny nodded as he spoke, trying to look like he knew what he was talking about despite having never heard of Barbie before. He wondered if it was a nickname for Barbara or something.

It was apparently Nightwing’s turn to laugh, which made Danny frown. Had he said something to make the situation worse?

“Sorry, I just realized you probably haven’t seen the movie yet," Nightwing explained. "I guess some of the advertising material could make someone come to that assumption…”

Danny tried not to sigh in relief. “So uh, since I’ve already been fed… No need to worry about lil old me. I might not look like it, but I can take care of myself, Blue Robin.”

Nightwing spluttered indignantly, something Danny would have found hilarious on any other day.

“It’s Nightwing,” he corrected, placing his hands firmly on his hips. Danny suppressed a flinch.

"So? People call me Danny and that's not my name. What? You never heard of nicknames before?" Danny snarked. "So, there’s a Red Robin, Blue Robin, and I'm guessing Yellow Robin?” Danny gestured to Robin hanging off the firescape still, who visibly bristled like an adorable, murderous, hedgehog.

“It’s just Robin! I’m the Robin, Sandwich Boy!” The kid shouted, his fist clenched like he was about to something at Danny.

"Why am I Sandwich Boy?” Danny asked, pretending like he wasn't two seconds from running. He figured he could annoy the vigilantes into leaving him alone, after all, it worked wonders with ghosts.

"You are Sandwich Boy," the Robin explained slowly, annunciating each word. "Because we brought you a sandwich."

"Well I don't want a sandwich," Danny bit back. "You got the boy part right though, I appreciate that. Not everyone notices. So how many Robins are there?”

“Just me," the Robin snorted from his perch. "There have been predecessors, but none as finely trained. I just allow Red Robin to share a similar name.”

“Cool, cool.” Danny nodded, rapidly realizing his plan wasn't working. They weren’t getting annoyed and leaving, and now Nightwing, who was ridiculously tall, was approaching him…

“Hey," Nightwing said gently, his hands still up as he slowly backed Danny into the corner. "I understand you might not need help at the moment, but I would rest easier if I knew you were safe. If you call this number, my friend will let me know if you need something.” Nightwing held out a slip of paper with what looked like a phone number on it. Danny's back hit the wall and he shook his head. He struggled to keep his breathing even as he motioned for Nightwing to keep the paper.

“I don’t have a phone," he blurted out. "Didn’t even have service before my phone got confiscated by those pigs. My friend used to always tell me about cops being corrupt but I didn’t really believe her until they grabbed me and…” Danny clamped his mouth shut, realizing he had said too much. Nightwing gave him another look that Danny couldn’t parse the meaning of. It was time for plan B.

“Well, it’s been swell but… Oh sh*t, is that the Joker?!” Danny blurted out the first Gotham villain he knew and pointed to one of the alley entrances. Either the vigilantes were extraordinarily jumpy, or his lying skills had improved as both the bird boys in front of him turned their heads just enough that he took his chance to turn invisible and started running toward the opposite end of the alley.

He was glad Connie had given in and given him more candies earlier that day, or he'd never have had the energy for it. As it was, the occultist was still going to chew his head off.

Jason had finally managed to drop Red Robin off with Nightwing before he headed back to the Narrows. They’d looked around for the Raccoon for a little while, but he hadn’t spotted the kid. He probably hadn’t stuck around in the nicer neighborhoods. While they’d been looking, he’d texted a few of his contacts and had plans to meet up with one of them. Most of them were sex workers who were the absolute best people to go to if you wanted the local gossip. Their clients tended to be drunk or drugged out and far more likely to let slip things they otherwise shouldn’t.

His meeting was with a guy whose working name was Ken, which was strangely relevant. His actual name was Charles, but considering Jason was meeting him behind a strip club, he’d stick with Ken for this interaction.

“Long time no see Hood,” Ken observed as Jason leapt off the fire escape and into the surprisingly clean alley.

“It’s only been so long because you told me to stay away from you,” Jason crossed his arms. Ken shrugged.

“It’s nothing personal. You’re just really bad for business. So to what do I owe the pleasure?” Ken was wearing a speedo and nothing else, which Jason found annoyingly distracting. He didn’t have this problem when he was talking to the working girls, but tonight he was thankful he was wearing a cup.

“I’m looking for a homeless kid.” Jason could practically see Ken’s hackles rise as his eyes darkened.

“Thought you didn’t mess with kids, Hood,” Ken said, the warning in his voice clear.

“I don’t. But this one is some kind of meta, and I want to get him some help before the trafficking rings realize what they have sitting right under their noses.”

“Oh,” Ken’s shoulders dropped and all the defensive anger drained away. The sex workers of the Narrows all had soft spots for kids, if they didn’t, Hood didn’t let them keep working long. So he understood where Ken was coming from. But he really needed to find Raccoon. Even if he wasn’t being completely honest about his reasons, he really needed to find the kid.

“What’s he look like?” Ken asked. Jason did his best to describe him, but there were a lot of underfed black haired kids in the Narrows, and there was no guarantee the kid would keep the new Gotham hoodie for long, considering he gave away his last one.

“I don’t know him,” Ken admitted sadly. “But I’ll keep an eye out and let you know if I do.”

“Thanks,” Jason said. “And if you could let the others know to look out for him, I’d appreciate it.”

“Sure,” Ken said casually.

“Since I’m here,” Jason drawlled. “Is there anything I should know about?”

“There is one thing,” Ken made a face like he’d just eaten something sour and Jason perked up. Even if he couldn’t find the kid tonight, that expression gave him hope that he’d get to knock someone’s teeth out.

“Oh?” Jason asked, when Ken didn’t elaborate.

“Yeah. A few of my boy’s have been telling stories of a bad John," Ken admitted. Jason had to stop himself from grinding his teeth together at the news. Everyone knew children and sex workers were under Red Hood’s protection in the Narrows, so if someone was co*cky enough to abuse Ken’s boys, then either they were new in town, or just extraordinarily stupid.

“Got any details about this John?” Jason asked. Ken sighed deeply, his shoulders slumping, before he replied.

“Not as much as I’d like,” he admitted. “The guys who've encountered him were scared bad. They didn’t want to discuss it, even with me.”

“Will they talk to me?” Jason asked.

“They might,” Ken admitted. “Most of the boys have a soft spot for you. Let me give you Aston’s number. He was the first one I know about who encountered the John. Maybe he’ll be willing to talk.” Ken made a ‘gimme’ gesture so Jason passed him his work phone. Ken pulled his own phone out from somewhere, and referenced it while imputing a new contact into Jason’s phone. Once he was done, he handed it back and Jason checked to make sure all the man did was add the contact, but he didn’t see anything else. Not that he thought the man would mess with his phone, but one could never be too careful in Gotham.

“Thanks,” Jason pocketed his phone. “I’ll text him and see if he wants to talk.”

“If he doesn’t, just text me and I’ll see about getting you the numbers of some of the other guys who’ve encountered the John,” Ken offered.

“I will. Thanks for the info, Ken.”

“I’d say it was a pleasure, but I’ve probably lost two hundred bucks just standing out here talking to you,” Ken’s grin was slightly feral, so Jason took that as his cue to leave.

Aston was willing to talk, but not out in public, which somehow lead to Jason sitting on a well loved couch, in an overcrowded apartment Aston shared with three other college aged guys, two cats, and one very excitable pomeranian that insisted on sitting on Jason’s lap and covering his Red Hood gear in fur. It turned out Aston, real name Nick, was just a college kid studying to be a veterinarian who’d needed some quick cash and turned to excotic dancing, which had lead to sex work, which had lead to him quiting that line of work entirely when he’d encountered the bad John.

“So what happened?” Jason asked, absentmindedly scratching the dog on the head to keep it from squirming around too much.

“He seemed like a totally normal client at first,” Nick said as he struggled to meet Jason’s eyes. He’d taken the helmet off for this conversation and set it on the coffee table, where one of the cats, a big orange thing, was attempting to push it onto the floor among the other fallen detritus it’d already knocked off.

“Okay, so when did it go wrong?” Jason asked.

“At the end of the night,” Nick said. “I was gathering my things, making sure I had everything, when he pulled a gun on me. Said he was a cop, and that what I was doing was illegal and he should arrest me. But he’d forget he’d ever saw me if I gave him back the money he’d already paid me.”

“Did you get his name?” Jason asked, leaning forward and disturbing the dog in his lap who huffed indignantly at being squashed.

“Yes,” Nick breathed. “It wasn’t the first time I’d had a gun drawn on me, and I knew the hotel staff wouldn’t ignore a gunshot, so I insisted he show me badge.”

“And he did?”


“What was his name?”

“It was….

Friday Afternoon

If Danny was being honest with himself, he actually felt okay. Not great of course, he still felt like he’d gone a few rounds with Skulker and lost, but he was in a much better mood all things considered. Connie had had to leave Gotham, something about a chair getting too powerful for its own good, Danny had decided it was best not to ask, so he wasn’t going to be around for a few days. He’d left Danny with some cash so he could buy food though. Danny hadn’t even wanted to take it at first, but the occultist wouldn’t let him refuse. Danny had finally relented when Connie had said he’d be able to focus on his mission better if he knew Danny could actually get a good meal while he was away.

That had been several hours ago now, and Danny’s stomach had started complaining to him again. Connie had bought him breakfast, but apparently all the frequent meals had lowered Danny’s hunger tolerance again, so he decided Tony’s sounded good as an actual paying customer for once.

He did his best to remain a part of crowds during the day and avoid trouble at night. Danny was almost surprised with his luck; he hadn't spotted anything in the shadows even remotely looking like one of the Gotham Bats. After his encounter with Nightwing the night before, he’d been even more wary of them. It hadn’t seemed like Nightwing knew he was the kid Red Hood had encountered. Danny wasn’t even sure Hood had told the others about him. According to local gossip, Hood didn’t get along very well with the other vigilantes, but he had come to Red Robin’s rescue. Either way, Danny had resolved to stay away from Gotham’s vigilantes. He didn’t know if Red Hood had realized in the end that he hadn’t been the one to hurt Red Robin or not, but staying away seemed the safest option.

“Hey kid, what have you been up to?” A familiar voice pulled Danny out of his thoughts as he neared Tony’s. He turned around and his eyes met with Marie. He figured she must work in the area since he’d only encountered her here. After a moment, he realized she was looking at him a little funny. He’d zoned out again and ignored her question, a mistake he scrambled to rectify.

“Hey, Marie,” he waved a little sheepishly, feeling a little trapped. “Not much, I was actually just heading to Tony’s…”

“Good boy,” Marie interrupted, hands on her hips as she looked him up and down intently. “But, that’s not why I was asking, honey. You’ve been quite the topic among my people, you know.”

“Your people?” Danny frowned, trying to think what he could have possibly done to even get to be the topic of rumors. Aside from breaking out from a police station, making popsicles out of some lowly thugs, punching trees, pissing off the Narrows’ vigilante… Ok, so maybe he’d done a few things that could garner some attention but he didn’t know how any of that had spread to the general population of the Narrows.

“My people,” Marie noded with no further explanation. Danny decided that if he didn’t know what she meant and she wasn’t willing to clarify, he was better off not knowing. “They tell me that Little Red Riding Hood has been asking around about you. Nothing bad, just asking if we’ve seen you. Well, someone fitting your description anyways.”

Little Red?… Hood. Danny could feel his stomach clenching in on itself with the anxiety of just the thought that Red Hood was looking for him. He didn’t know which was worse, Hood looking for him because he actually thought he was trying to hurt Red Robin, or worse, was he working with Officer Collins. He didn’t think Red Hood even worked with cops, but knowing Danny’s luck the vigilante would make an exception for him.

“Hey, Danny, kid you gotta calm down! You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” Marie frowned at him, her lips pursed in a worried expression. He would have laughed at her unintentional pun if his guts hadn't felt like a pretzel. Connie had told him that the Bats were good people, even Red Hood, but all he could think about at that moment was Red Hood’s bullet hitting his shoulder. He hadn’t known at the moment the gun went off where the man was aiming or that he’d only been firing rubber bullets. Red Hood hadn’t even given him a chance to explain himself. Standing his ground had never lead to anything good, so Danny did the only thing that’d ever seemed to save him.

“S-sorry Marie, I uh…. Have somewhere to be,” Danny spluttered as he started backing away. “If Hood asks, I went to go get adopted by that billionaire everyone loves or something…” Danny twisted his hands together in his hoodie pocket before he turned around and ran away.

He could hear Marie shouting something after him but he did his best to tune it out. He already had Uncle Connie, he didn’t need more people worrying about him. He wasn’t sure where he was going to go next or if he was even hungry anymore, but he was going to have to scratch off Tony’s restaurant for now. It was a shame, he was really looking forward to that burger.


I know what you're thinking: "but Domesticated Opossum, where's the angst you threatened us with?" It's coming dear readers, never fear. Tears will be shed. Soon....

Discord link↓↓↓↓↓ Come join the chaos

Chapter 10


Sorry for the wait, we both got consumed by BG3. But here's an extra long chapter to make up for it. -Domesticated Opossum

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Friday Morning

Dick was a worrier, he knew that. His family teased him and complained about it in equal measure. He worried about their safety, and their health. He worried about the people he met on patrol too, whether they got the help they needed afterwards and if they were okay. Dick was used to worrying about people. But something was different about Danny.

Dick could normally tuck away the thrum of anxiety he felt for someone, he had to sometimes or he wouldn’t be able to function, but he was struggling with it today. He couldn't stop thinking about the kid, about how he'd thanked Robin for gendering him correctly. Danny was like Tim then, but that wasn't the only reason Dick was worrying. The way the kid had spoken about the police was rubbing him the wrong way. He'd chosen to work in Bludhaven because he'd thought they were more corrupt and therefore there was more he could do to change them from within. But what if he'd been wrong?

He decided the only way to calm his worry was to go down to the central GCPD station and talk to Gordon about it. This issue wasn’t really any of Nightwing's business, but it was well within Officer Grayson's. He was in Gotham enough that it wouldn't seem strange for him to pop in to have a professional chat with a family friend after all. Besides, it’d been a while since he’d seen Gordon and the man had been a huge source of advice when he’d first joined the force; it’d be good to see him again.

Damian was worried about the street kid. He’d looked underfed and overly tired. The bags around his eyes were very procyon* like. Clearly no one was taking care of him, which wasn’t a situation Damian could fix as easily as he could with a stray cat. Damian could tell the boy was bothering Dick too, as he'd been looking at missing persons reports at the breakfast table, something father and Drake didn’t seem to notice. If the way he was mushing up his cereal instead of eating it was any indication, he didn’t seem to be having much luck.

When he announced he was going to visit Commissioner Gordon, Damian demanded he be brought along, claiming they didn’t spend enough time together and he wanted Dick to take him to the art supply store afterwards. Grayson clearly bought the lie, which wasn’t really a lie as they didn’t spend enough time together and Damian really did need more paint, but he still wasn’t telling his brother the whole reason.

While Commissioner Gordon would tell Grayson what he knew, there was always a chance the man’s subordinates were purposely keeping the mistreatment of LGBTQIA+ kids from him. Gordon might not be able to tell Grayson anything, but people tended to underestimate the intelligence of kids. There was a chance Damian would be able to overhear something Grayson could not.

"I'm sorry sir, but your son is going to have to wait in the lobby," the woman behind the desk informed Grayson.

"He's my brother," Damian corrected. He was baffled that this woman didn't know who he was. He'd been making an effort to appear more in public with father in preparation for taking over the company. Apparently he wasn't doing enough to make himself known if this woman didn't know who he was. He'd have to correct that.

"Oh, I'm sorry," the woman didn't sound particularly sorry. "You have to wait in the lobby either way."

"Will you be alright for a few minutes?" Grayson asked.

"Tt, I am more than capable of looking after myself," Damian declared as he marched towards the somewhat dilapidated sitting area. This was an unfortunate setback in his and Grayson's investigation into the human rights violations of local law enforcement, but no plan survived first implementation. He would still be able to observe and catalog data from here.

Grayson gave him an odd little wave as he was led deeper into the building, and Damian picked up a magazine from the coffee table so as to appear less threatening. He didn’t want the officers around him to perceive a threat and change their behavior. He was just settling in to observe when a large uniformed blond man approached.

"You here by yourself, kid?" he asked, his smile slightly crooked.

"No," Damian said shortly and turned the page of his magazine, pretending to be interested in an article on goatskin handbags, which was really just a criminal thing to do to a goat.

"Who are you with?" the man asked, sitting on the coffee table in front of Damian, their knees nearly touching.

"My brother," Damian fought to keep his tone neutral. He didn’t like the way this man had effectively caged him in, even if that wasn't likely to have been his intention.

"You're brother getting booked for something?" the man asked. His tone sounded sympathetic enough, but there was something in his expression that told Damian the emotion wasn't genuine.

"No," Damian finally looked at the man's name badge so he could address him directly. "No, Officer Collins, my brother, Officer Grayson, has not been arrested. He is here to speak with Commissioner Gordon." Damian noted how Collins' nostrils flared slightly as his jaw tensed, a micro expression he fought to keep off his face.

"Your brother is an officer, huh?" Collins asked.

"That is correct." There was a beat of silence as the man seemed to think something over.

"Would you like some crackers?" Collins asked, the subject change throwing Damian slightly.

"Crackers?" Damian asked dryly.

"Yeah. I think we have some goldfish in the break room." The man gestured like they should get up and go get some. Damian did not want crackers, but perhaps this was the opportunity he had been hoping for.

“Very well,” Damian relented. Collins smiled and stood, offering his hand. Damian swallowed his pride and let himself be pulled off the couch. He didn’t need the help, but if he was trying to get the man to relax enough to reveal anything, then he was going to have to act like the helpless kid the officer clearly saw him as.

He followed Collins through a door that was secured by a key card the man pulled out of his pocket. Damian made careful note of where the man stored it so he could take it later if he had the opportunity. Collins gestured for Damian to walk in front of him, which while annoying, did give Damian a better chance to scope out the layout, taking note of where everything was without turning his head too much. No one tried to stop them as they headed deeper into the building, in the opposite direction that Grayson had gone.

They entered a break room and Collins gestured for Damian to sit down at one of the tables. He clambered up onto the steel bench and watched the man rummage through the cabinets and fridge, coming back with a disposable bowl of the detestable fish shaped crackers and a cup with blue liquid that had come out of a gatorade bottle. Damian had no interest in either, but he still gave the man his best gala smile as he took the snack.

“Thank you,” Damian made sure to say clearly.

“No problem,” Collins said, choosing to sit next to Damian rather than across from him. He could feel the man’s body heat easily from where their thighs touched. “So what’s your name kid?”

“Damian,” he saw no reason to lie about it, especially considering he hadn’t lied about Grayson’s name. It would only add suspicion to him and his brother if Collins later realized who they were.

“So you said your brother was a cop?”

“That is correct,” Damian said, swirling the liquid around in his cup like he was considering taking a sip.

“I haven’t heard of a Grayson before. Is he new?”

“He is an officer in Bludhaven,” Damian explained. He didn’t know what was with people today and not recognizing him or Dick. Clearly they both needed to make more public appearances if the city was so easily forgetting them.

“Oh, that explains it,” Collins said cheerfully, snapping his fingers to emphasize the point. “What’s he doing all the way out here then?”

“I’m not entirely sure,” Damian lied. He was hoping that if he played up a lack of understanding of the situation, Collins might let more slip than he intended thinking Damian wouldn’t understand what he was talking about anyway. “He said something about his concern for the treatment of LG… something, kids in Gotham. I think maybe a kid got scared by a cop or something.” Damian carefully watched the man out of the corner of his eye as he picked up a fish cracker and pretended to inspect it. He saw absolutely no reaction from the man, unlike when he had revealed his brother was an officer. He hadn’t figured out yet what issue the man had with other cops, but he clearly didn’t know anything about Danny. Damian would have been able to pick up some kind of microexpression if he did.

“Collins, sir, would you direct me to the restroom?” Damian asked, knowing he wasn’t going to get anything more useful out of the officer. He might as well see if he can dig up anything on his own, but first he had to lose his new friend.

“Sure kid,” Collins said, pushing away from the table and standing up, which was exactly what Damian didn’t want.

“You can just tell me where it is,” Damian insisted. “I’ll come right back, I still want to finish my crackers.”

“I can’t just let you wander the station, Damian,” Collins grinned, and there was something in the expression that reminded Damian of a tiger he saw on a documentary once.

Too deep in now, Damian stood, and Collins placed a massive hand on the back of his neck as he led him back out into the hallway. The bathroom was just around the corner, and Damian expected Collins to stop in front of it, but instead he led them both through the door, only releasing Damian once they were both inside. Collins leaned back on the door, and crossed his arms.

“Go on,” he gestured toward the room in general. Damian didn’t really have to go to the bathroom, but he supposed he had to now. He turned towards the stall, figuring he’d have a better chance of actually going if he didn’t have the man watching him.

“You not a big enough boy to use a urinal?” Collins taunted. Damian’s back stiffened at the words. How dare this man insult him like that!

“Tt,” Damian changed directions and turned towards the urinal farthest from the door, and coincidentally, the furthest from Collins. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end as the man approached, and Damian found it hard to relax even as the sink turned on and the officer began washing his hands, now much closer than he had been before.

Damian finished quickly and washed his hands as well, drying them with the cheap paper towels provided and marching towards the door.

“You done?” Collins asked, following closely behind.

“Yes, I think I should find my brother now,” Damian stated as he marched quickly through the door and turned back toward the lobby of the building, Dick would probably have noted his absence by now and there was no further reason to worry him.

“What about your goldfish?” Collins asked, a slightly frantic note in his voice. Damian shook his head and walked faster, as fast as he could without actually running.

“Damian, wait!” Collins' hand landed on Damain’s shoulder, right as he turned a corner and crashed into someone. Collins’ hand vanished and familiar arms wrapped around him. Damian pressed closer to his brother’s chest, something he would never normally do, but playing up the little kid act seemed a perfectly reasonable thing to do at the moment.

“There you are Dami!” Dick exclaimed in his sunshine voice. “I was looking for you! Why didn’t you stay in the lobby?”

“Ah, I believe that is my fault,” Collins admitted, still looming behind Damian. “Kid needed to go to the bathroom. You must be Officer Grayson.”

“I am,” Dick admitted, and Damian felt the man tense, but he doubted Collins would notice anything was amiss. “Why didn’t you just use the bathroom in the lobby?” Dick asked, looking down at Damian. Damian didn’t know why Collins wasn’t admitting to offering him snacks, and Damian didn’t feel particularly inclined to admit to it either.

“They were cleaning it,” Damian lied.

“Oh,” Dick said, the tension draining out of his body. “Well, I’m finished talking with Gordon, so it’s time to go. Thanks for looking after my brother, uh… Collins.”

“Anytime,” Collins said, holding his hand out above Damian’s head. Dick shook it before steering Damian back the way he’d come and towards the exit. Collins didn’t follow them.

Saturday afternoon

Jason's head was throbbing. Ever since he'd come back, he’d been plagued by migraines. He figured it was just the natural side effect of one too many blows to the head. He'd had plenty of concussions before the Joker had literally cracked his skull open, not to mention all the blow’s he’d received as Red Hood. His helmet couldn’t completely stop his brain from sloshing around in his skull every time someone ran him off the road. It couldn’t have come on a worse day though. Tim had begged him to play video games with him and Jason had already let the kid down enough. A little pain wasn’t going to stop him from spending much overdue quality time with his little brother.

With a lot of swearing, a pair of extra dark sunglasses, and what was probably too much midol, which worked better than you would think, Jason dragged himself out of his apartment and onto his bike. He really hoped the throbbing behind his eyes didn’t make him crash, but at that point, he figured it might actually be less painful.

“Jason!” Tim practically squealed, the volume of which caused Jason to flinch.

“What’s up Baby Bird?” Jason asked, trying to keep the irritation out of his voice.

“I’ve got the family room all set up,” Tim explained, taking Jason’s hand and leading him deeper into the manor. He was practically bouncing as he dragged Jason along and the man had to withhold a sigh.

“How much caffeine have you had today?”

“Twelve,” Tim answered without looking back.

“Twelve what? Cups? Pots?” Jason demanded.

“Twelve,” Tim repeated, rounding the corner and leading them into the living room, which was blessedly dark with the curtains drawn and only the massive TV illuminating the space.

“I know you kinda missed out on video games growing up, and they weren’t really Dick’s thing so there probably weren’t any around when you lived here, so I went through every game I own and picked out the most classic ones, I know you haven’t really played any, so we probably don’t want to start you with a more intense FPS, that’s first person shooter by the way, but I figured Mario is a classic, and Mario party games are really easy, and they came out with one recently that’s basically a collection of all the best parts of the old ones, so that’s probably a safe place to start…”

“Holy f*ck, take a breath!” Jason interrupted. Tim looked at him, expression startled, but he did take a breath, so that was something.

“Are… are you okay?” Tim asked, all the bubbly mirth going out of his voice and Jason immediately felt like a dick. He pushed his sunglasses out of the way and rubbed at his eyes.

“I’m fine. Just have a bit of a headache is all,” Jason explained.

“Oh,” Tim said numbly. “We can do this some other time if…”

“It’s fine,” Jason cut him off. “Just, turn the TV volume down a little and try to cut back on the chatter. I want to play with you, just need to tone it down a little.”

“I can do that,” Tim agreed, his face lighting back up again, and Jason swore his smile was brighter than the damn sun that had been trying to drive an ice pick through his eyes on the driver over.

Jason plopped down on the nest of blankets and pillows Tim had made of the couch and examined the array of controllers on the coffee table. He hadn’t realized there were so many different ones.

“If we're playing Mario Party, you need that one,” Tim said, pointing to the smallest controller of the bunch. Jason snatched it up, and lay back on the couch. The midol had started to kick in a bit, and his brain felt a little bit less like it was swimming in lava, so he had hopes that he could suck it up long enough for the Baby Bird to have fun. He was going to try to enjoy himself, but he didn’t have a lot of hope. But this wasn’t about him, not really. He just wanted to make it up to the kid for being a sh*t brother all those years. That was worth a little pain, it wasn’t like Jason didn’t deserve it.

“...There’s actually a really fun challenge online where you try to beat this game without actually pushing any buttons,” Tim was rambling, his voice steadily growing louder as Jason was just trying to get to the part of the map with the f*cking star. The kid already had 2, and Jason hadn’t managed to get any, and this was their third game. He’d already asked the kid to quiet down twice, but whatever the hell twelve caffeine was, it was apparently more than the kid could handle and he kept forgetting himself.

“I actually tried it once with Damian, but he quit before I got anywhere saying that he wasn’t going to be beat someone who wasn’t even trying, but I was actually winning so he was just being a sore loser, this game does have a lot of luck and random chance in it, and that’s really the only way to win the no button press challenge so I couldn’t turn those features off or I really wouldn’t have had a shot at winning the challenge…”

"Shut the f*ck up!” Jason yelled, his voice cutting through the increasingly loud chatter. His head felt like it was spitting open, and his vision was even going weird. “God! Can't you stop talking about yourself for five f*cking seconds? I should have done all of us a favor and finished you off when I had the chance, Replacement."

It was as if all the air had been sucked from the room, the only noise the cheerful music coming from the game, the volume turned down at Jason’s request. The green cleared from Jason’s vision as he looked down at his brother, he’d apparently stood up at some point, holding the controller back like he was about to launch it at the kid’s head.

Tim looked absolutely terrified, his knees pulled to his chest and his eyes welling up with tears as the poison Jason had just been spewing sank into its target. Hatred, molten and sharp, clawed at Jason’s chest, hatred for himself and the f*cking monster he was.

Jason didn’t stay to try to comfort Tim. He knew he would only lose control again. Like the coward he was, he ran.

Saturday Evening

It was the first night in a while where Danny could actually see the stars, the sky clear for once of the heavy clouds that normally loomed over Gotham. The light pollution the city created prevented him from being able to see more than the brightest of stars, but he could just make out some familiar constellations from his rooftop perch. Seeing the stars again, diluted or not, made him achingly homesick. The stars were the same as back home too. He wasn’t sure if they shared the same names as the ones he’d grown up under, with this being a different universe it was possible they were grouped into completely different constellations, but he easily spotted Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. And there was Orion, who he always found by the belt first. He could even make out most of Hydra despite the lowered visibility. He smiled to himself, despite everything he’s been through, and despite the fact these were technically different starts, they still felt like old friends.

The slight tingle in his throat warned him someone was approaching before his other senses even grasped that someone was there. He turned his head to look for the source and spotted the faintest white eyes from the shadows, watching him. There were a few shades looming around the figure, giving away its carefully concealed position. The shades themselves were almost curled protectively around the figure, a contrast to the monster in human skin with the swarm that looked like they were trying to kill their anchor. With these shades, he could feel sadness, but also the slightest aura of hope. It vaguely reminded him of Connie a little. Not that the man had any shades connected to him, but the way he interacted with the ghost blobs held a similar emotion.

He must have been staring too long, making it too clear the figure wasn’t as hidden as it thought it was, because it slowly left the shadows. And of course it was the Batman who melted out of the dark. He hadn’t really been expecting it to be the older vigilante, as none of the others, not even Red Hood, had shades attached to them. It would probably make it really easy to figure out Batman’s identity, if Danny had any interest in doing that. Now, as the man approached him, Danny felt anxiety start to bubble in his stomach. But Batman didn’t directly approach him like Nightwing had, he made no attempt to corner him. Instead, the man sat beside him with a reasonable distance between them, looking at the sky like he wasn’t really interested in Danny. For some reason, the disinterest, though probably feigned, did calm Danny down. He released the tension from his shoulders as he looked back at the sky, trusting the man not to attack him when he wasn’t looking.

“Tonight’s a good night for looking at the stars,” Batman said softly, still not looking at Danny and the halfa couldn’t help but appreciate the indirect attention.

“Yeah… It’s not as nice in a city with all the lights, but I’m still glad the clouds cleared tonight,” Danny admitted as he pulled up his legs from the ledge, hugging them tight to his chest. The position wasn’t great if he needed to run, but it soothed him further. “I didn’t know Batman was a fan of stargazing though. Did I just happen to pick your favorite roof or something?”

“You could say that,” the man said with what Danny would swear was a chuckle. It kind of reminded him of a dad humoring their kid. He wasn’t sure how to feel about that image. It was hard thinking of The Batman as a gentle parent. But the man sitting next to him now didn't really feel like the stories he’d heard on the street. Even with the body armor it was hard imaging him as anything but gentle.

“What’s your favorite constellation?” Danny asked, figuring it was both a safe thing to ask and might answer his nagging question of if constellations were the same in this world.

“Corvus.” Danny couldn’t help but grin at the familiar name as the man pointed in the general location where Corvus was located. The constellation itself was very faint, the light pollution too strong for the poor stars, but there was an unexpectedly bright light in its location that made Danny focus harder on it.

“Is that the remnants of a Supernova?” Danny asked dumbly, a little shocked. It was bright, not blinding like that of a newly exploded star, but still the light lingered in a way that definitely wasn’t a star. Batman noded, turning to look directly at him with an unreadable expression twisting his lips.

“The star, Rao, exploded a few decades ago,” Batman explained, his tone gentle and steady, like he enjoyed sharing knowledge with others. The faintest hint of a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. “It took out Krypton with it when it went. The supernova itself was at its brightest a couple of years ago, when it first reached visibility from Earth.”

“Dang, looks like I missed quite the lightshow. Krypton,” Danny tasted the unfamiliar name. “Was that like its neighboring planet?” Danny couldn’t help but ask, his curiosity and love of the stars burning brightly inside him. He didn’t see the harm in asking anyway, since Batman was clearly enjoying entertaining him with stories like this. The way he talked about the stars really fueled this softer image Danny was getting of the feared vigilante. He didn’t understand it though.

“It was. You know, Superman’s homeworld?” Batman’s expression was still unreadable, but by the words alone Danny realized he might have asked something weird.

“Oh, yes yes, cause Superman is an alien?” Danny tried not to phrase it as a question, but now he was itching to know. He couldn’t recall his surface-level research mentioning Superman was an alien, but if he was, that was extremely f*cking cool.

“Was that a question?” Batman looked like he might be raising an eyebrow at him under the mask and Danny struggled to keep himself from cringing. He’d definitely sounded too stupid and oblivious just then. He was debating if jumping from the roof was a good escape from this new line of questioning when Batman just chuckled and pulled something from beneath his cape.

The bat set a closed water bottle and an energy bar in the space between them and it was Danny’s turn to raise an eyebrow at him. He was about to protest the gift when he saw Batman pull out a bottle and snack for himself and take a bite out of the same kind of bar he’d given Danny.

Danny sighed, reaching for the food and water. He screwed off the top of the bottle and took a drink. It was a rather fancy, expensive mineral water. It tasted really good, way better than the barely potable stuff he’d managed to get a hold of recently, and he realized he was really parched as he drank more than the obligatory sip he’d been aiming for. There was a moment of silence that stretched as he drank, trying to savor the liquid. Batman didn’t seem to mind the quiet though, and just casually ate his snack beside him. Once he’d finished, the vigilante stood up, giving Danny another cursory glance.

“You’re a good kid. Stay out of trouble, if you need anything you just need to ask. There are a lot of us around these days,” Batman said before he was suddenly gone, jumping down from the ledge and running across the rooftops, leaving Danny with a feeling like he’d just missed something.

Second Sunday, Evening

Danny would admit he was a sucker for a good smoothie, and he’d managed to find a little local smoothie shop affectionately named, Fruit Bat Smoothies, that had scratched the itch for a frozen treat that he’d been ignoring for a while. When Connie got back, he was going to insist the Brit try one. It was only thanks to the cash the man had pressed on him before he left that Danny was even given the privilege of discovering it after all.

The flavor he’d picked out was peanut butter and jelly inspired, which wasn’t by any means a traditional smoothie flavor, but the cold confection was a refreshing break from the summer heat, and reminded him of the silly smoothies and milkshakes that he, Sam, and Tucker used to share with each other. (The milkshakes were more a thing with Tucker, although he did enjoy the ones that Sam would make with oat milk). Being a guinea pig for their groups’ cold concoctions was a great pastime, and had led to a lot of good memories.

His carefree moment with his smoothie ended abruptly when hands roughly grabbed the back of his shirt and he was shoved violently into a wall. His cheek scraped roughly against the brick wall of the alley and he dropped the smoothie, the frothy liquid coating his shoes and seeping into his socks. He could still feel the cold of the drink lingering in his throat…

“You know, that was a neat trick you had back there, freak. Let’s see if your mind tricks save you this time.” The hauntingly familiar voice of the monster that haunted his dreams stabbed at his soul as dread pooled in his gut. He craned his neck to catch a glimpse of Officer Collins in his peripheral. There was a venomous sneer twisting the officer’s face as he pulled Danny roughly away from the wall. Danny’s hands scrambled uselessly at the brick, trying to gain any kind of advantage, only to find himself slammed back into the unforgiving surface. Collins chuckled darkly at the yelp Danny couldn’t help but let out, his jaw protesting the abuse.

“You meta freaks are all one-trick ponies,” Collins sneered, his hot breath trailing over Danny’s ear as the man pressed his body against Danny’s back, crushing him against the brick. “I figured it out after you rifled through my head and made me see Ezra. Had me scared for a moment too, but it was all for show. I think you’ve seen too many horror films with how elaborate it looked. Your mind illusions sure made it real easy for you to just walk past me and out the station, but it’s not gonna stop me from finding you again.” Collins was looking at him hungrily, the shades anchored to him swarmed around him like an enraged wasp’s nest. Danny felt locked in place by fear, but he quickly realized it wasn’t his own fear that was weighing him down; it was instead the overwhelming emotions leaking from the horde surrounding the monster caging him in.The angry teenage shade who’d warned him last time, Ezra by Danny’s guess, had his hands wrapped around Collin’s neck like he was attempting to squeeze the life from him, to give the man a gruesome necklace to match the teen’s own. Ezra had no strength to actually do it, but the display was enough to ground Danny to the moment and he was filled with the sudden and overwhelming understanding that he needed to move.

“f*ck… Off…” Danny breathed out as he reached for his core. It burned in his chest, but he forced himself though the pain and phased through the man’s disgusting grip. He slipped out of the alley and took off running. The distinct lack of footsteps behind him made his heart soar for a single moment, but the vicious words thrown at him like knives made his stomach drop.

“You can run and hide, but I’ll find you again,” Collins roared into the night. “I’ll always find you, you slu*t!”

Danny’s feet ate up the concrete as he pulled out the rock that Constatine had given him, gripping it tightly as he whispered, “John Constantine…” while he ran. He really wished Connie had given him better instructions on how to use the stone, like if the stone would tell him that the man had gotten his message or an ETA on how long help could take to arrive.

Danny rounded a final corner before he felt like he couldn’t run any further. He put his hands on his knees and gasped for breath, sure he had to have lost Officer Collins at that point. The man hadn’t even been chasing him, so there really hadn’t been a point to running so far and using up what little energy he had. He’d just made the decision that it was worth running into Red Hood by heading back to the park in the Narrows, when a police cruiser pulled up next to him, the siren off but the lights flashing harshly in the darkness. Danny forced his feet to move, to keep going, to keep running for his life while he waited for help he couldn’t be sure was coming.

At least running away from his problems was the one thing he’d gotten good at.


*procyon is the scientific name for the raccoon species.

Discord link↓↓↓↓↓ Come join the chaos

Chapter 11

Chapter by DomesticatedOpossum


Trigger waring for some slight suicidal thoughts.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Second Monday: 2am

Danny’s all consuming terror hadn’t left him as he darted though Gotham towards the Narrows, but it had slowly been overridden by pure exhaustion. It took a lot of energy to be scared, energy he didn't has when every muscle in his body shook, and he felt like his lungs were full of ice shards.

He didn’t know how Collins kept finding him, but every time he thought he’d lost the man, that damn cop car would pull up alongside him, and he’d have to keep going. He clutched the stone in his fist, desperate for Connie to find him, but he knew it wasn’t likely. He didn’t know if the stone had tracking capabilities, and he was a long way from where he first used it. Even if the man was able to get away from his responsibilities long enough to look for him, he was unlikely to find him now.

Up ahead, Danny spotted a road that was closed for construction. He would have cheered if he had any air left for noise. As it was, he needed everything just to keep running. He didn’t know how long the blockage would stop Collins, but hopefully it would be long enough for Danny to get away.

He ducked under the barricade and navigated quickly around the torn up street. He heard brakes squeal behind him, followed by a door open and Collins cursing. The pounding of feet told him Collins was following on foot. He didn’t know what that did for his chances of survival, but he couldn’t stop now.

As he crossed the invisible line into the Narrows, the shade activity around him increased. This was one of the older parts of the city, and old buildings tended to have more shades attached to them by virtue of having had more people with an emotional connection to them passing. The shades usually vyed for Danny’s attention, but tonight they seemed to be directing him somewhere. He followed their ethereal fingers, pointing, he hoped, to Connie.

He rounded a corner into an alley on the urging of a young shade in flowy white dress, and stopped dead. There, standing in the center of the ally, was the one other person he didn’t want to run into. Red Hood…

The pit rage had been festering within him, like an old wound gone to rot. It took everything Jason had not to punch holes through every wall in his sh*tty apartment. He really didn’t want to have to patch them up later. Instead, he took to the streets, hunting down every piece of scum he could find, and barely managing to hold himself back from beating them all into bloody puddles. All the while, his own self hatred grew.

He knew he wasn’t much better than the scum he stopped as Red Hood. He’d said something unforgivable to his little brother, hadn’t even realized the pit rage had returned when he’d broken the kid’s trust, broken his family's trust. This was so much worse than just blowing off plans, this had been a full blown back stabbing, with words instead of knives this time, but he wasn’t sure that was any better.

His family didn’t deserve this, didn’t deserve dealing with him. But he was too much of a coward to put himself down. He knew he should, new they would all be better off if they didn’t have to worry about him hurting them more, but just couldn’t find the strength. Besides, he still had one thing left to do before he went out. He had to find that kid and apologize for all the sh*t he'd put him through. He’d been combing the Narrows for the kid, scared to leave and run into the others. He’d already ripped the com unit out of his helmet when both Oracle and Red Robin had hacked through the ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode to try to talk to him. The last thing he needed right now was a face to face conversation.

It was nearly two in the morning when he’d given up his search, even the street kids would be tucked up somewhere safe by now. He was just about to start making his way home when movement caught his eye. A familiar pair of startled blue eyes met his own.

"Where the hell have you been, kid?" Jason demanded as the teenager paused in the mouth of the alley looking exactly like a deer caught in the headlights. He was wearing that damn Gotham hoodie, and looked pale as a ghost.

"I've been looking all over for you, Woah, hey what's wrong?" As Jason had been talking, the kid had shaken himself out of whatever stupor he'd been in and absolutely bolted toward Jason. Confused and concerned, Jason didn’t move as the kid ducked around and slid to a stop behind him.

Jason started to turn around, to demand what the hell was going on, but the kid fisted his leather jacket in both hands and pressed his face against Jason's back between his shoulder blades. He didn’t know what was going on, but he knew a scared kid when he saw one. The anger that had been boiling inside him the past few days surged upward, eager to latch onto a target that wasn’t himself.

The kid was panting and trembling against Jason's back and Jason barely heard the whispered, " me, he's gonna…" before another person entered the alley.

"Get your twink ass back here you f*cking slu*t!" a bulky man rounded the corner into the alley. Jason was suddenly reminded of those cheesy t-shirts Dick liked, the ones that had some random wolf or anime character on them and all said some variation of: 'If they stand behind you, protect them. If they stand beside you, respect them. And if they stand against you, show them no mercy.' The pit rage focused white hot like laser on the potential threat to its kid.

"The f*ck you want?" Red Hood demanded, casually drawing his guns and tapping one against his thigh in a show of impatience. He left the safety on with that one, but casually flicked it off on the one he kept pointed at the ground, the one loaded with real bullets. Blood was going to spill today, Jason just didn't know from where yet. No one messed with kids in Gotham, especially not on his turf, and especially not this kid, the pit rage growled in his chest.

"Red Hood!" the man greeted, suddenly all smiles like they were good friends. "Fancy seeing you here. I was just…"

"What. Do. You. Want," Red Hood repeated slowly, annunciating each word carefully.

The expression of friendliness dropped from the man's face like the bad mask it was. "That… boy, is under arrest for Aggravated Assault and escaping police custody." The 'Officer' reached into his pocket and Red Hood raised the live gun, pointing it at the officer's chest. The man raised the hand not in his pocket.

"Easy," the officer said. "I'm just getting my badge, see?" He held up the shiny object. It was impossible to tell from the distance if it was real or not, so Jason waved the live gun in a 'come here' gesture. The officer approached slowly, the badge held out.

"Close enough," Red Hood growled, gun trained back on the man's chest and the officer stopped. Jason's helmet automatically ran the badge number and it came back as legit. He was not regretting letting Timbit upgrade his gear, that was f*cking awesome. Too bad he wasn’t ever getting close enough to the kid again to let him upgrade it further.

"Why are you chasing kids through my turf, Officer Collins?" Red Hood demanded. Officer Collins sh*t Head put the badge away and then put his hands on his hips, like the Red Hood was going to be intimidated by a power pose. It did seem to freak the kid out though, as his shaking got worse and his breathing didn't sound right. He’d been out of breath before, but now everything had gone uneven. Jason didn’t want to look down and draw attention to the kid though, so he just had to hope he didn't hyperventilate and pass out before he'd gotten this mess sorted.

"I already told you," Officer sh*t Head growled, all friendly pretenses gone. He didn’t even seem intimidated by the f*cking gun pointed at his chest. "That, criminal, is under arrest for attacking an innocent civilian without cause and then fleeing police custody."

"Not tonight he's not," Red Hood declared. Guilt roiled in Jason's chest. He knew in his gut that the kid had only been in that fight because of Jason. If he hadn’t touched the kid, if he'd just left well enough alone, then none of this would be happening. Once he'd gotten the kid safely out of this mess, he was going to bribe Oracle to wipe any trace of the teen from police records. Tim could probably do it faster, but he’d already sworn he was never talking to the kid again.

"Excuse me?" Officer sh*t Head demanded. "Are you interfering with police business?"

"Why are you surprised? I do it all the time," Jason grinned under his helmet but he knew the smile came through in his tone, he’d finally fixed the damn voice modulation. He watched with glee as Officer sh*t Head's face turned bright red, and he went to draw his gun. Jason shot first, aiming right for the man's dick. Officer sh*t Head went down screaming, hands over his bleeding crotch.

"You bastard!" sh*t Head wailed. Jason was just about to reply when he felt the kid wobble dangerously. Gracefully, he turned and caught the kid as he passed out, whether from the violence or pure exhaustion, Jason didn’t know and didn't have time to find out. He hoisted the kid, who definitely didn't weigh enough, onto his hip like a toddler. The kid's limp head fell into the crook of Jason's neck and he was grateful his body armor went completely up his neck preventing any skin contact. They didn't need to worry about that right now.

The kid secured, Jason turned back to sh*t Head, who was still wailing on the grimy alley ground, blood oozing between his fingers. Gun in hand, Jason stomped over and kicked the bastard full force in the head with his steel toe boot. The man's hands instinctively flew to cover his head and Jason quickly changed targets, stepping down on the bastard's bloody dick and putting the full weight of himself and the kid on the wound.

The bastard howled in agony and Red Hood let up slightly, waiting until the screams had died down into messy sobs, gun pointed casually at the man's chest, just in case.

"Do you want to know why, officer, you're receiving this particular treatment?" he asked, his tone clinical. The only answer he received was more blubbering but the bastard was looking at him so Red Hood continued. "It's because you were stupid enough to show me your badge. You see, I've heard tales from the working boys under my protection that you'd pay them for their services but when it came time to part ways, you'd reveal yourself as an officer and threaten to arrest them unless they gave you your money back. I've would have tracked you down and taught you a lesson sooner, but you never came far into the Narrows and I've got this deal with Batman where I don't f*ck with cops on his turf. But then... You came right up to me and showed me your badge. And right on the heels of a scared kid? And don't think I didn’t hear what you called him. Now, stealing from and scaring the sh*t out if some adult men who just let you f*ck them is bad enough, but no one threatens to rape kids anywhere in Gotham!"

Red Hood stomped one final time on the bastard's bullet hole before walking away, the kid still safely in his arms. He wanted to do more, the pit was practically singing for more, wanting to shoot holes through the f*ckers hands so he would never touch another person again, but the kid in his arms had to be his first priority. Even the pit seemed to agree as it let him walk away. He left the bastard in the alley, alive, which was far more than he deserved. And now he had the kid he'd been looking for. Two birds, one bullet. Now he just had to get the kid somewhere safe and not let their skin touch before they figured out exactly why what happened happened. After he got some food in this teen, he was way too f*cking light.

Second Monday, 3am

Tim didn’t tell the others about the incident with Jason. It was obvious the man hadn’t actually meant what he’d said, if the way he’d quickly distanced them was any indication. Tim didn’t know what was wrong with Jason, didn’t understand why he was having these intense mood swings, but something was wrong. Jason clearly needed help, and was just too stubborn or too scared to ask for it. If he wasn’t going to ask for help, then Tim was just going to have to force it on him.

He skipped patrol that night, not wanting to accidentally run into Red Hood if he was still having issues controlling his anger. And despite Tim knowing the man hadn’t meant it, the moment Jason had stood over him like that had been terrifying. So instead, he was scouring the Bat Computer, trying to figure out exactly what had caused the mood swings Jason was displaying. It had to have something with how he came back to life. According to Bruce, Jason had always been an angry kid, but that anger had been directed at the failing systems in Gotham that should have been protecting people. He never let his anger out on people until he came back from the dead.

But no one knew exactly how Jason had come back, and Jason hadn’t talked about it yet. Tim was one of the few who even knew Jason had been tossed in the Lazarus Pit, but according to the little information he’d managed to ring out of Talia, Jason had been alive when he was tossed in. The rage the pit always induced in the people submerged in it only ever lasted a month at most, and it’d been several years since Jason had been in contact with it. So whatever was causing these flare ups, Tim was sure it had to have been a result of whatever had brought the man back to life. When the others came back from patrol at around three am, Tim had a few potential resurrection theories, but none of them explained the rage.

“How you doing Tim?” Dick asked, resting his arms on the top of the computer chair and leaning his chin on Tim’s head.

“Shouldn’t you be in Bludhaven?” Tim asked. He hadn’t really been paying attention to the coms, but he thought Dick had gone back home after taking Damian to the art store.

“Bats needed help with a riot at the canning factory,” Dick explained. “The police tried to break up a strike that was picotting out front, but they got way too rough and the protestors rioted. Almost burnt down the factory. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt.”

Tim hummed to show he was listening, and pulled up the news, looking over the coverage of the riot. There wasn’t a lot yet, as most of these incidents didn’t happen at midnight, but there was plenty of coverage of the strike before things got ugly. A notification interrupted his search and he clicked on it. All the blood drained from his face as he read the police report.

"Red Hood shot a cop again!" Tim called out, turning in his chair so the others could hear him. Bruce froze from where he was half way out of his body armor, Damian struggling to help him undo a damaged latch.

"What? Not again," Dick sighed. "He’s been doing so much better this week. I really thought he was gonna be okay this time."

"Tt. It is no surprise Todd has gone back to his old ways," Damian muttered darkly. Even from his seat at the computer, Tim knew Damian didn’t mean it. The kid was just covering up his upset with apathy.

"Where did Hood shoot them?" Bruce asked as abandoned his attempts to free himself from his body armor and came to look at the computer, resting a calming hand on Tim’s shoulder.

"In the Narrows near…"

"No," Bruce interrupted. "I mean where on their body was the officer shot."

"Ooooh," Tim scanned the report again. He cringed when he found it. "Officer Collins was shot in the… the crotch."

"Hhm," Bruce muttered.

"Fuuuuuck," Dick groaned, running his hands through his hair, tugging at the ends.

"I fail to see why this is relevant," Damian scoffed, joining the rest of them at the computer.

"Hood doesn't shoot just anyone in the crotch, little D," Tim explained.

"He reserves that for rapists and pedophiles," Bruce growled, his anger not directed at Hood despite the man breaking the no real bullets rule.

"I'll see if I can dig up anything on Collins," Tim's fingers were already flying over the keyboard. "Maybe he was stupid and we can get him locked up fast."

"I'll go check on Jason," Dick said, pulling his motorcycle helmet on over his costume, he hadn’t even started getting undressed yet.

"I knew I recognized that name!" Tim exclaimed. Dick paused with his leg in the air, about to swing it over the bike. "Collins was the officer who arrested that kid the GCPD lost."

“The GCPD lost a kid?” Dick demanded, his tone more intense than Tim was expecting.

“Yeah, I was looking into it,” Tim explained. “They picked up this kid on aggravated assault charges, but he escaped the station. There was very little on exactly how he got away, but I got a hold of his effects thinking they might lead somewhere. His phone bricked itself before I could get much more than a few pictures off of it.”

“Pictures?” Dick demanded, rushing back to the computer and nearly slamming into the back of Tim’s chair. “Show me.”

“Here,” Tim muttered, pulling up the picture of the teen with his two friends. “He’s the kid in the…”

“Middle, I know,” Dick interrupted. “That’s the same kid we saw outside the theater the other day, Dami!”

“Wait, you saw him too?” Tim asked.

“We went back to see if he needed help, but he bolted the second he got the chance,” Dick explained. “He said some troubling things about the police though, and since he let slip he was trans, I went to talk to Gordon about it. But he didn’t know anything.”

“I’ve met this boy as well,” Bruce interrupted. “He was extremely tense and uncomfortable around me, so I didn’t stay long.”

“His name is Danny,” Damian added.

“The police report says Tucker Manson,” Tim scrunched up his nose. “But they weren’t actually able to confirm it.”

“So we don’t know if Danny is his actual name either,” Dick sighed.

“Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do for the boy at the moment,” Bruce said into the quiet that had grown in the cave. “Robin and I will be visiting Officer Collins at the hospital. Tim, I want you to keep looking into his online activity. Keep me updated on anything you find that could help us get an official arrest on him. Dick, go check on Jason. He might know something that Tim can use to speed up the search.”

"You think Collins had something to do with why Danny ran from the station?" Dick asked.

"It's possible," Bruce said before turning and matching towards the Batmobile. "Robin, with me.”

"I'll bring my sharpest katana," Robin said. "It will be a shame to undo the doctor's hard work though." The batmobile peeled out of the cave with more tire squealing than strictly necessary.

"You don't think B is gonna let Robin cut off the rest of the guy's penis do you?" Tim asked.

"I'm going to check on Jason," Dick said as he climbed onto his bike and sped out of the cave.

"Typical," Tim muttered, before turning back to the computer. "Well officer Collins, let's take a look at your internet history."

Jason took the kid home, he didn’t know what else to do with him. He wasn’t taking a meta to the hospital, no matter how malnourished he was. And he didn’t want to involve the league or the Bats yet, the kid was skittish enough that he didn’t want to scare him off by involving too many people. So he took the kid to his nicest safe house and laid him out on the couch.

Jason stood there, really getting a good look at the teen for the first time. His expression was softer in sleep, and he just looked so young. There were a few scars on his face, a small one through his right eyebrow, and one across the bridge of his nose. Even without the scars, he still would have looked like the universe had given him a bad hand. He was so painfully thin, and even in sleep the bags under his eyes were harsh and dark. Food. That was something Jason could do.

His mind made up, he took off the helmet and set it on the coffee table. If the kid woke up, he wanted him to know that he was safe, that Red Hood had him and he hadn’t been kidnapped by that monster. He was pretty sure the teen had seen him shoot Collins in the dick, but this way, the kid could see the helmet when he woke up and know he was safe.

Before Jason started on dinner, he headed to the bedroom to strip off his sweaty, bloody gear and take a quick shower. Alfred might murder him if he didn’t keep a clean kitchen, so he definitely needed to change first. Besides, he didn’t want to freak the kid out more than he already was.

He resisted the urge to punch the tile wall while he was in the shower. He’d been so stupid not to look into that monster Collins sooner. He didn’t let guys like that get away with it, and he was just as bad of a monster for not stopping him sooner. According to Ken, Collins had been abusing them for months, but Jason had only just heard about it. Had they not felt safe enough to come to him sooner? Had he not made it clear that they had his full support and protection? They must not have known that if they took so long to even mention it. They hadn’t even come to him, it had just come up when he was asking about something else. He was awful at relationships. Even the people he strove so hard to protect didn’t trust him. It wasn’t like he really deserved their trust anyway, not after what had happened with Tim. But he had the kid he’d been looking for now, and maybe after he’d assured the kid would be taken care of, he could finally rid his family of the burden of dealing with his pissy ass.

Tim had even been attacked in Jason’s territory a few nights ago, he should never have been in that kind of danger in the Narrows. It was Jason’s fault his brother had been attacked, he protected kids. He was supposed to make sure that they were safe, that monsters didn’t attack them. But he had attacked Tim. He’d beat a child half to death because he was mad his father wouldn’t cross a line, a line he had every reason to uphold. And then he’d let a situation fester that got Tim drugged and put in danger, and to top it all off, he’d threatened to hurt the kid again!

The water ran cold, startling Jason out of his spiral. He made sure all the soap was out of his hair before shutting off the water and drying off. He got dressed in a simple pair of jeans and a Wonder Woman t-shirt. He also put the domino back on. If he was right, there wouldn’t be much point of it for long, but it was better safe than sorry.

As he passed the living room on his way to the kitchen, he thought the kid looked cold, so grabbed a blanket off the other chair and draped it over the kid. He didn’t move carefully enough however, and his hand brushed across the kid’s cheek as he tucked him in.

The contact sent a jolt through him, as he felt his shoulders unclench. He felt better, lighter all of a sudden. That lingering self hatred that had consumed him in the shower was gone. Well, not entirely gone, he still felt bad for all of those things, but he felt like he could breathe again.

Dread pooled in his gut almost immediately after. He watched the kids face, but it didn’t look like he was going to wake any time soon. He thought that the anger the kid absorbed faded faster than it returned to Jason, after all, he hadn’t made a scene that day outside the theater, and Jason’s rage hadn’t returned to him yet, so maybe the kid would just sleep it off. Whatever happened, there wasn’t anything Jason could do now. So, he went to the kitchen to make something to feed the kid when he woke up. Soup would probably be best. It was easy on the stomach and if the kid didn’t wake up soon, it was easy to reheat. Hopefully everything would be okay when the kid woke up, and he’d be able to apologize. He was going to have to apologize to Tim too, now that the pit rage was gone, but the kid was probably asleep so it was going to have to wait until morning. Everything would be okay soon, he was sure of it.


The scene with Jason taking down Collins was written well before most of this fic, and the scene with Tim telling the others about it is even older. I've been waiting ages to show it to you all, so I hope it was worth the wait. If any artists want to draw the scene with Hood standing over Collins with Danny on his hip, you will have my forever love and the piece will be added to his chapter.

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Chapter 12


Was gonna post this later today, but instead, here's a chapter to start off your Monday!

Trigger warning for self hatred and some transphobic thoughts.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Second Monday, around 3 am

Danny woke up drenched in sweat, staring at a ceiling he didn’t recognise as the echoes of the nightmares that had consumed his sleep looped over and over again in his mind.

Look at you. What are you? A ghost trying to fit in with humans? Or some creepy little boy with creepy little powers? " The words had been sharp, sharper even then they had been when they were first spoken. Spectra’s words had always been weapons, but they cut deeper this time, tearing through his heart and spilling all his insecurities on the floor. It wasn’t the first time his mind had taunted him with those words, but it was the first time he actually thought Spectra might have had a point.

“I'd tell you to go to the men's room, but I don't think you qualify.” He didn’t know if he did either. He’d already agonized about it, time and again, labored over the fact that he never felt like he belonged. He wasn’t a girl, absolutely not, but could he really ever be a boy if some people never saw him as one, never respected the fact that there had been an error in his construction that he’d never be able to fully correct? His parents and Tucker had always been supportive of him, from the moment he’d come out to them they’d done their best, but Sam had met him after he’d started socially transitioning. He never had to experience the awkward misgenderings and “oops, sorry, force of habit Danny,” with Sam. The rest of his peers had always just given him a wide berth as the weird kid, even before he’d come out. Why couldn’t he ever be normal? Whether he was the child of ghost hunters, a queer , or a ghost, he was always fundamentally wrong .

He pulled his knees to his chest and could feel his eyes burning as he cried, the soft green light reflecting off the blanket he was swaddled in showed that they were glowing. They were just another mark on the long list of things that made him other, made him not entirely human.

“Why can’t you just be normal?” he dug his hands into his hair and tugged, trying to ground himself with pain, but he was drowning. Breathing was difficult, his vision obscured by the water in his eyes. His limbs were all failing him too, like overcooked pasta he couldn’t get them to move. He was drowning and he couldn’t even try to swim.

Fear built with the panic as he realized he didn’t know where he was. He had to calm down before whoever was nearby found him. He racked his brain, trying to remember the tricks Jazz had taught him to calm down. He tried counting his breaths, but that only kind of worked. Then he remembered another trick, and tried to pull his head out of the ball he’d tucked himself into the look for five things he could see. But the fear gripped him tighter so he skipped that one and moved on to the next thing he was supposed to do, he’d come back to sight later.

Four things he could touch were next. His hair was the first, his hands still fisted in his unwashed locks, he really needed a bath. The couch under him was another, a little lumpy but perfectly comfortable. There was a cool breeze on his face, probably from an air conditioning unit in a nearby window. He panicked for a moment as he scrambled for a fourth, but then he latched onto the blanket he was swaddled in. It was soft and worn under his fingers, it felt like a quilt, maybe handmade. That was all the things he needed to find that he could touch. Hearing was next.

He could hear his own labored breathing, uneven and harsh in the ball he’d made of himself. That air conditioning unit he’d noted earlier hummed softly as it worked, a familiar sound. There was music blaring somewhere in the building, only the thrum of the base audible from where he sat.

Smell was next, the first thing he could smell was himself. He’d tried to wash a few times since he’d gotten stranded, and the new hoodie had helped, but he still kind of reeked. There was another scent permeating the room, and it took him a second to place it. Minestrone soup? Memories of another time flooded him. Sam used to make that soup for him when he felt under the weather, or when he struggled to regulate his core temperature on colder days. He wished now more than ever that he had stressed to Sam and Tucker just how much they both meant to him. He was a whole dimension removed from them now, and he didn’t know if he’d ever get the chance to tell them.

The only thing he could taste was his own mouth, in desperate need of a toothbrush.

He’d reached the end of the list and he still wasn’t breathing right, so he decided to see if he was brave enough to look around now.

The quilt was the first thing he saw, and he was right that it was handmade. The fabrics chosen didn’t make a lot of sense. There was a batman one, but there was also a more realistic one that had little birds on it, and some squares were just red. He looked up and his eyes landed on something else that was red.

All attempts at calm whooshed out of him as he stared at Red Hood’s helmet sitting innocuously on the coffee table. Red Hood had to be nearby, the man who thought Danny had attacked Red Robin. He had to leave, he had to get out of there.

The thought of running reminded him of his other issue, Officer Collins, who’d somehow kept finding him. But Danny had found Red Hood, who didn’t like cops or pedophiles. But he also didn’t like Danny. Was Red Hood going to hand him over to that monster? And what would Danny do if he did? He couldn’t even lift a finger, he was so exhausted…

The smell of food got stronger, and despite the fear and panic that had made a permanent home in his chest, the smell calmed him down a fraction. His stomach growled loudly, betraying his trust and ruining all his attempts to freak out quietly. All his efforts to not alert the ‘enemy’ that he was awake were ruined.

The masked face that peeked out from the open door that he presumed led to the kitchen was not at all what he expected. Red Hood was young, not Danny’s age but much younger than he was expecting. From the features he could make out under the mask he guessed the guy was in his early 20s, 25 maybe, but definitely no older. What really stood out to Danny though was the white streak of hair peeking out amongst the man’s dark curls, vaguely reminding him of a skunk. It wasn’t gray or silver, but pure white. The color itself nagged at Danny, like when he missed something on a test that should have been obvious.

The man coughed purposely, and Danny startled, every muscle in his body tensing.

“Soup’s ready,” the man said, but Danny didn’t hear if continued talking. Danny scrambled ungracefully off the couch, getting caught in the damn quilt before he heard a ripping sound and suddenly he was free.

“Wait!” Red Hood cried, but Danny didn't wait. He wasn’t familiar with the layout of the apartment he was in, but that shouldn’t matter. He reached for his core, ready to go intangible and run as fast and far as he can. Searing pain shot through his chest, and his knees gave out. Stunned, he laid in a heap on the cool wood floor for a moment as he tried to process what just happened.

“Are you okay?” Hood asked, suddenly much closer. Danny yelped and scrambled across the floor. He found himself in a corner of the room. There was a small gap between an overfilled bookcase and the wall that he quickly wedged himself in, back to the wall, legs pulled up to protect his chest. The tears were really flowing now, and he thought the whimpering noise might be coming from him.

“Hey, you’re okay,” Hood said, his voice so much softer without the helmet. Danny tried to meet his eyes, but it was hard with the white lenses obscuring Hood’s.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” Hood assured. “Just, you need to breathe for me.”

Danny shook his head and pressed his face into his knees. He wasn’t going to be able to stop whatever Hood wanted to do to him anyway, so he’d rather not watch.

“sh*t,” Hood swore softly, followed by a weird ripping sound. “Is this better? Please look at me kid.” Danny didn’t want to, but he forced himself to look up, into eyes a familiar toxic green, the skin around them an angry red.

“There you are, hey,” Hood said. He was sitting on the floor now, legs crossed under him, and hands resting open on his knees. He almost looked like he was about to meditate, but the expression on his face was pinched with an emotion Danny couldn’t identify, and there was a tension in his shoulders.

“You gotta give me something kid,” Hood begged, begged! “How can I help you? Uh, what’s your name?”

“Danny,” he croaked, not seeing a reason to try to lie anymore.

“Danny, okay. Did you know your eyes are glowing?”

Danny squeezed his eyes shut and pressed his face back into his knees. He didn’t know they were still glowing, and now Hood was going to see just how much of a monster he was. He was going to realize he wasn’t human, and therefore not worth wasting morals on, and he was going to let Collins have him and…

“sh*t, no, it’s okay,” Hood said, a slight note of panic in his voice. “Please look at me, Danny, I’m not…”

“Please don’t let him have me,” Danny begged. He knew it was pointless, but he begged anyway.

“Don’t let who have you?” Hood asked.

“Collins,” Danny whispered harshly, face still pressed to his knees.

“That f*cking cop?!” Hood exclaimed. Danny’s head shot up as he took in the anger in the man’s eyes. “You think I’d…” Danny couldn’t hold back the whimper from escaping his throat.

“No no no. I’m not mad at you,” Hood assured. “I shot that f*cker in the dick okay? He’s not going to be hurting anyone again.”

“You…” Danny breathed, disbelieving.

“I don’t tolerate people who hurt kids,” Hood explained darkly. “Or ones who take advantage of the working girls and guys in the Narrows. And that bastard had done both.”

“But… but I…” Danny muttered.

“You’re what?” Hood asked gently.

“You don’t like me,” Danny muttered, breaking eye contact and looking down at the patch of floor between them. Hood made a pained noise before he spoke again.

“I know I f*cked up our last couple of interactions, but I swear it wasn’t your fault, honey.”

“You!” Danny splutters, meeting Hood’s eyes again, his own spilling over with tears. “But, but you think I attacked Red Robin!”

“I don’t think that,” Hood looked confused. “Is this because I shot you? sh*t, hon, that was an accident. I should have been more careful, but Red Robin is my little brother, and I was kinda panicking. sh*t, don’t cry. Uh, can I touch you?”

Danny closed his eyes and shook his head, remembering all the last times Hood had touched him and how badly it had gone. He didn’t think he could handle any more pain or fear right now.

“f*ck, okay. Look, I’m going to call my brother.”

Danny looked up, panicked. Hood saw his expression and backpedaled.

“My older brother, uh, Nightwing. I know you might not believe me, but he can help.” Hood looked like he was waiting for something, and Danny realized he might be looking for permission.

“That’s fine,” Danny croaked. Hood nodded and stood, the muscles in Danny’s back tensed.

“I left my phone in the kitchen, I’ll be right back okay?” Danny nodded and Hood left, retracing his steps back towards the kitchen. Danny’s stomach growled again but he ignored it. He didn’t think he could eat anything right now.

Jason had no idea what he was doing. He was trying not to freak out, because the kid, Danny, was doing more than enough of that for the both of them. Watching the kid just, collapse, in a heap on the floor had scared the sh*t out of him, and then the kid had wedged himself into the tightest place he could get, and Jason’s heart broke more. The kid had thought Jason hated him, which explained why he’d had such a hard time finding him. He didn’t blame Danny, Jason hadn’t made a single good impression with the kid. And if Danny didn’t see him shoot the cop, well, Jason didn’t know how to prove his trustworthiness.

But Dick was great at this stuff. He was a ray of sunshine personified, a literal golden retriever puppy that everyone loved. The kid needed a hug, and if he wasn’t going to let Jason touch him, which, fair, then Jason needed the best hugger in the world here right now.

“Jason! Are you okay?” Dick damned the moment he answered the phone. The noise in the background told Jason he was driving somewhere, and not in bed like he’d been expecting.

“Uh, yeah, I am fine, listen…”

“Tim’s already looking for dirt on the cop you shot, don’t worry,” Dick interpreted.

“Uh, what?” Jason hadn’t expected them to know about that already. The others were usually in bed around the time Jason had shot that f*cker, so he hadn’t expected to get heat for it until tomorrow. And also, Tim was helping? He was not expecting that after what he’d done to the kid.

“And Batman and Robin are on their way to the hospital to get a read on the situation,” Dick continued. “No one is mad at you, okay?”

“Great, but I’m not calling about that,” Jason tried to get a word in.

“Did you get hurt? Do I need to call Leslie?” Dick barreled over him.

“No! Well, probably, but not for me.”

“What do you mean? Did someone else get hurt? Did you…”

“Just let me talk! Please!” Jason shouted. He heard a thump from the living room, but he didn’t have time to deal with his brother’s bullheadedness and Danny’s justifiable stranger danger right now. “Collins was after a kid. I’ve got him now, but. Look, it’s a lot to explain. Will you please just come over.” And then, soft enough that he didn’t think the kid in the other room would hear, he added, “I can’t do this by myself.”

“I’m already on my way,” Dick said, his voice calm and soothing. “I’ll be there in ten minutes. Just hold on a little longer Little Wing.” Jason hung up, wanting to soak up his brother’s calm but unwilling to leave Danny alone any longer. It was clear the kid didn’t really have the strength to do much, but he was a fighter, and Jason didn’t want to have to forcibly stop an escape attempt.

On his way back to the living room, he spotted the build-a-bear box still sitting on the little table in the dining nook. He opened it up, and pulled out the little floppy raccoon in its NASA hoodie. It and the kid didn’t match anymore, but there wasn’t anything he could do about it. He wasn’t sure the kid would appreciate the joke at the moment, but something to hold onto might ground him a bit.

Danny was still exactly where he’d left him, tucked into the corner with his face pressed back against his knees. Even with his eyes closed Jason could still make out the green glow. He was pretty sure the kid’s eyes had been blue before, but he had just absorbed a lot of pit gunk, so that was probably why they were glowing like that. Jason’s eyes did that sometimes, but even when they weren’t they were still stained green. He really hoped he hadn’t f*cked up the kids own color with his sh*t.

“Here,” Jason sat back down in front of Danny and held out the raccoon. Danny looked up at him and then at the plushied. He didn’t look like he knew what to do with it, but after Jason shook it a bit, the kid reached out with both hands and grabbed it. It was the first good look Jason had gotten of his hands, and they were just as pale and thin as the rest of him. On his left palm, a striking lichtenberg scar traced it's way into his hoodie sleeves. Jason had never seen a street kid this underfed before, usually the kids took care of eachother, and the working girls were always extra generous with them. Danny looked like he hadn’t had a meal in months, which shouldn’t have been possible.

“Why?” Danny croaked, his voice raw from the tears that were streaming down his face again.

“It reminded me of you,” Jason shrugged. Danny pulled the toy to his chest and hugged it close, burying his face in its soft fur, which at least was an improvement over the kid hiding his face in his legs.

“Nightwing is on his way over,” Jason explained. “Do you want some soup while you wait?” The kid shook his head. “Are you sure, you have to be hungry.” Danny scrunched up his nose like he was thinking about it.

“Come on, I’ll get you a bowl,” Jason stood and went back into the kitchen, digging around for a second to find a bowl and making more noise than necessary to try to bring a sense of normalcy to the situation. He didn’t hear the kid get out of his corner, but when he came back to the living room, the bowl of soup in one hand and a bottle of gatorade in the other, the kid was sitting on the couch, raccoon plush in his lap, examine a rip in the quilt Alfred had made for him. Jason fought to keep from reacting. Jason had picked out the fabrics for that quilt just before he died. He hadn’t even gotten to see it until after he’d come back and stopped murdering as many people. Alfred had come over without the others’ knowledge to check on him and finally give the quilt to him. Luckily, it looked like the quilt had torn on a seam, so Alfred should be able to fix it, but it was still distressing.

“Sorry,” the kid muttered, putting the quilt down and clutching the raccoon to his chest.

“It’s okay,” Jason breathed, setting the soup and drink down on the coffee table before sitting down on the floor on the other side. “I know someone who can fix it.”

The kid nodded before carefully picking up the bowl, his hands shaking badly. Jason wanted to offer to help, but he knew it wouldn’t be appreciated. The kid managed to get a spoonful into his mouth, and his face lit up. New tears flowed down his face and Jason's heart broke further. He didn’t know what he was going to do with this kid.

They sat in silence while the kid quickly emptied the bowl, followed by the gatorade bottle. Jason would have offered him more, but he knew not to overfeed a starvation victim, so he didn’t suggest it.

The knock on the door startled the kid so much he jumped in his seat.

“It’s just my brother,” Jason told him, as he got up to get the door. The couch was set against a wall, Jason still had issues putting his back to any windows or doors, so the kid was able to see Nightwing the moment he walked inside. Jason hadn’t been expecting the full costume, but patrol must have run late that night, because Dick would normally be in bed by now.

“Hey Wing, I’m… Danny?!” Dick exclaimed, noticing the kid.

“You know him?” Jason asked.

“Yeah! I ran into him outside the theater!” Dick explained. “Red Robin’s been looking for him too actually, and Bat’s ran into him the other day. How’d you find him?”

“I’ve been looking for him for a week,” Jason explained. “That bastard cop was trying to assault him.”

“I think he’s already killed a kid,” Danny muttered, drawing both of their attention to him. “Ezra.”

“Okay,” Jason took a deep breath. “Clearly there is a lot more going on here than any of us realized.”

“We need to get him back to the cave,” Dick said. “And probably call in Leslie. Have you not been eating Danny? You don’t look so good.”

“I have been,” Danny sat up straight, looking almost defensive, but the tears pooling in his eyes again ruined the image. “But there’s no ectoplasm in this stupid world, and I…” The kid cut himself off by pressing his hands over his mouth, but the damage had already been done.

“This world?” Dick asked.

“I… uh…” Danny looked panicked, his eyes darting around looking for an escape.

“Hey, it’s okay,” Dick said, slipping into the calm protector roll so much easier than Jason had. He actually sounded like he meant it, whereas Jason had just been panicking.

“Can I come over there?” Dick asked. Danny clutched the raccoon tighter but he nodded. Dick walked calmly over to the couch and knelt in front of the kid, so their heads were level.

“Can I hug you, please?” Dick asked. The kid nodded numbly, and Dick gently wrapped his arms around him. Danny just sat there, tense as a rod for a moment, before a sob ripped through him and he threw his arms around Dick, falling off the couch into the man’s lap and burying his face in the crook of the Dick’s neck, the raccoon plush crushed between them.

“I don’t want to do this anymore,” Danny wailed. “I’m so tired, and scared, and I don’t know how to get home!”

“Shh,” Dick soothed, rubbing a hand up and down the kid’s back. Jason just stood in the room, watching this kid finally give in, finally let someone else carry some of the weight he’d been dragging around for so long.

“I’ve got you,” Dick said. “Why don’t we save the explanations for once we get to Batman okay? He knows a lot more about the multiverse than me. I’m sure he can help you. We’ll all help you, okay? We all want to help. I’m sorry it took us so long.” The kid kept crying, and Dick kept holding him, and Jason kept standing there wishing he could do something to help.


50,000 words gods damn. It's officially a novel 😜

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Chapter 13


Slightly shorter chapter, but it's kinda an info dump.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Second Monday, Continued

Danny had been crying a lot recently. He didn’t think of himself as a crier, that was always more Tucker's thing, but this week had been hell on that image of himself. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been crying for this time, clinging to one stranger while another stood nearby awkwardly (although, Red Hood did give him a gift that was specifically for him, so that definitely elevated him above stranger. Was he a friend now?) Even he had to admit though, Nightwing’s encouraging words and gentle touches were amazing in helping him get out feelings he’d bottled up and let fester over the three weeks he’d been stranded in this world.

Nightwing had shifted them back onto the sofa at some point and wrapped him up like a burrito in a non-ripped blanket. Danny had managed to calm himself to the point that he was only occasionally sniffling. He had to fight his sluggish limbs as he scrubbed at his face, rubbing away stray tears. There had been several times this week where he had been more exhausted than he had ever been before, but right then he was more tired than he even thought possible. With the soup in his stomach, and the soft blanket around him, all he wanted to do was sleep for a week. But Nightwing had mentioned something about going to a cave, and Batman helping, and he really needed to know more about what he’d gotten himself into even if he physically couldn’t stop these two from taking him wherever they wanted.

“Okay,” Danny said, proud of how stable the word had come out. “Can we… Start over? Less accidental bodily harm?” He glanced up at Hood, accidentally making eye contact with the man whose face was flushed red with remorse.

“To be fair, you did bite the sh*t outta me,” Hood mumbled. Nightwing kicked out at his brother, landing a blow on Hood’s knee. The man grunted, but otherwise didn’t seem affected by the sibling-on-sibling violence.

“I guess that makes us even then,” Danny mumbled, but he couldn’t help the small smile that tugged at his lips.

“He bit you?” Nightwing asked. “When was this?”

“That night Red Robin was attacked,” Hood held out his right hand, which was still wrapped in white bandages.

“I thought a raccoon bit you,” Nightwing raised an eyebrow.

“Uh, yeah. I’ve kinda been calling Danny, Raccoon in my head, since I didn’t know his name,” Hood admitted, rubbing at the back of his neck.

“You’ve been calling me, Raccoon?” Danny asked, glancing down at the plushie in his lap. At least he got the joke now, he wasn’t sure whether to be offended or not. “I’m calling you Skunk then.” His words startled a laugh out of Hood.

“Fair enough,” Hood grinned. “Though, if we’re gonna do this ‘ do over’ correctly, you can call me by my actual name, Jason.”

“It’s too late now,” Danny declared. “You’re Skunk. Fit’s your hair better.”

“You can call me Skunk if you want, it’s not the worst nickname I’ve ever had.”

Nightwing looked at Jason and sighed a little over-dramatically, but it was hard to tell with the white lenses blocking what was probably an impressive eye roll. Still, when he turned back to Danny, his expression was gentle.

“Well, I guess I was going to have to change into civvies anyway if we’re taking Little Wing’s car. You can call me Dick,” he smiled, it was like a star went supernova right there. That man could probably get away with anything with a smile like that.

“Dick and Skunk…” he drawled, what little energy he’d managed to scrounge up for the conversation had been spent. The bone deep tired was back, and he was having trouble keeping his eyes open. His thoughts wandered without his consent, does this cave they’re going to take him to at least have a nice sofa like Jason’s that he could sleep on after they get there. It’s a cave, so it’s probably going to be dark enough to sleep easily, right?

“It’s probably better for you to just see it,” Dick’s tone was lighthearted and teasing as he got up and looked at Jason. Danny groaned as he realized that he said all that out loud. He was really tired if his brain to mouth filter was that fried.

“I guess I’ll get changed and then drive us?” Dick asked.

“f*ck no you aren’t touching my car!” Jason exclaimed. Danny looked wide eyed at him and Jason looked panicked. “He’s crashed more cars than Bruce Wyane owns! And yes get out of that costume,” he redirected his attention back at his brother. “I don’t need a scene outside my apartment.” Dick trapped his brother in head lock and dug his knuckles into Jason’s hair, before bounding off deeper into the apartment, presumably to change. The whole interaction filled Danny with a deep heartache, suddenly jealous of the sibling dynamic they shared. It reminded him of himself and Jazz, the thought of his sister only made his chest hurt more.

Dick returned after a few minutes from whatever room he’d gone to, wearing a casual blue shirt and shorts, the sight of his maskless face sent a bolt of recognition through Danny.

“Wait a second, you’re that guy that was outside the theater!” Danny cringed when his voice came out louder than he intended, but he kept going. “You were wearing a blonde wig and clothes I’m pretty sure my mom wore to my parents’ last class reunion… Was that for the Legally Blonde thing?”

Dick’s pout was impressive. Seriously, between his pout and his smile, this man could rule the world. “I was Barbie … Danny, we had this conversation. Nevermind,” he sighed with clear resignation. “I’ll have to show you the movie later. It’s funnier if you are in the know.”

“Okay, you can have this conversation in the car,” Jason announced. Danny took a deep breath, and pushed himself off the couch. He immediately lost his balance and fell forward. Dick caught him before he could smash his head into the coffee table.

“Thanks,” he muttered into the man’s chests.

“I think I’m going to have to carry you,” Dick scooped him up bridal style, and he was asleep before they even made it to the car.

The man in front of them looked pitiful, hooked up to various wires and IVs and propped in a way to alleviate any stress from his injuries. Bandages wrapped around the man’s head from what Damian presumed was probably a skull fracture unless Todd had held back; Unlikely given what was implied by the live bullet that his brother had used instead of the rubber bullets that father had agreed to look past.

Batman was standing in front of him, very obviously positioned as a protective force between him and a threat, him or maybe to obscure him from the view of the injured cop. Damian knew he didn’t require coddling, but a small part of him felt warmth knowing that his father wouldn’t allow this man the chance to be near him. His last interaction with the man hadn’t been pleasant, but he was still unwilling to tell anyone about it. He would if he had to, if it came to the choice to tell the others or let Collins go, Damian would talk. But he didn’t want to, he wasn’t ready yet.

Collins was the one to greet them first and Damian almost sneers at the way he addresses Batman like an old friend. “Batman. Robin…” His eyes leered on Damian for a little too long and Damian was thankful for the way his father moved further between them. “I’m guessing you guys are here to help look for the guy who did this to me?” Collin’s voice was weak and a little uneven, impaired slightly by pain medication, but judging from the tension that twisted at the corners of his mouth, the doctors weren’t giving him nearly enough

“It was Red Hood?” Batman’s voice was flat, reserved, revealing nothing about how he felt about the situation, Damian expected no less with his father’s skills.

“It was,” the cop nodded slightly before visibly wincing. “I already gave my statement; Red Hood was helping a… Well, a metahuman criminal. I think…. He broke him out almost a week ago… I was… Chasing down the perp when Hood stepped in and well… You see what he did to me.”

Damian wondered briefly if the metahuman in Collins’ story was Danny. The story, although full of blatant lies, did line up with Drake’s account of the boy having escaped the station. It would also explain how Danny could have escaped the station in the first place, if he had powers of some sort. Damian imagined Batman would come to the same logical conclusion.

“Yet, you didn’t call for backup when you tracked down the alleged criminal?” Batman asked, making Collin’s expression drop.

“I didn’t… You see, he…” It looked like Officer Collins was grasping for something else to tell them, but Damian wouldn’t allow him the chance.

“I fail to see why you’d want to approach a known metahuman criminal alone, unless you wanted him specifically alone,” Damian stepped out from behind his father, his hands on his hips.

“That’s- Hey now, I’m the victim here. Do you even know what they did to me?!” Collins looked flustered as he raised his voice, eyes narrowed.

“Tt. You were shot in a way to mark you as a predator. You look more like prey right now, though,” Damian crossed his arms, eyes narrowed behind his mask. Collins sputtered at the accusation, the visible parts of his face turning red, his eyes locking on Batman.

“You don’t think I-”

“I know.” Batman stated, giving no room for nonsense. Collins seemed to shut down, his mouth closed in a thin line, his eyes darting around the room, looking for an escape. “In this type of situation, I trust Red Hood’s judgment. You, Collins, were attempting to assault a child.”

“I wasn’t…” Collins tried. One look from the Bat quickly shut him up again. He stared at his lap, fear swimming in his eyes.

“Child predators don’t tend to survive in prison,” Batman said coldly. “If you cooperate with the investigation, and confess your crimes, perhaps the judge will see fit to place you in a solitary wing,” at this Batman laid a hand on the man’s leg, loaming over him as he seemed to be attempting to melt into the mattress. “If you make this process harder than it has to be, I will make sure Red Hood knows exactly which cell you’re located in.”

Collin’s face went deadly pale, and Damian didn’t try to stop the malicious grin that crept across his face. Father wasn’t going to let the man get away with what he’d done. Maybe Damian would stop having nightmares now.

Even after his impromptu nap, Danny still didn’t have the strength to walk on his own. Dick was currently carrying him around, Danny clung to him like a koala this time. Jason kept giving them this sad look, but he still wasn’t comfortable with the man touching him. He’d feel less dignified about the whole situation if he wasn’t used to being carried around by his friends and family. Was there something about him that just screamed ‘carry me?’

He held the understuffed raccoon that Jason had given him close as his eyes adjusted to his new surroundings. The cave (The Bat Cave? The urge to call it The Bat Cave stuck with him, he was going to call it that mentally) was a massive cavern with many layers of catwalks, platforms, walkways, and balconies. The different tiers housed vehicles, brightly lit display cases, big computer monitors that gave Sam’s in-home theater a run for its money, a giant Penny secured into a wall and was that a tyrannosaurus replica?

“Is Batman really dating Bruce Wayne?” Danny couldn’t help but joke, recalling reading one article making the claim that the city billionaire was dating the Dark Knight. The expensive looking set up could be explained by Batman being involved with Bruce Wayne afterall.

His companions both started laughing, far more amused by the joke that Danny didn’t think was that funny. It was Jason who finally responded to his joke with, “Well, they aren’t dating , but Bruce is married to Batman in a way.”

“Who are you talking to?” a younger male voice asked. A head of raven hair poked over the back of the computer chair that they were approaching. Blue eyes locked on Danny with a wild expression.

“You found him?” the kid, he wasn’t wearing a mask but there was something familiar about him, leapt out of the chair and hurried over to them.

“Yeah, Tim meet Danny,” Dick made no move to put him down, so Danny had just waved awkwardly at the kid instead of shaking his hand. He thought the guy was a similar age to him, but it was hard to tell.

“B is going to kill you for going no masks,” Tim said.

“It was gonna happen anyway,” Dick shrugged. “Also, this is officially a multiverse issue.”

“Multiverse…” Tim’s eyes went huge, and suddenly he was talking rapid fire without stopping. “I thought it might be something like that after I found your phone, but I couldn’t be sure after the thing fried itself, but it explains so much about the music you had and why I can’t find any record of you anywhere even with decent pictures, and O couldn’t find anything either, which like, if she can’t find anything than you know something is seriously wrong, and oh sh*t how did you even get here? Like, is that why you look like sh*t? No offense, but you actually look sick. Are you okay?’

“TIM!” Dick finally yelled, interrupting the kid.

“Sorry,” Tim muttered, looking away from Danny. His eyes landed on something behind them, and went wide again. “Jason?”

“Hey Baby Bird,” Jason’s voice was shaky as he stepped out from behind Dick. He hadn’t thought about the fact that he was going to have to confront the kid by coming here. He’d already decided on the drive over that he was going to explain to everyone about the pit, but he didn’t know if that was actually going to fix everything.

“Are you okay?” Tim blurted out.

“Uh, what? I’m fine. Are you okay?” Jason spluttered.

“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” Tim asked. Jason was about to answer, when the roar of the batmobile interrupted them. Jason saw Danny flinch in Dick’s arms. Dick quickly hushed him with a few gentle words.

“Where’d they go?” Jason asked, leaning over the railing to watch Batman and Robin get out of the car. They quickly spotted their group and started making their way up.

“Uh, they went to talk to…” Tim’s voice trailed off as Batman approached.

“You found him?” Batman asked.

“It’s a long story,” Jason breathed.

“Summarize,” Batman ordered. There was a tension to his shoulders that told Jason the man was extremely stressed.

“I don’t know all the details,” Jason said. “But, you know how I was thrown in the Lazurs pit?”

“You where what?!” Dick exclaimed, starting Danny who had started drifting off again.

“Later,” Batman muttered, gesturing for Jason to continue.

“Right. So, you know how the Pit Madness is supposed to wear off after a while?” Batman nodded. “Well, it didn’t.”

“I figured as much,” Batman admitted. To Jason’s surprise, he pulled off his cowl to rub at his temples. Danny muttered something under his breath, but everyone ignored him.

“You knew?” Jason asked. Bruce sighed.

“I was trying to find a way to reverse it,” the man admitted. “But I didn’t want to push you away by forcing you to talk about it. Why do you bring it up now?”

Jason took a deep breath, and prepared to explain everything, when a loud bang shook the cave.

The flash of light and smoke as John Constantine appeared were completely unnecessary, Jason had seen him simply melt out of the shadows before, so he knew the special effects were for the drama. The dark liquid that stained the man’s coat looked real though, and his face seemed even more haggard than normal.

“Have any of you seen a… Danny!” the man exclaimed as his eyes locked on the kid still in Dick’s arms.

"Connie!" Danny exclaimed, which wasn't a nickname Jason had heard before. Constantine rushed across the cave floor, nearly tripping on the cowl that Bruce had dropped. Dick yelped as Constantine yanked Danny out of his arms and into his own. The teen went willinging, locking his legs around the man’s waist and burying his face in the man’s neck, the tears already soaking the man’s shirt.

“sh*t, love, I tried to come as fast as I could,” Constantine explained, as he held the kid tightly. “Was in the fifth ring of hell, if ya believe it. I shouldn’t have even been able to hear the bloody stone, but ya were standing right on a f*cking layline. Took me a right minute to get back here. And when I got to the blasted alley, you weren't there. All I could get out of the damn ley lines was that you were attacked. You scared the sh*t outta me.”

“You… know Danny?” Bruce asked, the slight furrowing of his brow the only outward sign of his confusion.

“Met him a few days ago,” Constantine's shoulders tensed. “A right lot of good I did him. There’s too much bloody sh*t to do, and no one besides me who knows how to do it.”

“Why didn’t you ask me for help?” Bruce asked, the question genuine. Jason generally didn’t think of the brit as terrifying. Annoying, sure, crazy, definitely. But the look he leveled at Bruce had Jason reassessing how dangerous he could be.

Constantine thrust Danny into Jason’s arms. Fear surged through his chest as their skin made contact, but the teen relaxed against him the moment nothing happened. As Jason got him settled in his arms, the teen’s face buried in the crook of his neck, he almost missed the moment Constantine socked Bruce right in the jaw. Bruce stumbled back a step, but he didn’t fight back.

“What was…” Bruce was interrupted by the brit’s shouting.

“What the bloody hell is wrong with you?!” he demanded. “I did ask you fer ‘elp, you right twit! You told me to piss off!”

“Oh f*ck,” Bruce swore, startling everyone in the cave. Bruce didn’t swear, not often anyway. All the color had drained from the man’s face. Danny twisted in Jason’s arms so he could better see what was going on.

“I… sh*t,” Bruce looked down at the floor.

“Yeah,” Constantine asked. “Ya didn’t give a sh*t then, so I don’t see why I should trust ya ta give a sh*t now.”

“It’s not that I didn’t care John,” Bruce said, his tone nearly frantic. “I just wasn’t listening.”

“Ya weren’t listening?” Constantine asked, clearly not believing the man. “The great bloody Batman wasn’t listening? You expect me to believe that sh*t?”

“I was distracted!” Bruce said, like he was begging the brit to believe him.

“What could possibly be so distracting…”

“Tim had just been attacked!” Bruce yelled, cutting Constantine off and bringing a tense quiet to the cave. If Jason didn’t know any better, he would have sworn there were tears brimming in the man’s eyes. Bruce scrubbed at his face with both hands before letting them fall limp at his sides. Tim made a distressed noise that everyone politely ignored.

“I’m sorry , John. I should have listened to you, but… I hadn’t slept in two days, and Tim had just been attacked and drugged. Jason had been acting out of character, and. I’m sorry, but the things you bring me usually aren’t life threatening. I thought… I thought some ghost or another was just acting up, or you were bored, and I… I should have listened.” Bruce turned and made eye contact with Danny, who tensed in Jason’s arms.

“I’m sorry Danny,” he said firmly. “It’s my fault you didn’t get help sooner.”

“I mean,” Constantine interrupted, drawing everyone’s attention back to him. “I could have tried to tell ya again. Or asked one of the other league members for help. I don’t work well with others. I'm not sorry I punched you.”

"That's fine," Bruce rubbed at his jaw. "I deserved it."


Discord link↓↓↓↓↓ Come join the chaos

Chapter 14


Just want to thank you all for your continued support! Y'all are amazing!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Second Monday, Continued

“Where is my patient?” Leslie demanded as she marched into the cave, Alfred hot on her heels. She immediately spied the kid handling limp in Jason’s arms, and made for him. The fact they hadn’t even gotten the kid to medical yet shouldn’t have been a surprise, but she was still pissed that their inability to prioritize their own health was now affecting others.

“sh*t, Danny?” Jason gently shook the kid in his arms, who seemed to wake up and groan. Leslie was close enough now to hear what was muttered into Jason’s neck.

“I’m tired,” the kid groaned.

“He’s alive,” Jason informed.

"Only half," Danny muttered.

Leslie didn’t appreciate the humor, even if the kid giggled at his own apparent joke. Even through the baggie jeans and hoodie, she could tell the kid was painfully thin. The way he was barely conscious didn’t bode well to her either.

“Medical, now!” she ordered, turning and heading for the room. Danny flinched, whether from her volume or tone Leslie didn’t know. Jason did as ordered though, and headed to the medical room. Leslie helped him ease Danny onto the cot, the kid nearly boneless.

“Everyone except for Alfred, out now!” Leslie ordered.

“But,” Bruce started.

“Out!” The woman’s glare was harsh, and everyone scrammed, the door slamming shut behind them.

“Sorry about them,” Leslie said, directing her attention to the glassy blue eyes looking up at her. “I’m Dr. Thompkins.”

“Danny,” the kid replied.

“Danny, can you tell me what the problem is?”

"I'm barely surviving in a world antithetical to my existence." Danny was proud of himself, Jazz had used that word a lot to describe things and he was pretty sure he’d used it correctly.The doctor gave him an unimpressed look, clearly she actually took her job seriously. She even had a tablet in her hand like she was poised to take notes. The older guy, Danny hadn’t caught his name, was bustling around the room. Danny found it hard to focus on him long enough to figure out what he was doing.

"Okay,” the doctor said, redirecting his attention to her. “But I meant more along the lines of, are you in pain…?"

"Yes." Danny admitted, but didn’t clarify. He wasn’t sure exactly what he should tell her. He wasn’t actively injured, but sleeping on the ground and random floors had not been good for his back. And even with the occasional jolts of energy from Jason, he was still covered in bruises.

“Which arm would you prefer?” the man asked with a British accent. Danny didn’t know what was with Gotham and British people, but he kind of liked it.

“Huh?” he asked, realizing the man had asked him a question. The man held up the needle with a tube attached to it. Danny followed the tube with his eyes and saw it lead to an IV bag.

“Oh, I’m right handed?” Danny said, unsure if that information would help or not. The man smiled at him, before cleaning off Danny’s left forearm and expertly inserting the needle.

“What’s in it?” Danny asked.

“Just some fluids,” the man assured.

"Thank you, Alfred,” the doctor interjected, at least Danny knew the man’s name now. “Where are you in pain?" The doctor was looking him over with an analyzing eye, as if she was cataloging everything that might be wrong with him. He didn’t particularly like her looking at him like that, but knew she was just trying to help him. Or, at least he hoped she was.

"Just generally,” he waved his hand to signal all of himself. Her expression was still blank, like she was waiting for him to elaborate more. He decided to give her something to work with. “Mostly I'm just hungry and tired."

"Are you normally hungry and tired?" Leslie asked, clearly trying to gauge what might be normal for him, or trying to figure out what was wrong with him.

"Hungry? No. That's only been since I got stuck here. There's no f*cking ectoplasm in the atmosphere here, so my powers are starving,” Danny explained, talking with his hands. “The tired thing isn't new. Juggling ghost hunting and school when your parents don't know you’re a halfa is a bitch." Danny propped his head up with his hand as he gave her the most honest information he could. He still felt tired and imagined if he didn’t hold himself up he might just curl up and sleep some more. Napping on the way here had helped, but there was still an exhaustion that had settled deep in his bones. He wasn’t sure how much food and sleep it would take before he was rid of it entirely.

"A halfa?" Dr. Leslie questioned, her expression was carefully neutral, but Danny could see the curiosity in her eyes.

Danny had to think about how to answer the question. Some days even he didn’t know what being a halfa really meant, but the answer he would have given in his world was too complicated.

"Guess you'd probably call me a meta?" he decided on the safer answer.

"Okay, we’ll put that to the side for now,” Leslie told him and he was glad she’d probably picked up on how he was reluctant to talk more about his halfa status. She was quickly becoming someone he might actually like. “Can you take off your hoodie and shirt for me?"

Danny squirmed uncomfortably at the request but remembered there were confidentiality rules and that she wouldn’t be able to report him to the government for being a ghost. He glanced over at Alfred, but the man had gone into some kind of supply room and was rummaging around for something. Reluctantly, Danny removed his clothes, he felt more and more vulnerable with each article that landed on the floor.

"You're trans?” Leslie sounded mildly shocked at the sight of his binder. Like everyone else he’d encountered since his weight had plummeted, she hadn’t clocked him as trans.

“Yeah.” Danny crossed his arms across his chest, as if they would protect him from the biting words he was used to from people when they found. This time, it was unneeded. Leslie didn’t seem to be interested in hurting him, only helping.

“How long has it been since you last took that binder off?" Leslie asked after a moment.

Danny knew the answer even though it was hard to admit. "Since I got here…"

“And that was?”

“Three weeks!” Danny knew it hadn’t been a good thing, but… “It wasn’t like I had a safe place! Besides, it doesn't really fit anymore."

“What are these scars from? They weren’t treated properly. I'd like a word with the doctor responsible." Leslie gestured to the lichtenberg scars that spiderwebbed from his left hand’s fingertips and up his arm, the binder hiding the fact they ended at his heart.

"Then you'd have to talk to my mom." Danny almost whispered, averting his eyes. No medical professional had even gotten the chance to examine his scars. His parents had gotten weird about doctors ever since he came out. Could she tell just by looking at his scars what had happened to him?

"Is she a doctor?" Leslie pressed, clearly trying to fill in the puzzle pieces of his medical history.

“Not the medical kind,” Danny admitted, frowning. “And the scars are from the accident that…” Killed me … “Made me a meta."

"Does your mother often treat your injuries?”

Danny couldn’t help but chuckle. "Ppft, don't be silly. Usually I do." He had to hold back adding that his mom was the better shot of his two parents and had caused a handful of his injuries. There was a particularly nasty burn on his thigh that was her handiwork.

"When was the last time you had a physical?" Leslie asked, finally changing the topic and giving him reprieve from that rabbit hole of questioning.

"Before the accident I guess, like two years maybe?" Danny shrugged.

The doctor paused for a moment, giving him a serious look that made him regret being so nonchalant about that answer. “You’re not in school?”

"What?" Danny asked dumbly, wondering when he’d implied he was homeschooled.

“Usually schools require a yearly physical, at least in this world," Alfred explained as he emerged from the supply room. He had a bottle full of a cloudy liquid and several foil wrapped bars in his hands.

“Alfred is right,” the doctor said. “Though we can’t really speak for what might be required in yours.”

"Oh yeah!“ Danny exclaimed, understanding where her misunderstanding had come from. “My parents threw a fit, so now the school lets them sign off on the physical. Our town is so small, nobody really makes a big deal about it."

"Okay then…” Leslie took a deep breath and Danny couldn’t help but wonder if she had the same complaints about his parents that Jazz always used to voice aloud. “You said being hungry was a new development. How much food have you been managing?"

“Hard to say, but probably around what a normal person would need?" Danny answered truthfully after thinking about what he’d managed to eat the last three weeks. Probably enough for a normal person. Less than what Tucker would eat in a day, more than Sam. Normal.

“Would you say maybe 2,000 calories?” Leslie tried to confirm.

“Sure.” Danny nodded, very aware that a good bulk of that was probably fast food he’d been able to get his hands on. He wasn’t sure if some of the stuff he’d eaten had really even counted as food anymore.

“How much do you need?"

“Not too much more than that, if I’m not using my powers… Which I haven’t.” Except for a few escapes and that one time he might have overdone it a little when he saved Red Robin, but he’d eaten a little extra after that to make up for it.

Leslie seemed like she didn’t exactly buy his answer but followed up with, “When did the weight loss start?”

“I’d noticed it after I’d been here a week,” Danny decided after reflecting on it. “I think that’s when my reserves of ectoplasm ran out.”

“So, two weeks ago?” Leslie typed on her tablet, clearly keeping track of the history he’d been giving her.

“Yeah.” Danny nodded in confirmation. It really felt awkward finally telling someone about just what had been going on with him.

“I don’t know anything about ectoplasm,” Leslie admitted after she’d finished typing on her tablet. He was kinda curious to see what exactly she’d written. “But I want you to eat as much as you can, at least until you put on some weight.”

At first, that seemed an easy enough request, but after he’d thought about it, Danny wasn’t so sure. He groaned and rubbed at his temples.

“What’s wrong? Do you not think eating more will help your powers?” Leslie looked him over, like she was trying to find out what she’d missed in her diagnosis that was causing him distress.

“It probably would, but… Look, I’m trans, right? But these last two weeks, nobody has misgendered me once.” Danny admitted, rubbing his arm nervously.

“Ah, I see. You’re worried you won’t pass once you gain some weight back?” Leslie’s voice softened as she reached out and placed a hand gently on his. It was more comfort than he’d expected from the doctor.

Danny wasn’t sure how to respond at first, too taken aback that she’d hit the root of the problem so easily.

“... Y-yeah,” he finally managed.

“I’ll make you a deal,” Leslie said after she typed more on her tablet. “Put on ten pounds, and I’ll write you a prescription for testosterone.”

“Wait, really?!” Danny had to hold himself back from jumping off the exam table. Testosterone had been a taboo subject among his family, not because his parents didn’t support him, but because of their general distrust of medical professionals combined with their fear that a doctor wouldn’t actually help him properly. It was something he’d told himself he would deal with after he moved out of the house, but here was Dr. Leslie offering it to him as long as he ate by her rules?

“Yes,” she said firmly, a slight smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. “Bruce is going to be taking care of you, and he’s familiar with hormone therapy.” Leslie gave him a knowing look, the smile finally breaking free.

“Bruce?” Danny repeated, a little confused. He’d barely been awake when he got introduced to people in the cave, which one had been Bruce?

“Bruce Wayne, Batman.” Leslie reminded him.

“Oh, I thought he looked familiar, but I was still really tired when he took his mask off… Wait! Batman’s trans?!” Danny had already decided that Batman was cool, even if he’d apparently pissed Connie off over something judging by their fight earlier, but the idea that the guy was also trans impressed him.

“No,” Leslie replied, dashing the bubbling warmth Danny had started to feel. “One of his kids is.”

“Okay,” Danny responded after a moment. He decided that he could live with Batman being an ally. “I’ll try to put on some weight then. No backing out on your side of the bargain though!”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Leslie grinned.

“If you are quite finished,” Alfred interjected. “Here my boy.” The man handed Danny the items he was holding.

“What…” Danny started to ask.

“The water has vitamins dissolved in it,” Alfred explained. “I doubt you’ve been getting enough on your own. And those are protein bars. I will draft up a diet for you to attempt to get you back to a proper weight. I don’t know how your abilities will affect your health, but we will do our best.”

“Thanks,” Danny said, taking a drink. The water tasted vaguely of cherry, and after he’d finished it and the bars, Dr. Leslie continued with her examine. Danny was asleep before she’d even finished.

An awkward silence had fallen over the kitchen table. It was just Jason and Tim left, Dick had gone off to put Lil Peep to bed. Tim’s head was swirling with questions. He really wanted to know more about Tucker Danny, and the whole multiversal issue. They’d kinda known the multiverse was a thing, but it had never affected their family directly before. They didn’t know how Danny had gotten here, which was going to make getting him back a challenge.

A loud squeak brought Tim back to the present as Jason shifted in his seat. Tim’s racing thoughts immediately latched onto his brother, a problem he could actually solve right now.

“Are you sure you’re okay?" he asked, hoping that without the others around, Jason might be more willing to be open.

"...I don't know." Jason admitted, running a hand through his hair as he sighed.

"Oh. That was more honest than I was expecting.” Tim was a little surprised. He hadn't been sure how Jason was going to respond, but the man admitting he wasn’t okay without a little more prying was new, especially after one of his mood swings. Tim fiddled with his fingers, unsure what to say now that they’d gone off script.

"Are you okay?"Jason asked, breaking the awkward silence that had grown in the mostly dark kitchen.

"Yeah. I'm fine…." Tim frowned. He wasn’t the one who was clearly struggling with some kind of supernatural control issues, why wouldn’t he be okay? Sure, he was hurt in the moment, but he could rationalize that Jason hadn’t meant it; Not after he’d tried so hard earlier in the week to prove himself better.

"I didn't mean what I said!" Jason blurted out, straight to the point on what had been bothering him, like an open book with his anguished expression. "The other day, when I lost control... I didn't mean any of it. I had a migraine, so I didn’t realize the pit madness was back…"

"Wait, back?" Dick had been silent as he returned to the kitchen, catching on to the latest part of the conversation. Tim could admit he was a little annoyed; Jason might not be as honest with their eldest brother around.

"Weren't you putting little Peep to bed?" Jason turned around in his chair to look at Dick, eyebrow raised.

"Don't change the subject! What do you mean back? You mean it stopped affecting you?" Dick rested his hands on his hips with the ‘don’t you dare bullsh*t me’ older brother look that Tim had been subjected to on many occasions. Usually he got the look in regards to his sleep schedule or caffeine consumption. But tonight Jason was the target.

Jason looked like he was trying to figure out what to tell them, hand straying to massage one of his temples. "The kid, Danny, he can absorb the pit madness,” he finally settled on.

"Absorb it?" Tim repeated, curious. The reports had listed Danny as a possible meta, but his abilities hadn’t been documented. Well… Collins had claimed that the teen had some kind of mind manipulation powers, but Tim wasn’t going to trust anything that man said.

"I don't know how,” Jason continued. “But every time we've touched, the pit goes quiet and he gets the effects for a while. I haven’t even had the chance to have a conversation about it with the kid himself…"

"So when you came for Sunday dinner…?" Tim was already starting to shape a mental timeline between reports he’d read and when Jason’s good moods had started.

"That was the first time I ran into him. He got arrested after that I think." Jason nodded, confirming what Tim had been thinking.

"He attacked someone." Tim shivered at the thought. He’d thought the aggravated assault charge on the kid might have been extreme, but if Danny was a meta and had a touch of Pit Madness, he could have done a lot of damage to whoever he’d attacked.

"The cops took his phone,” Dick added, giving Tim another data point to work with. “Oh sh*t, that's probably when he met Collins."

"I should've put a bullet in that bastard's head,” Jason growled. Tim had to resist hunching over on himself to protect his soft belly at the venom in the man’s voice.

Dick reached out, placing a hand on Jason’s shoulder. "No. You did the right thing. Bruce will make sure he doesn't see the outside of a jail cell ever again."

Tim was still working up the full timeline in his head, but he couldn’t help but chuckle in realization. "You know, we probably would have found Danny sooner if we actually asked for help on our cases."

"I've not exactly had the best track record with you guys…" Jason almost looked small at that moment despite his impressive frame and Tim realized he was probably still internalizing their earlier conversation.

Tim sighed before punching Jason’s arm with minimal force, trying to show he wasn’t as bothered as his brother thought. "It was the pit, Jay! Get over it. I've forgiven you for it already, so you’re not allowed to act like I’m some scared kid."

"Wait, what happened?" Dick looked between them, lost by the turn of the conversation.

Jason stayed quiet, not quite meeting either’s eyes. "..."

Tim crossed his arms as he decided to fill Dick in. "The pit made him pissy and he yelled at me. It's not a big deal."

"Don't lie and tell me you weren't scared!" Jason finally looked up, and Tim could tell he was shaking slightly. It really had bothered his brother a lot.

"Sure, I was scared. But you got control before anything happened and removed yourself from the situation. Now that we know what's going on, we'll work together to find a solution. Or at least a way to manage it." Tim smiled softly, offering Jason a hand.

"Let us help you Little Wing," Dick added, patting Jason’s back comfortingly.

Jason stared at them for a moment, his eyes glistened slightly, and Tim feared he was going to push them away again, before the man wiped his face and took the offered hand with a gentle grip.

"Yeah, okay."

Leslie had seen a lot in her many years in the medical field. She’d seen even more since she’d become the personal doctor to Batman and his ever growing troupe of vigilantes children. But she’d never seen anything quite like Danny.

“How is he?” Bruce asked as she finally emerged from the medical room. Alfred had offered to stay and watch the teen sleep in case any issues arose.

“Resting,” she sighed. Bruce and John were the only ones left in the cave, clearly having sent the children off to bed. She was a little surprised Jason wasn’t still around, after all, the teen had been clinging to the man when she arrived.

“Did he tell ya what he is?” John asked.

“Not exactly,” Leslie sighed. “He’s a meta, from a different world, and his powers aren’t agreeing with this one.”

“Why?” Bruce asked.

“He said there isn’t enough ambient ectoplasm here.”

“Ectoplasm?” John demanded. “Like from ghosts?”

“I don’t know,” Leslie breathed. “All I do know is that this is one of the worst cases of starvation I've ever seen. And according to Danny, he's been managing to get close to 2,000 calories a day. His powers are draining him, badly. He's not reacting well to the environment here.”

“What do we do?” Bruce asked. Leslie liked that about the man, he was always to the point.

“I want you to get as many calories into him as you can,” she explained. “We need him to put some weight back on, if he starts looking better, we can adjust, but for now, think of him like a starving speedster.”

“I’ll get Alfred on it,” Bruce said.

“He’s already on it,” Leslie said. “He was looking up recipes when I left.”

“So that’s the plan?” John demanded. “Just shoving food inta him? We can’t know that'll work!” John exclaimed.

“Why not?” Bruce asked. The brit turned to face the vigilante.

“He said he needs ectoplasm right? Normal food might not be a substitute!”

“It’s all we have,” Leslile interrupted before they could start really arguing. “His body is burning through more calories than he should be, meaning his powers are using them. The only thing we can do for now is feed them. John, you’re free to try to and find out what ectoplasm Danny needs and get it to him. Long term, it’s probably best if he gets back to his world.”

“I’ll work on it,” Bruce said. “Is there anything else?”

“Yes. I'm also concerned about neglect prior to him getting stranded here. He said some troubling things about his parents and his medical history. Keep an eye on his dysphoria too. We're actually lucky he lost so much weight because he hasn't taken the binder off in three weeks. Make sure he isn't hurting himself now that he has access to other things to bind with."

“Poor kid,” John muttered. Leslie nodded.

“I did offer to put him on testosterone,” she admitted.

“Is that safe?” Bruce asked, his worry clear in his voice.

“Not at his current weight, no,” she admitted. “I told him he needs to put on 10 pounds before I’ll write his prescription.”

“That still sounds unsafe,” John muttered. Leslie shrugged.

“He was worried about gaining weight restoring his hips,” she admitted. She knew it was a breach of patient confidentiality, but those rules only applied in situations where the patient wasn’t a risk to themselves. This wasn’t one of those times. “I would rather chance a few side effects than risk the boy not eating because he passes as male at his current weight.”

“Oh,” John muttered. “Yeah, I can see that.”

“I’ll keep an eye on him,” Bruce declared. “And I’m sure Tim will want to help.”

“Having another trans person to talk to will be beneficial,” Leslie agreed.

“What ‘bout the ectoplasm thing?” John said, bringing the conversation back around. “Maybe we ‘ave something in our world that’ll substitute.”

“Later,” Bruce said. “Once Danny has rested, we can sit down and make a plan with all the facts. For now, we all need rest. It’s late.”

“Agreed,” Leslie yawned. “I’m going to find a spare room and rest for a few hours before I have to get to the clinic. I assume Alfred won’t mind?”

“You’re both welcome to stay,” Bruce assured. “I might not be Alfred, but I do know which rooms are made up. Come on, I’ll show you.”

“Tomorrow then,” John muttered as he followed them up to the Manor.


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Chapter 15


(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text


Danny hadn’t had a lot of luck with school breaks since becoming a halfa. His summer breaks in particular had never ended well. He’d hoped that this year would be different. He’d mostly made peace with the ghosts in the Zone, and they rarely attacked at random any more. He’d even managed to convince Skulker to only attempt to collect his pelt on the weekends. So Danny had been looking forward to a calm summer for once, before Dash knocked on his door.

“What are you doing here?” Danny demanded. He was absolutely not in the mood to deal with his bully outside of school, he’d had enough of that for both his life times.

“Summer school,” Dash shoved past him into the living room, dropping a gym bag on the coffee table. The smell of gym shorts and locker room wafted off the bag, quickly filling the space.

“Pretty sure summer school takes place at school . Not my house,” Danny nearly snarled.

“Not this year,” Dash grinned down at him, the bastard had had a growth spurt over the last few months, and where he’d always been taller than Danny, now he rivaled his father in sheer size and bulk. And unlike Jack Fenton, Dash was all muscle.

“Why?” Danny demanded through grit teeth.

“I only failed science,” Dash shrugged, like failing a class was no big deal. Danny knew that wasn’t actually the case, the Jock actually had to maintain a C in his classes to stay on the football team. He must have barely been scraping by in science before if he’d managed to fail the class at the last minute.

“That doesn’t explain why you’re here,” Danny started to cross his arms, only to abort the motion and put his hands on his hips instead. The power pose did nothing to intimidate the jock however.

“I don’t have time to be stuck in a classroom all summer, Fen-turd,” Dash sneered. “So the school and I made a deal. I’d “intern” with your parents for a few weeks, and count that as a science credit.”

“What?!” Danny exclaimed. “No, no, no. No f*cking way.”

“Yes way,” Dash grinned. “I’ll hang out here for a few weeks, and still have time to bond with the team before summer is over.”

“There is no way my parents agreed to this!” Danny exclaimed.

“Dash! My boy!” Jack Fenton declared as he and Maddie emerged from the lab. Danny’s father threw an arm around Dash like they were old friends, and something inside Danny went colder than his core.

“Mr. Fenton!” Dash exclaimed, in a tone only reserved for his team mates.

“Please, call me Dad,” Jack asked. “It’s just weird to hear my name from such a fine young lad.”

Whatever the cold feeling inside Danny’s chest was, it roared into an inferno with his father’s words. He could not stand there and watch his father treat Dash like the son he’d never had.

“Dad! Do you even know why he’s here?” Danny asked.

“Of course dear,” his mom responded in a gentle tone. “He’s here to intern with us for the summer. It’s so nice to see young people interested in the science of ecto-entities these days.”

“He’s only ‘interning’ because he failed science!” Danny exclaimed.

“Now now Daniel,” Jack said, the use of his full name giving away his annoyance. “What are you always telling us when you fail a test?”

“That’s not,” Danny started, but was interrupted by his mother.

“You’re always telling us that schools don’t always teach things in a way that’s easy to understand,” his mom said, her arms crossed. “There’s nothing better than hands-on learning.”

“I have ADHD!” Danny threw his arms up in exasperation, and earned a glare from all three people currently towering over him. “Dash is just too busy goofing off in class to pay attention! I should know! He sits directly behind me!”

“Daniel Fenton!” his mother shouted. “You will apologize at once!”

“I am not apologizing to Dash !” Danny spat.

“Daniel!” his father scolded. All the while, Dash stood there, arms crossed, looking more smug than Danny had ever seen him. Somehow he knew that the jock had taken this option not because he liked the idea of working with Danny’s parents more than taking a summer school class, but rather because this way he wouldn’t miss out on a whole summer of tormenting Danny.

“Screw this, I’m out of here,” Danny announced. He stormed out of the house, his parents shouting for him to come back and apologize. He was not going to apologize for stating the truth. Sam and Tucker would have backed him up, but they were out of town for the week on some ‘rich people vacation’ that Danny only hadn’t gone on because they wouldn’t have wifi for cell service, and there was new Mars rover being launched in a few days that he hadn’t wanted to miss.

Now he was regretting his decision to stay behind, because with Jazz away on a college study trip, he had no one in his corner. As soon as he was out of sight of the house, he went ghost and took off. Even with the denizens of the Ghost Zone attempting to behave, there was usually one or two lurking around Amity Park, and Danny really wanted to hit something.

He found Desiree at the Mall. He wasn’t really sure why the ghost liked granting wishes so much. He figured it had to give her a power boost or an endorphin rush, or whatever the ghost equivalent of that was. He didn’t even mind her granting wishes really, but someone’s wish had caused all the trash cans to become sentient and eat anyone who put their recyclables in the trash. Sam would have approved, but Danny couldn’t let mostly innocent people be thrown away. Not recycling wasn’t a throw-away-able offense.

“Hey Desiree!” Danny called as he hovered above the mall fountain where the ghost was hiding. “I’ve got a wish for you!”

“I am not falling for that one again, Phantom,” Desiree purred as she unfurled herself from the bottom of the fountain like a sleepy serpent. “I can choose what wishes I grant you know, and you, unfortunately, have been too clever for your own good in days gone by.”

“So, if I say, I wish you would get inside this thermos?” Danny tried, uncapping the Fenton Thermos and pointing it at Desiree.

“Hah! That won’t work this time,” Desiree gloated, crossing her arms and looking smug.

“Too bad,” Danny mock sighed. “I guess I’ll have to actually put some effort in.”

“Yes, you will,” Desiree grinned viciously.

“Oh hey,” Danny muttered, looking at something behind the ghost. “Is someone using their coin to get a gumball instead of making a wish? I’m all for sugar, but that seems like a waste.”

“What!?” Desiree exclaimed and whirled around, looking for the gumball person, who Danny had made up. With her back turned, Danny activated the Fenton Thermos.

“You will regret that!” Desiree shrieked as she was sucked up.

“Come on Desiree. The ‘look behind you’ is the oldest trick in the book,” Danny laughed as he tossed the thermos up and down, the ghost trapped inside still whaling. “Though, I bet you’re even older, huh? Oh quit your whining. I’ll go put you back in the Ghost Zone, and you can spend some time thinking about how to get back at me.” Danny went intangible and flew through the roof of the mall, heading for home.

“Maybe work shop your plan a little though. Run it by some friends,” Danny suggested. He phased through his bedroom window and let his feet connect with the floor. He changed back and left his room, heading down to the basem*nt. His parents were usually out on their ‘ecto-entity patrol’ this time of day, so he wasn’t expecting company in the basem*nt.

“Hey Fen-tina!”

“Dash!” Danny startled, tripping on the last step and barely preventing himself from smashing his face into the floor. “Why aren’t you with my parents?”

Mom and Dad have me watching this important experiment,” Dash emphasized the family names just to rub in how much Danny’s parents liked him.

“That’s a beaker of unstable ectoplasm,” Danny pointed out, dread filling him. He absolutely hated Dash, but if his parents got the guy killed…

“Yeah, I know that,” Dash rolled his eyes.

“Then why are you stirring it?” Danny’s voice wavered as he watched the jock slowly stir the eerie green fluid. It was also over a bunsen burner, which just made it even more volatile.

“Because I was asked to,” Dash shot back. “God, Fenton, you aren’t the only one who can follow basic directions, you know.” The jock actually sounded a bit hurt, but the guy’s feelings were the last thing Danny was worried about. He needed to find a way to get Dash away from the ectoplasm before it exploded, because unstable ectoplasm liked to explode.

“I need you to listen to me Dash,” Danny said, trying to keep his voice calm and non confrontational. “You need to stop stirring that and get far away from it.”

“Why? So you can blame me for the experiment getting messed up?” Dash demanded. “f*ck off Fen-turd. I’m going to keep an eye on this thing like I was asked to do, and you aren’t going to mess this up for me, again!”

“Not the time Dash!” Danny exclaimed, losing his temper. “That sh*t is going to explode if you keep doing that!”

“No it’s not!” Dash yelled back, still stirring that beaker. Right on cue, the green fluid began to bubble and smoke dangerously.

“sh*t,” Dash swore as Danny tackled him to the ground, calling on his ghost strength to be able to move the much larger teen. They both crashed onto the unforgiving floor as the ectoplasm shattered the beaker and rocketed out, covering the walls, still smoking.

“The f*ck did you do?!” Dash demanded, scrambling to his feet and kicking Danny in the stomach. It was probably meant to be a light tap, but the Jock was f*cking strong and Danny wheezed at the blow.

“I… I just… just saved your ass!” Danny wheezed, trying to get his breath back.

“Yeah right,” Dash scoffed. “You did something to the experiment!”

“When would I have had time to do something to it?!” Danny demanded.

“Boys!” Maddie scolded as she and Jack appeared at the top of the stairs. “What in the world is going on down here?”

“Danny messed up the experiment!” Dash immediately exclaimed, pointing at Danny like they might not know who he was talking about. Two sets of furious eyes landed on Danny.

“What? I did not!” Danny said, his voice frantic. “You were using unstable ectoplasm! It explodes when agitated and…”

“Daniel!” his father boomed, effectively shutting him up. “I’ve had just about enough of you today. Go to your room. We will discuss this later.”

Danny didn’t have the energy to argue. He marched past his parents on the stairs, and headed for his room. He couldn’t even talk to Tucker and Sam about what was going on. It’d only been a day and he missed them like a missing limb, like someone had ripped out a chunk of his heart.

He collapsed on his bed and tried to breath, but each breath came out ragged and uneven. Now would usually be the time Sam would start playing with his hair, and Tucker would start rambling about some piece of code he’d written, or the newest PDA that was about to come out, and distract Danny from whatever spiral his thoughts had found themselves in. But he didn’t have them right now. He just had himself, and his parents who never listened, and Dash who lived to make his life more like hell. He just wanted a hug from his friends, was that too much to ask?

“Let me out!” Desiree whaled from the Fenton Thermos that was still in his hoodie pocket, reminding him that he hadn’t managed to get her back to the Ghost Zone. His parents were almost always down in the lab these days, limiting his access to the portal. And now with Dash down there, he wasn’t sure when he was going to be able to get her back. He couldn’t just let her out of the thermos, but leaving her in there was only going to piss her off more. There wasn’t anything he could do though, he’d just have to hope he’d get a lucky break.

Danny’s ‘punishment’ for ‘messing up Dash’s experiment’, was that he was banned from the lab. This shouldn’t have been a barrier to him, half ghost extraordinaire, as he could just phase through the floors and get into the lab that way, but every time he tried, someone was always there! He could have tried to put Desiree back while invisible, but the portal made a lot of noise when he put a ghost back, and Dash or his parents were sure to notice.

To top it all off, Dash didn’t just stay in the lab. He would raid their kitchen on the regular, or find some reason to seek Danny out with the sole purpose of f*cking with him. One time, Dash was in the middle of trying to dunk Danny’s head in the sink full of dirty water where Danny was busy trying to wash all the dishes Dash had used, when his parents walked in. Somehow, Dash had managed to manipulate the situation to make it look like Danny was the one picking a fight, and Danny had been made to clean all the bathrooms, including the hall one that Dash had been blowing up for several days.

Every night, after enduring his parents' scorn, and Dash’s tormenting, Danny had to listen to Desiree whaling from under his pillow, he hadn’t found a better place to stash the thermos. He kept it close to him all day in case he got a chance to put her back, so he couldn’t just stash her in a wall. He was just counting down the days until Sam and Tucker got home and he could finally have a shoulder to cry on and a hug. He really wanted a f*cking hug.

If you asked Sam, the weather was absolutely perfect. Raindrops slid down the car window she was propped against as she watched the small town flash by. She was tired and relieved to finally be heading home. The cabin in the woods with no reception and plenty of nature surrounding her and her parents had been a nice escape from society, although she did terribly miss Danny, who had opted out of the trip because of some space launch. Sam had relented and stopped trying to convince him after seeing the intense excitement on his face as he rambled about what the launch would entail.

She at least had been able to convince Tucker to come along. He’d cried the first day when he realized there wasn’t any cell tower in the vicinity and had only made it through the week thanks to ‘rich people amenities’ as he’d joked. They’d dropped him off at his house first and were now almost home.

As the giant mansion she called home zoomed into view and the car drove past the gates, she noticed something out of place on the steps. Her parents apparently did too, as her mom commented, “Isn’t that your little friend, Sammy?”

Danny was curled up on the steps, soaked and looking worse for wear, almost like he’d been waiting for a while. The car had barely stopped before she opened the door and sprinted through the rain to get to him.


Her friend lifted his head, his eyes red like he’d been crying. She crashed to her knees in front of him and pulled him into a hug. It was awkward with his knees pulled up to his chest, but he still melted against her, his breathing going ragged. She didn’t like it. Not a lot could upset him like this, not to the point that he cried in front of adults. Her thoughts raced as she tried to conjure up what could have left him like this. Had his parents found out about his ghost half? Was someone antagonizing him? Who did she have to put six feet under?

“H-hey Sam…” Danny finally managed and Sam had to put her murder plans aside for a moment. Danny needed her now, she could kill whoever made him like this later. She pulled away from the hug and held him firmly by the shoulders, knowing he needed the physical touch to keep him grounded.

“Danny, I’m so sorry… C’mon, let's get you inside.” Sam stood and grabbed his hand to help him up. When he stumbled on his legs like a newborn foal she covered her scowl with a smile. She wasn’t upset at him, but he wouldn’t know that. She quickly, and efficiently scooped him into a bridal-hold. It wasn’t like Danny weighed much since his accident and he didn’t protest, instead leaning into her and wrapping his arms around her neck for security.

“Sorry…” He mumbled softly into her collar bone and Sam glared at him now that he wasn’t looking at her.

“You don’t have to be sorry, but I’m gonna need to hear all about it,” Sam told him as she brought him inside. Her parents had watched wordlessly from the car, very aware of how protective she was for her friends. “Now, I’m gonna call Tucker and we’re going to have a hang out, ok?”


A quick phone call and not even five minutes later, Tucker arrived at the Manson mansion and helped Sam carry Danny to the in-home theater that her parents didn’t bother to even use anymore. It was the perfect spot to try and cheer Danny up and figure out what had happened, in her opinion.

Sam tossed Danny onto one of the oversized bean bags, ignoring all the sh*t like his phone that fell out of his hoodie pocket and onto the floor. She and Tucker quickly followed suit, managing to squeeze onto the bean bag with Danny, even if it was only meant for two people, Danny curled between them. He was currently wearing an older, dry NASA hoodie he kept at her house; He had spare clothes at both their houses for sleepovers or other possible situations where the need might arise.

Sam was already working her fingers through his hair in a way she knew the halfa found comforting. His hair was longer than he usually kept it, and in need of a haircut, but Jazz had always been the one to cut his hair, and he’d seemed reluctant to let anyone else get close to him with a pair of scissors. The extra length was perfect for viking braids, which Sam knew he liked after she’d mentioned one day how masculine they made him look.

On Danny’s other side, Sam watched as Tucker took one of Danny’s hands and started drawing shapes on the palm with his fingers. She knew it was some kind of personal code they’d come up with long before she met them, but they hadn’t yet let her in on it. She didn’t really mind being kept out of the loop, it was cute that they had something so personal like that.

After a few minutes of silently being there for and comforting their friend, Sam broke the silence with a simple but important question.

“Have you eaten?”

“.... Yes?” Danny didn’t sound convincing in the least. He didn’t even sound like he had convinced himself of his answer.

“Today?” Sam pushed for clarification. The silence that answered was enough and she sighed. She knew he had a tendency to forgo food when other things were more interesting, but he wasn’t usually this bad. “What even happened, Danny?”

Tucker stopped tracing secret symbols on Danny’s hand and pulled the halfa’s head to his chest, holding him close. The braid Sam had been working on slipped through her fingers, but she didn’t mention it.

“You know we’re here for you, man.” Tucker said softly. “You can tell us anything.” Danny practically melted into their warmth.

“Dash,” Danny finally breathed, and Sam stiffened, Tucker doing the same on Danny’s other side. “He’s been at my house all week. It was bad enough when I had to deal with him at school, but now I have to deal with him in my own home? For weeks?!” His eyes flashed green as he explained and Sam couldn’t help but stop for a moment to press a hand to his cheek, gently rubbing under his eye. Their eyes met and his expression softened, his eyes dimming a bit.

“Why is he even at your house?” Tucker, of course, couldn’t help but push, making Danny bristle again.

“Because he failed science,” Danny snarled. “So instead of summer school he worked it out so he’d just need to intern with my parents for a few weeks this summer. I’m not sure why they’d even allow that, but he’s been at my house every day now.” Danny lamented, closing his eyes.

Sam shared a look with Tucker over their friend's head, a mischievous smile mirrored between them as they both rolled fully on top of Danny shouting “Cuddle pile!”

Danny yelped from under them. “Guuuuuuys!” He whined but Sam could see he wasn’t frowning anymore.

“Oh no, my bones seemed to have turned to jello,” Sam lamented with false seriousness. “I guess I’m stuck here now, on top of this oddly Danny-shaped pillow.” She pretended to go limp, Tucker, who was draped over Danny’s legs, followed her example and they were rewarded with giggles from the halfa.

“Feel better?” Tucker grinned, propping himself up so he could see Danny rolling his eyes at them.

“A little,” Danny admitted, wrapping his arms around the two of them the best he could from his captive position under the cuddle pile. His face was a little red as he grinned, “It helps that I have the two best people in the world here.”

“Ew, affection.” Sam joked, but didn’t pull away. “C’mon Danny, we can probably fix it. I’m sure if I promise my parents I’ll go with them to their next gala event or something, they’ll probably let me keep you in the guest room until Dash is done interning with your parents.”

“And if not, you know my parents wouldn’t mind either,” Tucker reminded, propping himself up a little more so he could pull a PDA out of his pocket, probably already making a schedule of stuff to do at his house. Neither was ready to release Danny from the cuddle pile prison yet though. “The offer’s always been there, my parents know how yours are and if Dash is making it worse…. They’d be more than happy for us to steal you away.”

Danny sighed from under them, but Sam could tell he was doing better now. She really did love him and Tucker, they had all been through so much between Danny’s accident, the ghosts, her rallies and activism, Tucker’s increasing creativity with electronics, and of course surviving highschool. The three of them could take on anything, she was sure of that.

“I know,” Danny said after a moment. “But man, every time I see Dash or he even looks my way, all I can think is how much I wish I was in another world, as far as possible from him. A world without Dash sounds so good.”

“So you have wished it, so it shall be.”

Tucker was maybe not as surprised as he should have been when Danny was suddenly gone, just a cold indent in the bean bag underneath him where his friend had just been. He pushed himself up to sitting, looking around while Sam did the same.

“Pfft, very funny Danny,” Sam finally said, eyes squinted slightly as if that would help her spot an invisible Danny.

“Yeah, very over dramatic,” Tucker chuckled. Danny was being a little mean if he was being honest, normally Danny would pop back into visibility after a moment with a half-baked ‘Boo.’

It was quiet for a minute longer and Tucker shared a look with Sam, the worry obvious on her face. “That’s enough Danny, quit it.”

“Buddy?” Tucker tried, waving a hand around as if he might be able to grab for an invisible limb or feel a cold spot, but there was nothing.

“Seriously Danny, you’re scaring me.” Sam clenched her fists and Tucker knew she was going to kill him again if he popped out now saying ‘sike’.

Danny didn’t do that though, he didn’t do anything. Suddenly, it was like Tucker couldn’t think, like without Danny, he was missing a vital piece of his brain. He couldn’t feel anything, just a cold numbness that swept through him.

“Tucker…. I think he’s gone.” Sam was shaking as she admitted aloud the same conclusion he’d already arrived at.

This was normally where his thoughts would start racing, overlapping and eclipsing previous thoughts as he tried to figure out what had just happened, what they were supposed to do, what the plan was. But none of that happened. Danny wasn’t there and he didn’t know how to think anymore. Danny couldn’t just disappear, Danny always came back. So where was he now?

“What do we do?” Tucker asked, his voice flat, his mind numb.

“I don’t know,” Sam said, tears filling her eyes. “I feel like a piece of my soul just got torn out. But we have to find him.”

“Y…yeah,” Tucker agreed shakily. He stood and started to look around the room. He could do this, he could look for clues. They would find their friend, no matter where he had gone. They would find him, and then they were never letting him out of their sight again. Never, f*cking, ever.


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Chapter 16


Sorry for the long wait! More notes at the end.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Second Monday, Afternoon

“Five more minutes, Jazz…” Danny mumbled when a gentle hand started shaking his shoulders. He flapped his hand through the air, trying to bat at his sister and get her to leave him alone. The gentle tug of something in his arm alerted him that something was off. He opened his eyes and had to blink several times before his surroundings came into focus. A solid rock ceiling greeted him, quickly followed by the kind face of Alfred, grounding him back to the reality he was currently in. Right, not home.

“I’m sorry to wake you dear boy, but I believe a shower, a proper meal, and an actual bed are in order.” Alfred’s gentle smile held no trace of malice or falsehood and thoroughly convinced Danny that this man was too kind for the world.

“That sounds amazing, actually,” Danny sighed while Alfred went about disconnecting him from the IV and whatever machines seemed to be taking readings from him. If he wasn’t so tired, he would have been bombarding the man with questions about how his vitals compared to a normal person, he’d never dared let anyone check before. But he didn’t have the energy to ask as the older man finally helped him sit up and led him out of the medical room.

He did his best to keep pace with Alfred, who still had to pause every few feet to let Danny catch up. He didn’t rush him though, which the halfa appreciated. His eyes darted around the cave, taking in all the strange bits of tech that lined the walls. It seemed nobody else was around now, which he was thankful for. He knew they were all curious about him, but this way he had a little more time to figure out how to tell them his story. And Alfred himself seemed nice enough to not probe as he led Danny into an elevator that took them out of the cave and into what Danny figured was a mansion. If the shear height of the ceilings wasn’t proof enough of that, all the expensive decor gave it away. It kind of reminded him of Sam’s home, almost. Her manor had been a lot more modern than this one, with tasteful (boring) paintings on the walls. This place felt much more lived in.

There were many portraits hung up that he couldn't help but pause to look at. He recognized some of the faces as the people from the family he’d met so far, but then there were the unfamiliar ones. There was a younger, scowling face among the ones he didn’t immediately recognize, and it took him a moment to realize it was probably Robin. Those domino masks weren't perfect, but if he hadn’t already known one of the kids on the wall was Robin, he probably wouldn’t have recognized him.

“So… do you fight crime too, Alfred?” Danny couldn’t help but blurt into the quiet, but the elder man just chuckled.

“I’m afraid not. Not in the way I imagine you are thinking. Come along now, the rooms are just up here.” Alfred led him away from the family pictures, up a grand staircase, and down several halls before stopping at an ornate door.

“Here we are,” Alfred opened the door to reveal a very elegant room with the biggest, comfiest looking bed Danny had ever seen. It was probably bigger than Sams. “This guest room has an en suite bathroom, so you may shower. I’ll have some spare clothes prepared for you by the time you are finished.”

Danny didn’t need to be told twice. The moment Alfred left him alone in the room, he practically ran for the bathroom, dying to wash several weeks worth of Gotham grime from his skin.

Hot water had been one of the things he’d missed the most about not having access to actual plumbing and Danny very much doubted that a multi-billionaire like Bruce Wayne would mind too much if he ran the water at the hottest temperature. He doubted the mansion would run out or anything, rich people didn’t usually have to worry about stuff like that. So he let himself enjoy the heat while he did his best to try to clean off all the grime and funk he’d accumulated from sleeping on the street.

When he finally left the bathroom wrapped up in one of the fluffy bathrobes that had been hanging off the back of the door, he spotted a lump on the bed that hadn’t been there before. Upon closer inspection, it was a neatly folded pile of clothes with a familiar raccoon plush sitting guard on top. As he dug through the pile to see what he’d been left, he almost started crying again. In his hands was a very well loved NASA hoodie, softer than he remembered it and smelling pleasantly of clean laundry.

Scratch that, the moment he pulled the hoodie over his head Danny did cry a little. He thought he’d lost his final link to home, but here it was. As he ran his hands down the sleeves, he found there were even some delicate patch jobs, fixing the rips and tears the hoodie had acquired while in Gotham.

A knock at the door sent a small pang of panic shooting through him before his brain caught up with him and reminded him it was probably Alfred.

”One minute,” he managed to choke out as he wiped his eyes and finished getting dressed in the provided clothes. Only the hoodie was his; he had a feeling the rest of the clothes belonged to Red Robin (Tim?). They both had similar builds. He hadn’t been given a binder, not that he had expected one. It hardly mattered though, with his weight loss and baggy hoodie, the dysphoria wasn’t bad.

Only once he was dressed he did allow Alfred to come in. The man was balancing a tray with a bowl of soup and a glass of water. Danny’s stomach growled at the rich smell and he was thankful that Alfred didn’t comment on it as he set the food down on the mahogany desk and left. The privacy was appreciated as Danny sat at the desk and downed the soup. It was probably the best soup he’d ever had, rich and creamy. He couldn’t quite place what kind of soup but he didn’t care as he emptied the bowl.

When he was done, he eagerly eyed the bed. He still felt so tired and Alfred had mentioned he should sleep more.

His head had barely hit the pillow before he found sleep again.

Second Monday, Evening

The next time Alfred woke him up, Danny asked for five more minutes just because it had been the best sleep he’d gotten since, well, even before his accident if he was honest with himself. The elder man was patient with him and after he collected himself, Alfred informed him it was already dinner time. Danny’s stomach growled at the promise of food, so he dragged himself out of bed. Alfred led him out of the room and through the twisting halls of the manor.

Danny took note of specific paintings and decorations as he followed along, trying to commit a mental map of the manor to memory. He was aware he’d probably still get lost, but the survivor in him had to at least try to figure out the layout.

The labyrinth finally opened up into a vast dining room with a table long enough to accommodate the many seated at it.

Bruce was the first one to spot him entering with Alfred, turning away from his conversation and greeting him with a surprisingly enthusiastic, “Danny!” Danny could practically feel the hamsters running on wheels in his head as he tried to process that this weirdly bubbly man was actually Batman. Did he really ramble about the stars to the billionaire known to adopt kids who look like him?

“Wait until the boy has eaten before you bombard him with your inquiries,” Alfred said in what seemed to be a preemptive measure as several people at the table closed their mouths and turned their attention back to their food. Bruce, however, still seemed like he was going to ask a question before Alfred shot the man a look of warning so dark Danny mentally added Alfred to the list of people to never get on the bad side of.

Danny's eyes wandered down the table, spotting an empty seat next to Constantine at the far end of it. The brit gave him a friendly little wave. He didn’t think twice before he darted around the table and sat next to the man, grinning up at him when the brit patted his shoulder affectionately. Danny turned his attention to the food spread out before them. The aroma of the food was divine and he really did have to resist the urge to just start shoveling it into his face. He doubted that would be appreciated, plus he still vividly remembered the last time he accidentally ate plasticware so he didn’t dare tempt fate this time.

If he ate a little too fast, thankfully nobody commented on it. Once he felt like he couldn’t fit any more food in himself, he became aware of the eyes on him. He did promise he’d tell them his story, hadn’t he?

“So uh, yeah… That’s most of it,” Danny finished, trying to decide if he’d forgotten any details. Ghost fighting? Dash? Ghost Genie? Yeah, he was pretty sure he nailed everything.

“Thank you for telling us all that,” Bruce looked almost lost in thought as he added, “I just have a few questions, if you’re up for them.”

“Shoot,” Danny nodded, vaguely wondering if there was something obvious he’d forgotten to go over.

“Do you know how Desiree sent you here?” Bruce asked.

“Oh, I told you, I wished it and-”

“I’m sorry, I think you misunderstood. I mean, do you know by what mechanism her magic works?” Bruce clarified and it took Danny a moment to realize what he was really asking.

“I’ve never really thought about it before. I just know it’s magic of some kind, stuff just happens like animating objects, giving people powers, or even changing past events according to Sam,” Danny explained, ticking off points on his fingers as he explained what little he did know about Desiree’s powers. “If she didn’t have to rely on others’ wishes, she could probably be one of the strongest ghosts.”

“Except, magic don’t work like that, kid,” Constantine cut in. “Ya can’t just send someone to an unconnected universe without a bloody f*ck ton of power.” Constantine pointed out, frowning softly.

“Unconnected?” Danny scrunched his face up in confusion.

“Yeah. Like Hell, which I visit a lot on business, is technically ‘nother dimension. It’s just easy to access ‘cause it and our dimension are interconnected,” Constantine explained.

“Oh, like the Ghost Zone and my world!” Danny felt hope rise in his chest as understood what the Brit was getting at.

“Exactly. So unless your Desiree is one of the most powerful entities in the multiverse…”

“Unlikely.” Danny snorted.

“She probably utilized a pre-established connection between our dimensions.” Constantine finished, shrugging.

“That just leaves the question of what that connection is, then.” Tim pointed out.

“John, any ideas?” Bruce asked as he slipped into the batman persona Danny was more familiar with. It was almost magical watching the transition happen as that vapid look in his eye vanished.

“A few,” Connie hedged. “I'll have to ask around. In the meantime, I'll see if I can't learn more 'bout ectoplasm and see if our world 'as a substitute.” Danny hoped the man was successful, he wasn’t sure how long he would survive without a source of ectoplasm, even if he got enough calories to sustain his ghost half, there was no way to know if he was missing some vital vitamin only found in the green goop.

“I'll contact the Justice League,” Bruce said with the same tone someone might announce they were about to go grocery shopping. It sent Danny’s head spinning. “One of the other members might know something.”

“Good. Come 'ere kid,” Connie dragged Danny nearly into his own lap as he wrapped him up in a hug. “This man can be a bloody idiot, but he's good people. He's also f*cking rich, so don't ya dare think you're a burden. Let em look after ya, get better, and I'll do whatever I can ta get ya home.

“Thanks,” Danny said, sitting back in his own chair. “For everything.”

Constantine rolled his eyes. “Here,” he murmured, handing Danny a familiar bag of candy. “Don't overdo it. I don't know if you'll have any negative side effects. If I'd known you weren't from this world I would 'ave never given em to ya in the first place,” he admitted.

“What are those?” Jason asked, speaking up for the first time that evening as he leaned over the table trying to see what Danny now cradled in his lap.

“Spirit candy,” Connie said shortly.

“Is that, safe?” Jason asked, looking unsure.

“I haven't had anything bad happen with them,” Danny shrugged. He really didn’t want them taking the candies away. If he needed to use his powers for anything, he was going to have to rely on the candies. He really hoped he wouldn’t need his powers, but his luck was never that good.

“They're like an energy supplement to spirits and ghosts,” Connie explained. “Don't have any effect on humans though.”

“Just be careful with them,” Bruce allowed.

“I will,” Danny said firmly, tucking the bag securely in his hoodie pocket.

“Well then, I’m off,” Connie said, standing from his chair.

“Where are you going?” Danny said, feeling frantic. Connie was the only one here who he felt he actually knew. He didn’t want to be left on his own yet.

“I’m gonna try to figure out how ya came ta be here,” Connie explained. “You need this ectoplasm stuff, and it don’t seem ta exist in this world.”

“You’re leaving me?” Danny gasped, feeling tears threatening in his throat. He really, really didn’t want to cry again, but it had been a long few weeks.

“Bruce has my phone number,” Connie said gently. “Get him ta give it ta ya once he gets ya a phone.” And with that, Connie ruffled his hair one last time and disappeared into the shadows, leaving Danny feeling unbalanced once again.

Once Connie left, Alfred took Danny back up to his room and he passed out the moment his head hit his pillow. When he woke next, it wasn’t to someone urging him up. Instead, it was to sunlight streaming through the window onto his face. He actually felt a bit rested for the first time in ages, and he sat up with a yawn.

The clock on his bedside table said it was seven am, and there was a note written in an elegant hand. It was clearly from Alfred and it said that he should come down to the kitchen when he was awake. There was also a small pile of granola bars near the note and Danny felt his stomach growl at the sight.

He was getting sick of being hungry all the time, but at least now he was going to have as much food available as he could eat. He swung his feet out of bed and grabbed one of the bars, ripping into it as he headed for the door. As he took a bite of the chocolatey snack, he turned around and grabbed the other two off the table, shoving them in his hoodie pocket with the candy Connie had given him.

Fully stocked, he headed out into the rest of the manor. Immediately, he felt lost. He thought the kitchen was to the right, but even though he’d tried to memorize the path, the manor was a maze and he already felt lost.

His panic was alleviated when he spotted Tim stumbling out of a room across the hall and starting to walk away. He easily caught up to the other teenager and was about to try talking to him when he caught sight of the vacant but familiar look on Tim’s face. He was less than thrilled to realize it was an expression he was used to seeing on his own face after a particularly eventful night of ghost fighting. He doubted the guy had even slept.

During the entire journey through the manor, he debated whether or not to ask the zombie if he was ok, but didn’t get the chance before they reached their mutual destination, the kitchen.

“Ah! Good morning, Master Tim. Master Danny.” Alfred’s cheerful greeting was a sharp contrast to the tiredness that Tim radiated. Danny noticed that it wasn’t just Alfred bustling around the state of the art kitchen, but Jason was also there, cooking something that smelled heavenly and provoked a small growl from Danny’s stomach.

Tim grumbled something in response to Alfred’s greeting that even Danny’s hearing couldn’t pick up, before the zombie sat down at the kitchen table, head dropping to meet the surface.

“Master?” Danny questioned, though he couldn’t quite take his eyes off Tim’s disastrous state. Was this why Sam and Tucker were always worried about him?

“Don’t even try to argue with him. It’s his thing,” Jason piped up, pulling out mugs from a cabinet and setting them on the counter with a sharp clink that nearly caused Danny to flinch.

“Okayyy…” Danny gave in. He didn’t particularly mind the weird honorifics, he just hadn’t been expecting it. He could put up with it, for Alfred.

“Please, come sit and I will have breakfast prepared shortly. Do you prefer tea or coffee?” Alfred asked, with a smile so genuine that it made Danny believe the older man wasn’t seeing him as an inconvenience and it warmed his heart a little.

“Coffee, please,” Danny answered as he pulled out the chair next to Tim and sat at the table.

Jason arrived with a big mug too quickly to be his requested coffee, carefully reaching out and placing the mug in front of Tim. The first actual sign of life from Tim were his hands shooting out to latch onto the mug at the same time that Jason retracted his as if he’d been burned.

“Is he okay?” Danny couldn’t help but ask, earning a chuckle from Jason.

“Yeah. He’s just addicted to caffeine and doesn’t sleep enough. Give him a minute and he’ll rejoin us in the land of the living,” Jason explained, sneaking a hand to ruffle Tim’s hair slightly. If the zombie noticed, he didn’t show it as he continued to nurse his coffee.

Alfred cleared his throat to catch their attention. “My dear boy, you do not have any allergies, do you?”

Danny hesitated for a moment as he thought the question over before answering, “No.”

Alfred raised an eyebrow at him and Danny realized he probably hadn’t answered quick enough. “Is there something you’d rather not eat then?”

“I’m not really into toast?” Danny admitted quicker, rubbing his neck as he debated whether to mention what was really bothering him.

“Then we shall avoid that,” Alfred nodded at him. “Is there anything else?”

“Well…” Danny sighed softly, relenting. “I doubt it will come up, and it’s not really an allergy…”

“If it pertains to your health, then I would prefer to be informed.” Alfred’s gentle tone assured that he wasn’t angry with him, just looking out for him. Danny knew this but still hesitated, too used to keeping anything about his ghost half a secret.

“There’s a species of rose that I don’t react well to,” Danny finally admitted, wrapping his arms around himself in a facsimile of a hug. “Rosa Foliis Tenebris. Some of the common names are Blood Rose and Blood Blossom.” Blood Blossoms were rare in his world and he hoped that rang true in this one.

“I am unfamiliar with that species.” Alfred informed him and Danny exhaled deeply, settling his arms back in his lap. “We have several rose plants on the property however, so it will do you well to check for any.”

“They’re really easy to spot, they have black leaves,” Danny informed him.

“In that case, I believe we are safe. But it will still do to check the premises.” Alfred gave him another comforting smile and Danny was sure in that moment he could get used to the elder man giving him such gentle affection.

“Here,” Jason had at least given him an audible warning at his approach before placing a tray in front of him with coffee and a bowl of oatmeal with fruit. “I’d have given you more, but Alfred said you gotta slow. Sorry, Racoon.”

“If you are still hungry after that, I will prepare you some eggs. I know we must do our best to feed you as much as we are able, but refeeding syndrome is not pleasant.” Alfred clarified as Jason served the rest of the meals to the table, which looked far more appetizing than his own. Tim got a plate of bacon and pancakes, and similar meals were set out before the other seats. One of the servings of bacon looked suspiciously like the tofu bacon Sam had once tricked Tucker into trying. That little joke had not ended well, but had still been hilarious.

“Good morning!” the loud, cheerful voice of Dick announced as he bounded into the kitchen. “Morning baby bird!” he cheered as he roughly ruffled Tim’s hair, far more openly than Jason had.

“Morning Master Dick,” Alfred greeted.

“Morning Alfie! Morning Jay!” Dick continued.

“dickhe*d,” Jason grumbled around a mouthful of pancake.

“Morning Danny,” Dick held out his hand above Danny’s head like he wanted to ruffle his hair, but was waiting for something. Dick tilted his head and Danny realized he was waiting for permission. Danny quickly tilted his head toward the man’s hand and got an enthusiastic, but far more gentle than Tim’s, hair ruffled. He leaned into the contact, and had to stop himself from whining when it was over. He’d always been a tactile person, something he’d been rather deprived of these last few weeks.

“Wait, Danny?” Tim muttered, finally looking up from his coffee and staring wide eyed at Danny.

“Hi,” Danny said, waving at the other teen awkwardly. Tim seemed to pause for a second, and Danny could almost see the calculations going on behind the guy’s eyes as his brain tried desperately to reboot. Finally, some life returned to his expression and he smiled.

“f*ck yeah! Now I’m not the only trans person in this damn house!” Tim cheered. It was not what Danny had been expecting him to say, and clearly none of the others had expected it either, as everyone seemed to pause.

“Team trans?” Danny said awkwardly, and offered his fist to bump. It took the still clearly half awake teen’s eyes a second to focus on Danny’s fist, but once he did, he grinned and attempted to bump it. Danny still had to meet him halfway, but he didn’t mind. Even if he was currently a zombie, Danny could tell he was going to like spending time with Tim, preferably once the guy had gotten some actual sleep.


A lot has happened, dear readers, since we last met. We were only going to take a brake from this story for NaNoWrMo, but then the seasonal depression hit both authors, and we decided to wait for warmer weather and sunnier days to return. Also during this time, both authors discovered they are actually systems, whoo! Plural life! Also, one of Domesticated Opossums' cats had to have surgery for swallowing a piece of rope she chewed off a furniture cover. She is 100% recovered and doing great, but boy that was a scare.

Hoping to update more frequently now that spring is here! In the meantime, come join our discord!!!

Barely Surviving in a World Antithetical to My Existence - DomesticatedOpossum, Vampirenote13 (2024)


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