Notes: AU where Tim Drake doesn’t kill the Joker after getting kidnapped and going insane, but Dick does. I wasn’t sure if I should post this on ao3, so I’ll put it here for now.
He wasn’t a murderer. He wasn’t a sadist. The flesh piling above the carving knife with the snap of skin layer after skin layer had caused the bile to bubble inside him; it was something he never wanted to experience again. The smile that had rested on his face when he walked out of the warehouse wasn’t because of those lifeless, bloodshot eyes but because those bloodshot eyes were lifeless. No man, no woman, no child would have to stare into the catacombs behind those dilated pupils aside from behind closed eyelids in nightmares and distant memories.
His thoughts didn’t make sense anymore and his sentences jumbled together like one long stream of connected nothingness, making as much sense as the steady string of dark red spit that fell from the clown’s mouth to dilute the acid yellow vomit pooled beneath his neck.
He’d killed. He was a killer. There were nights he wondered if Tim was the sane one in this world and he himself was sitting in a padded room somewhere, drawing pictures of dead clowns for his walls.
On the off chance he was living, on the off chance he was sane and what had just happened actually existed in recorded history, he wasn’t ashamed of his actions. He’d been willing to unbalance himself endlessly if it meant stopping that bastard from hurting innocents ever again. That monster slaughtered for sport. Laughed at suffering like a giggling infant. Looked at death like it a children’s cartoon.
That was what separated killers like Dick Grayson from murderers like the Joker.
Barbara was the first to come. She’d knocked on his door his and when he opened the door to find her and not the pizza delivery guy, he froze.
He couldn’t decide between falling to his knees or slamming the door and finally pulled her inside before shutting the door and sitting down with his back to the wood. After a moment, she nodded. Sat down beside him. Embraced him.
“I saw the body,“ she said. “It’ll be fine,” she said. “I’m with you,” she said. “I’ve got you,” she said.
Honestly, Bruce was probably the first to actually know. Not two days had passed before the story was leaked from the Gotham Police and the news began running headlines like CLOWN PRINCE FOUND MURDERED,BATMAN SUSPECTED MURDERER MURDERER MURDERER JOKER’S LAST LAUGH LAUGH LAUGHING MURDER MURDER MURDER MURDER BAT FINALLY SNAPS MURDER MURDE-
It wasn’t. It wasn’t a murder.
The criminals don’t think so, though. The crime report for the month hasn’t come out yet, but he’d bet his salary that it’s less than half of what it was before.
No more bank robberies, no more child sex rings, no more assassinations. Gotham and Bludhaven are dead quiet, ironically.
Bruce hasn’t called. Dick knows that he knows, though. He has eleven missed calls from Steph and the world’s greatest detective isn’t often beat to the punchline by a teenage girl.
Jason is there, one night. On his couch, the bathroom steams and a towel is thrown halfassed on the hallway floor. He stops a moment, a phantom pain in his neck from their first encounter after the Lazarus incident, but then he’s sitting on the couch beside his brother. The TV blares with a shitty movie, and a pizza box is open on the coffee table. Without a word, he grabs the beer bottle lying in Jason’s right hand and takes a sip.
Someone leaks photos of the crime scene; Dick hears the news at work.
When he goes out for patrol that night, Jason stays home.
“No deals to worry about,” he mutters. “Everyone’s shittin’ their pants, scared they’ll get a carving knife to the face if they do anything.”
The first time he visits Tim since the Joker’s death is worse than the first time he visited ever.
Tim doesn’t talk still, and his gaze never leaves the wall even after Dick says hi and awkwardly hugs his brother. He’s got bandages on his wrists that weren’t there before and Dick recognizes the nonsensical papers that Tim once stapled to the walls were now taped.
Leslie had left after walking Dick to Tim’s room, but he knows they aren’t alone. He can’t see the cameras, but he knows Bruce is listening in. Probably Leslie too, being his doctor, but definitely Bruce. Despite that, he talks about that night. The beginning, the end.
There are many that night’s. That night his parents fell. That night Bruce fired him. That night Jason died. That night Tim was found. That night- that night he killed the Joker. They all have a beginning, and end. But he doesn’t specify the date, or what he was doing beforehand. He doesn’t need to, these things are always balanced from one conversation to the next.
He tells Tim how the muscle underneath that bleached skin wasn’t anything different from their own. The vocal chord was average, the bones were average, the blood was average. Fucking average. That thought alone disgusts him more than the faded sound of the quick snapping of his jaw like a whip striking an old wooden floor board. The pasty peeled skin from his heels was wrapped loosley along the narrow end or a crowbar and forced down his throat. The sound of thick hot blood, spit and skin stirring and sloshing around in that slack mouth as his pliers peeled a fuzzy, yellow tooth from dark red gums with a gentle tug of his wrist. The thought that underneath the purple pin up and starchy skin, behind that scarlet smile and a besetted brand there was nothing more than the nuts and bolts of the everyday model man made the task even harder to complete.
He jumps from one thought to the next, his words don’t make sense and he feels like the crazy one in this situation.
He tells Tim about the sound a hammer makes when it cracks a skull. It’s gooey and wet, the slit he makes runs deep and through, he thinks maybe he can see the brain, but then the dark crimson blood starts staining his gloved fingers and he yanks back, flipped skin still in his grip before his arm flexes and two pieces of bleached scalp and acid green hair fall to the ground with a repulsive ‘plop.’
The words go from a memory to a story and all past tense endings leave his sentences and he’s there. He’s there. The Joker is there. It’s that night all over again.
He wonders if Tim sees what he sees, or if he’s living his own hell on repeat, detatched from this reality.
He tells Tim about the images he can’t get out of his head, about the nightmares that keep him up at 3 am, leaving his coffee stock on empty and his bed a mess.
He tells Tim about Jason, who is there every night. He tells Tim about what it’s like to be held without a constant need for reassurance. He knows this is the end, he’ll never be the same. He knows that these nights will become habit. Jason smokes when he wants to forget, and Dick’s apartment now permanently smells like cigarettes.
He knows he shouldn’t say anything. He should just grab a handful of crayons and draw. He knows, but he doesn’t.
Tim is in there somewhere and Dick talks with his brother, not with his shell. When he leaves, he goes to hug the kid, and he’s still staring at the wall. Tim hasn’t looked away, maybe he never will. He grabs the keys Leslie gave him from his pocket as he stands, and suddenly hands and twisting his wrists, clawing for the small piece of metal. metal. Feral eyes meet his own, and sleeves are beings pulled apart with childlike precision. The key slides under the gauze before Dick is standing and shouting.
“Tim! Tim!” He says. “Tim!” He says it again. “Tim!” He manages to pull one wrist away from the other, and it’s too easy. Too easy. It shouldn’t be this easy- it shouldn’t be so easy. This is Tim. This is Tim.
Leslie is by his side in a second and he’s being shoved out of the room.
He doesn’t say goodbye.
When he gets home, he checks his phone. Bruce hasn’t called. Jason is on the couch and says they’re out of beer. He nods, he’ll get some from the market.
When he pulls on his Nightwing suit for patrol that night, Jason is still lying on the couch.
“I ordered pizza,” he shouts from across the apartment. “Get your ass out of the suit and come over here, I’ve got the shit comedy channel on and our new stash of beer.”
He hesitates between slamming the bedroom door and laying down sleep on the bed and eventually compromises after taking off the suit and pulling on a pair of sweatpants. Walking out, he shuts the bedroom door behind him and sits down on the couch on top of Jason’s legs, who takes up all three cushions.
He checks his phone before climbing into bed that night, and has no new messages.
When he wakes up at 3 am with teary eyes and sweat dripping down his forehead, Jason is there to hold him and the phone stays silent.
Jason prided himself in being a man of great literary tastes.
Therefore, this had to be done.
“What the hell are you doing, Todd?”
Jason hesitated for a mere second before continuing to pull books from Damian’s personal bookshelves. “Doing what needs to be done. Look at this!” he cried dramatically, but with a hint of anger. “Aristotle? Plato?!”
Damian’s brows furrowed into a pout and he walked further into his room. “What is wrong with Plato and Aristotle? They were both respected and brilliant philosophers-,”
“In ancient Greece!” the older brother turned and almost slammed the thick volumes on the table behind him before whirling around and resuming his job, almost hellbent now. “No modern literature!”
“Well, I don’t generally find the concept of dystopian futures and ridiculous love triangles to be very appealing, Todd, so no-,”
“You haven’t even gotten any Romantics!” Jason threw his hands in the air, sounding offended. “How on earth do you not have any Romantics?!”
Damian’s frown deepened and he stepped closer, picking up one of the discarded books and running his hand over the cover. “I read Frankenstein, Todd, and honestly, why is it that much of a concern to you-,”
“Frankenstein is Gothic you brat.” The man snapped, throwing more books onto the table in exasperation. His expression turned sour when he returned to the shelves before him, hand skimming down three whole rows with a scowl. “Shakespeare. More Shakespeare.”
“I will have you know, Todd, that William Shakespeare was a brilliant author and you have no right to disrespect him in such a manner!” the 13-year-old barely caught the 2 special edition sonnet books that Jason tossed backward before they flew across the room. “He is-,”
“And, oh look! More Shakespeare!” Jason interrupted again, earning a grumpy huff from his younger sibling.
“I like the wordsmith.” Damian rolled his eyes and gently, almost lovingly, placed the thin novels on the table with the others. He looked up to find Jason grabbing several more volumes into his arms and looking over the next few rows.
“Read some goddamn Thoreau, you literary piece of shit.” He snapped, eyebrows furrowing in disgust. “Better yet, Hemingway. Anthony Burgess, that’s some weird shit. You’d probably like that.”
The boy sighed, stomping up next to his older brother and placing his arms outstretched. “Give me back my Shakespeare, Todd.”
“Are these History books?!” Jason asked, voice going up an octave in disbelief.
“You read these for leisure?!” He sounded on the verge of a breakdown.
Damian crossed his arms. “Mother has always taught me to know the valuable knowledge of this world, and that includes their history.”
Jason slowly turned his head towards his little brother, eyes narrowed in anger. He growled; He would not have his little brother so unexposed to good literature! Talia had brainwashed him with all this non-fiction stuff, he needed some good fantasy! “Your mother is a monster!”
Damian rolled his eyes again. “I do believe that has been greatly accepted in this family, Todd, but this is the first time I am hearing it being used to insult my knowledge of “modern” literature.”
“You have 5 copies of Dracula?!” Jason slammed the Shakespeare novels on Damian’s bed and shuffled through the books with vigor. Suddenly, he drew away and cast a glance to his little brother. “You’ve read Jane Eyre?”
His green eyes became unamused. “Once. Never again.”
“The Great Gatsby, The Odyssey, the Tale of Two Cities, Sherlock Holmes, Charles Dickens, The Art of War?!” Jason scoffed, throwing his hands in the air. “All of these classics!”
“I thought you liked classical literature, Todd,” Damian said pointedly. “Father told me that when you were a child you greatly enjoyed the times when he or Pennyworth would read them to you. Why are you so upset about me having them?”
“I am not upset that you have them, Short Stop.” He hissed. “I am upset that you have them and not other books!”
“What other books, Todd?”
Jason was appalled. He knew that Damian had been raised with a bit of a traditional childhood, but he didn’t know that it was this severe.
Gesturing to the bookshelves, he almost shouted, “Harry Potter! Percy Jackson! Some Narnia maybe?”
“Narnia is not a modern series, Todd,” Damian added with another eye roll. “It was written by C. S. Lewis in the 1940’s and was-,”
“More modern than these!” Jason interrupted. His eyes raked over the last few books in Damian’s collection and his heart puttered to a stop. Realization hit him and he turned, ever so slowly, almost without breathing, and whispered. “Tolkien.”
The newly teen raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“WHERE THE FUCK IS TOLKIEN?”
“Are those the books that you were so enthusiastic about as a child-,”
“HOW THE EVERLIVING FUCK CAN YOU NOT HAVE TOLKIEN?”
“I do believe that you are overreacting, Todd. They’re merely books.”
Jason froze, completely, arms outstretched in anger and eyes wide.
How dare he.
“We’re going to the bookstore,” Jason stated, grabbing Damian’s hand and dragging him towards the door. “We are going to fix this atrocious disaster and then I am going to piss on your mother’s grave. Come on.”
“Todd-what- let go of me!”
“WE ARE GOING TO FIX YOU, DAMMIT!”
“Todd, unhand me this instant!”
“YOU HAVE TO KNOW ABOUT GANDALF! AND FARAMIR! AND SAM! YOU CAN’T GET A SINGLE DAY OLDER WITHOUT KNOWING ABOUT SAMWISE FUCKING GAMGEE!”
Damian will never admit it, but later that night, when he is seated in front of Todd, cross-legged and quiet as Jason reads The Fellowship of the Ring to him, using all different types of accent for the many different characters, he hasn’t been happier all week.
Whore4batfam posted a little thing a while ago about Jason sorting through Damian’s books and I just couldn’t help myself. They’re idea, my little ficlet thing!
“It sounds like you’re trying to convince yourself.“ Damian and Jason (about Tim?)
Here you go Anon! Sorry if it’s not exactly what you were looking for - I set out to write a short angsty piece about Damian feeling guilty about how he’d treated Tim but Bruce got there before me and then Damian ended up hiding under a table and it all went downhill from there. But I hope you get some enjoyment form it anyway :)
Mixing up / ignoring comic timeline is almost a hobby of mine, but this one actually had some contextual thought behind it. Not much but. Basically set sometime after Bruce comes back from the “dead” but no more specific than that…
Damian isn’t hiding, but he could see how it may look that way to someone else. Alfred the cat had fled under the dining room table when the yelling started earlier and when he hadn’t been able to coax him out, Damian had crawled under the table as well. Titus had followed him, sniffing at the carpet and knocking into chair legs with his tail before settling down with a huff. It had seemed much easier to just stay there than try to move both his pets.
Dick and Alfred have both walked past - looking for him, maybe, or more likely just going about their day - but nobody has actually come in yet. Father might have thought to look here, but he doubts Father will search for him. Not while he’s still mad, at least.
“Hey Alfred!” a voice calls from the direction of the front door. The butler’s reply is muffled by distance and then the voices die off as the conversation moves into one of the Manor’s many rooms - probably the kitchen. Damian wonders who it could be; most visitors come via the cave.
He gets his answer a minute later when light footsteps precede the appearance of two socked feet and a pair of jeans in his vision. Todd is muttering to himself as he walks around the dining table then kneels down to start looking under it. The muttering stops when their eyes meet and Damian lifts his chin defiantly, daring the older boy to make fun of him. But all Todd says is, “Have you seen a pair of sunglasses under here?”
Damian glances at the floor around him and shakes his head. “No.”
“Dammit,” Todd mutters, standing up and almost banging his head on the table.
“Must be in the kitchen…”
He leaves and Damian let’s out a sigh of relief, relaxing back against Titus’s flank. But it’s short-lived because a moment later Todd comes back in and sets something down on the table before crouching back down.
“You wanna come out?” he asks.
“Okay.” His upper body vanishes upward again and when he comes back down he’s holding two mugs. He holds one out. “You want tea?”
Damian hesitates before nodding, reaching out to take the warm mug and cradling it to his chest. Even with the body heat from his pets, it’s remarkably cool under the table. He blows on the hot liquid then takes a cautious sip as Todd sits cross-legged opposite him with his back against the nearest table leg.
“So why are you hiding under a table?” he asks eventually, conversational in a way that grates on Damian’s nerves.
“I’m not hiding,” he snaps.
“Uh-huh. It sounds like you’re trying to convince yourself of that.“
“I’m not,” Damian insists. “Alfred wouldn’t come out. I had to come under here to get him.”
Todd looks pointedly at where the cat is now curled up in Damian’s lap, purring softly as he’s petted. “Right. And was it loud noises that drove Alfred under the table?”
Damian narrows his eyes. Todd takes a casual sip of his tea. And he knows. He knows exactly why Alfred ran under the table and why Damian is under the table and he just wants him to say it. Well he’s not going to. Damian grits his teeth and glares.
Todd just shrugs. “Suit yourself. I’ll just tell you what the official version is then, shall I?”
It’s blatant manipulation and Damian will not be swayed by it.
“So I was leaving my apartment this morning when I realised I couldn’t find my sunglasses anywhere. I had tea with Alfred yesterday so this is the only other place I could think they might be. And when I arrive, I find out that you and Bruce got into a screaming match this morning which ended with a broken chair and two smashed vases.” He takes a sip of tea - probably for some kind of dramatic effect. "Apparently you threw a 4,000 dollar vase at Dick’s head when he tried to intervene.“ Damian glowers at his shoes and says nothing. Todd pokes him in the leg. “Come on, short fry, spill.”
It suddenly occurs to Damian that not-hiding under the table was a strategically bad move. He’s trapped between Titus and Todd, without anything throwable within reach. And Todd is as annoyingly stubborn as everyone else in the family; he will not let this go.
“Father says I cannot patrol,” Damian eventually mutters.
“That’s it? You started breaking shit because he benched you? Wow. That’s almost me-level crazy.”
“He says I am banned from the Cave until i can find a way to deal with my anger that does not involve violence.”
The older boy snorts. “I hate to agree with B, but he may have a point. The vases I can understand - Lord knows how many of those have been broken since Bruce started collecting strays - but the chair was a bit of an overreaction.”
Damian can feel the anger from earlier simmering beneath his skin but short of throwing his cat at Todd’s head there’s not much he can do besides growl. “You’re such a hypocrite Todd - you tried to kill him first!”
Todd blinks, face scrunching up in surprise before smoothing out with understanding. “We’re not talking about B anymore, are we? This is about the Replacement.”
Damian looks away. His fingers are clenched so tightly around his mug his knuckles are white and his chest is tight with- anger. That’s what it is. Not guilt or regret or- None of the things Father thinks are affecting him. (Although, to be fair, Father does think anger is affecting him as well. And he may not be wrong but. He’s not completely right.)
“Bruce find out you tried to kill him?”
Todd shifts closer, leaning forward so he can reach behind Damian to scratch Titus around the ears. Their arms brush and Damian holds completely still, watching the older boy warily. He and Todd are not enemies, per se, but this… this friendliness is unchartered territory.
“He wants me to apologise,” he says stiffly.
“And you don’t want to."
"It would not be sincere.”
Todd’s lips quirk upwards but it doesn’t quite become a smile. “That’s not the point.”
Damian frowns, brows furrowing. “Then what is?”
“To teach you a lesson.” Todd shrugs one shoulder, the simple gesture conveying a lot about what he thinks of Bruce’s parenting techniques. “You don’t want to apologise because it would be humiliating, admitting a fault or a weakness. He makes you do it anyway, makes you suffer the indignity of asking for forgiveness. It’s an unpleasant feeling. One you try to avoid in future by not doing whatever you did wrong again.”
“Oh.” When put like that, it makes much more sense. (Some detective he is if he can’t even figure out his Father’s motives.) “So all I have to do to get Robin back is apologise to Drake?”
“It’s a start.” Todd gives Titus one last pat on the head - and an “accidental” one for Damian as well - then scoots backwards until he’s no longer under the table. “Well, hide and seek has been fun, but unlike some members of this family I’m not freakishly short and my spine is not cut out for this kind of contortion.”
“Tt. You’re getting old, Todd.”
He gets a casual middle finger in response, “Respect your elders, Demon Brat.” “I’m not a Demon!” Damian snarls.
Todd holds his hands up in mocking surrender. “Of course not, my sincerest apologies.” A quick flash of teeth as he grins. “You wanna repeat that back to me? Y'know, for practice.”
His laughter follows him out of the room as Damian scrambles out from under the table and takes off after him. His Father will surely make him apologies for trying to kill Todd as well, but it will surely be worth it to wipe that smirk off his older brother’s face.
Batman, this is Red Hood. I'm calling to let you know how disappointed I am in your story. How horrible you shit on me and-
YOU LIED! YOU FUCKING LIED! WHY'D YOU DO IT!?
STOP IT, ROY!
STOP! STOP! GOD DAMMIT!
Batman, this is Red Hood calling. I'm calling to let you know how disappointed I am in your story. There’s many things that I read in here that were false, like you saying that I wore Yeezy Boost 350s to the docks with my leather jacket, when I wore vintage brown Dr Martens.
EVERY TIME YOU FUCKING YELL I HAVE TO RE-RECORD IT!
Batman, this is Red Hood calling. I’m calling to let you know how disappointed I am in your story and the light you shed on me when I am going through such a hard time in my life. I opened up to you so that way the world could potentially know what a great, amazing, talented, strong -
- healthy, boy that I am – not even a boy – young man. I am petrified! Petrified with this story!
I’m so disappointed, and I’m letting you know that I will clear this up. Have a nice life. Goodbye.
That was beautiful. You did such a good job of expressing yourself.
send me “#” for cell phone headcanons about our muses including:
- what your muse’s name is in mine’s phone Todd - what your muse’s picture is in mine’s phone (bc he laughs his ass off at it every time)
- what your muse’s ringtone is in mine’s phone Crazy Frog (im so sorry) - my muse’s last text to your muse : there is slime all over this bathroom you fucking slob get your ass home and bleach this shit