Ghosts

July 08, 2016:

Batman tracks Red Hood down in one of his Safehouses

Red Hood's Safehouse - Lower Manhattan, NYC

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

It took Batman a while to find Red Hood. Jason was /the/ Robin for a time— one of the best detectives, sleuths, and trackers in the world. Trained by some of the greatest minds in evasion and the art of disguise.

Unfortunately, tonight he's the prey, and his hunter is Batman— the World's Greatest Detective.

Batman finds the upper level apartment easily enough, the entire flat declared 'condemned' and Biohazard and 'Caution: Do not Cross:' tape securing everyon door and entrance. Elevators disabled, stairwells conveniently blocked in certain spots, various doors jammed and the fire escape somehow rusted completely beyond use in little time.

Precisely where Batman would hole up long-term.

He catches the sight of an almost perfectly concealed thermal camera and trains an IR laser on it, just enough to disguise his approach from the sensors. A simple bell-trap is carefully bypassed, and he catches the pressure plate and the backup plate that the main one was meant to trick trespassers with.

Batman penetrates inside of Jason's refuge, his sanctum in squalor, and with an utterly silent step, moves to the open door leading to his cavernous, dimly lit 'workspace'.

He even avoids the nightingale floor, with seemingly superhuman awareness of the traps abounding around him.

Batman waits a beat after seeing Jason before he speaks.

"Jason," he says, finally. One word. One word conveying many bold and nuanced emotions, conflicted and mixed all alike.

Red Hood has many safehouses all over the world, but the majority are in New York. He's made the city his base, mostly due to the fact that it's about as close as one can get to Gotham and it's own unique sense of morals and crime without being Gotham itself. He does, however, have a couple of safehouses there as well. This particular one has been the one he frequents, mostly due to the fact that no one else has found it.

Until now.

The interior isn't the fanciest, but there are certainly creature comforts…and not inexpensive ones. The lights, however, are out and the only illumination is streaming in from a large, intact loft window opposite the entryway. Silhouetted, seated on the sill, is Red Hood, is helmet still on and a pistol in hand. It's so casually rested against an upraised knee even as Batman steps past all the traps and surveillance.

"What finally got your attention? The obit? The program? Or was it the fact that you haven't changed the entrance in years?"

Batman moves a few more paces forward, until he and Jason are able to look at one another in the same pool of light. His eyemask covers retract— featureless white orbs are replaced by cold blue, masked in shadow, just as difficult to read as the mask he'd only moments before had on.

"I heard rumors," Batman tells Red, after that deliberately provocative beat between the question and his decision to respond. "Stories. Saw a tape— the man moved like Jason. Fought like him. But I couldn't be sure— not really sure. Not until—" He gestures fitfully once, then bundles his cloak close until all that can be seen of him is his protruding chin and the penetrating eyes.

"None of us knew it was you, Jason. Why did you decide to come back now? Why not come talk to me in person?"

"Jason's dead." It's offered flatly but without the voice modulators in his own helmet. Just amplification enough to be heard with a normal conversation level. The sound of a hammer clicks in the quiet but he doesn't move. He doesn't tense. Only his head turns to have the conversation. "Fought like the kid who died how long ago now? Five years? Six? Wow, he should really get some better training in." He's almost insulted that he's being told that he fights the same way that he did as a teenager.

"What would you have done if you knew? Honestly. Nothing. You moved on…everyone moves on when someone dies. But the dead can't. The dead have to create a new game. They have to become new people…they can't go back to the way they were before. Those are just ghosts."

Batman doesn't react to the motion of the gun. He barely seems to react to anything but Jason's words. "Jason died, but he's not dead," Batman grunts, in those harsh monosyllables. "You still have a chip on your shoulder," the Bat observes, after a beat. "I can't blame you for that."

The melancholy manic in Jason's words arent' lost on him— a man barely on the edge of sanity, wringing his hands over the futility of it all. Nitzche made flesh.

"Are you a new man, then?" Batman says. He doesn't use 'Hood'. Not yet. "If you're a new man, why are you here on Jason Todd's old business?"

"Ghosts have to be laid to rest. Otherwise they just haunt," he lifts the hand with the gun and waves it about in a nonchalant gesture. Maybe he had something to drink before this confrontation? Maybe the reality of it is a little mind-fracturing. "They just haunt and haunt and haunt forever." The helmeted head tilts to Batman, "Were you haunted? Honestly? Or did you sleep like a rock?"

He's not hearing what he wants to hear. No doubt he'll remain unsatisfied in that.

"Why did you come looking for a dead man?" Not a child. Not a teen. Not anymore.

"I don't sleep," Batman chides Jason. "You know that. Better than most." Batman indeed rarely, if ever sleeps— a few hours of catnapping per day seems to be enough to fuel him endlessly.

"I had to know Jason Todd's fate," Batman says, finally, after carefully weighing and measuring the words. "Dead. Alive. Survived." His eyes narrow. "Changed."

"Why did you leave the note?" he asks, in those dour tones, matching Jason's manic, musing tone with a level and flat gravel.

"He died," is repeated as Red Hood finally shifts his seat on the windowsill. He's now facing the other, the gun resting on his knee still. "He was killed by the Joker. That hasn't changed. Check all the records, they'll say the same thing." He stands then, slowly, to his full height. Taller, possibly, than when he was killed. Certainly broader. But his frame is different than Nightwing's…or even Tim's.

Jason has always been his own person.

"I don't know, to tell you the truth." It's said almost lightly. "Maybe I just wanted to see what the reaction would be. If there was any reaction. Or if it was just tossed in the trash. Actually, I thought it would be the latter. It seems fitting."

"Records aren't objective. Just someone somewhere who once said they saw something, and wrote it down," Batman tells Hood, matching his cheeky tone with his relentless, inarguable certitude.

"You don't need to play games to talk to me, Jason. You never have," Batman reminds the one-time Boy Wonder. "If you've something to say, just come out and say it."

It's not that he was waiting for permission, but it's almost like something snaps when it's given. Red Hood launches from his seat and crossing the floor until he's right in front of Batman, the muzzle of his gun pressed under the taller man's chin. "You let me die," is growled at him. Words that have been burning a hole in his head for years. "Why?!" is demanded.

The other Robins lived. He didn't. He needs to know.

Batman doesn't blink. Doesn't even flinch away when Jason storms up to him, when he literally puts a gun to his head. He moves slowly, deliberately, and pulls away his mask.

No more cowl. No more shadows. Batman, bare faced, looking at Jason.

"There's one secret about me that you should know, Jason," Batman rasps, matching Jason's mask with his own unreadable gaze. "Everyone knows it, and no one does. And I'm going to tell it to you because if it's the last lesson you ever learn from me before you kill me, it's the most important one I'll ever teach you."

He leans a little closer, the gun jamming into the soft flesh under his chin. "You can never, ever, be perfect. It doesn't matter how much you train, how much you practice, or how much you know. You will slip. You will fall, and you will fail. I'm very, very good at many things, Jason," Batman reminds him.

"But the mistake I made was that I forgot, for a second, that I am not perfect."

Red Hood tenses as Batman moves to remove his cowl, but the gun doesn't fire. He has complete control over the weapon at least. The helmet remains fixed on the other as he speaks. There's a brief moment as the gun is pressed further against the man's neck, but there's an exhalation of breath and he backs up. The gun is lowered and uncocked.

"Well. I guess that's something. I reminded Batman that he's human."

He doesn't holster the gun…that would be too much trust. But it seems symbolic; Batman removed his hood, so it's only right that Red Hood remove his. Reaching up with his free hand, the helmet is pulled off.

Jason and Bruce. Face to face. Jason may need a bit of a shave and he probably needs a bit of a haircut. There's a white streak at his forehead that wasn't there when he was a teen. Trauma can make such changes.

"It's all I have, some days," Batman says— a grim smile crosses his face, eyes darkening. The expression passes in a moment, and his face goes completely neutral again.

"The others— they miss you," he says, finally breaking the relatively companionable silence. "Cassandra. Tim. They all want to speak to you in their own way. Well. Except Cass," he says, a beat later. Something like good humor flickers in his eyes.

"No they don't," is countered quickly. "Dick just has some sort of guilt complex going and he wants to see me in Arkham." He doesn't know Cass or Tim…and did he even know Barbara? "Might be nice to say Hi to Alfred." He's really the only one who he believes might actually miss him. Jason isn't even sure that Bruce himself misses him.

Only then does Jason holster the gun…not that he doesn't have at least two more on his person. "We're not on the same side anymore, you know. I'll do my best to stay out of Gotham…but I trust you won't come here and interrupt my job like I won't bust up your's." It's not a question. "And you tell Dick that if he ever shoots one of his glowsticks at me again, I'll put a bullet in him." That enmity hasn't dulled. If anything, it's grown stronger over the years for some reason.

"Thanks for stopping by," is offered before he turns away back to the window. Now he's going to have to move.

Normally, a note to simply leave on in silence— to let nothing loiter in his wake. For once, Batman dallies, before he opts to depart. "You should eat better," he says, his voice low, as if searching for some last shred of hope. He eyes the boxes of food left on the counter— stuff that can be microwaved and eaten in one sitting. "Alfred would want to know you're eating healthily."

And with that, he /does/ turn and leave, opening a window and spilling out of it into the warm Gotham night.

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