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Always Running

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Pouring rain chills him to the bone. Moments ago, Dick had fallen ill to his gut motivations once more, forcing him to sprint away from the police, feet gliding underneath him on the ever-so slippery mud.

The police… How quaint it seems that only a few months ago he had been working alongside them, both in his day and night job. Now? They hound him— day and night, still— as if he were a suspect.

Well. Okay. Sure. Although, they had just caught him fleeing his most recent crime scene. So technically he is one.

Really, the whole situation would seem absurd to anyone who knew him only just a few months ago. To any of his former friends and family, the people who knew him as Officer Grayson, or as Nightwing. Despite the whole murder-psycho fiasco, Dick nearly was caught because of a noise complaint— a Goddamn noise complaint. What kind of crime is that even? Infuriated, Dick’s taken off, tearing through muddied roads. Soggy leaves cling to his freshly stained khakis. Replaying on repeat in his head, the day’s most recent shit show will not stop clouding his mind, tightening his nerves.

Earlier that afternoon, Dick had went apartment to apartment posing as a street salesman. He was jumping through hoops just to find a worthwhile victim. But then, lo and behold, a carbon copy of Bruce Wayne opened the door.

Deep inside his heart, Dick knows that it isn’t this guy’s fault that he has— sorry, had— the same chiseled jawline as Bruce, or even that he bathed in the same, expensive cologne as him too. But seconds after coming face-to-face with this unknowingly-antagonizing stranger, Dick’s teeth started to grind together like a pepper shaker, and his heart had quickened to an alarming rate.

Unable to control his deep seeded loathing, Dick couldn’t stop his hands from bashing the man’s head into the doorframe. Really, it wasn’t Dick’s fault that the guy fell limply to the ground, his forehead split open like a coconut. Dick couldn’t help his hands from not gouging into the stranger’s eyes, mushing them to nothing but jelly. Something like guilt wound up in his heart, but Dick pushed the feeling away as yet another case of anger.

After the thump cracked against the cheaply painted wood, a lady had rushed into the room asking, “Honey, you okay?” Upon seeing Dick, beige khakis and almond-colored tie included, confusion seeped into the woman’s face. A moment passes, her eyes flicker to the still body, before she cries out, “What?” The situation couldn’t be explained of nothing less than assault. A cracked head and mushed eyes are nothing less than a violent crime.

After that? Time fees like a blur to Dick. He cannot clearly remember fleeing the scene, but somehow he finds himself shaking in an abandoned parking lot.

Replaying in his mind like a film, Dick remembers the itching feeling of blood underneath his fingernails. Maintained brows rise in mild annoyance, and with his fury slowly diminishing, Dick simply shrugs and says, “Who knows?” Casually, he examines the crusted red under short cuticles. As a nervous tick, he’s sure he had picked at it nervously, as if to act disinterested.

Heat rushes to the lady’s face, and she throws her purse at him instinctively. Thanks to years of bat training, Dick quickly ducks and rolls away, finding himself inches away from her. Clenching her fist, she swings but misses. Chipped nail polish flashes in the dim light, the tacky gold glitter a cruel contrast to his bloody ones. Instead of connecting her fist to the Beast, she ends up with her face smashing against a glass, rain-stained door with Dick’s slender hands wrapped in her thickly coiled hair.

Now with two unconscious people and a hall full of curious neighbors, Dick finds himself lighting a match and running. With no time to clean or even hide his DNA from the premises, the only option is to destroy it all. Panicking, he sprints away from the scene, down the crude steps and rushing through the seemingly deserted lobby. If the pair of people hadn’t succumbed to the flames, then it was safe to say that the police now have a solid description of who they dubbed The Blüdhaven Beast.

And if they do, let’s just hope they haven’t realized that the Beast and former Officer Grayson left Blüdhaven around the same time as one another.

---

The confirmed kills tied to the Blüdhaven Beast was fifty-seven, and there were four undeterminable– but strongly believed– victims of his too. (There were also twelve yet-to-be discovered murders wrapped up somewhere, but Dick wasn’t about to rat himself out to the police just because of a bit of hubris.) Honestly, it was relatively remarkable how much he had done in such a short period of time without being caught.

“– around 5’9 to 6’ in height– trimmed dark hair– medium build and appears to be in healthy shape–”

But yet, this one fuck up could cost it all for him. His entire life and reputation– this one slip up could make him a wanted man.

Disgusting.

“– clean shaven – scar on his left temple – no visible tattoos”

The news all over America– and possibly even international– would not stop streaming his description. Despite having three eyewitnesses, none were exactly valid or even positive about what they’d seen.

The one witness hadn’t retained much before being knocked out and blinded, the second was too panicky to really remember anything useful, but the third– and this one really killed him– had spotted him running out of the building after he lit the third-level apartment on fire. Now in the police’s custody, the eyewitness was able to describe Dick far better than the previous two.

But to be quite frank, Dick laughed when he saw the sketch artist’s depiction of him. It wasn’t remotely close, but he supposed that that was in his favor.

---

Not even hours after the attempted homicide, the Bat family waited in edge. Distraught suspicions hung in the air, and worry clouted their hearts. Tim, possibly the most sensible of the brothers, was jumping off the walls; for the most part, inquietude and uneasiness wouldn’t let him rest until his theories were shot down, but excitement for the [possible] sightings of his brother kept him bouncing too.

“Bruce, have you seen the news?” Tim asked as soon as the older man walked through the manor’s door. Even after a relatively long day at Wayne Enterprises, Bruce could easily say that he’d seen at least a dozen different news reports on some up-and-coming murderer. Grunting, Bruce wasn’t surprised that that was on his pseudo son’s mind or even that it was the greeting he received. To be quite honest, when he heard the description of the attempted murderer, he had first thought of Richard, and he was sure that Tim thought so too. But Bruce knew that if his eldest were to ever go rogue, then these homicides would not have been attempted.

Sighing, Bruce ran his hand through his hair. A tired weight sagged on his eyebrows, and his lips were pulled into a tight frown as he continued to contemplate the possibilities. But all facts pointed in opposite directions, whether they proved Dick guilty or innocent, Bruce couldn’t say anything with complete justification.

“It isn’t Richard.”

Because if the suspect were Dick, then surely this wouldn’t be his first attempt. Richard was anything but lacking and unsuccessful, he would not have been this sloppy so early on. He could be on the run, from the police or merely from his family. Or maybe Richard knew someone was coming and had to leave the scene before he was caught red handed; thus resulting in him being careless and leaving witnesses. But maybe, say the attempted murder was because of him, it could have just be self defense that he had accidentally went full out on.

The thought of Dick trespassing the fine line between vigilantism and murder had crossed his mind before when Dick first ran away, but Bruce had dismissed it quickly; although, a nagging suspicion wouldn’t leave him. Ever since Dick flipped out, Bruce couldn’t shake his worries about him.

Because what if Dick had actually crossed that line? That the similarities between Dick and the Blüdhaven Beast weren’t similarities but rather acts made in different states of mind?

Wherever Richard was, Bruce knew that he needed serious help, and all he and his family could do was race against time to save him before it was too late.

---

If Dick had thought it was wet and miserable earlier, then boy was he mistaken. The sky had opened up and decided that pouring a shit ton more water would just brighten everyone’s day.

Twitching fingers danced at Dick’s side as he strolled along the busy sidewalk, acting as if he hadn’t done anything wrong in the past few days– hours, really. But then again, his life had always been one long, exaggerated shit show– what’s a few hours to a screwy decade or two?

An odd emotion filled his chest, and it’d been growing and growing since the incident with the couple earlier that day. Once upon a time, Dick would have immediately run to Bruce or his siblings, seeking comfort of some kind after an incident like that– one that left him feeling as lost as he does now. But he didn’t. Because after all, times change, and people sure as Hell change too.

Perhaps what he felt was empathy, or maybe it was guilt for ruining so many lives; perchance Dick wasn’t completely psychotic– an apathetic maniac on the run to cause devastation for more innocent people– and this was just him finally realizing how badly he screwed up.

As he did earlier, Dick just ignored the growing emptiness in his chest. He blamed the drumming, jittery heartbeat that buzzed among the chattering pedestrians and speeding cars as leftover adrenaline. But that same uneven thumping made a quick stop when a sickeningly pretty, clearly-fake-blonde news anchor announced that the Blüdhaven Beast had made his way to New York City. His chest felt empty and his fingers stopped seizing when everyone in the crowded streets stopped to listen to the overly bright billboard– the one depicting the Blüdhavan Beast as a nation-wide serial killer.

The police finally tied the attempted murders to him.

Except it wasn’t him– not really, at least.