Jason had to admit to himself, the room was creepy as all hell.
Just walking down the hallway had his instincts urging him to turn back around and leave. Walking into the damn room was ten times worse. Every hair on his body stood on end and he felt very uneasy, like the Joker was going to pop out of the closet with a grotesque grin on his face and a rocket launcher ready to take Jason out again.
“Jesus.” He cursed quietly.
The room itself wasn’t anything special. The furniture was covered with white sheets to protect them from the dust that had settled onto every surface. It was clear that Alfred has not been in this room in years, perhaps since Dick moved out.
“Is something wrong, Master Jason?” Alfred inquired, placing a gentle hand on Jason’s leather-clad shoulder with a look of fatherly concern on his face. Jason flinched away from the unexpected contact, feeling a bit jumpy.
“Sorry, Alfred,” Jason sighed, “This room is giving me the creeps.”
“That is not surprising,” He said as he walked over to the windows to pull open the curtains, “Given the new evidence Master Damian has uncovered.”
“Yeah.” Jason agreed, but didn’t try to explain the way his body screamed for him to leave. He wondered if Alfred could feel it. If Dick had felt it. Jason wasn’t sure how Dick could have slept in this room if he felt even a fraction of what Jason was feeling now.
Fighting his instincts, Jason followed Alfred further into the room and helped him uncover some of the furniture.
Damian marched into the room seconds later, carrying a few boxes that had clearly come in the mail. The boy paused for a moment, looking around the room with his nose wrinkled in disgust, “Why is it so dusty in here, Pennyworth?”
Alfred raised his chin, “Master Dick requested for me to not enter this room after he was done with it. I believe he was concerned about the malevolence in this room spreading to the rest of the house.”
Damian tutted, placing the boxes down on the recently uncovered desk.
“Did he do something before he left?” Jason asked.
“Yes, he did. However, he confided that he could not recall the details for certain rituals that had been mentioned to him in his childhood.” Alfred explained.
He moved over to the large window and pointed to the windowsill, where pieces of oven-dried bread sat in a row, remarkably still intact despite the years that passed. “He left these as offerings to try and appease it. I believe he also did something to the doorway but I am not entirely sure what it was. He asked me not to return to this room, as he was unsure that any of it worked.”
Damian went to examine the doorway. Jason shuddered as a sudden cold washed over him, goosebumps irrupting on his skin. He glanced around the room but nothing seems out of place. His blue eyes locked with Alfred’s, who was watching him with furrowed brows.
“I don’t see anything.” Damian informed them.
“Anyway,” Jason drawled, pretending to be unaffected, “What equipment did you end up getting?”
Damian walked back to the desk and began sifting through the pile of boxes, holding them up to show them as he spoke, “A top of the line infrared night vision camera with full spectrum, a few different motion sensors to place around the room, a device that measures electromagnetic frequencies, and a -- Wait, I’m missing a box.”
This is probably the first time Jason has ever seen Damian look puzzled by something, it was kind of hilarious seeing the look on his normally scowling face. “You probably left it behind when you picked all these up.” He offered.
“No...” Damian denied slowly, “I brought it with me, I’m sure of it.”
“I believe I know where it is, Master Damian.”
Jason and Damian both turned to look at Alfred, who was pulling a sheet off a nightstand by the window--
-- To reveal the missing box underneath.
There was a pregnant pause as they all stared at the box.
Damian said nothing in reply but promptly began ripping the boxes open with a pocket knife.
Jason took the box away from Alfred, and joined the boy. None of them spoke of the occurrence at all that day.
Jason hadn’t been in his room at the manor for a long time. It was a little weird coming back to a room that belonged to a teenager, after all he had been through and all his time away. He was secretly glad, however, that Alfred had kept it for him. It was comforting, being in a familiar place that he once felt safe in. Especially now, when he had to deal with something invisible that moves things around a room when you’re not looking.
If you had asked Jason’s younger self -- the one that once lived in the room he now sat in -- if he believed in ghosts, he would have probably laughed in your face. The older and wiser Jason, however, has a different perspective. Crawling out of your own grave can be a life changing experience, and life was too short to spend all your time dismissing unexplainable things that might later bite you in the ass. Better safe than sorry.
He glanced up from his book at the laptop that sat on his desk, checking on Damian. Jason couldn’t believe the boy actually managed to fall asleep in that room, but there he was, sleeping away.
After they had set all the equipment up and synced it with his laptop, Jason insisted that he stay away from that hallway. Strangely, Damian did not make any mocking comments and simply accepted it.
The laptop displayed footage from a normal camera, mounted in the corner behind the door with a view of the entire room, as well as an infrared camera was placed beside it. The data from the motion sensors, which were placed around the room but pointed away from the bed so that they would not be triggered by Damian shifting in his sleep, was beside, was also on the screen.
The last piece of equipment, the one that had been in the teleporting box, was ironically named a Ghost Box (or Spirit Box), a device that would continuously scan through AM/FM radio in fractions of a second. They had placed it on the nightstand where the box was found, ready to be used.
Jason idly wondered if perhaps it really was a spirit and it took the box because it knew it could be used to communicate.
Suddenly, one of the sensors pinged, notifying him of movement. Then another pinged, and another, then yet another in quick succession. Jason quickly sat up, his full attention on the screen. He checked the infrared, watching as most of the room turned blue, with the most intense of the cold spot crossing the room towards Damian.
“Shit.” Jason cursed under his breath. Looks like Dick was on to something here, he thought. He pushed his chair back and picked up the gun he left on the desk, ready to run to Damian’s rescue should the thing prove to be a metahuman or something corporeal that he can kill.
The normal camera showed nothing there, but the cold spot was starting to gain a vaguely humanoid shape that began to lean towards Damian’s prone form. He noticed the audio in the room spike and quickly used one hand to raise the volume as he stood. An eerie foreign voice hummed what sounded like a lullaby, prompting chills down Jason’s spine. He could not see Damian’s face well from the camera angles they installed and he wondered if the boy was awake and alert.
A few tense moments later, the humming rose sharply into a shriek, and Damian shot up in the bed, pulling out a dagger and swinging at the cold cold spot, causing it to dissipate. Jason did not wait to see more before running down the halls back to the room. He barged in with such force, the doorknob slammed against the wall loudly, his gun aimed into the room, ready to fire.
Of course, there was nothing there except a visibly shaken boy brandishing a dagger.
“Damian!” Jason called, “What the fuck happened?”
That seemed to snap Damian out of his stunned stance, but instead of answering Jason, he dove for the nightstand, quickly grabbing the Ghost Box and pressing a button to turn the volume up.
“Who are you?” Damian demanded, “What do you want?”
As Jason crossed the room to join him, he listened to the sound of static and muffled radio signals passing quickly through the device speakers. They got no response.
“Speak! What do you want?!” Damian repeated, his voice angry.
Then, in a slow hissing voice that sounded clearly from the device, “...My boy.”
Jason did not like what was happening one bit. The voice practically turned his entire body into one big goosebump. He was almost ready to grab Damian and Alfred and burn the entire fucking manor down, Bruce’s stupid attachment to the place be damned.
“Kid, I think this is enough evidence. We should leave.” He told Damian, his hand coming to rest on the boy’s shoulder to prod him towards the door. The boy shoved his arm away, still staring intently at the device.
“Who are you talking about? Who are you?” Damian continued.
“...Martin.” Came the reply, in the same hissing voice.
“Okay, that’s enough.” Jason repeated, snatching the device away, turning it off and throwing it across the room. “It’s time to leave, Damian. Right now.”
Damian was about to protest but it took one look at the unusually spooked expression on Jason’s face for him to change his mind.
“You think the manor is haunted?” Tim Drake questioned, not disbelieving, but a bit confused, “I don’t understand, if it was haunted, wouldn’t all of us have experienced something before now?”
Tim had returned from his mission to find a message from Damian, asking him to get back to him as soon as his mission was over. It was bit strange to see Damian working with Jason, considering they seemed like the kind of duo that was more likely to be at each others throats constantly than work together efficiently.
It was even more strange to know that they were working together to ghost hunt. Tim himself liked to think he was open minded and ready to consider all possibilities. But somehow, he never expected these two to be as open minded. Then again, Tim never imagined that he would be on amiable terms with either of them, but here they are, standing in the Batcave, chatting about ghosts.
“Grayson definitely experienced some things in the past,” Damian replied, “But it seems like the...incidents...are confined to only one room, one that Grayson asked Pennyworth to keep locked.”
“I see.” Tim said thoughtfully, “Then can you show me the evidence you gathered?”
Jason promptly pulled up all the evidence, and, after seeing all the footage and data they had collected, as well as some fresh wounds on Damian’s scalp, Tim was now thoroughly on board the ghost hunting train.
“I really think we should call Dick and get him in on this.” Tim suggested.
“No way.” Was Damian’s immediate, fierce response.
“I can’t believe I’m asking this, but why not?” Jason asked the boy curiously, “I’m still confused about why you didn’t call him first before you even contacted any of us.”
“We can’t involve him yet.” Damian insisted.
Tim studied the boy, noticing the clenched fists, the tension and anxiety in his posture. It was clear that the infamous -- and seemingly hereditary -- Wayne protective stubbornness was rearing its head.
Tim might have missed a lot of the beginning of Damian and Dick’s relationship -- having been angry and hurt after Dick gave his title away to the small, formerly bloodthirsty child -- but it was clear that Damian really values his former partner.
He understood now, why Dick had done it. It took him a long time to realise it, but the first Robin had done what was best for both Tim and Damian. By taking away Robin from Tim, he had given Tim the freedom to grow into his own person; And by giving Robin to Damian, he had given the boy stability, structure, and an anchor. A home to come back to, a teacher to learn from, a companion to rely on, things that a boy raised in the harsh world of assassins needed.
“I understand, Damian.” Tim assured sincerely, “But this is an investigation, and Dick is a key witness. He could know something that we don’t.”
Damian scowled at Tim, who returned his glare with a calm, stoic expression. Finally, the boy huffed, clearly unhappy, “Fine.”
The alleyway was littered with unconscious and bound bodies. A vigilante decked in black and vibrant blue was crouched beside the only criminal that was not unconscious, scribbling a friendly note to the police on a sticky note.
“Do you mind if I...?” Nightwing asked, raising the note to show the bruised criminal before pointing at the man’s chest.
The man shrugged in reply, and Nightwing gently smoothed the sticky side squarely on the man’s chest, giving it a cheerful pat. The vigilante thanked the man and turned to leave.
“Wait!” The criminal yelled, making Nightwing turn back to him. The vigilante’s eyebrows were obscured by his domino mask, but the man still got the impression that he was raising one eyebrow questioningly.
“I um...” The man began hesitantly, “I heard that you’re a pretty decent guy and...Can I ask you for a favour?”
Nightwing’s lips quirked into a smile, “Depends on the favour.”
“My daughter’s birthday is next Friday.” At this, Nightwing’s smile faltered, and he came over to crouch in front of him, giving the man his full attention, “I was planning on using the money from the job tonight to buy her some stuff she’s been asking for, but now I’m pretty sure I won’t be there.”
“I’m sorry about that.” Nightwing said, his voice and what was visible of his expression completely sincere.
“Nah, it’s alright.” The man assured, “You’re just doing what you can to keep the streets clean, I get that.”
The vigilante gave him a small smile, “So, what’s the favour?”
“My girl’s a big fan of you, I think she’d love it if she could meet you.”
Nightwing chuckled and nodded amiably, “Sure, I can do that. I could bring her a gift from her dad too, if you like. Does she like teddy bears?”
The man sighed in relief, “Tigers. She loves tigers.”
“Okay, you got it.” Nightwing agreed, “Friday, you said?”
“That’s right, thank you so much! We live in apartment 6B, in that crappy building right across from the Deli two blocks from here.”
“I know the one, crappy doesn’t even begin to describe it. You should look into that program that Bruce Wayne set up. I heard that they provide job training and help people with a criminal record get legitimate jobs, and it’s completely free.”
“For real?!” Was the man’s incredulous reply, “I should try that.”
“You really should.” Nightwing encouraged, before standing up, “Alright, I gotta run, but I’ll make sure your daughter gets that toy tiger next Friday,” Nightwing gave him a jaunty wave, “Take care, man.”
“Bye, Nightwing!” The man called after him as the vigilante climbed and swung himself deftly to the rooftops.
A beep coming from Nightwing’s earpiece informed him of an incoming call. Pressing a button in his mask, he answered, “Nightwing here. Whatcha need?”
“Hey, Little D, what’s up?” Nightwing stopped to kneel on the edge of the roof, watchful eyes scanning the city.
“Come visit soon.”
Nightwing laughed, “Are you asking for a rematch because I beat you at that fighting game last time?”
“No!” The boy denied, indignant, “We just have something we want to talk to you about.”
Nightwing raised an eyebrow under his domino mask, “‘We’? Is B back from his trip already?”
“No, he’s still away. I meant Agent A, Red Robin, Red Hood, and myself.”
Nightwing frowned, the four of them wanting to talk to him about something does not bode well, “Is something wrong?”
“Don’t worry, nothing serious. We just have something we want to run by you.”
Nightwing let out a quiet sigh of relief, “Okay, I’ll swing by tomorrow.”
“See you soon.” Robin confirmed, and promptly hung up.
Alfred greeted him at the door the next day with a warm smile, “Welcome back, Master Dick.”
“Good to be back, Alfred.” Dick beamed, letting the butler take his leather motorcycle jacket to hang it on the coat wrack by the door. “Are the others here?”
“Yes, they are waiting for you in the drawing room.”
“Of course, Master Dick.”
Dick let Alfred lead the way, even though he knew this building like the back of his hand. On their way passed the staircase, Dick felt a familiar chill. His eyes looked up towards the second floor, and for a moment he wondered if she had somehow managed to find a way out into the rest of the manor, before dismissing the thought.
The others turned to the door when Alfred walked in. Tim was the first to greet him, followed by Damian, while Jason simply gave him a lazy wave.
Dick took a moment to look them over. They were seated on different couches, with Tim and Damian sitting across the coffee table from Jason.
He did not missed the way Damian was sulking, his arms crossed, back rigid, stubborn pout on his face. He was familiar with that body language, it was the same posture Damian had whenever he did not get his way. The boy seemed a bit nervous too, unusually so.
Jason would have seemed nonchalant to anyone else with the way he was leaning back, his head leaning on a fist and one foot balanced on the other, but Dick could clearly see the tension underneath. He seemed uncomfortable, but that was not necessarily a strange thing, considering his relationship with the owner of the manor.
Tim seemed to be the calmest of the three, but he had that look about him like he was ready to give a report. The only thing was, if this was related to their late night activities, they would have been waiting for him in the Batcave, not in the drawing room.
Dick narrowed his eyes, “So, what’s this about?”
“Perhaps you should have a seat, Master Dick.” Alfred suggested.
Dick looked at Alfred a moment, before slowly complying, taking a seat beside Jason on the long couch.
“We know about the ghost.” Damian blurted.
Dick blinked, not expecting this, “What?”
Tim sighed in mild annoyance, “Damian.”
“What? You’re the one who wanted to drag him here for this. There’s no point wasting his time.” The boy retorted.
“Okay, wait, slow down.” Dick calmed, holding up his hands as if to try and quell an oncoming argument, “What ghost are we talking about here?”
“The one in your old room, here at the manor.” Jason supplied. He was watching Dick intently, studying his reaction.
To say Dick was surprised was an understatement. He never expected this to be the reason why they wanted to talk to him. He turned back to look at Alfred, who was standing nearby. “Please tell me none of them went in there.”
“I’m afraid they have, Master Dick.”
Dick clenched his eyes shut and sighed, one hand coming up to rub at his forehead as he turned back, “What did you do.”
“Damian found out that you had an incident when you were younger and wanted to investigate.” Tim explained, “He and Jason teamed up and they used Damian as bait while Jason monitored.”
“...Okay.” Dick said slowly, “And since you’re all calling it a ghost, I’m assuming you’ve found some evidence.”
“Yes.” Damian said, “I found some evidence in the original footage from when you were younger. We’ve also captured unexplainable footage on infrared, and I have personally experienced what Pennyworth has described you experiencing the first night you slept there.”
Dick was completely quiet for a moment, his face a stoic mask, “What else?”
“We asked it who it was and what it wanted --”
At this, Dick leaned forward with his elbows on his knees to bury his face in his hands, “Damn it.”
No wonder he felt her presence downstairs. They’d opened the door to both the room he had tried to seal and for communication, practically inviting her into the rest of the house.
“-- and it said ‘My boy’ and ‘Martin’.” Damian finished, but he was eyeing Dick’s hunched form with a frown.
Tim continued, “We haven’t been able to find anything else about it. We’ve been looking into previous tenants by the name of Martin, but haven’t found any record.”
“No, you wouldn’t have.” Dick murmured, face still buried.
Jason frowned, “You know something about this?”
Dick sighed before straightening up, combing his hair back with one hand, “Yeah.”
“Then, are you gonna tell us or what?” Jason asked, sounding a bit irritated.
Dick stood, “Show me what you have first.”