“This is getting ridiculous”
“No Nightwing! Hood should have dealt with these imbeciles months ago! When are you and father going to stop making excuses for him and-“
Whatever Robin thought they should or should not do was lost in the face of the manically giggling drug dealer.
“What is so funny” snarled Damien, the pretence of plucky sidekick lost in the face of the tiny assassin’s anger. The boy had come a long way since entering Batman’s care, but he still did not take kindly to people making fun of him. Intentional or not.
“You don’t know” gasping laughs continued to breach through his speech, yet still he did not stop “the big bad bat family doesn’t know! Ah hA HA h a Ha ahha ha… the Red Hoods gone.”
Ice solidified in their veins and the noise that passed through Nightwing’s lips was one of primal fury and denial.
Either oblivious to the change in atmosphere or secure in the belief that a bat wouldn’t kill him, the felon continued with a malicious grin.
“Some nobody pulled up at the lounge 8 months back touting that he’d dealt with the Red Hood once and for all. No one believed him, why should they? Plenty have claimed such things before, and we all know what happened to them.
But then a day passed, then another and another. Till eventually a month’s gone by and that smug bastards still breathing and throwing his weight around like he owns the place!
But even then, no one really believed it. Not until Hoods second, came to collect his cut from the drug dealers and pimps in his place. There was no way the overprotective bastard would have sent them, never mind alone if he wasn’t six feet under.
Course people tried to rebel after that. Didn’t think they needed to obey Hoods laws if he wasn’t around to enforce them. The Fox was quick to deal with any… misunderstandings though.”
Taking pleasure in the unprecedented show of emotion from Gotham’s usually stoic vigilantes, the man tried to twist the knife in deeper by saying;
“It’s been almost a year since the fucker kicked it and you didn’t even notice! Guess the bastard was right about you lot not really considering him family if-”
Robin was unsurprised when the fist smashed into the 2-bit fugs face.
What he was surprised about was when Nightwing didn’t Stop.
Debating for a second whether to allow this to continue, the demons heir let out a put-upon sigh and stepped between his enraged brother and the unconscious and bloody heap that was once their perpetrator. He knew that if Grayson actually killed the man in his rage, he would never forgive himself.
For a moment they stood at an impasse. Neither willing to move, but unable to attack one another. Then, Nightwing seemed to almost crumble in on himself as he let out a wretched sob that seemed to almost choke him.
Alarm shot through Damien as he witnessed his brother unravel and was unable to do anything to stop it. Emotions were not his forte and mother had yet to teach how to manipulate them before he had been given over to father.
He had never seen Dic- Grayson look so… broken.
“Come” he finally settled on, when it was clear that Nightwing had no intention of moving “we will interrogate the street rats and degenerates that live within this hell hole and if that does not reveal to use the truth, we will talk with father and the others.
They will know something. Most likely the fool has run off with one of his compatriots and neglected to inform anyone. He has done this before, you know this.”
Nodding slightly, Grayson smiled at him weakly before answering: “Yeah. Yeah. You’re right Dami. Little Wing is probably fine.”
Grimacing at the use of his real name, he held back on scolding the older man only because he was already in a delicate disposition and none of the thugs surrounding them were conscious enough to process the slip.
Still, when this was all over, Grayson really needed to work on his professionalism.
“Tt- of course I am right.”
The trip back to the cave was one of tense silence, broken only by the sound of their grappling hooks and the city bellow.
When they finally arrived, the others were waiting for them.
Even Agent A and Oracle were present, though the later did not look pleased to have been dragged away from her Clock Tower.
Landing softly, the two looked at one another. Neither wished to voice what they had discovered. As if speaking it would somehow make it more real.
It was one thing to be hearing it from Gotham’s lowlifes on the street, it was another thing to say it themselves.
With a scowl and an exasperated huff, Barbara cut through the mounting tension and began to speak.
“If you were only planning to stand there in silence, you shouldn’t have called a family meeting, I actually have things to do, and if all you intend to do is waste my time then-”
“Word on the street is that the Red Hood is dead.”
“Tim?” surprise laced Nightwing voice and with good reason. Of all they had expected Tim to care the least about Jason’s potential passing. What with the guy having tried to kill him and all. Then again, Tim hadn't even held Damians multiple attempts on his life against him, so why had they expected him to do so with the robin he'd idolised.
“No. I- he- He’s just undercover. He told me so. Said a new player was moving in on Gotham’s underworld and he was planning to infiltrate them. I know we haven’t heard from him since it began, but that- it doesn’t mean- he’s not dead! They’re lying!”
“Little bird” started Nightwing, his voice soft and soothing.
“No, No! he’s not- 9 months doesn’t mean anything! There isn’t even a body! Don’t you dare act like this proves anything when all you have is a half-baked rumour and a disappearance that could mean-”
Engulfing his brother in a hug that hid his own tears, Dick barely managed to pull himself together in order to speak with the ashen faced boy.
“I’m not saying they’re right Timmy, but according to Gotham’s underworld a new player turned up 13 months ago and 5 months after he started bragging to any who would listen about how he’d taken down the Red Hood.
This was then followed up by Hoods second taking over control of his gang and the drugs and such. Its why we didn’t notice an uptake in drug activity or gang violence. The Fox has been handling things on that side as well as the pimps.
If the rumours are correct, they’re refusing to confirm whether or not Ja- Hoods dead which means he might just be seriously injured.”
“Yeah.” Responded Nightwing, but there was a shiftiness to him that had Tim gritting his teeth and asking “What else?”
“No Dick. What are you holding back?”
“The guy who claimed to have killed the Red Hood is the same one Poison Ivy put 6 ft under 7 months ago.”
Of all the evidence that Jason might be dead, the idea that Ivy had killed this guy in retaliation for Jays execution was the most damning. The fem fatale had known Jason since before his Robin days and had always held a soft spot for him.
A soft spot that Jason had mirrored.
In all honesty, a lot of their higher tier villains had held a soft spot for Jason as a child and had seemed inordinately pleased when he had hopped over the proverbial fence so to speak.
Perhaps they had recognised a fellow Gothamite in him the same way they never could in Batman, Nightwing or any of the Robins that had followed him save Stephanie.
For all they may protect Gotham, the rest of them were never truly a part of it. They hadn’t lived, bled nor grown up on her streets, hadn’t had to fight for survival the same way those two had and it showed.
From the way they fought, desperate and frenzied as if every movement was about surviving, was about living to throw another punch; to the way they spoke with a thick Gotham accent and a never ending stream of insults that were both a weapon and shield.
“That doesn’t mean- he could still be-”
“I know little bird, and we’ll do everything in out power to find him.”
dead or alive went unsaid.
For 3 months straight they looked but found no sign of him.
He wasn’t at any of his safe houses; he showed up on no cameras; and everyone they asked, from the lowest fugs to the highest king pins said the same thing: “Red Hoods gone, and he ain't coming back.”
It wasn’t until Catwoman tracked B down that they final gave up hope though. Selina hadn’t spoken to Bruce since the Wedding, and no one had even seen Catwoman since Batman had beaten Hood within an inch of his life. It meant something that she chose now of all times to come back.
“Stop looking” she’d said.
“You won’t find a body” she’d said
“Kitten left instructions with his people to burn him when he died. He didn’t want to risk coming back a second time.”
It was a validation of the worst kind and left guilt eating away at all of them.
Their brother had died, and they hadn’t even noticed.