“Red Hood. What are you doing here?”
“Batman called in a favour. He’s not good explanations and figured that you deserved- no, that you needed to know the truth if you were going to be able to guide and protect those kids.”
“Protect. Protect from what?”
“Excuse me?!” he couldn’t help but ask at her response.
She ignored him though and instead turned towards the brick wall and started tracing it with one hand in an almost idle fashion.
Just as he was starting to get annoyed at her mind games though she started to speak once more in a tone that wouldn’t have been out of place when asking one’s friend or family how their day went, “What do you know about that night? Come on, you know the one I’m talking about. Everyone does.”
“I’d say nothing. Or at least nothing more than anyone else. I know you shot Penguin and I know Batman tracked you down after but other than that? Like I said. Nothing.”
“And if I told you it was a test hidden in a lie?” She asked slyly as she turned to face him once more. “That the bullet was a blank and that Cobblepot’s survival wasn’t an accident. What would you say then?”
Her tone hadn’t changed much as she spoke, and yet there was a tension within the room that hadn't been there before.
“I’d ask why.”
“Batman has changed.” She said with the seriousness she’d lacked until now.
“He’s always been driven by a mixture of his darkest emotions and a desire to protect others from what happened to him.
Grief. Hate. Rage.
He channels them all into his fighting, but lately he’s become more reliant on the anger inside of him to the point that it outweighs all else, and has become a liability.
He’s been breaking rules.
Not his own but ones that were just as, if not more, important, and he needed to see how far he had fallen. I need to see how far he was willing to go.
So. I. Pushed.”
The last few words are said with the same lightness she’d started the conversation with, but it rings false to him now as it probably always had been. He would have almost believed it anyway, if it wasn’t for the shadow of something terrible in her eyes.
With a sinking feeling in his gut, he asked the question that hadn’t seemed important mere moments ago, but now seemed to be at the crux of everything.
“What happened that night Hood.”
“Enough.” She answers. The word weighted with something terrible.
“Enough that neither Bruce nor I am comfortable with him being near those kids. You were asked to come to Gotham to create a team, that wasn’t a lie. But your real priority is to keep those kids safe. You’re not a Gothamite and you weren’t trained by the Bat. I imagine there’s some awe there given who he is, but he doesn’t hold power over you. That means when he goes too far...”
“I’ll be able to do what needs to be done.”
“One can only hope.”
The bitterness in her voice feels like it might be the first real emotion she’s shown all night, but he can’t- doesn’t want to believe it. Believing that she’s being honest with him means seeing Batman as a threat and when it comes down to it he knows which one he should trust on reputation alone.
More than that though, Bruce is his friend. Not a close one but a friend all the same.
Red Hood is a stranger.
“You can’t expect me to believe this. That Batman would…”
She reminds him of the kids he see’s running the streets. Not bad or evil or twisted like society likes to label them but desperate. She’s on the edge, walking a line for so long that she no longer knows which side is the right one.
She’s also a child. A grown one sure, but still a child. He’d bet she’s not even legal yet to drink in America.
He’s still reeling from this realisation as she responds, voice cutting and bitter yes… but also so damn resigned.
“I don’t expect you to believe anything. Check with Batman if you have to but do your damn job and keep them safe.”
The Red Hood is used to men with power not listening to her. It makes something inside him twist to know that he’s joined that number.
But it’s too late now, the vigilante is already gone. Melting into the shadows in a way that he’s only ever seen a bat pull off.
He wants to believe the best in Bruce. But he knows how easily a narrative can be twisted and he can't help but wonder now how much of a bad guy the Hood really is and how much of her reputation is a result of no one asking her side of the story.
He knows he certainly hadn’t.