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July 30, 2013
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The story opens with Dick riding on his motorcycle

Dick: *narrating* Seems like I'm splitting my time more and more between Chicago and Gotham. I mean, sure I want to check in with Bruce, Damian, Joseph, Sam and Babs; but I got my own life to live.

He drives up the road to Wayne Manor.

Dick: *narrating* But Alfred sounded so frazzled--for him--so I decided to head out as fast as I could.

Quick flashback to Nightwing tying up some thugs in front of the "Bean" in Millennium Park in Chicago

Nightwing: *narrating* Just had to tie up some loose ends.

His comm beeps,

Nightwing: Little busy at the moment

Alfred: *on comm* Master Richard, good evening.

Nightwing: What's up, Alfred?

Alfred: *on comm* I can't really say on here...can you come to Gotham as soon as you are able? There is a situation...and I'd like your help in defusing it.

Nightwing: Call Batgirl, she's actually in Gotham.

Alfred: *on comm* She says you should come

Nightwing: ...Must be serious

Alfred: *on comm* Indeed, I'll fill you in.

Nightwing hears a bit of commotion faintly in the background

Nightwing: What's going on?

Alfred: *on comm* I will tell you when you get here.

Back in Gotham, Dick parks in front of Wayne Manor and removes his helmet. Alfred stands at the door.

Alfred: Master Richard, you made good time.

Dick: Easier to travel cross country on a bike.

Alfred: Sadly, the situation has already escalated....

Dick: What is it? Something to do with Joker? Or Deathstroke?

Alfred: Nothing so simple

Dick follows Alfred inside.

Dick: *narrating* That sixth sense, that one that tells me something is wrong, it starts going off when I enter. Last time I was here, Sam would be running downstairs to say hi. Joseph would be probably be in the upstairs living room, playing in the piano.

Damian walks by, hoodie up, listening to music

Dick: *narrating* Only thing that's "normal" is Damian...and I KNOW that's not normal.

Alfred brings him to the den and closes the door.

Dick: *narrating* Bruce and Babs are here...okay something is definitely off

Bruce: Sit.

Dick does so.

Dick: ...Where's Joseph?

Bruce: That's part of the problem

Dick: Is he okay?

Babs: He's gone rogue, Dick

Dick: What?!

Alfred: Perhaps I should explain.

Alfred: Master Joseph lately has been...frustrated.

Bruce: Well if he would be more patient....

Alfred: *raising a hand* You are as much to blame as he is for this mess, Master Bruce.

We flash back to a few days prior, Joseph is watching the news

Newscaster: The manhunt for Scarecrow and Riddler continues after their daring escape from Arkham Asylum. The two super-villains assisted each other in their escape, which led five dead....

Joseph is writing down notes.

Bruce: Combination of that level is lethal to say the least

Joseph looks a tad startled

Joseph: Must you do that when you're not Batman?!

Bruce: Would have thought you'd get used to it by now

Joseph: Is Jim Gordon used to it by now?

Bruce: ...No.

Joseph: I rest my case.

Bruce: ...What have you got there?

Joseph looks at his notepad.

Joseph: Nothing, some notes...

Bruce snatches it out of Joseph's hand.

Joseph: Hey!

Bruce: Impressive deductions...not bad for an amateur

Joseph: Well, I've observed the best. *sotto voce, or so he thinks* Not that he ever gives me training or lets me know how close I am to earning it.

Bruce: Patience is a virtue...and perhaps you'd see the destination with a clearer perspective

Joseph: Hard to see that without an actual path.

Bruce sighs

Joseph: I've put in good work for you for months; where's your end of the bargain?

Bruce: I have honored my word and will continue to do so but you've got to accept the realities and show some patience

Joseph: Was it like this with Dick, Jason, Tim...freaking Damian got in automatically

Bruce: They were different cases.

Joseph: Dick, I understand. But Jason was a street punk (he still is), and Tim freaking wore you down and then, to get your attention, hacked the Penguin's bank account and nearly got himself killed! And yet you made him Robin...Red Robin...whatever. What do I have to do? Blow something up?!

Bruce: I shouldn't think so

Joseph: Then tell me..because this is getting tiresome. Respect, Bruce. I respect you AND our agreement. I don't see any reciprocation!

Bruce: Has it crossed your mind that perhaps you're looking at this the wrong way?

Joseph: You're dodging the question, as usual. *checks watch* And anyways, I'm off the clock.

Bruce: "Off the clock"?

Joseph: My day off? My OWED day off? The one you said I could have after I sacrificed my last one to help you deal with the....

Bruce: Quite right actually...enjoy

Bruce leaves as Joseph looks pissed off

Joseph: *fuming* Asshole

Alfred at this point walks past the living room, and sees the tableau

Alfred: Oh dear. Something wrong, Master Joseph?

Joseph: How can he be such a...such a.....

Alfred: I think you made your point before I walked in. You must understand of course...for change to happen you have to meet it half way

Joseph: At this point, Alfred, I think I've passed half way. I do all I can do underneath his rules for me; and he always finds some flaw. And when something happens that makes me rush from behind the scenes and be more active, even against my own volition, he looks down at me.

Alfred: You want to be the hero?

Joseph: Yes! *beat* No. I just want a sign or something that I'll finally get what I was promised in signing up...Now I know what Roy Harper meant by "Buyer Beware."

Alfred: Yes, he did have a similar situation with Mr. Queen....

Joseph: How will I know I am close?

Alfred: Perhaps you shouldn't be waiting for someone else to tell you and just find out for yourself

Joseph: You know Alfred *grabs his coat* you're right.

Joseph rushes out.

Alfred: Why do I sense this isn't a good time to be right?

Joseph rushes down into the Batcave

Joseph: Bruce?! We need to talk!

Bruce, in his costume but with the cowl down, turns his chair to face Joseph

Bruce: ...Clearly, what is it?

Joseph: I've worked myself to near exhaustion, I've been nearly killed more times than I would admit working for you...and that's just behind the scenes or being in the wrong place in the wrong time. I've more than earned training, so what more than I need to do?!

Bruce: ...Grow up

Joseph: ...What?

Bruce: Haven't you learned by now? Even after all that, you're still so naive

Joseph: ...*shaken but defensive* No I'm not...I've learned from all this...I'm not an idiot kid

Bruce: No you're not an idiot...but you're still a kid...wanting to be a hero...do you think that's how I started out? It was a delusion I never allowed myself to suffer...and one my allies cannot afford to suffer either

Joseph takes this very personally...the thought of all his hard work...amounting to nothing because...he still thinks...like a ...

Joseph: %$*@ you Bruce! *punches him in the gut*

Joseph runs over to a bike and hot wires it. He then heads out. Bruce stands up and sees Alfred hanging up a comm.

Bruce: ...I've made a mistake haven't I?

Alfred: ...Maybe I did too sir

We return to the present

Alfred: As of now, Master Joseph has been missing for 12 hours, and we are trying to keep Master Sam from finding out....

Dick: ...Idiot

Bruce: I admit I made a mistake-

Dick: Not you Bruce...you try to tell him he needs to grow up...but he can't take that can he? Because he knows he is smart, he knows he is good but he also knows he's too damn naive...and he hates that...so he tries to be like us, cocky, a real clever dick because he thinks that's what we are...what he doesn't get is we are like this because we worked to become it...and he's gonna get himself killed out there...I'll find him

Bruce: I know you will

Babs: Dick...go easy on him okay, he's just like we were-

Dick: Yes...and look what happened to us...but I'm not going to let it happen to him

Babs: And may I remind both you Bat Boys that like you two he didn't have the happiest childhood. Dick, you of all people know how he feels about being treated like a kid.

Dick: Babs...it's not being treated like a kid...it's knowing he is a kid...we were all kids once remember...then something popped our bubble...and we became this

Babs: ...What will you do?

Dick: ...Pop his bubble...before someone pops him

Meanwhile, Joseph is on a rooftop, looking at an abandoned factory through binoculars while eating a sandwich

Joseph: *narrating* Stupid, arrogant, pointy eared BASTARD! "You're not ready, you're just a kid. It's not like you've been working your fingers to the damn bone for what I held out for you like a carrot only to hit you with the stick!" *angrily bites into the sandwich* Well so called Great Detective, guess who figured out where the jailbirds are!

Scarecrow has changed his apperance...he's dressed in a hoode wearing a WW2 gasmask with yellow lenses topped off with a lab coat...in a sense, he looks scary even without the toxin

Scarecrow: ...Subjects have been dissapointing...I am beginning to doubt you Edward

Riddler: *sighing* Not my fault the test subjects couldn't solve a simple puzzle.

Scarecrow: ...We need someone stronger...get me someone like Batman

Riddler: Whoah, ambitious

Scarecrow: Merely desiring better quality

Riddler: How many people in this city are that smart....

Scarecrow: Several...you just don't think of them as such because you're so self absorbed

Riddler: Heh *sarcastically* why don't we work together more often

Scarecrow: Because I am a man of science whereas you are a narcissist wanting to prove you are clever

Riddler: Excuse me?! I AM more clever than most of these...troglodytes!

Scarecrow: ...Am I to assume you are volunteering for testing?

Riddler: ...I'll get you someone then

Joseph keeps viewing them

Joseph: *narrating* It's like the Odd Couple in there! So they are performing some kind of sick experiment...bastards. And the scary thing is, that even with all their fighting, they are being somewhat successful in regards to kidnappings....

As Joseph watches, Nightwing goes through the streets of Gotham

Batgirl: *on comm* Even if you find him first, Man Wonder, don't piss him off.

Nightwing: Batgirl, he is pissed off

Batgirl: I meant more than he already is. He's probably beating himself up internally and in the back of his mind. It's been hard enough finding him now, scare him off and it will be even harder.

Nightwing: I know where he's gone

Batgirl: Where?

Nightwing: Where does any boy who wants to play hero go?

Batgirl: ...Dick...you have to stop him

Nightwing: Well I'm not here playing tag am I?! *beat* Sorry...I'll find him

Batgirl: Remember, you're his best friend; you know him better than any of us other than Sam. Don't say anything stupid.

Nightwing: ...There is a fine line between what you consider stupid...and what he needs to hear...I ask for a little faith

Batgirl: Let's be fair, Richard; you DO have the habit of saying the wrong thing.

Nightwing: ...*seriously* Kindly remember, Babs you all called me here, you all asked me to go and talk to him, you all brought me here...are you now telling me you are stupid enough to send me out there thinking I may say the wrong thing?

Batgirl: Just a friendly reminder.....

Nightwing: No...that wasn't friendly

He goes onwards

Batgirl: Nightwing, I'm sorry, that was catty of me.

Nightwing: ...Probably right anyway

Batgirl: I am?

Nightwing: You usually are

That comment makes her feel sad

Batgirl: ...Dick I didn't mean

Nightwing: Found him...or rather found where he's going, Nightwing out

Nightwing guns his bike down the street. Joseph, in the meanwhile, has put away his lunch and is rummaging through his backpack

Joseph: *narrating* Where are you....AH! *takes out grappling hook, narrating* Gotta stop those two.

Scarecrow and Riddler head to Cape Carmine, the lighthouse...a perfect place to do some experiments. Joseph follows discreetly on his purloined bike

Joseph: *narrating* Scarecrow and Riddler...only way it could be better was if it was the Joker...heh, this will show Bruce

As the pair of villains enter the lighthouse, Joseph goes up to a nearby roof and readies the grappling hook.

A toss, and a miss.

Joseph: Dammit

Another miss

Joseph: Come on!

It latches on

Joseph: Finally...

Joseph: *narrating* Glad no one saw that

Joseph quickly swings over. He enters the lighthouse from the roof entrance, heads down to the rafters and hears screaming

Joseph: *narrating* Damn it they already got someone down there....

Riddler: *voice echoes* This one is a little more promising

Scarecrow: *voice echoes* Indeed...children seem to be more intelligent when under real pressure

Joseph: *narrating* Children...no!

Joseph keeps to the shadows while moving as fast as he can. He tracks the voices to the emergency bunker...the underground part of the lighthouse. He peers into a window into a lab, and into madness.... Scarecrow is tormenting some poor soul strapped to a chair, it's girl by the sound of her voice

Riddler: Now...answer the question....

Joseph bursts in at that stage

Joseph: GET AWAY FROM HER!

Scarecrow and Ronin look at this stranger, wearing ad hoc tactical gear with SWAT team gear hiding his face

Scarecrow: Well, if it isn't our nosy neighbor...

The child is a mannequin, the two men are holograms and the cage doors shut

Riddler: He'll do I suppose

Joseph: Oh f--

Riddler: Language! Let's be civil about this

Joseph: Says the maniac

Scarecrow: Would you rather we got a real child?

Joseph: I'd rather you two be in a cell.

Scarecrow: ...Subject is unwilling, allow us to provide motivation

The room fills with gas. Joseph coughs and drops to his knees

Scarecrow: Level one of the toxin, you will experience hallucinations...now onto the first test

Joseph looked around, as odd whispers filled the air.

Voices: Stupid kid...childish...grow up

Riddler: What do you suppose he's hearing?

Joseph: I'm not a kid!

Scarecrow: ...Subject is intelligent, strong by the looks of it...but feels vulnerable, a constant desire...no need to prove he is more than what he is...perhaps to make up for past weakness, or disability

Joseph: Shut up Crane!!

Riddler: I think you may be right

Joseph: I SAID SHUT UP!

He vainly attacks the hologram

Scarecrow: If you complete the test we shall stop the voices

Joseph looks for an exit

Riddler: Use your mind, it's not yet gone. Tell us, what word is always pronounced wrong?

Joseph: That could be any word!

Scarecrow: True, but he just said it didn't he?

Voices: Stupid child!

Joseph: SHUT UP!

Riddler: I just told you the answer

Joseph breathes to steady himself

Joseph: "Wrong"

Riddler: Very good

The voices stop. Joseph breathes

Scarecrow: Proceed to the next room

Joseph does so.

Scarecrow: You will next be dosed with level two of the serum

Joseph is assailed by the fear gas

Scarecrow: Your fears will seem more real now

As Joseph coughs, the specter of Batman appears

Riddler: What do you see?

Joseph: I'm not telling you!

Joseph just glares at the figure he sees

Batman: Childish

Joseph: Asshole!

Batman: Look at you...trying to be like us...and you can't even grow up

Joseph: Oh like you're one to to talk!

Batman: Wanting to play hero...like an adventure? Save the day, kiss the girls?

Joseph: To protect people!

Batman: That's not why you dressed up in New York...it was for the thrill

Joseph: That's not true, and you know it!

Batman: Oh really? First night...you stopped a bank robbery...sloppy, careless but you did it...and you loved it didn't you?

Joseph: Same way you loved your first patrol, a dark avenger bringing justice to a crooked city.

Batman: No...this was never about being the hero...I never was in this for the thrill...and you know that

Joseph: ...And what...I can't have fun doing this?

Batman: Are you a child or not?

Joseph looks torn

Joseph: So maybe I'm a tad childish; but there is no rule that says you can't enjoy what you do!

Batman: But you don't take it seriously

Nightwing apparition appears

Nightwing: Always Mr. Punchline

Robin apparition appears

Robin: A pathetic copycat

Joseph: Says the one who inspired me to quip and the one who is always in rush to become his big bad daddy.

At the moment he's remaining resistant...but he feels their words hurt

Joseph turns to the Batman figure

Joseph: And you, you're the worse hypocrite of the lot. You call me childish? You are the epitome of childish wish fulfillment!

The Batman figure glares down at him

Batman: So are you.

Batman: A weak...sickly little boy...wanted to be a hero

Joseph is silent.

Batman: What have you lost?

Nightwing: You still have mom and dad

Robin: And Sam...

All: What have you lost?!

Joseph: ...stop

Batman/Nightwing/Robin: What have you lost?

Joseph: STOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!!

Scarecrow: Interesting

Joseph drops to his knees

Scarecrow: Would you like us to stop this?

Joseph: STOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Joseph collapses to the ground as his worse fears overwhelm him

Riddler: To get out of this one, let's try a little brain teaser

Joseph just sobs as Riddler talks

Riddler: Come on boy, up you get

Joseph obeys and shambles towards a computer. The computer lights up as he gets close

Question: When all the world is against you, where is the safest place to hide?

Joseph: *thinking* In plain sight? Right in front of them? Home? God, this gas...these hallucinations, they're driving me insane...that's it! *speaks* Insanity

Riddler: Correct, it's done wonders for us

Scarecrow: You are questionable

Riddler: Oh shut up. *into comm* The subject will proceed into the next chamber.

Joseph finds himself walking into a hall of mirrors

Joseph: What the--

He coughs again. He keeps coughing, surrounded by his reflection. His reflections start talking

'Joseph': They are right you know

Joseph: No, they're not!

'Joseph': You are childish, wanting to play superhero...be like them

Joseph: I don't consider it "playing"!

They speak in his own thoughts

'Ronin': This is the best day of my life!...Haven't had this much fun in years...time to kick some ass!

Joseph: I was just...enjoyinh it...

'Alfred': Of course sir

Joseph: After years of being caged...I was finally free.....

Alfred: But you are a still a child...and that's not a bad thing

Joseph: I'm 19...I've accomplished more in my life than most twice my age...why am I still treated like I should be at the kids table....

Alfred: Because you can't grow up without accepting where you start...so what if you're still a boy...it's the first step to becoming a man

Joseph: How is it, even as a hallucination, you're the only one who gets it?

Alfred: Oh we all get it sir...just couldn't tell you, it was something you had to figure out on your own

Joseph: Yeah, but you're nice in going about the lesson

Alfred: Hardly call this nice...you had to learn it via fear gas

Joseph: Yeah, so why are you not a frightening specter trying to melt my brain?

Alfred: Simple...I'm the light in the darkness

Joseph: Makes sense. *coughs*

Alfred: ...Now come home

Joseph: I will once I find my way out of here.

Scarecrow: Interesting...subject's subconscious is lending relief

Riddler: Can't have that...

Scarecrow: Increase the dosage

Riddler: Done already

Meanwhile....

Alfred: That way sir...

Joseph: Than--GHH!

Joseph falls to his knees, coughing and retching. Memories rush into his brain...his so called childhood, feeling trapped and alone, his nearly being killed by Penguin when he was a boy, his training, his team up with Batman, his fight with Batman in the Atlantic Terminal mall, etc. Then something new...he sees himself in a graveyard.

Joseph: Huh?

He is walking without wanting to...gets to a gravestone...and sees engraved on it...Dick Grayson.

Joseph: NO!

Then another gravestone: Bruce Wayne. And another: Alfred Pennyworth. Two more: Damian Wayne, Barbara Gordon. Finally, a big gravestone: SAM KANE

Joseph: No...NO!

He stumbles back and falls..he's in a room...with a man tied to a chair, the real Riddler and Scarecrow here now

Scarecrow: ...Want it all to stop?

Joseph nods numbly. Riddler gives him a gun. Joseph's hand shakes as it grips the gun

Riddler: Shoot this man in the head...and you are free to go

Joseph: He's already beaten to a pulp....

Scarecrow: So put him out of his misery

Joseph: Who is he?

Riddler: It doesn't matter

Scarecrow: We don't know, and it's not important

Joseph: It's important to me.

Scarecrow: *sighs* Kill him...or we kill you

Joseph: ...What?!

Scarecrow shows his gauntlet

Scarecrow: I have here a nasty little serum, it will ignite into your blood and forces every sense to experience terror until your mind and heart just can't take anymore...and stops

Joseph is practically shaking here

Scarecrow: Now pull the trigger...please

Joseph's hand shakes as he aims. In his vision...the man's face distorts...he's looking at...Dick Grayson

Joseph: No...

Riddler: Excuse me?

Joseph: I'm not a killer.

Scarecrow: *sighs* Subject remains resolute even in the face of terror

Scarecrow plunges his gauntlet into the mans neck and Joseph watches him scream to death...it's horrifying...and the reality of this work hits him in the face

Joseph: ...You're a...monster

Scarecrow: Grow up

Joseph's eyes go wide at that

Scarecrow goes for him, then Nightwing crashes in and throws wing dings, one of which affixes Riddler's jacket to the wall with him in it. Nightwing lands a kick on Riddler knocking him out, Scarecrow gasses him and claws him unseen by Joseph and Nightwing punches him away...Scarecrow runs and Nightwing grabs Joseph and gets him to another part of the lighthouse.

Joseph: But you...and the man in the chair....

Nightwing: It wasn't your fau-

Joseph pushes away from him...still affected by the gas

Joseph: This is just another trick, another hallucination!

Nightwing: *slaps him in the face* That feel like an hallucination?

Joseph punches Dick back

Joseph: You always have to be the clever one, don't you!

Nightwing: Maybe if you used that head of yours you wouldn't be here would you?

Joseph: Look whose talking...heh

Nightwing: What do you mean?

Joseph: With all the times you've led people, you sure have made some dumb decisions

Joseph: You think you can come off better than me? You're a womanizer! A pervert and-

Nightwing: At least I'm not jealous

Nightwing: It's true isn't it? Every time...when the chips are down, and the first sign of trouble...you drop that joke, old 'big' Dick Grayson...it's funny...but the more you say it...the more we see about you, you don't laugh at me...you want to be me...and that is stupid

Joseph: ...Listen I-

Nightwing: No you listen...do you imagine for one moment...it has been easy getting here? You think you've got it tough? Imagine losing your parents...right in front of your eyes...watching them fall to their deaths and your whole world burning down...you still have mommy and daddy...hell you even have Sam and we have always been there for you...guiding you. You think we had it easy? Barbara got shot in the spine, Damian got killed, we all have been burned in this line of work but we keep going...you think you've got it tough now...you think you're a hero now?

He makes Joseph look at his wound...Joseph's eyes widen...Nightwing has been injected with the same toxin the man was.

Nightwing: You know nothing

Joseph: We got to get you to a hospital.

Nightwing: No...you are going to call Batman...I'm going to get Scarecrow

Joseph: ...You can't...that toxin will kill you

Nightwing: ...Then I won't die...now call Batman

Joseph: Getting Scarecrow won't do you any good if you die before you can cuff him!

Nightwing: Well can you get him then?! *looks Joseph dead in the eye*

Joseph: ...*hangs his head* I...I don't want you to die

Nightwing: ...*pats his back* welcome to the company Mr. Kane....call Batman now

Nightwing passes Joseph a comm, and, with his bubble thoroughly popped, Joseph activates it.

Joseph: Operator to Batman, we have an emergency....

Nightwing has turned off his comm, no one can hear him nor speak to him...so no one heard what he said to Joseph.

Scarecrow: ...Nightwing...you should be dead by now

Nightwing: I'm persistent...and you're a bastard

Scarecrow: ...You care for that boy?

Nightwing: I care for everyone in this damn city

Joseph: Batman, come in. *beat* Why do you have to be so stubborn!

Batman: ...*via comms* I could say the same to you

Joseph: ...I'm sorry...but...Nightwing has been hurt...and he may die...Scarecrow has dosed him with some new toxin and-

Batman: I'm on my way...stay with him and don't engage Scarecrow unless you have to

Batman hangs up.

Joseph: Right.

Scarecrow is waiting, thinking his knowledge and experience with Nightwing gives him the edge. Nightwing walks into the hall of mirrors.

Voice: Dick...

Nightwing: Huh?

Voice: Dick...

Nightwing comes face to face with a young Joseph

"Young Joseph": Why are you so mean to me?

Nightwing: ...

Batgirl: You're no better than he is

Batman: Think you're a big man do you?

Batgirl: I told you that you had to be careful in what you say.

Young Joseph: I might not have dead parents, but I was practically a prisoner and you know that

Batman: I can be harsh with him as he's trying to learn my standards; but you belittled his intentions

Young Joseph: Besides, you've always been the one with the mouth and the quips.

Batgirl: Not to mention you tend to bed anyone with an XX chromosome pair. You had sex with me and invited me to your wedding the next morning!

Batman: And Joseph hasn't made as deadly mistakes as you have.

Nightwing: ...

Young Joseph: What about telling the police about Zucco....

Nightwing starts laughing

Batgirl: What's so funny?


Nightwing: ...Is this the best you got...the past, old mistakes...guilt...get a clue Crane! You're a convicted killer and psychopath, you can't guilt trip me!

All the apparitions, Scarecrow and Joseph who is watching this...are struck dumb

Young Joseph: But I can...you could have contacted me any time after Penguin nearly killed me. You knew that I figured out who you are, though you didn't want to admit it....

Nightwing: Is this all your toxin does...show me stuff I already see...whenever I close my eyes and go to bed

Scarecrow: ...Subject is volatile...used to extreme conditions, perhaps a further dosage is req-

Nightwing punches him in the gut and knocks him to the floor

Nightwing: Every night I fall asleep...I see the faces of the people I failed to save...I see those I wronged...reminding me of the mistakes I made...but you know what? I learned from it, I stopped making those mistakes, I got better....because that's what a man does!

The apparitions start to fade....

"Sam": *off panel* Why do you hate my brother?

Nightwing: ...Hate him...oh this is just sad

Scarecrow: ...Subject...is...different?

Sam: Why must you belittle his dreams?

Nightwing chuckles darkly

Young Joseph: Why belittle someone who believes in the same things you do?

Batgirl: Someone who looks up to you?

Batman: Someone who at least knows when he's been badly poisoned?

Young Joseph: You want to deny others the same thing you do even when they volunteer?

Batgirl: At least Joseph is mature enough to respect people's feelings.

Batman: And at least he is young enough and green enough to excuse his impetuousness.

Sam: Yeah! And you don't! What's your excuse?

All: WHY ARE YOU SO IMMATURE?!

Nightwing: Immature...*points to his open wound* I should be dead by now...how long could he last against this...tell me!

Scarecrow: ...He'd be dead...in a heartbeat...why aren't you?

Nightwing: *smirks at all the apparitions* Don't you know?

Batgirl: ...You're just like Batman...have to do it your own way

Sam: You don't care at all do you

Nightwing: No I suppose I don't...why else would I die for him?

...

All: ...Die?

Nightwing: It's what's going to happen isn't it?

Now it's their turn to be afraid

Batman: Why sacrifice your life for someone you look down upon?

Nightwing: Because I don't

Sam: ...But you-

Nightwing: I don't deny I've made mistakes...I don't deny I've been an idiot in the past...it's all part of growing up...you make your own mistakes...your bubble gets popped...but you learn, you move on...you get better and you keep going because you're not a boy your a man. And you owe it to yourself to guide others...that's what I did...helped him even when he needed a little sense knocked into him.

Joseph, who has been watching, is distraught...as now he realizes the reason to everything Nightwing, Batman, Batgirl, Robin and Alfred have been telling him...Nightwing turns on Scarecrow

Nightwing: Not that you'd know anything about that...you're still a scared kid hiding behind a stupid gas mask wanting to feel powerful.

Nightwing rips Scarecrow's mask off and snaps Scarecrow's gauntlet off

Nightwing: How powerful do you feel now?

Scarecrow: ...Subject is...is....*frightened* What are you?

Nightwing: ...A man...you should try it sometime *punches him out*

Nightwing turns...sees Joseph staring at him

Nightwing:...Sorry I had to pop your bubble

Joseph: ...No it's...erm listen about what I said...

Nightwing collapses

Joseph: NIGHTWING!!

Scarecrow stirs

Scarecrow: How could he have resisted the poison for so long?! No matter *stares at the writhing Nightwing* He won't last much longer

Joseph: ...YOU MONSTER!!

He punches Scarecrow out...and for one moment...thinks about snapping his neck

Nightwing: ...*weakly* Joseph...

Joseph: Oh right....

Joseph drops Scarecrow

Scarecrow: oof!

Nightwing tries to get up but the chemicals he fought are taking their roll, Joseph gets a hold of him...Dick Grayson is, for all intents and purposes, dying

Joseph: *narrating* Think, Joseph, think...you gotta save him and soon!

Nightwing holds Joseph's hand

Nightwing: ...It's gonna be okay

Joseph: *whispering* Damn it Circus Boy, how do you think I'll feel being the one who got you killed.

He sees Scarecrow crawling away. He walks over, kicks Scarecrow over, and sets his foot down in Crane's crotch.

Joseph: Antidote...NOW!

Scarecrow: ...There isn't one

Joseph: Tell me how to cure him *increases pressure* or you will be singing falsetto in the Arkham choir

Scarecrow: ...There isn't one...I didn't make one...how do you feel...knowing he's going to die...and it's all you fault?

Joseph cuffs Scarecrow and knocks him out... he returns to Nightwing, holds him again

Joseph: ...B-Batman will come...you'll be fine

Nightwing: ...Yeah...everything will be okay

Joseph: No it won't; I got you killed....

Nightwing: No...I took the shot...trust me...it's gonna be fine...have a little faith in me

Joseph: Do you know how much faith I already do have in you? I mean, you may annoy the hell out of me sometimes, but you are my best friend.

Nightwing: ...And you're my best friend too...always will be

Joseph: I just wish there was something I could do....

Nightwing: ...It's okay...you'll have your time...*starts passing out*

Joseph: Nightwing? Nightwing? *softly, panicky* Dick?

No response...no

Joseph: DICK!

Batman enters, sees Joseph cradling Nightwing

Batman: What happened?

Joseph can't take it anymore...now he really does feel like a child...and he starts weeping

Joseph: It's my fault, it's my fault.....

Time passes in Wayne Manor...Joseph has locked himself in his room...Dick is in the cave, being treated.
Sam knocks on his brother's door.

Sam: Joey, you want something to eat?

Joseph: *inside* Not now, Sammy...

Sam: But it's French Dip!

No answer, Sam turns to Damian

Sam: He loves French Dip!

Damian: ...not as much as he's worried about Grayson I imagine

Sam: Huh?

Damian: He's worried Grayson will die

Sam: But, Dick's been hurt more than....

Damian: Yeah...he'll be fine

Sam pounds on the door again

Sam: Joey, you gotta eat!

Alfred comes up with some food and knocks on Joseph's door

Sam: He's not eating, Alfred!

Alfred: Master Kane...let me in please

Joseph: What is it, Alfred?

Alfred: Prepared a little supper

Joseph: Not hungry

Sam: Told you.

Alfred: Then perhaps you'd like to talk

Joseph: ...Sure

The door opens. Alfred goes in

Joseph: Hey, Alfred....

Alfred: I would advice against this state of depression...at least eat something

Joseph: I almost got my best friend killed....

Alfred: No sir...Master Grayson knows the risks, as do we all...and we accept them and understand the realities of this work...but we keep at it. Master Grayson wants a word....

Joseph: ...He's awake?

Alfred: He just finished debriefing Master Wayne...he wants to talk

Joseph practically bolts out the door. Joseph practically sprints past Sam and Damian, heads to the grandfather clock, opens it, and enters the cave.
Dick is lying on a hospital bed, looking a little pale and drained but turns and smiles at Joseph

Dick: Hey buddy...how are you feeling?

Joseph: *putting on a brave face* Slightly better than you.

Dick: Good to know, sorry if I gave you a scare

Joseph: A scare? Dick...you were dying!

Dick: You really think I'd just go out like that?...Got too much to do

Joseph: Well, someone is back to his blase, quippy self. In the meanwhile, I'm starving due to the fact I couldn't eat thinking you were dying and it was my fault!

Dick: Wasn't yours...it was mine

Joseph: ...What?

Dick: It was my fault.

Joseph: Dick, if I hadn't lost my temper....

Dick: But I chose to take the hit...

Joseph is stunned

Dick: I made a choice, I put your life over my own...it's something I tend to do but then again you are my best friend

Joseph is speechless for a few seconds

Joseph: Thanks, Dick.

Dick: ...Oh and you may not wanna mention the whole guilt thing...could poke a few holes in my debriefing

Joseph: ...What do you mean?

Dick: Well I told Bruce what happened, you found Scarecrow and Riddler...saw what they were doing and came to your senses...you therefore reached out on channels for backup and got me. I went in there, played the hero and got a little messed up, but you helped me when I needed it and kicked Scarecrow's ass. Bruce said I acted rash, could have got myself killed...but I got you home, and we stopped Crane and Nigma...he described your actions as mature, adult....and promising, says you're very nearly ready

Joseph: ...Dick....

Dick: He can't fire me...I've graduated, but hey...whatever I can do to help

Joseph: Thanks, Dick.

Dick: *smiles* Anytime bu-

Joseph suddenly hugs him, his brave face has dissolved now

Dick: ...Still in a little pain.

Joseph: Suck it up

Dick: Hey I'm not the one leaking

Joseph: ...*wipes his eyes* heh...kinda silly huh

Dick: Maybe, doesn't you any less of a man

Then a loud grumbling is heard.

Both: Was that you?

Dick: ..Heh...okay you get something to eat...and have a little chat with Bruce

Joseph: Right. *starts bounding up the stairs* Hey Alfred, I'll have that French Dip now, extra horseradish mayo!

Dick smiles from his bed

Barbara: *off panel*...I'm sorry

Dick: Huh?

Barbara: I said I'm sorry

Dick: What have you got to apolo...you heard all that didn't you

Barbara: Yep

Dick: ...Ah

Barbara: Don't worry, your secret is safe. As is your rep.

Dick: Rep wasn't an issue, not mine at least

Barbara: I know *kisses Dick's forehead* you're trying to help your friend. But I bet you don't want people to know that Nightwing has a soft gooey center

Dick: People can think what they like...though I always hold your opinion in high regard...and why were you apologizing?

Barbara: I was kind of nasty earlier

Joseph reenters the Cave with a plate of food

Joseph: Can you two just kiss already?!

Joseph heads to his usual station

Barabara smiles

Barbara: Well if tonight has taught me anything Richard it's that we can all make mistakes...

She leans down and kisses him, he promptly kisses back. Joseph watches this with a smile on his face as he resumes his duties.

END
When Joseph Kane has an argument with Batman and storms out to prove the Dark Knight wrong, it's up to Nightwing to stop him. Will both survive?

Special thanks to :iconlord-of-justice:, not only is he my coauthor in this, he's the one who suggested the idea!

I do make some references to Pre New 52 stuff here, as well as New 52 stuff. This takes place in the Early Days period

(I swear, someone is going to read this and start shipping JosephxDick in their heads if someone hasn't already...ah well)

Joseph and Sam Kane belong to me
Batman et al belongs to DC Comics
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:iconkobiart:
KobiArt Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2013  Student Photographer
Nightwing's so cool in this story. :D
Being a man means you stop making excuses for yourself and learn from your mistakes. :heart:
Although, the kissing at the end is a tad out of nowhere I think... whatevs, still a good read. ^^
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:icondkalban:
Dkalban Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks :D
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:iconkobiart:
KobiArt Featured By Owner Aug 14, 2013  Student Photographer
You're welcome. :)
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:iconyoungfan196752:
YOUNGFAN196752 Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2013  Professional Filmographer
dick are you a bat or a girl
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:icondkalban:
Dkalban Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
?
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:iconyoungfan196752:
YOUNGFAN196752 Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2013  Professional Filmographer
dick talking to ronin
Reply
:icondkalban:
Dkalban Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Still confused...
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:iconyoungfan196752:
YOUNGFAN196752 Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2013  Professional Filmographer
I THOYUGHT IT WAS FUNNY
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:icondkalban:
Dkalban Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
True, there is some humor I can work with that.

I'll try to get it done ASAP
Reply
:iconyoungfan196752:
YOUNGFAN196752 Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2013  Professional Filmographer
ha ha do it in ours then have ronin say some times im both its from my fav movie knights tale
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