Continuity: Comics!verse AU, based on post-Crisis continuity.
Rating: R. Hard R.
Characters: This chapter- Batman/Bruce Wayne, Robin/Dick Grayson, Poison Ivy, Alfred Pennyworth; more characters in future chapters.
Warnings: This chapter- some blood and violence, dead people, life-threatening situations, I think all of one swear word. In future chapters, scary!Timmy doing bad bad things.
Chapter Word Count: 3664
Chapter Summary: An old adversary escapes from Arkham, and it's Batman and Robin's job to find and stop her. Problem is... Robin's kind of dropped the ball.
Notes: Un-beta'd. ...No Timmy in this chapter, sorry. Timmy POV will be every other chapter in this story. But don't get too comfortable... it's Timmy's hobby to stalk the Batfamily, and they haven't noticed him lurking in the shadows thus far. So remember, as you're reading this story (to paraphrase the horrible '50s PSA)... one never knows when the Timmy may be about!!
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* * *
A casual observer wouldn’t be able to tell that Batman was limping as he returned to the Batmobile, but he was. Brusquely yanking a box from its storage container near the door of the vehicle, he removed a small canister. Shaking it twice, he sprayed the blood-coagulating agent into a gaping wound on his thigh. His jaw clenched as the foam expanded, but not from the pain. Each jerky motion he made screamed frustration and anger as he removed a Batsuit-colored roll of bandaging from the med-kit and started to do a quick-and-dirty patch-up of his leg.
Batman opened a commlink. “Robin! Where are you?!” he growled.
“Sorry, Boss, I got held up in New York. ETA thirty minutes. …You sound upset. What happened?”
“You weren’t here and Isley escaped, that’s what happened!” Batman snarled.
“What?! You said our contact told you she was going to make her move during the 3:15 shift-change!”
“You said you’d be back in Gotham by sundown!” Batman yanked a knot tight angrily. “Our contact in Arkham is dead. Isley knew; she changed her plans. And she had help. The security detail was completely overwhelmed.”
“Stop. No time. You reviewed the list I sent you?”
“Head to 1145 Washington Street. I’ll check the others. Call me if you see her. Understood?”
Batman shoved the med kit back in its compartment, sliding into the Batmobile and starting the engine. “Batman out.”
~ ~ ~
1145 Washington Street was a stalled-out community development project. A non-profit organization called the Green Gotham Alliance had purchased an old, defunct office building and, with donations and government grants, begun converting it into affordable, environmentally friendly apartments. Shade trellises to cut cooling costs, solar water heating, a wind turbine, and a rooftop community garden and greenhouse were all part of the plan.
Then, halfway through the refurbishing, asbestos was discovered in the walls, and the project was suspended indefinitely, pending removal.
Following his usual Be Prepared For Everything policy, Batman had compiled a list of places Dr. Pamela Isley was likely to go to ground in the event of her escape from Arkham, or her falling off the wagon post-rehabilitation and release. Places she’d used before, places she was connected to by rumor, places her profile indicated she might like. There were no rumors (that Batman had heard) connecting Isley to 1145 Washington, but it was definitely the kind of real estate she’d be interested in: abandoned and unwelcoming to visitors, with accommodation for her plants.
Robin crouched at the edge of an adjacent rooftop, looking down on 1145 with narrowed eyes. There was no movement amongst the abandoned piles of building supplies and half-finished garden on the roof. No lights shone through the semi-opaque, translucent sheeting of the greenhouse.
Better take a closer look. Robin stood and took a couple of steps back. Then, with three short, sprinting steps he launched himself into space, tucking himself into a roll as he hit the roof of 1145 and ending in a crouch in the cover of a stack of unused PVC pipes. He held his breath for a few beats, listening.
Hearing nothing, he rose fluidly to his feet and made his way to the greenhouse, slipping like a shadow between lumber piles and stacked rolls of plastic sheeting. Robin undid the simple latch on the door and, pulling the door open, stepped inside.
The greenhouse was definitely in use. Lush, exotic growth poured out of pots and planters. The air was warm and humid in contrast to the chilled night air of Gotham in March.
Robin took a cautious step forward, removing two Batarangs from his utility belt and nervously watching the plants. He cursed himself for running late, for not having time to pick up herbicide at the Cave. If these were Ivy’s plants….
Robin moved deeper into the greenhouse, eyes straining to catch a glimpse of movement, human or vegetable. I should leave, he told himself. I should get out. I should call Bruce and– is that a person?
He froze. At the end of the greenhouse, near the other door, was a distinctly human shape. Robin sidestepped, sliding between two large barrels and into the next row, using a tangle of viny growth as cover. Quiet as smoke, he slipped closer to the end of the row.
There were two of them, definitely human. Upright against the far wall, but perfectly motionless. The door was ajar. Robin frowned. Pulling out a penlight, he flicked it on– and recoiled.
They were bodies, shriveled, almost mummified, pulled tightly against a trellis and held upright by vines. Pale green tendrils wrapped around them, disappeared into ears, eye sockets, nostrils, mouths. “Holy–”
Movement in the corner of his eye. Robin spun, dropping the penlight. He slashed out with a Batarang, sliced the vine that had been reaching for his wrist. Other vines were already brushing against the backs of his arms and legs, slithering against his cape. Robin made a dive for the door, slashing wildly, using his Batarangs like cane knives; a writhing tangle closed in front of him, blocking his way. Brambles snagged at his clothes; pale tendrils reached blindly towards his face (–ears, eyes sockets, nostrils, mouth–).
Robin whirled again, starting to sprint down the wide center aisle, but it was too late. A thick, green cable coiled around one ankle, tripping him and sending him sprawling. He reached down to cut it, but vines were already wrapping around his wrist, his chest, his throat. He was pinned, hopelessly ensnared in the tangle, struggling in vain as the vines constricted, squeezed….
“Well, well. And who have we got here?” Robin strained to lift his head, choking a little as a thick, sturdy vine pressed against his Adam’s apple. The voluptuous silhouette of Pamela Isley, a.k.a. Poison Ivy, stood framed in the open doorway of the greenhouse, dimly backlit by Gotham’s city lights. Ivy shifted her weight, lifted an arm, and Robin blinked and squinted as the overhead full-spectrum lights snapped on, illuminating fiery hair and a trademark green outfit that was more skin than cloth. “Robin. Of course. That didn’t take you very long. Where’s Batman?” Ivy stepped forward, trailing her fingers amongst leaves and stems that leaned towards her, adoring, as towards the sun.
“Not here?” Ivy smiled. “Flying solo?” She paused, wrapping a hand, affectionate, around the slender trunk of a young fruit tree. A shiver passed among her plants like a breeze, and the vines cocooning Robin slid and shifted over his body, lifting him upright. Green tentacles pulled him forward, passing him from plant to plant, lianas uncurling and falling away as new vines twined around him, replacing them. Robin renewed his struggles; a supple branch studded with long thorns, hard as bone and needle-sharp, fastened itself around his neck and squeezed, pushing through the skin and drawing blood. Robin froze.
Ivy was stepping forward to meet him, head tilted speculatively. “I didn’t see you at Arkham earlier.” She paused and the vines stilled, holding Robin immobile a few feet in front of her. “Look at you. All. Grown. Up,” she said, her voice a husky purr and her eyes traveling over him, hungry, appreciative. Ivy stepped closer, eyes smoldering, reaching up to trail a sharp, green fingernail along the line of his jaw. Her lips parted, then she smiled and turned away.
“You like?” she asked, gesturing to their surroundings, facetious. She glanced at him coyly over her shoulder then turned again, giving him a knowing look as she pulled the Batarangs from his resisting fingers. Ivy stepped away from him once more, dropping the weapons carelessly on the ground. “When you caught me last time,” she continued, “I was experimenting with introducing a few very interesting characteristics in my new cultivars.” She turned to a potted plant, smiling softly as she brushed the tips of her fingers along the length of a stem, a tender caress. “Vocal signaling. Any voice but mine triggers defensive behavior.”
Ivy moved idly through the rows, greeting her plants and checking on irrigation tubing, keeping up her monologue all the while. “It’s a nice greenhouse, don’t you think? State of the art, completely automatic and self-contained. A rain catchment system for irrigation, photovoltaics to power the pumps and timers and lights. The perfect place to keep my babies safe and happy while I was away. And no one ever comes here so– oh!” Ivy reached the end of the greenhouse, noticing the shriveled corpses for the first time. “Looks like someone did.” She clicked her tongue. “Oh well~.”
She lost interest in the bodies immediately, slipping past them to coo over a newly opened flower bud. After a moment she straightened. Narrowing her eyes at the back of Robin’s head, she stalked back over to where he hung restrained. “You’re being very quiet. It’s not like you. Ahh….” A sigh of understanding as she took in the stiletto-sharp thorn threatening his trachea and the way he’d parted his lips just slightly, breathing through his mouth to keep himself from needing to swallow.
Ivy’s lips twisted into an insolent smile. “I like you better this way, I think. Quiet. Immobile. Well-behaved. …You can be such a naughty boy sometimes.” Her eyes had gone predatory again, hungry and dangerous. Ivy slid up against him, slipping one hand around behind his shoulders and up, caressing the nape of his neck. With her other hand she reached up to touch his face, brushing the backs of her fingers down his cheek and pulling the pad of her thumb across his lower lip. Ivy laughed to see the pulse in his neck quicken. “What shall I do with you, hmmm? Boy Wonder? Excuse me, Teen Wonder. …Not really a boy anymore, are you?” she purred. Another shiver passed through her plants, and with a soft, whispering slither the vines and brambles slid away from Robin’s chest and throat, although they remained wrapped tightly around his limbs.
Robin swallowed and took a few gasping breaths. “Isley–”
“Shhhhh.” Ivy pressed a finger to his lips then trailed it lazily downwards, down his throat, his chest, his stomach….
Robin flexed his fingers. “Dr. Isley,” he said again. “Pamela. Give yourself up. If you come peacefully I promise I’ll see to it that your plants aren’t killed.”
Ivy’s face twisted, and in a flash her hand was at his throat. “Insolent creature!” she hissed. “As if you’re the one in control! You and the Bat think you own this town! You don’t own this town!” Her hand tightened, squeezed, and Robin choked.
There was a high-pitched crash of breaking glass as one of the roof panels shattered, and a Batarang buried itself in the side of a plastic pot, spilling dirt. It was immediately followed by two small, cylindrical canisters that bounced once on the greenhouse’s concrete floor, clinking, before releasing explosions of rust-orange gas. On contact with the gas Ivy’s plants writhed violently with agonized, silent screams. Ivy’s face pinched and crumpled as if the pain were her own, and a tortured cry tore itself from her throat. “Nooo!!” Her grip on Robin’s throat loosened, and he coughed and gasped, trying to fill his lungs with clean air before the cloud of herbicide enveloped them.
Another roof-pane exploded inwards, and this time the rain of glass was accompanied by the black armor and swirling cloak of the Batman. He landed swinging, a sharp, machete-like blade in each hand, fending off a swarm of furious, clutching vines. Triggers in the handles released sprays of concentrated herbicide. Batman fought his way towards his captured partner. “Isley!! Let him go!!”
“My babies,” Ivy moaned, then collapsed into a fit of coughing, sticky, sap-green tears oozing from the corners of her eyes. She shot Batman a furious, hateful look. Reaching up to grab a fistful of Robin’s hair, she yanked his lips harshly down to meet hers. Then she fled towards the back door.
The poisoned plants sagged, losing their strength in the orange haze, and Robin collapsed to the ground. Gloved fingers clawed at his throat and he choked, frothy saliva flecking his lips.
Batman sliced through the last of the weakening vines. “Robin!!” Sparing barely a glance for Poison Ivy, Batman dropped to his knees where his partner writhed and wheezed on the ground, hastily injecting Robin with a syringe from his utility belt.
Within seconds Robin’s breathing eased significantly, but his skin was pale and clammy, and his limbs were sapped of strength. Lifting the young man’s body with a grunt, Batman turned and tread swiftly for the door. Green tendrils, feebly twitching, were crushed beneath his boot heels.
Batman didn’t lift his gaze from his partner’s ashen face as he crossed the roof. There was no point in looking for Poison Ivy. She was long gone.
~ ~ ~
Weak. Not quite incapacitated, but almost. Burning in trachea and lungs. Bruising of the throat. Pinching, itching, and tenderness of the skin… multiple incisions, superficial. No mask on my face. I’m in a bed. A bed in a room. There’s someone in the room. “Bruce?” Bruce. Bruce is safe. This room is safe. I’m safe. I. Dick Grayson. Robin. I was unconscious. I went up against Poison Ivy. She poisoned me.
Dick opened his eyes a crack. He was in his own bed in his room in Wayne Manor. Daylight came in through a gap in the window curtains. Bruce was seated in a chair in a dark corner, elbows resting on his knees, fingers clasped, thumbs steepled and pressed against his lips. He wore a stormy and troubled expression.
Bruce said nothing. The stony look in his eyes didn’t change.
Dick drifted into blackness again.
~ ~ ~
The next time Dick awoke it was dark out, Bruce was gone, and Alfred was just opening Dick’s bedroom door to check on him. “Hey Alfie,” Dick said hoarsely, and coughed a little. He opened his eyes.
“Master Richard!” The old butler blinked in mild astonishment. Then the lines around his eyes crinkled with pleasure and he slipped into the room. “How are you feeling?” he asked with grave fondness.
Dick took stock. “Considering I’ve had a make-out session with Poison Ivy… I’ve had worse!” He grinned, suppressing a cough.
Alfred went about checking Dick’s pulse and temperature. “Perhaps, Master Richard, but you were in fairly serious condition. …Glass of water, sir?” He reached for the tall glass sitting on the end table next to the bed.
“Yeah, thanks Alfie,” Dick said, pushing himself gingerly up against the pillows and reaching for the cool glass. He took long, grateful swallows, soothing his herbicide-burned throat. “…Where’s Bruce?” he asked, his eyes sliding towards a clock. 8:32.
“Master Bruce is out with Miss Gordon, trying to track down Poison Ivy,” Alfred replied.
Dick raised his eyebrows. “Babs? I thought she was out of town.”
“She was,” said Alfred. “Master Bruce called her back early. …Can I bring you something to eat, sir? Some chicken soup, perhaps?”
Dick grinned, shoving back the heavy blankets covering him. He’d been dressed in flannel pajamas, and he was much too hot. “Absolutely I want some of your chicken soup! But I’ll eat it in the kitchen.” He slid his legs over the side of the bed.
“Are you quite sure that’s wise, sir?” Alfred’s disapproving frown indicated that he, clearly, didn’t think so.
“Yeah, probably,” Dick replied cheerfully. Getting his feet under him, he stood up– carefully. “Ugh,” he said, swaying unsteadily on his feet and making a face. “I feel like I went to a bar with a hundred-degree fever, drank myself sick, and threw myself through a window.” He caught the expression on the butler’s face. “Don’t worry, Alfred, I promise I’ll take it easy. I just… don’t want to be in a bed anymore.”
Alfred breathed a long-suffering sigh of resignation and fetched Dick’s dressing gown, helping him into it. “I suppose I should count my blessings that you’re not trying to go out on patrol,” he said.
“Patrol? Heck no. I want soup!”
~ ~ ~
Dick waited for Bruce. He sat still and rested as much as possible, reading. Once in a while he got up and shuffled around the manor. He made his way carefully down to the Batcave, reviewed almost a week’s worth of Bruce’s reports from the days he’d missed while he was with the Titans, and made his way carefully back up again. He ate two more bowls of Alfred’s soup, and drank three cups of tea with honey and a tall glass of orange juice.
Around 4:30 in the morning Dick began to have difficulty keeping his eyes open. Bruce wasn’t back yet. Dick went to bed.
When he woke up for the third time it was early afternoon. Dick still felt a bit lightheaded, but otherwise most of the weakness had left him. Wayne Manor was dead quiet. A brief investigation found Alfred taking one of his catnaps; Bruce was nowhere to be seen.
Matching the solemn silence of the manor, Dick quietly showered and dressed. He went downstairs and quietly made and ate a sandwich. Then he headed down to the Cave to look for Bruce.
Bruce was there, at the Batcomputer. He wasn’t wearing the Suit, not yet, not this early in the day, but he had that particular set to his shoulders that he always did when he was Working, a certain posture never seen in the spine of Brucie Wayne. It was impossible that he hadn’t heard Dick’s approach, but he didn’t pause in his typing or turn around. Dick shoved his hands in his pockets and waited for Bruce to finish whatever it was he was working on– probably writing a new search algorithm– and acknowledge his presence.
After a minute Bruce tapped a key with a sense of finality and swiveled to face Dick. His face bore the same stony, cold expression it had the day before in Dick’s bedroom. He didn’t speak.
Dick fought the urge to fidget under Bruce’s formidable gaze. “Ivy?” he inquired.
“Still at large.”
Dick winced. Bruce’s voice was a growl to match his expression, dark and thunderous. He was angry. “She looked like she was suffering pretty badly. The herbicide wouldn’t have….” Dick trailed off, worrying his lip.
“Not at that concentration.”
Dick nodded, feeling stupid. Of course Bruce knew what he was doing.
There were a few moments of tense silence, then… “We need to talk,” Bruce pronounced ominously. He tapped a couple of keys; a small window popped up on the Batcomputer’s screen reading ‘SECURITY: LEVEL ONE LOCKDOWN’, ensuring that Alfred would be unable to interrupt.
Looking back, Dick should have taken that as a clue to what was coming.
Dick sighed, his shoulders slumping a little. “I know, I’m sorry, I messed up,” he said. “I let Ivy grab me, and because of that she got away. I should’ve called for backup.”
“That doesn’t even begin to cover it!!” Bruce shouted. Dick’s eyes widened. Okay, he was really angry. “You weren’t there at Arkham and Isley escaped–!”
Dick tried to cut in. “Our intel said 3:15–!”
“Situations in the field are changeable, Dick, you know that! You promised me you’d be back by sundown–!”
“Right, Bruce, situations in the field are changeable! The Titans and I ran into a little extra trouble, there was nothing I could do about it! But we put Brother Blood away for good– which is, by the way, actually kind of a big deal–”
Bruce shoved himself up from the chair. “You swore an oath to me!! You’re supposed to be my partner, but you’re never around! This isn’t the first time you’ve dropped the ball. …I can’t depend on you, Dick.”
Dick foundered, shocked and hurt. “Bruce–”
“You were late, you weren’t there when I needed you, you didn’t call for backup, and you weren’t prepared! You went into the field against an extremely dangerous opponent without any of the proper equipment! No herbicide, no antitoxin, not even nasal filters– Dick, those are supposed to be standard issue–!”
“My last set was contaminated earlier in the day, I was gonna come here first and stock up on all of that, but–”
“But you were late. …You were sloppy, Dick, you went into this mission half-cocked! And because of it, Pamela Isley got away– again!– and you very nearly got yourself killed!” Bruce slammed his fist against the console, cracking the casing. “Unacceptable!!”
Dick swallowed. “I… shit. Bruce, I’m sorry–”
“No, you’re not. You’re done.”
“…What?” Dick frowned.
“You heard me.” Bruce’s face was a granite mask, his voice just as cold.
Dick spluttered. “You’re firing me?! …Bruce, wait, listen–”
“There’s nothing to discuss.” Bruce crossed his arms. “Now get out of my Cave.”
Dick gaped at Bruce in shock. He couldn’t believe this was happening. He took a step back, not to leave but to distance himself from the situation, give himself time and space to think.
“And leave the Robin costume.”
It was the last straw. Dick’s face twisted as hot anger replaced cold shock. “Fine!!” he snarled, clenching his fists. “If that’s the way you want it Bruce, then yes, I’m done. I’m done with you!” He spun on his heel and stalked up the long, stone staircase to the Batcave’s main entrance… which wouldn’t open. Dick threw his fist against the door in frustration. “Bruce–!!” There was a soft chime as Bruce disengaged the lockdown.
Dick shoved the door open, coming face to face with Alfred, who was holding a battle axe and looked like he’d been about to use it to smash through the ancient grandfather clock that disguised the door to the Cave. “Master Richard! Is everything alright–?!” Dick pushed past Alfred roughly.
“…No. No, it’s not.”
* * *