warning: explicitly referenced and mentioned sexual violence, including child rape, and character experiencing a panic attack. If any of these topics triggers you, please do not proceed.

The crunching sound it makes as the fucker's nose breaks under his boot shouldn't be as satisfying as it is, but alas.

"You want to repeat that again?" Nightwing says. The man won't repeat it. He can't, really, muffled sounds of agony escaping his teeth as Nightwing nudges the sole of his feet just a little bit to the right, until he hears, ah, the crack. "What's that? What did your mother say about putting your foot in your mouth?"

More muffled moaning, and not even a snicker. Ah, well. Tough crowd.

He takes the piece of shit by the neck, fingers pressing just enough not to squash his windpipe, stares at him right in the black and blue eyes. "Oh, don't look so glum, you," Nightwing says. "This is a gold treatment for human scums like you." he strikes out his baton, turns the electricity on. "Y'know, 50.000 volts to the head hurts. Trust me, I've been there," and he has, actually. A couple of times. "But for what you and your friends did to that little boy —" he points the baton low, low, lower, until it's a mere inch from the man's crotch, crackling and alight with charge. The man whimpers. It disgusts him. And despite that, there is a sick thrill crawling in the rush of his blood. "Maybe we'll have some experiment, hm?"

"P'ease, p'ease, p'ease —"

"You dare to beg?" Nightwing hisses, his voice a terrible thing, fury in the harsh of his vowels. Ugly. "Did the boy beg? Did you fucking like it, you sick bastard? If it were up to me, you son of a bitch —" if it were up to him. "You'd wish you were dead."

"P'ease," the man says, lips busted open, face bloated and swollen and god, Nightwing thinks, there is a certain kind of sweet sickness in this job, isn't it? A sour scent catches his nose. The man just pissed himself. "'m sorry, 'm sorry.."

Pathetic. Disgusting.

Anger flares his blood like adrenaline, like alcohol. Addicting and disorienting and copious other adjectives he's always been programmed to stay away from. Dangerous. Sick thoughts too big to put into words. Too vile to put into action.

How he wishes.

He knows, when the night ends, he'll hate himself.

"Pray as much as you want, you poor, poor fucking thing," Nightwing says, fingers trembling and how easy, how easy it'd be — he knows how easily people die. A pull of a trigger. A snap of a rope. "Your soul is beyond saving."

Sirens blaring, half a mile away. BPD is coming in five. "You're going to sit pretty, just like this, and tell them what you and your sleeping friends did. You are going to surrender yourselves and confess. Do you know what they do to pieces of shit like you in prison?" It's not pretty. Not so much further than what Nightwing is doing to him right now — if not worse. "You are going to spend the rest of your pathetic lives behind bars. This is my city, and if you ever, ever step one fucking toe outside of those bars, I'll know. You ever touch a single fucking hair of any child ever again, I'll know. And I can promise you this: you'll wish you never left. Do you understand?"

Choking. "Yes," bastard says, and he is crying, snot and tears running down with blood. Four front teeth missing, cheekbones like a can of tuna caught between tractor wheels. Eyes the size of tennis balls. Something nasty blooms in Nightwing's chest, exhilarating and terrible, and he can't help but smile.

And he watches. He perches on the roof of a run down building where he has a clear view of the alley where he knocked five men out, save for one particularly unlucky bastard. An ambulance came after fifteen minutes, and they wheel them in. Nightwing watches. Three hours until sunrise, and he is caught in himself.

He should wait until the anger dissipates. Fists cracking with the need to hurt. Heart beating in a particular kind of rhythm that reminds him of soldiers marching to war. He can't patrol like this. Not if he wants to stay alive — not if he wants people to stay alive.

It's shameful. He's been on this job for far too long and he can't lose his head — losing your temper means death, if not yours then others' — and yet, here he is, like a nine year old watching his parents fall down the damn trapeze. Trembling and far too angry at the world, all over again. Unstable. He's a liability, like this; playing victim. Useless.

Adrenaline's going down, now. Replaced by nausea. His skin feels too tight, choking, cold and clammy, too disgusting. For a split second, he fights the mad urge to claw them off of him. The nausea persists, though. He feels sick. Irrational.

Three hours until sunrise and he is caught in himself.

If any civilian happens to watch Nightwing vomit his dinner to a poor, unknowing potted plant on a random rooftop in East Blüdhaven, well. Nobody's perfect.

"Ah, fuck," he wipes his mouth with the trembling back of his hand. "Ah, fucking hell." Heaves, pukes. Heaves, pukes.

It's a panic attack. He can handle a panic attack all by himself — it's practically a job demand.

Breathe, he tells himself. Pretends it's Bruce's voice. Count to five, Dick.


His heart is flapping like a dying fish inside his chest. Two. Three.

He throws up until it's dry. Now that he thinks about it, he only ate one meal today, didn't he?

"Should stop doing that," he says, voice hoarse, to no one. To himself. He wipes the tears off his cheeks. His mouth feels sandpaper dry. "Get your shit together, Grayson." And then he cries.


It's very unprofessional, and he kinda wants to laugh, but he's fucking sobbing his chest out, and dry heaving at the same time. In uniform. He'd be ashamed of himself if it weren't all so funny. The sobs are wrecking out of his throat with little consideration to its owner, violent. He swears he's being flayed apart. It feels like there is not enough air inside him, not enough space. The thump of his heartbeat reverberating like thunderclaps. I'm dying, he thinks distantly, but he's not, he knows. It's just a panic attack.

Four. This is inefficient. He should call someone. Five.

"Francium," he gasps, mouth running, he barely hears himself. "C-caesium. Rubidium. Potassium. Sodium—"

Call Bruce, he tells himself.


Tim. Absolutely not. Babs? Ha.

"Molybdenum," distantly, when he hears himself again, he already got to group six. It's frantic like it's a prayer, a lifeline. "C-chromium."

It's not working, somewhere, a small, frightened voice in his head whimpers. It's not working. Bruce, it's not —

Dick, I need you to listen to me.

"B-Bohrium," he grits out. "Rhenium."

You are okay.

Liar, Nightwing thinks, laying down on the concrete in the puddle of his own vomit waiting for himself to calm the hell down, dammit — looking up to another one of Blüdhaven's starless nights. What an ugly city. He'd die for it.

There is a safe house north east from here, five minutes away if he's in a good enough condition. He's probably not. He should call someone.

(Can't. Can't let them see him like this.)

He can handle this alone.

It's funny. He isn't sure what set him off. Is it the ten year old boy curling in on himself in RABE Memorial Hospital for three days, now? Is it the sneer, the words, the faggots like you need to have your asses raped? Is it the moment he had his fingers around that neck, the incessant, horrible urge to snap?

He isn't stupid. Nightwing is the best at this job, dammit, he's been at this for a decade. He knows damn well what trauma looks like.

Nevertheless, pretty sure he can handle this alone.

(Is it the gun? Is it the rain? The rooftop? Tarantula fucking him relentless?)

Pretty sure.

"Hey, Walls," Nightwing says to his comm, after his panting subsides. "You busy?"

"Dick!" Wally's voice rings through, clear and bright and DIck can almost see his damn freckles, and god, he wants to fucking cry. "Hey, man, you called! Is there an alien invasion in Blüdhaven or something?"

Dick's mouth twists into something that's perhaps a smile, but if he had a mirror, he knows he'd look like a ruin.

"Dick?" Wally says, something hesitant and wary in his voice, and Dick must've been silent for a beat too long. "You okay, N? Where are you? Do you need me there? Are you —"

"Slow down the jet, West," Dick says, making sure his voice doesn't tremble. "I'm fine." Fucking peachy. "I just — I — "

am having a panic attack because a pedophile wanted to fuck my ass? Nah.

am lonely and fucked up and I need someone to talk to and I actually really, really miss you, dude? Yeah, nope.

" — wanted to know how you're doing," he finishes. "It's been a while."

"Oh, you jerk!" Wally huffs, and Dick smiles, for real this time. "Whose fault is that, huh? Mr. I'm-Busy-Fighting-Crime-Twenty-Four-Seven, huh, Mr. Policeman?"

"Shut up," Dick says, grins. "How've you been?"

His suit is going to reek stomach acid and leftover casserole, and he's pretty sure there is rat shit in his hair. But there is Wally's voice in his ear, prattling like there's never been a distance between the two of them, and Blüdhaven's ugly, ugly night sky hanging over his head — what's not to like? He can breathe again.

And then, somewhere along the line, silence.

"Dick," Wally says, and this time, his voice's taken that particular tone when something is wrong. "Are you okay?"

"Sorry," fuck. "I was listening, really. You were saying about Linda — "

"Are you okay?"

Silence. This time, it lasts only for a second — but a second is a long time for Wally West.

"Give me your location," Wally says, and there are noises over the line, maybe Wally grabbing his jacket, his bag. "I'm going there — "

"No," Dick says, and it's really the wrong thing to say. Too quick, too harsh, too shaky. He's a good liar, he's better than this. "No," he tries again. "You got it wrong. I'm fine."

"Are you?" Wally says, and it's accusing.

"When am I not fine?"

"Not funny."

This probably shouldn't make Dick smile as big as it does. "Fucking relax, asshole," Dick says. "I just — " and it's bad, even if it's honest, honest from Dick's heart; but he shouldn't say it like this. "I miss you."

That makes Dick feels awful, doing this, it's not right, but it's the right thing to say — Wally pauses, Dick can hear the fumbling stops. "Oh," Wally says, a little stunned. And then, "I miss you too, Dick."

Dick breathes. There is a lump in his throat that he forces himself to swallow. "Come over sometime," Dick says, and he's pleased to hear how steady his voice is. A good liar? More like spectacular. "Alright? There's this killer burger place — "

"Dick," Wally says, and there is something there, something in his voice that Dick hates. "You know you can always talk to me, right?"

Can't. Never. "Yeah, Walls," Dick lets the smile slips into his voice. "Wow, you miss me that much, huh?"

"Ass," Wally says, and Dick laughs, and then they are both laughing and for a moment, there is no gunshot. No rooftop. No Blockbuster. No bombed apartment complex. No Tarantula. Like they are kids again, laughing at every bad jokes, every slightly dirty innuendos. Playing truth or dare on the floor of Mount Justice. Like Dick didn't throw up over the word rape. Like Dick didn't almost kill a man tonight — again.

They stop after a while. There is just the sound of them breathing, together. It almost feels like Wally were lying next to him.


"I should go."

Inhale. Exhale. "Alright."

Inhale. "Wally," Dick starts.


Can't let them. Never.

"Thanks," Dick says, and turns the call off.