Summary: Laying low failed. Epically. Like I can't even describe how much I want to crawl into a hole and hide. But that won't work anymore. Life has happened. Everything is falling apart. And it's all Red Hood's fault. Taking down Lex Luthor would have been so much easier if Red just left me alone.

Chapter One -

I can't tell what's going on. It's hazy, there's a shadow just in front of me and I can hear the most unhinged laugh I've ever heard in my life. It's vaguely familiar. And then the next thing I know - I see a bald man, Luthor, my mind supplies - and I know it's not the same figure as before.

Something tells me this is a dream. And then Dream-Luthor starts talking.

"Little girl, you're in way over your head."

Laughter again, but I'm just angry. I have a feeling it's meant to intimidate me, and I want to make him stop. And when it doesn't stop - my whole body tenses and all of a sudden he just dissolves into smoke. It's reminiscent of half the universe after Thanos' snappening.

Only unlike with the snappening, I don't want Luthor to come back - I have no creeping feeling of horror as he dissolves in front of my eyes.

Then it's dark, and I feel something. It's warm and wet and it's on my head - dripping water into my hair and along my temple, and I want to wipe it away, but as soon as I reach up, hands grab my wrists.

I struggle against the hands for a second, before I give up and fall under the haze of sleep again.

When I finally begin to really come to, there's still something wet on my head, but it's kind of cold now, and even more aggravating than before. I'm vaguely reminded of when I was ten (the second time) waking up from a coma because my muscles ache and everything around me feels foreign.

Except mom's not here. At all.

And the sheets are not scratchy. In fact there are no sheets. It's almost - I think I'm on some kind of futon or couch or something.

I crack an eye open and meet a pair of green eyes - I know those eyes - they're - I think it's Red. But I can't be certain because there's a bit of blue, or maybe it's the other way around? I close my eyes again and feel a hand on my forehead - whatever it was on my head has been removed.

"Hey, hey, wake up. You scared the shit out of me, just fainting like that. Come on, wake up."

Right. I fainted, didn't I? After he blew up Falcone's office and killed Sofia. After I killed Falcone and Mario. Because of mom - because they killed mom. After I fell apart because Mrs. Janet - it was the Joker, wasn't it? That piece of shit - after she . . .

My stomach grumbles. But while my stomach is empty (like a gaping hole) and hurting, my mouth feels like if I try to eat anything it's going to revolt. How long has it been?

"Right. Food. I'll be right back."

Footsteps fade away as they travel across the... concrete? floor - yes, concrete floor, my mind supplies. Not tile, not wood, not linoleum. Concrete. - And I almost reach out to stop him. I love food, but my body is telling me it's not exactly the best idea right now.

What the hell is wrong with me? I never say no to food.

And then he's back and he brings cold chicken soup from a can close to my face and the smell of it has me sitting up really fast -

"Woah - hey!"

- and rushing up and finding a door, any door, and I hope it's a bathroom. But no.

It's just a door that leads outside and I'm surrounded by what looks to me like a construction site that I can't even take in appropriately because I'm trying to find a corner to upchuck in.

And I find a corner by the time Red's caught up and all he can seem to do is grab my hair and keep it away from my face. It's mostly water that comes up.

Ugh. That's disgusting.

When did I drink water?

"You okay?"


"Right, stupid question."

I open my eyes again to look at him - and I know those arms and that leather jacket better than I know those eyes. They've spent hours at my apartment, helping me with school papers and teasing me, and around me - it's definitely Red.


And he's wearing his helmet again, so I know it's him.

And then I can feel three heartbeats behind me, and even as I tense and fight back the bile trying to rise out of my stomach, a bunch of people have surrounded us.

"Did you have to blow up another building? What did Falcone ever do to you? You never even did that to Black Mask."

I look around at the assortment of people - Tim and Big Bird are there. And Batman. Batman's here.

"Yeah, so?"

Red really doesn't seem to like them.

"You can't just - there were people in there! And you shot two of them! They're dead and -"

"What do you want?" Red sounds bored.

"You can't just do that!"

"And why are you even still wearing the mask right now?" Aww, Big Bird's jealous. "It's not like we don't know who you -"

"Because it makes me look cool."

I can't help the little bit of laughter that escapes my mouth, before I'm leaning over the bile from before. Ugh. How do I still have anything left in there?

"Annie." Tim acknowledges, seeming to have just now noticed me, in fact they all have.

"Why are you here, Annie?" Well hello to you too, Nightwing. Could your scowl get any deeper? "You know he's -"

"It's none of your business, replacement." Red sounds annoyed right now. And what does that even mean?

My stomach grumbles again and I groan, trying to get up.

"Where are we?"

"You kidnap her, Jason?" That's Batman who just talked and - what?

"I'm going back inside." I think I'm in shock. Because Jason?

Red doesn't seem to want to turn his back on the bats so he stays back, letting me head back inside and -

This place is a dump.

Like, sure. There's some really high tech computers in the corner and a couch with pillows and a whole pile of blankets. But there's also a small hot plate in the corner and a bunch of cans of what looks like campbell's chicken soup and more importantly - there's no bathroom.

Just as I'm about to wonder - is this where Red lives? No wonder he was constantly over at my place - my phone begins ringing. My backpack - where my phone is blasting out the standard ringtone, because I could never be bothered to change it - is resting right next to the couch, AMAZO's leg making it look misshapen.

But I don't want to talk to anyone right now, and I can still hear Red and the others outside the door. They seem to be coming closer.

After twenty seconds the phone stops ringing. Thank God.

And then it starts ringing again.


"You going to get that?" They're behind me, and followed me in, I guess. I'm not paying too much attention, though, to be honest.


Red barks out a laugh as he comes into the room after everyone else and - this phone is really starting to annoy the hell out of me.

I pick it up on the caller's third attempt with a sigh.


"Yes, hello, is this Ms. Annie Simon?"

I sit down on the couch, leaning back and trying to get comfortable and not pay attention to the supers staring at me and damn. It's lumpy. Really, Red?

I hope this is not a fucking sales call.

"That's me."

"My name is Claire with Gotham General. You've been listed as the emergency contact and power of attorney for a Ms. Janet Smith."

Right. Damn. Now I almost wish it were a sales call, now. Since when was this even something hospitals dealt with? Shouldn't it be the morgue, or the police, calling me?

"And this is . . ." I'm not supposed to know she's dead, right?

"She's currently in the Intensive Care Unit -" Wait - what? I sit up quickly and try to run those words through my head again, because what do they mean - is she not dead? "- but as you're her power of attorney, and she is unconcious, we need you to come in and sign some papers."

"O-of course, um. I'm not exactly feeling the best right at the moment. Do I need to be there now?"

"As soon as possible. We can't make many more decisions for her health without your go ahead. We've been trying to get in touch with you for a while now."

"Oh. I-I'll try to be there soon."

The call ends, and I'm - I don't even know what I feel.

"What's she even doing here?" Right. Nightwing. Big Bird.

"None of your fucking business."

Thank you, Red. That's exactly what I was thinking.

I grab my backpack and get up - because she's alive. Joker didn't kill her. How? - only to find Red blocking my way.

"What do you think you're doing?"

"Going to the hospital. I have papers to sign."

"You're not healthy enough to go anywhere. I mean, you were just throwing up. You fainted! In the middle of the street!"

I glare. "I'm fine."

"Is fainting a normal occurrence for you?"


He scoffs under that obnoxious helmet of his, and continues. "What about throwing up - what about any of that makes you think you're fine?"

"I didn't eat enough - that's why I fainted. And I'm feeling fine now."

"You didn't answer my question. And you haven't been able to eat yet either! It's been sixteen hours! She shouldn't be up yet." He switches halfway through from talking to me to explaining to his 'guests' and I guess try to convince them to help him stop me.

"Really. I'm fine." And if I'm not fine, it's a hospital.

The other people in the room look confused and - right. Neither the original boy wonder, nor the current one, nor their mentor, know about my many interactions with Red. Or that I need lots of food.

"And anyway, we still need to talk about what the fuck you were thinking last month."

Because he left first. He has no right to judge me about leaving right now. At least I'll be back.

He folds his arms in front of his chest, looking like a petulant child. I'm slightly amused. But I still need to get to the hospital.

"I'll go with her!" says Tim.

I try not to glare at him.

"She's not going anywhere."

I roll my eyes and make to leave the apartment. Because Red doesn't get to tell me what to do. Not right now.

"Try to stop me and see where that gets you, Red. I'm not a damsel in distress. Besides, I'm going to a hospital. If anything goes wrong, I'm in the right place."

Not that I'll let any of the doctors near me, but the point still stands.

And he doesn't try to stop me.

Before I leave, I stop and look back at them all.

"He only shot Sofia by the way. And blew up the building. The rest was all me."

I make a note of where I am when I leave. It . . . it's such a dump, and what are you doing, Red? Aren't you a crime lord? Can't you afford something a little better? But before I can really get into judging Red's life choices, there's another heartbeat behind me.

I turn my face a little, and oh. Right. Tim did say he was going with me. Maybe if I ignore him, he'll leave me alone.

But no. The whole trip to Gotham General is filled with questions from the most obnoxious person I've ever met.

"So, Annie . . . How do you know Ja-Red Hood?"

Ignore, ignore, ignore. He was going to say something else - probably Jason, like Batman did, I can tell - and I glare at him for a bit and definitely don't answer.

"Come on! You always said no to Big Bird and me."

"It's none of your business."

"Come on. He's - he's a criminal, you know. Of course it's my business. And I mean, what -"

"It's really not."


"It's not your business."


"Just drop it."

He frowns, and I feel a little bad. Because he's a teenager - really. And I'm - I'm supposed to be the adult.

"So . . . you did everything else at Falcone's? What does that even mean?"

"It means he blew up the building and killed Sofia. After I took out Mario and Falcone."


"Because. Can you be quiet now?"

He is for a hot second and then, "Why are we going to the hospital?"


"That's not an answer."


"Come on! It's not like -"

"I don't care."


"No. What will it take to get you to shut up?"

"Just answer my questions."

He looks so fucking pleased with himself. But I glare back at him anyway. And damn, he's almost taller than me.

"Because I have to fill out some paperwork!"


And really, I'm just so fed up with this and -ugh.

"Why were you throwing up earlier?"

Will he never shut up? I answered his damn question.

"Hell if I know."

"Oh. Okay."

And finally, he shuts up and is mostly quiet the rest of the walk to the hospital. Him trailing behind me also has the added benefit of getting the nurses to help me faster. Because of course - he's a known superhero, after all, partner of The Batman - and I'm not freaking out at all - I swear I'm not.

I'm so glad I still have my ID, because otherwise proving who I am would suck.

There are so many forms to sign - like a whole stack about six inches thick.

And what the fuck? I spend an hour just making sure I agree to whatever the fuck I'm reading (Thank God I do, because some of this is fucked up - what do they mean donate her body for research to Arkham? No fucking way am I doing that. They'll turn her into a zombie, and people actually agree to this shit?).

And from what I'm reading, it doesn't look good. It's a miracle she's alive at all. She's on a bunch of pain meds . . .

When that's done and taken care of, Tim - Robin - follows me to the room - room 1211 (on the twelfth floor) only to find police officers outside, guarding.

I almost panic.

"Move along," one of the police officers says - an Officer Gutierrez.

"I'm here to see Mrs. Janet Smith."

He eyes me suspiciously before shaking his head 'no.'

"Sorry." He doesn't sound sorry. "No can do."


Officer Gutierrez rolls his eyes while the other one - an Officer Jackson - nudges him with his elbow.

"What is your relationship to the patient."

At least this guy isn't saying no. "I'm her power of attorney." It takes more energy than it should to not call him a buttwad or something worse and more appropriate.

Officer Jackson sighs, but nods his head, seeming to figure it's better to let me through than to argue, even as Officer Gutierrez glares at me and grumbles about how it's against protocol.

And then, there she is - lying there with bandages and looking practically dead - but that's definitely her heart beating over there.

My stomach growls at that moment, and Tim starts chuckling.

This guy . . . I swear I'm about to smash his face in, he's annoying me so much.

But Mrs. Janet stirs and seems to take stock of her surroundings before turning to me and - she smiles widely.


Her voice is raspy and I frown as she tries to get up.

"No, don't - it's okay. You don't have to get up!"

She doesn't listen to a word I say.

"What happened? Last I remember -"

"I'm sorry, ma'am." Fucking Officer Gutierrez does not look sorry at all, and I have to hold myself back from sending him flying back through the door because he's interrupting a heartfelt and emotional reunion. "It looks like she's awake, and we need to speak to her. You can come back tomorrow."

Mrs. Janet looks so lost in that moment, and all I can do is glare at the officer.

"I -"

"Oh, come on! We've been here for an hour now doing paperwork, and just when we get to see her you stop us? Officer, I'm sure you can-"

"I'm sorry, but-"

"Officers, she's family. I won't talk without her here." Huh. Mrs. Janet's the kind of badass I want to be.

They don't look really happy.

"Mrs. Smith -"

"Please, call me Janet."

"Ms. Janet -"

"No! I was married, I'll have you know. I'm not a spinster. It's Missus or not at all!"

Mrs. Janet, bless your soul - you're my spirit sister. Because honestly? The police officers look like they have no idea what to do right now with her.

"Mrs. Janet Smith-"

"No need to be quite so formal, young man. Now get to it! I'm not getting any younger."

I'm doing a fantastic job keeping my laughter in - hidden behind a big smile I can't suppress.

The officers look so lost too. As if they don't know how to even respond - at least until Officer Jackson pulls himself together and begins the questions.

"What were you doing two nights ago at approximately nineteen hundred hours?"

"Nineteen hundred?"

I take pity on the officers. "Seven o'clock in the evening, Mrs. Janet. The last thing you remember."

"Oh, well why didn't you say so?" she scoffs as she holds one of her hands in the other - almost nervously, except her face is more annoyed than anything else. "I was just finishing watching the six o'clock news. And then this clown character came barging in and asking about Jason Todd -"

Her words begin to fade slightly because - there's that name again. What is she talking about? Why would Joker - and then Batman -

"You know? That boy Mr. Wayne adopted all those years ago that died. He seemed to be insisting the poor boy was alive, but you know that clown wearing maniac - he's not exactly right in the head and -"

But of course - this is a comic universe. And if there's anything I've learned about comics, it's that no one stays dead long - except maybe Uncle Ben - not Gwen Stacy (just look at Spider-Gwen), not Bucky Barnes (he came back as the Winter Soldier). DC is probably no different from Marvel in that aspect. The ones that die either don't die at all or - and even if there was a body . . .

"- And then he was asking where Annie is - which I thought was strange, but that it also explained why she's here. Because she's not just family, she's my landlord. And -"

"I'm sorry," Officer Gutierrez interrupts, "but - Joker was specifically asking for Ms. Simon here? Or for your landlord?"

"He was asking for Annie. Said he was going through the class list from Mr. Todd's middle school days. I told you - he's crazy. And then he got out this crowbar and -"

Mrs. Janet stops talking as she seems to remember what happened.

"I think the only thing that saved me was that Life Alert button thing. I fell and didn't even need to press anything. They somehow knew - I haven't even had it for very long. I just saw it on the tv and -"


"Oh, right. I'm sorry. What was the question again?"

Officer Gutierrez gives me the stink eye before closing his notebook and grumbling.

"One moment, Ma'am. We'll be right back."

Mrs. Janet stares after them for a second before she turns to look at me again, giving Tim a quick up-down measure-up.

"Annie, it's not safe here right now. Joker's looking for -"

"It's okay. I already talked to him."

She looks so fucking terrified at the thought, I rush to add, "I'm not as helpless as you think I am. I'm here, you know?"

She doesn't look convinced, and looks around the room as if expecting someone else to show up and start shooting up the place. She doesn't seem to notice Tim in his Robin get-up.

"I'm not so sure those police officers are on our side," she whispers. "They were talking about Lex Luthor just before you came in and how - I just. Annie, I have a bad feeling about all of this."

Right. Perfect.


Tim and I leave Mrs. Janet's room before the police officers get back - Mrs. Janet insists she can handle their questions and it would probably be a good idea for me to rest. I don't look like I've had enough sleep - and Mrs. Janet's always been a mother hen.

Unfortunately, while I successfully ditch the officers, I'm not so lucky with Tim.

"So are we heading back now?"

"No." Tim looks so disappointed. "I'm getting food."

"Where are we going?"


He looks confused now. "But you just said -"

"Come on, we haven't got all day."

I get back to my apartment with Tim complaining that he has better things to do than babysit me (no one invited him) but insisting it's his duty to make sure I make it home safe because - "No way! Red Hood would kill me - he already hates my guts!" and he looks so affronted that I'd even suggest it.

But damn. It was worth a shot.

On the plus side, the Gotham Metro is really pleasant when you've got a Robin escorting you. No one seems to want to stand too close to Tim.

We arrive at my apartment only to find even more cop cars. Like seriously, all I can see are the alternating red and blue lights and - really?

As I approach the building, a police officer - looks new and uncertain about his job - holds a hand up and moves to stop me from getting through with a "Sorry, ma'am, we can't let you through."

I roll my eyes.

"I live here."

The police officer frowns. "We've accounted for all the occupants."

"Bullshit. I live in apartment 5C."

There. He recognizes - oh shit. He recognizes my apartment number.

"You're Annie Simon?"

Fuck this. Fuck this and all - I wanted to fucking blend in! This is not blending in.


"You - are you aware the Joker and two members of his gang were found in your apartment - crippled?"


"They broke into my fucking apartment."

"Woah! Really?" Tim, shut up, please

"As far as I'm concerned, they got what they deserved."

"So - so you are aware."

"And your point?"

"That - ma'am, we're going to have to bring you in for questioning."

I roll my eyes even as Tim begins protesting. Loudly.

"The guy - who broke out of Arkham, has killed a bunch of people, and breaks into a girls' apartment with a gun to her face - gets crippled and the girl who was threatened gets locked up. Right."

He does not look amused, so I cut in, "You know my mom was a lawyer? A story like this - it'll be on the headlines of the Gotham Gazette - . . . What's your name again, officer . . . ?"

"Uh, right." He moves to cover his nametag as he reaches for the radio strapped to his vest - that nametag is too conveniently placed. "I'll call Commissioner Gordon."

And fuck - I know that name too.

"Uh, is this going to take long? Because I'm getting hungry too."

"Shut up, Robin."

Tim rolls his eyes as another guy comes up to us.

"I got this officer. My name is Jim Gordon, and you are?"

"Annie Simon. I live in apartment 5C."

"Ah." He rubs his forehead, a pencil in his hand before he sighs, "And . . . are you aware the Joker was found outside your apartment, trying to crawl away."

"Guess I should have hit him harder."

He snorts and takes out a cigarette from his pocket.

"Please don't."

His eyebrows raise but he puts the cigarette away for a bit, at least.

"Can I grab anything from my apartment."

"Sorry. No can do." Fuck officers and their fucking phrase 'no can do' - it's such a cop-out. At least he does have the shame to look sorry. "We have to process the crime scene and it'll be a couple of days, most likely a week before we get it done. We'll also need to question you about -."

This - this is fucking ridiculous.

"You realize, Joker invaded my apartment. He attacked me. He's a fucking psychopathic murderer. You're invading my privacy for this?"

He sighs again (and I swear,if Tim makes one more noise . . .) - "I understand. But unfortunately, we still need an official report and investigation, and we need to preserve the integrity of the crime scene. You were there?"


"And you left?"

"They weren't dead when I left, and I was more worried about getting away from the psychopath. You know - self-preservation? He held a gun to my head."

"You fled a crime scene?"

"They invaded my fucking apartment. I was just trying to get somewhere safe."

"And you're here now?"

"I passed out last night and spent the evening at a friends' place."

Tim snorts. And right, Jason is - ugh.

"Do you need medical attention?"

"I'm fine -"

"She was throwing up earlier."

I'm this close to smacking him.

"Here -"

"I don't need a doctor, I just need food and rest and - and clothes."

"I'm afraid I can't let you take anything from the crime scene. And besides that, based on the three eyewitness accounts, you assaulted them."

I've never been more relieved that I have my laptop and AMAZO's leg in my backpack than at this moment. But I'm so angry, I just want to break something.

"This is bullcrap. Have you looked at me? I mean seriously, I look like a strong wind could blow me over. I could barely get away from the three psychopaths that invaded my house."

Tim snorts behind me even as Commissioner Gordon attempts to speak up.

"That may be so but -"

"And what do you mean it's going to take a week? You're not going to reimburse me for the spoiled food, are you? I have milk in that refrigerator! What about where I'm going to sleep tonight? I want you to be aware, I don't give you - any of you - permission to search my house or anything of mine."

"We can -"

"Forget it." I turn around and just leave. "Boy Wonder, let's go to the grocery store."

"Uh, okay."

And as we're leaving, I can hear the commissioner shout out, "Hey! We still need to set up an interview! And we need to check your backpack!"

No you fucking don't. They already have access to my underwear drawer, without my permission. I'm not letting them find AMAZO's leg in my bag.

"I'll call you!"

Except, no I won't. That's a stupid idea.

"I think you're all full of it, Commissioner!" Tim shouts back to him, and - wow. Didn't know he had it in him. "So, we headed back now?"

Ugh. Nevermind.