(WARNING! this contains violence, swearing, blood, vomiting, torture, themes of child abuse and also contains spoilers from the show so be careful and don't read anything that may trigger something. Much love, Wolfy.)
Screams, blood spraying onto his tongue and running down his throat, chunks of warm meat in his mouth, skin caught between teeth.
"Gar. Wake up."
Garfield snapped awake with a gasp, instinctively shoving himself backwards, scrambling away from the hands that reached for him. Whimpers flew from his mouth as he panted, pressing himself to the inside corner of the car as wide eyes watched him.
"Gar? It's okay. You're safe now."
It was Kory, she crouched, patient as Gar came back to himself, racing heart slowing to a more acceptable rhythm.
He was in a car, the light outside bright and new, the air smelling fresh like it was early in the morning. He was safe.
"Kory?" Gar blinked, shivering as he looked around. They were back at Batman's safe house, parked outside where birds were singing from the trees. "Where's Dick and Rachel?"
She nodded her head backwards, towards the house. "Inside. Do you need help?"
Her eyes were pinched in worry and Garfield felt suddenly very lost. It felt like it had been forever since he'd been in Chief's mansion with Rita, Larry and Cliff. He'd been bored there, trapped and isolated and now he was shaking in the back of a car, a woman who didn't even remember who she was, trying to coax him out. He was so far from what he knew and yet her voice was so gentle and he found himself nodding.
She reached for him, hands outstretched and waiting and he crawled across the back seat to get to her, taking her warm hands in his cold ones.
She pulled him out, helping to steady him on his tired feet and wrapping an arm around his shoulders as they walked to the house. He leaned into her side, shivering.
"You were talking in your sleep. You kept apologising to someone."
Garfield looked up at her in surprise as she rubbed a hand over his arm, eyebrows creasing again. "What are you sorry for, Gar?"
The boy swallowed, stomach rolling at the taste of copper in his mouth. He looked away, not sure how to answer such a big question and stayed silent until they got inside.
Dick was passed out on the couch, looking like Kory had dragged him there, which she probably had. Rachel was watching over him worriedly, laying a blanket over his battered form but she looked up when they entered.
Her eyes widened at the sight of Gar, arms wrapped around himself, eyes low and she started forward. "Gar, are you okay?"
He nodded, not looking at her and she stopped a meter away from him, eyes flickering up to Korys, asking for guidance. Her mother was upstairs, asleep, her blood mother, her only family left and yet she was looking to Kory for answers and protection.
"I'm going to get him cleaned up. Can you make some tea?"
Rachels gaze flickered between Gar and Kory and she finally nodded, turning away to get started. Kory led Garfield to the bathroom, pushing the door open and ushering him inside, only for his stomach to roll.
They had kept that creepy guy, Dr Adamson, in there and his blood was still smeared across the floor, metallic and old and it curled Gars stomach into a knot.
He gagged, the smell stabbing at his nose and he lurched forward, hands scrambling against the door as he tried to retreat. "Gar? Shit."
His body was at war with itself, needing to get away but wanting to get to the basin so he could expel everything in his stomach. He gagged again, coughing from the force of it and Kory pushed him forward, hand on the back of his neck to guide his head over the sink.
His hands slapped against the basin, fingers pressing against the cold so hard they bleached white as sweat broke out over his skin. Garfield moaned, squeezing his eyes shut as he finally threw up, red splattering the perfect white.
His stomach clenched painfully hard, and he trembled, knees threatening to give out as his head spun. When the first bout ended, he panted, moans dragging from his mouth as tears streamed down his face.
Blood and spit dripped down his chin into the stained sink as Kory swore behind him. "Shit. Dick! Get in here!"
Her hands rubbed over his back, distracting him as he tried to breathe through the rising nausea in his throat. He was going to throw up again and he groaned at the tugging feeling in his stomach as if it were being pulled up his throat.
There was a grunt of surprise and the sounds of feet and hands scrambling before a clumsy, tired Dick was in the doorway, barely on his feet. "What? What is it?"
Kory pointed as Garfield's hands gripped the sides of the sink again, blood and acid pouring from his mouth.
"Shit. Is he hurt? We need to get him to a hospital. If he's throwing up blood that-"
"It okay." Rachel's' voice pulled Dicks gaze to her crestfallen face, her quiet words almost covered up by Gar's gagging. "It's not his."
Dick frowned, looking a little more awake now that adrenaline was running through his system once more and both he and Kory waited for an explanation. Rachel sighed, shoulders curled towards her ears as she tried not to cry.
"There was a man. At the asylum. He hurt Gar and he was going to hurt me and my mom. Gar...he stopped him."
Dick turned back to Garfield, watching the boy in the mirror as he panted over the sink, arms shaking as he tried to hold himself up.
He'd had red smeared across his chin long before he started vomiting. Dick remembered seeing it there when they left the asylum, matching the blood that had dried on the boy's hands.
Rachel lowered her voice to a whisper as if trying to stop Gar from hearing her words. "He bit him."
"Oh, Gar." Dick felt the weight of the words, knew what they meant for the boy.
Garfield moaned as blood and spit slipping down his chin and his knees buckled.
Three sets of hands reached for him but Kory was the one to catch him, holding him up and tipping his face forward over the sink again. "It must be the smell of blood in here. We need to get him out!"
Rachel was frozen in the doorway so, Dick moved forward, grabbing a cloth from a handrail and pressing it carefully over Gafields mouth. "Hold this!" He grabbed Gars's hands and brought it up to press against the cloth before scooping the boy into his arms and running from the room.
By all accounts, Dick should have been too tired and beaten up to carry anyone but Gar needed him and that was enough. Dick ran up the stairs, to the other bathroom, carefully lowering the boy to the ground in front of the toilet, holding him up so that he could empty his stomach.
"I got you. You're okay." Dicks' hand rubbed over Gars hunched back, reassurances muttered in a lame attempt at keeping the teenager calm. But there was far too much going on in Gars head for him to calm down any time soon.
"Garfield, I need you in the lab today." Chief's voice was casual as if he didn't know what the words did to the boy. But of course he knew, how could he not when Gar kicked up a fuss every time.
Gar froze, hands stilling over his plate where he'd been about to finish his pile of strawberries.
"Um, do I have to? I mean, it's not like anything's changed and I wanted to finish this game I've been-"
"Garfield. You know how important my research is."
Rita put down her fork, losing her appetite at the scared look on the teenager's face. Her mouth started to melt at the side, her shoulders bubbling as she lost herself and she quickly stood. "Excuse me, I need to go to my room."
"I know it is but I just thought-"
Chief looked up, pinning his scathing gaze on Gar, stopping his words in an instant. "You will do as you're told. Or do you need Cliff to help you obey?"
Garfield was starting to panic, eyes searching the room for help but Larry and Cliff had turned away, hating it as much as he did. He turned back to Chief, breaths beginning to speed up as he panicked.
"It just hurts so much and I really don't think I can-"
Chief was losing his patience and he stood from the table, glaring at the teenager. "You selfish boy. Do you really think you are more important than all the people I can help with this research? You think their lives are worth less than your comfort?"
Gar's head dipped, eyes lowering to the table as his voice shook. "No."
"Then get to the lab, now. I don't want any more fuss."
Gar didn't move, tears dripping down his cheek as he started to cry, scared and traumatised enough. Chief sighed, watching the boys shoulders shake and softening his voice.
"You know I care about you very much, Garfield. And I know you don't like it but this work I do is important and your cooperation will help many people once my research is done. Be brave, Garfield. I know you can do it and I'll be with you the whole time. You won't be going through it alone."
Voices warred inside Gar's mind. Being experimented on was wrong and cruel but Chief saved him, he cared for him and he said it was the right thing to do. Maybe he was just being selfish. The others always submitted to experimentation without a fight although to be fair, their's never resulted in hours of screaming like his did.
Gars instincts told him to run, to fight, to do anything to stay out of the lab. He was scared but he didn't want to make Cheif mad either so, he tried to do as he was told.
He stood, hands pressing to the table as he tried to make his feet move, Chief already heading to the lab. He forced his feet to shuffle forward, following behind as they made their way down the hall.
He got all the way to the door but seeing his familiar chains sent him reeling back into a panic and he couldn't do it. "No, I can't! I can't!"
"Cliff!" Chief was mad, his voice terse and loud and Gar tried to back away, only to find a wide metal chest blocking his way. He pressed his hands to the familiar shirt, sobs breaking his words in half.
"Please, don't make me. Please, Cliff, I can't. You don't know what it feels like."
Cliff didn't want to either, he hated it even more than he hated the cold body he was trapped in. But Chief knew best. Right?
"I'm sorry, kid. You'll be okay." His rumbly voice was kinder than it ever was and Garfield pressed his forehead to the giant's chest, not strong enough to move him from the doorway.
"I'm scared, please. I don't want to do it. Not again."
Chief was getting impatient, already snapping gloves on. "Get him in here, Cliff."
The robot took Garfield's wrists in his hold as gently as a man with metal hands could. "I promise, as soon as you're done we can play video games for as long as you like. Larry will cook you whatever you want and I'll get you some new comic books."
Garfield's knees gave out and he slumped against him, those cold hands pulling him into the lab. "I don't want to go. Please, Cliff! Help me!"
If Cliff could cry he would have, dragging the struggling boy down the steps to the chains waiting for him.
Chief watched with cold eyes as Cliff brought Gar over to the wall, pushing him down till he was kneeling on the hard concrete. "Garfield, you're only thinking of yourself. What if this could have saved your parents. You would have done it wouldn't you?"
Cliff flinched at the words as Gar's struggling stopped. His parents. It was cruel to bring them up but Chief was right, he would have done anything to get them back. Tears dropped from Gars chin to splatter on the floor as he trembled, nodding.
Chief pressed a hand to Gars hair, gentle and loving if that's what you could call it. "Help save someone else's parents. Do it for them, Garfield. Be a good boy."
Gar's bottom lip trembled as he let out a hiccupped sob. He missed his parents so much. Missed the way his mom would brush his hair back when he was scared, her hands always so soft. And his dad would tell him everything would be okay, his words strong and inarguable, making Gar believe him.
"You'll be okay. I'm here, son."
He wished he had them now.
Gars shoulders slumped and he sank down to his haunches, defeated. There was no getting out of it but Chief wanted to give him the illusion that it was his choice. And what else could he do? He missed his mom and so, he nodded and tipped his head to the side, waiting.
Cliff hated himself more than he ever had as he picked up the collar attached to the chain at the wall and wrapped it around Gars neck.
"Thank you, Garfield. You're a good person." Chief stood there, waiting with a syringe in hand as Gar lifted his wrists for Cliff to chain up as well.
The leather cuffs wrapped around his thin wrists, linked to lengths of chains attached to the floor to keep him from hurting anyone during the experiments.
"Thank you, Cliff. That will be all."
Cliff didn't want to leave the kid chained like an animal, didn't want to leave because he knew that when he did the screaming would begin and it wouldn't stop for hours. But Chief was in charge, he'd saved all of them and that earned him trust and loyalty. But should it have? When it cost so much?
He left, and Gar started to cry again at the clunk of the door shutting and locking.
Chief stepped towards the boy, needle raised and cupped a hand to the back of Gars head. It was almost a kind gesture, before his fingers curled, gently gripping that green hair and holding Gars head back.
"You know I only do this because I care about you and want what's best."
Garfield would have nodded if he could but as it was he could only blink through his tears and mumble an affirmative.
Chief didn't bother with anymore preamble, pressing the end of the needle to his experiments neck and watching the green ripple through Gars skin.
Agony tore through him, skin and insides burning as his body felt like it was ripping apart, every cell trying to rearrange at once and become something new. Chief had once told him the purpose of the experiments were to try and perfect the serum, making it less painful and perhaps quicker. Or maybe he was trying to get Gar to turn into something other than a tiger. Gar couldn't remember anymore, couldn't think.
All he could do was scream as his spine rippled, bones breaking and reforming as he tried to change. His claws extended, raking across the concrete, over well-worn claw marks already etched into the ground.
Garfield screamed until he had nothing left, and only when he begged Chief to just end it already, did the pain stop.
"Please, make it stop. Make it stop. M-make it stop."
Another needle was pressed to his skin, this one welcome. "It's alright Garfield. It's over now. Sleep."
Gar woke up on the bathroom floor, head pillowed on Dicks lap, his hand resting in Gars hair like he had been running his fingers through it but since stopped. His eyes were set forward but focussed on nothing, lips pressed together like they were when he was deep in thought.
Gar didn't want to move. Dicks hand was gentle in his hair, thumb stroking back and forth absentmindedly and the teenager closed his eyes for a second longer, savoring the calm safety he had in that moment. There, laying in Dicks lap, he was safe and no one could hurt him. But it couldn't last forever. The burns on his back hurt where they pressed to his shirt and he winced, pulling Dicks attention back to him.
"Gar. Hey, buddy." Dicks hand didn't leave his hair until the teenager sat up, curling his fingers into a fist to rub at his eyes and pausing when he pulled them away again.
Dried blood was crusted under his nails and smeared across his palm but something inside him was too tired to panic anymore and he lowered them to his lap. Dick watched him closely, voice rough and tired but gentle and warm all at the same time.
Gar ignored the question, asking his own instead. "How long was I asleep?"
"Just a couple of hours."
Had Dick stayed the whole time? Gar watched as he carefully stretched his legs out, wincing as the stiff muscles moved. The older man hadn't changed out of the clothes he'd been wearing yesterday and his face was still streaked with dirt.
Gar felt guilty and curled into himself a little. "You didn't have to stay." Dick had been hurt at the asylum too, he must have been in agony sitting on the hard ground like that but he just shrugged and leaned against the wall behind him.
"I didn't want to wake you. It's okay, I got some sleep in too."
Gar couldn't tell if he was lying or not. Rachel would know.
He watched Dick carefully, waiting for the lecture, for the telling off. He waited for Dick to tell him he was selfish and stupid and responsible for not only his team's injuries and trauma but also the deaths of everyone in that asylum. But it never came.
Instead, Dick watched him back, face pinched in worry. "How are you feeling?"
Gar shrugged, feeling his burns shifting against his shirt. "Like shit."
Dick laughed a little, tired and familiar. "Yeah, me too."
Gar looked back over to their new families leader. His head was leaned back against the wall, dirt and ash streaked across his jaw, barely covering the bruises that laid under it. His hair was dirty, strands falling over his forehead and yet he seemed content to just sit on the floor of the bathroom with Gar.
He could have left him there, could have put him to bed and left the kid to deal with his own problems but he just sat there, not wanting to leave Gar alone until he was sure he was alright.
Gar was grateful to have him there and couldn't help but ask. "Are you okay?"
Dick shrugged, rolling his head a little on his neck. "It's nothing I haven't dealt with before."
Gar frowned, the new information piquing his interest. "You've been drugged and tortured before?"
Dick half smiled as if it were funny, eyes drifting off again before focussing back on the teenager. "Kind of, yeah. But you don't have to worry about me, let's focus on you."
Gar didn't know if he wanted to do that and he wondered if that's what Dick was doing, taking care of others so, he wouldn't have to think about his own pain. "Rachel said they had you in a cage. Gar, did they hurt you?"
Gar didn't want to talk about it but he needed help with the burns and he desperately wanted someone to take care of him, to make the pain go away and to make him believe he'd be alright.
He nodded, eyes averted from the older man's gaze.
Dick was gentle as Gar folded his knees to his chest, wrapping his arms around them. "What did they do?"
Gar shivered and held himself himself tighter, eyes kept carefully away from Dick. "They wanted me to show them my powers. They chained me up...they used one of those tasers. Just...over and over."
Dick cursed under his breath as Gar rubbed a fist over his eyes to rid them of the tears blurring his vision. "They still hurt."
Dick sat up, pushing away from the wall as he inched towards the teenager. He wasn't totally sure what Gar needed from him, or how much. Did he want a hug? Or space? Did he need a soft hand or guidance on how to be strong? Which was the right way to move or speak?
Dick suddenly hated Batman a little less, faced with so many unknowns and potentials for failure. And then he hated him a little more. Because as soon as Dick saw the tear tracing down Gars jaw, and that trembling bottom lip, he knew what he needed to do.
His hands slid around the kids shoulders and tipped him to his chest, wrapping him up in a hug. Gar sank into him, hands finding Dicks arms and gripping tight, shaking shoulder pressing to Dicks sternum as he tried not to fall apart.
Gar felt Dicks hands rubbing gently over his arms, holding him tight as his rumbly voice came close to his ear. "You're okay. You'll be okay. I got you."
Gar had arguably been through worse than being captured and tortured. Losing his parents, almost dying from a rare illness, alone and scared, Chiefs experiments. But the thing about awful experiences is that they dont fit on a scale and the worst doesnt take precedence, clouding out the others. It was more like a chore chart where they took turns fucking you up.
And Gar had too many to deal with all at once. He was tired and sore and scared and Dick holding him tight, making sure he wouldn't shift into a monster again, was all that he wanted.
He turned in the hero's hold and pressed his face to Dicks neck, hiding from the world for just a moment. Dick adjusted smoothly, hugging the kid back and running a hand over his hair at the back of his neck, words hushed and gentle.
"Shh, it's okay. I'm gonna take care of you, Gar. You don't have to worry about anything."
"I was so scared. I'm sorry I went there. I'm sorry I didn't listen to you." Words spilled from Garfield's mouth, rushed and panicked and Dick shook his head, frowning.
"That doesnt matter right now."
Gar couldn't stop the sobs that ripped from him, noisy and breathless. "It was all my fault. You and Kory and Rachel got hurt and p-people died. I killed someone."
Gar gripped Dick tighter, waiting for the harsh words and the lecture, telling him he shouldn't ever disobey Dick again. He waited for that same cold glare that Chief gave and the list of repercussions that he should feel guilty for but Dick didn't wasn't interested in any of that.
"I'm not angry, Gar. No one blames you. Calm down. It's okay."
Garfield shook his head, sniffling as he insisted. "No, I screwed up. I was stupid and reckless and it's all my fault! You should be mad at me. You're mad at me."
Dick tugged Gar away so that he could look at him and Gar sucked in a breath, readying himself for the reprimand.
"Gar, I'm not mad. What you did was reckless and I wished you would have listened to me but...You're a kid, you made a mistake. It's okay."
The teenager sniffed, raising his wide, wet eyes to Dicks kind ones. "Really?"
"You were trying to help Rachel, you thought you were doing the right thing and it turned out to be a trap. It happens."
Gar was almost trying to convince Dick to be mad and he wasn't sure why it wasn't working.
"You told us it could be a trap. That's why you wanted to wait."
Dick nodded, laughing a little. "Gar, you didn't even know me a little while ago. I'm not going to get mad at you for not trusting me. Do you know how many times I ran away from Batman when he first brought me in? Or how many times I stole his car?"
Gar sat forward, listening eagerly. "You stole Batman's car?"
Dick amended. "Well, Bruce Waynes, technically. Listen, you made a mistake, one I hope you won't make again but the only thing you have to take away from this is that you can trust me and Kory. We would never do anything to hurt you, buddy. We only want what's best so, next time you want to break into the secure facility of an evil corporation intent on reunighting Rachel with her demonic dad and taking over the world just...trust me, okay?"
Gar smiled, just a small smile that curled the corner of his mouth upwards a little, but it was there. "Okay."
Dick smiled too, nodding. "Okay, now let's get you cleaned up so, you can get to bed. Its been one long ass fucking day."
Gar nodded and wiped the last of his tears away as Dick got slowly up from the floor, reaching back down to help pull Gar to his feet.
He sat the boy on the edge of the bathtub and turned to wet a cloth in the sink. "I know you just spent the first part of your morning puking but you need to eat something. When we're done in here I'll make you something. What are you hungry for?"
Dick placed a hand under Gars chin, holding him still as he wiped the cloth over the boys face. "Do we even have any more food here?"
The cloth was warm on his skin, gently scrubbing the tear tracks from his cheeks and the blood from his mouth and chin. Dick thought, moving the cloth down to Gars hands to scrub the red away. "We might need to go shopping. Come on, if you could have any kind of food, what would you have?"
Gars face softened, fingers stretching out so Dick could scrub them. "My moms soba."
Dicks eyes flickered up to the boys face, his own voice lowering to match Gars. "I miss my parents too. And I doubt I could make soba as good as your mom but I can try. If that's what you wanted."
Gar smiled, actually smiled, his eyes lighting up along with his face and he curled his fingers around the cloth still cleaning his palms. "Thanks but...Maybe we should stick to pancakes."
Dick, glad to see the kid coming back to himself, couldn't help but lift a hand to ruffle through that green hair. "You got it."
Once all his burns were disinfected and covered Dick helped Gar slip his shirt back on, too tired for a shower. "You go on and sleep. I'll clean up here."
Gar paused, watching Dick sway slightly on his feet, his tired hands picking up dirty alcohol wipes and throwing them into the bin, missing entirely. "Are you sure? Doesn't someone need to check you over?"
Dick smiled again but this time it was too tired to meet his eyes, barely even lifting one side of his mouth. "Nah. I'm okay. Don't worry about me."
Gar wasn't sure but Dick had taken out like, eight fully armed guys by himself after being drugged and beaten, so, he was pretty sure he'd be okay cleaning a bathroom. "Okay. Thanks for...everything."
Dick nodded, head almost too heavy to lift by himself. "No problem and hey, Gar."
The teenager turned, waiting.
"Give Rachel a hug, I think she could use one. I'll be out in a bit, okay?"
Gar nodded and left, pulling his jacket back around his shoulders and relishing in its familiar, reassuring weight.
Rachel was waiting at the table for him when he entered the kitchen and she immediately stood, making her way over. "Gar! Are you okay? I was so worried. I saw you on the ground with Dick and I wanted to stay but he said you needed to rest so-"
Her hands were reaching for him but afraid to touch and Gar didn't want her to be afraid of him. He reached for her, preparing himself in case she flinched back but as soon as she saw what he wanted she launched herself into his arms.
Her arms held him tight and he felt a little stronger, a little less lost. She was smiling as she pulled back. "Good."
A faint grunt and a series of thumps made the both of them flinch, heads whipping around in the direction of the bathroom. Gar started forward when Kory ran past instead, waving them back.
"I got it. Rach, get Gar to bed."
Something else crashed, echoing as it came from the bathroom and Gar and Rachel waited a few seconds before following after Kory.
They kept their steps light and quiet, knowing that Kory would only send them away if she saw them. The door was slightly ajar and Rachel and Gar peered through the crack to see what was happening.
Dick was on the ground, slumped against the bathtub as he panted, legs askew like he'd fallen there, Kory crouched in front of him.
He was shaking slightly, shivering as he looked up at the bright woman in front of him.
"I'm so tired, Kory."
She nodded, quiet. "I know."
"Those kids...we have to protect them." Dick's face was drawn, sweat beading across his forehead like it was a monumental effort just to stay sitting up.
Kory reached forward and took his hand, tugging it gently as she encouraged him to stand, to move. "I know. We will."
Dick nodded, chin flopping back down to his chest as he panted, exhausted. He sighed, defeated. "I can't get up."
Kory laughed a little, her short reply almost a joke to the both of them now. "I know. Let me help. It's your turn to fall apart. Its okay."
Her last words were said so softly, Gar and Rachel found themselves leaning forward, wanting to hear every word shared between their leaders.
Dick nodded, face crumpling as his breaths sped up, and much to Rachel and Gars surprise, he started to cry. Kory didn't seem surprised, marley reaching forward to press her hand to the back of Dick's neck and gently pull him forward.
He moved where she guided him, his forehead pressing to her neck as her kind fingers massaged the nape of his neck, calming him down.
Maybe Gar should have felt less secure, seeing Dick cry. Afterall he was the one that was supposed to protect them. How was he supposed to do that if he was falling apart?
But seeing Dick cry only made Gar's resolve stronger because Dick wasn't some unfeeling, cold guardian. He was human, he was kind, he gave a shit. And they'd be okay, because when Gar needed Dick he'd been strong but Dick didn't have to be strong all the time. Kory held him up when he couldn't do it anymore and Gar would do the same for her and he knew Rachel would too.
They'd be okay because they had each other, their weird, conventionally challenged team that was more like a family. They'd be okay.
(When writing this I didn't know if id made it obvious enough, that connection between Dicks words and the words that Gar had wanted his dad to say to make him feel better so I hope you picked up on that. Also sorry this entire fic is a jumbled mess of ideas and potential storylines. Honestly its got the aftermath of asylum mixed in with this idea i had about gar comparing Chiefs father figureness to dicks father fignureness and realising that chief may have saved him but that didnt make him a good man. And also on the show chief straight up told rachel that he experimented on all the doom patrol people so i wanted to play around with that. Yeah so this fic is so mixed up and idk i just hope you liked it. Also if you are reading this and you havent watched the show yet I beg of you, watch it its amaaazzzzing)