A/N: Hey! "Long time listener, first time caller" in the YJ fandom. Seriously though, I've been a fan since season 1 came out but I'm not usually one to write outside of a few certain fandoms unless inspiration fits. This time inspiration came from the song "Ladies and Gentlemen" by Saliva. Give it a listen if you'd like, it might help set the tone. I don't want to necessarily call this a songfic, but I do take some of the lyrics from it. So all credit is to them for those parts. I've been into DC for as long as I can remember, but have always been obsessed with Batman and Dick Grayson the most. So this is my first jump into writing them. I'd like to think I made a good start. Enjoy!
Beta'd by the wonderful Koohii Kappu. Thanks buddy!
Dick woke slowly and rubbed his head where he felt a knot. Groaning, he slowly sat up but kept his eyes closed, head pounding too much to even attempt to introduce new stimuli.
What had happened? Where was he? The last thing he had remembered was being out on patrol with Batman, taking down some typical bad guys...
Suddenly, as if someone had slowly turned the volume knob on a radio, the sounds around him went from silent to quiet to loud. Familiar sounds he hadn't heard in a long time. The crowds, the music, the announcer…
Dick opened his eyes and immediately widened them. He was back at the circus, on top of the platform where everything had changed. Where he watched his parents…
He shook his head to clear his thoughts. No. This wasn't happening. It had to be some kind of dream… right? But… he had just woken up.
Dick dared himself to look off the edge of the platform. Below him sat hundreds of people in the crowd, cheering and clapping at whatever act was going on at the moment. He pushed himself back as he tried to catch his breath. He couldn't be here, he couldn't be here… it was all exactly like that night. He was even wearing the same uniform from that performance.
Below he could hear the act move out of the spotlight as someone new took their place.
Dick's spine chilled as he suddenly heard one of the last voices he ever wanted to hear.
There stood the Joker, dressed in exactly the same outfit Mr. Haly always wore when he was the announcer, disturbing smile larger than ever as he addressed the crowds.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please! Would you bring your attention to me? For a feast for your eyes to see! An explosion of catastrophe!" Joker laughed as he waved his hand and a small bomb went off below. Instead of panicking the crowd cheered and clapped, even some who were now sitting on fire. Dick stared in horror at the site. What had the Joker done to them?
"Like nothing you've ever seen before! Watch closely as I open this door! Your jaws will be on the floor! After this you'll be begging for more!" This time the Joker walked forward and opened the door to a large box. Two of his goons rolled out the wheel that was usually used for the knife throwing act. Dick gasped as they turned the wheel around to reveal Batman gagged and bound to the wooden structure. Several knives were already lodged into the display, but none had touched his mentor.
"NO!" Dick yelled. He suddenly noticed that down below the safety net was still in place. Jumping to one of the center swings, he let himself fall down into the material and jumped out, scrambling to the center of the tent. "Batman!"
Before he could reach them, he was grabbed by some more goons and held in place. Despite his desperate struggling, he couldn't loosen their grip.
"Welcome to the show, Robin! We've been waiting for you," Joker grinned.
Dick spit towards the evil man. "You won't get away with this!"
Joker turned back to the crowd. "Ladies and gentlemen! We will now continue to our main event of the night! Do you want it? Do you need it? Let me hear it!"
The crowd roared to life all around, egging the ringleader on.
Now that Dick was closer to the crowd, he could see them more clearly. As if this whole situation hadn't been disturbing enough, the crowd was a whole new level of terrifying. The best way he could describe their appearances was as that of a zombie. As if each of them had just walked out of their own graves. The closer he scanned the faces, the more horrified he was. He recognized some of them. No, he recognized all of them.
Most of the faces were victims from past cases Batman and he had worked on together. Some of them were the people they had failed to save. Some were friends. Some were foes. But the most unsettling to see were the most familiar faces of all. Front and center were his parents. Except they didn't look like he remembered them. They looked like the last time he had ever saw them. Covered in blood with their heads smashed in. Some of their bones stuck out in odd angles from the high fall that had ended their lives.
Dick cried out in anguish as tears streamed down his face. This was sick. He knew Joker could be really messed up, but this was some kind of new morbidness. He turned away and closed his eyes, trying to throw the images out of his mind.
"Ladies and gentlemen, good evening!" Joker called out again. "You've seen, and seeing is believing! Now, your ears and your eyes will be bleeding! Please check to see if you're still breathing!" Joker cackled as the entire crowd roared in laughter as well. Dick only cracked his eyes open because he felt a warm liquid pour from his ears, down his face, and drip onto his shoulders. Glancing around, he noticed everyone else's ears were also bleeding. What had Joker done? How could he have done this? Tears continued to pour down Dick's face at the cruel torture.
"Hold tight 'cause the show is not over! If you will, please move in closer!" Joker's eyes gleamed as he waved at the goons who dragged Dick even closer to the Joker and Batman, right into the spotlight. Batman had now awoken and was struggling in his own bonds, but was increasingly unsuccessful as Dick, who had now stopped his squirming, too exhausted and shocked to try too hard.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, you're about to be bowled over by the wonders you're about to behold here!" Joker slowly and dramatically walked over to a small table that held several knives of varying sizes on them. Dick knew exactly what was about to happen and began to struggle again, but his attempts were much weaker this time.
"No! Stop, Joker! Don't! DON'T!" he begged. "Please." Dick hated how weak he was, how defenseless he had suddenly become. His mentor and adopted father and probably himself were going to die at the hand of the Joker and it was all unfolding in front of him. And he was doing nothing to stop it.
Ignoring him, Joker walked up until he was about five feet from the wooden wheel. He took his time to line himself up and do a few fake practice throws, before turning back and smirking. Dick closed his eyes at the knife released from the villains hands. He couldn't watch this. He had failed them. He had failed Bruce. This was all wrong, so wrong.
Dick heard the sound of the knife striking the wood and peeked to see he had missed flesh. The knife had landed near Batman's left side.
"Oops! I mean, look! I'm great at this!"
Joker picked up another knife and threw it without aiming this time. Dick jumped as it once again hit the wood, barely missing the caped crusader, landing just above his head.
"Man, I should've picked this up ages ago!" he giggled.
Suddenly, something shifted in the Joker's eyes as he turned to Dick again. "Third time's the charm, eh?"
Dick screamed as the knife flew out of the Joker's hand and made a sick noise as it plummeted into Batman's stomach. The older man writhed and screamed in pain under the gag in his mouth.
"NOOO!" Dick screamed and cried. "NOOO! Batman! I'm so sorry! NOO! NOO!"
Dick shot up in his bed, covered in sweat and breathing heavily. Sobs wracked his body as curled in on himself. "Nooo! Nooo!" he cried.
"Dick! Dick!" a voice called from somewhere to his right. A hand appeared on his back, another on his head.
Dick opened his eyes to see Bruce next to him, perfectly fine with Alfred not too far behind him, both with worried looks on their faces.
"Bruce?" his voice broke. It had all been a dream? No, not a dream. A nightmare.
The father figure sat on the bed and pulled the boy into a hug. "It's alright Dick, everything's alright." Dick continued to shake as he tried to calm down from the terror he had just been subjected to.
"Master Dick, would you like some water and a cool rag? It will help bring your fever down." Alfred held the offered items.
"Fever?" Dick asked, confused. Then he remembered how ill he had been earlier that day. "Oh, right. Thanks Alfred."
Dick let Alfred and Bruce tend to and comfort him the next few minutes as he tried to escape the horrendous experience that felt more like a memory than a fever-induced nightmare.
"Are you alright Dick?" Bruce asked softly.
The pre-teen hesitated before shaking his head. "No. But I will be." He gave the smallest smile.
Bruce patted him before standing up. "Do you want to go back to sleep?"
Dick truly didn't want to but the tiredness was taking its toll on him. He nodded.
"Okay. Try to get some better rest," he turned to leave.
Bruce turned back. "Yes?"
Dick's cheeks blushed as he looked down. "Do you think you can stay… just until I fall back asleep? Please?"
Bruce smiled. "Sure thing kid."
Dick settled back in bed and quickly fell back to sleep. The rest of the night was uneventful as he slept off his illness that had been the cause of his distress. Bruce was safe. He was safe. Everything would be okay.
A/N: Please review and let me know if you liked it! Thank you!