Crossover Gotham Hearts

Discussion in 'Written Works' started by Loxare, May 11, 2015.

  1. Loxare Hollow Bastion Committee

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2009
    Gender:
    No
    Location:
    Flower Field
    904
    659
    Short chapter! Yay! No warnings for this one, but next chapter will be really violent. Really violent. Yup. But not this one!

    Sora woke up the next morning to the smell of bacon, potatoes, and toast. Slowly, he opened his eyes, surprised to find himself covered with a blanket. He vaguely remembered sitting with Riku, Dick, Chip, and Dale last night, and the hot chocolate making him really, really sleepy. What he didn’t remember was getting a blanket. Quickly looking around the room, he saw that Riku had a blanket. Dick did too, and a pillow. Actually, there was two pillows laying on the floor, and an extra blanket tossed against the wall. And the smells and sounds of cooking bacon coming from the kitchen.

    Carefully removing his blanket, he grabbed Chip off of his shoulder and gently placed him on the still warm covering. Lifting Dale, he put him next to his brother. Then he nudged Riku. And again, harder this time. He kept poking at Riku’s side until he swatted his hands away, a rather annoyed expression on his face.

    “Cut it out Sora. Seriously, one of these days – hey, is that bacon?” Threat left unuttered, Riku stood up. He waited while Sora shook Dick awake, then the chipmunks, then the five of them went to investigate.

    The table was piled high with food. Bacon, eggs, three different types of hashbrowns, a small mountain of cut fruit, toast, pancakes, waffles, a pot each of tea and coffee, and four large jugs of orange, apple, berry, and mango juices. As they watched, another pancake was flipped onto the pile by Jason, who was supervising all four burners on the stove and probably whatever was in the oven as well.

    After a moment of them standing in the doorway, Jason noticed their presence. His eyes were covered in their usual shades, and the lines on his skin were worryingly darker than they had been before Pride Lands. Not a black kind of darker, but noticeable. “Oh hey guys. Seriously, how much sleep do you people need? Lazy asses.” Well, at least that hadn’t changed.

    Dick recovered first. A smile overtook his face, the likes of which Sora had never seen before. So bright as to almost be blinding, it wiped away every trace of stress that had been building up for the past few days, and was infectious enough to put smiles on everyone else’s face as well. “Jason, you made breakfast?” He dove at the table, grabbing a plate and loading it high.

    He couldn’t see his eyes, but with the face Jason was making, Sora guess he was rolling them. “Well, yeah. I don’t see anyone else doing it. Can any of you even make anything edible?”

    “Can you?” Riku asked cautiously, poking at a pancake with a fork. Sora understood the concern. As delicious as all this looked, Jason didn’t seem the type to know how to cook.

    “Mmfd mf mfrfrfed,” Dick said around a mouth full of waffles. Swallowing, he tried again. “You’d be surprised. Jason doesn’t cook often, but when he does, it’s on par with Alfred’s. And he can make waffles.” And with that, he stuffed another strip of bacon in his mouth, making small sounds of infinite pleasure.

    That was good enough for Sora. He started loading up his plate, pouring generous amounts of maple syrup over everything. “Wait, so Alfred can’t make waffles?”

    Jason forked a few pieces of fruit onto Dick’s plate. “Nope, those are the one thing he can’t make.” He shuddered. “Like paste.” Sitting down in his own spot, he filled his plate and grabbed a glass of mango juice.

    They spent a good long while in each other’s company, long stretches of silence punctuated by forks scraping on ceramic plates and compliments to the chef. Finally, the mountain of food miraculously cleared, Dick asked, “So Riku, how long to Yen Sid’s Tower?”

    Riku checked the clock on the wall. “Any minute actually. We should probably get ready for landing. Um,” looking down at the mess of plates, glasses and cutlery, he added, “You can just leave everything here. Merlin spelled everything to clean itself when the room is empty.”

    Jason raised his eyebrows at the comment. “That’s convenient. Wish I could get that for Roy’s room.” They left, heading to the control room. They picked up the blankets on the floor and returned them to the rooms, then strapped in for landing.

    This Yen Sid person lived in a very strange place. Or at least, that was what Jason thought as he walked up the tower to get to the rumoured man the others were putting so much stock into. The building itself seemed disproportionate, and there were funny dark corridors leading to unknown rooms filled with who knew what. The four were traveling up a long winding staircase in the dimly lit building. With each story they travelled Jason felt himself becoming more and more nervous. That in turn made him scowl. Why should he be nervous? If the others were right, this whole mess would be said and done in no time at all. But despite this thought, Jason felt fear steadily build up in the back of his head. It was when they were standing in front of the huge oak doors at the top of the tower that Jason noticed the fear he was feeling was Xehanort's darkness. In fact, its presence had been gnawing at him increasingly throughout the long walk up the stairs. Good, thought Jason. Let it be afraid. He decided with a sense of finality that it was definitely the darkness that was scared and not him.

    With a creak, Riku pushed the old wood doors open and they all stepped into a large dark room. Jason gazed around at the high bookshelves and funny pictures and mirrors lining the walls. The whole place was darkly lit, making the yellow tinge of the room look tan. Jason held back a shudder. If all be told the place gave him the creeps. Then his eyes came to rest on the old man sitting in the middle of the room, staring right at him. He stared right back, taking in the eccentric look of the guy. His face seemed learned and stern, while his long beard and robes clearly said he was a magician. Jason almost smiled; it was like something out of a Harry Potter book.
    nudged his leg, and he looked down to find the other three kneeling and bowing to the old man. Startled he dropped down too. Apparently this guy must be pretty important if they were supposed to bow. Jason wouldn't have bothered but all those long discussions and lessons about manners with Alfred were still drilled firmly into his brain. Why hadn't Riku and Sora warned him this guy was so well respected?

    After a few seconds Yen Sid waved his hand, allowing the four to stand again, Jason a bit stiffly because if truth be told he was still rather sore. Sora stepped forward humbly. “Thank you for meeting with us Master Yen Sid. We really need your help.”

    The old man nodded. “This I know.” He said in a deep wise voice. “I have been awaiting your arrival for quite some time now. Sora, Riku, it is good to see you are both well. Dick, Jason, I have heard quite a lot about you from our mutual friends.” He glanced at Sora and Riku then back at the other two. “It seems you have gotten yourselves mixed into the fight between light and dark.”

    “It's an honor, sir.” Dick – forever the charmer – said, taking another half bow. “And yes we have. My brother here needs some help. And we had been told that you could be one of the only people who might be able to.” He gave Jason a half glance before continuing. “See it's a long story, but-”

    Yen Sid put up his hand, stopping Dick in midsentence. “I am aware of young Jason’s predicament,” he said. “Riku has already thoroughly described it to me. And from the markings on your skin Jason, it seems time is of the essence.”

    “He collapsed on the way here Sid.” Riku said. “I didn't know, but I brought him to a place that triggered some old memories of his, which made him vulnerable. Xehanort's darkness took over, and we had to remove it by force… It… it wasn't pretty.”

    That was news to Jason. Dickhead told them about Ethiopia!? Not surprising he supposed.

    The old man nodded. “If we do not permanently remove the intruding darkness now, this process will likely need to be repeated. That is why it is vital we are pre-emptive.”

    Jason fidgeted uncomfortably while Dick looked worried. “What do we have to do then? I'll help with whatever you tell me to, to get this thing away from my brother!”

    “Ah,” Yen Sid sighed. “That is good, for your skills will likely be necessary.”

    This confused Jason. He thought getting rid of Xehanort’s darkness would be a task only he and his own darkness could face, maybe with some of the old guy's advice, yet Dick was nodding as though he had been planning on being included from the beginning.

    Yen Sid rested his hands in his lap and contemplated the two crime fighters carefully. “The darkness inside of you is fighting for dominance of your heart. Therefore, in order to win control of your heart like before, you must face and defeat the darkness in battle.”

    That came as an abrupt surprise. “What!” Jason spluttered. “But, how?”

    “There are two ways to face an intruding darkness. The first is to fight it alone in one’s heart. But this way would not be advisable seeing as Xehanort’s darkness already has such a strong control over you physically.”

    Jason nodded. He could feel the darkness steadily growing. Tackling it head on would probably not be wise. The thought had occurred to him to go to that strange place he and his darkness met, and just punch the thing, maybe knock Xehanort’s darkness off of it or something. It was his contingency plan actually. But he knew that if he was thinking that, so was the darkness. It would be prepared for him, and since that seemed to be the place it had planted itself, the chances of him succeeding didn't seem so good.

    “The second, is to enter a dream world, and face this creature and all of the darkness in your heart, with the help of your brother.”

    “The dream worlds!” Sora exclaimed excitedly. “I hadn't even thought of that!”

    “Me either.” Riku admitted.

    Dream world? What the heck? But before he found that out, Jason had another question he had to ask. “Why only Dick? Why can't Sora and Riku come and help me kill this thing as well?”

    Dick seemed confused about this too. As far as he was concerned, the more people helping to defeat this thing, the better.

    “Riku and Sora are not connected to your heart in the same way your brother is. Only half of this battle will be physical. One cannot help you defeat what plagues your heart without understanding it.”

    “Uh huh.” Jason said raising an eyebrow skeptically in the process. “And how do you know that Dick understands me that well?”

    The old man almost smiled. Almost. “The connection between families creates special bonds that bind the heart in unique ways. Your brother will not entirely understand that which haunts you Jason, but he will be able to assist.”

    Catching a glimpse of Dick’s grin made Jason scowl even more. Crossing his arms, he felt the darkness push aggressively on his consciousness as his vision flashed a deep yellow, and decided to bite back a few retorts. “Fine, whatever. Let's just get it over with then.”

    Riku hissed at Jason's disrespectful tone, but Yen Sid stood up suddenly. “Let this be a warning to you both, that if you are unable to defeat the darkness in the dream world, it will take over you at the time of your defeat, and drive itself into your vulnerable hearts. You will be lost to the darkness forever. There shall be no return.”

    Yen Sid's voice was stern, and the two couldn't help but shudder at his warning, but they nodded their understanding.

    “One question before we go in.” Jason shifted, hand straying unconsciously to his chest. “My darkness, the one that was there before Xehanort popped in. What’ll happen to it?”

    The old master frowned. “By this point, it has been taken over completely by Xehanort’s darkness. Defeating it will release both you and your darkness. After that, it is entirely up to you. I would recommend eradicating it as well. Darkness begets only darkness. However,” he held up a hand to stem Jason’s angry protest, “it seems as if your darkness only has your best interests at heart, so to speak. If you believe you can coexist, it may just be prudent to allow it to.”

    “Right then.” The magician said lifting his hand. “There isn't much time, and we need to act quickly. Are you prepared?”

    Dick flexed his shoulders and nodded while Jason let out a long breath before grunting his consent.

    “Good luck then,” the man said, before a bright flash plunged them into darkness.
     
  2. Loxare Hollow Bastion Committee

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2009
    Gender:
    No
    Location:
    Flower Field
    904
    659
    Ok, so this next chapter is violent. Dream world violence is still violence. Like, highly violent. This is probably the most violent chapter in the entire story. I'm not kidding, this is minimum PG13, but should probably be Older Teen. You have been warned.

    Dick didn’t think that Gotham could get any darker, but somehow, it was. The streetlamps, the windows, normally lit at nighttime hours, were all dark. The only illumination came from the moon, full and at least four times the size it normally was, and the Batsignal glowing on the clouds. The buildings themselves were black, not the usual grey stone, and a dark mist hovered at ground level.

    He was standing next to Jason at the top of Wayne Tower. Somehow, they were in their crime fighting clothes, all of their gear present except for their masks. Dick looked around impatiently. Normally, he wouldn’t be looking for a fight, but he wanted this thing gone and out of his brother. “Where is it?” Hm. His voice was a little distorted here.

    Another moment passed, both sets of eyes flicking across the rooftops. Finally, Jason’s arm crossed Dick’s view, pointing at the moon. “There.” A large bat was silhouetted against the moon, flying straight for them. It crashed its wings into them as it passed, knocking them off the building. Before Dick could grab his grapple, he landed, but not as hard as he had thought.

    “You alright Jason?” Giving himself a quick check, he was mildly surprised to find himself uninjured. This was technically a dream; did that mean physics didn’t apply?

    “Just fine. Weird.”

    A flapping behind them turned both of their heads towards the noise, dropping into ready position. The bat landed, wings folded to its sides. Its voice, when it spoke, was Jason’s, buzzing and soft. You are breaking your promise. I had thought you were better than that. I see that I was wrong.

    Jason snarled. “Nice try, but I didn’t promise you, I promised my darkness. And the last time I gave you control, you tried to kill my family. Repeatedly.” Startled, Dick glanced at Jason. Why hadn’t he told him this…? “I wanted to protect them and you went for their hearts. *******.”

    The bat took a step, but it was a booted, human foot that came forward. The dark shape of a man, of Jason, walked towards them, the bat-shape disintegrating behind it. Its skin was black, with yellow lines running across it. You may believe what you like. The one of which you speak is no more. I am your darkness now. What you promised to it is now mine. I am all that is left. And I will be taking my due.

    Stepping in front of Jason protectively, Dick growled at the thing. “You will be taking nothing. Jason owes you squat and if you have an issue with that, you’ll be going through me.”

    The not-Jason cocked its head to the side, regarding him. Very well. It drew a dark All Blade and attacked. Pulling an escrima stick, Dick blocked it, leaving Jason open to draw his own Blade and stab at it. Knocking the Blade away with a gun pulled from its thigh holster, not-Jason jumped back, firing at Dick, who flipped back to avoid them. He completed the flip, then pushed himself forward, easily breaching the distance between him and the not-Jason. He was about to jab the electric end of his stick into its stomach when it raised its hand and...

    He was in an old rundown apartment. It was empty, except for an old mattress lying in the corner and a few dirty dishes. The front door banged open and a child, no older than ten ran in. For some reason, Dick couldn’t make out his face. The kid didn’t even acknowledge Dick’s presence, racing instead to the bathroom and pounding on the door. His mouth was moving, but no sound came out. Finally, he succeeded in opening the door. A woman was lying on the floor, surrounded by syringes. Dropping to the floor next to her, the boy started shaking her, crying. Dick clutched at his chest. It felt like his heart was breaking. Tears slid down his face, but they didn’t feel like his tears. He felt despair, anger, at her for doing this, at himself for allowing it to get this far, hopelessness.

    The room started fading, as the child’s face became clearer. Jason…?

    Dick was back where he was before, his escrima stick still aimed at the thing’s stomach. It, however, had a gun pointed at his head, finger on the trigger. Jason tackled Dick midair as the not-Jason squeezed the trigger. The two boys crashed into the roof, but were back on their feet in seconds. “What the hell Dick? You had him! Why did you freeze like that?”

    Dick was still reeling. “It hit me with something. A vision, a memory, something.”

    His gun pointed at the thing, Jason froze. Slowly, he looked at Dick. “What memory…?” He asked reluctantly, dreading the answer.

    “I think it was when you found Catherine.” The tone Dick used made it obvious of what he was talking about.

    His face contorting in rage, Jason shot at the thing. “How dare you? How dare you use my memories as a weapon against my own brother?! Those are mine.” The sky, pitch black a moment ago, flared red. “And while you’re at it, you can stop looking like me, sounding like me. You don’t get to do that!”

    As Jason leapt at the not-Jason, Dick noticed with dread that his shoulder was bleeding. He had taken the bullet meant for Dick. Grabbing his other escrima stick from its compartment, he threw himself back into the fray.

    At first, it had seemed like Jason had the upper hand. Rage fueled his attacks, making them land faster and harder than the other’s. But the hole in his shoulder was weakening him, sapping his energy every time he leveled his gun. A dark All Blade swung at his neck, too fast for him to dodge.

    An escrima stick shot itself between Jason’s neck and the Blade, deflecting it. “Focus Jason. If you fly off the handle, you’ll be an easier target.” Dick smiled at him, one of the smiles that said “I’m fine, don’t worry.”

    Jason snorted. Yeah right. But he calmed himself down and together with Dick, continued his attack. They ran the darkness ragged, but just as they were about to get the upper hand, it raised its arm and…

    Jason and Dick stood in a startlingly familiar apartment. In front of them stood another Jason, this one with half a domino mask, with his arm curled around the Joker’s neck and pointing a gun at Batman. Batman held a gun by the barrel in one hand. His voice was strained as he spoke, “Stop this.”

    Masked-Jason simply tightened his grip on the Joker. “It’s him or me. You have to decide.”

    Jason could only watch, thunderstruck as the scene played out in front of him. Anger built in him, the same fury that had consumed him back then. How could Batman have done this? How could he have let him live? He was jostled out of his thoughts by Dick’s sudden hand on his shoulder. Turning to his brother, he could see that Dick felt the same anger as he did now, as he did back then. He was about to speak, when the other-him started counting.

    Faster than Dick could follow, Batman lashed out with a batarang. It bounced off of the wall behind Jason, stabbing him in the neck. Dick lunged forward, wanting to grab his brother, to stop the bleeding. So much blood. But Jason, his Jason grabbed his arm. Turning, Dick was shocked to see him looking resigned. But he understood. This had already happened. As much as he wanted to, Dick couldn’t change it. The scene ended as Joker pulled the trigger and the apartment exploded.

    Not-Jason’s boot collided with Dick’s chest, launching him back a few feet. Shaking his head to clear it, he felt phantom pains across his body, as if he really had been in an explosion. Something tickled his neck. Pressing his hand to the spot, it came back to him red. He was bleeding. He was bleeding in the same spot that masked-Jason had been in the memory. Whipping his head around, he tried to catch a glimpse of Jason’s neck as he fought Xehanort’s darkness. Damn. He was bleeding there too.

    It was shallow, not bleeding as heavily as it had been in the memory, so Dick stood up. He couldn’t keep letting Jason fight this thing by himself. Jason fired three rounds off at the darkness, forcing it to jump back while Jason retreated to Dick’s side. “So Dickie, what’s the plan?”

    “We keep pressing it. Don’t give it a chance to put us into another memory.” Quickly, Dick grabbed two adhesive bandages from a compartment and slapped one onto his neck. He pressed the other one to Jason’s neck, slightly gentler than he had done with his own. “I’m not sure we can afford the injuries we get from those. And… I’m sorry, but I feel what you’re feeling in the memory. That in and of itself is…” He broke off, not quite knowing what to say.

    “Really distracting and energy draining. Yeah. I know.” Jason wasn’t happy that his brother was feeling what he had felt. He had been in a bad place when this had been happening. A somewhat justifiable place, but a bad one nonetheless. Even now, Jason still wanted the Joker dead. But he knew that it wass never going to happen, not by Batman’s hand.

    Moving quickly, he shot his gun forward, not firing it off, but aiming the barrel at the darkness’s head. It hit with a resounding crack and while it was still reeling, he stabbed it in the arm with his Blade. Dick moved in, a batarang shoving its way into the other arm. The darkness growled. It spoke, continuing to block the vigilantes’ attacks as it went. Enough of this. How dare this interloper intrude?

    “Like you’re one to talk!” Jason shot out, both figuratively and literally. Xehanort’s darkness dodged the rain of bullets, skidding to a stop a few meters away.

    It faced Dick, and time seemed to slow. It didn’t raise its hand, it couldn’t with gaping wounds in both arms, but…

    Suddenly, he was in a warehouse.

    ~*~​

    “NO!” Jason raced over to his brother, catching him as he fell. Addressing Xehanort’s darkness, he screamed, “You *******, where did you send him?!”

    You will find out. It will take time. This memory is longer than the others.

    Jason dragged Dick to the fence surrounding the rooftop. Hopefully, that would keep him out of the way of the fight. He rested a hand on his forehead, then pulled his gun. Stalking slowly towards the ******* that did this to Dick, he aimed and fired.

    ~*~​

    The air was hot and dry. There was sunlight streaming through the windows, far too intense to be anywhere near Gotham. Dick tried to look around, find a window or something, but he couldn’t move. His entire being was fixed in place, looking at the door. After a long moment, a long, boring moment, the door opened and a blonde woman walked in. Followed by…

    The uniform was unmistakable. The confident way he carried himself and cocky little grin even more so. The breath whooshed out of his lungs. Jason. Jason, dressed as Robin, following the woman Dick knew to be his mother. They were talking, but no sound carried. Not in this memory.

    The woman, Catherine, and Jason spent a moment chatting happily. Then the door slammed shut. Catherine’s mouth moved in an unmistakable “I’m sorry” as the Joker strode forward. Before Jason could react, the crowbar had smashed across his face. Two of Joker’s goons pointed their guns at Catherine, keeping her from moving. The Joker started laughing, the first noise that Dick had heard since getting stuck in the memory.

    Struggling frantically, to release himself from whatever was keeping him in place, Dick tried. He really and truly tried to run to Jason, to throw himself in between his brother and the crowbar beating down mercilessly. It didn’t help that Dick could feel Jason’s emotions. With every swing of the crowbar, he was scared, sure, but he was also hopeful. Jason knew Batman would come. Despite having covered his tracks to get here, he knew Batman was too good of a detective to not find him. So Jason was hopeful, scared that his mom would get hurt, worried that if Batman didn’t get here soon, the recovery he was getting from this beating would keep him off the streets for ever. Pride when he managed to spit blood on the Joker’s face. All of this, to the soundtrack of Joker’s mad giggles.

    Finally, the Joker seemed to lose interest. The psycho tied Catherine’s hands to a support beam and left, his henches following. Jason – despite the broken leg, the crushed rib cage, the arms broken in six places, the dislocated shoulder and hip, and the million other injuries – stood up, shuffling his way towards his mother. He untied her and she pulled his arm over her shoulder. They shuffled their way to the door, but when she tried the knob, it didn’t open. Carefully leaning Jason against a nearby crate, Catherine started pounding on the door, trying to get it open, to attract attention. A beeping started, and in the distance, the faint whine of an engine.

    The engine noise came closer as the beeping became more insistent. The bomb, sitting in the corner reached 00:01 and several things happened. Brakes screeched, a car door slamming open, Jason threw himself in between Catherine and the bomb. And then the world burned.

    ~*~​

    “They’ve been in there a long time Master.” Sora sat in his chair, his eyes not leaving the two figures slumped against the wall. “Are you sure there isn’t anything we can do?”

    Yen Sid sighed at the young Wielder’s impatience. “There is not. Trying to assist at this point will only agitate the darkness. They have a better chance if we leave them.”

    Riku, leaning against the desk, understood Sora’s frustration. Both of them were people of action. Dick and Jason were too. Waiting around while someone else fought a battle of life and death wasn’t in them. Especially when…

    Dick twitched. Ok, that either meant he was waking up or… and it was the second option. Dick’s arteries and veins filled with darkness, spilling out into his skin, flaking off and evaporating. Sooner than any one of the room’s occupants were comfortable with, Dick was covered in darkness, it coming off of him in puffs of smoke.

    Sora immediately dropped to his knees beside his friend. “Master Yen Sid, what happened?! Is there anything we can do?”

    In a moment of incredible rarity, Yen Sid stood up and walked out from behind his desk. He knelt down next to Sora and grabbed Dick’s hand. “He fell. But the battle is not yet over. If Jason survives his trial, he will save both himself, and his brother.”

    ~*~​

    For the second time in the past five minutes, Jason was sent flying back. His darkness knew all of his tricks, which meant that Xehanort’s darkness knew them too, and it had a bunch of extra power behind its hits. He crashed into the fence and sank to the ground a few feet away from Dick. Seriously Dick, wake up any time now. Could use a hand.

    As if reading his mind, Dick’s eyes flashed open and he gasped for breath. Injuries started appearing on his body, flash burns and bruises and large ugly gashes. Jason knew those injuries. He’d felt all of those injuries.

    “DICK!” Jason scrambled over to him, checking his injuries and pulse and vitals and… Still alive. And luckily, it seemed the memory-injuries weren’t as powerful as the real deal had been. A broken bone became a fracture. Third degree burns were dropped down to second degree.

    Unfocused, Dick’s eyes landed on Jason. “Hey Jay. Don’ worry bro, ‘m ok. ‘m jus glad you’re alive.” He gave a weak cough and his eyes fluttered closed.

    The ******* had put Dick into that memory. How. Dare. He?! Pulling off his jacket, he folded it and put it under Dick’s head. Gun in one hand and All Blade in the other, he turned towards the darkness.

    “You're dead.” He choked, emotions showing in a rare moment of desperation and anger. “You just put Dick through a living hell, and now I'm going to do the same to you...”

    The dark form in front of him stared with evil yellow eyes, but Jason's gaze, though not glowing, was filled with so much hatred and fury that the darkness flinched slightly.

    It is just you and me now, it said. The intruder shall no longer interfere.

    Slowly, Jason began to walk forward. “You'll regret what you did to him.” he said quietly. Then his anger and hurt seemed to snap and he leapt forward, sword shimmering. “I'll kill you!”

    Not-Jason moved fast, seeming to dissolve into dust and reappearing to the right of Jason, whose blade swung down into empty air. He moved quickly, shifting his weight on one foot to swerve around and face it as the darkness swung its blade in a vicious semicircle. Jason ducked, narrowly missing the slash. He could feel it tear at the wind above his head. Instead of attacking with a weapon next, Jason launched himself forward from a crouch, dropping the All Blade to the ground with a clatter, effectively tackling the darkness and sending them both hurtling downwards.

    The creature hissed as Jason pinned its arm with the gun while he raised his other hand to strike. But as he brought down his fist, a memory flashed in front of his eyes. He was sitting on a couch, falling asleep next to Bruce, while they watched a movie. Jason shook his head and blinked, then brought his fist smashing into the *******'s face. It was trying to confuse him, dull down his blind rage, but that wasn't going to work. Jason refused to let this thing corrupt any more of his past. He brought his fist down again, revelling at the sound of flesh against flesh. But as he raised his fist for a third time, the darkness seemed to rally and jerked to its right, effectively throwing Jason off.

    Rolling away and using the momentum to bound back to his feet, Jason spotted his All Blade and dived for it, discharging his gun in the process. Xehanort’s darkness easily dodged the bullets, but had to flip backwards to avoid them, putting some room between the two. Growling, Jason reloaded his gun while running forward. Taking aim, his enemy discharged his own gun, and Jason's ears rang with the resounding bangs as he leapt from side to side, slowly advancing while dodging the deadly aim of his foe. His darkness stopped shooting and looked quickly back. It had come to the end of the roof, and the next building was a good fifteen yards away. It turned its head to see Jason flinging himself forward, sword pointing at its chest. With lightning quick reflexes, not-Jason raised its own Blade, and let the weapon take the full impact of Jason's attack. The force of the blow was too strong however, and it stumbled backwards, losing its footing. Jason had just come to a stop at the buildings ledge when the darkness's hand reached out and clutched at his shirt. Taken by surprise, Jason was pulled forward in a split second and found himself plunging straight down with Xehanort’s darkness towards the mist covered ground.

    The free fall didn't seem to faze the darkness. It flipped around in midair and expertly fired three shots in Jason's direction, the recoil from the gun leaving it spinning through the air. Jason could only watch as the bullets rushed up at him. He fought against gravity and the howling wind, tearing at his face and clothes, but only managed in deflecting two of the three bullets with the All Blade. Any other time then this, the feat would have made him proud. But as the third bullet tore itself into Jason's side, the following wave of pain left his mind too shocked and numb to celebrate.

    The world seemed to dim for an instant before the reality of the quickly approaching ground brought Jason out of his confusion. With an enormous effort, he reached inside his belt and brought out his grappling gun, firing a line to a nearby building. The line grew taught and Jason clenched his teeth as his shoulder was jarred by the speed of his free fall coming to an abrupt stop. Cutting the line, Jason swung down to a nearby fire escape, then began jumping from one metal railing to another. He wanted to check out his wound, but he had to keep all his senses on full alert for the darkness. It seemed to have disappeared when he blacked out.

    Reaching the ground, Jason raised his gun and turned quickly around to inspect all his surroundings. It had become far too quiet, the only sound Jason could here being his rapidly beating heart and unsteady breathing. “Come on out,” he breathed.

    Movement to his right had him firing several shots towards a dingy alleyway. He was savagely delighted to hear a hiss of pain. Suddenly, a shadow burst out from the direction of his shots, and Jason backed up several paces as Xehanort’s darkness came charging at him. It raised its sword and Jason raised his own in defence at the thing's sneak attack. The two blades clashed with a sickening metallic ring. Jason stumbled backwards, but launched himself forward again instantly, refusing to show weakness or give his darkness time to regroup. As the darkness dodged his forward attack, he spotted a shimmer of crimson on its shoulder and smirked. So he had hit it.

    Jason turned to keep up with his enemy and had to fall backwards to avoid a bullet to the face. He landed on his back roughly and rolled to the side, dodging the dark All Blade which stabbed into the pavement where his chest had been seconds ago. Springing to his feet he aimed a few shots at the darkness’s feet, thinking that this might slow it down. The creature merely jumped forward, performing an aerial flip as Jason leapt out of its way. He positioned himself behind it so that as it landed he could plunge his sword forward, confident he had it trapped. But no, nearly too fast for the eyes to see, it had turned itself in midair and was slicing upwards with its sword. Jason lurched back and simultaneously fired a bullet at the darkness’s head, which it expertly dodged. He felt its sword clip his chin, but ignored the small hit and fired off several bullets forcing not-Jason to duck and then roll away.

    He was breathing heavily now, and a quick look down told him his side was drenched with blood. In fact, his neck and shoulder were still bleeding freely as well. But he had to ignore all of that. Jason had learned early on that dwelling on one’s weaknesses in a fight was a weakness in itself. But he felt the exhaustion start to slow him down. Gritting his teeth Jason quickly reloaded his gun before sprinting forward. He would just have to fight through the pain just as he was fighting the darkness. For himself and for Dick.

    Surprisingly, the black form in front of Jason seemed tired too. But it was fighting for its life as well, and wasn't about to give up control so easily. Seeing Jason approach, it took a defensive stance, crouching low to the ground, almost like a wild cat. It held its sword in a ready position and lifted its gun. But Jason had a strategy as well. As his enemy fired bullets infused with darkness in his direction, he lunged forward and then dropped low, somersaulting forward twice before using the momentum from his last roll to spring forward and throw his sword at the darkness. It wasn't expecting that, and stopped shooting as it concentrated on blocking the spinning sword aimed for its neck. In that time, Jason shot at the darkness’s head while forming the other All Blade in his now empty hand. The darkness succeeded in blocking the first All Blade, and even managed to fall backwards to dodge the bullets flying at its head. But those two maneuvers in quick succession put it off balance. Jason smirked as he gathered himself and jumped into the air, plunging his sword straight towards the *******’s heart. But it surprised him. As it had lost balance and was falling backwards, its sword still flying down from the recoil of the last strike it had made, the darkness dropped its gun and brought its other hand forward and caught Jason's sword. Jason couldn't help but grimace as the sharp blade sliced deep into the creature’s yellow-lined hand, dark misty blood dripping from the gold metal. But the action had succeeded in saving its life. And with a jolt of fear, Jason realized that he was the one wide open now, in midair and with his sword caught in his enemy’s bleeding hand.

    Desperately Jason kicked out at the other’s chest as it raised its sword. He felt his feet connect and pushed off of Xehanort’s darkness with all his strength as its dark sword was slashed forward. His own sword slipped free and he flew backwards, but not before an excruciating pain across his chest told him he hadn't managed to dodge the blade entirely. With a shudder he found his feet and stumbled back, nearly collapsing as he saw his own blood flying through the air as the darkness swung the now pulsating red All Blade back to its side. Jason clutched at his chest, feeling the deep wound, and struggled to catch his breath while the darkness glared at him. He could taste the coppery tinge of blood in his mouth as his enemy’s glowing sword rose. Forcing himself to ignore the temptation to drop to his knees, Jason straightened up and looked at the darkness, who was now pacing slowly forward.

    Admit it Jason, it said in a sickeningly soft, buzzing voice. You have lost.

    “Go to hell!” He growled, putting as much malice into his voice as possible. “I'm just getting started.”

    The creature tilted its head, raising its sword as it closed in on Jason. You are stubborn. It said. I never liked that.

    Jason laughed humorlessly, fighting the sudden urge to cough. “I could say the same for you.”

    The darkness suddenly sprang forward, its sword raised to kill, Jason sidestepped it with an agility he didn't know he still had, and thrust his sword out, effectively slashing his enemy’s side as it landed. The darkness seemed surprised to see Jason move so fast despite his condition, and even more surprised to see the gaping wound on its side. Its eyes narrowed as it took in Jason, who was now stumbling backwards until he came to a wall he could lean against. His vision was swimming and he coughed weakly into his fist, not surprised to see blood on the back of his hand. He was fading fast and he knew it. They were both injured, but the darkness was still in a condition to fight while he wasn't.

    Fighting off the dark mist pushing in around his vision, Jason watched the darkness wearily stride towards him. It was dripping with blood but its eyes clearly said its next strike was meant to kill. In a mad moment of pain and desperation, an idea struck Jason which both made him sick and gave him a flicker of hope. He smiled as he clutched at his chest with his free hand, his gun long discarded on the pavement. Blood slowly dripped down his chin as his darkness came closer and closer. Yup, he was crazy. Absolutely insane. He watched, standing as still as he could as the darkness stopped a few feet in front of him and raised its sword.

    Good bye Jason Todd.

    It all happened a lot slower than Jason would have liked. His eyes followed the Blade as it streaked towards his heart. He waited, watching it come closer and closer. Its razor edge glinting evilly in the twilight. Closer...

    Now!

    With all the strength he could, Jason lunged to his left just enough that the sword missed its target by a mere inch. But that was good enough. He cried out in pain through clenched teeth as he felt the cold steel dig deep into his flesh. His stomach lurched with the addition of the awful pain, and he knew he had to move now while he still had a fraction of strength left.

    Jason looked up, and for a second glared into the darkness’s intelligent yellow eyes, before he gathered his last strands of energy and raised his sword with both hands, plunging it deep into his enemy’s heart.

    “Good bye.”

    Instantly the darkness let go of its own Blade and staggered backwards, clutching at the sword in its chest instead. Jason felt the hilt slip from his hands as he slumped to the ground. But he had to stay awake. He didn't know why, but that was extremely important. Stay awake. He told himself thought the pain. Don't pass out. Stay awake.

    The darkness was now falling to its knees, its eyes wide with shock. But Jason didn't see any pain in its distorted features. Can it even feel pain? he wondered as it raised its head and let out a blood curdling scream.

    Fighting desperately to stay conscious, Jason watched as the darkness gave him one more hate filled glare, before its entire frame seemed to shudder. The top layer of its skin dissolved into dust, which was swept into the night sky. It left behind his darkness, just as it had been when he had first met it. It was just as well because Jason felt the remnants of his strength drain away into nothing.

    He could just barely make out his darkness walking slowly towards him. He could have sworn he heard its voice, smooth and uncorrupted, as his consciousness melted away.

    Thank you Jason, it said slowly.

    He wanted to reply, wanted to get up and make sure it was really over at last, but he had no strength left. He fell to his side, the world becoming dark and cold.

    Told you it was violent.
     
  3. Loxare Hollow Bastion Committee

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2009
    Gender:
    No
    Location:
    Flower Field
    904
    659
    Good news! This one isn't violent! Ah, that's always nice to hear. A few swears, like last chapter, but the site automatically filters those.

    EDIT

    Site does not filter those! Ahaha. Not this one anyways. Well, if the site thinks it's ok to leave it there, who am I to argue? If anyone gets upset though, I'll replace a letter with an asterisk.


    Jason gasped, his chest suddenly tight. Eyes flicking open, he caught sight of the last traces of darkness flaking off of his skin. Pulling off his sunglasses, he whipped his head around, vaguely panicked. Where was…?

    Sitting next to him, the darkness leaving his skin more slowly, Dick sat, unmoving. He didn’t have any injuries that Jason could see. Raising his free hand – the other one was being crushed in Dick’s fingers – he felt at his throat, checking his brother’s pulse. A little slow, but present. Letting out a small sigh of relief, he looked out into the rest of the room.

    It was only dimly lit by a lamp on the desk. The windows, which before had let in diffuse light, had curtains drawn over them. Sora and Riku were sleeping in a pile on top of Dick and Jason’s legs, which really couldn’t be comfortable. Yen Sid was sitting at his desk, staring at Jason. He was holding a pen as if he had been writing something.

    “Welcome back,” the old man rumbled. “It would appear you were successful in your endeavors. Congratulations.”

    Jason opened his mouth to speak, but all that came out was a wordless rasp. Clearing his throat, he tried again, “Dick…?”

    “He was defeated by Xehanort’s darkness?” At Jason’s nod, the Master continued, “He will be fine. The darkness will clear up with no lingering effects.”

    But what about…? “The darkness… it used my memories as weapons. We could feel the emotions that I felt in the memory, and at the end, injuries I got in the memory showed up on us.”

    Yen Sid’s eyes widened, and he stood up, walking around the desk. “Go on.”

    “A few years ago… I died. Got beaten bloody with a crowbar and blown up. It used that memory on Dick.” He looked worriedly at Dick again. “Will he be alright?”

    Yen Sid tilted Dick’s head up. “I do not know. Physically, he will be. But considering the trauma you went through then, and the trauma he suffered as a result, he will most likely have mental scars which won’t be easy to heal.” Tucking his hands into his sleeves, he turned to regard Jason. “It will help that you know exactly what he went through. You can guide him through this.” He extended his arm, resting it on Jason’s forehead. “You have been through an ordeal young man. Sleep.”

    There was something about that last word, something powerful. Suddenly, Jason found his eyes were incredibly heavy. His head dropped to his chest as the world dissolved into darkness again.

    ~*~​

    When Dick opened his eyes, he was surprised that the only soreness he had was the kind he got from sitting in one position for too long. His legs were numb – probably from the silver-haired teenager sprawled across them – his spine was kinked and his hand was stiff from being clenched in a fist for what felt like hours. No, wait, not a fist. He had a death grip on Jason’s hand, the latter actually turning slightly purple from the pressure. Quickly opening his fingers, he started rubbing the digits, trying to restore blood flow, while at the same time raking his eyes up and down Jason’s body, looking for injuries. To his never-ending relief, Jason was simply asleep, head tilted towards his chest, which was rising and falling steadily. His sunglasses were off, which was more welcoming than Dick had thought possible.

    Abruptly, the memory of what happened in the dream world assaulted him. His chest grew tight, his breathing became strained, he started sweating and shaking and… He recognized the panic attack, but couldn’t stop it. His hand tightened on Jason’s yet again.

    A hand came up, curling around his shoulders. Jason’s head rested on his shoulder, still breathing steadily. With all the willpower he had, Dick forced his breathing to match Jason’s. Slowly he relaxed into his brother’s half-hug. They sat like this as light gradually seeped into the room.

    Eventually, Sora twitched. He sat up, yawned and stretched and then flopped back down over Jason’s legs. The landing jolted Jason out of his sleep, hand falling off of Dick’s shoulder to scrabble for a gun that was not holstered at his hip. As it went, it smacked Riku in the head, startling him awake as well. Suddenly the room was full of noise as the Keyblade Wielders started asking Dick and Jason if they were ok, what had happened, if they won, et cetera. Jason simply moved one hand to cover Sora’s mouth. After a meaningful look from Jason – his other hand was still under Dick’s and Dick didn’t want to let go yet – he raised his own free hand and popped it over Riku’s mouth.

    “We’re fine, we beat the crap out of an ass, if we hadn’t won, we wouldn’t be here. Or we would be, but darker. Now shush. It’s too early for this crap.” Jason ended his little rant with a glare that promised repercussions if they continued talking and not-so-gently kicked Sora off of his legs. Wincing – his legs were so asleep by this point they were basically comatose – he nudged Riku off of Dick and pulled him up. “Come on Goldie, let’s head to the ship and find some coffee.” The two teens made to follow them, but Jason called back, “I swear, if you don’t give us at least ten minutes of quiet, I’m poisoning your next meal!”

    Mindful of their numb legs, they climbed down the infinite steps of the Tower. After one or two eternities, they made it to the front door and onto the ship. Jason sat Dick down in the captain’s seat and grabbed his shoulders. “You ok Dickiebird?”

    “Um… Yeah, fine.” Dick was avoiding his gaze though, looking somewhere over his left shoulder.

    One hand slapped Dick lightly on the back of the head before resuming its position on his cheek. “You’re a crap liar Dick.”

    Sighing, Dick met his eyes. “I… in the dream world… the last memory the darkness showed me was…”

    “My death,” Jason interrupted. “I know.”

    Dick looked startled. “How…?”

    “The injuries Wingnut. You got them from the memory, the same ones I had to live through. Now. Are. You. Ok?”

    “Jason, I- ” A tear slipped down his cheek. “You died. I watched you die. I felt you die!” Dick’s voice increased in urgency until Jason gently dropped his hand over his mouth.

    He gathered his brother into a hug, feeling Dick stiffen with surprise before relaxing into it. “I’m here now Dickie. I’m here and alive. What you saw, what you felt, that was in the past. I’m ok.” Jason gave his brother a moment to cry into his shoulder. Then he pulled away and put his hands back on Dick’s face. “But you haven’t answered my question. Are you ok Dickiebird?”

    Dick swiped a hand under his nose and gave a small smile. “I’ll be ok Little Wing. Thank you.” And he lunged forward, grabbing Jason’s shoulders in another hug. Jason endured it for a moment, then pushed his brother off. He was pretty sure Dick was lying, at least partially, but he’d keep an eye on him. For now, they needed coffee, stat.

    When Sora and Riku came down a few minutes later, Dick was sitting at the table with a steaming mug cradled in his hands and Jason was flipping pancakes. “If Yen Sid wants to see us, can it wait until after breakfast? I’ll even bring up some food for him, but after that fight, I’m starving like you wouldn’t believe.” Without looking, he flipped a pancake onto one of the five plates waiting on the table. Each of them now had three pancakes a piece, as well as some hashbrowns left over from yesterday’s breakfast, reheated in the frying pan. There was bacon in another pan, and some tomatoes in another.

    Soon enough, every plate was full and covered with foil for the long trip back up the stairs. Jason carried two plates, Dick and Riku each carried a plate and two mugs, and Sora carried one of each. Jason placed Yen Sid’s plate on the desk when they reached the study, and Riku put one of the mugs next to it. Yen Sid conjured some chairs while Jason reclaimed his mug from Dick and they all sat down to eat, and to find out how to save Gotham.

    To Jason’s chagrin, it became apparent after a few minutes of conversation that returning to Gotham and saving it would be no easy task. In fact, the more they discussed the possible locations the world was at or the methods of simply getting there, the more Jason couldn't help but feel slightly disheartened. He sat, quietly listening for a change, as he ate. It seemed Riku and Yen Sid were onto something. This was definitely more their expertise, so Jason was content to wait and see what kind of plan they would conjure up.

    “The question is,” Riku was saying, pausing to take a long drink of coffee, “will defeating Xehanort free the world, like it did in the case of Ansem, or is there a more sure-fire method?”

    Yen Sid bent his head, apparently deep in thought. After a few moments he looked up and replied, “There is another way which I believe is a reliable method of freeing a world. But achieving it shall be extremely dangerous. I do not know how easy it will be to accomplish finding Gotham, because this method is merely testing a theory. “

    Despite his warning, the other four at the table leaned forward, their interest’s piquing.

    “Well then,” Sora said, since Riku had an incredible amount of food in his mouth at the moment, “what's the idea Master Yen Sid?”

    Jason nodded. “It doesn't really matter how dangerous it is. As long as it's possible me and Dick are up for it.”

    The old man leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms. “To save Gotham, you will need to enter into the Realm of Darkness.”

    Sora and Riku both gasped, while Jason raised his eyebrows and Dick frowned at the Keyblade Wielders’ reactions.

    “And this... Realm of Darkness is?” Dick asked.

    “It's a sort of, well, it's what it sounds like.” Sora said a hand placed on his chin as he thought. “It's a dimension, made out of darkness. It's like the Heartless's home. You find all sorts of powerful monsters in there. And it's said it slowly corrupts you over time. A person can only be in a world of pure darkness for so long without their hearts being affected.”

    Dick looked appalled. “And you think we should go marching into the home of all the Heartless?” He asked the room at large.

    Yen Sid, who was now finished his meal, folded his hands patiently in his lap. “I do. Think Dick. Your world was completely engulfed in darkness, so it makes sense you would find it in a dimension of darkness, does it not?”

    Dick froze for a moment, comprehension flooding his features. He looked fearfully over at Jason, who was still silent and attentive at this point.

    “But Master Yen Sid,” Riku said, placing his cutlery on his now empty plate. “How are we even going to get into the Realm of Darkness? And how will we find Gotham once we get there?”

    “Ah. Both good questions. But I believe I have the answers. You shall be traveling to the Realm of Darkness through a Corridor I shall create for you. Similar, though not exactly like the ones Organization XIII was using.”

    “You can do that!?” Riku exclaimed amazed. As far as he knew, only Nobodies or those who had surrendered to the darkness in their hearts had that power.

    “I have before explained the balance between light and darkness to you and Sora. It is only natural that I understand how to control it.”

    Riku blinked, amazed, but he shook himself out of it, and in a few moments, more questions were buzzing around in his head. “But, that darkness in the portal and in the Realm of Darkness could corrupt us!” Riku stammered. “How can we withstand its effects? Especially me and Jason.”

    He would never straight out admit it, but Riku was definitely not thrilled about the prospect of re-entering that place.

    In response to Riku's question, Yen Sid raised his hand, and the next moment, black fabric appeared from thin air and fluttered onto each of the travelers’ heads. There was a bit of pandemonium that followed as both Jason and Dick leapt from their chairs, believing this was some sort of sneak attack or kidnapping attempt. Sora, confused by the commotion, managed to fall out of his chair, which once Riku had pulled the material off his head and saw it, caused the boy to burst out in hysterical laughter. It was a good minute before everyone was calmed down and seated once again around the table. Yen Sid, to their amazement, was frowning less than before.

    “As I was going to say,” the old man rumbled with a voice that was half annoyed and half amused, “after studying the cloaks used by the members of Organization XIII, and with the help of DiZ, I was able to create clothes with similar properties. These garments should act as shields against the darkness, as they do for the Nobodies.”

    Jason looked down at the thick smooth material. It was jet black, and seemed to be at closer inspection a cloak with a hood and a silver fastening. It was close enough to a cape that he didn't think he would mind it. He’d worn capes before. But he marveled at the idea that this could actually keep darkness away from somebody.

    “As for the matter of how to find Gotham in the Realm,” Yen Sid continued, “this is a simple case of testing a theory as I said earlier. However, because it is Gotham specifically, I believe that Dick and Jason will be drawn to their home world, and shall therefore be able to guide your party to the proper destination.”

    Dick was nodding his head as if what Yen Sid had said actually made sense, and Jason decided it was time to break his silence.

    “No offense,” he started skeptically, “But we have never even been to this Realm of Darkness place. How do you expect us to know where we're going?”

    “The heart can accomplish amazing feats. One just has to give it the chance. You and Dick are connected to those in Gotham through strong bonds. Your hearts should pick up on the connections quickly if you merely listen to them.”

    Jason rolled his eyes at that unhelpful explanation, and then again at Dick’s humongous grin.
    “So the plan,” Sora said slowly, “is that you're gonna create a corridor to the Realm of Darkness, and then we have to fight our way to Dick and Jason's world, which they should be able to find instinctively?”

    Yen Sid nodded.

    At that Jason stood up and swung his new cloak over his shoulders. “Alright then, I want to get this over with as soon as possible. I hate the idea of my family trapped in the darkness for any longer than they have to be.”

    “Before you go Jason, it may be wise to check in on your darkness. I assume you have made a decision regarding it?”

    Jason froze. He’d almost forgotten… “Yeah. It doesn’t want to hurt me. Besides, if it ever turns on me, Dickface here will probably kick it out.” The last bit had Dick throwing a quick smirk his way.

    “Can I come with? I want to meet it.”

    Jason thought a moment. “Can you come? I mean, it’s my heart space thing. I know we went to the dream world together, but I think this is different.” He turned to Yen Sid, who nodded.

    “It is indeed very different. Under normal circumstances, no one should be able to enter your heart but you. However,” a twinkle sparked in the older man’s eye, “I should be able to work something out.” Without waiting for them to prepare, he waved his hand and Dick and Jason crumpled to the ground, unconscious.

    ~*~​

    Dick opened his eyes. It took a moment for his brain to process what he was actually seeing, but eventually, after standing and pinching himself, he had to accept that it was for real. He was standing on a stained glass window, probably one of the most beautiful he had ever seen, featuring Jason. Jason himself was staring at a bit of it, a vaguely confused expression on his face. “That wasn’t there before.”

    “That” was a circle containing Gotham’s skyline in black with a small Batsymbol glowing above it. Actually, it was eerily similar to how Gotham had looked in the dream world.

    The glass changes as you experience life. The voice had both vigilantes whirling, hands going to weapons that weren’t there.

    Dick stared at the dark figure warily. Add a few yellow lines, and it would look exactly like the monster they had faced yesterday. But Jason visibly relaxed and let out a sigh of relief. “Good. I was a bit worried. No more Xehanort’s darkness running around in here?”

    It is completely eradicated.

    “And you’re sure?” Dick knew he was being overly suspicious, but after what happened to Jason, he felt he had a right to be.

    Jason’s darkness nodded at the same time Jason answered, “Yeah. It feels less bleak in here.” He turned to his darkness. “I’m glad you’re okay. I just wanted to bring Dick around to meet you. Well, no, that’s not quite true. He wanted to meet you and then Yen Sid tossed us both in here without asking.”

    Dick laughed. If he didn’t know better, he would almost call the look on Jason’s face a pout. But he did know better. He knew that if he did call it that, Jason would break his face. Turning to the darkness, he held out his hand. “Nice to meet you.” The darkness grabbed his hand and Dick clapped his other hand on its shoulder. “I just wanted to say that if you do anything to hurt my brother, I will personally destroy you. Also, I wanted to hug Jason, sooo…”

    To Dick’s surprise, the darkness only laughed at his threat. Worry not. Hurting Jason will only hurt me. All beings have darkness. Jason is simply… more accepting of his. As for hugging your brother...

    It paused, cocking its head to one side as if considering something.

    Jason shifted from foot to foot. “Aren’t we already healed of that... problem. We already hugged on the ship and nothing happened.”

    Those circumstances were different, the darkness stated. At the time he was not a danger to me. Dick needs light in his heart to push me away. In that moment there were very few thoughts that could harm me.

    Jason looked over at Dick, disappointed. “Oh.”

    Being in that sad dark state was extremely rare for Dick. The guy was just an explosion of optimism. It was impossible to ask him to turn that bright happy part of him off.

    The darkness then looked up, his thoughtful demeanor broken. I believe there is a way.

    “Yes?” Dick asked instantly, staring at the figure in front of him with hopeful eyes.

    The dark yellow eyes of Jason's darkness met Dick’s. You must allow me to touch your heart as well.

    Both Jason and Dick started. “W-what do you mean!?” Dick asked. “You don't mean corrupt me like Xehanort’s darkness did to Jason?”

    No. The dark figure replied, sounding alarmed. The only heart I am interested in is Jason's.

    "Damn straight!” Jason piped in.

    I do not wish to harm you. Nor do I wish to enter your heart. The process of which I speak is different. You can drive me out of Jason because the light in his heart is connected with yours. But I am not connected to your darkness. If you allow me to establish a connection...

    The darkness trailed off, though it didn't need to say more. They understood that if Dick opened his heart to Jason's darkness and allowed it to connect to his own, the overwhelming effects of Dick’s light would be subdued.

    Dick losing his one weapon against the darkness was not a reassuring thought. But he had faith in Jason's decision to trust it. And he could always enter the dream world and kick the thing’s butt if it ever messed with his little brother. Besides, the thought of being unable to hug Jay was eating away at Dick. His decision was easy, really.

    “Alright,” he said, taking a hesitant step forward. Jason looked over at his brother, slightly surprised at how quick Dick had agreed.

    The darkness moved to stand directly in front of Dick. It raised its hand and said, You must not fight back against me.

    Dick nodded slowly before closing his eyes. He felt a cold hand press against his chest, and instantly fought back the urge to draw away. A chilling sensation seeped its way through his veins, though it was not altogether unpleasant. More just... uncomfortable. He could tell that if he willed it, he could throw this foreign presence out of his heart. But he didn't fight. He let it reach him, his heart. Just as a feeling of acceptance and peace washed over Dick, Jason's darkness drew its hand away. It was only then that Dick realized the cold sensation from earlier had become warm, almost comforting. He looked up and smiled at the figure in front of him.

    “That wasn't so bad. So, are we good?”

    The darkness nodded. You can no longer harm me that way again.

    “Good!” Dick laughed and leapt at Jason, taking him by surprise and engulfing him in a bear hug in celebration of the occasion.

    Jason growled and shoved Dick roughly off. “Just because you can hug me, doesn't mean I'll let you!” But he was smiling all the same.

    Dick too was grinning ear to ear and jumping up and down on the balls of his feet. “So we ready to go? How do we get out of here anyways?”

    “I’ll take you out.” Jason grabbed Dick’s elbow and waved. “See you later.”

    Jason’s darkness gave a small wave of his own. Farewell Jason. Farewell Wingnut. I will be here if you require assistance.

    Dick waved as well as the stained glass blurred and they woke up.
     
  4. Loxare Hollow Bastion Committee

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2009
    Gender:
    No
    Location:
    Flower Field
    904
    659
    Haha, guess who forgot to post here again!? Crap. In my defense, I was working. ANYWAYS. Next chapter will be on Friday, I promise. Enjoy!

    Jason groaned and stretched. Getting to his feet he asked, “Now can we go? Still not happy leaving Gotham in the darkness.” Sora, Riku, and Dick began fastening their cloaks. Yen Sid nodded solemnly, then stood himself.

    “Speaking to your darkness was necessary. You are correct however. Accomplishing your goal quickly is the most effective option at this point. Your connections to your world are still strong, but the longer we wait the quicker they will fade.”

    The man snapped, and a few bags appeared on the table between them. “These are provisions for your journey, which I have no doubt you will need. Once you have saved your world, I believe a doorway of light will swallow Gotham and return it to its proper place amongst the worlds, with you four in it. However, it will be extremely difficult to find another way out of the Realm of Darkness, so I suggest you be successful in your mission.”

    “Save Gotham, or die trying.” Jason clarified as he swung his pack over his shoulder. It was heavier than he expected. “Got it.”

    “Master?” Sora asked, pausing once he had fastened his cloak. “Do you know what we will be facing once we actually find the fallen Gotham?”

    The man sighed. “Unfortunately, I cannot say for certain what you will find. All I am sure of is that the evil that originally existed in that world will be drastically elevated.”

    “Good thing Gotham was such a wonderful place to live to begin with.” Dick groaned.

    “All right Master.” Riku said, glancing at his companions. “We're ready whenever you are.”

    “Hold up!” A girl’s voice preceded its owner through the door. A red-head in a pink dress and leggings walked through the door, followed by another red head in a black cloak. The first one, the girl, had her hair pulled back in a ponytail and was breathing hard, as if she had been exercising. The other one, male, had hair that defied gravity, sticking up in points that put Sora's to shame. He also seemed tired. The girl opened her mouth, her blue eyes fierce. “You are not going on another adventure without me! I’m coming with you!”

    Sora sputtered. “What? Kairi, no, it’s dangerous and you’re not trained and- ”

    The girl, Kairi apparently, pointed her finger between Sora’s eyes. “Yes Sora. You said I needed training, but sparring with Lea for days on end isn’t getting me anywhere. What faster way for me to learn than to go into combat? That’s how you and Riku learned!”

    So this was the infamous Kairi. The one who had hugged Sora back to light. Jason liked her so far. She had spunk. He sidled up to Dick and whispered, “Ten bucks on the chick.”

    Dick snorted. “Yeah right. She’s obviously going to win. Sora’s a push over.” Based on the way the conversation was going, Jason could only agree. Especially since Riku and Lea (?) were just leaning against the wall, matching amused smiles on their faces while they waited for the inevitable.

    “We didn’t start by jumping straight into the Realm of Darkness!” Sora started waving his hands around, trying to emphasize his point. “Well, Riku did, but that’s beside the point.”

    “It is not. I’m coming, and that’s final.” Kairi crossed her arms.

    Desperate, Sora looked over to Riku and Lea. Lea just raised his hands helplessly, smile still affixed to his features. Riku tried and failed to put a more serious expression on his face. “Sorry Sora, you’re on your own on this one.”

    When Yen Sid didn’t say anything about it, Kairi smiled triumphantly. “That’s settled then! Lea, did you want to come?”

    “No can do little red,” the taller red head drawled, his smile turning down into a rueful expression. “Merlin was going to start me on Ice magic this week. It’s my weakest element, so I need the practice.”

    While Kairi went to visit the Point for a refresher and Dick retreated to a side room to put on his Nightwing suit, Riku asked, “Does Kairi need a cloak too, or will the darkness not affect her?”

    “She would be fine in the Realm of Darkness.” Yen Sid waved his hand anyways, a fifth cloak and bag appearing in Sora’s arms. “But she should have one anyways. I hear the Realm of Darkness can get quite chilly.” There was a spark of amusement in his eyes.

    Sora grudgingly held out the provisions to Kairi, still grumbling at the lost argument. Dick came out and Jason took his place, stripping off the civvies as fast as he could and throwing on his shirt, pants, belt and boots. The jacket wouldn’t fit properly under the cloak-cape thing, but he refused to leave it behind. He left the room and with all five of them ready, Yen Sid nodded and again, raised both his hands. Jason could feel the hair on the back of his neck stand up. He instinctively drew his cloak closer around him.

    “Good luck.” The old man growled.

    The next moment, a huge twirling gate of black grey mist formed in front of them. All of Jason's instincts told him not to step forward, to back away, but he saw Riku stride towards the dark mass, and so reluctantly followed. In a few seconds, the portal had vanished, and the room was empty but for a red head leaning against the wall and a sad looking old man.

    “Be safe young ones,” he whispered.

    ~*~​

    Sora opened his eyes with a groan. He sucked in a breath and instantly regretted it. The air was heavy, oppressive. Shifting so that he was on his knees and elbows, he looked around. He was laying on a dirt path; just a path, floating in space. Kairi was still out, Dick was groaning himself awake and Jason and Riku were standing, peeking down over the edge of the path. Getting to his feet, Sora took a look of his own.

    Everything was dark, which wasn’t really surprising. There were other paths, both below and above them, and pillars of darkness, vast spiralling structures soaring out of sight. He gave a low whistle. This was his first time in the Realm of Darkness, not counting the time he and Riku had gotten stuck in the Dark Margin, and so far, it was pretty impressive. Scary, but impressive.

    Ripping his eyes away from the abyss, he turned to his companions, specifically Kairi. He knew she could handle herself in a fight, but this probably wouldn’t be like other fights. He had gone into Hollow Bastion’s heart and ended up fighting a Behemoth. And that was with Hollow Bastion still in the Realm of Light. There was no telling how many impossibly strong Heartless they would encounter while they were here.

    As Kairi shifted awake, Sora’s mouth tightened in determination. He would keep her safe.

    Dick and Jason were both stretching, Dick doing a one armed handstand and Jason doing some more simple leg stretches. The latter looked up, following the former into a hand stand. “You three might want to stretch too. We have time now and it might save your life in a fight.”

    Sora blinked. “I’m not sure I can do handstands…”

    Dick bent his spine backwards, his feet pulling towards the ground until he could stand upright. “Don’t worry. That’s standard fare for Bats, but we can take you through some stretches better suited for your fighting styles.”

    They did so and Sora had to admit, it did help. He had wrenched his shoulder during that last fight in Gotham and while he had healed it up really fast, it had been stiff. The stretching loosened it up. Maybe he should start doing this more often.

    Standing up from his last stretch, Riku asked, “So, Dick, Jason, where to?”

    Dick crossed his arms under his cloak. “I’m still not entirely sure what we’re supposed to do.” Jason nodded in agreement.

    “Hm.” Sora thought about what Yen Sid had said. “You know Gotham, right? And I mean, know Gotham. You should be able to feel that and pick a direction from it. I think.”

    “Of course.” Jason closed his eyes, remembering. “I’ve lived there for my entire life. The way the streets sound, the way the air feels, the smell of the docks in summertime, the way it seems like Crime Alley is watching you…” As Jason spoke, Dick closed his eyes as well. With both of their eyes shut, they didn’t see, but Sora, Riku and Kairi did. A small spark of light flickered beneath their cloaks, right near the heart. Immediately, their eyes snapped open and they pointed in the same direction.

    Following their hands, Sora frowned. Their path didn’t go in that direction. At all. He looked at the other paths above and below them. “There.” Far below them, one path went in the general direction of where they were pointing.

    Looking down at the path, Jason followed it with his eyes. “Looks good enough to me.” And with that he leapt off the edge, Dick following close behind.

    Riku gave Sora a jaunty mock-salute before he fell off the path backwards. Turning to Kairi, Sora offered his arms. “Kairi? You haven’t learned how to glide yet.” She nodded and he stooped to grab her under the knees, the other arm curling protectively around her shoulders. He stepped off the path just in time to see the others land.

    Riku landed perfectly in the center of the path. Dick was very off of his target, looking more likely to plunge into the darkness than land safely. This was probably on purpose as Dick laughed when he pulled his grapple, firing it onto a nearby path and swinging gracefully to the one he wanted. Jason sped past the path, firing his grapple onto it as he sped by. He swung in a circle and landed on the dirt with a thud. Sora landed gently next to him and set Kairi on her feet.

    “So, that way?” Riku pointed and set off. Dick and Jason followed, discussing possible strategies when dealing with large groups of Heartless versus single strong enemies, frequently asking Riku for advice and weaknesses.

    The silence at the back of the group was heavy. Not because of the participants. Sora and Kairi were perfectly comfortable with silence around each other, even with that argument still hanging in their minds. But the Realm of Darkness had a way of making every step a trial, every silence waiting to steal your next words away. Finally, Kairi broke it. “So Sora, tell me about your new friends.”

    Starting eagerly on the anecdote, Sora soon had Kairi nodding solemnly as he recounted Jason getting taken over by the darkness, laughing at chasing Jason around the manor, smiling at Dick’s obvious care for his brother and gasping at the horrifying episode on the gummi ship when Dick had had to hug him. Gotham and the rest of the Bats filled the otherwise oppressive silence of the darkness, the laughter and smiles seeming so foreign to the space. But so incredibly necessary. With every bit of light they brought into the conversation, Sora could feel his steps get lighter.

    By the time Kairi had been caught up and started on telling Sora how her training had been going, the other three joined in. Riku threw in a few stories of his time in the dream world, nothing new to Kairi and Sora but Dick and Jason were very keen to compare it to their own experiences in the darker half of the dream world. Eventually, Jason started sharing some of his adventures with Roy and Kori and Dick was recounting a particularly embarrassing scene from before Jason’s death involving a pie, Alfred and seventeen paper clips.

    They had had to stop their stories twelve times when Darksides and Neo Shadows attacked them. Yup, the stretching had definitely helped. Sora was really happy to see Kairi had gotten past the “flailing the Keyblade like a stick” thing she had had when she had first held her Keyblade. Now she moved through the Heartless like a dancer, landing quick devastating hits before twirling away.

    After hours of walking, they came upon a slightly wider area of the path. Riku set down his pack, calling for a break.

    As he cracked open a can of juice, Sora flicked his cloak over his shoulder. He had been having problems with it during the fighting. The hood portion hadn’t really been getting in the way, but the cloak bit had been flying in weird directions. It only reached down to mid thigh, but that was still long enough to flap into his face. But Jason and Dick moved like they were used to it. “Hey guys, any tips with these?” He held up one corner of the cloak.

    Dick looked over. “Depends. Does the cloak need to be in front of your shoulders for it to work, or is just wearing it enough?”

    Sora turned to Riku, who though for a moment. “With the old cloaks, they had to be worn head to toe and closed at all times to prevent the darkness from leaking in. But Yen Sid said he had upgraded them. Since they’re shorter now, I think just wearing them makes them work.”

    Jason nodded, shoved his apple between his teeth and started playing with Sora’s cloak. Not even a moment later, it was pinned back over his shoulders, exposing his chest and arms but keeping the cloak very much out of his face. Scooting over to Kairi, he did the same for hers while Dick tended to Riku.

    “That should hold you.” Dick sat back with a smile. “Me and Jason spent most of our teen years wearing something like this. You learn to manage.”

    Snorting, Jason pulled the apple from his mouth. “We still ditched the capes as soon as we could though.”

    Suddenly, both of the Gothamites stiffened. Sora jumped as they leapt to their feet, grabbing up all the food and shoving it into their bags. “Dick, Jason, what is it?”

    Jason turned his eyes to the other three. “You don’t feel that?” Something in his tone seemed almost happy.

    “Feel what?” Following their lead, Riku started packing up as well. Sora and Kairi looked at each other in confusion for a moment before doing the same.

    Dick’s grin was so wide and bright that they probably couldn’t call this place the “Realm of Darkness” anymore. “Gotham! It feels like Gotham and it’s close!” He was dancing from foot to foot, unable to keep still. Even Jason seemed like he was in a hurry, his eyes flicking back and forth between the Keyblade Wielders and the next turn in the path.

    When everyone had their packs slung over their shoulders, they broke into a run. Half way to the turn, Riku called out “Sora, race you!” Sora laughed as he poured on the speed. Kairi, after all of her training, was keeping up with them really well. Dick couldn’t resist putting a few flips into his run. Even Jason had a rare smile of true happiness on his face. Not a sarcastic one, or one put up because it’s what he thought Dick needed to see. Actual happiness.

    As Dick raced around the corner, his laughter died a bit. There was Gotham, not as he knew it, but how he had come to expect worlds to look during his travels in the gummi ship. The sphere, buildings jutting from the top, Wayne Tower, Ace Chemicals, Arkham, Gordon’s precinct. Clouds hung low, touching the top Wayne Tower and the Batsignal was displayed on them. Connected to it was the docks and a path that lead down to Wayne Manor on the bottom of the sphere. It was dark. Sure, Gotham had always been dark, but never this dark. All of the buildings were black. The clouds were black. Even the Batsignal seemed to radiate darkness rather than light.

    Sora strode up to him and clapped a hand on his shoulder. “Come on Dick. Let’s save your city.” With a smile that seemed to inspire hope, the teen led the way to Gotham.
    [DOUBLEPOST=1437770976][/DOUBLEPOST]Haha, this one's on time! Yeah! Some violence happens children. Avert your eyes. Actually, pretty much all of the chapters after this are violent. So don't read them.

    Oh, and in the comics, Roy Harper (also known as Arsenal, he hangs out with Red Hood all the time) and Killer Croc have an interesting relationship. Roy was going through some crap and being all drunk and tried to take on Croc. Instead of beating him up, Croc took him to AA. So yeah, there's that.


    As soon as the group entered the dark world, they knew something was very, very wrong. That was to say, more wrong than usual. It was as if they were passing through a sort of force field which made the world heavy with gloom. All of the confidence and happiness they had felt just moments ago to evaporated slightly. Everyone sagged with the effort of stepping into the dark, lost place.

    Sora immediately summoned his Keyblade, the cold steel which formed in his hand slightly reassuring his frayed nerves. He glanced around at the rest of his friends. Kairi was pale, but her eyes were fierce, and her face determined. She too had taken out her blade instinctively upon arrival. Jason and Dick were standing close, obviously wanting to protect each other against whatever evil force was emanating from within the depths of the black city. Dick had his escrima sticks clutched tightly in his hands while Jason's All Blades seemed to form of their own free will, due to the pure evil that hung in the air. Riku stood next to Sora, a frown plastered to his face. He was staring intently into the black depths of the buildings in front of him, as if by looking at them, he would know what they would be facing.

    They stood there for a few seconds, everyone frozen as they slowly adapted to the overwhelming presence of hostile darkness all around them. It was Kairi who decided to take the first initiative step forward. It was probably due to her determination to prove herself, or her new-found stubbornness, but whatever the reason there was no way Sora was going to let her take the lead of their little procession. With a reasonable effort, he jogged forward towards the darkness to catch up to her. She gave him an exasperated look, followed by a slight eye roll, but then returned his smile as he fell into pace with her. Within moments they were all walking forward together in a group, wondering what awaited them in the city ahead.

    They had not appeared in Gotham itself when they entered the world. Instead the travelers were standing in the outskirts of the city, buildings towering in front of them like giants. It was quite odd for Dick and Jason, because they both knew Gotham extremely well, but at the moment, they had no clue where they were. Their surroundings were not familiar at all. Sure they recognized Wayne Enterprises well enough, towering above all else in the outlines of the city, but it was as if small details about Gotham had been changed, making the place unfamiliar, and more importantly, uninviting. The twisted dead grass, black sky, and absence of twinkling lights in the nearby city didn't help. The only light either came from the huge moon hanging in the sky, or the faint yellow the blackness seemed to emanate.

    “This isn't right.” Dick whispered. “Don't things just seem...wrong?”

    Jason nodded slowly. “The whole place feels different from the actual Gotham.”

    Soon enough, as the looming shapes of buildings grew larger with their approach, the sound of rushing water could be heard. Both Dick and Jason were filled with relief at the familiar sound. It was nice that not everything had changed. Hopefully, they would be able to better pinpoint their location in relation to the city if they could figure out which river they were at.

    Sora glanced over at Riku as the sound of rushing water grew nearer. “Should we, try to go around it?” He voiced the question they were all considering.

    The procession slowed to a halt as the boy merely shrugged. “We might be able to glide over it. Though I guess Jason, Dick, and Kairi won’t.” He stared into the blackness ahead of him, but the shadowy landscape was still hiding the water from view.

    “Crossing it depends on the river.” Jason said. “There are a few spots shallow enough to wade through, but most of them are deep and have fast currents. We'll have to wait and see.”

    “Makes sense,” Kairi and Dick said in unison. The two looked at each other and grinned.

    It didn't take them long to find the source of the noise. It was indeed a river, but one of which the likes they had never before laid eyes on. The water wasn't clean and clear, nor was it a polluted dirty brown. Instead, waves of blackness lapped at the banks as the angry tide swept by them. The river was at least 30 feet across, but with the swirling darkness running past them instead of water, it was impossible to guess its depth.

    Riku sighed. “That would be really risky to glide across, even without taking someone with us. There's no way we can carry Jason or Dick. I doubt we could get to the other side ourselves Sora.”

    “And there's nothing to grapple onto near us.” Jason put in, staring dully at the surrounding stretches of dead shrivelled grass. “So what, are we just supposed to swim across?”

    They all stared down at the churning black liquid with sinking hearts. No one wanted to go near it., let alone dive into the stuff. But it could take hours to find a bridge or good place to cross. Dick edged forward near to the bank, and crouched down to take a closer look at the water. Sora tentatively came up beside him, and dropped to his knees, staring down into the swirling pool of black. He could just make out the reflection of his face amongst the dark waves. Kairi came to investigate too, and stood next to him, observing the water from a slightly further distance. Sora would have rather she stayed back with Riku and Jason, and tried to swallow his concern. Kairi was a Keyblade Wielder in training. She could take care of herself. She could!

    A small gasp had Sora snapping out of his trance and once again focusing on the water. As his gaze met the black shiny surface, he only had time to take in a terrorized breath as he laid eyes on a scaly face and two enormous glowing eyes, staring up at him.

    Dick was trying to push Sora and Kairi out of the way frantically. “Killer Cr-”

    His voice was cut off in a rasping choke as an enormous green hand shot out of the blackness and clamped around Nightwing’s neck. The hand was followed by the head and shoulders of a huge revolting lizard looking creature wrapped in spirals of darkness. Its forked tongue flicked in and out of its gaping jaws furiously. The vigilante gasped, dropping his weapons as his hands flew up to the claws that were now digging into his skin as he tried to take a breath.

    The situation seemed to hit everyone at once. “Nightwing!”

    Sora was on his feet in a second, his blade swinging forward, but he stopped his attack at the last moment as Dick actually got in the way. The huge scaly monster was dragging a thrashing Nightwing down towards the water, the latter gasping and pulling at the thick fingers clamped around his neck. Kairi sprang forward too, and instead of attacking, grabbed onto one of Nightwing's arms and pulled him backwards. Sora's stunned brain couldn't help but wonder how this would be any help against the huge crocodile who had Dick in a death grip, but it seemed to slow Dick’s descent a bit, and seconds later Riku appeared next to Kairi and grabbed Dick’s flailing arm as well.

    A gun shot rang out and the crocodile man snarled as a bullet embedded itself in his exposed shoulder, but his grip didn't loosen.

    “What the hell are you doing Croc!?” Jason growled. “Sora, help me get him off of Wing!”

    Blinking confusingly, Sora managed to compose his thoughts enough to nod and once again run forward. The older teen took aim with his gun and fired again. The creature howled in pain, but its grip still didn't loosen. Dick's energy was fading fast, and his face was turning a scary shade of blue. His left foot was dragged into the water and instantly his eyes snapped open, his mouth open in a silent screen. Strands of the dark liquid were crawling up his leg from the river.

    “Don't make me do this Croc!” Jason yelled, pointing his gun at the monster menacingly.

    But the mutant didn't seem to be listening. In fact, it seemed as if he couldn't even hear Jason at all as he sunk deeper and deeper into the depths of the black river with his prize.

    Sora reached the monster holding Dick and thrust upwards with his blade as more bullets flew past his head and dug themselves into the crocodile's arm. This time, Sora's attack connected, leaving a gash across Killer Croc’s chest. That and Jason's bullets should have at the very least been enough to force the creature to relinquish its grip, but it didn't. Dick was now completely still, both legs engulfed by the black water up to his knees despite Kairi and Riku's best efforts. Panicking, Sora slashed again at the creature’s chest, and Jason ran up to him, this time aiming for the monster’s head. His bullets were not digging too far into the creature’s flesh due to its tough, scaly skin, not to mention the shield of darkness that seemed to be covering its entire body. Finally, after what seemed like hours, though it couldn't have been more than a few seconds, the crocodile man seemed to have had enough, and let Dick slide from its bloody hand. Kairi and Riku barely caught him as he slumped lifelessly to the ground. With a roar the crocodile flipped backwards into the river, a huge tail flicking up out of the waves as it descended, causing an assault of dark water to splash on Sora and Jason. As soon as the water touched their skin, it sizzled and spat like acid, and they both yelled and backed away, pulling their hands over their faces protectively.

    Jason was the first to turn around and face his fallen brother. “No, no, NO!!” He shouted, running up to the lifeless form. He dropped to his knees next to Kairi, placing his hands on his brother’s shoulders. “'Wing!” He said shakily. “Come on man. You're okay! You gotta be okay!”

    But he never got the chance to find out how okay Dick was, because the next moment, an enormous roar followed by the distinctive sound of streams of water splattering the ground erupted from behind him. Everyone excluding Dick turned to see a very angry Killer Croc, wrapped in darkness and bleeding badly from his chest and arm, standing on the shore facing them. The monster had blood-lust in its eyes, and stared at them for a long moment before the blackness surrounding him seemed to melt off his skin.

    “I knew it!” Jason yelled. “That wasn't Killer Croc! He was probably being controlled!”

    They watched, mesmerized, as the real Killer Croc fell limply to his knees, then the ground unconscious, a fading growl rumbling up from his throat as his darkness formed into a cloud in the air and transformed itself into a close replica of the mutant. Once formed it fell to earth, making the gravel tremble as its huge scaly feet touched the soft earth. It was all black now, with the addition of six inch claws and huge spikes lining its back. Without a moment's hesitation, the doppelganger charged forward right towards the group huddled around Dick.

    Sora was the closest to the water, as he was still standing in the same spot from earlier, digesting all the events of the last five minutes. When he saw that the angry creature was hurtling towards him, he acted purely on instinct. Clenching his teeth, he ran forward, jumping into a dive, which had him sliding inches away from the monster’s huge feet. With one swift movement, his blade had slashed deep into the dark Killer Croc’s right calf. The monster stumbled, and fell feet from where the rest of the group were now just drawing their weapons.

    The Heartless thrashed, enraged as it pushed itself up onto its feet. Jason took a swipe at its head with his All Blade, but the sword got caught in the creature’s mouth. Wrenching his head sideways, dark Killer Croc threw both Jason and the sword off balance, then turned to face Riku and Kairi who were now standing defensively in front of an unconscious Dick.

    “Watch out!” Sora yelled as Killer Croc pounced. The two Keyblade Wielders were ready though. In one fluid motion, they stepped forward simultaneously and swung upwards in a double strike, smacking dark Killer Croc with so much force that he flew backwards. It was then that Sora's and Jason's eyes both caught something. Where the Keyblades had hit, the darkness seemed to have been forced away from that area, leaving it less protected. “Riku, Kairi, did you-!?”

    “Yeah,” Riku shouted, while avoiding a vicious swipe from the monster's tail. “You guys thinking what I'm thinking?”

    In an unspoken agreement, the four warriors charged forward, surrounding the Heartless with a plethora of blows. The monster fought valiantly, thrashing its tail and snapping its razor teeth whenever it had the chance, but it was clearly overwhelmed in the flurry of flashing metal.

    From somewhere in the chaos, Jason's voice could just be heard calling, “Its chest! Aim for its chest”

    Sora took that as his time to move, and pushed off the ground, his Keyblade aimed directly at dark Killer Croc’s armoured chest. He felt a claw tear through the flesh in his arm, but the surrealism of the moment dulled the pain. He hit his mark hard, along with Kairi's and Riku's strikes. As expected, the thick darkness which had been acting like armour, receded around the Heartless’ chest. Jason took his moment and leapt forward, driving his blade deep into the monster with a twirl of his wrist, finally able to penetrate it due to the lack of protective dark scales.

    The monster gave an agonized inhuman howl, before Jason stepped backwards pulling his sword free, darkness trailing from its tip. They watching as the dark mass fell to the ground. The four of them were panting heavily, and stepped back abruptly as the huge scaly body started to dissolve into the air, blending into its bleak surroundings. No shimmering heart lifted into the sky however.

    Jason sighed. “Lucky that thing decided to ditch Croc’s body and fight us head on! Roy would have killed me if I had had to waste him.” He shrugged at the other three’s questioning looks. “Forget it.”

    With a jolt Jason remember his brother and turned around to face Dick. He ran the few steps towards him, and dropped to his knees, the All Blades clattering to the ground. Sora walked over and dropped down too, just then realizing how much he was trembling. He was followed by Kairi and Riku, both of whom looked shaken. Dick was breathing, but shallowly, and there was an angry purple bruise around his neck. His boots and uniform were covering any damage done to his legs, but from what Sora had felt from merely being splashed, he guessed it wasn't pretty. It was strange how the dark water didn't affect clothing, only human flesh.

    Jason was now bending over Dick, checking his pulse and opening his glazed eyes to peer into them. Dick just lay there, unmoving. With a gasp Kairi summoned her Keyblade once more. Sora automatically turned around to see which enemy was there to attack them this time, maybe Killer Croc as Jason called him, had gotten back up. But the girl simply cast a high level cure spell. Both Sora and Riku face palmed. Why hadn't they thought of that?

    It seemed to take forever as lights danced around Nightwing’s still body. Sora summoned his own Keyblade and was about to cast another healing spell, but Riku pushed his blade down again. “We're probably going to need to preserve our magic Sora.” He said grimly. “Why do you think none of us are healing any of these minor wounds?”

    Remembering his arm, Sora looked down to see a fairly deep cut running across it. The bleeding had already stopped however, so Riku was right. There was no need to waste magic. Living with minor injuries now could save their lives later. Sora glanced over at Kairi and saw a few scratches on her face. His stomach gave an uneasy lurch. Maybe just a little magic?

    Suddenly, Dick twitched, then bolted straight up!

    “Killer Croc!” He yelped with more than a little panic in his voice.

    Jason didn't even bother answering but launched forward in a rare moment of self-initiating affection and hugged his brother tightly. This shocked Dick enough to render him speechless, and the next few minutes were spent filling him in on what had happened while drinking some normal water from their packs and munching on fruit. Dick's strength seemed to slowly return over time, and within five minutes, he seemed to be back to full health. The party gathered their belongings and stood up, trudging over to the river once again, crossing by the unconscious Killer Croc on their way. Jason looked over and was relieved to see the steady rise and fall of his huge chest. As far as villains went, Croc wasn't that bad.

    They came to a stop, this time a few feet from the river’s edge, and once again stared into its glossy depths, contemplating what to do next.

    Kairi pulled her head away first. “So, do you think there’s a bridge nearby?”

    Dick swung his head wildly around. “Depends. Where are we…? Ah!” Behind them was a vast sprawling complex, long roads surrounding it. “I didn’t recognize it at first, but that’s the airport.”

    “Then the closest bridge is the Trigate.” Jason waved to a monolith a little ways off, swathed in dark fog. It extended partially over the water before abruptly ending. The gap between the two halves of the bridge was still too wide for gliding. “After that, there’s the Kane Bridge over that way,” he pointed the direction, “and the Brown Bridge on the other side of the Trigate,” pointing in a completely different direction.

    Sora noted the directions and jumped. If he could get high enough… Settling into a stationary glide, he looked over where the Kane Bridge was. Frowning, he swung his head over to the Brown Bridge. He was still frowning when he landed next to Kairi. “The Kane Bridge is broken too. And the Brown is covered in some sort of… plant? I think it was a plant.”

    Jason cursed. “Ivy. Damn. If it was just me and 'Wing, we could take her.”

    “Hey, what’s that supposed to mean?” Sora bristled. After all they’d been through, they thought they couldn’t handle themselves in a fight?

    Nightwing held up his hands in a placating gesture. “It’s not like that Sora. Ivy uses poisons. Mostly mind controlling, but some are fatal. Hood and I have built up an immunity over the years, but I don’t want to risk exposing you to that.”

    There was silence for a minute. “Well now what?” Riku finally asked. “None of the bridges are usable and we can’t exactly swim across the water.” The quintet shuddered at the thought.

    The air was suddenly filled with voices, all speaking over each other with a different theory. Sora wanted to try gliding across the bridge with a really long rope, ignoring that they didn’t have a rope long enough to stretch the gap. Riku thought they could freeze the water and walk across it. Kairi pointed out that they needed to conserve their magic and the spell would probably wear off before they could cast the next one. Dick tried calling the Batwing or the Batboat and when that didn’t work, suggested borrowing a plane from the airport. Which, based on a quick glance, had no planes.

    Jason was strangely quiet throughout. He simply stood, arms crossed, helmeted head cocked slightly. Sora stopped talking halfway through a mad plan to Firaga the Brown Bridge and hope the plants burned away before they could get poisoned (“We need to save our magic Sora,” Kairi reminded him helpfully) to watch him. After another minute of silence, Jason nodded and pulled off his helmet. “Don’t panic,” he stated, just loud enough to be heard by everyone.

    Before anyone could ask what they weren’t supposed to panic about, Jason’s eyes started glowing yellow through the lenses of his mask. Small black lines appeared around his mask, hairline and neck. Pulling two fingers to his mouth, he let off an ear shattering whistle which could probably be heard halfway across Gotham.

    He didn’t clap his hands to his ears even close to soon enough. “Hood, what…?” A great screeching sound filled the air before Sora could finish his question. A vaguely familiar screech. Looking up, he caught sight of three of the bat-like Myotises racing towards them.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2015
  5. Loxare Hollow Bastion Committee

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2009
    Gender:
    No
    Location:
    Flower Field
    904
    659
    Hello all! Good news! Just your standard fare Kingdom Hearts type violence in this one! No blood to speak of. Enjoy it, because next chapter is horrible. Just a warning.

    He dropped into an offensive crouch, Keyblade at the ready. He felt more than saw Riku and Kairi taking similar stances. Already, he was going through their attack patterns. They keep high in the air, diving really fast claws-first. Stay down a moment, get their bearings, then fly up again. Not a lot of time to attack, but it was an easy enough pattern to follow. Plus, if he needed to, he could just jump up and attack them when they weren’t expecting it.

    He was preparing for the dive when the Heartless landed, far out of reach of any attacks. Surprised, he relaxed his stance a bit, standing slightly and releasing his Keyblade with one hand. He was pretty sure he was seeing things when Jason started walking towards the things, hand extended.

    Holding his hand out, the Heartless bent its head to sniff at it. Jason’s eyes glowed brighter as he spoke. His voice layered, as if there was two of him speaking. “You will listen to me. You will fly myself and these others to the other side of the river. You will not attack us.” The bat Heartless’ eyes glowed briefly in unison. Jason gave off a satisfied smirk and turned back to the group’s surprised faces. “Alright. We can get going now.”

    Sora took in the dark lines, the yellow eyes, the layered voice, the Heartless, and summed up his thoughts succinctly and eloquently. “Huh?”

    “Um, Hood?” Kairi ventured, probably expanding on Sora’s thoughts. “What do you mean?” Definitely expanding.

    His face twisted in pain briefly before answering. “Yeah, I can’t actually hold them for long. I’ll explain on the comm.s on the way over.” One of the Myotises twisted its shoulder closer to the ground so Jason could climb on. “Let’s go people, two per bat.”

    Dick spent all of a second considering, then shrugged and climbed up behind his brother. Riku followed, claiming one bat for himself. Sora and Kairi climbed on the last one, settling between the head and the wings. Sora kept an eye on his Heartless. If it made a move towards attacking them, he could probably get a hit in first. As long as they were high enough and close enough, he could glide to the other shore. He might even be able to carry Kairi. Riku could take either Dick or Jason, but the other would be left to fall to the water. He really hoped Jason knew what he was doing.

    The bats lifted their wings. Dropping their wings, they created a windstorm that made Aeroga seem like still air. The Heartless and their passengers shot high into the air, level with a few of the shorter skyscrapers in Gotham.

    Once the Heartless had leveled out their flight, Jason’s voice came across the comms. “About the Heartless…”

    Sora interrupted. “Yeah! How did you get them to listen to you? Why are your eyes yellow? Will they attack us while we’re in midair? If they loop upside down, will we get a warning? Will other Heartless attack us while we’re up here?” He could have kept going, but Kairi smacked his shoulder lightly. He glanced back at her peeved expression and gave a quick, embarrassed smile.

    “As I was saying,” Jason’s voice was still doubled, so it seemed like he was twice as annoyed at Sora. “I was talking to my darkness and it said I could do this. These Heartless see me as a stronger Heartless right now. And since Heartless are mostly instinct, and it’s pretty suicidal to intentionally piss off a stronger being, they’re listening to me for now. But I can’t hold this for long. It takes a lot of concentration and kind of hurts a bit, so I would appreciate not being distracted.” That last comment was clearly directed at Sora. And probably Dick, who was trying to engage Jason in a game of Stella Ela Ola.

    To everyone’s great relief, they made it across the river with no problems. The creatures soared further upwards, towards the city, stretching their great wings for lift as darkness trailed behind the group. They flew through the sky and then steadily began to dip down as the Heartless lowered slowly to the ground. Sora saw Jason stiffen suddenly. The wind was too loud for him to pick up the sudden gasp Red Hood made, but Dick heard it and poked his head around his brother’s shoulder.

    “Uh, Hood, you oka-”

    Suddenly their Heartless bucked in mid-air, causing Dick to grab onto his brother’s shoulders to avoid being thrown off. As suddenly as it started, it stopped. The creature was once again making a slow decent towards the ground, but Nightwing’s heart was hammering a thousand beats a second.

    “Not... good.” Jason growled.

    Dick decided it was best to stay quiet, just as Sora's and Kairi's Heartless gave a sudden sharp turn to the left. Kairi screamed as she slipped from the creature’s back as it turned its body sideways, but Sora quickly reached out a hand and caught her wrist at the last second. With some difficulty he pulled her back up as the Heartless settled down and adjusted into the former flight path.

    “Hood!” Sora yelled over the howl of the wind. “What gives?!”

    Riku also wanted to know what was going on. He had a suspicion that Jason was losing control of the creatures, and clutched the back of his steed tightly to avoid splatting on the hills below.

    Jason's whole body was stiff, and his head was bowed in concentration. “We need...to jump.”

    “What!?” Kairi gasped looking at the good 50 foot drop below. “Are you crazy Red Hood?! We would die!”

    As she spoke, her and Sora's Heartless gave another wild buck that made their hearts rise to their throats.

    Jason gasped, froze, and then looked back at his friends stiffly. “Gonna… make them dive... Jump off at the last second. Then... fight.”

    Before anyone could ask for further explanation, the three Myotises lurched forward, and dived. Wind screamed around them and tore at their clothes. They clutched the Heartless as the ground surged forward to meet them. Sora braced himself, and at the last second grabbed Kairi's hand. He pushed off the Heartless's back as best he could, and the two of them went flying through the air, Sora letting go of Kairi’s wrist in the process. He had tried to hit the ground in a roll, letting the momentum bring him forward instead of harming him. But they had been moving at such a speed that as soon as he hit the ground he was slammed forward with so much force that he rolled along the grassy earth several times before he came to a stop, unable to breathe from the impact. He laid there for several seconds, blinking stupidly as he stared up into the sky. Then he saw the black shapes of the Heartless circling around above him, preparing to once again dive at their temporary riders. Taking in a small breath, Sora managed to push himself up into a sitting position before breathing in blessed gulps of air. He looked around for his friends, and saw a flash of white. Kairi was a few yards away from him, but sitting up groggily. Before he could spot anyone else, a terrible screech tore his eyes upwards once again to see the three bats diving down, furious.

    Instantly he stumbled to hit feet, and summoned his blade in a rush of shimmering light. A gleam to his left told him Kairi was doing the same. Before they could do anything however, one of the bats was upon him. It fluttered down, razor claws bared and mouth snapping as Sora slashed his Keyblade warningly. In an instant Kairi was at his side, and they thought the creature was going to back off. But the next moment, it dropped forward once again, its claw lunging towards Sora's blade. He jumped aside to avoid its grasp, and immediately regretted it. Kairi was now open to attack. But she didn't seem to mind. With a fluid grace, she ducked the monster’s other razor claw and twirled forward, bringing her Keyblade up to make a sizable gash along the monster’s back. Apparently that wasn't enough to vaporize it, because with a rush of wings the Heartless had turned its back on Sora and was now snapping pointed teeth at Kairi. She jumped back, and Sora saw his opportunity. He ran forward, and thrust his Keyblade into the creature’s back. It jerked and turned around to face him, before vanishing into millions of fading beads of darkness.

    Kairi laughed in a slight moment of victorious joy and smiled at Sora who returned it with a huge grin of his own. But the next second, Kairi's expression turned to fear as she raised a hand.

    “Sora look out!” She cried.

    Something hard crashed into him, and in a moment of complete shock, Sora was thrown high into the air before crashing back to earth in a daze. What had just happened? The world seemed far off and fuzzy as spots danced in front of his eyes. And for the second time in five minutes he couldn't breathe. But in moments his vision was clearing, and he was pushing himself shakily off the ground. A Heartless was flying straight towards him. Its yellow eyes were angry and its claws extended. Suddenly, Sora realized the Kingdom Key was no longer in his hand, and felt panic surge through his veins as he willed his weapon back to him. It wouldn't materialize fast enough! The creature was practically on him when something small streaked though the air and hit the creature's head hard, causing it to snap to the side. Whatever happened, it had worked. The Myotis stumbled slightly to the side, and Sora was able to roll out of its way in an act of pure instinct. The creature was not pleased. It swooped in a semi-circle, letting out a blood curdling kind of howl. Sora, still dazed, but now with his Keyblade, prepared to fight. But the next instant, someone streaked past him and plunged their weapon straight into the monsters exposed chin. With a roar of pain, it dissipated into thin air. Sora blinked. “Kairi?”

    She turned around a bit shakily. “Y-you all right?”

    He nodded a bit dazed. “...Yeah. And you?”

    “Oh, you know, just fighting huge bat monsters who want to eat me. Nothing too crazy.”

    The two were silent for a second, then burst out laughing in one of those weird moments right after something traumatic happens. They both felt giddy with their own success.

    “Hey!” Nightwing called. “You guys all right?” He was jogging up to them, one hand clutching an escrima stick white the other held three batarangs.

    “We're good Nightwing.” Sora said, stepping forward with Kairi to meet up with him.

    “Sora took a pretty hard hit.” Kairi piped up.

    “Yeah.” Nightwing said, nodding slowly. “I saw that. And you almost took another one. You sure you're okay?”

    “Fine.” Sora assured. “How's everyone else?”

    Nightwing looked behind his shoulder. “Hood was fine. He took care of the other Heartless. And Riku is passed out over there in the grass. I saw his Heartless twist while he was jumping off. I was gonna check on him, but I needed to make sure the Heartless bothering you guys were gone before anything else.”

    Looking around for his friend, Sora saw him lying in the grass about 30 feet away, with Jason crouched down beside him. The three jogged over to the two, and leaned over Riku. Sora reached out a hand and shook his friend lightly. To his great relief, Riku snapped open his eyes and then bolted upright, causing those around him to jump back. He took one glance around before spotting Jason, and grabbing the hero's shirt.

    “You tried to kill us!” he moaned, albeit jokingly, before releasing his grip and letting himself drop back onto the grassy soil. With a sigh, Sora did the same, and before long, everyone was collapsing down on their backs, looking up at that huge glowing moon and then over at the ominous city, which was very close now. It seemed to emanate evil.

    “Guys.” Jason said at last. “We're crazy.”

    “Yup.” They all said in unison.

    It was good to enjoy the peace while it lasted.

    It was briefly interrupted by a few Heartless popping up, but a few bullets, a batarang and a well-placed Fire spell – all without standing up – put them back down again. As signs go, this one pretty clearly said “Get moving, before something worse shows up.” So, after another moment of relaxing, the quintet stood up, stretching out their sore muscles.

    Sora tilted his head to the side, working out a kink. “So Nightwing, Hood, where do you think the Keyhole is? It’s normally somewhere very important to the world.” He flexed his fingers, making a small contented noise when they all cracked into place at once.

    “Hmmm…” Dick rotated his shoulder, then bent backwards further than any human should be able to. “Probably Wayne Tower. It’s the center of all the transit lines, plus most of the jobs in the city are connected to it somehow.”

    Dropping his ankle from where he had been holding it to stretch his quads, Jason smirked. “Let’s get going then.” He pulled on his helmet and set off.

    Riku, in the middle of realigning his spine, muttered something about impatience. Kairi laughed. “At least we don’t have to wait for them.” Turning back, she waved at Sora, who was trying to catch up after sitting to stretch his legs and back. “Hurry up slowpoke!”

    Riku smiled as Sora ran towards them. Dick and Jason were still walking, but Riku and Kairi stuck around to wait. When he caught up, they all walked forward together.

    Right into a cloud of gas.

    Riku inhaled in surprise. The gas filled his lungs quickly and his vision blurred. Dimly, he felt Kairi fall to the ground, crying. Sora whipped out his Keyblade a moment later, attacking an unseen enemy. The two Gothamites in front of him gave out shouts of surprise. The last thing Riku heard before his vision went black was fighting.

    ~*~​

    He opened his eyes to darkness. Carefully standing up, he whirled in circles, looking for a way out. The sound of metal on metal caught his attention. Behind him, a cloaked figure was fighting Sora and Kairi. And winning. Kairi was breathing hard and holding her shoulder. And based on the way Sora flinched when he landed after a combo, his left knee was injured. Riku tried to run towards them, trying to help, but he couldn’t move.

    The figure danced its way around his friends. Kairi fell first, a sharp jab to her stomach sending her flying. Then Sora was kicked to the ground. The figure raised its blade, point aiming straight for his heart. Riku cried out in distress, trying to reach him in time –

    – but his view shifted. His vision was obscured by a very familiar hood, his hands encased in gloves. He felt a smile stretch across his face as his Keyblade – not Way to Dawn, Soul Eater – plunged into Sora’s chest. Sora didn’t make a sound. His face contorted into an expression of extreme pain, absolute betrayal, before vanishing into darkness.

    Unable to stop himself, Riku pulled off the cloak. A brief glance down out of his peripherals didn’t show him his usual jeans-and-a-shirt outfit. He was wearing a white waist coat under a longer black jacket. Something he hadn’t worn since he had looked like Ansem.

    With a growing sense of dread, he stalked towards Kairi. She was shaking in fear and he felt a stirring of joy in him at the sight. Finally, these interfering Light Warriors would get their reward. His white-gloved hand raised Soul Eater one more time and slashed his friend across the chest. The look of betrayal in her eyes mirrored Sora’s as she slowly faded away.

    And Riku laughed, even as he cried.

    I’m sorry. I failed you. I fell to the darkness.

    ~*~​

    Kairi opened her eyes, surprised to find herself in The World That Never Was again. Just ahead of her, she could hear the sound of fighting, one she was familiar with. Sora’s exuberant battle cries along with Riku’s more subdued exclamations. She smiled and summoned Destiny’s Embrace, determined to help.

    She turned a corner and almost tripped on the Neo Shadow right in front of her. She grinned and slashed down on it. She jumped through the resulting cloud of darkness and fought towards her friends.

    Once she reached them, she fought by their side, just as she’d dreamed. They fought in harmony, one attack leaving the perfect opening for another. Covering one so that the other could lash out. Heartless dropped faster than they had ever before.

    Then something changed. The Heartless kept coming, and their pattern fell out of alignment. Suddenly, Kairi wasn’t keeping up. More and more, Sora and Riku had to cover her, sacrificing perfect openings to prevent a claw piercing her chest. She felt fine. She felt like she was at her prime. But it wasn’t enough.

    A crashing sound would have drawn their attention, if they hadn’t been so focused on the fight. As it was, Kairi didn’t notice the two Organization members not-so-subtly creeping up behind them. She didn’t notice the weaponry pulling back. She didn’t notice them plunging towards her, intent on impaling her from behind. But her friends did.

    There was a noise, like a rock splitting a coconut, and the world froze. Kairi turned, only to see Sora and Riku standing in front of her, Sora with an Ethereal Blade in his chest, Riku with purple arrows in his. The world shattered and she screamed.

    I’m sorry. I was a burden to you. It’s my fault you’re gone.

    ~*~​

    Sora sat up and stretched. A sleepy smile lit across his face as he gazed over the familiar water. Intent on going back to his nap, he lay back down.

    And shot up not a moment later when he saw the sky. There were dark clouds stretching from horizon to horizon and the wind whipped the trees. He knew this. He had seen this. He had to find his friends.

    He raced towards the bridge, going to the Paopu Tree. That had been where he had found Riku the first time, why wouldn’t he be in the same place now? Luckily, both of them were there. Unluckily, they were both unconscious, and there was a Darkside stretching its claws towards them. Suddenly furious, Sora raced forward and swatted the claw away with his Kingdom Key. He would protect his friends. This Darkside wouldn’t know what hit it.

    He attacked with everything he had. Every Firaga, every Ragnarok, every combo he knew. The Darkside didn’t feel any of it. The claw continued creeping towards his friends. Desperately, he attacked, but the claw didn’t deviate from its course. With a horrible slowness, the Darkside impaled his friends, and their forms shuddered into darkness.

    Sora was still for a moment, unbelieving. Then reality crashed down on him and he sank to his knees, screaming.

    I’m sorry. I wasn’t strong enough. I couldn’t protect you.
     
  6. Loxare Hollow Bastion Committee

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2009
    Gender:
    No
    Location:
    Flower Field
    904
    659
    Oh hello violence. I didn't see you last chapter. So you're going to be in this one? Oh, and next chapter, you're going to do a big performance? Good to know violence. Good to know.

    For seriousies, this chapter is violent. Next chapter is worse.


    VIOLENCE ABOUNDS

    “-ight?! Sora, wake up! Are you alright?!”

    Blinking his eyes, he wasn’t entirely surprised to feel tears on his lashes. What was surprising was the slight ache on one side of his neck, kind of like when Bruce had stuck him with a needle back in the Batcave. He lay there for a moment before what happened on the Island came back to him.

    “Riku! Kairi!” He bolted upright, wincing when his head protested. Loudly. A hand clamped down on his shoulder and he turned to face Dick. His eyes filled with tears at the sight of his friend. “I couldn’t save them. They were counting on me to protect them and…” His chest tightened beyond the point of words. He couldn’t speak, he couldn’t breathe, he didn’t know how he could continue like this. Riku and Kairi, his best friends since always, were gone.

    “Sora.” Dick’s voice was calm, too calm. Sora felt his anger flare up, rarely touched but always hot and ready to blaze. How could he be calm?! Riku and Kairi were gone and he just – “Riku and Kairi are fine. What you saw wasn’t real.” What?

    He whipped his head around. Riku was sitting on the ground, holding his head. Jason knelt next to Kairi, helping her to sit up. Both of them were alive. Tears filled his eyes again, but different tears. Tears of relief. And joy. Absolute joy.

    Standing, he wobbled and would have fallen if Dick hadn’t grabbed him. As quickly as he could, he stumbled over to his friends, needing to talk to them, to touch them, to know they were both real. He collapsed between them, wrapping one arm around each of their shoulders. They both seemed as surprised as he had been that they were all alive. That they were all ok.

    “What happened?” Riku was the first to break the silence. Sora couldn’t fault him. He wanted to know too.

    Jason’s face was invisible behind the mask, but his tone was grim. “Scarecrow. The same thing that happened to Croc happened to him. He released his fear toxin on the entire block. My air filters kept it out long enough to give Wing and myself the antitox. We would have given it to you three sooner but…” He shook his head, obviously upset.

    Jason stopped talking, so Dick continued. “Scarecrow kept us busier than we would have liked. He’s normally fairly easy to beat once you have the right antitox – no muscles to speak of – but with a Heartless on his side, we didn’t have any openings to take without leaving the other to serious injury.” His mouth tightened. Clearly, both he and Jason felt like they had failed. Sora couldn’t help but draw parallels to his… fear vision? He smiled at them, forgiving them instantly.

    Kairi’s eyes narrowed. “What’s your definition of serious injury? Because half of those look really serious.”

    He gave them a quick up-and-down. Nightwing’s suit was ripped in three places, blood weeping out of the large wounds on his chest and thighs. There was a bruise forming on his forehead that extended into his hairline. Red Hood had a large cut running across his Batsymbol and left arm, and he winced every time he shifted either his right ankle or his chest. His mask was cracked above one eye.

    Hood, having done his own survey, snorted. “We’ve had worse. A few cracked ribs won’t kill me.” He swore when Nightwing poked him in the chest.

    “No, but they will slow you down.” The acrobat turned his gaze to the three Islanders. “How about it? Got enough juice for a quick fix? I’m not looking forward to facing another inmate with a concussion.”

    Jason swore and grabbed his brother’s head, checking the injury. Dick winced at the motion and batted Jason’s hands away. Smiling at their antics, Sora summoned his Keyblade. “Heal!” Green light and the sound of bells filled the quiet Gotham air. The vigilantes’ injuries knitted themselves together, the bruise on Dick’s head fading to nothing. At the same time, the light rejuvenated the Keyblade Wielders. The shock and stress of seeing their greatest fears melted away. Not completely – it would always be there, hiding at the backs of their minds – but enough to bring the metaphorical sunshine back to their lives.

    It wasn't long before their group started towards the city again. By now the buildings of Gotham were no longer part of the skyline, but towered above them, blending into the inky sky above. No one could help but feel tension build as they approached the city. The repercussions of what they had already faced would weigh on their shoulders for a long time to come. Nonetheless, they kept trudging forward, until finally they stopped where the grass was suffocated out by concrete. Jason turned around to face the others.

    “Alright guys. I have no clue what's in there. But I know it's gonna be worse then what we've already had to deal with here. Whatever happens, we stick together. I don’t thinking we're going to last very long one on one.”

    The others’ serious faces told him they understood and with that, they crept into the depths of the city.

    The place was definitely different than the actual Gotham. The absence of flustered people bustling around the dirty streets, not to mention the loss of warm light glowing from street lamps, made the city feel dead. Even the rats were gone. Strangely enough though, garbage still littered the ground. To Jason and Dick especially, it just felt wrong. Nevertheless, they crept further and further into the maze of buildings, prepared to be ambushed at any second. They weren’t foolish enough to think they could just get to Wayne Enterprises without a fight. In fact, the more they walked, the more the building tension made them itch for something to happen. All that could be heard was their heavy breathing, and the crunch of their shoes on broken glass and forgotten flyers.

    “Well, well,” a deep smooth voice sank out from an alleyway to their right. “What do we have here?”

    Everyone stopped. It wasn't like they could run from anything they came across. Fighting was their best choice, and they sure as hell didn't want to turn their backs on the enemy.

    The person spoke again, but this time the voice was laced with a higher pitched, and if possible more sinister tone. “You certainly don't belong here. Not now. It's just... doesn't feel right, ya know.”

    Nightwing stiffened, now recognizing the voice. He locked eyes with Jason, who gave the minutest of nods, indicating he had come to the same conclusion.

    A dark figure melted out of the shadows, but the lack of light made it impossible to see any defined features. He stopped just outside completely revealing himself in the moon light.

    “Here's the question. Do I attack the Bats, or do I attack the little punks first?”

    Instinctively Red Hood and Nightwing stepped forward and drew their weapons protectively, even as the distinctive metallic ring of a coin being flipped into the air echoed around the alley. The shadowy figure caught it, and for a second there was silence.

    “... Bats it is! But don't worry. I have a few friends who would be more than happy to entertain the kiddies.”

    And in a split second, the world exploded into complete chaos.

    Kairi screamed as something grabbed her from behind. She fought and struggled to break its grip while summoning her Keyblade, as huge fingers tightened around her shoulders. Sora was already facing her, Keyblade in hand, and staring up at the huge form of a Dark Thorn. “Kairi!”

    He leapt at it without a moment’s hesitation, but something hit him from behind as well and he went flying forward, right into Riku. The two crashed into the pavement, and struggled to scramble to their feet as four Invisibles surrounded them. Kairi managed to twist herself enough to strike at the huge Heartless's arm. Unfortunately, that only seemed to make it mad, and it tightened its grip. She coughed as air was forced out of her lungs, but remembering her training, willed the panic out of her mind and quickly studied her enemy. There had to be a weak spot. The chains! Lurching forward, Kairi reached down and caught the end of one of the links on a chain wrapped around the Dark Thorn’s ankle, and pulled up. To her relief, the creature automatically lost balance and began to stumble forward. She quickly pulled her blade free and jabbed it into the Heartless's wrist. Reluctantly it let her go and she dropped free and rolled out of the way just in time to avoid its huge feet. She jumped up, turning to face it as the Dark Thorn caught its balance. It turned to face her, an angry look in its eyes. Kairi braced herself and ran forward to meet it.

    Jason and Dick were heaving problems of their own at the moment. One of the top villains in Gotham and a number one psychopath, Two Face was trying his very best to kill them. It was strange to fight him, because unlike the other villains, Harvey seemed to have at least slight control of his actions. He was very concise and aware of his surroundings. Or so it seemed. At the moment he had a gun in his hand, a big one, and was having a bit of a fire fight with Red Hood. Shots rang through the air as the two zigzagged across the alleyway, hiding behind dumpsters and building support beams. Nightwing was jumping from fire escapes to windowsills, gliding through the air and deflecting bullets with ease. His plan was to close in on Dent while he and Jason shot it out down below. But Harvey was smart. He wasn't letting his attention stray from one crime fighter for too long. As soon as Dick got close enough to attack, Two Face would send a hail of bullets his way, forcing Nightwing to retreat, all the while hiding from Red Hood's fire. All in all, the scene was extremely chaotic.

    Frustrated at how ineffective his plan had been thus far, Dick pulled out a batarang and aimed it directly at Two Face's gun. The villain was used to this kind of tactic and ducked the projectile before sending a few bullets Nightwing’s way. Nightwing growled and deflected them, then flipped down to regroup with Hood. The firing had stopped for the time being.

    “All this is doing is wasting your bullets Hood,” he whispered. “We need a new plan.”

    Jason glared at Nightwing through the mask. “You think I don't know that, idiot?! But what are we supposed to do? It's not like we can just walk up to him. I don't know if you noticed, but those are armour piercing rounds ‘Wing.”

    Dick bit his lip. He had noticed and Jason was right. Those bullets were extremely dangerous.

    “I wanted to try and bait him out of all his ammo. I'm sure you've noticed he's a bit trigger happy tonight.” Jason breathed.

    Dick nodded. It did in fact seem as if Harvey was simply attacking without a plan, which was quite unlike him.

    “Whatever he's doing, it has to be a trap.” Nightwing said. “It's always a trap with Dent.”

    Before Jason could respond, there was a yell and Sora came flying through the air and landed roughly on the pavement a few feet away from the two vigilantes, right in the line of fire.

    “Shi-” Jason shouted but gunfire cut him off. Nightwing was already propelling himself forward with amazing agility and with a few expert strokes from his escrima sticks the bullets went flying in three different directions. But now he was wide open too, and Sora was stunned behind him. Hood knew Nightwing couldn't be that lucky for long, and in a split second decision, leapt over the wooden crate they had been using for cover and charged the villain, who had likewise crawled out of his hiding place. Harvey scowled as Red Hood charged him, but aimed what looked like an AK-47 straight at him. Instinctively, Jason reached into his belt and drew out a smoke pellet. It exploded, billowing smoke into the air as Jason dived to avoid a hail of gunfire. He only hoped the bullets would avoid his friends as well. He rolled a few times to the left and then crouched low, surveying the scene. He was used to fighting in low visibility but his helmet made things even easier. He spotted the silhouette of Two Face running forward, probably trying to escape the cloud of smoke. He was going to pass Jason in seconds. Holstering his gun, Red Hood pulled out his taser and counted down. Three, two, one, NOW! He charged forward, ready to knock Two Face out with 50,000 volts, but instead of feeling his taser connect, Red Hood was thrust backwards with such violence he hit the stone wall of a building hard enough to hear something crack. His very disoriented mind hoped it was the wall and not him. He slid to the ground gasping, trying to figure out what had hit him. It couldn't have been Dent. He hadn't been able to see in the smoke!

    A rush of wind announced the presence of Nightwing landing next to him. Hood pushed himself into a slightly more dignified sitting position and coughed.

    “What happened?” Nightwing asked, looking very much alarmed.

    “Don't know. I was ready to take him out under cover of the smoke, and then... gah, something hit me.”

    Nightwing glanced up at the huge dent in the bricks lining the building. “Definitely wasn't Dent. No way he has that kind of right hook.”

    Jason groaned in agreement as Dick stood up and helped him to his feet. Pretty much everything hurt, but not enough to put him out of commission. Thank God for body armor.

    “How's Sora?” He asked, still catching his breath.

    “Fine. Just a bit winded.”

    “Good.”

    The smoke was clearing now. And the two were scanning the area for Two Face. He couldn’t have gone far in those few seconds. The sound of the Keyblade Wielder’s fighting echoed around the battlefield, but Dent was nowhere in sight.

    Nightwing shifted anxiously. “Where-”

    He was cut off by a sudden terrifying roar. Both he and Jason froze at the bone chilling sound coming from their right. They turned just in time to see a huge black dog oozing out of the shadows. And on its back, smiling menacingly, was Two Face, complete with glowing yellow eyes and black throbbing streams of darkness running down his skin.

    The dog Heartless was streaking towards them through the air and it was only thanks to years of training that they could duck in time to just avoid its snapping jaws and six inch claws.

    “I think I know what hit you Hood!” Nightwing shouted while rolling to hit feet.

    “Ya think!?” Hood shouted jumping up and looking wildly around. “That thing was freaking huge though! Did it just melt into the shadows?”

    In response, a growl had them both whirling to their right where the huge dog was forming once again from the shadows lining the alley walls. This time the two were ready, and ran to meet it. The dog gave a single bark that made the hairs on Jason's neck stand up, but as it streaked towards him through the air, he ducked down again and aimed three shots into the creature’s belly. It snarled and fell to the ground, making the earth shudder. But it wasn't defeated by a long shot. Darkness oozed from its wounds, but it circled around, quick as lightning and ran at Red Hood. This time Jason had to jump to the side to avoid its huge clawed feet. A blur was all he saw as he ducked away, but he knew Nightwing was going for Dent from behind. He heard an angry yell from Two Face, and a triumphant laugh from Dick. Scrambling to his feet, Jason turned around just in time to see Two Face on the ground with Nightwing standing next to him, one foot on the AK-47 while the other rested on Harvey himself. He was just about to knock Dent out with a quick jab from an escrima stick, when the huge shadow of the dog bounded towards him.

    “'Wing! Watch out!” He screamed.

    But it was too late. The dog already had its teeth around his shoulder.

    ~*~​

    Sora was fighting hard, but it seemed like they were getting nowhere. As soon as he had caught his breath, he had bounded back to help Kairi and Riku with the Heartless, but he had found that there were even more then when he had left. Invisibles could take a lot of hits before they went down, and the entire street seemed to be full of them. On top of that, the Dark Thorn was still thrashing around, with Kairi weaving in and out of its attack patterns. As he reached Riku and swung at the sword of a nearby Invisible, Kairi ran up to his side, panting heavily. A cold shock wave of surprise ran down his back when she approached. This was the first time he had really seen her injured. She had bruises lining her shoulders from the Dark Thorn’s iron grip, and blood was slowly trickling down her left arm from a gash in her shoulder. On top of that, she looked exhausted – probably not any more than the rest of them did – but seeing Kairi look that way made Sora angry. Really... really angry. He plunged the Kingdom Key into his Heartless's chest, and turned before it had even started to disintegrate.

    “Sora, Riku,” Kairi gasped. “More than one of us needs to fight that Dark Thorn. I can't land a solid attack when its focus is only on me. We need a distraction.”

    Riku laughed while swinging his blade downward, succeeding in vaporizing his fifth Invisible. “That's funny. It's the exact strategy these guys are using. Send the Invisibles as distractions while the Dark Thorn takes us out one by one.”

    The three then had to scatter as the Dark Thorn charged towards their party. Unfortunately, the Invisibles followed them, pressing in around each of them individually so that they had to separate from one another. But Sora knew that Riku and Kairi were right. They had to fight together. The Dark Thorn was going for Riku this time. Its huge, powerful, clawed hands swiping as Riku's Keyblade. He was off balance, and was stumbling backwards with each impact. Suddenly he vanished behind a wall of Invisibles surrounding Sora. He huffed in annoyance and swept them back with a single slash. But they merely blocked with their swords and advanced once again. Sora grit his teeth. Now that he understood what was happening, it was so much more frustrating. He had to back up further as three swords smashed into the ground where he had been standing moments ago. He parried the next blow, and tried his hardest to push forward through the crowed of Heartless, but he had to back up once again as they surrounded him. He could hear Riku and Kairi fighting, along with the roars of the Dark Thorn. He also heard gunfire in the background, and hoped that Dick and Jason were alright. Desperately, he leapt into the air and pulled off one of his more impressive aerial manoeuvres, knocking about seven Heartless off their feet. But it wasn't enough to defeat most of them, and with a sinking heart, Sora saw them get back up, even as the Heartless standing behind them closed in. Sora looked around thinking hard. He needed a way to get these guys off his back so he could go help his friends, and fast. Mercifully an idea came to him! All he needed to do was stop the Invisibles from attacking him so he could get to his friends.

    “Deep freeze!”

    A jet of icy wind shot out of his Keyblade and swirled around the Heartless closest to him, effectively rendering them frozen Invisibles while blocking the Heartless behind from advancing. Pushing off from the ground, Sora used one of the Invisible’s frozen swords as a step to push into the sky and flip over the heads of the remaining Heartless. He spotted the form of the Dark Thorn instantly and glided towards it. It seemed Kairi and Riku had managed to stick together for the most part, but Kairi was holding off the Invisibles from stabbing Riku in the back while he tried desperately to get a good hit in on the Dark Thorn. Sora saw his advantage and in a second, was dropping down, wind whipping his hair around, straight onto the creature’s unprotected head. He drove his Keyblade deep into its flesh. The Dark Thorn stiffened, freezing in mid attacked, then swung viciously to the left, throwing Sora off of its back and towards a building. He hit something hard. Very hard. And then everything went black.
     
  7. Loxare Hollow Bastion Committee

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2009
    Gender:
    No
    Location:
    Flower Field
    904
    659
    Hello all! Welcome to the most violent chapter to date! Seriously, you twelve year olds might want to clear out.

    WARNING. VIOLENCE. LOTS AND LOTS OF VIOLENCE.

    “Sora!” Kairi screamed as her friend slumped lifelessly to the ground. But her attention was forced back onto the Dark Thorn. It was thrashing around, extremely angry and swinging its head back and forth. She knew Sora had done some serious damage, but it wasn't defeated yet. Riku was already being pressed on all sides by Invisibles, and they were closing in on her as well. She had to play her advantage while she had it. But it was hard to stay focused when she didn't know how hurt her friend was. Biting back tears, she sprinted ahead, right at the Dark Thorn. Unfortunately, it saw her, but she knew what she needed to do, and blocked its claws as best she could while focusing on her target. She knew she wasn't entirely successful in avoiding its attack when she felt something sharp tear into her side, but luckily, the adrenalin was keeping the pain at bay. Now close enough to its head, she thrust her Keyblade up in a wide arc, smacking the Heartless's head and causing it to rear up on two legs. Now was her chance. She leapt forward, yelling a battle cry in the heat of the moment, and brought her blade down on its belly where there were no armoured spikes or rough skin to protect it. The Dark Thorn bellowed in pain, then fell to one side causing the ground to shake as Kairi almost lost her footing.

    She leaned down, placing her hands on her knees and breathing hard, staring at the evaporating Heartless.

    “Are you freaking nuts!? Riku called. “That was suicidal!”

    She turned around to face him, a huge smile on her face. “But I'm still standing and he's not, so maybe I'm not as crazy as I look.”

    Riku only groaned half in frustration, and half at the effort of blocking two Invisibles swords at once. “Well if you're not too busy, mind helping me take down the rest of these guys?”

    Knocking the monster’s swords away and striking out at their now exposed chests, he ducked another sword and sidestepped to get himself into a better position. He looked back to see what Kairi's response was, but didn't spot her at first glance. “Kairi?”

    He had to refocus on the Invisible's in front of him again as four or five of them closed in. He jumped up and slashed downwards in a few successive strikes, pulling of an impressive combo. Landing, he ducked another sword before slashing at their legs. Caught off guard, the Invisibles fell to the ground, and it was easy to finish them off from there. Riku looked around, ready for the next challenger, but it dawned on him that there weren’t any. He knew he hadn't taken them all out. Had they left when the Dark Thorn was defeated, or were they waiting to sneak attack him?

    Suddenly Riku's eyes landed on Kairi and all thoughts of Invisibles were swept from his mind. She was lying on the ground, obviously passed out, and freely bleeding from a serious wound to her side. She must have collapsed while he was fighting!

    “Kairi!” Riku yelled, panic overloading logic as he ran towards his friend. He knelt down next to her and instinctively cast a healing spell. He had never been very good at them, but what else could he do? And where was Sora? Was he injured too? Riku could feel his magic seep away from him even as he thought it. This night just kept getting better and better.

    ~*~​

    About two hundred yards away, Jason was having problems of his own.

    The massive dog thing was surprisingly difficult to pin down, despite its burden. Dick was still between its teeth. He’d manoeuvred himself carefully so his legs were wrapped around the dog’s neck in an attempt to lessen the damage to his shoulder. But with the way his spine was twisting, his back had to be killing him. His other arm was trying to jab an escrima stick in the thing’s eye, but the angle was wrong. Hood had to be careful when firing at it. Hitting Nightwing accidentally when he’d already lost this much blood would probably kill him.

    After a dozen or so bullets lodged themselves in the dog’s hind, Nightwing finally got a good shot at its nose, electricity sparking off the end of the stick. It roared, dropping Nightwing. Hood moved in as Nightwing rolled to safety, squeezing off shots like no tomorrow. The dog got a lucky swipe at his left leg before he delivered two full into its face. It dropped like a rock.

    As the dog started dissipating, Jason dropped beside Dick, roll of bandages and bottle of disinfectant already in hand. He didn’t know if the Heartless had even had germs, but he wasn’t risking it. He dumped a quarter of the bottle on the punctures on the front of Dick’s shoulder and another quarter on the back. As he did, he realized with a sinking heart that the shoulder cuff was broken. The dog must have bitten down hard to do that. He wrapped the bandages around the injury quickly, set the bone and strapped the arm to Nightwing's chest to prevent the shoulder from moving. Hopefully, that would stop the bleeding until one of the kids could get a spell on it. He finished up and pulled Dick over to where Sora was still unconscious. A quick glance at the kid showed blood running down his face. Checking his pulse and sighing with relief at the strong beat, he wrapped Sora's head in bandages. He then administered the same treatment to his leg.

    Nightwing’s eyes fluttered open, then widened. “Hood, behind you!”

    He turned, heart dropping at the sight before him. The dog hadn’t been dissipating, it had been changing. The beast before him was massive and feline, with two heads, and split down the middle with its colouring. On one side, it was striped black and white, with a tiger head that looked ready to devour whatever stood in front of it. The other side was pitch black and rabid. The head was similar to the first, but with long, vicious canines. A rabid saber-tooth tiger. Great.

    Two Face, having stood up and recovered his assault rifle, nimbly leapt on top of the cat thing, straddling it just behind the shoulders. He slung his AK-47 over his shoulder and pulled his standard semi-automatic pistols from his jacket.

    Hood stood, half a block’s distance between him and the monsters, gun in one hand, All Blade in the other. Nightwing stood shakily beside him, an escrima stick clenched in his good hand with his other arm bound to his chest. Resisting the urge to argue – Hood knew he would need all the help he could get with this one – he waited for the cat to make its move.

    It wasn’t a long wait. With surprising speed it lunged forward, claws extended. On its back, Two Face was letting out a steady hail of lead in front of it. Both vigilantes leapt aside, Red Hood only slightly slower. They had both been trained to fight despite injuries. Their own individual experiences had made them able to fight well, injured. Nightwing’s blood loss and injured arm would slow his reactions, and Hood wouldn’t be doing any fancy flips or roundhouse kicks with his leg – not to mention the one or two cracked ribs – but hopefully, they would be able to last and might even win. Then again, against two uninjured enemies who would be formidable on their own, they might not.

    Could definitely make Two Face and his newest lackey work for their victory though.

    Pulling back his arm, Hood grabbed Nightwing and flung him towards Two Face and the Two Cat thing. The acrobat twisted in midair, barreling into Dent and knocking him off of the cat. They landed a few feet away, but the cat, unable to stop its momentum in time, continued towards Hood. He dived to the side, plugging a few good shots into each of its legs as it passed him. It wasn't a creature of flesh and blood, but it probably still wouldn't do well with holes in its legs.

    Sure enough, Two Cat stumbled, its front legs collapsing and sending both of its heads tumbling to the ground. Hood spared a glance at Nightwing. He was doing pretty good against Two Face, despite the arm. Two Face wasn't easy to go against though. With nothing to do in Arkham but stare at walls and chill in bed, Dent tended to practice martial arts in his spare time, which both of the former Robins knew very well. Batman had only shown them the security footage a million times.

    Flicking his gaze back to the cat, Red Hood barely dodged in time. It had gone from being twenty feet away with its face in the dirt to right in front of him claws extended in half a second. This would be the last time he underestimated its speed.

    Rolling to his feet, he grabbed a tuft of the cat's fur and pulled himself on its back. Immediately, it started bucking, trying to get him off. Turning the All Blade around in his hand so that the blade was coming out near his pinky, he plunged the sword into Two Cat's back, right on the line between black and stripes. The cat roared in pain, intensifying its efforts to dislodge him. But with the sword hilt-deep in its spine (or it would be, if the cat had had a spine), Hood had the best handhold he could ask for in this type of situation. Pulling his gun, he pressed it against the base of the tamer head and tightened his finger on the trigger.

    Just as the gun went off, something long and furry smacked into Hood's arm. The shot went through the cat's ear instead of its medulla and the force of the hit knocked him halfway off its back. What was...? The tail, waving back and forth challengingly. Stupid to forget about it, but he could fix that.

    He left the All Blade in the cat's back and pulled his knife. Holstering his gun, he summoned his other All Blade and used the two blades as climbing hooks, stabbing into Two Cat as he moved towards its rump. Unfortunately, from here Two Cat could and did reach back with its front claws. He twisted, trying to avoid the grasping paws. Finally making it to the tail, he slashed quickly, cutting it off at the base. The beast yowled again and contorted its body further than before. It hooked its claws into his already injured leg and flung him away. Hood crashed through a wall, breath escaping his lungs, right arm screaming. Shakily, he stood and tried to walk, his bad leg almost buckling under him. Looking out of the hole he made, he was pleased to note that the cat was pawing at its severed tail, trying to push it back onto its stump. That gave him a moment to check his injuries. Both his thigh and his calf shredded, right humerus broken from when he went through the wall, at least two cracked ribs. Two limbs out of commission, and the ribs would slow him down more than anything else. On the other hand, he had managed to cut off the cat's tail (more of a spite thing than anything else), put a few shots into each of its legs, and inflicted a few deep injuries all the way down its body. Still, things didn't look good for him. He pulled the last of his medical supplies from his belt, wrapping the leg and strapping his arm to his chest.

    Pushing himself out of the wall, he started towards Two Cat. It looked up at him balefully, studying him. Could it study him? Did it have the intelligence to? Apparently so, because it huffed at him and turned away, towards where Nightwing was still fighting Two Face.

    Hood felt his blood boil. It thought he was injured enough to be harmless? Clearly, it didn't know him very well. Giving off a malicious grin, he pulled his gun with his good arm and fired. The shot landed in Two Cat's neck. As the cat turned towards him with a downright murderous expression on both of its faces, he holstered his gun and pulled his grapple, shooting off towards a building far away from Nightwing's fight, then hit retract. The cat, predictably, followed him. He might not be able to win this fight, but he could keep the cat far away from Nightwing until he had beaten Two Face.

    Once he had reeled himself in, he fired again. Three blocks from Nightwing's fight, he landed on a fire escape. The cat was right below him, prowling, waiting for him to be a good little meal and come down. Yeah right. Pulling his gun again, he unloaded the rest of his clip into its torso. The cat, angry and impatient (and really, who would have guessed a Heartless could feel? Probably its connection to Two Face), snapped. It started attacking the building Hood was sitting on. It took a moment for his slightly slugging brain to figure out what it was doing.

    Then he felt the building shift beneath him. The entire face of the building dropped a foot or so. Two Cat jumped back, surprised. It probably hadn't expected this, only wanting to take out its frustrations on the building. Before Hood could jump clear of the fire escape – not that he could anyways, not with his leg – the entire wall fell forwards, burying him and the cat under a few feet of rubble. If Jason hadn't been busy, he would have seen the black smoke curling out of the scattered bricks and glass as Two Cat dissipated. He probably would have smiled and boasted his victory for a bit. He would have, if he hadn't been busy being unconscious and bleeding out under the wall of a building.

    ~*~​

    A few blocks away, Nightwing was having a hard time. The fight with Two Face had started bad and gotten worse. After tackling Two Face off of his cat-thing, he had landed badly (on his arm) and received a kick in his stomach for his troubles. Thrusting out his legs, he kicked Two Face's out from under him, using the momentum from his spin to twist himself into standing.

    For the next few minutes, he had the upper hand. By moving constantly, he was able to prevent the villain from landing a shot on him, although one or two came close. He flipped in range, landing a hit with his escrima stick before vaulting off of Two Face's shoulders and out the other side. He raced up the side of a building, the wall exploding with gun shots a half a second after his foot left the space. He arched his back, twisting away from the wall and diving towards Dent feet first. He landed hard on his shoulders, ploughing him into the ground. Stepping back, he allowed himself a small smile.

    A shooting pain piercing his side wiped it off of his face. It took him a moment to process the loud gunshot, to see the gun in Two Face's hand pointed at him. He would have sworn that Two Face had been very unconscious, but now he was pulling himself up. Looking down at his chest, he saw the hole near the bottom of his ribs. He took a breath and felt one of his lungs falter. So. The shot had hit his diaphragm, probably grazing the lung in the process. He pulled his last compress from its compartment and pulled his suit away from the hole, slapping the white square over the injury. He barely had time to wince (slapping an open wound was probably not a good idea) before Two Face was up and swinging.

    He dived backwards, jamming his escrima stick between his teeth. Hand free, he pulled a few batarangs, tossing them at the villain before him. Landing with his feet under him, he reversed his momentum, launching himself back at Dent and pulling the escrima stick from his mouth. He flicked on the electric setting, plugging a few thousand volts into Two Face's chest. The villain screamed, yellowed eyes closing in pain before the gun came up again. Nightwing ducked back, escrima stick coming off of its target as he avoided another bullet hole.

    Two Face hadn't spoken yet, but that didn't mean Nightwing couldn't. “What's wrong Dent? Wake up on the scarred half of the bed this morning?” He dodged an angry swing. “Whoa there, shouldn't you be checking with your coin? Who knows. My luck is normally pretty good.” Leaping out of the way of a few bullets, retaliating with batarangs. One landed in the muzzle of Dent's left gun, rendering it useless, but, predictably, he didn't release his grip on it. “Tell you what. Scarred side and I have to go through all the trouble of beating the crap out of you. Clean side, you surrender and we both get home before bedtime. Well...” giving a mock look at the sky, he shrugged his good shoulder, “maybe before dawn.”

    Through all of this Two Face didn't speak. He seemed a little beyond words at the moment. His eyes were wilder than usual, and any vocalizations he made were strictly limited to grunts and growls. Actually, he sounded a bit like his demon cat thing. Landing both feet on Dent's head, Nightwing risked a glance at Hood's fight. Hood was grappling away, the cat close on his heels. Turning his attention back to his own fight, he kicked both guns out of Two Face's grasp, then booted them far down an alley way. He ax-kicked Two Face across the shoulder blades as he tried to stand. A crash resounded in the distance as the villain landed in the dust and finally fell unconscious. Nightwing fell back into sitting, wincing when he jostled his shoulder.

    Someone shouted his name and he shot back into standing. He swept his eyes over the street until he saw Riku and Kairi. She had a very tired looking Riku's arm slung across her shoulder, but besides that, they seemed fine. “Hey guys!” Dick gave a tired wave. “Sora's over here. He has a nasty bump on his head, you might want to look at that.” If they had enough magic after that, maybe they could fix his side. Or his shoulder. Both would be nice too.

    Kairi gasped at the sight of Sora, laying motionless on the ground. She gently lowered Riku to the ground and ran towards the other boy, summoning her Keyblade as she went. Dick sat down again, next to Riku. Well, closer to laying down. He didn't think he could hold himself in a sitting position for too long, not with a hole in his abdomen. He knew that Sora had cast a wide-area spell on them before, but he also knew that Kairi wasn't advanced enough yet to do the same. She had told him herself on the walk to Gotham. So he would wait, and hopefully not bleed out or pass out before she got to him.

    Riku started when he sat, probably noting the copious amounts of wincing between vertical and horizontal. “Sorry.” Dick raised an eyebrow at the apology. For what? that one gesture said. “My magic is still recharging. It'll be a few more minutes.”

    “Ah. It's fine. I've had worse.” Shifting to a more comfortable position and regretting it when his shoulder screamed, he continued. “I probably won't be able to fight a horde of Heartless or an Arkham regular like this, but I could limp myself home and stitch myself up.” It was Riku's turn to raise an eyebrow, and he did so. Dick simply shrugged his good shoulder again. “I've done it before.”

    Thankfully, Riku let it go at that. It wasn't that he had a problem with talking about all of his previous injuries and subsequent ministrations. But it hurt to breathe and it hurt more to talk and he just kind of wanted to lay here for a bit.

    When the green glow faded, Sora sat bolt upright. The bandages Jason had applied fell away. His wildly flailing eyes landed on Dick who gave out another tired wave. “Nightwing! Hold up, I'll heal you!” He scrambled into sitting and cast. Dick closed his eyes in relief as he felt the bones and torn muscles in his shoulder pull together and mend, the hole in his side fill, the graze on his lung stitch itself shut. For the first time in too many minutes, he breathed deep. And stopped breathing when his head cleared and he remembered.

    “Hood. We have to find him!” Standing was easier this time. He looked in the direction Jason had gone, vaguely amused at the half-destroyed building. Jason simply couldn't do anything without breaking a building or two. He pulled Riku to his feet and started pulling him towards the building, Kairi and Sora following. As he got closer, his amusement turned to horror. He hadn't noticed any injuries when he had spotted Hood earlier, but there were splashes of blood stretching across the street in a zigzag. There was dark smoke coming from under the rubble of the building face. If Jason had dropped a building on the cat thing to beat it, he would have been on the roof across the street, laughing and waiting for the others to catch up. He got to the edge of the debris, letting go of Riku so he could climb in and check it out. As he had thought, the dark smoke was from the cat thing which was still dissolving. But where was...?

    A shape sticking out from what had been a window caught his attention. He knew that shape. That shape had kicked him in the face numerous times a few years ago, before Jason had come home. That shape still kicked him regularly during sparring.

    It took a moment for him to reconcile that shape with its implication. The shape that looked exactly like Jason's foot led to a leg that was buried under the building. And if that leg continued, that meant that Jason was buried under the building.
     
  8. Loxare Hollow Bastion Committee

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2009
    Gender:
    No
    Location:
    Flower Field
    904
    659
    Ok, so you know how I dropped a building on Jason last chapter? Yeah, this chapter describes all the injuries from that. It's not pretty. So yeah. But besides that, no actual violence in the chapter. Lots of Bats being bros though.

    WARNING: DESCRIPTIONS OF INJURIES.

    His eyes widened, his breathing quickened. “Jason!” He dived at the pile of debris, pulling bricks away from where his brother lay. “Jason no! I am not losing you again! Jason!” As he worked, the three Keyblade Wielders starting digging as well. Not with the same wild panic that Dick was, but it was pretty close. Dick just hoped, with everything he had, that this time, they wouldn't be too late to save the wayward Robin.

    Dick felt sick as he heaved heavy slabs of stone off of where his brother must be buried. How had this happened!? Jason seemed to be fine just a few minutes ago! Hood's fighting style had always been a bit reckless, but managing to topple an entire building on himself? Really?

    As the four dug deeper and deeper into the pile, the form of an unconscious Jason began to appear. He was covered in dust and – Dick took in a sharp breath – blood. He had sustained some serious injuries, and Dick wondered if they had been from the fight, or the few hundred pounds of debris piled on top of him. Then he spotted a hint of white under his bloody leg, and even a makeshift sling on his brother's arm like the one he himself had been wearing just a few minutes earlier. So at least some of these injuries occurred during the fight. But his helmet had a long ominous crack running straight down the middle effectively splitting the high tech device in two. If Hood had been hit with enough weight to crack that piece of armour, it meant the helmet had undoubtedly saved him from certain death. Or had it?

    “Jason!” Dick quietly half sobbed as he knelt down beside his deathly still brother. He lifted a shaky hand to Red Hood's neck, slipping his finger under his armour to find a pulse. It took him a while before he was rewarded with a weak heart beat, alarmingly weak, but he was alive. Biting his lip to keep from crying, Dick tore his gaze away from his little brother to look back at the Keyblade Wielders, who were now standing a few paces back, staring at the two with a mixture of shock and fear. “He's alive.” Dick said, his shaky voice betraying a title wave of emotions. “But he's weak. I don't want to move him, not sure if he has any internal damage. Can you guys heal him from here!?”

    Immediately the three began trudging over the debris to kneel next to Dick and Jason. Dick shot a nervous glance their way. It was obvious merely by their body language that they were utterly exhausted. He didn't know how much a high level healing spell like the kind they had all used cost them, but from their condition, he would venture a guess at a lot. They practically fell next to him, their heads drooping with tiredness, and Dick felt yet another pang of guilt as he watched them. He hated asking his new friends to do this. But he had to. Another glance at Jason told him they really did need to act now.

    “I need to warn you 'Wing,” Riku sighed tiredly. “I don't think we have enough magic to properly heal him, even between the three of us.”

    Dick had dreaded he would say something like that, but he merely nodded. “Just... do the best you can. Please. I'll take it from there.”

    As one, Sora Kairi, and Riku summoned their Keyblades in a wave of light and raised them above their heads. “Cure!”

    Instantly, a bright light and that feeling of warmth that Dick had come to love so much enveloped the group. He immediately backed up, making sure none of the healing magic was being directed towards him. He stood a few feet away from Jason and the Keyblade Wielders as they worked, watching with an increased feeling of anticipation as lights danced around his brother's still form. It didn't look like much was happening, and Dick wondered if the spell was even working. But very slowly, Dick actually heard rather then saw Jason's breathing even out, the harsh ragged gasps turning deeper and more rhythmic.

    Suddenly the light faded. Kairi bent forward so that her head was pressing against a cold slab of stone, Sora dropped his Keyblade which shimmered, vanishing into thin air, and Riku dropped his head, taking in slow deep breaths.

    “Guys!” Dick shouted, alarmed. “Are you-?”

    “Fine.” Riku gasped. “Just... need to catch our breaths. Check on Ja-Red Hood.”

    Though he didn't like to leave his friends in that kind of state, he hated leaving Jason lying there more. Hopping nimbly across the pile of cement, wood, pipes, and wires, Dick once again crouched down next to Jason, studying his brother's face. Hoping his friends' spell had at the very least taken Jason out of any immediate danger, Dick reached out and gently removed Jason's helmet. It came off easily, but when Dick saw his face, he swore.

    The helmet had done its work. Evidently there was no concussion or fractured skull. But a steady trail of blood was running from Jay's mouth, indicating internal bleeding. Dick clenched his teeth and began checking his brother over for any evidence of the injury that could have caused it. With any luck the spell had healed anything as dangerous as internal damage. But how could Dick know for sure? He ran a hand through his hair, a trait he had no doubt picked up from Bruce. It was impossible to properly check Jason over here in a pile of rubble. As much as his training went against it, Dick slid his hands under Jason and heaved him up. He was heavier then he remembered... then again, Dick couldn't remember the last time he had carried Jason like this. Years ago probably, while he was still a Robin.

    Making it onto flat pavement once again, Dick bent down and placed his brother on the ground as gently as possible. He hadn't seen anything too alarming in terms of some kind of external trauma. Again, he would just have to hope his friends' healing spell did the trick. He bent over Jason's leg, and started fumbling with the bloody bandages to get a better look. Suddenly Jason moaned.

    Dick started and turned to look at his face. Sure enough, the white slits on his domino mask were starting to open. Frowning, Dick moved over to Jason's head.

    “Hey, Hood?” He said quietly, “you with me?”

    Jason blinked up at Dick confusedly for a few seconds, then began to push himself up, grimacing. Dick knew this drill all to well, and placed a hand on Red Hood's chest, pushing him back down. “Stay put idiot. You've lost a lot of blood.”

    Jason grimaced even further as he laid back on the ground. And the pain in his voice was evident when he spoke. “That bad huh?”

    Dick glared at Jason, daring him to try getting up again, and then moved back to his leg. “Maybe, haven’t really had the chance to check. Just pulled you out of what was left of that building.”

    Jason cocked his head slightly to the left considering. “Huh, that's right. That stupid cat totally collapsed the – OW!” Jason jerked his leg back and glared at Nightwing. “The hell man?”

    Despite his brother's glare, Dick was actually relieved at Jason's reactions. He was alert, a very good sign. Unfortunately his leg was still bleeding freely, but it seemed that the magic had helped quite a bit if he was able to glare at Dick like he wanted to murder him. Maybe it had healed whatever internal damage their was, but didn't get to the more minor injuries. Dick hoped so.

    “Sorry, your leg's pretty torn up. Gonna need stitches for sure.”

    Red Hood sighed. “Wonderful. I don't suppose we have any anaesthetic? Do we even have stitches?”

    Grabbing his backpack, Dick rummaged in the pockets before pulling out a small first aid kit, grinning triumphantly. “Looks like the wizard guy came though!” He looked through the small pack for a second, then paused. “Um, except proper anaesthetic. It's a really basic kit.” He gave Jason a sympathetic glance. “Sorry Hood.”

    Jason laid his head back down on the pavement, looking the other way. “Just get it over with, will you Goldie?”

    Dick nodded. Carefully manoeuvering his brother, he managed to get his pants off so he could get at the injury better. Then, despite the situation, he had to choke down a laugh. “Nice boxers.”

    Jason craned his head to look at the Wonder Woman boxers. “Yeah. Gag gift from Arsenal. Honestly though, they're the most comfortable ones I own.” Dick nodded. He could appreciate that.

    Nightwing pulled out the necessary supplies, and was happy to find a bit of disinfectant. He poured some on his hands, seeing as there were no sterile gloves to work with (Alfred would have had a fit), and then dropped a generous amount of the liquid on the open leg wounds. Jason hissed and his hands tightened into fists, but other then that he was still. Nightwing was impressed. But then, Jason had always had a very high pain tolerance. Dick started threading the needle like he had done what seemed like a thousand times before now. His hands were shaking slightly from the adrenalin of the previous fight, and he had to take a few steadying breaths before he was ready.

    “Um, sorry in advance bro.”

    He began his work, quickly pulling the wounds closed, trying both to be quick for Jay's sake, and careful. The injuries were fairly deep, and there were a lot of them. It looked to Dick like Jason had been hit in the same place twice. That was never fun. He knew. Angry red claw marks only big enough to belong to that dog, er, cat Heartless, were crisscrossed along Red Hood's lower thigh and upper shin. Injuries from claws were always messy because they weren’t like blades. They tore rather then cut, and left jagged wounds that were difficult to patch up. By the time he finished, his hands were slick with Jason's blood. He always hated that, but he couldn't do much about it at the moment. He grabbed some bandages from the supplies and wrapped the leg tightly, then glanced at Jason. He looked pale, and was taking deep slow breaths, a pain management technique Dick recognized. Overall however, he didn't seem to be doing that bad. Nightwing pulled his pants back up and crawled up to sit beside his head.

    “Well that's done.” He said, taking on as cheerful a tone as possible. “What else hurts?”

    “Everything.” Jason growled.

    Nightwing nudged his side. “Seriously Hood.”

    Jason exhaled a long shaky breath. “Arm, I broke it during the fight, but it feels off again. I think something happened to it when I fell.”

    Nightwing nodded, and carefully removed the makeshift sling, and slowly worked to slip off Jason's jacket. After about a minute, the pale skin of his arm came into view, and Dick immediately grimacing at what he saw. Apparently his expression was pretty bad, because Jason lifted his head, trying to get a better view himself.

    “Oh, that's lovely.” He moaned.

    His arm was bent at such an angle that his fingers seemed to appear backwards, and the skin directly above his elbow was an angry swollen red. The break was nearly a compound fracture, as the misplaced bone above his elbow was clearly visible, but hadn't broken the skin. Thank goodness. Nightwing really wasn't equipped to deal with that.

    “I think it's a transverse fracture, which means I can realign it.”

    Red Hood stiffened. “You mean...you?”

    Nightwing raised an eyebrow. “Uh, yes me. Who else?”

    He was slightly hurt by the look of panic on Jason's face. Sure he wasn't the best of the Bats at first aid, but they had all learned enough to be reliable. Bruce had made sure of that. It came with the line of work.

    “Don't wimp out on me now.” He chided. “I've done this before and you know it.”

    It was hard to tell, but Dick thought Red Hood looked even more pale then a minute ago.
    - maybe we can just wait and get Sora to heal it or something?”

    Dick rolled his eyes and shoved a thumb behind his shoulder, pointing in the direction of the K.O.ed Keyblade Wielders. “Something tells me their magic is going to be out of commission for quite a while. They just spent every ounce of it fixing you up as best they could.”

    Jason fidgeted uncomfortably, gazing over at his friends. He bit his lip, seeming to think it over. Nightwing decided to let him, it was better then arguing. Though he did second guess how effectively Jason could reason what with the stitched up leg and broken arm and who knew what else.

    Finally Jason sighed, which made Dick smile as he recognized the defeat in his voice.

    “You better know what you're doing.” Jason grumbled,

    Inching forward, Nightwing ran his fingers over the arm, making sure he got a feel for what he had to do. “Aw, come on Hood,” He sighed. “You really think I could ever hurt you?”

    Jason started to chuckle. “Is that a trick que-?”

    SNAP

    Nightwing had to jump back as Jason bolted upright, half crying out in pain, half cursing Dick's existence.

    “God 'Wing, give a guy some warning won't you!!”

    Dick just smiled and pushed Jason back down again, which was a good thing since the sudden change in elevation made him sway.

    “Oldest trick in the book!” He chirped happily. “Much better if you don't know what's coming.”

    Jason knew it was true, but he still mumbled things under his breath which Alfred would have smacked him for. Dick felt the bone again, sliding his hand across it. He was pleased to find that it, to his knowledge, was completely realigned. Jason didn't know what he was talking about, he made a great doctor!

    As Jason muttered angrily, Dick grabbed some rebar from the wreck and placed it along the broken bone, bracing it. He carefully wrapped both in bandages, then replaced the the sling, intercepting a punch from Jay's good arm as he did so, and set about scanning him for any more injuries. Blood spattered his shirt, which was a bit worrisome, but all he found were a few minor cuts from what looked like shrapnel. He cleaned them as best he could with the disinfectant, and only had to stitch up one of them by Jason’s neck which was fairly deep, but overall nothing to worry about. Dick summed up Jason's general good fortune of not being dead to a combination of his protective armour and the others' healing magic.

    “Anything else wrong?” Nightwing asked, ignoring the death glare. He was starting to remember how awful of a patient his brother was. Suddenly he felt sorry for Alfred.

    Jason pushed himself up, then swatted away Dick's attempt to push him back down for the third time with his good hand. “Nah, I'm good. I busted up some ribs earlier, but I think they're okay now. Must have been that magic like you said.”

    As if on cue, the three younger heroes came trudging over, looking awful. Kairi was barely lifting her feet, and Sora seemed as if he was ready to drop down, curl up, and take a nap right there.

    Riku was the first to reach them. He knelt down tiredly beside Nightwing and Red Hood, glancing at Jason's leg and arm.

    “How ya doing Hood?” He asked, the strain in his voice evident. Both Kairi and Sora dropped down next to the others, looking almost as pale as Jason did.

    “Not half as rough as you.” Jason retorted, studying their exhausted faces. “Sorry if I drained all your magic. I didn't know it made you so tired. Will you get it back soon?”

    Sora shrugged. “It will probably take time to recharge. Not sure how long, but being surrounded by complete darkness probably doesn't help.”

    Riku nodded, shifting into a more comfortable position. “I don't think any of us are in a condition to travel, let alone fight. “

    Nightwing nodded and leaned back on his heels. “You're right. I think we should camp out here for a while, get some rest. “

    To his surprise, neither Jason nor Sora argued. Even Kairi remained silent, which he thought was weird. He had gotten the impression from her that she didn't back down easily.

    Immediately Jason fell back onto the ground, voluntarily this time, and stretched, then winced as he pulled on his stitches. “Guess he's right. Going against whoever the main baddie is in this place as we are is suicidal. We need to rest.”

    That seemed to settle the matter, not that anyone needed much convincing, and in a few minutes they were all sitting on small sleeping bags, huddling together against the chilly outside air. One look at any of the deserted buildings was enough to convince them to camp outside, Heartless or not. Jason especially, vehemently refused to take a step inside another building. After having a meal of bread, some dried meat, and fruit, Jason, Kairi, Sora, and Riku curled up and were asleep in minutes. Nightwing had volunteered to take the first watch, and gazed at his companions fondly. Despite all of the crappy things they had been through, he was happy to have them as friends.
     
  9. Loxare Hollow Bastion Committee

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2009
    Gender:
    No
    Location:
    Flower Field
    904
    659
    Alright, so, besides some healing-related pains, this is actually the last non-violent chapter until the end of the fic. Honestly, if you've made it this far without running from all the gore, then you should be fine.

    The night – if it was night, it was impossible to tell – passed uneventfully. Sora had mentioned that once cleared out of an area, Heartless didn't normally return unless whoever had cleared them left. Weird, but then again, Heartless were mostly instinct. A small Shadow appeared once, but a batarang took care of that. And so Dick sat, watching over his friends and brother. At one point in the night, Jason started shifting, clearly getting into a nightmare. It was something all the Robins, and probably quite a few other superheroes, had to deal with. Dick simply moved closer, laid a hand on his good arm and whispered in his ear, things like “It's ok” and “You're safe” and “I'm here”. Things that had worked with Tim, with Damian, and with Jason.

    An hour later, he woke Riku up for his watch. The teen rubbed his eyes, glad to see that his magic was almost fully charged. He sent Dick to bed with the promise that he would heal Jason a bit more and then settled in.

    Eyeing the injuries, Riku turned an idea over in his head. So far, all of his healing spells had been area-type magics. Actually, all of his spells were. It was useful in combat when he needed to wipe out six Heartless at once and didn't really have time to aim, but not so much in healing. He wondered if he could do something more precise.

    First things first though. Dick had been worried about internal injuries. He had probably gotten it when he had healed Jason the first time, but for this type of thing, it was better safe than sorry. So Riku quietly cast Cure, which should be just enough to clot any and all remaining injuries, and speed up the healing on any which were already clotted. Then he took a quick look around to make sure there weren't any Heartless around.

    Concentrating on Jason's arm, he cast Curaga, trying to will the magic to heal only that bone. Slowly, green light began playing over the injury, brighter and more intense than usual. Riku shielded his eyes, By the time the glow faded, he was incredibly pleased to note two things. One, the bone was completely healed. Or, at least the swelling and bruising around the area were gone. He wouldn't be able to tell if the bone was healed without either asking Jason or feeling the injury. He didn't want to do that though; Jason needed his sleep. Having a building fall on a person could be exhausting. The second thing was that the spell had used less magic than normal. Most magic had a minimum cost. Sure, he could extend the duration by using more magic, but every cast would use the same base magic. Using Curaga should have left him about half empty, but he still had three quarters of his magic left. Interesting.

    Maybe he should focus his magic more often, rather than just letting it run around willy nilly. If he tried this with a fire spell, could he make something explode? He'd try it out later. For now, he should probably focus on Jason's leg.

    This time, he didn't close his eyes, trying to see if there was anything else about the spell that he should remember. Even so, he almost missed the tiny movement. Moving his eyes up to Jason's face, he was shocked at the expression of discomfort. He was about to end the spell when Jason shot awake.

    “Ow, what the hell??!” Jason reached out and grabbed his leg with his good hand.

    Riku dropped the magic. “Sorry Hood. I was just trying to heal your leg.”

    “I can see that. Why did it hurt though? I've been healed before and that felt like sunshine and daisies.” Riku was glad Sora wasn't awake. That sarcasm would have gone right over his head.

    “Yeah, I tried something different. Spot healing. What did this one feel like?”

    “I don't know. Massive. Intense. Like all four weeks of healing pains had just up and decided to stab me in the leg all at once.” Jason was pulling off his bandages, probably to get a look at the injury. Riku started unwinding them from the bottom, curious as well.

    “Huh. And now?”

    “Nothing. Pain faded when the light did.” They pulled the last of the bandages off.

    His leg was mostly fine. There were still a few scabs, but they were of the “two days away from being skin” variety. There was a long coil of thread stuck to his skin that Jason pulled off and tossed aside, probably from the stitches. Jason whistled. “Alright, that pain was worth it.”

    Riku smiled, pleased that his friend was feeling better, even if it was spoiled a bit at causing him pain. “Good to hear. How's your arm? I did that first.”

    “Ah, that's what that was. That hurt too, just not as much.” Carefully taking the arm out of his sling, he flexed his fingers, rotated his wrist, bent his elbow. “All healed. A bit stiff, but I can work through that.” He raised his eyebrow when Riku yawned suddenly. “Go to sleep kid. I can keep watch now.”

    “But I still have another hour!”

    “Yeah, but you probably used most of your magic up again. Go to sleep. I'll keep watch, wake Sora when it's his turn.”

    Riku grumbled a bit, but went back to his sleeping bag. He really was tired. Hopefully, his magic would be back completely by morning. Or what passed for morning in the Realm of Darkness.

    Jason smiled as Riku's breathing evened out. Leaning himself against a wall, he turned part of his mind to keeping watch and allowed the other part to wander.

    He kind of wished Riku hadn't used so much magic healing him. He knew how to fight with an injury, he knew how to fight with only one working arm. Dick's stitches would have held, even if they weren't as tight as Alfred's. Then again, no one stitched as well as Alfred. Years of practice, he supposed, and not just with injuries. Batman certainly didn't sew his first costume. Sure, most of it was Kevlar body armour now, but back before Dick had been Robin, it had just been cloth. Batman had learned quick how bad an idea that was.

    Casting an eye over the group, noting blood still lingering on clothing, he couldn't help but feel all of this was his fault. They had to save Gotham because the Heartless had pulled it into the Realm of Darkness. The Heartless had been brought to Gotham by Xehanort. Xehanort had only been there because he wanted Jason. And Jason had only been viable as a vessel because he had been stupid enough to get himself killed all those years ago.

    How crappy was it that literally every single thing that had gone wrong in his life since meeting Bruce had stemmed from a single disobeyed order?

    Although, thinking about it, Jason probably wouldn't change anything.

    Except for, obviously, the situation they were in right now. He didn't want anyone getting hurt because of him. Except criminals. But that was different.

    But because he died, Tim became Robin. As much as he had hated the little Replacement a few years ago, the kid had a way of growing on him. Breakfast at Tim's had suddenly become something to look forward to, trading information back and forth, lightly insulting the Demon Brat, and just generally bantering with each other. Sometimes, Tim saved cookies from the care packages Alfred sent over (the island he, Roy and Kori were camped out at didn't really have a mailing address), and if Jason had time and got there early, he would make more than the chopped fruit and coffee that seemed to be all Tim could make. Well, that and waffles from a boxed mix. A boxed mix. Sacrilege. Still, better than Alfred's.

    Not to mention, since he had come back, he had an infinitely better relationship with Dick. Before he had died, Dick was busy being resentful over him taking over Robin, busy being mad at Bruce for being Bruce, busy with the Titans, just busy in general. But when Jason had died, Dick had apparently realized that he should treasure the brothers he had.

    His relationship with Bruce was still strained, and probably would be forever. Or until he stopped killing people. Same thing really. But they were still better than they had been when he was Robin, when the general feeling in the air had been disappointment. From both of them. Bruce had gotten a lot of practice at being a father since then.

    As for Damian... Well, at least he had someone to talk weapons now. There was that.

    Plus, he had Roy and Kori, his kind-of-but-not-really teammates. Things had been better since he had met them. Before, he had put up a good act, pretending to be happy and full of life. But it wasn't really an act anymore. All of them had been through crap. But all of them could pick themselves up, dust themselves off and keep going. Sure, it had been tempting to find a hole and lie in it for the rest of their lives, but that wouldn't change anything. Sure, nothing could get worse in a hole, but nothing would get better either. Always better to take a chance, grab life by the horns and punch it in the face, to live and fight like you have something to live for, until you have something to live for. Roy and Kori had taught him that, and he had taught them that too.

    The crap they were in right now was still his fault though.

    He didn't want his friends getting hurt because of him.

    So he would just have to do a better job of protecting them. Simple.

    He was glad Riku had healed him now. The better shape he was in, the better chance he had of stabbing a Heartless in the face before they got their claws into his friends.

    Speaking of. He flung a batarang out, hitting a Heartless in the place the skull would be if they had a skull. Or bones.

    Time was difficult here, but his internal clock was pretty reliable. He gave Sora an extra half hour of sleep, then shook him awake. Shoving his feet into his sleeping bag, he curled onto his side and fell asleep the moment his eyes closed.

    Sora was a little surprised when Jason woke him up. Not the waking bit, the Jason bit. When Sora had gone to bed, he had been hurt. Badly. Riku had probably healed him. Sora had never taken that kind of abuse before. No one Sora knew had ever taken that kind of abuse before. Well, there was that one time Goofy had taken the rock for the King and everyone thought he'd died, but it had turned out that he had only been knocked out. Still though. A rock to the head and everyone thought Goofy had died. Jason had had a building dropped on him, massive cuts on his leg, a broken arm and who knew what else. And before Sora had gone to sleep, he had been walking, talking, being alive. Sora knew he couldn't do that. Well, probably not. He'd definitely try, especially if his friends were depending on him.

    His friends. He had thought he knew what worry was, before, when he hadn't been able to find them. At least he knew they were probably ok. But now, when he could see them and wrap an arm around their shoulders or hug them whenever he wanted, he was even more worried. He had been there, right there next to them, and he had gotten thrown and knocked out. That seemed to be all he did these days, getting knocked out. And every time he did, terrible things happened. The first time, Jason had lost his heart. Then, the second time, Jason had had to give into the darkness to save the rest of them. And just a few hours ago, it had happened again. Kairi had gotten seriously hurt, so Riku had had to use most of his magic healing her. Sora being unconscious meant he hadn't been able to help with their fight or Nightwing and Red Hood's. Kairi had used her magic to wake him up, and Dick had been hurt, so he had used his magic to heal him, leaving next to none to heal Jason. It seemed like every time Sora messed up in a fight, Jason suffered for it.

    Not anymore. Sora roved his eyes around the street, intent on tripling his watchfulness. Nothing would get near his friends, not while he had anything to say about it.

    As he kept an eye out, one landed on Kairi. She had gotten hurt last battle. Because of him. He would protect her better. He would. Actually, he would do better than that. He would work with her to protect her. Keeping her safe would be easier if she was by his side fighting than if she was far away from him. Last time they had been separated, she had gotten kidnapped by Saïx. The time before, she had lost her heart. If he had been there, Saïx probably wouldn't have bothered going after her. He had been there when she had lost her heart, but him being there had pretty much prevented Maleficent from getting it and opening Hollow Bastion's heart to darkness. Him being there had prevented a bigger tragedy, and he intended to keep it up.

    His shift was over. At least, he thought his shift was over. He couldn't really tell. But it had felt like the right amount of time. Actually, it had felt longer, but again, there wasn't really a way to tell. Carefully, he stepped over Riku to get to Kairi, waking her for her watch. He would get some sleep and tomorrow morning (or tomorrow dark or whatever), he would protect her.

    He would protect all of them.

    He crawled into his sleeping bag and was lulled to sleep by gentle thoughts of sitting on the Paopu Tree again, all of his friends safe and happy.

    Kairi was happy. Well, a bit worried. Was this the kind of stuff Sora and Riku had gone through without her? She didn't think so, but it was possible. But she was with them and she was helping. She had taken down a Dark Thorn almost singlehandedly. Sure, she had taken a bit of an injury to her side. Riku had fixed that really quickly, and then she had gotten to heal Sora. Jason had been a bit harder to heal. Although, based on the small pile of bandages and a sling on the pavement next to him, he was just fine now. Riku probably, or maybe Sora. Sora was smiling in his sleep, as usual. Lazy butt. Riku always had this little crease between his eyes when he slept, like he was thinking of a better way to something. To build the raft, to beat Sora in a race, to pilot the gummi ship, to keep darkness at bay. He was always working to improve himself, to get better. Kairi admired that. She emulated it actually.

    She wanted to get strong too. She wanted to be able to fight alongside Sora and Riku and actually have them rely on her, to be useful and helpful. And she knew part of that was to keep smiling. Riku was always so close to the darkness, even before they had left the island. He was better now, much better. Being trusted with the title Keyblade Master had been good for him and he had earned it, a hundred times over. And Sora was always so happy, but he could fall into these moments of depression. Goofy had told her that he had been very sad when they had first met. He had lost hope that he would fine her and Riku. But with the gummi ship, his hope had come back, and his happiness with it. Still though, if anything happened to her or Riku, Sora probably wouldn't recover.

    So, she would keep smiling. She would work until she was strong and then she would protect them.

    It was impossible to tell when morning was, but everyone started waking up around the same time anyways. Nightwing first, then Riku, then Jason. Sora was last as always. A smile played about her lips. Sora had changed a lot since they had left the island, but some things would always stay the same.

    After they had all blinked the sleep out of there eyes, the group simply sat around for a few minutes as if their brains were trying to unfreeze. Jason saw this as a side effect of a very traumatic night and little sleep. Of course, the black murky sky didn't really tell him if it was daytime or not, but his internal clock said they might have gotten 5 hours of rest each if they had been lucky. “First things first,” He said, pulling his backpack towards himself and peering into its depths. “I'm hungry.”

    “You're always hungry, Hood.” Nightwing commented, plopping down beside him.

    In no time they had pulled out an assortment of food, and were munching away happily. Sora and Riku had gotten themselves into an arm wrestling competition with Kairi acting as judge. Apparently they had both bet their favourite food on the match. Riku dried beef, and Sora, chocolate. Unfortunately for Sora, he lost all three matches rather quickly. Riku wasn't affected by his friends dejected face as he carried away his prize. In the end, Kairi had broken down and agreed to share some chocolate with Sora. The three sat together in a small semi circle, laughing and joking for the first time in what felt like forever.

    Dick and Jason sat side by side, grinning and watching this exchange with an air of amusement. It was fun seeing how happy they were, even amidst the rather somber circumstances. With a jolt Dick remembered yet again that the three didn't have to be here. The only reason the Keyblade Wielders had rushed to Jason and Dick's aid was out of pure kindness. Nightwing's smile widened; they really were good people. The kind of people that kept the Bats out on the streets. Fighting the scum of the earth so that kids like these wouldn't have to live looking over their shoulders all the time. Well, the three were Keyblade Wielders and all, but both the older boys couldn't help feeling a surge of protectiveness as the younger three laughed.

    After about a half an hour, everyone was feeling better and in much higher spirits. They packed up their things quickly and started yet again trudging through the dark tangle of buildings and deserted streets, trying to avoid darker shadowy areas as best they could. They were all rather sore; magic was only able to do so much after all. But they were with each other, and for now, that was enough.
     
  10. Loxare Hollow Bastion Committee

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2009
    Gender:
    No
    Location:
    Flower Field
    904
    659
    Ok, so I'm a terrible person who totally forgot to post this. I'm sorry, there's really no excuse.
    Warnings. Lots. Mostly violence. So watch out for it.


    Wayne Enterprises slowly drew closer as they worked their way forward. And as much as they tried to avoid it, no one could help but be filled with dread when they saw the huge tower. It was like willingly walking to their doom. Each step brought fear and uncertainty buzzing through their skin. Everyone's instincts screamed at them to turn around, tried to warn them that this place was dangerous. But they stuck close together, latching onto each others' presence like a lifeline. Jason and Riku took the front of the group, refusing to show fear and striding forward with fierce determination. Nightwing hung back with Sora and Kairi, every once in a while giving them reassuring smiles and getting nervous ones back in return. Heartless showed up every so often, clawing their way out of the ground to stop the groups' procession. Whenever this happened, they would all surge forward as one, overwhelming their attackers, while simultaneously learning how to work as a team. Maybe their fear grew the deeper into the city they wandered, but their trust in one another was growing too.

    Sora was just starting to think those towers were getting way to close when it happened. Riku suddenly froze, his posture becoming tight and rigid. The three behind him halted immediately while Jason took a few steps more before noticing he was alone and turned around.

    “Um, Riku?” Sora asked tentatively. He was starting to get a bad feeling. A very bad feeling.

    Riku didn't respond. So Jason tried this time. He stepped in front of his friend noting his glassy eyed expression. Muttering angrily under his breath, Red Hood waved a hand in front of Riku's face. There was no response. Riku didn't even blink. Frowning, Jason put his hand on Riku's shoulder and shook him slightly, Riku's head rocking back and forth with the motion as Kairi came to stand next to Red Hood.

    “Riku?” She asked uncertainly. Her friend's eyes ever so slowly turned to look at her. Cold fear shot down her spine, and she stumbled backwards. Riku's eyes were yellow.

    “Kairi!?” Sora was by her side in a second, which she hated and loved him for. “What's wro-” He fell silent when he saw Riku's eyes.

    “Oh no...” He mumbled under his breath. “No no no!”

    Suddenly Jason staggered forward as pain lanced threw him. It hit him fast and fierce, like burning fire licking along his bones. He groaned and fell to his knees, squeezing his eyes shut to deal with the sudden shock. Somewhere in the background he could register panicked voices, but his world was already melded into a white hot mist. The only thing he could fully comprehend was his body's violent tremors as it fought against the stabbing pain. Sound and sight were obviously not registering at the moment, so it surprised Jason when he heard a voice.

    Jason, it said simply.

    Fighting to form a thought, Jason searched through the haze in his mind for who was speaking. Suddenly his thoughts came together and it clicked.

    “D- darkness?” He managed.

    Jason! The voice said again. And this time he could hear the urgency in it. Attack. External force. Must stop.

    It took him a while, But comprehension spread threw Jason like an explosion. Some kind of foreign darkness was trying to corrupt him! And his darkness was fighting back.

    Need...help, the normally monotone voice of his darkness ground out.

    And suddenly, Jason knew what he had to do. Desperately trying to ignore the awful pain and gathering up all his will power, Jason focused everything he had on driving out whatever this foreign presence was. He could feel his conscious melding with his darkness, and together they began to slowly, very slowly, regain control. It was like pushing against solid air, facing something they couldn't see, but knew was there. They were winning, it was backing down! And just like that, the world came back into focus.

    Jason gasped. He was on the ground, trembling.

    Pushing himself up, he checked on his darkness. “Uh, you okay?” He thought at his darkness.

    Fine. Came a short answer in his mind as he blinked a few times to clear his head. Then, Thank you for the assistance.

    Jason was surprised. His darkness 'thanked' him? “Uh, you totally saved my butt.” He thought sheepishly. “I should be thanking you.”

    It was then that the full seriousness of the situation dawned on him.

    Kairi and Sora were fighting Riku and Nightwing!

    Jason froze, unable to take in what his eyes were telling him. Riku was charging towards Kairi, an angry sneer on his face as he swung his Keyblade at her retreating form. She nimbly twirled around and parried his strike, but the force made her stumble back a few steps. Lunging forward, Riku jabbed at her, and she jumped to the side. Jason caught a brief glimpse of her face, and felt dizzy. Not only was she scared out of her mind, she was hesitant to actually attack. That was all kinds of dangerous. Jason supposed he couldn't blame her, but as he saw her duck a vicious looking strike without taking the opening that followed, he knew something had to be done fast. No one could run forever, and even though she was doing quite well, Kairi was obviously outmatched. It was all she could do to dodge, using her small stature to her advantage.

    Just then, something came hurtling towards Jason and he had to back flip to avoid it. The object in question, turned out to be Sora. He was already scrambling to hit feet, a rather dazed look on his face. “Nightwing!” He shouted, jumping backwards, apparently unaware of Red Hood. “What are you doing!? Stop!?”

    But Nightwing wasn't stopping. He was charging forward, his eyes set on Sora, yellow through the mask. Despite the fact that his brother was attacking them at the moment, Jason couldn't help but notice the absence of aerial manoeuvres that were so deeply ingrained in Nightwing's fighting style.

    Of course, these thoughts all passed thorough Jason's head in about a second, and before he knew it he had drawn his good old knife and was face to face with Nightwing, glaring into those poison yellow eyes. His blade ground against Nightwing's escrima stick for a fraction of a second before the second stick flashed threw the air and he had to duck to avoid it. He moved swiftly to dodge Nightwing's knee to his face, then jumped to the side, sticking his leg out as he went. It absolutely shocked him when Nightwing didn't jump to avoid it and stumbled forward. But the next second the vigilante caught his footing and was heading towards Sora again, who was staring at Jason with a mixture of relief and uncertainty. He met Dick's next strike with his Keyblade, gritting his teeth against the impact. His eyes caught Jason's for a second before he was twisting around Nightwing to avoid getting hit again.

    “Hood!” He called while an electric escrima stick tore at the air inches from his face. “You okay?”

    Jason almost flinched. The kid was way too selfless. He started running towards them, eager to stop Dick from doing any major damage, though that was pretty unlikely seeing how viciously he was attacking Sora.

    “Fine. What's-”

    He had to pause as he flattened himself to dodge a kick, then was forced to do a handspring backwards to avoid another.

    “What's gotten into them!?”

    Sora spoke between blocking Nightwing's strikes. “No. Idea. Help. Kairi.”

    Jason wanted to argue, but he knew Sora was right. She had much less experience. He turned, and right on cue, a scream made his blood run cold. His eyes fell on Kairi, pinned against a grimy building wall with Riku drawing back his blade. The sight made him feel sick it was so wrong. Before he knew what he was doing, a batarang was flying threw the air and embedded itself in Riku's hand. He growled a very familiar sounding growl, one that had his own voice overlaid with a much deeper sinister one, as he dropped his Keyblade. To Jason's relief, Kairi took the opportunity to actually slash at him, and he stumbled back, dropping her. She landed on her feet and stumbled to the left, trying to get distance between herself and Riku. Hood was about to charge forward when-

    The shadows.

    “What?!” Jason thought in response to his darkness's sudden comment. He was already sprinting to get to Kairi before Riku did.

    Thankfully, his darkness elaborated. They are being controlled by a Heartless. It is the shadows.

    Blood was pounding in his ears with each step. “What are you talking about? The Heartless are always shadows.”

    This time his darkness sounded annoyed. They are being controlled. Look at their feet.

    Reluctantly, Jason's eyes left Riku's Keyblade for a split second to glance down at his feet. He had to do a double take. Long shadows were twisting along the ground, all conjugating around the boy, and moving to wherever he stepped.

    “How do we stop it?”

    He came to a stop in front of Kairi just as Riku did. There was a flash and both blades clashed against one another, followed by a second strike, then a third.

    Defeat its source. Then drive the darkness out.

    Growling while simultaneously ducking under Riku's blade, Jason looked around for a Heartless. The next moment a kick brought him back to his senses as he found himself sprawled on the hard cement. Riku was jumping forward, blade facing down. Jason rolled, barely dodging, then leapt to his feet.

    “Where is it?”

    His darkness replied quickly this time.

    The shadows lead back to it.

    Without missing a beat, Jason drew his gun with his free hand and discharged seven bullets in the direction indicated. The satisfying sound of a dissolving Heartless told him he had found his mark.

    Unfortunately, Riku was running up at him slashing like a madman, and Jason had to back up quickly to avoid the strikes. He could already tell however that the attack pattern was much more uncoordinated.

    “Now what?”

    Riku got a hit in, but luckily the blade just scraped against his armour.

    We must make contact for a few seconds.

    “What, like touch him? While he's swinging a razor sharp blade at us!?” Jason snapped as the razor sharp blade in question flew past his left ear.

    “Yes.”

    Jason blocked Riku's next slash with his knife, and the two blades once again scraped against each other in a stalemate.

    “Kairi!” He shouted. “Come hold his arms!”

    To his surprise, Kairi appeared behind Riku in seconds and grabbed his wrists, thrusting his arms back. She couldn't hold him for long. Jason had to act fast.

    Desperately hoping his darkness knew what it was talking about, he pulled off his glove and placed his hand on Riku's thrashing head. Instantly his darkness guided him to the foreign darkness that had latched itself onto his friend. Riku's darkness was fighting against it too, and with the extra effort of Jason, it was gone in seconds. Riku immediately stopped thrashing and drooped in Kairi's arms. Jason moved to help her, but noticed she was supporting the unconscious boy just fine. Without a second thought he whirled around to help Sora.

    He wasn't doing too good. Nightwing might not be able to use all of his moves right now, but he was still a formidable opponent. Case and point, his escrima stick was charged and raised for a finishing blow with Sora stunned and bleeding from a head injury on the ground. Jason shot forward, his knife intercepting the stick.

    Gritting his teeth at the electricity, he slashed, knocking back Nightwing's escrima stick, then kicking him in the stomach. Behind him, he felt Kairi move in, setting a Cure on Sora. Good. He would need both of them on this one. He launched himself forward.

    Nightwing was a great fighter, but one of the things that had had them fighting to a stalemate every time was his unwillingness to go for the permanently damaging hits, or the killing blows. In anyone not trained by a Bat, it was irrelevant. Hood, back when he was less than amiable with Nightwing, had used and exploited that constantly. But now, every attack was set on kill. Which rankled a bit. That was Hood's thing. Nightwing was stealing Red Hood's thing.

    Blocking a blow that would have shattered his collarbone with his gun barrel, he turned the knife upwards, aiming for the arm. Nightwing turned at the last second and instead of getting a knife through his arm, it just grazed him.

    He couldn't believe he was doing this again. He knew that it wasn't Nightwing's fault, or his, that this was happening, but he couldn't help the sick feeling in his gut that again. He was fighting another Bat again and even if he wasn't fighting to kill like he had before, he was fighting to win. For Jason, that was almost the same thing. His turmoil didn't show in his fighting though. Batman and the All Caste had trained him too well for that.

    As he fought, Hood raked his eyes around his surroundings, trying to find some way to stop his brother without hurting him. Well, without hurting him too badly.

    Well, there was an antiques store across the street. Apparently, they were having a sale on cushions. Grinning at the cliche, he grabbed Nightwing's fist and the escrima stick it held, and launched him through the window.

    Sora and Kairi were there immediately, desperately holding down Nightwing's arms and legs. Jason shoved in and clapped his hand on Nightwing's forehead. The older man bucked, trying to throw off Jason's touch, but he held on determinedly. Slowly, much slower than Riku's had, the yellow faded from his eyes and he stopped thrashing. It made sense, Jason mused. Dick didn't have the same darkness that Jason and Riku did.

    As the adrenaline from the fight started wearing off, he vaguely wondered about the screaming pain in his leg. He hadn't taken a hit there. But he ignored it in favour of dragging his brother out of the window of the shop and laying him next to Riku. Then, he, Kairi and Sora sat around them, waiting until they woke up.

    Now that he had a minute, he checked his leg. And then blanched. Idiot. Sora had told him this would happen, right after that first fight. Fighting when under a lot of stress would partially or completely undo a healing. And here he was, leg bleeding in half a dozen places. If Nightwing, if Dick saw this, he would blame himself, even though it hadn't been in any way his fault. But Sora had also said that when injuries reopened like this, he couldn't heal them again. So he grabbed his backpack, glad that Sora and Kairi were watching the other side of their group and too busy talking to pay any attention to him. He grabbed a needle and length of thread and set to work.

    ~*~​

    Kairi sat next to Sora, helping him keep an eye out for trouble. After a few minutes of silence, she turned a worried look to Riku, then back to Sora. “Sora? Do you think Riku will be alright?”

    From the look on his face, he'd been asking the same question. “I don't know.” His voice was uncharacteristically sad, almost defeated sounding. But Sora never gave up. “That's kind of what he's always scared of, fighting against, you know? Giving into the darkness, attacking us again.”

    “But this isn't like that. It's more...” She paused, trying to find an example. “Like the time Ansem took him over. He wasn't in control then and he wasn't in control now.” Sora gave her a look and she sighed. “Yeah, he won't see it like that.”

    They sat in silence for another moment. She looked back at a slight rustling behind her, but it was just Jason grabbing at his backpack. “Sora?” She asked the question that had been bothering her since they had landed in the Realm of Darkness. “Is this how your adventures always are?” Because if they were, she was never letting him out of her sight again.

    Sora seemed shocked at the idea though, which eased her mind a bit. “Oh no. Not at all. This is a lot different. More darkness and blood and pain but...” He smiled at her. “I met Nightwing and Red Hood and Red Robin and Batman and Robin. I think it's worth it.”

    She shook her head, smiling. She couldn't help but think back to their last day on the island, before all of this had started. He was so reliable. She had asked him not to change, and he never did.

    They sat in silence again, but this was a lighter silence. Cheerier. She was almost disappointed when Riku shifted behind her, but mostly she was happy he was awake.

    “Riku! You're awake!” Sora cried joyously, ignoring the way Riku cringed at the noise. Headache probably. “How are you feeling?”

    “Fine. I... What...?” He looked around, confused. For a brief moment, Kairi thought he didn't remember. Hoped he didn't. But then his eyes widened and filled with regret. “Sora, Kairi, I'm so s-”

    Kairi put a hand to his mouth, stopping the apology before it could form. “Nothing. You have nothing to be sorry for. All that matters is that you're here and none of us are hurt.” He nodded, not completely convinced. That was fine. They could convince him better later. After all of this was over.

    Dick opened his eyes before any of them could say anything more. He jumped up, crouching low into a fighting stance, a scary expression on his face. Quickly shoving something back into his bag, Jason stood in front of him, hands out to his sides. Kairi was surprised at the gentle tone in his voice. She'd never heard that from him before. “Calm down 'Wing. You're safe. There's nothing in your head.”

    His face stayed scary for another moment before relaxing into confusion. “Little Wing? Where-?” Just like Riku, his eyes widened when he remembered. “Oh no! Did I hurt you? No, I hurt Sora. Sora, are you alright?”

    Dick grabbed Sora's head, looking for injuries. Sora let him for a minute, then pulled away. “I'm fine Nightwing. Kairi patched me up perfectly.” At this, Kairi felt a rush of pride. She was getting better at magic. She knew she was.

    Kairi's eyes wandered a bit as she listened to Sora and Dick's banter. Both of them were fine. Riku would be ok, maybe not today, but really soon. She would make sure of that. Sora too.

    Determination renewed, she focused on the conversation again. Dick was saying something about not knowing Jason could sew. For whatever reason, that got him a bit flustered. “Yeah. The Two Cat shredded my pants pretty badly. You actually got a hit in on the exposed skin, so I thought putting it back together would be better. You know, for protection.”

    Dick scrunched up his face. “Nooo... I don't remember hitting you in the leg. I think I was mostly aiming for the chest and head areas.” The idea made him turn a bit green.

    “Well you did!” Jason snapped. Kairi didn't know him very well, but he seemed overly defensive. Dick's face fell immediately, which caused Jason's to soften. “I didn't mean it like that 'Wing. I'm just stressed about all this.” Dick still seemed sad, so Jason tried again. “Tell you what. When we're out of this, I'm taking you to Amusement Mile. Games, cotton candy, we'll even ride the roller coaster.”

    “And the spinning cups?” There was a definite note of pleading in Dick's voice.

    Jason just sighed. “And the spinning cups.” He braced himself just as Dick enveloped him in a hug.

    After another minute or two of excited chattering (“Amusement Mile is so much fun and there's fireworks at midnight on weekends and you guys should totally come!”), they packed up and started moving. Jason was limping a bit. Dick must have hit him pretty hard. Stepping back from the group to walk with him, she asked quietly, “Want me to heal that for you? I could use the practice.”

    He smiled. “Thanks, but no. Nothing about your skills, but magic can't do anything for this one.” At her inquiring eyebrow, he continued, “Sora told me that fighting stressed with a freshly Cured injury reopens it and that it can't be Cured again. It has to heal naturally.”

    She was confused for a moment, but then the horrible realization came in. “Wait, you mean...?”

    Jason nodded. “Yup. But don't worry, it's not as deep as it was. I already have it stitched up. Just do me a favour?” She nodded. “Don't tell Nightwing? He'll think it's his fault and get all upset about it.” A wry smile crossed his face. “Then I'll have to take him to Amusement Mile and the circus.”

    Finally, after what seemed like forever, Wayne Tower stood before them. The feeling of uneasiness that had been gradually building the longer they stayed in this world had reached an all time high. Sora could feel the hairs on the back of his neck stand up as they stopped to stare up at the towers in front of them.

    “So...” Jason looked hesitant. “I guess we just... look around then? Yen Sid didn't really know what we would be facing to unlock the Keyhole, so I suppose that means we have to find it.”

    Kairi shuddered in the damp chilly air. How were they going to defeat the master of this place when they barley survived the fights up until now? She looked over at Sora and Riku, who both had determination flashing in their eyes. Kairi was just about to agree with Jason when a sound rang through the air which made her freeze.

    HA HA HA HA!
    [DOUBLEPOST=1439907923][/DOUBLEPOST]And now for today's chapter! Hooray! Again, sorry about this.

    There actually isn't any violence in this chapter. I know, shocker! So weird. But it's a short chapter, just for adding tension, so it's not surprising.


    Jason and Dick visibly flinched at the noise, their expressions immediately turning grim. Even with the sound echoing from so far above, their eyes betrayed their fear and panic. Kairi flinched. Whatever could make those two scared was definitely dangerous.

    “Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that came from the top of the towers. And I'm guessing that would be the Joker guy I read about?” Riku muttered, trying and failing to look composed.

    Nightwing nodded stiffly. “No mistaking it. But like the others, his voice sounded off. Kinda hollow and overlaid.” Dick walked over to Jason who was still standing stock still, staring up at the top of the buildings far above. Placing a firm hand on his brother's shoulder, he succeeded in snapping Red Hood out of his trance.

    “Hood.” He said sternly. “We can't have you zoning out for this one. We all need you focused, or else this battle is going to end badly, got it?”

    Jason stared at his brother with an expression of anger and fear. Riku felt his stomach lurch. What had Dick told him? This villain Joker, he was the one responsible for... for Jason's death. Riku's eyes widened with the realization. No wounder he was acting strange. Riku nearly never felt sympathy, but as the full weight of what they were asking Jason to do dawned on him, he questioned if the guy could handle it. He doubted he himself could, if he were in the same situation.

    Slowly, Jason nodded before turning his gaze upon the buildings once again. “I wonder how much he's changed. Every villain we've faced here has been magnified and strengthened by darkness in some way. But darkness and evil just seem to be such a fundamental part of who Joker is, I can't imagine him getting any worse.”

    Nightwing shifted so that his cloak was fully covering him again, protecting him from the cold stagnant air. “Guess we won't know until we see him.” He paused, glancing around at their surroundings carefully. “But I would rather it be us sneaking up on him rather then the other way around.” He gazed up into the misty sky.

    Riku stepped forward, reading Nightwing's train of thought. “So the question is, how are we supposed to get up there without being seen.”

    It was more of a statement then a question, but Riku didn't seem to have an immediate answer, nor did Nightwing. Everyone began to glance around, taking stock of potential ideas.

    “Do you think he can see us right now?” Sora asked.

    Nightwing's eyes flicked up again nervously. “From that height and with it being so dark? No, he shouldn't.” His tone was definitely not one of confidence however.

    Finally, Jason looked up and let out a long breath before turning to the others and speaking. “Don't count on the darkness too much. Those yellow eyes aren’t just for show. It's like having night vision.”

    Riku nodded. “True. Even if he can't see us right now, we can't rely on the shadows for cover if we tried a frontal assault. He would spot us in no time. So would any other Heartless up there.”

    They were all quiet for a while before Kairi voiced what they were all thinking. “So why not just get to him through the building?” She gave the others a unsure look. “I know it's not the most appealing option, but it's probably our safest.”

    Jason nodded. “I think we would have the most success getting up that way too. But you have to remember that any time we go inside, we are trapping ourselves in a sense. There's much less room to fight, and enemies can easily hid behind furniture and walls.”

    “True.” Nightwing said. “But I think that's still the smartest option. Besides, if the building is similar to the real Wayne Tower, the elevator shaft should be reinforced glass. We can easily break it if we need to.” He paused, noting everyone’s wary expressions. “So, are you guys okay going this way?”

    They nodded, though Nightwing could sense the tension in the group. Especially Jason. His brother was desperately trying to hold it together. Dick almost wished he could tell him to stay out of the fight altogether, but he knew Jason would probably punch him if he mentioned that idea. Besides, what he said earlier was true. They would more than likely need Jay in whatever they were facing. Still, Nightwing knew, by the firm line of his mouth and the way he was clenching his fists, that Jason was scared. He put an arm around his brother's shoulders for a few seconds, giving him a one armed hug and trying to reassure him as much as possible, then turned and trudged towards the plain glass doors shimmering black in the dull light.

    Riku and Jason followed with Sora and Kairi taking the rear. The doors opened with an ominous creak, and they entered single file, their senses on high alert for traps or enemies. The front lounge of the building was surprisingly familiar to that of the one in the real Wayne Enterprises. In fact, as Jason took in the scene, he started to suspect their layouts and furnishings were identical. It struck him as odd, since there had been numerous fundamental differences between this world and the real one. The almost seamless similarity didn't help his already frayed nerves.

    The entire group ventured forward silently, following Nightwing who seemed to have caught on to the familiar floor plan. They all stayed close to one another, drawing on the comfort that being next to another human offered. Kairi caught Sora's eyes and the two had a silent conversation, promising to stay close. Sora was glad, he really hated the idea that Kairi was here in the first place, but this building in particular was enough to make him want to turn back. He had no idea how Kairi was dealing with it, what with this being her first real mission and all. But that only served to reminded him of how brave she really was, and he couldn't help smiling to himself just a bit as they walked. Suddenly, a weight lifted from his chest that he hadn't even noticed was there. He sighed with the relief. If all he had to do to feel better was to think of his friends, well, that was easy.

    Nightwing wanted to avoid the elevator at all coasts. There was no way he was going to get himself and his friends trapped in such a small enclosed space to be picked off by enemies. But as he stopped at the back of the lobby and considered the best way to reached the top one more time, he decided that the elevator shaft was in fact their best bet. Turning back, he addressed the Keyblade Wielders.

    “I know you can glide and jump, but I take it you can't fly?”

    Sora opened his mouth, then closed it again, not really sure how to respond.

    “No.” Riku said, deciding to keep it simple and not over-complicate things. They could fly after all, but not here.

    “Okay then. As I said before, getting up this way is the best option. The elevator shaft is made of mainly glass, and I don't think any of us want to walk up 90 flights of stairs. “

    “It would be nice to avoid that.” Kairi added helpfully.

    “Thought so. That means that we have to get up through here. Me and Jay can use our line guns, they can hold three people easy.

    Jason chuckled halfheartedly. “I've seen Batman's lines hold a helicopter before. They'll be fine.”

    “Wait!” Riku said catching on. “You want to carry us up there?”

    Nightwing shrugged. “Unless you’d rather climb.”

    Riku bit his lip conflicted while Sora gave Dick and Jason a huge smile. Robin had pulled him along through the city when they had first met, and it had felt like flying, except even more exciting and dangerous. He was fine with the idea.

    Kairi couldn't help grinning as she saw Sora's excited smile and Riku's annoyed scowl. Really it was amazing the two were still friends after all this time with how utterly different they were.

    “Well if that's settled,” Jason said walking over to the huge metal doors and slipping his fingers between them, “Shall we?”

    The others moved to help him, but there was no need. With a high pitched grinding of steel, Jason thrust the doors open, revealing a second set of elevator doors which he pried open just as easily. He and Dick walked into the elevator carefully, inspecting it for traps or hidden enemies. One could never be sure with how Heartless blended into the shadows. But after a careful inspection they agreed there was no danger. In another minute they had the emergency door unlocked. Jason climbed out first, followed by the Keyblade Wielders who were finding the elevator extremely fascinating. They could easily make the jump, but it took some time for all three of them to emerge. Finally Nightwing clambered out and stood with the others, appreciating the magnitude of the glass walls which stretched up for what felt like miles.

    Taking out his line gun, Nightwing nodded at Riku. “Hold onto the actual gun, otherwise the weight won't be distributed properly.” Riku complied, and Dick wrapped an arm around his friend before discharging the gun. It took some time, but when it finally found a hold the line immediately started to retract, and the two went shooting up, followed closely by Jason, who had both Kairi and Sora with him. The entire process only took about three minutes from start to finish, but by the end of it Riku was feeling quite ill. He did not like the sensation of being thrust through the air at high velocities. It was worlds apart from the gentle rhythmic pattern of flying he was used to in Neverland.

    Jumping off onto the service ladder as Nightwing instructed, he watched as the acrobat nimbly hopped onto the half a foot ledge in front of the door and pried it open. He still couldn't believe how much balance Nightwing had. Honestly it reminded him of Sora with all his aerial manoeuvres and flips. Sometimes he wished he were that agile, it would be a huge advantage in fights. But he knew his fighting style would never allow for it. He was about strength, not speed.

    He jumped through the opening just as Red Hood and the others reached the top. In a matter of seconds they were all through the doors, a large open room greeting them. Rich furnishings decorated the ornate tile floor while large glass windows gave them a spectacular view of Gotham city far far below. Usually it would be full of twinkling lights, but presently was dark and quiet.

    “Wow.” Sora breathed, starting to walking towards the windows in order to get a better view.

    Kairi grabbed the back of his cloak, pulling him again into line. “Not the time Sora. “ She said with the slightest sliver of humor in her voice.

    “This can't be the roof.” Riku observed, taking in their surrounding with mild interest.

    “No.” Jason agreed. “We have to walk up a few flights of stairs to get to the actual roof exit.”

    Looking around, he wished one of those Points would show up. If they appeared around major events, then one should show up now, right? He would never admit it to anyone, though Kairi and her annoyingly impressive observation skills had noticed, but his leg was killing him. Even now the wounds were throbbing with a growing intensity. It was a distraction he really didn't need during a fight. Especially this one.

    Nightwing led them towards a door on their right leading to a steep cement staircase. They climbed up for about thirty seconds, the knowledge that saving the entirety of Jason and Dick's world laid on this single fight waiting seconds away. The tower was well insulated, or at least Jason assumed this one was if it were like the original. But as they ascended, the bone chillingly familiar laughs that used to haunt his every waking hour echoed through the corridor. Desperately he tried to stop the building panic inside him. He needed to breathe. He needed to relax and stay focused, focused on never letting this mad man beat him ever again.

    Finally they stopped in front of the doors that would lead them outside, those echoing laughs the only thing piercing the silence. Automatically, everyone drew their weapons, and with a last look at his friends, Dick pushed open the doors and stepped outside.
     
  11. Loxare Hollow Bastion Committee

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2009
    Gender:
    No
    Location:
    Flower Field
    904
    659
    Another day, another chapter! Again, this one is horribly violent. So incredibly violent. And long. Twice as long as a regular chapter. Long and violent. I mean, no one gets a building dropped on them this chapter, but other stuff happens.

    Oh, there's some brackets in there. Just ignore that. Arrow and I edited this really late, so it's just our tired brains trying to make Batman jokes. Ignore it.


    WARNINGS FOR VIOLENCE.

    The roof was a large domed structure, with a wide walkway surrounding it so civilians could make the most of the view. It was a popular location for tourists and school trips. It also normally had security guards patrolling to dissuade people from climbing on the rail. Unfortunately, the Joker had never been one for listening to security guards, even if they had been here. He was casually strolling along the rail, whistling something tuneless. In one hand, he held a drink umbrella, as if to safeguard against falling. His normally green eyes were a bright yellow, but that was the only change in his appearance.

    Based on all their experiences, once someone had been corrupted by darkness in this way, they didn't normally talk. Sora had seen it in Deep Jungle when Clayton had given in to the darkness. Riku had seen it when Ansem had awakened the darkness inside Maleficent. All of them had seen it in their fights against Croc, Scarecrow, Two-Face and, most recently, Dick and Riku.

    So they were all at least a little surprised when the Joker spoke. “You know, I could really learn to love a view like this. Of course, it's a bit dark for my tastes. We need a splash of colour here, and a bit there and, well, everywhere actually. I've already checked though. All the paint stores only have black left. Oh, and there isn't anyone to laugh at my jokes. You know, I don't think I like this view at all. There's no colour, no people and most of all, no Batsy.” Finally, he turned to face them, a particularly manic grin on his face. “I do have a bunch of new friends though.”

    At his words, Heartless formed on the walkway. Cymbal Monkeys and Rabid Dogs and Minute Bombs and Search Ghosts and Invisibles, all in variations Sora had never seen before. The colours were random, with no two of the same species matching. The only feature that was shared among all of them was a bright red grin splashed sloppily over the mouth.

    The Heartless stood waiting as Joker continued. “Of course, they're not really the laughing type. But maybe a really good joke will get a chuckle out of them.” He raised the hand not holding the drinking umbrella. There was a crowbar in it. “You know, my best joke was when I knocked off that pesky Boy Blunder. And look!” he gestured out, pointing at all of them, “Now I have two birdies to play with. And a few civilians too! That's always good for a laugh. Not sure when Batsy will get back, but he will. He always comes after me. And when he does, I'll have another joke for him to laugh at!” He started laughing and tossed the umbrella. With accuracy that would leave Roy jealous, it smacked into a small button, which was connected to a low level explosive. It wouldn't explode with enough force to damage any infrastructure, but it would hurt anyone standing next to it.

    Which the five of them were. “Scatter!” Nightwing yelled.

    The Keyblade Wielders jumped straight up and the Bats dove to each side, all of them just barely escaping the explosion. Joker split into two, his regular clown-ish self, and his Heartless, which shifted shapelessly for a moment before settling.

    It looked like Joker. Jason swallowed a bitter laugh. Of course. Joker was so evil that he was his darkest self. The Joker's darker half stalked towards Dick, and the never-ending Heartless were keeping the kids busy. That left Joker to Jason. Good old fashioned Joker. The one who had killed him all those years ago.

    Well.

    Now it was his turn to die.

    Red Hood pulled his guns and launched himself at the Clown Prince of Crime.

    ~*~​

    Nightwing dodged the first attack, drawing his escrima sticks in the same movement. The second attack came at him and he spun inside it, slamming the dark Joker in the chest.

    This thing was pretty unpredictable. It didn't keep to one shape for too long, sometimes shifting in claws or dispersing into gas, but always inevitably returning to the Joker-esque shape it had taken on at the beginning of the fight. Just in case though, Nightwing pulled on a rebreather. He wasn't sure what kind of gas the dark Joker turned into, but he was willing to bet it wasn't good for his lungs.

    He flipped, escrima sticks aiming for the dark Joker's neck, but just before he hit, the monster vapourized again. As he passed through the cloud, laughter filled his ears, loud, insistent, unbearable. He felt sick, his head started spinning and his ear drums threatened to burst. It was gone the moment he hit clean air again, but the effects lingered. There was movement to his side. Instinctively, he tossed a batarang. A smile crept into his face at the distinctive thud of metal hitting Heartless-flesh. It wasn't the same as hitting regular people. Kind of like hitting a water balloon. Stiff outside, mostly nothing inside.

    Leaping onto the dome, he gave himself a moment to recover. By the time the dark-Joker reattached its arm (and really, that was not fair), his ears were still ringing but the nausea had passed. Good enough for now. He dived back at his foe, feet first.

    Plant a solid hit on the shoulders, redirect the momentum upwards, flip, come back down for another hit, push backwards, knock over dark Joker and land a few feet away, push back and drive escrima sticks into Joker's stomach.

    That was the plan anyways, and it worked really well until the last step when dark Joker shifted himself a coat of spikes. Spikes which Nightwing was headed straight for and the one major disadvantage of midair combat came into play. He couldn't change direction. But he could minimize the damage.

    His left escrima stick was still ready to strike, he just had to reverse his grip. It still landed in dark Joker's gut, just not as hard as it should have. And the spikes did still stab him in the forearm, but only in a dozen or so places, and only deeply in three. And not in the chest, abdomen, or legs like it would have if he hadn't done anything, so that counted as a win. Sort of.

    The dark Joker wasn't showing any signs of slowing down though. It simply shifted from spiky back to its default. Nightwing was starting to see a pattern though. All Heartless had one after all. It could only stay in another form for six seconds before it had to return to being the Joker, for at least half a minute. More than enough time to change the tide of the battle, as Nightwing had just seen, but not enough time to make a difference in the long run. Especially not now that Nightwing had him figured out.

    Leisurely sheathing one stick and pulling out a roll of bandages, he started wrapping his arm. Both to stem the bleeding and to... Yes! Dark Joker took the bait, growling and shifting monster-like claws onto its hands. It lunged, and once its claws were almost at his eye, he spun.

    He dropped the bandages – they were wrapped tightly enough so that they wouldn't fall off; he'd secure them later – switching his escrima stick to his good hand and hit the button for a charge. He slammed it into the dark Joker's side, and it howled and blurred, electricity arcing between its claws. Nightwing gave a satisfied smirk as it dropped to the ground.

    But it didn't dissipate. Instead, it melted into the floor and came up behind him, morphing a joy buzzer into its hand and pressing it against Nightwing's neck. As his muscles spasmed and a scream tore through his throat, he could hear laughing in his ears, as if the dark Joker was chuckling at its own joke. Here, let me return this to you. Nightwing could almost hear the exact words it might have used.

    He was saved by Sora blasting across the walkway, Keyblade extended. It smacked the dark Joker full in the face, sending it flying. “You ok Nightwing?”

    “Fine,” he gasped. After a moment, he stood up straight and shook out his muscles. “I thought these things kept to a pattern. Why did it change?”

    “Ah!” And Sora had that same look on his face when he remembered his Cure spell the first time. Something totally important that he had forgotten to mention. “Yeah, really strong Heartless change their attack pattern when they get weak.”

    Nightwing just rolled his eyes. “So whatever pattern it has now will be the one it has until we beat him?”

    “No idea. Depends on how strong it is. But looking at it...” He stopped to consider. “Yeah, looks pretty weak. I'd say half dead. Should be the last one, unless it has another form hiding.”

    Snorting, Nightwing readied his escrima stick in his right hand, with batarangs between each of his fingers on his left. The dark Joker was finally standing up, and getting closer. “It's the Joker. Wouldn't put it past him.”

    Sora rolled his neck and crouched into his fighting stance. “Let's do this then.” And they launched themselves into battle.

    ~*~​

    Kairi risked a glance at Sora. She had told him to help Nightwing, that she and Riku would be fine. It had taken a little convincing, but he had agreed. Right on time too. Whatever it was that Nightwing had been fighting had come back up in a flash and was electrocuting him. Swinging her Keyblade through another three Heartless, she spared another look back. They were up and battle ready. She didn't know Dick well enough to know how he reacted to injuries, but she knew that Sora would fight and fight until he physically couldn't go on anymore. And even then, he would probably Cure himself so he could continue.

    Honestly, that kind of fighting couldn't be good for him.

    Not that she could talk. She hadn't taken many hits from this fight, but the ones she had were already healed. Riku had told her that they regenerated magic faster when they were fighting, and as far as she could tell, it was true.

    Speaking of, Riku had an Invisible creeping up behind him. She dashed forwards and blitzed it. When it actually worked, blasting the Invisible far enough away for it to be less of a threat, she beamed. Sora had been trying to show her that move for a week before he had left for Gotham. It wasn't perfect yet, but it was usable, and that's all she needed.

    She moved through the Heartless like water, flowing around them, Keyblade turning them into clouds. Sure, these Heartless were strong. The kinds that normally flocked around Ansem Seeker of Darkness. But Sora and Riku had fought them many times before. They knew all the weak points, the strategies to beat them, which meant that Kairi knew too. When an Invisible threw its sword to the ground, she should jump. A lot. Keep far away from Rabid Dogs, their bark hurts much more then their bite. Long rage attacks are best. Keep out of the Search Ghost's search light.

    So she was a little more than surprised when a Search Ghost materialized cymbals and crashed them together. The sound rang through her skull, vibrating through her bones. Then a Cymbal Monkey barked and the two sounds crashed together. All thought whited out. She fell to her knees, hands clapped over her ears. It did nothing. Tears flooded down her face and desperately, she tightened her grip on her Keyblade and shouted “THUNDER!”

    The noise stopped. She slumped with relief and wiped at her tears. Or, she had thought they were tears, but the back of her hand was smeared with red. That couldn't be good. Oh well, no time to worry about it now. She cast a quick Cure and jumped back into the fray.

    The Heartless were definitely getting weirder. Invisibles didn't attack until they saw her. Rabid Dogs alternated between barking and vanishing, turning into a ring of flames that she had to jump her way out of. A Search Ghost managed to impale her right forearm with a sword. Pain radiated through it, all the way up to the shoulder. Suddenly, her hand popped open, completely unwillingly, and she dropped her Keyblade. She didn't have any strength left in her grip. And she didn't have enough magic to heal yet.

    Grabbing it with her left hand, she shot off a Thundaga, spending the last of her magic on it. She cleared the area around her, but she wouldn't be able to heal her arm until she recharged. It would be faster if she fought but she wasn't confident she could fight any of these with her left hand. Working fast, she tore a strip off of her cloak, hoping that it would still protect her if it was slightly shorter. She placed the Keyblade in her right hand and wrapped the material around it, allowing her weakened muscles to keep hold of it. She then continued wrapped the fabric around her arm, making it into a makeshift bandage. She didn't have a belt like Jason or Dick, and all her supplies were in her backpack, which had gotten cut off near the beginning of the fight. This would have to do.

    She noticed Riku off to one side. She rolled her shoulders, lifted her Keyblade, and attacked every Heartless in her way.

    ~*~​

    This fight would be so much easier if the Joker would just shut up. The crowbar in his hand was covered in a reddish-brown coating, like old blood, and damn if that didn't make him flinch. But Jason could handle crowbars. Most villains did their nefarious deeds in warehouses, and warehouses were full to bursting with the things. And he could handle the small bombs Joker kept throwing his way. He even tossed a few himself, to keep the psycho from galavanting off and attacking the others. But the laughter. It was the laughter that sent him back to that day in the warehouse. Never mind that it was dark and cold and starting to rain, all things that screamed “Gotham City”. But with each screeching giggle, every halting chortle, he felt the steady thump thump thump of a ghostly crowbar hitting his back, the African sun beating down on his injuries through a window, the dry air filtering into his lungs. Whipping out his gun, he fired off three shots, if only to drown out the laughter with its sharp staccato.

    Surprisingly – he had been aiming for the Joker, but the clown was normally exceptional at dodging batarangs and bullets alike – one managed to lodge itself in Joker's shoulder. Giving out a pained chuckle, Joker tossed his crowbar in retaliation. Hood managed to dodge it, but it rebounded off of the dome behind him and clipped him on the back of the head. The Joker walked closer, picking up the metal bar as he went. Hood was still reeling from the blow which, unluckily enough, had hit hard enough to concuss. Already he was getting nauseous.

    “Awww, what's wrong Hoodie? Too many party favours?” The clown burst into laughing again and Jason squeezed his eyes shut, not completely closed, but enough that he didn't have to look at the Joker and listen to him at the same time. “You know, I remember this one shindig I went to. There were so many people! Mommies and Daddies and Babies too. But none of them were laughing. It was a weird party. Lots of screaming and crying, definitely not my kind of place. But I told a few jokes, spilled a few cans of gas and soon, everyone was rolling in their seats!” A gloved hand shoved its way into Jason's view and grabbed at his jacket lapels. “Maybe all you need is a bit of laughter, eh, Bird boy?”

    Desperately, Jason tried to jump back, to get away from the maniac in front of him. Last time he had fought the Joker, he hadn't had his heart back yet. Now he wished it was gone, if only so that he could stop thinking, so he could finish what he had started when he had first come back to Gotham. But the Joker slammed the crowbar into his leg and he cried out as his stitches tore. And another, in his chest, his side, his back.

    Jason. His darkness. Seriously, not good timing. Let me take over. I can fight this without being emotionally affected. It was tempting, but no. This was his fight. And he told his darkness so. Fine. But if your life is in danger I will take over. I will not risk us both for your pride.

    Jason was about to reply, but a hoarse scream caught his attention. Nightwing. Suddenly, he was completely present. Standing on top of Wayne Enterprises, in the cold and dark and rain, fighting the Joker and his brother was screaming in pain. He ignored the ache of cracked ribs. He ignored the blood running down his leg. He ignored the heat of yet another explosion to his left. And most of all, he ignored the laughter.

    He ignored it all in favour of attending his rage.

    He hadn't touched it in ages. Probably ever since he had gotten his heart back. Sure, he had made small dips into it, but none like this. Everything that had gone wrong in his life was because of this maniac, and now, Nightwing was fighting the Joker's twisted dark self and screaming. He dived in head first and everything turned red.

    Red Hood summoned an All Blade to his hand and blocked the next swing of the crowbar. Twisting, he sent the metal flying off the walkway, spiraling to the street below. Moving faster than should be humanly possible, he flicked his Blade into Joker's shoulder and dropped it, leaving it stuck in him like a pin cushion. He summoned his second sword and did the same to the clown's other shoulder. At the same time, he squeezed his trigger four times, sending two rounds into each of the Joker's legs. Finally, with the clown pinned to the dome behind him, he pulled his knife.

    He pulled back his arm to deliver the killing blow.

    Joker was laughing manically, his insane bloodshot eyes driving Jason's anger to an even higher peak. Inside his mind, a fierce battle was raging. His heart asked if killing the man was going to make all the hate and rage and pain go away, or make it worse. The darker side of him was crying for blood. It only took a split second before the all consuming rage won out. With a savage cry Jason swung his knife forward.

    “No don't!”

    Out of all his allies, Jason didn't expect to hear Riku. But he ignored the boy, his rage focused on the glinting knife already falling towards the madman's heart. Suddenly something rammed into him sending Jason skidding across the wet cement. He let out an angry growl and jumped up, spinning to attack the Heartless who had managed to catch him off guard.

    It wasn't a Heartless.

    Riku was standing in front of the Joker, turned to face Jason while his Keyblade glinted wickedly in the moonlight. He was panting hard and shaking, scratches and bruises covering the majority of his exposed skin. But Jason couldn't bring himself to care about that. He didn't care about anything. All he wanted was to kill that clown once in for all. For it to be finished here and now. He jerked his knife in front of him, pointing it at his friend.

    “Move.” He ordered savagely.

    Riku frowned, his teal eyes flashing wary defiance. He lifted his Keyblade into a defensive position. The Joker laughing manically beside him all the while.

    “Hood.” He said slowly. “Look at yourself.”

    Outrage burned through Jason. He was wasting valuable time. That madman could be dead by now. And Jason was ready to kill him. He needed to kill him.

    Red Hood stepped forward, glaring at Riku through his mask. “Last chance Riku. Get out of my way.”

    His voice slightly trembling, Riku gave a quick glance over at the Joker before saying. “Look at your hands Hood.” He tried to make the statement come out as a command but it sounded more like he was pleading.

    Clenching his knife in a death grip, Jason grudgingly looked down at his hand and froze. Threads of darkness were twisting around him, winding their way through his armour and, now that he was paying attention, in and out of his skin. They then floated into the air like wisps of vapour before being drawn back to surround him again. “What- Darkness?” He stuttered.

    “Not your darkness.” Riku corrected as lightning flashed in the dark sky above. “But your hate and rage is attracting it. Don't you feel it? Can't you see? You're losing control. You're letting the darkness win.”

    Jason's surprise immediately turned back to a title wave of rage. “It doesn't matter. As long as I can kill him.” He spat, his eyes burning suspiciously. “Who cares what I become as long as he's not around to ruin any more innocent lives?!”

    Riku met Jason's eye, then turned to face the Joker. “Then do yourself a favour and take a good look at the man you want to kill so badly.”

    Complying readily, Jason whirled around and glared at the madman, laughing as if this entire scene was just a huge hilarious joke. As if the pain he caused others was nothing more then a game. And of course, it was for him. Joker was just that sick and sadistic. Suddenly Jason's eyes widened as he began to comprehend what Riku wanted him to see. Dark threads were twisting off Joker's body in the same way they were twisting off him.

    He stumbled back as though he had been hit with a sledge hammer, the realization shaking him to his core. He wasn't bringing closure to his past by killing the Joker. He was becoming him. He was letting his own dark thoughts guide his actions, believing that he would be satisfied as long as he walked in darkness. That thought seemed to finally snap his fatigued brain out of its rage and his body got through to him. He slumped to the ground shaking.

    Riku sighed in relief. The hate emanating off Jason was dissipating at last. When he had felt the pure evil coming from Jason he hadn't been sure that he could stop his friend from being consumed by darkness. But in the end he had managed. Who knew his own experiences would end up saving someone else?

    Jason glanced up at Riku, his eyes grateful, before a look of utter terror washed over him. “Riku look-!”

    Too late, Riku turned around in time to see Joker's Heartless inches from him, his body only registering the pain when he was already on the ground, his Keyblade falling beside him uselessly.

    “No!” Jason yelled, already on his feet again, all notions of rest forgotten as his dissipating rage turned to a different, more pure form of anger. He took in the scene in less then a second. Riku writhing on the ground from an unknown wound, the Heartless responsible standing above the boy. It's glowing yellow eyes were locked on him, but he managed to look away, searching for any weapons the Heartless might have. His breath caught in his chest. Sora was in the monster's left hand, its fingers wrapped around his neck. He was kicking and twisting savagely, but his Keyblade was nowhere to be seen, his hands more preoccupied with trying to loosen the iron grip around his throat. Somewhere in the recesses of Jason's mind, he wondered where Nightwing was. If his brother was okay. But his main focus had to be freeing Sora and getting that Heartless away from his two friends.

    Putting on a burst of speed, Jason gathered himself when he was a few feet from his new enemy and jumped to the side, his battered nerves screaming in protest all the while. He landed sideways on the wall next to a hysterically laughing Joker, clenching his free hand around his sword hilt and drawing it out of its resting place with the force of pushing off the wall again. The move worked well as the Heartless hadn't expected it. The creature was just turning to face him as he launched himself at it, swinging the All Blade in a wide arc while stabbing his knife at its left arm. The sword missed as the Heartless ducked, but the knife found its mark. It sank satisfyingly deep into the monster's flesh. It laughed at the pain. As Jason had hoped, it dropped Sora. The knife had stopped Jason's frontal assault long enough for him to be in the air for a second before he could find his feet. Unfortunately the Heartless was good enough to use that to its advantage. Even as it stumbled back and Jason let go of his knife, it reached out its hand and grabbed him. Electricity coursed through his body and stars flashed in front of his eyes. Without really knowing what he was doing he thrust his arm out of the Heartless's grasp and stumbled backwards, instinctively raising his Blade for defense. He blinked the light out of his eyes just in time to see it charging once again. He dived right, somersaulting and coming up to swing his sword at its legs as it passed him by. The attack had only managed to graze it, but it was enough to make his enemy stumble. While it righted itself he charged in, but had to twist to the left to avoid another jolt of electricity. The two then circled each other, tension hanging in the air like a heatwave. Jason had to defeat this thing and find his brother. He had to check on his friends. But first things first. Killing Joke(r) might not be acceptable, but killing a Heartless was another deal entirety.

    ~*~​

    Kairi was having a surprisingly good time as she weaved in and out of Heartless, dodging attack patterns and cutting monsters down with her Keyblade. She had never been in a fight like this one before. Apparently injuries had the added benefit of adrenaline. She hadn't even managed to Cure her arm yet, but the pain was little more then a irritation in the back of her mind as she steadily progressed around the army of Heartless. She didn't know where Riku had gone. He had vanished a few seconds ago yelling something about Jason. She hadn't heard him properly, but she knew his absence meant she was left to fight the Heartless on her own. Yes, she should probably be scared, and yes, there were a lot more of them then there were of her, and yes, she didn't have anyone for back up if something else went wrong; But despite everything, Kairi was having the time of her life. She had fallen into a sort of rhythm, weaving in and out of enemies fluidly, while relying on instincts to attack instead of coherent decisions. She felt rather then saw the danger behind her back and rolled out of the way just in time to avoid a strike from a Cymbal Monkey. Springing to her feet, she waved her Keyblade in a wide circle, knocking a dozen Heartless off their feet. She grinned at her own strength. She was definitely getting better at this.

    That is, until she was plucked off the ground and into the air by the giant hand of an Invisible. The thing had her by the back of her shirt, and with a mighty swing of its powerful arm, flung her across the roof top. She felt herself crashing through at least a dozen Heartless before landing roughly on the hard ground. Her brain told her she didn't have time to be winded, so despite the new trouble breathing, she forced her sore muscles to spring her to her feet. Eyes immediately locking on the wall of Heartless charging her, she took a step forward to meet them before hearing something that made her freeze. Another shout of pain! Was that Dick?

    Kairi dived between the two Rabid Dogs approaching her and dispersed them with a single slash from her blade. Instead of running forward however she veered to the side, towards Dick's voice. Sure enough, after cutting down a monkey and smacking around an Invisible for half a minute she found her friend. Dick was lying on the ground in pain and obviously very agitated. Despite a heavily bleeding arm and what looked like a serious head injury, he was trying to push himself up, dazed but determined all the same. His eyes flashed when she knelt down next to him. The Heartless were almost caught up to her. It was a miracle they hadn't attacked Dick while he was down. The two didn't have much time.

    “S-Sora” Dick said, his disoriented voiced laced with panic. “Kairi we need to go help him now.”

    Kairi felt her veins turn to ice. She had told Sora to go help Nightwing who had been fighting Joker's Heartless, and now neither him or the Heartless were anywhere to be seen. Of course that honestly wasn't saying much seeing as all she really could see was a thick black wall of enemies encircling her and Dick. Where were they all coming from? Suddenly the pain in her arm became much more apparent to her and she flinched. “Where is he Nightwing?”

    “I, I don't know. The Heartless got a lucky hit. I think I passed out for a little bit. Don't know how long. But when I came to they were both gone.”

    Swallowing down her panic, Kairi lifted her Keyblade and conjured up all the magic she had regained from fighting. Thankfully it was a pretty good amount since she had been having such an awesome streak the past few minutes. “Heal!”

    She wrapped an arm around Dick and helped him to his feet even as the verdant green light danced around them, healing their injuries. A Rabid Dog charged at them and Nightwing lashed out at it, effectively electrocuting it into darkness. Already his eyes were clearing; he blinked a few times, letting the magic do its work. Her arm was starting to feel better too, the bleeding slowing down significantly. The magic stopped before she really wanted it to, but she had to use her Keyblade to fight anyway. The Heartless pounced.

    Dick kicked at a monkey and then used the momentum to twirl around, bringing his escrima sticks up to meet an Invisible's sword. Kairi, meanwhile, was dealing with a pack of Rabid Dogs. She had read somewhere that the difficulty with theses enemies was that they often hunted in packs. She was finding that to be true. As she twisted out of the way of the first one, three more came to meet her, biting and snapping at her arms and legs. She sliced through one, kicked another, and ducked to avoid the jaws of a third. An Invisible appeared beside her and she jumped to avoid its low sword swing. A Rabid Dog caught her in mid air, biting her left arm. Great. Now both of them were injured. Either way she merely gritted her teeth and jabbed the dog. It didn't release its bite until it disintegrated. Seeing a break in the Invisible's attacks, she swung at the monster's legs. To her relief it stumbled backwards. She lunged at it, but her aim was off. Stupid injured arm. As it was, she barely managed to avoid its retaliatory jab. Suddenly she felt herself pressing up to something and turned to see she was back to back with Nightwing. The crime fighter was swinging his weapons ferociously, taking on several enemies at once. Kairi always preferred to focus on one enemy at a time. Trying to take on all of them meant she wouldn't be able to defeat any of them quickly.

    “I can't see Sora or the Heartless anywhere!” She panted.

    “Neither can I.” Nightwng agreed. “One sec.”

    With an enormous effort Nightwing swung both his escrima sticks and batted his nearby opponents away, then launched himself into the air with the unmistakable speed and grace of an acrobat. Landing on an Invisible's head and using it as another boost to jump high into the air, he got a good view of the battle field. The next moment Kairi's attention was demanded by shock waves of sound making her once again fall to her knees. This time she was ready though. She flung her Keyblade in the direction of the sound. The pain in her head immediately stopped and despite the throbbing headache, she grinned as she summoned the blade back to her hand.

    Kairi was just stumbling to her feet when she felt her wrist being grasped by an unknown something. She yanked back before noticing the hand belonged to Nightwing. He gave her a grim sort of look that told Kairi he had found the others before pulling her roughly into the crowd of Heartless. She ran with him, slashing enemies determinedly all the while.

    ~*~​

    Sora coughed and took huge shuttering breaths as he laid on the ground. He had been close to blacking out when that stupid Heartless had dropped him. He wasn't entirely sure, but he thought he saw the distinctive gleam of Red Hood's swords before he was released. He relished in the huge lungfuls of oxygen he was able to take in. When he had finally caught his breath and his vision ceased being a blurry blob of colours, he quickly pushed himself up, blinking the black spots out of his eyes. He could hear fighting, but in his dazed mind it sounded fuzzy and a long way off. He gazed around, taking stock of his surroundings and saw...

    “Riku!”

    ~*~​

    Jason heard Sora's cry, but he couldn't spare the time to turn and look. This stupid Heartless had grown six tail things with swords on the tips and blocking them was harder than it should have been. He pulled his gun and shot one of them close to the base, severing it and three others. It would regrow, it had before, but for now, he had a little breathing room. And he intended to use it.

    Carefully maneuvering himself around the remaining tails, he leapt up a wall, using gravity and the force of his own jump to bury his Blades hilt-deep in the Heartless's thick hide. Kicking off, he pulled the Blades out again, grinning at the thing's distorted howl of pain.

    And let out his own startled gasp when he landed. The landing had torn a few stitches in his legs. The Heartless swept a claw towards him and he dived backwards, slightly slower than usual. This was going to be a problem.

    No time to worry about it though. He dodged beneath another swing, wincing as another two stitched popped. Throwing out a stream of curses in his mind, he fired off four quick shots, each one hitting the Joker-Heartless in the exact center of his forehead. In retaliation, the Heartless sent a claw forward. Jason dodged that one.

    But not the one that came up from beneath him.

    Twisting, he managed to avoid the worst of the damage. But one of his shoulders was useless now, and he had a hole in his side. Luckily, none in his organs though. That was good.

    This was going no where. He had to finish it now, before the Heartless could do any more damage.

    Sheathing his gun and allowing his All Blade to vanish, he leapt at the dark Joker's shoulder, where his knife was still conveniently located. Grasping the handle, he used his momentum to pull the blade down and across the Heartless's back. Dark smoke poured from the injury and the thing howled. It collapsed, falling backwards onto Jason.

    That was easier than he'd thought it would be.

    Hands grabbed at the Heartless above him, lifting it enough for him to crawl out. Dick and Kairi. They were ok. He allowed a small smile to cross his features before turning to Sora and Riku.

    Sora was kneeling by his friend's side, but it didn't sound too good. There was a fairly large hole in his chest and by the sound of his breathing, it had punctured a lung. Combined with looked like a fairly large acid burn running down his back.

    Sora didn't seem too good either. “I'm trying, but it's resisting the magic! I've never seen this before. What do I...?” He ran a hand through his hair, clearly on the verge of panic.

    “Calm down.” Dick ordered. “Can you close the hole a little? Just enough to cover up the lung? Everything else can be healed later.” But Sora shook his head. “Well. That's unfortunate. Jason, do we have anything we can use to cover this?”

    He pretty much turned out every pocket, but all he came up with was his driver's license. He did find some extra tape, gauze and disinfectant though. “Just this.”

    Dick looked at it, then raised an eyebrow at Jason, who shrugged. He grabbed the square of plastic, poured disinfectant onto some gauze and wiped it down before placing it over the hole in Riku's chest and taping it down. And Jason could immediately hear the difference. What had been breathless, broken gasps a moment ago settled into something more even. “That should hold, but we should really find the Keyhole soon. Sooner we get this done, the sooner we can get him to a hospital. A driver's license is no substitute for proper medical care. Now, let's have a look at that burn.”

    Jason let his mind wander. As much as he hated to admit it, Dick had been in much better contact over the years with Batman, and therefore, Alfred. He knew his stuff. Jason knew enough to stitch his own wounds and set bones, but this kind of thing was more delicate. So, he spent his time patching his own injuries and inspecting the others.

    Dick was busy being focused on his work. Eyebrows furrowed, masked eyes only leaving Riku to grab the disinfectant or some more gauze. Sora was a nervous wreck. He was still kneeling beside Riku, and Jason could tell by the way his mouth was moving that he was still trying to cure him, despite being out of magic. Kairi wasn't looking too good either. She was crouching, her arms wrapped around her knees, fingers tapping. She was pale and-

    A blade launched itself forward, spearing Kairi in the shoulder and pinning her to the wall next to Joker. Jason barely had time to turn, seeing the Heartless he was positive he had killed morphing into something else, before Sora shouted. And Jason saw Dick disappear, then felt himself get boosted into pure energy. And then noth-.
     
  12. Loxare Hollow Bastion Committee

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2009
    Gender:
    No
    Location:
    Flower Field
    904
    659
    Hey all! Shorter chapter today, but it kind of makes sense. The entire chapter takes place within about five minutes, so...

    Fun fact: Second last chapter here. After this is Chapter 35 and then the Epilogue. Yup. The Door to Gotham Hearts will be forever closed.

    Oh well. Read and enjoy!


    Sora's world stopped. Riku was laying on the ground, probably dying, and Sora couldn't help him. At all. And then Joker's Heartless started shifting into a second form and hit Kairi and everything was going wrong all at once. He cried out in anguish, but that quickly turned into a cry of vengeance. That thing would regret hurting his friends.

    He didn't notice Dick and Jason vanishing. He did, however, notice the rush of power hitting him like a brick to the face. It felt similar to his Drives – the sudden burst of strength, the feeling of invincibility, the boost to his magic – but different enough that he knew he'd never been in this Form before. It felt similar to Final Form – he even had two Keyblades – but darker, like it had been meshed with Anti-Form. The Keyblades were very similar to each other, with pure black shafts and handles, and a gold guard. The difference came in the blades. One was blue and similar in shape to the blue bird on Nightwing's chest. The other was red, just like Red Hood's bat... symbol...

    Oh.

    Oh.

    A quick glance around confirmed it. He'd accidentally gone into Drive mode and his friends had somehow affected it enough to give him a new Form. His clothes were almost exactly the same, mostly black, but now his shirt had a blue bird on it and his jacket was brown.

    He stopped himself before he could waste anymore time. He hadn't meant to, but he was in Drive now, and those were limited. He couldn't waste it.

    He took one last look at Riku and Kairi, promising them that he would get this done soon so they could get proper medical attention, then hefted his Keyblades and charged.

    Pure energy. That was all Sora felt as he bolted towards the Heartless and broke through its defenses with a series of wicked fast slashes. As soon as his enemy was vulnerable, he thrust his Keyblades down, aiming for the Heartless's shoulders. It stretched out its hands with amazingly quick reflexes and caught his swords. Sora had to push off its chest, flipping up and tearing his weapons out of the creature's grasp. It hissed and lunged at him again. Summoning the energy within him, Sora willed himself to stay airborne for a few more seconds so he wouldn't fall right into the Heartless's path. It stretched out a hand, ready to electrify him, and Sora chose that moment to perform a complicated aerial maneuver, slashing the Heartless's chest and using the force to dodge left past the oncoming attack. As he fell, he turned in mid air as to keep locked on to it. As soon as his foot touched the ground, he launched at it again.

    The Heartless's new form was definitely posing more of a threat, which was troublesome seeing as it had managed to catch Sora off guard in its previous state. He had to abandon his frontal assault and flip backwards as it shot blades from the tips of jet black wings it now sported from its back. The creature also had razor sharp teeth that complemented its wicked smile. Three whip like tails slashed through the air in front of and behind it, acting as both an iron defense and a barrier. Sora studied the new form, wanting to find an opening again but unsure of the most effective way. Suddenly he didn't have time to contemplate anymore as it lunged forward, electricity crackling around its fingers. Sora jumped and flipped right over its back, but not before being slashed by one of the monsters tails. He skidded to a stop behind it and whirled around, throwing his red Keyblade at its exposed back. It connected and the creature let out a low giggly growl before turning and charging him again. He had to re-summon his second Keyblade to block the new assault of knives the creature was launching at him. He slashed them out of the air, amazed at his new reflexes. He wasn't even grazed. Then he thrust his blue Keyblade up to block a strike from one of the Heartless's tails. It lifted its wings, the tips of which were glowing, suggesting another dagger attack, as it meanwhile lashed out with its other two tails. Instinctively Sora sprang forward and caught onto one of the tails, using what had to be Dick's acrobatics to flip up and land on the Heartless's shoulders. He started attacking its head with everything he had, landing hit after hit, and though he was sure he had dealt a great deal of damage, the creature shook him off before he could finish it. Sora rolled forward as he hit the ground, and came to his feet just in time to see the Heartless launching itself into the air. He was just about to follow when something hit him. Hard.

    Pain blazed across his back and he fell to his knees, his mind immediately thrust into a confused daze. He managed to shake his head and jump to his feet, stumbling forward as he attempted to avoid blacking out. Luckily he was able to grasp the situation pretty quickly despite the new agonizing injury. An Invisible stood behind him, it's sword poised for another attack. How had he forgotten about the other Heartless? He slashed his red blade across its chest, the power behind the strike vaporizing it in seconds. But there were dozens more closing in. Okay, Sora thought. Air battle it is.

    This new form, whatever is was called, couldn't fly. He knew that. But that didn't mean it couldn't hold its own in mid air. He launched into the sky where Joker's Heartless flew, waiting for him, as he left the swarms of Heartless below. Blades shot forward to intercept his midair leap, but it had to be Jason's well trained eyes that gave him the power to strike aside the projectiles. Knives went spinning to the ground, gleaming in the pale moonlight as Sora got close enough to jab his Keyblade into the Heartless's left calf. It howled a crazy laugh as tails once again whipped around him. Having only one Keyblade free to defend himself, Sora took the brunt of the attack, concentrating on swinging upwards to grasp onto the monster's back. Trying to get a good grip on the Heartless was, of course, nearly impossible. Its skin was oily and smooth, so instead of trying to grab onto a shoulder, Sora stabbed his other Keyblade into the thing's lower back so he could keep climbing it. Just in time too, for at that moment it decided to take advantage of its new powerful wings. It plunged downwards, and Sora felt a sudden wave of nauseousness as it pulled out of the dive with milliseconds to spare, twirling in dizzying circles as it lifted the two of them higher and higher into the dark chilly air like a tornado. It was a good thing Sora wasn't afraid of heights. They were easily six stories above the tower now.

    When the Heartless's wings finally settled into a more rhythmic beat and the world stopped spinning, Sora could finally summon his second Keyblade into his free hand. The creature might not have been able to shake off his death-grip, but its tails were still dancing furiously around him, striking at his back again and again. He slashed at them until he had some breathing space, then once again gathered himself and grabbed the Heartless's wing joint, spinning himself until he was sitting directly atop the great appendage as it worked to keep them air born. He would never have been able to sustain his balance without this new form as the wing rose up and down, each time threatening to dislodge him. The Heartless tried to lash at him with its arms and tails, but he was sitting in just the right place so that it was unable to reach him with either. If this Heartless was going by a pattern which Sora guessed it was, that meant he didn't have much time before it tried to buck him off again, his sense of urgency spiked.

    Grasping both Keyblades tightly, Sora leapt up until he was a few feet above the thing's head. He gave himself a second to breathe, summoning the energy from his friends, then attacked, giving everything he had into the next flurry of strikes. His Keyblades ripped through the air, landing devastating hits that knocked the Heartless back, even in mid air. It kept flinching so he kept striking, using the momentum to push his attack further and further. A knife came flying at him and he flipped sideways, smacking the Heartless's neck as he went. Its hand swiped at his leg, but he was moving too fast, gracefully sliding through the air while dealing devastating blows to his opponent. He could tell the thing was on its last legs when his luck finally ran out. He felt the monster's cold, smooth fingers grab at his shirt and immediately a current of electricity ran through him.

    Sora's attacks abruptly stopped as white hot pain overloaded his thoughts. The world went dark, fading in and out as he willed his eyes to stay open. After what seemed like an eternity, he was able to blink the world into focus, and watched transfixed as he became aware he was falling while dozens of knives rained down upon him. He knew blocking was no use. His whole body was either pulsing with pain or completely numb. Suddenly his arms lifted of their own accord, as if drawn to the hail of metal and the giant Heartless now flying down towards him. Panic overtook Sora's thoughts as he watched the scene unfold. Then suddenly, his Keyblades began to glow, and without knowing what he was doing, Sora shot beads of swirling red and blue light from their tips. They were like abnormally large bullets as they flew skywards to intercept some of the knives directly in front of them, but their main target was clear. A cascade of light and dark bullets were on a direct collision course with the Heartless diving towards him. Even as Sora felt the knives that the bullets were unable to stop grazing him, he watched, mesmerized as the monster reeled back before being smacked point blank in the chest by the projectiles. Summoning them had happened in the span of about three seconds, and the Heartless was taken completely off guard as it froze, curled in on itself, and exploded into a cascade of darkness.

    And Sora was falling. Falling...Falling. His consciousness slipped away as he stared at the wave of darkness, blotting out the moon and falling through the sky to meet him.
     
  13. Loxare Hollow Bastion Committee

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2009
    Gender:
    No
    Location:
    Flower Field
    904
    659
    Last chapter! Hooray! After this, there's an Epilogue and then Gotham Hearts is over and I won't bother you with horrible violence ever again. No promises.

    Wind was whistling in his ears and he knew he was falling. He'd jumped off of enough buildings to know the feeling. Cracking his eyes open, Dick took stock of where he was. Falling from Wayne Tower, but too far away to have jumped off. They were just passing the 75th, 74th, 73rd floor. And beside him was Jason, who was just waking up, and Sora, who was solidly out cold. Angling his body, he smacked Jason on the shoulder a few times, making sure he was fully awake (“Back off Dick, I'm up!”), then headed over to Sora.

    Grab around waist, pull grapple, double check the strongest cable is in, aim, fire. The hook flew and embedded itself in one of the gargoyles protruding from the building. The slightly elastic nature of the cord kept Dick's arm from being ripped off, but with his and Sora's combined weigh, along with the speed of their fall, it did get dislocated. Gritting his teeth, he hit retract.

    Jason alighted first, on the next gargoyle over. He raced over to help pull them up, something Dick couldn't do with his arm like this. Well, he probably could, but the risk of either dropping Sora or falling would be a lot higher.

    “Alright Dickie-Bird, let's get this set.” One sickening pull later, Dick's shoulder was back in place and throbbing. Jason continued, “Alright. We need to get back up there. I'll carry Sora this time.”

    Dick nodded. Clearly, the question of how they had ended up falling would have to wait until they weren't standing on a century old gargoyle. “See you at the top Little Wing!”

    “Is that a challenge?”

    “Always.” Gripping the grapple in his less-injured left hand, he shot upwards, Jason and Sora close behind.

    The first thing he did when reaching the top was check on Joker. If he had gotten loose, there wasn't much point in looking for Riku and Kairi. A morbid thought, but then again, he had been hanging around Jason for the past... he didn't even know how long anymore. There hadn't been a proper day and night cycle since they had landed in Traverse Town. Oh well. Not the strangest thing he'd seen. It would just make his report highly inaccurate.

    Joker, luckily, was still pinned to the wall, giggling about butterflies and copper piping. Dick stuck a tranq dart in his neck. And just around the bend of the roof, right where Dick had seen them last, were Kairi and Riku. He still wasn't doing too good, but Kairi was up. She had a hole in her shoulder that was hastily bandaged with what looked like strips from her cloak, but she was moving and she was trying to tend Riku.

    “Hey Kairi.” Kneeling down next to the girl, he checked Riku's wound. It still had the driver's license taped on it, and Riku was breathing mostly normally. A bit liquid sounding though. They'd better get him to a doctor before he got any worse. “Alright. We probably shouldn't move him, but leaving him up here with the Joker is probably more fatal. They're doing some renovation downstairs. Grab me two six foot two-by-fours, two one foot ones, and a bit of canvas or plastic sheeting. And a hammer and a bunch of nails. The more the better.”

    She nodded and dashed off. While she was gone, Jason arrived and carefully leaned Sora on the dome. Five minutes later, she arrived with all the supplies and, after a moment of fussing over Sora, declaring that he was being a “lazy butt”, started helping with the construction. Five minutes and four bruised fingers later (how Dick could throw a batarang with pin point accuracy but couldn't aim a hammer was beyond him), they had a makeshift stretcher, which they loaded Riku onto. It ended up being Kairi and Dick carrying it because Kairi couldn't carry Sora's weight and Dick still couldn't hold much on his shoulder.

    Finally, after much hassle and near spills – by the end of which Dick was convinced stairs were the devil – they ended up in Bruce's office, with the object of their hardships in sight.

    Jason stalked up to the pitcher of water sitting on a side desk, lifted it, and dumped it over Sora's head.

    The teen woke up sputtering. “Who- wha-” Finally focusing on Jason, he pouted. “Why did you do that?” Dick set Riku down on Bruce's desk before allowing himself to laugh. Bruce wouldn't mind. And it definitely wouldn't be the first time someone had been bleeding on the thing.

    “You're the expert on Keyhole finding. And you're useless in that capacity when you're napping.” Dick said, matter-of-factly.

    “I wasn't napping,” he said, contradicting it immediately by rubbing his eye. “I was drained. Drive takes a lot out of me.”

    “Drive?” They probably had a moment or two for Dick to indulge his curiosity.

    “Drive mode. It uses my bond with my friends to give me a massive power boost, a skill or two, other stuff. I kind of... used it accidentally after Kairi got stabbed. I beat the Joker's Heartless with it though.” He was looking up at them like using Drive without asking was some big deal. Dick didn't see it. Then again, being turned into energy to fuel someone else's attacks wasn't the weirdest thing that had happened to him.

    Jason seemed to have the same thought. “Kid, you know that conversation we had the day we met, the one on the rooftop?” Dick did. He'd been eavesdropping through the comms... “I've seen everything. Now calm down and let's get this Keyhole sorted.”

    Sora visibly brightened and started looking through the room. “Usually, we just run into the things, but they're normally in incredibly important places to the world. They give off a type of darkness that Heartless are attracted to, so finding Joker here is another good sign.”

    Dick sighed. “It's a big building though. And I really don't think we should move Riku any more. Me and Sora are least injured, so we'll go looking for it?” Jason made a noise of protest, which Dick cut off. “Don't even think about it Jay. Not even going into your shoulder and side,” which weren't bleeding anymore, but still looked pretty bad, “I saw you fight. Your legs are still hurt, aren't they?”

    Grumbling, Jason said, “Yes. They reopened during the fight with Joker.”

    That was a lie. Dick could see thread peeking out from a hole in his pants, and he wouldn't have had time to stitch himself up between now and then. Hm. Maybe not a complete lie. His leg was bleeding in a few places. Had he popped his stitches? That could wait though. “Great. So you're staying here and me and Sora will go looking for the Keyhole.” As he walked past, he clapped a hand on Jason's shoulder. “Keep them safe little brother.”

    “Course Dickie. Now get gone before I shoot you and take your spot.”

    Chuckling lightly, Dick followed Sora out of the room. “So, what does a Keyhole look like anyways?”

    “Like any keyhole I guess. Black, glowing a bit.”

    “Wait. Really? I've seen one of those.” At Sora's incredulous expression, he explained. “Yeah, back during my fight with Dark Joker. I thought it was another Heartless, but it didn't attack so I forgot about it.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Oops?”

    That got a laugh out of Sora. “It's cool. Now we know where to find it!”

    Once they got up to the roof, just as a precaution, Dick hit Joker with another tranq dart, then pulled Sora to where he had seen the Keyhole. High in the air and stuck to the back of the spire, it was pretty much invisible. Still, a fitting place. It was at the height of Wayne Enterprises, the building every eye turned to when entering Gotham, the most prominent building on the skyline. Really, Dick had only seen it because Joker's Heartless had thrown him.

    “So, how does this work with worlds that have already fallen to darkness?” As far as Dick could tell from all the stories the Keyblade Wielders had told him, locking the Keyhole would only keep Heartless from going in. Saving a world that was already lost... A bit trickier.

    “Well, normally, we'd go inside of it and defeat all the Heartless. But Master Yen Sid made this!” Reaching into his cloak, he pulled out a sphere, about the size of an apple and glowing slightly, as well as a slip of paper with “Instructions” written on it in flowing script. “It's pure light. He said it would 'eradicate all Heartless within an enclosed area'. He gave it to me while you and Jason were making breakfast.”

    “And we didn't use it before because...?”

    “It takes a ridiculous amount of magic. He started making this one over a decade ago. It's not his only one, but he'd like to save them as much as possible.” He gave the instructions one last going over, then summoned his Keyblade. Sticking the ball of light on the tip, he hoisted it and pointed it straight at the Keyhole. “Might want to close your eyes.”

    The warning came a second late. The sphere floated up a bit, then a beam of light coming from the Keyblade pierced it and ended at the Keyhole, glowing so brightly that Dick feared for his retinas. His eyes snapped shut, the harsh white light turning into the much dimmer red of his eyelids.

    “You can look now. I don't think you'll want to miss this.”

    He did so, looking out on Gotham. For a minute, nothing changed. Black stones, black lights, black sky. Then, suddenly, the darkness stared dissipating, beginning at Wayne Tower and spreading out. Small lights appeared on the streets which eventually became the people of Gotham, going about their business as if nothing had changed. The sky brightened in increments, still a nighttime black, but one lit with stars and light pollution. It was Gotham. Dirty, grimy, horrible Gotham. And Dick wouldn't change it for the world.

    Well, not completely true. He did want to get rid of the crime and make it a better place to live for all the people who lived here, but now he was getting off track and should probably listen to what Sora was saying.

    “All the people who lost their hearts to the Heartless will be back too. And unless they were directly involved with the events, they probably won't remember anything. It's all back to how it was.”

    Sora allowed himself one more glance at the newly restored city, only now fully appreciating that all the hardships they had been through had amounted to something so amazing, before turning on his heel and hurrying back to the roof entrance. Riku was seriously hurt. Even a world's heart being restored, along with all the hearts in it, wasn't enough to distract him from the dire situation of his best friend. Dick was right behind him as he swung open the door and bolted down the stairs three at a time.

    “Sora, wait!” Dick suddenly called out from behind him. “You're bleeding.”

    A slight wave of irritation shot through Sora at being delayed. Of course he was bleeding, he had been in the path of multiple razor sharp daggers right before blacking out, but none of the cuts had been too bad. Granted, he hadn't had time to really look himself over. He called back to his friend without slowing his pace. “It's fine Nightwing, just a few scratches. I'll cure them once Riku's better. Do you know where we can take him to get help?”

    The slight pause that followed told Sora Dick didn't want to switch topics, but to his great relief, Nightwing seemed to except that Riku was in the more immediate danger and answered. “Yeah, paramedics are gonna be his best bet. If Hoodie didn't get his head knocked around too bad in that last fight he probably already called them.”

    They were running past offices now, except that the large rooms were now occupied with important looking men and women going about their usual business as if it were any other ordinary day. As if their hearts hadn't just been sleeping in darkness. A few heads turned to look at the blurry figures streaking past, but by the time they had blinked to clarify what they had seen, there was nothing there. Luckily the upper levels of Wayne Enterprises were reasonably isolated, and the recent construction helped even more in reducing the number of people using the office space.

    Skidding to a halt in front of the door, Sora burst into the room, causing Kairi and Jason to look over at them quickly. A first aid kit lay open on the floor between them and Jason was helping Kairi to bandage her shoulder while she held a cloth to Riku's bleeding chest. Jason was just finishing tying off the bandage and limped over to them, ignoring the first aid kit, despite the obvious attention his leg, shoulder and side needed. Riku was still lying on Bruce's desk, his eyes half closed as he took what had become laboured breaths.

    “Please tell me you called an ambulance.” Dick said, looking pleadingly at Jason who raised an eye brow.

    “Course I did. I'm really not as heartless as you all think.” Then his expression melted into something more serious. “He's getting worse fast Dick.”

    Nightwing nodded, walking quickly over to Riku's side and stopping next to Sora who was looking extremely uncomfortable with the whole situation and slightly panicked. Nervously, the boy looked down at Riku, then over at Kairi. “Can't you just heal that?” He asked, nodding at her now fully bandaged arm.

    She shrugged, regretting it immediately with a wince. “I tried. But it wouldn't heal. Tried Riku again too, but no luck.” She bit her lip and looked over at him. “Maybe we've healed one to many times or something. Or the darkness that was so close to the world's heart corrupted our magic somehow. I don't know.” She shook her head desperately.

    “I think the problem is in all the wounds inflicted by Joker. They're the only ones that won't heal.” Dick said darkly. “Maybe his darkness has a special kind of power that corrupted any kind of light magic.”

    The room then lapsed into thoughtful silence.

    Calming down slightly in the resounding silence, Sora took the time to inspect the skin on his arms for injuries. He supposed it wasn't surprising when he found a few deep cuts. He hadn't even felt them with how distracted he'd been. But the majority of his body was quickly starting to ache and throb. He looked over at Kairi, then summoned the Kingdom Key and raised it. “Cure!”

    The spell sparkled around him, conjugating close to his cuts and bruises, especially a rather deep one on his back he hadn't noticed. That must have been what Dick was worried about. But in front of all of their eyes, the magic simply shimmered for a few seconds before fading, leaving his injuries raw and painful.

    There was a pause as they all took in the ineffectiveness of the magic that had probably saved all their lives by this point, before Jason stood up, breaking the silence. “Well, no use crying over it.” He said, roughly putting a hand on Sora's shoulder. “You magic users will just have to learn to deal with doctors for a change.” Despite the circumstances, he grinned. “If you're good Sora, you might even get a lollipop.”

    There was a weak laugh as Riku – apparently conscious enough to follow the conversation – turned to grin at Sora, who frowned at Jason. “You do know I'm sixteen right?” Sora growled.

    Dick joined in, giving a very exaggerated gasp. “What? You're such a shorty I thought you were ten!”

    Sora rounded on him indignantly before a wave of laughter burst through the room, stopping him in his tracks.

    “Guuuys.”Sora said irritably, his face slightly red. But he was smiling all the same.

    Still chuckling, Dick walked over to a door on the left, and rummaged through its contents for a few seconds before pulling out what were unmistakably a few pairs of clothes. He held them up for all to see. “Alright kiddies, we better get changed and come up with a good plan to tell the paramedics. I vote for Riku's injuries being a result of ignoring the rules and playing around with the construction equipment.”

    Even through his painful gasps, the teen still managed to give Nightwing a death glare Batman would be proud of.

    As it was, the next few minutes were hectic as everyone rushed to the bathrooms across the hall to slip on t-shirts and jeans, before coming back and hastily cooking up a plan in which Riku had ignored the many labels posted around the labs to sneak into one of them before tripping and injured himself. They hoped this would at least justify the ugly burn running across his back. The final plan had just been decided on when the paramedics arrived with a stretcher, quickly setting to work on properly treating Riku's wounds. They began checking his vitals and giving him oxygen, lifting him onto the stretcher and wheeling him away quickly. As they left, the previously busy atmosphere of the room fell strangely quiet and still. The remaining four looked at each other before Dick hurried over and dug some keys our of one of the desk drawers.

    Jason looked up hopefully. “Can I dri-”

    “No.”

    “Oh, come on Dickie you're such a slow-”

    “No!”
     
  14. Loxare Hollow Bastion Committee

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2009
    Gender:
    No
    Location:
    Flower Field
    904
    659
    Hello and goodbye! Yup, this is the last little bit. Thank you for reading up until this point! This was a massive fic and I hope you had as much fun reading it as Arrow and I did writing it.

    And without further ado, the Epilogue.


    Bruce didn't know where he was. He didn't like that. He couldn't remember what had happened to him. He didn't like that even more. Slowly, he opened his eyes, years of crime fighting putting his nerves on edge for what would follow. To his surprise however, he wasn't met with a mad lunatic or killer psychopath, though he was in his Batman suit as he had expected. He was standing on a sidewalk in one of the more affluent streets of Gotham, with rays of early morning sunlight bathing him in a warm comfortable glow. He blinked. This was Gotham right? He didn't have much time to think on it. Already, his presence was attracting quite a crowd, and his brain worked furiously to try to put the pieces of his memory back into something recognizable. Pulling out his grapple gun and shooting into the air, his thought process seemed to unjam itself. The resulting wave of memories was so distracting he nearly messed up his landing. But Batman didn't stumble. Ever.

    Desperately, he looked around from his now high vantage point on top of a tall white factory building as memories came rushing back to him. He, Tim, and Damian had been fighting heartless, protecting citizens, trying to stop the army of monsters from devouring them. Jason and Dick, along with the Keyblade Wielders, had split up promising to get off world to try and cure Jason. This entire revelation was making Bruce's skin crawl. Where were his sons? And why did his city look uncharacteristically peaceful and not like an army of evil creatures had just come storming through it, hellbent on corrupting people's hearts?

    If there was one thing Batman hated, it was being uninformed. And at the moment, he felt very much that way. Unable to spot either Damian or Tim, he reached a hand up to his communicator in his ear, speaking quickly. “Red Robin, Robin, Report.”

    There were a few numb seconds of reverberating silence, then. “Uh, hey, um, Batman. What...where are-”

    Tim's confused voice was suddenly cut off by Robin's.

    “Present and accounted for. But I seem to be suffering from a mild case of amnesia.”

    Tim growled at being cut off. “You and me both. What the heck happened?”

    Damian took in a sharp breath as if he were about to say something, but Batman swiftly cut him off. “If neither of you are injured, rendezvous on top of the old fabric factory on twenty-second street.”

    The two quickly complied, their channels falling silent, and in the resounding quite, Batman used the time to try and reach Jason and Dick via comm. links, which turned out to be a complete failure. Soon both of Batman's young vigilantes were standing next to him gazing up into his white-out lenses with slightly confused expressions, a chilly morning breeze making all three capes flutter around them dramatically.

    “Nightwing.” Damian began. “He and Hood, where are they?”

    Frowning, Bruce looked down at his son. “Communicators are a dead end, there's no response. It's possible they are off world, in which case we wouldn't get a signal.”

    Tim was frowning too. “Why is it that none of us can really remember how we got here? Maybe if we could figure out what happened between fighting all those Heartless and now, we could come up with a more accurate idea of where Nightwing and Red Hood are.”

    Batman found this a perfectly logical option, and was just about to say so when something very peculiar happened.

    His cellphone rang.

    Of course, this wasn't Bruce Wayne's normal cellphone that nearly every single woman in Gotham had, nor was it his dreaded work phone. No, this one was special; only to be dialed in extreme circumstances. Hearing its shrill ring echo through the air made his blood run cold, as well as freeze Damian and Tim in their tracks. They both knew that noise. Yet Bruce slide the phone from his belt and answered it on its second ring.

    “Bruce, you there?” Batman almost sagged with relief when he heard the familiar voice of his eldest.

    “I'm here Dick.”

    “Good, because I have a lot of explaining to do. Well, I guess me and Terry actually.” Terry? Who...?

    “Hey, leave me out of this Dick! OW, careful. This is the third time I've got stitches there you know.” The voice, clearly Jason's, could be heard rather far off in the background. They were using an alias. Necessary, considering Jason Todd was still legally dead.

    Ignoring it, Dick continued. “Anyway, we're at Gotham General. The emergency room actually.”

    Bruce stiffened immediately. They were injured seriously enough to visit the hospital? Why weren’t they at the Cave if they needed medical attention? In fact, why were they even in Gotham for that matter?

    “Are you okay?”

    “More or less. Terry's leg is pretty cut up though.” Bruce could hear the phone shift as Dick stood, followed by footsteps. Bruce knew Dick well enough to realize he was pacing, a recent habit of his high energy son when he became overly nervous.

    “Sora and Kairi aren't in the best of shape either, but Riku...” He trailed off, obviously at a loss for words. Bruce knew that kind of silence only too well.

    “I'll be there soon.” He said roughly before hanging up and facing the other two. “They’re here.” He said simply. “In Gotham.”

    Without another word, the three streaked off the building, and soon vanished into the brilliant sunrise, and out of sight.

    ~*~​

    Slowly coming to, the first thing Riku noticed was that his throat was sore. Really sore. So much so, that his immediate concern when he first opened his eye, was to find some water. Wherever he was, it was really bright, assaulting his vision and making him blink several times before closing his eyes again. However, in the little amount he did see, he became aware that he was surrounded by several people. It was only then that he realized someone was talking. He concentrated hard to make out the words.

    “I swear I saw him blink guys. No really. He's awake, I'm pretty sure!”

    “Go get the doctor Dick, will you?”

    “Sure thing.”

    “Hey Riku you lazy butt, hurry and wake up will you?”

    “Jeez you idiots, give the guy some breathing space.”

    “Was that supposed to be a pun, ya know with the collapsed lung and all?”

    “No Sora, it definitely wasn't...”

    “Tt.”

    Riku managed then to blink a few times, and stared around at everyone bleary eyed. He was in a white, overly clean room, which had his brain immediately thinking hospital. As he had thought, several individuals were sitting in chairs or standing around, looking down at him with concerned expressions. He shifted, realizing that he was indeed lying on a soft bed and covered in warm, if rather scratchy, blankets. Waiting for his brain to catch up with his eyes, he gazed at Sora who was standing to his right, a huge smile planted on his face as usual.

    “Hey Sora.” He rasped. “Got any water?”

    But it seemed Sora was so overjoyed to see his best friend conscious again that he didn't take in a word of this request, simply diving forward and wrapping his arms around Riku's neck, being careful of the bandages. “Oh my gosh Riku you’re finally awake! We've been waiting forever, well Bruce said it's only been like two days but that's still a really long time! How are you feeling? Any better? The doctors fixed up your lung and back and everything because we couldn't heal it with magic! But they said you’d be out for a few days while you healed and it's been what seems like forever! Did I say that already? Oh and I don't know how much you remember but we totally saved Gotham and Joker is in jail and-”

    Mercifully at that moment, Jason stepped in and put a hand around Sora's mouth, dragging him backwards while Kairi offered Riku a cup of water, complete with straw. He took it gingerly, realizing that moving was still indeed very painful, and sipped the water gratefully. It was cool and refreshing, soothing his throat somewhat as he drank.

    “Not too fast Riku!” Kairi said, taking his water away to his great displeasure. “The doctor said not to give you too much at first.”

    Grinning, Riku looked up at her. “Hey Kairi, nice to see you too.” It was then that he noticed a sling around her right arm, and he was suddenly bombarded with foggy memories about the previous fight. He could remember getting injured, but only bits and peaces from after that. Apparently everything had worked out for the best however, accounting for the fact that Tim, Damian, Jason, Kairi, Sora, and supposedly Dick were all present and accounted for. Though, as he gazed at all of them in turn, he couldn't help but notice that everyone involved in rescuing Gotham's heart was pretty banged up. Sora had bandages peaking our from under his short sleeve T-shirt, Jason's leg was in some sort of cast while crutches lay beside his chair, and as Dick walked back in with the doctor, Riku noticed more then a few bruises on him as well.

    Once the doctor came in, he checked his vitals, asked him how he felt, assessed his injuries, and explained to him he had had quite a serious case of pneumothorax, whatever that meant. As he left, the doctor went on exclaiming how miraculously fast Riku was recovering. Next thing Riku knew, Kairi and Sora were back, leaning over him and beaming.

    “You have to get better soon!” Sora was saying excitedly.

    “Yeah!” Kairi exclaimed. “We all need to heal up. There's something really important we have to do.”

    Riku raised his eyebrows questionably at them, but they just smiled mysteriously. Even Sora, who was usually awful at keeping secrets.

    “You'll see.” They said together, doing a spectacular job of annoying him.

    ~*~​

    Sora had never ridden a motorcycle before. Not a real one anyway. That was painfully apparent to Jason, despite the kid's claims to the contrary. His balance was way, way off as they rode down the busy streets of Gotham at the highest possible legal speeds. Jason had to keep reaching behind him and poking the kid into a better position. They would have been going faster, but Alfred, Bruce, and an assortment of crazy crime fighting children were driving behind them in a gratefully inconspicuous van. Jason had opted to ride his new motorcycle, courtesy of the losing teams – being the Demon Spawn, the Replacement, Bruce, and Dick. They had paid up on their side of the bargain, Jason had made sure of that, and now he and Sora were riding in front of them, rubbing in their victory as much as humanly possible. Sora had been bought a bike too, but as he was far to young to ride it here legally, it was safely stored in the cave. Which was just as well: Jason suspected the kid would cause some major chaos if he were allowed to ride one of these babies on his own. The bikes were beautiful, with one of the most powerful engines Jason had ever handled, and coloured red and black with a few streaks of white spread throughout its design. Needless to say, Jason thoroughly enjoyed the ride to their destination.

    Large flag poles, multicoloured balloons, screams of delight and glee mixed with the mechanical whirring of rides, the wafting smell of cotton candy, popcorn and corn dogs, and a lot of happy people met them as they pulled into the parking lot of Amusement Mile. Riku, only cleared to come out yesterday by his doctor, and the only one left in the dark, simply stared up at the large sign bearing the park's logo, before his expression slowly turned into a smile. Dick on the other hand, was bouncing around like he had drank about 8 cups of coffee in the past 4 hours. Which, in reality was totally possible. He danced around the group, happily questioning which rides they should go on first, and already pleading with Bruce to let them stay until the fireworks at 9:00 PM. Despite themselves, everyone began contracting his infectious good mood, Bruce, Damian, and Jason even cracking small smiles as they walked into the front entrance.

    Sure, it had its quirks, but in the end, Gotham was worth saving, if only so Jason could share it with his friends and family. Besides, he thought as they passed through the gates into the amusement park beyond, We've earned a little free time.