Actions

Work Header

Revival

Chapter Text


1.

 

The scientist paced the laboratory and he barked his orders at his hired hands. He eyed the large machine imbued with thick glass and the green substance pulsing through the tubes, extrapolated from the Pit. He bit anxiously on his bottom lip and he held his breath as the countdown began.

 

Initiating Countdown. 

 

He watched with unblinking eyes as the boundaries of life and death were deconstructed.

 

Revival. 

 

“Sir, something is wrong! That’s not-”

 

The scientist blinked and his heart stuttered in shock.

 

A body morphed in the glass case - a tall stature, solid bones and golden skin layered on the silhouette. 

 

The man frowned. 

 

The figure looked different. 

 

This was not who they wanted. 

 

Something was wrong. 

 

The machine began beeping loudly. 

 

The experiment had failed. 

 

A fist shot through the liquid, smashing into the glass. The glass shattered into multiple fragments. The figure fell down on his knees, hands splayed, long hair obscuring his face. He lifted his head and inhaled sharply. 

 

Vivid green eyes stared ahead at the group of masked men. The scientist stared at the failed experiment with a thudding heart. He watched the rise and fall of the tanned chest. The subject was alive. It wasn't the subject he desired to manifest but it was a living breathing human being nonetheless. 

 

“Who…who are you?” 

 

“Sir! Stand back!”

 

The neurotic man watched in horror as the figure stood up on long unsteady legs. Green eyes searched the surroundings. The man was naked with no clothes on his body. The revived man tilted his head to the side, staring at them with sharp intent. There was something about the adolescent figure that was terrifying - otherworldly - The man shakily reached to his side, grabbing onto his gun. All men knew to carry weapons - The city was fraught with crime. He was always armed.

 

He clicked off the safety of his revolver and took aim - Shots fired - The man ducked and reached him, grabbing a fistful of his hair and he rammed his head into his knee. The leader felt his nose crack and his vision went black.

 


 

First there was Darkness and Death. 

 

"I don't know what happens after I die…”

 

Silence.

 

“Mikasa, I’ve always hated you.”

 

Faint noises.

 

"Usurper...Eren Yeager. Do you have… any last words?”

 

Chaotic dissonance. 

 

"If you want to try and stop me... then try to stop me from ever taking another breath.”

 

Innumerable Sounds.

 

“Armin, I don't want to die... I want to be with Mikasa...I want to be with everyone...”

 

Pure agony. 

 

“You are all free." 

 

And then there was Light and Rebirth. 

 

“Who… who are you?” The terrified man asked him as he raised his revolver. 

 

Eren, his mind whispered silently, Eren Yeagar.

 

He pulled himself up to his feet, staring down at his naked form with sharp eyes. He surveyed his surroundings. He didn’t recognize his vicinity. He felt the beat of his heart in his chest. His chest rose and fell in slow, healthy breaths.

 

Alive.

 

It was surreal. He had felt the kiss of the blade on his neck. He had been decapitated. The men circled around him and the masked figures raised their weapons, taking aim. Eren flexed his fingers minutely - counting the number of bodies around him - A threat. 

 

Shots fired.

 

He ducked.

 

He lunged.

 

He grabbed a fistful of hair and slammed his knee into the man’s face. The man slumped - fucking pathetic - and he grabbed his body, holding him up by the neck as a shield. The men froze in their tracks, pleading with him to let their leader go. Leader. It was good information to have. The man dressed differently. He was adorned in a white lab coat and his stature was thin and wiry - A scientist. His skin crawled at the thought, memories of needles and numerous examinations ran through his mind.

 

Eren stared ahead with a cold expression. 

 

“Lower your weapons,” he demanded in a hoarse voice. “And you, give me your clothes and your weaponry.”

 

The men obeyed, lowering their guns warily. Eren stared at the man approaching him. He tightened his hold on the leader’s throat, wrapping an arm around his pale neck in a practiced move.

 

“One move out of line and I will snap his neck,” he hissed lowly.  

 

The man fumbled, sliding his gun over and he took off his coat and clothes, passing them over with a glare. Eren eyed his dark boots meaningfully. The man cursed and kicked them towards him. Eren kept his eyes on the criminals and he lifted the gun in his hand, pressing it to the leader’s unconscious head.

 

“Don’t move.” 

 

He slipped the clothes on hurriedly and pulled the unconscious leader in front of him, moving backwards towards the doors. The men inched closer - eyeing him warily - Eren reached the door and he wrapped a hand around the knob, pushing it open. He stepped outside and backed away slowly. He eyed the port, noting the number of boxes and multiple areas to disappear. 

 

The men inched closer. Eren edged towards the boats and in a swift move, he tossed the unconscious man into the water. The masked men cursed and dived after their disposed leader. Shots fired. Eren ducked and dove behind the vehicles and boxes. He ran hurriedly, weaving through the unfamiliar scenery, disappearing from sight.

 

The nineteen year old slipped into the night crowds, blending in seamlessly. The smell of urine and vomit filled his nostrils as he weaved through the populated streets. He gazed up at a smoggy sky with narrowed eyes.

 

Where am I?

 


 

Chapter Text


 

2.

 

Eren Yeagar walked through the streets, surveying the pedestrians. He shoved his hands in his pockets and leaned against a stone wall, eyeing the moving vehicles and shops thoughtfully. The layout of the automobiles were different. The vehicles were more advanced and fast. He gazed upwards, watching a flying aircraft move noisily over the city through the smoggy sky. 

 

Eren eyed the buildings and the signs with narrowed intensity. 

 

He needed information.

 

Eren pulled away from the wall and eyed an old man standing under a stop sign. He held a small device in his pudgy hands.

 

“Excuse me,” he spoke tonelessly. 

 

The man lifted his head. “What do you want?” He snarled rudely.

 

Eren stared at him passively. “Where can I find reading material?” He asked.

 

The man furrowed his brows and looked at him with a judgemental expression. “What kind of stupid ass question is that? You a student?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Well…” The man gripped his device tightly and stared him up and down with a pinched expression. “It’s a bit late but there’s a library up on 25th street. You’ll find books there, free of charge of course. There’s also a bookstore down the road that’s still open.”

 

Eren nodded. “Appreciate it.”

 

The man scowled and turned back to his device. Eren moved forward, walking briskly down the streets. He eyed the street signs. Hours of operation. The city businesses operated under a time restriction. He picked up his pace as he saw the lit up WELCOME sign. He trekked inside, walking past the teenager at the front desk. He moved towards the back shelves, eyeing the chronological labels. 

 

History, fiction, non-fiction, travel. 

 

Eren picked up the first book - The History of WWI and WWII. He flipped to the index and read over the content hurriedly, mind racing with innumerable thoughts. Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy - Eren lowered the book with a confused gaze. The names of the countries were unfamiliar. 

 

He gritted his teeth. 

 

Where the hell am I?

 

He gazed towards the geography section and made his way forward, grabbing a large book - Oxford Atlas of the World - He flipped through it and he felt his stomach twist in discomfort.  

 

The layout of the land and the historical landmarks were alien to him. Eren frowned and he flipped the world map upside down. 

 

“What the fuck,” he breathed in shock. 

 

The map displayed the geographical landscape of his world but it was inverted, flipped upside down. The Marley Empire was labelled as the continent of Africa. The Hizuru Empire was labelled as China. The Eldian Island was replaced with a remote island called Madagascar. 

 

Eren grabbed more books, flipping through them with desperation. 

 

Eldia. 

 

Marley.  

 

There was nothing on his historical origins. 

 

No records. 

 

No titans.

 

“Uhm sorry, we are closing soon.” A voice spoke hesitantly.

 

Eren pushed the books back onto the shelves and nodded at the gangly teenager. He turned on his heel and left the shop. He walked through the crowds, eyeing the tall buildings and skyscrapers. 

 

Eren turned into an alleyway and made his way past a group of homeless dwellers. He paused at the sight of an old woman, weaving a red scarf with her withered hands. She gazed up at him and sneered with rotten yellowed teeth. Eren stared at the scarf for a reflective moment before he moved on. He walked aimlessly and the crowds grew thinner as the night drew on.

 

Eren reached a fenced enclosure - DANGER! DO NOT ENTER - TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED - He grabbed onto the fence and leaped over. The gravel crunched underneath his boots and he moved into the abandoned construction sight. He eyed the sign - Toxic spills - and stepped into the warehouse, scrunching his nose at the smell of pungent chemicals.

 

He moved deeper into the structure, taking the steeps stairs to the rooftop. Eren paused at the top, taking in the sight of the large city. Bright lights filled a darkened grey sky. It was a city that never slept. He eyed the massive skyscrapers, inscribed with a large W - a sight visible from all angles - imprinting onto the city, claiming ownership.

 

Eren took a seat on the abandoned rooftop and he rested his head in his hands. 

 


 

The nineteen year old opened his eyes and he blinked confusedly at the smoggy sky. He eyed the aircrafts flying in the distance and he cursed tiredly. 

 

“Fuck,” he groaned. 

 

Eren sat up with a sigh. He pulled himself upwards and  cringed at the discomfort in his muscles. He made his way out of construction sight sleepily. 

 

He felt like utter shit.

 

It was early in the morning. 

 

The teen eyed the pedestrians and asked for directions. He made his way towards the old library, taking the steps two at a time impatiently. He pushed the door open and he eyed the vacant building. 

 

He moved through the shelves, eyeing the book titles and directional signs. Eren hurried towards the history section and touched the used texts warily. He took a deep breath and grabbed the thickest book, taking a seat on the carpeted floor and sitting in for a long monotonous read. 

 


 

A loud rumble cut through his concentration and the teen paused, lowering his book tiredly. He eyed the stacked piles of finished reads with blurry eyes. He needed nutritional sustenance. Eren sighed and stood up, dusting his dark pants. He made his way down the stairs and exited the library, taking in the crowds of city dwellers rushing home after work. He walked seamlessly into the crowds, blending in. 

 

He bumped into a few pedestrians intentionally and moved along, swiping a few wallets. The teen ducked into a darkened alleyway and eyed the wallets in his hands. Three were in mint condition - one was falling apart at the seams. He eyed the bills and stuffed them in his pockets, tossing the old wallet in the dumpster. He rifled through his prizes, eyeing the identification cards curiously. 

 

Picture. 

 

Name. 

 

Address. 

 

He frowned at the card. It was foolish to have one’s printed address on a card that could be easily lost or stolen. It was like painting a neon sign - a target on one’s back - for others to take advantage of. 

 

James Dickinson. 

Male. 

Age 35. 

38th Avenue Road, Gotham City. 

 

Eren tapped a finger against the printed photo of the haggard office worker. The card was important. It was an identification. He needed one. Eren grabbed the bills and eyed the thin cards warily. - American Express, Visa, Capital One. He tucked the cards into his pocket and made his way onto the road, walking towards a food vendor. 

 

He ordered a strange combination of breaded buns and cooked sausage - something called a Hot Dog. He inquired if the meat was dog meat and the man snorted at him and shook his head with a wry grin. Eren shrugged and took his food, passing over the bills.

 

He ate through his lunch and he watched the crowds.

 


 

He was no longer in Marley. 

 

Eldia did not exist. 

 

Rose, Maria and Sina were figments of a past that did not exist on any record. 

 

He was in Gotham City. 

 

In a country called the United States of America. It was a country that prided itself on its accomplishments as a global leader in politics, medicine and economics. Gotham was led by Wayne Industries, leaders of high end tech and cultivated research for industrial purposes. They released high end tech from mobiles to automobiles. Eren’s eyes slid over the words tiredly. 

 

The Martha Wayne Foundation is renowned for their generous work with at-risks youths and -

 

Eren snapped the book shut with a scowl. He shelved the books back and made his way out of the library, taking the route back to the abandoned construction sight. He eyed the landscape. He didn’t explore the microscopic details the night prior in his fatigue. 

 

It was decrepit. 

 

The streetlights flickered on and off ominously. The windows were cracked and grey. Doors and windows were nailed shut with wooden plaques. Old newspaper clippings clung to the walls and trash littered the cracked pavement. Shouts and loud commotion resonated from the rundown apartments. 

 

The smell of urine and smoke was pungent.

 

Eren eyed the cracked signage - Welcome to Crime Alley - He moved deeper and made his way to the abandoned construction sight. He leaped over the fence and wandered into the debilitated building. He climbed to the rooftop and settled down on his back, staring up at the dark sky.

 

Now what?

 

He closed his eyes tiredly and fell into a sporadic sleep. 

 


 

The sound of crashing waves filtered to his ears and he opened his eyes to a vast landscape of water. The sand was soft beneath his feet and he stared ahead in confusion. He heard the sound of soft, light footsteps and he turned around inquisitively. 

 

Eren frowned in confusion at the sight of Her. 

 

“Why are you here?”

 

The Founder’s face was clear and young. She stared up at him and stepped forward, standing beside him. Her white robe flowed with the wind and golden strands of her hair landed on her pale cheeks. She turned to the ocean and watched the receding tides in silence. 

 

Eren sighed. “I’m dreaming, aren’t I?”

 

Ymir Fritz remained quiet. 

 

“Why am I alive?” He asked. 

 

Ymir continued staring at the sea. She spoke at last. Her voice was grainy and it echoed.

 

“2000 years I waited for you, Eren Yeagar. This is my final gift and my farewell.” 

 

She turned to him with a heavy gaze.

 

She looked old.

 

“I don’t understand.” Eren began. “Why? And what is this new place? It… it isn’t Eldia and Marley is gone.”

 

Ymir said nothing.

 

Eren scowled angrily.

 

“You-”

 

He paused in alarm. 

 

The Founder began fading.

 

“Wait!”

 

She was gone.

 

Eren turned back to the waves. They grew tumultuous and rose higher. His eyes widened as the water stretched up, crashing down onto him violently. A choked gasp left his lips as he was submerged in icy cold waves. He fell deeper and deeper into the seas and the darkness engulfed his surroundings. 

 

It was pitch black. 

 

Eren submerged from his dream with a sharp gasp. He groaned and rested his head in his hands - my final gift and my farewell - He had received very little information. 

 

Useless cryptic shit.

 

He lifted his head and stood up tiredly. Eren gazed down at the lit up city. The sound of distant shouts filtered to his ears. The smell of chemicals wafted up to his nose. He stared down at the charred grounds curiously - the aftereffects of the hazardous spills. He eyed the empty landscape. The spills kept the inhabitants of Gotham a good distance from his temporary dwelling.

 

Curious.

 

Hazardous - Danger - Keep away - Toxic spills.

 

The chemicals itched his nose and burnt his eyes as he moved through the building. His throat burnt from the stench. Eren eyed the large puddle of bubbling dark substances. He kicked a stone towards it and watched as it melted in the spills. 

 

What the fuck?

 

The city left behind hazardous spills uncleaned. 

 

Eren eyed the thin sheets of ice on the ground. Winter was around the corner. The teen frowned and he eyed his unmarred hands. His calluses from his military training years were gone. His skin was smooth. He pressed his fingertips together and frowned. 

 

He was warm. 

 

Too warm. 

 

He slid his green eyes to the ice. 

 

The cold did not affect him.

 

Strange.

 

He recalled his unwelcome revival - the thick green substance - His unmarred flesh with no injuries. He had slammed his hands against the glass - against a sealed enclosure - and smashed it to bits with a single hit. 

 

Eren flexed his fingers curiously. 

 

He hadn’t bled. 

 

Why?

 

The teen ran a hand through his long hair and scowled as the questions increased with no answers in sight. 

 

Eren made his way to the fence and climbed hurriedly. He wouldn’t get answers sitting on his ass. He wasn’t one for inaction and wasting his time idly. He had a lead: the armed men at the port and the wiry scientist.

 

It was a start. 

 


 

Chapter Text

3.

 

The teen crouched down behind the large metal container, eyeing the group of armed men standing at the port. He cursed under his breath and counted eight bodies. There was a trade going on. 

 

Two men stood in the middle with large duffel bags, speaking in low voices. Eren watched as one opened a metal case and inspected the content, nodding to his partner. The duffle bags were handed over and the men exchanged curt nods. 

 

Shots fired abruptly. 

 

Eren ducked hurriedly and pressed his back to the containers, listening to the alarmed shouts. Sounds of heavy footsteps filled the vicinity. More armed bodies filtered in and the sounds of screams, fighting and pained grunts resonated through the port.

 

Gotham was a city fraught with violence.

 

The ports were a place for clandestine business affairs. The teen moved away from the shooting and retraced his steps to the warehouse, entering the space quietly. 

 

It was empty.

 

Eren made his way to the large vacant desk and inspected the drawers. 

 

Nothing.

 

He surveyed his surroundings. 

 

Glass scrunched underneath his heavy boots and he gazed down at the remnants of the green substance warily. He shuffled over to the glass cabinets, grabbing a few empty vials. Eren scraped the substance off the ground and sealed them into the tubes, shoving them into his pockets. 

 

He eyed the destroyed machinery. Computers lay smashed on the ground. Wires were tangled and cut in half. Eren stared at the damage thoughtfully, eyeing the gears and circuit wires. He knelt down and heaved the broken devices in his arms, staring down at the circuit board. 

 

He knew very little on the technology of this world. It didn’t hurt to gather more materials and devices. Eren slipped the small circuit board in his pocket and searched the premises for any more clues.

 

There was nothing else. 

 

The sound of sirens rang close. 

 

Eren scowled in irritation. 

 

There was no more evidence to gather and he didn’t want to leave anything behind for the authorities to find.


His resurrection was unnatural. He knew too little of this world to know if his circumstances were common or anomaly. He had to remove traces of his existence. He wouldn’t take risks. 

 

Eren eyed the labeled boxes. 

 

Flammable material.

 

He smirked. 

 

The teen moved hurriedly, ripping the chemicals out of their sealed packaging. He tossed the cases onto the ground, smashing the bottles viciously with his boots. He flicked on his lighter - his stolen clothes had useful possessions in them - and he dropped the flickering flame into the substances. 

The fire expanded hurriedly, licking through every microscopic trail. Eren watched the flames with satisfaction and he turned on his heel, leaving ashes in his wake.

 


 

Eren walked around the construction sight with narrowed intensity. The Founder had brought him into this world as a gift. Ymir Fritz had a wry sense of humour. Gotham was infested with crime, violence, homelessness. It was hardly the place to start over. 

 

Eren glared at the frozen pipes. He needed a water system that was salvageable and the zone he inhabited was filled with rubble and toxic spills. He turned to the supply closet and tried the knob. It was jammed. Eren kicked it off with a grunt and pushed the door open, staring at the stacked boxes.

 

He rifled through the boxes, eyeing the material. He catalogued a few useful items for later use and turned to the small sink, buckets and mops. It was a custodial office. He turned on the tap and listened to the gurgle of water down the pipes. 

 

“What the fuck?” He hissed, eyeing the dark water.

 

It was filthy. 

 

Fuck.

 

The water was contaminated. Eren cursed colourfully and he grabbed a bucket, filling it to the brim. He snatched a rodent off the ground and forced water down its throat. The small animal thrashed and squeaked in fright. Eren dropped the vermin into the sink and watched, waiting. The mouse thrashed for a few minutes and then it fell still.

 

It was dead. 


Eren cursed and dumped the bucket of water down the drain.

 

The spills had contaminated the entire area. The water was undrinkable. Eren paused at the thought. The water had diluted the poisonous toxicity of the hazardous spills - small amounts had seeped through to the pipes - which resulted in a lethal poison for small rodents. 

 

What would it do to a full sized human?

 

Eren turned on his heel and grabbed a box of empty vials. He turned on the tap and filled the cases, securing them shut. The spills outside disintegrated rocks and stones. There wasn’t a way to harness it in a glass vial to test out its lethal potential. The contaminated water would have to do for now. 

 

It would have its use. 

 

The teen secured the vials in one of the boxes and turned on his heel. 

 


 

Eren made his way through the streets of Crime Alley, eyeing the small rundown grocery chains. He entered a small restaurant and ordered a takeout box of Middle Eastern food. The owner eyed him curiously as he took his order. He was a burly man with a thick moustache and curly hair. A plastic name tag adorned his oil-stained apron - Haleem - and he looked him up and down appraisingly.   

 

Eren shoved his hands in his pockets and waited, staring back passively. He turned to survey the patrons. A group of teens sat in the corner, speaking hurriedly. They looked roughed up. Their clothes were frayed and they were huddled together for warmth, sharing a box of large fries. An old man sat chewing through his dinner with a vacant gaze, his eyes glued to the television screen. A darkly clad woman sat drinking her coke while she spoke on her device with a clipped tone. 

 

“You need a bag?” The man asked gruffly.

 

“Is it an extra charge?”

 

“Yeah, it’ll cost you 25 cents more.”

 

Eren shook his head and handed him a ten. “I’m good.”

 

The man shrugged. “Suit yourself.”

 

Eren took his takeout box and made his way out of the shop. The teen ran through the amount of cash he had leftover in his mind. He needed to swipe more wallets. He was running out of money quickly. He needed a reliable source of income. Pickpocketing was insufficient. 

 

A small body slammed into his side abruptly and the takeout box flew out of his hands. Eren cursed as the food spilt onto the ground. 

 

“Sorry,” a voice mumbled as it moved past him. 

 

“Stop right there, you little shit.” Eren hissed.

 

The kid glared at him from over his shoulder and he stood a few meters away. Guarded and cautious. He couldn’t be older than ten - a street brat with frayed clothing and a tanned complexion. Hazel eyes glared up at him from behind a dirty fringe. 

 

Eren glared back and held out a hand. 

 

“What?” The kid hissed. “It was an accident. I said I was sorry about the food.”

 

“Fuck the food.” Eren growled. “Give me my wallet.”

 

The kid paled. 

 

Eren scowled.

 

“What? You think I wouldn’t notice the change of weight in my own pockets. Give it- Hey!”

 

The kid ran. 

 

Eren cursed and chased after him. 

 

The brat was fast. He weaved through the streets with familiarity and leaped over trash cans. Eren ran after him, moving hurriedly. He had years of military training on the homeless child. The boy ran himself into a dead end and he turned to him with wide, terrified eyes. 

 

Eren stalked forward and heaved him up by the collar, shaking him roughly. The kid cried out and struggled, thrashing and kicking his legs out. Eren grunted as he was kicked in the crotch. This fucking piece of shit. He shuffled through the boy’s pockets and grabbed his wallet, pulling out a few others. He dropped the brat roughly onto the pavement and flipped open the wallets.

 

Huh, the kid was good.

 

He grabbed a ten dollar bill from the stolen wallets and dropped them to the floor. 


Hey! That’s mine!” The boy yelled.


“That’s for my food.” Eren shoved his wallet into his pocket. 

 

“Give it back, you piece of shit!”

 

Eren glared down at the brat and the boy flinched, pressing his body against the wall shakily. Eren eyed his malnourished form and his blue tinted lips. His clothes were insufficient for the upcoming winter. The boy would be dead in a few months from the cold. 

 

It wasn’t his business. 

 

His days of parading around as Humanity’s Last Hope were over. 

 

Eren leaned forward. “Don’t try that again brat.” He spoke warningly.

 

The boy trembled and he squeaked in fear, raising his arms in front of him protectively. Eren scoffed. He turned on his heel and made his way out of the alleyway. 

 

“That’s… that’s it?” The boy’s voice echoed after him in a bewildered tone.

 

Eren ignored him and kept moving. He made his way back to his fallen food and he stared down at the vacant ground. 

 

Someone stole his spilt dinner.

 

“Fuck,” he cursed.

 


 

Eren was annoyed.

 

He was really annoyed.

 

He had a shadow - a fucking shadow - The brat was following him. 

 

He had been following him for days, keeping his distance and sticking to corners and ducking behind dumpsters. Eren would’ve missed his presence if he wasn’t a trained military solider with honed skills. 

 

The nineteen year old cursed as he made his way out of Crime Alley. He meandered into the crowds with the brat following behind a few meters. Eren swiped a few wallets and made his way into the Middle Eastern restaurant. He was becoming a regular patron of Mashweyat El Sham. The food was good and the portions were large.

 

“Takeout?” Haleem greeted gruffly.

 


Eren shook his head. “No, I’ll dine in today.”

 

Dining in the restaurant would keep the brat away from him for a bit. The owner nodded and Eren took a seat by the windows. The doorbell rang and a group of large men entered the establishment. Eren watched as Haleem paled drastically and he ran out back, bringing with him a closed suitcase. He handed it to the men and spoke to the large tattooed leader nervously. 

 

Eren drummed his fingertips on the table cloth. He was hungry. The men shoved Haleem against the wall, laughing and jeering as he trembled. The rest of the patrons hunched over in their seats and kept their gaze locked on their food. Eren wanted his kofta kebab. He sighed, eyeing the trembling kitchen staff. 

 

He gazed at the window and he glared at the brat who was waving to him frantically. The kid pointed at the men and made an aborted motion with his hands. Eren scowled and mouthed - Fuck off. The scruffy boy glared at him and gave him the finger. 

 

Eren turned back to the men and watched as they left the restaurant. The kid pushed open the window and climbed in effortlessly, landing in front of his table with a scowl. Eren arched an eyebrow.

 

“You idiot!” The brat hissed. “Don’t you know who those people are? They’re with the Black Jacks!”

 

Eren leaned back in his seat. The kid made a pained noise at his nonchalance and he slid into the seat in front of him. 

 

“And?” Eren deadpanned. “It’s not like I provoked them.”

 

“You…you were watching them openly. Everyone knows you don’t look their way; it’s like asking for trouble!” He threw his hands up. “You’re lucky they didn’t glance at you. All it takes is one guy not liking the way you look at him for shit to blow up.”

 

Eren glanced at the other patrons, noting how they all hunched over and glanced away determinedly. He lifted his head as his food came over. The waiter shakily deposited his plate of meat skewers and rice, rushing away hurriedly. 

 

“Oi,” Eren hissed as the kid swiped a meat skewer for himself. “This is not an invitation.”

 

The kid shoved the meat into his mouth. “I gave you information.” He waved the beef skewer with his hand. “This is my payment. You're new here, aren’t you? You don’t act like a true Crime Alley resident.”

 

Eren stared at the kid. The street brat had information - information he couldn’t get from books -  He knew about the gangs and underdogs of Gotham. He was street smart and resourceful. 

 

He was useful.

 

He would also be dead in a few months time when the temperatures dropped. 

 

Eren crossed his arms over his chest. He would use the time the kid had left to gather information. He waved the waiter over and ordered a second serving of meat for the boy. It was a quick and easy investment. Food for information. 

 

“Okay, here’s the deal kid. I’ll buy you dinner and you tell me what you know.”

 

The boy glared. “I have a name you know.” 

 

Eren stared at him. “And I don’t care for it.”

 

“Fuck you!”

 

“Do you want the food or not? Or you can just get lost right now.”

 

The boy glared at him. His hazel eyes were fierce and his little mouth was set in an angry scowl. He scrunched his button nose and his small hands reached forward and grabbed another meat skewer. 

 

“Adam, I’m Adam. What do I call you, bastard?”

 

Eren took a deep breath and he exhaled slowly.

 

“Eren.”

 

“Okay. What do you want to know?”

 

Eren leaned forward and stared ahead intently.

 

“Tell me about Gotham.”

 


 

Chapter Text

3.

 

Eren stood on the rooftop of a small building watching a violent skirmish on the streets of Crime Alley. He watched the burly man beat down on his victim - a thin and wiry man was pleading and crying for help. Eren watched the scene passively and he blew hot air into the cold winds. Human life had meant so much to him before but now… now… He didn’t know.

 

You all mean a lot to me, that’s why I want you all to live long lives. 

 

Life.

 

Death.

 

Eren closed his eyes, listening to the violent sounds. The wind blew through his long hair. When did it all go wrong? He had known the price he would pay for his mission. The cost of freedom came at his own life. But when the time came for him to pay up, he had faltered. He hadn’t wanted to leave, he hadn’t wanted to die. He wanted more time, with his friends and family. 

 

With Mikasa. 

 

With Armin. 

 

Eren clenched his fists and he opened his anguished gaze. 

 

He stared down at the beaten man. 

 

He wouldn’t live through this. 

 

Eren gazed up at the smoggy skies, eyeing the full moon. He stood up and leapt to the fire escape, swinging down his body with a single grip. He landed on his feet and his boots slammed loudly onto the ground. Hot anger pulsed through him - a screen of green filled his vision and he rushed forward with a snarl of rage. He smashed his fist into the man’s face, sending him into the wall. He stood over the thin frail man, glaring heatedly at his opponent. 

 

The burly thug shook his head in surprise and he growled as he saw him. “You fucking bastard!” 

 

Eren narrowed his eyes and his lips curled in disgust. The man’s form was pathetic. Eren grabbed his raised arm and flipped him over his back, slamming him hard into the pavement. He slammed his boot in the man’s temple, kicking him unconscious. He kicked him a second time vindictively. He heard a shuffle behind him and he glanced behind him, eyes blazing in rage.

 

The weak man stood up shakily and stared at him warily. “T-thank you,” he stuttered weakly.

 

Eren snarled. “Get lost,” he hissed, turning on his heel and leaving the alley. 

 

He made his way through the streets. He gripped his head and tugged on his long locks. His head was splitting. He felt hot and nauseous. His mind was screaming for blood, for vengeance. Eren lowered his body to the ground and held his head in his hands, taking steadying breaths. He heard the sound of light steps and lifted his head with a scowl.

 

Adam stood in front staring at him with a pinched expression. “Are you sick?” The boy asked as he leaned forward curiously. 

 

Eren groaned. 

 

Fuck. 

 

His little stalker was back. 

 

He hated the brat. 

 

He was relentless.

 

The kid wore a large brand new sweater. He was swimming in it. Evidently stolen. Adam flapped a long sleeve at him and he smirked. 

 

“Like it? I stole it from some rich bastard when he wasn’t looking.” He said with a proud smile.

 

Eren grunted. 

 

Adam’s smile faltered and his eyes grew worried. “Hey,” he spoke warily. “You look like shit Eren.”

 

Eren pulled himself up. “Fuck off.”

 

“Nuh uh,” Adam spoke as he trailed after him. “I got some information,” he added. “Get me food.” He demanded flapping his large sleeves.

 

“What information?”

 

Adam smirked. “There will be a trade in the ports tonight. It’s amazing what people talk about when they think you’re a stupid clueless kid.”

 

Eren narrowed his eyes thoughtfully. “Between which groups?”

 

Adam hummed. “They didn’t say but I know for sure the Black Jacks are involved.”

 

Eren frowned. The Black Jacks were a notorious gang that were large in numbers and firearms. 

 

“There will be lots of cash.” Adam added as he walked next to him. “Of course the risk is high but you’re strong. I don’t know any other crazy psycho living in a toxic field who hasn’t died from exposure.” 

 

Adam stared him appraisingly. They stopped in front of their regular spot. Haleem nodded at the pair as they entered his establishment. Eren took his usual table and Adam took the seat in front of him. 

 

“I want baklava.” Adam demanded petulantly. 

 

Eren arched an eyebrow tiredly. 

 

The boy scowled. “This is good information.”

 

“All you brought me is very dangerous information and very little details to work with. The men will be armed. I’m one person. Unless you want me to get killed-”

 

“No!” Adam protested immediately with wide eyes. “You’re my food supplier. Dude you’re not allowed to die! At least until I’m sufficient enough but for now you can’t!”

 

Eren stared at him with a deadpan expression. “Duly noted.”

 

Adam grinned cheekily. His hazel eyes lit up as his food came. He dug in eagerly. Eren watched the boy eat. He rested his cheek in his hand and wondered about the brat’s circumstances. He knew next to nothing about Adam. He didn’t offer him a last name (Eren didn’t offer his full name either). He appeared and disappeared at random. He didn’t know if he lived with an extremely impoverished family in a hovel or a dumpster in a secluded corner. 

 

Eren rapped his fingertips against the rough tablecloth. Adam’s information wasn’t entirely useless. An exchange in products meant a monetary load. There would be good money involved but stealing from the Black Jacks would paint a target on his back. It was foolish and risky. Eren scowled. He hated pickpocketing. He was running out of funds. He wanted a place - a hole in the wall to rest - with hot water. He couldn’t do that with the spare cash he had. Sleeping on the open rooftop was bad for his back. He couldn’t live in the toxic site forever. 

 

Eren narrowed his eyes. He would need an alias - a mask - He stared at Adam who was stuffing his face eagerly. He could get more food for the kid. Healthy nutrient-heavy food to fill him up. He would survey the exchange on the ports, gather more information and determine his position before throwing himself into danger. He had learned restraint during his youth. Rushing in without a plan was reckless and it got many of his comrades killed. 

 

“Brat, where can I get a good costume?”

 

Adam paused his chewing and his hazel eyes sparkled. “Oh, I know just the place!”

 


 

Eren eyed the pawn shop sign warily. Adam skipped ahead of him and he threw the door open. The teen followed in reluctantly and he eyed the random trinkets. His eyes fell on the surveillance camera at the top right corner and turned his face away. The owner greeted them with a subdued tone. 

 

“Hello, how can I help you?” He spoke monotonously. 

 

Adam walked to the counter and he stood up on his toes. “Show us your theatre mask collection.” 

 

The clerk nodded and moved to his racks, grabbing a sealed box. He opened the box to showcase a variety of white masks - fucking creepy - smiling and frowning with crinkled eyes. Adam reached for the half-smiling, half-frowning mask and he held it up in front of his face. He snickered and struck a dramatic pose. 

 

“That’s fucking ugly,” the teen hissed.

 

Eren smacked the kid lightly on the head, knocking the mask off his face. He stepped forward and stared down at the selection, ignoring Adam who jabbed him roughly in the side in retaliation. Eren hissed as Adam bit into his arm vindictively. He kicked the boy’s shins roughly and stepped away from him, ignoring his pained yelps. Eren picked up the frowning mask. He eyed the single tear running down the white mask’s cheek. 

 

He stared at the clerk. “How much?”

 

The clerk gazed between him and Adam curiously. 

 

“Thirty.”

 

“What the fuck? No, ten!” Adam bargained.

 

The clerk scowled. “Thirty.”

 

“Twenty-five,” Adam haggled. 

 

“Twenty-eight.”

 

“Twenty-five. Dude this mask isn’t even made of expensive material. Trust me, my mother owned a bunch.”

 

Eren stared at the child - Owned - Past tense. 

 

The clerk glared at the boy. “Twenty-five.”

 

“Twenty.” Adam countered cheekily.

 

“Twenty-two!”

 

“Eighteen!”

 

“Boy, you can’t just keep lowering it!”

 

“Oho, watch me! Sixteen!”

 

Eren inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly. He took out two tens and slammed them on the counter. He glared at the clerk heatedly and grabbed Adam by the collar, dragging him away. Eren ignored the kid’s flailing and attempts at an escape. He paused at the door, eyeing an ornamental dagger. He eyed the priced tag and he cursed silently. He would come for it later. Eren exited the shop, shoving the mask into his vest. 

 

“I almost had him, you fucktard!” Adam whined. “We’ll never be rich if you throw away money like that.” He sniffed haughtily.

 

The pair walked through the streets of Gotham. Eren surveyed a group of fat police officers on break, smoking expensive cigars openly. He whistled lowly and Adam quieted down. His demeanour shifted and he kept his head down as they walked past the rotten cops. The boy walked closer to him and they moved past the station. 

 

“There are more of them.” Adam whispered. “Is it because of the pickpocketing?”

 

Eren shook his head. “Doubt it, they have bigger shit to deal with or pretend to deal with. Look at their hands - those cigars are expensive. With their meagre salary, they cannot afford it. They are bought cops, they are someone’s dirty hand and they are smoking the products openly. It’s a statement.”

 

Adam scowled. “Fucking bastards.”

 

Eren shrugged. The higher ups were always corrupted. The Wall faction and the churches of Rose, Maria and Sina were full of shit. The two made their way into Crime Alley, walking through an open park. It was secluded. Adam stared at the swings with a distant gaze. Eren followed his gaze and he eyed the boy curiously. 

 

“What’re you doing?”

 

“Huh? Oh…no, it’s nothing.” 

 

 Silence.

 

“So…are you going tonight? Can I come?” Adam asked.

 

Eren shook his head. “I’ll only scout and no you can’t come, you’ll end up getting killed.”

 

Adam scowled and stomped his foot. “I gave you the information, it’s only right for me to be there. You know, to split the earnings.”

 

No. 

 

The kid would die if he tagged along. 

 

Eren was tired.

 

Of death. 

 

Of killing. 

 

Eren glared at the boy and he paused in his steps. He leaned forward with a menacing expression. “Try and follow me kid,” he snarled. “I’ll break your legs if you do.”

 

Adam paled significantly and he squeaked, falling on his backside. “Y-you w-wouldn’t!” 

 

Eren stared at him with a cold expression. “Do you want to test that theory?”

 

Adam’s eyes widened in terror and he shook his head stubbornly. “You…you’re not like that.”

 

Eren stared at him tiredly. He ran a hand through his hair in frustration. 

 

“What do you know? You don’t know me.”

 

“I…” Adam licked his lips and stared at him desperately. “I know Crime Alley criminals Eren and…” He stood up shakily and stared at him with an earnest expression. “You’re not one…”

 

Eren stared at the child. Fuck. He was exhausted. Adam exhausted him. He was too … much. The teen turned on his heel and made his way out of the park, leaving the scared kid behind. 

 

Eren rushed through the streets angrily. Adam didn’t know shit. He didn’t know who he truly was. He didn’t know what terrible crimes he committed. He had massacred… He led a one-man genocide. The blood on his hands…was too much.

 

He was a monster.

 

He couldn’t have a bright eyed kid hanging onto him. 

 

He’d ruin him.

 

“Eren!”

 

He kept moving.

 

“Eren!”

 

He rushed ahead.

 

“Ere - ACK!”

 

Silence.

 

The streetlights flickered in and out and the sound of struggling reached his ears. Eren turned around and his eyes narrowed. 

 

The alley was empty. 

 

Adam was gone. 

 

“Brat?”

 

Eren rushed back to the park, retracing his steps. 

 

“Kid?”

 

He rushed into the open field.

 

No one.

 

“Adam?!”

 

Fuck.

 

Where the fuck was he?

 

“Come on kid, this isn’t funny!”

 

Eren closed his eyes and he took a deep breath. Panic wouldn’t help him. Listen. Breathe. Calm down. He listened to the rustling of the wind. To the distant yells and sirens. To the cacophony of Gotham. His eyes shot open as he heard the familiar voice. It was muffled - soft, faint and terrified. Eren rushed forward and he turned into an alley, finding two large men holding the struggling child with a bruising grip behind a dumpster.

 

“He’d catch a good price, he’s easy on the eyes.” One of the men leered at the small boy.

 

Adam’s eyes were wide and terrified. They were wet with unshed tears and his tanned skin was pale, ashen with palpable fear. Eren stared at the cut on the boy’s face. He was bleeding from his forehead and his lip was split open. A purple bruise covered his small jaw and his body was trembling. His hazel eyes landed on Eren and the relief filled his gaze. The men noticed his presence and they turned to him appraisingly. 

 

“Well, I’ll be damned,” one of them whistled appreciatively. 

 

He was an ugly fucker with rotten teeth and a pot belly. “Aren’t you a pretty fella?” 

 

“Let him go.” Eren spoke lowly. 

 

“Can’t do that sweetheart, he’s a very pretty little thing. Imagine him when he grows older. Now, how about you come here so we can chat. We won’t hurt you if you cooperate, you’ll catch a very hefty price yourself. You have such lovely eyes.”

 

Eren swallowed the rise of vomit in his throat. He focused on the frightened boy. The portly thug stepped forward, leaving Adam with his partner. Eren whistled lowly. Adam’s eyes widened in understanding. The teen raised his hands in the air, waiting for the man to reach him. The man smiled at him and his partner laughed.

 

The man reached him and he patted his cheek with a heavy fat hand. 

 

“Why, I’ve never seen you around before. Where have been hiding?”

 

Eren glanced towards Adam and he jerked his chin, signalling to him. The kid’s eyes filled with understanding. Eren lunged, grabbing the fat man’s hand, snapping his wrist. The man screamed and Eren grabbed his thick neck with a vice grip. He slammed him into the wall roughly. The man grunted and he struggled against him. Eren pressed down on his throat, strangling him. He glared over his shoulder at the human trafficker’s partner. 

 

“10 seconds and he goes unconscious.” Eren hissed. “Let the kid go or I will snap his fat filthy neck.”

 

“You fucking bastard! I will-”

 

The man tightened his hold on Adam threateningly and the boy whimpered in pain.

 

“If the kid gets another bruise, if you do as much as touch another hair on his head, I will fucking cannibalize you, you sick bastard!” Eren snarled as he strangled the man’s partner mercilessly.

 

The fat man turned puce. 

 

His oxygen supply was depleting rapidly.

 

“Stop! STOP! Let him go! Here’s your kid!” He shoved Adam away from him and held his hands up. “Let him go!”

 

“No.” Eren snarled. He heaved the fat man up and grunted from his heavy weight. He slammed his bald head into the stone wall repeatedly. The man slumped onto the ground, bloody and unconscious. 

 

Eren stared at the man’s fat meaty hands. The disgusting hands that hurt the kid - the filthy hands that touched his face and he slammed his thick boots on the man’s fingers. The cracking of bones filled the alley. Eren turned to his second opponent with blazing eyes. His entire body trembled from rage.

 

It wasn’t enough.

 

He wanted to tear him apart. 

 

The man’s partner turned on his heel and bolted out of the alley. Eren snarled and he stepped forward to chase after him. A scared whimper reached his ears and he paused abruptly. His rage subsided into concern immediately. He turned to the small boy and he rushed towards him, falling down to his knees shakily. 

 

Adam’s face was pinched and his bottom lip was trembling. He was holding back tears. Eren swallowed thickly, eyeing the bruises and forehead wound. He pushed the boy’s hair out of his face and he inspected his injury. His shoulders slumped in relief. It was a shallow cut.

 

“Adam…I…”

 

The kid broke down and he latched onto him, small hands curling into his vest tightly. 

 

“I hate you,” Adam whispered accusingly. “If…If I wasn’t so damn distracted chasing after you…I would’ve never been caught.” He hissed angrily as the tears fell down his face.

 

Eren nodded and he rested a hand on the kid’s mop of hair. “Yeah,” he spoke tiredly. 

 

I hate myself too.

 

The boy sniffled and continued trembling. Eren didn’t know if it was the fear or the cold. 

 

Probably both. 

 

“Let’s get you out of here, it’s getting late.” 

 

Eren lifted the boy in his arms and his eyes widened in shock.

 

Adam was fucking light. 

 

Under the large floppy sweater, he was all bones and scrawny limbs. 

 

Fuck.

 

Middle Eastern fast-food was hardly sufficient for a child’s growth. 

 

Eren scowled. 

 

He needed more money.

 

Ten dollar meals once a day wouldn’t do.

 

He sighed in resignation. 

 

He would have to intercept the deal tonight. 

 

He was out of options. 

 


 

Eren tied his hair in a high ponytail and slid the theatre mask on his face, securing it tightly. He tucked his gun in his vest and threw on a long black trench coat. He slipped on black leather gloves and took a deep breath, leaving his hideout. He kept to the rooftops and street corners, moving hurriedly towards the port.

 

It was quiet.

 

It was dark.

 

He snuck past the guards, slipping behind the large containers. He crouched low and counted the bodies - twelve - All armed. The men held metal cases and were bringing out large wooden crates from the back of a parked truck. Eren watched as a man spoke into an earpiece and he cursed. 

 

Communication.

 

The men could request for backup immediately. Eren eyed the remaining bodies. He counted five muscles - hired hands, removed from the communication channel. There were two leaders - opposing sides - He ran the calculations and eyed the numerous boxes. He did not care for the cargo. He wanted the cash. Eren took out his gun and he eyed it curiously. He had fired it in his hideout for practice. It was a silencer. The hired hands of the scientist were well-off with high-end equipment. 

 

Eren took aim and he paused. 

 

Life.

 

Death.

 

It mattered very little… if he lived or died.

 

Adam. 

 

He stilled and lowered his gun. 

 

Did he want to go down that path again?

 

Eren stiffened as a shot fired out. What the fuck? The men began taking each other out - a traitor in their midst - The teen watched as the bodies dropped and the men lunged for the cargo. The metal case fell to the ground and an armed man raced towards it in desperation. He hauled it up and bolted down the port. Eren moved from the containers and climbed on top silently. The commotion would draw the authorities. 

 

He surveyed the scene. 

 

Eren crouched low and chased after the man with the suitcase. The man ran towards the parked vehicle. Eren pulled out his firearm and shot at the wheels. The wheels deflated and the man cursed, taking out his revolver and he fired blindly. Eren rushed forward and he grappled with the gunman, kneeing him in the stomach. He grabbed his arm and twisted it sharply, cracking the bone. The gunman screamed and dropped his firearm. Shots fired towards them. Eren shoved the man and he grabbed the suitcase, ducking behind the truck. 

 

Shots rang out. 

 

Eren took a deep breath - the armed men were circling in - He held the suitcase tightly and ran. Shots fired after him. A bullet grazed his shoulder and he cursed, continuing to move in desperation. The adrenaline pulsed through him. He reached the containers and climbed to the rooftop. His side burnt and he cursed angrily as his wound tugged painfully. He heaved himself on the roof and rolled on his side. Shouts rang below him and he picked himself up, running and leaping from the containers. 

 

He landed on the final container, near the edge of the port. The men circled below him, shouting and yelling. He eyed the dark waters. Gotham’s water was toxic. Eren gritted his teeth. He had been through worse. This was nothing. He took a deep inhale and jumped into the water. Shots fired after him and he swam desperately with one-arm. The fumes entered his nostrils and his eyes burned.

 

It was brutal. 

 

Eren broke through the surface and pulled himself to the ledge. The shouts were distant - a few meters away - It was a small reprieve. Eren stumbled forward and he gripped the suitcase tightly, slipping into the shadows. He rushed away from the scene, disappearing into the night.

 


 

Eren cursed hotly as he pressed a hand against his burning shoulder. He glared down at the suitcase and pried it open with a shaking hand. 

 

He stared.

 

Crystals.

 

There were large crystals imbedded between small clear bags of white substances.

 

“What the fuck?” He whispered, grabbing a sealed bag and he pried it open, sniffing the content.

 

He scowled and tossed it back into the case. Substances. There was no monetary exchange. It was an exchange in illegal substances. Fucking hell. Eren scowled and he slammed the suitcase shut. He laid on his back and breathed tiredly. He had no use for such a thing. He wouldn’t sell it. He was the son of a doctor - He didn’t bring forth disease. He wouldn’t do it. Eren pulled himself upward tiredly and he pulled his shirt down, eyeing his wound.

 

The bullet had grazed him. 

 

He got lucky. 

 

Eren eyed the suitcase.

 

Now what?

 

The cops were corrupted. He couldn’t drop this off at the precinct. It would circulate back into the streets. His hard work would be for naught. Eren growled, picking up the suitcase and he opened the door to his supply closet, hiding the substances in his wooden crates. 

 

He made his way back onto the rooftop and laid down on his back, staring up at the grey skies. Eren’s eyes widened in surprise. He hadn’t killed anyone tonight. He intercepted a drug bust and came out with no blood on his hands. He didn’t know how he felt about that. He knew it was only a matter of time before he did. In Gotham, it was inevitable. 

 

He would need to check in on Adam soon. The kid had slipped away from in a moment of distraction. Stupid brat. Eren turned on his side and he paused in alarm. He sat up abruptly and pulled his shirt down, staring at his arm in bewilderment.

 

Nothing.

 

No scar.

 

No wound.

 

He had healed completely.

 


 

Chapter Text

 

5.

 

Information was currency. Many citizens of Gotham overlooked the homeless and prostitution networks. They viewed them as sub-species, lesser humans with little to no intrinsic value. The dehumanizing mindset worked in his favour. Eren treated both groups favourably and they reciprocated by keeping open eyes and ears. 

 

Eren made his way towards the street girls standing on the curb. They were smoking and chatting, eyeing him with interest. He stopped in front of a busty blond and dug out a twenty-dollar-bill, handing it over. 

 

“I need information,” he spoke, rummaging through his plastic bag and handing another girl a canned coffee. 

 

The girls crowded around him - leaning into his personal space - with painted faces and practiced smiles. Eren bit back a scowl and handed another service girl a Deli sandwich. He had three informants in total. The rest stood by watching with envious faces, vying for his attention. 

 

“What do you need?” The blond - Angie - asked with a flirtatious grin.

 

Eren turned to her and he spoke it a low tone. “A boy, hazel eyes, curly dark hair, around ten years old. He’s been missing for a few days. If you see him, tell him I’m looking for him.”

 

The girls nodded in understanding. Eren stepped forward closer to Angie. He grabbed her arm gently and pulled her aside from her colleagues. He trusted her information. She was the first he approached a week ago to help him keep track of Adam. 

 

“One more thing, if you hear anything about exchanges happening in the ports. Let me know, I’ll drop by in a few days.” He pressed a box of cigarettes into her hand.

 

Angie nodded - her blue eyes sharp and understanding. Eren turned on his heel and headed to the main street, watching the crowds of Gotham workers hustle into the subway. He sighed heavily, eyes falling on a group of children running by. 

 

Where the hell did you go Adam?

 


 

Eren walked down the streets, hands shoved deeply in his pockets. Winter had started and it was brutal. The snow covered the streets and the white petals fell heavily from the sky. Eren stared up at the smoggy skies - forever in a state of perpetual grey. He hadn’t seen Adam in weeks. He wondered if he was alive. 

 

Eren made his way to Mashweyat El Sham and he entered the restaurant quietly.

 

Haleem stared at him for a thoughtful moment. “No boy today too?”

 

Eren grunted. 

 

He had no answers.

 

He didn’t know shit about Adam’s circumstances and that was his fault. He supposed he cared - a little bit. The kid probably froze to death. It wasn’t his fault. He couldn’t offer him a home. He lived in a toxic field. Adam would be dead in a few hours tops. His small body would not be able to resist the fumes. Eren took his usual table and he ate through his favourite food. It tasted like ash. He glared out the window at the snow. The fucking kid would not leave his mind.

 

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

 

He wasn’t supposed to get attached. If Adam ended up getting trafficked by those fuckers… Eren broke the glass cup in his hands and the shards embedded into his flesh. He stared at his bleeding hand with a blank gaze. He glared at the seeping blood. Huh, so he did bleed. He grabbed a napkin and pressed it into his hands. The glass dug deeper into his flesh and he gazed out the window.

 

His breath hitched in surprise. Adam stood outside the window, staring at him with wide eyes.  He was wearing a large coat - another stolen item judging by its quality. The kid struggled with the frozen window. Eren stood up abruptly and pulled the window open, leaving behind fingerprints of blood. He dragged Adam in by the collar and he looked him up and down.

 

“Where the fuck have you been?” Eren hissed.

 

Adam stared at his bleeding hand with wide eyes. “That looks bad, ouch ouch, stop it!”

 

Eren tugged on his ear and dragged him into the chair. “I thought you…” He took a deep breath. 

 

I thought you died. 

 

“Brat, where did you go?”

 

Adam shuffled in his seat and avoided his gaze. Eren leaned forward intently. The kid huffed and crossed his arms over his chest. 

 

“I can take care of myself.”

 

Eren scoffed. “Sure.”

 

“Look,” Adam leaned forward in a whisper. “There’s certain areas in Crime Alley owned by the Black Jacks. They bar them up with wooden plaques but there’s usually a small spot I can squeeze through. I sometimes hide in there.”

 

Eren’s eyes widened. “On their property?”

 

Adam shrugged. “Hey, they don’t check often and I know their shifts. I make myself scarce when they come and leave behind no trail. I’m not stupid Eren, I’ve been on the streets for a…” He inhaled. “…Never mind.”

 

Eren sighed and he waved a hand to Haleem. He ordered his usual dinner for his charge and requested hot tea for both of them. 

 

Adam stared at him curiously. 

 

“So…how’d it go that night?”

 

“After you ran off?” Eren inquired.

 

Adam nodded sheepishly. “Yes.”

 

Eren sighed. “There was no cash, just an entire case of crystal meth.”

 

And something else...

 

Adam’s eyes widened and his breath stuttered. 

 

He looked sick, green in the face. “Wha…what did you do with it?”

 

Eren frowned. “Nothing. I’m not gonna sell it. That shit is toxic. I’ll just hoard it for now, maybe dump it in the sewers.”

 

Adam’s expression grew relieved and he nodded. He grabbed his cup of hot tea and stared into it for a long moment, his expression despondent. 

 

Eren sighed. 

 

The kid had no business looking so fucking sad. It was depressing. He was a child. 

 

“My mum…” Adam shared in a whisper. “She overdosed… I hate that stuff.” 

 

Eren nodded. “Me too, I can’t imagine being enslaved to something like that, being unable to control your urges and being driven mad by addiction. It’s fucked up. I’d never sell it kid.”

 

Adam smiled weakly. “Good. I wasn’t wrong about you.”

 

Eren rolled his eyes. “You’re so full of shit. I’m capable of really ugly things.”

 

Adam’s smile stretched cheekily. “Sure,” he chirped.

 

“Eat.” Eren ordered, kicking the kid lightly under the table. 

 

Adam scowled and grabbed a meat skewer. Haleem came over and deposited a bowl of steamed vegetables. Eren arched an eyebrow questioningly. Haleem grunted and turned on his heel without a word. Eren pushed the steamed broccoli and cauliflower towards Adam. He was not fond of greens. Adam narrowed his eyes at him suspiciously and he pushed the bowl back. The pair engaged in a small game of push and shove, neither willing to relent.  

 


 

The two bodies stood on the rooftop surveying the city of Gotham. Eren turned to the small boy thoughtfully. It bothered him - how vulnerable Adam was - The words circled in his mind. The memory of the traffickers were ingrained in his memory. They wanted Adam because he was a good-looking child. It was disgusting. He would be targeted, again and again because of his delicate features. Until he vanished entirely without a trace.

 

Eren couldn’t have it.

 

“Kid,” he spoke kicking the boy’s feet gently. “Get up.”

 

Adam stared up at him with trusting eyes. He stood up and arched an eyebrow questioningly. 

 

“What?”

 

“What do you say to training?” Eren spoke. 

 

He wouldn’t force him. 

 

Yeah, yeah he would. 

 

Adam was better trained and alive, then vulnerable and dead. 

 

Adam’s eyes sparkled and he bounced on his feet excitedly. 

 

“Really? Like you? Wait where did you learn how to fight?”

 

Eren’s lips quirked upwards. “A long time ago.”

 

“Military?”

 

“I guess.” He shrugged.

 

Adam scowled. “Eh, okay fine keep your secrets old man. Now teach me!”

 

Eren rolled his eyes. “Okay first is stretching, mimic my movements.”

 

They spent the afternoon on an abandoned rooftop, stretching and trying simple maneuverers. Adam was a quick learner - he bounced and fumbled around eagerly, his wide smile never breaking even when he landed flat on his ass. His exuberant laughter rang through the dreary night of Gotham, filling the ugly streets of Crime Alley with the rare sound of joy.

 


 

The moon lit up the dark streets of Crime Alley. Eren adorned his white theatre mask and long trench coat. He leaped from the rooftops into a dark alley, following the sounds of screaming and loud smacks. He paused at the sight and he snarled in anger, lunging forward towards the group of thugs hitting down on the homeless men. 

 

He kicked a bastard into the dumpster and grabbed another, flipping him over his shoulder, slamming him roughly into the ground. He grabbed the last thug and smashed his knee into his face, sending him to the pavement. 

 

The men huddled by the dumpster stared at him with wide eyes. Blood trickled down their faces and they were shivering, huddled around a fire in a trash bin. Eren stepped forward and knelt down in front of the heavily injured man. He clicked his tongue in annoyance, shuffling through his pockets and handed him a bottle of aspirin. 

 

“Here, for the pain.” He drawled, standing up.

 

He walked past the thugs and kicked them again vindictively. He grabbed their unconscious bodies and threw them in the dumpster, sealing the lid shut angrily. 

 

“Uhm…t-thank you.” The man spoke lowly.

 

Eren turned and glared at him. “Fuck-”

 

“Fuck off, yeah yeah we know Phantom.” His friend commented with an eye roll. “Still, thank you.”

 

Eren blinked in surprise. 

 

Huh? 

 

Phantom?

 

Well then.

 

He nodded curtly and left the street. 

 

Weird.

 

Was he building a reputation among the marginalized and homeless - as some kind of protector? 

 

Eren shrugged.

 

It wasn’t his intention.

 

He walked with his hands in his pockets. 

 

“Phantom! Phantom! Over here!”

 

Eren lifted his head and he rushed towards the silver haired woman. She was one of the service girl’s - Angie’s friends - She looked bruised and nervous as she rushed towards him.  

 

“We need your help! There’s these guys, they’re rough and we don’t like serving them and they don’t take no for an answer and well…Uhm our leader, Angie, she kinda talked back to them and they got violent.”

 

Eren’s eyes narrowed angrily. “Lead the way.”

 

The woman turned on her heel and rushed through the streets. Her red high heels clacked loudly as she ran ahead. Eren followed closely, eyeing her bruised face. 

 

“I’m Sophie,” she spoke with a pained smile. 

 

Eren nodded. 

 

They reached the curb where the service girls liked to line up at the edge of the convenience store and entice customers to take them to a motel for the night. Eren honed in on the group of thugs. There were six men. Two of them held Angie and were yelling and screaming at her. Angie glared at them in defiance as she held her stance. The rest of the girls huddled together, watching on in fright. 

 

Eren picked up a large wooden plaque and rushed forward, slamming the plaque into the man’s head. The thug stumbled and the rest turned to him with alarmed shouts.

 

“What the fuck?”

 

“It’s that masked bastard! Get him!”

 

Eren swung the plaque, hitting another man in the face. He screamed and grabbed his broken nose. The two thugs dropped Angie and rushed towards him, knives out. Fuck. Eren ducked the first swing and another caught his arm, slicing through his coat. He hissed as his skin burnt. 

 

The girls screamed and rushed away. 

 

Angie pulled back but remained standing a few feet nearby, watching with wide eyes. Eren grabbed the man’s wrist and dislodged the knife from his hand, holding it in his own. The man stepped back warily as Eren twirled it expertly in between his fingers. 

 

“Missing something?” He drawled.

 

Another thug rushed forward with a bat and Eren threw the knife, lodging it into the man’s exposed arm. He screamed and dropped the bat, holding his injured side. Eren picked up the discarded bat and swung it, taking down two men viciously. He didn’t hold back his hits, slamming into their heads, knocking them out cold. One thug remained conscious and he trembled in terror. 

 

He stumbled and bolted. 

 

Eren turned to Angie. She didn’t recognize him in his getup. He lowered the bat and paused contemplatively.

 

“Word of advice, aim for their groins next time,” he spoke lowly.

 

Angie smirked. “Will do. Thanks Phantom.”

 

Eren nodded and turned on his heel, jumping up the fire escape and hauling himself away. 

 


 

Eren gazed at the white theatre mask. The residents of Crime Alley had a name for him - The Phantom of Crime Alley - He cringed at the cheesiness of his moniker and tucked the mask into his vest. He pulled on a thick coat - stolen - and made his way out of his hideout. He met up with Adam in the park and he waved to the small boy in greeting. 

 

Eren made his way to the convenience store with Adam walking by his side. The boy chatted about asinine matters - speaking about other street kids who were fans of Phantom. Adam was expanding his network, keeping in touch with other homeless children and opening a channel of communication. His eyes and ears now extended to the homeless kids. It was useful. Adults often spoke freely around young children, thinking them too naive and gullible.

 

Eren paused in his steps as he saw the group of service girls. Angie lifted her head and waved at him with a pained grimace. Eren made his way over and stopped a meter from her respectfully. 

 

“Hey,” he spoke. “I heard what happened. How’re you feeling?”

 

The woman shrugged and took a large inhale from her cigarette. “Not much we can do. Phantom can’t always be around ya know.”

 

Eren frowned. “Wait here.” 

 

He rushed into the convenience store and grabbed a bottle of spray. He slapped a ten on the counter and made his way back to the service girl. He handed her his purchase with a meaningful look. 

 

“If you miss the crotch, spray the bastards.” He spoke lowly.

 

Angie’s eyes widened and she took the spray with a grateful look. Eren eyed her and the other girls. They were all bruised up and looked weary. With expressions of defeat and resigned acceptance. Eren bit his lip. He understood their plight. The power to resist and fight back was not easy to manifest. They were the dregs of society - the forgotten and despised - No one would stand up for them. Eren glared ahead - like his own people - No one had stood up for the Eldians as they were incarcerated. 

 

Eren sighed and took off his coat, rolling up his sleeves. 

 

“Here, I’ll teach you a few moves.” 

 

Angie gaped at him. “What the fuck?”

 

“Hear me out, they aren’t hard. It can actually incapacitate someone twice your size. Now,” he stepped forward. “Can I touch you?” He asked.

 

She nodded. 

 

Eren stood behind her and put a careful arm over her bruised neck. “Now, I got you in a chokehold. One of the ways you can break through, especially if it’s a man holding you is to aim for his nuts. Okay now, go.”

 

“Are you serious? You’ll let me kick you in the balls?”

 

“Just do it.”

 

“Alright, well that’s a strange fetish.”

 

“Yeah, yeah now FUCK!”

 

Angie moved abruptly - sneaky little bitch - She slammed her curled fist into his crotch and Eren slipped his arms off her, kneeling over in pain. He heard Adam cackling by his side, amused by the sight. 

 

“Now you use your knee.” He wheezed with a red face. “To kick your opponent, preferably in the nose. Breaking someone’s nose will cause them to be disoriented for a bit. And your knee bone is strong.”

 

Angie lifted her knee and paused. Eren eyed her high heels. “Use your heels as well. Those are sharp as fuck. Everything on you can be made into a weapon. Use your surroundings, grab a trash can, smash the bastard’s head in. Even a plastic bag is a weapon, you can use it to suffocate a fucker.”

 

Eren stood up. “Alright, now a different angle. I’m coming at you fast from the front. What can you do?”

 

Angie looked around her. Her eyes widened and she pulled out her spray bottle. 

 

Eren smirked and nodded approvingly. 

 

“Now practice whipping it out and spraying fast. Woah! No, not on me! That shit burns!”

 

“Eren! Teach me too!” Sophie joined in.

 

“Me too!”

 

“Yeah, I want some kick ass moves as well.”

 

“Fuck no, my crotch won’t survive!”

 

“This spray is pricey-”

 

“We can make our own, we only need to steal some pepper right?”

 

“Okay okay, pretend to kick me. Don’t actually do it. Alright, Sophie, come here.”

 

The evening passed with the group of service girls learning self-defence moves. Eren looked over at Angie to find her staring at him with a complicated look. He arched an eyebrow and she smirked at him. He turned back to the girls and corrected their forms, teaching them how to grapple, block and disarm their opponent. It came easy to him - teaching. 

 

Soon he was surrounded by a number of homeless people, street kids and young eager teens, watching his instruction with intense concentration.

 

Everyone wanted to learn - to protect - to feel safe - to survive.

 

Eren acquiesced, waving the eager spectators over - young and old - and he went around, forming groups and teams to instruct the residents of Crime Alley. It was a small action - something he did not mind - unknowingly he was causing a ripple. Eren understood their desperation to learn. Feeling weak and powerlessness was awful. He had experienced it - the bitter taste of failure and lack of ability. He did not wish it upon the marginalized, ostracized and forgotten people of Crime Alley.

 

Eren looked towards Adam who was instructing the children. Angie was right. Phantom couldn't always be there. He couldn't always be there - There was no guarantee he'd be alive for a long time. There was no guarantee he would be around Adam when he needed him. The best thing he could do is give the residents the ability to protect themselves - a single move could change a life or death situation. 

 

Slowly, bit by bit, Crime Alley became a bit more bearable - it was still ugly and filthy and fraught with crime but there was a small change in the air. It was the beginning of the foundation of a community - a network. An alliance of the forgotten and abandoned began flourishing. 

 


 

Chapter Text

6.

 

Word travelled fast through the networks of Crime Alley. The service girls - the secret informants - hoarded information from their regular clients and shared it with the teen. Eren wasted no time and arrived at the port. He lay low, counting the guards and armed men. He wore his signature mask and long black trench coat. His hands were covered in black leather gloves and he had his silencer held in his hands, positioned to shoot at a moment’s notice. Eren moved silently across the pier, ducking behind parked vehicles and crates. 

 

He eyed the exchange and formulated a simple plan. He waited until the first group left - satisfied with their goods. Eren waited until they drove off from the port and the second group loaded the trunks of their parked vehicles. He took aim, firing at the wheels of the cars. Eren tugged on the hidden wires and a clatter of sounds echoed from a few meters in the opposite direction. The shouts of alarm resonated around him and he remained crouched low as the men made their way towards the noise. 

 

The men ran ahead to investigate. Eren slipped off the crates silently. He snuck behind a guard, wrapping an arm around his neck and he held on tight until he fell unconscious. He dropped his body to the ground and rushed through the remaining guards. He tackled one to the ground, slamming his face into the hard asphalt. 

 

Another shot at him and he evaded, ducking and running. He made his way to the cargo and grabbed the case, bolting hurriedly. The shots fired after him and the men got into their vehicles to chase after him. He heard the curses of anger - the wheels were destroyed - and they took off after him on foot. The sound of sirens drew close and the teen saw the lights of the numerous police cars up ahead.

 

Fuckity fuck.

 

Eren backed away from the cars and the men dispersed, leaving him with a number of cop cars surrounding him. Eren looked behind him. Murky grey waters greeted him sinisterly. The cops filtered out of the cars, holding their firearms.

 

“Freeze! Hands where I can see them! NOW!”

 

I think the fuck not.

 

Eren moved backwards and the shots fired rapidly. The bullets hit his chest - three imbedded into his flesh and he reeled backwards from the impact, falling into the dark waters with a loud splash. Eren felt his body sink slowly. The blood seeped rapidly from his chest and he swallowed a mouthful of murky water. The teen struggled against the current and he willed his body to move. 

 

He slammed into the large rocks and choked on another mouthful of filthy toxins. He closed his eyes tightly and forced his body to respond to him. He commanded his lethargic limbs, moving away hurriedly, fighting against the fumes and toxins that commandeered his body. 

 

It hurt, it hurt, it fucking hurt so much. 

The teen swam slow, holding his breath. His eyes watered and he broke the surface for a gulp of air. Eren pulled himself up onto the ledge and he held the case to his chest. He gritted his teeth and hurried through the crates and containers, rushing back undetected.

 

Eren held back a scream of pain as he dug the bullets out of his chest. He leaned back against the cold cement walls of his hideout and took deep inhales and exhales. The bullets clattered loudly to the ground and he swallowed the bile in his throat. 

 

Eren took a deep breath and focused on the gaping holes in his chest. One, two, three. Inhale. Exhale. His body began to steam rapidly and the wounds closed slowly.

 

Eren opened his eyes and he surveyed his unmarred chest. He would need to lay low for a bit. The teen opened the case warily and he bit back an enraged scream. 

 

Powder. 

 

The entire case was filled with sealed bags of white powder. More illegal substances. Eren stood up in disgust and he threw the case into his storage boxes. Useless. He eyed the boxes warily. Fucking hell. He did not mean to hoard tonnes of illegal drugs. All he wanted was the monetary funds. Somehow he ended up amassing a crap ton of illegal substances - a very large sum that would amount in a long prison sentence. 

 

Well shit.

 

It was only a matter of time before he was hunted for his actions - either by the vigilantes or mobs demanding their drugs back. 

 


 

The teen watched the child play in the playground with an indulgent look. He shoved his hands into his pockets and leaned forward on the cold bars, staring at the boy with an arched eyebrow.

 

“Bristol?” Eren asked curiously as he stared up at Adam.

 

The boy was hanging upside down from the monkey bars, swinging back and forth with a careless grin. 

 

“It’s my birthday soon! And I don’t want to celebrate it here in Crime Alley! There’s this really nice cake shop! Please, please Eren, can we go?” He stared at him with large pleading eyes as he kept swinging back and forth with an exaggerated pout. 

 

Eren crossed his arms over his chest and stared at the kid. Bristol was not far. They would have to take the underground subway. It wasn’t a bad commute. Birthdays. He hadn’t given thought to the notion of birthdays in a really long time. It was hard to think of birthdays and celebrations when he was busy leading a rebel faction. He was surprised Adam wanted to spend his special day with him and not his family or the other street kids.

 

He didn’t think he meant that much to the kid. 

 

Birthdays were a big deal for children. 

 

Eren nodded his acquiescence. “Okay, sure. When and where?”

 

Adam grinned and hopped down from the monkey bars. “This Saturday! I can’t wait! We will get Oreo cake and you can have that old people drink, that coffee beverage. I heard theirs is quite popular.”

 

Eren’s lips quirked upwards in reluctant amusement. “How old will you turn?”

 

Adam beamed up at him. “Nine!”

 

Eren’s breath hitched in alarm. 

 

No. 

 

Way.

 

“Nine?” He echoed softly. 

 

Adam was turning nine - which meant that he was eight years old. Shit. He wasn’t ten! He was an eight year old homeless kid who pickpocketed adults for sustenance. A kid who put his life on the line to put food in his small belly. Holy shit. A eight-year-old. Eren knelt down in front of the little boy and he stared at him with sorrowful eyes. Adam didn’t deserve such a horrible life - a life on the cold streets. He deserved so much more. Eren swallowed thickly. 

 

Winter was here.

 

The weather was getting colder and colder with each day.

 

It was only a matter of time before the temperatures dropped drastically. 

 

Adam would die soon.

 

Freeze to death.

 

Eren reached forward and gripped the boy’s shoulders tightly. The kid stared at him in concern, hazel eyes growing puzzled. Adam was a child who nearly got trafficked. He was a child who faced endangerment on a regular basis, a boy who trusted him and relied on him for sustenance and company. 

 

He’d catch a good price, he’s easy on the eyes.

 

Eren tightened his hold.

 

He’s a very pretty little thing. Imagine him when he grows older. 

 

Adam was a kid - a literal child - he couldn’t protect himself. Not yet. He needed years to grow into his body, to grow into his strength. Winter was here. The cold was here. He would be dead in a matter of months. 

 

Weeks…?

 

Eren felt his heart clench. He couldn’t abandon him. Fuck. He couldn’t do this to him. 

 

Not Adam. 

 

The kid was the reason he didn’t kill, the reason he lowered his gun, the reason he tried harder and harder every single damn day.

 

“Eren, you’re freaking me out,” Adam whispered. 

 

“Adam…I…listen you live in hideouts right?”

 

Adam nodded slowly.

 

“I won’t ask why…but I don’t think you should do that anymore, it’s not safe.”

 

Adam frowned. “It’s not like there are other options.”

 

Eren narrowed his eyes. “There might be, come on. I have an idea.”

 

He needed a safe house.

 


 

It was a quiet walk. Eren kept glancing at the kid with a concerned gaze. He moved hurriedly through the streets. He made his way through the fenced gate. He watched as Adam scaled the fence easily - like a little monkey. The boy landed on his small feet and he stared up at him curiously. Eren held a finger to his mouth and he led him deeper and deeper through the vacant ground. 

 

He had discovered the place a few nights ago. It was on the outskirts of Crime Alley, abandoned and decrepit. It was the perfect place for a safe house. He fortified it with stolen weapons and hidden traps. He led Adam around the safe house, explaining the hidden traps. Gotham city was advanced. Traps were modernized - as alarms - No one would expect old traps, outdated. 

 

With no digital footprint, Eren was untraceable.

 

He did not exist in any database. 

 

Adam stared around the safe house with wide eyes. 

 

“Eren?” His small voice echoed in shock. “What is this place?”

 

“It’s a safe house one of the girls told me about. It use to be a dollhouse owned by the Dollmaker. No one wants to use it because they believe the ghosts of his victims remained here.”

 

Adam grimaced. “Ew.”

 

Eren chuckled. “Yeah but it keeps people away. Even though the Dollmaker is gone, his memory still haunts the people of Gotham so most remain far from here out of the fear of having their organs harvested.”

 

Adam nodded. “So…” He turned to him with wide eyes. “Why are you showing me this place?”

 

Eren rubbed the back of his neck. “Well… I thought you can stay here with me, if you want. I was going to start furnishing it and everything for the winter. There’s also a bathroom, if I can get the pipes to work, you can have a shower.”

 

Adam stared at him with a disbelieving gaze. “You…you really mean that?” He whispered hopefully. “You want us to stay together?”

 

Eren frowned and he nodded slowly. Why would Adam doubt his intentions?

 

“I mean you think I’m a nuisance and stuff…”

 

Oh.

 

Eren sighed. “Yes Adam, you are a nuisance.”

 

The boy scowled and he kicked him in the shin. Eren hissed at the sharp pain and he grabbed the brat’s head, squeezing it in a reprimanding manner. This little monster.

 

“You’re a nuisance but you’re my nuisance so shut the fuck up and move those damn boxes.”

 

Adam sniffled wetly and he turned to the boxes with an indignant curse. Eren watched him push the boxes with a grunt and he shook his head, moving over to help his small charge. He gazed around the safe house as he moved things into the far corner. It wasn’t much. In fact, it was shit. It was the best he could do with no identity and digital footprint. He would keep Adam safe. He would survive this winter - at all costs. 

 


 

The man landed on the rooftop of Crime Alley and he surveyed the dark streets searchingly. He listened to the cacophony of noise and he turned at the sound of a scream. He leaped from the building, moving closer to the distressed cries. He watched as a thug threatened a small street girl, waving his knife at her with a sneer.

 

Red Hood cursed. 

 

It was his first night back home after his long undercover mission in Bludhaven. Gotham never disappointed him with its crime levels. There was always a fucker to beat up black and blue. Red Hood lifted his grappling hook, intending to fly straight into the fucker. He paused abruptly as he saw the most unexpected scene.

 

The service girl threw her body in between the man’s legs - diving straight through them - and she grabbed his back, wrapping her arms around his form. She bent her legs and threw him backwards with a perfectly executed German Suplex. The thug’s head slammed against the pavement and he passed out cold. 

 

What the fuck?! 

 

The service girl kicked him in the face vindictively with a sharp heel and she dug into his pockets, robbing the thug blind. 

 

She ran off cackling with glee. 

 

Red Hood stared.

 

What in the world happened during his absence?

 

Something was amiss in Crime Alley.

 


 

Chapter Text

7.

 

The teen opened the door to the storage room in the toxic construction zone. He stared at the stacked boxes for a moment and he stepped forward, sealing the door shut behind him. Eren knelt down and added another case to the boxes - That made five cases in total - and he stared at his first acquired case.

 

He opened the suitcase and stared at the crystals with a frown. The small crystals in sealed bags were substances but the large green ones stashed in the middle were something else. Eren frowned and picked up the glass case, staring at the strange object. It glowed - bright green - and it resembled minerals. 

 

Strange.

 

It reminded him of the titan’s crystallizing structures. Eren frowned at the thought and lowered the green crystals. He stared at his hands and flexed them curiously. Did he have those abilities? Or did he lose them? The teen grunted and stuffed the case back into the boxes and turned on his heel. 

 


 

Eren climbed onto the rooftop and he surveyed the streets of Crime Alley. The cold wind ruffled his hair and he peered down at the dark streets from behind his white mask. It was a quiet night. It had been a long time since he donned his mask and chased down the scumbags of his neighbourhood. A sharp thud cut through the quiet and the teen whirled around in shock. 

 

“What is up with the creepy ass mask? You into Shakespeare or something?” A voice drawled behind him.

 

Eren’s eyes narrowed in recognition. Red Hood. He’d heard about him. The vigilante had his gun out, aimed right at him. He was broad and tall with wide shoulders and a brown leather jacket. His features were obscured behind his helmet and his posture was tense, ready for combat.

 

Eren scowled behind his mask. He did not need his interference with Crime Alley. He was regularly training the homeless and marginalized. Heroes in capes (or helmets) would not understand. Eren did not believe in their mindset - Help when they were available and then disappear when they were busy. It was a crippling mindset. He needed his people to protect themselves with their own strength. He needed them to be able to survive without him.  

 

Red Hood pulled the trigger and he ducked, rolling away from the rapid shots. Eren leaped to another rooftop, running fast. Hood chased after him, shooting his grappling hook. He moved further ahead and intercepted his path. Eren eyed the grappling hook enviously. 

 

It reminded him of the 3D-maneuver-gear. 

 

He wanted it. 

 

Eren moved in, exchanging rapid blows with the masked vigilante. He couldn’t shoot him when he was right up in his space.

 

“Where are the drugs Phantom?” Hood snarled.

 

Eren swiped his feet under the man. Hood evaded his hit and leaped backwards - fucking gymnast - He moved flexibly for his large build. 

 

“What? Not gonna speak? I got to say, that mask is hella freaky. Why the tear? Are you sobbing under there?”

 

Eren scowled and he blocked a punch to his face. He grunted. The fucker had more weight on him than he expected. 

 

“Fuck you!” He spat.

 

“Nah, not interested. I don’t take Macbeth wannabes to bed.”

 

“Macbeth was shit!” Eren parried his hits, meeting him blow by blow.

 

He had read Shakespeare in the public library and it put him to sleep. It was the driest lamest text he’d ever had the misfortune of reading. He didn’t understand why such narratives had scholars losing sleep and pontificating on the hidden meaning of a fucking flower or a mossy rock. 

 

Hood snarled. “Fuck you, it’s a work of art!”

 

“Nah, not interested, I don’t take Shakespearean bitches to bed.” Eren parroted sarcastically.

 

“Where the hell are the drugs Phantom? I won’t ask again!” Hood pulled out his gun and shot at his legs.

 

A bullet imbedded into his right thigh - in his fucking artery - This bastard was trying to kill him. Eren felt the hot rage take over - the green green green colours filled his vision and he lunged forward with an enraged cry. He tackled Red Hood to the ground, grappling with him for the firearm. Hood slammed his fist into his jaw and Eren retaliated by kneeing him viciously in the gut. He heard the crack of bones and it cheered him up significantly. Justice, you motherfucker. Hood wheezed painfully and Eren took the moment of distraction to swipe off his grappling gear. 

 

Ha! 

 

He pulled away hurriedly and aimed the hook at an adjacent building. The wire shot forward and he leaped off the rooftop, flying in the air. Eren smirked - He missed the feeling of flying. He heard Hood scream after him in rage.

 

“You fucking thief!”

 

Eren gave him the bird as he flew away with his stolen equipment. He moved from building to building, watching in satisfaction as Hood fell behind. He smirked and flew into the night. The grappling hook was easy to use - it wasn’t as complicated as the military flying gear. Eren landed on the rooftop of a short building and he moved down the fire escape. He ducked into a darkened alleyway and surveyed the equipment.

 

He wouldn’t put it past the paranoid vigilantes to have trackers in their equipment. He ripped off the wires and hook, smashing the rest of the handle to pieces. He turned on his heel and disappeared into the night, taking nondescript paths and avoiding the surveillance cameras. 

 


 

The teen snapped the long gloves on his hands and he knelt down with a wrench, undoing the gears that held the pipes together. Eren held his breath as the rancid smell of rot and decay filled his senses. He swallowed the rising bile in his throat and worked quickly. Fucking plumbing. He worked silently for a few hours, gagging and wheezing in disgust. He worked through the clogged facet and his eyes stung wetly. 

 

Eren opened the tap and he made a small content noise as the water ran through. He attached the filter and watched as the water ran clearer. He ripped off his gloves and surgical mask, tossing them in the bin. Eren washed his hands methodically in the sink and he turned to the shower head, turning it on. 

 

Cold water rained down on him and he cursed colourfully.

 

Eren stepped out of the bathroom shivering and soaked. 

 

“Dude, pfft, you look hilarious!” Adam chucked as he eyed him from his spot on the couch.

 

It was an old rundown piece of furniture, one he grabbed from a junkyard. 

 

“Shut up,” Eren hissed as he rifled through their bags, grabbing clean clothes. “So good news and bad news.” 

 

Adam sat up and he stared at him curiously.

 

“Good news is now we have cleanish shower water, it’s not for us to drink though, we’ll keep buying water. Bad news…there is no hot water.”

 

Adam shrugged. “You can’t have everything.”

 

Eren nodded. “What we could do is heat up the water over the fireplace. For now at least.”

 

The fireplace was not really a fireplace. It was a metal trash bin filled with flammable material. Eren moved towards an empty steel pail and he dragged it to the bathroom and filled it with water to the brim. He carried it back into the living room and held the metal bucket over the fire. He grabbed more buckets to fill up the entire tub, heating them one by one. He filled the tub and hollered to the kid to come wash up, tossing a soap bar at his head.

 

Adam squeaked and ducked, evading the bar.  

 

He whined. “Do I have too?”

 

Eren crossed his arms over his chest and glared at the kid. “Have you seen your hair?”

 

“Bitch, like you’re one to talk! You always tie it in a bun but I’ve seen you pull it down, its all tangled!”

 

Eren scrunched his nose and he pulled out his hair out of its signature bun. He tried running his fingers through his locks and grimaced. 

 

Oh hell. 

 

“Fair enough, but I’ll go after you. Get in there or I will drag you.”

 

Adam grumbled and stomped his feet. He made his way into the bathroom and disappeared behind the door. Eren picked up the soap bar and tossed it to him, handing him the cheap shampoo bottle. He closed the door and left the small kid to wash up. 

 

Eren made his way back into the living room and he stared at the pile of dirty clothes. He eyed Adam’s frayed clothing and he grimaced, tossing them into the fire. Nope. The kid won’t be wearing those again. Eren moved to his purchases - secondhand children’s clothes - and he folded them neatly, putting them outside the bathroom. 

 

He eyed the reminder of the pile and dumped the clothes into a bin of cold water. He sat down on the ground and began scrubbing, cursing in irritation. Laundered clothes were important. He washed his black vest and grabbed Adam’s stolen sweaters. He hissed as the cold water stung his skin. Eren stared at the water thoughtfully. He took a deep breath and focused on the heat in his body - the steam - and the water began to heat up slowly.

 

His lips quirked upwards in satisfaction and he laundered the clothes with a sense of contentment. He hadn’t thought of using his abilities in mundane ways. Titan shifters used their abilities for large scale destruction and overpowering their enemies. Huh, interesting. He hadn’t manipulated the temperature of his body before. He wondered how else he could use his abilities. 

 

If only I had the crystallizing abilities…

 

Eren raised his head as Adam made his way out of the bathroom, dressed in cleaner clothes. 

 

“Dry your hair,” Eren snapped, throwing a clean towel at the kid.

 

Adam squawked and grabbed the towel, drying his hair in a ridiculous manner. Eren huffed and beckoned him over. He sat him down in front of him and dried his hair with care. Eren stared down at the mess of curly locks. Holy hell. Adam needed a hair cut. Eren stood up and grabbed a pair of scissors. He stared down at the kid. He wasn’t use to cutting hair. 

 

“Okay…I’m going to cut a bit because I can’t comb it like this.”

 

Adam shrugged. 

 

Eren swallowed his nerves and made the first snip.

 


 

Adam was inconsolable. 

 

He was livid. 

 

He was very angry and he was throwing a bitch tantrum. Eren stood, watching the kid whine and swear at his reflection. It wasn’t that bad…well okay maybe a mushroom haircut was a bad idea. 

 

It looked…cute…somewhat? Kinda? It did!  

 

“I trusted you!” Adam whined as he wiped his wet eyes. “I look so ugly!” 

 

Eren rubbed the back of his neck. He ran a towel through his wet hair (the bath had been heavenly) and he stared down at the kid. He winced as Adam curled into himself, hugging his small body tightly. 

 

“It’s not…ugly…it’s cute…” Eren spoke awkwardly.

 

He sucked at comforting people. 

 

He sucked at parenting.

 

Eren’s eyes widened.

 

Was this parenting?

 

Oh.

 

No.

 

No, no, no.

 

Adam whined and he stomped his small feet, glaring at him angrily. 

 

Eren sighed. “Look, it’ll grow back. Cheer up tomorrow is your birthday and we will go for cake and coffee.”

 

Adam continued glaring.

 

“Come on bud, I didn’t mean it.”

 

“But why does your hair still look good?! Why is mine so ugly while yours is still very stylish?”

 

Eren shrugged. 

 

He could cut his own hair just fine but someone else’s hair was way out of his comfort zone. Adam huffed angrily and he threw his small body on the couch, burying his head in his hairs, whining pitifully. Eren stared at him. It really wasn’t that bad. Adam had curly locks - they showed more now that he was clean. The bangs may have been a little too much but it’ll grow back. 

 


 

The teen rolled on his stomach and he buried his face in the pillow, ignoring the distant sounds filtering through his consciousness. He felt a weight on his backside and he grunted, ignoring the small body sitting on him, smacking him awake.

 

“Eren! Wake up! It’s my birthday! Get you up oaf!”  

 

Eren grumbled and pressed the pillow against his ears. “Five more minutes.”

 

He heard an indignant whine and he felt a sharp sting on his shoulder. Eren whirled on his back and the kid fell off him with an omph. He glared at the brat and pressed a hand to his shoulder. 

 

“You bit me,” he hissed. 

 

Adam stuck out his tongue. “Come on, it’s my birthday! We have to go to Bristol!” 

 

Eren scowled and he grabbed the kid, tickling his sides mercilessly. Adam squealed and he kicked his legs out, hitting him in the nose. Eren cursed and pulled back, holding his nose with a groan. This little shit. Adam sat up and grinned up at him, all carefree and excited. The teen rolled his eyes and stood up.

 

“Hey! Where’s my happy birthday, Eren?”

 

Eren grunted and shuffled into the bathroom.

 


 

The pair made their way down the stairs of the underground subway. Adam bounced happily down the steps, chattering eagerly about different flavours of cake. Eren nodded and listened, cataloguing the information. He peered ahead at the passengers boarding the train and he turned back to the kid. 

 

“Adam, watch your ste-”

 

A sharp crackle cut through the underground station and the ground trembled. Eren’s eyes widened and he lunged forward, grabbing Adam into his arms as the denotations went off. Screams filtered through the subway as the passenger car at the end exploded. Eren threw his body to the ground and held Adam to his chest, protecting him with his back. The flames erupted and the sound of pain filled the station. 

 

What the fuck?

 

Eren lifted his head and peered through the smoke. He heard the sound of gunshots and he moved hurriedly, holding the kid tightly in his arms. Eren watched the bodies fall through the smoke and he pressed a hand to the boy’s head.

 

“Don’t look.” He ordered. 

 

Eren dug his hand into his vest and he pulled out his theatre mask. The smoke covered the pair and he slipped the mask on. He stood up and moved hurriedly, grabbing the survivors and pulling them away from the burning train. He lowered Adam to the ground at the bottom of the stairs and he rushed back to the train. The heat licked at his skin and he cursed, grabbing the distressed passengers, hauling them out roughly. 

 

“Quick! Hurry! It’s going to explode!”

 

“Phantom!” A small dark haired boy cried as he rushed to him. 

 

Eren picked him up and hauled him out of the train. He grabbed a few others, women and children, office workers and seniors, pulling them out of the train. Gunshots filtered through, nearly missing his head, and he cursed, ripping off the train door and holding it as a shield.

 

“Move, move!” He urged, pushing the passengers to safety. 

 

He threw the door like a frisbee, taking down the gunmen. He grabbed more civilians, pushing them out. He ran onto the flaming train, looking for any more survivors. He heard the sound of indignant cursing deep into the train and he rushed forward, coughing and hacking. 

 

Oh shit.

 

There was a teen stuck under the rubble, hissing in frustration - The only day I decide to take public transportation, this happens! Screw this! Screw you Scarecrow! - He looked eerily calm for a kid in a life-threatening situation. He had intelligent eyes, peering around intently for an escape. 

 

Eren rushed forward and he dug his hands under the rubble, pulling it up. The kid stared at him with wide eyes. He had jet black hair, a pale complexion and sharp blue eyes. Eren hoisted him up bridal style and the teen squawked in offence at being manhandled. 

 

Eren leaped off the burning train and set the kid on his legs. He pushed him towards the stairs and he looked around, honing in on spreading fire. A gunshot sounded out, followed by a familiar scream. Eren’s heart stuttered and he ran forward through the smoke.

 

“Kid?!”

 

He found Adam huddled in the corner - stupid stupid stupid boy - He didn’t leave. 

 

Eren scooped him up in his arms and he tightened his hold on him. 

 

“You idiot! Why didn’t you leave?!” He hissed angrily. 

 

Adam glared at him and he wiped his wet eyes. Eren set him on the ground at the stairs and he knelt down in front of him. The teen limped towards them - the little bastard didn’t leave - and he eyed them curiously. 

 

Eren ignored him.

 

“Look, I need to go back and look for more survivors. I need you to take the stairs.”

 

Adam shook his head. “No. I won’t leave you.”

 

Eren pushed him away towards the stairs. The brat refused to budge. Eren growled and he picked him up by the collar. He turned to the teen and threw him over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. He ignored their indignant cries and ran up the stairs, depositing them on top. He rushed back down the steps, reaching the bottom. He turned back and eyed the Adam - his boy - and he waved reassuringly. 

 

Eren rushed back into the platform and he froze, hearing the ominous crack.

 

He stared up at the split ceiling - Fuckity Fuck - and he whirled around, finding the kid screaming for him, struggling in the teen’s arms. 

 

Oh.

 

What a lame way to die.

 

Ah, he didn’t get to wish him a Happy Birthday.

 

He wouldn’t make it. 

 

The ceiling collapsed.

 

Eren blacked out. 

 


 

Chapter Text

8.

 

A thudding pain pounded through his skull and he opened his eyes tiredly to darkness. Ugh. Eren gazed upwards at the rubble and he listened to the sound of debris falling. Fuck. He was buried alive. Oh joy. Eren assessed his injuries and he bit back a pained groan. His legs were crushed underneath a heavy boulder. A steel rod impaled his chest, an inch from his heart, right through to his back. 

 

Eren blinked slowly. De ja vu. The teen scowled. Again. This had happened before - during the fight with Annie. He was buried alive, impaled. Ouch, ouch, ouch. It was getting redundant. He wanted to throw his hands up in frustration - fuck you universe! - but his arms were broken. Eren flexed his fingers minutely and he took a deep breath. He didn’t want to heal with the rod impaled in him. 

 

No thank you. 

 

He gazed around his space critically. Even if he healed, how the fuck would he get out? The boulders were heavy. He wished he had the War Hammer’s abilities so he could grow spikes out of his body and break through the boulders. Eren focused on healing his arms. He shifted, grabbing a hold of the steel pipe. He released a guttural scream of agony as he ripped it out of his chest. It clattered loudly to the ground and he heaved.

 

His body began steaming rapidly, healing his chest. Eren fell back on the ground and flexed his toes. Fuck. This. Shit. Eren closed his eyes and breathed slowly. He was running out of oxygen. He couldn’t hear any sounds around him. How far had he fallen? Eren focused, breathing slowly. There was the faint sound of trickling water. Pipes? The smell of sewage water wafted up the air. 

 

Eren scowled.

 

The teen bit back an indignant scream and he sat up. He glared down at his legs - at the massive boulder - He needed enough power to move it. Eren stared down at his hands. Come on, come on, come on. Healing and regeneration were not enough. He needed momentum. 

 

He begged the spirit of the Founder silently- Come on Fritz, I freed you after two thousand years, you better have given me more than regeneration. Eren closed his eyes and he envisioned the crystals - the titan hardening powers - and he pushed his palms outwards. Tendrils erupted out of his flesh, white crystals - harder than diamond - moved forward and broke through the rubble effortlessly. 

 

Eren pulled his legs out of the broken boulder and propelled his regeneration hurriedly. He crawled out of the rubble and stared at the desecrated landscape. He was deeper underground. How did that happen? The teen sighed and moved through the tunnels. He took off his mask, eyeing the sewage water in disgust. 

 

Eren moved through the tunnels for a long time. 

 

It was a maze.

 

His green eyes lit up in relief as he saw the set of stairs. He moved up the ladder, pausing as he saw the water shifting. Something was down there. Eren hurried up the stairs - having no desire to find out what lurked in the sewers - and he pushed against the manhole. He pulled himself upwards and stared up at the dark grey skies. He eyed the street signs and his shoulders slumped in relief. He wasn’t far.

 

He eyed the dark skies. He lost too many hours.

 

Adam.

 

Eren walked through the streets and he stopped by a bakery, grabbing a cake on the way. He made his way to the hideout and he entered with a soft click. It was dark. He eyed the rumpled form on the couch, huddled under many blankets. The small body was shaking and crying. Eren closed the door and flicked the lights on. Adam stiffened, raising his head for a peak.

 

His eyes widened and he sailed across the room, leaping onto him.

 

“EREN!” 

 

Eren caught him with a grunt - stupid little monkey - and he deposited the cake on the counter. Adam hiccuped wetly and clutched him tightly. Eren ran a hand down his bony back and hugged him to his chest.

 

“I- I t-thought y-you d-died. I s-saw the c-ceiling c-collapse.”

 

Eren rested his chin on the mop of dark curls and he inhaled. 

 

Adam was safe. 

 

He was okay. 

 

“Kid, I need to tell you something very important but it's between us. No one can find out.”

 

Adam quieted down and he stared up at him with wide eyes. 

 

Eren reached into his vest and pulled out his pocket knife. He held it in front of his palm and he sliced it open. Adam gasped and he reached forward shakily. Eren stopped his hand.

 

“Watch.” 

 

Adam frowned and stared down at his palm. 

 

Eren channeled his healing and his cut closed, disappearing without a single scar. Eren wiped the blood off his hand and he held his hand out for inspection. Adam stared with bulging eyes.

 

“Wha…what just h-happened?”

 

Eren ran a hand through the boy’s hair comfortingly. “I heal Adam. I heal from pretty much everything.”

 

Adam’s eyes widened in understanding. “Everything?”

 

Eren nodded. “Yes, so far I’ve been shot 4-5 times, three times in the chest, I had a ceiling collapse on me, got my legs crushed, was impaled with a steel rod an inch from my heart and knocked out by a boulder.” He explained nonchalantly as the kid stared at him with mounting horror.

 

Eren suppressed an amused smile and flicked the boy’s forehead. “But I healed just fine. What I’m saying is I’m not easy to kill. I won’t die easily and leave you behind.”

 

Adam hiccuped and he grabbed his hand tightly with small hands. He stared at the unmarred skin.

 

“I…I thought you died…it was like…the worst birthday ever.” He whispered wetly. 

 

“Hey none of that kid. I’m still here. Also I got cake, let’s go, we still got a few hours until midnight.”

 

Eren hoisted the boy up in his arms and he grabbed the cake box. He kicked the door open and made his way to the rooftop. He sat down and set the cake next to him. The teen stared up at the grey sky and he frowned. 

 

“What a shit view,” he drawled.

 

Adam giggled and he leaned back against him. Eren took out the cake from the box and he cursed. Shit. He forgot the utensils. He shrugged. Oh well. He dug his fingers into the cake and grabbed a bite - it was sweet. Adam mimicked his movements and they ate without utensils. 

 

Frosting landed everywhere and it got very messy. Adam’s laughter ran through the rooftop and it put a small smile on Eren’s face. The child was warm against him - safe, healthy, alive. It wasn’t a perfect birthday but it wasn’t bad either.

 


 

Eren made his way into the open park and he eyed the stacks of garbage on the playground. Adam eyed the swings with a longing expression. Eren frowned and he moved towards the trash - it was a lot of garbage. Discarded liquor bottles, bags of rotten food, rusted metal fragments. It wasn’t safe for his brat to play in. 

 

Eren moved towards the garbage bags and he heaved them up in his arms, tossing them in their designated spot. He knelt down and picked up the litter - discarded bottles - tossing them aside. Adam joined him and Eren put a stop to his actions.

 

“Leave the glass to me. Go pick up the bags.”

 

Adam nodded and shuffled to the side, picking up the cardboard boxes. 

 

“Eren!”

 

Eren looked up and he waved in greeting. It was the group of street teenagers he trained in self-defence. Their leader - Jeremiah - walked over with a cheeky grin and he arched an eyebrow curiously. 

 

“What’re ya doing?”

 

“Clean up.” Eren commented. “I think a few kids can benefit from playing him if it's a little cleaner.”

 

“Oh, want some help? We have some free time.”

 

Eren nodded. “Yeah, if you don’t mind.” 

 

Jeremiah grinned and motioned to his group of friends. “Divide and conquer lads.”

 

The group moved in, moving the trash back into the bins. Eren worked quietly, listening to the chatter of the kids around him. They were lively and exuberant. 

 

“Eren!” 

 

Eren lifted his head and his lips quirked upwards faintly. 

 

“Hello ladies.”

 

Angie stepped forward. “I heard Phantom got injured in the subway.” She stared at him, looking him up and down carefully.

 

Eren blinked slowly. “He did? How would I know?”

 

Angie leaned forward and she pinched his cheek. Eren scowled and slapped her hand away. She rolled her eyes and crouched down next to him. 

 

“What’re you doing?” 

 

“Clean up. Adam won’t say it but he keeps staring at the swings longingly every time we cut through here. I don’t know if they mean something to him or he’s just being a kid…” Eren explained. “Care to help?”

 

Angie grinned. “Sure.” She chirped. “It’s the least we can do in return for your favours.”

 

She turned to Sophie and the other girls, clapping her hands. She delegated the tasks and returned to her spot next to him, staring at him with an unreadable expression. Eren ignored the staring and he focused on gathering the fragments of glass. 

 

“Are you done?”

 

“You’re such eye-candy darling. You can’t blame a girl for wanting to look.” She reached over and patted his cheek.

 

Eren flicked some sand towards her and she huffed in irritation. Adam ran over and latched onto Eren’s back like a koala. He glared at Angie with an exaggerated pout. 

 

“No flirting with Eren! I don’t want you as my mom!”

 

Angie laughed. “Does that make Eren your dad? I’d make a great mom for you though.”

 

Eren frowned. “I’m nineteen. I prefer older brother, brat.”

 

He rolled his eyes as the two began bickering. Seriously Angie? Real mature.

 

The teen stood up with hands full of shards and he walked to the trash cans. Adam remained latched to his back like a little parasite. The sun sank in the horizon and their clean up group expanded. The homeless stepped forward and moved the trash to the landfills in groups. Eren watched as Jeremiah and his crowd challenged one another to a game of Marco Polo. Adam joined them - along with a few younger children - and they ran around the cleared playground.

 

The skies shifted with orange hues and the girls stepped away for a moment, returning with cold drinks for everyone. Angie stepped next to Eren handing him a cold beer. The teen nodded his thanks and popped the can open. The two stood side by side, watching Adam as he ran around laughing and playing with a carefree smile.

 

“He looks happy, you’re good for him, you know.”

 

Eren frowned. 

 

He didn’t know. 

 

Angie scoffed and knocked her shoulders with his. “Don’t sell yourself short, you dolt.”

 

Eren huffed. “I just want him to be safe you know? To grow up and make it safely into adulthood.”

 

Angie hummed. “Whatever you’re doing, it’s working. Look around you, Crime Alley is still a shithole but it's a nicer shithole now.”

 

Eren nodded and he turned to watch the kids play freely. He watched the crowds, talking and relaxing in the cold breeze of winter. He felt a sense of rare serenity settle over him. 

 


 

The teen watched the groups practice with discerning eyes. The groupings were divided based on ability and athleticism. Eren eyed Jeremiah as the teen did a perfectly executed backflip, landing on his feet and he evaded his friend’s tackle with a complicated maneuver. The teen laughed and he danced on his feet, waving to his friend with a finger. 

 

Eren felt concern settle in his stomach. The movements he taught the marginalized community were the movements he executed in battle. Well shit. He was leaving a footprint by teaching the people of Crime Alley to defend themselves. 

 

Eren frowned at the thought. He couldn’t stop now. Not when it was helping. He hoped no one was looking too closely into Phantom’s identity. 

 

Fuck.

 

Red Hood.

 

Eren scowled at the thought. The vigilante ex-crime lord was hot on his heels. He nearly ran into him a few times after the night he shot him but he took to hiding. He had no use for more confrontations. He wouldn’t hand the drugs over - he couldn’t trust him. The drugs would circulate back on the streets of Gotham and end up ruining young lives. 

 

Eren stared at Jeremiah. The teen laughed and he flipped his friend over his shoulder. He pulled his friend up good-naturedly. Drugs would ruin young lives like the ones he guided. He couldn’t have that.

 

Fuck Red Hood. 

 

Eren moved forward, correcting the teen’s form. Jeremiah clapped him on the shoulder in gratitude and he turned to the weaker groups. He focused on the younger children, kneeling down and instructing them in a low voice. He stared at the children - a combination of boys and girls. 

 

“What’s the first rule of self-defence?”

 

Emee - a twelve year old girl - stepped forward. She was a child living in Gotham’s orphanage. 

 

“Number 1 rule is flight and not fight, if you don’t have a chance don’t try being a hero and save yourself.”

 

Eren nodded proudly. “Exactly, only fight when you have the means to win. Be smart, don’t rush into danger. Heroism gets you killed and when you’re dead, it’s all over.”

 

“Next, if you see a group of people eyeing you strangely, what do you do?”

 

Another kid stepped forward - Mikhail - an eleven year old with a drunk father. 

 

“Get yourself out and go into crowded places. Don’t run yourself into alleyways or fenced enclosures. Stay in a group always. Never go anywhere alone.”

 

Eren smiled in pride and ruffled the boy’s hair. Mikhail ducked his head with a flushed gaze and he withdrew behind his friend. The teen continued his instruction, guiding the younger kids through the motions. The sun set into the horizon and the groups filtered out. 

 

Eren turned to Adam and the kid smiled up at him.

 

“What’s for dinner?”

 

Eren scrunched his nose. “Pasta.”

 

“Eh? Again?!”

 

Eren smacked him lightly on the head and moved through the alleyways. Adam chased after him, holding onto his pant leg. The brat began listing the different kinds of cuisines available for them to try, nagging him about his culinary skills with a disappointed gaze.

 


 

Red Hood stared at the small screen of his phone, reading the report with sharp green eyes. He leaned against his motorbike and scowled darkly. The amount of missing drugs was substantial. It was enough to tip the scales and destroy Crime Alley. Fucking Phantom. He needed to apprehend the fucker. 

 

The little bitch had the audacity to insult great works of literature. He was a Shakespearean fanatic. He was deeply insulted. And he had stolen his equipment! Replacement had laughed so hard he chortled coffee out of his nostrils. Fucking disgusting. Nightwing had giggled hysterically at his plight while Robin stared silently with his judgemental gaze. Fucking brat. Oracle had listened through the comms silently. Her silence was loud. Batman had stared at him behind his cowl before he wordlessly handed him a new grappling hook. 

 

Fuck them. 

 

It was a good thing the girls were off on an undercover mission. He didn’t need his shame spread among all the batchildren and the fucking titans. 

 

Fuck them all!

 

He would show them. He would apprehend the bastard - too bad he couldn’t kill him - Bruce’s no killing rule was seriously annoying. Maybe if he shot a little higher by accident next time. Sometimes his victims died unintentionally. Arteries were a thing he often forgot about. Whoops. There was no love lost over scumbags dying - Batman be damned - Phantom was going down. 

 

Permanently. 

 


 

Eren stood at the top of a tall building surveying the streets of Crime Alley. He heard a thud behind him - the landing of a heavy body - and he sighed in dismay. He didn’t have to turn around to know it was his greatest fan. 

 

“Seriously? It’s Friday night.” He drawled. 

 

The teen kept his back turned, gazing down at the group of teenagers lounging by the store. He saw Jeremiah in the crowd, smoking a joint and laughing with his friends. The service girls stood by the teens, laughing and chatting with the group amiably. 

 

“No rest for the wicked Phantom.”

 

Eren sighed. “What do you want Hood?”

 

“The drugs.”

 

Eren frowned. “Why? I haven’t circulated them or anything.”

 

“Hand them over to the authorities.”

 

Eren whirled around in shock. “You can’t mean that.”

 

Hood paused. 

 

Eren scoffed. “Please, we both know the cops here are corrupt as fuck. I give them back, they’ll circulate right back into these streets. See those kids right down there?”

 

Hood hesitated and he slowly shuffled over, gun raised. 

 

He glanced down. “And?”

 

“Those kids will be the victims if the drugs end up back on streets. They will fall prey to addiction, get their lives destroyed. Cops will just circulate that shit back so no, I will not hand over the drugs Hood.”

 

Eren turned and glared at him. “You can shoot me. It won’t change anything.”

 

I’ll heal anyways. 

 

Hood tensed. “You can’t keep the drugs to yourself. I don’t know your intentions.”

 

Eren laughed, a dry unamused sound. “And I don't owe you any explanation. You or Batman or any of those suited heroes. You think you guys own Gotham and that you have the right to question and demand the intentions of others like your Gods overseeing your herds. Fuck off Hood. You don’t own Gotham.”

 

Eren moved into his space threateningly and hissed. “You don’t own me.”

 

Hood growled and raised his gun. Eren moved towards the edge of the building and he dived downwards. The shots rang threw the night, missing his body. He landed on the fire escape and leaped down to the pavement. He rolled onto the ground and eyed the rooftops. Red Hood chased after him relentlessly. Eren cursed as he saw another shadow on the rooftops - another caped fucker. 

 

Not good. 

 

Eren ran into the service girls and teens. They stared at him with wide eyes. They crowded around him eagerly, cheering in excitement. 

 

Eren lifted his hands placatingly.

 

“No time lads. There are caped weirdos trying to apprehend me.”

 

Angie stepped forward and she looked towards the crowd meaningfully. She raised a whistle to her mouth and released a shrill sound - Formation B! - She hollered to the crowd - PROTECT PHANTOM! - Eren watched in bewilderment as the network filtered out of their spots, filling up the streets. They ran around, blocking the routes and crowding the vicinity. 

 

What the actual fuck?

 

“Go Phantom!” Jeremiah yelled. 

 

The teen had a small projectile in his hand and he threw it at the rooftops. It impacted and exploded in a gust of smoke. His friends ran forward and threw the smoke bombs around the street in random directions, causing chaos and mayhem. Eren looked over his shoulder, seeing Red Hood struggling to get through a group of service girls who cartwheeled in his path. 

 

He looked upwards and saw the teens attacking the shadowed figure on the rooftop. The homeless men and women began singing and chanting obnoxiously. 

 

A kid took out a boombox and blasted Crazy Frog and the street kids filtered out and began a flash mob dance. Eren wasted no time and raced through the crowds who parted for him. 

 

“Over here Phantom!” A man waved him over, guiding him into a backdoor of a restaurant.  

 

Eren ran through and another street girl waved to him - Emee - and she pulled him into a dark alley. She pushed back a box and showed him a hidden door. Eren nodded his thanks and took off. He crouched down low, avoiding the cameras. He took off his mask and regalia, folding his trench coat. 

 

“Eren!” 

 

He looked up with wide eyes. 

 

Adam grinned at him and he took his hand, hauling him back into the crowd. “Let’s dance!” 

 

Eren blended into the crowds and he disappeared seamlessly with the large crowd of misfits. He smirked in satisfaction, watching Red Hood curse and scream in indignation - What the fuck? What is going on? - The figure on the rooftop had retreated back into the shadows, withdrawing strategically. 

 

Eren watched Adam dance around with the other kids to the obnoxious beat. He bumped into Angie who smirked at him and twirled him around between her friends. The teen bit back an amused laugh and he watched as Red Hood retreated in resigned defeat. He eyed the crowds dancing, laughing, cartwheeling and cheering.

 

It was utterly chaotic.

 

What the fuck just happened?

 

Oh.

 

Oh no.

 

PROTECT PHANTOM!

 

Fuck.

 

He had accidentally started a cult in Crime Alley. 

 

Again.


 

Chapter Text

9.

 

The teen placed the bowl of boiled vegetables on the rickety table and he stared meaningfully at his young charge. Adam whined and slumped forward on the table, grumbling about vegetables being the work of evil forces. Eren ignored his grumbling and loaded his plate with greens and canned tuna. He needed the kid to grow healthy and fit. He couldn’t grow up well if he was living off sauce and pasta. 

 

He was going to do this right. 

 

Adam sniffled dramatically - he was an actor in the making - and Eren stared at him passively. The nine year old scowled and grabbed his fork, stabbing angrily into a steamed cauliflower. The teen loaded his own plate, wrinkling his nose at the assortment of vegetables. Haleem was a very generous man. He often handed the pair a bag of free vegetables, grumbling that they were going to spoil. 

 

Eren huffed at the memory. 

 

The vegetables were always fresh. 

 

“So what else can you do?” Adam asked curiously as he kicked his legs up and down.

 

Eren pulled his legs back as Adam accidentally hit him in the knee. “Aside from healing?”

 

Adam nodded and he scrunched his nose cutely as he ate a few pieces of broccoli. 

 

Eren frowned. How did he explain his crystallizing abilities? 

 

“Hmm…I can harden my skin and produce crystal tendrils from my body. It’s hard to explain.”

 

Adam stared at him with wide eyes. “Wow! Eren, does that make you a meta?”

 

A what?

 

“Like a person with superpowers you know? Hmm like Flash! He moves so fast so you can’t even see him! That’s so badass!” The kid bounced in his seat excitedly.


Eren watched him with a small indulgent smile. 

 

Adam froze in his seat and his hazel eyes grew wide. 

 

“Oh no,” he whispered with a fearful expression. 

 

Eren frowned in confusion.

 

“Kid?”

 

Adam climbed onto the table top and he clambered towards him, grabbing his face intently. 

 

Eren stared at him with wide eyes. 

 

“I heard a rumour…back when I was on the streets that Batman doesn’t like metas. He doesn’t want any of them in Gotham, its his golden rule or some shit. That’s why Justice League members are far away. If he finds out about you, he’ll take you away! Or hurt you!” 

 

The kid threw his arms around his neck and hugged him tightly as he trembled in fear. 

 

“I hate Batman! I don’t want him to take you away! That piece of shit!”

 

The teen patted the child’s back in confusion. Batman hated people with supernatural abilities? Wow. What a close-minded turd. Fuck him. How long would it take the vigilantes to figure out that he had superhuman abilities? How much did Red Hood know? Eren bit back an annoyed groan. They already wanted to apprehend him for hoarding a bunch of illegal substances. If they knew he was a meta… 

 

Eren tightened his hold on his boy. 

 

No.

 

He hugged Adam comfortingly, shushing him softly. 

 

He wouldn’t let anyone tear them apart.

 

Not even Batman.

 

Adam was his family and Eren protected and cherished his family. 

 


 

The teen looked up at the hiring sign curiously as he made his way into Haleem’s establishment. He ordered his usual and his small companion rushed in, claiming their table in the corner. Eren looked at the owner and gestured to the outside sign. 

 

“You need a hand with the place?”

 

Haleem deposited the cash and he stared at him with narrowed eyes. “Yes,” he spoke gruffly.

 

“Like a cook?”

 

The man shook his head. “No, bussing tables.”

 

Haleem stared at him, looking him up and down with thoughtful eyes. 

 

Eren blinked slowly. 

 

“Want to try?”

 

“Hmm?”

 

“I can pay you minimum wage, in cash if you want. My previous waiter quit and we’re short staffed. You are a good-looking man, very good-looking. People will come in more if you work here.”

 

Eren’s eyes widened in surprise. What? He gazed at Adam who lived off dried pasta and canned tuna. He did need the money. His drug busts were an utter failure. He always landed with more substances than actual cash. A restaurant worker was a good cover story. No one would imagine that the notorious Phantom was a waiter and not the leader of the mafia. 

 

Eren nodded slowly. “What do I need to bring?”

 

“Nothing,” Haleem said. “Usually paperwork but I’ll scrap that for you. Pay you in cash bi-weekly, you come in Mon-Fri. Weekends off. Shifts 6-3pm or 9-6pm.”

 

“Okay. When do I start?”

 

“Tomorrow.”

 

Eren nodded. “Alright, give me the 6am to 3pm shifts. I watch over Adam and I don’t like the idea of not being around him in the evening.”

 

“You can bring him here, as long as he is quiet. I don’t care.”

 

Eren nodded gratefully. “I’ll talk to him. Thanks Haleem.”

 

The man grunted and waved him away. 

 

Eren made his way to the table and he slid across the boy. 

 

Adam stared at him curiously.

 

“Why’d you take so long?”

 

“He offered me a job.”

 

Adam smiled up at him. “That’s great Eren!” 

 

The kid’s smile faltered and he looked off to the side. He picked at the paint on the table and spoke softly. “I won’t be seeing you lots right? Because you’ll be busy and shit…”

 

Eren frowned. “No, Haleem said its okay for you to come in here while I work. I’d prefer you stay home and get more sleep since my shift starts at 6am.”

 

Adam’s expression brightened. “I’ll come! I want to come!” 

 

Eren nodded. 

 

He paused and stared at the kid. “Adam, why aren’t you in school?”

 

Adam choked on his water and he whined in discomfort. Eren waited for him to settle down patiently. 

 

“I was homeschooled before my mum got sick with drugs and then after that…nobody checked so…I never went.”

 

Eren’s eyes widened. “What? What do you mean nobody checked? Aren’t their social services or something?”

 

Adam shrugged. “Yeah but some kids slip through the cracks. They didn’t come check for a while and when they did, I was already on the damn streets.”

 

Holy hell. 

 

What is up with this shithole of a city? 

 

Eren leaned forward. “Okay, we need to go to the library and get you caught up. School is important.”

 

Adam pouted. “I don’t want to go to school. The kids there are assholes.”

 

Eren nodded. “Okay, homeschool then.”

 

“Really? You’d do that?”

 

Eren acquiesced. “I’m probably not the best teacher since I’m not very familiar with the content but I’ll try my best. You can do your homework and lessons here while I work. Monday to Friday, that way you’re putting in enough hours towards your studies. We can look into other options in the future.”

 

Adam beamed at him brightly. “Okay!” 

 

Eren nodded. 

 

Holy hell. 

 

He knew next to nothing on the schooling curriculum in this world. What did they even learn? His education was a military education. The only classes he had taken were on titan anatomy and battle tactics. Not helpful. Eren took a deep breath (inhale and exhale). The library would be their starting place. 

 


 

The pair entered the library with unhurried steps. Adam made his way to the children’s section with eager steps, rushing towards the comic books. Eren rolled his eyes and grabbed him by the collar, hoisting him up in his arms. Adam whined and made grabby hands towards the picture books.

 

“No, later. We need to first look at old curriculum textbooks.”

 

“Ew, why are we going upstairs? Upstairs is for old people and there are no picture books.” He spoke in a scandalized tone. 

 

Eren flicked the boy on his forehead and took the stairs two at a time. “Upstairs is where they keep the old curriculum books. You need to learn it but I also need to learn it to teach it to you.”

 

Adam’s eyes widened and he smiled excitedly. “So we’ll learn it together? Yes!”

 

Eren smiled reluctantly and he made his way into the Education section. He eyed the titles and grabbed a few textbooks - labelled primary education. He made his way towards the tables with his arms full. A figure slammed into him and he heard a startled squawk and pained hissing.

 

“Ouch ouch ouch. Hot, hot, hot! No, not my beloved! My coffee!”

 

Eren lowered the books on the edge of the table and he stared down at mess. A teen was staring down at his spilled coffee with a forlorn expression. He buried his face in his hands and he was grumbling in despair. The teen lowered his hands and he stared up at them with an apologetic gaze. 

 

His blue eyes widened and he pointed a finger at Adam.

 

“It’s you!” He blurted.

 

“SHH!”

 

The teen slapped a hand against his mouth and he nodded apologetically to the cross librarian. 

 

Eren frowned. 

 

Who was this kid? 

 

Adam gasped and he wiggled in his arms. 

 

Eren set him on the floor. 

 

“You’re the boy from the subway incident!” The teen clapped his hands and his expression grew relieved. “I was worried when you ran off. How’re you?”

 

Adam shuffled his feet and he grabbed Eren’s pant leg. “Fine,” he spoke quietly.

 

The teen looked up at Eren and he smiled in a friendly manner. “Sorry, how rude of me. I met your…uh-”

 

“Brother.” Eren supplied. “He’s my little brother.”

 

“Right, I met your brother during one of Scarecrow’s attack. He was saved by the new vigilante Phantom.”

 

Eren nodded. 

 

Oh.

 

Abort.

 

Abort.

 

Abort.

 

FUCKING ABORT!

 

Eren recognized him.

 

It was the kid he saved from the burning train and carried bridal style in his arms. Eren cleared his throat and nodded. Shit. He didn’t have a voice modulator. Did he recognize him? No. The teen was too calm and friendly, smiling happily at Adam with a kind expression. No deceit in his youthful face. 

 

“Uh sorry, I didn’t mean to keep you uhm…I just wanted to say I’m really happy you’re okay. I was seriously worried.”

 

Eren nodded and he pressed a hand to Adam’s shoulder. He grabbed his books and eyed the tables. Fuck. They were all full. It was exam season for the students. The teen cleared his throat.

 

“I have a table, just me if you want to join.” He smiled.

 

Eren bit back a scream.

 

No!

 

I don’t want to fucking join you!

 

ABORT!

 

Adam nodded. “Oh thank you!”

 

Eren pinched the brat discreetly. Adam leaned into his side with an innocent smile and he dug his nails into his knee. The teen showed them to his table and he helped them set their books down. Eren took a seat and he flipped open the first textbook. He pulled out an empty journal, beginning to make a study plan. He wrote on the side, nudging the notebook to his charge.

 

“What do you think of studying this first?” Eren asked, tapping his pencil to the message.

 

- Why the fuck are we sitting here?! He’s from the station you fucking idiot! -

 

Adam grabbed his pencil and smiled sweetly. “Oh, how about we start with this subject first? I think we can do it like this.”

 

Adam penciled in his response and added an angry bird at the end of his sentence. 

 

- Wee need to fend out if he knows stoopied! -

 

Eren stared at the message. 

 

Fair.

 

What horrendous spelling. 

 

He penciled in grammar as a subject to work on. 

 

Adam whipped out a comic book seemingly from nowhere and relaxed into his chair. Eren scowled - that sneaky fucker - and he opened the textbooks, flipping through the content curiously. The teen worked on his assignments quietly and he occasionally paused to chat with them. 

 

Nothing personal. 

 

Casual, friendly chatter.  

 

The hours ticked by and Eren made significant progress into the American curriculum. He eyed his outline and began making a breakdown of each unit. The teen stretched his arms over his head and he began packing his books while humming softly under his breath. He turned to them with kind blue eyes. 

 

“I’m here often after school to complete assignments if you ever want to share a table.”

 

“Cool!” Adam chirped.

 

The teen smiled and he stood up, hoisting his backpack strap onto his shoulder. He tucked his chair in and his eyes widened. 

 

“Oh how rude of me, I never introduced myself!” He facepalmed and stretched out a hand. 

 

Eren took it (with hidden reluctance) and the kid shook his hand with a firm grip. 

 

“What are your names?”

 

“Eren.” 

 

Adam smiled cutely with his dimples. “I’m Adam.”

 

“Cool, my friends call me Tim. Tim Drake.” 

 

He waved to them one last time. 

 

“I hope to see you around.”

 

Eren watched him leave and his shoulders slumped in relief. He laid his head on the table and he sighed heavily. It felt like he lost seven years of his life during the whole encounter. 

 

Secret identities were a pain in the ass. 

 


 

Chapter Text

10.

 

The dispatch message came from an officer sitting in the diner, eating through a large plate of kofta. The cop grunted and ignored the message on his transceiver to attend to the shooting on West St. Eren moved towards the officer, placing the salad on the table. He swiped the transceiver and muted it, stuffing it into his pocket. 

 

He slipped into the back of the restaurant, informing Haleem that he was taking his break. He glanced towards Adam who had his head buried in his notebook and he turned on his heel, rushing through the streets. 

 

Eren ducked behind a trash bin and put on his mask and trench coat. He slipped his tight leather gloves on and took out his refurbished grappling hook. Eren aimed at the rooftops and he sailed upwards, moving hurriedly through the buildings. He made his way to the shootout, cursing in irritation. There were too many bystanders - civilians caught in the middle - crouched low on the floor as the two mobs fired at each other.

 

Eren recognized the dark uniforms - The Black Jacks - The teen took out a smoke bomb (courtesy of Jeremiah) and he tossed it into the fray. The shouts of surprise echoed through the streets and he dropped downwards. Eren rushed to the civilians. The shots fired blindly and he knelt down in front of a group of teenagers. 

 

They gasped as they saw him. 

 

He held a finger to his lips and he ushered them out of the area. He helped an elderly couple out of the vicinity and he turned to the gunmen. He heard the roar of an engine and he turned around. 

 

Fuckity Fuck. 

 

Why was he here? 

 

Red Hood climbed off his motorcycle and fired at the gunmen, taking them down with lethal shots. 

 

Eren knelt down and he grabbed a bunch of children - three girls and boys dangled in his arms - He ran through the smoke and deposited them at the edge of the road. Their parent rushed forwards, crying in relief as they scooped them up in their arms. 

 

“Everybody move! Go, go, go!” Eren ordered as he pushed them away. 

 

He turned to the gunmen and watched Red Hood engaging in a series of fast spars, taking down the numbers. He watched as a gunman raised his revolver at the vigilante’s unprotected back. Eren scrunched his nose. He didn’t care for Hood - he was a pain in his ass - but Hood was helping, protecting the people of Gotham. Eren knelt down and hauled up the manhole in his hands. He whipped it at the thug and it knocked him to the ground.

 

Hood turned around in shock and he stared at him in surprise. “You!” He yelled, raising his gun.

 

Eren cursed and fired his grappling hook, pulling his body to the rooftop of the building. Hood chased after him, firing his hook and joining him on the rooftop. Eren stared down, watching as the cops finally filtered in. 

 

“What the hell are you doing here? Aren’t you only active in Crime Alley?” Hood hissed as he drew closer.

 

Eren rolled his eyes. “I don’t answer to you Hood. You’re welcome by the way.”

 

Hood paused in his approach. “What the fuck do I have to thank you for?”

 

Eren sighed. “Forget it. Are we going to do the same chase? It’s honestly very redundant.”

 

Hood snarled and lunged forward. Eren ducked and leapt to the fire escape. He shot his hook and rushed back to Crime Alley. Hood was hot on his heels. Eren evaded the loose bullets and he landed on the streets, running hurriedly. He paused as he eyed the commotion on the main roads. 

 

No.

 

The door to Haleem’s restaurant was ripped out of its hinges. Spectators stood outside, mumbling with distressed faces. 

 

No. No. No.

 

Eren ran forward, ignoring Hood hot on his heels. He pushed through the crowds, searching for his charge. The restaurant tables were flipped upside down. The interior was entirely destroyed. Haleem stood off to the side, holding a towel to his head as Angie attended to his injuries. 

 

Eren rushed forward, pushing the surprised civilians aside. 

 

Hood ran into his back with a curse and the vigilante paused at the sight. 

 

“What happened?” Eren demanded. 

 

Angie’s eyes widened in surprise and she stepped towards him. 

 

“The Black Jacks came early for their monthly protection fees. Haleem was short a few hundreds and…” She trailed off with a terrified expression.

 

Eren’s stomach sank in realization.

 

His kid was gone.

 

“Phantom…They took the kid.”

 

Adam.

 

“Where?” Eren snarled as his entire body began trembling in rage. “Where the fuck can I find them?!”

 

Angie nodded. “Up on eighth and ninth. They have a warehouse but they are fully armed and their numbers are large. It’s… you might die.”

 

Eren shook his head. “I can’t leave the kid to them. You know what those bastards do to children.”

 

Angie nodded with a sad gaze. She stepped forward and squeezed his arm. “Come back to us.”

 

Eren nodded. 

 

He turned on his heel and walked past the frozen vigilante. 

 

He had no time for the fucker. 

 

The Black Jacks took his kid. 

 

“Hey fuckwad! You’re really just going to go in there!” Hood chased after him, falling into step next to him.

 

“I’m not leaving the kid - any kid - with those sick fuckers.” 

 

“You’re walking to your death dude.”

 

Eren whirled around on the vigilante and he shoved him hard. 

 

“And what do you expect me to do Hood? Sit the fuck back while the kid gets hurt and injured by those bastards? Leave him alone and terrified, with no help to come. No, fuck you Hood. That’s not me. The kids here believe in me, they believe that I will always show up and I’m not going to fucking fail them. Fuck off and leave me alone! I have no time for your shit!”

 

He turned on his heel and ran. 

 

Hood cursed and followed him. 

 

“I’m not leaving a kid to the Black Jacks either!”

 

“Fuck you! I don’t need your help!”

 

“This isn’t help! When this is finished, I’m shooting your ass!”

 

“Not if I break your neck first!”

 

They yelled at each other as they rushed through the streets and the civilians moved away with surprised expressions. Eren reached the edge of the warehouse and he crouched down low, signalling to Hood to move the fuck down. The vigilante snarled and crouched down reluctantly. They eyed the number of armed guards. Hood cursed in a low voice. It was heavily secured. 

 

They were fucked. 

 

Hood took out his cellphone, texting rapidly with an agitated air. 

 

“I called for backup but it might take a while.”

 

Eren scowled. 

 

Great, more caped fuckers. 

 

“Let’s divide. I’ll go in from the back and retrieve the kid. You go up front guns blazing.” 

 

Hood snarled. “Who died and made you the bitch?”

 

Eren rolled his eyes and he moved forward, ducking low and moving to the back of the warehouse. He heard Hood mutter in irritation before he opened fire on the guards. Eren moved into the debilitated building, keeping to the edges and shadows. He held his breath as a group of guards rushed past him, cursing and yelling at their subordinates. 

 

Eren made his way through the empty halls searchingly. He pushed open the door and peaked in. Storage. He tried another door. Storage. Another door. Storage. He scowled and moved deeper, eyeing the increased number of guards. He was closer - He knew it. He listened to the guard’s dispatch - Red Hood was a very good bait. He counted the armed bodies - seven - and his eyes widened as he saw the small body tied to the pole. 

 

Adam was conscious and he looked green in the face. He had a split lip and his cheek was swollen. Eren felt the visceral rage overtake his senses. Green green green filtered through his vision and he lunged forward, slamming his fist into one of the guards, breaking his jaw. He grabbed another and flipped his body, slamming his head repeatedly onto the floor. Gunshots fired and embedded into his back. 

 

He kept moving in a wrathful trance. 

 

He didn’t slow down. 

 

There was yelling and screaming. 

 

It was all incoherent. 

 

Like a dream sequence. 

 

Eren grabbed another body and snapped the arms, twisting the joints in an unnatural direction. The snap of bones and screams filtered through the warehouse as he took down the bodies, one by one. Red painted the floor - his blood and his victims - His chest heaved and his vision spun. 

 

Someone was screaming - It was familiar - crying. Eren felt the haze slip away slowly and he blinked in shock. 

 

Bodies lay at his feet, groaning and bleeding. 

 

Adam!  

 

Eren ran forward and ripped the ropes off the kid, grabbing him desperately with shaking hands. Adam clutched him tightly and the teen stood up hurriedly. He eyed the bodies - They were alive  (barely) - and he rushed out of the warehouse. Eren moved through the corridors, running desperately. 

 

His body felt hot. 

 

His vision was unclear.

 

Fuck.

 

He lost too much blood.

 

Eren pushed through the backdoor and he landed on his knees. He groaned and stood up on shaky legs. The gunshots continued firing. He heard Hood’s angry snarl followed by an enraged screech  - REPLACEMENT! - He didn’t know what Replacement entailed. Fuck. Everything hurt. He needed to get Adam away. He needed to leave before Hood came after him, to shoot him in the head. 

 

Eren heard the sound of light footsteps hitting the ground and he stiffened. 

 

It wasn’t Red Hood. 

 

Eren whirled around and he nearly stumbled from the vertigo. The new fucker wore a red suit, with a long cape and a black hood - Red Robin. The vigilante paused in his approach and eyed them with wide eyes. Eren tucked Adam’s head to his chest and he backed away. The hero raised his hands placatingly.

 

“Easy, I’m not here to apprehend you. Phantom, you need medical attention.”

 

Eren scowled and moved back.

 

“That’s a lot of blood…”

 

Eren gazed around him. There was a fence behind him and a narrow dirt path. Parked vehicles. The teen turned on his heel and he shot out his hook, taking off to the rooftops. The caped hero chased after him - WAIT! - Eren rushed through the rooftops and he leapt down into the streets, running through the busy crowds. He weaved and ducked, changing his routes. He dived under a large bus and held his breath, listening to the sound of the vigilantes. 

 

He counted the seconds silently.

 

Nothing. 

 

Eren rolled out from under the bus with a groan and he dived behind a dumpster. He took off his signature coat and mask with shaking hands. He was glad he wore black consistently. It hid the blood. The teen couldn’t heal without taking out the bullets. Eren felt his stomach sink in realization. The bullets were embedded in his back. 

 

Fuck.

 

He needed help.

 

He couldn’t subject Adam to that.

 

He was just a kid.

 

Eren took off his hair tie and his hair fell down in waves. He grabbed a baseball cap from his bag and slipped it on Adam’s head. He stood up weakly and rushed through the streets. Eren made his way shakily to the side street and he paused at the sight of the teen. Jeremiah paced the sidewalk with a worried expression. Eren bit his lip and he rushed forward, holding Adam tightly in his arms.

 

Jeremiah’s eyes widened and he rushed towards them. 

 

“Hey Eren! Woah man you look like shit.”

 

Eren gritted his teeth in pain. “I…” He took a rattling breath. “I need your help.”

 

Jeremiah’s eyes widened and he nodded, grabbing his arm and pulling him away from the street. He led him deeper into Crime Alley and up the stairs to a rundown apartment building. Jeremiah pushed the door open and he ushered him in. 

 

Eren set down Adam gently on the coach and he turned to the teen with a perspiring face.

 

“Can you take out bullets?” He asked abruptly. 

 

Jeremiah’s eyes widened and he nodded. 

 

“Yeah, my old man was army. He taught me a few things. Hey man, what’s going on? You should sit.”

 

“Adam, close your eyes.” Eren ordered as he turned his back.

 

He took off his shirt and he heard the teen gasp. 

 

“What the fuck?! How are you even moving?!”

 

“Just get them out.” Eren hissed as he sat down on the ground. 

 

“Okay, okay. Hold up, let me get some cleaning shit first. Kid, the remote is there. Put on cartoons or some crap.”

 

Eren closed his eyes and he counted the seconds in his head. He needed to close the wounds to staunch the bleeding. He lost a lot of blood. He needed the bullets out. Now. Jeremiah came back and he moved behind him, taking a seat on the floor. His hands were warm and careful on his back as he took out the bullets. 

 

Eren bit back a pained groan and he breathed deeply. 

 

It fucking hurt.

 

“Eren… you're him right?”

 

Eren opened his eyes and he stared at the cracks on the ground.

 

“I mean Adam gets taken, you disappear and then…you come back with him, bleeding like fucking crazy with a shit ton of bullets in your back.”

 

Eren sighed in resignation. “Will this get around?” 

 

Jeremiah chuckled. “Nah man, not with me. You’re like the big brother of Crime Alley. Why the hell would I sell out my brother?”

 

Eren frowned. 

 

Big brother.

 

Strange.

 

Eren listened to the clinking sounds of bullets hitting the ground. Jeremiah ran a warm towel over his back and he spoke in a quiet tone. The sound of the television filtered through the cold apartment. Eren took a deep breath - The bullets were all out - He focused and drew forth his healing energy. His skin stitched up the wounds rapidly and he heard the alarmed whispers. 

 

Eren swayed from fatigue and he reeled backwards. 

 

Warm arms caught him.

 

He blacked out.

 


 

Red Hood slammed his steeled boot into the armed man’s head, knocking him out cold. He turned to Replacement and glared at him angrily. He lifted his pistol and aimed it threateningly at the teen.

 

“Why the fuck are you here? I asked Oracle for Nightwing.”

 

Red Robin held up his hands placatingly. “Nightwing is stuck in a conference and I owe Phantom for something. I wanted to help.”

 

Red Hood snarled. “I don’t need your help.”

 

“Maybe you didn’t but he did…you didn’t see him after the fight. All that blood…I don’t think he’s going to make it.”

 

Hood paused and he lowered his gun. He didn’t like the idea of Phantom dying. He looked forward to their chase. He didn’t like the idea of someone else killing him. He was the one who wanted to shoot him dead. No one had the right to take that away from him. Phantom was his prey. 

 

Red Robin sighed. “Listen, Phantom saved my life a while back and unlike the rest of you, I actually just want to talk to him. I owe him that much.”

 

“Does Batman know about this?”

 

Red Robin smirked. “Batman is quite busy with the missing Kryptonite case right now.”

 

Hood strapped his gun on his belt and he turned on his heel. He was done talking to Replacement. Hood paused at the sight of the blood on the ground. It was a lot of blood. He cursed and kicked up the dirt. Phantom better not be dead. 

 

That fucker. 

 


 

The teen opened his eyes tiredly and he stared at an unfamiliar cracked ceiling. The smell of smoke wafted through the air and he turned his head searchingly. Jeremiah sat by his bedside smoking a joint in his hands, a book was propped open in his lap. The teen looked up and he smiled, snuffing his joint on the ash tray.

 

“Hey, how’re ya feeling?” He asked.

 

The teen leaned forward and pressed a cold hand to his forehead. 

 

“Man, you’re really hot, ya know? That’s some high body temperature.”

 

Eren grunted and he sat up slowly. 

 

Jeremiah reached forward and pushed him down gently. 

 

“Nah, none of that man. You need more rest. You’ve only been out a few hours. Get some rest, imma put on some shitty dinner soon. I don’t have much but it's still edible.”

 

Eren laid back down. He heard a small whine and he looked to his side. Adam lay asleep next to him, clutching onto him tightly. The teen rested a hand on the kid’s head and he watched the boy settle in his sleep. Eren threw a careful arm over the boy’s small body and tucked him into his chest. 

 

He breathed deeply and closed his eyes tiredly. 

 

He felt like utter shit. 

 

Eren listened to the clanking sounds from the kitchen and he rested his chin on the mop of curly hair. 

 

He closed his eyes and fell asleep. 

 


 

Red Robin walked through the destroyed warehouse. He eyed the bodies groaning on the ground and he sent out a dispatch call to the EMS. He frowned at the gruesome injuries. Hood and Phantom were a horrible combination. Neither of the two held back their hits.

 

The vigilante looked around for clues. 

 

Interesting.

 

Phantom did not use firearms.

 

He fought barehanded. 

 

Red Robin knelt down next to the groaning bodies. He eyed the dislocated shoulders and crushed kneecaps. Phantom was trained - military? - His hits were precise. Not a novice. The teen moved through the battleground, eyeing the blood on the floor. He needed a sample to run it through his personal lab. He needed to match Phantom’s DNA to the database. The spectre left no fingertips on the scene. 

 

The masked man was careful - very careful. 

 

Red Robin smirked. 

 

He liked a good challenge.  

 

The teen reached into his suit, pulling out a glass vial and he knelt down. He frowned. The blood was mixed. There was a possibility it did not belong to the new crime lord. He needed a cleaner sample. The teen moved out of the compound towards the back gate. He pushed the door open and he eyed the ground, freezing in his tracks.

 

The blood was gone.

 

Red Robin rushed towards the asphalt, eyeing the ground critically.

 

Phantom had bled - a lot - He had stood his ground, shaking with a small child in his arms. The vigilante knelt down and he brushed the cold gravel. 

 

It made no sense. 

 

Where did all the blood go? 

 

Red Robin sighed and he tucked his vial into his suit. 

 

He had no DNA samples. 

 

Phantom was true to his moniker. 

 

He was a literal ghost. 

 


 

 

BATCHAT:

Tim: We have a problem.

Dick: (д)

Tim: Phantom’s trace and blood has disappeared.

Dick: What if… he’s a ghost…?

Jason: Df are you smoking Dickface?!

Dick: CALL IN OUR GHOST EXPERT! 

Duke: You called?

Dick: We have a situation ゞ◎Д◎ヾ

Jason: This is fucking stupid! I’m out!

Steph: We will be back in Gotham tonight.

Duke: Yes, we’ve wrapped everything up.

Dick:( ・∀・)

*Jason has left the chat*

Dick: (゚Д゚?) Jason? 

*Dick has added Jason to the chat*

Dick: ヽ〔゚Д゚〕丿

*Jason has left the chat*

Steph: . . .

Duke: . . .

Cass: . . . 

Dick: I feel ... unloved.

Tim: ღゝ◡╹)ノ♡

Dick: Timmy! (人 •͈ᴗ•͈)

 


 

 

Chapter Text

11.

 

The teen placed the calculator on the library table and he opened the budget notebook with a frown. The repairs to the diner put a wedge in his earnings. Eren sighed and ran a hand through his hair. He was short on income. He gazed towards Adam who solved the long division problems in his notebook with careful concentration. It had been a bad week for both of them. Nightmares plagued Adam and he did not sleep peacefully after his kidnapping. 

 

Eren reached forward and ran a hand over the kid’s head gently. 

 

He wanted to do something nice for Adam to lift his spirits. He didn’t know-

 

Eren lifted his head at the abrupt entrance. 

 

“Hi, can I join you guys?” The teen asked with a friendly smile.

 

Eren suppressed a sigh and nodded. 

 

Tim Drake smiled gratefully and he took a seat. He tapped on his phone for a few moments and he set his books down. 

 

“Hi Adam,” he spoke.

 

Adam nodded and continued working on his math. 

 

Eren frowned. 

 

Adam was very quiet these days.

 

Tim frowned and he looked at Eren questioningly. The teen shook his head and turned back to his budget book with a stressed gaze. 

 

“Can my friends join us? They can’t find a table.” Tim asked with a hopeful look.

 

Eren nodded. He didn’t care. He just wanted Adam to feel better. He didn’t know what to do. He had no idea how to make things better. 

 

Did Adam feel unsafe around him? 

 

No. 

 

Adam was abducted when he stepped out of Crime Alley. Eren glared at his finance book. It was all his fault. He should have remained in his jurisdiction, not stepped out of bounds. 

 

It had costed him too much.

 

He heard the sound of chairs scraping and two bodies dropped on either side of Tim. 

 

“Dude, how much of your English paper did you finish? I’m so screwed!”

 

“I told you to start early. Oh hello there!”

 

Eren raised his head and eyed the newcomers. Two teens - a boy and a girl - The girl had long blond hair and bright blue eyes. She was smiling in a friendly manner and her eyes flicked towards Adam, softening at his presence. The boy had short dark hair and he was wearing a bright yellow sweater. 

 

“Oh sorry, Tim told us he’s been table sharing. I’m Stephanie Brown and this is Duke Thomas.”

 

Eren nodded and clasped her hand. “Eren, this is my brother Adam.”

 

Stephanie smiled and waved to Adam who nodded with a small smile. 

 

“Please call me Steph.”

 

“What school do you go too?” Duke asked curiously as he took a seat, dropping his books on the table.

 

Eren shook his head. “I don’t. I dropped out.” He lied. “I have to work to support Adam.” A half-truth. 

 

“Oh.” Stephanie echoed with a troubled expression.

 

“That’s admirable man.” Duke commented with a small smile. 

 

“Mum died.” Adam added with a frown, adding to their narrative. “Brother came home after a long absence and I’m homeschooled.”

 

“Oh, that’s why you’re here very often.” Tim spoke with a smile. “I’m not use to seeing children in this section studying hard.”

 

Adam pouted. “Eren won’t let me read the comic books until after I finish a chapter of work.”

 

Eren lips quirked faintly. 

 

Adam was talking again in longer sentences that were not grunts and one-worded answers. Eren turned back to his budgeting book and tapped on the calculator, making cuts here and there. Vegetables were unaccounted for with the restaurant closed down for maintenance. They would need to cut down on their meat intake for the month. 

 

Eren crossed out a few sections out. He circled the important ones. 

 

Water expenses. Bread and canned food. Non-perishable food items. 

 

Adam leaned into his side and he eyed his work. He frowned and made a few suggestions. 

 

“Take out the cake.” He said softly. “It’s okay I don’t need it.”

 

Eren frowned. “You like cake.”

 

“It’s too expensive. Plus we need the money for the new curriculum textbooks. We can’t afford both.”

 

Eren glared at the page in irritation. “I’m working on it.”

 

“It’s fine Eren,” he said with a small smile. “I’ll only eat cake on my birthday, that way we can save more.”

 

Adam reached forward and he crossed out a few items. “Take out the juice too. Here, if you add this and then subtract this, we will have a little bit left over. We can buy more bottled water and store it.”

 

“No hold up. If I cut down the meat by half-”

 

“Why half?” Adam glared. “Oh. No. I can’t be the only one to eat meat. You need meat too.” He poked him hard with his pencil.

 

Eren hissed and flicked him on the forehead. “Shut up, I can handle being vegetarian for a few weeks. You’re the growing child, you need it.”

 

“And you’re still a teenager, which means you need it too!” He hissed.

 

“We keep your portions. I’ll sustain myself with canned food. Until the restaurant gets fixed up.”

 

Adam glared and he stabbed him with his pencil. “One can of tomato soup a day is not enough for an adult body. I’m doing science now, remember?”

 

Eren rolled his eyes. “Brat, I’ve sustained myself with less. I’ll survive.”

 

“Eren! You can’t!”

 

Eren ignored the brat and made the changes. He ran the new calculations and ignored the grumbling kid next to him. He raised his head and found the three teenagers watching them with wide eyes. 

 

“What?” He deadpanned.

 

“Nothing!” Tim spoke. “Sorry, we didn’t mean to eavesdrop!”

 

Eren rolled his eyes. “It’s not eavesdropping when we’re right in front of you.”

 

The teens exchanged glances and turned back to their school work. Eren turned back to his budgeting book and he heaved a long sigh. Living was expensive. He didn’t want to risk any appearances as Phantom and leave Adam unattended. Adam was traumatized. He needed him close. Eren ran a hand over his face. There had to be another way to make ends meet without a digital identity. 

 

Poverty sucked. 

 

He didn’t want to impose on his friends. Angie had very little. Jeremiah had served him plain rice and bruised vegetables. The teen was dirt poor, barely making rent. He couldn’t bother his companions with his problems. 

 

Adam was his responsibility. 

 

“Oh, is that Phantom?”

 

Eren raised his head in surprise. 

 

Duke was leaning into Tim’s shoulder, eyeing his open notebook curiously. 

 

Stephanie lowered her pen and leaned into his side, blue eyes widening. 

 

“Wow, he looks so cool! I love the coat! Timmy, you drew this? Aww, are you a closet fanboy?”

 

Tim flushed and elbowed his friends simultaneously. “Shut up, he saved my life.”

 

Stephanie whistled. “Wait, how come you never told us?”

 

Tim frowned. “You were both…on vacation.”

 

“Oh, do tell. Spill the details.”

 

Eren felt very awkward. He was sitting with teenagers gushing over Phantom’s popularity. Adam sat up eagerly and he looked very smug - the little monkey - Tim flushed a deeper red and he grumbled in embarrassment. 

 

“Ugh, Scarecrow and some of his goons. They put a bomb in one of train carts. It went off and Phantom appeared, pulling everyone off the burning train. He… he was very cool!” He gushed excitedly. “He rushed right into the flames and grabbed all the passengers without hesitation.”

 

Duke whistled. 

 

Adam smirked. 

 

“You’re forgetting the most important part. He carried you out of the fiery flames like a princess.”

 

Tim squeaked in embarrassment and he buried his face in his hands. 

 

Stephanie and Duke stared at Adam with wide eyes. 

 

The kid smiled innocently.

 

“I was there and I saw it all.”

 

Duke guffawed and he wheezed in laugher. Stephanie chortled and she wiped her eyes in mirth. Tim sunk deeper and deeper into his chair, looking like he wanted to disappear. Eren shook his head at the cackling teens and he eyed the open notebook. 

 

It was filled with lots of details. 

 

Phantom’s appearances, his costume, his estimated height and weight, his interactions with Crime Alley civilians. 

 

Eren schooled his face into an expression of calm. 

 

Holy fuck.  

 

Tim Drake had every microscopic detail about Phantom down on paper. 

 

It was downright terrifying. 

 

Adam was right. They needed to monitor Drake’s progress. He needed to keep him close. The kid would undoubtedly crack his secret identity. Eren would rather be around when the teen found out his identity so he could do mitigate the damage. Eren closed his book and turned to Adam who gathered his pencils. 

 

“Eren, what’s for dinner?” Adam asked as he tucked in his chair.

 

Eren grimaced. “I… I’ll think of something.”

 

Adam nodded and picked up his secondhand textbooks. Eren pressed a hand to his forehead tiredly and he pushed his chair in. He would need to reduce his calorie intact from tonight. He hoped it didn’t affect the speed of his healing factor. It was hard to regenerate when he was starving. He had no energy to draw from. Eren bit back a scowl and he grabbed his backpack. 

 

The pair bid the teens a nice evening and left the library.

 


 

Eren made his way through the streets and he paused, eyeing a street vendor selling winter scarves. He stared at the thick red scarf and his breath hitched in surprise. The teen stepped forward and he touched his fingertips to the woollen scarf. 

 

Eren, you’ve always been by my side. You showed me how to live with purpose and you wrapped this scarf around me, thank you. 

 

The colour was the same. 

 

His eyes dimmed and he frowned. 

 

Ever since I was a kid… Mikasa. I’ve always hated you. 

 

Eren stared at the stitching. 

 

What had led him here?

 

How did he end up losing everything?

 

He sighed.

 

He knew the answer.

 

He had lost everything when he turned to wipe out humanity. 

 

Eren felt a tug on his sleeve and he looked down. Adam stared up at him and he pointed towards the grocery store impatiently. The boy reached upwards and clasped his hand, pulling him away. The teen’s eyes widened as he stared at the small hand in his grasp. He lowered the scarf and he moved into the store.

 


 

The pair settled down at the dinner table. The food was scarce and the portions were limited. Eren scraped a large serving of rice and vegetables on the kid’s bowl and he leaned back with a cup of black coffee. Coffee was a hunger suppressant. It was more important for Adam to eat. The boy was quiet as he ate his food, frowning at his plate with a troubled gaze. The sound of utensils clinking on the plates filled the cold safe house.

 

Eren felt his eyelids grow heavy. 

 

He was exhausted. 

 

The teen leaned forward and pillowed his head on the rickety table.

 

- The sounds of screams and tremors filled the vicinity. The soldiers rushed forward on their horses. The teen stopped in his rush, pulling on the reins of his horse. He looked behind him and his breath hitched in horror. His comrades had fallen - every single one of them - ripped apart limb by limb, gnawed on by the large titans -

 

- A massive hand broke through the surface and it grabbed onto his horse. He fell down to the ground, slamming roughly into the dirt. The blood seeped down his face and he looked up as he heard the loud stomps. The ground trembled and he felt so small. The aberrant titan leered over him with sharp teeth, grinning perpetually in feral madness. It reached for him, plucking him up easily. He thrashed in vain and the titan opened its mouth. He screamed as it bit down on his neck -

 

Eren bolted upright in his seat with a thudding heart. His scream lodged into his throat and he made a choked wheezing sound. The feeling of large teeth pressing down on his neck was fresh in his mind and he grabbed his throat, gasping for air. 

 

He felt small hands on his shoulders, shaking him and he stared with a bleary vision into worried hazel eyes. Eren closed his eyes tightly. He could still hear the screams, the cries, the snapping of bones, and the wet squelching sounds of being eaten, swallowed. He wheezed painfully and dug his hands into his scalp, tugging on his hair roughly. 

 

It hurt to breathe. 

 

He inhaled and exhaled desperately. 

 

Fuck. 

 

It had been long since he thought of Before. 

 

His nightmares were back.

 

“Eren?”

 

Eren snapped his eyes open and he stood up shakily. 

 

Why?

 

Why were his nightmares back?

 

There were no more titans. 

 

It all ended with him.

 

Adam trailed after him hesitantly, calling out to him with a small worried tone. Eren turned to the kid and he dropped down on the frayed couch. Adam clambered next to him, eyeing him in concern. The teen rested his head in his hands and breathed deeply - inhale and exhale - He felt a warm hand on his shoulder, patting him gently.

 

“What happened?” 

 

Eren shook his head. “It’s… it’s too hard to explain. Just a nightmare…from something long ago.”

 

“You were…choking… Eren… What happened?”

 

Choking? 

 

No.

 

That wasn’t it.

 

Eren wondered if he should keep the details of his nightmares to himself. Adam was just a child. He was a Crime Alley resident - He had seen and lived through enough horrors as a street rat. Adam was resilient. His experiences made him mature faster than other privileged children. 

 

Was he a bad person for wanting to confide in a nine year old? 

 

Eren felt alone. 

 

He felt the emptiness settle in his chest. 

 

His best friends were not here to listen to his fears and insecurities. 

 

It was far too late for regrets. 

 

“I dreamt that I got beheaded.” Eren confessed softly.

 

I did get beheaded. 

 

Not a dream.

 

I died.

 

Adam fell quiet. 

 

“Like where your head gets cut off?”

 

“Mhm.”

 

“That’s shit.”

 

Eren snorted. 

 

Yeah.

 

It was.

 

“I have nightmares too.” Adam confessed softly.

 

I know.

 

The boy leaned into his side and he tucked his bony knees to his chest.

 

He looked so small. 

 

Adam bit his lower lip and stared off into the distance. 

 

“I dream of these big scary men. They don’t have faces, its all shadows and I'm running and they’re chasing me to take me away. And I run and run and run for so long but they always catch me and then-” His breath stuttered and his nose scrunched up in distress. 

 

He fell quiet. 

 

“They take me away…” He whispered. “…into the darkness and I’m screaming and crying and no one comes.”

 

Silence.

 

“Are you scared?” Eren asked softly.

 

Adam furrowed his brows and he nodded. 

 

“Yeah. I feel like one day, I’ll slip up and be taken away, permanently. Never to be seen again…it’s always in my head.”

 

Eren scowled.

 

No.

 

“As long as I’m alive, I will always come for you.”

 

Adam smiled a small weak smile. “I trust you.”

 

“As do I.” Eren turned to him with a serious look. “You’re family Adam.”

 

The kid’s eyes widened and he nodded. He ducked his head and the sound of quiet sniffles filled the room. Eren sighed and he leaned back on the couch, knocking his shoulders gently with the boy. 

 


 

The teen donned his theatre mask and he threw on his black trench coat. He slid into the shadows and propelled his body to the rooftops with his grappling hook. He stared down at Crime Alley, watching his little brother play with the group of teenagers. Eren had enlisted Jeremiah’s help in keeping an eye on Adam - along with Angie and the girls - He smiled softly, watching the teen pick up his brother and settle him on his shoulders.

 

Crime Alley residents were his people - They were his home - He felt responsible for them. 

 

A thud signified the presence of his most adamant fan. Eren swung his legs over the ledge and sat down. He turned to Red Hood curiously. The vigilante had his gun out and he was tapping it against his muscled thigh, staring at him unnervingly through his helmet. Eren turned away and watched the streets, peering at the dark alleys. 

 

Hood stomped his way over with a grunt. “You’re alive.”

 

Oh.

 

The creepy staring was his way of checking on his condition.

 

Huh. 

 

He didn’t know whether to feel touched or annoyed. 

 

Hood stopped a meter away, gun held low - not aimed at his chest (progress!) and he stared down at the streets. 

 

“What the fuck are you doing?” Hood asked suddenly. 

 

Eren frowned. “Sitting?” 

 

Was that a trick question?

 

Hood snarled and he clicked the safety of his revolver threateningly. “What are you doing here? What the fuck are your intentions with Crime Alley?”

 

Man. 

 

The vigilante had a temper that rivalled his. 

 

Eren pondered the question for a moment. 

 

“Stopping crime mostly.” He answered honestly. “Right now I’m focused on the trafficking fuckers.” 

 

Hood tensed. “Batman dismantled the trafficking rings a long time ago.”

 

Eren laughed - dry and unamused. His expression darkened and he turned to face Hood. 

 

“Is that so? Did you know that there are lesser kids now on the streets than last month?”

 

Hood froze.

 

“It’s because of winter.”

 

“Yes and I would overlook it but then these are kids that I know. Kids who told me themselves that their friends are missing and they are not where they usually go every winter.”

 

Hood lowered his gun. 

 

“Fuck!” He hissed. 

 

Eren leaned forward and he raised a hand to silence the raging vigilante. Something was happening on the streets. Eren narrowed his eyes and he eyed the group of masked men. There were a total of six bodies - large and imposing - making their way down the alleyway. Eren looked towards Adam and his friends. They were a few meters away from the threat. He tracked their trajectory. 

 

The bastards were heading straight towards them.

 

Why? 

 

Eren watched as Jeremiah signalled to his friends and they dispersed hurriedly, moving in different directions. The men took chase, running after the teenagers. Jeremiah scooped Adam in his arms and he ran up the fire escape, throwing a smoke bomb down at the men. The men shot at the dispersed teens, aiming blindly. 

 

Bullets sailed through the smoke and the screams filled the vicinity.

 

Eren cursed and he stood up, snapping his grappling hook in his hand. He sailed forward and leaped to the ground. He ran ahead, racing after the men to intercept their assault. The men stopped their assault abruptly and turned to him immediately, circling him with narrowed eyes. 

 

Eren stiffened. 

 

Oh fuck. 

 

It was a trap to lure him out.  

 

A large man stepped forward, holding a long rifle. Eren narrowed his eyes at the firearm. He recognized it. One bullet would be enough to shatter his spine. Oh joy. The rest of the group was heavily armed. They were prepared for him. Eren eyed their uniforms. He cursed silently in his mind.

 

The Black Jacks were here for their stolen drugs. 

 

“That didn’t take long.” One of them drawled. “Phantom. It’s in your best interest to come quietly.”

 

Eren scowled. 

 

He had no other options.

 

He didn’t want the bastards to open fire on the civilians. 

 

He raised his hands placatingly. 

 

“Okay, don’t shoot. I’ll come along.”

 

The man nodded to his partner who stepped forward, grabbing a hold of his arms. A rope was secured tightly on his wrists, binding them together. The thug tugged him forward, dragging him along as the group surrounded him from all sides. 

 

A paper-bag was thrown over his head and he heard the sound of an engine. He got shoved hard and he stumbled into something cold and hard. The sound of a door slammed behind him and he heard the engine roar. 

 


 

Red Hood eyed the moving vehicle and he cursed in his head. He pressed his hand to the comms  in his helmet and signalled Oracle. 

 

“Oracle, I need you to track the black car on twelfth street.”

 

The vigilante rushed to his parked motorbike and he threw his legs over his seat, revving the engine to life. He didn’t care if Phantom lived or died but he would be damned if he let the mob gain the drugs. 

 

Red Hood blew off into the roads and drove after the black vehicle.

 


 

Hood leaped off his bike and he crouched down behind the crates. He eyed the large warehouse, critically. He stiffened as he heard the sound of gunshot rounds. He cursed and moved stealthily past the guards. The vigilante shot out his hook and pulled his body up to the open window. He stared down at the sight with narrowed eyes. 

 

Phantom was strapped tightly to a wooden chair. His hands were tied behind his back and he was bleeding profusely from his chest. His head was lowered and his long brown hair obscured his white mask. Hood counted the bullet wounds - four in total - and he watched the crime lord’s chest rise and fall in laboured breaths. 

 

A masked thug paced in front of Phantom, snarling and raging. 

 

“I won’t ask again Phantom, where are the drugs?”

 

Hood heard a chuckle - low and a little hysterical - Phantom lifted his masked face and he cracked his neck.

 

“You know, it's really boring, being asked the same thing over and over again.” He wheezed. 

 

Another shot rang out and Hood flinched, watching as it embedded in the man’s kneecap. 

 

Fucking ouch.  

 

Phantom surged forward with a pained hiss. 

 

“Do you think this ends with you?” The thug laughed. “We know you cater to Crime Alley residents. I will go in there personally and set it up in flames, break the bones of every single person who has helped you. Feed them to the dogs so they will curse the day they met you.”

 

Phantom fell silent.

 

Was he dead?

 

Hood crept through the window and he slid down the pipes silently, moving towards the centre. 

 

“You can work for us.” The thug amended at the crime lord’s silence. “Gain a percentage of our sales, we can be generous. Or you can die right now Phantom. There’s no where for you to run. Men, take off his mask. I’d like to see his face when I put a bullet through his brain.”

 

Phantom lifted his head. “You’re right.”

 

Hood stiffened and he pulled out his gun. 

 

Was the fucker going to cooperate with the mob?

 

Phantom chuckled lowly. 

 

He sounded amused. 

 

“You’re absolutely right.” He repeated. 

 

“There’s nowhere to run. You’re all trapped here. With me.”

 

Phantom lunged forward - What the fuck? - The ropes fell from his wrists, charred and frayed. He grabbed the leader’s neck and slammed his face into the ground. He leapt backwards - executed a perfect backflip - and evaded the bullets. 

 

Hood gaped at the sight silently. 

 

How was this fucker even moving with all his injuries?! 

 

The masked crime lord ran to the pipelines and he ripped off a rusted pipe from its hinges and swung madly at the thugs. He didn’t slow down as he weaved through them, kicking, punching and snapping bones. 

 

Gunshots fired out and Hood moved into action, taking out the thugs one by one with precise shots. He targeted legs and knees, arms and shoulders. He shot a running thug through the neck - oops - and the man fell to the ground, choking on his blood. 

 

Ah crap.

 

Batman was going to give him hell. 

 

Phantom raced after the escaping thug like a bloodthirsty menace, tackling the man to the ground. He grabbed a fistful of the man’s hair and slammed his head into the asphalt repeatedly.

 

Hood looked around and smirked appreciatively. Seven down, three more to go. He ducked behind a crate, evading a bullet to the head and he fired. He took down one more. Phantom circled back and flipped another body over his shoulder. He cartwheeled out of the way of the bullets and he leaped to the pipes, swinging like a fucking monkey. He swung downwards and smashed his boots into another man’s head, knocking him out cold. 

 

Phantom landed on the body and he kicked the thug's head a few times vindictively. Hood made his way into the cleared battleground. Huh. It was much faster and easier with a reliable backup. He had forgotten how that felt like - It had been a long time since he worked with Nightwing or Batman. 

 

Phantom made his way to the leader and he grabbed him, hauling him up by his neck. 

 

“Ah, what was it?” Phantom spoke in a soft tone. “You’ll break the bones of every person that helped me. How many bones does the human body have?”

 

Hood tensed.

 

He wasn’t…

 

Phantom lowered the man onto the ground and he leaned over him. 

 

“206 bones. Hmm, best get started.”

 

Crack.

 

Crack.

 

Crack. 

 

The man released guttural screams of agony. 

 

Red Hood watched as the crime lord broke the bones, one by one, with terrifying precision. There was a coldness to Phantom’s movements - a sense of detachment - The leader was reduced to a writhing incoherent mess. The crime lord seized his ministrations and patted the leader’s cheek with faux gentleness. 

 

“I think you’ll need to go to the hospital soon, if you want to live.” He spoke lightly as he stood up.

 

Phantom turned to him and he paused. Jason tensed and he raised his gun. The masked man sighed and he turned away from him, exiting the warehouse with a limp. Jason sent a signal to Oracle to dispatch an EMS and he chased after the crime lord. 

 

He eyed him curiously. 

 

Phantom didn’t kill anyone yet there was a dangerous air around him.

 

“What do you intend to do with the drugs?” Hood asked.

 

Phantom pulled out his grappling hook and he stared down at his bloodied hands. 

 

“Trash them. Is that good enough?”

 

Hood nodded in acceptance. “I need proof.”

 

Phantom sighed tiredly. “Fine, meet me at the ports in an hour. I’ll bring them there. Come alone.”

 

Hood watched as the spectre shot out his hook and he pulled himself upwards to the rooftops. Hood paused and he cursed as he heard the sounds of sirens draw closer. He made his way to his parked motorbike and drove off into the night.

 


 

Chapter Text

 

12.

 

Eren stumbled into his hideout and he fell down to his knees. He pressed a hand to his bleeding chest and dug his fingers into his gaping wounds. He screamed in agony as he ripped the bullets out of his chest. He rested his back against the wall and bent his flaming knee.

 

“Fucking son of a bitch!”

 

His eyes stung wetly from the toxins in the air and he dug into his bone, pulling out the bullet with a pained whimper. It clattered to the ground and he collapsed, staring up at the moldy ceiling with blurry eyes. He inhaled and exhaled slowly, focusing on his healing abilities. His body steamed slowly - too slowly - and his eyelids fluttered tiredly. 

 

Fuck.

 

His healing was delayed due to his extreme fatigue. He couldn’t allow his body to heal fully - He was meeting Red Hood in an hour. The fucker could not find out about his regenerative abilities. 

 

He would be driven out of Gotham for being a meta. 

 

He had to heal partially. 

 

It was a monumental risk. 

 

Fuck it.

 

He was too tired to care.

 

Eren took a deep breath and slowed down his regenerative abilities, focusing on staunching his bleeding. 

 

He counted down the seconds and minutes as they ticked by slowly. His wounds closed at an agonizingly slow rate and his limbs trembled from exertion. 

 

“By Sina, this is all bullshit!”

 

Eren picked himself slowly and he swayed from the vertigo. Ah fuckity fuck. He pressed a hand to the cold walls and dragged his body. He shakily unlocked the door to his storage room and pushed it open weakly. He stared at the sealed boxes and he stumbled towards them. 

 

He needed to get this over with. 

 

He was so tired of being hunted.

 

Red Hood was a fucking parasite who would not stop.

 

The vigilante had an obsession with seizing drugs. 

 

Eren stared down at the crates and he loaded the steel suitcases and black duffel bags in a single box. He paused as he eyed his first drug case, opening it and staring at the large green crystals. 

 

He picked up the glass case and set it carefully in another box. Hood said drugs and not big green crystals. The fucker should have been more specific. 

 

Eren sealed it shut, hiding the crystals in his storage and he heaved the box in his arms.

 

His body protested against the added weight and he stumbled, crashing into the wall. 

 

“FUCK!”

 


 

Red Hood stared down at his watch and he scowled darkly. The bastard tricked him. He leaned against his motorbike and he glared at the dark murky waters of Gotham. It was way past the meeting time - an entire 47 minutes after. He was going to wring the fucker’s neck for wasting his time.

 

Hood picked up a stray pebble and whipped it into the waters, cursing up a storm. 

 

“Fucking lying punk ass dickfaced motherfucking sewage sucking son of a-”

 

“Ugh, shut the fuck up.” A familiar voice drawled a few meters down.

 

Hood whirled around and he paused at the sight. Phantom made his way towards him holding a large box in his arms. He was swaying like a drunk, cursing and grunting as he limped towards him. 

 

Oh right.  

 

The crime lord was heavily injured. 

 

He had conveniently forgotten that part. 

 

Oops? 

 

Hood stared, cataloguing his injuries. Phantom had changed out of his long trench coat and was wearing a dark black vest. He stopped a meter from him and dropped the box onto the ground. 

 

He slumped on the cargo and wheezed. 

 

Hood shuffled awkwardly. 

 

He was not used to such open vulnerability.

 

Phantom looked like he had zero fucks left to give.

 

He was his enemy (yet he showed up unprotected and heavily injured). 

 

“That’s…” Phantom wheezed. “Everything. All the drugs I seized.” 

 

He shakily opened the box and pulled out large duffel bags and stacks upon stacks of suitcases. He unzipped the bags and opened the cases, taking a seat on the ground, ankles crossed by the illegal substances. 

 

“Holy fuck!” Hood cursed.

 

“Yeah,” Phantom drawled. “You know it was never my intention to steal drugs.” He confessed, rubbing his neck.

 

Hood stared at the crime lord. 

 

Phantom huffed. “I thought they were exchanging cash. You know duffel bags filled with cash or important suitcases loaded with gold bars. That kinda thing? So I robbed them and every fucking time it was drugs. And then I just kept… hoarding them?”

 

Hood gaped. 

 

“You’re fucking joking.”

 

“No, not really. Got shot for it too.” Phantom shook his head. “Really really not worth it.”

 

“So you didn’t steal them to circulate them around?”

 

“No!” 

 

Phantom threw his hands up in frustration and then he reeled forwards with a pained groan, head slumping on the box with a thump.

 

“I already told you.” He spoke tiredly. 

 

“So let me get this straight. You went around robbing mobs thinking you were stealing cash and you accidentally hoarded…” Hood paused. “Seventy pounds roughly of crystal meth and cocaine and you had no intention of circulating them or selling them.”

 

Phantom clapped his hands sarcastically. “Bingo Hood, excellent deduction.”

 

Hood scowled and he knelt down, inspecting the duffle bags. 

 

Phantom was either a really good liar or a really stupid crime lord. 

 

The vigilante eyed the slumped man. 

 

He didn’t sense any deceit from him. 

 

The fucker looked tired. 

 

Drained. 

 

Hood sighed and he pressed a hand to his helmet.

 

“Oracle, did you hear everything?”

 

Oracle’s voice crackled and she gave an affirmative. 

 

Phantom stared down at the drugs, picking at the sealed plastic bags idly. Hood took out his phone and snapped a picture of the substances and the slumped villain. He sent it to the group chat: mission complete and shoved his phone in his pocket. He ignored the incessant buzzing of his phone and he turned off his comms. 

 

Hood stared down at the crime lord. 

 

He knew Batman would want him apprehended - for being someone outside of his jurisdiction.  Phantom was a wild card - one Batman could not predict or control. Hood smirked. Batman was a control freak. He did not like the idea of another masked man running around unaccounted for. 

 

Hood felt his smirk stretch - He was never the type to follow B blindly. He lived to cause him trouble (especially after the whole Joker and dying fiasco). There was no love lost between them. 

 

Hood stepped forward and kicked the crime lord’s shin, nudging him. 

 

“Up you fucker, let’s go destroy this shit.”

 

Phantom stared at him - with his eerie theatre mask, stuck in a perpetual frown with a single tear sliding down his white face - He grunted, dragging his body upwards with a pained hiss. 

 

Hood hauled the bags one by one, dumping them in Gotham’s murky waters. He watched with glee as the water bubbled and hissed, swallowing up the tonnes of illegal drugs. 

 


 

Eren stumbled into the safe house like a drunk bear and he made his way shakily to the bathroom. He splashed cold water on his face and he stared at his reflection tiredly. He blinked slowly, eyeing the strand of white hair. 

 

Huh, was that always there?  

 

The teen leaned in closer and inspected the white hairs. It was thin and it rested on the edge of his temple, tucked in with the rest of his messy ponytail. 

 

Weird. 

 

The teen shrugged and made his way to the frayed couch, collapsing onto it with a groan. He stared up at the ceiling tiredly and he inclined his head as the door was thrown open - EREN! 

 

Adam rushed towards him, clambering on top of him like a little monkey.

 

“I saw you get taken! What happened?”

 

Eren grunted ineloquently.

 

Words.

 

He needed words.

 

He was tired.

 

Adam stared at him with moist eyes and he sniffled wetly. The teen reached forward and he pushed the small boy off him gently. His body steamed and his wounds closed. 

 

He heaved a relieved sigh and his eyes slid shut tiredly. 

 

Eren felt warm hands on his forehead and he slipped into unconsciousness.

 


 

The masked figure shadowed the men, moving stealthily on the stacked crates. He eyed the large group stationed by the ports, speaking into their earpieces and holding their firearms tight. He stared at their cargo with narrowed eyes. 

 

Eren chased the human traffickers relentlessly. 

 

It was challenging as a one-man job. 

 

The men waved to their partners, heading towards the sealed boxes. 

 

Eren held his breath as they pried the boxes open. 

 

Firearms. 

 

Huh.

 

No human bodies or trafficked organs.

 

Eren moved closer. He didn’t like the exchange of weaponry. Crime Alley did not need anymore guns loose on the grounds. The teen moved ahead and he snapped his grappling hook in his hand. 

 

The vigilantes used the grappling gun to travel - such a shame - It was a useful tool. Versatile. Eren turned it into a weapon. The teen aimed at the man’s shoulder and he shot the hook. The thug screamed as the sharp blade embedded into his shoulder and Eren tugged the rope harshly, slamming the man’s body onto the asphalt.

 

Eren ran into the fray and rammed into the closest guard. A large thug intercepted him, lunging at him with raised fists. The bullets sailed towards him cutting right into the thug’s skull. The blood splattered, hitting his mask and the thug fell down to the ground - collateral damage.

 

Dead. 

 

Eren glanced at the corpse. 

 

The death was not on him. 

 

The men shot their own - treating their comrades as dispensable meat suits. The teen’s eyes flicked towards the dead body and he hauled it upwards as a shield. The shots fired and he ran ahead, blocking them with the corpse. He threw the dead man on his colleagues, engaging them in a fast spar.

 

The thugs were a pathetic match. 

 

Untrained.

 

He weaved through them easily. 

 

Eren stood in the centre of fallen bodies and he heard the loud sirens. He glared ahead at the looming police cars. He wouldn’t leave the firearms to the authorities. The weapons would circulate back onto the streets and harm his people.

 

Adam, Jeremiah, Angie, Haleem - His people would fall victims to the violence.

 

Eren dug through his vest and he pulled out a vial of toxic substance. It was a bitch to create vials out of his crystallizing abilities but they held strong, carrying the dark liquid. He was able to harvest the toxic substance in sealed vials made from his crystallizing abilities. 

 

Eren uncorked the bottle and dumped its content on the weapons. He watched in satisfaction as the dark liquid bubbled and hissed, engulfing the weaponry entirely, melting it down.

 

Eren turned on his heel and ducked behind the crates as the cars drove into the ports. 

 

He eyed the vehicles blocking his path - seven parked police cars.

 

Fuckity Fuck.

 

The teen looked around desperately. 

 

His eyes honed in on the manhole and he scowled. 

 

He was out of options.

 

It was time to head into the sewers.

 


 

Eren’s feet hit the damp grounds with a loud thump. He scrunched his nose at the rancid smell and moved hurriedly through the pathways. He raced through the passages, leaping from tunnel to tunnel. The sound of sirens drifted away as he went deeper. Eren eyed the thick water and he frowned.

 

It was bubbling. 

 

What?

 

His eyes widened as a massive figure surged forward from the murky waters. 

 

What. The. Fuck ?!

 

The figure was grotesque - more beast than man. Eren felt his stomach plummet in recognition. 

 

Killer Croc. 

 

Oh joy.  

 

The beast growled and lunged towards him with massive claws, snarling and snapping his teeth. 

 

His luck was horrendous. 

 

He only wanted a quick shortcut home. 

 

“Trespasser!” Croc hissed as he slammed a fist into the wall. “I will eat you!”

 

Eren ducked and he whirled around, eyeing the large hole in the wall. The fucker packed a strong punch. 

 

Ah shit. 

 

The teen turned on his heel and ran. 

 

Croc chased after him relentlessly. 

 

Sewage water splashed and rose. 

 

Eren heard the snapping of teeth and he ducked as Croc missed his head by an inch. The teen scowled. He had no desire to be eaten, again. He had spent a lifetime with the threat of being cannibalized by titans. 

 

Fuck this shit!

 

Eren stopped abruptly and he took out his vial of toxic substance. He ripped off the cork and he threw his arm back. He whipped the bottle at Croc and it landed on his arm. The beast screeched in pain as his skin bubbled and melted. Eren turned on his heel and pulled his body upwards. 

 

He grabbed the ladder and slammed his boots against the manhole, kicking it open. He ran out of the sewage and the enraged screams followed him.

 

“I will tear you to pieces!” Croc screamed as he smashed through the ground.

 

The smell of decayed burnt flesh followed him.

 

Eren cursed colourfully and the pedestrians screamed in terror. Croc snapped his teeth and he grabbed the innocent bystanders. 

 

Eren whirled on his feet and he ran towards the man in rage, watching as Croc threw the small children up and opened his maw to snack on them. The children screamed in fright as they fell. 

 

Eren shot out his grappling hook, wrapping the wires around the kids. He tugged and they sailed towards him.

 

He caught them in his arms and rolled away from Croc’s body. 

 

Eren released the children and shoved them away, yelling at the bystanders to move.

 

“Go! RUN! Get the fuck out of here!”

 

“Phantom! BEHIND YOU!”

 

Eren whirled around and he screeched in pain. 

 

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

 

FUCKING HELL!  

 

The area between his neck and shoulder hurt like a bitch. It burnt like hell. Blood splayed from his gaping wound and Croc bit down on his skin viciously, gnawing down on his muscles and bones. 

 

Eren screamed in rage and agony. 

 

He grabbed another vial shakily, dosing the monster’s face. Croc screeched and reeled backwards, releasing him. Eren stumbled to the ground and he pressed a shaking hand to his mauled hot skin. 

 

He heard the sound of choppers and he looked upwards.

 

Fucking hell.

 

The GCPD was here.

 

Killer Croc held his face, screeching and screaming in pain. He whipped out his tail, sending the teen catapulting into a building. 

 

Eren wheezed at the impact. 

 

Crack. 

 

He choked on his own blood, falling down to his knees. 

 

His vision reeled and he pressed a hand to his broken ribs. His ribs were pressing down on his organs. He spat a mouthful of blood and it dribbled down his lips, painting his neck.

 

Croc sniffed the air and he lunged towards him. 

 

Eren ducked and rolled away. 

 

He looked towards the civilians caught in the attack and he cursed. 

 

He couldn’t leave them behind. 

 

The children were frozen in fear, crouched down behind the rubble. 

 

“Hey! You ugly motherfucker!” He yelled. “Come and get me! Will you stop at one bite?”

 

The chopper grew closer. 

 

Eren gazed up and he cursed. 

 

Fucking reporters with their cameras. 

 

Oh joy. 

 

He was being recorded. 

 

Not good. 

 

Croc snarled and sniffed the air blindly, hissing and snapping his teeth.

 

“Over here!” Eren lowered his hand, letting his blood paint the ground.

 

Croc lunged. 

 

Eren dived between his massive legs and he rushed away from the civilians. He leaped over the parked vehicles and ran desperately. The choppers followed him. Bright lights flashed over him as he made his way through the streets of Gotham. The sound of sirens drew closer and he heard the loud speakers, telling him to standby.

 

Eren flashed them the finger and ran desperately, cursing angrily. 

 

“What the fuck?” He heard the familiar voice.

 

Eren whirled around and he scowled. 

 

“Why the fuck are you here?!” He yelled as he ran past the fucker on his red motorbike.

 

Hood revved the engine of his bike and drove next to him, looking back at the enraged Croc. 

 

“Why the fuck is Killer Croc chasing after you?”

 

“To be fair, I may have accidentally trespassed on his home.”

 

Hood snorted. 

 

Eren glared at him and he grabbed the vigilante’s arm, hauling his body on the back of the bike. 

 

“What? No! Fucking get off!” Hood yelled. 

 

“To quote Hamlet, act III, scene III, line 92 ‘No’.”

 

Hood snarled and he elbowed him in the gut. Eren wheezed at the painful impact - ouch broken ribs - and he jabbed the vigilante in his side. Hood leaned his bike to the side dangerously, trying to throw him off.

 

“Get off!”

 

“Fuck no! Drive you stupid bitch! Move! I don’t want to get eaten!”

 

Hood snarled and threw an uppercut. Eren blocked his hit and he looked behind him, seeing the Croc closing in. Hood whirled around and he cursed, revving up his engine. The motorbike drove away from the angry crocodile man, set on eating him. 

 

Red Hood drove like a fucking maniac. The pair made it to the ports in record time. Eren clambered off the bike, waiting for the mutant monster. 

 

Croc dived through the crates and parked cars, growling in rage. Eren eyed his massive form and he bent his knees.

 

He heard the sound of rapid gunshots and he turned around in surprise. 

 

Hood had his guns out, shooting at the Croc’s back. 

 

Croc grew angrier and lunged after Hood, chasing after him. Hood cursed and shot his grappling gun, running on the large containers. 

 

Croc growled, promising to eat him slowly and painfully. He lunged forward, tackling the vigilante. He grabbed his body with a large green hand and he held him up, opening his massive maw to snap him into pieces.

 

Eren scowled and he shot his hook, running straight into the bastard’s ugly mug. He kicked him in the face and wrapped his upper body around his neck. Croc raged and dropped Hood. He swung blindly, trying to rip him off his back. 

 

Eren screamed angrily and tightened his hold. The fucker’s neck was thick. He was too large to strangle. Eren snapped his grappling hook into his hand and he weaved the iron wires around Croc’s neck. He grabbed the edge of the wire and leaped down from his back, hanging from the crates. 

 

He dangled in the air and the sound of choking filled the vicinity.

 

It was working!

 

Killer Croc thrashed and tried to grab him. 

 

“Hood! Shoot his fucking legs!”

 

“Fuck you! Don’t tell me what to do!”

 

Hood shot at the mutant’s tendons and Croc stumbled forward. 

 

Eren held on. 

 

The seconds ticked by slowly. 

 

He heard a loud thump and his grip slackened. 

 

Killer Croc was unconscious. 

 

Eren fell down to the ground and he rolled on his side, wheezing, chest rising and falling in exertion and pain. 

 

He spat a mouthful of blood and groaned. 

 

Fucking ouch. 

 

He heard the sound of enraged cursing and he looked up at the grey skies.

 

Ugh.

 

He smelt like sewage shit. 

 

He needed a shower.

 

Desperately. 

 

“Fuck this shit! I can smell his nasty sewage crap on my clothes!” Hood bitched as he stomped around like an angry bear. 

 

Eren snorted. 

 

The sound of sirens and loud choppers drew closer.

 

“Ugh.”

 

“Fuck, I’m out.” Hood commented. “I don’t need to run into any of the Bat bastards.”

 

Eren agreed.

 

He wanted nothing to do with the Bat vigilantes. Red Hood was more than enough company. He didn’t need anymore encounters with the caped heroes. 

 

Eren stood up shakily and he eyed Red Hood. 

 

The vigilante paused and he lowered his gun. 

 

“Here,” Hood spoke as he tossed him a small black object.

 

Eren frowned and caught it, eyes widening as he inspected it.

 

A burner phone.

 

“See you later fucker.”

 

Hood drove off, engine roaring loudly into the night.  

 


 

Eren stumbled into his hideout with a pained hiss. He fell down to his knees and he pressed a hand to his mauled skin. He took a deep inhale and pulled off his trench coat and undershirt. Eren watched as his skin stitched together - flesh and bones regenerating rapidly. He groaned in pain and he rifled through his pockets. 

 

He held the crystal vials in his hands thoughtfully. He needed armour - impenetrable armour - He was done getting shot at. He would be damned if he allowed the reptilian bastard to take a bite out of him again. 

 

The cold-blooded bastard would come after him for vengeance. He was 100% sure he blinded him with his toxins. Eren cursed. He had unwillingly painted a target on his back. He needed to be ready for the violent retaliation. 

 

Eren stared down at his hands and his lips quirked upwards in a dark smirk.

 

He had an idea.

 


 

BatChat:

Dick: Has anyone heard from Jason? (ᗒᗣᗕ)՞

Tim: No…

Cass: No.

Duke: No?

Steph: Do we have anything on Phantom yet? Tim?

Tim: Not yet. I’m reviewing the newscast from today’s attack.

Steph: And…?

Tim: The recording started halfway through the attack. Not much to go off of but…

Steph: But?

Duke: But?

Tim: Phantom seems to have advanced weaponry. He melted Killer Croc’s eyes.

Duke: Oh shit.

Steph: Radioactive? Nuclear?! 

Tim: Unclear. I need samples. 

Steph: This is bad.

Tim: Also… Red Hood was involved. 

Dick: ()

Dick: He’s ignoring my calls _

*Dick has added Jason to the chat*

*Jason has left the chat*

*Dick has added Jason to the chat*

*Jason has left the chat*

*Dick has added Jason to the chat*

*Jason has left the chat*

Tim: Uh…

Steph:

Cass:

Duke: You good? I can hear your wailing from here…

Dick: HE BLOCKED MY NUMBER!

Dick: (•́-ก̀)

 


 

Chapter Text

13.

 

The teen crouched low on the cold asphalt and he rolled up the sleeves of his secondhand coat. He carefully lowered the crystallized vial into the dark bubbling substance, scooping up a substantial amount in his bottle. 

 

Eren repeated the motion a few times and he tucked the vials into his dark vest, filling his pockets with hidden weaponry. He hid another vial in his left boot and he stood up, eyeing his cracked watch. 

 

His lips quirked upwards in anticipation. Mashweyat El Sham was back in operation. The Middle Eastern diner was newly renovated and restored. The teen brushed his dark pants and he turned off his stolen transceiver, heading into the depth of Crime Alley for a full-time shift of serving customers and bussing tables.

 


 

Tim Drake lifted his head as he heard a familiar young voice and his lips quirked upwards into a soft smile. He lowered his textbook and he stood up, peering down the library aisles in search for the child. 

 

His smile grew as he saw him and he waved excitedly.

 

“Adam! Hi!”

 

The boy paused in his steps and he poked his head around the corner. His expression lit up and he grinned brightly at him. The boy skipped over and Tim knelt down, greeting him with a soft hug. 

 

“Oh hello, who is this Adam?”

 

Tim lifted his head and he smiled unsurely at the unfamiliar teen. 

 

Where was Eren?  

 

Adam pulled away and he waved his companion over. He was tall, lean and had thick curly hair, paired with cautious brown eyes. He wore a large hoodie and he walked over, eyeing their exchange in curiosity. 

 

“Jeremiah, this is Tim.” Adam introduced. “Tim, this is Jeremiah. He’s one of Eren’s friends. He’s helping me sign out books while Eren works.”

 

Tim smiled and he stood up, offering the teen a hand. 

 

“Tim Drake.”

 

Jeremiah’s eyes narrowed and he appeared reluctant to make his acquaintance. Tim smiled tightly. He was accustomed to people judging him for his family name and wealth. Eren and Adam were the exception to the rule. They did not react to his family name and treated him normally.

 

“Ah, just Jeremiah is fine.” The teen drawled with a tight expression. 

 

“Cool.” Tim smiled politely. “Oh that reminds me, I have something for you and Eren.” Tim spoke as he led the pair to his table.

 

He shuffled through his bag and he pulled out a container of homemade cookies and cake bites - Alfred’s special - He held them out for the kid. 

 

“They’re homemade. I thought you’d like some. Oh… I forgot to ask about allergies. Do you have any?”

 

The boy grinned and he took the box. “Wow, thanks! They look so good! Nah, I got none.” 

 

“Are you done studying? Oh is that your Phantom notebook? How’s your progress coming along?” Adam asked with bright eyes. 

 

Tim smiled and he flipped through his notebook, showing the kid his work. “Not much, just a few weird things I picked up.” 

 

Adam’s eyes widened comically large. Tim suppressed a chuckle. He looked so cute! He probably should not share details with a child. Oh well. Adam was a nine-year old. He was completely harmless. He watched the boy flip through his notes with an indulgent smile. 

 

He turned to Jeremiah.

 

“What school do you go too?” He asked conversationally.

 

Jeremiah shrugged. “I don’t. Dropped out after my old man got killed in action in Afghanistan.”

 

Tim’s eyes grew wide. “Oh. I’m sorry, I didn’t-”

 

The teen waved him off impatiently. “It’s fine, I can’t exactly make rent when I’m in school full-time.”

 

Tim nodded and he turned to Adam. 

 

“You should show this to Eren.” Adam spoke with a smile. “He’s a huge Phantom fan!”

 

Jeremiah coughed and he patted his chest. “Dry throat.”

 

Tim smiled at the comment (Eren was a fan?). He couldn’t exactly show his work to the older teen. It would raise too many questions he couldn’t answer. His notes were too detailed - anyone with an adult mindset would pick up on the unnatural amount of detail. 

 

It was details he gathered as Red Robin. He couldn’t risk sharing his findings with Eren. He liked him well enough but he did not know the other teen too well (not for lack of trying). Eren wasn’t the most talkative person. He seldom spoke about himself and focused his efforts and attention on his little brother.  

 

“But isn’t he working? I don’t want to bother him.” Tim added evasively.

 

Adam looked at the clock on the wall and he pursed his lips. “Ah about now, he’d be with the girls I think.”

 

Tim blinked. Girls? 

 

Did Eren have sisters as well? 

 

How many children was he supporting? 

 

Eren was very admirable, dropping out of school to support his little brother. He homeschooled the nine-year-old and took care of his studies with dedication and care. He was a very good brother. 

 

“Adam, we should go. Get your books so I can sign them out.” Jeremiah commented.

 

Adam stepped forward and he grabbed Tim’s hand, smiling up at him sweetly. 

 

“Come! You can give Eren the cookies yourself, he’d like that. He said you’re a good person and I can play with you.”

 

Tim smiled hesitantly. “If you’re sure…” 

 

It was hard to say no to such a sweet face and bright hopeful eyes. 

 

He had time - It wouldn’t hurt to spend time with the child he adored. Adam quickly grew onto him. They often shared a table in the library over the past few weeks - The boy took his studies seriously and he was very sweet - Great company. Tim wished the Demon Brat was as cute but Damien was the creature of nightmares, always brandishing his sword in an attempt to impale him. 

 

Tim looked towards Jeremiah who shrugged with a bored expression.

 

Adam tugged on his hand and led him out of the library, chatting happily about comic books. Jeremiah fell into step next to them, tapping away on his phone. Tim gazed at the streets as they walked through Crime Alley. He did not frequent Crime Alley often. It wasn’t part of his patrol - It was part of Red Hood’s domain and Hood was not his biggest fan. He was quick to shoot first, ask questions later.

 

The colouring of the walls, the people on the streets and the layout of the homes were very different.

 

“Eren confirmed he is with the service girls.” Jeremiah added as he waved to a few street kids.

 

Tim blinked. Service girls?

 

What?

 

“Uh…did you say service girls?” He asked unsurely.

 

Adam grinned and he nodded. “Oh yes, they have lots of fun together.”

 

Tim flushed deeply.

 

Oh My God!

 

Tim followed the boys who chatted while he had a minor panic attacks. Service girls - Why was Eren with them? The teen flushed a deeper red at the thought, eyeing Adam in concern. This was entirely wrong. Adam was a child! Did Eren bring them over to his home? With his little brother present? That was unacceptable. It was - 

 

“Oh there!” Adam cried out.

 

Tim lifted his head and he blinked at the unexpected sight. 

 

What?

 

Eren stood in the centre of a crowd of females. They were all dolled up and were wearing high heels. A young woman leaped onto his back. Her arms wrapped around Eren’s neck and the teen reached behind him, grabbing her collar and he threw her over his shoulder, throwing her body onto the mat on the ground. The girl scowled and she kicked off her heels - running towards him. 

 

Tim watched with wide eyes as Eren smirked and grabbed her arm, twisting her arm behind her back. The girl kicked out her feet and she threw her entire weight at him. She elbowed him in the gut and raised a fist, uppercutting him in the jaw. 

 

Eren released his grip and he held his jaw with a glare. The girl whipped around and aimed a high kick at his head. Eren grabbed her ankle and he spun her around. She lost her grip and crashed to the ground with a loud yelp. The girl sat on the mat and pouted, glaring up at him in ire.

 

Eren chuckled and offered her a hand, pulling her up with a small smile. The girl smirked and smacked him playfully on the arm. 

 

“Eren trains the girls and street kids in self-defence during his breaks.” Adam explained.

 

Tim’s eyes widened. 

 

Oh.

 

That’s… that’s amazing.

 

“Eren! Tim is here!” Adam announced as he hopped over.

 

Eren gazed over at them and he waved. Tim smiled as he walked over. The girls stared at him curiously, noting his expensive designer clothes. He stuck out like a sore thumb. The teen felt sheepish in their presence and he smiled in a friendly manner. 

 

Eren took a swig from his water bottle and he smiled down at Adam who showed him his comic books. He rested a hand on the kid’s head and ruffled his hair playfully. 

 

He nodded at Jeremiah.

 

“Thanks for watching him.”

 

“Nah, it's cool. I gotta go, my shift starts soon.”

 

Eren nodded. “Stop by by the restaurant sometime, yeah?”

 

The teen saluted him with a smirk and he moved down the street. 

 

Eren turned towards Tim and he waved him over, leading him towards a Middle Eastern diner. 

 

“Did you eat?” He asked as he pushed the door open. 

 

Tim shook his head. “No but it’s fine I can grab something on the way home.”

 

Eren rolled his eyes and he shoved Adam inside. “Stop hovering you weirdo,” he chided lightly. 

 

“I wasn’t hovering, I was saying bye to the girls!”

 

Eren kicked the boy’s shins and he turned to Tim with a chiding look. 

 

“You’re already here, let me get you something. My treat for hanging out with Adam.”

 

Tim opened his mouth to protest. The brothers had very little. He couldn’t impose. He held his protest at Eren’s disapproving gaze. He felt chastised - like he was in the presence of his older brother, glaring at him in annoyance. He swallowed and nodded hesitantly. 

 

“Come on Timmy,” Adam spoke, grabbing his hand and leading him to a corner table. “The owner treats us like his children, you got nothing to worry about here.”

 

Tim slid into the chair next to Adam as the boy read through his Phantom notebook with a gleeful expression. Eren returned with a large platter of meat skewers and salad. He placed the lemon water on the table and turned, speaking to a gruff looking man quietly. Tim stared at the food and his stomach grumbled.

 

Eren joined them and he served Adam with a generous portion. He motioned at Tim to eat. The teen nodded and he filled up his plate. He bit into the meat and his eyes widened in amazement.

 

“Wow.”

 

It was delicious.

 

“How did I never hear of this place?”

 

He needed to bring Dick here sometime.

 

The food was divine. 

 

“Tim made us cookies and cake.” Adam chirped.

 

Tim choked on his skewer and he coughed violently. He flushed in embarrassment and ducked his head. The kid passed his brother the large container with a giggle. Tim held his breath as the teen stared down at the baked foods with wide eyes. He wanted to help out the brothers - after listening to their dire financial situation - but he knew he couldn’t do it without causing offence. 

 

He went with a small gift. 

 

Oh. Thanks Tim. Those look good.”

 

Tim smiled and his shoulders slumped in relief. The teen leaned back in his chair and he ate through the delicious food, listening to the brothers chat. He joined their conversation, adding light commentary. He relaxed in his chair as he ate, laughing and chuckling at their antics. Eren refilled his water and he chastised Adam to remain hydrated. Tim smiled softly at their exchange.

 

The teen’s phone buzzed and he pulled it out, staring at the text with confused eyes. Tim’s eyes widened at the time. He had spent the entire evening with the pair. He hadn’t noticed the time pass. 

 

“Do you need to go?” Eren asked.

 

“Sorry, I promised to show up for movie night with my siblings. It’s this new thing we’re trying for family bonding.”

 

Eren nodded in understanding. “Here, let me pack this for you.”

 

“Adam, give him back his notebook.” Eren ordered.

 

Oh.

 

He had completely forgotten about it.

 

The boy handed it back with a sheepish smile and Tim waved off his concern. He didn’t mind having the boy read through his theories. 

 

“We’ll walk you out. Crime Alley can be dangerous at night.” 

 

Eren stood up and he pushed his chair in. Tim held back his protests - They didn’t know he was Red Robin - a capable and strong vigilante. Adam grabbed his hand and he pulled him out on the streets. 

 

“When you run into a bad guy Timmy, you kick him in the crotch.” Adam spoke with a serious look.

 

Tim bit back a laugh and he nodded with a straight face. He walked past a group of children who were arguing among themselves. Their leader stood in front a boombox glaring angrily at his friends. 

 

Tim listened to their argument curiously and he held back a snort - Baby Shark is not a good song! What kind of choreography can we even come up with that song?! - Shut up! Like Gummy Bear is any better! - Gummy Bear is the pinnacle of artistic achievement! Fight me! - 

 

Tim smiled in amusement and he walked alongside his friends to the main road.

 


 

The masked teen sat on the ledge overlooking the streets of Crime Alley. He heard the sound of footsteps behind him and he stiffened. The footsteps were different - lighter and fainter. 

 

Not Red Hood. 

 

He turned and he sighed at the newcomer. 

 

He eyed the insignia on his chest - a Bat. 

 

Why the fuck were so many of them?! 

 

Batman was a cultist. 

 

Eren stood up and he tucked his hands in his pockets. He eyed the man’s outfit, cataloguing what he knew about the group of vigilantes overseeing Gotham. He cursed silently, eyeing the blue and black patterns. The fucker was dangerous. He had a reputation that preceded him. He was the fast one - the unpredictable one. 

 

Eren stepped back warily and the man grinned, stepping forward on light feet. 

 

“Hello Phantom,” he spoke lightly.

 

The fucker sounded friendly. 

 

Eren scowled. “Nightwing.”

 

The man’s smile stretched and his dark hair fell into his eyes. “I just want to talk.”

 

Right.

 

“Talk then.”

 

Eren grabbed one of the smoke bombs hidden in his pocket, clicking off the safety. Nightwing stiffened and he narrowed his eyes. Eren whipped the smoke bomb out and smashed it to the ground. The vigilante cursed and he pulled off the rods attached to his back. 

 

“Just a few questions Phantom, we don’t have to fight!”

 

Right.

 

The masked punk tried to convince him while holding his weapons in his hands. The vigilante grunted in irritation and he twirled the rods in his hands expertly. He swung them and Eren raised an arm, blocking the hit with his impenetrable armour. The vigilante paused and he pulled back his arm, head tilted curiously.

 

“You stole from the ports a month back. There was a box of green crystals. Do you know anything about it?”

 

Eren blinked.

 

Seriously?

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

 

Nightwing moved forward and they traded a series of fast hits. The fucking rods were starting to piss him off. Eren ducked and grabbed the eskrima rod and he pulled hard. Nightwing kicked out his leg, hitting his shin. Eren grunted and he held on, kicking out his leg to hit the man in his crotch. The vigilante released his hold on his weapon and executed a fluid backflip, landing lightly on his feet.

 

Eren smirked and twirled the rod in his hand. It wasn’t a sword but it was a good possession. He eyed the design - It was top quality - It would be useful. The vigilante let out a surprised sound and he paused. Eren threw another smoke bomb at him and he whipped out his grappling hook, shooting off to another building. 

 

He ran hurriedly. 

 

Nightwing chased after him yelling about his stolen weapon.

 

Eren gave him the finger as he rushed away. He dived down into the streets of Crime Alley and rushed past the Network. He whistled to the street kids hanging out on the street. The children grinned sharply and their leader placed his boombox on the asphalt. He blasted his chosen song and the flash mob filtered on the streets. 

 

Eren threw his head back and laughed as he heard the surprised yelps of the vigilante who found himself in the centre of a dancing crowd. Baby Shark blasted from the speakers and the crowd waved their arms, moving in synchronization. Eren disappeared into the crowd and he eyed the stolen weapon. He ripped off the suspicious looking device, smashing it with his boot. 

 

He tucked the rod inside the dumpster and turned on his heel. Eren ducked behind his workplace, grabbing his change of clothes.

 

He changed hurriedly, taking his hair down and he joined the dancing crowd. He high-fived the leader of misfits who preened at his attention and he moved his arms in a large arch, bobbing his head to the song Grandpa shark doo doo doo, grandpa shark doo doo doo, grandpa shark! 

 

The song reached the climax - RUN AWAY DOO DOO DOO - and the crowd threw their arms upwards, screaming in staged fright and they began running around in random directions. 

 

Eren watched with admiration as Nightwing tried to move past the crowd bravely. He was adamant on locating Phantom - You thief! The second song blasted from the boombox and the crowd switched their positions in preparation.

 

Nightwing froze and he stared at the crowd in alarm. Eren fell into position as the second song started up. The vigilante let out an undignified yelp and his jaw dropped as the song started - Oh come on! Seriously?! I hate this song! - The crowd began moving to the tune of Gummy Bear and Eren watched in satisfaction as the vigilante ran away defeated and raging. 

 


 

BatChat:

Dick: How do I get a song out of my head…?

Tim: You ran into Phantom, didn’t you?

Steph: LOL! What song did he use this time?

Dick:

Duke: I really want to know.

Tim: This is crucial information for his character profile.

Steph: Yes, you must share everything you know ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡° )

Cass: Yes.

Dick: Baby Shark…

Duke: WTF?!

Steph: STFU! I pulled a muscle from laughing.

Duke: I broke a rib and I’m crying.

Tim: That is… unexpected. What else? 

Dick: ┬─┬(_)

Tim: Character profile, big brother, character profile.

Dick: Gummy Bear! (╬_)

Steph: CALL AN AMBULANCE! I’m frothing at the mouth!

Cass: Duke…?

Tim: I think he died. RIP.

Dick: Rude! You’re all so mean! (д)

Tim: We love you! ( ) 

 


 

Chapter Text

14.

 

Mom!

 

Why won’t you ever listen to me?!

 

No! I won’t leave you! 

 

Listen to me, it’s my final request!

 

Eren! Mikasa! You must live on!

 

Stop! Mom is still trapped! 

 

Let me go!

 

Eren… Don’t…go…

 

The teen woke up with a sharp gasp. His green eyes flew open and he shot out of bed with his heart thudding rapidly in his chest. Eren pressed a shaking hand to his wet cheeks and he stared ahead disbelieving. The memory played slowly and vividly. The image of his mother trapped and broken played before him in a cyclical loop. Her silent tears fell as she whispered - Don’t go.

 

The teen stumbled out of bed shakily and he rushed to the bathroom, hurling the contents of his stomach. 

 

Why now?

 

Eren looked towards the dark lump on the shared bed. Adam lay sleeping unaware, resting on his stomach under a layer of blankets. Eren ran a hand through his messy hair and he grabbed his keys. 

 

He felt sick. 

 

Hot.

 

Ill.

 

Suffocated.

 

He needed to get out. 

 

Mom!

 

Eren… Don’t go. 

 

Eren closed his eyes tightly and he swallowed the lump lodged in his throat. He hadn’t thought of his mother for a very long time. He threw on a thin shirt and made his way quietly out of the safe house. 

 

It was dark out. 

 

Eren walked listlessly through the streets of Crime Alley and he made his way towards an abandoned building. He climbed the fire-escape absentmindedly and he pushed the door open to the rooftop. He stared ahead with a blank expression and he trudged tiredly towards the ledge.

 

He stared down at the dark streets, listening to the sounds of distant sirens. He pressed his forehead to the railing and breathed deeply. 

 

His mother had pushed him away to escape - She had begged him to stay. 

 

He hadn’t known.

 

Why now?

 

Eren’s shoulders trembled and he tightened his hold on the railings. 

 

Why won’t you ever listen to me?!

 

The cold wind blew through his frayed clothes and he gritted his teeth angrily. He couldn’t do anything right. He wondered what his mother thought of his actions, of his genocide on humanity. He had derailed from Humanity’s Last Hope to humanity’s greatest nightmare. 

 

From saviour to monster. 

 

Eren lifted his head tiredly and he swung his legs over the ledge, staring down at the snow and trashed streets.

 

Why do you want to see the outside world?

 

Eren stared down at the snow. 

 

Armin. Mikasa. Jean. Connie. Levi.

 

What had become of them all?

 

He hoped they lived, moved on, without him. They deserved it. They tired endlessly for so many years. They had all lost so much. The teen sat on the rooftop for a long time, staring down at the streets. He heard the sound of light footsteps. The whizz of a grappling gun and he remained seated.  

 

The footsteps landed behind him, light and hesitant. Eren closed his eyes and he lowered his head, long hair splaying forwards. He didn’t feel panicked. He had no mask. He was not in costume. He was a tired civilian underdressed in thin layers. The footsteps moved towards him slowly.

 

Leave me alone.

 

“Hey there, is everything alright?”

 

I’m tired.

 

Eren frowned. 

 

The voice was distantly familiar. 

 

He turned around and he blinked tiredly at the red and black vigilante. 

 

Red Robin stepped forward.

 

Eren glared at him in annoyance. 

 

He wanted one night of peace and quiet. 

 

Even as a civilian he was not left alone. 

 

The vigilante paused and he raised his hands in peaceful gesture. Eren turned around dismissively and he stared down at the streets. 

 

“Listen, I think you should step away from the ledge. It’s slippery and I wouldn’t want you to fall.”

 

Eren ignored him. 

 

The vigilante stepped forward and he stopped next to him, staring down at the street. 

 

The air grew chillier and the caped hero remained a quiet presence. 

 

“It’s cold out. You should wear more layers when you go out.” Red Robin spoke. 

 

Eren scowled. “What’s it to you? I don’t know you.”

 

He didn’t need coddling, especially from a stranger. Red Robin did not know him - as Eren - He knew him as Phantom. The vigilante stared at him for a moment and he shrugged, taking a seat next to him on the ledge. 

 

Eren arched an eyebrow in surprise. The caped man took out his phone and he began tapping away on a game. Eren watched him in bewilderment. Red Robin kept his gaze locked on the game. The teen shrugged and he turned back to the streets. He watched the Crime Alley residents go into their rundown homes. He watched the members of the homeless network huddle together for warmth.

 

Eren’s eyes dimmed at the sight.

 

The sounds of the game filtered from the vigilante’s phone as the hours ticked by. Eren eyed the game - there was a character on screen running through obstacles and collecting gold coins. 

 

The teen frowned. 

 

How old was Red Robin?  

 

He eyed him curiously. He had dark hair and pale skin. His body was lean and toned. 

 

He didn’t appear old. 

 

The vigilante turned to him and he smiled in a friendly manner, showing him his game.

 

“Want to play?”

 

Eren shook his head. He eyed the rising sun and his eyes widened. Red Robin had spent his night sitting with him, playing a game silently by his side.

 

Strange.

 

Why?

 

Eren eyed his surroundings and the vigilante tucked his phone away, standing up. Eren eyed the icy floors and the high ledge. 

 

It was a long way down. 

 

Eren’s eyes widened in understanding. 

 

Oh.

 

Red Robin was a caring idiot. 

 

The teen tucked his hands in his pocket and turned on his heel, taking the stairs down. He heard the sound of the whizzing gun through the air. Eren walked through the streets and he stared up at the moving caped hero. 

 

That moron. 

 


 

Tim Drake entered the manor quietly, slipping in through his open window. He took off his mask and slipped off his suit, changing hurriedly into his civilian clothes. He eyed his watch and he tucked his phone into his jeans. He made his way down the steps and entered the kitchen. The teen tapped on his phone, eyeing the number of simple recipes he bookmarked in his history. 

 

He was worried for his friend - Eren - He wanted to help him. 

 

Tim stared at the recipe of sugar cookies with a pinched expression. He wasn’t talented like Alfred. Living alone from childhood in Drake Manor while Janet and Jack Drake travelled had given him enough time to hone his culinary skills. He was passable. His expertise was in caffeinated drinks, not baked goods. He could make cold-cut sandwiches and foods that did not require too much oven usage.

 

The teen eyed the clock on the wall. His family members were asleep. He heaved a relieved sigh. Dick would ask too many questions and tease him relentlessly. Bruce would grow curious. That was never a good thing. He didn't want either of them to know he began sneaking into Crime Alley to keep an eye on his friends.

 

Crime Alley was fraught with danger.

 

He worried for the two brothers.

 

He wanted to ensure their safety.

 

Seeing Eren alone on the rooftop at night looking despondent and empty worried him greatly. Eren gave so much and he had very little support. He was an orphan, raising a young child without any adult to help him. He was also young - He didn't seem much older than him, a year or two at most. He didn't deserve to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders, alone and without support.

 

Tim knew loneliness - He knew it personally as a forgotten and abandoned child. The Drakes were not stellar parents - Neglect for them was a way to shape character, to harden their heir. It had damaged him greatly. He saw his sad younger self in Adam. He saw the reflection of his tired, haggard cynicism in Eren's eyes when he was left alone week after week in Drake Manor as a young boy.

 

He wanted to help.

 

Tim tied the apron across his waist and he preheated the oven nervously. 

 

He took a deep breath and began baking, reciting the steps under his breath. 

 


 

Eren held the numerous books in his arms and he kicked Adam lightly in the shin, moving him forward impatiently. The pair dropped their belongings at their designated table and Eren set the books down with a grunt. The nine year old child grumbled and he grabbed his workbook, opening it to a new page.

 

Eren opened the textbook to the new unit and he scowled at the equations. Fractions were such a bore to teach. Adam was a child. Education needed to be interested. The new curriculum negated rote learning practices and advised play and activity-based learning.

 

Eren took the notebook and sketched a few examples drawn from real-life experiences. 

 

He turned to his brother. 

 

“Okay we have a round cake and there’s two of us. How can we divide it up evenly between us?”

 

Adam’s eyes twinkled and he leaned forward, eyeing the drawn image. “In half.”

 

Eren nodded. “Now, what’s another way to divide it? Let’s say we want to split it into smaller slices so we can eat it for a longer period.”

 

Adam grinned. “Fours! Oh and sixes! Eights maybe? Twelves too.” 

 

Eren’s lips quirked upwards. 

 

“Okay, now I’ll give you a bunch of images and you divide them into equal and unequal amounts. Let’s say we are inviting Jeremiah to eat cake as well. How would you change your numbers?”

 

Adam nodded and he watched the teen sketch the various images. Eren handed him the notebook and he watched his little brother work through his math problems. The teen yawned tiredly and he rested his head in his arms. He listened to the soft sound of chatter and scratching of pencil on paper. 

 

Adam worked quietly. 

 

Eren closed his eyes tiredly. 

 

-the boy ran through the streets in desperation. He rushed through the rubble and fallen bodies. He gazed around him and he ignored the calls of his best friend. The child turned the corner and he froze in his tracks - MOM! - He ran ahead on shaky legs and he grabbed the fallen beam. His sister joined his side and she dug her small fingers into the wooden structure, desperately trying to lift it up.

 

His mother yelled at him, telling him to leave - Why won’t you ever listen to me?! - I don’t want too! - The splinters dug into his skin and he ignored the sharp pain and tugged desperately. The sound of the heavy stomps signified the impeding arrival of titans - Go Eren! - No! - The smiling titan arrived, grinning madly at the sight - Leave!  

 

The boy’s eyes watered and he stared helplessly at the smiling abomination. The solider rushed forward and grabbed his small body. He heaved him over his shoulder and ran. The boy screamed helplessly, staring with wide eyes as his mother lay in the rubble, crying-

 

Eren! Mikasa! You must live on!

 

Hannes! Stop! Mom is still trapped! 

 

Let me go!

 

Eren… Don’t…go…

 

-The blood splattered and the boy screamed in anguish-

 

The teen’s head shot open and he gasped. His body trembled and he pushed his hands into his eyes, pressing down tightly. He heard distant voices - worried and anxious. His heart thudded rapidly in his chest and the screams echoed in his ears. 

 

Mom!  

 

Eren swallowed thickly and he pushed away from the table, standing up shakily. He moved away from the noise and weaved blindly through the shelves. 

 

He slipped behind a corner bookshelf and fell down to his knees. He drew his knees to his chest and he lowered his head in his arms. The minutes passed and he focused on his stuttering breaths. His throat was tight and it hurt to breathe. The image of his deceased mother was fresh in his mind. 

 

Inhale.

 

Exhale.

 

Inhale.

 

Exhale.

 

“Eren?”

 

Eren!

 

His throat tightened and he forced the bile down. He felt a warm presence on his side and he breathed shakily. A hand rested on his shoulder gently, rubbing soothing circles into his arm.

 

“Breathe, in and out.” the voice spoke. “Just like that, easy.”

 

Eren listened.

 

“Inhale, big deep breaths. Exhale, yes and repeat.”

 

Eren followed the voice and focused on breathing.

 

In and out.

 

In and out.

 

In and out.

 

Eren lifted his head tiredly and he turned to the voice. 

 

He met concerned blue eyes.

 

Tim Drake smiled kindly. “Hey there.”

 

Adam sat in front of him, legs crossed and hazel eyes wet. His small hands were holding on Tim’s sleeves and he stared at him in concern. 

 

“Hey,” Eren spoke hoarsely. 

 

Tim drew his hand back and leaned back against the shelf, staying close. 

 

“Eren, what happened?” Adam whispered with wide eyes.

 

Eren sighed and ran a frustrated hand through his hair. “Just…a nightmare.”

 

Adam frowned. “You’ve been having a lot of those lately.”

 

Eren nodded. “Yeah,” he spoke lowly.

 

“Do you want to talk about it?” Tim asked gently. 

 

Eren shook his head.

 

Talking wouldn’t change anything. 

 

All his family members were dead - all his friends were gone. 

 

The teen pushed himself up and he gazed at his little brother. He offered him a hand and hauled him up with a grunt. Tim followed behind and he joined them at the table, setting his books down. The pale teen shuffled through his bag and he pushed a tinned box towards him with a sheepish smile.

 

Eren arched an eyebrow in inquiry. 

 

Tim chuckled. “Just a little something I made for you guys. Uhm…it’s probably not going to taste as good as the last time since uh…I kinda made these myself.” He spoke. 

 

Eren eyed the container. Adam leaned into his side and he pried it open with eager hands. 

 

“You getting into baking or something?” Eren asked as he grabbed a perfectly made sugar cookie.

 

Tim shrugged. “Something like that.”

 

Adam bit into the cookie and he kicked his legs happily. He grabbed another and stuffed his face like an over eager squirrel. 

 

“Ish guuuh!” 

 

Eren bit into the cookie and he nodded in agreement. It was sweet and crunchy. He couldn’t still afford baked goods with his limited budget. Eren was not accustomed to eating sweets. Sugar was expensive in Eldia. Only the royals could afford to eat baked goods. His family sustained themselves off gruel and potatoes. 

 

The teen watched the small boy munch happily on his snack. He was glad his little brother could enjoy the small things that made him happy. Eren turned to Tim and whispered his gratitude - thank you. 

 

Tim smiled in relief and he turned back to his textbooks. 

 


 

The masked crime lord knelt down on the rooftop and surveyed the thugs on the streets. They were dressed in dark layers and were moving suspiciously through the night, speaking hurriedly through their comms. They loaded a large truck with sealed boxes. Eren eyed the boxes with narrowed eyes.

 

Each box had holes drilled on the cover. 

 

Breathing holes?

 

The teen scowled angrily and he chased after the truck as it weaved through the traffic. He shot out his grappling gun, moving from rooftop to rooftop. 

 

Eren had his suspicions. 

 

The truck drove into a heavily guarded warehouse. Armed guards stood outside. Large and bulky figures surveyed the grounds on the clock. Eren counted the bodies and he cursed. 

 

He took out his burner phone and stared at it contemplatively. 

 

He couldn’t do this alone.

 

There were human lives involved - children captured - trafficked. 

 

He needed help.

 

Eren snapped the phone open and stared down at his only contact. He pressed the button and lifted the phone to his ear, listening to the dial tone. He heard the click followed by an irked snarl.

 

“What?”

 

Eren exhaled slowly and he looked down at the fortified warehouse.

 

“Hood, I need your help.”

 


 

Jason Todd stood in his kitchen wearing a number of thick layers. Winter was brutal in Gotham and his heating system was inadequate. His transceiver rested on his clean countertop. The sound of the GCPD transmissions filtered through his safe house. 

 

The teen opened his cooler and grabbed a beer bottle, forking it open. He took a large sip and stood over his pot of instant ramen, watching it boil slowly. 

 

He heard the beeping of his burner phone and he arched an eyebrow curiously. The teen trudged towards the device and he flipped it open, eyeing the number. His eyes widened in surprise. The fucker hadn’t called once. It had been an entire month since he had seen him. Phantom’s injuries had been grievous from his fight with Killer Croc. 

 

Jason blinked at the number.

 

Huh, Phantom was alive. 

 

He hadn’t expected him to live through his injuries.

 

Why is this bitch calling me?

 

He accepted the call and glared ahead.

 

“What?” He snarled impatiently. 

 

“Hood, I need your help.”

 

Jason scowled and he grabbed his keys. This had better be important or he would shoot the fucker in the face, repeatedly. 

 

“This better be good, Phantom.”

 

He threw on his leather coat and grabbed his helmet. 

 

Phantom’s voice crackled from the phone. 

 

It was low and angry.

 

“Yes, I found the lair of the trafficking fuckers. There’s too many and I think their cargo is loaded. Bring your guns.”

 

Hood smirked. 

 

About damn time. 

 

He frowned. “How fortified are we speaking?”

 

Phantom sighed.

 

“Too fortified. Do you have backup?”

 

Jason scowled. 

 

He had blocked Dick’s number and had been ignoring his texts for months. He’d really rather not reach out to the fucker. Dick would interrogate him and then proceed to whine and throw a tantrum for being ignored. Jason glared ahead as he pulled on his helmet. 

 

His options were limited.

 

B was a no-go. 

 

Demon Brat was too volatile. 

 

Were the girls back yet?

 

Fuck.

 

He’d rather eat his own shit than reach out to Replacement. 

 

“Can you call in Red Robin?” Phantom drawled.

 

WHY?!

 

“What the fuck? Why him?!”

 

Phantom paused.

 

“He’s the only one I didn’t rob…yet.”

 

Jason huffed a surprised chuckle.

 

He needed the details.

 

Who else did this fucker rob? 

 

He would like to see Replacement get robbed blind.

 

Jason sighed in resigned acceptance. 

 

Replacement was best for this operation. The fucker was smart - the smartest out of all of them - a certified genius with a terrifyingly high IQ. He would know exactly how to handle the situation with minimal damage. There were bystanders involved - innocent trafficked human beings. 

 

It was a tricky operation. 

 

Red Robin was quiet and less likely to discuss their slew of familial problems. He would not nag him to join them at Wayne Manor for family bonding sessions (movie night). The teen got his job done and left the scene quietly unlike Nightwing. 

 

And Replacement was the only one who was Team-Phantom.

 

Phantom saved my life… I just want to talk to him…I owe him….

 

Well.

 

Fine.

 

He would reach out to the fucker.

 


 

Chapter Text

The teen pressed a hand to his chest and he tapped his armoured vest a few times for reassurance. He stared down at the fortified warehouse and his burner phone vibrated. Eren snapped his phone open and stared at the message. He slipped into the shadows and made his way to the back of the buildings. 

 

Hood stood leaning against his red motorbike. He raised his head and nodded at him, stomping over angrily.

 

“How the fuck did you find this place anyway?” Hood asked impatiently as he followed him to the rooftops.

 

Eren landed on his feet and he crouched down. 

 

“Followed them, a few kids reached out. Told me there’s a suspicious large truck and their friends never came back after going dumpster diving.”

 

Hood released a slew of expletives and he pulled out his firearms. He came prepared. The vigilante pulled out a sniper rifle and crouched low, positioning his firearm. The sound of a grappling gun whizzed by and light footsteps landed behind them. 

 

“Replacement.” Hood spat. “Took you long enough.”

 

Red Robin walked forward. “I came as soon as I got your message.” 

 

The vigilante paused and he stared at Eren. He tossed him a small dark object and the teen caught it in his hand. 

 

He stared at the small comms.

 

“It’s connected to my system. Only I can access it so don’t worry, I didn’t put any trackers in it. We communicate through it.”

 

“Is Oracle aware?” Hood asked. 

 

Red shook his head. “It’s not my day for patrol so Oracle thinks I’m offline.”

 

Eren listened curiously. The vigilantes had a system in place - an operation that divided days and shifts. 

 

Interesting. 

 

They were all connected. 

 

“Good, don’t want to run into the other fuckers.” Hood drawled.

 

“Do you have a plan?” Eren asked turning to the red and black vigilante.

 

Eren and Hood hardly formulated complex plans. They used brute force and violence. Their style wouldn’t work this time. Eren put the comms into his ear and he clicked it on. Red smirked and he nodded, pulling out a detailed map and blueprints. He laid them on the ground and he motioned for them to join him.

 

“This warehouse use to be a storage space for an international goods company. It has the same exact layout as other warehouses in Gotham. This warehouse is built on the sewage network. If we sneak in, we can escape by going underground.”

 

Eren made a disgusted face. He hated going underground. Last time he was nearly chowed on. 

 

“Usually this wouldn’t work because Killer Croc lives underground in the tunnels but you both got him apprehended and he’s in the Arkum.” Red explained.

 

Hood grunted. 

 

“All sides are covered by guards.” Eren added. “How do we get in undetected? A decoy?”

 

Red shook his head in disapproval. 

 

“No, there are too many guards. It would be dangerous. They will gun down the person who approaches from the front.”

 

Eren stared down at the warehouse. 

 

“I have an idea. I’ll go in front.”

 

“What? No, you’ll get killed.”

 

Eren smirked. 

 

“Nah, I won’t. Trust me, I have a plan.”

 

Hood huffed. 

 

“Suicidal bastard. I’ll cover you from up here and then I’m joining you after I take down a number of them.”

 

“Oi! We’re not killing anyone!” Red hissed, glaring at Hood.

 

Hood scoffed. “If I aim a little higher because I’m very trigger happy, you can’t fault me.”

 

Red made a pained sound and he shook his head. 

 

“Okay, I go from the back then. I will look for the children while you two handle the front. We meet underground.”

 

Eren nodded. “Don’t go to the back until I’ve brought a number of them to the front.”

 

Eren stood up and he swung his legs over the ledge. He shot out his grappling hook and leaped to an adjacent empty building. He ran down the fire-escape and rushed to the front of the warehouse. He took out one of his vials and uncorked it. 

 

“Hey! You ugly bastards!” He yelled. 

 

The guards turned to him and he swung his arm, throwing the toxic vial at them. The dark substance splayed in the air and scattered in droplets. The sound of burning flesh filled the vicinity and the screams of pain erupted. Gunshots fired and they sailed towards him. Eren smirked and he held his ground. The bullets hit his crystallized armour and they ricocheted off his suit. 

 

The men froze, staring down at the bullets on the ground. The bullets were dented. Eren lunged forward, slamming his fist into the thug. He weaved through the bodies, moving seamlessly, ducking and throwing bodies over his shoulder. The men screamed in rage and they all rushed at him simultaneously. 

 

They tackled him to the ground, jumping on him like a dog pile. Eren screamed and he struggled. Fuck. They were heavy. The teen growled angrily - thinking of the small children of Crime Alley. Hungry, scared, malnourished. He thought of their cheeky smiles and how they danced eagerly in a flash mob to protect him from the pursuit of the Bat cult. His rage grew and the green haze filled his vision.

 

Eren screamed in anger - The bastards had touched his children. He was responsible for Crime Alley. Crime Alley people were his people. The teen clenched his fists and he crystallized his knuckles with a thin layer. He smashed his fist through the pile of men. Bones cracked under the impact and bodies were sent catapulting through the air. The bodies lay on the ground, wheezing and writhing in pain. 

 

The thugs grew more alarmed and they yelled instructions hurriedly. Shots fired from the rooftop, taking down the thugs. Bullets sailed and hit them dead-on. The bodies fell around him. Eren rushed to the main door and he crystallized his hands entirely. He ripped the door off its hinges and he prowled inside menacingly. 

 

The thugs ran towards him. Eren ran forwards and he tossed another vial in the air. The guards screamed in terror and scattered. The vial tipped and melted the ground, leaving behind a large  bubbling crater. Eren held another vial in his hand and he tossed it in the air threateningly.

 

“So…” He drawled lowly. “Which of you would like to face me?”

 

The men gulped and they inched backwards in a choreographed move.

 

“S-shoot him down!” 

 

The shots rang out. 

 

Eren laughed a dry unamused sound. He uncorked the vial and whipped it ahead. The screams sounded and the men ran. The scattered drops caught a few escaping thugs and they screamed in pain. Eren ran ahead, running past the writhing bodies. He kicked the door open and ran through the sailing bullets. 

 

He rushed into the centre of the warehouse and he stopped at the sight. A number of children were rounded up in a tight circle with a pair of thugs standing over them, firearms raised and aimed. Eren cursed hotly and he paused his approach. He heard the sound of slow theatrical clapping and he turned to the large man.

 

He was darkly clad in black and he wore a thick cloth mask.

 

He was heavily armoured and he commanded the room. 

 

“Ah Phantom, at last we meet. You have been such a troublesome opponent.” The man drawled. 

 

Eren scowled. “Who are you?”

 

“I am the leader of the Black Jacks. You see, you have been costing us lots of losses. We’ve been trafficking children for a long time. Batman thought he shut us down but his only fault is he doesn’t look at the homeless community. 

 

See, we started with registered children but that was foolish, Batman caught on. But when we began selling the homeless, the forgotten that escaped the system, well nobody missed them…That is until you came along.”

 

Eren felt his rage simmer and increase a tenfold. 

 

The leader laughed and he circled around the shaking children. Eren gazed at the kids and his eyes widened in horror. He recognized a few of them. MikhailEmee… There was even the leader of the dancers - The boy who owned the boombox - Chester. 

 

Eren felt his entire body shake in rage. Chester was young - He was the same age as Adam. He was a red haired boy with freckled cheeks and wide brown eyes. He had helped him remain hidden from the Bat cult. He was a sweet boy who was acquainted with Adam. A little boy who loved dancing and connected with all the homeless community. 

 

No.

 

Eren flexed his hardened fingers. 

 

Beating these fuckers down would not be enough.

 

They would return.

 

Again and again.

 

Like fucking weeds.

 

And innocent children like Chester and Adam would pay the price.

 

Eren had to end this.

 

Permanently.

 

He had done it once as a child - I disposed of some dangerous beasts. Mere animals that just happened to resemble humans - to save his sister - He would do it again. 

 

 

“Don’t move or I will shoot them.” The leader hissed and he stepped into the circle of children. 

 

He grabbed Chester and he hauled him up by the collar. He pressed a gun to his head and turned to the crime lord. Eren noticed a movement in the shadows - Red Robin - The caped man was hanging from the rooftop, suspended by his grappling hook. The vigilante signalled to him, pointing to the guards. 

 

Eren turned to the leader. 

 

Chester was struggling in his arms, scowling and cursing angrily. His eyes were wet and he held back his tears as he glared at the leader of the Black Jacks. Eren felt his heart break at the sight. 

 

The little boy was so brave. 

 

“Let me go, you ugly sack of saggy balls!” Chester yelled as he swung his tiny fists. 

 

The leader turned to the kid and he slammed his gun into the boy’s face. Chester was knocked out cold. The leader dropped him and wiped his hands on his pants in disgust. He waved his gun at the remaining hostages and turned to the crime lord with dark eyes. 

 

“You won’t leave here alive Phantom. I underestimated you once, I won’t do it again. How foolish of you to come here alone.”

 

Eren watched as Red landed silently on his feet. He crouched low and he slid his arm around the thug’s neck, taking him down and pulling him into the shadows. The vigilante rushed to the remaining guard and knocked him out by hitting his pressure points. He grabbed his fallen body and pulled him behind the crates. 

 

Eren stepped forward and the leader shot out his gun, aiming at his heart.

 

The bullet impacted and it ricocheted. 

 

The leader’s eyes widened. 

 

“Foolish of you to think I’m alone.” Eren drawled. 

 

“What?”

 

Red Robin threw a batarang at the leader and his gun fell from his hands. The man hissed in anger and he turned to the red vigilante. He rushed towards Red and they engaged in a series of fast hits. Eren crouched down next to the fallen child and he inspected his bruised face. He pressed a finger to his pulse and his shoulders slumped in relief. He turned to the remaining kids and he spoke lowly.

 

“You’re safe, we’re going underground. No one will touch you again.”

 

Mikhail rushed forward and he ran into his arms shakily, crying and shivering. Eren drew in a shaky breath and he pressed a hand to the kid’s bruised body gently, patting him lightly. He heard the sound of Red struggling against the leader of the Black Jacks. The man was powerful and ruthless, incredibly violent. He was aiming to incapacitate, to kill the red vigilante. 

 

“Red, leave the fucker to me.” Eren growled.

 

Red Robin blocked a punch to his face and he executed a body flip, putting a safe distance between him and their joint enemy. 

 

“Alright, I’ll take the kids. Be careful Phantom. I’ll send in Hood to back you up.”

 

Eren turned to face the leader. 

 

“You think you can beat me? I spent years in the army. Boy, you are a hundred years too early.”

 

Eren watched as Red ushered the children out of the large room, leading them to safety. The caped man lifted the body of the unconscious boy and he held him carefully in his hold. 

 

Eren heard the sound of the manhole being pried open and Red’s voice echoed, instructing the children to move carefully. Eren listened to the sound of gunshots. Hood was occupied. He faced his opponent and he crystallized his limbs. The crystals spread over his skin, hardening his body underneath his clothes. He thickened the layers and hardened it with dangerous intent. 

 

His crystallizing abilities were lethal. One punch was enough to rupture a human body’s organs. Eren spread his legs wide and he cracked his fists, staring straight at the leader of the Black Jacks. 

 

He was utter scum. 

 

The leader preyed on innocent children. He harmed them. He sold them. He stole away their freedom. He enslaved them. He used the life of others as his currency. 

 

He deserved to die. 

 

The man laughed and he pulled out a secondary firearm, aiming at his head. Eren ducked and he rushed forward, grabbing the man’s wrist. He gripped his wrist tightly with his crystallized hands and he broke his bones with his iron grip. The man screamed and he struggled in his hold. Eren released him and he grabbed his jaw, pressing down with his fingers. 

 

The bones snapped between his fingertips. The screams resonated through the warehouse. Eren released the thug’s cracked jaw and the man backed away shakily, bleeding and eyes terrified. 

 

Eren loomed over him - kill, kill, kill - The green shadowed his vision and he smashed his fist into the man’s chest, cracking his chest cavity into bits. The man wheezed and he spat blood, choking. Eren slammed his fists repeatedly in his body, again and again. 

 

The thug’s body thrashed and he made pitiful noises. Eren moved menacingly, screaming as he destroyed his body, smashing all his bones. 

 

The thug stopped moving. 

 

He stopped breathing. 

 

Eren pulled back, standing over the trashed corpse, glaring angrily at the mangled body. 

 

“Well, that was something.” A voice drawled from the entrance.

 

Eren grunted and he felt the green haze recede slowly. 

 

Hood stepped forward and he stopped next to him, staring down at the corpse. 

 

“Is that the leader?”

 

Eren nodded. “Yes.”

 

“Hmm. You beat him to death?”

 

Eren scowled and he nodded. Yes. The fucker deserved it. He would do it again in a heartbeat. 

 

“Good.”

 

A gunshot sounded out abruptly.

 

Eren blinked in confusion and he turned to Hood curiously. The vigilante had his gun raised and he shot the man’s body a number of times. Eren watched him in surprise. Hood shot the leader in the head and in a number of other spots. He tucked his gun away and turned to him with a grunt.

 

“Batman will fucking chase you like mad if he found out you killed someone, even if it's a filthy fucker who deserves it. This-” he waved to the numerous bullet wounds. “-will paint it as my work.”

 

He turned around and moved away. 

 

Eren stared after him in shock.

 

Hood paused. “Come on you fuckwad. We have to move underground. This place will blow up in a few minutes.”

 

Eren’s eyes widened. 

 

Wow. 

 

Hood did not do anything by halves.

 

Huh. 

 

Red Hood shared his same brand of crazy.

 

He approved.

 


 

The pair rushed through the underground tunnels and the rooftop trembled above them as the explosions sounded off. Eren turned the corner and he saw the children huddled close around the red vigilante. Red Robin raised his head and he waved towards them. He pointed towards the ceiling.

 

“Why are there explosions going off?”

 

Eren shrugged. 

 

“Who knows.” He drawled as he moved in towards the children. 

 

He knelt down by Chester and pressed a hand to his perspiring forehead. The child trembled and his eyelashes fluttered slowly. He blinked his brown eyes tiredly and he stared up at him in slow recognition. Chester sat up with wide eyes and he reached towards him with small shaking hands. 

 

“Phantom!” He cried out.

 

Eren smiled and he pulled him into his arms. “Hey there buddy, you had me worried for a second.”

 

Chester wrapped his thin arms around him and he shivered. 

 

“Tried to avoid the fuckers but then they caught Mikhail and I couldn’t abandon him, ya know. I don’t abandon my people. Did I do good?”

 

The kid stared up at him with wide eyes. 

 

Eren felt his heart break. 

 

He ruffled the boy’s hair gently. 

 

“You did great bud. But next time come find me, I don’t want you putting yourself in danger.”

 

Chester smiled. “I wasn’t scared, ya know. I knew you’d come. You always come.”

 

Eren swallowed thickly and he nodded. 

 

Fuck. 

 

He felt like crying. 

 

The children truly believed in him. 

 

“We gotta move.” Hood drawled. “Best not to stick around too long. Batman and his fucktards will be on their way here.”

 

Red swallowed. “Yeah… I actually should go soon.”

 

Eren nodded and he turned to Red. “Thank you Red Robin. I owe you.”

 

Red shook his head. “No, Crime Alley people are Gotham’s people. Of course I’ll help, you have my comms. Reach out if you need me.” 

 

The vigilante knelt down next to Chester and he smiled softly. “You were very brave kid, very admirable.”

 

Chester beamed at the caped hero and he saluted him cheekily. 

 

Red stood up. “Alright, let’s move. I know a shortcut.”

 


 

The masked teen stood on the rooftops watching the children play together in the snow. He smiled at the sight of his little brother and his friends, gliding over the frozen puddles, laughing and tackling each other. Adam threw a snow ball at Chester who chased after him cursing like an angry sailor. 

 

Eren heard the sound of a familiar thud and he turned to the helmeted vigilante. Red Hood stomped over, heavy boots crunching on the snow. He stood next to him, surveying the children playing in the snow. 

 

“You need to be careful.” Hood began in an uncharacteristically quiet tone.

 

Eren arched an eyebrow. “Hmm?”

 

“Batman. He has a rule, a no-killing rule. He will throw you behind bars.”

 

Eren frowned. “You kill, I’ve seen you do it plenty of times.”

 

Hood released a dry laugh. “Yes well…I’m a special case.”

 

“I’m not saying don’t kill you fucker. I don’t give a shit about those scumbags. You know how it's like Phantom. Those bastards get arrested and remain behind bars for a short period. They get out, they fuck shit up again. Kids get hurt, like those playing right now. It never ends. I believe what you did was right. The Black Jacks won’t rise again.”

 

“But?” Eren countered.

 

“But there are people who won’t agree. Red Robin has no idea you killed, its best he doesn’t find out. Same with the other fuckers. I personally don’t give a single shit, I got enough blood on my hands.” He shrugged. “What’s a few more dirtbags? I don’t lose sleep over it.”

 

“So keep my murder spree away from the Bat cult? Got it.”

 

“The what what now?”

 

Eren smirked. “Bat cult. That’s what I call all those caped fuckers. There’s far too many of them.”

 

Hood snorted. “Bitch like you’re the one to talk about cults.”

 

Eren flushed in embarrassment. “Shut up! That was unintentional!”

 

“Uh huh.” Hood drawled. “Like the whole drug hoarding fiasco?”

 

Eren scowled and he kicked snow towards the fucker. He turned away grumpily and made his way towards the ledge, taking a seat on the cold cement.

 

 “I didn’t mean for any of it happen.” He grumbled.

 

Hood joined him on the ledge, swinging his feet over. 

 

“I don’t know if you’re a criminal mastermind or just a dumb fucker with really shit luck.”

 

“Eh? Both? Neither?”

 

“Who the fuck uses a flash mob? Also what is up with your song choices?! Are you secretly twelve? Don’t tell me I’m dealing with a brat going through puberty.”

 

“Oh fuck you! I don’t choose them! And they aren’t all bad! Gummy Bear is the pinnacle of artistic achievement!”

 

“But Baby Shark?” Hood threw his hands up in frustration. “Seriously?!”

 

“Wait till you hear the rest of the playlist.” Eren snickered. 

 

Hood groaned. 

 

“So who did you rob? I have to know.”

 

“Oh, the blue spandex bastard. I stole his rods.”

 

Hood cackled in approval.

 

The sound of chatter drifted from the rooftops and the sound of laughter resonated from the playground. 

 

The sun began to set over Crime Alley. 

 


 

Batchat:

Dick: Any news on the explosions that occurred tonight? (⊃д⊂)

Steph: None. The survivors aren't speaking. They seem...traumatized?

Duke: I heard Red Hood was involved.

Dick: ( ⚆ _ ⚆ ) Jason??!?!? I haven't heard from him in a month! 

Tim: Jason has his comms off as well. So I cannot track him down.

Steph: Ugh! This is all so messed up! Do you think Phantom was involved?

Tim: I checked the surveillance cameras nearby. He wasn't there.

Dick: I miss Jason! -( ≧Д≦)- Someone convince him to answer my calls!

*Cass has added Jason to the chat*

Jason: What?

Dick: JASON! ˓˓(ᑊᘩᑊ⁎) Are you okay?!?! What happened?!?! Are you hurt?!?!?

Jason: JEsus shut the fUck uP! 

Dick: Are you hurt?!?!?! ANSWER ME! (((( ;°Д°))))

*Jason has left the chat*

Dick: ( ᵒ̴̶̷᷄ д ᵒ̴̶̷᷅ )

Chapter Text

16.

 

The safe house grew colder as winter settled its frost around Crime Alley. The teen threw flammable material into his makeshift fireplace and made his way to the centre of the room. 

 

Adam lay on the couch under a number of blankets, shivering. Eren frowned and he knelt down, scooping up the sleeping child in his arms.

 

The boy shifted and settled against him, burrowing in his chest with a quiet sigh. Eren’s body radiated heat. The cold didn’t bother him. He pursed his lips in concern, staring down at his little brother. 

 

“Damn it.”

 

He couldn’t allow Adam to get sick. He had no money for medicine. Healthcare was expensive. It was not an option. Eren made his way to his bed - a makeshift of blankets and an old mattress and he settled down, drawing the small body to him. He threw the blankets over their bodies and stared at the safe house. 

 

Winter was brutal. 

 

It was devastating for the street kids and homeless community. Resources were limited and warm places were scarce. The people of Crime Alley were dying due to the cold. Eren tightened his hold on his kid and he breathed deeply. 

 

Phantom couldn’t fight the cold. 

 

The sun began to rise slowly and the teen blinked his eyes tiredly. Fuck. He didn’t get any sleep. 

 

Adam shifted and his lashes fluttered. He whined and clung to him tightly.

 

“It’s so cold,” he grumbled sleepily.

 

“I know buddy, I know.” 

 

“Don’t wanna get up.” Adam whined.

 

The teen sighed and he sat up. The kid was clinging to him like a baby koala. Eren made his way towards the kitchen and shifted through their empty cupboards. 

 

He grabbed the last oatmeal packet and made it swiftly with boiled water. He set it on the table and nudged the child off him. 

 

Adam shivered as he took a seat, grabbing it with shaking hands. Eren added more fuel to the fire, watching impatiently as it grew larger.

 

He turned to Adam in concern, watching him scarf down his meagre breakfast. The teen ignored his own hunger and made his way to the bathroom to start his day.

 


 

Tim Drake glared at the screen tiredly and he grabbed his seventh cup of coffee with trembling fingers. He stared down at his shaking hands in shock - Ah shit - The lack of sleep was getting to him. 

 

He surveyed his deleted surveillance recordings and he took a large gulp of his bitter drink. He sighed in contentment as the perfectly brewed warmth touched his tongue. The beans were imported from a limited vendor - Organic French Roast.  

 

Tim eyed the recording of Phantom - watching the Black Jack thugs tackle him and hold him down in a violent dog pile. He stared at the recording, watching as the men struggled - grown heavy armoured thugs - to hold down one lean figure. He watched as the bodies sailed upwards and landed on the ground, unmoving. 

 

Tim rewinded the scene and rewatched it slowly. He paused and clicked replay. Phantom’s physical strength made no sense. The teen leaned forward and he flipped through his recordings. 

 

He made cross-references and pulled up his extensive files. 

 

Phantom had appeared three months ago. 

 

Out of nowhere.

 

No DNA.

 

No trace.

 

No digital footprint.

 

Tim eyed the blurry image of the masked man, standing up on the rooftop of an empty building. 

 

Who are you?

 

The teen sighed and he took another sip of hot coffee. He shivered and stood up tiredly, cranking up the heater in his bedroom. He sighed in contentment as the heat flooded his spacious room. He returned to his laptop and continued his cross-referencing. 

 


 

Eren awoke to the sound of pained whimpers and wet sniffles. He sat up in bed hurriedly and stared down at the shivering lump next to him. His heart stuttered in fear and he pulled the blankets down. 

 

No. 

 

Adam was soaked in sweat, perspiring heavily with violent shivers wracking his small frame. 

 

Eren pressed a hand to the boy’s forehead and he cursed. 

 

Adam was sick.

 

His fears had manifested into a terrifying reality. 

 

Eren kicked off his blankets and he rushed into the kitchen, grabbing a bottle of clean water. He grabbed his dish towel and soaked it, rushing back to his kid. He pressed the towel on his hot forehead and he held his breath, watching the boy struggle with his nighttime terrors. 

 

The hours ticked by and the kid’s temperature did not go down. Eren tugged on his hair helplessly and he threw on a coat. He had very little money. His friends had very little money. Healthcare was so expensive - it was a luxury. 

 

He lifted the thin child in his arms and he stared helplessly out the window. The streets were covered in snow. Eren dressed the unconscious kid in heavy layers, bundling him up tightly. 

 

Fevers in children were fatal. 

 

Eren scooped his brother up in his arms and he rushed out into the streets. He made his way through the decrepit alleyways. He rushed towards a group of homeless men from the Network.

 

“He’s sick. Where can I take him?”

 

“There’s a clinic up on fourteenth. Ask for Doctor Leslie Thompkins.”

 

Eren nodded and he turned on his heel. He took the dark shortcuts hurriedly, running desperately through the empty streets. 

 

Eren turned the corner and he slammed into a solid body. He reeled backwards and narrowed his eyes at the threat - three large thugs stood in front of him. The leader scowled and grabbed his shoulder, glaring at him angrily. 

 

Eren snarled hatefully. 

 

He did not have the time for this shit.

 

He moved forward, bypassing the man. The thug grabbed his arm and pulled him back, slamming his body into the wall. 

 

“Man, no apology? Did your mama not teach you any manners?” He leered, leaning close into his personal space.

 

Eren glared angrily and he tightened his hold on his brother. 

 

“Move.” He hissed hatefully.  

 

The man laughed and he looked towards his two companions in amusement.

 

“Can you believe this guy?”

 

Eren pressed a hand against Adam’s backside and he shot his leg out, kicking the thug in the groin. The man lurched over in surprise. Eren grabbed a fistful of his hair and he slammed his face into the wall. 

 

He turned to the remaining thugs. 

 

Fuck. 

 

The bastards were armed. 

 

Eren ducked as they fired and he hissed as a bullet caught his arm. He ran ahead, slamming his fist into the man’s face. He twisted and kicked the other in the jaw, steeled boots cracked the bones. The man screamed and fell down to the ground.

 

Eren stumbled and he rushed out of the alleyway. He pressed a hand to his bleeding shoulder and checked on his brother. He released a relieved sigh and rushed towards the clinic, barging in loudly. 

 

The receptionist sat up in alarm and she peered at him in surprise. 

 

Eren rushed forward.

 

“I need help,” he croaked. “My brother, please.”

 

She nodded and stood up. 

 

“Follow me.”

 


 

Dr. Leslie Thompkins was a well-versed practiced doctor. She was a rare breed in Gotham. She offered help, to criminal and crimefighter alike. 

 

She did not discriminate with those injured. 

 

Pain was pain. 

 

In her career, she had seen enough sights that made her lose sleep and curse the streets of Gotham.

 

Tonight was no exception.

 

Her assistant - Emily - had announced a late night arrival. It was 3AM. She had stayed to clean and sterilize her equipment - a task she did often when insomnia hit her hard.

 

She hated winter. 

 

The numbers of street children who died due to exposure doubled in winter. 

 

Dr. Leslie made her way into the room and she paused at the sight. A teen sat by an unconscious boy, hunched over with a haggard appearance. He was bleeding profusely from his shoulder and he was staring at his sleeping kid with bloodshot eyes. 

 

Dr. Leslie clicked her tongue.

 

She rushed forward and strapped on her gloves. 

 

The teen blinked up at her and she stared pointedly at him.

 

“We need to staunch the bleeding first.” She stepped towards the teen meaningfully.

 

“No. My brother first, look at him first.”

 

Dr. Leslie arched an eyebrow.

 

The teen glared at her. 

 

She sighed and tossed him a towel. “Hold this against your shoulder.”

 

She moved towards the unconscious boy and she took his temperature. She frowned. That wasn’t good. She grabbed her stethoscope and rested it over the boy’s small chest, listening to his heartbeat. She took his temperature and her eyes dimmed. The kid was suffering from a high fever. She moved hurriedly, sticking an IV line to his frail hand. She administered the antibiotics and leaned back.

 

“He should be fine now. It’s good you brought him when you did. Any longer and he would have suffered brain damage.”

 

The teen’s shoulders slumped and he reached forward, taking the small hand in his hold. 

 

Leslie stepped forward and she pressed a careful hand on the teen’s shoulder. He held himself stiffly - his expression full of concern. He continued staring at his sleeping brother as she moved around him. She administered the anaesthetics and first aid efficiently, using a pair of sterilized tweezers to pull out the bullet.  

 

She worked quietly, eyeing the pair curiously. She wrapped the teen’s arm gently and patted his shoulder lightly. 

 

“All done, he needs to stay here for the night for me to monitor his recovery.”

 

The teen nodded and he turned to her with tired green eyes. “Thank you.”

 

She smiled. “It’s fine.”

 

“I… how much is it going to be?” He asked quietly.

 

Leslie shook her head. “Don’t worry about it.”

 

The teen opened his mouth and he closed it. 

 

He frowned and stared at her with a troubled gaze. 

 

“I will pay you back. I won’t forget this doctor.”

 

Leslie nodded and she drew the curtain around the sleeping boy. 

 

“You’re welcome to stay to watch over him.”

 

The teen nodded and he took a seat on the bed, sitting by his sleeping brother. Leslie smiled as she watched him. The teen sat by his brother’s side, running a hand through the boy’s curly locks. The doctor slipped past the pair quietly and closed the door softly.

 


 

The pale teen slipped on his domino mask and he pressed a finger to his comms, turning it off. He hadn’t seen his Crime Alley friends in a week. They did not show at the library. It had been a week since he had seen Eren on the rooftop alone in the late hours of night. 

 

He was concerned. 

 

Red Robin snuck out of his window. He made his way to the rooftops of Crime Alley and he gazed around searchingly. 

 

Eren was not on the rooftops.

 

Did something happen?

 

Red Robin frowned. 

 

He hated not knowing - He knew very little on the teen and his brother. He didn’t know where they lived. He didn’t know much about their circumstances. The vigilante leaned forward and his eyes widened. 

 

Gotcha!

 

Eren walked the streets of Crime Alley with his hands shoved in the pockets of his sweater. Red Robin frowned at his light clothing. It was too cold for the thin layers the teen wore. He followed behind in the shadows, watching his friend as he walked through the night with a listless expression. 

 

He followed behind as Eren moved through the streets. The teen paused to speak to a group of homeless men, stepping forward and clapping them on the shoulder. Eren turned on his heel and went deeper into Crime Alley. 

 

Red Robin followed.

 

The vigilante paused as Eren made his way to a decrepit warehouse. He watched as the teen pushed the door open and disappeared inside. The lights flickered on and the vigilante snuck forward. He watched through the windows as the teen shuffled through an old and moldy warehouse. Sparse belongings littered the floor and a makeshift bed was tucked at the side. A large rusted trashcan was in the centre of the room filled with firewood. 

 

Red Robin felt his heart sink.

 

No.

 

Eren was homeless.

 

He watched with wide blue eyes as the teen knelt down, shuffling through a familiar secondhand backpack. It belonged to the brilliant bright child he grew to adore. 

 

Adam.

 

Eren lowered the bag gently with a saddened expression and he left the warehouse. 

 

Red Robin followed and his heart thudded in apprehension. 

 

What happened to Adam?

 

He followed behind with a stuttering heart. 

 

Please be okay.

 

He watched as Eren moved out of Crime Alley, disappearing into Leslie Thompkin’s clinic. Red Robin remained hidden in the shadows, crouched on a rooftop, staring at the clinic. The teen watched as Eren left the clinic with a bundle in his arms. Robin recognized the tufts of curly dark hair.

 

Adam.

 

His shoulders slumped in relief. 

 

He followed closely, watching the teen return to the debilitated warehouse. He landed lightly on his feet as his friend disappeared behind the door. He watched through the windows. Eren settled his brother on the of blankets and pillows and he threw blocks of wood into the makeshift fireplace. He set an old pot over the fire and dropped a packet of oatmeal into the water. 

 

Red Robin watched and he felt his heart sink with every movement. The older brother disappeared behind a rusty door and he returned with a towel and water bottle. He knelt down next to the unconscious child. Eren pressed a towel to his brother’s forehead and he turned back to his meagre dinner. He loaded a bowl and nudged the child awake.

 

Red Robin watched as the brother tried to entice the little kid to eat. Adam shook his head and disappeared under the blankets. The vigilante watched as Eren’s expression grew morose. The teen lowered the bowl tiredly and he rested his face in his hands. 

 

The vigilante stepped back. 

 

It felt wrong to watch Eren’s private affairs.

 

Red Robin stepped away from the warehouse and he shot up to the rooftops. He looked behind him, staring down at the building.

 

He hadn’t known.

 

He had no idea.

 

His friends were homeless - living on their own in extreme poverty. The vigilante thought of the massive manor he occupied - the warm heat - the extravagant meals - the comfort - and he felt sick. 

 

Red Robin turned on his heel and he disappeared into the depths of Crime Alley. 

 


 

BatChat:

Dick: So… ٩(

Tim: So?

Steph: So?

Duke: Am I supposed to continue this?

Dick: NO! ●︿

Tim: No.

Steph: No ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡° )

Duke: Uh… No…?

Cass:

Dick: I have an important announcement! ɷɷ

*Dick is typing*

Tim: This delay is making me anxious. 

Duke: Yeah man, hurry up.

Steph: *Ten years later*

Dick: Rude! Anyways, B IS BACK!  

Steph: Yay!

Duke: Yes, world’s greatest detective is back! 

Tim: That’s great!

Cass: <3

Dick: The whole fam is going to be together!

*Steph added Jason to the chat*

Jason: What ya want you fuckwads?!

Tim: B is back.

*Jason is typing*

*Jason has left the chat*

Dick: ???? _

Steph: LOL!

Duke: Ha ha.

Tim:

Cass:

Dick: JASON! GET BACK HERE! ( `´)ノ゙

 


 

The sound of the phone vibrating on the wooden floors startled him awake. The teen blinked  his eyes tiredly and he pulled his aching body upwards. He pressed a hand to his brother’s forehead and he heaved a relieved sigh. Eren leaned over his kid’s sleeping form and snatched his vibrating phone. He blinked tiredly at the text message, brain working at a slow pace. 

 

Bat is back in Gotham. Take extra caution fuckwad. 

 

Eren dropped the phone tiredly and he fell back against the covers with a weary groan. 

 


 

Chapter Text

17.

 

The masked teen leaned forward on the railing and he surveyed the busy streets of Crime Alley. He threw his leg over the ledge and balanced haphazardly on the edge. The wind blew through his light brown hair and his green eyes took in the sight of the night activity. 

 

Eren stared down at the flickering street lamps. He eyed the moths flying in slow circles, driven close to the light. He stared down at the steep fall and crouched down, pressing his gloved hands to the ledge. 

 

A bright light lit up in the smoggy sky and he looked upwards. The Bat signal magnified the sky and he eyed it curiously. It was a few buildings away - too close for comfort. He ducked low and shot out his grappling gun, whizzing away from the signal. 

 

Eren made his way to the ports, listening to the transceiver messages. He landed quietly on the crates and surveyed the group of men hauling their cargo. He slid down the crates and made his way closer, listening to the impatient conversations. 

 

Electronics.

 

Eren paused. 

 

He didn’t care for digital devices. Having no digital footprint gave him an immediate advantage and kept him anonymous. He turned on his heel and left the ports undetected. The crime lord weaved through the streets. He listened to the transceiver and he moved towards the point of conflict - shots fired. Immediate backup requested.

 

Eren hurried to the location and he landed on the rooftop of an abandoned warehouse. He stared down through the dirty glass, counting the bodies and held civilians. He cursed under his breath - it was hostage situation. 

 

The teen frowned at the sight of masked thugs. 

 

They wore clown masks and they walked around swinging bats and crowbars, laughing and whistling at the group of captured civilians. It was a group of office workers. Eren pulled out his glass cutter, pressing it carefully to the window. He cut a clean circle and swung down low, landing behind the stacked boxes.

 

He moved silently.

 

The sound of a thud paused his approach and his eyes widened as he saw the large man swing his fists at the masked thugs. 

 

Shit! Shit! Shit!

 

Batman!

 

Eren cursed and he debated his approach. The civilians needed his help. He couldn’t turn back now. He continued his approach, letting the large vigilante deal with the criminals. He approached the officer workers who gawked at his sight. Eren held a finger to his lips and motioned to them silently, slipping behind the tied man.

 

He pressed his knife to the rope and ripped it, moving quickly to free the rest of the captured civilians. A masked thug noticed him and he yelled at his colleagues to take him down. Eren cursed as the thug pointed the gun at the freed civilians. They screamed in fright and began to beg. 

 

Batman ran forward to intercept.

 

He was too far. 

 

Eren shoved the civilians behind him and the shot rang out.

 

Ouch.

 

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

 

The bastard got his kneecap. 

 

Eren reeled forward, gasping in pain. His armour didn’t cover his kneecap. He needed his joints free for agility and movement. Another shot rang out and it ricocheted off his shoulders. 

 

Eren pulled himself upward, pushing through the pain. 

 

He pushed the civilians out of the warehouse.

 

“Go, go, go! Hurry up!”

 

The civilians rushed out of the warehouse and the sound of struggles met his ears. Eren turned around and he saw Batman take down the group of thugs, seamlessly without backup. The teen swallowed thickly. Fuck. The man was a beast. He would be a very difficult opponent.

 

Ugh.

 

Eren led the civilians to the edge of the warehouse and he heard the enclosing sirens. 

 

An office worker stepped forward with a tight expression.

 

“Thank you… you saved my life Phantom.”

 

The teen waved him off and he waited until the police cars turned over to the curb. He shot out his grappling hook and took off into the night. 

 


 

Eren landed on an abandoned rooftop, cursing and hissing in pain. 

 

He stumbled and fell down to his knees, landing on his injury.

 

“Ouch ouch ouch!” He yelped as he held his knee to his chest.

 

He laid on his back, groaning in pain and he stared up at an ugly polluted sky.

 

Eren stared down at his injury. It would be a pain to pick out. The bullet was lodged in deep, edged into his bone. He dug into his trench coat pockets, pulling out his frayed first aid pouch. He shuffled through it with shaking fingers and pulled out a pair of steel tweezers. He sat up with a whimper and held his breath as he dug into his flesh.

 

He released a pained cry as he picked at his injury. Digging into his own flesh was disgusting. He held back his urge to vomit and pulled out the bullet. It clattered loudly onto the floor and he wrapped a loose cloth over his knee. He laid back down on the cold ground and stared up at the sky tiredly.

 

The sound of heavy thuds rang on the rooftop and the teen tilted his head. 

 

Ah hell no.  

 

He laid back down on the cold ground, listening to the footsteps as they drew closer. 

 

He was too tired for a confrontation.

 

It was too soon. 

 

“Batman,” Eren drawled. 

 

“Can we do a rain check or something? I’m really not having a good day. How’s Friday night sound for you?”

 

The vigilante remained silent, stopping a meter from him. 

 

Eren pulled his body up with a groan. 

 

He stared at the Dark Knight of Gotham. He was tall, heavy and muscular. The teen stared at him warily. He didn’t know what to expect. He had no desire to end up behind a prison cell. He had Adam and the rest of Crime Alley residents relying on him for protection.

 

His knee stung painfully and he held back his healing. 

 

He couldn’t steam openly in front of the vigilante.

 

I heard a rumour… back when I was on the streets that Batman doesn’t like metas. He doesn’t want any of them in Gotham. Eren, if he finds out about you, he’ll take you away! Or hurt you! 

 

The risk was too high.

 

Eren limped backwards and he stumbled, cursing like an agitated sailor. 

 

“Here to kill me? Oh wait right you don’t kill. Hmm, prison then? But what exactly are my crimes Batman? I only robbed a few drug dealers and I gave the drugs over to Red Hood. Why-” He hissed and his vision reeled.

 

Shit.

 

He was losing blood fast.

 

Eren stumbled and he held onto the railing tightly. 

 

“Why are you here?”

 

Batman continued to stare at him in unnerving silence. 

 

Eren scowled. 

 

“Do me a favour and stop sending your cult after me, yeah? It’s exhausting, running into a Bat offspring every other night. Do you have to breed so many of them?”

 

Batman twitched minutely. 

 

Huh.

 

The vigilante cared about his bat children.

 

“Three months ago,” the hero rasped in a low baritone. “There was an exchange at the ports. A crate of green crystals, what do you know about them?”

 

Eren blinked.

 

Oh shit.

 

“Nothing,” he hissed through the pain.

 

Fuck. 

 

The crystals were important - since the bat cult was involved. 

 

His luck was horrid.

 

Eren’s vision spun rapidly and he took a step back. His knees hit the ledge of the rooftop and he held back a pained gasp. He wasn’t at his strongest. Eating cold oatmeal was hardly sufficient nutrients. He set all his money aside for Adam’s textbooks. Curriculum books were very expensive. He did not work on the weekends and he lacked the protein needed to fight crime. 

 

“I only took the drugs so they don’t end up on Crime Alley.” Eren spoke lowly.

 

Batman remained silent, surveying his body language. 

 

He stepped forward abruptly - imposing and large. 

 

Eren reeled backwards and he slipped on the ice. 

 

Fuck. 

 

The teen fell off the rooftop and catapulted downwards. 

 

Oh shit. 

 

He shakily grabbed his grappling gun and shot the hook. He missed the building bricks and he cursed as his wire got caught on the laundry lines. He gazed downwards - It was going to be a very painful fall. 

 

A strong grip caught his wrist. 

 

Eren stared upwards in shock, seeing the vigilante holding onto his wrist. 

 

Batman was leaning over the edge of the rooftop, holding onto him. 

 

The teen let out a dry snort and he tugged his hand away viciously. 

 

Batman tightened his grip and the teen scowled angrily. 

 

He didn’t want his help.  

 

He didn’t need his help.

 

He would survive the fall.

 

His healing would ensure his longevity. 

 

“Let go,” Eren hissed.

 

The vigilante ignored him.

 

Eren tugged on his wrist as he dangled in the air. 

 

“Let go, it’s not like you care what happens to some Crime Alley scum. It’s fine Batman, no one is here. There are no cameras around. Dead men don’t speak. You’ll get what you want with me gone.”

 

The man grunted and he pulled him back. 

 

Eren thrashed angrily - Fuck you! - He didn’t want to owe the hero a debt. 

 

No. 

 

The vigilante held on with an iron grip and he pulled him back to safety. Eren scowled angrily and he shot out a fist, stumbling pathetically. He fell down onto the cold ground and wheezed at the impact as he hit his knee. 

 

His body trembled and he glared up at the vigilante, hating himself for his weakness. 

 

He was at the mercy of the hero. 

 

He was fucked. 

 

He was tired.

 

He was hungry.

 

His entire body hurt.

 

Eren’s stomach grumbled loudly and he flushed in embarrassment. He pressed a trembling hand to his stomach and glared ahead at the large man. 

 

The entire situation sucked. 

 

He had been reduced to a pathetic weakling. 

 

The teen scowled and he threw a smoke pellet abruptly. The smoke covered the rooftop and he shot out his grappling gun shakily. He whizzed to the next building and ran, pushing through the pain.

 

He ducked into a darkened alley and ripped a manhole off the ground. He dived underground and crashed into the filthy sewage waters. He sputtered in disgust and the violent currents carried him away from the vigilante.  

 


 

Eren pushed the door open to the safe house and he stumbled in. His entire body trembled from exertion and the smell of sewage water clung to his clothes. He threw his clothes into the laundry bin and trudged to the bathroom. He turned on the shower head and hissed as the ice cold water touched his skin.

 

The teen stared down at the water, watching as it turned murky.

 

He was filthy.

 

His stomach rumbled and he took a deep breath. 

 

He washed up hurriedly and his fingers trembled.

 

He left the freezing shower and grabbed a thin towel, wrapping it around his waist. He steamed slowly, warming his body up and his skin stitched together slowly. He grabbed the laundry basket and he held back a curse, tossing the soiled clothes out the window.

 

Nope.

 

He was not going to deal with his filthy laundry right now.

 

He grabbed his spare clothes and hurriedly changed, making his way to his bed. The small lump on the bed shuffled and a small curly head poked out. Adam stared at him with a sleepy gaze and he rubbed his small hands against his eyelids.

 

“Eren?” He slurred sleepily.

 

Eren took a seat on the bed, ruffling the kid’s hair. 

 

“Go back to bed. It’s late.”

 

Adam grumbled and pulled the blankets to his nose, sniffling wet. 

 

Eren stared at his sleeping kid and he rested a hand against his small forehead. His shoulders slumped in relief and he rested his back against the wall. Adam snuggled into his side, grumbling about the cold. 

 

Eren took a deep breath and he released a small gust of steam, heating up the room rapidly. Adam made a small noise of contentment and his breaths evened out. The teen stood up and he made his way to the kitchen. He rummaged through the cupboards and eyed their meagre supplies.

 

Payday wasn’t for a few days.

 

His stomach grumbled loudly. 

 

He had a few packets of oatmeal left and they were for Adam.

 

Eren sighed heavily. 

 

Water it is.

 

Eren grabbed a bottle of water and closed the cupboards, heading back to the bed. He took a seat next to his kid and drank his water slowly, listening to the soft sounds of the boy’s breathing. 

 


 

Batman stared down at the streets of Crime Alley. It was quieter than usual - more balanced. 

 

The masked vigilante frowned, thinking of the new crime lord. 

 

Phantom was unprecedented.

 

He didn’t kill and he did not commit atrocities. He commanded over Crime Alley residents and protected them. He unearthed a hidden human trafficking rink and saved a group of innocent civilians. He did not hesitate to use his own body as a shield to protect others. His actions were not driven by selfishness. 

 

He didn’t know what to make of him.

 

Let me go. It’s not like you care what happens to some Crime Alley scum.

 

Batman stared down at the streets with a troubled disposition. 

 

Dead men don’t speak. You’ll get what you want with me gone.

 

He frowned deeply.

 


 

Eren entered the library with a tired sigh. He led Adam forward with a gentle hand, pushing him ahead. He brushed the snow off his coat and hood, drying his wet boots on the carpeted floors. 

 

They took the stairs up and the kid made a beeline for their designated table. Eren followed behind and he pulled his chair, sitting down tiredly. 

 

Adam rested his head on the table and he let out a pitiful whine. “Do I have too?”

 

Eren sighed and he lowered his head on the table, mimicking the kid’s defeated posture. 

 

“Yeah, school is important. I want you to have options kid.” He drawled tiredly.

 

Adam grunted his displeasure.

 

Eren grunted in response.

 

“My head still feels like mushy mush,” he whispered theatrically.

 

Eren cracked an eye open and he turned his head, eyeing the boy. Adam has his cheek squished on the table and he was staring at him pleading with wide hazel eyes. He was the expression of pure innocence. 

 

The teen reached over and pinched his cherubic cheek. 

 

“Stop with your manipulation brat.”

 

Adam gasped and he held his reddened cheek. 

 

“Being cute is now a crime? Oh woe to me for having superior genetics that make me cuter than other bitches on the street!” He threw his arms up dramatically with puffed cheeks.

 

Eren cracked a smile at his dramatics and he pressed a hand to his mouth, suppressing a surprised laugh. 

 

Adam beamed at him brightly with an elated expression.

 

“Yay! You’re smiling again!” He chirped excitedly, bouncing in his seat.

 

The sound of hurried footsteps drew closer. Eren lifted his head, peering at the familiar teen who stared at them with wide blue eyes. 

 

“Timmy!” Adam cheered excitedly as he hopped off his seat, running towards the teen.

 

Eren watched the kid run with a small endeared smile. His little brother had made a full recovery - all excitable energy and exuberant cheer intact. 

 

Adam latched onto Tim and climbed his body like a squirrel, wrapping his thin arms around the teen’s neck. 

 

Tim laughed and caught him, holding his small body close. 

 

“Hey Adam, I missed you.” He spoke sincerely. 

 

“Me too! I was sick, all icky and shit.”

 

The teen walked over to the table and he smiled at Eren with a kind expression.

 

“Hi Eren, how’ve you been?”

 

Eren shrugged a shoulder lazily. 

 

“Eh? Alive, here and there. You? How did your exams go?”

 

Tim took a seat across from him and he set down his books. “They went well. How’s work at the restaurant?”

 

Eren sighed. “Not good, I mean it's the holidays soon so they close until January.”

 

He was going to be very poor very soon. 

 

“Oh… that’s troubling.”

 

“Yeah, I’m looking for something else in the meantime but its shit.”

 

Eren rested his head on the table tiredly and he listened to the soft sounds around him. He heard a delighted squeal followed by the sound of crunching. Tim explained his new baking endeavours in a soft voice and Adam chattered about his comic books. Eren closed his eyes to the soft background noise - listening to Tim discuss his holiday shopping plans.

 

Eren hummed thoughtfully and his lips stretched into a sharp smirk.

 

He had an idea for quick, easy cash. 

 


 

Eren ran a hand through his clean clothes and he tied his hair up in a high ponytail. He turned to his little brother and he smirked approvingly. The pair were dressed up for a shopping trip in Bristol. Adam bounced on his feet and he grinned cheekily at him, eyes bright in excitement.

 

“Do we need to go over the plan again?”

 

Adam scoffed dramatically. 

 

“Please, I’m too smart for that. Repetition is for old people.”

 

Eren arched an eyebrow.

 

The kid scowled and he followed him out the door. 

 

“We are going holiday shopping - as our ruse - and in truth we are robbing rich people blind of their wallets. Ho ho ho, happy holidays turds!”

 

Eren chuckled and the pair made their way out of Crime Alley. They passed by a few members of the Network who greeted them amiably. Eren waved lazily as he walked by. The pair made their way to the bus stop and took the bus up to Bristol. 

 

Eren stared up at the large shopping mall with wide eyes.

 

Damn.

 

He eyed the fat man dressed in a red costume, waving a bell for donations. 

 

Huh.

 

He watched with keen eyes as a bunch of well-dressed pedestrians gave the costumed man thick bills of money for the donations bin. 

 

“That’s Santa. He’s an old creep who watches people all year round and gives presents based on his approval. He ignores Crime Alley kids because we steal shit and lean towards violence.” Adam sneered, walking past the old man with a glare.

 

The boy gave him the finger and the man sputtered in shock. Eren rolled his eyes and he grabbed his kid by the collar, pulling away from the man.

 

“Don’t put attention on us idiot,” he hissed lowly as he pinched his neck.

 

Adam scowled and snapped his teeth, aiming to bite him. Eren smacked him on the head and dragged him into the large shopping mall. He snagged a flyer beside the revolving doors and peered at the shops thoughtfully. 

 

Ho, ho, ho, indeed.

 

Eren smirked as he eyed the crowds. 

 

It was very crowded. 

 

Perfect for pickpocketing. 

 

The teen exchanged meaningful looks with his kid and they blended in seamlessly into the crowd. Adam played his role perfectly, whining childishly and asked for games for his non-existent gaming console. 

 

The festive music played and filled the shopping mall. Parents rushed around hurriedly. Large groups of teenagers tapped away on their phones, latest models in their hands. Children rushed out the foodcourt, tossing away their unfinished food in the trash bins. 

 

Adam paused and he eyed the children in the foodcourt, watching a group of rowdy kids complain about the taste of the food.

 

“I hate these privileged pests,” the kid hissed lowly. 

 

Eren narrowed his eyes at the wealthy crowds of Bristol. 

 

“Indeed. That is enough food to feed a lot of the Network.”

 

“This place…it’s like…it’s like a different world.” Adam whispered.

 

Eren nodded.

 

Indeed.

 

It was an entirely different world. 

 

The residents of Bristol threw away their food, mocking flavours and texture.

 

The residents of Crime Alley rummaged through the trashcans for rotten bits.

 

The residents of Bristol looked forward to winter, ready for the holidays.

 

The residents of Crime Alley dreaded winter, fearful of their impeding death in the cold.

 

Eren clenched his fists tightly and he exchanged hard glances with his kid.

 

“Let’s go kid, let’s liberate their wallets.”

 

Adam grinned sharply, all teeth - It was a Crime Alley smile. 

 

“Let’s rob these bitches blind Eren.”

 


 

Dick Grayson stared down at the shopping list and he bit back a helpless scream. His siblings were too cruel. Their holiday wish list was impossible. He couldn’t buy half the items at regular stores - especially for his youngest brother. 

 

Where in the world am I supposed to buy an Alpaca? 

 

Damien Wayne was the stuff of nightmares.

 

Dick eyed the crowded video game store and pushed through the crowds, apologizing politely. He held back a groan as he was elbowed by a vicious old lady. Dick walked through the aisles, eyeing the gaming consoles. He grabbed a new racing game and paused by the puzzles. 

 

He stared at a puzzle of baked foods.

 

Tim was recently into baking.

 

Hmm…

 

He grabbed the puzzle and a few other board games - It was good for movie night activities - and he made his way to the counter. He dropped his items in front of the cashier and rummaged through his coat for his wallet. 

 

Dick’s eyebrows rose in surprise as he checked his pockets.

 

Holy hell!

 

What?

 

How?!

 

He felt his stomach drop. 

 

Oh no. 

 

He was robbed. 

 

Oh no. 

 

His wallet was gone. 

 

No, no, no. 

 

He had all his cards in his wallet. 

 

He had a picture of young Damien when he first came to the Manor. 

 

Dick gazed around searchingly. 

 

He pushed through the crowds, searching for the culprit. He gritted his teeth angrily and rushed through the crowds. He hadn’t felt a thing - the perpetrator was an expert. It was the perfect time to execute a theft - when everyone was blinded by the crowds and ambiance. 

 

Dick narrowed his eyes, honing in on the kid. 

 

He was standing in the centre of the crowd, flipping through his wallet with an impressed gaze. He was small - about seven - with a large blue parka and dark curly hair. 

 

“Hey!” Dick hollered, pushing through the crowds. 

 

The boy raised his head at the sharp sound. 

 

Dick stared into a cute cherubic face - He was an adorable kid with hazel eyes, long lashes and a small button nose - but still he was a THEIF! 

 

The kid stared directly at him with a deadpan expression and he lifted his small fist, giving him the finger pointedly. 

 

Dick’s jaw dropped open in shock and the kid’s lips stretched into a cheshire smirk. He turned on his heel and rushed through the crowd.

 

“HEY!” Dick yelled, trying to in vain to rush past the crowd of shoppers.

 

He watched in dismay as the kid disappeared from sight, dissolving into the crowds. Dick groaned loudly and rested his face in his hands. It was going to be a pain to replace all his identification cards. He wouldn’t hear the end of it from his siblings. The young man lifted his head and he eyed the large crowds helplessly. 

 

He felt a strong sense of deja vu at the encounter. 

 


 

Dick Grayson shuffled tiredly into his bedroom and he flopped onto his bed with a groan. His phone vibrated and he pulled it out, staring at the screen in confusion. His breath hitched in surprise and he let out a scandalized scream.

 

His credit card was maxed out! 

 


 

Chapter Text

18

 

The doorbell jingled, signifying the entrance of customers. The waiter led the group to their table and handed them their menu. The teens surveyed the menu and ordered their regular dishes. Eren wrote down their orders on his notepad and he turned on his heel, ignoring the stares of the giggling girls. 

 

He walked into the kitchen and relayed the orders. The teen made his way to his designated corner table and ruffled Adam’s hair as he walked by. The boy poked his tongue out and turned back to his comics. Eren flicked him on the nose with a soft smile and he evaded the kid’s punch. 

 

The doorbell jingled and the teen turned. His lips quirked upwards and he made his way over to his friend.

 

“Yo! Man, it’s cold as balls out there,” Jeremiah scowled as he wiped the snow off his curls. 

 

He clapped him on the shoulder and led him towards his table. Jeremiah smiled up at him and he turned to the young boy. Adam beamed brightly and he bounced excitedly in his seat. 

 

“Yo kid,” Jeremiah greeted as he took a seat.

 

“I’ll be right back, on the house.”

 

Jeremiah smirked. “I won’t say no to free food.”

 

Eren snorted and he hurried to the kitchen. “Haleem! I’m taking my lunch!” He weaved past the cooks and served himself a large platter, grabbing a bunch of ready-made skewers and kebab wraps. 

 

Haleem poked his head around the corner and he grunted. “Try the ghannoush, it's new.”

 

Eren stared down at the sauce unsurely. He shrugged and scooped a serving, adding it to his large platter. He entered the dining area and made his way to the table, setting the food down. Eren joined his friends and served the kid his food. Adam made grabby hands for his food and he leaned into his side, setting his small head on his arm.

 

“Oh, the sauce looks good!” 

 

Jeremiah stared curiously. “What’s in it?”

 

“Eggplants?” Eren guessed. 

 

“Nah man, I’ll pass.”

 

The teen grabbed a kebab wrap and dug into his food. “Mmm, man I love these.”

 

Eren set a plate of steamed vegetables in front of Adam and he ignored the kid’s colourful cursing. He smacked his head lightly and pinched his cheek roughly.

 

“Eat,” he hissed with a glare.

 

Adam scrunched his nose and grabbed a steamed broccoli with a pout. Jeremiah chuckled and he shook his head in amusement. 

 

“So, you both still hanging out with the Drake kid?” Jeremiah drawled with a narrowed gaze. 

 

“You know he’s the heir to the Drake estate and fortune. He was adopted by Bruce Wayne and he interns for him at Wayne Enterprises.”

 

Eren nodded. “Yeah, I read about them. I didn’t know he was adopted by the Waynes though. I actually don’t know much about him.”

 

Jeremiah scowled. “I don’t trust him. People like him don’t hang out with people like us, we’re like…the people who clean their fucking toilets and launder their clothes, the ones who serve them food.”

 

Adam chewed thoughtfully. “Wait…Waynes? Doesn’t that make Tim the son of the richest man in Gotham? What’s he doing hang around us?” He titled his head thoughtfully.

 

“Not only that, he’s suspicious.” Jeremiah spoke meaningfully. “The shit Adam read in his notebook. That shit makes no sense, that level of detail is odd.”

 

Eren frowned.

 

He was right.

 

The detail was frightening. It was strange - microscopic to the point. It didn’t add up.

 

“You need to look into him. He’s too obsessed with Phantom. It’s dangerous.” Jeremiah spoke.

 

Tim didn’t look dangerous with his baked cookies and kind smile. And yet… He had Phantom’s height, weight, entire regalia, routine and drug busts on paper. He even had his disappearing blood on paper. How? It made no sense. He had to be close to the scene to know of his vanishing DNA. 

 

Eren blinked and he chewed slowly. 

 

Huh?

 

An inside informant.

 

The teen lowered his food.

 

He didn’t feel hungry.

 

Was he intentionally approached? 

 

Was it all staged? 

 

He looked towards Adam who stared at him with large eyes. Jeremiah wasn’t wrong. Tim Drake knew too much. He couldn’t remain close to him without endangering his identity. He had too much to lose if his identity was revealed. He had to remain hidden - a secret - to protect his family. 

 

Jeremiah sighed. 

 

“Look man, I don’t claim to know peoples hearts but I just want you both to be safe yeah? You’re like my older brother, I don’t want you to get hurt man. Just… just be careful around the Drake kid and his people. You know their type, the world is fucking black and white for them. They look at us and see gutter shit, you’ll be behind bars real fast my man and we can’t have that.”

 

Adam made a sad noise. “I really like Timmy though.”

 

Eren sighed.

 

“Eren, does that mean I can’t hang out with him anymore?”

 

Eren shook his head. “No, it’s fine. Look Jeremiah, I get it man, I do. But I think…I think we need to keep a closer eye on Tim; I’ll reserve my judgement for later. He’s my friend, I want to believe in him. As long as he’s not an honorary member of the Batcult, we’re good.”

 


 

The sound of light footsteps echoed through the large manor. The teen took the stairs hurriedly and he ran into the kitchen, grabbing a piece of buttered toast. He stuffed his face and turned on his heel.

 

“Master Timothy,” the soft voice chided.

 

Tim choked on his bread and he paused his retreat, turning to the butler with a guilty expression. 

 

Alfred stepped out of shadows, stealthy and quiet as ever. Tim waved to him with a smile.

 

“Alfie, sorry I’m in a rush!” He hoisted his bag over his shoulder.

 

“Where are you headed in such a hurry?”

 

“Uhm you know my friends…yeah.”

 

Alfred nodded and he raised a hand, indicting for him to wait. Tim watched as the butler delved deeper into the immaculate kitchen. He returned with a large container.

 

Tim took it curiously. He stared inside and he grinned. It was Alfred’s heavenly strawberry shortcake. 

 

Tim beamed at him brightly. “Thanks Alfie! The kid will love it!”

 

The butler smiled kindly and ushered him out the door. Tim took the stairs hurriedly and rushed out of the large manor grounds. He didn’t keep his new friendships with the Crime Alley brothers a secret from Alfred.

 

Alfred was trustworthy and every bit involved in his life. He knew about his involvement with Eren and Adam. He had caught him the first night in the kitchen in the late hours of the night glaring helplessly at a stack of burnt cookies.

 

He had offered his help with a soft smile and a soothing voice. He didn’t push him. He didn’t ask questions and Tim found himself sharing his concerns. 

 

The teen entered the waiting taxi and he rattled off the address. The driver raised an eyebrow questioningly. 

 

Crime Alley was not a place the upscale residents frequented. Tim ignored his stares and he turned back to the cake box.

 

His lips quirked upwards in a soft smile.

 


 

The nine year old made his way through the crowded streets, weaving seamlessly through the bodies. He waved at the Network members and he walked up the stairs to the cold apartment. 

 

Adam pushed the door open and he wrinkled his nose at the smell of smoke. He slammed the door shut with a huff and stepped in. 

 

Jeremiah poked his head around the corner and he waved him over. The tall teen stood in front of a rickety table - a makeshift of spare parts were stacked high- and sketches littered the surface. He held a joint in his fingertips and waved his hand as he spoke. 

 

Eren stood across from him, arms crossed with a pinched expression. Adam walked over to his brother and tugged on his sleeve curiously. Eren turned to him and he smiled minutely. 

 

“Got any good books?” 

 

Adam pouted. “No, they closed down early because of the holidays.”

 

Jeremiah chuckled. “Don’t worry champ, I got a few spare comics you can have. Think of it as an early Christmas gift.”

 

Adam beamed brightly. He leaned over and stared curiously at the sketches. His eyes widened in surprise. 

 

“Is this what I think it is?”

 

Eren smirked. “That and more. These are just the initial drafts.”

 

“A full suit is the best way to go man. Wait till you hear of the upgrades we have in mind.”

 

“Oh my God! Tell me everything!” Adam squealed. 

 

He pulled a chair up and climbed onto the table, staring down at the number of sketches. He gazed at the detailed drawings - eyeing the wrist bracelets curiously. Eren leaned forward and ruffled his hair. 

 

“That’s going to hold a lethal spray.” Jeremiah explained as he tapped the page. “Eren will press down here and BAM it’s raining acid baby!” The teen cackled menacingly.

 

Adam gasped. “You mean the toxic chemicals from the abandoned place you found? Like when you fought Killer Croc?”

 

Eren nodded. “Yeah, the crystals can hold the substances in. I just need a way to use them without having to uncork a vial each time.”

 

“So…like a hose?” Adam giggled at the imagery of Eren hosing down a group of thugs with toxic chemicals.

 

Eren flicked him on the forehead. “Not quite that intensity.”

 

Jeremiah clapped his hands gleefully. 

 

“Nah man we need that level of intensity as a backup. Say you got a crap load of evidence left behind. You gotta melt that dirt away.”

 

Eren let out a thoughtful hum. He nodded, pulling out another page. Adam grabbed another sketch, eyeing the unfamiliar devices on the suit’s waist. The word gas was circled next to it, with two on each side. The image was bulky and rectangular in shape with iron wires attached to it with metal hooks. It was a strange setup, with thick belts looping the devices securely to the suit’s body. 

 

What were they for? 

 

Wait…

 

The boy wheezed in excitement and he turned to brother with sparkling eyes. 

 

“Eren, you’re going to use swords?!” 

 

His answer was a sharp smirk.

 


 

Eren pulled his little brother by the collar, tugging him away and he nodded to his friend in departure. Jeremiah waved at him and he went down the opposite side of the street.

 

“A sword?! A sword? I love swords! Where we will get one? Hey should we rob someone who uses a sword. Does anyone use a sword…? Hmm, oh! I have an idea!” He snickered.

 

The teen smiled at his little brother’s excitement. He didn’t particularly need a sword but he missed the feeling of the blades in his hands. Eren’s lips quirked upwards in excitement. The 3D maneuver gear would help him significantly in aerial battle and movement. They would increase his speed and they did not restrict his movements like the grappling guns.


The grappling gun had failed him with his encounter with Batman. He couldn’t risk it a second time. He needed a more advanced device to help him in battle - something that was not used here.

 

His hands would be free to swing his swords with his new devices. He couldn’t wait to see Hood’s reaction. He snickered at the visual of the vigilante losing his composure.

 

The pair made their way back to their warehouse, taking the scenic route, passing by the cleaned park. Eren waved at the street kids who were practicing a choreographed dance. 

 

“Eren!”

 

Eren turned to the familiar voice. 

 

“Timmy!” Adam cheered, rushing towards him. 

 

Eren watched in amusement as Adam slipped on the ice and landed in the snow with a loud omph. Tim rushed towards the kid with a concerned expression, kneeling down and helping him up. His actions were genuine - with not hint of it being staged. Eren wanted to believe in the teen. He wanted to give him a chance. 

 

“You okay?” 

 

Adam whined and wiped his wet face. Tim smiled softly and he wiped the snow out of his curly hair. The boy grumbled and wrapped his thin arms around the teen, latching onto him like a leech. Tim picked up his discarded box and made his way over.

 

“Hey!” He greeted with a smile. “I’m so glad I caught you two. The library was closed.”

 

Eren nodded. “Yeah we’re on our way home.”

 

Tim’s expression fell. “Oh right sorry, I won’t keep you then. Uhm here.” He fumbled with a large container and handed it over.

 

Eren stared down at the large embellished cake. 

 

Wow.

 

“Uhm think of it as an early holiday gift. I’ll just uh go now.”

 

“No! You just got here! And I have so much to tell about my comics! We can also gossip about Phantom’s coolness!” Adam protested. 

 

“Erennnnnnn bring Timmy home with us!”

 

Eren arched an eyebrow. 

 

What now?

 

The pair never brought anyone over to their safe house. Not even Jeremiah. The less who knew his location, the better. He stared at Adam questionably and the kid flattered his lashes innocently. 

 

That little vermin. 

 

“No! It’s okay, I don’t want to impose! It’s holiday season and I get it, I won’t intrude on family time.”

 

Eren frowned.

 

“What are you talking about? You’re hardly an imposition.” He deadpanned with an unimpressed gaze. 

 

Tim shook his head. “No really it’s-”

 

Adam gasped dramatically. 

 

“You don’t like us? You don’t want to come over because our home isn’t pretty and shiny?” He wiggled in Tim’s arms with a betrayed expression. 

 

He was an actor in the making - Oscar worthy.

 

Tim’s expression grew panicked as he fell for the kid’s dramatics. 

 

“No! I’d love to come over I just don’t want to impose on family time.”

 

Adam glared up at him and he pinched his cheek with a reprimanding gaze. 

 

“Timmy is stupid for a smart person! You’re our friend and friends are family! You are Ohana!”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind-” Adam spoke seriously.

 

“-Or forgotten.” Tim continued with a soft smile.

 

The two giggled in shared glee. Eren rolled his eyes at their exchange and he turned on his heel. 

 

“Keep up kids.”

 

Tim squawked in offence.

 

“Hey! You’re like…a year or two older than me!”

 


 

Tim walked with the tall teen, listening to the excited chatter of his little brother. The group went deeper and deeper into Crime Alley. The streets grew more decrepit and the air was pungent with the smell of rot. 

 

Tim watched as Eren pushed through a large opening in the fence. He followed after him, his arms full of a tiny energetic kid. 

 

Eren walked up the rotted steps of the warehouse and he pushed the door open. Tim followed curiously, taking the steps carefully. His eyes widened at the setup.

 

It was different than before. 

 

More furnished.

 

Cozier.

 

Was that the latest gaming console?

 

“We’ve had some kind folks donate to us for the holidays,” Eren drawled as he walked towards the makeshift fireplace. 

 

He tossed in the logs and flicked his lighter. Adam rushed inside and he climbed a stool, pulling out a number of plates. 

 

“Cake, cake, cake!” He sang as he shimmied his small shoulders in excitement.

 

Eren scowled and threw a small stick at him. Adam shrieked and ducked, turning to his brother with a betrayed look. 

 

“Go wash up, you filthy rat.” Eren hissed. 

 

“Screw you! I’m not filthy!”

 

Eren crossed his arms and glared down at his brother. “Did you wash your hands?”

 

Adam gulped. “Err…”

 

Eren picked up a large log threateningly. Adam screamed and ran out of the kitchen, disappearing behind a metal door. 

 

Eren sighed. 

 

“I’m trying to get him to wash up frequently, keep the bacteria at bay. Can’t have him getting sick like that again.”

 

Tim stepped forward and he washed his hands in the sink. 

 

“Was it that bad?”

 

Eren nodded. 

 

“Yeah,” he spoke quietly. 

 

“Doc said any longer and he could’ve lost his hearing. It’s my fault I should’ve kept the fire going the whole night. Kids are so…frail.”

 

“He’s fine now Eren.”

 

Eren turned to him with a troubled gaze. 

 

“Yeah but what about next time? This time I was lucky. Next time I may not be. Losing your hearing or any serious damage, you think that’ll make him survive long here. This is Crime Alley Tim, it’s not Bristol.”

 

Tim swallowed thickly. He stared around at the large warehouse. It could do with some upgrades. He could help. It may not be much but he had the skill set. He could make a difference.

 

“I want to help,” Tim spoke.

 

Eren frowned.

 

“No listen, you guys said it. Friends are family? And I’ll be damned if I let my friends suffer through winter knowing I can help.”

 

“I’m not taking charity.” Eren scowled.

 

Tim glared back. 

 

“It’s not charity, hear me out Eren. Look you could use a heating system here and a solid internet connection. I can easily set up both. A good security system with camera footage wouldn’t hurt either. Even when you’re away for a moment, you can access it from a distance and check it Adam’s doing alright.”

 

Eren’s mouth dropped open in surprise. “Oh I thought…”

 

Tim smiled. 

 

“I’m not doubting your ability to care for Adam. Not one bit but I think I can install a few things to ensure he’s warm and safe. If you’d let me…please.”

 

Eren nodded hesitantly. 

 

“Alright, if it’s heating and stuff that’s fine. But I’ll buy the equipment. How long would the whole process take?”

 

Tim smirked. He was confident in his abilities. He never once called for maintenance as a kid when things broke down in Drake Manor. He always fixed everything with his own hands. He didn’t have a high IQ for nothing. 

 

“Not long, we just need to grab a few things. I could even use old parts and tinker them a bit.”

 

Eren nodded. 

 

“I know just the place.”

 

The door slammed open and Adam skipped out of the bathroom in thick layers, hair wet and shivering. 

 

“Ah so cold!” He ran towards Eren and leaped onto him.

 

“Hug me!” He demanded. “You’re so warm!”

 

Eren scowled and smacked his head, grumbling about undried hair. He grabbed a towel and dried his brother’s hair, cursing the entire time. Adam ignored his grumbling and made grabby hands to the cake, eyes bright and excited. Tim smiled softly at the sight and his resolve solidified. 

 

He would help. 

 

The three made their way to the junkyard, walking through large stacks of discarded trash. Tim stared at the loose parts with wide blue eyes. He ran forward excitedly, hopping in unabashed glee. 

 

“This is perfect!” He gushed, grabbing a number of parts. 

 

He eyed the wiring and he beamed at the brothers. He began making a pile hurriedly, stacking a bunch of items. He grumbled and ranted, word-vomiting a bunch of unintelligible words. 

 


 

Eren watched the teen balancing on the stool, tinkering with the set of wires in the ceiling. 

 

“Eren, pass me those pliers.” 

 

Eren handed him the tool and he watched curiously as Tim moved his hands expertly, installing new wires in place of the old ones. Adam sat on the ground, stuffing his face with cake and reading comics. 

 

The sun sank in the horizon and night drew forth. Eren eyed the clock in concern. Tim Drake had been at it for long hours, working non-stop since the late afternoon. The teen was in a trance, mumbling lowly and moving hurriedly. 

 

Eren stepped back and made his way into the kitchen. He prepped a cup of black coffee and walked over to the teen as he jumped down the stool. 

 

Tim made grabby hands for the cup and he sighed as he drank it. 

 

“It should work,” he said. 

 

He handed Eren a remote. 

 

Eren took the device and pressed the ON button. His eyes widened as he heard the whirring of the heater. Adam made a surprised sound as the hot air flowed through, warming up the warehouse rapidly. 

 

“Usually they take longer but I tinkered with the wiring so it releases heat faster. It can stay on all night.”

 

The teen lowered his empty cup with a mournful gaze. He rushed past him and knelt down next to his bag, pulling out his laptop. He tapped hurriedly with a concentrated expression.

 

“So CCTV and security system is installed, hooked it up to your laptop. And here is your wifi password, if you ever want to share it with guests.” He handed him a slip.

 

“But who is paying for the wifi?” Eren asked with sharp eyes.

 

Tim smirked. “Not you and not me. I hacked into the library database so your internet is being billed to their servers. Don’t worry, it’s untraceable. So technically since it is a public domaine, the city of Gotham is paying for your internet.”

 

Eren’s eyes widened. 

 

Who in the world was Tim Drake?

 

Tim’s phone chimed abruptly and he picked it up. His eyes widened and he texted rapidly. He sighed and turned to the brothers with a tired gaze. Eren eyed the clock. Time had escaped him completely. It was late into the evening. 

 

“Stay for dinner?” He offered.

 

Tim opened his mouth to protest. Adam made a warning noise. The teen snapped his mouth shut and he nodded with a guilty expression. Eren chuckled and he turned on his heel, opening his loaded cupboards. He had maxed out a number of credit cards and stocked enough food to last him for a year. 

 

“How does turkey lasagne sound?” He asked.

 

“Sounds good,” Tim responded.

 

Eren nodded and he took out the ingredients, opening his cooler for the ground turkey. He listened to the tapping of keys and the soft chatter echoed through his home.

 

“Oh is that Temple Run?” Adam asked.

 

Tim chuckled. “Yes, I gathered so many points.”

 

Eren looked over his shoulder curiously. Tim was seated on the frayed couch with his little brother next to him. The teen smiled and showed his little brother his phone game.

 

“Want to play?”

 

Eren blinked slowly and he tilted his head curiously, eyeing the teen thoughtfully.

 

Something about Tim Drake was familiar. 


 

Chapter Text

19.

 

The loud noise filtered through the streets. A terrified scream tore through the vicinity and the vigilante followed the distressed cries, landing loudly on his feet with a grunt. He honed in on the scumbag and shot out his gun, shooting him in the kneecap. The thug doubled over in agony and his victim ran away in terror. 

 

Red Hood snarled and kicked the man unconscious, viciously stomping down on his unmoving body. 

 

He did his civic duty for the night. 

 

He had taken out the trash. 

 

The sound of whizzing whipped through the air and helmeted vigilante lifted his head. His eyes bulged and his mouth dropped in shock.

 

“What the hell is that?!” 

 

He heard the sound of a familiar laugh and he followed the flying man. Phantom was flying. How?! 

 

Hood raced on the ground, cursing and grunting as he chased after him. The masked theatrical turd landed on the roof and Hood shot out his hook, pulling his body up to the top of the abandoned building. He grunted as he landed on his feet and he stared ahead in bewilderment.

 

Oh.

 

Phantom had upgrades. 

 

Great.

 

Not only was he bulletproof but he was also a flyer - more advanced. 

 

The masked crime lord turned to face him and Hood blinked in shock. He looked the lean man up and down, assessing the changes to his regalia. Phantom adorned his usual black trench coat, long and flowing to his thick boots. 

 

He had large devices wrapped over his waist, along with a utility belt. Thick metal bracelets adorned his wrists. He had the escrima rods strapped to his back and he stood leisurely, leaning against the rooftop.

 

“Yo Hood, been a while. Happy New Year!” 

 

Hood blinked. “So am I seeing shit or did you fly just now?”

 

Phantom chuckled. “Yeah,” he waved his arms dramatically. “I did a few upgrades. It’s sweet isn’t it?”

 

“It’s disgustingly creepy dude!” Hood protested. 

 

“Why?” Phantom questioned curiously. 

 

He titled his head to the side, brown hair falling over his mask.

 

“It makes you even more a spectre!” Hood hissed. “Disappearing blood is one thing and now flying in the skies like some ghostly apparition, it's freaky shit!”

 

“Nah, think of it as-”

 

A scream cut through their chat abruptly. Both stiffened and they turned towards the sound. The scream echoed a second time and they turned to one another, exchanging nods of understanding. Phantom clicked his device and he shot off the roof, wires shooting forth and propelling him forward at heightened speed. 

 

Damn it.

 

His speed acceleration was doubled. 

 

Was that gas?

 

Hood followed, lagging behind a good distance. He caused colourfully and watched as Phantom dived downwards, disappearing behind the building. Hood picked up his pace, rushing forward. He heard the sound of rapid gunshots and he scowled angrily.

 

“Damn it Phantom, if you die, I will kill you myself,” he hissed as he rounded the corner. 

 

He surveyed the scene. The spectre stood over the unconscious bodies, staring down at them with his eerie mask. He lifted his head and turned towards him - a flash of green met his eyes - and Hood narrowed his gaze. 

 

Phantom had green eyes. 

 

Huh?

 

He hadn’t known.

 

The crime lord flexed his gloved hands and he exhaled loudly, shoulders slumping. Hood stepped into the alleyway, gun in his hand. He tapped it against his thigh and he eyed the unmoving bodies.  

 

“Are they dead?” 

 

“Nah,” Phantom drawled. “Gotta keep my kill count low, Batman is after me now.”

 

Hood’s breath hitched in surprise. 

 

“Why is the menace of Gotham after you? I covered your tracks.”

 

Phantom shrugged. 

 

“Who knows. He didn’t try to arrest me though, just asked a few questions.”

 

“That’s because he doesn’t know. If he finds out though, kiss your freedom goodbye.”

 

Phantom chuckled. “Why Hood, if I don’t know any better, I’d think you cared.”

 

Hood snarled in anger and he lifted his gun threateningly, aiming at the crime lord. 

 

“Don’t test me.”

 

Phantom shoved his hands in his pockets and faced him with a careless demeanour, not at all threatened by the gun. Hood clicked his tongue in annoyance and he lowered his revolver. He pressed a hand to his comms and rattled off the address for the EMTs. 

 

“Let’s move.”

 

“Race you to centre?”

 

Hood snarled. “No.”

 

Phantom laughed. “Scared Hood?”

 

Hood hissed angrily. “Fine,” he spat. “If I win, you answer three questions of mine.”

 

Phantom nodded. “Fair, then same to you as well. Ready, in 3, 2, 1.”

 

They shot their wires out simultaneously, both zooming into the air.

 


 

Eren landed on the rooftop lightly and he let out a small whoop of success. He looked downwards and snickered as he saw Hood rushing towards the top of the building like an angry bull. The helmeted hero landed with a thud and he kicked at the cement angrily, cursing up an indignant storm.

 

“I win Hood,” Eren spoke with a smirk.

 

“Ask your shitty questions.” Hood hissed angrily as he stomped around.

 

Eren watched him curiously. 

 

There was a lot he didn’t know about the vigilante. 

 

He didn’t know where to start.

 

He knew the importance of secrecy and he didn’t want to push his crime-fighting friend away. He considered Hood one of his people. He covered for him and warned him plenty of times. 

 

Eren cared.

 

He stared at the leather coated vigilante. Hood held his body tightly. He didn’t flee and he stared ahead resolutely. Ready to uphold his end of the bargain. Eren’s lips quirked upwards faintly. He didn’t like the tight discomfort in the man’s body language.

 

Hood was his ally.

 

He kept him away from the Bat cult. 

 

He trusted him.

 

Eren turned to the dark skies and he regarded the full moon. He hadn’t felt this peaceful in a long time. He leaned forward on the railing and held onto the metal bars. He glanced over his shoulder.

 

“I trust you.” He spoke earnestly.

 

Hood stiffened. 

 

Eren turned back to the streets, regarding the pedestrians moving through the dirty grounds. 

 

“Why do you fight Hood?”

 

The vigilante joined him at the railing and he stared down at the people. 

 

“This is my place.” He explained shortly.

 

Eren nodded.

 

He understood.

 

The teen opened his mouth to ask his final question. The words died on his mouth as the sound of a gunshot fired rapidly. He heard a sharp inhale of breath, followed by a thud. Hood fell down to his knees, pressing a hand to his bleeding gut. 

 

Eren stepped forward hurriedly, blocking the rapid fires. The bullets ricocheted off his form and he wrapped an arm around the vigilante’s shoulders, hauling him up with a curse. He rounded the corner and the shots continued. 

 

He looked at his bleeding comrade and the green haze filled his vision. He pushed Hood’s large form against the wall and he shot out his wires, flying through the air. He pulled out his escrima rods off his back and landed in front of the perpetrator.

 

He was a masked sniper, dressed in black. He startled at his sudden appearance and he pulled out a revolver. Eren lunged forward with a snarl of hate and he disarmed him immediately, bashing his head in with his rods. The man fell down unconscious and he beat him down viciously. 

 

Filthy coward!

 

He pulled back - leaving a bloodied lump - and he rushed back to the rooftop.

 

Shit.

 

Hood was bleeding out. His chest was rising and falling in laboured breaths. Eren rushed forward and he knelt down in front of him, pressing his hands down on his wound.

 

“Shit shit shit, we need to get you to a hospital!”

 

“No hospital,” Hood rasped.

 

“Then Thompkin’s clinic!” 

 

“It’s Christmas you dumbass! She’s not in! Just leave me be, I’ve had worse!”

 

Hood head rolled and he reeled forward with a pained groan. Eren caught him and he pursed his lips in concern. Shit. He was out of options. He couldn’t leave him out in the open. He didn’t know who the sniper was or if he had backup. 

 

He threw the vigilante’s arm over his shoulder and heaved him up. He shot out his wires and took off into the night.

 

Eren stumbled into his safe house, kicking the door open with a grunt. He pulled Hood’s unconscious body with him - the bastard had passed out cold - and he dropped him onto his shared bed. Adam poked his head out from the bathroom and he squawked in alarm.

 

“Set the security alarms Adam and shut the door.” Eren ordered as he ripped off his gloves and suit. 

 

He took off his mask and tossed it aside, moving hurriedly to his first aid kit.

 

“Adam! Get hot water and clean towels!” He hollered.

 

The kid ran to the bathroom and came back with the aids. He rushed to the laptop and activated Tim’s security system, locking down the safe house from all access. He pulled down the blinds and secured the door shut with a number of locks. Eren pulled off the vigilante’s coat and he cut through the fabric of his shirt.

 

He blanched at the sight of the numerous scars. 

 

Hood looked like he’d been through hell and back. 

 

Eren rolled the vigilante gently on his side - the bullet had wiped through him clean - entering and exiting in one flow. His shoulders slumped in relief. He wouldn’t have to dig and find it. He hoped there was no residue shrapnel. Eren sterilized his equipment, moving with careful fingers. He tended to the gaping wound and stitched the skin together. 

 

He pressed his fingertips to Hood’s wrist.

 

His pulse was faint.

 

He had lost a lot of blood. 

 

“Can he…can he breath well under that?” Adam asked softly as he pressed a small hand to the helmet. 

 

Eren frowned. He wanted to respect Hood’s privacy but he didn’t want to impede on his recovery. He didn’t want him to die or suffocate in his sleep. Eren moved his hands forward and he pressed a hand underneath the helmet. An electric shock zapped through and he cursed, pushing against the pain. 

 

Hood was a paranoid bastard with safety protocols in place.

 

Adam let out a startled squeak. Eren bit back a pained scream and he tugged off the helmet in one go. 

 

The red helmet clattered from his hold, falling noisily to the ground. 

 

Eren stared at the unmasked vigilante and his lips parted in shock.

 

Oh.

 

Red Hood was young - Younger than he expected - Not quite a teen but not yet a man, on the cusp of adulthood. Dark raven hair plastered to his face, a pale perspired complexion and a sharp jawline. 

 

“I thought Red Hood was an old man,” Adam whispered in shock.

 

“Same.”

 

“Now what?” Adam asked.

 

Eren frowned and he leaned forward, pressing a hand to the teen’s hot forehead. He lowered the cooled towel on his head and leaned back, cleaning up the mess of bloodied bandages. He leaned forward and pulled up the blanket over the teen’s body. 

 

“Now we rest, I’m exhausted.”

 

Eren spoke as he stumbled towards the couch, dropping onto it and passing out immediately.

 


 

His entire body was sore. His skin was hot and his breaths came out unevenly. Jason Todd’s lashes fluttered slowly and he opened his eyes tiredly. He blinked at an unfamiliar ceiling and he stiffened. He wasn’t at his safe house. His heartbeat stuttered in panic and he sat up warily, gazing around him. 

 

“Oh good you’re awake,” a small voice spoke.

 

Jason whirled around in shock and he blinked in confusion.

 

A small kid wearing fluffy Spongebob pyjamas stood in front of him. He had a thick head of curly hair and bright hazel eyes. He grinned at Jason, moving forward with zero reservation. He plopped down next to him and eyed him curiously.

 

“So Red Hood, what a surprise to learn you’re not an old man.”

 

Jason wheezed in shock and he pressed a hand to his bare face.

 

No.

 

“Don’t worry, I won’t tell!” The kid spoke earnestly. 

 

The kid’s stomach let out a loud grumble and he pointed at his tummy in offence. 

 

“Let’s get you and me some breakfast!” 

 

The boy stood up and made his way to the couch, climbing onto it and shaking the rumpled form underneath the blankets. Hood narrowed his eyes. He hadn’t noticed another body in the warehouse. The kid poked and punched the form and he heard an irked groan followed by a familiar voice. 

 

A tanned hand smacked the kid, pushing him away. A head shot out from underneath the blankets, followed by a darkly clad body. 

 

“Seriously? Can’t you ever wake me up in a civil manner?” 

 

Jason’s eyes widened as he recognized the voice.

 

The brown haired teen grumbled in irritation and ran a hand over his face in fatigue. He stood up and stretched, running a hand through his long messy hair. He paused in his steps and he turned towards him, blinking sleepily. 

 

Green met green.

 

“Oh Hood, hey good morning.” The teen greeted.

 

Jason stared. 

 

Wait…

 

Holy shit.

 

The teen scratched his neck as Jason continued staring at him with wide eyes. The vigilante took in his face. Tanned skin, youthful features, bright green eyes and long wavy hair that fell messily to his shoulders. Son of a -

 

“Phantom?!” He screeched.

 

The teen rolled his eyes dramatically. 

 

“Waffles? Yeah, I’m feeling waffles for breakfast.” The unmasked crime lord pointed at him with a reprimanding look. “You’re having waffles, no take backs.”

 

Jason’s jaw dropped, watching as the crime lord moved into the makeshift kitchen, humming and cooking breakfast uncaringly. 

 


 

 

Chapter Text

20.

 

A loud slam resonated through the warehouse. The sound was followed by agitated cursing. Jason Todd stumbled forward shakily and he bit back an indignant scream of rage. The tremors wracked his large frame and he wheezed in pain. 

 

“Fucking son of turd sucking, filthy loving piece of motherfu-”

 

The sound of slow dramatic applause echoed in the warehouse. The teen whipped his head upwards and he glared angrily at the crime lord. 

 

Phantom stood at the door of the warehouse, eyebrows arched high, face unimpressed. His little  curly-haired gremlin stood next to him eyeing him with big hazel eyes. 

 

“Wow,” the crime lord drawled as he slammed the door shut. “You’re almost as bad as me.” 

 

“Yes, yes,” the kid added eagerly as he stepped forward with a large box in his scrawny arms. 

 

“You both make the worst patients ever!” 

 

He lowered the box with an omph and stomped over towards him with a reprimanding look. 

 

“Bed!” He hollered, pointing to the bed angrily.

 

Jason scowled angrily. “Fuck you!” He spat.

 

He wasn’t going to take orders from a kid. 

 

“Oi,” Phantom drawled from the kitchen. “Don’t snap at my kid.”

 

Jason whipped his head around and gave the spectre the bird. The teen rolled his green eyes and walked past him uncaringly. 

 

Jason watched him with narrowed eyes. He didn’t understand. Nothing was making sense. Phantom had taken him to his home. Jason turned his gaze to the curly haired gremlin who stood over him, pouting in annoyance. 

 

He let him around his family.  

 

No one did that anymore. 

 

Not after he came back.

 

He wasn’t to be trusted around anyone. 

 

Replacement.

 

Damien.

 

No one was safe around him.

 

Bruce didn’t trust him. 

 

I trust you.

 

Jason glared angrily at the kid and he sat down reluctantly on the frayed bed. The crime lord was an idiot. He had no reason to trust him. He was the notorious Red Hood. Shoot first, ask questions later. He shouldn’t be allowed in the safety of his home. 

 

And yet…

 

The curly haired gremlin grabbed a comic book and took a seat next to him on the bed, bouncing in his seat. 

 

“I will read to you.” He announced loudly. “Archie looked at Becky’s new dress. He loved the new highlights. WOW he thought-"

 

Jason pressed a hand to his face and he groaned loudly. He heard a light chuckle from the kitchen and he gritted his teeth. He was going to murder the crime lord when he recovered. 

 

“What is this uncultured shit you’re reading kid? Oi Phantom, why’re you letting your kid read such crap?”

 

Phantom turned around. He was cooking dinner - a dishtowel was in his hands. He titled his head curiously and the kid made an offended noise. Jason ignored the brat who hit him in rage with his comic books. 

 

“Eh? He likes it. As long as he’s reading, it’s fine. I’ll take recommendations though.”

 

Jason ripped the comic book out of the kid’s hands and he threw it across the room in annoyance. 

 

“Stop hitting me!” He hissed. 

 

The kid scowled. “You insulted my Archie comics!”

 

“Now now Adam, Hood is recovering. You can beat him up later.”

 

“You’re an enabler!” Jason spat.

 

Phantom shrugged. 

 

“But Erennnnnnn! He is being mean! First he insults Diary of a Wimpy kid and now-”

 

Eren?

 

Jason narrowed his eyes. 

 

“Eren?” He echoed. 

 

The kid paused and his eyes widened dramatically. 

 

“Oh shit.”

 

Phantom shrugged. 

 

“It’s fine kid. Yes, I’m Eren. Do I get a name Hood?”

 

“Fuck you!”

 

“Nice to meet you Fuck You, I’m Eren.” The teen deadpanned. 

 

Jason grabbed the pillow and screeched in vain. He was going to throttle the bastard! 

 

The kid snickered next to him. 

 

Jason glared at him.

 

“There’s better books, a series of unfortunate events for starters. Narnia, any of the classics.”

 

The kid smiled brightly. “Oh I heard of those! Are they fun?”

 

Jason thought of a series of unfortunate events. 

 

“Yeah, characters get murdered left and right and it's pretty fascinating. There’s this scene where a woman gets eaten alive by lions.”

 

“Can you read it to me?” The boy chirped eagerly.

 

“Uh…” Jason blinked rapidly in shock.

 

Read to the kid? 

 

Isn’t that overstepping his boundaries? 

 

“Might as well.” Eren drawled from the kitchen. “You’re useless right now, too injured to move, might as well contribute around here by keeping my brat busy. You can be his glorified babysitter until you recover.”

 

Jason bristled in offence. 

 

That fucker!

 

Eren arched an eyebrow. “Sound good Fuck You?”

 

“FUCK YOU!”

 

“Dude,” Eren raised his hands in a universal gesture of peace. “I was just addressing you respectfully.”

 

The teen gritted his teeth in rage and he ignored the peals of laughter from the little boy. 

 

“Jason.” He spat reluctantly.

 

Eren smirked a slow satisfied smirk.

 

“Nice to meet you Jason.”

 

Jason sniffed angrily and threw the pillow at the teen who caught it easily. 

 

Recovery first, murder later.

 


 

Eren gazed at the clock on the wall and he turned his gaze to Red Hood Jason. The teen was seated on the bed, legs crossed at the ankles with a large book in his lap. Adam sat next to him, listening raptly as the vigilante read to him in a low voice.

 

He was a good reader. He held the attention of his audience. He was passionate in what he read. A lover of literature, evidently. Eren listened to the reading curiously. 

 

People aren't either wicked or noble. They're like chef's salads, with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict.

 

He blinked slowly. There was a lot of depth to the narrative for a children’s book. Eren suppressed a smile as he eyed his little brother and he grabbed his coat, throwing it on. 

 

Jason paused and gazed up at him questioningly. 

 

“I got work.” Eren supplied as he grabbed his keys. “Watch Adam for me?”

 

“Work?” Jason echoed with a frown.

 

“Mhm, in a restaurant.” 

 

Jason lowered the book and he stared at him with narrowed eyes. “You’re kidding.”

 

Eren shook his head with a chuckle. “Nope, notorious crime lord is a waiter.” He waved his arms dramatically. “I’m a minimum wage peasant Hood. I buss, I clean, I take orders, clear tables and deal with shitty touchy-feely customers.”

 

“Holy shit,” Jason sputtered. “Everyone thinks you’re like…running the underground mafia!”

 

Eren let out a surprised laugh. 

 

Jason scowled. “I’m serious. The bat cult thinks you have your own laboratory and your own secret base where you have a large group that run your operation.”

 

Eren’s lips quirked upwards in amusement. “Nope, it’s just me and Adam.”

 

Jason grumbled in annoyance and picked up his book. 

 

“There’s leftovers in the fridge if either of you get hungry,” he called out as he made his way.

 

“Bye Eren!” Adam hollered.

 

Eren made his way into the streets and he waved at the homeless Network. He walked to work with a rare feeling of lightness in his steps. He thought of the notorious vigilante who struck fear in criminals hearts - a secret bookworm who took offence at a child’s reading choices - and he shook his head in amusement. 

 


 

Batchat:

Dick: Has anyone heard from Jason? He was supposed to patrol with me tonight (ᗒᗣᗕ)՞

Steph: No?

Tim: No.

Duke: Eh? No. 

Cass: ...

Dick: I'm worried! What if Phantom got him?! What if he's holding him hostage?! =͟͟͞͞( •̀д•́)))

Tim: Dude... 

Duke: Dude...

Steph: ROFL! We're talking about Jason Todd here, right?

Dick: My concerns are valid! My big brother senses are tingling! (ᗒᗣᗕ)՞

Tim: Okay okay, I'll see what I can find. But Phantom hasn't been seen in a few weeks. Since B's encounter.  

Dick: SAME WITH JASON! SOMETHING HAPPENED! (༎ຶ⌑༎ຶ)

Tim: I doubt it's related but I will check in with Jason's other devices. 

Dick: If Phantom touched Jason I will へ(⚈益⚈)へ him!

Steph: (/¯◡ ‿ ◡)/¯ ~ ┻━┻ 

Duke: (╯°□°)╯( ┻━┻

Cass: ┬─┬ノ(ಠ_ಠノ)

Dick: (┛ಸ_ಸ)┛彡┻━┻

Tim: I'm sure it's nothing guys. 

Dick: It better be! (ノಠ益ಠ)ノ彡┻━┻

 


 

Chapter Text

21.

 

Jason Todd stared at the door as it slammed shut. He blinked slowly as he felt a tug on his shirt. He stared down at the curly haired gremlin who stared at him with big hazel eyes. Phantom had left - to attend to his job as a waiter. He left him alone with his charge - a defenceless vulnerable child. 

 

“Jasonnnnnnn!” The kid whined. “Keep reading, why’d you stop?” 

 

Jason scowled and flipped the page. 

 

He skimmed the text, reading over the lines of Count Olaf chasing relentlessly after the orphans. He peered down at the small boy curiously. Adam was falling asleep - nodding off slowly. He was leaning against him, staring at the depictions of the violent scenes.

 

Jason was not accustomed to the company of children.

 

Not one bit.

 

He hated those snotty gross creatures.

 

All they did was cry and shit all day.

 

Fucking disgusting.

 

Adam rubbed his eyes with tiny fists and he let out a sleepy yawn. He leaned into his space and burrowed into his side trustingly. Jason held back an enraged screech. He shivered in discomfort. Such open trust made him feel queasy. 

 

What was wrong with Phantom and his family?

 

They had zero sense of self-preservation.

 

“Yo kid, where does Phantom work?” 

 

The boy blinked at him. “Eren? Oh in…uh…what’s it called? Oh, Mashweyat El Sham.”

 

Jason scowled. 

 

“Shouldn’t you be hiding that information you stupid turd?” Jason snapped. 

 

The stupid kid would get Phantom found out.

 

Adam sat up with an angry glare. He looked like a baby squirrel ready to defend his acorns. It was not cute. Not one bit. Jason hated squirrels. He hated Adam too. And Phantom! 

 

Fuck them all!

 

“I’m not an idiot, you little bitch!” Adam snapped angrily. 

 

Jason’s eyes bulged out. 

 

Wow.

 

Phantom sucked at parenting.

 

His kid was such a potty mouth.

 

“I only told you because you’re his friend. It’s not like I’d broadcast my brother’s secrets to just anyone!”

 

Jason blinked.

 

Brother.

 

Huh, so not his parent.

 

Phantom was not a single parent.

 

But an older sibling - a homeless teen - raising his kid brother alone. A teen who fought crime without any price at the cost of his own life and mental well-being. A teen who lived in a shitty hovel, hunted down by the Batcult for his actions. 

 

Jason scowled.

 

The teen whipped his head down and he blinked at the boy in confusion. 

 

“Wait..what do you mean friends?”

 

He didn’t hear him wrong.

 

I trust you.

 

Oh hell no.

 

Adam stared at him like he was screwed on wrong. 

 

Jason wanted to laugh and scream. 

 

He was screwed on wrong. 

 

After his death, after being brutalized by the Joker and abandoned by dearest B. After he crawled his way out of his own grave, falling helplessly into the League’s manipulations, he was broken.

 

It was no wonder everyone stayed away from him.

 

“Duh, Eren said you’re his friend and he said I can trust you. Why else would he leave me alone with you? You’re pretty stupid ya know.”

 

“Shut up,” Jason said weakly.

 

His head hurt from all the thinking.

 

He didn’t have friends.

 

He was a dead man revived. 

 

It was messy.

 

He felt tired.

 

“You look sad.” Adam commented. “Oh I know, let’s eat cake!”

 

The kid hopped to his feet and ran into the kitchen. 

 

“Phoo! There’s only one piece left! Hmm let’s share it. Jason, do you like strawberries?”

 

The boy rushed back to him and he took a seat on the frayed bed. He opened the box and cut the remaining slice down the middle equally. He held out a tiny spoon and leaned back with a bright beaming smile. Jason stared down at the small hand with a heavy frown.

 

The kid wiggled his fingers.

 

“Hurry up!”

 

Jason sighed and took the small spoon from the kid.

 


 

Eren turned the keys into the safehouse and he entered his home tiredly. He dropped his keys on the counter and he made his way inside, following the sound of familiar noises. He paused in his steps, blinking slowly at the scene.

 

Jason sat on the ground with a large notebook open. Adam sat next to him with his crayons, chatting and colouring in pictures. 

 

“What are you guys doing?” Eren wondered as he made his way towards them.

 

“We’re illustrating a scene from the books.” Jason drawled lazily as he coloured in with his red crayons.

 

“The scene where the lions eat the lady at the circus!” Adam chirped excitedly with a tiny cackle.

 

Jason smirked evilly and he moved his crayon viciously across the page. The teen watched the pair and he stepped away slowly. Nope. He was not addressing that. He was not going to parent after a long day at work.

 

Eren heaved a sigh and he made his way to his folded clothes. He grabbed a change of clothes and entered his bathroom. He cranked the heating up and took a hot shower. The hot water soothed his sore muscles and he closed his eyes relaxedly. 

 

Eren ran the towel over his sore muscles and he changed his clothes. He exited the bathroom, toweling his wet hair. He made his way into the kitchen and preheated his leftover lasagne. 

 

“Did you guys eat?” He asked.

 

“Yup,” Adam chirped.

 

“Hn.” Jason drawled.

 

“How was work Eren?” Adam called out.

 

“Eh? Same old, same old. The giggly group of teens showed up again. One asked me out to the movies.”

 

“WHAT?!” Adam screeched.

 

He shot up and glared at him with an angry pout. 

 

“NO! You’re not getting married! I forbid it.”

 

Eren blinked slowly.

 

“Bitch what?”

 

“Ew. Who the fuck is getting married? I’m nineteen!”

 

“Good! I want you to stay as a single father forever!”

 

“Who the fuck are you calling father?!” He snarled, picking up a wooden log menacingly. 

 

He smacked it against his open palm and chased after the kid. Adam screamed in terror and ran around the warehouse, running in circles. The sound of cursing and childish screeches filled the safehouse, making the atmosphere lively and light.

 


 

The loud screech of the alarms blared through the dank building. The sound of sinister laughter echoed through the walls as the bodies of the guards fell down, one by one, dead. The electricity shot out, power lines dropping all throughout the city of Gotham.

 

The locked doors of the cells clicked open.

 

A cacophony of chaotic noise filtered through Arkham Asylum.

 

The notorious man smirked as he stepped out of his cell and out into the open fields.

 

He took a large inhale of Gotham’s putrid air and his lips stretched into a wide grin.

 

“I’m back, Gotham.”

 


 

Chapter Text

 

22.

 

The sound of the crashing waves filtered to his ears and he opened his eyes warily. The teen stared up at a cloudy blue sky in bewilderment.

 

He sat up slowly and he blinked in confusion at the sight of the sandy beach. Blue waters stretched far and wide. The caws of birds echoed through the vicinity.

 

Eren stood up shakily and he stared at the familiar ocean.

 

He was back.

 

To the paths.

 

Eren stepped forward and he felt a wet squelching noise beneath him. He stared down and he frowned at the sight.

 

What?

 

The sand grew red and he wheezed a wet cough abruptly. Eren pressed a trembling hand to his mouth as he spat a mouthful of blood.

 

He felt a hot sensation overtake him and he stared down in bewilderment at the numerous wounds on his body.

 

He was bleeding profusely.

 

From multiple injuries.

 

No!

 

A familiar scream tore through the crashing waves.

 

Eren fell down to his knees and his vision spun rapidly.

 

He leaned forward and spat another mouthful of blood and bits.

 

Eren!

 

His heart thudded rapidly in his chest. His limbs trembled and an agonizing pain tore through his core.

 

He heard a distant voice - sad and resigned - He lifted his head shakily and he blinked at the sight of Her.

 

“Too soon,” she whispered with a saddened expression.

 

Eren!

 

The blood dripped from his mouth and he felt his heartbeat slow down. He blinked wetly and he stared at the Founder. The tears slipped past his cheeks and a hollow feeling centered in his chest. 

He felt insurmountable grief.

 

A rare feeling settled in his chest as the distant screaming continued.

 

He felt scared.

 

Terrified.

 

Why?

 

“Too soon,” she echoed.

 

He collapsed.

 

Eren woke up with a choked gasp. He sat up with trembling limbs and he stared around him in fear. His eyes landed on the rumpled forms on the frayed bed and he bit back his pained groans.

 

The echoes of pain lingered in his body and he stared down at his unmarred hands.

 

No blood.

 

Nothing.

 

He swallowed thickly.

 

His dream felt ominous.

 

Very real.

 

He died.

 



The teen made his way through the familiar rooftops with hurried steps. He landed on the concrete lightly and gazed down at the dirty beaten path. The
Welcome sign glowed sardonically from up ahead.

 

He listened to the distraught messages on the transceiver and he frowned deeply.

 

Breakout in Arkham Asylum.

 

Shit.

 

Criminals were unaccounted for - a heavy number of casualties and a large body count followed in their wake.

 

The Phantom of Crime Alley stood at the edge of the rooftop, taking in the sight of his neighborhood.

 

Eren flexed his gloves hands and shot out his 3D maneuver gear, propelling his body in the sky. He surveyed the usual crowds carefully.

 

All clear.

 

He whizzed past a group of smoking teens and he landed on the fire escape. He leaned forward and watched them. The teens whistled and waved to him with friendly grins.

 

They were part of Jeremiah’s inner circle.

 

Eren nodded curtly and surveyed the streets.

 

Clear.

 

Nothing.

 

The criminals did not appear on his turf.

 

Interesting.

 

Alarming.

 

Suspicious.

 

Eren gritted his teeth and shot out his hooks, moving ahead. A discomforting feeling settled in his chest as he rushed through the night.

 

A negative premonition.

 

It was too quiet.

 

Too peaceful.

 

He needed to get home.

 

Fast.

 

Eren moved through a different route. He made his way to the toxic zone, leaping over the charred gates. He flew over the bubbling substances and landed near the spills.

 

Eren rummaged through his vest and pulled out his burner phone. He clicked on his contact and waited impatiently as it rang.

 

“What?” Jason snarled.

 

Eren heaved a relieved sigh.

 

“Hey, are you and the kid are good?”

 

“Yeah, he’s here dipshit. Reading. Oi asshat, it’s your single father on the phone!”

 

Eren scowled.

 

He heard a shuffle followed by indignant cursing.

 

“Eren!” Adam chirped.

 

“What’s up? How’s patrol? Wait why’re you calling? You never call.”

 

Too soon.

 

Eren closed his eyes and he shook his head.

 

“It’s nothing,” he spoke softly.

 

Eren!

 

“Listen, don’t go out tonight. I’ll be home soon. I’ll see you for dinner tonight kid.”

 

“Sure! Jason drew a new murder picture! Of him impaling you! You gotta see it!”

 

Eren smiled fondly at his kid’s excitement.

 

“Alright, don’t cause him too much trouble. See you soon.”

 

Click.

 

Eren shoved his phone in his pocket and he turned on his heel.

 

He paused abruptly and he looked over his shoulder with narrowed eyes.

 

Nothing.

 

He frowned.

 

He shot out his hook and took off into the night.

 



The man’s smile grew and he withdrew into the shadows. He took off his gas mask and pulled out his phone, tapping away to his henchmen.

 

The men gave an affirmative, sending him the mapped location. He sent out his orders, laughing quietly as the detonations went off simultaneously throughout Crime Alley.

 

The screams echoed and he laughed in delight. The sound of despair was music to his ears.

 

He breathed deeply.

 

It was good to be back.

 



Eren cursed angrily as he carried the injured bodies out of fire and rubble. He dropped the bodies by the waiting EMTs and rushed back to the carnage.

 

“Phantom!”

 

He lifted his head and he nodded curtly, rushing forward to the new arrival.

 

Red Robin stared grimly at the fire.

 

“Status?” He inquired.

 

Eren gritted his teeth. “There’s more trapped inside. Multiple explosions went off throughout Crime Alley. Simultaneously.”

 

The fire department wheeled ahead and the firemen rushed forward, hosing down the flames in desperation.

 

“Take the right Red, I’ll go left.”

 

Robin nodded.

 

Eren rushed ahead towards the screams. He grabbed the hose from the fireman and dunked his entire body in water.

 

He took a deep inhale and rushed through the flames, ignoring the bewildered cries of alarm.

 

Eren tore through the flames and he rolled onto the ground. The flames surrounded him from all the sides as he entered the burning building.

 

He crystallized his fists and smashed through the rubble, rushing towards the cries.

 

“Help! Please!”

 

Eren ran forward.

 

He pulverized a large boulder and ran through the smoke. The ceiling creaked ominously and the pillars fell around him. Eren ran towards the group huddled together.

 

“Oh thank God! It’s Phantom!”

 

Relief erupted through the crowd. Eren lifted the closest child in his arms and he allowed the young ones to climb his body and cling to him. He turned to the adults and teens.

 

“We gotta move.” He ordered tightly. “Hold your breaths and don’t get separated. You get separated, you die.” He hissed.

 

The teens gulped and the adults nodded with grim expressions. They joined hands and moved forward.

 

Eren offered his hand to a wiry teen and the kid clasped his hand tightly with a fearful face.

 

Eren gripped back tightly.

 

“I’ll get you all out. Or I’ll die trying.” He promised.

 

The teen nodded shakily.

 

Eren turned and he rushed forward. He pulverized a large boulder and stalked ahead. He heard the alarmed voices and weakened coughs. A kid screamed in fright.

 

“Look out!” The girl cried out as the pillar fell down.

 

Eren snarled and crystallized his entire upper body, stopping the pillar with open palms.

 

“Move!” He cried out.

 

The pillar was heavy.

 

His joints protested under the heavy weight. The group rushed forward. The teen tugged on his arm.

 

“Move man, I don’t want you to die here!”

 

Eren pushed the pillar and he ran ahead, picking up the children. The group paused at the wall of flames.

 

“Seriously?!”

 

“I’m not fire resistant man.”

 

“Shit, BBQ tonight anyone?” The teen laughed nervously.

 

Eren glared up at the wall of flames. The children began crying and hiccuping. They clung to him tightly and one tugged on his pants desperately. Eren gazed down at the kid.

 

“Phantom, you’ll get us out. Right?”

 

Eren nodded.

 

He needed a way to move past the flames with the civilians. They were not resistant to fire. They wouldn’t heal like him. Eren’s mind spun in desperation.

 

Come on, come on, come on.

 

What would Armin do?

 

His eyes lit up in realization.

 

That’s it!

 

He turned to the group. He had no choice. Fuck Batman and his prejudice towards meta. He would free the civilians and damn himself. It was a small price to pay for the freedom of innocent people.

 

“Move closer to me,” he ordered.

 

The crowd moved towards him.

 

“Uh is this a group hug moment?” The teen inquired with a tired smirk.

 

Eren’s lips quirked upwards in amusement.

 

He liked him.

 

Eren removed his black gloves and he lifted his hands upwards. Crystal tendrils shot out of his palms smoothly.

 

He heard the surprised sounds and squeaks from the crowd.

 

A few civilians took a step back in fear.

 

“Don’t,” Eren spoke. “This is the only way. You’ll have to trust me.”

 

The teen stepped forward with a tight expression.

 

“I trust you, I’m not staying here to become a crisped chicken.”

 

He stepped back into the circle. Murmurs drifted through the crowd. The children stepped forward. Adults joined soon after.

 

Eren moved the crystals forward, creating a tight sphere around the civilians. He left the top open. He pressed his hands to the sphere and pushed.

 

The civilians gawked and they tapped the crystal curiously. Eren gritted his teeth as he neared the flames.

 

He pushed harder and made his way through the heated wall of fire.

 

He bit back a pained scream as the fire burnt through his clothes. It hurt like hell. He pulled his arms back and crystallized his fists.

 

He slammed his open palms against the sphere and sent it rolling through the flames.

 

He ran after the sphere, past the walls of flames and into the fire department. The men watched jaw slacked as he leaped over the sphere, landing at the front.

 

He pressed his hands in front of the rolling crystal makeshift and paused its momentum.

 

His chest rose and fell in exertion. Eren bit back a startled laugh as he eyes the disheveled civilians lying in a dog pile.

 

Eren heard the sound of a grappling gun and he pressed his hands to the crystals, focusing his energy on his silent command.

 

Dispel.

 

The crystals melted under his command, turning into liquid. Eren crouched down next to pile of people and he offered a hand to the snarky teen.

 

The kid stood up shaky, grasping his hand tightly. He stared around him with wide disbelieving eyes.

 

“Holy shit! Dude! We’re alive!”

 

The teen threw his arms around him and hugged him tightly. The crowd of survivors cried and cheered, hugging and laughing one another.

 

Eren clapped the teen on the shoulder and he drew back. He patted the children on the head gently and he stepped back.

 

“Well, this is not something I see everyday.” A low voice commented.

 

Eren stiffened and he turned around.

 

Red Robin stared at him with intense blue eyes. He stepped forward, standing an inch from him.

 

“Phantom, you’re a meta.”

 


 

Chapter Text


23

 

Eren stared at the red vigilante and he heaved a long sigh.

 

Fuck.

 

He took a step back and turned to survey the scene. Another explosion sounded off, further down and the shouts of alarm grew.

 

Red Robin whipped his head at the sound.

 

“We’ll revisit this later Phantom,” he spoke in an uncompromising tone.

 

Eren snarled in anger.

 

What gave Red Robin and his crew of bat worshippers the right to dictate his life in Gotham? Those pieces of-

 

Another bomb went off further down the road. Eren’s eyes widened in horror. No. It was the street his friends lived on. He turned on his heel and ran.

 

The comms in his ear crackled and he frowned.

 

“Phantom, it’s Red. Keep the channel open. I’ll take the explosion by res- Shit!”

 

The ground trembled.

 

“We’ll work together for this. Our priority is saving as many people as we can.”

 

“Got it.” Eren hissed.

 

“I’m going to connect the line to the main channel.”

 

Eren bit back a groan.

 

“Red Robin, report.” A feminine voice spoke.

 

“Five explosions throughout Crime Alley. Perpetrator unknown. Victim count is high. Rescue operations are led by me…” He paused. “And Phantom.”

 

Eren heard a cacophony of noise on the comms. Protests and exclamations of surprise.

 

“We don’t have time for this! I’m moving in now. I’ll join which ever rescue team I’m closest too. Phantom, it’s Signal, what is your location?” A male voice asked.

 

Eren eyed the signs as he continued running. He knew Crime Alley very well. It was his home.

 

“Between eighth and ninths street. The apartment complexes were targeted. I’m heading there now.”

 

“I’m on twelfth and fourteenth.” Red Robin spoke.

 

“Affirmative. I’m moving in.“

 

“Confirmed location of both of you. I will send out the teams.”

 

The group sent out their affirmatives. Eren neared the apartment complexes and he blanched at the sight of the flames.

 

“Phantom!”

 

Angie ran towards him covered in soot.

 

“The girls are in there!” She cried out.

 

Eren cursed colorfully. He pushed her away from the heat.

 

“I got this. Move back, the building won’t hold.”

 

“Wait! The fire! You’ll die!”

 

Eren shook his head.

 

“I’ll be back, I promise.”

 

“Report Phantom,” the comms crackled.

 

Eren snarled.

 

“Civilians trapped inside a burning building.” He hissed impatiently. “I’m heading in.”

 

“Be careful,” the female voice spoke.

 

Eren raised his arms and he ran past the walls of flames. He threw himself to the ground and rolled, hissing in pain at the heat searing his skin. He crawled on the ground, listening to the sounds around him.

 

“Help! Please!”

 

He made his way closer to the sounds. He recognized a few - others were residents living in the complex - people he saw in passing.

 

Crime Alley people.

 

Eren crawled under a boulder and moved in. He saw the girls and other residents huddled together. The service girls ran to him, engulfing him with trembling arms.

 

“Move out!” He ordered, pulling them towards the entrance.

 

The group crawled over the debris. They paused at the wall of flames nervously. A few hiccups and sobs broke through the crowd. Eren flexed his fingers and summoned his crystals.

 

Repeat.

 

“Stay close,” he commanded.

 

The crystals morphed into a circular shape, encasing the civilians in. He pushed against the cool stone and rolled them to safety.

 

Dispel.

 

The civilians toppled to the ground in alarm and disbelief.

 

Safe.

 

Eren turned on his heel and rushed towards the remaining fires.

 


 

 

The tremors ran through his limbs as he dispelled his fifth barrier. He hadn’t used his abilities this long before. Eren pushed himself tiredly to his feet and he ignored the cries of gratitude.

 

It wasn’t ending.

 

The fires were widespread.

 

The sound of a grappling hook whizzed through the air and light footsteps landed behind him. A hero in a yellow and black suit stepped forward with a grim expression. He raised his hands placatingly as he stepped forward.

 

“Signal,” Eren rasped.

 

Fuck .

 

Even his vocal chords suffered from prolonged smoke inhalation.

 

The vigilante smiled disarmingly.

 

“Nice to finally put a face to the moniker or well a mask to the name.” He shrugged and eyed the destruction around him, smile slipping.

 

“This is bad.”

 

Eren curled his fists.

 

He echoed the sentiment silently. He was going to kill the bastard who touched his territory.

 

The comms crackled.

 

“We need immediate backup on West end. St Judes orphanage was hit.” The female voice spoke hurriedly.

 

“On it!” Red Robin affirmed.

 

“Moving in.” Another voice echoed.

 

“I’m there.”

 

“Incoming in 5.”

 

Signal cursed and shot out his hook. Eren shot out his wires and flipped through the air, propelling himself forward. He flew past Signal and took a familiar shortcut. He raced ahead, landing in front the burning building.

 

The screams echoed through the vicinity. A shadow stretched out behind him and he whirled around in shock. He didn’t hear their approach. A feminine figure dressed entirely in black stepped forward. Her movements were silent and there was an edge to her eyes.


She was dangerous. 

Another whizz echoed and Red Robin landed next him, breathing heavily and covered deeply in soot. Signal landed cursing as he saw the burning building. Red Robin pressed a hand to his comms.

 

“We’re in position. We’re moving in.”

 

Eren eyed the burning building with narrowed intensity. It was falling apart. He stepped closer to Red Robin.

 

“Do you know if the building has an underground passage?” He asked.

 

Red nodded. “Most old Gotham buildings do.” He stared at him. “Are you suggesting-?”

 

Eren nodded.

 

“We take who we can and move into the sewers.”

 

“Killer Croc,” the darkly clad girl commented.

 

Eren scowled.

 

Oh great.

 

The beast-man was sent to Arkham. The breakout was in the asylum.

 

“If he’s down there, he’ll go after me so I’ll lead him away.”

 

Red nodded.

 

The vigilante stepped forward towards the flames.

 

“Wait,” Eren called out, grabbing onto Red’s arm.

 

The other two stiffened and eyed him with intensity.

 

“I don’t think any of you are fire resistant.” He snapped impatiently. “Get behind me.”

 

Red nodded and moved behind him without question. The other two hesitated and followed their comrade. Eren took a large inhale and lifted his shaking hands.

 

He was at his limit.

 

He grunted as he created a shield of crystals. It was long and rectangular. He heard shocked voices behind him and he signaled to the group.

 

“Let’s go!”

 

Eren ran ahead, pushing through the wall of flames. His crystals remained cool and stable. The group broke through the flames and entered the burning building safely.

 

Eren coughed at the amount of smoke and he ran up the stairs. Red ordered his teammates to cover the lower levels and he rushed after him. Eren kicked the door open and grabbed the terrified orphans.

 

He moved room to room, orphans dangling from his arms. Tiny humans clung to him like little monkeys, on his shoulders and wrapped around him tightly. Red picked up the remaining children and led the rest down the stairs. The rooftop creaked ominously and they rushed below.

 

They entered the basement and found the rest of their group, huddled together with grim expressions.

 

“What happened?” Red asked, stepping forward.

 

“It’s been cemented over, there is no way underground. We could blow it up but the entire structure is too unstable. It would bury us alive.” Signal spoke in a distressed tone.

 

“What about the front or back door?” Eren asked as his chest fell and rose in exertion.

 

His vision was growing spotty.

 

Not good.

 

The girl shook her head. “Blocked. Rocks and fire.”

 

The comms crackled. “Status.”

 

The group fell silent.

 

The sound of the sniffles filled the room.

 

Eren blinked away the dark spots filling his vision rapidly.

 

Not good.

 

“Status?” The woman repeated.

 

“We’re trapped.” Red reported.

 


 

 

We’re trapped.

 

Trapped, trapped, trapped.

 

Nightwing gritted his teeth and ran across the rooftops. He was a few minutes away. His brothers and little sister were trapped, in a burning building with a number of victims.

 

He swallowed thickly as he neared the burning orphanage. He watched in horror as the structure creaked ominously.

 

“No,” he whispered as he rushed ahead.

 

Please no.

 

The orphanage collapsed in itself, rooftop concaving and taking down the entire building.

 

“No!” He screamed.

 

He was too late.

 


 

 

Fifteen minutes earlier

 

Red Robin paced the room, mind whirring with possibilities. They needed a way out. There were too many lives at stake. He refused to let anyone die here.

 

Not today.

 

Not tomorrow.

 

Not ever.

 

He surveyed their group. There were a total of fourteen children gathered around, from toddlers to teenagers. His eyes landed on his siblings.

 

Batgirl was knocking her knuckles against the cemented floor, trying to find an area of weakness. Signal was consoling the crying children, crouched down low and speaking to them softly.

 

Red’s blue eyes gazed towards the crime lord. Phantom was quiet. He stood off the side, gloved hand pressed against the wall. He knelt down and rapped his knuckles against the ground. He stood up shakily and made his way towards Batgirl.

 

Red narrowed his eyes. Phantom’s movements were slower - lethargic - He had over extended himself.

 

“Any areas of weakness?” Phantom rasped in between coughs.

 

Batgirl lifted her head and pointed.

 

“Very little. Not much.” She explained, shaking her head in a low voice.

 

Red pursed his lips tightly. The rooftop creaked ominously. The children huddled closer to Signal, whimpering softly. The teens cursed colorfully and rubbed their moist eyes.

 

“That’ll make a difference.” Phantom rasped as he knelt down. He flexed his fingers - his hands were shaking minutely - Red watched curiously.

 

“Step back.” He ordered.

 

Batgirl moved back a few steps, watching him curiously.

 

Red watched as Phantom inhaled and exhaled a few times. He swung his fists abruptly and Red made a surprised sound as the ground broke.

 

What the fuck?!

 

“What the fuck?” Signal squawked.

 

Phantom released a slew of expletives and kept swinging his fists, creating a large hole in the ground. He stood up shakily and swayed dangerously. Batgirl stepped forward and caught him before he toppled into the hole.

 

“Down. Move,” Phantom wheezed as he fell down tiredly to his knees.

 

Red ran ahead and inspected the hole. It was dark but he could hear the running water of the sewers. Yes!

 

He signaled to the group.

 

“Let’s go.”

 

“I go down. I catch.” Batgirl spoke.

 

She dove down, landed on the ground.

 

“I catch!” She echoed.

 

Signal shrugged and picked up the young kids, lowering them down one by one. The teens refused to let Batgirl catch them and they jumped down into the hole. Red surveyed the room.

 

All the kids were safe.

 

He turned to Phantom who didn’t move from his spot. His body was trembling and he looked utterly checked out.

 

“Go,” Phantom rasped tiredly.

 

Red Robin’s eyes widened.

 

What?

 

Signal frowned deeply.

 

The rooftop creaked.

 

“Dude, we’re not leaving you here.” Signal spoke as he stepped forward, grabbing Phantom’s arm.

 

Red Robin nodded grimly. He pulled Phantom’s other arm over his shoulder and they pulled him up together. They moved towards the hole.

 

“Everyone move away. We’re moving in!”

 

“On 3.”

 

“1.”

 

The rooftop creaked, debris falling rapidly.

 

“3!” Signal screamed dragging them in.

 

Red cursed as they toppled into the darkness. Hands grabbed him and his group, pulling them away from the hole as the debris filtered behind them.

 

“Run!”

 

“Move!”

 

“Watch out!”

 

Red cursed and pushed Signal out of the way of the falling boulder. He grabbed Phantom and swerved away as the stones and wooden beams filled the sewer tunnels. He tripped and they tumbled down to the wet ground.

 

Red groaned and sat up with a spinning vision. He blinked at the darkness and he hurriedly flashed the installed lights on his suit.

 

He gulped audibly.

 

They were separated.

 

“Oh come on!” He yelled, throwing his hands up in frustration.

 

“Red Robin! Can you hear me?!”

 

Red stared at the thick wall of debris. There was no way around it.

 

“Yes! Listen the debris is too much! You guys gotta go ahead of us! Get the kids out! We’ll…” Red looked behind him at the dark and dreary tunnels.

 

He was unfamiliar with their layout.

 

Fuck.

 

He stared down at Phantom who lay on the ground breathing heavily. The crime lord was out of commission.

 

Double fuck.

 

“We’ll figure our way out!” He promised.

 

“Okay! See you up top!”

 

Red pressed his hands to the comm and his stomach dropped at the silence.

 

Damn it!

 

The device was broken.

 

Red sat tiredly on the ground next to the crime lord. He needed a moment to catch his breath. He stared at the darkly clad man. He was lean with a tall stature. Light brown hair fell over his mask, falling loosely from his bun.

 

Red moved in closer, nudging the meta gently.

 

“Hey, you good?”

 

“Fuck off,” Phantom hissed lethargically.

 

Red snorted. “Rude, I was checking to see if you’re alright.”

 

“I don’t need your concern, bat.”

 

“So,” Red drawled. “You’re a meta.”

 

Phantom fell silent.

 

“I should’ve drawn that conclusion sooner, with your blood disappearing and your superhuman strength.”

 

Red stared at the masked man.

 

“It seems you have a limit.”

 

Phantom stiffened.

 

Red hummed thoughtfully.

 

“Thanks…for earlier. For saving those kids.” Red spoke softly.

 

He meant it.

 

They wouldn’t be alive without the crime lord’s help.

 

He owed him.

 

“Shut up.” Phantom hissed.

 

Red sighed.

 

“Alright let’s get going. I don’t want to wait around here for-“

 

The water shifted ominously.

 

“No no no no,” Red stood up hurriedly, pulling Phantom up desperately.

 

“You fucking jinxed us!” Phantom hissed as he swayed, smacking his head into the walls. He groaned and held his head in his hands.

 

The water surged forward and the Arkham escapee broke through the surface with an animalistic snarl.

 

Red Robin cursed his horrible horrible luck.

 

They were utterly fucked.

 

“Phantom!” Killer Croc screeched as he swung his clawed hands blindly.

 

The beast sniffed the air and lunged forward, slamming his fist an inch from the pair. Red tackled the crime lord to the ground, evading getting his skull crushed by an inch.

 

Croc sniffed the air and he grinned menacingly.

 

“Tonight I feast!” He roared triumphantly.

 

Leave,” Phantom rasped from his spot on the ground. 

Red Robin gritted his teeth angrily. He really needed to have a long chat with the crime lord about his self-preservation. He was worse than him!

 

Red ignored the man and snapped out his staff in his palm. He took a practiced stance and stood protectively in front of the crime lord.

 

”Leave you fucking idiot!” Phantom hissed weakly as he pulled his body upwards shakily.

 

”Shut up!” Red Robin hissed. “I’m not leaving you.”

 

Killer Croc roared and lunged forward.

 




 

Chapter Text

24.

 

The teen ducked and evaded the skull-crushing hit. He executed a fluid backflip and landed lightly on his feet. He slipped on the sewage filth and he toppled forward. Killer Croc’s fist came towards him and his life flashed before his eyes.

 

Oh no, B is going to be so sad!

 

A hand caught his collar and pulled him back from the lethal punch. Red Robin let out a choked wheeze and he fell backwards into a firm chest.

 

“Oh, hey!” He greeted tiredly. “You ready to join the fun?”

 

Phantom cursed and shoved him down as Croc whipped his massive tail. The crime lord was sent careening into the wall. Red winced in sympathy as the man collided with the wall.

 

Ouch.

 

He heard the crack of bones and watched as Croc sniffed the air, moving towards the injured crime lord. Red leapt into the air and slammed his staff in Croc’s injured eyes.

 

Croc screeched and thrashed, splashing sewage water everywhere.

 

Ugh.

 

Phantom stood up shakily, swearing angrily. The crime lord was livid.

 

“-wasn’t going to use this, piece of shit is asking for it, done with being eaten, fucking dickless frog!”

 

He clicked a button on his suit and a dark bubbling substance shot out of his gauntlets. Red’s eyes widened as he recognized the dark liquid. He released a surprised sound as it hit Killer Croc in the face, dousing his nose.

 

The smell of burnt flesh hit his nose and the vigilante grimaced. Croc screeched in agony and he dove underwater. His tail thrashed around and Red ducked as it sailed past his head.

 

The water bubbled and he stared at it in shock. A firm hand landed on his shoulder and he stared up at the white mask.

 

“Let’s go,” Phantom hissed, tugging him away from the debris.

 

The crime lord limped forward hurriedly, rushing away from the thrashing figure. Red rushed after him, eyeing the crime lord in concern.

 

He was slow.

 

Too injured.

 

Croc screamed in unadulterated rage. He surfaced from the water, screaming and chasing after them. Phantom cursed in irritation and hobbled ahead.

 

“Want me to carry you?” Red yelled over Croc’s screams.

 

Phantom whipped his head and Red chuckled at the incredulity coming off him.

 

“Piggy back ride,” he waved his arms around. “You’re too injured and no offense you’re kinda slowing us down. And-“ he looked behind him. “He’s closing in.”

 

Phantom gave him the finger in response and he faced ahead. Red rolled his eyes.

 

Men and their pride.

 

“I have a better idea,” Phantom spoke. He moved his hand to his side.

 

Red frowned. “Dude! You can’t grapple here! We’re underground!”

 

“Watch me.”

 

He snapped his wires and they shot forth in the darkness. The tunnels were narrow. It wouldn’t work! Phantom moved in and wrapped an arm around his waist. Red squawked in offense (not again!) and he heard the hiss of gas.

 

What the?

 

He heard a soft click and then -

 

He flew.

 



Eren ripped through the dark tunnels at rapid speed. Killer Croc was falling behind. Eren looked around him, desperately wishing for night vision.

 

Everything hurt tremendously.

 

“Up ahead! What the heck? There’s a waterfall.” Red Robin exclaimed.

 

Eren snapped his wires, embedding them into the cement walls. He rushed ahead and flew into an open area. A large murky rushing waterfall of filth stood a meter away from the pair. Eren scrunched his nose at the smell.

 

“Gross,” Red spoke, removing his arm from his neck.

 

Eren landed on a pillar and removed his arm from the vigilante’s waist. He stared down at the numerous tunnels and he cursed colorfully.

 

“It’s a fucking maze!” He hissed angrily.

 

Red groaned. “There’s no service this far deep.”

 

Eren heard the sound of animalistic screeching. He grabbed Red by the cuff and pulled him down, ignoring his flailing. He crouched down, watching as Killer Croc broke through the waters, swimming around in rage.

 

“What now?” Red whispered.

 

Eren frowned.

 

“We pick a tunnel and hope for the best.” He suggested tiredly.

 

This day needed to end. Red Robin pressed his lips in a grimace. It wasn’t much of a plan. They had been stuck underground for too long, with no connection to the outside. It was bad. They kept going deeper and deeper underground.

 

“Okay,” Red breathed. “Let’s pick the top right then since it’s furthest from him and it’s dry.”

 

Eren nodded and they stood up slowly. He checked his gas tanks, breathing a sigh of relief. He wasn’t out. He shot out his hooks and grabbed Red, who accepted his hold with resigned acceptance.

 

Eren landed in the dry dark tunnel and Red flashed his lights. The roars grew distant as they moved deeper inside. Red moved ahead, inspecting the walls and lighting the way.

 

Eren trudged after him tiredly. They reached the end of the tunnel. Eren cursed. It was a dead end. They circled back and swung to the adjacent tunnel.

 

Same result.

 

Another.

 

A dead end.

 

Another.

 

Thick metal bars.

 

Another.

 

High tumultuous waters.

 

They turned back.

 

They returned to their starting point, staring down at the searching beast-man. Red pressed his hands to his face and he curled into himself.

 

“This is the worst,” he whispered in a small voice.

 

Eren sat down.

 

He grunted in agreement.

 

“What…” Red’s breath rattled. “What do we do?” He whispered.

 

Eren lifted his head and stared at him. Red was on the verge of falling into panic mode. The vigilante rubbed at his mask in frustration and he paced in the small space. The teen watched him curiously, looking him up at down with critical eyes.

 

Red didn’t appear old.

 

He was lean with thinly packed muscle. He didn’t take up a lot of room. His actions and language reminded him of the young crowds.

 

His voice was modulated but it wasn’t gruff and sharp like Batman.

 

Eren thought of Red Hood.

 

Jason was young.

 

Ugh.

 

What was the possibility of Red Robin being a kid?

 

Eren stared down at Killer Croc. The fucker was persistent. The teen eyed the tunnel next to Croc. It was too close for comfort but-

 

He was tired.

 

He was injured.

 

He wanted to go home.

 

To Adam.

 

Eren stood up slowly. He placed a hand on Red’s shoulder and the vigilante jolted, starting up at him. Eren pointed to the remaining tunnel.

 

It was their last shot.

 

“Okay,” Red breathed out slowly. “Okay it’s right next to him but I’m game. We need to get out of here. If it’s a dead end though…”

 

“We’ll be cornered and eaten.”

 

Red made a small pained noise and he shivered in fear.

 

Eren narrowed his eyes. His assessment was becoming more and more daunting.


The one behind the mask was likely a young one.

 

“So what’s the plan?”

 

“I’ll swing us there and he’ll hear us. We could wait till he moves but we don’t know how long that’ll take.”

 

Red nodded. “No, I told Signal we’d be right out and it’s been a few hours. Let’s get this over with.”

 

Eren scowled. He should’ve packed more dark substances. He had enough for one more hit. It wasn’t enough to bring down a beast the size of Croc. Red flanked his side.

 

“Alright, let’s go Phantom.”

 

Eren nodded and he shot out his wires. They flew into the tunnel, followed closely by Croc’s roars. They ran into the damp tunnel, boots splashing against the waters. Eren ran into an old crusted gate and he cursed.

 

No time for obstacles.

 

He grabbed the rusted metal bars and tugged desperately. Red joined him and they pulled. It gave way and they tumbled ahead, running through a murky spray. Croc ran after them, snapping his jaw and slamming into the walls.

 

The tunnel led into a secondary tunnel and they ran further down a set of moldy stairs.

 

“Why are we going further down?!” Red screamed.

 

“I don’t know!” Eren yelled back.

 

The stairs whirled and broke off into another tunnel. They ran in and took another set of stairs, swerving and moving upwards.

 

“Now we’re going up!” Red yelled.

 

“Astute observation Red!”

 

The next set took them down. Red screeched in indignation, losing his composed patience. Eren snorted and they went further and further into the maze. Gotham’s sewer system was a labyrinth.

 

Up.

 

Down.

 

Down.

 

Left.

 

Up.

 

Right.

 

Down.

 

Left.

 

Left.

 

Left.

 

“Okay I can’t…I’m losing track of our steps,” Red hollered.

 

“Dude…” Eren panted. “I wasn’t even counting.”

 

Red made of a noise of displeasure and he turned the corner abruptly. Eren followed after him and they paused to catch their breath. Eren blinked the dark spots out of his eyes and he listened.

 

It was quiet.

 

Too quiet.

 

Where did the ugly bitch go?

 

Red Robin leaned against the wall, chest heaving in labored breaths. He prattled on nervously about their path, trying to recall their chaotic route. Eren glared around him. Where was the frog-bitch? He heard a faint crack and he whirled around in shock as the walls broke.

 

“Re-“

 

The words died on his lips and he watched in horror as the vigilante was sent flying into the adjacent wall. His head hit the tunnel with a sickening crack and he fell down on the wet concrete, unmoving.

 

Killer Croc roared as he felled his opponent.

 

Eren ignored the asylum escapee and stepped towards the unmoving body. He watched as the blood seeped rapidly from the vigilante’s head.

 

Red Robin was still.

 

Unmoving.

 

Nothing.

 

No.

 

Eren didn’t like Red but he didn’t want him dead.

 

A friendly smile flashed before him, a black cape and a memory of a cold night on the rooftop. A thin crime fighter sat next to him in his darkest hour in the cold of winter and turned to him with a soft smile. Want to play a game?

 

Eren’s eyes flashed a livid green and he dove forward with a menacing snarl.

 


 

Eren’s eyes opened sluggishly and he stared around him in confusion. What? The sound of water rushing around him filled the vicinity. The smell of blood hit him suddenly and he sat up in alarm.

 

Red Robin.

 

Killer Croc!

 

What happened?

 

All he remembered was a visceral rage overtaking his sense and then green .

 

Eren took a deep breath and allowed his wounds to stitch themselves together, frayed skin and broken bones healed. He turned to his left and his breath hitched in alarm. Red Robin lay on the ground, unmoving in his exact spot. Adjacent to him was a mangled, disfigured green corpse.

 

It looked like Killer Croc.

 

Eren stood up hurriedly and pressed his finger to Robin’s pulse. It was beating. He was alive. His shoulders slumped in relief but the resignation seized him. He was deep underground with no connection.

 

Robin needed medical help.

 

Immediately.

 

Eren stared at the pool of blood in dread. Head wounds were fatal. He took a deep breath and tore off his sleeve. It wasn’t clean but it was all he had. He pressed it down on the wound and he slipped his fingers underneath the mask.

 

The mask impeded on the injury. The broken skin moved past the domino. He needed to stitch it together. Eren pulled out his sewing kit and he tossed away his dirty cloth. It was soaked in blood. He rummaged through his belongings and sanitized his steady hands.

 

He was fully healed.

 

Eren tugged on the mask and he felt the familiar crackle of electricity. Fucking fail safe. He bit back a pained screech and tugged down the mask.

 

His breath hitched in surprise.

 

No.

 

He stared at the familiar pale face, dark soaked black hair and young features of his friend.

 

Timothy Drake Wayne.

 


 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 25

 

The sound of dripping and rushing waters filled the dank space. Eren stared down at the unconscious teen with a troubled gaze. Jeremiah’s words echoed in his mind. 

 

I don’t trust him. People like him don’t hang out with people like us, we’re like…the people who clean their fucking toilets and launder their clothes, the ones who serve them food.  

 

Eren sighed and knelt next to the kid.

 

He heaved the unconscious body into his arms and he bit back a scowl - too light - Timothy Drake Wayne was too light for his age. The teen’s head rolled and his limbs hung loosely at his sides. Eren pursed his lips in concern and he stared up at the numerous tunnels, making his way carefully through the underground maze. 

 

The rats ran past him, running over his steel boots, rushing to the dormant body of Killer Croc. Eren looked over his shoulder, watching as they descended ravenously on the corpse. 

 

Good.

 

Killer Croc deserved to die in filth, in shit, forgotten and alone.

 

Eren gazed down at the kid’s face - pale glistening with sweat, small breaths puffing out, wheezing and stuttering.

 

Broken ribs, he noted darkly.

 

Tim did not have much time. 

 

Eren tightened his grip, pulling the younger teen to his chest, and he shot out his hook. The only way out was moving up. He took a deep breath, flicking on his gas canister and he flew.

 


 

The young woman sat in her chair, fingers moving hurriedly over the keyboard. Multiple screens were lit and her eyes scanned the various cameras around Gotham. A replay of the orphanage exploding played in the background, on repeat. She bit her lower-lip anxiously and surveyed the channels. 

 

It was too quiet.

 

She eyed the markings on the digital maps. The explosions that went off had no pattern. It was purely chaotic. The number of criminals unaccounted for were far too many. 

 

What is their target?

 

Who is their target?

 

She glared at the digital list of escapees, flipping through it hurriedly. 

 

Two-Face?

 

No.

 

Scarecrow?

 

No. 

 

There was no fear gas administered in the attack. 

 

She moved down the list and she felt a hollow feeling in her chest. Her spine tingled and she shifted in her seat, taking a few calming breaths. She glared at the deranged clown mugshot, hissing angrily, scrolling past his image. 

 

The line crackled. 

 

“Oracle,” the voice was anxious.

 

“Nightwing,” she responded curtly. 

 

“Updates?”

 

She pressed her lips together.

 

“Not yet. Communications are down, from both teams.”

 

Barbara Gordon’s eyes widened at the camera footage. She released a relieved breath, eyeing the group making their way out of a manhole near the Leslie Thompkin’s clinic. She counted the children and she relied the location to Nightwing and Spoiler. 

 

She frowned, counting the group.

 

Where was Red Robin?

 

 


 

The teen slammed a hardened fist against the manhole and he heaved Tim’s body out, holding onto him with gloved hands. Eren gazed around him searchingly and he cursed his luck hotly. He was at the ports - far away from any hospital or clinic. He peered around him. It was nighttime and the location was disadvantageous. 

 

Fuck.

 

Eren heard the alarmed shouts and he stood up hurriedly. 

 

Double fuck.

 

Gotham’s ports were a place for regular criminal activity. Eren eyed the group of armed men - everyone stood frozen and confused. Eren gazed around him. The bastards were in the middle of a drug deal. They never learned. The men were not confused for long. They rushed towards him and he backed away slowly. Eren’s back hit a parked truck and he cursed.

 

He was trapped.

 

The men grinned in glee, weapons cocked and ready. 

 

He did not have time for this shit.

 

He stared down at the masked vigilante (Tim was running out of time). He laid him down gently against the truck and stepped in front of his unconscious body, hands clenched and raised. 

 

“No one gets past me,” he hissed menacingly.  

 

“Well well, if it isn’t our lucky day! An injured bat bitch and Phantom,” a thug hissed. 

 

Another man leered gleefully as he eyed Red Robin’s unconscious body. “Handing him us Phantom, how generous of you.” 

 

Eren bristled angrily.

 

The bastard’s smile was slimy and it reminded him of the creeps that hurt Adam. Why was every crime-doer disgusting? Tim was young and he had delicate features - He was easy on the eyes - pale skin, an easy-going smile, a lean built and blue eyes - The fuckers would not let him go if they unmasked him. 

 

Nope.

 

Eren cracked his knuckles and he took a practiced stance, cocking his finger. 

 

“Come,” he ordered.

 

The men attacked.

 


 

The comms crackled and Oracle’s voice cut through. 

 

“Red Robin is down.”

 

Nightwing felt his heart sink.

 

No.

 

“All teams, to the ports, now. East side. Phantom is alone, engaging.”

 

Nightwing gritted his teeth. 

 

He was too far. He was always too far. He had been too far for Jason - Off-world - Not again. 

 

Not this time. 

 

He shot out his grappling hook and ran ahead.

 

“ETA ten minutes,” he spoke curtly. 

 


 

Eren whirled on his foot and kicked the thug’s sternum, sending him flying into his buddies. The bastards were doubling, increasing and they were vicious. Getting their hands on an injured and unconscious bat child was apparently great motivation for criminals. 

 

They wanted revenge. 

 

“That bitch is the reason I wasted in Blackgate!” Another punk hissed as he lifted his revolver, aiming at Robin’s unmoving body. 

 

Eren ran forward and shot his arms out, blocking the gunshots with his body. They clattered off his armour and he ran ahead with a snarl, smashing his fist in the man’s face, sending him down to the ground. He flipped another thug over his shoulder and kicked another into a crate. He ripped a bat from another’s hand and swung, slamming into their bones. 

 

He disarmed another, slamming his gun into his temple, knocking him out cold. The bodies lay on the ground, unconscious and groaning. A click sounded close to his ear and he froze, glaring angrily at the thug that held a gun to his temple. 

 

Shit.

 

A gunshot rang out abruptly and Eren felt his ears ring from the close proximity. 

 

The thug dropped - headshot - and the teen whirled around to face the newcomer.

 

“Bitch!” He greeted cheerfully, a grin overtaking his face.

 

“Fucker!” Red Hood snapped, shooting freely, aiming at kneecaps and shoulders. 

 

Eren wasted no time and took out the men next to him. He covered Hood’s back and the vigilante grunted as they stood back to back, weaving through the armed men fluidly. Eren dislocated arms and smashed kneecaps unreserved, kicking out his steeled boots vindictively. Hood unloaded and reloaded his guns fluidly, raining bullets on the men.

 

The silence descended on the ports. 

 

“Is that Replacement? Fuck this shit I didn’t know it was him!”

 

Eren blinked in confusion and he made his way over to the unconscious teen. 

 

“Leave the little bitch.” Hood snarled.

 

“Nah, not tonight.” Eren crouched down and pressed a finger to Tim’s pulse. 

 

Slow.

 

“Red Hood!” A voice yelled.

 

“Oh fuck this shit!”

 

“Where have you been?! Why didn’t you answer the ph- Oh my God Red Robin!”

 

Eren lifted his head and he swallowed thickly. 

 

Oh fuck.

 

It was the entire Batclan. 

 

ABORT!

 

“He’s alive,” Eren called out warily. 

 

Shit. Shit. Shit. 

 

Nightwing was staring at him with his unnerving mask. Signal landed next to the vigilante, followed by two others. They all stiffened at the sight of the unconscious and unmoving Robin. They turned to him in a creepy synchronized motion, bodies tense and ready. 

 

Oh joy.

 

Hood snarled menacingly and he raised his gun. 

 

Nightwing watched the crime lord, body stiff and wary. 

 

Eren stood up slowly, raising his hands. He took a few steps away from Tim and closer to Red Hood. Hood’s body was tense and his guns were out. His finger was on the trigger. Nightwing stared at Hood for a silent moment before he moved, hands raised. 

 

Nightwing moved forward, moving past Hood and he rushed to Tim, inspecting his body with careful hands. He cursed and maneuvered the kid carefully into his arms. 

 

“He needs immediate medical attention.” He moved past them, pausing to look over his shoulder. 

 

“You will explain. Bring him in.” Nightwing demanded.

 

Fuck no.

 

The black and blue vigilante shot out his hook and took off. 

 

“Come on Hood, we don’t want to fight.” Signal spoke.

 

“I don’t answer to you fuckers,” Hood hissed as he aimed at the Bats.

 

Eren eyed the group of vigilantes. His eyes landed on the darkly clad woman. She was watching him unblinkingly. She was dangerous. Her movements and hard edge reminded him of his sister. 

 

Signal, Batgirl and the purple vigilante stood a few meters away, their posture guarded and cautious. Hood moved in front of him, fingers moving behind his back, signalling to him silently. 

 

Eren felt a smirk spread on his lips as the others moved in closer. 

 

Hood moved fast. He threw a smoke bomb, grabbing Eren’s arm and hauled him off, shooting to the rooftops. Eren heard the indignant cursing and they ran, moving hurriedly through the crates. The pair ran to the red motorcycle and Hood revved the engine. Eren threw his legs over and he grabbed the vigilante’s coat.

 

Hood drove off like a maniac.

 

Eren stared up at the roofs. 

 

The fuckers were fast. 

 

Relentless.

 

Ugh. 

 

Hood weaved through the traffic expertly, moving into a dark tunnel. 

 

“Hood, let’s go underground!”

 

“Hah?!”

 

The vigilante skidded to the violent stop, nearly crashing into the incoming traffic. Eren clambered off and pulled off a manhole, hauling his friend inside. He pulled the manhole over, running through the tunnels. He knew this area - it was where he first met Killer Croc. It was a shortcut to their neighbourhood. 

 

“Over here.” He hissed, moving hurriedly. 

 

Hood flashed his lights and ran after him cursing hotly. 

 

“They better not fuck with my bike,” he hissed angrily.

 

Eren took the stairs and he kicked off the manhole, giving his friend a hand. He pushed the manhole back and they weaved through the familiar alleys of Crime Alley. They ducked behind a dumpster and Eren tore off his mask and trench coat, shoving them in his hidden backpack. 

 

“You have to get rid of that dude, it's like a beacon.” 

 

Hood grunted and took off his helmet, tossing it to him. Eren caught it with a smirk and he put it among his stuff, throwing in Hood’s signature leather coat. Eren tossed his friend a baseball cap and secured their belongings. They stood up, looking around them. 

 

“The attack ended?” Eren questioned as he tugged his hair loose, letting it fall in waves. 

 

Jason scowled. “Yes, didn’t catch the perpetrator though.”

 

Eren pursed his lips. “Seems…random.”

 

An ominous feeling settled in his stomach. Too soon, a voice whispered. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, turning to his friend as they walked into the streets. 

 

“Adam?”

 

“Sleeping, I secured the grounds before I left.” He shuffled through his pockets and handed him a small device.

 

Eren took it and stared down at in confusion.

 

“Panic button. The kid has one, we’ll know if he ever gets in trouble.”

 

Eren smiled. “Thanks.”

 

“Fuck you,” Jason spat without heat. 

 

Eren chuckled. “Nah, I’m thinking we should get a drink.” He ran a hand through his hair. “It’s been such a shitty night.”

 

Jason grunted his agreement. “There’s a place up ahead.”

 


 

The beeping of the machines were a small background noise in the med bay. Dick Grayson walked into the infirmary, taking a seat by his sleeping brother’s bed. He eyed the bandages covering his head and he grasped his smaller hand tightly.

 

His brother was alive.

 

Dick swallowed the urge to cry and he pressed a finger to his brother’s pulse. 

 

It thrummed in a steady beat. 

 

He released a shaky breath.

 

Timmy was okay.

 

He was going to be okay.

 

He couldn’t lose anyone again. 

 

Footsteps drew closer - steady and quiet. Dick lifted his head and waved Duke over.

 

The teen took a seat at the foot of the bed and he frowned deeply. Dark circles marred his eyes and he slouched forward with a worried gaze.

 

“Did he wake?”

 

Dick eyed his little brother’s pale parlour and he shook his head with a frown. Tim had required surgery for his injuries. A few moments later and he would’ve been gone forever. 


“Phantom?” Dick inquired quietly.

 

“He got away,” Duke whispered tiredly. “Red Hood helped him.”

 

Dick frowned.

 

He really needed to talk to Jason. 

 

A soft groan surprised the pair. Dick gasped and he leaned forward with a watery smile as his little brother opened his blue eyes tiredly. 

 

“Timmy? Timmers? Oh Timbo you had us so worried!” Dick spoke as he engulfed his brother in a gentle hug.

 

Tim mumbled lowly - something inaudible that had Duke smiling - Dick leaned closer.

 

“What? What do you need? I’ll get you anything!”

 

Duke let out a small chuckle, shoulders shaking in mirth. He shook his head in amusement and grasped his friend’s hand with a soft smile.

 

Tim glared impatiently.

 

“Coffee.” He demanded petulantly.

 

Dick eyes softened and he chuckled wetly.

 

His little brother was going to be okay. 

 


 

Tim Drake stared up at the sterile ceiling tiredly. His empty cup of coffee lay on the nightstand and he listened to the slow beeping of the machines. 

 

Everything hurt tremendously.

 

The lights were too jarring.

 

Too bright.

 

Internal bleeding in the brain. 

 

Not bad, considering all things. He expected to wake up with half his limbs missing - courtesy of Killer Croc.

 

He had no idea what occurred after he blacked out. 

 

Phantom had saved him. Again

 

Tim frowned. 

 

The spectre had faced Croc injured and alone. 

 

Tim gripped his blanket tightly. 

 

Useless. 

 

He hadn’t helped. He had been a burden.

 

Phantom had carried him out of the underground labyrinth and handed him over safely to his family. Tim sighed heavily and turned to the nightstand. 

 

The teen grabbed the recipe book left on his table - courtesy of Alfred - and he rifled through it. He heard a soft knock and he lifted his head, lips pulling into a tired smile.

 

“Hi B,” he spoke.

 

Bruce Wayne stood at the threshold of the medbay with a small smile. 

 

“Can I come in?”

 

Tim nodded.

 

Bruce joined him and sat at the edge of the bed.

 

“How’re you feeling sport?”

 

"Like a boulder fell on my brains,” Tim laid back against the pillows. “But I’m okay just bed rest for as long as Alfred deems it right.”

 

“Alfred is always right.” Bruce said with a wry smile.

 

“B, what’re you going to do about Phantom?” 

 

Bruce fell quiet. He stood up and pulled the blanket to his chin. 

 

“Get some rest son.”

 

Tim yawned and he watched Bruce make his way to the door. He blinked sleepily. 

 

He wanted to tell Bruce. 

 

Phantom deserved a chance.

 

"B, he isn’t bad,” he mumbled tiredly as he drifted to sleep. “…Saved my life.”

 

He fell asleep. 

 


 

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Six

 

“Ja-

 

“-son!”

 

The teen ignored the incessant sound and rolled away from the childish voice, pulling the blanket over his face. His side ached.

 

Fuck.

 

Ouch.

 

Lending Phantom assistance last night had aggravated his wound. 

 

“Ja-

 

“-son!”

 

Jason pressed the pillow to his ears, ignoring the indignant huffing and waited until the footsteps receded. His breaths slowed as the drowsiness set in. A sudden weight on his back - omph - sent all his sleepiness away. Jason cracked a green eye open and whirled on his back, sending the body sprawling off of him. 

 

He sat up with a low growl, glaring at the kid. Adam wore fluffy pink pyjamas with little pandas. He glared at him pouting like a baby squirrel and he launched his small body at him with a battle cry. Jason caught him and he threw him on the bed, slamming a pillow to his face, ignoring his squeaks. 

 

“Let me sleep, you little shit!”

 

It was way to fucking early for this shit. 

 

Adam kicked him in the nose and he scowled, capturing his ankle in his hand. He wrestled with the kid, tickling his sides. Adam wheezed and squealed, laughing and begging for mercy. Jason shoved him off the bed, watching as he landed on his butt with a betrayed look. The teen grabbed the blanket and dove under the covers, eager to catch a few hours of sleep. 

 

“Ja-”

 

“If I hear one more word out of you Adam, I will fucking mince you to pieces, grind your bones into the mixer and serve you for dinner.” Eren hissed hoarsely from his place on the couch. 

 

Jason snickered and he heard the kid gasp in fright, falling quiet.  

 

“Come back in four hours Adam.” Eren drawled. 

 

The quiet fell on the warehouse. Yesterday had been a long night. Jason peeled the blankets from his face and eyed the digital clock. 7AM. He groaned and turned on his side. Fuck no. It was too early to be alive. He agreed with Eren. He needed an additional four hours of sleep. He was not coherent enough in the morning. 

 

Jason felt a shuffle and a tug on his blankets. He bit back an indignant curse, not wanting to wake up his temporary roommate. Eren was fucking terrifying when he was rudely awoken. Jason cracked an eye open and stared down at the lump that snuck under his blankets. 

 

Oh hell no.

 

The kid poked his curly head out of the blankets and shuffled over, resting his head on the pillow. Jason debated his choices. He wanted to push Adam off the bed - but then he would bitch and whine which would lead Eren to hiss and threaten to cannibalize them both. Ugh. How was this his life? Jason pushed the kid away a few inches, ignoring his whining. 

 

Jason closed his eyes. Time to sleep. As he dosed off, he felt small hands wrap around his arm. Ugh. He was too tired and too sleepy. Fuck it. If he woke up with an armful off of a curly haired gremlin there was no one here to make fun of him for it. 

 


 

Adam woke up slowly - It was warm and comfortable - He blinked his hazel eyes open and he stared up at the familiar ceiling. He wiggled in the bed and he stared down at the muscular arm wrapped around him securely. For someone who hated hugs, Jason was a very cuddly sleeper. Adam snickered at the thought and he sat up slowly, moving Jason’s arm gently off him. He tucked the blanket around him and patted his chest. 

 

He stared up at the clock. 

 

12PM. 

 

He was hungry.

 

Adam made his way quietly to the couch and stared at his sleeping brother. Eren had an arm thrown over his eyes and his chest was rising and falling in slow breaths. Adam scowled as his stomach grumbled. Jason and Eren were both out cold. Vigilante work was clearly exhausting. They had both returned home very late.

 

Adam had been so scared.

 

Explosions kept going off all night long. 

 

He had sat glued to the television, watching the newscast. 

 

He got lucky.

 

Their warehouse was far away from the centre, off in outskirts and decrepit edges of the neighbourhood. It was a forgotten place once owned by the Dollmaker. Adam crawled onto the couch and stared down at the sleeping teen. He nudged him gently. Eren grunted and shifted on his side. Adam pouted and he clambered off the couch.

 

“If you want something done, do it yourself,” he grumbled as he made his way to the kitchen.

 

He shifted through their groceries, picking up a box of cereal. He opened the fridge and pouted. Phoo, no milk. He lowered the box and grabbed his brother’s wallet and keys, throwing on his jacket quietly. 

 

He closed the door quietly and hopped down the rotten steps. Adam hummed quietly as he made his way through the streets. He watched with wide eyes, lips drawing into a frown. The buildings in the centre were destroyed. People moved around quickly, hollering to one another and lifting construction material.

 

The kid stiffened as he felt an ominous sensation. Adam remained rooted to the spot, watching the construction warily. He shook his head, dispelling the negative air and he moved ahead. 

 

Adam sighed and he made his way to the corner store, weaving through the aisles. He grabbed a carton of milk, pausing by the sauce section. He recalled Jason rambling about chilli sauce as he cooked dinner nights ago. Adam picked up the bottle and placed it in his basket. He cashed out his items, lying smoothly to the cashier that his dad was in the parking lot. 

 

Adam walked through the busy streets and he paused in his steps, looking around him. He felt watched. Years on the streets honed his danger radar. The nine year old gripped his plastic bag tighter and he picked up his pace, moving through the crowds. 

 

He wanted to get home.

 

He needed to get home.

 

He weaved through the streets, taking a familiar shortcut. 

 

Footsteps echoed behind him and he felt his heartbeat quicken.

 

Adam took a deep breath and he ran. 

 

He heard laugher behind him - sinister - and it made his heart sink. He ran desperately, moving as fast as he could. The footsteps followed behind him. Adam rounded a corner and he slammed into a solid body. His belongings clattered to the ground and he whimpered in fear. 

 

“Why are you running?” The voice asked curiously.

 

Adam opened his eyes and he gasped. Eren stared down at him in confusion. Adam scrambled up to his feet and he launched himself at his brother, clinging to his legs desperately. 

 

“You found him?” Another voice joined in. “Oh nice, chilli sauce.”

 

Adam shivered and he tightened his hold. 

 

He was safe. 

 

He was safe, safe, safe. 

 

Big brother was here. 

 

Adam looked behind him. There was no one. The laughter was gone. The chasing footsteps were gone. Jason stood behind him, crouched down, wearing a baseball cap, picking up his groceries. Eren knelt down and he felt a hand brush over his head.

 

“Hey kiddo, what’s wrong?”

 

“Someone…” Adam trembled. “Someone was chasing me.”

 

Eren picked him up in his arms and he ran a hand up and down his back soothingly.

 

“Who?” He asked, voice low and threatening. 

 

Adam hid his face in his brother’s neck. “I don’t know…but he was laughing and it was scary. Really scary…it…I’ve been chased many times ya know…but this time was scarier. The scariest.”

 

“Did you see him?” Jason asked.

 

Adam shook his head. 

 

“You shouldn’t go out alone kid.” Eren reprimanded as he began walking. “Too many crazies escaped from Arkham. It could be any of them.”

 

Adam nodded. “M’sorry, I was hungry.”

 

His eyes watered and his bottom lip trembled. He could not stop shivering. He was warmly dressed but he felt cold. Why was he so scared? Adam released a distressed whine and clung to his brother with a tighter grip.

 

Safe, safe, safe.

 

Adam closed his eyes and he listened to his brother talk with his friend. They moved through the alley, speaking in quiet voices as they guided him to safety. 

 


 

Eren closed the door to the warehouse with a kick and he secured the locks. Jason moved past him, putting the milk in the fridge. The teen stood in the kitchen, reading the labels on the sauce bottle. Eren stared down at his brother. Adam clung to him like second skin. He refused to let go. 

 

Whatever chase went down earlier spooked him.

 

Eren moved to the couch and settled down, running a hand through his brother’s hair.

 

“Talk to me Adam,” he spoke softly. 

 

Adam shifted and he rubbed his moist eyes with small hands.

 

Eren helped him take off his jacket, pulling off his brother's boots gently. “Run it down by me again.”

 

Adam sniffled. 

 

“I…I walked around a bit, just looking at the damage and all. I felt like…I don’t know weird but I kept moving. Then I went to the corner store, the one by Angie and the girls corner. I bought milk and sauce. And then when I was walking its like…I don’t know eyes at the back of my head ya know? And then I moved fast and someone was following me and they were laughing and-” 

 

Adam began trembling in fright.

 

Eren gritted his teeth and he ran a comforting hand over his brother’s head. 

 

“I - I don’t know why but the laugh was scary…like crazy scary and I ran and ran and they ran too and then I bumped into you and they were gone, poof nothing.”

 

Hot tears slipped down his cheeks.

 

Adam rubbed his eyes angrily. 

 

“I get chased by creeps all the time!” He protested. “I’m never this scared!” He hiccuped. 

 

Adam trembled and he began crying.

 

Eren reached forward, wiping his tears away. 

 

“Shh shhh you’re safe. I’m here, Jason is here, no one can touch you with us here. Shh kiddo shh, it’s okay.”

 

Adam clung to him desperately and Eren reclined on the sofa, pulling him into his lap. Eren heard a clattering in the kitchen and he lifted his head. Jason sat with a thunderous expression, loading his guns with bullets. 

 

“He gets chased by creeps all the time?” Jason questioned in a low voice.

 

Eren nodded. “Yeah, he got taken on the streets, not just once.”

 

He’s easy on the eyes.

 

Eren gritted his teeth angrily.  

 

“‘He’d catch a good price, he’s easy on the eyes.He’s a very pretty little thing. Imagine him when he grows older.’ That’s the shit they said when I found him held by two bastards.” Eren snarled. 

 

Jason lowered his weapons and he pulled out a knife, sharpening it slowly. He twirled it expertly between his fingers and Eren watched mesmerized. He couldn’t move like that. Jason moved the knife like an extension of his limbs. His motions were completely fluid. It was oddly graceful and fucking terrifying. If he didn't know better, he'd assume he was trained by assassins. Ha. 

 

“Are they alive?” Jason asked in a low tone. 

 

Eren scowled. “Unfortunately.”

 

Jason stared at him with an unimpressed gaze. 

 

Eren looked away with a huff. He would’ve killed the bastards three times over but he had needed to attend to Adam who was injured, scared and crying. He had tunnel vision when it came to the kid. 

 

“I’ll look into the CCTV, see if I can find the fucker.” 

 

Eren nodded and he turned to his kid. He picked him up in his arms and made his way to the kitchen, pulling out ingredients for breakfast. Jason grabbed his laptop and began going through the limited CCTV’s of Crime Alley. Eren whipped up a batch of pancakes (Jason’s shared recipe).

 

He settled the plates and orange juice on the table, nudging his brother to eat. Jason grabbed his own serving and he moved his hands quickly over his keys. 

 

“Nothing, the street literally has no CCTV.”

 

Eren sighed.

 

Typical Crime Alley. 

 

Adam made a pained noise.

 

“Hey none of that now kiddo, I told you, no one will touch you when I’m here.”

 

Jason nodded. “Agreed.” He pointed his fork at the kid and glared. “You’re probably one of the most protected kids in Gotham with Phantom and Red Hood both looking out for you. Look at the bright side, at least it ain't Batman who would save the fucker who hurts you blah blah right and wrong. I'd shoot the bitch enough times and this ass would do that thing where he threatens to eat them and then breaks all their bones. Kid, you're good.”

 

Adam cracked a small smile. 

 


 

Eren dropped the fresh batch of laundry on the couch. Ugh. Housework. He hated it. He felt like such a housewife at times. It never ended. Eren grabbed the laundered blankets and dropped two on the bed. 

 

He frowned. 

 

Was that enough?

 

“Adam!” 

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Where do you want to sleep tonight?”

 

The kid poked his head out of the bathroom, toothbrush in his hand. He stared at the couch and his eyes shifted to the bed. Jason sat on the bed reading a copy of Jane Austen. The kid disappeared into the bathroom and came back, wiping his mouth. 

 

“You do know I'm due back to my own safehouse,” Jason drawled, arching an eyebrow at Eren.

 

Eren crossed his arms and glared at him. “The deal was until you fully heal. Are you fully healed?”

 

Jason scowled. “You do realize in our line of work, that’s pretty much an impossibility.”

 

“Oh.”

 

Eren blinked. 

 

He shrugged. “Then I guess you’re a longterm guest now.”

 

Jason bristled. “Oh for fucks sake, you-”

 

“You’re leaving?” Adam asked in a small voice. 

 

His bottom lip wobbled.

 

Eren smirked, watching as Jason paled.

 

“Uh…”

 

“But we didn’t finish A Series of Unfortunate Events! And…and…there’s a creepy person out there who may or may not want to kidnap because I’m super cute and squishy!” Adam threw his hands in the air and glared at Jason. 

 

“You said I’m under your protection. How can you protect me if you’re far away from me?!”

 

Jason gulped.

 

“I…”

 

Adam sniffled.

 

“Woah, woah okay no one is moving out. Jesus, just don’t cry okay?”

 

Adam harrumphed and he stomped over to the bed, throwing his body down. He rolled until he reached the teen and he wrapped his arms around his waist, clinging to him like an additional limb. Eren snickered as Jason looked to the ceiling for patience. 

 

“So you’ll sleep there then?”

 

“Yes! Jason is stronger.”

 

Eren froze.

 

“Excuse me?” He asked in a low voice.

 

Jason grinned. “That’s right bitch, I’m stronger.”

 

Eren scowled. “What the fuck are you basing that on?!”

 

Adam scrunched his nose cutely and snuggled into Jason’s side. “He’s muscular!”

 

Eren sputtered. “I got muscles too!”

 

“Not like Jason’s! Jason’s muscles have muscles!”

 

Eren threw his hands up in indignation, ignoring the snickering behind him. He was muscular! He had muscles. He wasn’t unfit. He was just more lean and less of a fucking tank. 

 

Not everyone’s muscles had muscles, goddamnit! 

 


 

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Seven

 

Blackmask was notorious for his operations and underground dealings. He ran the drug syndicate for decades and decades. Red Hood had appeared suddenly - like a miasmic wave - and dismantled his operations, severing the heads of the lieutenants and taking 40% of the cuts.

 

Do not sell to kids. Leave women alone.

 

His two golden rules.

 

He had been a prick in his side for a very long time and he had a plan - a long term plan that took a lot of planning and crafting. His plan was derailed as another crime lord surfaced, one equally as interested in drugs as the Red Hood.

 

He called himself the Phantom and he was true to his moniker. 

 

He was a literal ghost.

 

Blackmask had resources - nearly as many as Penguin - He was not a small time dealer. Hood had been trying to take down his Empire for years and he only scratched the surface. He started making a plan for Phantom, equally as heinous as his plan for the Red Hood. But then everything changed when Hood and Phantom joint hands.

 

They became allies.

 

His plan derailed a second time. He needed to start coming up with contingencies. Phantom and Hood were very similar. Women and children were off-limits, their golden rule. They catered to the service girls - they both had a Network of informants. 

 

Setting Crime Alley on flames was not enough. He needed a permanent solution and he needed names - identities - He hired a private investigator, one that billed him very high to tail Phantom. It took months and months and lots of his resources but the ghost had a hideout. 

 

And a weakness.

 

A kid.

 

It was beautiful.

 

It was everything he needed.

 

He needed more distractions - more damage - and he orchestrated a release of Gotham’s most vile. The last time he worked with the Joker, the bastard had double crossed him and nearly lit him and his generals on fire. That was not fun. It was not fun at all. The Joker was unhinged and he was obsessive. He took orders from no one. 

 

Now, BlackMask promised to never work with that lunatic again - getting burnt was not fun. But he was willing to overlook the Joker’s transgressions towards him if it meant he could lord over the drug circle again. 

 

And so he met him. 

 

For a second time.

 

But this time he was prepared. 

 

He would not be double crossed.

 

He shared his woes - He shared his concerns - A new crime lord and vigilante joining hands - It was the stuff of novels and teenage movies. The Joker appeared bored as he talked, so bored. 

 

Then he lured him in. 

 

Everyone knew the Joker loved two things (aside from crowbars), anything Bat related and hurting innocents. Tossing in the connection of the Red Hood to the Bats perked his interest and then sprinkling the deal a bit with hurting innocent children had the madman’s smile stretching and soon he was cackling madly. 

 

And miracles upon miracles, the Joker agreed.

 

 


 

Jason Todd did not feel well. 

 

He really really did not feel well. 

 

First it was the fucking nightmares - They hardly let him sleep - and then he woke up with a sore throat and congestion. Ugh. Life hated him. It was one inconvenience after the other. He woke up groggy, feeling like utter shit, knowing that today would not be his day.

 

There was the sound of movement around him, shuffling and such. Food was served and nope, he felt too sick to eat. He rolled back under the covers, ignoring everything. A tug on the blankets and a warm hand on his forehead had him squinting at his roommate.

 

“Huh, you’re sick.” Eren drawled as he stood up. “Damn I don’t even have any medicine. Tell you what, I’ll make you a cup of tea and Adam and I will head to the store and get you some painkillers.”

 

“Mrghhh,” Jason responded articulately.

 

Everything hurt.

 

Eren smiled in amusement and Jason flipped him the finger. He was in P A I N. The busybody made him a cup of green tea and grabbed his coat, nagging his little brother to get dressed. Jason watched them leave and he slumped back against the covers. He kicked them off tiredly - It was way too hot - He stared at the cup of brewed tea and picked it up with a sigh.

 

He had manners (everyone else be damned). He drank his tea and sank back against the covers. 

 

His eyelids closed and sleep claimed him.

 

Jason woke up abruptly to the sound of explosions - what the fuck - He kicked off the covers and grabbed his weapons. He dressed in record speed, throwing off his helmet and rushed outside. The ground trembled and the explosions echoed through Crime Alley.

 

Fuck.

 

Not again.

 

This was bad.

 

This was really really bad.

 

Adam and Eren were out.

 

Eren did not have his armour or any of his regalia. 

 

Fuck!

 

He didn’t want them caught in the debris - smashed by a stray boulder - or hurt by a trigger happy shooter. Fuck. If only he hadn’t gotten sick. Goddamnit! He rushed through the fray, moving past the smoke, reaching the centre. He looked around him. The corner store was on fire. 

 

No, no, no, no. 

 

It was the store they frequented, closest to their home base.

 

“FUCKER?! GREMLIN?!”

 

He ran through the chaos, moving closer to the store. The flames surged and the loud cries filled the streets. Another explosion sounded further down and Hood fell down to the ground as the debris sailed. His head spun from the vertigo and he pulled his body upwards. His comms crackled, Oracle urgently on the line.

 

“Hood, report.”

 

“Explosions, two so far,” he reported hastily. “I’m on the scene but…fuck there’s too many flames! Where’s the fire department?!”

 

“ETA ten minutes. Traffic is holding them up.”

 

“That’s not good enough!” Jason snapped. “Backup?”

 

“Red Robin, Spoiler and Signal are…occupied.”

 

At school, went untold. The other vigilantes were confined at school because it was a weekday. Fucking hell. He hated this. He needed to do this alone. Jason ran to the fire hydrant and shot at it, allowing the water to erupt forth. He dosed his body in water and ran to the corner store, running through the flames. He rolled onto the ground, putting out the fires out of his clothes.

 

He ran blindly through the smoke. “Anyone hear me?!”

 

“Over here!”

 

Jason ran ahead and his heart lurched at the sight. Eren lay under a large boulder, unconscious and bleeding. Adam sat next to him crying and shaking. A group of civilians lay huddled around  the pair in various injuries. 

 

“Hood!” Adam yelled running towards him.

 

Jason picked him and he rushed towards his friend. He pressed a hand to his pulse, listening to the steady beat. 

 

“What happened?”

 

“A part of the roof collapsed, he…h-he pushed us out of the way and it fell on him.” A girl spoke, wiping her wet eyes. 

 

“I-I c-can’t get him o-out.” Adam hiccuped. “The r-rocks are t-too heavy and h-he won’t stop b-bleeding!”

 

Jason lowered the kid gently and he turned to the adults and teens. 

 

“Everyone, help me move this.”

 

The group nodded and they joined him, pushing with all their strength. Jason grunted and swayed - fucking fever - and he pushed through the heat and smoke. 

 

Calm on fucker, you can’t die like this. 

 

They pushed off the stone and he pulled Eren’s body out of the debris. Jason swallowed at the damage. 

 

It was bad.

 

It was very bad.

 

He pressed a hand to his bleeding temple. “I need gauze, hurry!”

 

A store clerk ran ahead and appeared with a first aid kit. Jason administered the first aid with shaking hands. Eren’s legs were entirely crushed. His left arm was bent at an odd angle. His breaths were uneven and rattled - broken ribs - Jason gritted his teeth and lifted him up. Eren’s head rolled like a broken doll. 

 

“Move! We still got time! Move!”

 

The sound of slow dramatic applause filled the burning shop. 

 

Jason froze and he turned around, peering through the smoke. 

 

A familiar laugh cut through the space and Jason shuddered in horror. 

 

He knew that voice - it was the voice of his nightmares - He’d know that voice anywhere.

 

What hurts more? A? Or B? Forehand? Or backhand? 

 

“What beautiful heroics! It brings me such joy and what a truly wonderful display of comradeship! Truly truly astounding!” 

 

Jason paled.

 

The figure stepped out of the flames - purple suit, green hair, painted face and a maniacal smile - There were armed guards behind him, wearing gas masks. 

 

The clown laughed in glee. 

 

“Well if it isn’t the wayward bat. Where are the rest of your little bat friends?”

 

The crowd whimpered and they stepped back in horror. 

 

It was him.

 

Gotham’s most feared and most notorious criminal.

 

The Joker.

 

Jason gritted his teeth tightly. The last time he had seen him was painful. 

 

- Decide! Me or Him! DECIDE! - He had lost then. Not only in battle but also everything. 

 

If you won’t kill this psychotic piece of filth, I will! If you want to stop me, you’re going to have to kill me! 

 

Jason lowered his friend to the ground. He couldn’t fight like this. The tremors seized his frame. The sound of the crowbar hitting his body filtered through his ears. Maniacal laughter echoed through his mind. It hurt, hurt, hurt. His vision blurred. His senses overwhelmed. It stung. 

 

The Joker was talking, saying something, laughing and grinning wildly. 

 

It was distant.

 

It was incoherent.

 

The room spun.

 

He couldn’t move.

 

He was scared.

 

Terrified.

 

What hurts more? A? Or B? Forehand? Or backhand? 

 

He heard a scream, the sound of a gunshot, small hands pushing him desperately. 

 

He swayed - vertigo - and he fell down. He heard cries - young and familiar - Another gunshot. 

 

He stared through a blurry vision, watching the kid fall. 

 

Jason screamed.

 

He stood up unsteadily, screaming, raging, screeching incoherently. He stared at the blood seeping in disbelief. Another gunshot sounded, hitting his unmoving friend’s body. He felt a prick in his neck and the world faded to darkness. 

 


 

Chapter Text

Chapter 28

 

Long lashes fluttered slowly and green eyes opened tiredly. Everything hurt. Eren stared around him and he took stock of his injuries. He bit back a groan - He had been crushed (again) pushing a number of civilians out of the way.

 

The explosions were unexpected. 

 

What happened?

 

Where am I?

 

Was that a gunshot wound?

 

He gazed around him in confusion. He was in a warehouse - it was dark and dank. A number of civilians sat in a circle, crying and tied up. Eren’s eyes widened. He hissed in pain as he shifted and the civilians looked at him in shock. The store clerk inched towards him shakily.

 

“You’re alive!” He said shakily. “Oh thank god!”

 

Eren swallowed thickly and he struggled against his bonds. 

 

The clerk looked resigned. “It’s zip tied, it's impossible to break through.”

 

Eren’s heart sank.

 

Fuck.

 

Ropes he could rip through it discretely, Cuffs, he could break his bones. Zip ties were tricky. 

 

“Adam?” He called out. “Where’s my kid?”

 

“Here!” A teen called out. 

 

Eren looked over desperately. 

 

Adam was lying on the ground unmoving. 

 

“He got grazed by a bullet. The shock knocked him out.” The teen supplied with a tight expression. 

 

“The Red Hood is here but…he’s out for the count.” Another supplied.

 

Eren spied his friend in the crowd, unconscious and tied up. 

 

He cursed their horrible luck. 

 

The door to the warehouse opened and the JOKER walked in. Eren swallowed - The Joker was a notorious madman - He did not differentiate between men, women or children. He killed everyone. He had a flair for the dramatics. His thugs walked in, wearing clown masks and they began setting up a camera, turning it to record the group of civilians. 

 

Eren’s eyes widened in horror. 

 

A live stream. 

 

Fuck!  

 

He couldn’t use his abilities with all of Gotham watching. The Joker stood in front of the camera, giving a long and elaborate speech, cackling with glee the entire way.  

 

He was utterly fucked.

 

They were all utterly fucked.

 


 

Tim Drake lowered his travel mug of coffee in horror and he stared at the livestream on the classroom television. He was in English class when the intercom announced an attack by the Joker. The teacher ran to turn on the television where the news stations were broadcasting the livestream.

 

The clown grinned at the camera brightly, taking up the entire space. 

 

“Hellooooo Gotham! Welcome back to my channel with the Joker!” He cackled. 

 

Tim shivered and he exchanged desperate looks with Duke. 

 

“We are here on this lovely sunny day to play a little game!” He waved his arms dramatically and lifted a crow bar. 

 

“Now I’ve always been curious. What hurts a person more? A gun or… a crowbar? We have a few guests who were so kind to join me on the show. Say hi to the camera darlings!”

 

The camera moved and spanned over a group of civilians. 

 

Tim’s heart dropped to his stomach. 

 

No.

 

“We are starring our Crime Alley fellows and our favourite Crime Alley vigilante! Such a catch!” The Joker cackled.

 

“My men got too excited so some are already quite injured. Oh well.” He walked over, camera shaking as he moved. 

 

“Oh jolly, we have a little boy! Great variety folks. I do love little children! Their cries are very different!”

 

“Adam?” Tim breathed in horror.

 

“Now let’s test this theory, any volunteers?”

 

Silence.

 

“Now, now don’t be shy!” Cackle. 

 

“I guess I’ll start with the boy.”

 

“Oh jolly! We do have a volunteer after all! How niceeeeee!” He sang hopping over, handing the camera over. 

 

Tim’s eyes widened in horror.

 

No.

 

No, no, no.

 

This was not happening. 

 

His phone vibrated and he turned on the screen with shaking hands. The Batchat was exploding with texts. Tim exchanged determined looks with Duke and they grabbed their bags, faking an excuse and they ran out of the classroom. They ran into Steph down the hall and the three ran out of the school, ignoring the call of their teachers. They ran into Alfred’s car as it swerved into the entrance.

 

Tim threw the door open and jumped in. 

 

He accepted the comms gratefully.

 

“Oracle, updates?” He asked breathlessly.

 

Duke had the livestream open on his phone, watching it with a grim expression. 

 

“Holy fuck! Isn’t that Eren? Dude! He volunteered!”

 

It was a testament to the severity of the situation that Alfred did not correct their language. 

 

“I have hacked into Hood’s helmet.” Oracle spoke.

 

“Sending you the exact location right now. Nightwing is on his way, along with Batman and Batgirl. ETA ten minutes.”

 

“Ten minutes is too long.” Tim hissed.

 

“I know.” Oracle spoke quietly. 

 

Tim gritted his teeth as he pulled his suit on. 

 

He hoped they made it on time. 

 


 

Jeremiah dropped the television remote in horror. He stared at the screen with wide brown eyes. 

 

No.

 

He watched the Joker do a happy dance on the screen, grabbing both a crowbar and a gun, walking over to his friend. 

 

“Crowbar or gun boy?” The Joker asked giggling.

 

Jeremiah’s eyes fell down to his computer. He rushed forward, opening his private browser, keying in his password. He activated the GPS locator in Eren’s watch. He pinpointed his location and grabbed his father’s shotgun. He rushed out of his apartment shakily. He made a quick stop - grabbing Eren’s suit - and he waved a taxi, rattling off the location.

 

He texted on his phone desperately, informing his friend. He sent the shortcut he knew - only street rats were familiar with it and it would cut their travel time by half. 

 


 

Haleem dropped his plate of kofta kebab and he stared at the television screen with horrified eyes. 

 

No. 

 

Dear God Almighty this was not happening. 

 

He watched the screen in terror, watching as his boy was beaten down by a crowbar again and again. 

 

A broken sob broke through his chest at the sight of the teen’s pain.

 

This was a nightmare.

 

He couldn’t watch his boy die. 

 


 

Angie screamed in rage and she gripped her phone tightly with shaking hands. 

 

Her friend was in trouble. Phantom was in trouble. Eren was in trouble.

 

He was in a vulnerable position and he was going to get killed by the clown.

 

Not on her fucking watch. 

 

No one touched what was hers. She rushed to her closet and pulled out her shotgun, stuffing it under her coat. She took the stairs running, high heels clacking, and waved over a taxi.

 

She had a deranged clown to shoot to death. 

 


 

Eren’s vision swayed from the pain and blood loss. 

 

Fuck. 

 

Was this it?  

 

He heard the sound of enraged screaming (Jason) and crying (Adam). 

 

Oh.  

 

They were awake. 

 

That was good. 

 

Very good. 

 

The Joker was asking him something - Which hurt most? 

 

Asshole. 

 

They all hurt equally. 

 

The crowbar slammed into his kneecap and he hissed, reeling forward from the impact. The fucking camera and civilians were impeding him. Eren felt his vision reel and he collapsed to the ground, unmoving. His consciousness was fading. 

 

Fuck. 

 

He really needed to heal his wounds. 

 

The clown turned away from him, monologuing to the camera. A slight movement to the side caught his eyes and his breath hitched in surprise. It was a rescue. 

 

What the fucking hell? 

 

It was not the rescue he was expecting. The man wore a ski mask and he moved stealthily, movements he taught him as a civilian. 

 

He recognized the curly hair - Jeremiah - and the teen held a finger to his mouth.

 

He snuck forward, grasping him under the armpits. The clown and his goons still had their back turned. Jeremiah dragged him away silently as the civilians watched with wide eyes. He hid him behind a crate and pulled off his ski mask. 

 

The teen smirked. 

 

“Hey boss,” he whispered with wet eyes. “Thought you’d need this.” He pressed his regalia into his broken fingers shakily.

 

Another movement caught his eyes and he recognized the red high heels. It was a testament to her abilities that she made no noise wearing them. Angie crouched down next to him, holding an inactivated smoke pellet.  

 

“Distraction while you heal and change love?” She said with a wink.

 

Oh.

 

She knew.

 

The girl bent down and pressed a kiss to his damp forehead. She cut off his zip tie gently, mindful of his injuries. She gave him a wink and pulled on her ski mask. She squared her shoulders and took out her shotgun. 

 

No.

 

He didn’t want them involved.

 

He didn’t want them to endanger themselves. 

 

Jeremiah pulled his mask back on and gave him a two-fingered salute. He clicked the safety of his gun and they took off, bullets firing. Eren gritted his teeth and propelled his healing at maximum speed. His bones healed rapidly and his skin stitched together. He heard the shouts of alarm and the gunshots continued. 

 

Eren pulled on his armoured coat and Phantom mask. He stepped out of the shadows, grabbing Jeremiah out of harm’s way. The bullets slammed into his armoured back as he pulled his friend to his chest, covering his body. Jeremiah turned in his hold and fired right at the camera, cutting off the livestream. 

 

Angie ran forward, cutting through the zip ties on the civilians. She freed Red Hood and handed him a gun. The helmeted hero stood up and they faced off the masked thugs. Angie grabbed Adam, hoisting him up in her arms. The Joker laughed and swung his crow bar, taking chase after her. 

 

Eren growled and ran after him. 

 

The fucker had a head start. 

 

Hood shot at the Joker’s legs, taking him down. The Joker cackled and clicked a button on his cufflinks.

 

“Boom baby boom! Don’t you just love a happy ending?” He cackled. 

 

The group froze, looking around for the bomb.

 

“Up there!” Jeremiah yelled. 

 

Eren stared up at the glaring numbers. 

 

Fuck.

 

30 seconds.

 

“MOVE!”

 

“Nuh Uh! The doors are sealed from the outside. No key teehee.” The madman cackled.

 

“Underground?” Hood asked, falling into step next to him.

 

Eren groaned. 

 

Again.

 

He crystallized his fists and smashed into the ground. He broke the surface and pushed his friends inside. The Joker booed and Eren turned to him with a sneer. The madman stepped away from his lunge with a cackle and leaped into the open hole. 

 

“Fuck!” Eren cursed hotly. 

 

He turned to the rest of the group.

 

“MOVE!” He yelled. 

 

The civilians scrambled and jumped in blindly. 

 

Eren grabbed his friend and they dove underground.

 

The bomb went off, exploding massively. 

 


 

The darkness filtered through the underground tunnels. The group landed on the pavement and in the filthy waters. Groans of pain and discomfort drifted through the civilians. 

 

“Boss?”

 

“Here.” Eren spoke, flashing on his lights.

 

“Where the fuck is the clown?” Hood hissed, flashing his lights around.

 

Eren gazed around and he cursed hotly. 

 

He eyed the trail of blood and his eyes flashed a bright green. 

 

“There, he left a trail.”

 

“Phantom,” Angie spoke in a small scared voice.

 

Eren’s stomach dropped.

 

No.

 

“He took Adam…I…”

 

Eren inhaled sharply.

 

“I got this. The rest of you move out. Keep moving until you find a ladder. I will follow the trail of blood.”

 

“I’m coming with you.” Hood snarled. “I let this happen, I fucking froze up.”

 

Eren nodded. 

 

“J, I need you to guard the civilians with A. Get them out of here. I will meet up with you later.”

 

Jeremiah stepped forward and clasped his arm. 

 

“Good luck boss.”

 

Eren nodded and he turned to the wet trail, running hurriedly with Hood on his heel. They weaved the tunnels, moving deeper and deeper. The clown was fast. Too fast for someone who was shot and injured. They moved deeper underground, taking the steep stairs. Eren broke through the dark and he found himself at the waterfall with the labyrinth of tunnels.

 

The clown stood at the top pillar, cackling and holding a gun to Adam’s head. 

 

“Phantom! Oh how sweet! You’re almost as persistent as the Bat! Are you and batty friends?” 

 

“Let him go!” Eren snarled, moving forward.

 

“Nuh uh, one more step and I’ll blow his little cute head off.”

 

Adam whimpered in fright. 

 

“Now now Phantom, no need to get hasty. We got time, after all, I never really got my question answered. What hurts more? Crowbar or gun?”

 

Eren stiffened.

 

The Joker clicked the safety of the gun and he aimed at him. A gunshot fired. It clattered off his armour, landing at his feet. The clown pouted unhappily.

 

“Phoo! You’re cheating! How about you remove that armour and mask and we can test that theory?”

 

Silence.

 

“Or we can always try with this little cutie over here.”

 

Eren gritted his teeth. He shoved away the green tinting the edge of his vision. He had to remain lucid. He had to remain in control. He couldn’t lose his kid to his rage. He would make the Joker pay. Death was too merciful a punishment for him. He touched what was his - his little brother. 

 

Eren moved his hands to take off his vest and he felt a hand on his wrist, stopping his actions.

 

“Don’t.” 

 

Red Hood sounded choked. 

 

Pleading.

 

 “You’ll die.”

 

Eren shook his head and he removed his mask, tossing it into the whirlpool of filthy waters. He raised his head and glared right at the clown. The Joker’s eyes widened and he threw his head back, releasing peals of delighted laughter.

 

“Lucky lucky me! My first test subject! Oh I feel like its my birthday!” 

 

Eren turned to Red Hood. 

 

“Take care of Adam.”

 

“E-”

 

“I’ll take the clown down with me.”

 

“You can’t. I’m not good enough. He needs you-”

 

Eren smiled - a soft genuine smile - and he shook his head.

 

“I trust you.”

 

His armour clattered, falling into the thick waters. He didn’t need it. He looks towards Adam and gives him a reassuring smile. 

 

Eren curled his hand into a fist and placed it over his chest - over his heart in a salute. 

 

It was an echo of his past - Dedicate your heart.

 

He would give up his heart for Adam.

 

Always.

 

The kid’s eyes were wide, filled with tears and understanding, and he was desperately shaking his head in denial. Eren took a step towards the pillar, walking the narrow path of the ledge. The first gun shot sounded out and it imbedded into his leg. He hissed in pain but kept moving. The second hit his sternum, right in the centre of his chest cavity.

 

He reeled forward and caught himself on the wall. Adam began sobbing. The third hit him in his left kidney. 

 

It hurt. 

 

Tremendously.  

 

The next hit him in his right thigh. Two more in his chest. The blood gushed from his wounds. 

 

Fast, streaming, red and hot. 

 

Sounds became distant, incoherent. 

 

Blood loss was a bitch. 

 

He heard the whizz of a grappling gun and a familiar voice. He saw the outlines of a black cap and a red suit. A figure slammed into the Joker, sending him into the wall and picked up the kid.

 

Eren’s shoulders fell in relief. The Joker cackled from his spot on the ground. He lifted his gun up and aimed. Eren’s eyes widened, seeing the trajectory of the gun. He pushed through the agony, shoving Red Robin - Tim - out of the way. 

 

The gunshot sounded and it hit him square in the heart. 

 

Oh. 

 

He heard the screams NO! - Choked and agonized. They sounded so far away. There was the sound of grunts and maniacal cackles. 

 

Eren swayed and he fell, down, down, down. 

 

His eyelids fluttered shut and he fell into the rushing waters, body crashing painfully into the whirlpool, disappearing into the current. 

 

The darkness claimed him.

 

 


 

The death of Phantom was announced live through the newscast. The crime lord had died in the explosion, saving the civilians from the deranged clown. The casualty of the attack was one - an unnamed teenager, a number on the television screen. 

 

The newscast moved on to the next big news, showing the events of a gala hosted by a wealthy family. The people of Bristol clicked off their television in disinterest and moved on with their lives. 

 

The people of Crime Alley raged and grieved. They took to the streets, in large hoards, marching and protesting.

 

Kill the Joker.

 

Kill the clown.

 

Justice must be served.

 

We want blood.

 

Graffiti took up the walls. White theatre masks were circled around. A group of children played sad instrumental music through the streets. They danced a slow dance, all dressed in black - they moved in synchronization and sang - a requiem for their departed hero. 

 

A impoverished teen took up the mantle of his older brother, continuing the martial arts and self-defence lessons in place of his deceased friend. He trained young and old, weak and strong to protect, to fight, and to live.

 

The Network continued and flourished - driven - working together for the betterment of their neighbourhood. 

 

A group of service girls divided themselves in pairs, partnering up to keep down crime. They circled through their neighbourhood - naming themselves The Phantom Watch. They carried shotguns and pepper spray and were not afraid to use them.

 

Crime Alley civilians took the laws into their own hands, fighting back for their safety. 

 

They did not wait to be saved. 

 

They saved themselves. 

 

Phantom was gone but Crime Alley did not forget and they did not forgive.  

 


 

Chapter Text

29

 

He trudged through the streets of Crime Alley, walking through the crowds of protestors listlessly. A baseball cap adorned his messy damp hair and he stepped around the pedestrians. Familiar faces weaved past him and he kept his head down, keeping to the shadows.  

 

Jason Todd moved towards the safe house. The kid lay in his arms, unconscious and unmoving - Adam had blacked out after seeing his brother fall to his death, body littered with multiple gunshot wounds. 

 

Jason gritted his teeth at the memory and he moved ahead. 

 

A bullet through the heart.

 

Eren was gone. 

 

He breathed deeply, fighting against the rage building inside him. The kid needed him. He had a duty to protect him. It was his friend’s only request - Eren never once asked anything of him, not once even when he housed him and provided for him. 

 

Tonight was the only time.

 

It was the last time. 

 

I trust you.

 

Jason pushed the door open and he flicked the lights on. His breath hitched - a silent heartbroken groan lodged in his throat, seeing the evidence of everything left behind. The cup of unfinished green tea lay next to the messy bed. A book lay on the ground - an Archie comic - a set of unfolded laundry was shoved messily on the plastic chair. 

 

Jason stared at the laundered clothes, recalling his friend grumbling as he folded the clothes neatly - Are you warm enough? - The busybody fretted over him as he laid injured, ensuring he was warm and well-provided for.  

 

Jason swallowed thickly. 

 

He closed the door and turned on the security alarm. He settled Adam gently on the bed, staring at the sleeping kid. The boy was all alone - He lost his only family member - He had no one. Jason couldn’t leave him behind. He knew what it was like to be on his own, with no one in his corner.

 

He wouldn’t wish it on the kid - on any kid, especially Adam. He was his responsibility. Jason stood up and grabbed the first aid kit, administering first aid to the kid’s wound. He wrapped the tiny arm gently, securing the bandages on. 

 

The child whimpered in his sleep and his hand shot out, curling into his jacket tightly. Jason sighed and tugged on the tiny wrist gently. The kid would not relent his hold. The teen sighed and took off his cap, pulling off his guns and weaponry. 

 

He kept one pistol, ready and loaded, under the pillow and rested on the bed. Adam curled into his side, burrowing into his chest. Jason wrapped a careful arm around his small warm body and he stared at the chipped walls. 

 

He had frozen. This was all his fault.Had he shot the clown in the corner store, Eren would have remained alive. 

 

Jason closed his eyes. 

 

He slept horribly, plagued by nightmares of his failure.

 


 

The child turned in his sleep and he woke up slowly. Adam opened his eyes, blinking against the soft lights. He frowned in confusion and he sat up groggily. The events of last night filtered through his consciousness and he gasped loudly, eyes welling up in rapid tears.

 

He gazed around desperately, trying to find his brother, hoping that it was all a horrible dream. His eyes locked with Jason who sat at the kitchen table, cleaning his guns. Jason’s expression grew mournful and he gazed at him sadly. 

 

Adam’s bottom lip trembled.

 

He began crying and hiccuping profusely. 

 

It hurt.

 

He wanted Eren. 

 

He wanted his big brother.

 

“I w-want E-Eren.” He sobbed.

 

He felt the bed dip and warm strong hands rested on his shoulders. He latched onto the teen, crying into his chest. He cried for a long time, body growing tired. His eyelids felt heavy. 

 

He felt sick. 

 

He wasn’t hungry. 

 

He didn’t want food. 

 

He didn’t want cake. 

 

He didn’t want his comic books. 

 

He wanted his brother.

 

It couldn’t be real. 

 

Eren wasn’t dead.

 

Eren promised to stay with him for a long long time. He said that he was very hard to get rid of. He said he healed from everything, big and small. Eren couldn’t be dead. No, no, no, no. 

 

He refused to believe it. He didn’t care what anyone said.

 

Big brother will always come back.

 

 


 

Tim Drake ignored the knocks on his door. He ignored the call for breakfast. He ignored the call for lunch. He ignored the call for dinner. He tossed and turned on his bed, mind replaying the horrific scene over and over again.

 

It was all his fault.

 

He had been too slow.

 

He had been too late.

 

Phantom was dead.

 

Eren was dead.

 

It wasn’t hard to put two and two together. He had missed all the clues. They had the same body build, the height, the weight, Red Hood’s presence, Phantom’s sudden appearance, Eren’s sudden disappearance. 

 

It was good that Batman and Nightwing lagged in their arrival. 

 

It was good that Signal and Spoiler did not know the tunnels as well as him. 

 

He had rushed ahead, weaving through the familiar labyrinth, following the sound of the gunshots.

 

He was too late.

 

Phantom had pushed him out of the way - taken the bullet in his place - to the heart. 

 

He wanted to help and instead he got his friend killed.

 

He couldn’t catch him in time. 

 

He had been a step too late - hand outstretched desperately as a scream tore through his throat.

 

NO! 

 

The tears welled up in his eyes and he pressed his palms against his eyelids harshly.

 

He had left Adam without a brother, without any family. 

 

Alone. 

 

It was all his fault. 

 

Tim sat up tiredly and he grabbed his laptop shakily. He opened the Phantom files and deleted all the data, wiping everything in his hard drive. 

 

He wouldn’t expose his friend’s identity out of respect for him. 

 

Eren deserved more than that. 

 

He didn’t need Batman dissecting every microscopic detail. The detective would go to Phantom’s safe house and locate all his belongings, draft all the evidence on paper, so he could wrap up his case neatly, seal him forever in his files on the Batcomputer. 

 

Phantom was more than just a number. He was more than just a file to be hidden among many.. He was more than just a blip and a few constructed lines - labeled meta - He was more than an unnamed casualty of the Joker’s madness. He was so much more than that.

 

He was a friend. 

 

Tim swallowed thickly, eyes blurring at the image taken on the rooftop.

 

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered wetly as the tears slipped down his cheeks.

 

He sniffled and deleted all the files permanently. 

 

He dropped his laptop and threw his body on the covers, clutching onto the pillow tightly as the violent sobs shook his thin frame.

 

 


 

Dick Grayson watched the news recording and he clicked the replay button as it ended. He drew his knees to his chest, watching the explosion on the television and reading the caption: New and upcoming crime lord killed in explosion by the Joker.

 

Dick paused the recording and turned on the news channel watching the ripple effects caused by Phantom’s death in Crime Alley. He stared unblinkingly at the screen and he swallowed thickly. 

 

It was strange. 

 

He didn’t know the crime lord personally but he felt sympathetic towards his death. Phantom wasn’t bad per se. Dick didn’t have all the information to make a fair judgement. 

 

It was too late for that now. 

 

The spectre was gone. 

 

Dick watched the protestors, young and old. There were children among them, crying and wearing dark clothing. Teenagers waved signs angrily, demanding justice. Old men and women marched arm in arm. Young women led the march, holding whistles and speakers in their manicured hands. Locals, business owners, civilians, students. 

 

People of all walks of life marched on and on. 

 

Dick stared at the screen in shock as the realization sunk in.

 

Phantom was loved.

 


 

Jason watched the small boy walk ahead of him in concern and he rushed after him, gaze filling with concern. He didn’t trust Gotham city with keeping the child safe. Jason knelt down, scooping Adam up in his arms as they walked through the streets of Crime Alley. The pair walked by the pedestrians, taking in the graffiti on the walls. 

 

We remember.

 

We honour.

 

We fight.

 

A friend, a brother, a protector.

 

Honour the spectre.

 

Phantom lives in us all.

 

Jason inhaled and exhaled slowly, moving down the street, eyeing the memorabilia on the walls. He paused at the large painting, mouth parting in shock. It was a monument delicately and carefully crafted in honour of the spectre. It was incredibly detailed and it was breath-taking. Phantom stood tall, overlooking the city from the rooftops. His long black trench coat swayed in the wind and his gaze was locked down on the streets,

 

Adam made a pained noise as he eyed the wall art. Jason rubbed a hand down his back comfortingly and he turned on his heel, moving away. 

 

It hurt to look at it. 

 

“It’s beautiful,” Adam whispered. 

 

Jason exhaled. “Yeah, it is.”

 

“I miss him,” Adam sniffled.

 

“Me too kid,” he whispered honestly. “Me too.”

 

Adam wrapped his arms around his neck and rested his head on his collarbones. 

 

“He’s my brother.”

 

Jason nodded and he remained silent. 

 

The kid continued to use the present tense when talking about Eren. He was in his first stage of grief - Denial. 

 

He didn’t believe his brother was gone. 

 

The silence stretched as the pair moved through the familiar streets. Jason stared up at the setting sun - Phantom liked rooftops. He liked standing on the edge carelessly and watching the skies.  He was always so careless, reckless as if he wasn’t afraid of death or getting hurt. He was fond of heights, of places that were elevated where he would watch over the people on the streets. 

 

Jason swallowed thickly and he pulled his cap down shielding his eyes, blinking rapidly.  

 

“He was my friend.”

 


 

Chapter Text

30

 

The sound of crashing waves filtered to his ears. Long lashes fluttered slowly and green eyes opened. Eren stared at a vast blue sky. Birds flew above him, cawing raucously. He sat up slowly and his eyes widened. 

 

He stared down at his body.

 

There were no wounds.

 

Nothing.

 

His breath hitched in alarm at the sight of Her.

 

She stood a few meters away, staring off into the ocean, blond hair swaying in the wind. 

 

Eren stood up shakily and made his way towards her. 

 

She turned to him with a sad gaze. 

 

Eren gazed around him - the ocean - sparkling waters and the sound of laughter drifted around him. 

 

Familiar laughter. 

 

Eren turned around in shock and he gasped at the sight -a blurry image gained clarity.

 

It was his family. 

 

He choked up as he watched them frolic in the waters. He stared at his best friend. Golden hair shined like a bright beacon. The teen knelt down and picked up a large white seashell. He turned and waved at him brightly with sparkling blue eyes, lips stretching into a gentle smile.

 

Armin.

 

His sister ducked her feet in the water and she shivered in shock, letting out a surprised laugh. She turned to him with a shy smile, tucking a strand of raven hair behind her ear. 

 

Mikasa.

 

Eren turned away and he gazed at the Founder.

 

“Am I…” He inhaled. “Am… I dead?”

 

Too soon.

 

His eyes widened.

 

“You… you had tried to warn me. Didn’t you? The dream… I thought…”

 

Eren swallowed thickly. 

 

He turned to the Founder helplessly. 

 

“Ymir, am I dead?”

 

He needed to know.

 

He needed confirmation.

 

Ymir smiled cryptically.

 

“What do you want Eren?” She asked softly.

 

Eren frowned. 

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Do you want to go back or stay here?”

 

Eren turned back to his laughing friends. There were no titans. There was no battle - nothing to fight, just peace and serenity. It was everything he had wanted - his dream coming to fulfilment. 

 

His eyes widened as the image stretched, drawing in more people from his past. 

 

“Captain,” he breathed in shock. 

 

Levi stood at the side leaning against a horse, watching the group play in the water with a bored expression. He turned to him with gun-metal eyes, nodding his head curtly in greeting. Hanji hollered at him impatiently, waving a wet boot as she cackled like a madwoman. Sasha and Connie snickered at the side, dunking Jean in the water. Jean screeched like a little girl as he was soaked thoroughly. The taller teen turned to him and snarled at him to join the water impatiently.

 

“Mom,” Eren whispered in disbelief. 

 

His mother stood at the edge of the water, long skirt moving with a wind. She laughed watching Armin and Mikasa with fond smiles. Armin ran towards her, showing her the shell with an eager smile. His father sat at the side, ankles crossed, calmly reading a medical manuscript. His glasses glinted in the sun and a peaceful expression adorned his face. 

 

Eren gazed at Mikasa to find her staring at him. 

 

She smiled softly and waved him over.

 

“Eren!” She called out. “Come on! The water is not that cold!”

 

“Eren! Look, the seashell makes a strange noise! Ack! There’s something inside!”

 

“Really?! Oh it moves! Would you look at that! Quick! Get me my journal! I must-! ARGH! IT BIT ME! HELP!”

 

“Shut the fuck up, shitty glasses.”

 

“Oi oi oi, why am I the only one thoroughly soaked! Oi asshole, come in here!”

 

“Eren dear, go on and join your friends.”

 

Eren glared angrily at the Founder. 

 

“This…this isn’t real.”

 

“It’s what you want, Eren. I am only responding to your heart’s deepest desires. You wish to be home, you wish to be with them, you wish to have never died. You wish to relive this moment because…” She paused and smiled sadly. “It was this exact moment you lost everything.”

 

Eren rubbed his eyes angrily as the tears spilled past his cheeks. It was true. It was this memory that was the beginning of the End - He had stood at the edge of the ocean, water touching his legs, staring ahead with dark eyes as his friends horsed around in the water, standing away -separate - from everyone else.

 

It’s… just like I always said, Eren.

 

Yeah… It goes on forever.

 

It’s just like I dreamed. The ocean - salt that goes on forever that even the merchants cannot extract it - 

 

Beyond the wall… there's a sea. On the other side of the sea… is freedom. That's what I always believed. But I was wrong. On the other side of the sea… are enemies.

 

If we kill everyone last one of our enemies out there, will we finally be free then?  

 

His shoulders trembled as he watched his family. This was everything he had wanted. To move beyond the walls, to live freely without concern, with his loved ones. He fell down to his knees and broke down. 

 

It hurt.

 

It hurt so much.

 

“W-will you… will you keep me here?”

 

The Founder nodded with a sad smile. 

 

“I can make this your final stop.”

 

“Eren!”

 

Eren stared up to see his best friend waving at him. 

 

“Eren, there’s so much to see! Mountains of fire, oceans of sand! Let’s explore it all!”

 

Eren cried harder as he eyed the object in his best friend’s hands. Armin held the white shell - the same exact one - delicately in his palms, eyes soft and expression eager. Eren had turned away from him Before - back turning from his friend’s soft eyes, rejecting the shell in his hands- from their shared dream - Armin had lowered the shell - marking the beginning of his Fall.  

 

“Eren, thank you. For wrapping this scarf around me. For giving me a reason to live.”

 

He hiccuped brokenly.

 

“Choose, which ever choice you’ll regret the least.”

 

Eren pressed his palms into his eyes. 

 

He had to choose. 

 

He didn’t want to regret anymore. He wiped his wet face and took a large breath of salty air. He stood up on unsteady legs. He stared at the ocean - vast blue that stretched on forever. It was beautiful. The sound of laughter and joy surrounded him. He was with family, with his loved ones. 

 

He smiled sadly and stepped away from his friend’s outstretched hands. 

 

He shook his head sadly.

 

“Sorry, not now. One day though,” he whispered.

 

Armin smiled. He nodded and stepped forward, holding out the white seashell. 

 

“You still have things you want to protect, right?” He spoke softly, eyes shining with understanding - He was always understanding. Eren was undeserving of him. He was undeserving of all of them.  

 

Everything faded.

 

It was only them - as it always was. 

 

At the End and at the Beginning.

 

“I’m sorry Armin.” Eren spoke hoarsely.

 

Armin laughed and he shook his head. He stepped forward and curled his fist, pressing it over his heart in a familiar salute. 

 

Eren smiled brokenly and returned the salute. 

 

“Don’t be, you were always the stubborn one. Live a long life Eren.”

 

“I’ll see you again,” he promised.

 

Armin smiled - soft and kind. Eren stepped forward and accepted the white shell. It lit up brightly, light engulfing the entire zone. 

 

Eren closed his eyes against the searing light and he fell.