Gotham's Dead End Bar

Step 1: Be a serial reincarnator. Step 2: End up in Gotham with Death of the Endless. Step 3: Open a neutral-ground bar for heroes and villains. Step 4: ??? Step 5: Profit. Don't go into this story expecting something serious or (grim)dark. This isn't that kind of story and that's not what I'm trying to do here. This is a story about a bartender telling crazy stories about his time in the multiverse to the villains and heroes of DC. It's practically crack, about two steps removed from a fix-it fic. There is a plot (eventually, the beginning chapters are pretty slice-of-life heavy) but it's never going to be some grand tale of tragedy. In the same lane, don't expect the same Batman/Bat Family that you might be used to. No paranoiax10, dark, and gritty 'Batman can't be/have fun!' Batman. My Batman is more in line with the 'Batdad' concept or the animated series Batman. Also, this is kind of an AU. Not in any major way but some of the story might not match up perfectly with the DC canon continuity. I'm going for a static DC universe. So characters and their backstories are set but I'll be avoiding the major plot points of the comics (Dark Multiverse, Infinite Frontier, etc.) Pat reon.com/dryskies_btb for early chapters. 370k words are already available there.

Daddy · Anime & Comics
Not enough ratings
66 Chs

47: Jester Meets Gremlin

"Hey, Ciri. Who's the cute goth punk?" The short, blue-skinned girl asked Ciri as Harley, Ivy, Kara, and I came back into the Dead End.

Harley immediately jumped to my defense, playing it up as she usually did, "Hey~! That's cute goth-BOY to you, Little Miss Gremlin~!"

"You tryna rock or something, Clown?! I won't take no shit from some Bozo ganger!" The young woman shouted back, matching Harley inch for inch.

"I don't know what that means but I like the way you talk~!"

"Oh, yeah?! Well, your energy is pretty nova too, choom!"

They got in each other's face so they were glaring at each other nose to nose. Harley only had a few inches on the blue-skinned woman but they were both so diminutive that it was quite funny to watch. I knew better than to underestimate Harley because of her petite stature. And it seemed that this new girl with Ciri was in much the same boat.

"Guess we're friends now, huh, gremlin~?!"

"Best friends, choom! Hold up, what's your favorite activity, Clown Bitch?!"

"What's YOURS, midget~?!"

"Same time?!"

"Same time!"

"3, 2, 1… Chaos and violence!"

"Violence and Chaos~!"

"Fuck yeah, choom! What's your favorite tool?!"

"I'm a melee gal, myself~! You~?!"

"Guns, guns, guns, gonk!"



"Hell yeah~! I think we're gonna get on like a bitch on fire, gremlin~!"

"Lit us up with Choo-Two! What's your handle, choom?!"

"Harley Quinn~! What's yours~?!"

"Call me Becca tha' Rimbo!"


Becca grinned wildly, the expression far past manic, "I'm a bitch who loves to tote guns, choom!"

Harley threw her head back, laughing at the top of her lungs, "HAHAHAHA~! I LOVE IT~!"

The two pint-sized embodiments of chaos put their arms around each other and made their way to the bar, cackling the entire way. As if their interaction hadn't started with any hostility at all. It was actually impressive how well they fit together. They'd managed to maintain the same energy as they shouted a crash course in friendship in each other's faces.

The rest of the bar watched in amusement, disbelief, and even mounting horror in some cases. Cyborg, Barbara, and the other new woman who'd come with Ciri most notably for that last one. They seemed… quite alarmed… at the prospect of two Harleys in the same room together (or two Beccas from the newbies' perspectives).

Most of the two girls' audience were simply stunned into open-mouthed bemusement at the crash course in chaos gremlin bonding. Kori giggled to herself and Raven watched with her trademark ever-flat expression. Ivy simply sighed.

"Oh, Mother Nature… There are two of her now…"

"C'mon, Red~! Come join the party and meet my new main bitch~!" Harley excitedly called her over from the bar.

Becca barked a laugh, "Ha! Red! 'Cause she'd green, I get it!"

"It's more because of my hair color," Ivy explained with old familiarity dealing with this kind of chaotic energy.

The younger man with Ciri grinned at Harley and Becca, "This how you always make friends, Becks?"

"Nah, we just vibe, ya know?!" Becca grinned right back at him. "She'd make a preem addition to the crew!"

"Crew~?" Harley cocked her head, her own manic smile not shifting an inch. "Y'all run gigs~? Man, I miss that shit~! Haven't had a good fun run since Ivy and I settled down with Gothboy~!"

Ciri sighed softly and shook her head, "I should have been expecting this when you two met."

"You weren't?" I asked, joining the conversation from behind the bar.

Kara sat across from me, Didi came to my side, and the rest of the limited guests here before opening naturally drifted our way. The group with Ciri tensed slightly at being 'surrounded' but forced themselves to relax when Ciri didn't react at all. If anything, she grew a genuine smile on her face that she sent my way.

"Not as such," Ciri said. "Hello again, Sean. I have returned. With company. These are the Edgerunners I told you all of before."

"Right, introductions and shit," The young man muttered to himself. He stuck out his hand to me, judging the atmosphere of the bar to direct his attention to the 'right' person. "David. You cool with Ciri?"

"You could say we go way back," I nodded, confirming humbly. "Nice to meet you, David. All of you. Any friends of Ciri are friends of mine."

The way Ciri's smile grew even more at my acceptance helped put the Edgerunners even further at ease. David shook my hand firmly, a charismatic smile that didn't quite reach his eyes on his face. Then again, none of his expressions seemed to truly reach his eyes unless he was looking at the pastel woman at his side.

"Lucy," Said woman introduced herself with a single word, curt but not impolite, her eyes methodically categorizing her surroundings and all of our reactions.

"Falco. A pleasure to meet you all as well," The older man of the group greeted with a gentlemanly nod. "Good to have friends here. 'Cause I'll be honest, we haven't the foggiest what's going on or where we are."

Ciri rolled her eyes with the amusement of a long-running in-joke, "Magic, Falco. As I keep telling you all."

"I assume your world isn't too fond of superstition like that?" I asked, observantly noting the tech and cybernetic augmentations of the near future on all of them.

"I don't know if I'd go that far," Falco demurred. "There's superstition, sure. Just not magic, as far as I know."

"If there was," Becca snorted. "The corps would've made hella scratch off it already. Exploited it into the ground like they do with everything else."

"Our world?" Lucy asked cannily.

"Ah," I nodded in realization at that, turning my attention to Ciri. "Didn't even explain the basics, did you?"

She blushed slightly but didn't avert her gaze from mine, "I would have arrived at that explanation soon enough. We were in something of a hurry."

"That's for sure," David chuckled. "Barely had enough time to unslot my monster chrome before 'Saka came bustin' down the door and we had to delta."

"Well then," I said, clapping for emphasis. "Allow me to give you the basics. Magic's real. So is just about anything you can dream of. The Omniverse is quite a big place."

Didi rolled her eyes fondly at me, "Dear, there's no need to understate things to that degree." She turned to the Edgerunners to elaborate on my explanation with a kind voice, "You won't ever have to truly comprehend the scale but existence — this Omniverse my beloved refers to — is infinite. Variations upon variations from the smallest to the most severe. If you're going to be friends with Ciri, the least you should come to understand is that anything is possible."

"Any… thing…?" David asked, torn hope creeping into his voice.

Didi shook her head sadly, "That's not a good idea, David. Death and Loss are natural. They hurt so much because they're supposed to. Don't try to subvert or avoid them. That way only lies Madness and Corruption."

"What do you know about death?!" David snapped, doing nothing more than lashing out in his pain.

"Oh, little one…" Didi muttered softly, Deathly Compassion radiated from every pore of her being. "I am Death. I know your pain all too well. Your mother would not want you to doom your future for her. You miss her and she misses you just as much. You'll see her again eventually. I'll personally promise you that much. Until then, the best thing you can do is LIVE. For her. For yourself. For everyone else who loves you…"

Didi's Truth resonated through the bar. Calming and soothing — solid as the ground beneath their feet. Even those who already knew Didi were humbled — subtly stunned silent — by the Compassion she held for all those within her domain. For LIFE itself. The Edgerunners were left breathless, their first encounter with something so much greater than anything they could comprehend. Didi's benevolence brought unshed tears to their eyes.

"That damn long-armed gonk…" Becca whispered quietly to herself, obviously thinking of someone she'd lost.

"Death may be the END OF ALL THINGS…" Didi continued softly. "But it's a kinder result than most believe. Kinder, even, than Life in some ways. I do not always enjoy my duty — my purpose — but I can promise that I rarely if ever mean malice or harm."

The bar fell into a thoughtful, healing lull. Didi always hit hard when she got serious, when she was confronting the unfounded beliefs and fears others held about her. She always managed to keep from treading too mean or preachy, in my opinion. Even when she was turning worldviews on their heads, her inherent kindness shined through.

During the silence as the Edgerunners and even some of the others reconsidered some of what they believed, I noticed the time. With a wave of my hand, I officially opened the Dead End for the night. A few of the regulars had already been waiting outside the door. They came in — some chattering to themselves — and respectfully held their peace for the moment when they saw the current mood around Didi.

I left the Edgerunners to their thoughts with Didi, walking over to greet my regulars. A few mooks and goons quietly greeted me in return as I fetched the usual drink orders. A selection of the usual villains sat down at the bar — Penguin, Riddler, and Deathstroke —, including a familiar but missed mask.

"Hello, Scarecrow," I casually greeted. "Been a while. I caught Harley and Ivy's first show. You feeling alright to stay tonight?"

Scarecrow nodded cautiously, "I am. I think I've worked through most of my issues with Harley and I'm here hoping to have fun."

"What's the worst that can happen, huh, Jon~?" Riddler joked.

Scarecrow shoved him, muttering, "Asshole…"

"Well, we're happy to have you back," I chuckled.

"So who are the new faces?" Penguin asked quietly, trying not to disturb the Edgerunners.

"You probably know of the Teen Titans already. They made their Dead End debut about a week ago now. The 'new' new faces are friends of Ciri. Out of towners, you might say…" I smirked slightly.

"Ah, I see," Penguin nodded in understanding.

"I don't," Scarecrow gave the impression of blinking behind his mask.

"They're from another world," Riddler explained. "See, Ciri is someone Mr. Barkeep met before who can travel between realities or dimensions or worlds or… something-…"

I left him to catch Scarecrow up to date, returning to the conversation surrounding the Edgerunners, "Right! Let's not dwell too long on the heavy stuff. What are you all running from?"

"Oh, nothing much," Becca snarked with a smirk, almost instantly shaking off her funk. "We just managed to piss off the most powerful corp in the fucking world… Some real casual shit like that, ya know, choom?"

"Ah, I understand you perfectly," I nodded matter-of-factly.

Becca blinked in surprise but before she could say anything more, Raven cut in with a deadpan, "He does."

Ciri's lips twitched into a smirk, "Sean has a history of… how to put this? Living in interesting times."

"And a history of sending everyone with sense around him into shock with his stories of those interesting times," Barbara scowled at me.

"Oh, we're understating shit now?" Cyborg jokingly faked a reaction as if he was having a realization. "Why didn't anybody tell me? Yeah, he's a bit of a handful. Nothing that would make you question everything you thought was real though… Of course not, that would be ridiculous…"

Harley cackled, "You're going to frickin' LOVE Gothboy, new gremlin bestie~!"

"And for some reason, I'm now dreading all of our future interactions," Lucy commented, her tone dry as the Sahara.

"Hey, he's not 'THAT' bad~…" Kara pouted on my behalf, my most faithful non-Didi supporter.

"He is," Didi chortled. "We love him for it. But he truly is 'THAT' bad."

I stumbled as if struck, "Et tu, Didi…?"

Didi stepped in close and laid a brief kiss on my lips, whispering, "Don't worry. I will kiss you softly while I twist in the knife, Dear."

I couldn't help but grin like a stupid fool at that, "Damn, I love you."

"Ooohh~," Kori cooed in the background. "So much of the romance in the air~!"

Raven made a little noise to herself that only Didi, Kara, and I likely heard, "Hng. Fuck, that's hot…"

Even without taking my eyes off Didi, I could practically feel Kara's luminescent blush, "M-Meep~!"

"Dammit…" Alice muttered. "My parents are so freaking weird."

"You're just realizing that now?" Beast Boy joked.

"Hey, I've been meaning to ask," David said, turning to Cyborg now that the Titans had officially entered the conversation with the Edgerunners. "Where'd you get your chrome, man? Looks like some preem shit."

"Get it?" Cyborg raised his eyebrows in confusion. "I made all my augments. I mean, technically my Dad did originally but I've been working and improving on it since. Mostly on my own nowadays."

David gave a grin, "Fucking nova, choom! Considering everyone else we've seen in this world, I didn't expect to meet a proper chrome jock like you. You look like you've gone half 'borg!"

"I… have…? I'm a cyborg if that's what you mean. I'm just as much tech as I am human," Cyborg explained.

"Nice," David nodded. "It's some preem work. I'm in the market for some new chrome right now. Think you could help, choom?"

Cyborg hesitated, "I don't know if I'd recommend cybernetic augmentation to anybody else unless it's a last resort."

David waved off his concern, "This ain't my first chrome rodeo. And your shit will be much slicker than my last bit of chrome. Shit had me riding the edge of cyberpsychosis. I'm just lucky Ciri here managed to pull me back in time."

"Cyberpsychosis…?" Horror dawned on Cyborg's face. "What the fuck is that?!"

"You don't know?" David blinked.

"I think it might not be a thing here, David," Lucy interjected.

"Damn," David swore to himself. "Guess this place is the good ending then…"

Lucy squeezed his hand comfortingly and explained to a still horrified Cyborg, "Cyberpsychosis is what happens when your mind can't keep up with the chrome you've slotted into your body. You just… break. Nothing can bring you back. It's all too common where we come from."

Cyborg stared at the Edgerunners, his eyes wide and his mouth slightly open in growing horror and dread, "And… all of you have 'chrome' of some sort…?"

"That's about the synth-meat of it," Falco nodded.

"Ah, that reminds me," Ciri absently noted as Cyborg's horror continued to mount. "This world has real food."

"No shot?!" Becca grinned, wide as can be. "I can get one of those burgers from the history BDs for real?"

"Oh, you poor thing~!" Harley gasped. "Red, cover your ears." She quickly said to Ivy before turning back to Becca, "We're going to get you all the meat you can frickin' eat, bestie~!"

Ivy rolled her eyes, "I'm not a vegetarian, Harley. If anything, I'd prefer people eat meat than my babies. I'm a staunch and outspoken carnivore."

Beast Boy somehow turned even more green than normal, "Gugh… I guess it would make sense that we're on the opposite ends of that spectrum."

"Fucking nova!" Becca cheered. "I can't wait to try some real fuckin' food!"

In the background, Cyborg had been quickly coming to a dreadful conclusion. He stared at all of the Edgerunners as if seeing ghosts. He examined their chrome, likely using some tech that the rest of us couldn't detect. By the time he was done, he looked almost disgusted.

"God, that's fucking terrible work… Right, that's it," He decided firmly. "I'm going to personally replace all of your 'chrome'. The shit you have now is awful and straight-up predatory. AND I'm giving you all my kind of nanites. They should completely prevent the risk of 'cyberpsychosis'. NO ONE is going through that mess if I can help it."

"A personal full work-over that's as good as your chrome?" David asked, grinning. "Hell, I don't mind."

"I'm more excited for the food!" Becca put in with bursting energy. But I guess I won't say no to getting some preem chrome outta this place either!"

"It is not as if we can return to your world," Ciri solemnly reminded. "We've made enemies that will not be denied. Arasaka will pursue us to the ends of the Earth. I'm sorry, my friends, but we have been effectively exiled. From more than just Night City…"

"From what we've seen so far, this world is an upgrade in literally every way," Lucy deadpanned.

"Hell, I'd stick around just for the real whiskey and the chance for a real steak," Falco joked.

"Plus the upgraded chrome?" David joined. "The only thing we're missing here is some good work."

Ciri turned thoughtful, glancing at me, "Sean, the Dead End wouldn't happen to be in need of a small team of talented Edgerunners, would it?"

"I'm sure I could find somewhere you all could be of use," I shrugged. "I doubt you'd mesh well with the Justice League or any of the heroes, really… Hey, Deathstroke? Any of your contracts need backup?"

Deathstroke examined the Edgerunners with a keen eye, casually sipping from his drink as he did, "… Perhaps. I'd have to train them to my standards but help that's already blooded is a rare find."

David turned serious as the topic turned to business, giving Deathstroke a steely and steady stare, "Don't stab us in the back and keep the Eddies flowing and we'll get the job done. I guarantee it."

Deathstroke met his gaze and David impressively didn't flinch before the best mercenary in the world. There was a moment of tense, evaluating silence between them. Then Deathstroke nodded, "Yeah, I can work with them."

"Congratulations," Penguin cut in with a slight smirk. "You just gained the approval of the best mercenary in the world. Certainly, no easy feat."

Becca blinked in surprise at that revelation, "Shit, he's the Smasher of this world?"

"I don't know who that is but I'd still put my money on Slade here," Penguin shook his head.

"Even as a 'ganic?" Becca asked skeptically.

"I'm just that good," Deathstroke simply said, the assured confidence in his voice settling any doubts.

Becca took that in… and still shrugged, "Meh. Witch-Girl could take ya."

Ciri blushed slightly, hissing at the little chaos gremlin, "Becca! Please do not go around making enemies for me!"

"C'mon, Ciri~!" Becca almost whined. "You cut that Smasher fuck fucking in half! I bet you could take this guy too!"

"Perhaps but I do not see any need to," Ciri argued. "Sean and his customers have been nothing but kind to me. Need I remind you that we are guests here?"

"No…" Becca grumbled petulantly.

Watching them bicker with fond amusement, I commented, "Sounds like Didi's blessing on your sword served you well, Ciri. Care to tell us a bit about your most recent adventure?"

"Oh, yes," Didi agreed, nodding. "I'm quite interested in how the DEATH OF MONSTERS fared in its first true conflict."

"You gave her that sword?" Becca asked, perking back up in a snap.

"I merely blessed it and enhanced the purpose Ciri had already infused into it," Didi demurred, smiling slightly.

"Still fucking nova!" Becca grinned. "You should have seen it in action! Ciri zeroed that 'Borg fucker like he was nothing! It was goddamn glorious! Better than any XBD I've seen and it was real! Straight fucking violence! Hehe~! Even with all his chrome, Smasher never stood a chance!"

"Eeeeiii~!" Harley squealed in excitement, hugging Becca to her breast. "You're so goddamn adorable, gremlin~!"

"She has good taste, at least," Deathstroke nodded. "Not enough people appreciate the classics. I suspect that goes double for your native world."

Kara frowned, "Please don't call killing someone 'good taste'. This may be a neutral space but there's no need to make those of us with softer hearts uncomfortable."

"My apologies, Supergirl," Deathstroke nodded amiably. "You're right. That was unnecessary. I shall endeavor to keep such comments to myself in the future. Out of respect for Mr. Barkeep and Didi."

"I would not have killed him unless it was called for," Ciri defended herself, her demeanor sober and serious. "That Adam Smasher… He was no man any more. I merely put down the monster he'd become."

Kara's expression softened, "I'm not trying to make you out to be a villain. I prefer dealing with situations non-lethally but I understand that can't always be the case for everyone."

"I took no offense, friend," Ciri gave a small smile of reassurance. "We come from two vastly different perspectives. Empathy for each other's situation is always necessary to reconcile our beliefs. You are a hero, an ideal. I am nothing more than a hunter of monsters. It is not a pleasant duty. But it is a necessary one that I shall never turn my back on. I protect and avenge so that heroes like you may inspire."

Kara matched Ciri's expression, the curve of her lips almost bittersweet in understanding. The other heroes at the bar looked at Ciri, left impressed and thoughtful by her words. She'd summed up the differences in their philosophies quite well. Heroes in this reality were deterrents and problem solvers, yes, but more than that, they were icons of hope for people to look up to.

Damian in particular stared at Ciri with an intense, intrigued expression in his eyes, "… Lady Ciri. Might we spar at some point in the near future? I wish to cross blades and perhaps even court you properly. I find you compelling and quite attractive."

His flat, no-nonsense tone and blunt words made Ciri blush and stutter slightly, "I-I suppose I would not be opposed to something like that…"

"Acceptable. I hope my age will not present an issue. I have been told I'm very mature despite my physical youth," Damian nodded in satisfaction when Ciri shook her head, still not quite meeting his eyes. "I suspect Mother will appreciate your philosophy and feats. The fact that Father won't is only a bonus."

"T-That…" Ciri's blush grew slightly. "I look forward to familiarizing myself with you over blades and words."

Damian's expression didn't flinch an inch but there was a certain light to his eyes that spoke volumes, "Likewise, Lady Ciri."

The rest of us stared at them, watching with understated disbelief as Damian laid down his deadly cold game. Damian was a good-looking kid — enough to make girls blush and older matrons coo over him — and Ciri ate up his straightforward approach like candy. I couldn't help but feel proud of him. He and Ciri would be cute together. I'd always seen her as more of a younger friend than with any kind of romantic interest. More like a favored niece with whom I could play the young, cool uncle.

Penguin 'sighed' dramatically, "They really do grow up so fast."

"So fast~…" Harley sniffled just as dramatically. "It seems like just yesterday that he was trying to hamstring me and cut my Achilles' tendon for the first time~! I-I'm just so proud~!"

Beast Boy and Cyborg stared at their team leader in shock, "Damn, Damian…"

Raven's eyes flared slightly with amusement, "… Cute."

Becca grinned wickedly at Ciri, "Getting yourself an input here already, eh, Ciri~? You work fast!"

"Honestly?" Lucy took them both in and nodded. "Yeah, I mainline it."

Kori giggled giddily, "The most wonderful of news~! I will put the two of you on the ship together~!"

"You 'ship them', Kori," Raven corrected flatly.

"Yes, that!" Kori chimed happily.

"You're both free to use the Colosseum at any time you wish," I offered simply, not saying anything more on the subject. "Now, Ciri. May I see the DEATH OF MONSTERS?"

Ciri jumped on the change of subject like a lifeline, "Certainly! Again, I must thank you for your blessing, Lady Didi. And you for your advice, Sean. Without them, I suspect my friends and I would have met a very different outcome."

"It was the least we could have done. Now that you seem to be staying for a while longer, I can give you much more comprehensive lessons on your magic," I said absently as Ciri unsheathed her blade and laid it across the bar before me.

I ran a finger along the pristine silver. Almost as if it had never been used, despite the righteous violence and intent that the blade carried. Even before Didi's blessing, Ciri's sword thrummed with the concept of Slaying. She'd only brought the concept even further to the fore so that it lay undeniably along the blade's edge.

I could feel the recent Death Ciri had dealt with the weapon. The rage-filled, violence-dulled, butcher's soul that was now impressed upon the blade, the first monster to haunt and enhance its silver. Everyone in the bar briefly shivered as the ghost of a monster's unconquerable malice laughed maniacally in the background.

Ciri was right. Adam Smasher was a monster. But not one made. He'd always been a monster. Even now, his monstrously mutilated soul only relished the chance to enact more violence through the same blade that slayed him.

Didi sighed forlornly beside me, seeing exactly what I saw and likely more. She couldn't even give Smasher's soul rest. It preferred this existence to any eternity that awaited it. So instead of allowing the soul to pass on, Didi and I just touched up the sword, letting it draw upon the souls of monsters slain.

Ciri looked at me curiously as I slid the sword back to her. I simply shook my head — my voice soft, somber, and remembering past monsters of my own, "Even monsters may serve their purpose. Wield them well, give them direction, and they can become your greatest assets. Trust me, I'd know…"

"Is he…?" Ciri hesitated before setting herself firm and straight. "I shall strive to give him another purpose in death. A productive one, this time."

"So, uh… Necromancy, huh?" Beast Boy 'asked', shuddering uncomfortably. "Freaky."

Raven disagreed, "Hmm, more like fascinating…"

"I don't know if I'd call anything Didi does 'freaky'," I smirked. "But I suppose if a mortal tried futilely to do something similar, I wouldn't be nearly as fond of it. It wouldn't be remotely the same thing but you might call 'that' Necromancy."

There was a slight break in the conversation after that, quickly broken by David with a question, "What'd you mean when you said 'trust me, I'd know'? That sounds like some ominous shit, choom."

I gave a smile that probably didn't quite reach my eyes, "I've been a hunter of monsters too. Many times over. Monsters and Beasts, born of Old Blood…"

Ciri perked up at that, leaning forward with interest, "Would you care to share your hunts, Sean?"

My smile turned a bit more honest at that, "Telling stories is kind of what I do here."

"Oh, I have a bad feeling about this one for some reason," Barbara muttered.

"It's a fair premonition," I nodded. "This one is not a story to be taken lightly. It's a story about dreams and nightmares. About Blood — Old, Pale, and Vile. The story of a single, unending night dedicated to the Hunt…"

"You're fucking edging me now, pretty boy!" Becca grinned, leaning forward to match Ciri in interest.

"I think I would enjoy a dark story tonight," Raven said flatly.

"Really?" Beast Boy mimed surprise. "Huh, who would have guessed?"

Raven rolled her eyes at him, "Dick."

I tried to chuckle at their antics. It came out weakly — especially coming from me. The memories of a long, long night were not fun to revisit. From evening to the rising blood moon, every repeating moment of that night had been consumed by the Hunt.

It's been said there's nothing more horrific than a hunt… I disagreed. With good reason. Darker things lurked in the night. Things greater than Beast and Blood.

The others noticed me lingering in my memories. Not quite shellshocked but quieter and more serious than I usually was. There was a concerning distance behind my eyes, I'm sure. A certain dissociation between the present and the Hunt I spoke of.

"Sean?" Kara asked, sweet as can be as always. "Are you… okay?"

Her concern — her soothing sweetness — helped. It brought me out from the past enough for Didi's presence beside me and in our bond to do the rest. Kara was far from the only one showing concern now. My regulars — friends new and old — looked as if they wanted to say something to comfort me but didn't know what.

"We, we may skip this story," Ciri put in hesitantly. "… If it truly troubles you so, Sean."

Didi took my hand and squeezed her support. It was enough for me to shake myself from the funk of that night.

I smiled bittersweetly, "No. I think this is a story that needs to be told. Not just for my sake. If you in particular can learn something from my experiences, Ciri, it might just save you from going through the same thing."

With her back set straight, Ciri gave a firm nod, "I shall listen closely and internalize any lesson you wish to impart."

"That's all I can truly ask of you," I sighed but not at Ciri.

Still, I hesitated. Something Becca was quick to 'punish' me for, "C'mon, choom! Don't keep teasing us like this! Get to the good stuff! The violence, hehehe~!"

"Hell yeah, Gothboy~!" Harley joined her. "Lay it on us heavy~! It can't be that bad, right~?"

"Oh, Goddess, Harley…" Ivy sighed, putting an exasperated hand on her face.

Scarecrow whimpered in the background, "I'm in danger… And I just came back, man…"

Behind me, Joker's mirror prison swirled with shadowy mist as I projected my will and memories onto it. Joker's trapped ghost was shoved to the side like last month's garbage, making Harley cackle and clap. Her 'wholesome' happiness made most of the audience smile. The Edgerunners especially seemed to enjoy the physical comedy even if they didn't know what was going on with the clown in the mirror.

I began my story in synch with the scenes behind me, "I woke up. Alone. Confused. And full of a blood-deep dread I couldn't shake. That was how I came into the world."

The scenes in the mirror showed my awakening in a dark and deserted clinic. Decay plagued its walls and shelves. An IV dripped foreign blood into my veins. A pool of yet more foreign blood — twisted with malice and madness — spread as a puddle on the floor before me. And from that puddle rose a Beast — a werewolf-like thing of slavering jaws, vicious claws, and free from skin and fur.

My entire audience flinched as one at the sight, "Jesus Christ!"

"What the fuck is that, choom?!" David shouted desperately.

"That's…" Beast Boy swallowed hard. "That's not natural."

"Ya fuckin' think?!" Even Harley couldn't find anything to laugh at there.

The Beast crawled toward me in the mirror, coming closer and closer. It was practically real, complete with the all-consuming stench of Blood. My audience stared in horror, unable to do anything else. Just before it could reach me — its claw nearly touching the mirror from the other side —, the Beast burst into flames.

Still reeling from my sudden insertion into the world, I remember barely being able to think clearly. I would have been easy pickings for the Beast like that. Its seemingly spontaneous combustion saved me momentarily. Then came the Messengers. Pale and ghastly little beings who weren't nearly as malicious as they looked crawled all over me until they were all I could see. My vision in the mirror faded back to a Dream…

Cyborg flinched again. Hard, "Damn, back-to-back scares."

"Creepy little guys, ain't they~?" Harley tried for humor. It fell just a bit short…

Lucy stared dead at me, "What. The actual fuck. Have you. Been through…?"

Kara frowned, dread and fear — mostly for me — in her eyes, "This isn't going to be a fun story at all, is it?"

I let out a strained chuckle, "No. No, it's not. But it is a necessary one, I believe. About the Hunt and the secrets it can uncover. Revisiting it may not be pretty but it was a long time in my past."

The scene in the mirror shifted to show an old city's skyline. A mess of gothic architecture and dark history. A multi-layered labyrinth of black stone and rusted iron. Inhabited by man and Beast alike, nearly indistinguishable in the old, old city. From the sewers to the spires, streets packed with Beasts that ran with Mad Blood.

"Welcome. To Yharnam," I intoned softly, my voice barely a whisper but still carrying to everyone's ears. "A dream and nightmare in its own right. And the home of the Bloodborne Hunt…"