Running Blind

by 'rith

Archive: Ask first, please.
Fandom: Titans (Jesse Quick), current continuity. Set after the H.I.V.E./Tartarus arc. A semi-sequel piece to "Without Masks," which can be found on my webpage, addy below.
Disclaimer: All characters property of DC Comics. What I have done with them is mine.

He probably hadn't meant to, but Dick Grayson reminded me that while I spent my time fighting super-villains like Vandal Savage and the H.I.V.E., there were other battles going on every day. As a cop he faced them all the time. As a hero--as the hero I wanted to be--I figured I ought to pitch in and help.

So I accessed the speed force and flew across the barricades, into Gotham.

Into No Man's Land. Forbidden territory. No rules, no laws, no order there.

No *hope.*

For the first few minutes I just scouted, learning the lay of the land. Completely cut off from the rest of the world, Gotham had become something...different. Something awful, like a war zone in a foreign country. Right here in *America.*

I don't think about it a lot but I guess I soaked up a lot of "good old-fashioned patriotism" in the war stories my parents told. With the All-Stars they fought for the values of the era: truth, justice, and the American way. It sounds a little corny, but that belief sustained them through the worst of times.

Maybe it was because of that I *literally* couldn't believe what I was seeing here in Gotham. Dick was right. These were citizens who'd been abandoned by their country, by their own people, and left to starve and die in the dark.

I ran. I admit, I ran not just to avoid being seen, but to avoid *seeing.* In glimpses I caught the despair on those faces trapped here, the children and old men and women and madmen, and I ran to keep from having to stop and face them. What I carried was so little against their great need, if I stopped and helped one it would just be a slap in the face to the rest. I couldn't...choose....

I found a distribution center in the south part of the city, around the old police headquarters; it looked like the GCPD was holding its own in this part of town. I dropped what I carried there in with the other supplies. Cowardly, I guess, but they knew better than me where this stuff should go--I hoped. It was so little--

I ran. I ran out of the building, across the city, feeling too guilty to leave and too scared to stop. I ran until I had to stop, gasping for breath, leaning against a building and wishing I knew what to do. Dad would've run himself ragged, cheerfully ignoring all the danger around him. Mom would've marched in, looked around, and had the whole place organized in a couple of hours. Me, I'd carried in my sad little backpack full of stuff and thought I could make a difference.

"Jesse Quick."

The voice came from behind me, dark and grim, and I jumped. I couldn't help it. I turned, and there he was. The legend.

"Why are you here?"

Calm, stay calm. Oh, God. "I brought supplies. Food, some medicine. I wanted to help."

"You're breaking the law."

"It's *wrong.* Sir." Look at me, talking back to the Batman.

He just looked at me through that unreadable cowl. I tried not to flinch.

"I hope you don't make a habit of that."

"No, sir." I bit my tongue to keep from babbling. You know I work with Nightwing, right? He trusts me, does that mean anything to you? I can *do* this, I'm not intruding on your territory, let me help where I can--

"You can rest in the MASH sector. The hospital there is safe shelter."

I felt like he'd read my mind. "I understand." Oh, I hoped I'd taken his meaning right.

"Hh." That wasn't a laugh. It was way too scary to be a laugh. "You'd have to live here to do that."

"I only came with the supplies." I won't interfere more than that. I won't.

"Good." A low explosion from blocks away brought his head up and he melted into the shadows. Gone. Something was going on, something big, but I'd promised.

I found the hospital, run by an efficient-looking older lady.

"Excuse me, ma'am?"

She didn't look surprised to see another costumed hero. I guess there wasn't much that could surprise Gothamites anymore. "Can I help you?"

"Actually, I was hoping I could help you. My name's Jesse Quick. I brought some supplies in from outside and, um, someone told me the hospital could use some things."

"Someone. Hm." A brief smile flitted across her face. "Help is always welcome. I'm Leslie Thompkins. If you can really get in and out without getting yourself in trouble...."

"Yes, Doctor Thompkins. The army patrols never saw me."

"But ‘someone' did. Well, then, Jesse, if you're willing, I'll make up a shopping list for you. And call me Leslie."

Well, I couldn't do *that* but I could help her and I did, and I felt a little better for it. Doctor Thompkins had *faith* even in the middle of all that hopelessness; every life she saved was another strike against the despair that ruled Gotham now. In between runs I learned from the hospital staff more about the state of the city, and it only made what they were doing here all the more impressive. They were the heroes here, not me.

Don't ask where I found the supplies. I'd have to lie, and that wouldn't be very heroic either.

They made me stop at nightfall. "It's dangerous, Jesse, and you look exhausted." Another doctor--a young African-American man, very solicitous--reached to take my pulse. "Have you eaten today? All that running must be burning calories...."

I dropped to a cot. "I'm all right. Just let me catch my breath."

His eyes were kind. "Go home, Jesse. You've done enough for one day."

"Not nearly." I laughed a little. It wasn't very nice.

He took my hand, pulled me up, and pushed me toward the tent door. "Listen. We're all very appreciative, believe me. But the last thing we need is another casualty. And we need the bed space. So *go home.*" He smiled to take the sting out of it. "We won't forget what you've done. Just having clean needles will help tremendously."

"Okay. I--I'll come back, soon as I can. I promise."

I was halfway out of the city before I realized I never asked his name. Smooth.

I *was* exhausted. But I couldn't go home yet--too keyed up. I grabbed some fast food and went for Titans' Tower. Maybe someone'd be there. I just didn't feel like being *alone,* suddenly.

Changeling was in the common room. "Hey, Jesse! ... Boy, you look bad."

I fell into a chair. "Gee, thanks."

"Uh, I didn't mean--you look tired, that's all."

"Yeah." I covered my eyes with a hand. "Long day."

"I know *that* feeling." I didn't hear him move, but there was a weight on my left shoulder all of a sudden; when I looked up, I saw a green monkey perched there. "Wanna talk about it?"

I had to smile. "Thanks. No, I--"...probably shouldn't talk about the *illegal* thing I'd been doing all day. "...thanks anyway. I appreciate it, Changeling."

The monkey spread his hands. "Just trying to help. And call me Gar, willya? Titans together, and all that."

Yeah. Donna and Kory came in then, laughing about something, and it felt *right* being here. Just being with the team, *my* team, like I belonged.

A few days later Nightwing finally showed up--he'd been notably absent from the evening get-togethers. Things were busy in Blüdhaven, I guess. He leaned over and put a hand on my shoulder. "Thanks." He murmured it so quietly I wasn't sure I'd heard him.

I glanced up. "Huh?"

He kept his tone casual. "I heard you were in Gotham."

"Oh. I, uh--"

"Thank you, Jesse." He smiled. "He can't do it all, regardless of what he'd like everyone to think. And it's still the city where I grew up." Nightwing squeezed my shoulder and turned away.

...Wow. Maybe I did all right, after all.


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