Tim huddled tighter in Dick’s old coat, worn at the elbows, but thick and warm, and smelling like safety. It was winter in Gotham and he knew he should be safely at home, and lonely, but he’d been side tracked at the downtown coffee shop.
Dick had planned on meeting him there, and taking him home, but something had come up. Patrolling. Of course Dick had only hung up after making sure Tim had someone else he could get a ride from.
He felt a little bad about lying.
A lot had changed in the last few months. Dick had become overbearing and a worrier, Alfred made sure that Tim had everything he could possibly need, and Bruce…was guilty in his distance.
Tim twisted his head back, gulping as he saw the group of young men trailing after him. Three, all larger and outweighing him by at least fifty pounds, one with chains wrapped around his wrists. He could make out knives in the other two’s pockets.
The voice was oily, Tim picking up speed, as he hoped to get away. He felt at his pockets, pulling out his cell phone. Eye’s flickered between the tiny phone screen, and the sidewalk, fingers pressing at the buttons.
The screen stayed black, and Tim groaned, remembering taking out the battery so that Dick would stop calling to check on him. Another glance over his shoulder, trying to judge if he could get out the battery and put it back. They were gaining on him.
“Yeah! Don’t you know it’s dangerous out here?”
The laughter behind him sounded like hyenas circling the kill. Disturbing images, as Tim broke into a run. He didn’t even have a batarang or pepper spray, thanks to his worried family. Or anything, that could be helpful.
Oh no Tim, we can’t let you keep the tools. You might go out on your own and get hurt.
Hypocritical bastards. Screaming was out of the question. The book bag was dropped in his hands, getting a grip, the books were heavy enough he could brain one of them.
A hand closed over his arm and yanked before he could pull away, spinning Tim backwards as he was thrown. Another pair of hands caught him, wrapping around his chest and lifting, trapping his arms and bag in place at his sides. Tim squeaked brokenly, wriggling, as the laughter grew louder.
“Cute kid,” The oily voice whispered into his ear. Shiver’s off disgust trailing down his spine as hands tightened. “You know what we do to cute kids around here?”
Tim whipped his head back, grinning savagely at the wet crunch of breaking bones. Twisting around, sending his foot crunching back into a shin. The man behind him yelped loudly, nails biting into Tim’s skin, shoving the boy forwards.
He hit the ground hard, gravel digging into his skin, and was rolling immediately. The first man’s foot slamming down on his ankle, leg going instantly numb, Tim flipped over and kicked out with his good leg as the kicker followed him, knife held at the ready, foot bouncing off a shin, as the man staggered.
Broken nose was staggering away, screaming about his bones, and tripping up the third member with the chains. Tim was scurrying backwards, pulling away with his hands, hand catching up gravel and dirt. The kicker moved forwards again, nasty smirk spreading over his face, dodging Tim’s one flailing foot.
Dirt and gravel flew, the man stabbing downwards with the knife catching it face first, Tim’s hands cupped, colliding with the left ribs. Smashing the man away from him, like a baseball. He rolled away, the man crashing down beside him, swearing screams again Tim’s parents.
He could have told them that they were both bastards. It just didn’t have anything to do with his fighting ability.
Tim twisted again, the fallen attacker’s feet connecting with his ribs, curling as he tried to soften the attack.
There was the third member, chains loose in hands, whipping against the ground and Tim’s arms. Arms started tingling, lip split open from a glancing blow, one hand and chain wrapping around his arm. Tim struggled as the man straddled his body, chains loose and heavy against his neck, hands grabbing his collar and strangling.
Tim slapped back with numb hands, trying to box at ears, stabbing fingers toward squishy eyes. Oxygen was vanishing, blackness closing in, hands tightening around his neck.
“Well isn’t this interesting.”
The harsh, drawling voice froze the gang and Tim, all glancing up as one. That wasn’t Batman. It was much worse.
Bats never killed.
Tim gasped, the hand around his neck and collar releasing, choking on the return of air. Then his brain caught up with his eyes, his insides freezing in fear as he took in the red helmet straight from his nightmares. All around him gang members were stepping away, hands high in the air as they muttered apologies, backing away from Tim and his demon.
The world started buzzing, loud as his body overloaded in panic, turning him into a boneless puppet. Tim scooted backwards, frantically trying to put more space between them. Not caring about the gang bangers still armed behind him.
The tall form unfurled, standing tall on the fire escape, blank faced helmet focusing on the movement. Tim tasted his own fear, heart thudding in a staccato beat, chest heaving as he tried to breathe. Watching as deadly hands tightened on the old metal, leaning forwards in threat.
“Look we didn’t mean nothing-“
“Won’t touch him!”
“Just wanted to play-“
Words getting through the panic still meant nothing to Tim, his throat drying up and closing off. Tim could still tell they were getting ready to run, leaving him alone with the watching nightmare.
Slow steps took the Red Hood down the rusty stairs, pieces flaking off with each movement. The killer looked larger than life, jacket flapping and showing off the guns, looming closer. He moved like a predator, the fin above the water circling around, moving steadily closer.
“Get out of here, you screw heads.”
They ran, dust and trash flying along in their wake, and Tim could hear them screaming like someone was chasing them. Like the danger was chasing, when it was standing over Tim.
“Now, what the hell are you doing here?”
Tim’s throat worked; dry as a desert, as he tried swallowing his fear. Hands busy grabbing up more of the dirt under his fingers, readying for the attack. It worked once…
The Red Hood cocked his head; hands at his hands staying away from the guns Tim had seen hiding under his leather jacket. Leather creaked and fluttered with the strengthening wind, making Jason look like an avenging angel.
“Bat got your tongue kid?”
Tim shivered as Jason’s head cocked, helmet twitching and radiating anger, pointing a finger at him.
“Drop the dirt, before I drop you.”
Tim twitched, all over, pulling his hands to his chest, as Jason growled behind the helmet.
“Get up here, you idiot.”
“Wh-“ Tim swallowed, words refusing to make it past his throat.
“What?” Jason reached down slowly, exaggerating every more, as he grabbed Tim’s shoulder, pulling him up, and steadying him as his legs gave out.
“Are you…here?” Tim had a hand to his throat, pressing against the pain as he coughed between words. His other hand was clenching at his, Dick, safety, jacket in fear. Trying to keep from touching Jason any more than necessary.
“My territory, replacement.” Jason snorted, dragging the younger boy around by the shoulder, pulling Tim along.
Tim stayed stiff and brittle, Jason’s arm around his shoulder. The hand was tight and he knew, just knew, that Jason wasn’t letting go anytime soon. Not with the way fingers were curling into his arm.
“Stop thinking so much.” Jason snorted, as they rounded the corner and saw the bike. “Come on.”
Tim was yanked onto the bike behind Jason before he could protest. Both wrists pulled around Jason’s waist, held tight in one larger hand. One elbow jabbed back lightly, stopping Tim from thinking about fighting.
“I got stuff to do. Try and fuck around. See what happens.”
Instead Tim closed his eyes, holding on tight. He was a complete idiot, who was going to die, and it was going to suck so bad. He would never go anywhere without multiple tasers again.
He did find out something new and important.
Jason drove terribly.
That’s what Tim’s hind brain was gibbering in terror, anyway.
Tim opened his eyes, only to slam them closed again as they scraped paint off on a wall they flew past. Breaking the laws of gravity as the motorcycle tilted to street level, sparking as they slid under a semi, and then jerking back up on the other side.
Another turn had them riding up onto the sidewalk, dodging screaming pedestrians and mail boxes. Hopping a crack sent them flying back into the street, seconds in front of a four wheeler, and speeding down a smaller alley.
Jason lifted a hand, whooping as they flew past overturned cars, waving hookers, and more loitering gang members. Tim hid his face in Jason’s broad back and whimpered, realizing that Jason wasn’t holding on to the cycle.
Tim held tighter as the cycle roared, things were brushing against his legs, as they flew on. It was a relief when Jason’s hand went back to the handle, twisting around a corner and screeching to a halt. Tim slammed against Jason’s back, gasping again as he bit into his lip.
Jason released Tim’s wrists, the younger boy shying away off the motorcycle, as Jason dismounted. Tim didn’t get away, not with Jason’s longer arms reaching out and snagging him, before he could get his legs to work.
He just pulled Tim close again, pushing him ahead down the alley. Tim couldn’t pull away, Jason was still supporting too much of his weight, then they were around the corner and standing outside a dark and worn green door. Tim didn’t have time to balk as Jason yanked the door open and shoved Tim into the dimly lit bar, Jason’s hand still heavy on his shoulder, guiding him along until they were sitting in front of the bar.
“Hey,” The bartender looked like a human weasel, eyes tracking desperately back and forth as he tried to look around Tim, searching for help. “This is a bar sir. Can’t have no kids here.”
“Yeah, Nicky?” Jason pulled his helmet off, Tim swallowing hard as he tried not to look, leaning forwards with his whited out eyes staring through the quivering excuse for humanity. “You want me to get out of here?”
“N-nnn-no!” The bartender was shaking as he grabbed top shelf whiskey. “I j-just meant the kid can’t stay.”
“Well see there’s a problem.” Jason sighed in mock annoyance, arm yanking Tim closer and patting his cheek. “Babysitting my little brother here. Can’t just leave him outside with the criminals.”
Jason paused, letting threats sink into his wide grin as he stared back. Tim almost cowered at his side, knowing just how bad this could end up.
“You going to try and stop me?”
The bar had gone quiet, waiting for the other shoe to drop as the bartender shuddered. Some patrons were trying to sneak out behind Jason, hunkering down as if he couldn’t see them and sliding towards the door.
“N-nno Red Hood, sir.” The bartender backed off, leaving the whiskey in front of the ex-vigilante. “It’s different if he’s your brother.”
Jason’s lips twisted in a disgusted sneer as the bartender scurried away. Behind them the rest of the bar breathed in relief.
“Spineless asshole.” Jason muttered twisting open the bottle, and drinking straight.
“He’s scared of you.” Tim’s voice was soft hoarse, still painful to talk, not meeting Jason’s intrigued gaze.
“Sure.” Jason raised an eyebrow behind his mask, eyeing Tim closely. “What’s your excuse?”
“You cut my throat.” His hand was back against his throat, pressing hard as the words tore their way out of his mouth. Not what he meant to say. “Was traumatizing.”
“You got better.” Jason’s grin was shit eating, huge and blinding. Reaching over the counter and snagging a shot glass before filling it up and dropping it in front of Tim. “Drink that. You sound like shit.”
Tim frowned, the stuff reeked, burning away at his nose hairs, as it was pushed closer to him.
“Drink up Baby,” Jason purred softly, yanking on some of Tim’s hair. “It’ll make both of us better company.”
Jason lifted the shot glass up, other hand gripping at the back of Tim’s neck in warning. Tim eyed the drink with a quivering lip and wet eyes, trying not to breathe the stench in as it was shoved against his lips.
“We’re getting along so well,” Jason drawled smugly. “Do I need to make you?”
Tim glared angrily, at Jason’s chin, still too nervous to meet the white eyes. He grabbed the small glass away, tiny drops dripping over his fingers, and throwing the drink back.
He gagged as the fire hot liquid dripped down his throat, burning hot as it moved into his chest. Jason started laughing, thumping on Tim’s shoulder as he continued coughing. When Tim looked, Jason even had a weird smile on his face.
If Tim didn’t know how Jason felt about him, he’d say it was fondness.
Jason continued with the odd look as he pushed over a second shot, eyebrows lowering dangerously until Tim picked it up again. Tim tightened his lips as he pulled it up.
“Think I’m going to keep you.”
Tim choked, whiskey burning through his nose, sending him into coughing fits, and gasping for breath. Finally he managed to look up at Jason up with wide bloodshot eyes, at the amused glance.
“Really?” Jason stood, dragging Tim along behind him. “You’re wandering downtown Gotham, look like crap, could never fucking hope to keep up with me. What’s gonna stop me?”