Of all the things that could have happened within his first month of taking the cowl, this had to be one of the worst. No, no one was dead. Yes, Gotham was still in one piece. But it had taken a lot of time and effort to convince everyone that he was ready. That he could handle not just doing things, but doing things properly.
Living with Bruce meant doing things properly was a very fancy synonym for doing things without anyone winding up dead.
Jason wasn't really sold on the whole murder is always wrong deal (and Slade certainly wasn't), but he at least understood the general idea when it came to Batman. Batman didn't kill. It was one of the rules. A universal constant in a city that had been so plagued by crime and criminals so monstrous they could barely be considered human beings.
So he was sticking with it.
Which was probably why he was in his current situation, depending on how you looked at it. If he'd had a gun, the guy who'd stabbed him would be dead, and he wouldn't have gotten stabbed.
He doubted Bruce was going to agree with him. No, Bruce was probably going to look at his injury, grunt, and say something like This is just a sign you need more time to prepare yourself.
Never mind that it wasn't a matter of training. No, it was just a simple, stupid mistake: He hadn't quite latched the suit into place. He'd got one latch on, ran out the door, and never quite finished latching the second that connected the top to the bottom. Which was fine, ninety-nine times out of one hundred.
Except right then was the one hundredth time. The one hundredth time where he'd run into enough mooks to make him work up a sweat fighting them, gotten maybe a smidge too cocky, and taken a knife to the side.
Which would have been fine.
Except for the latch.
So instead of glancing off his suit the knife had caught right at the edge, plunged about an inch in, and only then had he managed to punch the guy in the face and bring an end to the fight.
It wasn't a lethal blow. Not even close. Jason wouldn't have even described it as a serious blow. But it was dripping a fair amount of blood that was pooling in the sole of the batsuit, and when he'd checked he'd decided that yeah, that probably was going to need stitches.
He didn't want stitches. The idea of going back to Bruce and Slade and saying okay I might have screwed up, now stitch me up was so far beyond what he was willing to accept it wasn't even funny. Right then? He was pretty sure bleeding out was a superior option.
His first thought had been to drive up to Bludhaven and get Dick to deal with it. He could be trusted to keep his mouth shut. But if the suit went outside his usual patrol route, it'd set off an alarm, and Bruce and Slade would be after him to make sure he was alright. So whenever he had to go was going to have to be in Gotham.
Which was how he'd ended up at one of the Wayne Outreach clinics. It wasn't the home office (that was staffed twenty-four-seven), but it was well stocked. The lights were all off, and Jason parked the bike around back, using his emergency override to bypass the clinic's security.
The cameras all started looping in unison, and Jason was able to walk right in. If he was lucky, he'd be able to leave with absolutely no sign he'd been there at all.
It wouldn't be the first time he'd stitched himself up, and if he twisted he could get a clear view of the injury. The clinic wasn't very big, so he cut through the waiting room, heading into the back of the building to find the supplies he needed. Maybe staples would be easier...?
He didn't trust himself with the staple gun. Probably couldn't twist his hand around much easier. And actually juts sewing himself up seemed like a safer, steadier option. He double checked the cameras weren't recording, peeled his cowl off, and then settled down on an examination bench, peeling the top of the batsuit open to get a good look at the wound.
Not too deep. Definitely needed stitches. And-
Jason's head snapped up the moment he heard sound, his eyes flicking right to the woman standing in the doorway. She had an honest to god baseball bat clutched in her hands, and her eyes were wide and alarmed, and she was staring right at him.
Right at him, batsuit open, his face and half his torso exposed. Right at him, with the goddamn cowl a foot away.
Maybe she didn't recognize him?
"Boss?" She said, torpedoing that before he could even get his hopes up.
Bruce was going to kill him. Bruce had worked in Gotham for how long without anyone accidentally stumbling onto his identity, and now Jason had blow that in barely even a month.
It wasn't like he could play it off. It wasn't like he could pretend he was going to a costume party with a knife wound to his side. He very vaguely recognized the woman (wasn't she a nurse?), but not well enough to know anything about her that might have helped him get her to stay quiet about what she'd just walked in on...
Speaking of which.
"Isn't the clinic supposed to be closed?" Jason asks, and starts to just go about his business. It's something Slade and Bruce are good at, just acting nonchalant while they've been caught with their metaphorical pants down.
"We are," she says, and when Jason looks her over he realizes that she does, in fact, appear to be in pajamas.
Which doesn't make sense. There shouldn't be anyone in the building, let alone someone in pajamas with a baseball bat.
"Are you sleeping here?"
The woman goes several shades paler all at once, the baseball bat abruptly lowering as she swallows. Jason decides he can work with that.
"I... I am, yeah," she says, and Jason can definitely work with that. "Are you Batman?" She asks.
"Sure am," Jason says. "So it seems like we're both somewhere we shouldn't be."
She sets the bat aside, looking slightly less nervous, and steps forward.
"Are you... about to give yourself stitches?"
Jason already has the stuff all ready, the needle already in hand, and he gives her a withering look.
"What does it look like?" He says.
"I mean," she says, seeming less nervous by the second. "You could just let me do it. Self-surgery doesn't exactly have the best results, even if it's just stitches."
Jason holds the needle out to her, and she steps forward, taking it from him. She's definitely a nurse, or maybe a medical student? She's something for sure, because she has skilled, steady hands as she checks and cleans the wound, starting to stitch him up.
"Wow," she says under her breath as she works. "Are you... uh, on drugs?"
Jason squints at her. What kind of a question is that?
"No," he says. "Why would I be on drugs? And why would that be an appropriate question to ask your boss?"
"One," she says, "you're not my boss right now. Pretty sure this is a firmly off the clock bit of medical care. Two, you have like... absolutely no reaction to the fact that I'm stitching you up. Lots of people need painkillers for this. Is that the Batman secret?"
"No," Jason says, frustrated with himself that he's giving so much away. "It's just a me thing."
"I can see that," she says, eyes sweeping across the scars visible on his half-bare chest.
Jason did what he could to cover up, which wasn't much, and she averted her eyes, focusing on the stitching.
"It's not bad," she says, finishing up. "Pretty minor. You shouldn't strain it-"
"I know," he says. "I've had stitches before."
Not all of them for injuries, either.
"So," she says after a long pause, starting to clean up the supplies, "are we going to talk about... whatever this is? You being Batman?"
"The fact that you're sleeping in a clinic?" Jason fires back.
"How about we call this even," she says. "You don't say anything about where I'm spending my nights, and I won't say anything about the fact that you spend your nights beating up criminals."
Jason rolls his eyes behind her back. Why is it always 'beating up criminals' that everyone's mind goes to?
"Why are you sleeping in the clinic, exactly?"
That makes her uncomfortable. It's obvious in the way she suddenly hunches, shoulders coming in defensively.
"I'm still in school," she says, "and my grades weren't up to par, so my mom kicked me out. Said I could come back when my grades were up."
So she's... what, a med student? Jason isn't even slightly familiar with how all that works, but it doesn't exactly matter.
"Wouldn't a shelter be better...?" Jason asks, and she laughs.
"That'd be weird, wouldn't it? Staying at an Outreach shelter while I'm positioned here for school?"
Jason weighs his options. What would Slade do? Well, Slade would probably make sure she didn't ruin things, so Slade probably isn't the best person to think about.
What would Bruce do? Probably something excessive.
"How about," Jason says, "Wayne Outreach puts you up while you finish your schooling, and in exchange you don't ditch Gotham like so many med students do. How about you come work for us after."
Jason has no idea if he can actually promise that. He figures he probably can, but he does know that Michael was complaining not all too long ago that getting doctors to stay in Gotham is difficult. Maybe a grant or something...
"Are you buying me off?" She says pointedly.
Jason grins at her.
"Depends on if it's going to work."
Thankfully, the joke lands, and she lets out a short laugh. She's around his age, he figures, and she offers a hand to him.
"Amina Franklin," she says. "I go to Gotham University."
He reaches out, giving her hand a quick shake.
"Jason Todd. I... am Batman, I guess."
"You guess?" She says with a laugh. "You're not sure?"
"It's new," he admits. "I'm adjusting."
He makes a point of zipping the suit back up. He's going to have to clean it out when he gets back to the cave, but he can manage that without anyone else noticing now that he's stitched up.
"Do you not have someone who... you know, can provide medical care?" She asks, looking increasingly skeptical as she folds her arms over her chest.
"We do," Jason says, "but that would mean admitting I let myself get stabbed, and I'd rather avoid that."
Amina rolls her eyes and says something under her breath that sounds a lot like idiots.
"Well," she says, "how about next time you get stabbed, you give me a call?"
"Does that extend to bullet wounds?"
"Are you planning to get shot?"
Jason wiggles his hand.
"I'm leaving my options open."
She laughs at that too.
"I'll extend it to bullet wounds," she says. "No burns though, those are nasty."
"Agreed," Jason says, pulling the cowl on. "I'll get someone to talk to you about that housing grant," he says. "Might take a few days. If anyone hassles you about being here, say it was the bosses orders."
"I'll keep that in mind," she says. "Now if you don't mind? I'm going back to sleep. I've got a test in the morning."
"Good luck with that," Jason says.
He leaves the way he came, and he's good to his word. Amina Franklin ends up the first recipient of the Wayne Enterprises Young Doctors Housing Grant.
Despite his wishes, Jason ends up slinking back to her not even three weeks later to make sure he doesn't have a concussion. He suspects Alfred knows he's getting medical help elsewhere, but Bruce and Slade?