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The Ties That Bind

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#

Prologue: Eight Years ago.

“It is time.” Ubu says, from where he stood at the door of the room. Talia doesn’t spare him a glance, nor does she turn from window where she has been watching the desert in the darkness. It has been raining for the past two days. A storm unlike anything that has passed through the desert in over a decade. It only just let up a few hours ago, and her men had taken advantage of the peace that seem to come over the desert.

Talia thinks it is fitting for the occasion.

From her spot by the window, she nods her head. “Leave us,” she commands just loud enough that the guards outside the door know it applies to them too.

Once she’s sure she is alone, she walks up to the body stretched out on the platform. Her fingers trace his pale face, pushing his hair back before trailing down to the cut on his throat. Fresh tears roll down her face at the sight.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. She wasn’t supposed to lose her son like this. She wasn’t careless as her beloved had been with his safety. How is it that despite all her efforts, she still let him die a second time?

The little voice in the back of her mind reminded her it was because of her weakness. She is an Al Ghul. Emotions are a sign of weakness to be used against her enemies, and her father’s actions had only re-enforced the lessons she was taught as a child.

Talia did not plan to love the boy when her father had placed him in her care when his men first brought him. But when she learned her father wishes to dispose of him after a year, she knew she had to do something. She was already attached to the boy, who despite his limitations had been easy to love. He evoked emotions in her that she only felt for her son, and she would not watch him die any more than she could watch her son die.

Then her father had discovered what she had done. He would punish her for him, but he found that the pit hadn’t restored Jason’s memories, only his body. So he took the boy in his service as payment for pit that has been used to restore his life.

Talia had been agreeable. If only it meant she would have the boy with her. It wasn’t long before she started to think of the boy as hers. He may have no memories of his life before the league, but his instincts and muscle memories were still intact. He quickly became one of the most formidable warriors in the league. Despite his easy acceptance of the league’s practices, he was never a blind follower.

She raised Jason and Damian as brothers. She made Jason an Al Ghul in all but name and the other assassins were quick to treat him as such. He may be one of them, but they knew he is her son and that he should be treated like a prince of the Al Ghul blood, despite not sharing even a drop of it.

Her father never cared about how much she favoured him, until refused to follow Ra’s orders to kidnap a child. Ra’s, who has been obsessed with prolonging life and defying death as long as he has been alive, wanted the child so he could experiment on it. Jason had boldly refused to be a part of child experimentation.

It wasn’t the first time Jason had refused an order he didn’t agree with, after three years with the league, only he can decide on the missions he wishes to be a part of, and he was always careful to investigate his target to avoid hurting innocent people or civilian casualties. Even though he had no memories if her beloved, Talia could see clearly the lessons he had instilled in Jason.

For his disobedience, Ra’s had cut his throat.

He blamed her for spoiling the boy, and making him dare to think he was more than an assassin in Ra's service.

Her men had built a funeral pyre and they were waiting for her to release Jason’s body for his funeral.

She supposes this way, he would get the rest he never had in life. He mind wanders to Damian who hasn’t left his room since the incident, two days ago. This is not the life she wants for her son. She had let herself become a puppet for her father, but she would not let her son fall into the same hole she dug for herself trying to gain her father’s approval. Jason’s fate would be Damian’s too if she lets him continue on the path her father has set for him. After all, what use is an heir to a man who plans to live forever?

She wipes the tears from her eyes and leans in to press a kiss to Jason’s forehead. “Rest well, sweet child.” She rises to call the guards, but a groan stops her in her place.

She watches Jason move his head to the side minutely, letting out another weak groan.

“Jason?” She whispers. What are the chances that this child would defy death a second time?

His eyes flutter open to reveal a pair of dull eyes that were lifeless only a few minutes ago. The cut on his throat starts bleeding again as he tries to follow the sound of her voice.

She rushes back to where she had been only a moment ago, one hand coming to rest on the bleeding wound.

“T?” Jason rasps, but it is almost inaudible. She can feel the air on her hand when it’s resting on his neck.

“I’m here.” She comforts him, taking his other hand, which is slowly rising in temperature, in her free hand. “You must remain quiet now so you don’t hurt yourself further.”

She takes her shawl off and wraps in around his throat before calling for Ubu, her most trusted guard. It will not be wise to alert everyone of what has happened.

Ubu did not look startled nor does he question her when he sees Jason alive. He only provides the supplies she asked him to stitch her son’s neck and discretely choose one of the guards to take Jason’s place on the funeral pyre.

****

“School?” Jason asks, making sure to infuse enough scepticism in the lone word. He’s wrapped in thick blankets to protect him from the cold and he has to resist scratching the itch in his throat, but besides that, he feels better than he did a few hours ago.

“Yes, school.” Talia tells her. She just returned from what is supposed to be his funeral. Jason really doesn’t want to think about what that means. “You love learning, and it is the only place you will be safe from Ra’s.”

“You always said school is for people who can’t afford a proper education.” He challenges.

“Jason, even I went college.” Her eyes soften as she reaches out to touch him. She's been very touchy since he woke up. “Don’t you want to build a life for yourself outside of all this? To be your own man?”

He wants that. He has thought about it a lot, when he gets an order he disagrees with, or doesn’t sit right with him. But the league is all he has ever known, and now he can’t be here anymore. Talia wants to send him away from his family, from Damian, his little brother. He hasn’t even seen the brat since he woke up because she says it’s not safe.

“But why can’t I have that in Gotham? You said I had family there.” He asks. “They have a school I can attend. It practically a win-win.”

Talia scowls at the mention of Gotham University. “Jason, not even my Beloved can keep you safe from my father if he learns you have cheated death a second time. How do you think you came to be with the league in the first place? He is obsessed with extending his life, what do you think will happen to you if he knows you’re alive?” there’s no mistaking the hysteria in her voice. Her finger trails over his face, and the look in her eyes is pleading. “Oxford is far away from home, but it is also far away from Ra’s. You will be safe there, Jason. You are a bright boy with a bright future. I don’t want you to be the subject of Ra’s obsession.”

He takes a deep breath. She’s not wrong. If Ra’s gets word of his survival, well, death has already shown that it’s only temporary where he is concerned, so it won't even save him from what Ra’s will do to him. “What about you and Damian?”

She straightens. “Let me worry about that. You keep yourself out of Ra’s radar.”

“Okay,” He nods. “Looks like I’m going to London.”

Chapter Text

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#

Eight years after prologue: London

 

“Jason!” Jason turns around at the sound of his name to see Amy Ward, one of his closest friends and colleague speeding up to catch up with him. They are both on call this morning at the London Memorial Hospital, so he waits for her to catch up. “I’m so happy to see you."

“Nope,” He shoots her down. Amy has been a very close friends since he was employed as a Trauma Attending. He spent a year after his residency working as a doctor without border before he finally returned to London to settle down. Amy, who he met through a friend from med school helped him with the transition and they’ve been very close since then. Just looking at her, he knows she’s about to ask for something he wouldn’t like.

 

“Oh common!” She whined. “You don’t even know what I was going to say.”

 

Jason laughs, drawing her into a hug. “I know you, Ames. I already know it’s something I won’t like.”

 

“But you love me!” She continues as they step into the elevator together. “I promise, this is the last time I’ll try to set you up.”

 

Jason laughs at that. If he had a dime for every time he heard that. Amy has made it her life’s goal to help him find the love of his life. All his protests have fallen on deaf ears. “If only I can believe you’re capable of keeping that promise. The moment this date doesn’t work out, you’ll be trying to set me up with the next single person you know.” He shakes his head.

 

“If you will only give this one a chance, I promise she’s different.” She pleads, but Jason has stopped listening. The elevator stops at their floor and they head to the locker room to change into their scrubs together. Jason has to do a few rounds and check on a couple of his post op patients. He spends the day going through the motions of life as a medical doctor.

 

Jason never thought his life would here when he woke up in the pit almost ten years ago, with no memory of who or where he was. But Talia had taken him in and given him a place in her family. A life that has been stolen from him too soon. Not that it was a total loss.

 

Life as an assassin is not one Jason is sorry to leave behind, he just wishes leaving it didn’t have to mean leaving his mother and brother too. He misses them every day and some days, he’s so home sick he almost packs up and go back home but that would be worse than being homesick in London.

 

His home isn’t among the league anymore. Talia and Damian left Ra’s and the league shortly after him. After Ra’s killed him for disobeying orders, death had lasted only two days before it rejected him yet again. Talia, who knew what Ra’s would do to him if he discovers Jason has the ability to defy death had had Jason smuggled out of the desert the night after his funeral. She created a new identity for him, giving him her name and a chance at a new life.

 

He’d been sceptical when she suggested he go to school, but he knows now that she had been right. The four walls of school is the one place Ra’s would not think to search for him, or even pay attention to. Ra’s has eyes on every vigilante and superhero operating anywhere in the world, and with the set of skills he got from his time in the league, vigilantism was the only place Jason would fit in.

 

With the chance to build a life that did not include daily violence, Jason chose to study medicine, partly to understand why he couldn’t stay dead and partly to make up for the destruction he let himself be used to cause. It gave him a purpose and left him feeling fulfilled at the end of the day. It’s a life Jason never knew he wanted until he got.

 

“Hi, Dr Jay,” Abigail calls when she sees him. He returns her greeting with a wide smile.

 

“Hello Abigail, Mrs Miller.” He nods to her mother. “I hear someone is getting their cast taken off today.”

 

Abigail, his energetic nine year old patient stretches her arm to show off the cast that will soon be removed. She’s had broken her arm when she fell off a swing she tried to turn into a gymnastic equipment at school.

 

“Yes!” She smiles brightly and then pouts at him. “It’s so itchy.”

 

“Well, love. It's a good thing it's coming off. Just don't go turning swings into gymnastic equipment again.”

 

Sometimes, Jason wonders what Damian is like as a teenager. He hasn’t seen his little brother since his second death, besides the pictures that his mom sends him. The little boy he left without saying goodbye had been too serious with an uptight personality that had no place in a child. His toys included swords and daggers and he knew over fifty ways to kill a man by the time he was eight.

 

During their time together, Jason tried to get the child to loosen up and act his age but Damian always argued it was not a behaviour befitting an Al Ghul heir, no matter how much he enjoyed their activities. Jason may not have any memories of his life before Talia pushed him in the pit and Ra’s made him one of his assassins, but he knew it was no way to raise a child.

 

Talia had tried to change things when Jason began to protest, but even Jason can see the damage had been done. He can only hope that now that Damian has gone to live with his father, his life has improved significantly. Talia said leaving Damian with his father was the best protection she could get for him. It kept him out of Ra’s reach, focusing his attention on Talia. But Talia has cut ties with her father and she was in Metropolis now, although Jason hasn’t been there. Escaping from Ra’s clutches did not save them from his spies.

 

After removing Abigail’s cast, he receives a call about multiple accident victims incoming. The rest of his day is spent in the operating room treating accident patients and by the time he is done with the last one, it’s a new day. It’s not the first time Jason has had to stay longer than his shift. He’s used to it at this point and it beats going back to an empty apartment.

 

When he’s done with his last patient, he goes to the doctor’s longue where most of his colleagues go to relax when they have a break. Amy is there when he enters and he drops next to her on the couch. She welcomes him with a tired smile which he returns before nodding to another colleague, Dr Elliot Grant, who’s staring at the computer screen.

 

“What’s with him?” He asks Amy. He gets a non-committal shrug as answer before she’s dozing off. He rises from his spot, walking around the computer to stand beside Grant. “You okay?” He asks with a nudge on Grant’s shoulder.

 

Grant startles before collecting himself. “Yeah, I’m fine.” He tells Jason absently.
Jason debates with himself for a moment if he should leave the issue alone, before dismissing the thought. He looks closely at the chest x-ray Grant has been staring at. “What are you looking for?”

 

“I’m trying to figure out where I went wrong.” Grant tells him with a sigh. “Guy showed up this morning, I ran these and discharged him. Two hours later he’s wheeled in with a massive MI.” He says, gesturing at the pictures on the screen. “How did I miss it?”

 

“What was the lesion?”

 

“Right coronary.”

 

Jason checks the x-ray for all the details he could have missed the first time, but there was nothing new there. “I know what I’m looking for and I can’t see any abnormalities.”

 

Grant sighs again. “I got the guy back, but it’s not good.”

 

When he decided to be a doctor, it was because he wanted to save lives. Make up for the ones he took during his service to Ra’s. He knows some of his marks deserved to die for their crimes, but not all of them did. It wasn’t until he started practicing he realized death was part of the job. No matter what you did, there are some people who have already given up and can’t be saved. No matter how many patients you lose, it doesn’t get easier.

 

A few hours later, Jason is ready to call it a day. This has been one of his busiest shifts and it’s finally over. He has the day off tomorrow, so he checks up on his current patients one last time before heading for the elevator. He pulls his phone out of his pocket, turning off the do-not-disturb option before calling he calls his mom. Just as he is about to hit send, one of the nurses rushes up to him.

 

“Dr Head!” The nurse calls, He looks relieved to see Jason. “We have an ambulance coming in and most of the doctors on call are busy with other patients.”

 

Jason sighs, he wants to tell the nurse to get someone else but he remembers the oat he took during his graduation. In for a penny. This is why he went to medical school after all. He quickly puts his lab coat on his dress shirt and slacks before heading outside to wait for the ambulance to arrive.

 

“What do we have?” He asks the paramedic as she carefully pulls the trolley out of the car.

 

“Alfred Pennyworth, Male, 73. Hip fracture from a fall and possible concussion.”

 

Jason listens as the parmedic continues to recite all the steps they took to bring the patient in, but he focuses on the patient himself. The elderly man is awake and conscious, no sign of bleeding but his face is very pale and eyes wide as he stares at Jason while he is escorted into the hospital.

 

“Hi, Mr Pennyworth, I’m Dr Jason Head and I’ll be your doctor today.” Jason introduces himself with what he hopes is a reassuring smile, because the man’s eyes hasn’t left him and he’s still very pale. It’s a little unnerving. Jason is used to people staring at the scar on his throat but this is different. It’s almost like this man has seen a ghost.

 

Thankfully, his niece came with him. She’s the one who called the ambulance after Mr Pennyworth’s accident, so she answers his questions while he continues to stare at him.

 

“You have a mild concussion and you’ll need an MRI scan for us to determine the severity of your hip fracture. Have you been experiencing any pains prior to your fall, Mr Pennyworth?”

 

“If you’ll be treating me today, you may as well call me Alfred.” MR Pennyworth—Alfred tells him dazedly. “Can I call you Jason, Dr Head?”

 

Jason shrugs. “Sure, you can.” It’s not the first time a patient has requested to address him by his first name.

 

After that, it’s as though Alfred has found his wits and he answers all of Jason’s questions.

 

While preparing Alfred for his scan, his phone begins to ring and Jason wants to groan. He forgot to put it back in silent mode. “Excuse me,” He says, taking out the phone to silence it. “I forgot I removed it from silence earlier.”

 

Alfred is still watching Jason with a keen eye.
“You can accept the call. I presume it must be important.”

 

“It’s my mom, checking up on me.” Jason dismisses. “I’ll call her when I’m less busy.”

 

Alfred’s stare intensifies at his words, and Jason fights the urge to shift from foot to foot like a naughty child. “You are a long way from home.” He observes to Jason as he is being wheeled to the MRI machine.

 

The observation jolts something in Jason. It is only years of training in the league that stops him from panicking. “How can you tell?”

 

“Your accent. It’s a mix of American and Middle Eastern, depending on your words.”

 

This man is very observant and normally, Jason would panic but there’s something calming about him. His accent was different from everyone around him when he woke up in the pit. It wasn’t until Talia told him where he was from he realised he spoke like Americans.

Time with the league also shaped it, but he’s been working hard to lose the Middle Eastern accent since he left the league. He must have let his guard down for this man if it’s showing again after so long.

 

“I guess you can say that. My family moved around a lot but we mostly lived in those two places.” Jason lies. He hopes it comes out believably. Lying is one art he never learned. He doesn’t even know why he’s trying to justify his accents to this man, or why he cares.

 

But Alfred is not done prodding. “Why did you choose to settle down in England?”

 

“I attended med school in Oxford University. I guess it became my home after that.” Another lie. After medical school, he tried to leave England and build a life elsewhere but during his time as a doctor without border, he had a few close calls with Ra’s assassins and had to return to London. England is the one country Ra’s doesn’t have a strong hold. It’s why Talia sent him here in the first place, and as long as he stayed out of the public eye, he is safe.

 

“I know what you mean.” Alfred nods, still watching him eerily. “This used to be home, but it has not been that for over forty years. I still have family here but I’ve built another one across the pond.” He gives Jason a little smile that looks a little sad. “What about you? Do you have family here?”

 

He shakes his head, thinking about his mom and brother that he hasn’t seen in years. “Mine is across the pond too.”

 

Jason thinks there’s a sheen of tears in Alfred’s eyes as he helps him into the machine to scan him but it could be the reflection of the light.

 

There’s just something about this old man that seems very familiar. He’s been getting flashes of memories since his second death, nothing he can make sense of and it never bothered him but as he watches Alfred in the MRI machine, he can’t help but wish he could remember his life before his first death.

Chapter Text

If you are reading this on another site or app that isn't AO3, this work has been stolen and posted without permission. If the site or app has ads, is monetized, or required a fee, you have been scammed. If a site or app claims to provide offline reading, AO3 already allows fics to be downloaded for offline viewing.

#

It is almost midday by the time Jason is done with Alfred. Turns out, the elderly man has suffered a fracture in his femoral neck and needed surgery. Of course, Jason was ready to have the surgery almost immediately, but his patient insisted on waiting till later in the evening. He had left the man and his niece alone to debate the issue, while he got some food and rest himself. He hadn’t slept in almost forty eight hours, and while it wasn’t the longest he’d gone without sleep, he didn’t want to take chances with the health of his patients.

The cafeteria is filled with both hospital staff and patients’ families when he enters. After getting his food he joins his friends, Amy, Grant and Stevens at their usual table. “Hey, guys.” He greets the three of them at the table, as he pulls out the fourth seat for himself.

“Hey!” They all return his greeting.

“I thought you were gone?” Stephen asks.

Jason shrugs. “Had a new patient come in just as I was about to leave. He’s scheduled for surgery later this evening, so I’m staying till then.” He looks at Amy. “Isn’t your shift over?”

She shrugs a dainty shoulder. “I’m filling in for Edward. He has a family thing.”

They continue their conversation as they have their meal, Stephen is telling them about a patient he had this morning when he feels a nudge from Amy’s elbow. “Your phone’s ringing.

She says, staring at the phone he placed on the table when he sat down. True to her words, it is ringing silently. Dread creeps up his spine when he sees the caller id.

“Let me guess,” Grant says in an amused tone. “Your mum?”

He’s not wrong, but Jason’s response is a glare. Instead of replying Grant, he swipes the receive call option with an attitude of a man about to face a firing squad.

“Hey, mom.” He starts in Arabic, ready to apologize before she can get any word in but she doesn’t give him a chance.

“Jason.” Her tone alone, is enough to shut him up.

“I was attending to a patient when you called earlier. That’s why I couldn’t take your call.”

“And how do you explain the three days before that? If you think you are too busy to answer your calls, then you leave me no choice but to assign guards to you.”

Jason almost snorts at that, like she doesn’t already have her people keeping an eye on him. He has reason to believe that one of the nurses that works at the hospital is her spy, but he’s not supposed to know that so he doesn’t call her on it. Besides, distance is not a hindrance when Talia Al Ghul decides he needs his ass handed to him.

He pushes his seat back, standing up from the lunch table to get some privacy for the rest of the call. “Mom, I’m fine, I promise. I’ve just been busy lately.”

“How do I know that when you don’t call or answer your calls?” Talia asks. It makes Jason pause because, not because Talia doesn’t show emotions to him—she’s been letting her emotions show where he’s concerned since he died. She has been different since he woke up to her red rimmed eyes and tear stained face eight years ago, but this is a different. It makes him wonder what is going on at home.

“Don’t you trust the training you’ve invested in me?” He asks, trying to lighten the mood.

“Habibi, it is not you I don’t trust.”

“I’m sorry, mom.” He apologises again. “I’ll try to always keep in touch.”

“How have you been since we last spoke?” She asks, changing the subject.

Since he left the league, he spoke with Talia almost every day. At first it was to make sure he was settling in well, but later it became to ensure Ra’s hasn’t found him and strapped him to a laboratory bed somewhere. Because of that, they’ve gotten even very close over the years. She’s his best friend and there is almost nothing he cannot talk to her about.

He tells her about his patients, his friends, the places he’s visited and Amy’s attempts to set him up on a date. Talia is thrilled that he has people in his life, and she hasn’t said anything, but he knows she wants him to give one of the people Amy sets him up with a chance.

He doesn’t tell her about his peculiar patient. He tells himself he doesn’t want to worry her, but he’s not sure why, which is strange because he never keeps secrets from his mom.

“Damian has received the painting you sent him,” She tells him when he’s done. “It’s one of his favorite artists.”

“I know. He’s been following his work for years.” Jason tells her.

“An art auction is not where I thought I would ever find you, is all.”

“Hey, I’ll let you know I am cultured.” Jason says in a snooty tone. “A friend of mine has just opened an art gallery. I got it at the opening.”

“Good to know you cultured friends.” She teases.

“You haven’t sent me a picture this month.” He informs her.

“That will change tomorrow.” Talia says softly. “Perhaps, soon you would not have to rely on a photograph to see your brother.”

He’s taken aback by her words. He has to look around him to make sure no one is eavesdropping. “Something I should know, mom?” He asks through the emotions clogging his throat.

“We will talk some more soon, Habibi.” Talia tells him and promptly hangs up.

Is Damian coming to visit him or stay with him permanently? Or maybe Jason is finally going home, though that seems less likely. Mom always complains about Damian’s lifestyle and how he lacks proper adult supervision in his life.
She told him once that his little brother is one of those costumed superheroes running around and she has her hands full, fending off assassins, but from the league and the league’s enemies, because Damian’s father couldn’t be bothered to take the necessary steps to keep him safe.

Jason hates the idea of child superheroes, it’s not different from child soldiers and there is a reason laws exist against them. Children should be protected and kept safe, not burdened with the safety of the world. They shouldn’t be asked to risk their lives for the safety of others. He couldn’t understand why a father would allow his prepubescent son wear tights and fight crime.

Jason remembers when Talia had first introduced them as brothers. Tiny Damian had looked down his nose at Jason, despite the height difference, given him and once over and promptly dismissed him. He’d told his mother that Jason was not an Al Ghul and an incompetent warrior at best, so he was not worthy to be Damian’s brother. Besides, his grandfather had already told him Jason is a league assassin, not his equal.

Jason, for all his lack of memories, could not let the insult stand, and took every chance he had to antagonize the entitled little prick after that. It had taken a while, but somehow, Damian had come around and finally accepted Jason as his brother.

He’s more than a little shaken after the call, and can’t stop thinking about what his mom might have meant, but tries to shake off the feeling before returning to his friends.

“You know,” Grant says when he sits down. “You could tell her you can take care of yourself. You’re practically a man. No need to call the police any day she doesn’t hear from you.”

Jason looks him straight in the eye with a blank stare. “You want me to give you the phone the next time she calls?” He asks. “You can tell her that yourself.” He takes satisfaction in the way the blood drains from his face while Stephen and Amy snigger.

“Oh god,” Amy laughs. “He may just pee his pants.”

“I don’t even understand arabic, but the tone of her voice alone is fucking scary.” Stephen shudders.

He has had to suffer teasing from his friends since they knew he calls his mom every day. They’ve never met her, but they have been present on several different occasions when she was angry with him and scolded him over the phone. Stephen is right, Talia is scary. He doesn’t mind though, he knows they don’t do it to be mean. Besides, it’s better to have a parent who loves you too much, than not enough. He knows that first hand.

A few minutes later, he ready to return to the doctor’s lounge to get some shut eye but Amy requests for a consult.

“What do you need a consult from me for? You’re in the clinic today.” He asks her. The clinic is mostly to handle simple and uncomplicated patients. Most of them don’t need surgery.

“Oh, it’s not for my patient.” She tells him. “The consult is for her son. She’s schizophrenic and a single mother. Her son is fifteen at best, even though he’s claiming to be eighteen. I just want you to talk to him.”

“Why don’t you do it? I have to rest before my surgery.” He grumbles.

“You know I’m useless when it comes to dealing with kids, but they have no problems opening up to you and I really need someone that can get through to this kid.”

“That’s because I care,” He tells her with an eye roll but he still follows her out of the cafeteria.

 

*****

 

Nightwing grins at Batgirl as they finish rounding up the last of the goons. There had been a mass Arkham breakout earlier in the week and the Bats have been busy working to find all prisoners that broke out before they did too much damage to Gotham. It had been a busy few days, but it looks like they had finally gotten the last of them.

“Think you can wait for the GPD?” Batgirls asks, from where she’s leaning beside a wall. “If I leave now, I can still get some shut eye before my shift at the clinic. Leslie will have my hide if I’m late again this week.”

Dick grins. “She riding you hard, huh?”

“Like a drill sergeant.” She says, grinning at him. “Apparently, ‘I was busy saving Gotham last night’ is not a valid reason for a nurse to be late to work. I made a commitment to my patients and colleagues, and I have to honor it.”

Stephanie has just started work at Gotham Central as a nurse. She’s following in her mom’s footsteps and Dick couldn’t be more proud of her.

“I’ve got this.” He gestures for her to go. No need to keep her waiting with him when the hard work is practically done.

He remains until the police arrive to collect the guys they’ve captured, and heads to the cave. With Alfred taking a vacation to England and the Arkham breakout, it has been quite the few days. Thankfully, Alfred should be on the next flight out and Gotham will have a few slow nights with all the rogues back in Arkham.

He checks on the rest of his siblings on his comm, but only Cass and Bruce are still out. Tim broke his leg when he didn’t stick the landing while falling off a story building during a fight earlier in the week and Damian has returned early.
The cave is empty, except for Tim, who is busy working on old cases.

“Shouldn’t you be staying off that leg?” He asks Tim, who only nods to acknowledge his presence.

“I’m off it,” Tim gestures to the chair he’s sitting on, not bothering to look at him. “How was patrol?”

“Okay, we caught the last of Two Face’s goons.”

Dick quickly strips out of his Nightwing uniform and takes a shower before checking his phone for messages while he was out. He frowns when he sees a message from Alfred. It’s a short message. A name.

“Dr Jason Head.”

The first name gives Dick a pause, his eyes flicking to the display case at the side of the cave, momentarily. He has never been able to look at someone with the first name Jason the same way since he lost his brother.

Well, he thinks, if Alfred is sending him the name of a doctor, it must be for a reason. He calls Alfred back to find out his reason, but there’s no answer. His flight must have taken off.

Dick settles himself in front of one of the computers in the cave and decides to do a little research on Dr Head.

After about an hour of research, he has only the barest knowledge of Dr Head. Graduated from Oxford University, top five in his class, worked as a doctor without border for a year and published a paper that was featured in the Journal of Trauma, Critical Care and Acute Care Surgery. He couldn’t even get a photograph of Dr Head anywhere.

“This is serious.” Dick exclaims. How hard could it be to get information on a medical doctor?

“What’s serious?” Tim asks, stretching over to see his screen.

“This doctor I’m researching.” He explains to Tim why he’s investigating the guy. “Maybe he didn’t really attend Oxford?” He suggests when he’s done.

“I think I’ve come across that name before," Tim tells him. “Remember when Bruce needed surgery two years ago after he broke his spine, and Alfred had to call in a friend from Oxford?” He asks Dick, at his nod, Tim continues. “Well, the guy kept talking about one of his students, Jason Head, that was supposed to make the trip with him but he had to cancel last minute. Sounded very proud of the guy.”

Dick pauses. “So, he went to Oxford, but he’s practically a ghost.” He complains but before Tim can respond, a Bruce interrupts.

“Who went to Oxford?” Bruce asks, standing behind them and staring at the computer, still dressed in his suit. Dick doesn’t even know when he returned from patrol.

They caught Bruce up on the work, and Bruce is unnaturally still as he listens. When they’re done, he speaks up.

“Alfred is in the hospital.” Bruce says. “His neice called to inform me. He broke his hips and needs surgery. This Dr Head must be his doctor.”

“Did she tell you the hospital he was taken to?” Tim asks.

“London Memorial Hospital.”

Tim immediately gets on it, while Bruce takes a seat, not even bothering to change out of his uniform. Now that they have a starting point, it’s easier to get information. From his employee files at the hospital, they got his address and other personal details about Dr Head.

From his finances, he looks like someone that would run in the same circles with Bruce and Tim. He comes from old money but he’s also a hard worker, which showed from his grades and reports from his professors. He was orphaned at nine when his mother died of cancer, and his father was killed in a robbery incident two years before that. He moved for a few years after that, before returning to London for college.

Despite all of this, they couldn’t get a clear picture of Dr Head. His graduation picture from college and a passport photograph from his employee file were all they could find. It’s almost like he went out of his way to avoid having his photograph taken.

There is just something off about Dr Head that made it hard to drop the case. Everything they found about him, just made Dick want to dig in some more. It didn’t help that most of the information they found on him were buried under encrypted files. Despite how picture perfect the guy seemed from a glance, Dick knew there was more to him.

If he is Alfred’s doctor, they couldn’t take any chances with him. Alfred must have agreed with them if he wanted the doctor looked into. They lost track of time during their investigations. A couple of hours after dawn, they were still debating and investigating Dr Head when Damian walked into the cave.

“Father, I know you said—” Damian started only to cut himself off. When Dick looked back at him questioningly, wondering what stopped Damian, he finds his little brother staring wide eyed and pale at the enlarged picture of Dr Head on the computer screen.

Chapter Text

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#

Digging into Dr Head’s life unearths memories for Bruce that he has worked very hard to bury when he buried his son. Jason as a first name is common enough that he almost doesn’t notice it until they discover even more details about Dr Head’s early life. The parallels between his early life and Bruce’s son’s is hard to miss and Bruce can’t help but wonder what his Jason would have been up to now if he had been allowed to grow into the adult that Bruce hoped he would be when he adopted the orphan from Crime Alley.

He can easily imagine his Jason as a doctor. Jason would have been a great doctor. Or even a lawyer, or an engineer, or even CEO of Wayne Enterprises. Jason would have excelled at any path he chose academically, because he was always very happy to learn. If only he’d had the chance to achieve his dreams.

The picture only served to reinforce the memories. As blurry as they are, it’s easy to look at the blurry features and imagine Jason’s face.

Bruce has to consciously push the thoughts away, and look at the situation as a detective and not a grieving father. It has been twelve years, and he is better at compartmentalization. No need to let himself be distracted by memories.

Bruce’s head whips up to see what had cut the rest of Damian’s speech. It is rare that Damian lets it show that he’s been ruffled by something that isn’t an animal in distress, and he has told his youngest many times that his pets are not welcome in the cave but without Alfred to reinforce the rules, finding one of Damian’s many pets in the cave wouldn’t be the first rule he has broken this week.

Bruce is already half preparing himself for the fallout that will undoubtedly follow if one of the pets have been harmed, but when he turns to look at Damian, he finds the teenagers staring wide eyed at the picture of the current person of interest to the family of vigilantes.

“Damian?” He calls worriedly, mind already going through the different reasons why his son has a reaction to Dr Head.

Damian tears his eyes away from the photograph to look at his father but he doesn’t move any closer. “What are you doing?” He asks.

Before Bruce can answer, Dick speaks up. “Do you know who he is?”

At that, Damian walks further into the cave, closer to where they are huddled together, investigating the life of Jason Head. “Who is he?” Damian asks, instead of answering the question.

As Dick explains Alfred’s accident and the message that has prompted them into looking into the doctor’s life (and he doesn’t want to question Alfred’s choice to give Dick this case when he could have easily given it to Bruce in the first place), Bruce watches Damian. The distress that was there when he first came in has eased, he looks calm and collected now.

“You looked like you’ve seen a ghost,” Tim comments after Dick is done catching Damian up with how far they’ve come. “Have you come across him before?”

Damian’s gaze flickers from Tim to the screen with the blurry, enlarged class photo on the screen. “He looks like one of Ra’s assassins.” Damian says. “The features are not clear but from a glance, they look alike.”

Bruce sees Dick shift in his seat and he knows he’s not the only one who notes just how reluctant Damian is to talk about his life in the league. When Damian had first come to live with Bruce eight years ago, mentioning anything about Ra’s or the league in his presence was the quickest way to get stabbed.

The little eight year old child had been a little ball of anger and grief. At first, Bruce honestly thought it was because he preferred life with in the league where he didn’t his position as Ra’s heir was threatened but Damian had shut that down fast, even though he never spoke about what was bothering him. He’d just assumed something had happened to traumatize the child and left it at that.

“Why would Ra’s assassin be working in a hospital?” Tim asks. “I didn’t know he has a base in London. Do you think planning something?” The last question is directed at Bruce but Damian answers anyway.

“He does not have a stronghold in London, and it is impossible that this doctor works for grandfather.” Damian tells him confidently.

“Why do you say that?” Bruce asks.

He looks at Bruce before taking another glance at the picture. “Because he is dead. Ra’s had him executed for insubordination.”

“Maybe he brought him back,” Tim offers, unwilling to let it drop. “If everyone thinks he’s dead, he’ll be the person guy to send for an undercover mission. No one will see him coming.”

The glare Damian sends Tim could have melted the skin off his bones. “Like grandfather would ever allow anyone who is not him access to the pits, let alone an assassin. Unless he has discovered a way to revive a person from their ashes using the Lazarus pit, then that too is impossible, seeing as how he was cremated.”

“At least we can rule out the league.” Dick says, sounding relieved.

“We’ll have to have Alfred transferred home as soon as he’s safe to travel.” Bruce tells his children. He doesn’t want to have Alfred at the mercy of this unknown doctor. “You wanted something?” He asks Damian.

“Yes. I am heading out to join the titans for a few days.” Damian informs him.

He thinks about refusing him permission, the boy has hardly spent any time at him in the last month, but Damian hardly has any friends his age outside of other superhero sidekicks. He would let him go, and calls him back if he doesn’t return before Alfred does so they can all get some time together as a family. With Dick, Cassandra and Tim off living in their own apartments, they hardly spend time together as a family outside their costumes.

He hears his bones pop when he rises from his seat to change out of his costume. It has been a long week and his body is protesting the lack of rest. After changing, he herds Dick and Tim upstairs to get some sleep. They can continue looking into Dr Head’s life when they are sufficiently rested.

 

*****

 

The decision to go to San Francisco was made on the spur of the moment. He had gone to father with the intention to revisit their discussions about his studies, but he had not expected to find his father and brother digging through what looks to be the life of his dead brother. Not acknowledging the real relationship between him and who he believes to be the man in the picture before him on the other hand, was deliberate.

The topic of Jason had always been a sore one since his death, and not just because Damian regrets not stopping his grandfather when the mad decided Jason was no longer useful to his cause. Damian regrets not paying his last respects to his brother by being present for his funeral. He regrets letting mother talk him out of it; one of the many crimes he would never forgive her.

Damian knew something had happened to Jason during his last mission with the league. Despite his brother’s attempts to shield Damian from the horrors of the real world they lived in, Jason could not hide it. Damian had seen the signs, and he had feared for his brother’s safety. It was only a matter of time before something truly damning happened, and if it hadn’t been Ra’s who struck the final blow, it would have been someone else.

Something had happened in the weeks before his death that made Jason believe he deserved to die, and if Damian could see it, then their mother should have seen it too. Damian would never forgive her for waiting until Jason died to leave the league.

Damian is not stupid. Despite his attempts at wilful ignorance, there has always been a part of him that suspected his father’s dead Robin and his dead brother may be one and the same person. Even though he never spoke to them about his late brother, he had listened with feigned disinterest on the rare occasions they talked about the dead Robin. He has seen a picture of him in Richard’s bedroom and he would recognise his brother anywhere, at any age.

But father’s Robin is dead, and Damian had met Jason before the pit and before Ra’s banned anyone from ever mentioning anything about Jason’s past. Jason hadn’t been dead when he was brought to the league. Bruce had recovered his son’s remains from the rumble of the warehouse Robin had gone to confront the joker and they’d buried him in Gotham. If his grandfather had robbed his Robin’s grave, his father would have known.

Or that’s how Damian convinced himself Jason could not be the dead Robin.

He has heard the words they said about the dead Robin and he refuses to have his memories of Jason tainted with their memories of Robin. There could be other explanations for why they both look identical, but even if they were one and the same people, Jason and Robin lived in two different lifetimes and now they are both dead, so it doesn’t matter one way or another.

Except there is a man, the same age Jason would be if Ra’s hadn’t run his blade through Jason’s throat, who bears the same first name as his brother and the last name as his mother. A man who has built a life for himself in London, coincidentally, the same location where Damian has traced the last present mother sent him.

What were the chances that Dr Jason Cater Head is Damian’s elder brother, who he was forced to watch die eight years ago and the same Robin his father buried twelve years ago?

That is the question running through Damian’s mind as quickly writes down the information he read off the cave computer about Dr Head on a sheet of paper, so he doesn’t forget it. He pack a few clothes and his costume in a bag, checks to make sure he has enough cash and and calls a cab to take him to the airport, just in case father is monitoring the calls.

He thinks about calling mother, but promptly dismisses the thought.

Once he arrives at the airport, he finds a secluded area and calls for Superboy. Jon arrives almost instantly.

“What’s up?” Jon asks, grinning. He takes a look around where they are. “What are you doing here? Are you going somewhere? I thought your dad wanted you to spend more time at home?”

Damian sighs. Jon is a dear friend but he could do without all the chattering. “I need you to take me to London.” He says, and he can see the boy is about to go off on a tangent again, so he raises a hand to stop the words before they escape. “Alfred has been in an accident. I wish to pay him a visit. You are familiar with Alfred’s heartbeat, yes?”

Jon pauses to consider Damian’s words. “Yeah, I am. Are we coming back today? I don’t think Dad would let me spend the night in London.”

“You only have to drop me off, I will take a commercial flight back, or call you when I am ready to leave.” Damian offers.

“But what if something comes up and you get into trouble?” Jon asks. Damian is torn between being touch and annoyed that Jon thinks he needs him to help him if he does get into trouble.

“Then I’ll call for you.”

Jon takes a few minutes to find Alfred’s heartbeat before they take off in its direction. It wouldn’t be difficult to find Jason when he gets there. If there is a chance his brother is still alive, Damian will do whatever it takes to find him.

 

*****

 

“It is only a sprain, Master Jason.” Jason feels the phantom touch on his ankle. “As long as you keep your weight off the foot, it should heal nicely.”

“Okay,” Jason can hear the relief in his voice. He moves to rise from the hospital bed. “Thanks, Alfie.”

“By that, I meant stay off it, Master Jason.” Comes the scolding, but Jason has already gone off.

Jason gets a kick to the gut that sends him flying towards the other end of the mat. It serves to break his line of thought and bring him back to the present.

His sparring partner (more like teacher) of the day stands straight as Jason picks himself off the ground. “We are done for the today.” He tells Jason. “You are obviously distracted. Deal with it before our session tomorrow or I will inform your mother of your decline.” His teacher warns.

Despite practically shoving him into civilian life, his mom had not relented in his training. Every other day, he trains with a teacher of her choosing who comes to train him at home and when he can get away for a few days, she sends him to a new teacher.

Jason wants to protest but his phone lets out a beep to indicate he has a message from the hospital. Upon checking the time, he finds he has a couple of hours left before his shift starts. He nods absently to his teacher and goes to the elevator that will take him directly to his penthouse suit.

He has mixed feelings about showing up at the hospital today, chief of which is because he’s not sure he’s ready to face Alfred. Since he woke up from the dream that is so obviously a memory of his past life, Jason has been reviewing his meeting with his latest patient. He should have realized that the man’s reaction was not the usual one he’s used to getting from patients.

It’s a lapse in judgement that could have cost Jason his life, and he’s been trained better. His observational skills have been honed through years of looking over his shoulder. Sure, the memory indicate that they got on very well in his past life if Jason had a nickname for Alfred while he was obviously in a position of author over the elderly man but that doesn’t explain how Jason came to be with the league. Things may have changed, the man could be a hostile force. He never should have let his guard down like that.

Jason still doesn’t know the circumstances surrounding his death before the league and Ra’s had made talking about Jason’s past a taboo, but that does not explain where his family was when the league took him. It is only one of the reasons he didn’t bother looking them up after he left the league.

The elevator doors open and he steps into his apartment. He spares a moment to admire the enlarged portrait of his mom— Catherine, not Talia. His memory of Catherine had been the first of many he ever recovered after Ra’s had killed him.

He’d dreamed that night of a woman running her hands through his hair as he laid in her lap, tears running down her face as she alternates between apologizing to him and begging him not to die. At first he’d thought it was Talia. It painted a similar picture of the one he woke up to after his execution but Talia had never used the word Baby in all the time he’d known her. That had been his first clue.

A few days after the recurring dream, he’d confided in Talia. After some investigations, Talia had brought the information he could find about the woman in Jason’s dreams and Jason’s new identity.

A few years later, while in college, Jason had visited an amusement park with some friends from college. The sight of a clown there had left Jason in a shock that had his friends freaking out so badly, his friends had to call Talia.

She’d made one of her rare trips to visit Jason and that was the day Jason found out how he died and the fact that he may have been sold out to a mad man dressed as a clown by his biological mother, who was also in the warehouse and was killed by the explosion. It turns out, Talia had found out Sheila was working with the clown who had killed her and Jason when she was searching for information on Jason’s mother.

That was the day Jason accepted Talia as his mother, and for weeks after that, Jason suffered terrible nightmares about the demented laughter of a madman and being hit by a crowbar.

The beeping of his phone distracts Jason from his trip down memory lane. Another glance shows it’s a message from Amy, telling him his presence was needed. He sighs. If Amy’s trying to unload her responsibilities on him, he’ll have to turn her down. He has enough to deal with as it is, without adding hers. Besides, if Alfred turns out to be somebody dangerous, Jason may have to move. It won’t be wise to take in more patients only to leave them hanging.

He calls her, planning to let her know he can’t help her but before he can get a word in, she talks over him. “Your little brother is here.” She says, urgently.

Jason’s mind screeches to a halt. Jason only has one little brother and as far as he knows, Damian believes he’s dead. He thinks back to his call yesterday with Talia, but promptly dismisses it. If his mom was sending Damian to him, she’d inform Jason first. “What are you talking about?” He asks.

“I’m staring at a guy that matches the description of your little brother,” Amy says. “I don’t know what he’s doing or why he’s here but he’s trying to blend in with the patients’ families.”

The wording makes Jason wonder if he’s missed something about Amy. If that person in the hospital is really Damian, his training would have made blending in easier. Amy shouldn’t be able to pick him apart from a crowd. She has seen pictures of Damian before that that's not enough to recognize him when he's obviously trying to keep a low profile. He doesn’t say what he’s thinking though. “Take me a picture of him if you can and send it to me. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

If that person in the hospital is really Jason’s little brother, then something else must be going on. He wonders for a moment if Alfred has anything to do it. Jason wouldn’t be surprised. It’s too much of a coincidence to dismiss.

He only hopes there’s no storm coming, but when has Jason ever been that lucky?

Chapter Text

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#

Damian has been in the hospital for about an hour, during which time he has had to duck and hide from Julia, Pennyworth's niece twice to avoid answering questions he doesn't have answers to, and gotten himself a stalker, before he lays his eyes on Jason.

He is embarrassed to admit that he didn't immediately notice when the blonde doctor began following him around until he noticed her watching him as she talks into her cellphone, but in his defense, he didn't expect to be recognized.

He's dressed to be as inconspicuous as possible, and grandfather does not have a strong hold in London. Although, that does not excuse the lapse in judgement, because he should have expected something like this if he was investigating his elder brother.

If Jason really is alive, then someone must have helped him get away from the league and brought him to London. They are bound to have loyalists around.

Damian considers going into one of the changing rooms and snatching a spare pair of scrubs to help him blend in further, but that would just call more attention to his young looks. Instead, he puts the stealth training Father has drilled in him to good use.

Getting away from the Dr is easy, and avoiding Pennyworth and Julia, now that she knows where the man's ward is is even easier.

He has wandered over to the pediatric ward, watching as the children find entertainment in their insipid toys, wondering what it must be like to grow up like they do when he hears the announcement being made to the entire hospital. Something about an accident.

The information Richard and father found on Head states that he's a trauma surgeon, so if he's not here yet, he should be on his way, thanks to the current emergency. Damian is grateful he doesn't have to wait all day to find who he's looking for.

He immediately makes his way to the emergency entrance of the hospital. The closer he gets, the louder the sounds of the siren. He arrives just in time to see the paramedics pull one of the accident victims from the back of the ambulance, onto a stretcher. He bleeding and has what is clearly a rod sticking out of his torso.

There's chaos all around as the doctors take the patients into the hospital, clearly moving towards the operating theater.

In the midst of the chaos, one of the doctors is barking out orders to a group of people, who Damian guesses are m interns, as they scramble to do his bidding.

It is the voice that gets Damian's attention.

When Damian was younger, that voice used to read to him, despite Damian's protests that he was too to old to be treated like a child. Jason and Damian had spent the day visiting the city, where Jason had bought copies of Harry Potter book series and Lord of the Rings.

Up until then, Damian had never bother with. Reading for pleasure. He'd always considered it a waste of his time, but Jason had spent the next month reading to him every night before bed, until he began sneaking off to read the books himself. Jason never made fun of him when he caught Damian hiding to read the books.

Hearing the same voice bark out try to calm his patient while figuring out the best possible way to remove the rod and still save his patient's life was almost too much for Damian.

By the time Jason turns to confirm what he already knew, he could barely hold himself back from launching himself across the hall and pulling his brother into a hug. Right now, he cares little for how Jason is alive, eight years after his death. A weight Damian doesn't know he's been carrying since he saw Jason's picture in the cave disappears and he feels like he can finally breathe properly for the first time in a long time.

Instead, Damian exercises some self control and wait until a life isn't hanging in the balance, just as he knows Jason would have told him to, if he knew what Damian was thinking.

As the patient is wheeled towards the OR, Damian takes a moment to be proud of his brother. Jason has always wanted to help others. Even when he was fresh from the pit with no idea who he was, he could not stand to see others in pain or in need without stepping in.

It was considered a weaknesses in the league, and Ra's tried very hard to train that particular trait out of him. Even Damian, himself had thought Jason weak because of it. But the subsequent years showed Damian that being kind requires a kind of strength few people have.

Damian is very proud to know that Jason has not lost that strength, despot all that Ra's put him through.

He follows Jason as closely as he can until he can't anymore. He'll have to wait until Jason is out of surgery.

He is grinning widely when he steps out of the hospital to go find other sources of distraction while Jason is busy. Hopefully, father is still in the dark about his whereabouts.

After a couple of hours, he entertains the thought of going to Jason's apartment to wait for him, but he doesn't want to risk tripping an alarm. Who knows what surprises his brother has for intruders?

 

*****

It doesn't take long before he arrives at the hospital after Amy's call. After a quick shower, he had to skip his meal because he was really curious about who Amy saw.

By the time Jason arrives at the hospital, he checks his phone for the picture of the young man Amy should have sent but there was none. When he finds Amy later, she claims to have lost sight of the boy.

That should have made Jason relax, but it doesn't. It's exactly what he would have expected from the brat in the first place. He's about to haul Amy into an empty supply closet to find out who she's working for when the page comes. With the guilty look she gives him, they both know it's not over.

They both rush to the emergency entrance where the ambulances are.

“I'll scrub in with you,” Amy offers as he takes one of the patients but he cuts her off.

“Don't bother.” He's not going to risk his patient's life becausr Amy wants to assuage her guilt. Instead, he focuses on his interns and prepping his patient for surgery.

He's been feeling the telltale sign of being watched since he began attending to his patient but he's so focused on his work, it's not until the elevator is about to close that he spots his little brother across the hall. He's not even sure the boy sees and the sight takes his breath away. His little brother all grown up.

Looks like Amy was right about seeing his brother. But that just leaves more mysteries. Why is Damian in London? And who is Amy working for? In the past year that they have been friends, Jason has treated Amy like a sister and opened up about himself to her. How could he not have noticed that she wasn't a civilian?

The surgery lasted a few hours and Jason is exhausted by the time he's done but his patient is out of the woods, so he's happy. Right now, he has a brother to find.

He has just stepped out of the OR, and he's contemplating if he should call his mom now and inform her about the latest developments or wait until he has more information when Amy blocks his path.

“Jason, can we talk?” Amy asks.

Jason can feel the slow rise if anger in his belly and he knows the best thing to do now is to excuse himself from the situation until he can get himself under control. “I don't have the time for a chat right now, Dr Ward,” He tells her with a bland look on his face.

“So it's Dr Ward now?” She asks, sounding hurt, even as she reaches out to place a hand on his arm. “You won't even give me the chance to explain myself?”

“At least you're not trying to play innocent,” He shrugs her hand away. “And I'm sure you have a perfectly good reason for spying on me. I just hope it was worth it because when I'm done here, I'm coming for you.”

“I haven't been spying on you!” She exclaims. Her voice attracts the attention of a few people close to them and she pulls him into a supply closet. “I stopped spying on you a couple of months after we met. I told your mom I couldn't report to her anymore because we were friends and friends don't do that. You can ask her yourself.”

“And my mom let you walk away from your assignment?” He scoffs. “Yeah, I'll believe that when I see it.”

“You can ask her yourself.” She reiterates. Her hands are to her side and she's trying to appear non threatening.

Knowing she works for Talia helps a little. Jason knows Talia has spies watching him, he just never thought his friends were among them. Of course, there's still a chance that she's lying but Jason will deal with that when they're both out of the hospital. No need to attract undue attention. “Who else is there? Among our friends?”

“It's just me, as far as I know.” At his nod, she continues. “I'll cover the rest of your shift for you and check on your post-op patients. You can go look for your brother.”

He's not okay with her, but he leaves, mostly because he's avoiding going into Alfred's room. The dream he had last night is still fresh in his head, despite all he's dealing with today and he needs to clear his head before time for training today, or mom will hear of it.

Talia's mole nurse is standing by a gurney when Jason steps out into the hallway, pretending to be clearing it out. He ignores her as he goes to search for his little brother.

He finds Damian coming out of the doctor's lounge. Jason doesn't even want to know how he got in there or why he was there. If the boy hasn't been slacking in his training since Jason last saw him, then he knows there's no place his brother can't get in with sufficient motivation.

They both stop in their tracks to watch each other, like they're sizing the other person. Jason doesn't know who moves first, but one second they were watching each other, the next they're in each other's arms, hugging the other tightly, and unwilling to let go.

His brother has grown from the tiny brat in Jason's memories and he has filled out his form, although he's still not as tall or bulky as Jason.

“Damian,” Jason chokes out. He doesn't even realize he's crying but he's not the only one because he can feel the dampness of Damian's tears where his face is buried in Jason's neck.

“Brother,” Damian squeezes hard one more time before they pull apart to grin at each other again. Both their eyes are damp and Jason still can't tell if his little brother hasn't noticed or just doesn't care that he's showing emotions in public.

Almost as if he's reading his mind, his brother glances around them at the people watching the interaction before turning back to Jason. Heading the silent command, Jason puts his hand on his shoulder and guides him out of the hospital and towards his car.

The ride home is silent. Damian doesn't make any attempt at a conversation and Jason doesn't push. He parks in the underground garage, taking pride in the appreciative glance his brother gives the other cars in garage. As they ride the private elevator up to the penthouse, Jason can see the gears turning in Damian's head. His brother hasn't changed since the last time they saw each other and he knows what is coming.

The moment the elevator doors open, Jason walks ahead, leading the way into the living room. He's barely taken too steps in when he ducks down, narrowly avoiding the strike in the back of his head but Damian strikes out with his foot, nearly tripping him. The boy clearly has experience fighting against people with bulk.

Jason twists his legs around Damian's and uses the force of his attack to flip him and throw him to the other side of the room. His brother lands a few feet from the coffee table. He grabs the knife under it and sends it sailing towards Jason, before he recovers from dodging the knife, his brother is on him.

His new fighting pattern is one Jason is familiar with. They go at it for a few minutes until Jason decides to put an end to it when a case flies dangerously close to the television.

“That's enough,” Jason warns, pinning him to the carpet. But Damian jabs his ribs, right on the spot where he's most ticklish and his hold loosens enough for Damian to slip it.

He follows it a kick but Jason is prepared for it. He grabs the leg and throws him back in the ground. “You've never beaten me and I doubt that's going to change today.”

Damian growls and tries to free himself but Jason takes both his hands in his and presses on of his knees right on his gut until his relaxes into Jason's hold and stops moving, then he releases him.

“I'm fine if you want to continue this,” Jason tells him as he moves to the fridge to get two ice packs. He tosses one Damian who's looking around the apartment. He picks it up and applies it to the back of his head. “But we should move down to the basement. That way, less things get destroyed.”

Damian glares at him. His fingers are playing with the legs of a side stool. There's a gun strapped to the underside of it but Jason isn't worried. Damian has never had a taste for guns. He doubts that has changed. Jason doesn't too, but it's always better to have options if an intruder ever makes it into his home.

“Have you been here all this time?” Damian asks.

“Pretty much.” Jason shrugs, “The better question is, what are you doing here. I doubt mom knows you're here.”

He follows Jason into the kitchen and takes a seat on the island as he starts preparing diner for both of them. “Of course mother knows you are alive. Nice to know I am the only one you two choose to keep things from.”

“Dami, we didn't keep it from you because we didn't trust you,”

“No, you did because you see me as a child in need of protection.” Damian growls. “Is this what you do? Fake your death when things get hard so you can start afresh somewhere new? I could have helped you get out of grandfather's clutches if you wanted. I had no more love for him than you did.”

“Fake my death?” He growls. “You were there, Dami. Did any of it look fake to you?”

There's a flush of embarrassment on his cheek even though he doesn't apologize. “Then how are you here?”

“How does anything happen? How do you think I came to the league?” Jason sighs and continues his work. “Why are you here Damian? Not that I'm not happy to see you, but few people know I exist.”

“I found evidence that you may be alive and decided to investigate.”

“Alfred?” Damian's flinch is all the confirmation he needs. “Who is he?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Don't play dumb with me. I know I knew him from before the league but that doesn't explain why you're here.”

“He is father's help.”

Jason's eyes widen. “Your father?” Damian nods. Huh. “I guess that explains why Ra's forbad anyone from mentioning anything about my past.”

“But if we share a father why mother didn't just take you back to him like she did with me?” Damian asks. “Why did she wait until you paid for it with your life to leave grandfather?”

“Why does mother do anything?” He snorts.

Jason has a few theories but he keeps them to himself. The love-hate relationship between Ra's and Batman is no secret in the league. As much as Ra's respects Batman, if he can force Jason into his service because Talia used the pit on him, not caring about the consequences if Batman found out, then Talia may have been up to something when she said he would not be enough to protect Jason if Ra's discovered he didn't stay dead.

But telling Damian his mom thinks his father can't protect Jason is just looking for trouble. Damian believes his father walks on water. Ra's will have to issue kidnapping Jason from Batman if he thinks the risk is worth the reward and Jason is not ready to t test that theory. He enjoys being a free man.

He may be a free man in exile, but better to be exiled than to be strapped in a lab and experimented on.

There's many questions he wants answers to but for now, he'll focus on the time he has with his brother. “So, Robin, huh?” He asks with a smirk.

He makes vegan lasagna for dinner. As they eat and catch up, Jason thinks about the day he's had and the things yet to come in the not so distant future. He's not going to bury his head in the cloud and hope someone won't notice Damian is gone or won't track him straight to Jason's doorstep. The question is, who will find them first?

He's going to have to move.

Jason wishes he wasn't right when he said a storm was coming. He knows he should call Talia and inform her right away, but his best friend is her spy and he's mad at her, so he feels a justified for giving her the silent treatment today. He'll talk to her tomorrow.

They settle on the couch after dinner to watch a movie until it was time for Jason's training. That night, Damian forgoes the bed in the guest room, choosing instead to sleep in Jason's room.

 

*****

The days after their reunion were some of the best days Damian has had in a long while.

Jason takes a leave of absence from work, and they spend their free time visiting tourist attractions in London.

For all that Damian gets to travel frequently due to his work as a superhero, he hardly gets the chance to see the sights in the places he visits. It's part of the added attraction of being with his elder brother. It reminds him of their time in the league, when they both sneak out of the compound to visit the town for hours.

Jason has never been one to sit still. He is always in constant motion and after he was done going through most of the books in the library at the compound, it didn't take long until he was itching to see the outside world.

Always in search of one adventure or another.

Damian couldn't tell if it was the lack of memory that made him curious or if it has always been inbred.

As they visited Jason's favorite places in London, Damian felt like he could close his eyes and pretend the last eight years hadn't happened but then he opens his eyes and the pale scar that stretches the expanse of Jason's neck disabuses him of the notion.

Jason's garage is filled with a line up of beautiful cars that any car lover would covet and he even allowed Damian take the wheel from the on their way back from the zoo. He didn't try to be patronizing like Richard or condescending like Drake like Damian questioned some of the zoo attendees about their methods of caring for the animals.

It had been two nights since he left Gotham. Damian knows he is running out of time before father discovers what he has done and declares a manhunt.

There is no way he is leaving London without Jason and he has yet to convince him.

“Alfred has been discharged,” Jason says, coming to join Damian on the couch where he is tutoring Damian on how to play Playstation. “He's being transferred to the US.”

“Sounds exactly like what you'd expect of father.” Damian mutters.

“Hmm. Control freak?”

“With a healthy dose of paranoia. Although, with what we deal with everyday, he is justified.” Damian tells him. “Or maybe he just wants to get Pennyworth as far away from you as possible until he is done investigating you.”

“I really don't care what he does. It's not like I'll still be here then.”

Damian startles at that. “Are you planning to move again?”

Jason fixes him with an unimpressed look. “Dami, I'm compromised. Of course I'm leaving. When your dad is done gathering his information, he'll come for me. How long until I have Ra's on my doorstep, do you think? I can't stay here.”

“Then come with me. Let us return to Gotham together and father will protect you.”

“You want me to seek asylum from Batman?” His elder brother scoffs. “Yeah, I'll pass.”

“He's your father, you won't be seeking asylum. You wouldn't have to ask. The moment he discovers you're alive, he will do all in his power to protect you.” Jason isn't even an assassin anymore. He works to save lives. That, more than anything will make father proud. They will not have the same issues Damian had when he first met father.

“You mean the same way he's protecting you? The same way he protected me?”

He knew Jason had his reservation about Damian being Robin, even when he never said it but this was the first time he ever made any allusions to his death. It knocks the breath out of Damian like he has been punched.

“That is not fair. Robin was my decision.”

His brother is even more unimpressed. “You were what? Ten? It's called child endangerment. The fact that one kid already died because of it should be enough reason to put at end to it.”

Damian can feel the telltale burn in his eyes and he wants to scream. He knew it wouldn't be easy but he did not account for Jason to dismiss father so totally. He's grateful when Jason rises from his place on the couch.

“I'm going to call mom and inform her about this.” He says as he walks away.

Later that night, after he is woken up by Jason's fussing due to nightmares, they lay awake, staring at the ceiling in silence.

“What really happened?” He asks when he realizes Jason won't be the one to break the silence.

“Huh?”

“Before your death.”

“Which one?”

Damian can't help but cringe. “You were suicidal before the incident with Ra's. I know something happened or you would not have submitted yourself so freely to Ra's will. What happened?”

“If I told you, my death would have been in vain then.” He deflects, but Damian is used to him so he waits patiently until Jason turns on his side to face him.

“A team had been sent in earlier to take out the target. She was Ra's ally until things went south between them.” His voice was low and raspy from sleep. “It was successful but her husband. So Ra's sent me to finish the job. Ra's set him up to look guilty, so after my investigation, I had no problem with the mission.”

“You killed an innocent?” Damian asks in a horrified voice. Even during his time in the league, he'd always known how important it was to Jason to make sure there were no civilian casualties or innocents caught in the crossfire.

“Not quite. He had a baby. The mother was functionally immortal and there's a high chance the kid will be too. Turns out, the baby has been Ra's target all along. The guy killed himself but not before he made me swear I would protect his baby and keep it safe.” Jason sighs. “When I wouldn't tell Ra's where I stashed the kid, he took it out on me.”

“That's why you can't let him find you,” Damian says as realization struck him. “Because one way or another, he will get what he wants from you.”

“I got the mercy of a quick death the first time, but apparently, death likes playing grab and release with me

Before he can comment on that, he feels a shift in the atmosphere and Jason jumps out of the bed.

“That's a silent alarm,” He answers Damian's unasked question even as he copies Jason's move. . “The security has been breached

Chapter Text

If you are reading this on another site or app that isn't AO3, this work has been stolen and posted without permission. If the site or app has ads, is monetized, or required a fee, you have been scammed. If a site or app claims to provide offline reading, AO3 already allows fics to be downloaded for offline viewing.

#

Jason has lived in this penthouse for over a year. Before he moved in, Talia had made sure the security was top notch and for that reason, it is impossible for anyone to gain access to the building without Jason being aware of it, whether he is home or not. Most intruders aren’t even aware of half the security measures he has in place, and that is his saving grace when he goes to check on the security feed, only to find that the dummy cameras have been looped by the intruders.

At first, Jason thought his unwanted visitor is Amy, coming to plead her case in person because he’s been ignoring her calls. Or maybe she’s coming over to show the true content of her character. But the main security cameras with the silent alarms show a group of black clad people clinging to the shadows as they surround the building. Some of them are already on the roof, most likely dropped by a jet.

“That is not father or Nightwing,” Damian says, coming to stand beside him as they observe Jason’s unwanted visitors. “Those are league assassins. How did they know where to find us?” He continues. Jason can hear the worry in his tone despite his attempt to appear brave. “Do you think they followed me here?”

“They’re not just league assassins, Damian. These are Nyssa’s assassins,” Jason recognises a couple of them from the way they walk. He’s met them more than a few times not to recognize them anywhere. He doesn’t know why Nyssa’s men are coming to pay him a visit. The last time he checked, Talia and Nyssa were on civil terms but he’s curious to find out.

He pushes away from the screen to check on his phone in case there’s a message he missed from Talia. No message.

“Did you call Batman?” He asks Damian as he throws his closet doors open to change into his armor.

“No, I did not. I even left my tracker behind, but I would not be surprised he is still able to track me down after two days.” He is copying Jason’s move to change and get ready for a confrontation. “How long until they breach the apartment?”

“The guys on the roof? Five minutes max. the windows are reinforced but it won’t hold for very long.” Jason makes a quick work of his armor and weapons before setting the bed to look like he’s still on it before picking up the burner phone in his emergency bag.

He is about to dial Talia’s private line and inform him of his guests when he sees a message already waiting for him.

It’s in code, warning him to be careful and watch his back. Jason growls.

Talia chooses now to be cryptic. What the hell does that even mean? Jason has been on the run for eight years, he’s always had to watch his back. The message is three days old.

He tries calling her but it goes unanswered.

He turns to watch Damian as the boy changes into his Robin costume. Three days ago, Talia promised him he won’t have to rely on photographs to see his little brother anymore. But he also remembers the worry she tried to mask in her voice when she scolded him for missing their daily check ins.

It may be a coincidence, but it’s too convenient but there’s also a chance that they tailed Damian to his doorstep.

Just to be on the safe side, he changes into the armor with a hood large enough to cover most of his face and his face mask. No point giving his existence away if they’re not aware of it.

“Have you heard of anything unrest in the league?” He asks Damian.

“I have not, but my information flow has been cut off since I went off the grid.”

Jason agrees. Talia has only been on the fringe of the league for years now, mainly to have a finger in the pulse of their activities but she has the loyalty of most of the league assassins than Nyssa does. There is no way this visit is friendly. Talia will never reveal Jason’s existence to Nyssa and if she thinks using Talia’s children as blackmail will get her to co-operate, then she is sorely mistaken.

Jason and Damian are already positioned in the living room and cleared out all the weapons that could easily be found by an opponent during a fight before about twenty assassins file into the apartment.

After that, all hell break loose.

The ensuing battle only lasts a few minutes. Damian, Jason notes, is taking the non-lethal approach. Not that he minds. Although Jason has no issues with killing, years of being Ra’s assassin and even more years working to save lives makes him take the non-lethal route if he can help it.

He will kill a predator to save future victims, every single time, but he knows it’s not an easy choice to make. Taking a life and living with the consequences isn’t something everyone can handle. He remembers his first kill. The only thing that got him through it is the children he saved that day.

He is the one who talked Talia into letting Damian grow up and decide for himself if that is the burden he can bear. If he can take a life and still walk away from it whole and intact.

Jason’s living room has blood splashes all over by the time he runs his blade through the heart of the one trying to attack Damian from behind. He takes a moment to observe the extent of the damage. His paintings and photographs survived the carnage. Good. he won’t have to hunt Nyssa down.

“Are you injured?” He asks his little brother. Inspecting him for any sign of bleeding.

“I’m fine.” Damian shakes him off. “We have to evacuate before their reinforcement arrives.”

“We will,” Jason looks around. Most of them are bleeding, some are passed out and one of them is very dead. He picks up one who’s arm has been cut off but he’s still conscious. “As soon as I find out what they want.”

He’s poised to start his interrogation when he sees the shadow enter his house through the same hole the assassins created. It’s bigger that Nyssa’s operatives and moves almost silently. If Jason wasn’t so in tune with his living space, he would never have noticed the presence. The big shadow is closely followed by two smaller ones and they all do well to stay in the shadows and away from the ray of moonlight streaking into the apartment.

He pushes away from the assassin immediately, almost blinded by the sudden ache in his head. He draws him the dagger from the assassin’s side and throws it towards where the shadows are hurdled together.

It’s caught by the smallest of them.

“Akhi, please refrain from further stupidity. I know you recognize who they are.” Damian warns him, as he turns the light on in the room.

Of course, he knows who they are. Bruce Wayne, also known as Batman. Richard Grayson, aka Nightwing and Cassandra Cain, aka Black Bat. He knows all about them. Damian’s family and Jason’s alleged former family but he’s not touching that with a ten-foot pole.

When Jason turns to look at Damian, he’s standing tall and proud and he makes no move to leave Jason’s side, despite his gaze being pinned on their uninvited guests. “Hello, Father. I see you found me”

“Robin,” Batman growls. “What is this.”

“What does it look like?” Jason wants to ask him, but he almost can’t get a word in with the way his head is pounding. It feels like his head is about to explode, so he resorts to observing.

“We had an attack from Nyssa’s operatives.” Damian tells his father stiffly. “How did you find us? I was careful.”

“Are you here to pick up your lost bird?” Jason wants to ask them. “If that’s what you came for, you should do it now and stop wasting my time. I need to blow this popsicle stand.”

He needs this people out of his house and life as fast as possible, so he can find his mom and find out what the hell is going on.

As Damian and Batman talk at the side, the other two, Nightwing and Black Bat join him to restrain the assassins still conscious. After that, Nightwing sets out to observe the apartment, while Black Bat stands back to observe everyone. Nightwing is paused in front of Catherine’s photograph and the sight makes Jason very uncomfortable.

He wants to do something, throw something, start a fight. Anything. But he can’t because these people are Damian family and hurting them will also hurt Damian.

If there is one thing he will never do, it’s hurt his little brother.

To distract himself from his uninvited guest and the almost blinding headache, he matches up to the vigilante and pulls the photograph off its hanger on the wall. He’s taking it with him where he goes anyway. Jason busies himself by gathering everything he plans to keep from his apartment.

Nightwing doesn’t say anything, just moves silently to the smaller framed photographs on the mantle.

“—mean to tell me you do not recognize your own son?” He hears Damian say at the same moment Nightwing exclaims. “Oh my God! It’s Jason.”

Batman goes even more rigid and Black Bat looks intrigued now.

“Little wing?” Nightwing breathes, taking a step in Jason’s direction. Lifts the blade he tucked into his side to stop Nightwing’s approach. “Is that really you? How are you alive.”

“What the fuck, Damian?” Jason asks when Damian stumps up to him and pulls his hood back, shoving him away when he attempts to remove the mask.

“How did you find us if you had no idea who he is?” Damian asks them.

“Talia sent us the address,” Nightwing says. “Facial recognition was inconclusive.”

“You talked to my mom?” Jason asks.

“You were dead,” Batman says with a grimace.

“And now I’m not.” Jason tells him. “What is this about my mom?”

“She is not your mother.” Nightwing says.

“Excuse me?”

“I mean, I don’t know what she told you but Talia is not your mother.” Nightwing explains, helpfully.

In that moment, the pain that has been building in the back of Jason’s skull picks it up a notch, but Jason doesn’t feel it. Not with the way his vision goes green and the rage of the Lazarus pit rushes through him.

“Get out.” Jason says. He doesn’t know if it’s surprise at his words or the flatness of his voice that keep them rooted to their spot but he doesn’t care. He wants them gone. “Now” He reiterates. “Right now.”

“Little wing—”

“Get out of my house. I will not repeat myself.”

“Jason—” Batman starts.

“Who the fuck do you think you are to tell me who my family is or isn’t?”

“Look, I’m sorry, okay? But she knew you’ve been alive all these years and she kept you from us.”

“I don’t know who you think I was to you, but make no mistakes. I’m not anywhere I don’t want to be.”

“Either way, you’re coming with us,” Batman tells him.

Jason scoffs. “You have a lot of nerve, all of you.”

“Akhi please,” Damian turns pleading eyes on him. “You need to come with us. You cannot stay here and we can protect you.”

“I can protect myself. What I need to do is find mom and get to the bottom of whatever the fuck is going on.”

“Mother gave them your address. She knows father would never leave you behind.” The bats are watching the exchange quietly. When Jason doesn’t budge, Damian continues in a much softer voice than he thought the kid could manage. “What is your plan then? To leave me behind like you did before, so that we may never see each other again? Will you continue to have mother play middle man or will you cut off all contact this time?”

Jason’s head ache too much to continue this argument, so he glares at him for a moment and sighs. He wants to call Talia but he doesn’t want to talk to her while Batman and his brood are listening. “Fuck you, kid.” He says but it lacks any heat and his brother’s answering smile says he knows he’s won.

Jason turns his attention towards interrogating

It’s not like they can keep him against his will if the new conditions aren’t to his liking.

Instead, he focuses his attention on the assassin he wants to interrogate. To Jason’s annoyance, the man spills his guts once he takes a good look at Batman’s scowling face.

It turns out they had gotten word that Alfred was in London and Nyssa had put a couple of operatives on his tail. She needed something to hold over Talia, and they knew she would never let any harm come to the old man. That is, until his accident and the trip to the hospital had uncovered the truth of the Bastard Prince’s existence.

Jason is so angry, he can barely hold himself from killing the guy on the spot. But he’s just a messenger. Instead, he leaves Batman to deal with the assassins. He calls up the spies he knows Talia planted in his building to inform them of the latest development before he readies himself to move out.

Nightwing and Black Bat help him clear out his shelves and arrange his books into the boxes assigned for them, while Jason handles the weapons displayed on the walls.

If he’s going to leave his house on Batman’s terms, he’s taking everything he can with him. If that means they have to haul multiple boxes with them, then so be it.

Damian and Batman are helping out with his clothes, even though Jason knows Batman is only using the opportunity to spy on him. Or maybe he just wants to grill Damian about Jason some more. Either way, Jason doesn’t care. This is basically a civilian apartment. Batman will find nothing useful.

“Do you really need to carry all these books and pictures with you?” Nightwing asks although he doesn’t look like he minds the work. In fact, he’s looking very cheerful for someone Jason had just threatened to kill.

“I’m going to need something to distract me from putting a bullet through your skull when you run your mouth too much.” Jason tells him.

Jason gets a joyful laugh for his trouble. This man is a lunatic, but as long as he doesn’t try to put his hand on Jason, he couldn’t care less.

They’re still packing a few minutes later when Amy stumbles through the door.

Between the headache Jason is already nursing and the Lazarus pit rage he’s barely starving off, Jason has her by the throat against a wall before anyone can move.

“You have a lot of nerve showing your face here.” Jason tells her as she claws at his hands. It takes Nightwing and Black Bat to pull him away from her when her face starts turning blue.

Amy falls to the ground, coughing and gasping for breath, even as the commotion attracts Batman and Robin’s attention from the other room. She doesn’t even fight Nightwing when he starts disarming her.

“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t start peeling your skin off your bones.” Jason derives some pleasure in the subtle flinch Batman gives at his words.

That seems like the wrong thing to say to Amy though, because she looks up from her place on the blood-stained ground to glare at Jason.

“You know what? Fuck you, Jason!” Amy growls, getting up to her feet. She takes a glance at the vigilantes surrounding her before dismissing them. “I’ve given you your space these last few days to talk to your mother and get over your anger. I only came tonight because these guys were at the hospital tonight and I thought you’d need backup but I see I wasted my time.”

It’s Damian that answers her though. “It is very convenient that we are attacked only a few days after it was discovered that you have been a league operative.” He sneered.

At the revelation, the bats look ready to launch themselves at her.

“You think if I was working for the league, I would have waited two years to betray your brother? Or that I would blow my cover for something so trivial?” Amy asks, hurt clear on her face as she turns to Jason. “Can we talk? Privately.”

Almost everyone in the room objects, but Jason agrees to talk with her. They owe each other that much.

Jason has thought about it and on some level, he cannot believe Amy would betray him like that. Like she said, she had many chances to blindside him and they’ve been through too much together. He trusts his instincts even to give her a chance to explain herself.

He is not even very mad at Talia anymore. Not with a possible uprising at the league and the fact that she needs him, wherever she is. Besides, he always knew she had her spies watching him.

That knowledge softens something inside him and he feels the effects of the pit receding, for the first time that evening since Nightwing opened his mouth.

They go inside his spare bedroom, to give themselves the illusion of privacy despite the door being wide open.

“So, spill.” He prompts without ceremony.

“Look, I get that you’re mad, okay. You have every reason to be, but we weren’t friends when Mistress Talia assigned me to this mission. Being friends with you was never part of the plan. But I’m not sorry for doing the task that my mistress assigned to me.” Amy sighs. “I owe my life to Lady Talia. Everything that I am, I owe it to her. You don’t know where I was before she found me. After all she has done for me, all that she asked in return is that I keep her child safe. I can’t fault a mother for wanting to protect her child and it was the least I could do to show my appreciation.

“So, you know how hard it was to return to her and tell her I will not continue to give her reports on you but the most surprising part is when she agreed to let me stay here and continue to be your friend. Of course, she made it clear what would happen if I betrayed you but I would never betray you, Jason. You are my best friend in the whole world. I will do everything in my power to protect you.

When I saw your brother at the hospital the other day, I knew I had to tell you immediately. I don’t know why he was there without you, but it was something I felt you should be made aware of.”

Jason nods. He’s been watching her closely, and he cannot detect any trace of lies in her words. “So how did you know I was under attack today?”

“I spotted a couple of these guys—” she gestures to the assassins in the other room —“crawling around the hospital earlier, and then Nurse Nicole engaged two of them behind Joe’s bar. She’s a mole by the way, if you’re wondering. I figured if they were there, it was safe to say they know where to find you. Thought you qouls appreciate the backup, even if you clearly don’t need iit.”

“Damn right I didn’t.”

“I would never betray you.” She tells him seriously. “You’re my best friend in the whole worldI don’t expect you to forgive me, Jason.” She says softly. “But know that I’m on your side.”

After that, everything goes much smoothly, at least some things did. After a little deliberation, Jason convinces Batman to allow Talia’s operatives take the captured assassins in for more interrogation. This isn’t a simple issue that they can turn in to the police. If it is allowed to fester, it will only return to haunt Jason and Damian. Especially now, when Talia has deigned to ignore his calls on both their communication lines.

A few minutes later, he is boarding the batplane. Damian doesn’t think Amy deserves his forgiveness despite Jason’s best attempts at explaining things to him. Batman doesn’t too but Jason doesn’t care about their opinions.

“I’ll send you the address to ship my cars when I’m settled.” Jason informs her.

“If I don’t hear from you, I’m hunting you down.” She threatens, pulling him into a tight hug.

~*~

 

Between Richard’s hovering, Cain’s watchful eye and Father’s best impression of a stone statue, it doesn’t take long for Jason to get agitated. Damian is very sure that if he were to take off Jason’s mask right now, he would find his blue eyes tinged with the offensive green of the Lazarus pit.

This is not how the reunion between Jason and the family is supposed to go. But Nyssa’s operatives chose to attack at the most inopportune time, having father walk in to the scene minutes after Jason had just killed. And now father is doing his best to disengage from the situation.

Damian can see his emotions— the joy of discovering the son he buried over a decade ago is alive, and the disappointment that said son has been inducted in the ways of the league— battling for dominance within father. He knows father will take it as a personal failing, one more in the long list of ways he failed. He will internalize his guilt and shut down. Damian has had the time to get used to that part of father’s behaviour, but he will be damned if he let father make Jason go through that.

For now, he rummages through Jason’s box of books, picks out the one book he knows his brother always goes back to for comfort: Pride and Prejudice. He cannot count how many times Jason read this book to him after Damian had a bad day, despite his arguments that he didn’t need comfort. Or how many times he found his elder brother curled up with the book after a mission. It’s the first work of fiction he ever read, and in the years since they have been separated, Damian has gone back to read the same book every time he missed his brother.

Handing Jason the book, Damian curls into his side, feeling the tension drain out of him as he holds the book to himself even though he doesn’t crack it open.

He can feel Richard and Cain’s eyes on him all the while, but he ignores them. It is not a fight, and he is not picking a side. He is merely giving his brother the comfort he so obviously needs, especially when he is obviously struggling with the effects of the pit.

“This is the worst idea you have ever come up with,” His brother informs him.

“You may have gotten off to a rough start, but father will come around.” Damian reassures him. “He needs time to process what he is feeling.” Not that Damian will let him take too long. Jason needs to feel welcomed in other to stay in Gotham, and he will ensure father welcomes him.

“I shouldn’t have let you talk me into coming with you. Being suspended in air, inside a pressurized container with Batman’s judgy stares and Nightwing’s everything is a terrible idea.”

“No one is judging you. You may not remember him but Grayson is your brother and until a few days ago, we all believed you were dead,” Damian informs him quietly. “Can you blame him for not containing his joy at seeing you alive?”

“Not even you are naïve enough to think they’re not being judgemental. Not that I care. But if he says one more thing about mom, I’m going to throw him out of this jet.”

“Richard is not very fond of mother, but I’m sure he will not make the same mistakes again.”

“As long as he keeps his opinion to himself.” Jason responds, clutching his book tighter with one hand, while he pulls Damian closer to him with the hand not holding the book.

They remain like that until Damian notices father watching them. Father turns back into the cockpit, beckoning Damian over with a subtle nod once he has Damian’s attention.

“Is everything okay with him?” Father asks, the moment Damian joins him.

“I’m sure he will tell you if you ask him.” Damian points out. When father continues to stare at him expectantly, he answers. “The events of the evening are bringing up bad memories, but nothing he cannot deal with.”

Father grunts as a response, giving the empty sky more attention than it deserves. Damian is about to walk away, when he speaks up again. “You said Ra’s had him executed for insubordination.” Father says, referencing what Damian said when he’d first found his family investigating his brother in the cave.

“I did,” He says, wondering where father is going with this line of questioning.

“Did Talia put him in the pit?”

“You should ask mother or Jason how he is alive. I do not believe that information is mine to share.” He doesn’t give father the opportunity to answer, before he excuses himself from father’s presence.

When he returns to Jason, he finds that Cain has decided to introduce herself and Richard is only a few inches separated from the pair. They appear to be talking about the plot of the book in his hand, and he has lost even more of the tension in his body, even with his mask firmly in place. Damian is not surprised though. Cain always knows how to get others to relax in her presence.

The rest of the plane ride goes by peacefully.

That is, until just before the plane lands and a distress signal arrives from the cave. It makes everyone in the jet alert immediately, as the father guides the jet to it’s resting place.

Damian does his best to ignore the suspicious gaze father and Richard send Jason’s way. Jason would never betray father. Not when he knows Damian may be caught up in the crossfire. But father and Richard do not know that.

It has been twelve years, after all. The child the clown killed at fifteen is not the same man standing before his father and brother currently.

Once the jet lands, everyone make their way hastily inside the cave. Jason follows at a more sedate pace, but does pull up the hood of his jacket to cover what is exposed of his face.

After all he has discovered in the past few days and the night they just had, Damian expects to find the cave under attack from grandfather or Nyssa’s assassins. What he did not expect, however, is the sight of mother lounging on a seat, as she ignores Drake and Brown.

They all look grateful to see the rest of the team back, even though mother’s eyes quickly move past them. He knows who she’s searching for. Jason is taking his time catching up to them.

Damian does not know whether to be relieved or not at the sight of her. Their relationship in the past few years have been tenuous when he blamed her for Jason’s death. He still doesn’t forgive her for keeping them apart, but he has had a few days to think about her actions and admit to himself that he would have done the same in her position.

“Damian,” Mother acknowledges him with a soft smile.

He takes the necessary steps to close the distance between them and lets her press a kiss to his forehead like she used to do when he was younger. He presses a kiss on her cheek. “Mother,” He returns.

“Talia,” Father growls, breaking the moment. He is poised for a fight. “Why are you here?”

“My son is returning home today,” Mother says flatly. “Did you really think I would not be here to welcome him?”

“You have a lot of nerve sowing your face here after you kidnapped—” Richard starts, but he stops the moment Jason comes into view.

Everyone in the cave is staring at him, even Richard and father, who have been sharing an enclosed space with him for ten hours. Drake’s face is almost red with flush and Damian barely stops himself from snorting.

Jason for his part takes a quick glance at his surrounding before his eyes rest on mother. From his spot beside her, Damian doesn’t notice any change the way she holds herself, but he knows she must be worried that Jason would turn his back on her when the truth of her deception comes out. After all, she has kept him isolated for eight years when he has a family that could have protected him.

Jason makes his way past everyone, walking until he stops before mother. He pulls the hood off his face to reveal the thick black hair with bleached white roots in front. “I’ve been calling you.”

Even Damian can hear the petulant tone under the voice filtration of his mask. Mother’s fond look and soft smile would have triggered his jealousy if he were younger. Back when they were still with the league and he was convinced his mother loved the nobody more than him.

But that was a long time ago and Damian has grown in his understanding that his mother loves both her children equally.

Mother runs her hands through Jason’s hair, unlatching his mask as she does so to reveal his face. “Much better,” She smiles, pulling Jason down to kiss his forehead like she did Damian. Jason’s eyes still have a ring of green around his pupils, but it’s not as bad as Damian had suspected it was in the batwing. “My activities and communication networks were under surveillance,” Mother said, not quite apologetically. “It is why I sent your father to retrieve you.”

“I’m capable of getting out of dodge on my own, you know.” Jason says with a scowl, even as he leans into mother’s touch. “I don’t need an evac team for that.”

“And would you have left your brother to find his way home or take him with you while you are being hunted by league operatives?” Mother scolded.

“I already convinced him to return home with me before we were set upon by Nyssa’s assassins.” Damian informs them. He takes offence at the insinuation that he could not have gotten Jason home safely.

“And I am proud of you, my son.” Mother smiles at him.

Despite his best efforts, Damian couldn’t stop the furious blush that heats up his face. It has been a long time since mother told him she is proud of him.

“Are you well, Habibi?” Mother asks Jason quietly. His brother closes his eyes for a moment, takes a deep breath before nodding. Mother doesn’t look convinced, but before she can say anything further, their family reunion is broken by father’s voice.

“Talia.” Father says with obvious disapproval. He sounds impatient and does not appreciate being ignored.

Mother doesn’t quite smile, but she looks very smug and satisfied as she answers. “Beloved.”

Damian takes that as his cue to excuse himself. He’d rather not witness his parents fighting because it always leaves him feeling uneasy. Even when he was angry at her and didn’t want to talk to her, he never wanted to see his mother and father go at each other’s vulnerabilities.

 

~*~

 

The receding pain of the headache and Lazarus pit rage returns with a vengeance the moment Batman and Talia decided to tear into each other. He’s not even sure they’re still aware of his presence or their audience.

Jason can hardly look anywhere in the batcave without feeling like someone is taking a crowbar to his head. He doesn’t want to be here. He wants to get out of his place and run as far away from it and the people in it as he can go. But that will not only mean leaving his mother and his brother behind, it will also endanger them too because Jason knows there isn’t a place in the world he can go that his family will not follow.

With the current climate at the league, it’s better to stay where he can be assured of both his and his family’s safety.

Damian has disappeared into one of the doors and Black Bat followed shortly after. Jason can’t follow. He is aware of how private and sacred this place is. He doesn’t want to taint that by wandering carelessly around.

To distract himself, he turns his attention to Timothy Drake, aka Red Robin, who has not looked away from him since he entered and Talia unmasked him. His foot is heavily bandaged, and his standing with the aid of a crutch.

“Should you be on that foot?” Jason asks. It comes out harsher than he meant but he doesn't take it back.

“I’m not on it.” Drake says, shaking the crutch under his arm.

The reply annoys Jason so much. He’s no stranger to difficult patients but right now he doesn’t have the patience to deal with this one. “I’m sure that’s not what your doctor meant when they told you to stay off it.”

Jason wants to get a closer examination of the leg, but at this point, he doesn’t think it’s the best thing to do. The argument between Batman and Talia has been steadily rising in volume, with Grayson's voice joining in occasionally.

The glass case with the Robin costume in it catches his attention, so he decides to check it out. The glass case is cracked in several places, like someone tried very hard to break it. There’s a line on the ground that suggests it was moved very recently. Probably by whoever tried to break it.

“You manipulated him and kept him away from his family for twelve years!” Batman roars.

“I took care of him and gave him a home,” Talia yells back in his face. “You should go on your knees and thank me that I let you see him.”

“By endangering his life? Is that what I should thank you for? For turning him into a murderer and getting him killed?”

“At least I was there for him when he woke up. Where were you when your son crawled his way out of the grave your actions put him in?” Talia asks. “What were you doing, Beloved? Beside building him a shrine and dressing up his replacement in the same suit he died in?”

As his mom speaks, Jason’s eyes drop to the plaque on the display case.

JASON TODD, it reads. A GOOD SOLDIER.

Jason knows who that is, or who it’s supposed to be. Just because he actively avoided anything from his past doesn’t mean he’s not aware of them.

He can hear the sound of blood rushing in his ears as the Lazarus pit within his rises in full force. He turns to the people around him, although he’s not sure why. He turns around, just in time to see Batman raise his fist to strike Talia.

Jason is moving before he can think about it. That Batman aborts the action halfway is irrelevant because Jason is already on him. The pit within him howls loudly as he tackles Batman to the ground and delivering a series of punches to the Bat’s face before hands haul him off.

He struggles out of their grasps and is about to launch himself at Batman again when Talia appears in front of him. It takes him a few moments to hear and understand the words she is saying.

“Jason.” She calls out firmly, cradling his face in her hands so he can focus on her. “I am fine, Habibi. It's okay.”

“Fuck him!” Jason growls. “How dare he raise a hand to you? I'm not staying here.” He informs her. He will not live with a man who raises a hand to his mom. It doesn't matter to him that Talia can take it. This isn't a combat situation and Batman should have better.

“He would never hit me, Jason. Not even when I pushed him to it.”

Jason isn't convinced but he let her attend to his bruised knuckles. His headache has only grown worse and the pit doesn't feel like it will be receding soon.

Damian has come out of hiding and is fretting silently beside Jason. Across from him, Grayson is tending to Batman.

Stephanie Brown is beside them, exclaiming ‘holy shit’ repeatedly under her breath, looking between Jason and Batman.

Jason is only half paying attention to his surroundings when Batman removes his cowl so Grayson can tend to his injuries better.

Jason has seen pictures of Bruce Wayne. He has seen videos too and has read the league's file on him.

But at the sight of the man without his cowl on, a few feet across from Jason, something deep inside him clicks into place. He's stumbling forward before he can think twice about it. Distantly, he thinks he can hear a voice that sounds like his own, but the pain in his head gets too overwhelming for him to bear.

There's a dark trail of blood from his nose but before he can do anything about it, the world goes black.

Chapter Text

If you are reading this on another site or app that isn't AO3, this work has been stolen and posted without permission. If the site or app has ads, is monetized, or required a fee, you have been scammed. If a site or app claims to provide offline reading, AO3 already allows fics to be downloaded for offline viewing.

#

Bruce’s first thought when he received the London address from Talia was to dismiss it as a trap or a ploy to lure him back into her games, despite the fact that she has been ignoring him for most of the decade.

But Damian had been missing for almost two days and all attempts to locate him proved futile. Whether he purposefully went off grid or he was being held hostage, Bruce couldn’t tell but whoever had Damian was careful enough to anticipate Batman’s every move. The parallels between this current debacle and the incident that cost him his son over twelve years ago was causing him to break out in hives.

Bruce is not sure he can handle losing another son. If he doesn’t get his son back in one piece, this may just be the straw that broke the Batman.

Once Superman came forward with a confession that Superboy had dropped Damian off at the same hospital Alfred was admitted in, Bruce called on his two best partners. He doesn’t know how this Jason Head character is involved in all this or why the League of Assassins think this is a good time to mess with his family, but he was ready to remind them why it’s a bad idea.

What he hadn’t anticipated, however, was finding the son he buried twelve years ago.

Hours after finding Jason and Damian in the bloody scene inside Jason’s London penthouse, Bruce’s mind is finally, slowly wrapping itself around what his eyes and brains have been trying to compute. And all it took was a mini beat down from the son he thought he had lost forever, while he had been too shocked to defend himself.

He curses himself for losing his self-control long enough to even entertain the thought of hitting Talia in front of his children, especially Jason and Damian. He knows Alfred will get word of this incident later, but right now, Bruce is only too grateful Alfred isn’t here to witness his disgraceful act.

As Dick tends to the bruises on his face, Bruce can’t help but compare this huge man with his son’s face to the little boy that had been Bruce’s son. Despite his obvious lack of memories, it seems some things haven’t changed at all about him. He remembers how Jason, during his Robin days, was always harsher to people who preyed on woman and children. The thought makes him smiles fondly, before another thought sobers him up. He never thought he’d be one of those people Jason hated so much.

Jason is ranting to Talia, while she tries to get him to calm down with Damian and Cassandra at his side. He looks pale and his eyes are getting greener by the minute. Bruce resolves to makes sure he is feeling better, as soon as he apologizes for this misstep.

Tim and Steph are at his side, having a conversation in low tone, but Bruce is too focused on Jason to give them any attention. He is so focused on his son, that he doesn’t notice when Dick

removes the cowl from his face. What he does notice, however, is the look of recognition that crosses Jason’s face in that moment.

“Bruce…?” Jason calls out in a small, very familiar voice. Nothing like the deep baritone he has been hearing all day. He pushes himself away from the chair he is leaning on, takes a trembling step towards him and almost makes an acquaintance the ground before he can do anything further.

Bruce is out of his seat in a heartbeat, ready to catch his son before he hits the ground but it’s Cassandra and Damian that stops him from hitting the ground, both of them sharing his weight as they lift him up to a nearby gurney.

After that, the cave descends into chaos as everyone crowds around Jason’s unconscious form, trying to deduce what the problem is.

“Everyone back off!” Stephanie orders. “Stop crowding and panicking around him and let me examine him. I’m the only person with the qualification to handle this situation after all.”

Talia looks ready to murder Stephanie, but Bruce places a hand on her shoulder to distract her. Stephanie is a certified nurse and she’s very good at her job.

A couple of hours later, with no definitive result about why Jason passed out, fingerprint and DNA has confirmed what they already know. Stephanie has left for work and Bruce has made the others go up to the manor.

He’s alone with Talia at Jason’s bedside. Bruce has never been so resentful and grateful to someone in his life. He wants to rage at Talia for keeping his son away from him, for robbing him off years of his son’s life but at the same time, he wants to go down on his knees and thank her.

Despite how far she led Jason astray from his teachings, his son grew up to be the kind of man Bruce knew he hoped be. She gave Jason a future Bruce thought he would never have again. For that, he is grateful.

He just can’t bring himself the ignore the cost.

“How dare you, Talia.” Bruce says, his voice low and frosty. “What gave you the right to decide I’m not fit to be in my son’s life?”

“It was never that simple,” Talia tells him, unmoved by his anger. “You have no idea the things I did to keep him safe.”

“There is nothing you did to keep him safe that I could not have done,” Bruce growls. “Why did you keep Jason even after you sent me Damian?”

“I have seen your definition of safety, Bruce. I have seen how safe you kept Damian. You will forgive me if I refuse to take that chance with Jason’s safety.”

“So, what? Damian is expendable but Jason is not?”

If looks could kill, Bruce would be dead three times over.

“Why don’t you tell me. Damian insists it isn’t his story to share.” Bruce says, almost pleading.

And tell him, Talia does. She tells him about her father’s men finding a brain damaged Jason wandering around Gotham. How her father had taken him to find out the secret of his resurrection, about putting him in the pit as a last-ditch effort to save him from whatever Ra’s planned to be his fate when he didn’t get what he was hoping for, and about her father turning him into an assassin as payment for using the pit when they discovered he had no memories of his life before.

Bruce learns about how Jason had hated working as an assassin, how much he defiled the orders he is given and how often he butted heads with Ra’s. He learns about the incident that brought everything to a head and how Ra’s had executed Jason when he wouldn’t budge on his conviction.

How Jason had been mysteriously revived again only a few minutes before he was taken away for his funeral and what length Talia has gone to keep him out of Ra’s clutches since then.

Bruce can’t tear his eyes away from the thin scar on Jason’s throat. To see the evidence of what Ra’s had done to his son. It’s like returning to the warehouse and finding it in rumbles all over again.

“Your meeting with Damian was always inevitable.” Talia tells him. “My father is aware of that. But Jason was dead, by my father’s hand. As far as he was concerned, his body has been burned to ashes. Do you know what would have happened if the person my father murdered was suddenly returned to Gotham? Without influence of the pit, no less.”

“I could have kept him safe from whatever plans Ra’s would have come up with,” Bruce insisted.

“You cannot even keep your children safe!” Talia yells, then lowers her voice to continue. “You left your son with the Joker and his ally. Is it any wonder he was dead before you returned from your mission?”

“Talia,” Bruce starts warningly. He doesn’t want to get into this again.

“What would you have done if I had returned him to you? Dress up in a new set of costume and send him out to continue your mission? You let your children run around with their little friends unsupervised, how long until my father gets his hands on him again?”

“I would have burned down everything he owns before I let Ra’s lay a hand on any of my children.” Bruce tells her darkly.

“And if you think my father does not have the resources to wage a war with you and your justice league, then you are a fool. I see you do not understand what it means that my father has lived a very long time. You think you are the first person he has been fixated on though the ages? You are not the first beloved, nor will you be the last. He lets you win your little fights because he enjoys playing his games with you. But make no mistakes, all that will be void if he believes the reward is worth the risk. Tell me, what is the one thing Ra’s al Ghul wants above all else?

“We know nothing about Jason’s physiology. Only that death is impermanent. The first time Jason was brought before my father, he was willingly to wait until Jason was well enough to tell us his secrets, but his recovery was too slow for my father. I put him in the pit to save him, but you see how well that turned out. You and I both know Jason will not receive the same consideration a second time.”

Bruce takes in all that Talia has told him. As much as he hates to admit it, he can see where she is coming from. Short of putting Jason in a glass cage, Bruce wouldn’t have been able to keep him out of Ra’s sight and that would have turned Jason against him faster than anything Ra’s could have done.

He’s not even sure he could have done what Talia did and sent Jason away, not even in the guise of getting an education in a foreign land.

“He recognized me.” Bruce says, half to change the topic and half because he is filled with a mix of elation and dread at this. Because as happy as he is that Jason recognized him, it doesn’t bode well for them if Jason is at risk of passing out every time he remembers something.

“He has been getting memories of his life before he encountered the league,” Talia runs a finger across Jason’s cheek. “Not often, sometimes only flashes. But it has been happening since his second resurrection.”

“Yeah?”

“He remembers Catherine Todd. That was the first thing he remembered. He thought I was her, for a moment,” She laughs softly, staring fondly at Jason.

In her eyes, he can see how much she loves Jason. He doesn’t know how he feels about this revelation but it eases something within him that Jason is not just a tool for her to use against him.

“He remembers the clown and the torture. Damian has informed me that he remembers Alfred.”

Bruce takes a moment to breathe through the panic that goes through him. Of all the things to remember, he wishes Jason wouldn’t have to deal with the Joker. “Did he really crawl out of his grave?”

“That is the conclusion we arrived at from the evidence available.”

Talia gives him a run down of the state Jason was in when he was taken to the league and placed in her care.

“Talia,” Bruce says, sincerely and solemnly. “Thank you for saving my son.”

“He is my son, too.”

"So if Ra's is all you say he is, how do you plan to keep him from coming after Jason?"

"Three years ago, Jason had a close call with some league assassins. There is no proof that they saw or even recognized Jason, but I put out a rumor that I created a clone of Jason and he escaped. Right now, my men are spreading word that the I have a lead his whereabouts and I am going after him. I do not know how long it will hold but I think long enough to resolve this issue."

"I heard about that rumor," Bruce told her. "They said your son turned against you and you decided to clone him. We thought it was about Damian."

Talia snorts. "Why would I need to clone Damian?"

"Well, the reports was that you'd gone crazy from losing your son. We were ready to fight you when you eventually came for him."

Talia's laugh brighter than Bruce has heard it in a long time.

 

~*~

 

Damian is transferring Jason’s boxes from the batwing to one of the available guest rooms—although his former bedroom still remains largely undisturbed, it’s too morbid to expect his brother to return to it. Damian will take him there later to see what memories it dredges up, but not live reside there.

There isn’t much to do and being idle is putting him on edge. It’s been a couple of hours since Jason has been unconscious and, in that time, Damian has visited Pennyworth and spent time with his pets.

Father and mother are in the cave with Jason, and whatever chastisement father has planned for him will have to wait until he is no longer distracted. So, he is keeping himself occupied with transferring his brother’s belongings.

Richard joins him on his second circuit while Drake hobbles after them when they get to the hallway leading to the room he has picked out for Jason. It is a few doors away from Damian’s room.

Damian knows they are not doing it simply to be helpful. He has been avoiding his brothers but his luck has to run out at some point.

With Richard lending a helping hand, they move the boxes in record time. Damian is stacking the boxes properly when Richard begins the conversation he has been bracing himself for.

“You okay, Little D?” His brother asks.

“Why shouldn’t I be?”

Richard shrugs. “We’re all worried about Jason but I know this must be hitting you especially hard.”

“Jason will be fine,” He glares at Richard. “Mother said so.”

“Still,” Richard insists, wrapping his arms around Damian in a hug. “Don’t bottle your emotions okay? We’re all in this together and we’re here for you.”

Damian doesn’t respond to the offer. Instead, he focuses his attention on the boxes, wondering how offended Jason would be when he woke up and found that Damian has touched his books. On the other hand, setting up Jason’s room will make him more likely to stay.

“So, you knew Jason before you came to Gotham?” Drake asks from his place on the bed, interrupting Damian’s thoughts. “You’ve known about him the entire time you’ve been living here.”

Damian spares him a glance. “What of it?”

“Why didn’t you ever say anything?” Richard asks.

At that, he takes a moment to observe both his brothers. “It was unnecessary to bring it up as I believed he was dead.”

“Is that why you were angry with your mother?” Drake asks, his eyes knowing.

Damian walks up to the bed and sits down on the other side. “I blamed her for his death and accused her of not protecting him when he needed it. Of course, she could have told me about her plans, but I understand why she didn’t.”

“Why didn’t you?” His eldest brother asks.

“Excuse me?”

“Looking back on the state you were in when you arrived, I can see how much you were hurting but why didn’t you say anything then?”

“By the time I realized Jason Todd, the dead Robin and the brother I grew up with were one and the same, I had no desire to talk to any one of you about him.” Damian wasn’t trying to be cruel, but he didn’t apologize when his words caused Richard to flinch.

Of course, he wasn’t going to tell them that mother cautioned him against talking to them about Jason. He hadn’t understood why at the time, but he also wasn’t going to tell a group of strangers about his brother that got executed by his grandfather. By the time he came to accept them as his family, he knew he was better off not letting them taint his brother’s memory any more than they already had.

“Why?” Richard asks, hurt and confusion clear on his face.

Damian sighs. “Because I didn’t want my Jason to also be your Jason.”

“But he wasn’t just your brother,” Drake interjects, clearly annoyed at Damian. “He is our brother too.”

“Don’t you dare try to claim Jason as your brother,” Damian snarled. “This isn’t like it was with father or Richard. How is Jason your brother when you never even met him?”

“I didn’t meet him officially, but I did grow up looking up to him.” Drake defends himself.

“You looked up to Robin!” Damian growls. Losing his hold on his emotions. “It could have been a monkey inside that suit and it wouldn’t have made any difference to you. You wouldn’t have cared less about the person whose mantle you were picking up.”

“Damian,” Richard scolds. “You’re being very cruel and unfair to Tim.”

“I haven’t said anything that isn’t true.”

“Look, I get how much Jason meant to you. But even if he was dead and he wasn’t our Jason, it would have helped your grief to talk about him with someone.” Richard says calmly. “I know how hard it was for me when I first came to the manor after losing my parents.”

“I doubt you ever had to listen to anyone disrespect your parents’ memories by turning them into an embodiment of everything you shouldn’t be.” He shoots back. This time, he did feel guilty about his brother’s flinch. “That was insensitive, I apologize. But you have not the slightest idea how hard it was for me, that the only time father would talk about Jason is when he thinks someone needed a lesson in caution.

“My brother, the one I grew up with, is nothing like the picture you painted. He is kind and brave and one of the best fighters in the league. Even grandfather could not ignore how skilled he was, despite how much he hated him. The Jason I looked up to would take me on a trip to the city whenever we have a free day and he would make me try out new experiences that had nothing to do with my training. If a teacher was too hard on me, he would challenge them to a spar just to pay them back for their treatment of me. He would buy me fictional books and make me listen as he read them out loud because I said they had no impact on my education.”

He won’t tell them that Jason didn’t even make fun of him when he caught Damian reading the books in secret, or how the time Damian found a bird with broken wings, he let him hide it in his room because it was the only place it wouldn’t be found and killed by grandfather.

Drake and Richard are now watching him with identical expression of sad remorse.

“Dami—” Richard starts, but he cuts him off.

“I’d rather not tell you about him, only to risk someone using Grandfather’s actions to further your point about how bad Jason was at following orders. I mean, sure, Jason didn’t always follow orders he was given, but that is only because he wouldn’t compromise on his morals. In all the time I’ve been here, not one of you have talked about your personal experience with Jason while he lived here. Only about all the things he did wrong as Robin. And while he did not have his memories of his time as father’s partner, I find it difficult to believe my brother is the same Robin you knew, because then, either you were all responsible for how he turned out or you lied about what kind of Robin he was.”

He doesn’t give them the chance the chance to respond before he makes his way out of the room. Setting up Jason’s room will have to wait.

 

~*~

 

Dick is still reeling from Damian’s revelation an hour after hitting sandbags. He knew he hadn’t known Jason when was Robin, hadn’t been a good brother to him while he was alive, it’s why he tried so hard to be the best brother he can be to Tim and Damian. But not once did it occur to him that he has been an even worse brother to Jason in death.

Dick always knew there was more to Damian’s time with the league that he wasn’t talking about. Many times, the boy would completely shut down in the mid conversation. Remembering how prickly tiny Damian had been when he first arrived at the manor, Dick understands better now. The child had been grieving and hearing the family say such things about the subject of his grief couldn’t have been an easy experience.

It’s no wonder the boy didn’t talk to any of them about what he was going through.

Despite all of that, he cannot help but wonder how much of that was due to Talia’s influence.

He steps out of the shower and quickly himself off before making his way to the medical station where Jason has been unconscious for the past couple of hours.

Bruce is still conducting tests and experiments to figure out what’s wrong with him but Talia is still standing vigil over Jason. She has changed out of her armor and is now dressed in a pair of slacks and dress shirt. Dick doesn’t even want to know how she got the clothes to change into.

“You must be proud of yourself,” Dick says snidely as he takes a seat opposite her. He knows he’s itching for a fight, but can’t help himself. The sight of Talia, sitting here at Jason’s bedside, watching over him with affection and worry clear in her eyes makes Dick grind his teeth.

“I take pride in many things, Richard. You will have to be specific.”

“At anytime in the past twelve years, you could’ve returned Jason home and Bruce would have been in your debt forever, but it wasn’t enough for you was it? He had amnesia, so that was convenient enough for you to manipulate him until all he knew was you. To the point that he would kill for you and even go against Bruce because of you.”

The look Talia gives him at that is both taunting and amused. “The jealousy must burn something fierce within you.” She tells him, smugly. “But rest assured, Richard. Jason will not kill anyone who does not deserve it ten times over and if you think he attacked your father because of me, then you know even less about your brother than you previously thought.”

“I’m sure you’ve thought him well. Jason would have never taken a life, no matter what.” Dick accused her, thinking back to the blood dripping from the blade his little brother had threatened him with and the dead body in his apartment. “You and your father twisted up his mind until he was good enough to serve your purpose.”

“And can you boldly tell me, that in all your years as a vigilante, that your actions have never resulted in the loss of a life?” She asks with a knowing smirk.

“I would never knowingly kill anyone,” He says without missing a beat. He knows what she is getting at and he will not give her the satisfaction.

“I suppose there is some truth in that,” She says dismissively. “Even though some of the injuries you leave in the wake of your quest for justice seems like a worse fate than death. But whatever helps you sleep better at night.”

Rage wells up inside him, burning hot and wild and ready to lash out at her, but the heart monitor picks up in its beeps in the moment, snapping both their attention to Jason’s face as his eyelids flutter open.

The memory of Jason’s angry voice telling Dick has no say who his family is forces him to put a lid on his rage. It wouldn’t do to give Talia more ammunition to make Jason feel like they aren’t his family.

“Albi,” Talia says, reaching out to cup Jason’s face. He leans into the touch before getting distracted by his environment.

“Ummi,” Jason croaks. Dick reaches over to the jug of water before Talia can and pours some in a cup for him.

Jason looks around at his surrounding, his eyes settling on Dick for a moment before turning back to Talia. Dick is disappointed to find no hint of recognition in them. He’d hoped that Jason recognizing Bruce would open the floodgates to the rest of his memories. He guesses it’s just too soon to tell. Jason did pass out seconds after he identified Bruce, afterall.

Not to be outdone and allow Talia monopolize Jason’s attention, he says softly. “Hey, Jay. How do you feel?”

“Like I just arose again,” Jason answers, and then grins when Talia’s eyes narrow at him. He looks around at the medical section of the cave then gets off the gurney and stretches his limbs.

“You told me you felt fine,” Talia glares at him. Dick has seen men tremble when faced with that glare, but Jason barely registers it.

“You sent Amy to spy on me,” Jason accuses. “We can call it even.”

Dick isn’t sure what he expected Talia’s response to be. Maybe he thought she’d try to justify actions or guilt Jason. He’s surprised when she does none of that. Instead, she snorts. “As if you were not already aware I had my spies watching you.”

Jason rolls his eyes and then takes another glance at the “Where’s everyone? Where is Bruce?”

As if summoned, Bruce comes barrelling in, with Damian not far behind. He pauses for a moment as he makes eye contact with Jason, and Dick can’t remember the last time he looked so vulnerable. He looks scared and hopeful at the same time; the sight makes something in Dick’s chest hurt.

“Bruce…” Jason says. He takes a step in Bruce’s direction but stops himself. For a moment, Dick shocked that realize that Jason is a hair taller than Bruce and he is just as big. Bruce has always been a tank of a man, but seeing it’s too surreal to see Jason’s form mirroring Bruce’s. The tiny little Robin grew up so big!

“Jay,” Bruce whispers. Dick is not sure he has ever seen Bruce this uncertain. They spend a couple of moments just staring at each other before Talia breaks the silence.

“Do you remember him, Jason?” Talia asks.

“I remember him,” Jason says with certainty. His eyes, still fixed on Bruce. “I remember you.” He’s wearing a small smile as he tells Bruce this. “You stayed with me when I was sick. You were supposed to go out on patrol but you stayed in with me. We spent the night watching movies. You were dressed as Batman but without the cowl, and I wore… that” Jason pauses, gesturing outside the medical bay area, before he continues with a smile. “Alfred was there, too.”

Bruce’s answering smile can only be described as blinding. Dick doesn’t think he has ever seen a smile so bright on his face.

“You’d just started out as Robin and was very sad when we wouldn’t let you patrol because you had the flu, so I decided to stay in with you.”

Dick wasn’t aware that was a thing that happened. Costumes in the manor and Bruce skipping patrol to stay at Jason’s side. Alfred would never allow it and Bruce would never skip patrol for any reason if he could get away with it. But he pushes the feeling that brings up in him away to focus on the moment.

“What else do you remember, Akhi?” Damian asks, when the silence stretches on.

“I don’t know,” Jason pulls him into his side to ruffle his hair. He tries not to feel slighted when Damian doesn’t protest, instead he burrows further into Jason’s side. “It’s all a little fuzzy.” Then he turns his speculative gaze on Bruce. “Was I really your child?”

“Yes,” Dick jumps in before Bruce can answer. the sooner Jason is made aware that he already has a family, the sooner he realizes that Talia has been manipulating him. “You are Bruce’s kid and my little brother. If we’d known you were alive, nothing would have stopped us from coming to get you.”

Jason’s gaze doesn’t leave Bruce’s face and Dick has a hard time discerning his thoughts from his expressionless face. “I was fifteen years old,” He says in a flat voice. It’s not a question but Dick nods. They already know what he’s referring to. “So, you lost your fifteen-year-old child and you thought the best epitaph is A Good Soldier?” he asks, eyes locked Bruce’s, face betraying nothing.

The air seems to have been sucked out of the room. Everyone is tense and no one seems to know how to break the tension.

“You should get some rest, Habibi,” Talia says, placing a hand on Jason’s arm to draw his gaze away from Bruce. “It has been quite the eventful day. Does your head still ache?”

Loathe as he is to admit it, Dick is grateful for Talia’s distraction. Not that he’ll ever say it out loud.

“Nothing I can’t handle,” Jason shrugs. “Actually, I’d like to see Alfred. How is he?”

Alfred, who has just returned from physical therapy with Cass, is happy to see Jason in the manor. Everyone decides to give them their space to talk and catch up.

 

“So, what’s the plan?” Tim asks a few hours later when they’re all gathered in the cave after diner.

It’s a question that’s been on Dick’s mind because won’t let Talia use this opportunity to slink into Bruce’s life or separate Jason from his family again.

Jason, for his part, doesn’t seem to hold any grudge against Bruce for the case or the words written on it. Although, they had moved it out of the cave the moment Jason was out of sight.

This Jason is very different what little Dick remembers of the little Robin Bruce had recruited to replace him. He is a man who has grown into himself, who measures his words and actions. He has grown from the flighty little Robin desperate to prove himself and into a man who is certain of his place in the world.

“Do we sit back and wait for the league to attack or are we launching an offensive strike?” Dick asks.

“Nyssa and my father should be at each other soon enough,” Talia starts.

“And whoever is left standing will be easy picking,” Jason says, his huge form completely relaxed on the sit beside Talia.

“What does that mean?” He asks.

“Nyssa’s fight has always been with my father, not me. Her targeting Jason was to use him as blackmail to get me on her side but now that she has failed and believes I am distracted, she will need to launch her attack now if she does not want me to join forces with Ra’s.”

“I almost can’t decide who I want to be the last man standing.” Jason says with a dark grin. “Nyssa has had it coming but I want to see the look on Ra’s face when he realizes I’ll be the one to put him out of his miserable thousand-year existence.”

Both Dick and Bruce choke at the at casual way Jason spoke about murder, drawing his narrow-eyed gaze on them.

“Problem, old man?” Jason asks.

“We do not kill.” Bruce states simply.

Jason shrugs. “That sounds like a you problem.”
Dick can’t even stop his wince. Cass looks very uncomfortable where she is.

“Aren’t you a doctor?” Tim asks him. “Shouldn’t you be all about saving lives?”

“You’re right. I am a doctor and I’m all about saving lives. Including my own.” Jason cocks his head to the side. “What’s your point?”

 

~*~

 

The sun is just setting when Bruce finds Alfred in his garden. If there’s one thing Jason’s presence is good for, it’s the distraction it has brought Alfred. The old butler, who has run the Wayne household since he arrived in it is not thrilled about being restricted by his injury. Although, Bruce is smart enough not to give him a taste of all the lectures he has received over the years about letting others handle things while he’s incapacitated and letting his injuries heal.

“You just missed Master Jason,” Alfred tells him, knowing fully well it wasn’t by chance.

“He seems to be taken with you,” Bruce says. He can admit, if only to Alfred that he feels lost on what to do with Jason. It’s his son, but this is not the boy he lost.

“Some things you do not forget,” Alfred’s smile is fond. “Despite the lack of memories. Some things never change.”

Yeah, Jason and Alfred always did have a special bond between them, different from any bond Alfred forged with any other child in the family. Bruce stomps on the jealousy that rises within him. He thought he and Jason had a special bond, too.

“Can’t say the same for his size.” Bruce still can’t get over how huge Jason is. “Or his values. You should hear how causally he talks about committing murder. He won’t listen to reason and short of arresting him, I can’t stop him.” Bruce isn’t even sure arresting Jason would work. It would just be the quickest way to turn Damian against the family, not to mention the hell Talia would bring down on him.

Alfred picks up the hardback book beside him, he gives it a fond smile as he strokes a page carefully before turning his gaze on Bruce. “Have you listened to reason, Master Bruce?”

“What?” Bruce feels stomped.

“I have supported you in your efforts as Batman. You do your best to help the people of Gotham, to prevent creating more victims while giving criminals a chance at rehabilitation. Your code to never take kill has gone a long way to build trust between you and law enforcement. You do good work, Master Bruce. But even with your code of honour, you have thought about how many lives will be saved and how many future victims will be prevented if you make an exception and put one of those criminals down.”

Bruce’s mind goes to the joker and how he’d felt when he killed Jason. How if he’d taken one of the opportunities he’d had in the past and put the psychotic clown down, his son wouldn’t have died.

“You can promise Jason your protection, but what happens when you’re gone? What happens when Ra’s al Ghul hunts down Jason’s children and their children for their genetic material? Would you condemn Master Jason’s future family to a fate of being hunted by a zealous immortal for the sake of your own comfort?

“From what I gather, Master Jason is not like any assassin the league has raised. He takes no pleasure in murder and avoids it where he can, which was the main bone of contention between him and Mr Al Ghul. But he recognizes that this is a time that it cannot be avoided. You have worked with people like that in the past, myself and Ms Prince, included. Why is Master Jason different?”

 

Bruce thinks about the points Alfred made long after he has left him. He is familiar enough with Ra’s to know that the man won’t stop coming for Jason as long as he lives. No prison would hold Ra’s forever. No matter how much Bruce wishes it was possible. The man has enough fanatic followers that will risk everything to help him.

Also, telling Jason to stand back and let others fight his battle never worked on him when he was a child, and Bruce doubts it will now.

He just wishes this wasn't something Jason had to deal with. Is it wrong that he wants to protect his child? Taking someone's life goes beyond just the simple act, it can have psychological effects on a person. But then again, Jason must be aware of this, being a former assassin and a medical doctor.

Arriving at a conclusion, he goes in search of Jason. He doesn’t find him anywhere. Talia had left the previous night after their meeting. Bruce is filled with worry, thinking about all the things that could go wrong if Jason has been captured. He is about to go looking for Damian when he spots Jason.

“Where have you been?” He asks, harsher than he meant to.

Jason raises a disbelieving brow at him. “I know it must be hard for you to keep track of all your birds, due to the sheer number of them, but I am not a part of your flock.”

“I was hoping we could talk.” Bruce tells him.

Jason is quiet as he follows Bruce to is study. He wonders if Jason sees the similarities between this study and the one in his London apartment. Bruce knows it must have been Jason’s unconscious memories being played out. Maybe if he gave himself more time, he’ll remember more about his life in the manor.

“I know I cannot stop you from going after Ra’s al Ghul and the league,” Bruce gets to business once the door closes behind them. “But this is my city. I will not have the league operating here. You’re not allowed to carry out league business or kill anyone in Gotham.”

“World’s greatest something,” Jason scoffs. “You should hone those detective skills you are known for, maybe then you’ll see that I’m not an assassin. Haven’t been for years.”

Something like hope blooms within Bruce. “Are you saying you won’t re-join their ranks once Talia takes over?”

“Why would I? You think I want to spend the rest of my life as a weapon, doing someone’s dirty work? I have a life, you know. I didn’t become a medical doctor because I was bored and wanted to learn the easiest ways to play with people’s insides.” Jason looks very insulted. “You have nothing to worry about. If I decide to stay in Gotham, I’ll have enough patients to keep me too occupied to go on a murder spree. I hear Gotham need more doctors than they do vigilantes, after all.”

Bruce winces at the last statement. He has his doubts. It’s possible Jason isn’t aware, but Bruce knows, without a doubt, that Jason will be Talia’s heir once she ascends the throne and becomes the new Demon’s head.

“Also, I’m… Sorry. For not saving you from the Joker and from the league.” The words are hard to get out, but he pushes on. “And for the case. It hurt so much to lose you and having it to remind me everyday was a way to cope.”

“I know mom plays dirty when she wants to but from what I’ve deduced, you couldn’t have known Sheila Haywood and the Joker were working together, or that leaving me in her care was going to cost me my life.” Jason says.

Bruce doesn’t think that he’ll ever get used to Jason referring to Talia as his mother so freely. He never called Bruce dad when he was at the manor. He doesn’t want to feel jealous or cheated, but it’s hard. He does not agree that Sheila wasn’t his fault. In another circumstance, he would have run a background check on her before trusting her with anything, let alone his kid.

“People don’t just come back from the dead without prompting. You couldn’t have known that my death wouldn’t be permanent. You lost a child, your child. He was fifteen. Kids aren’t supposed to die. They’re why we all work hard to create a better world. They are the reason this world has a chance at all.

“Any father in your position would be distraught. And in your most sacred and secured dwelling, the one place in the world that you can be yourself without fear or judgement, you built a memorial in his honour. I can respect that. What I can’t respect is that the one thing you chose to immortalize about a boy that was your child is that he was your soldier.

“I don’t have your son’s memories. I have no idea what your relationship was like following his adoption. I may have his face, but you know him better than I do. So, if you think your Jason would have been fine with all that he was in life being reduced to ‘a good soldier’, that that’s all he was to you, then you have nothing to apologize for.”

Jason didn’t give him a chance to respond to that before he turns around and leaves the study.

He leaves to join Talia a day later, and all Bruce can do is wait and hope. Bruce hates it, but this is one situation firmly out of his control.