"Alright boys, I don't know how often you've done this,"
One of the tall mercenaries leaning against the drug crate yawns. "Please, Deathstroke, we know how contracts work. Save it."
Its 8pm, and the sun has set at the Gotham docks. Deathstroke and a squad of thugs stand guarding two crates full of heavily researched and produced substance by black market scientists. The substance was a substitute that could be used in bombs, weapons and any other war ammuntion. It was heavily corrosive and had the potential to destroy cities if not handled properly.
"Just so we're clear," Slade announces loudly, ignoring the roll of his eyes. "This shit took me years to get a hold of, and since I'm being generous and letting you take some of the share, i won't tolerate any of you degenerates that only recently decided to lend a hand in, blowing all those years of tracking away. Im a man who prioritises my time. "
The substance was made under years of undercover research, and its only recently had it come to the attention of the Justice League. It was a surprise as to how such a thing was kept under wraps for so long, and Slade was proud that he was one of the first to get a hold of it.
"When the League arrives, don't move an inch away from that container until i've been paid. Do not talk or interfere with any negotiations until i say so. Until you hear the sound of that paper money in your hands or the sound of my bank alerting me of a great, fat, deposit, you don't fucking move. Are we clear?"
Most of the substance was destroyed, as dangerous as it was, it can easily be dissolved by water. Making this particular crate very expensive. Its what happens when things are made under such circumstances, as deadly as it is, its the made in china, walmart version, of explosives.
One of the more wider, shorter of the mercenaries thumps his head onto the crate in boredom. "These heroes sure take their sweet time."
Slade didn't have any particular motivation to get a hold of it, he wasn't really those world domination types, and neither did he have any need to dispose of the Justice League. But like any other guy in his field he had tabs open on the market. Once the demand for this rose, a substance that if you possess, can possibly make you the most threatening person out there, the mercenary knew he would get a juicy contract out of this one.
The League had contacted him immediately. They'd made it a point that any potential threat to the League must be in the possession of the League themselves, or to be specific, in Batmans possession.
Deathstroke, though a known bad, only worked through contracts, so it was a straightforward negotiation. They knew Deathstroke just wanted to get paid and he would gladly hand it over once they did pay him.
The only weird thing was this exchange had to be held in Gotham of all places. Slade was certain the Bat didn't want this sort of commotion to interfere in his turf if something were to go wrong. And he was sure he wouldn't want any of his bat-brats interfering either. Hm. Especially Grayson. This did not seem like the type of thing the kid would just ignore. Nightwing was even more morally driven than the Bat himself.
Slade reminded himself that the bird themed vigilante had claimed Blüdhaven as his own turf. He was just being paranoid, Grayson wouldn't just-
“Here birdie birdie” Slade called mockingly, facing the cranes across the area. “I know you're here. Why don't you show yourself?"
The group of mercs on the far side looked at him in alarm. Slade continued to make bird calling noises.
"Yo, Deathstroke," One of them called out. "You said there wouldn't be any bat brats ruining this for us." Slade ignored him.
"Shit," The others eyes widened, elbowing the other. "What if it's a trap and the League is out to get us?"
"I have a contract Nightwing," Deathstroke said loudly, hoping the bird would show himself sooner so he could shoo him away before the League arrived. "One that you will not interfere with."
There was a brief silence before a light thud of boots landed on the top of the crate the thugs were guarding. A few mercs swivelled around before pointing individual guns at the intruding party.
"Gentlemen," a playful voice said.
Slade lifted his head to stare at said intruding party. “Run along, pretty bird." it was followed by a few other 'yeah get lost bird boy!' 'go to hell bat brats!' by the surrounding thugs.
"Why? Looks like you're having a party here without me," The young vigilante snorts, ignoring the crowd below him before backflipping off the crate to land directly in front of Slade, the pointed guns followed him. “What sort of a contract is this?"
Slade quirks up at that last bit, but chooses to ignore it. Perhaps the Bat didn't tell him.
"What do you think the nature of contracts i take are, kid?" Slade shrugged and sheathes his sword, pointing it directly under Nightwings chin. "Hm?"
“The paying kind?" Dick replies, unbothered by the sword.
Slade chuckles fondly, lowering his katana to point directly at Nightwing's chest where his blue emblem stretched out. "Your intelligence never ceases to amaze me, Nightwing."
Dick hears the thugs snickering behind him. Perfect.
He blinks widely, and with two fingers he grabs the tip of the sword from the flat sides and makes a show of moving the pointy bit away from him. The laughter behind him resides, and Dick can practically feel the dozens of stares he's getting behind his back. Slade, however, doesn't react to the younger's antics.
Nightwing gestures to the container behind Deathstroke. "Whats in the box?"
"None of your concern, kid." He says, going along with Dick's playful act of obliviousness. The mercs behind them chuckle again, but the atmosphere is growing tense. The only reason Nightwing isn't on the ground with a bullet in his back is definitely because of Deathstroke's orders.
Dick blinks expectantly. Slade smirks. "Stuff that I'm exchanging, like you said, to get paid."
“You're in Gotham, Slade. That means it's my concern.” Dick said, shifting but not breaking eye contact. "What's. in. the. crate."
"C5-789" Deathstroke didn't miss a beat, surprising Dick slightly. He grinned, using his sword to tilt Dick's head up. The vigilante didn't move from his place, standing his ground. "You've heard about that surely, it's been circulating for a while now."
If Nightwing experiences any sort of recognition, he hides it well. But Slade can practically hear the gears turning in the young vigilante's head. Even though this whole fiasco was kept irrelevant to the crime circles in Bludhaven, Dick must have seen the Bat looking into it at some point, but Slade wasn't sure how up to date the man liked to keep his kids on the things he was working on.
"And you've got a hold of it, and are going to sell it, for money." Dick says matter-of-factly. "The chemical that can be diminished by, literally water. Thats something."
So he did know about it. That brings the question as to why Grayson is here when his daddy is about to show up in just a matter of minutes to deal with the contract that he is a part of himself.
"So you did your homework, Nightwing. Sorry, I left my reward stickers at home, but maybe i can leave you with something.... a little more permanent," Slade crooned, digging the point of the sword right under his chin just enough for it to hurt but not cut just yet.
The mercs behind them snort in amusement. Dick cocks his head innocently, moving away from the offending sword.
Slade's smirk falls into a frown, voice deep and with an underline of a threat. "Drop the act. You know the demand for this in the market. And you knew i'd be the first to get a hold of such a thing. Stop playing dumb, boy."
Dick grins immediately, it looks kind of insane. "Guilty," he says, but he sounds smug.
"You knew you'd either find me, or one of my brothers here to stop you, Slade." Nightwing said, placing his hands on his hips and turning to stare at the water. "And it's your lucky day, apparently, because Red Hood was about to patrol the docks until i decided to. And you know him, he's a shoot first, questions later kinda guy."
Slade was looking unimpressed.
"So why choose Gotham?" Dick started cackling lowly, "and why, of all places, the docks!"
This brings Slade back to his previous assumption. The Bat didn't tell him anything. Oh boy,
This was about to get interesting.
"I could legit just-" He gestures animatedly to the containers. "Throw it in the water! And then what!"
"Oh dear, my precious contract would be ruined," Slade says, mock disappointment in his voice. "What a shame. All because of that pesky boy."
"Exactly, ha!" Dick barked, laughing to himself. He then pulls out his escrimas, readying himself to leap at Slade to get to the container.
Shit. Of course he'd take the mockery as a challenge. Slade had to stop this before the League got here, he wasn't about to risk loosing the substance because one nosy bat brat decided to step in where he didn't belong.
“Kid,” Slade said, voice low, abandoning the playful, teasing banter he tended to engage in whenever Nightwing was there. “Go. Home. You don't know what you're walking in on.”
"Like hell i don't," He suddenly leaps, and shoots a line out of nowhere that attaches to the crate. So the sticks were just a diversion, cute, Slade thought. But if Dick was fast, the mercenary was faster, blame it on the kind of residual superpowers from the lazarus pit.
Slade swiftly cuts his line, grabbing the boy before he reached the crate. Dick twists in his grip and flips backwards, but then immediately bounces back towards Slade, this time actually using his escrimas to attack.
The two clash, Slade blocks his sticks with his sword and for a moment they're at a standstill, just pushing at each others weapons before-
"Nightwing." A gravel voice calls.
"B?" Dick calls back without looking behind him. "You gonna just stand there or lend a hand?"
The mercs who were patiently stood behind both Nightwing and Deathstroke point their guns at thier new guest, Batman. Slade signals for them to stand down. Dick senses Slade has stopped resisting and is instead making eye contact with the Bat. Confused, he pulls away and looks behind him.
"Whats going on, B?" Dick asks, staring behind his old mentor.
Slade knows that question isn't directed at only the Bat but the fact that the entire Justice League is stood behind him, that must've taken Nightwing by surprise.
"You tell me." The Bat replies smoothly, making it sound accusatory. Interesting.
"I'm-" Nightwing pauses to observe the situation, looking at the way the mercenaries are stood unfazed at the presence of Batman and the entire Justice League. "-interfering a dumb contract that includes explosive chemicals. What, no guns for him?" He says to the mercs.
The mercenaries don't respond, instead shrugging smugly, waiting to see the arising conflict. Or they're just excited to get paid now that the League is here.
"You can leave now, Nightwing. I'll take it from here." The Bat announces dismissively.
Nightwing reeled back a little, quite obviously offended. "I- what?"
"You are not required here anymore. Go join Robin and Batgirl on patrol-"
"What the hell? I was here first, why would i just leave, Batman?" His voice was starting to raise. "Why is the League here?" He looks behind Bruce again, and the League is starting to look a little uncomfortable at being present for this father son conflict. Slade found this very amusing.
"We will talk about this later." Bruce said lowly, and Slade couldn't help but let out a snort. Grayson was stubborn, if he felt he was being left out on something he didn't let go of it until he was filled in.
"No." Nightwing stares at the Bat head on, which is an interesting sight as he is a significant number of inches shorter. "Not until you tell me what the hell is going on,"
Batman doesn't say anything, but you can practically hear his heavy breathing. He's angry, like he usually is when someone disrespects or doesn't listen to his orders. Makes it worse that it's his own prodigy that's doing it.
Dick is starting to get increasingly frustrated. “Is someone gonna tell me what the hell is going on?”
Superman is about to say something of consolation but Flash beats him to it.
“We’re here to collect the stuff, kid.” He says nervously, because he can see Batmans fist clenching and unclenching in slow motion.
Dick’s brows raise, and his head swivels around to look at Deathstroke.
“You have a contract with the League? The fucking League?”
“Nightwing,” Batman scolds him for the profanity, which is ridiculous considering the situation.
Slade wisely stays silent, but gives Nightwing a bland look, which could almost pass for a sympathetic one.
Dick turns back to look at the League. “And you willingly made a contract with Deathstroke? For explosives? Im sorry, excuse my gosh darn language but what the actual-“
“Nightwing!” Batman shouts, and then consciously pauses to lower his voice. “Your work here is done, I expect you to see yourself out. We will discuss this later.”
“Its not done, Batman! Stop telling me this isn’t my business. You guys are about to buy chemicals that are nuclear bomb levels of dangerous, from Deathstroke! It’s my fucking business!”
“Son,” Supes interjects calmly. “These are dangerous chemicals, the League is making it their business to safekeep these explosives—“
“What? So you can use them against anyone who comes against you when needed?” Dick responds without missing a beat. Superman starts to disagree but he doesn’t let him speak. “Because even if that wasn’t your intention, it was definitely his.” He says, pointing to Batman. “Just another form of contingency plan,”
“Nightwing,” Wonder Woman steps up, attempting to clear the air. “There will be no such use of these chemicals. They will be locked away in safekeeping forever,”
“Really?” Nightwing replies defiantly. And Slade has to give it to the kid for being able to see through everyone else bullshit immediately. Nightwing was insanely good at reading people. “Then why not just destroy it? Why keep it if you’re not gonna use it?”
“What? You’re here, at the docks! Why not just destroy it in the water? Why the hell are you paying the bad guys for it?”
“Am i really the only one who sees something wrong with this whole situation?”
Dicks cries are only followed by a continued heavy silence, the one that makes you feel like the centre clown of attention who is on a completely different page than everyone else. It only infuriates him even more. He directs his attention directly towards his mentor.
“Call this off.” Nightwing says.
Bruce doesn’t move or change his expression but his breathing hitches ever so slightly in surprise at the command.
“I said, call this off, Batman.”
“Are you in your right mind, boy?” Batman seethes very lowly, so only Dick can hear, or well, also Slade with enhanced hearing, and the various other League members with super hearing. This wasn’t a very dignifying situation for Dick. “Behave yourself.” He says, as if Nightwing is some child throwing a tantrum and not making a common sensical point.
“Don’t talk to me like that!” Nightwing responds. “I seriously can’t believe you, all of you right now.”
“Nightwing,” Batman growls. “Stand. Down.”
“Hell no. Not when this just looks like a load of bullshit to me, B.”
“You better watch what you say next,” Bruce warns, stepping closer to Dick threateningly.
“Or, what?” Dick steps forward challengingly. Their audience feels like they’re holding a breath. “What could possibly be worse, than the absolute dumbassery that’s taking place right here? And the fact that none of you seem to understand?”
Batman’s fist is visibly clenched. It’s obvious to anyone who can see the two arguing that he’s aching to hit him.
“Or,” Dick says accusingly, “You all are aware of what I’m saying. You just choose to remain oblivious to seem innocent of what you’re about to do.”
But no one expects it to actually happen.
Dick isn’t even exactly sure what happened himself, just that one moment he was toe to toe with his father and the next he’s stumbling backwards, his body suddenly reacting in shock to the pain climbing up his cheek. He feels tears at the corners of his eyes, and squeezes his eyes shut as he hears the blood pumping through his ears.
Everyone is dead silent. Shocked.
Batman and Nightwing were known to argue here and there, and to the average outsider it was quite obviously harmless. In the sense that the over controlling Batman was having a fallout with his dramatic ex sidekick, his first robin. People always used Batman as a form of jabbing at Nightwing, teasing about his daddy issues, his loyalty to the Bat etc. No one actually expected the Batman to raise a hand on him.
Especially not in front of an audience, that included mercenaries.
Nightwing is stood rigidly, unmoving. His bangs are low enough to fall over his eyes which are most definitely shut. He has a gloved hand covering the side of his face where he was hit. Where Batman hit him. Slapped him.
Somehow that made it worse. A slap just held more emotional meaning to it.
Batman himself just remains expressionless, the hand that he hit him with has disappeared back inside his cape, as if nothing had just happened at all.
Dick can feel the eyes of everyone on him, the shame of being hit by his ex mentor in front of the entire Justice League, Deathstroke, and a bunch of thugs has him on the border of a panic attack. But his body feels frozen, he wants to run. Run away from the eyes of everyone and hide, but he can’t make himself.
He’s released from this trance when he feels a sudden hand on his shoulder. He jumps, looking up wildly. Its Barry. “Dick, breathe.” He whispers calmingly.
He looks in front of him and sees Diana making her way to Batman.
He can’t. He can’t do this. He’s not some kid, he doesn’t want this pity.
"Hey! What part of arriving at the meeting point on time did you not get, Goldie?" The Red Hood yells as he spots the blue enigma of his brothers suit a few rooftops away. He fires a line to swing closer, and sees Nightwing crouched-no- huddled over the edge of the roof. Huh.
"Replacement and I were waiting for you, and you haven't been answering your comms. Oracle said she had your location but-" Jason finally lands on the roof Dick was on, and sees the crushed communicator on the ground. "Your communicator was offline. Or by the looks of it, dead."
"So yeah. What do you have to say for yourself Golden Boy?" As Jason walks across the roof, he notices Dick hasn't moved and his hands are in his hair, and he can't really see his face. "Nightwing?"
Dick can hear his brother perfectly well, but he can't really bring himself to respond. Although the sting of the hit is mostly gone, he can still feel the blood pumping loudly through his ears and its making him nauseous. That and, how the hell is he supposed to let Jason, his younger brother see him like this?
"Earth to Dickie bird," Jason says, but his voice is closer and Dick guesses he's probably crouching in front of him now.
What is he even gonna say? Thanks to Bruce, all his brothers looked up to him, as if he was some set perfect example. Dick hated the look on their face whenever he was in moments in vulnerability. It was the same look you get seeing your childhood hero get pummelled to the ground or something.
Dick decided that he should be glad it was Jason who approached him and not Tim or Damian. Not that he didn't prefer them, but it would be a lot harder to explain and get over something like this in front of them who would bombard him with questions and concern immediately. Jason tended to give people a bit more space, and had definitely seen enough bullshit to be immune.
"Hey, Jay." Dick looks up, but forgets that he'd been crying and his tears are clouding his vision behind his mask. He blinks around in attempts to clear his vision without removing his mask. "Did you guys... complete the mission?"
Jason shrugs, helmet now off and set on the ground beside him. "Uh yeah. It was pretty basic shit. Dunno why B thought it would be a good idea to put the three of us on it."
Because he wanted to keep you occupied so that he could pay up his contract with Deathstroke. Dick wanted to say. Instead he said, "Yeah..sorry i didn't get there."
"Psht. No one missed you, Dickhead. I mean, the fact that you didn't show didn't really make a difference, we got done in under an hour."
Dick spares him a slight grin, bantering with his brother helped keep his mind off the previous events of the night. "Really? Is that why you were so worried about where i was? That you called O to ask where i am?"
"What? Yeah right." Jason scowls, and then shrugs again. " You said you were gonna meet us and then you didn't show, dude. We were wondering what the fuck you were up to." He pauses to look at him accusingly. "So yeah. What were you up to?"
"I-" Dick starts, and consciously stops himself. He shudders, running a hand through his hair. It's dark where they're sat so he's glad Jason cant really see what must be the bruise on his face.
Jason blinks. "What? Patrol at the docks didn't go so well?" and then he's looking over the edge of the roof at a sudden noise, waiting for Dick to respond. Turns out it was just some cats fighting. At Dicks silence he presses further. "I told you i should've gone. But did you listen-"
"Nothing happened." Dick interrupts pointedly, but he speaks with his head ducked as his voice wavers slightly at being questioned. It doesn't go unnoticed by his brother, who is now observing him curiously. "Just..lost track of time.. that's all.."
It's pretty clear to Jason that Dick is hiding something. But doesn't really say anything, he's just looking at Dick in contemplation. It seems that Dick is doing the same when he manages to look up at him again. If there were a third person here they'd say they're acting like the most emotionally stunted people on earth right now.
Which reminds Jason that he hadn't really turned his comm off. His eyes widen and Dick looks up at him in confusion. He presses a finger to his ear. "O? Are you still there?"
Dick visibly blanches, Jason shrugs innocently.
Barbara replies after a few seconds, she sounds exasperated. "When am i not, Red Hood. And i call Nightwing out on his bullshit. Tell him that destroying his comm doesn't prevent me from re tracing his steps. He was at the docks with Deathstroke, but the camera footage is destroyed after that."
"Deathstroke?" He looks at Dick, who really looks like is about to puke. Jason stands, ignoring Dick's sounds of protest from the ground. "Can't you get the footage back? You always find ways to do that."
Barbara sighs loudly. Jason cringes because its really loud over the comms. "Usually, yes. But whoever destroyed the footage knew what they were doing."
"I have to go, I'm monitoring Robin and Batgirl at the moment and they need me." And she pauses to add. "Talk to him okay? I don't know what happened but from the sound of him right now he's doing a real bad job keeping himself together. Oracle out."
thank you for all your comments! they motivate me to update faster :D
Barbara is looking through security camera footage of the docks when Jason asks her if she's still there.
Nightwing is stood toe to toe with Deathstroke. He appears to be trying to get to the container but the mercenary is protecting it. By the looks of it, and based on the last exchange that she'd had with him he was about to bust an illegal weapons deal at the docks.
The interesting thing about the whole ordeal is that the backup squad that the mercenary has with him is stood patiently as the two fight, not even trying to stop Nightwing, as if he wasn't a threat to them at all. The footage cuts out immediately after this scene plays out. Babs exhales tiredly.
It was usually Jason who tampered with these kinds of things. Each bat member usually had their own assigned areas of Gotham to patrol, and when Dick wasn't in Bludhaven he mainly hovered around the centre, crowded areas Gotham so he could swing around tall buildings. It was a sudden change of plan that Nightwing had requested to patrol the docks when she informed him of Deathstroke being there. And she had agreed, informing the Red Hood that he and Nightwing would be swapping today. She hadn't payed it much attention, and for that she felt slightly responsible for whatever happened. But usually when a mercenary shows up in Gotham with a weapons deal its not Batman she expects to be on the receiving end of it.
Yes. She knew who cut the footage. She wasn't dumb.
There's only one person who knows how to do that in a way that she can't revive the footage. The question was as to why he did it.
Now the obvious first thought that she'd had was that Bruce and Dick got into another argument and wanted privacy, which was natural--they usually tended to get into disagreements on patrol-- except, there was a third party-no, other parties involved in this situation. If Batman was cutting off the footage from Oracle for privacy then what about Deathstroke and his squad of mercenaries that were present for the whole thing?
That meant that there was something else occurring that he did not want her to see. And he really chose the right day, when she was already preoccupied leading the full batfam on thier seperate missions. Especially because Bruce had assigned them each with separate tasks spread over Gotham because he was off on "League business" and so he needed them to watch over the city. Now, quite honestly Barbara didn't care what he and the League got up to, as long as it wasn't a breach of thier fundamental morals or interfering with any of the bat members. But Dick was involved in this, and something was seriously off.
The only reason she hadn't confronted Bruce about it the moment she saw the cut footage was that she was sure Bruce knew that she would know who destroyed the footage immediately. And there was no point hiding any footage from her if there were other parties involved. She could easily find out from one of the mercenaries if she wanted to. But this suddenly became personal, and the question was, should she?
The whole thing was giving her a bad gut feeling, and even though she was the all seeing Oracle, she just wasn't sure how much she should interfere. So she figured since Jason had found Dick, maybe he could just talk it out of him.
And that's pretty much what she was counting on. For now.
"So," Jason starts, looking down at his brother who was subconsciously looking the other way. "You met Deathstroke at the docks."
"Yeah I did."
"And you knew he'd be there, that's why you wanted to go. And lemme guess, it was your basic arms deal of some sorts and O told you he was there and you said you'd go instead of me, correct?"
Dick slowly stands up, he's still looking the other way, out at the city. "Ever the detective, Jason." He smiles faintly in amusement, but it's not genuine. Dick's expression is constantly wavering, and if it wasn't so dark, Jason would say that his brother is trembling. And it's not from the cold.
"Okay so what the fuck is your problem? Why're you acting like you've seen a ghost?" Jason walks back towards him, right in his line of sight. "And no, as much as i'd like to say it, I don't count."
"Im fine, Jason." The older tries. "I told you nothing ha-"
"Bullshit." Jason is fully focused on him now, and he grabs his shoulder, checking his brother for injuries. Dick actually seemed perfectly fine, physically. No grunts of pain or slow movements that indicated any injuries. So it doesn't look like Slade actually got a hit on him or anything. "Are you hurt or something?"
And here I thought you wouldn't bombard be with questions, Dick thinks. The sudden physical contact has him swaying on his feet slightly in surprise, and he doesn't realise that he's said that out loud.
Jason freezes. "Okay, what the shit. Something is wrong with you, and you're not fucking telling me what."
No matter now emotional his older brother is, Dick has never acted this weird before. And that's saying something, because Dick is pretty weird when he's upset. Jason figures its because he always has a positive face on for the rest of his family that he panics when he's been caught out of the happy, strong older brother act. He also knows that it makes Dick, the fool, feel guilty whenever he accidentally by chance does have one of his younger brothers see him upset. And Jason is glad he's the one that's found Dick because the guy wouldn't even give Tim or Damian a chance to see him like this.
"Goldie, what. happened." Jason says, looking him right in the eyes. "If you don't spill i'm going to physically fight you."
Dick doesn't like this. He's feeling like he can't breathe again and Jason cornering him only has him on the verge of hyperventilating. All of these feelings just seem to translate into a low whine that surprises the both of them, and Jason can actually feel his trembling now. "Dick," He quickly grabs his brothers face when he tries to face the other way. "Are you crying behind your mask?"
"No- No i'm not Jay- stop it!" Dick yells and turns his face when his brother reaches out to peel off his mask. But now his mask is off and he's pretty sure he's having a panic attack and all he can do is let out a big sob. "Shit, shit shit, Dick, calm down," Jason is muttering, and he tries to get a better look at his brothers face.
Dick shakes his head and squeezes his eyes shut again, pushing at Jason who doesn't let go. Gosh, he just feels like a big baby. He's having a breakdown in front of his younger brother just because of some, what? daddy issues? Usually he's able to keep it together, so why is he reacting like this now? And he can't even tell Jason, because it just sounds stupid, so stupid. From what he knows Jason's experienced actual abuse on the streets as a kid before Bruce took him in. What is this compared to that? You're acting like a child, that's why Bruce treats you like one. Dick's mind screams at him.
Jason is taken aback, for sure. And its not because of seeing Dick cry all of a sudden- the guy is emotional, he does that-- no, it's because of the way he's acting. The symptoms seem clear in his head but he'd never thought he'd see it on his older brother, of all people.
"Hey," He says, as calm as he can. "Just- Just hold still okay?" Jason pulls a pocket flashlight out of his jacket and shines it on his brothers face. Dick winces and turns, but Jason's speculations have been confirmed.
Theres a wide bruise, thats stretching across Dick's cheek, starting from his jawline, all the way up to where his ear connects with his face. The bruise has certain indentations of raised skin in between, indicating fingers. Someone hit him, really hard. And it wasn't a punch or a kick in a fight. Someone slapped him with emotional intention.
"Who hit you," Jason demands, voice like steel. Dick finally pushes him off, but the force he applies it sends himself stumbling backwards because of how uncoordinated he is in this state. Dick sits on the ground, breathing heavily. "Stop, Jason. I told you i'm fine."
"Answer the question."
Jason isn't having it. He's on the verge of calling Oracle, or Alfred, or Tim, Damain, Duke, Steph, Cass, Kate or anyfuckingbody or even fucking Bruce just to scream what the actual fuck.
Dick could just about melt into the ground right now. The whole situation was entirely humiliating.
"Goddamnit Dick, who did this to you?!"
He can't do this. He hates it. Hates the look on Jasons face. He just wants to escape,
He wants to run and hide.
"Bruce, okay?" Dick shouts. And Jason freezes, unblinking.
"Say---Say that again?"
"I fucked up, he hit me. Is that what you wanted to know, Jason?" Dick said, tone low and scary. "I told you, that i'm fine. So just believe it, and leave me alone." And with that, Nightwing retrieves his mask and flips backwards off the roof before Jason could even comprehend anything.
Tim and Damian, if they put their problems with Bruce aside, admired and trusted him. Jason's gut wrenched at the thought of them going home after patrol to him, right after what'd he'd done to Dick. By the looks of the hit, Batman was furious. Him going back to the manor in that state of mind was not safe. If Bruce was capable of doing something like that to his eldest, whats stopping him from his two youngest?
So Jason took it upon him to make his presence known. If Dick was trembling before Jason was trembling furiously with rage. He was gonna have a real good "chat" with the guy.
The Red Hood is getting on his bike when he actually takes a moment to look around him. The sky is starting to get lighter, indicating sunrise, and Jason has to stop himself. The Night really helped him go through with his anger and act without thinking, and now he realises that him barging into the manor at this time when they're all probably getting into bed after patrol would just make him look like a madman. No one would listen to him.
So he calls Tim instead.
"Hello?" A tired voice responds, it sounds whiny. "Jay, it's 5am."
Jason lets out a shaky breath before responding semi-normally. "Timbers. Timothy. How dare you say that to me when you're clearly not in bed and sleeping like you should be?"
"What do you want?"
"Is Bruce home?" Jason tries to make it sound like a genuine question and not a demand.
"No, he's off with the League. It's just me Alfred and the Demon at the Manor." The voice sounds more alert now. "Speaking of, Dick was staying the week here but he still isn't back. You see him?"
Jason exhales. Even though he really wanted to pummel Bruce into a concrete wall, he's kind of glad he's away from the bat brats. But that doesn't mean Jason is gonna hide what happened. He wasn't the type of guy to keep secrets and sugarcoat things. They deserved to know.
"Yeah-uh listen, Replacement." He starts, thinking about what to say. They were never gonna believe him like this.
Maybe he could convince Tim, Damian he wasn't so sure. Both Nightwing and Batman were two perfect figures in their lives. News like this without any evidence just wouldn't add up to them. And Jason doesn't blame them.
"What? Is Dick okay?"
"He's," Jason bites his lip. "He's fine." Sure. "He's not injured, but i do need you guys to meet me,"
Tim sounds wary. "Now?"
"No. Meet me at the docks on your next patrol." And with that he shuts the phone, sighing.
Grayson, what have you gotten into?
"This isn't a social call." Tim states.
"No --when is it ever, Replacement?"
"You called us to ask a favor."
"Yes — no, wait." Jason crosses his arms. "Is it really considered a favour if its concerning Di-Nightwing?"
"Hm," Tim ponders, "Depends. Whats wrong with Nightwing?"
"Who said there was anything wrong with him?" Jason counters, not really sure how to go about this. This plan seemed good all up until the bat brats actually showed up in front of him. This wasn't exactly news he wanted to break to a 14 and 17 year old, both who live under the care of Bruce.
Tim gives him an unimpressed look, and if his Red Robin mask wasn't so large on his face Jason could even see him raising a brow. "You called us here, to talk about Nightwing, without Nightwing actually being here. Something is either wrong with him, or you've just got beef with him that you want us to solve." He says flatly. "Take your pick, hood."
"Enough!" Damian pushes the two apart, facing Jason and looking up at him with a typical bat glare. "What have you done with Grayson?"
"No names in the field," Tim says boredly at the same time as Jason says "Excuse me?"
"You were the last out of all of us that has seen him, Todd." The kid sneers. "And ever since then he hasn't returned home, or answered any calls."
Damian's comment takes Jason back to that night, two nights ago when he'd found Dick on the rooftop. He can't forget the sight of the large bruise stretching across his face, and how disturbed and disoriented his brother looked. The fact that the last thing Dick said to him was that it was Bruce who did that to him. It made Jasons blood boil in ways that could not be healthy.
"And so you think I did something? Thats-wow. Didn't think you could be more of a little shit than you already--"
Jason was so taken aback that night, that he couldn't manage to catch up with his brother who ran off. It was those kinds of things people say at it sounds so surreal, yet somehow Jason knew he should've expected it.
"Robin," Tim interrupts before Jason could finish that sentence. "Nightwing is in Bludhaven. O updated me on his location an hour ago, and by the looks of it, he's fine. That is," He looks at Jason pointedly. "Unless you wanna tell us what you think is wrong with him?"
Jason frowned at the new information. He'd expected Dick to flee back to his city, just not without informing his brothers which he always did. Then again, after what happened it looked obvious he did not want to see anyone until he pulled himself together. Stupid fool.
He just wasn't sure how to go about this situation, he doesn't think the bat brats will listen. They're clearly upset about Dick's sudden absence, and even though Tim is maintaining a strict poker face, both are stood wary and suspicious of Jason. It hurt his feelings a bit but he pushed it aside, he wasn't a very welcoming guy in the past anyways, and Dick obviously wasn't gonna say anything about what happened to him. So someone had to do it.
"This-" Jason started, sucking in a breath. "I need you to tell me everything, and i mean everything you know about the arms deal that occurred here two nights ago."
Red Robin tilts his head in confusion. "What does that have to do with--"
"Just tell him Drake. What do we have to loose?" Damian scowls, crossing his arms. He's acting uninterested but Jason can see he's dying to know what he has to say about Dick.
"Fine," Tim taps on his wrist computer and a screen pops up. "But i think you already know what happened here."
"Have you seen the footage?"
"And? What do you think, detective boy?"
Tim lets out a long suffering sigh. He swipes at the screen to show the bit where the footage cuts off. He looks up at Jason with an annoyed stare. "Listen, i know Bru- Batman cut the footage off. Oracle isn't too happy about it either. But B hasn't come back yet--he's still off with the League- so she said she won't look into it because clearly Nightwing seems fine. The only reason we postponed our regular patrol to meet with you is--"
"Nightwing left without telling you and won't answer your calls." Jason frowns, and Tim nods but continues talking.
"Di- Nightwing told us that day he was operating here at the docks. And from the looks of it he was up against Deathstroke. But-" He gestures with his arms to the place they were stood in. "Theres no containers here, so Nightwing failed to stop the deal."
"Thats not possible Drake! Grayson is not that incompetent, even against Deathstroke he manages to create a diversion!"
"I'm not done yet, Robin," Tim doesn't spare a glance at him, he's still glaring up at Jason, but it seems directed at something else. "I did some digging with Oracle, and we found out what was in the containers."
"Spill, Replacement. Im dying over here."
"C5-789. The chemical substance that-"
"The blackmarket one designed to destroy the Justice League," Jason finished. "I was keeping that shit out of the Gotham crime circles! That fucking bitchass merc-"
Robin lets out a huff of shocked air at the name. "Why hadn't you discussed this with me before, Drake? I could have warned Father you insipid fool!"
"Thats exactly why, Damian." Tim's mouth twists in annoyance, breaking his own enforced 'no names' rule. "B was obviously present at the scene. He's the one who bought the substance. And to double check-" He pulls up another screen. "I hacked into the League's joint account, which is mainly Batman's which made it so easy to tell." Tim shoves the screen at Jasons face, who squints at it through his hood, there's obviously been a big purchase thats been made recently.
"What the fuck, Timothy." Yeah, what was that rule again? "Okay so Bruce and the fucking Justice League was here, two nights ago, to fulfil a contract with fucking Deathstroke." Jason felt dread, and his mouth suddenly became dry. He takes a moment to take his hood off and run a hand through his hair stressfully.
The two younger boys stared at Jason, wide eyed. "Hood, what are you thinking?" Tim says, and there is alarm to his voice.
"I'm thinking, Batman, and the fucking Justice League, interrupted Nightwing, while he was trying to stop an arms deal, that actually concerned Batman and the Justice League," Jason said, turning around to face the other way, hands on his hips. "What the shit do you think I'm thinking, Replacement?"
Tim can already guess what happened. But there is a tense pause, and it's because Tim is mostly annoyed at the whole situation and the way Jason seems to know something that they don't. Damian breaks the silence.
"Father and Grayson must have had....a disagreement." He says tentatively, because the expression on Jason's face is something he can recognise as the need for vengeance. He'd know it. "But this is not a rare occurrence, Todd."
Jason lets out a sarcastic chuckle, and its because he's put two and two together. Batman really just took his anger out on his Nightwing--for being at a scene and obviously resisting, because thats what Dick fucking does--but in front of an entire, fucking audience, he thinks.
"Holy hell. Bruce just reached a new level of low." he announces, and he turns around to grab Tim's arm. "Where is he? Where the fuck is he?"
"Wha-Calm down!" Tim pushes Jason off of him, looking at him incredulously. "Dude, i told you that he's with the League. I told you two nights ago when Dick went missing and you called us to meet us here at the docks on our next patrol."
Jason is still facing Tim aggressively, but he seems to be deep in thought. "When is he back."
"We don't know yet, i wasn't even home when he left, Hood. I just got back from the Titans last week, he's been working on something-well, on this contract with the League way before that."
Jason backs off some after Tim informs him of this and lets out a fresh new string of curses.
If he could, he would've hit the batcave guns blazing the night he saw what had happened. But now that Jasons anger is cleared out all he can do is think tactically. Running in and yelling at Bruce for yet another reason would just have him get ignored, and Jason didn't usually have to think much when he wanted to rage at Bruce. Just that he knew he had to rage at him for something. But this concerned something about someone he cared about, whether he ever would actually admit it out loud or not. He had to test the waters to see how much support and evidence he had on this first.
"Jason, they argue all the time. Dick tends to get on his nerves and Bruce thinks he's right all the time. You don't need to get all worked up about nothing-"
"He did it in front of the League, Tim."
"Did what, Todd?" Robin presses. "You've been acting like a moron this whole meeting and not telling us what the matter is,"
Jason lets out a breath through his nose, rubbing his hands at his eyes. Bruce appeared to be okay with kids, he is generally, okay with kids. Before the pit, Bruce never hit him unprovoked. But they got into a lot of physical fights, which could be passed off as just training or sparring. These kinds of lines were blurry in their line of work, which additionally just made this situation more messed up. Jason remembers his time living with Bruce as a kid was like living five star hotel as compared to being on the streets, where he would regularly get beat on by cops or thugs, and even before that by his own dad. And now, he realises what he had ignored in the past.
"He hit him."
"Um," Tim and Damian look at each other. "Okay, so they had a physical fight."
Dick and Bruce fought a lot. Their fights had reached their peak when Bruce took him in, and he remembers some nights when Dick was at the Manor. He remembers hearing their shouting matches all the way up in his room, and in the morning that followed, Dick always seemed to be sporting some kind of black eye, or a mark on his wrist where someone grabbed him too tight etc. But he never questioned it at the time. He was a kid himself, and stuff like that was regular to him. Living with Bruce was a fantasy compared to his previous conditions. So he'd ignored it.
"No, Replacement." Jason growls. "He hit him. Unprovoked."
Theres a silence and Jason has two pairs of masked eyes looking up at him.
"Listen Red Hood," Red Robin starts, tone suddenly professional. "I know you have a lot of issues against Batman. Most of them which are, admittedly, justified. But you can't just call us all the way here just so you can say things-"
"How are you accuse Father of being the very thing he wars against!" Robin is standing between the two now, landing fists on Jason who blocks them. "You lying vermin!"
This can't be happening.
After letting Damian attack him for a moment, Jason finally pushes him off, pointing a finger at him in warning. "Back off. Why in the absolute hell would i lie about something like this?"
There is a pause. "Since when have you been trustworthy in the past, Hood?" Damian counters."You will say anything to make Father look bad,"
"Robin, calm down. Let's not say anything we'll regret saying to each other." Red Robin says. Jason is positively fuming by now, and the young detective seems to be staring at him in deep contemplation.
"Speak for yourself, Drake. How can you let him make such an accusation about- about Batman! To say that he- that he would ever resort to-"
Tim's stern gaze softens when he hears Damian falter, and Jason is also partially staring at the kid in sympathy and understanding. Damian had had his fair share of abusive parenting when he was back with the League of Assassins. Although he had grown up like that, once he'd come to live in Gotham he had realised the implications of what he had suffered through and how wrong it was. If there was anyone who would be triggered by such a thing, it'd be him.
"Wait, listen," Tim begins. "There's a whole lot of context missing from this scenario. Batman- does things that without knowing the whole story...can sound pretty disturbing, so-
"You don't fucking believe me, do you Replacement?"
"-we should hear what evidence Jason has to back it up."
Jason looks at him with his eyes narrowed. "What the fuck? I have nothing to offer other than the fact that Dick admitted to it himself after i saw the bruise Bruce left on him. What else do you want me to say, huh?"
Damian stares at him, horrified. Tim looks at him in faint surprise at the sudden new information, but keeps a blank expression. "You could-"
"What? Drag Dick back here to show it to you? Bruises like that heal, its something that's been happening under all our noses but we, a family of detectives never seemed to notice, because we get bruises like that everyday. Because we all know Dick is reckless and stupid and he's always got some bruise or another. Who's to know what the story is behind them?" Jason scoffs. "But what's the point? I can read your fucking face, Timmers. You believe me, but you don't want to."
"No, Jason I-" Tim starts. He glances briefly at Damian. "-believe that...."
"No. No way Drake. He's lying!"
"....you believe what you're saying is the truth." He finishes.
Jason growls in frustration, carding a hand through his hair again. This was a useless effort. Bruce had the two instilled heavily with loyalty and they weren't going to abandon that loyalty anytime soon. Jason was really counting on Tim though, he was usually the one who believed and consulted Jason in all things against Batman.
"Besides Todd, if Batman were to ever...do such a ridiculous thing...Grayson would have had to have done something wrong..so that Batman could punish him such..." Damian says faintly, and he's speaking from experience. "And Grayson wouldn't do anything wrong for him to have done that."
"Abuse isn't limited to disobedience Damian," Red Robin says. "And calling it punishment doesn't make it right either,"
"If the both of you understand this so well," Jason begins to put his helmet back on. This wasn't going to work. He can't convince them immediately but he can at least warn them. "Then you'd be considering what i have to say, very carefully. Don't engage in any conversation on the previous events with Bruce. In fact, just stay away from him."
"First you drop such news to us," Damian says incredulously. "And then you expect us to not confront Father on this accusation you've placed on him?"
"Just tell me when Bruce gets back okay. Don't tell him that i asked. You clearly don't have the full idea on what he's been up to."
"Hood, we appreciate your concern man, just..." Tim sighs. "Whatever. We'll tell you when Bruce gets back so that you guys can...sort out whatever it is thats going on between you."
Jason exhales through his nose. He knows the two of them can't help but defend their guardian, but he knows that he's created a suspicion so at least they'll be wary, and thats the best he can hope for at the moment. His job here is done. And besides, he has an older brother he needs to check on. "Fine. See you brats later," He turns to leave.
He stops, without turning around. "What, Robin?"
"We will....not discuss this with Father, as per your..request." He says. "I shall erase the footage from this meeting from my mask as well."
Tim scoffs lightly, "Oracle will revive it easily dude,"
"..So that Father may not see it."
Theres a pause and Tim reaches up to his mask too. "I'll do it too."
Jason's lip quirks upwards briefly. "Thanks kid. I'll talk to Oracle about keeping this on the low before i get to talk with Bruce."
"Hood!" Red Robin calls as Red Hood is about to shoot a line with his grapple. "Keep us updated.. on Nightwing's situation."
"Will do, Red Robin." Jason replies, feeling slightly more sure of their position on the matter.
As Red Hood lands in the alley he had parked his bike in, he remembers Damian's gesture of erasing the footage from his mask. He felt stupid that he didn't even consider thier masks recorded everything, Bruce could have seen this meeting and would've been prepared with a whole plan and explanation for his actions.
Wait, Hood thinks.
It's not just the bat brats masks that record everything.
Nightwing's does too.
With that thought Jason presses his comms as he starts his bike.
"O? Im on my way to Bludhaven. Is there any chance you can send me Nightwing's mask recordings from two nights ago?"
The one main thing that Dick retained from the circus--other than having a huge heart and need for family--was an addiction to adventure, the feeling of flying free, and being constantly on the move. Bruce had taken him in when he was fairly young, so Dick had to adapt to a lot of the man's qualities that had now been ingrained into him that made him the person he was today.
As social as he was, he had started to isolate himself in times of vulnerability. He kept his identity and activities private from his true friends and stayed immensely loyal to the Bat, no matter the situation. But since at the time Dick craved attention and a parental figure after the loss of his own, he was fine with being under the Bats cape and in his shadow.
However there were still times when that reserve he kept cracked, and he felt the need to break free. He loved and trusted Bruce, the man raised him. But sometimes when things were tense between them he would rebel, just to feel that same feeling of freedom and adventure he longed for ever since he left the circus.
Thats when Bruce would panic. Dick read people easily, and he knew the man, the control freak that he is, was scared of loosing control over his ward. Since Dick was younger it was easier for Bruce to "discipline him" after he disobeyed. Dick hated it, he felt like he couldn't speak, or cry, or move whenever it happened. It made him constantly question whether rebelling was even worth it.
Immediately after he would close in on himself, and not talk to anyone. He felt like if he interacted with people they'd be able to tell.
He trusts Bruce with his life. He would die for him. He assumes there is only something wrong with himself.
Dick never speaks about it. He never wants people to know, how he's failed the Bat. How disappointed he is in him.
If you weren't like this, Bruce wouldn't have yelled at you. He wouldn't have h-
He works on himself. He does things, impossible things to gain the Batman's approval again.
His family calls him the 'reckless one' or the 'adrenaline junkie'. Jason tells him to stop stealing his image.
Swinging through the skyscrapers of Gotham City, free as bird, was normally an experience Dick could never grow out of. Having Batman constantly breathing down your neck and wearing a costume so well known to be the one considered as "the sidekick of the Bat" was something he definitely did grow out of.
Becoming Nightwing, although it was one of the better things he had done for himself, temporarily gave him the feelings of freedom he craved for. A different city, no limits.
But Bruce always, always managed to get into his head. The man barely emotionally connected or spoke with him, but for some reason Dick always found himself returning to being that same little boy, complying to whatever the Bat had to say.
Soon, what were forms of discipline had become forms of showing disapproval. It was a way Bruce conveyed how he didn't like what his son was doing. And Dick, had learned to accept it as just thier form of normalcy.
He knew Bruce did not repeat the same things with Jason. As soon as Dick left, and the man had taken in the other boy Dick had already realised that this was a fresh start that he wanted.
Dick was both upset, that this was somehow limited to him only, and relieved that it was, somehow limited to him only. He shrugged it off as collateral damage of being the first child. As long as it stayed between them, he didn't have to think about it.
Swinging through the skyscrapers of Gotham City, free as bird, was normally an experience Dick could never grow out of.
His hands are trembling so hard he has to have a death grip on his grapple to shoot a line. He stumbles in between swings from one building to another.
Something that he had never ever spoken about to a living soul, or ever indicated about to anyone,
had now been witnessed by some highly trained mercenaries
and the entire Justice League.
Dick flees from Gotham once again.
The Red Hood arrives in Bludhaven.
"Lil' wing?" A heap of messy dark hair can be seen when the door to Dick's apartment creaks open slightly. Blue eyes peek out from under those bangs, and Jason can see how heavy lidded and sunken they looked. He must've been up all night. "What're you doing here?"
"Hey, Big bird," Jason replies. He can only really see the top half of his brothers face as he hid behind the door, and he wonders what the bruise from the last time he saw him must look like now. "You look like shit."
Dick blinks wordlessly back at him, unsure of what exactly to say to that. He hadn't been expecting Jason to actually follow him to Bludhaven. He'd figured if someone wanted to question his sudden disappearance they'd have done it the morning after he left Gotham. Okay, admittedly he did receive a long string of calls and messages from his siblings so he disclosed his location to Oracle just to shut them up. She understood that he didn't want to talk, but now he suspects that she must've sent Jason here to check in.
Dick bites his lip, continuing to stare back at his brother. Though normally he'd be ecstatic that Jason had finally come to his place, he really wasn't in the mood for a house visit right now.
"Why are you here, Jay?"
Jason raises a brow. "A guy can't check up on his brother? I see how it is, asshole."
"You never visit me Jason," Dick replies flatly. "Listen, if its about...that, then i told you I'm-"
"Yeah, yeah i know Dickhead." Jason interrupts, pushing the door and causing Dick to stumble out of the way. "You're 'fine.'" He says with finger quotes, but stops dead when he notices Dick's full face now that the door is out of the way.
“Umm, S’up?” Dick greeted Jason sheepishly now that his full face was in view. He was dressed in sweats and a grey t-shirt, and was holding an icepack to his jaw. Other than his eyebags and drained expression, Jason could see the mark of the hit on his brothers face in a much clearer light. The bruise was a striking purple shade, and although it was now smaller in size, it still made Jason grind his teeth whenever he saw it. Because he knew who put it there, and how dare-
Jason's gaze falls onto his brothers jaw, which is also bruised, but these ones are fresh.
"Di- what is that?" Jason goes to reach for his face but Dick flinches backwards. Blood dribbles down his chin, and he quickly reaches up and wipes it away with the back of his sleeve.
"I- I just got back from patrol," He explains, shrugging his shoulders defensively. Suddenly, he became very conscious of the people standing in the open corridor of the apartment complex they were in. He moves to the side to let his brother in."Uh, you can come inside."
Jason takes note of his brother's anxious body language and complies.
"Its 7am. Pretty late to come back from patrol, don't ya think, Goldie?"
Dick ignores him. "Whats that smell?" He asks, his nose wrinkling,
"It was rainin', and muddy. Take a wild fucking guess." Jason mutters as he takes his boots off before stepping in. Hey, he had a habit of keeping living spaces clean. Which was quite the opposite with Dick, because the moment he steps in he sees what looks like a whirlwind came and left trash all over the apartment.
"Dude," Jason huffs out a breath. "Why is it that both you and Tim have no sense of keeping your own living space clean. Sheesh."
Dick looks at Jason unimpressed as he picks up a sock from the kitchen island and a pair of jeans from the floor, swinging them in front of Dick as if to make a point.
"I haven't had the time to clean," The older murmurs tiredly, then wincing slightly as he held the ice pack to his jaw again."If i knew you were coming over i'd've-"
"Lies, Dickiebird. You're a slob and you know it."
Dick's lips quirk upwards. "You come visit me out of the blue, and the first thing you have to say is 'damn bitch you live like this?'. Im hurt, Jason."
Jason raises a brow at the dramatics. "You learn that from Tim?" He gets a snort in response. He cant help but notice Dick's Nightwing suit discarded on the floor with the rest of his dirty clothes, mask included. If only he could snatch the mask without Dick noticing...
"Seriously, i can't tell what your place looks like because of all the shit you've got lying arou---are you working on a case?" Jason stops his tirade on the state of Dicks apartment when his gaze falls over to the coffee table, where there are about a dozen papers laying askew, some falling on the floor.
"Um-" Dick gently throws his icepack onto the couch and steps in front of him casually, blocking the table from sight. "It's nothing, just the usual."
"The usual." Jason echoes, narrowing his eyes at Dick.
"So tell me...what's the usual?" Dick was an amazing liar, but in front of his family of detectives it was a wasted effort.
"Oh you know, just-" Dick tries, and he definitely looks like he's feeling attacked. "Some reported missing persons. I was just making sure it wasn't tied to anything larger,"
Jason is staring him down, clearly not buying it. Why was he the only one who was able to completely blunt and honest about everything? It sure made things a lot simpler. Without warning Jason grabs Dick's arm and pushes him onto the couch, ignoring the resulting squak and quickly stepping over his flailing limbs to get to the coffee table.
"I don't know Dickie, that's a shit ton of papers for just a fucking missing persons case."
Jason taps the laptop that was left open on the table and the screen lights up, showing multiple tabs with information on weapons deals in both Gotham and Bludhaven. Jason huffs through his nose, turning around to look at Dick pointedly, who was recovering from his fall on the couch while glaring daggers at his brother.
"You say you're fine but all the evidence here indicates you're not over it, Dick."
"Because i am fine-"
Jason makes a frustrated sound that causes Dick to shut up immediately, eyes still silently giving off the look of betrayal and annoyance. Okay, this wasn't going too well.
"Look," Jason tries, more calmer. This wasn't Dick's fault, its Bruce he should be raging at. It didn't help the guy that Jason himself was trying to release all his pent up frustration on the matter, but it wasn't like he was the one that was good at consolation. That was Dick's area. And it was just his luck that Dick was the one who needed help right now.
"If you needed help on this-"
Jason exhales through his nose again. This was really an exercise of patience, which he was not made to do.
"You don't have to go through this alone, is what i want to say."
Theres a heavy silence where Dick looks like his heart has just been exposed to his brother entirely without him having said anything at all, and he clearly looks uncomfortable. Dick liked to express his emotions, but even the most open of people had insecurities, and Jason had just seemed to hit one.
"Im not going through anything. You're making a big deal out of nothing,"
Dick rubs the sleep from his eyes, stands up wordlessly and goes to walk away but Jason grabs his arm. The older pauses, not looking back at his brother.
"Whatever happened to you was wrong, Dickiebird. You cant ignore it like you ignore the rest of your problems."
Dick pulls his arm out of Jasons grip. He sounds pissed as he snaps, "Jason," and then a moment later he gestures to the messy coffee table and says, "The papers-Its precaution. I was careless and uninformed before. Now I'm just making sure i don't miss out on any activity relating to this chemical, alright? Thats all."
Jason sighs, watching as his brother went to go retrieve his ice pack and put it back on his jaw. It looked like it hurt. But nothing hurt more than the way Dick was acting. It reminded Jason of the way he used to act, some few years ago, and Dick would be the one trying to get him to open up. Jason hated this turn of tables.
"Okay," He says, lifting his hands in defeat. "But i want to know why you were ignoring Tim and Damians calls, if you say you're fine."
Dick looks at him, a bit taken aback by the question, but recovers quickly, expression neutral. "You...discussed this with them?" He desperately tries to sound conversional but his voice is wobbly and a little too breathy.
Jason has to break eye contact with Dick at that. He feels bad and invasive and certainly would not like it if Dick had done that. But he had to do it.
"Stop deflecting. Answer the question."
Dick looks truly betrayed, he's starting at Jason in a way that makes his heart clench. If he was trying to convince Jason that he was fine, this certainly put all his efforts to waste.
His silence alone answers the question for Jason.
"If its any consolation, Dick," He starts. "They don't believe me." Lies. Jason could see the horror and suspicion in their eyes when he told them. They just wouldn't admit it, out of loyalty. Which is exactly what Dick is doing right now, how he's handling whatever happened to him. Out of loyalty.
Dick says nothing, he just puts the ice pack down and runs a hand through his hair.
"I had to warn them, Dick."
Dick stills. He's facing away from Jason, hands on the kitchen counter his his head bowed. Jason hovers closer.
"He won't hurt them." Dick whispers, finally. You could barely hear it, but Jason had moved closer to him, hand suspended in the air, unsure of what to do.
Jason thinks he's getting closer to actually talking about the problem at hand. "How can you be so sure?"
What he doesn't expect is Dick to snap his head back towards him, eyes red and glassy with new tears threatening to fall. "It's- only me."
Jason stares back, shocked, and unsure of what to do. Thats when Dick quickly wipes at his eyes with his sleeve and in seconds neutralises his expression, as if nothing ever happened.
"Im sorry Jay, I've been a bad host." He says, as if he needed to apologise for something like that when he was clearly going through a lot worse. "You want something to drink?" He moves, opening cupboards and the fridge, busying his hands with housework.
Jason has to shake himself out of the trance he'd gone into to respond.
"Yeah, j-just water. Thanks."
As much as he wanted to stay and, well, be here for his brother who was obviously hurting, this was the perfect time to snatch the mask while Dick was busy.
Jason exhales, promising himself that he'd come back to check in again. He takes the mask and slips out of the window before Dick came out of the kitchen.