Dick almost has a heart attack when he spots the red helmet cracked and abandoned on the side of the road. Jason wouldn’t just leave his gear laying around even if he doesn’t have a secret identity to hide given that he’s officially dead; He still wouldn’t want an enemy getting ahold of his tech to possibly use against him at a later date.
Dick drops down to the street and starts searching for clues. A closer look reveals that there’s scorch marks and bullet holes all around the area. The scorch marks look a little too precise and high temperature for a blow torch or flame thrower. Which means either there’s a new dangerous weapon on the market or there’s some kind of meta involved.
Both were concerning prospects.
He finds one of Jason’s shoes next, the rubber on the boots mostly melted off. Feeling increasingly panicked, Dick rounds the corner to a near bye alleyway and finds- finds-
Well, at first he thought it was a pile of Jason’s clothes. A closer look reveals that there’s actually a very small person laying unconscious inside those clothes. Dick approaches cautiously and- it’s definitely Jason. Albeit, a Jason far younger than Dick had ever known. Younger even then he would have been when Bruce picked him up. The domino mask was still on his face, though it was crinkled and mostly falling off given that the surface area it had been stuck to had greatly decreased.
“Batman, come in.” Nothing “Robin,” Nope “Batgirl,” Silence “Red Robin,” Nothing “Oracle-”
“Nightwing, this isn’t a good time-” Barbara’s voice came crackling over the coms.
“Thank God. Nobody is answering-”
“There’s a situation at the docks, everyone is engaged and I-”
“B- Oracle, it’s Red Hood. Some meta got to him and he’s like six- ten- eight- gah I don’t even know, but he’s tiny. And unconscious.” Dick said urgently glancing around the alleyway to make sure he was still alone. But as far as he could tell, whatever meta Jason had been fighting was gone.
“Is he alright? You think it’s Klarion?” asked Barbara, immediately serious.
“I don’t know,” Dick said running a hand through his hair, “And I don’t know what I should do.”
“If it is Klarion we’ve got some time to figure it out. His spells rarely manifest very fast. Take RH to the satellite cave near you and keep him under observation. I’ll send someone as soon as I can.”
“Thanks O.” Dick said as Barbara closed the connection. Dick gathered together Jason’s things and carefully picked the little boy up. He felt far too light, but Dick wasn’t sure if that was because he was actually younger than Dick had originally guessed or if he was really just that skinny. From the way it seemed like Dick could feel all of Jason’s ribs even through his clothes and armor, he worried it was the latter.
Thankfully, it didn’t take long to get to the satellite cave and get Jason situated on a gurney. He pulled the mask, armor, and weapons off of him but wasn’t sure what to do about the shirt and pants Jason was positively swimming in. He was small enough that even Damian’s things would be huge on him.
Now that they were in better light, Dick kept getting caught up in the differences between this Jason and the one he had dim memories of when he first came to live at the Manor. Dick hadn’t really seen him much at first, too furious at Bruce for giving away his name and identity- but. Jason’s hair was longer then Dick had ever seen him let it get. Jason’s hair had always had a little wave to it, but longer it was very clear that it was actually quite curly. Not quite ringlets, but- It wasn’t quite as thick as Dick remembered either, instead hanging rather limply around his face. Malnourishment would do that, Dick’s mind supplied.
Jason’s face crinkled up in a frown even as his eyes remained closed. His pouty mouth was dry and cracked a little painfully. He remembered Alfred telling him that Jason used to have a habit of gnawing on his lip when he was nervous till Bruce broke him of the habit. Jason made a small confused sound looking like he was starting to wake and Dick made a soft shhing sound stroking his hair carefully so he wouldn’t startle-
Jason jerked upright hard, and Dick- who hadn’t been expecting that reaction- didn’t move his hand in time before a mouthful of sharp teeth was closing around his fingers. Dick yelped a reacted instinctively, other hand grabbing at the pressure points at the hinges of Jason’s jaw to make him let up and then quickly backing up a bit.
Jason crouched up a bit, keeping his body small and defensive. He wouldn’t be able to move much without getting completely tangled in his too big clothes but- He was glaring at Dick. The blue of his eyes made Dick think of the hottest of fires for the way that they burned bright and wild.
Dick wondered if this was the sight that had made Bruce need to take Jason home that night he’d found him.
“Hey…” Dick tried to take a step closer raising his hands peacefully. Jason growled at him. It was an animalistic sound, one that raised the hair on the back of Dick’s neck. Dick shook it off and moved just a little closer, “Jason-”
Jason’s growling increased into almost a snarl. There was a quivering tension that crackled all around him. A coiled violence that was close to snapping lose at any moment.
Not born from aggression, Dick realized, but from intense hysterical fear.
Dick swallowed around the painful thing that was twisting in his chest and quickly backed up trying to look as non threatening as possible.
“It’s okay…” he tried to sooth, “It’s okay, I can see you don’t remember me but I’m a friend. I’m not going to hurt you.”
Jason stopped growling when Dick moved far enough away but he was still glaring, his breaths still coming a little too fast in suppressed panic, eyes tracking every shift in Dick’s body language with a hypervigilance that- that Dick really should have expected having known that Jason had grown up on the streets of Gotham.
Not the kind of place that made you particularly trusting of anyone, especially strangers that seemed just a little too friendly. Dick suppressed a sigh as he realized that it was unlikely that anything he did or said would get Jason to trust him anytime soon. This was going to make everything more difficult.
“Can you tell me how old you are Jason? It’d really help.”
“No.” Jason snapped at him defensively.
“How are you feeling? Are you hurt anywhere? I didn’t get a chance to finish checking you over for injuries.”
“No.” Jason said again, though Dick wondered if that was to his question or just in general.
“Are you sure? I’m just checking because you were in a pretty big fight before this and I need to be sure your okay. Well, aside from the fact that your little now and all-”
“No!” Jason scooted away from him-
“Careful Jay-” Dick rushed forward to catch him as Jason tumbled off the gurney.
“NonononONONONONONO-” Jason yelled between tiny growling noises thrashing in Dick’s arms and trying to punch and kick and bite at everything available.
“I’m putting you down, I’m putting you down- gah!- Jay, I’m trying to help you.” Dick winced as once of the kicks caught him in the chin as he tried to keep Jason from hurting either of them in his panic.
“Okay. Okay, there. I’m not touching you.” Dick said setting Jason down and backing away again. Jason tried to bolt but got caught up in his too long pants.
“Ya- ya’ fuckin’ stay away from me! You stay away or I’mma fuckin’ stick ya’. I’ll fucking stick ya’, ya’hear me?” Jason snarled at him.
“Okay, sure. I’ll stay away. I told you Jason, you’re safe here.” Dick assured him. He decided not to point out that Jason didn’t have anything to “stick” Dick with and he was suddenly very glad he’d removed his weapons before hand. At least Jason had found some of his words besides ‘no’. Surely that was progress?
Jason shivered continually on the ground as Dick sat helpless watching tiny shoulder hitch over and over in silent terrified sobs. By the time he managed to quite himself Dick like real scum of the earth.
“Are you alright?” He asked tentatively.
“Ya’ talk like some richboy shithead,” Jason mumbled, ignoring his question and still breathing a little raggedly, “Why ya’ take me, huh? Ya’ one of ‘em freaks?”
“No, no, Jason-” Dick said hurriedly.
“Ya’ not comin’ off like a propa’ crazy, I guess. So maybe ya’ some kinda perv-”
“No!” Dick said horrified, “No, Jason, never.”
“Guess we’ll see.” Jason said in a tone that said he didn’t believe Dick one bit.
Dick felt sick.
He was at a total loss of what to do. He wasn’t that great with kids normally, and Jason was hardly a normal kid. They stared each other down , Dick shifting uncomfortable and Jason barely blinking as he watched Dick’s every move. The silence was deafening till Dick heard Jason’s stomach growling loudly.
“Um, I think there’s food in the kitchen, I could get you some-” Dick said thinking about just how scarily skinny Jason was.
“If ya’ think that Imma let you touch any food I eat ya’ must really be out of yer mind.” Jason said incredulously.
“Right. Um, well then I think there’s food in those tow cupboards so… you can pick out whatever you want.” Dick said scooting out of the way and pointing. Jason glared at him suspiciously for a little bit longer then knotted up the waist of his pants and rolled up them hem until he could actually walk and then moved over to the cupboards, careful to never give Dick his back.
“Nightwing, is the situation the same?” Oracles voice crackled to life n his ear.
“Yeah, it’s kinda bad actually. He’s freaked, doesn’t trust me at all.” Dick said quietly enough that Jason couldn’t hear. Jason cast him a suspicious look, but was a little preoccupied with the cans of food he’d found.
“What, you didn’t charm him in 3 seconds? That’s rare.”
“I’m serious O, I- it’s messed up.” Dick sighed.
“It’ll be okay, we’ll have Zatana come take a look at him as soon as we can and get him back. Till then, could you take a blood sample and send it to the cave for analysis? I’m sure Batman will want to look at it.” Barbara told him practically.
“Oh god.” Dick thought about Jason’s reactions to him thus far in the night. The thought about trying to come anywhere near him with a needle... “No, I don’t think I can.”
“Of course you can. N, you said it yourself. He’s tiny. You can take a blood sample.”
“You don’t understand,” Dick winced. He’d have to hold him down, he knew in his bones that Jason would panic and fight him again and he’d have to hold him down to take it. Which he could, technically, but- just imagining the sheer trauma that he’d be putting Jason through to do it- no, Dick didn’t think he had it in him to do it, “I really can’t do that.”
“Well you have to do something. Think it over. Things are wrapping up over here, I’ll send someone over soon.”
“Thanks.” sighed Dick as the connection closed again.
“Talkin’ to the voices in yer head?” Jason asked even as he shoved ravioli into his mouth like he thought someone might come and take it away from him.
“A friend on a tiny phone.” Dick showed him the com.
“Richboy.” was all Jason said, but was much more interested in the food. Dick grimaced, he was eating it with his hands and it was a little gross. Not to mention that he’d already managed to each more than Dick thought would ever fit into such a small person.
“Easy, you’re going to make yourself sick.” Dick said concerned. On the one hand, Jason needed all the food he could get. On the other, his body couldn’t handle all that much food.
“Fuck off.” Jason told him. It was interesting being told that by such a small person. then again, it was Jason, so not really. He kept eating and Dick ran a hand through his hair. Prayed that help would come before he had to try and take food away from a hungry kid. Even if it was to protect that kid.
Because as it was, Jason didn’t seem to have any kind of good internal stop buttons. For anything. And Dick wasn’t sure if he was up for the task of keeping this little kid safe.
And who knew how long Jason would be stuck like this.