Jason crouched low to the roof window, silently scanning the gang's hideout. The Gotham Hunters - a new gang in Gotham who were beginning to make a name for themselves. It was their notoriety for targeting young teens which had brought them to Jason's attention.
Jason's eyes settled on the kid tied to a chair - couldn't have been older than fifteen. Eyes wide, the kid traced the languid stroll of the man who circled him. Jason scoffed. Gotham criminals were far too dramatic. Not to mention the lab coat that the man wore was stained with dried blood. He very well could have washed that thing if he had wanted to. Yep - definitely overdoing it, Jason thought.
He took in the rest of the room. There were a few muscled guys around. Odd, considering there was no need for them. Jason's eyes trailed back to the captive's trembling form. Ah, they were there to make sure the kid was thoroughly intimidated. It was probably why the recruitment among teens was so high for this particular gang. Tormenting a few kids ensured that they all remained terrified. Providing the Gotham Hunters with a steady stream of recruits.
Jason was brought out of his thoughts when the man in the lab coat paused behind the boy. Somehow, the lack of movement was more unnerving. The kid stiffened. Noticing the change, the man's face cracked into a cruel smirk. Wanting to avoid the man's gaze, the boy fixed his eyes straight ahead of him. That was a mistake. The man raised the tire iron, then whacked it hard against the boy's skull in a savage backhand thrust.
"Look at me boy!"
Jason flinched as the boy let out a sharp cry of pain. The ghost of a throbbing sensation was felt on the back of his own head as a similar memory pushed itself to the forefront of his mind. He clenched his jaw tight, fighting the urge to rush in. No, he had to do this right. The kid had to get to safety first. Then, he could be as reckless as he wanted.
He forced his eyes away from the kid and scanned the room again. Only three muscled men - not even armed. He could easily handle that. Jason reached to unholster a gun when something in the corner of the room stopped him. He focused his gaze. Concealed, in the shadows, was a large hulking figure. It was difficult to tell from his angle, but the figure looked at least nine feet - and bulked with muscle. Jason's eyes narrowed, a meta no doubt. That could be a problem. It was a wonder a relatively small gang had managed to nab an asset like that. Looked like he needed to reassess the situation. Jason carefully backed away from the window, hitting the speed dial on his phone.
"Hey Jaybird," the hushed voice picked up.
Jason sighed, exasperated. "Roy why are you whispering?"
"Uh, could have something to do with the fact that I'm answering this right before a drug bust."
Jason resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "Yet you can pick up the phone? And you wonder why I question your priorities."
Roy let out an indignant huff on the other end of the line. "That's rich coming from a former crime lord."
Jason decided not to respond to that. " How long do you think you'll be Roy? I wouldn't mind a little backup."
"And here I thought I'd have to point out the obvious."
Roy let out a sigh. "There is no way I'm making it to Gotham tonight, can it wait?"
The sharp crack of the tire iron replayed in Jason's memory.
"F'raid not, Roy."
"Ok - I know you're not gonna like this," Roy began cautiously. "But call Nightwing, Jay," he pleaded. "It's not as bad between you guys as it used to be, right?"
Jason remained silent. Perhaps his anger toward the bats had simmered down. But still, Jason would sooner swallow one of his own bullets before he turned to the pure and perfect Robin for help.
"Its fine I'll handle it myself." He finally answered Roy.
"Jason, wait! Don't be-"
Jason ended the call. He could manage this one. There was just no room to make a mistake. Although, it's not like there ever really was. Jason put on his helmet and relaxed his muscles with a deep roll of his shoulders. Then, with a sharp intake of breath to brace himself, he jumped through the roof's window.
Shards of ice rained down on the men below him. They let out a cry of surprise, bringing their arms up to shield themselves. Jason landed on the ground in a forward roll to help distribute the force of the impact. Still, jumping through roofs was never meant to be safe. He let out a grunt, feeling a sharp pang in his shoulder. Positioning himself behind the kid, Jason pulled out a knife and made quick work of cutting through the rope.
"Get out of here while they're distracted kid," Jason commanded.
The boy nodded dumbly before scrambling toward the exit. Jason watched him leave and nodded to himself, satisfied. With the kid out of the way, he could deal with these assholes properly.
The man in the lab coat had recovered first. He looked toward the figure who had burst through the roof, his eyes widened as recognition dawned his features.
"It's the Red Hood!" he exclaimed, "Get him!"
The instruction appeared to be directed toward the hulking brute in the corner. He immediately lunged at Jason.
"Glad you recognised me," Jason commented as he dodged the blow, "might've been pretty awkward otherwise."
Jason noticed that the other men in the room were giving the meta and himself a lot of space. They could've been counting on the brute to take care of him. Although, Jason noticed, as he evaded yet another blow, they were all still tense and alert. Jason flipped out of the reach of another
hit that had come far too close.
He briefly observed the meta's face. The creature's eyes lacked the usual gleam of intelligence. It didn't look like there was much of a brain left in there. The men holding back made sense now. No one wanted to get in the meta's way. Looked like he was a bit of a wild card. Although, no doubt, easy to manipulate - which explained how the Hunters had gotten their hands on him. Jason almost felt sorry for the brute.
He sighed. Damn it all, he was becoming soft. Jason ran up behind the meta and quickly launched himself at him, grabbing onto the brute's shoulders. The creature paused for a moment. He had difficulty registering Jason's fast movements. That was all Jason needed to activate the charge on his body armour.
"Sorry, big guy," he muttered, before electrocuting the meta with everything his suit had. Hopefully it was enough juice to knock him out.
The meta let out a loud howl before dropping to the floor.
"You better hope you're that lucky," Jason told the remaining men, stepping over the unconscious body as he unholstered his guns.
The three men ran toward him. Seeing as they were unarmed, close combat was their only chance. The Red Hood was not known for accepting surrenders. Jason fired his pistols wildly. Although, had any of the men realised the skill of the marksman they faced, they would have noticed that he was purposely avoiding fatal hits. As the bullets ripped through their thighs, two of the men collapsed on the ground. Jason shot the third one clean through the arm instead. It was nice to have a little variety after all. Besides, Jason may not have been aiming to kill - but he sure as hell was going to make them hurt.
Despite the wound in his arm, the third man lunged at him. It was a poor attempt. Jason easily knocked the man unconscious. He then turned his attention to the men groaning on the floor and delivered sharp kicks to their heads. Their groans fell silent.
The sound of a door handle alerted Jason to the lab coat man's attempt to slip away unnoticed. Jason rolled his eyes. Typical. He quickly aimed a shot at the man's wrist. He yelped as the bullet pierced him. Snatching his arm away to avoid another shot, he cautiously turned to face the callous figure in the Red Hood.
"Leaving so soon?" Jason asked, as he walked closer to the man.
The man eyed the approaching figure wearily.
"I thought I was rather good company myself," Jason casually continued.
The man clutched his bloody wrist and folded in on himself. He was afraid. Good. Jason had held back with the other men. He would do no such thing with this one. The bastard deserved what was coming to him. Jason wasted no more time with taunts. Lifting his gun, he aimed at the dead centre of the man's skull. Then, he fired.
An escrima rod hit the man hard. He was knocked to the floor, unconscious. Out of the path of Jason's bullet.
Jason turned his head to identify Nightwing, comfortably leaning against the wall. He casually played with the remaining escrima rod in hand. Jason scowled beneath his mask. When had he gotten here?
"I was handling it, Dickhead." Jason snapped, giving him a cold look - one that didn't have the opportunity to work however, seeing as it was buried beneath Jason's helmet.
Dick simply grinned at him. " That why you called Roy?"
So that's why he was here. Jason made a mental note to kill Roy the next time he saw him.
"Didn't need your help."
"Ahh, I could see that." Dick replied, ignoring the snippy tone. Jason eyed him wearily under his mask. Exactly how long had he been there? "But what sort of a brother would I be if I didn't help out?"
Jason snorted. "Help out? You mean get in the way of my shot."
Dick frowned. Although, he was pleased that Jason hadn't objected to the brother bit. Stepping toward Jason he spoke again.
" Jason, you know we don't kill,"
" No, you don't kill. I think you're forgetting that I'm not one of you." Jason retorted.
Dick's steps toward Jason were more cautious now, afraid of driving him away - again.
"Jay, that's not true. You're always going to be family."
"Yeah, right." Jason scoffed. " You all have a funny way of treating 'family'. I see even the replacement managed to get himself replaced. And you actually liked him."
"Jason it's not like - "
" Whatever," Jason cut him off sharply, "Just do me a favour and avoid making this a habit."
Dick let out a resigned sigh.
Jason walked back toward the exit. His body movements stiff. These run ins with Dick were taking a toll on him. He just wanted to leave the stupid bats behind. At least, that's what he told himself. He refused to acknowledge that some small part of him might envy the bond they had, the acceptance they found in one another, the love.
Jason pushed those thoughts down deep. He'd always be the black sheep of that 'family'. Jason's hand felt heavy as he pushed the door handle.
"Jay, wait!" Dick called.
Jason cursed internally at the way he stilled. Refusing to turn his head, he waited for Dick to continue.
"You do have a family Jason."
Dick hesitated before adding. "You have me."
Still, Jason made no movement to acknowledge him.
Dick sighed. "Just… try to remember that."
Jason heard the pull of the grappling gun as Dick made his ascent back up through the roof's window. A small smile crept onto Jason's face despite himself. It was typical of the former circus boy to choose the least conventional method of exiting a building. Jason let out a groan, resting his forehead against the door.
"Damn you, Dick." He muttered.