Tim didn't know how he'd done it. But Dick had finally managed to convince Jason to remain on the couch, while Dick examined the wound. Not that it meant Jason was being entirely cooperative.
"Damn it, Jason!" Dick groaned, trying to settle his patient's arm. "Hold still."
Jason glared at Dick. Tim almost scoffed. It's a wonder he wasn't buddying up with Damian. They both liked to use that glare. He'd been on the receiving end of it, more times than he could count. Seeing that Dick was immune, Jason reluctantly complied. Grumbling as he did so. Tim sat on one of the empty chairs in Dicks apartment. He observed silently as Dick examined the wound. Tim raised an eyebrow. Dick was certainly being very thorough. It wasn't the worst wound they had ever seen, yet Dick sure was taking his time looking over it.
By the look of the steadily growing annoyance on Jason's face, Tim figured he thought so too. It was odd though, that Jason hadn't commented on it. Then again it wasn't as if Tim knew Jason all that well. All he had to go off were the few memories Dick or Bruce had deigned to share with him - and they weren't really all that informative. All he knew was the Jason he had seen so far, was nothing like the boy that had been described to him. But then, he supposed, death could do that to a person.
"Alright," Dick concluded, "It's not too bad, mostly a flesh wound."
Jason spoke through his teeth, the annoyance not as well contained anymore. "That's what I told you."
Dick dropped his arm pulling back. "No, you didn't. You said it was just a flesh wound." Dick corrected him.
Jason rolled his eyes, "Same thing."
"Nope," Dick said, his grin teasing. "One is more accurate."
Tim inclined his head. Curious, that was almost banter. It was funny to see how Jason acted with Dick. Maybe Jason's issues were just with Bruce, and of course… with him. Tim's run ins with Jason in the past had not been very pleasant. He hadn't known Jason as anyone other than the person who had been resurrected from the Lazarus pit. But right now, with Dick bringing it out. he could almost see a glimpse of the boy that Jason would have been before he was murdered.
"Okay, wait here. I'll just grab the supplies from the bathroom," Dick announced walking out the living room.
Tim sat up. Wait, Dick couldn't seriously be leaving him with Jason. It might only be a few moments, but they would be agonisingly painful. What was he expected to say?
"I'll help you!" Tim offered quickly, before Dick left the room.
Dick gave Tim a knowing smile. "I think I can handle it on my own, Tim."
Tim slumped down into his seat. Stuck with Jason. Why did he agree to come back to Dick's apartment too? He would've been better off in the manor, he had absolutely nothing to add to this interaction. Tim leaned against the arm rest, resting his cheek in his hand. With Dick gone, an uncomfortable silence settled on the two. Maybe he should try to say something? Tim made to open his mouth when he saw that Jason was lying down on the couch now, his eyes closed. Ok then, maybe conversation wasn't the best idea. How would he start it anyway? 'so, I see you're not trying to fight me anymore'?
"Quit staring kid - it's weirding me out."
Tim's head snapped up. He was pretty sure Jason's eyes were closed.
"Not staring." Tim responded, eyeing Jason carefully. Yup the eyes were definitely closed.
Jason lazily popped open an eye to find that Tim's eyes were indeed on him. "Looks an awful lot like staring to me," he declared, drawing the eye closed once more.
Tim gaped. That was unfair!
"Yeah," Tim scoffed, "well most people tend to look when someone is speaking to them."
Eyes still closed, Jason shrugged his good shoulder. "I only spoke because you were staring."
"I was not staring."
"Picked up the art of denial from Bruce, huh?" Jason responded, throwing his good arm over his eyes to block out the living room light.
Tim gave up, settling back into his seat. Jason was obviously gifted in an art of his own – winding people up. Tim was not going to let Jason toy with him. Besides now that he thought about it, maybe he had been staring, just a tiny bit.
"Open your eyes Jay," Dick instructed, walking back with his supplies "I brought along some of your favourite band aids!"
Jason opened his eyes to look down at the box of band aids in Dicks hand. He narrowed his eyes at the box, before bringing them up to meet Dick's teasing grin.
"You put those on me and I'll stab you."
Well, that sounded familiar. Oddly enough, Jason didn't look entirely prepared to follow through with that threat. Tim was willing to bet that Jason's stance would change if it had been him in Dick's position. Funny, he could probably say the same thing about Damian. Not for the first time, Tim mourned the extreme lack of sanity in the Wayne family.
Dick patched up Jason's arm in relative silence. He didn't try to make too much more conversation apart from the occasional light-hearted remark, most of which, Jason would shut down. Tim itched with the need to leave. He really did feel like an outsider here. He'd be willing to bet that Jason was grappling with the same need. But no, Tim would stay. Despite feeling just a tad useless in this interaction, if it meant that he could show some form of solidarity with Dick's efforts to reach out to Jason, then it was probably worth it. Although, Tim really hadn't been doing the best job of that.
"All done," Dick announced, satisfied with his handywork.
Jason moved his arm experimentally to check the tightness of the bandages. He seemed to approve of the results.
"Finally," Jason sighed, making his way to the door. "Now, if you would please leave me in peace," he said, giving Dick a pointed look.
"Maybe," Dick responded. "When you start staying out of trouble."
Jason scoffed, closing the door behind him.
Tim turned to Dick, "Well, that went well."
Jason didn't know what prompted him to try this place. Maybe because he knew he wouldn't run into any bats here. They usually didn't snack on patrol.
He stood toward the back of the joint waiting for his order, taking care not to lean on the arm Dick had patched up. Jason had to admit, Dick had done a pretty good job – not that he'd ever tell him that.
Jason had woken up from another one of his nightmares. Driving himself to exhaustion just wasn't working. The scenes in his mind still plagued him. Realising sleep was not an option, he'd decided to follow some advice Alfred had given him when he was younger. 'Food actually has healing properties, Master Jason'.
It could be considered odd for a joint to be so busy at this hour. However, Jason, had long since learned that the real Gotham came alive at night. He idly scanned the crowd in the building. There were a few recognisable faces. Jason was no stranger to the Gotham underworld – Or more accurately Red Hood was no stranger to it. Jason was only here for a snack.
His wondering eyes paused on a small figure huddled in the corner. Jason's eyebrows furrowed. Probably a kid. Their oversized hoodie was pulled up, covering their face well. Clearly, they were trying to avoid notice.
The kid's hood snapped toward the counter. Jason watched as they stilled then, the movement under their hood suggesting they were scanning the joint carefully. Jason subtly re-positioned his head, to look as if he were studying the menu. Curious, he kept an eye on the kid through his peripheral vision. Seemingly satisfied with their assessment of the room, the kid rose slowly from their seat and moved toward the counter. As the kid moved, Jason caught a glimpse of the firm set of their mouth. Clearly, a lot of effort was going into remaining unnoticed. Jason cocked his head to the side, trying to study their face. The hood made it difficult, but after catching another small glimpse of their face, he concluded that they were probably on the younger side – maybe twelve. Jason couldn't be entirely sure, but there was something decidedly feminine about their features. His eyes narrowed. What was that little girl doing in a place like this?
Finally reaching the counter, the kid reached out to grab the order. A heavy hand gripped her shoulder. Jason's eyes snapped to the man now. His brows drew together as he realised that this was someone he recognised. Tobias Scott. Not exactly a big player in Gotham. Although, recently it had seemed that his gang had been gaining more street rep. Tobias' reputation in particular had become more pronounced. Apparently, he was becoming notorious for being quick tempered, brash and cruel. In Jason's experience, that sort of behavior usually came about when someone was deliberately trying to send a message on the street.
The girl stilled instantly under the man's firm grasp. This was clearly not an interaction the kid wanted to have. She didn't seem surprised though, at least - not entirely. Her reaction was reminiscent of the way Jason used to act when he'd get caught red handed. But that was back when he used to…
Jason's eyes widened, the realisation dawning on him. He brought a hand up, pinching his forehead. This kid could not have picked a worse person to nick an order from.
The burly man forcefully spun the kid around to face him. She tensed up. At least her hood was still up. For some, having a recognisable face among those in the Gotham underworld could be dangerous. Tobias let out a chuckle as if amused. There was an odd sound that underpinned that laughter though. That meant trouble. Poor kid.
"Look whelp," Tobias shrugged. The movement almost came out as casual. Almost. However, Jason has long since learned to recognise the language of hidden aggression. "obviously, you need to be taught a thing or two about who not to mess with around here."
Jason fought back the urge to cringe. He had a pretty good idea about how men like Tobias imparted their lessons. He quickly took stock of the room. The scene unfolding was not quite enough for anyone to bat an eye. Jason bit back a frustrated sigh. That was sure to change if he interfered. As the Red Hood, he wouldn't hesitate. But with this face, Jason needed to make sure it didn't become too familiar on the street. He fixed his eyes on Tobias again. Perhaps a drunken brawl would be a good excuse. His eyes roamed the joint again, before locking onto Tobias once more. No. It was too risky. With Tobias' growing notoriety, it would only draw attention to himself – and the kid.
Swallowing uncomfortably, Jason opted instead to pay close attention. Bruce would've given anything for Jason to display this level of patience during his time as Robin. His mouth set to a thin line at the thought.
The kid's body had noticeably relaxed now. Jason however spotted the firm set of her chin. The corner of his mouth twitched upward despite himself. He knew that trick. She was getting ready to bolt.
Tobias leaned in a little closer to her. "I'm going to make sure – "
He didn't get to finish that sentence as the kid was already speeding toward the door.
Tobias' face clouded, and he quickly shouted at some of his men. "Someone get that damn kid!"
Jason saw that this situation was getting noticed now. He turned around quickly to eye the exit behind him. Two men had moved closer to the door, ready to intercept the little runaway. Jason cursed. The kid was not making it out.
As the kid ran past, Jason reached a hand out to stop them. The kid thrashed violently against him. Yeah, he probably could've thought of a better way to go about this. He quickly caught the kid's hood before it slipped down from all her movement. She was surprisingly persistent, but Jason was far larger. He managed to restrain the kid beside him. Still, that didn't stop her squirming and he saw her hood in danger of creeping down again.
"Keep the hood up," Jason commanded quietly, making sure his voice would only just be audible to the kid.
The kid faltered. Her struggle slowly calmed. With a quick shake of her head, the hood fell back over her face more completely. Good. She was still tense though, ready for the chance to bolt at any moment. Jason's eyes quickly flicked over to Tobias' men by the door. He gripped the kid tighter. Jason couldn't give her that chance. As Tobias approached him, Jason moved his body in front of the kid's slightly. He knew Tobias had a reputation for being cruel, but it was a recent development. Surely propagated to keep up his image on the street. He was certain that making this kid pay was more a pride thing. Well, mostly certain. All he had to do was get this kid out of here, in a way that wouldn't ruin his pride. Jason groaned inwardly. Perhaps he should've picked up a lesson on how to walk around people's feelings from Dick.
"Damn kid, he's been pulling this shit all week!" Jason growled. He gave the kid a rough little tug for good measure. "You wanna teach him a lesson?" he let out a bitter chuckle. "There's a line."
Tobias paused, eyeing the kid almost curiously. Jason felt the kid tense further. He could've imagined it, but Jason was sure he felt the kid make a minute movement to hide behind him a little more. Hopefully the hood covered her face enough. Tobias returned his gaze to Jason, eyeing him up and down.
"And who're you?" Tobias asked him roughly.
"The last person he tried to pull this crap with." Jason made sure to look suitably annoyed. "Got away from me that time though." Jason gave the man a feral grin. "You can deal with him when I'm through."
Jason's eyes snapped to the counter.
"That's my cue," Jason said, moving to collect his order. "Don't worry," He called over his shoulder, "You can have what's left."
Tobias made a dismissive gesture, "Whatever, just give him an extra hard one from me."
As he picked up his order and made his way to the door, Jason tried not to let relief wash over him too soon. Bruce must've cautioned him at least a hundred times against celebrating too early. As they passed Tobias' men at the door, he gripped the kid a little tighter. Once they were out, Jason still refused to relax completely until they were a safe distance from the joint. He dragged the kid into a nearby alley.
Jason quickly scanned the area. Making sure it was empty, he finally brought his eyes back to the kid in front of him. She hadn't uttered a word. He let go now, and stepped back, giving the kid the opportunity to leave. She didn't budge.
"You don't need to keep your hood up kid, I already know you're a girl."
The kid jolted at his words. Slowly, the hood came down. Deep brown eyes studied Jason warily. Her hair was haggard and choppy. She must have cut it to that boyish length herself. His earlier assessment had been right. She couldn't have been any older than twelve. A little late, Jason realised that it was probably a little intimidating to be towering over her. He leaned down, resting his weight on his knee so that his face was level with her.
"Kid," he shook his head, amusement creeping into his tone. "You really need to pick your targets better." He held out his bag of food, "here,"
The kid's eyes widened slightly, although she was quick to cover it up. Slowly, her eyes moved between Jason and the bag. She swallowed, before raising her eyes to meet his squarely. She had some grit in her then.
"What do I owe you?"
Her voice was soft, but untrusting. Jason was struck by the memory of him uttering those very words to Bruce. He hadn't understood the softening of Bruce's face, the way his brows had furrowed together gently. Meeting the girl's weary eyes once more, he saw that kindness was a foreign concept to her. He understood now. It had been a look of pity.
"Well…" he stalled, covering up his momentary lapse. "I expect a snack the next time I see you."
Her brows drew together, confused. Still, she nodded slowly. She reached for the bag, keeping her eyes on his as if waiting for him to snatch it away. He held it out further toward her until she finally took it. Once she had the bag, Jason got up and turned to walk out of the alley.
"Take care of yourself kid," He called out behind him as he turned the corner.
Jason let out a deep sigh. He should probably keep an eye out for that one. He shook his head. Gotham. He'd hate this city if he didn't love it so much. Jason kept walking, looking out along the empty street. Now that his late-night munch plans were a bust, he'd have to find a new distraction from his insomnia. His eyes drifted to the rooftops. A familiar gargoyle came to mind. Maybe it was time to see an old friend.
He needed to stop doing this.
Dick stood still, clothed in the shadows of the rooftop ornament. The young acrobat's eyes were fixated on a building two down from him. More specifically, they were trained on the individual perched upon its roof. Jason.
Dick sighed. He really needed to stop doing this.
Dick had first spotted him like this a week ago. On his way to a fire that had spread half a block, he had spotted Jason, right by that same gargoyle. Dick hadn't stopped that time, focusing instead on rescuing people from the fire.
This was the third night Dick had found himself out here. The second night, he'd found his brother perched with that gargoyle just the same, running his haunted gaze over Gotham City. Dick's every instinct had screamed to join him. Dick sighed. Maybe he shouldn't have hesitated that night. But how many times had had Jason pushed him away?
Now, he was out here again, battling with the same question. Surely Jason would have reached out himself if he'd really wanted to. Dick let out another sigh, running a hand through his hair. Why wasn't there a manual on navigating relationships with angry people who came back from the dead? Dick's eyes wandered back to Jason. There weren't many instances where he could remember seeing Jason look this… helpless. His eyes narrowed taking Jason in more carefully. He ignored the voice in the back of his head which told him he was being overbearing. He was allowed to be concerned, wasn't he? Dick studied his brothers form a little more. There was something definitely off about Jason. Dick readied his grappling gun. That made his decision for him then.
Dick approached slowly, mirroring the caution one might take with a frightened animal. After a little debate, he decided to settle in right next to Jason on the rooftop. An annoyed sigh was the only acknowledgement Jason gave him. At least he hadn't told Dick to go away. That was somewhat reassuring. Still, Dick would have to tread carefully here.
"You know," Dick started slowly, "I really thought Bruce was joking when he said you have a favourite gargoyle."
Jason closed his eyes, inhaling a deep breath. As if responding to Dick was an annoyance he had to mentally prepare for. Dick tried not to feel affronted.
"Old man doesn't joke," Jason responded finally, still not turning to face him.
"Yeah," Dick snorted, "that probably should've been my first clue."
It wasn't much of a response, but Dick was certain he saw the corner of Jason's mouth twitch slightly. He didn't completely detest Dick's company. That was a small victory at least. Dick settled back on his arms opting to follow Jason's suit and cast his gaze over the Gotham rooftops. There was something calming about Gotham from this angle. He cast his eyes to the side to observe Jason. Did he find this calming too? He would've thought that Jason was more the type to beat something up to calm his emotions, not unlike Damian. Dick remembered walking in on that particular form of therapy quite a few times when Jason had been Robin.
Dick continued to let his gaze wonder Gotham. There was a surprising number of food places open at this time of night. He often made visits himself while on patrol. Damian had chastised him for being unprofessional when he'd discovered his older brother's habit. Little did Damian know, Dick had picked up that habit from Bruce. The man had been different when he had first taken Dick in.
Dick's eyes were drawn to a small fast food place on a street a few blocks down. It was easy to miss. It had only caught Dick's attention because of its name. He grinned. What were the odds?
Dick nudged his brother's shoulder lightly.
Jason glared at him, "Dick do you really have to –"
"No, look!" Dick interrupted him, gesturing to the building that had caught his attention.
Jason sighed following Dick's gaze. He shook his head, annoyed. "I don't see what's so -" He paused when he saw the name, letting out a groan. Jason turned back to face Dick "Really? Little Wings?"
Dick's grin widened. "Think I could get Bruce to buy it?" Jason rolled his eyes. Dick continued as if he hadn't noticed. "It'd be great! We could have some angry Red Hood toys to give away… although Bat Burger's already doing that I suppose."
Jason glared it him. "You know, Dick isn't a name you should try to live up to."
Dick burst out in laughter. Yeah, he had heard every joke in the book. But they still got to him sometimes. When he'd calmed himself enough to look back at Jason again, Dick noticed that his face looked more relaxed now. Whatever Dick had come here to distract Jason from seemed to have left his mind – for now. Dick would have to get him to talk about that soon.
They both leaned back to relax, a companionable silence settling over them. Perhaps Dick should consider pushing for why Jason was up here. Bruce had said that Jason only came up here when something was bothering him. Dick's brows drew together, contemplating speaking up. He glanced at Jason and decided against it. Now was not the time for that. Jason would just close off again.
The flash of the Bat signal interrupted his thoughts.
"I think that's your cue," Jason told him.
Dick repressed a groan. He was just getting somewhere here. Burying the disappointment, he turned to Jason.
"You could always join me?" Dick offered, raising an eyebrow in challenge.
"Nice try," Jason smirked, "But I think there's a more than enough bats to answer the signal."
Dick tried not to look defeated. Of course, Jason's walls would still be up. He chewed his lip contemplating a thought. Before he could talk himself out of it, he quickly pushed a small piece of paper into Jason's hands. Jason flinched at the abrupt movement, before looking down to examine what Dick had given him. Dick rubbed the back of his neck, starting to look a little sheepish.
"It's uh… it's an invite to my birthday."
Jason eyed the fancy lettering and raised an eyebrow at Dick.
"Yeah," Dick cringed a little, "Bruce decided to turn the event into one of those society bashes," Dick explained. "Alfred thought that the Wayne's were becoming a little too reclusive in the public eye."
Dick kept his eyes on Jason trying to gauge his response. Jason's was hesitant. It looked like he was about to utter an abrupt refusal.
"At least think about it," Dick hurried out, before Jason could say anything.
Dick fired his grappling gun, swinging away. He had delayed getting to the signal long enough. He trusted that either Tim or Damian would be there though. They were usually extra vigilant when Bruce was involved in some Justice League mess. He cast one last look back at the rooftop Jason was on. Hopefully he had made the right move there. Dick had reached out. He just hoped that Jason was willing to meet him half way.