There was a boy in the dumpster. His shirt was dirty and too big, his jeans were full of holes and several inches too short, his red hair was too long and all messy.
And he was digging in the dumpster.
Timmy had never seen anything like it.
It was dusk in Gotham City proper, and all evidence said that Batman and Robin were going to be out here tonight. Timmy had looked at the news reports of arrests and had poured over online maps. Crime Alley was one of the best spots, but this seemed to be a better place to check earlier. Timmy wanted to get an early viewing. While the light was good.
He’d been walking around the same five blocks for an hour. Trying to find the best place to wait, the best angles to try.
He was deciding between two look outs.
But then he saw the boy in the dumpster and got distracted.
“What are you doing?” Timmy asked. His english teacher said he asked too many questions, but his art teacher said it's a sign of intelligence. And she gave him his first camera, so he didn’t stop.
The other boy growled almost like a dog. But while Timmy started a little at the noise, he only moved closer.
“What are you doing?” Timmy asked, again.
“Lookin’ for food.” He had a thick Gotham accent, and dropped his “g”s the way Tim’s english teacher says is wrong.
“In the trash?” Timmy was sceptical. Mom said he wasn’t even supposed to eat food if it falls on the floor for a second, “Food is in the kitchen.”
“There isn’t any in my kitchen.” The boy said.
Timmy’s food got put in the kitchen by Lucy the Housekeeper, but on TV, food usually got put in by the Mom. “Your mom doesn’t put it there?”
“She’s dead.” The boy spat and Timmy frowned. He knew sometimes Moms die because of TV and books and because it happened to Mr. Bruce from next door. None of his friends didn’t have Moms though. A few had more than one. But no one in his class didn’t have any. Elliot’s mom had had cancer, but he got a step-mom a few weeks after she died.
“So there isn’t any food at your house?”
“Do you want to come to my house?” He offered. They had done a thing about stranger danger at school, but he’d looked on line and the statistics didn’t pan out. Plus the boy wasn’t that much older than him so he’ll probably like Timmy’s food “I have lots of food.”
He’s the only one who eats at home.
The boy stared at him for a long moment and then he jumped out of the dumpster, landing with a thud. He was wearing sneakers but they were dirty. The aglets had come off of the laces.
He was small up close. Timmy was short of his age, but the other boy was skinny skinny. His skin hung off his face so that Timmy could almost see his skull underneath. Like Halloween.
And he gave Timmy a scary look too.
Then his stomach growled.
“Come on.” Timmy said, “We can go get dinner.”
*** The kid said his name was Timmy. He’s got a backpack and a camera and was apparently going to try and see if he could spot Batman and Robin.
He’s also a free meal, and Jason’s belly won’t stop rumbling.
He also does not live in the Narrows, like Jason had originally thought. He’s well washed and fed, but plenty of kids in the Narrows have parents who remember to feed them. He’s also not from the little East End Suburbs a few blocks away with the shabby little houses Mom used to dream about getting.
He walked them to the train station, which set Jason’s teeth on edge. He doesn’t leave Crime Alley if he can help it. Here people stared, but only a little. And no one called the cops, or social workers.
Jason didn’t have a metro card, but Timmy didn’t seem to mind buying him one. Jason told him he needed a trip back, too, and Timmy didn’t blink, just pulls out a credit card and pays for it. Like its no big deal and five dollars just grows on trees.
They ride out to the furthest station. Jason had never been before, but here they are attracting attention. People in fancy suits stared at them. Jason hated the stares. But he knew he probably smelled. And Timmy was really really tiny.
Their eyes were kind of the same color, and Jason wondered if he could pretend to be the older brother. Except for the fact that Timmy’s clothes were nice and he had all the money, and Jason had been wearing the same shirt for weeks and hasn’t had a shower in way longer.
Timmy wasn’t concerned. He just hopped off the train and went to wait for the bus. “They won’t call me a taxi.” Timmy explained, as he lead them on, swiping his card first and watching as Jason followed suit. Jason hadn’t even noticed Timmy paying for bus fair.
How much money did this kid have?
That was answered soon enough. Because Jason watched the bus cross the river and the little sign welcoming everyone into Bristol.
Were all the rich people lived in giant houses the size of the building Jason used to live in.
Timmy lived in Bristol.
Timmy had money.
Timmy was leading Jason directly to a house in the most expensive area in Gotham.
And Jason knew, as he followed Timmy off the bus, that he would not leave empty handed.
The stop was at a gas station, and they had to walk another mile, but when Timmy pointed towards his house, Jason decided it was worth it.
It was GIANT. A mansion. It also made the fact that he could see another, bigger house behind it in the early moonlight just gave the whole setting a gothic feeling. Like when he’d read Dracula and dreamed about castles full of bats.
It was also dark. Jason had realized about half a mile back that Timmy’s parents would be home from work at this late hour.
But if they were, they might have been in bed already. Jason didn’t own a watch, but the sun hadn’t set that long ago.
“Your parents are probably not going to like that you brought some stranger over in the middle of the night,” Jason reminded him.
Timmy, peering at the gate code, shook his head, “Mom and Dad are in Japan.” The gate slid open beside them.
“Is your Grandma home, or something?” Jason asked. He used to know lots of kids who lived with their grandparents, and old people went to bed early.
“No,” Timmy shook his head again, leading Jason up the long driveway as the gate closed automatically behind them.
The house was so big, and Timmy was so tiny. “Who is staying with you while your parents are on vacation?”
“Lucy is suppose to check on me, when she comes to clean.” Timmy said, “And she buys me food. But she always buys a lot. So now you can have some.”
Jason eyed the big house and the little boy. Could it really be this easy? Surely Timmy’s mom would have jewelry. Or maybe his parents would just leave cash around.
He wondered briefly if he could get Timmy’s credit card, and then the boy unlocked the door, pushed it open and turned around and gave him a big grin.
The kid was alone. It wouldn’t be fair.
“What do you want for dinner?” Timmy asked, as they trekked through the silent house. Timmy didn’t bother with the lights until they reached the kitchen. It was twice as big as the last apartment he and Mom had lived in. The sort of thing you’d expect from one of those fancy house parties in the Christie novels he use to barrow from Mrs. Martinez downstairs.
“I made one of the frozen lasagnas yesterday. But we could have hotdogs or sandwiches or macaroni or spaghetti.”
The dinner he and mom use to splurge at had really good lasagna, and if you were careful, you could feed two people on it for 3 days.
“lasagnas sounds good.” He said and then watched as Timmy dragged one of the stools beneath the high counter to the fridge, he climbed up and removed a large foil wrapped pan.
“Do you want some help?” Jason asked, after a few moments and watching Timmy teeter a little too much.
Timmy nodded and handed Jason the pan. It was heavy. His stomach growled. Timmy jumped down and raced to cabinet, grabbing plates and then got forks out draw. It was like running a marathon, going though this kitchen, Jason didn’t understand how Timmy’s family could have enough stuff to fill it.
All of Jason’s important stuff was in the backpack he was carrying. His changes of underwear, his other pair of jeans, his two pairs of socks, a dead cell phone he’d found a few days ago, his hoodie for when it got cold, the big towel he’d found to replace his blanket, the soap the nice lady at the clinic had given him. The two paperbacks he’d stolen from the library.
He wondered what else he could fit from this place.
Timmy was back on his stool, putting both plates, now piled high with pasta in the microwave.
“We can watch tv while it heats up,” Timmy offered, “Or play video games. I have a lot, and normally my friends can’t come over and play.”
Jason can’t think of the last time he played a video game. He’d probably be really bad at it. Worse then Timmy, who’s little.
He requests they watch TV.
Timmy leads him to the ‘den’ mentioning along the way that the living room has all the uncomfortable couches and too far away from the living room to hear the microwave beeping.
“When it's done, we’ll go to my room,” Timmy promised, as he turned on the den light.
Jason blinked, and then blinked again. The far wall was absolutely covered in books. He’d only seen this many, selves and selves, in a library before. He didn’t know people could have this many books in their house.
He walked up to them, staring at spines, taking them all in.
“Do you like to read?” Timmy asked, he sounded excited.
“Yeah,” Jason nodded, “yeah...when I can.”
“You can read any of those.” Timmy said. “I like to read, too. But normally on the internet. Its the best way to get up to date research.”
Jason wasn’t sure what that meant. But he was sure that he hadn’t finished the fifth Harry Potter book before he’d stopped going to school last year. And now it was sitting right in front of him.
He reached out for it without even thinking.
“That’s the fifth one,” Timmy said, “You have to start with the first.”
“I’ve read that those already,” Jason said, but he stopped pulling the book out, “I read the first four before I stopped going to school.”
Timmy’s eyes went wide.
“You don’t go to school?” He sounded shocked.
“Oh,” Timmy shifted, suddenly nervous. “How old are you?”
Jason normally answered that question with the very much pushing believability number of 14, but Timmy wasn’t a cop.
“Oh,” Timmy smiled again, “I thought it might mean you were a grown up. That’s good, I wouldn’t want to bring a grown up home.”
“Not just grown ups don’t go to school, Timmy.” Jason instructed wisely.
“Why doesn’t your dad make you go to school?” Timmy asked, and it was clever, that he’d caught to bit about Jason’s mom being dead.
“He’s dead too.”
“Oh, who do you live with?”
That, for the first time, made Timmy frown. “How can you live with no one, you’re 10. That’s against the law.”
Jason actually snorted, “The cops don’t really care, kid.They’ll harass you for ‘truancy’ or whatever. But they don’t actually care.”
“But, where do you live?” The predicament of Jason finally seeming to become clear.
Jason shrugged, “Wherever.”
“Are you homeless?” Timmy gasped. “GNN did a story about it last year, and the Wayne Foundation was releasing statistics and…”
“I’m not a statistic,” Jason snapped. Then felt bad at Timmy’s flinch, at the falling of his face. He was distracted by the beeping of the microwave alarm.
Timmy was still for a long moment. “I’ll get dinner,” He finally said, “And then we can go to my room and eat.”
Timmy’s room was up two flights of stairs. Jason had never seen a house with more than two floors in it. Timmy hasn’t said anything else, just handed Jason his plate and led the way through the maze of a house. It was kind of creepy, the way the kid didn’t need to turn on the light for anything.
Though, luckily, after the Kitchen and the Den, Timmy’s room wasn’t too intimidating. It was big and bright, with a bed too big for a little kid in the middle, a large TV and video game system Jason couldn’t identify on sight, a fancy computer set up on a large desk, more books and games and movies. And about a million pictures of Batman and Robin.
“We can watch the Gray Ghost Cartoon,” Timmy offered, “If you want.”
“Sounds good.” Jason said, standing awkwardly in the middle of the room, still clutching his food. It smelled good, he wondered when it would be ok to start eating.
Timmy messed with the DVD player and then sat on his bed with the remote and his plate, before looking at Jason expectantly. So Jason joined him.
Right above the bed was a circus poster. Three people flying off a trapezes.
It was like the bedroom of Jason’s dreams.
Timmy started the show. Jason had vague memories of it being on antenna TV a few years ago, but he didn’t know the episode Timmy had chosen. Even still, about a third of the way in he started to speak, at the same time as Timmy:
“It's the assistant,” they both said, together. Then they looked at each other. Timmy broke first, falling into a fit of giggles, and soon Jason joined him. Lying on the big, comfortable bed, eating a yummy dinner and watching a good show. With Timmy.
They watched another episode and then another. Each time guessing who did it before The Gray Ghost did. Jason finished his food. He considered asking for more, but his belly already hurt, just a little bit.
“Its late,” Jason finally said. Timmy’s alarm clock read 11:47. “I should go.”
Timmy frowned again, “But you don’t have anywhere to go.” He reminded Jason. Like Jason could ever, really forget.
“Well I can’t stay here.”
“I don’t think your parents would like it, kid.”
“No,” Timmy agreed, “But we don’t have to tell them.”
Jason blinked, “I think they’d notice the extra kid living here when they got back from vacation.”
“They’re not on vacation,” Timmy said, “Their on a business trip. The itinerary Mom sent on Monday said they’d be back in two months. But they’ll probably change their mind. They normally do.”
“You can use my shower,” Timmy offered, and Jason wondered what had been in the news story about homelessness. Because that was quite an offer. “And I’ll find you some clothes. You aren’t that much bigger than me, and sometimes mom sends stuff that doesn’t fit because she doesn’t know how much I’ve grown and she guesses too much.”
Jason almost told Timmy that it was illegal for kids younger than ten to live alone. But he figured he’d take that shower. And clean clothes.
It was nearly one in the morning when they crawled into Timmy’s bed that was really too big for two little boys. It was warm and soft. Jason was clean. Cleaner then he’d been in eight months. He was wearing a giant t-shirt that said something that wasn’t in english and Superman pajama pants. Timmy’s pajamas were Batman and Robin themed. His backpack rested by his side of the bed. It was within his reach
Only Timmy’s night light, shaped like the bat signal, lit the room.
“You never told me your name,” Timmy muttered, nuzzling into the bed, because it was so big and soft you could nuzzle into it.
Jason had forgotten that. Timmy had invited a boy whose name he didn’t know to live with him.
They were quite a pair.
“I’m Jason Todd.”
“I’m Timothy Drake,” He whispered in the night, “I’m glad we’re going to be brothers now.”