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another shot of whiskey

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Gotham City. She was known to the world as New Jersey’s sin city, made hell seem like a tourist attraction. Whispers of her streets and the tales they could tell reached every corner of the United States, at the very least, if not including Canada and Mexico. Tales of the gore spilled on her streets, of malice unleashed upon her inhabitants, of cruelty that ran amok in her heart.

Those stories were far outdated; by a decade or so, in fact.

The names Richard Grayson and Jason Todd were far more than whispers in the street, though that didn't mean nobody spoke of them. It was hard not to talk about the two orphans who'd risen from the ashes of their tragedies to take control of the criminal world so quickly and smoothly one would hardly be able to notice the power shift if they weren't a native Gothamite. It was hard not to talk about the two boys who'd grown together and become powerful men.

It was hard to avoid speaking of them, but say their names around one of their informants and you'd be inviting them to your home.

Howard Burnley was learning that lesson.

“Man is cash money, Dick,” Jason mused, looking around the obscenely large home he and his brother had just broken into. He whistled.

Dick hummed thoughtfully. “No kidding. One of the richer ones in a while.”

Jason stretched his arms over his head, heard his back crack a little, sighed in pleasure, and commented, “We should break into rich people’s homes more.”

“You know why we don’t.”

“Doesn’t mean I like it.”

Dick laughed as they made their way to Howard’s bedroom, Jason linking his hands behind his head with a sly smirk on his face.

It was still dark out, the brothers having entered the house at about eleven twenty in the night to make sure they caught Howard at an inconvenient time. There were tons of rumors that Dick and Jason weren’t human, that they were vampires, metas, something supernatural, because of certain habits of theirs. Habits such as the late-night visits.

“Man the money raiding a house like this woulda pulled in when we were kids.” Jason looked around at the walls and décor of Howard’s fucking mansion.

Dick snorted, opening the door to Howard’s room. “You say that like raiding this shithole won’t pull any cash in now.”

Jason shrugged and crossed his arms, moving to stand behind the first chair he saw. “True.” 

Dick plopped into the seat Jason was standing behind, tossing his legs over the arm of the loveseat, and leaned his head back, the movement making his shirt ride up and expose a bit of the handgun he had at his waist.

Keeping up conversation, Dick and Jason waited for Howard to show up.

At around twelve thirty-two, the sound of a door slamming resonated throughout the empty house, soon accompanied by boisterous laughter and loud, slurred voices.

The brothers shared a look (not dissimilar to one parents would adopt after learning their child did something particularly stupid) and continued to wait as they had been for the past hour and twelve minutes.

“Easy night, then,” Dick scoffed.

Jason shrugged and didn’t comment.

About a minute later the door to the oversized bedroom was thrown open, the handle hitting the wall with a loud bang that had Jason’s hands curling into the fabric of his shirt sleeves and his jaw tightening.

Howard seemed blissfully ignorant of the two crime lords in his home, dragging his companion toward his bed with drunken giddiness.

Normally, Dick and Jason would wait to be noticed. In this case, they would not, because Howard was clearly far too intoxicated to notice it if a rhinoceros were to stampede through his home.

Dick cleared his throat, swinging his feet, and tilted his head with his upside-down view of the room.

Howard’s companion screamed when she saw them, out of the room faster than you could snap, but Howard himself was a little slow on the uptake, staring in the direction the woman had gone with a puzzled crease to his brow and tilt to his lips.

“Mister Burnley,” Jason drawled, a deep scowl etched in his face. Gone was any lightheartedness he’d had with his brother, in its place the man Gotham’s streets spoke about only in hushed whispers.

Speaking carried none of the subtlety a polite, almost inaudible throat clearing did; it had almost the direct opposite effect, especially then, as the color bled from Howard’s face.

“M-Mister Todd?” The pathetic tremble to the man’s voice inspired no twinge of pity or remorse in the two crime lords. The tremble was a nod to their influence--to their power-- and was considered a symbol of fear and respect.

Really, if the man hadn’t been afraid of them, Dick and Jason would have been insulted.

“And I’m chopped liver?” Dick asked, a touch of amusement detectable in his tone. “You wound me, Howie; I thought we’d get along like old friends!”

The brothers must’ve made quite a sight to see, there, in the positions they held. Dick in his rumpled blue button-up, worn jeans, and loved sneakers, sunglasses hanging off his shirt, and Jason in his dark slacks, ironed white button-up, and boots.

Dick’s sly, easy smile was a sharp contrast to the cruel, harsh curl of Jason’s lips.

Their own fucked-up Yin and Yang.

Howard looked ready to piss his pants (maybe he had, actually, you never know with drunks), and choked out, “I-I’m sorry, Mister Grayson, p-please don’t kill me, I’m begging you, please.”

Dick sighed in response, closing his eyes then sitting up in the seat to lean his elbows on his legs.

“You’re the one who wanted us, remember?” he asked, rubbing at the bridge of his nose for a few seconds before moving his hand and locking his deep blue gaze with Howard’s flint grey one. “I didn’t even know who you were until a few hours ago. You didn’t exist to either of us.”

“We,” Jason growled, “left you alone. We kept out of your life, out of your business, until you barged into ours.”

Dick tsked, frowning at Howard. “‘Stupid urban myth I’m not gonna buy into’? Is that really what you think of us, Howie?”

A choked sob was Howard’s immediate response before he could manage a choked, “I’m sorry, I didn’t--”

“Didn’t what?” Jason snapped. “Because you sure as fuck knew we existed when you decided to slander us and our lives. So don’t tell us you didn’t know, when you so obviously did know.”

Jason’s words made Howard break down into desperate cries, the man scrambling off his bed to fall to his knees at Dick’s feet.

“I’m sorry!” he wailed, hideous tears dripping off his chin as he bowed his back only slightly and looked to Dick, then Jason, with erratic fear in his eyes. “It won’t happen again, I swear it won’t! I’ll stop, I’ll--I’ll do anything, I swear it, I’m sorry.”

Dick’s lips curled in distaste and he stood, the handle of his 9mm just peeking out from under his shirt.

“Get off your knees,” Dick said, voice laced with his disgust, “and stop groveling. Not even our dogs do that.” He scoffed softly. “God, you’re worse than a fucking rat.”

Hastily Howard rose to his feet and took a few steps back to make sure he wasn’t intruding on either of their personal space, and his lip continued to wobble with his fear though he wiped at his face with the collar of his vest.

Jason walked around the chair to stand beside his brother, hands now shoved into his pockets, and sneered at Howard.

“Pathetic, aren’t you? What happened to the cocky shitbag that said he could run Gotham better than we do? I wanna see that asshole.” Jason dragged a scornful gaze over Howard and said, “You’re just tragic.”

“Tell you what, Howie,” Dick said over Howard’s (frankly irritating) whimpers, cracking a small smile. “Get out of Gotham by next week today, and we’ll never have any issues from then on.”

A spark of hope had lit in Howard’s eyes, so Jason added, “If you don’t leave by then, you’ll be dead by sunset. Get out and don’t come back for any reason if you care about your tragic, ratty little life.”

“It’s done!” Howard blurted, and it looked like he was about to drop to his knees again--a sharp frown from Dick, though, and it was aborted.

“It’d better be,” Jason hissed.

As the door shut behind them, Dick groaned and arched his back, rubbing at a sore spot with his hand. The tension and roughness bled out of Jason with every step they took, and he casted his brother a side-glance, raising a brow.

“Feeling your age?” he quipped with a small smirk.

“Feeling sore,” Dick replied, ignoring Jason’s little jab. “I sat like that for an hour, Jason. An hour.”

“You act like you sat there perfectly still.” Jason rolled his eyes, shaking his head. “You kept moving every five seconds.”

“My ass went numb!”

“Did I ask?”

“Do you think I care? I need to justify myself--”

“No, you really don’t--”

“--well okay so I want to, whatever.”

“Now we’re getting somewhere.”

Dick groaned as he mounted his motorcycle, Jason already slipping his own helmet on. 

“You’re such a piece of shit,” he whined, pulling his own helmet on. 

Jason laughed.

A week later found Jason and Dick playing blackjack with Timothy Todd, Cullen Row, Kyle Rayner, and Joseph Wilson in the privacy of their personal section of their nightclub.

“Fucking-- again, Rayner?” Jason mourned his wallet for having played four rounds and losing every last one of them to Kyle.

The smug bastard knew how Jason felt, too, and threw his friend a wry, cheeky grin.

“What’s the matter, Todd?” he asked as he accepted the money everyone was handing over. “Mad I cheat better?”

“I think we all are,” Dick said, sighing as he recollected everyone’s cards to shuffle and redistribute them.

Tim, Cullen, and Joey all chimed in with their agreement.

Joey stretched and Tim asked, “Motion to play a new game?”

Cullen pointed at Tim. “Great idea and I second that. If we keep playing blackjack, I’m gonna end up selling my apartment to pay for all these rounds! Do you understand just how pissed Harper would be?”

Dick snorted and started shuffling.

Joey nodded his support for a new game, Dick shrugged, and Jason suggested bullshit.

“Bullshit?” Kyle asked, brow furrowing. “That’s a card game?”

A wide grin split across Jason’s face and Dick cracked a smirk.

“Get ready to give me my money back, Rayner,” Jason laughed. “I’m gonna have fun with this.”

Dick was just starting to pass out the cards when there was a soft tap on the door.

Joey stood up, waving a dismissive hand at Jason and Dick as they shared a look, and walked over to the door to answer it.

As he addressed whoever was there, Dick dealt the cards with flair and skill like he’d worked in Las Vegas.

“I’m not looking forward to playing this game,” Kyle said, picking up his cards and looking through them.

“You shouldn’t,” Dick answered, a teasing grin on his lips. “This is Tim’s game.”

“Fucking hell,” Jason complained. “I forgot about that.”

Tim sent Jason a sharp grin and he shook his head.

As the ace of spades was tossed down, Kyle asked, “So is anyone going to explain how you play this game?”

“You’ll figure it out.”

Kyle sighed in resignation, adjusting his hold on his cards.

There was a soft tap on Jason’s shoulder and he looked up at Joseph. If he’d drawn Jason’s attention instead of simply rejoining the game, whoever was at the door had something that needed his attention.

Just in case, he asked, “You’re sure?”

Joey nodded so Jason and Dick--though he hadn’t been directly addressed--set their decks down and stood, business written in their body language as they made their way to the door.

“Man,” they heard Tim mutter as they left. “I still don’t get why I’m the one left here to watch this shit.”

Cullen snorted and said, “Tim, buddy. They don’t take you with them because if they did, you’d probably take over the world.”

As they stepped out of the lounge, and as Dick closed the door behind them, Jason addressed their visitor.

“Didn’t expect to see you around,” Jason said, raising a brow. “Thought you’d decided we weren’t worth your time.”

“Gotta say, though,” Dick added as he stuck his hand out for a shake, “this is one of the better surprises we’ve had in a while, Bruce.”

Bruce Wayne shook Dick’s hand with a nod.

“I’d hope my presence is welcome,” he mused. “I’m sorry I left such a negative impression with my last departure, Jason. I had a lot on my mind then.”

Jason shrugged but didn’t offer his hand. He didn’t do handshakes.

“No skin off my nose,” he said. “Was just a little disappointed.”

Bruce nodded and slid his hand into his pocket. “That is understandable. I am afraid, however, that this isn’t a social call. I have matters to be discussed with you.”

Then it was Dick’s turn to nod, and Jason started heading toward their office.

“Follow us,” Dick said, waving Bruce forward.

Their office was on the other side of the nightclub, and the path to reach it took them past the main segment of the club, a private walkway above the rest of the room. From the vantage point the brothers could monitor their guests and just what happened in their place of business.

So, as they walked by, Jason glanced around at the floor below and frowned when he noticed a man stepping far too into one of their waitresses’ personal space. He paused, let Dick continue to walk Bruce to the office, then leaned against the railing and pressed down on his mic to speak to security.

“Valley, we’ve got a situation near table twelve. I want her given a raise and him escorted out. Make sure he knows just how welcome he’ll be in the future.”

He released the button and waited.

About two seconds later Jean-Paul’s voice crackled over his earpiece.

“Understood, sir.”

Moments later Jason watched as Jean-Paul smoothly interrupted whatever their unwelcome guest was doing and showed him out.

Satisfied, Jason headed after his brother and Wayne.

When he walked into the room, Dick was lounging around on the couch, giving Bruce--who was seated in an armchair to the left of the couch--his full attention.

Bruce paused in what he was saying to look over when he noticed him and nodded as Jason sat down on the couch with his brother.

"So," Jason said, nodding once. "You said you had something to discuss with us?"

"Harold Burnley," was Bruce's simple response.

Jason liked that about Bruce: he got straight to the point.

Nonetheless, Jason arched a brow. "What about him?"

"If my information is correct," Bruce started, hands folded in his lap, "the two of you tried to chase him off a week ago."

"Your intel is on the money," Dick answered, drumming his fingers on the couch.

Bruce nodded. "As you know, there have been rumors of  a new gang rising recently; some new competitors for your hold on Gotham."

"Yeah," Jason hedged, drawing the word out and squinting a little at the context that the subject was raised on. "What about them?"

"While I don't doubt your ability to defend yourselves and your family, especially with how you ruined Roman Sionis, Harvey Dent, and Oswald Cobblepot, I am concerned for you."

The statement made Jason raise a brow.

"You're… concerned."

Bruce nodded, ever the definition of stoicism and honesty, not in the least ashamed or embarrassed by his words and admissions.

Another thing Jason liked and respected about Bruce.

"Yes," Bruce said, leaving it at that for a second before continuing. "The intel my informants were gathering suggested Mister Burnley was the mastermind behind this new and upcoming gang. Your threats against his life may spur him into action sooner than predicted."

"'Sooner than predicted'?" Dick repeated, narrowing his eyes a little as he leaned forward. "How long have you been watching him--"

"And why are you just telling us now?" Jason finished, a little nettled.

"I've had plans to come see the two of you today once I had gathered enough information ever since he caught my attention. Your actions moved up that timetable and forced my hand with what little evidence I have," Bruce easily replied, not at all bothered by the light irritation directed towards him. "I apologize for taking you away from your friends and brother."

"Cards can wait," Jason dismissed, leaning back into the sofa as his mind started working on how to minimize the effects of something bound to happen. "We need to talk about this."

"Thanks for the heads-up, Bruce," Dick added on.

Bruce nodded and stood with Dick. "The first attempt at challenging your power is expected in two day's time." He shook Dick's hand, then looked to Jason as the younger man offered a two-fingered salute. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you any sooner."

Dick smiled. "You told us with some time, B, and that's what matters. You didn't have to tell us at all."

And he didn't. The only mob family with power almost as much as Dick and Jason's was Bruce Wayne's. He had his son, Damian Wayne, Luke Fox, Jim Gordon in the GCPD and his daughter Barbara Gordon, Kate Kane, Alfred Pennyworth (a butler never to be messed with), and Lucius Fox, to name a few, in his corner. The two crime families had become allies early on in Dick and Jason's siege of Gotham.

Bruce nodded once more, said his goodbyes, and departed without any fanfare.

"So we've got an uprising on our hands," Dick said, flopping back into his abandoned seat and linking his hands behind his head. "Never thought I'd say that."

Jason's frown deepened. "The fucking rat lied to us," he hissed. "Right to our faces."

"That he did," Dick replied, tone borderline bored as he took a pen out of his pocket and started fiddling with it.

Irritated with his brother’s nonchalance, Jason said, “And you’re just, what? Okay with this?”

Dick said, “Sure.”

He continued playing with the pen.

Jason sighed, dragging a hand down his face, and didn’t respond. He knew that Dick cared, knew that his brother’s brain was probably whirling to find a quick and efficient solution to their problem, knew that you couldn’t tell when Dick was plotting a murder and when he was just thinking really hard about a movie he saw. He knew that his brother’s poker face was impossible to read to anyone who wasn’t Jason or Tim.

“I’m sorry,” he muttered, crossing his arms tightly. “That wasn’t… fair.”

Dick glanced over at him, face softening a little, and cracked a small smile. “No worries, Little Wing. You’re frustrated.”

“No.” Jason shook his head. “Don’t make excuses for me. It wasn’t fair of me to say that; acknowledge it and accept my apology.”

Amusement glinted in Dick’s eyes as he said, “I’m acknowledging your apology and accepting it. Thank you, Jason.”

Satisfied, Jason nodded and stood.

“I’m gonna get Tim,” he said, snorting as he reached the door. “Cullen was onto us, wasn’t he?”

That made Dick laugh and reply, “Oh, for sure. Hell knows what would happen if we started taking Tim with us.” Grinning widely, he added, “You and Tim might be blood, but damn, Jay. That kid’s something else.”

A small smile touched Jason’s lips and he nodded. 

“Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, he really is.”

Dick wiped the blood on his knife off against his jeans, chest heaving, eyes burning bright with adrenaline, a cruel, wicked smile twisting his lips. His shirt was torn and ripped in some places, he was bleeding from a cut or three, and damn had he just had one hell of a fight, but he felt alive.

To his left Jason wasn’t much better off. His little brother by choice was cradling his arm close to his chest, bleeding from a split lip and several superficial wounds, but just as there was a fire in Dick’s eyes, Jason’s held the same wildness, just in oceans of green.

“This him?” Tim called, dragging someone behind him by the collar of their shirt, the lithe muscles of his arm straining with the effort. He had a red mark on his face that would be one nasty bruise later on, a small cut on the side of his neck, and another, slightly deeper cut on his forehead, but he seemed otherwise okay.

Joey jogged around the corner of a building with a sharp grin on his lips, Kyle right beside him with a similar giddiness to him.

Dick laughed a hysteric, happy, victorious sound that became harsh and cruel when Tim dropped Howard Burnley at his feet.

“Aw, man,” Dick said, the laughter remaining in his tone as he looked down to meet Howard’s terrified gaze. “You really had us going there, Howie!”

The callous, cutting grin ever-present on his lips, Dick continued, “You really don’t know when to quit, huh?”

Howard’s face twisted and he opened his mouth to bite out some stupid remark (Dick had heard them all, more than once), but a bullet through his skull ended that before it started.

Joey stretched, as entirely unbothered by the murder he’d just witnessed as the others, and afterwards signed, “Been a while.”

Kyle nodded his agreement, rolling his wrist. “Man, the last time someone tried you two was… What, three years ago?”

“Two and a half,” Tim interjected, eyes flicking around the bloody mess that was their brief, contained gang war just about all there was to see. “Didn’t think anyone would be stupid enough to test us again, not after the last guy.”

Jason shrugged.

“Last guy was Drew Scott, wasn’t he?” he checked, tilting his head a little as he thought. “That the one we kept around for a bit?”

“I think so,” Kyle said, pocketing his hands.

“Scott was the last one, yeah,” Dick confirmed, working his jaw a little as he and Jason started to pick around the bodies. They tried to keep the fight small--tried to end it quick, minimize casualties on both sides--but there’d been only so much they could do.

Jason snorted and drawled, “Howard was a special kind of stupid.”

Everyone chimed their agreement and went to work moving bodies, the remaining members of their little “mob” Dick and Jason had brought along also helping with the task.

Technically speaking, the Lost were a crime family. They controlled Gotham’s nightlife with a vice-grip, murdered, stole, and blackmailed their way into power. Their aim wasn’t to eradicate Gotham’s sin, just to rule it. And when one ruled Gotham’s crime the way Richard Grayson and Jason Todd did, one ended up ruling Gotham in her entirety. From the slums to the richest of the rich, there was not a single part of the city their influence didn’t cover.

But only if you looked at the technicalities and fine lines of what they’d done were they labelled crime lords.

Their family--Dick, Jason, and Tim--had a large organization of so-called “thugs”, the same way Roman Sionis had his Black Masks, Harvey Dent had his Two-Facers, and Oswald Cobblepot had his followers.

Unlike their failed predecessors, however, the Lost were just. 

They still killed, still stole, still blackmailed and threatened whoever needed a reminder, but they also protected Gotham’s citizens. The poor, the rich, the homeless--all were under the protection of the Lost, so long as they didn’t try to take advantage of them. 

The homeless were welcomed into the home of whoever had space and was willing to host them, the poor were supported as much as possible, and the rich normally didn’t require much of any aid; they were left alone. Pimps answered to high-ranked members of the Lost, and if any of the working girls, men, or others had any complaints about their pimps, either Jason, Dick, Tim, or Stephanie would pay the offender a visit. More often than not, Stephanie and Harper handled any business pertaining to that effect, but the others did sometimes pitch in.

Jason and Dick didn’t aim to make life harder. Growing up in the rotting filth that was Gotham’s streets had a different effect on them than it did many, many others. Their aim was to clean Gotham the way they saw best fit.

Part of that effort included picking good people to call themselves a Lost.

Joey and Kyle handled recruitments, sometimes aided by Cullen. Their choices never proved to be wrong ones later on. Dick and Jason had yet to be betrayed by someone in their ranks, again unlike their predecessors, and both knew they had their friends to thank for the privilege.

That didn’t mean their members were stand-up, model citizens, though, but many of them tried.

So since they weren’t making any efforts to complicate Gotham’s life, they cleaned up the mess they’d made the best they could, sore, achy, and tired to boot, but determined nonetheless.

Tim watched his brothers interact with their gang from the catwalk of the warehouse, fingers nimbly stretching and shaping a rubber band he'd had in his pocket. His eyes flicked from Dick, to Jason, then out at the gathered members.

Jason was distributing the pay, Dick was overseeing it with crossed arms and a blank facial expression, and Tim looked on from above.

Stephanie and Harper were on the streets, checking up on business, Cullen was in college, and Kyle was out with Joey looking for new recruits.

Tim wasn't doing anything, just watching.

Many people were under the false conception that Dick was the soft one of the three brothers, that he was the easy one to take advantage of, the airheaded idiot.

That idea was the furthest thing from the truth.

Richard "Dick" John Grayson, Jason and Tim's chosen brother, was a good guy. He was a nice, thoughtful person. He was considerate.

But he was also harsh. He could be borderline cruel with his punishments, was absolutely ruthless when it came to business. He could be cold, merciless, and unforgiving.

Jason was the nicer one, of the three. He was bitter, harsh, and cold on the exterior only. Inside Jason was still a little callous, but he was also very empathetic, very compassionate.

Tim's nature depended on the person you asked.

He and Jason were blood, of that there was no question. It was clear in their eyes, in the way they held themselves, in their mannerisms. It was clear in the way they spoke, in the looks they shared, in almost everything about them. Same lips, same eyes, same skin.

But, they were very, very different in nature.

Ask his friends and they'd talk to you about a Tim who was a nerd, always wearing the stupidest of t-shirts and biggest of sweaters and sweatpants; a Tim who stole his brothers clothes, and their food, and their drinks, because he was too lazy to grab any of his own stuff; a Tim who wore glasses all the time that made him look funny, especially when he crossed his eyes.

Ask his brothers and they’d talk to you about their little brother who was irritating on a good day and a relentless thorn in their sides on a bad day; their little brother who had a sharp mind but a ridiculously whiny attitude; their little brother who loved sci-fi movies and babies, their little brother who had a preference to carmel apples and chocolate-chip cookies.

Ask anyone he dealt with in business, however, and they’d talk to you about a man in a boy’s body. They’d tell you about a boy who picked you and your life apart piece by piece with the ice in the pale green of his eyes; a boy who always had a string or rubber band in his hands to make some elaborate… something, out of it; a boy whose voice was steel and brain was a supercomputer. They would tell you about a boy without compassion, without mercy, without a soul.

Ask him, and Tim would tell you he was all of those descriptions. He’d tell you he had a soul, of course, but everything else he’d agree to. All of them fit. All were true.

He was, as his brothers liked to tell him, a paradox. He was complicated, had many truths that would seem like lies.

It was just who he was, and Tim was content with it.

So he continued to watch his brothers interact with their people, continued toying with the rubber band entangled in his fingers, continued taking everything around him apart with his eyes and his mind.

Then he smiled.

He was observing again, a string of elastic in his hands as he did.

Jason was… Somewhere, Tim wasn’t sure where, but it was a tad bit odd that he wasn’t there with them.

Tim was lounging on the couch as Dick sat, tense, in a seat to his left.

They were waiting, for Steph Tim was pretty sure.

He didn’t know. That was of little importance, though, so he didn’t care.

Dick was livid. That’s all that mattered.

Now, his brother was, for the most part, an easy-going person. Don’t break the rules and he didn’t much care what you did, talk to him and he’d maintain conversation, ask for a favor and he’d oblige without an issue. He smiled when he was in a good mood (smiled a lot, actually), didn’t smile when you should be wary of him. Not much bothered him. Not much pissed him off.

In present moment, Dick was beyond pissed off. He wasn’t bothered. Wasn’t angry. Wasn’t nettled, or irritated, or upset.

He was furious.

Which made Tim curious.

He didn’t ask, though, as he watched his brother. If he asked he’d either be ignored or given a cold, downright frigid glare.

And, besides, it was more interesting to wonder; to put it together himself.

In any case, they weren’t left in silence for long.

Two knocks on the door and Tim called, “Come in,” knowing (suspecting) who it was at the door, turning to face it.

Stephanie’s face was the one to greet him, and Tim gave a satisfied nod.

“Hey, Steph.”

She flashed him a smile and opened the door wider, revealing a man cowering in the tight, bruising grip she held him in, and replied, “Hey yourself.”

Dick hadn’t spoken a word.

Tim smirked a little, setting the string aside and crossing his arms as Stephanie and the man fully entered the room.

“If I did that,” he said as she shut the door and shoved the man toward the brothers, “you wouldn’t let me live it down.”

Stephanie gave him a cheeky grin. “You’d better believe it, Timbo.”

Light banter finished, Tim turned his attention to the man standing in the middle of the room.

He was immemerable. Looked like anyone else, unworthy of being recognizable. Brown hair, light skin, rumpled casual wear. Nothing stood out. Nothing made him leave any sort of impression. 

Tim wouldn’t remember him for long.

A glance over Dick’s way, and Tim saw the gaze full of contempt and rage he was directing toward the man, and he knew two things.

One, this man had done something unforgivable.

Two, this man was already dead.

Tim hummed thoughtfully and returned his attention to the dead man.

“Hi,” he greeted.

“Mister Todd,” the man responded in a quiet, broken whisper, his gaze firmly on his feet. “Mister Grayson.”

“Why are you here?” Tim asked. Dick was still killing the man with his eyes, Stephanie was rifling through their minifridge.

There was no answer.

Tim repeated himself.

“Why are you here?”

As he waited for a reply, Tim uncrossed his arms and grabbed the string again, curious gaze unwavering as he resumed toying with the string.

He waited. Stephanie found a can of soda; she opened it. Dick’s fury mounted higher; Tim heard his knuckles crack.

“I ignored her,” the man finally admitted, again in a broken whisper.

Tim frowned and twisted the string a little, shifted his hold on it to maneuver it the way he wanted to.

“You ignored who?” he asked.

Again he waited. Stephanie was now looking for a snack; she raided their cabinets. Dick’s patience had long gone; Tim heard the springs in the seat creak as Dick shifted.

“The g--the woman,” the man said. Broken whisper.

It was unimpressive and boring.

Tim’s frown deepened; he shifted the end of the string through a little loop he’d made, adjusted his grip again.

“What did you do to her?”

This time the response wasn’t as delayed.

“I stole from her.”

And Tim understood.

“Ah,” he said, leaning back against the couch. 

He twisted the string.


Dick was on his feet before anyone could process his movement; the man was on the ground with similar speed.

Tim tilted his head and hummed.

“You,” Dick hissed down at the man cradling his jaw on the floor, grabbing him by his shirt and lifting him off the ground to meet him eye-to-eye, “made a grave mistake.”

“One that won’t have the chance to be repeated,” Tim said, the man’s wide brown eyes meeting his.

A second later he was on the ground again, Dick’s right-hook dislocating the man’s jaw, and Tim stood to join Stephanie on the other side of the room as his brother unleashed his rage.

Tim and Steph didn’t talk once he was by her side. They ate brownies together, watching Dick bloody his fists with a theif’s sin. They drank soda together, listening as cartilage crunched and the man screamed until he was unable to. They kept each other company, witnessing what could only be described as a brutal, merciless, savage murder.

When he was done, Dick stood, jaw tensed and eyes still ablaze with furious passion, knuckles dripping with blood both his and not.

He didn’t speak.

None of them did.

Dick simply straightened, glared down at the dead body, and stalked out of the room.

“He is planning on cleaning that up,” Stephanie finally commented about a minute after Dick’s exit. “Right?”

Tim shrugged.

“I’m not doing it,” he said. “He’ll probably come back once he’s blown off the rest of his steam.”

Steph snorted, crushing her soda can and tossing it in the trash.

“Laters, loser,” she said, wrapping Tim in a one-armed hug that he returned. “I have more stuff to do.”

“Laters Steph.”

A few seconds later Tim was alone with a dead body.

He wrinkled his nose as he glanced over at it, then shook his head and left the room.

On the couch he’d left the string he’d manipulated into a noose.

April 8th, 2008

Dick sat on his home of crates, swinging his feet over the side as he watched people walk by the alley he was in without a second glance. He didn't blame them; didn't judge them, either. Who wanted to look at some homeless fourteen-year-old?

Nah, he didn't mind. A few people stopped, looked around to make sure there was no trap, and approached to offer him whatever meager cash they could spare and those people-- those people, Dick appreciated. He wasn't holding a sign. Wasn't trying to draw attention; wasn't begging, either.

He didn't deserve the money they gave him, but they still shared with him what they could.

And that was why he refused to ever give up believing in good. People like the ones who gave him a slice of bread, the ones who spared ten dollars or twenty-five cents--they were the reason he would hold on to hope, even if his family was gone. (It had been five years since then; Dick still thought about it.)

For now, though, Dick just watched them walk by, his stomach aching something nasty from hunger, and didn't say or do anything aside from swing his legs.

Yawning, and ignoring the constant ache in his gut, Dick scratched at his leg through a hole that'd been worn in his jeans. He was truly, honestly, undoubtedly, wholeheartedly absolutely astonished his jeans had lasted so long. He'd stolen them at the beginning of last year--by now he thought he'd already have stolen a new pair. Dick's shirt was about one or two sizes too big now; before it'd been barely one. His first pair of sneakers had lasted an entire two years on the streets, though, and he was grateful that he’d stolen two pairs after the first. 

Shoes were harder to steal.

Dick rubbed at his eye with the palm of his hand, then hopped off the small arrangement of crates and shoved his hands in his pockets as he decided to wander around.

By this point, he knew the Alley, the Bowery, and the Narrows like the back of his hand. He'd had to run away from the cops and been forced to move around enough times to be familiar with the three.

Mindless wandering wouldn't hurt too much--he knew how to get back to his measly little "home" easy enough.

So he walked, no real destination in mind as he let his feet guide his path, and didn’t think as he went. 

Until he saw something.

Dick’s feet paused on the busy sidewalk, and people smoothly moved to walk around him as he stood there, looking down the alley, watching some kid take on two bigger teens.

The kid was doing well, until he wasn’t. He lasted about a minute with Dick watching on before his feet were swept out from under him and his back met the rough, uneven alley ground.

Frowning, Dick stepped into the alley; yelled, “Hey!” as he rolled his too-long sleeves up.

Being a nine year old in the Alley meant you either learned some things or died. Surviving to be fourteen meant you’d learned those things and more.

The two teens heads snapped up and over to look at him. One had a bloody nose--probably thanks to the kid they were wailing on--and the other had a nasty looking shiner on his eye.

“Back off,” Dick said, not pausing in his advance. In the beginning he’d winced at his accent--an odd thing that blended several different Eastern European accents and the one he’d picked up better from Gotham’s streets that sounded weird--but now he didn’t care. They could judge him for it all they wanted. 

He’d kick their asses. 

“Go disappoint your parents somewhere else.”

His jab made rage flash in bloody nose’s eyes. “Who the fuck are you?”

Dick grabbed the other boy, who was still perched on the kid, and roughly pulled him off.

“Get off the kid,” he repeated in a hiss, ducking a punch bloody nose threw.

From there the brawl really started. Dick was a former acrobat; acrobats do quite a few tricks and flips, and they’re highly flexible. Which isn’t to mention the fighting techniques he’d picked up over his time on the streets.

The only reason the fight lasted longer than three minutes was because there were two teens, both older than him by at least two years, and both were better fed than he was.

Dick still won. Five minutes after the spat started it was over, bloody nose now unconscious bloody face, and bruised cheek limping as he ran.

His jaw was sore--would hurt something nasty for a while--and his ribs had taken a few hard hits, but other than that he’d managed to evade the worst of the blows.

Spitting a glob of blood on the floor, Dick pocketed his hands and turned to look down at the kid. Sometime during the fight he’d taken up a protective stance above the kid without noticing.

The kid. That’s all he kept calling him--the kid, the kid, the kid, the kid-- and it was starting to get irritatingly redundant.

“What’s ya damage?” Dick drawled, sticking a bruised hand out in an offer he was pretty sure would be rejected.

Trouble--sick and tired of the kid, like he was a damn horror monster or something--wrinkled his nose, surprising Dick as he accepted the help to stand.

“Ain’t do nothin’,” Trouble said, unsteadily balancing on his feet. “They jus’ ain’t got lives. Wanna poke they egos.”

Dick nodded and slid his hand back in his pocket. Still looking at Trouble, he addressed a third party he hadn’t missed, saying, “Little dude, ya can come out. I ain’t gonna hurt ya.”

Shoes scuffled on the ground and the tiniest child Dick had ever seen crept out to half-hide behind Trouble, jaw set, pale green eyes determined, hand gripped tight on the back of Trouble’s shirt.

Dick blinked. 


Shrugging--partly because he was bored, partly because Trouble was giving him a hard glare--he said, “The name’s Dick.”

Trouble snorted and wiped blood away from his face. Tiny Child’s lip twitched a little.

“Jason,” Trouble said. Patting Tiny Child, Jason introduced him as, “Tim.”

Dick’s eyes flicked from Jason to Tim. Then he squinted down the alley, turned back to them, and spoke.

“You lost too?”

Jason and Tim looked at each other. Tim looked at him first.


Dick nodded and stuck his hand out.

“Then we can be lost t’gether.”

A moment of hesitation passed before Jason clasped Dick’s bruised hand with his bloodied one. His green eyes searched Dick’s blue ones before he nodded, let go, and Tim slid his soft hand in Dick’s.

“Lost t’gether, then,” Jason said.