Jason found that getting plane tickets for one fifteen-year-old wasn't as hard as he initially thought it would be. The airline took Bruce's credit card and gave him his ticket to Ethiopia after going through every security measure including being felt up by a burly guard. Jason was finally seated in the business class on the airplane. He was glad that Bruce had already made him get a passport and all the other identifications he needed. Jason momentary felt guilty at leaving without telling Bruce, but he just wanted to see his mother. Bruce would understand that. Jason was so lost in his thoughts that he almost jumped when a kid sat down beside him.
"Hi, I'm Tim," The kid said offering his hand out like a businessman making a deal.
"What are you doing in Ethiopia, or rather what will you be doing?" Tim asked as he fiddled with a camera he had around his neck. The kid was playing with it making the zoom go in and out like it was some kind of new toy.
"I have family there," Jason offered as he hoped the kid would shut up soon or at least stop what felt like twenty questions.
"That's cool. Ethiopia has the most wonderful things to take pictures of that's why I'm going to take all the pictures I can. Gotham is pretty but I can only take so many pictures of the same things before it gets repetitive. Another gloomy day, the red sun that is bizarre, but no one questions anymore. Ethiopia is going to be great to photograph a real yellow sunset. I think that's going to be my favorite thing a real sunset and it's going to be warm there. What family are you going to see there?"
"My bio mom," Jason replied still annoyed at the kid.
"Wow, did you know about her for very long? or were you adopted?" Tim asked and Jason held back a sigh the kid definitely didn't understand that he didn't want to talk the whole flight.
"It's a long story. I was raised by my dad and stepmom who later died and then I was adopted and now I'm meeting my bio mom," Jason replied.
"Do your adopted parents know where you're going? They, must have really freaked out when they found out that you have a living parent," Tim said still fiddling with the camera adjusting the focus on the camera and taking a stereotypical picture of the plane's wing on the runway.
"I kinda took his credit card and bought a ticket on impulse to meet up with her. He'll be mad, but he'll get over it," Jason said as the weight of what he had done started to sink in. Bruce was going to be mad for sure. Worried sick that something had happened to him and Jason had left a note.
"Oh, you didn't ask for him to come along?" Tim ask oh so innocently like the six-year-old had a parent sitting beside him. Yeah, like Jason would just ask Bruce to come. He wouldn't understand. Bruce and Alfred wouldn't let him come and meet his mom, at least that's what he thought he couldn't take that chance. This was his mom he justified.
"No, better to ask for forgiveness than permission and all that, you know?" Jason explained.
"Oh, oh, I wish I was adopted in some ways. You know someone chooses you instead of being a mistake. That's what my dad called me once, he didn't think he could hear me, but I did. It's cool that you have a bio mom, but it's cooler that you have a dad that wants you," Tim said. And man, wasn't the kid just layering on the guilt from sneaking out and stealing a card. Bruce is an awesome dad and there's no way he wouldn't have gone with him if had asked.
"Your parents are fine with you going to Ethiopia to take pictures by yourself? What are like six?" Jason asked thoroughly annoyed and read to leave Gotham.
"Oh, they let me pick something out for my birthday and Christmas. I usually choose money so when I need to do something or get something I can. They don't mind and it's good to have in case they forget," Tim tapered off the last bit and Jason didn't care. So what the kid was weird and by the sound of it his parents were loaded and who really just lets their kid go to Ethiopia and not notice. "I'm ten by the way, I know I look small."
The kid, Tim the ten-year-old shut down after that and brought out a notebook that he shielded from Jason's eyes. He also stopped asking questions Jason watched as he put the notebook up an hour into the flight and requested a blanket. Jason tried to sleep but found himself thinking about Bruce and Alfred. They both had to be worried out of their mind and here he was on a flight halfway across the world. Yeah, Jason wasn't going to get much sleep on that flight.
The kid woke up after a few hours of solid sleep. He looked at Jason and opened his mouth a few times before deciding that Jason wasn't in the mood to talk. Jason smirked at that; he made the kid know that he didn't want to talk about confusing and weird emotions about his Mom and Bruce. The kid hit a nerve when he said that Bruce wanted him. Bruce hadn't said it right out, but he adopted him, and he made him Robin, he acted liked he wanted him around which was more than Willis ever did. His bio mom, on the other hand, left him with an alcoholic and the only maternal figure in his life was a crackhead for most of her life. Who would do that in their right mind? Who would leave a child in a home like that knowing the child wouldn't be loved or taken care of.
Jason barely noticed the inflight meal being left for him. It didn't taste bad per se, but it made him miss Alfred even more. He'd never let him eat something so salty and un-nutritionally dense. He watched Tim eat the meal with a gusto that spoke of a lifetime of school lunches and frozen dinners. He bumped shoulders with him and motioned at his airplane meal. "You want it?"
"I'm fine with my meal. It's really not that bad compared to some of the things I've eaten at boarding school. The altitude is what messes with your taste buds. I watched a.." Tim stopped and then stared at his half-eaten meal, "Sorry."
"What for? I should be the one to apologize I was rude before. I'm sorry Tim. Also, I don't think I could eat this by myself I think the only spice the chef had was salt so they overcompensated. This is bad." Jason replied watching the kid's eyes light up like a Christmas tree.
"I thought I was being annoying and I was about to tell you about a documentary on how airline food is prepared it's really lame. Don't worry about it, you weren't that rude," Tim placated.
"What hotel are you staying at?" Tim asked innocently, most likely trying to change the subject.
"The Ambassador Hotel, in Addis Ababa, it had good online reviews and wasn't that far from where my mom is working. I kind of left her a message and just left. I hope she isn't mad about me coming. I just wanted to meet her once and know why she left me. Bruce wouldn't ever do that to me," Jason muttered under his breath.
"She has to be happy to meet you, I mean I like you and I don't even know your favorite color. Even if she doesn't like you; you can always go back home to Gotham. You won't have to wonder anymore why she did it. That has to be worth something, being able to know people do things and why they did them to you," The kid said lost in thought before shaking himself out of it with a huge smile, "I wouldn't worry about it too much."
Jason pondered that for a second giving the kid another look over. He still looked like a dopey kid that was too young to travel alone on an airplane. "I guess. Bruce will be mad for a little while, but he'll get over it. I'll forget about the old hag or I'll know my mom is complicated and didn't want me. I shouldn't have come," Jason sighed he was torn between feeling vindicated and like a selfish brat that ran away to meet someone who never wanted him.
The plane landed safely and Jason watched as the kid disappeared into the crowd like he was never there, to begin with. He was a little kid in a big world that didn't have awesome Robin skills and street smarts that Jason developed out of necessity. Jason didn't care about a little kid that thought he was a mistake, he had more pressing things to do.
Jason checked into the hotel and kept his bags packed he watched the sunset and thought about what Bruce and Alfred were doing. They knew that he was gone from the note he'd left them like a putz in search of someone who didn't want him. Jason felt like an idiot in the middle of nowhere far from New Jersey. He'd deal with it in the morning and it would be fine, or not.
Morning came and Jason woke up tired and grumpy wishing that he was able to sleep better. He went down to eat breakfast and then was met by a Bruce in the lobby of the hotel.
"Good morning, Jason," Bruce said as Jason's face contorted into a range of emotions he was not expecting him.
"Hi, Bruce. How did you find me?" Jason looked abash at the older man that adopted him, fed him when he was starving, gave him shelter, and he loved him.
"A phone call from an anonymous source that made it seem like you had been kidnapped. I looked further coupled with your note, and that you were Jason Todd and not Robin. Robin gets kidnapped more than any normal person," Bruce replied.
"B. I'm really sorry. I shouldn't have left without saying anything. I have felt so guilty about this. I don't know why I did it I don't even know her and you want me," Jason said as he hugged Bruce. It was a long hug with both father and son ready and unwilling to end it too soon.
"It's ok. I'm here I'm not going anywhere. We can go and meet your mom. I don't want you to miss out on meeting her when you're this close to her. Of course, when we get back to Gotham we're going to have a long talk about leaving without any notice and stealing credit cards to travel halfway across the world. That's not something that will ever happen again if you had talked to me we could have came together. You don't have to be afraid to ask me anything."
Jason blinked away some treacherous tears that threatened to spill, "Thanks, Bruce."
"Let's get some breakfast and then meet your mom," Bruce said as Jason reluctantly pulled away from the hug.
The hotel offered breakfast that they both agreed Alfred would never condone them eating and Jason realized that all the stupid fears he'd had really were stupid. He hit the lottery with Bruce and Alfred. If his mother didn't like him that was fine he didn't have to like her. He had a family already that wanted him.
They rented a car and drove to where Sheila Haywood was working in a refugee camp. After talking to multiple people they finally found her going through supplies taking inventory.
"Oh, what are you doing here?" She asked staring at Bruce and Jason with cold hard eyes her blonde hair was pulled back making her seem older than 38.
"I left a message? My name is Jason I'm your kid," Jason said unconscionably moving closer to Bruce.
"Oh, really I thought you'd be smaller. I'm busy right now let me finish with this and I'll be right with you," She replied as she went through the box of medical supplies with a fervor that spoke of urgency.
"That was different," Jason said as he sighed outside the building.
"Yeah, I'm really sorry Jason," Bruce said leaning against the wall looking around the camp.
"We should just go she's busy and I see I was never a priority," Jason said, "I know for sure that you're my family."
"We can stay, or come go back to the hotel and come back later?" Bruce asked. Jason smiled in spite of himself, Bruce wanted to make sure he wouldn't regret the choice he made by not meeting her further.
"Let's go back to the hotel or sightsee I've been told that Ethiopia is a beautiful place to see," Jason replied, happy if he never saw Sheila ever again. The drive was quiet as they headed back to the hotel to find the sites that would be good to tour. Bruce had checked into the hotel before meeting Jason in the lobby that morning. He checked for any messages and Jason inquired about Tim.
"Here, I do believe there is a message for you", the man went reached under the desk and pulled out a large envelope and handed it to Bruce.
Bruce opened it and found it filled with information on Sheila Haywood, a police report that showed her to be a suspect in an illegal abortion on a teen that left the girl dead. Shortly after the incident Shelia had left town and started volunteer work that required less strenuous background checks and large amounts of money that was donated to charities. The more Bruce read the more he saw that Shelia Haywood was in no way a good woman. She went from job to job quitting before she was fired. Sums of money and narcotics had gone missing while she was working there.
Jason had given up talking to a hotel receptionist she hadn't seen a small black-haired boy dressed in nice clothes carrying a camera. He found that no one had a clue about Tim. Bruce handed him a thick book of police reports and old resumes that where his mother's. Catherine Todd was looking like a saint in comparison to her and the trail of evil she left in her wake.
Jason read over it and blankly looked up at Bruce, "I don't think I want to meet her anymore. Let's go back to Gotham already before anything else happens. How did you get these reports and why did you show me earlier?"
"It was left for me at the desk. I agree this trip has been rather taxing," Bruce said ready to leave also, "We'll be looking into the good samaritan that lent us this information as soon as we get home. I'm just glad that I came when I did there's no telling what she would have done if you were by yourself."
Bruce and Jason went back to Gotham within the hour and they scourged Gotham for anyone who would have the kind of pull to know about Sheila and Jason's connection.