“Babybird, you are going to put me back in the grave,” Jason sighed, dragging Tim’s tiny ass over to the med-bay not unlike the other time he had to drag Tim to bed after they both got wasted on Bruce’s hundred year old sake imported directly from Japan that didn’t taste any different from the $7 kinds from the Asian supermarket. Except that was actually kind of fun and this was decidedly not fun.
Tim pouted up at him which made him look like a sad child who got denied ice cream. “Noooo Jayyyy don’t die again,” he whined, before stumbling over his feet for the fifth time. “I’ll be sad. I don’t wanna be sad. And then I’ll prob’ly have to dig up your grave and put you in a cryostasis chamber just in case you come back to life again, and then Bruce might find out and make me put you back and then I’ll have to call the Tit’ns for help which’ll make him more mad ‘cause metas and then—”
“Timmy,” Jason said, suppressing the warm feeling in his gut that Tim was willing to go so far to make sure that Jason wouldn’t come back to life in the horrifically shitty way he did the first time around, “you need to chill the fuck out and also tell me where your special antidote is.”
“Special antidote?” Dick asked, watching Tim worriedly. Which was fair, given that most people didn’t get drunk as hell when fear gassed.
“He’s got different antidotes for things because of his antibiotics,” Jason explained, rifling through the compartments on Tim’s belt. Two compartments of mysterious pellets later, he poked Tim’s face. “Hey. Babybird. Where’s your antidote.”
Tim giggled like a drunk sorority girl. “Used up earlier. I think.”
Jason sighed deeply and resisted the urge to drag his hand over his face the way Roy did when he was frustrated. Except when Roy was frustrated it was usually at whatever he was inventing at the time and then he would sometimes get motor oil in his eyes like a loser. “Ugh. Of course.” He turned to Dick. “Is Oracle busy? I don’t trust Tim to have the formula memorized like this, but it’s on his private servers. Probably.”
Bruce walked over, frowning more deeply than usual. “She’s out of town. What antibiotics is Tim on?”
Jason shook his head. “No time. I don’t know which ones he’s on, but I remember that it took him a few hours to synthesize an antidote that worked with them. I’ll make a run over to his Nest.”
Tim swayed a little, and then patted Jason’s shoulder a couple times. “Take me to the Nest? I wanna see Pru.”
Bless that crazy bitch for finally being at the right place at the right time. Jason hated roundtrips just to bring shit to the Cave. “Prudence is visiting?”
Tim nodded, and then abruptly laid down on his cot, dirty boots and all. “She said I needed more naps. So. Nap now.”
Jason snickered, patting Tim’s face with his entire hand. “Alright then. Go to sleep.” Then he dialed Prudence. “Hey.”
“What the fuck has Boss gotten into this time.”
“He used up his fear gas antidote and then got gassed again. Bring some to the Cave.”
“Ughhhhh.” Then she hung up.
Jason turned to everyone else. “Good news! One of Tim’s operatives is bringing some over.”
“He told his operatives where the Cave is?” Bruce asked, scowling in a way that affected literally no one except criminals and particularly wimpy heroes.
Jason shrugged. “Probably just this one. She might’ve already known, though.”
“And why would she know where the Cave is?”
“The guy she used to work for probably knows,” Jason said. Then he turned to Damian, who was methodically cleaning his sword with special imported oil from Albania or some shit. “Hey! Batbrat! Does your grandpa know where the Cave is?”
“Most likely,” Damian said, apparently having given up on getting Jason to call him his name. Ha. And it only took five attempted maimings and three months. Easy peasy.
Jason spread his hands. “There you go.”
Dick stared. “Has Tim been poaching operatives from Ra’s al Ghul?”
Jason stared back. “…Yes?” Then he turned his back on Dick and started pulling his gear off before Dick could ask any more stupid questions.
Half an hour later, just about when Jason got tired of pretending to tinker with his helmet to avoid talking to people or explaining Tim’s hidden everything, Prudence pulled up to the Cave’s hidden entrance and waved her middle finger at the camera. Jason let her in and headed over to Tim to wake him up.
“Oi. Get up, Babybird,” Jason said hauling him upright, dodging a sloppy nerve strike in the process.
Tim blinked slowly, and then grinned. “Heyyy, Jayyy.” Then his attention quickly diverted to the sight of Prudence stomping over, which would’ve been insulting if he wasn’t drunk as hell. Tim brightened, swinging his legs off the cot and throwing himself onto Prudence like a heavy ass blanket. “Pru! I missed you!”
“You saw me this morning, dumbass,” she hissed, shoving Tim back on the cot and fishing a syringe out of her bag, Tim still slumped over her, beaming. She yanked his sleeve up, swabbed his arm, and aggressively jabbed the needle into him without hesitation.
“Ow,” Tim complained, reaching up to swat Prudence’s shoulder. Jason caught his hand and pinned it to the cot. Tim pouted at him.
Prudence roughly pushed Tim off of her, and then firmly set a hand on his shoulder. “Boss.”
Tim smiled. “Pru.”
“You are so fucking dumb. How do you get gassed twice in one fucking night.”
“With talent,” he said. And then, “Hey! I’m not dumb!”
“You are so dumb. You do so much stupid shit I can’t believe you’re still alive.”
“Yeah? Well, you worked for Ra’s al Ghul.”
“So did you, you dumb fucking bitch. God, how plastered are you?”
“Oh shit,” Jason said as Bruce and Dick and kind of even Damian simultaneously had mini aneurysms, “is that why he keeps trying to kidnap you?”
“Yes,” Prudence said.
“Nah,” Tim said. “He likes my brain. Also I think he might be mad at Bruce for stealing Damian so he’s calling me Detective instead. Also also, he wants to test me. To know if I’m a worthy rival or whatever. Also also also, do you think he switches out rivals when they get old enough? Or do they have to be in a certain age range? Or is he trying to establish a family line of rivals to—“
“I’m pretty sure he likes you more than just a rival,” Prudence said.
Jason made a face. “Ew.”
Tim made a similar face. “I told you—”
“I talked to your friends and they agree with me,” Prudence said. “I think he has a crush on your brain, but over half the Titans think he has a crush on your skinny white ass.”
“I’m only half!” Tim protested as Jason proceeded to spectacularly lose his shit all over the place.
“That’s the part you focus on?” Jason gasped through his laughter, and then continued to laugh his ass off because everyone’s faces. Jesus.
“That’s the important part because he doesn’t have a crush on me!”
“Babybird, I honestly think your Titans are onto something. Remember that time on your birthday when—”
“Did he give you something?” Prudence asked. “Like, a weapon? In a ‘happy anniversary of your birth, esteemed Detective’ way? Or did he give you, I dunno, chocolate and lingerie.”
“I feel like it was closer to the second thing,” Jason said. Tim whacked him surprisingly hard in the arm. “It is! Jewelry is way closer to the lingerie category than the weapon category!” From behind them, Dick made a choked noise.
“Holy shit. Did it have the crest of Al Ghul on it?” Prudence asked gleefully.
Jason nudged Tim. “Did it?”
Prudence and Jason exploded into laughter, nearly losing their balance in the process. Jason totally took back the initial pissed-off-ness he held at Bruce for dragging him to the Cave. This was literally the greatest night ever. Jason would never find anything as hilarious as this to make fun of Tim about, and with the added bonus of also making fun of Damian, who currently looked too stunned to move. Best. Day. Ever.
Tim pursed his lips in a way that looked more sulky than anything. “Guyyyyys.”
Prudence wiped at her eyes, and slung an arm over Tim’s shoulders. “Boss. I hate to tell you this. But Mast— Ra’s definitely has a crush.”
“Pruuu,” Tim whined, “he likes my brain. He ‘admires my intelligence and ruthlessness under pressure’. He doesn’t like like me.”
“I sure bet he admires something,” Jason leered, then dodged when Tim went for another nerve strike, this time much more accurate. In good time, too, since Jason was getting a little worried that the antidote wasn’t working. He smacked Tim’s thigh, and Tim smacked him back. “Hey. Get changed. I’m tired of sitting around waiting for a literal bat to literally shit on my head. Let’s go upstairs.”
Tim stood up and barely swayed. Nodding approvingly, Jason (gently!) booted his ass towards the showers. Tim shot Jason a dirty look that promised unexpected and unforgiving vengeance sometime in the future, which Jason ignored because he was a firm believer in taking things as they came. Roy just called it being a procrastinating bastard.
“Alright, I think we’re gonna have to blindfold you to take you up to the Manor,” Jason said, taking charge since everyone else looked like they were busy trying not to think about Ra’s al Ghul’s hard on for Tim. Prudence sneered, but didn't protest. A few minutes of incredibly awkward silence where Jason and Prudence made increasingly vile gestures at each other later, Tim came out and tossed his uniform in his bin, absentmindedly toweling his hair dry with the other hand. “Alright, let’s head up.”
Tim took Prudence’s elbow like some English gentleman type shit and led her up the stairs and into the kitchen, where Alfred had left behind a late night snack. Jason snatched three peanut butter cookies from the pile and bit into one. That man was truly too good for them.
“So,” Dick said, looking less shell-shocked and more like the charismatic asshole he usually was, “when did you meet Tim?”
“After I shot an RPG into his hotel room last year,” Prudence said. She picked up another cookie, and then raised an eyebrow at Dick’s aghast expression. “What?”
"A classic,” Jason said fondly, thinking back to that time he blew up Black Mask’s office in a very similar fashion. And also that time with those drug kingpins in Spain. And that time in Siberia. And Austria. And China, and Togo. Good times.
“You made me lose my laptop,” Tim muttered resentfully. “It took me two weeks to hack back into all my databases.”
“Yeah, but if it weren’t for me and Z and Owens you wouldn’t have gotten as far as you did with all your research ’n shit without getting killed by some random ass mafia or something.”
“Are you kidding me? I would call up Lady Shiva and jump on her swords before letting myself get killed by the friggin’ mafia. Eugh.”
“I dunno, that time when the Franchetti family caught up to us came pretty close.”
“No it wasn’t! It was only close because you and Owens literally tried to have a trick-shot contest in the middle of the fight!”
“Shut up, don’t act like you didn’t do the same exact thing like three days later with your stupid ass bird-whatevers, which reminds me that you should stop naming things because good god are you terrible at it.”
“They’re called birdarangs, and I was teaching Owens how to use them. And my naming skills are fine, you’re just pretentious and think names like ‘the Soul Shredder’ and ‘the Flaying Blade of Everlasting Agony’ are cool.”
“Let it rip,” Jason said, and promptly dodged Prudence's vengeful fist. He ignored Tim slapping Prudence’s arm when she went for a concealed knife in favor of another grabbing cookie. Maybe if he came to tea for a few days Alfred would share the recipe.
“Anyways,” Prudence continued like she wasn’t interrupted, “you literally have the word ‘red’ or ‘bird’ in everything you name. Plus all your bajillion aliases are all terrible. If I ever get unfortunate enough to have a kid, you are the last person I’m asking. I will literally walk back to Mas— Ra’s and ask him what a good baby name is before asking you.”
“That hurts me deeply, and if you do that I will hack into your kid’s federal id and change their name to ‘Brittany’ spelled with three t’s, an ‘e-i-g-h’, and a silent v for the rest of my life.”
“What the fuck that’s the worst thing you’ve ever said to me.”
Tim opened his mouth to say something else that would probably be deeply horrifying but Bruce cut in first. “You two worked together under Ra’s al Ghul?”
“Yeah. Ra’s promised me resources to help find you, so he assigned a squad to help protect me while I searched for evidence. Pru was part of that squad.”
Bruce furrowed his brow, which was weird because if Jason had heard this story then Bruce definitely should have. “Why did you go to Ra’s for resources?”
Tim shrugged self-deprecatingly, like the whole losing-Robin-and-getting-called-crazy-by-everyone thing was something minor and not the complete shitshow it actually was. “It was the only place I could get them from.”
“I believe I recognize the members of your squad,” Damian remarked, speaking up for the first time since Prudence arrived, “Grandfather must hold great value in Father’s life to safeguard you with such high ranking assassins.” Beside him, Dick had his lips pressed tightly together, like he was holding himself back from spouting all sorts of useless self-centered excuses about love and family and whatnot. Eugh.
“Good thing too, otherwise the Widower would’ve totally killed him in half a second.”
Tim thought about it. “Probably.”
“League of Spiders assassin. They were having a tournament and started killing off League of Assassins members.” Tim lowered his gaze, and Prudence's expression went stone-like. “They killed the other two members of our squad.”
Luckily, Prudence recovered quickly. “They also kinda killed your immune system,” she said lightly, nudging Tim with her shoulder.
Bruce snapped to attention. “What about his immune system?”
Prudence raised an eyebrow. “It’s… bad?” She shot Tim a sideways glance. “You know, because he doesn’t have a spleen and all?”
Dick shot out of his seat. “You don’t have a spleen?”
Jason clenched his jaw. He knew that Tim had drifted away from the family, but he didn't know he drifted this far. Even Jason knew about his missing spleen! Prudence was right. Tim was a complete and utter dumbass. “You forget to put something in your main medical file, Babybird?”
“It is on my main medical file. I’ve just never had an injury bad enough that anyone’s checked it since I updated it. And besides, it’s not a problem. I’m managing it just fine.”
Jason gave Tim a hard look because he wouldn’t put it past Tim to lie straight to their faces. Tim returned his look flatly, putting on his I’m-done-with-this-unnecessary-shit-question-me-and-die face. Jason sighed. “Well, as long as it was in the file.”
Dick squawked. “It’s not just fine!”
Jason didn’t see the problem. Yeah, sure, Tim probably should’ve told them, but he was obviously handling it, and he did put it in his very accessible file. It wasn’t Tim’s fault if no one checked. Jason told Dick as much.
“It’s a critical piece of medical information that could end up killing him if withheld,” Bruce growled, “even minor wounds could end up getting infected and developing into sepsis, not to mention that the mortality rate of septic shock is extremely high.”
“Thanks, but I’m fully aware of the risks of asplenia. It hasn’t even come up until now, so clearly it’s not as big of an issue as you think it is. I mean, it obviously sucks for Timmy, but he’s not exactly endangering himself here by not telling us. It’s not like we don’t already watch out for infection in the field or whatever.”
“Or,” Tim said coolly, as Jason’s mouth snapped shut, “we could stop talking about me like I’m not here, and accept that I’m an adult who can make my own decisions about my medical information.” He turned to Bruce. “Unless you also have some issue with the way I’ve been making decisions as both an independent vigilante and the owner of your entire company?”
Jason resisted the urge to whistle through his teeth. Babybird really did not hold back. He’d almost feel bad for Bruce except this was hilarious and his face as he struggled to come up with a non-controlling way to respond was both infuriating and deeply satisfying. Also, his unwillingness to take back his own damn company from his eighteen year old kind of-son was extremely shitty. So actually Jason didn’t feel bad for Bruce at all.
“No? I’ll be going, then.” And on that note Tim left the silent kitchen, Pru ambling at his heels. Jason, suddenly aware that at some point he had sat up straight, slowly slumped back over the counter.
“Wow,” he said. “I can’t believe I didn’t see that coming after he literally tried to beat me with a crowbar.”
Bruce drew back, visibly appalled. “Tim tried to beat you with a crowbar?”
“Yeah, but then I stabbed him in in the chest and blew up the tunnel he was in, so I feel like we’re basically even.”
Bruce looked even more appalled, which said some pretty interesting things about how much Dick must’ve told him— or didn’t tell him —about how everything after his fake-death went down.
“Anyways,” Jason said, because he could hear Tim and Pru playing something familiar on one of the gaming systems in the living room, “I’m gonna go do something that isn’t talking about Timmy now.” And left. He managed to get a few steps down the hall before Damian finally realized that Jason took the last chocolate macadamia cookie and understandably charged after him with his entire katana out.
“This is bullshit! Why the fuck does Pichu do damage to itself?”
“I dunno,” Tim said, enthusiastically combo-ing the fuck out of Jason’s Pichu, “it’s still a pretty good character though. Does good damage, has a small hitbox, is fast.” Tim wisely didn’t mention that Pichu's effectiveness also depended on the skill of the player, but going by Jason’s peeved glare Tim didn’t quite school his expression in time.
“I hate this,” Jason said as he got launched off the stage by an explosion and somehow didn’t die, “I’m switching back to Pikachu next— cut that out, demon brat!”
Damian’s Samus then got knocked across the screen, whereupon he mercilessly down-smashed Tim’s Palutena. “Oh shit,” Tim said, quickly wiping his palms on his sweats as Pru’s Icarus attempted to send him into the figurative stratosphere with a charged arrow, “oh nononono— ugh.” He cracked his thumbs as he respawned. “That’s it,” he said darkly, “you’re gonna regret that, Dick.”
“I don’t think I will, Ti— crap!”
Pru snickered as Tim down-smashed Dick’s Bowser off the stage before double jumping back to safety. Jason groaned as he lost his last life, setting down his controller to make a series of concerning noises with his spine. Tim quickly checked the lives of everyone else’s characters— Pru and Damian were on their last lives, but Tim was on his last two, and Dick on his last three. Time to even things out.
A minute a half later, Pru and Damian had been eliminated, and Tim and Dick’s characters were aggressively side-stepping each other. Another minute after that, Dick crowed in triumph as Bowser grabbed Palutena and hurled themselves both off the stage and to their deaths, winning by the virtue of still being on his second life.
“Damn,” Tim sighed, forlornly watching Bowser’s victory animation, “I kinda thought I was going to win.”
“Oh wait, I almost forgot,” Pru said, reaching somewhere into her skin-tight jeans, “on the way here I got paid three hundred dollars to give this to you.” She pulled out a familiar looking earpiece.
Tim stared at it for a long moment and wished very hard for someone to suddenly burst in and kidnap him. Then he put his head into his hands. “It’s almost 5 AM in Turkey,” he groaned, dragging his hands down his face.
Pru rolled her eyes. “As if that would stop him.” She shoved the earpiece in his face, and Tim took it. He sighed tiredly, tried to ignore his family’s curious stares, and stuck it in his ear.
“Hello, Detective,” said Ra’s.
“Ra’s,” Tim greeted, determinedly looking at the tv and not at Damian’s outraged expression, “was there something you needed?”
“Nothing but the pleasure of your company,” he purred, like the actual cliche movie villain he was. “Would you perhaps be available to meet in Barcelona next week? I hear their weather this year is simply divine.”
“Then would you perhaps stop sending operatives to infiltrate the Taiwanese triads?” Tim replied irritably, pulling out his phone to make extra sure Ra’s wasn’t distracting him to bug his apartment again. “I’m a bit busy making sure your— um.” He stared blankly at Dick as the man plucked the earpiece out of Tim’s ear. He had thought that Dick would find Tim’s whole (non-romantic!) thing with Ra’s to be more funny than anything, given his, uh. Bond with Deathstroke, but apparently not.
“Stay the fuck away from my little brother,” Dick said viciously, and then crushed the earpiece under his heel, which was admittedly effective, but probably hurt like a bitch.
“Geez,” Tim said, a little wide-eyed because holy shit, “did you really have to do that with your heel? I mean, at least you’re wearing socks, but Damian is literally armed at all times. You literally had some perfectly good knives directly within reach, and you went with your heel.”
“If Ra’s al Ghul contacts you again,” Dick said, deceptively calm, “please let one of us know.”
Tim chanced a look in Jason’s direction, feeling unsure about the way Dick reacted. The other boy watched Dick expressionlessly. “Oh…kay?”
Everyone watched silently as Dick crouched down to pick up the destroyed parts of the earpiece. Pru heaved a dramatic sigh. “You guys are all ridiculous,” she said, like she wasn’t the ridiculous one for wearing low-waisted jeans like it was still the early 2000s. “Complete and utter fucking clowns.”
“I resent that.”
“We know, Jason.”
“I have trauma.”
“We know, Jason.”
“Does everyone in this hell city react to clowns this way?” Pru asked. “Like, if I said ‘yesterday I clowned my boss’ in a public area would I get shunned?”
Tim thought about it. “Maybe?” he said uncertainly, “I guess it might depend on how you phrase it?”
“Internet slang is absurd,” Damian complained, “the adoption of unhumorous phrases into colloquial language is useless and far too specific for general use.”
“I kind of have to agree,” Jason said, “especially Vines. Those are fucking stupid. And so are TikToks. Why would repeating the same exact phrase or dance in different ways be funny? It usually wasn’t even funny the first time.”
Tim, who had thought that Vine was the greatest thing since sliced fucking bread during middle school, tried not to look too attacked. Dick, on the other hand, had no such compunctions.
“Dami,” he said seriously, “I’ll give you a pass because English is an awful language, but Jason? I thought you had more taste than that.”
“Fuck you! I have taste! I’m proud that I don’t find stupid shit like ‘15 Minutes of Vines That Jam My Bread’ funny.”
“Oh my god what the fuck does ‘jam your bread’ even mean. Is that a Yank thing?” Pru turned to Damian, demanding, “Is that a Yank thing or are your brothers just stupid?”
“Todd is an imbecile,” Damian said immediately.
Jason’s expression took on an unholy light, and Tim started inching away from him, suddenly reminded of the time he got blackout drunk with Jason and woke up with neon green nails just in time to run to work and embarrass himself in front of the WE Board of Directors. On the upside, it was fairly well done, and when he came in with burgundy nails a month later courtesy of Cass, he received no strange looks aside from the more… traditional members of the Board. He made a mental note to shop for some jewelry and visit his tailor to get a few of his suits altered in a more feminine-coded way, just to see them pop a vein holding themselves back from insulting him. It’d be so much fun.
“You consider me your brother?” Jason cooed, hands clutched to his chest like one of the Victorian maidens he loved to read about, “why, Little D, I didn’t know you felt that way!”
Damian, realizing his mistake, rapidly started backpedaling. “You are most certainly not my brother,” he blustered, clearly not realizing that Dick’s face was starting to mirror Jason’s in an alarming manner, “I thought it was a given that you—“
“Aww, Dami, you’ve grown so much!” Dick gushed, hugging Damian as he flailed, unwilling to be subjected to 'Grayson’s incessantly affectionate nature’ but also unwilling to hurt his favorite brother/dad/mom/parent.
“He has!” Jason agreed cheerfully, much to Tim’s horror. He darted out of Jason’s reach, but got shoved back within range by Pru, the traitor, and unceremoniously hauled into Jason’s lap. “You know what? I think this calls for a group hug.”
Damian redoubled his efforts to escape as Dick cackled and lunged forward, crushing Tim and Damian together between his and Jason’s bodies.
“Damian,” Tim said deliberately evenly as he almost got kneed in the balls for the second time by a thrashing assassin child, “if you don’t stop squirming I’m going to tell Talia that you’ve adopted two sewer rats as pets and named them after her siblings.”
Damian froze for a millisecond, before begrudgingly settling down. Belatedly, he grumbled, “your threats don’t bother me, Drake,” but there was something new in his expression that looked a little like respect. Which was. Interesting.
“Aww, lookit the kiddies,” Jason said delightedly, picking up Tim’s arms and hooking them around Dick’s back, “they’re getting along.” Dick beamed, and hugged Jason and Tim back, leaving Damian as the only one not actively hugging anyone. Before Dick could say anything, Tim felt a sort of tug on both his sides, and peeked down to see Damian loosely clutching his shirt.
“Don’t think this means anything,” Damian muttered, staring resolutely away from Tim.
Tim turned his head in the other direction, and smiled to himself.