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It started innocent enough…aahhh, who’s he kidding? Nothing in the Batclan is innocent, ever. It wasn’t innocent curiosity or innocent hacking, none of that. It was after getting in a small…disagreement with Bruce. Tim isn’t known to be aggressive; he’s chill, calm, passive. Passive aggressive, is what he is. So, after the argument, Tim had hacked into the Batcomputer and accessed Batman’s top secret files, the one that were always hidden and never looked at again.

Todd, Jason; Robin II

It took a couple hours to fully hack into the files, but Tim figured it would do well for vengeance against Bruce. The argument had been stupid, really. Tim had slipped up while fighting a gang member down at the docks and Bruce had yelled at him and Tim had gotten a little irritated with what Bruce was saying; so hacking the files of the previous Robin that Bruce (and everyone else) refused to talk about seemed to be just revenge.

Tim didn’t care about his file, or Dick’s file; after all, he knew himself and had come to know Dick rather well since Tim had moved in to the manor. Dick visited frequently and always made sure they had some “bonding time” away from their...extracurricular activities. So he didn’t need to learn more about Dick.

But Jason was a taboo topic. He was scared to bring it up because he had seen what it had done to Bruce, and he didn’t want to hurt Dick; the eldest boy may be bouncy and jovial, but sometimes Tim would catch a glimmer of grief within those blue eyes and he’d bite his tongue on any questions he may have. Alfred seemed open enough, but he couldn’t pass the locked door on the second floor without pausing to touch the wood and Tim, again, didn’t want to cause grief.

So what he knew was of his time stalking the dynamic duo, media rags, and the little things he’d find around the manor. (A stray book in the back library with little scrawled notes in the margin and colorful sticky notes; a red sweater behind the washing machine; a pair of shoes stuffed in the back of the downstairs closet…) So he does the most spiteful thing he can think of; Tim reads Jason’s file.

Jason Peter Todd

12 years old

Past abusive evident

Life on streets

Was part of two gangs within three months of coming to the manor; beware retaliation

Hoards food when no one is looking; I have found food gone missing within the past week and two backpacks full of food stashed around the manor.

Three closed traumatic fractures: right upper arm, left ankle, front temporal bone of the skull. Most likely cause is a fight.

[PICTURE]

The boy in the picture looked incredibly weary and wary. His teal eyes were narrowed at the camera, suspicious. It had been taken in the manor living room; Alfred could be seen dusting the television in the background. Jason’s auburn hair was wild and wind tossed, and he was wearing the red hoodie that Tim had found behind the washing machine. He had dark circles under his eyes, swallowing them whole, even though the note attached to the picture said it had been two months since he had been brought to the manor.

It’s the first picture of Jason Tim saw while sitting in the manor and he closed the files quickly; he’s ashamed of what he has done.

~*~

It is four months, seven weeks, two days, four hours, and thirty-seven minutes before Tim opens the files again. He isn’t sure what triggers him going into the files again, but he thinks it may have something to do with Roy Harper visiting Dick. The redhead’s breathing stops when he looks at Tim and Tim realizes this is the first time seeing someone from the team out of costume.

Roy had exhaled and whispered, “I thought you were him for a second”.

So Tim opens the files. This time he scrolls through some notes on Jason being Robin.

Volatile: broke a gang member’s arm

Argumentative: interrupted and yelled when confronted about his behavior

Anger management problems: broke a mirror in his bathroom after an argument.

Removed from patrol duty until calm

Reinstated on patrol

Good techniques: a flying kick to the Joker was perfectly executed

Temperamental: unpredictable behavior and emotional reactions

Good takedown on Penguin: see file 3.77685

Needs to work on his take downs: [VIDEO]

He’s not thinking clearly when he starts the video. It’s a slightly older Jason, taller, and he’s gained weight from the first picture. His cheeks are fuller and his eyes are cold, not as suspicious, but hardened. He still looks as weary as he did in the picture, except this weary doesn’t look physical.

He’s doing a complicated routine on the training dummies in the cave’s training ring. His kicks and punches and movements are heavy and direct and rough; they aren’t the natural grace that Dick has or the calculated hits Tim uses. This are angry and forceful.

Bruce’s voice is heard off-camera. “No, no. Fluid, Jason. Stop pausing in between your movements; that leaves you open. Dick never paused. You need to keep moving. Punch, punch, uppercut, gut, back, kick…”

Jason stops all together and his hands are fists at his side; his chest heaves and Tim wonders if Bruce ever thought of therapy for Jason.

“I’m not Dick.”

It’s the first time Tim hears his voice and it’s so similar to what he’d imagined it would be he’s startled.

He slams his laptop lid shut and doesn’t realize he is crying until Dick comes to tell him dinner is ready.

~*~

It's become a sort of comfort. It's a connection to his predecessor, something that is his and his alone. Because Bruce barely made an effort to get to know the boy before tossing him into the role of Robin, and Dick was unfortunately blinded by his hate of Bruce to pay any attention to his new little brother. They were unequipped to bond with Jason.

So this is something Tim can lay claim to and call his own. He feels dirty saying that, he feels dirty doing this. But it's familiar and comforting so he pulls the files up once more on his computer and scrolls through them.

No one else does.

But beyond laying claim to having a semblance of a relationship with the dead boy, it’s a connection. Dick was the first Robin, yes, and the one Tim has the most reason to feel connected to and yet he feels a strong pull to Jason. Maybe it’s the morbid fascination that Jason is dead and Tim can never really have any form of relationship with him, or maybe it’s that no one can ever make amends to the boy, or maybe that Tim realizes that while he followed the boy around Gotham almost every night and took thousands of pictures and keeps them all in a book he still never knew Jason.

Whatever it is, Tim keeps going back to the files. He forms a picture in his mind of what he thinks Jason was like, from what the files say, and he comes to the realization that the manor didn’t seem to be much better for Jason than the streets. Because while Bruce tried, he couldn’t seem to give what he did to Dick. Dick was the first and Dick was perfection; Jason was rougher, harsher, more delicate in a way. Tim wishes life could have dealt Jason some better cards. He was thrown too soon into the hero business and he was not mentally stable to begin with; Tim does research and wouldn’t be surprised if Jason had bipolar disorder—otherwise known as manic depression—where he went from extremely high highs to extremely low lows. Highs where he was determined and impulsive and energetic, to lows where he could barely get out of bed in the morning. He guesses Jason might’ve had some PTSD too, from being on the streets and from what the notes said. Under fear toxin, Jason had expressed some disturbing information about how he got money in Crime Alley; Tim makes an enormous effort to pay extra attention to any pedophiles he may run into on patrol.

But of course Jason was a hero, always a hero. When on the streets Tim wouldn’t be surprised if Jason helped old ladies crossed the road and read to the illiterate kids (because Jason must have loved to read, Tim thinks he must’ve taught himself, must’ve worked so hard and loved books and literature because it just seems like something A Separate Peace from the library with the little scrawls in the margin is trying to tell him). And as Robin he saved people: from the Joker, from Penguin, from Poison Ivy and Two-Face and Black Mask. And, yes, while the events around Felipe Garzonas’ death are mysterious and suspicious, no doubt Jason thought he was doing a civic duty. And while Tim doesn’t agree with murder, he is happy the poor woman got justice for her pain and suicide. And for that Jason is a hero…

Of course, Tim is speculating and can’t be sure about the dead Robin’s character and thought process.

But he truly does want to get to know Jason, even just a little bit, so he reads and rereads the files as many times as he can.

~*~

Autopsy Findings:

Multiples blunt force trauma to head and arms

Arms: defensive wounds

Four broken ribs

Three fractured ribs

A punctured lung

A shattered kneecap

Multiple lacerations: unknown if from beating or bomb

Caved in skull at back: unknown if from beating or bomb. Possibly bomb, victim was turned away from the explosive and curled in the fetal position.

Broken back: resulted from bomb

Blood leaked into eye: beating

Multiple hematomas: bruises, probable cause was beating

Weapon: crowbar

Death: from explosion, though death would have been emanate from other injuries if not treated quickly

Tim is crying silently in the dark of his room, a hand clapped over his mouth and the waste bin splashed with vomit, as his eyes keep reading the words.

Because ohmygod Jason is alive.

~*~

Jason is alive, thanks to Ra’s, or maybe no thanks because Tim thinks he came back wrong. Jason is ruthless and reckless and broken and murderous. He leaves a pile of bodies in his wake and Tim doesn’t read the files anymore; his image of Jason is broken and it can’t be fixed.

Jason is now an enigma. Tim thinks he was always an enigma and he just couldn’t see it. So when Jason shows up at the mountain in his Red Hood armor and ready to give Tim a beating, he doesn’t put his heart into fighting.

“You’re my replacement.”

Tim can imagine those teal eyes he’s stared at for hours on end on the computer screen, now hidden behind a piece of metal. He can see the hurt and betrayal and anger and he doesn’t pull out a weapon because if Jason is here maybe he’s reaching out.

“Jason…” It’s the first time Tim has said the other’s name out loud; it rolls off his tongue like a boulder down a hill—fast and heavy and destructive. “Bruce needed a Robin to keep him sane. I’m sorry, please, you can have it back.” He could have Bruce and Dick back, though Tim would miss them both, if it would make Jason happy.

But Jason laughs hollowly, head thrown back and shoulders shaking. It’s surreal, that the not-dead ex-Robin is standing before Tim. He wants to touch him to make sure he’s not dreaming, but if he gets close Jason may run and that would be worse than him not being real. “Yeah, right! He was sane enough to not kill the Joker… Heh… Let my killer go free, right, Timbo?”

Jason wants Joker dead. Jason wants Joker dead at Batman’s hands. Jason wants Joker dead at Batman’s hands so he can be avenged. Tim can understand the twisted thinking, scarily enough. One step forward and Jason stops laughing.

“Jason, I’m sorry. I’m sorry you weren’t avenged. And I’m sorry you had to go through what you did. It…it sucks.”

And they’re suddenly at a stalemate. Tim hasn’t said the ever annoying Batman—Bruce—doesn’t make exceptions, you weren’t enough to make an exception; Tim, someone who never knew Jason, someone who wasn’t there and couldn’t do anything to save him, acknowledges he is hurting and acknowledges that what he went through was hell. He doesn’t make excuses, because there are none that can make this better.

Jason turns to leave and Tim lets him go.

~*~

It’s a trial by blood and fire and by the time Damian comes in everyone is at a stalemate. They grudgingly accept Jason’s presence in the lower levels of Gotham, as long as the bodies stay below the minimum and he doesn’t harm civilians. It’s an unspoken truce. Dick tries to reach out multiple times, but he is turned away harshly. Tim doesn’t make that effort, at least not consciously.

He finds himself frequenting Crime Alley and the surrounding areas after patrol, like it’s a reflex; like when he logged into the files to read about Jason before going to bed at night. Now he’s checking on Jason’s stomping ground to make sure the teenager is doing alright. Tim can’t stalk Red Hood well, but he finds three safehouses and monitors them closely. He knows Jason knows about him and his presence, and it makes him happy to know Jason lets him come by.

He occasionally opens the files, but they seem flat and he begins to wonder what he saw in them. Jason is so much more than what technical language is written down about him.

His favorite color does seem to be red, has always been red. He likes tacos and burgers and raspberry pancakes; he hates orange juice, prefers apple, and will only eat oranges if they are sliced and the thin clear membrane is removed from them (it’s a tedious process and rather humorous to watch him through the apartment safehouse window on Saturday meticulously cleaning each slice). He smokes, sometimes chain smoking after a confrontation with Bruce; he gets drunk on Fridays, and sings to My Chemical Romance.

Jason doesn’t like asking for help, and is really bad at communication. Tim is convinced now that Jason should seek some therapy for his issues, and he brings it up to Dinah one day when he’s at the mountain.

“Did you ever think J—Robin, the second one…Did you ever think he needed therapy?”

She regards him for a moment and then a small smile breaks out. “Nightwing mentioned you were a little obsessed with him. Yes, I did. But he would not open up to me at all so there really was nothing I could do. The first step to therapy—”

“—is admitting you have a problem. Yeah…I know…”

~*~

Tim is a schemer; and with Dick and Batman preoccupied with Jason 2.0, AKA the demon spawn Damian, it’s easy to put plans into action. He slips into the surprisingly unlocked window in Jason’s apartment at three in the morning with a Walmart bag in hand. Jason is asleep in the bedroom curled on a lumpy mattress on the floor, a bottle of aspirin on the floor. Tim knows he’s nursing a couple bruised ribs and will be knocked out for a while so he returns to the kitchen and gets to work cooking pancakes; raspberry pancakes.

By four there’s two plates stacked with pancakes on the (now clean) counter and he scribbles a quick note before slipping back out.

I know you’re all about safety and stuff, but please don’t lock the window after this little incident.

~*~

Jason doesn’t listen, but Tim doesn’t give up easily. So he leaves little things on the fire escape for Jason to find when he goes to smoke: some nicotine gum, a pair of socks, a red hoodie, some books that Tim found in the library that might interest Jason…

Of course, he starts moving around to different safehouses, but Tim doesn’t stop. He searches, he finds, he leaves little gifts, Jason moves, and the cycles repeats.

One night, when Tim is searching for Clayface, Jason drops onto the roof behind him.

“What is with you?”

Tim turns to regard him; it’s unusual for Jason to stray from his section of Gotham unless the Joker is loose, so Tim checks the other one over for something—an injury maybe—that would make him seek Red Robin out.

Jason squirms. “Freak…” He mutters.

Tim grins. “I’m looking for Clayface; got any ideas where he might be?”

Jason just watches him from behind the safety of his helmet. “What? No! Oh my god, you are a freak!”

Tim keeps grinning and turns to the streets below. “I was thinking he might be down by the docks, but then there was something on the police scanner about a break in at a convenient store.”

“Shut up, ok, just shut up. Replacement.” There's no bite.

“But it was just some wanna be crook. I wonder if Clayface is at the docks.”

“Why are you leaving fucking reindeer decorated socks at my doorstep?”

Tim has a hard time not laughing. “Because it’s almost Christmas and you’re always losing socks at the laundry mat.”

The stunned silent is broken by Jason’s expletives.

“Fucking weirdo is what you are, fucking…fucking asshole stalker. Fucking annoying replacement. Most annoying replacement. More annoying than the fucking demon dick. Fucking weirdo…”

Tim stows his binoculars in his belt and readies a grappling gun. “So, the docks it is?”

There’s a scuffling of boots as Jason makes his way to the edge of the roof and aims his own grappling gun. “I’ve gotta be fucking stupid.”

Tim is still grinning when Bruce interrogates him at the cave.

~*~

“Hey, Jay?”

The older boy hums in distraction; he’s got a rag clenched in his teeth as he stares into the barrel of his gun. Tim waits a moment, admiring the way Jason’s fingers nimbly take the gun apart, clean it, check it, put it back together.

“Ever thought of doing therapy?”

He was expecting Jason to lash out in anger (psychologically, his anger is a resistance technique to avoid addressing how messed up he is or that he needs help; Tim’s done research); he was not expected to be shoved out the front door, his sweater thrown at his head, and the door promptly slammed in his face.

He can start from the beginning, if he needs to. He’ll just have to think of new gifts to shove at Jason to—once more—portray that he is cared about no matter what he does. Tim starts compiling a list as he slips his sweater on and heads down the hall to the stairs.

Maybe a pack of beer would be a good place to start…

~*~

Dick helps Tim; it just sort of happens. They show up at Jason’s place at the same time. Dick is holding a pack of beer and Tim holds a DVD of A Beautiful Mind, one of Jason’s favorite movies, and popcorn. (Tim realized it would be hard to get beer without a proper ID and he wasn’t going to steal it, so he opted for the movie instead).

They blink at each other and then Tim shrugs, knocks at Jason’s door belligerently until it opens. Jason looks like they woke him up and he takes one glance between the two, rolls his eyes, and tries to slam the door shut. Tim shoves a foot in and starts his rapid fire talking that always annoys Jason.

“So we were thinking movie night with beer because Dick is awesome and got you your favorite andddd look what I have! It’s A Beautiful Mind, isn’t that your favorite movie? Well, since we got your favorite movie and beer—not to mention, popcorn, yumm—it’d be a shame to waste it, don’t you think? So why don’t you let us in and we can watch and drink—well, you and Dick can drink, I’m not legal yet… Come to think of it, neither are you, but I’ll over look that and—”

“If I let you in, will you please shut up.”

Tim nods eagerly and Jason leaves them to let themselves in; he drops his gun that he had been hiding behind the door on the coffee table and drops face first onto the couch. Dick tentatively sits at Jason’s feet while Tim puts the DVD in the TV. He pushes Jason to get him to make room and they end up piling on the couch; Jason has his feet firmly planted in Tim’s feet, having turned around to rest against Dick’s shoulder. Tim is sitting cross legged and holding a popped bowl of popcorn; Dick doles out beer, none for Tim.

Half way through the movie, Tim starts to doze, only to be woken up by Dick poking his cheek from across the couch. It looks like Dick might have tears in his eyes when he indicates Jason; the auburn haired boy is sleeping peacefully against the eldest boy. Tim grins at the scene.

“I…we never did this, Tim. A movie night, or a sleep over. I…I never gave him the time.”

Tim just keeps grinning. “Well, Ra’s gave us a second chance. Let’s not waste it.”

Tim thinks there might just be hope of mending everything.

~*~

He’s curled in the computer chair before the Batcomputer, gnawing on his thumbnail as he clicks absently through the pictures and words and files. Bruce is out as Batman with Nightwing, and Damian is practicing his batarang skills in the background.

“Are you supposed to be accessing those files, Drakes?”

Tim shrugs halfheartedly; on the screen, Jason grins at a school festival, clutching a ball that belongs to the game in the background. He’s pointing at a stuffed animal, one of the prizes; it’s a fat penguin—one that now resides in Damian’s room, though Damian will deny having found it in the attic and kept it. Obviously, Alfred took the picture. It’s perfect and still and clear and focused.

“You should not be accessing those files, Drake; I explicitly know my father has them under heavy lock and key.”

Tim ignores the boy coming closer. “I’ve been hacking into these files for years. Calm down, Damian.”

He clicks another picture; this is a separate file that took him a while to find, but changed his view on Bruce’s cold demeanor towards Jason. They’re pictures. All pictures, casual pictures, not one to assess his progress or aging. There are other files, dedicated to Dick, and Tim, and even Damian. But Tim is only ever interested in Jason’s files. He would like to avoid anything of himself, and he see and has pictures of Damian and Dick enough. Plus, at least something needs to be kept private for Bruce. So he only ever explores Jason’s files.

In the next picture, it’s Jason and Roy. Roy is giving the Robin-in-civvies a noogie and Jason is flailing. Roy looks happy; Jason looks irritated, but happy—as happy as Jason can get, that is. Which, Tim is surprised is rather happy.

Tim knows these pictures by heart; but he still slowly clicks through them, if only for Damian to view them.

“Was he a good Robin?”

Tim thinks of a woman who killed herself because of torment, a man who fell (was pushed) to his death, a sidekick who wasn’t fast enough to escape the Joker, a boy who curled up crying on a cold warehouse floor as a bomb ticked down at his back; and a broken teenager who clawed from his grave and somehow healed enough to try and fix his life. “We’re all good Robins, Dami; just in our own ways.”

Damian doesn’t say anything and a few minutes later they reach the end of the photo reel. Tim exits the window and stands to head upstairs.

“Come on, Dami. Let’s go see if we can get Alfred to make us some mac and cheese.”

They trudge upstairs and while Damian heads for the kitchen, Tim turns for the livingroom. The television is on, Thor playing quietly in the background; on the couch, softly snoring, is Jason Peter Todd.

He had had a therapy session with Dinah earlier that day and he was always exceptionally tired on these days. Tim shifts his older brother so Jason is using him as a pillow; Jason wakes up momentarily, glares halfheartedly, before shifting to press his face into Tim’s stomach and drift back to sleep. Tim settles in and Damian doesn’t comment when he walks in; he hands Tim a bowl of mac and cheese before take a seat at Jason’s feet.

Dick comes home early and they finish the movie before dozing asleep to The Avengers.

When Bruce returns home, the four boys are asleep and Alfred has taken three pictures. The two adults watch them from the doorway.

“Is this why you never blocked him from the files, Master Bruce?”

Bruce chuckles, but there’s a sad tone to it. “Tim was curious. And no one was in any state to speak of Jason.” He sobers some, enjoying the sight of his sons in the tranquil night. “He wanted to know; and look how it turned out, Alfred. I have all my sons home. It’s…”

“Incredibly liberating, sir?”

Bruce takes a deep breath and smiles. “Yeah, Alfred. It is.”

Tim doesn’t say anything, not even when they leave. He buries a hand in Jason’s hair and tries to shift away from Damian’s foot in his side; but when Jason whines and clutches at his shirt, he freezes and resigns himself to his fate of many more feet in his side, Jason in his lap, and Dick squeezing his hand.