Edit: So you should note that I wrote this thing in just a few days, with no plan, and it reads that way. Just a warning. Enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Patrol had been a bitch. Tim usually refrains from using obscenities, but tonight had kicked his ass and his right arm might be fractured and he’s leaving a lovely trail of blood all the way home and fuck it all. Shit.
Robin leaps from a rooftop, diving into the smog and sounds of Gotham. Dirty, offensive, crass. Home. He lands awkwardly on the building opposite, rolling on his left side, trying to protect his other arm. Just two blocks farther, then he will be home -safe- in the shower -clean- with food from an overstocked kitchen -full.
Tim winces and looks at the blood dripping off his fingertips and thinks he maybe should have called Batman… but no, he’s almost there. He can do this. No need to worry Bruce. No need for Bruce to think Tim can’t handle this. More than he already does.
Panting slightly, Robin lurches to the far edge of the building, aims the grapple gun, and flings himself into the air. Wind rushes past his ears and Tim fires the gun and waits for the line to go taut so he may swing across accept that it doesn’t. His eyes snap to where the grapple should have caught and sees that it simply didn’t. He missed. He panics less than he ought to, really, considering he’s actually falling to his eminent death, as concrete is not particularly forgiving. Tim wishes he could fly, like an actual robin –that really would be so helpful- but pushes away that thought because it’s not pragmatic right now. Because right now he needs a solution. Something real. Something concrete. Like that stuff he’s about to go splat on.
Robin is hit. Not by the concrete, but from the side, by something warm that wraps around his torso. Oh. That would be an arm, attached to a man. Someone grabbed him and is flying him up, away from death, to a rooftop. That someone lands them both and holds Tim until he steadies himself before backing away.
Gotham at night is pretty well lit from advertisements and neon signs and streetlights allowing Tim to see his rescuer nicely. It’s a man, clearly, from the height –over six feet- and the build –like a freaking bear, like Bruce. He’s wearing a leather jacket and jeans and combat boots. If not for the red helmet covering his entire head and the knives and guns strapped to his hips and thighs, he would look like a regular fellow. Tim doesn’t know him and the guns make him a bit wary, but this man did just pluck him out of the air mid free fall, so he figures he can be amiable.
The man in the red helmet stands, still, but the moment Tim opens his mouth to say something –Thank you for saving my life, who are you?- he turns and jumps from the building. Robin hesitates just a bit, surprised, then runs to the edge, seeing only an empty ally. Well, empty of people. It’s Gotham, of course the ally is full of trash and rats as big as cats and cats as nasty as rats.
Well that was interesting. Again, Robin contemplates calling Batman. Warning him of this… new player. But he doesn’t want Bruce to get all paranoid and hunt down this guy. He obviously is not a threat. At least to them. For now. Probably.
Tim just sighs and carefully makes him way home. He flops through his bedroom window and barely musters the strength to wrap the injured arm before passing out on top of the blankets.
this is my first Batman fic- hopefully I get the characterizations right... please let me know if you see any problems.
i'm GeneratorCat over on tumblr as well, feel free to come start random conversations about our bird boys :)
“He calls himself Red Hood.”
Batman’s voice carries throughout the cave, low and gruff. He taps at the keyboard and a picture pops up, filling the giant monitor screen. In the picture, the man with the red helmet –Red Hood, apparently- is standing in a warehouse. The floor is littered with bodies, thugs. Red Hood has both arms out, pointing guns in opposite directions to cover the only two men left standing. Or rather, cowering in fear.
“Any connection to the Joker?”
Tim peers at the two men. “Desoto and Murphy.”
Batman turns slightly towards Tim, which Tim knows is Bat for go on and figure it out for yourself.
“Desoto and Murphy are rivals. Red Hood appears in the middle of a meeting between rival drug lords –which, why are they meeting in the first place- and takes out all of their men. Both. So he’s not picking sides. And did so violently. Did those men die?”
“So he come in, takes out the lower level guys. Probably a show of power. Or hate. And then, what? Makes a deal with the leaders?”
Batman nods slightly. “They both are now paying him. %40. I have gotten word that three others are as well. Graff, Weise, and Troller.”
“Hm.” Tim feels something clench inside. This man was good, he saved Tim. But now. What was he? Why would he save Robin and then take over drug rings?
“He’s gaining control quickly and brutally.” Batman slips the cowl off and hesitates, just a moment of conflict. “He told them not to sell to children.”
Tim’s eyes snap open –when had he closed them?- and over to Bruce. “So, what? He’s a drug peddling murderer with a soft spot for kids?”
“And women. He… he patrols Crime Ally and the surrounding area.”
“Protects women and children, even the working girls. He’s interceded in thirteen rape attempts in the last week.”
“And killed all thirteen men.”
Tim and Bruce stand, silent, staring at the picture.
Eventually Tim shakes his head. “What the hell?”
Bruce sighs. “I don’t know.”
Tim thinks he should say something… defend him, maybe. Did Red Hood only save Robin because he’s technically a child? Or did he just want to get on Batman’s good side? It’s been two weeks since they met –a very loose term in the vigilante world. And is this guy a vigilante? If he tells Bruce now he will be upset. Then Tim feels guilty. If he had told Bruce initially and Batman had tracked this guy, those thugs may still be alive. However those thirteen rapes would have happened. But those men would be alive as well.
Tim’s mind dives into conflicted circular logic. He holds his tongue.
Sometimes Tim thinks, what would Jason do? Usually the answer is violent, such as punch the fucker in the face.
The first Robin was Dick Grayson. He grew up in the circus and it showed. He was vibrant, a showman. Almost flamboyant. Dick flipped whenever possible and flashed his bright colors with a brighter smile.
The second Robin was loud and abrasive and seemed reckless, but Tim knows that was more of an act than truth. Jason Todd was… forceful. Like a wolf. But Tim knows Jason was smart, too. He knew when to punch and when not to. He just didn’t always use that knowledge. Bruce saw that, when the anger was stronger than strategy. He scolded Jason, tried to teach him control. Tim knew Jason was scared, deep, deep down. Jason never felt worthy of Robin.
Tim knows because he watched. For years, he followed, documented, cheered, cried, obsessed over Batman and Robin. He loved Batman and then he loved Robin. Then Robin flipped how only Dick Grayson can and Tim loved Dick and then Bruce. Then Dick moved on and Jason become Robin and Tim really loved Jason. Jason was everything Tim wanted to be.
And then Jason died. Batman lost his precious control. Gotham felt his pain as Batman became far more violent. Tim watched in horror as Bruce lost himself in darkness and sorrow and rage. Tim learned Batman cannot be corrupted, but he can be broken. As Tim called for an ambulance to save the small time thief Batman left for dead, he realized he needed to do something.
Tim is just the replacement, he knows this. He wasn’t chosen because he was meant for this. Hell he wasn’t even chosen at all. He made himself Robin out of necessity. For Batman’s -Bruce’s- sake. He made himself into what Batman needed. Because that’s what you do when you love someone, right? You sacrifice yourself. You do what they need. You become what they need. Batman needed Robin. Robin was Dick. Robin was Jason. Robin wasn’t Tim.
Tim emulates Jason when tactically appropriate. He does the same with Dick and Bruce, but he enjoys Jason the most. Jason was fierce and bold and strong in a way Tim can never be. But he can pretend. That’s all he is, really. A pretender.
So right now there’s a man shakily pointing a gun at Robin. Tim has several options for taking this guy down. His mind runs through all the flashy ways Dick would handle this, with acrobatics and cackling. Then all the Bruce options, swift and straightforward.
Tim mutters under his breath, “What would Jason do?”
The Jason in his mind barks a laugh and replies, punch the fucker in the face.
I ask myself the same question, Timmy boy.
if only I could get away with punching people in the face
The communicator in Tim’s ear beeps. “Robin here.”
“Alarm triggered at Spiegel’s Jewelry Store.”
“On it. ETA: two minutes.”
“Acknowledged. Batman out.”
One minute and forty-three seconds later Robin lands on the roof of Spiegel’s. An alarm is blaring from inside the store, accompanied by flashing red lights. Glass litters the sidewalk and an older model Chevy truck is idling on the curb, doors wide open. A smash and grab job, they aren’t even trying to be the least bit subtle. Robin drops to the ground next to the truck. He takes the keys out so it can’t be used as a get-away car. Not that the thieves will make it past Robin and out of the store but still, it’s a wise precaution.
Looking through the hole that used to be a window, Robin sees three men. He hears them as well, shouting urgent instructions and curses at each other. One of the men, the one closest to the front door, stumbles on his own untied shoelace –really?- and drops his bag of the loot. Tim nearly rolls his eyes at the tomfoolery. Clearly, they aren’t professionals. As the guy bends down to pick up the bag, Robin whips out his staff and steps into the store. He whacks the aspiring thief on the head just hard enough to knock him out, but not so hard as to cause lasting injury. The other two don’t notice their associate’s downfall and continue plundering the jewelry displays.
Robin moves quickly to the back of the store, coming up behind the burglars and knocking them out before they even could turn around. They slump to the floor and this time Tim does roll his eyes because this was too easy. He goes to the office and turns off the alarm and then walks back to the thugs, bending down to tie their wrists and ankles.
Tim stands and turns around, adrenaline spiking already because he knows that voice too damn well. “Hello, Doctor.”
Well crap. It’s a trap. Duh. It really was too easy.
“Hmm. I like that. Batman refuses to use my professional title.”
“Well you did earn it.”
Scarecrow pulls back his shoulders a bit, standing proudly. Tim knows Dr. Crane loves an ego boost. A bit of flattery will ease the man, keeping him from doing something rash. Also Robin needs time to think of an escape, since Scarecrow is blocking the only exit. Tim wants to admonish himself for letting this happen but this isn’t the time. Better save that for latter when he can brood properly. Maybe with some of Alfred’s amazing hot chocolate. No. He doesn’t deserve hot chocolate after this.
“So what can I do for you, Doctor?”
“Hmm. Polite. Well,” Crane sighs heavily, full of remorse. “I was hoping to attract the bat.”
Robin nods sympathetically. “I’m afraid he has some business to attend to down by the docks.”
“You’re a better liar than the last Robin.”
Scarecrow waits a beat but receives no reaction from Robin and so continues as if they’re gossiping over tea and biscuits. “That one was all sass and deflection and anger. In my professional opinion, he likely had a troubled upbringing. And he spoke like a street kid. Not like you: polite, proper. No,” the man pauses, looking almost sad, “that last Robin was… unfit.”
Tim is furious but he knows his facial expression and body language reveal nothing. He is stone, unreadable, always. He learned that skill from his mother. That and little else.
As he spiels, several figures come in through the door and spread out on either side of Scarecrow. They look to be mercenaries. Of course. If Scarecrow’s target was Batman, he would need a hell of a gun. Robin motions toward a mercenary yielding an impressive katana. “You know, this may be over-kill, Doctor. Would you consider evening the sides? You brought what’s needed to take down Batman, and I’m just a lonely Robin.”
Crane ponders that before shrugging dismissively. “The trap may still work, dear Robin. In fact, now I have far better bait. Batman will surly come for his little birdy.”
A knife zips through the open storefront window and thuds into the katana yielding man’s heart. Four shots pop and the next four men drop instantly. That can’t be Batman, Tim thinks, he wouldn’t kill. Not even for me.
Crane shrieks and throws a canister, filling the room with gas. Robin searches his belt but can’t find the- no, no, where is it- and then it hits him. Literally, a rebreather bounces off his chest. He picks it up and puts it in his mouth before the fear toxin can invade his system. Snapping out his staff, Robin quickly disables two of the mercenaries. As he engages a third, he catches a glimpse of the last four surrounding one man. A tall man wearing a leather jacket and a red helmet.
Tim is impressed and horrified by Red Hood’s skill and brutality. The four former mercenaries liter the floor, blood staining the carpet, before Tim can protest their deaths. However, Robin finds his voice when Red Hood turns toward Scarecrow. He rushes between them growling, “Don’t kill him!”
Red Hood steps back but remains in an attack position. He doesn’t speak but his tilted head asks you gonna stop me?
“That’s not how this is done. It’s not right. It… we don’t need to. He’ll be sent to prison.”
Red Hood’s body language screams Fine. I refuse to discuss the morality of vigilante capital punishment with a child.
Tim is excellent at reading body language.
As Robin binds Scarecrow, Red Hood saunters out of the store.
“Wait! Why did you help me?”
Red Hood keeps walking and says, “Go home, Babybird.”
The instant Robin enters the cave, he finds himself wrapped up in a crushing embrace. He gasps for breath and is assaulted by the smell of sweat and spandex and hair gel and cologne. “Hey, Dick.”
Nightwing squeezes tighter and spins around, worrying like a mother whose son just came back from war. “Oh my gosh, Tim, are you okay? Where are you hurt? What did Scarecrow want? Timmy!”
Tim looks pleadingly at Batman, who thankfully takes pity on him. “Dick, let him down.”
Dick emits whimpers of protest but complies.
Nightwing is still fidgeting nervously, practically bouncing around Tim, so the first thing he says is, “I’m not injured.” That pacifies Dick enough to make him take one step away. “Scarecrow set up a trap for you, Batman. He caught me instead and was going to use me as bait to get you but then… Red Hood showed up, killed nine of the men Scarecrow had hired. He almost killed Scarecrow but stopped when I stepped in… Then he left.”
Dick wears a look torn between anger, confusion, and appreciation. Batman barely shifts, but Robin reads that as signifying the same emotions Dick is radiating. “Did he say anything?”
Go home, Babybird. “No.”
“So… is he a crime lord or a vigilante?” Dick sounds too young, Tim thinks. Like this gray area is stripping away the foundation of the blacks and whites he had built his maturity on. He seems to be having the same internal argument Tim has been dealing with for the past couple weeks. “Do we arrest him? Thank him? If he wants to help people, why is he taking over drug rings?”
“I think I understand the reason for that, actually.” Tim can feel the surprise from both Bruce and Dick. “Well, it’s just a theory. But maybe he thinks that by controlling the drug rings he is helping people. Every mask and cop knows it’s impossible to stop all drug trafficking. As hard as we try, there will always be sellers because there will always be buyers and there’s just too many of each.” Tim takes a breath, organizing his words carefully. “I’m not saying I agree with this strategy, but since Red Hood can’t stop them, he’s decided to control them, and reign them in at least a bit. Like how they can’t sell to kids. And with all the gang leaders working for the same man, they technically aren’t rivals anymore, which decreases gang to gang violence. Also, he probably isn’t a billionaire. He needs funding and he’s willing to take it from the drug lords. In his mind he is a vigilante. He’s helping people. His methods are extreme, but he thinks this is the only way to clean up Gotham.”
Tim can’t remember that last time he spoke for so long.
Dick tilts his head like a puppy and says, “That makes sense.”
Bruce puffs his chest like gorilla and grunts, “I don’t care what his intentions are or how noble he thinks he is. Red Hood is a murderer. I will not have him in my city.”
Tim stays still like a statue and replies, “Understood.” He remembers that thief and thinks to himself, do you know how close you came to being murderer? If I hadn’t been in that alley…
The communicator in Tim’s ear beeps. “Robin here.”
Static crackles and gives way to a pained groan.
Robin shifts from his perch next to a moldy gargoyle, readying himself to take flight. “…B?”
Red Hood starts to laugh at that but it’s cut off by another groan followed by, “Ow. Fuck. Fuck.”
“Are you okay?”
“No. I’m really not. I uh- well. I need help. I wouldn’t have called except I’m fucking dying. Again. So.”
“Where are you?”
“Fourth and Travis.”
“On my way.”
As he races across the city, Robin catalogues all the reasons he shouldn’t be doing this. He needs to call Batman. He needs to call an ambulance and the police. He needs to take his time, make sure it’s not a trap. He does none of these things. Robin swings across Fourth Street and spots Red Hood sitting on the roof of an apartment building, leaning against the chimney.
Landing nearby, Tim can already see a pool of blood collecting. Red Hood’s leg is cut, long and deep, and he’s taken two shots to the chest, right above his heart. Robin drops down next him and immediately pulls out cloth to wrap the wounds hopefully staunching the blood flow long enough to get proper care.
“So.” Red Hood’s voice sounds distorted as he speaks through the helmet. “No Batman?”
Robin shakes his head and replies, “I got the feeling you wouldn’t want him here.” His hands are slick with blood. “Do you have a safe house close?”
“No. This isn’t my side of town.”
“I have one two blocks north of here.”
“You’re pretty trusting, Babybird.”
Tim can’t figure if Babybird is intended as an insult or term of endearment. Either way it makes him flush.
I had Stephanie in mind as the girl in the elevator
It had been quite a feat for Robin to haul Red Hood to his safe house. The man had an easy fifty pound advantage. Or, in this situation, disadvantage. Having lost so much blood, Red Hood could barely hold himself up, leaving Tim practically carrying him the two blocks. They were forced to take the street since there was no way Tim could hold Hood’s weight swinging across from roof to roof.
Robin finally gets Red Hood to a middle class apartment complex. They enter through the front door –Tim can’t get Hood up to the roof entrance- and wait for the elevator. Also waiting for the elevator is a girl, barely older than Tim. She’s surprised initially but quickly smiles when she recognizes Robin. She waves and says, “Hi!”
Tim assumes she hasn’t yet seen all the blood on Red Hood. He nods politely and replies, “Hello.”
Red Hood, leaning heavy on Robin, raises his head slightly and grunts, “Sup?”
The girl’s eyes widen drastically. Ah, there it is. “Oh God, are you okay?”
“Darling, I’m far from okay.” Hood chuckles as if he just made a joke.
She looks to Robin, who tries to keep her from freaking out. “He’ll be fine. Promise. It looks worse than it is.”
“So it doesn’t look like I’m dying? Good to know.”
“He’s not dying,” Tim quickly asserts.
A bell dings and the elevator doors open. The two men exiting glance at the vigilantes but leave without comment. Robin helps Hood into the elevator and the girl follows, pushing the button for the fifth floor. “Which floor?”
“Seven, thank you.”
Red Hood stage whispers in a way that makes Tim think he’s trying to distress the girl. “Are you sure, Babybird?” The nickname makes her grin knowingly. The amusement is lost when Hood says, “I mean, I lost a shit-ton of blood. Fuckin’ buckets.” He slips a little and Robin readjusts his grip.
The girl apparently decides pleasant conversation will aid the healing process for a gunshot wound. “So… ‘Babybird’. That’s so cute.” Red Hood’s grin can be felt, even from behind the helmet. “How long have you two been together?”
Robin starts shaking his head before she even finishes the sentence. “We aren’t… together.”
“Aww, don’t be shy, sweetheart.” Hood leans further into Robin and coos, “This is our third date, actually.”
The girl giggles and scolds Robin, “You take him to fight crime on dates?”
“Ain’t that a fucking shame? I keep saying he needs to treat me better. I mean shit, it’s not like he can’t afford to take me someplace respectable. Without the damn masks.”
Tim opens his mouth but absolutely nothing comes out and he actually feels his ears and cheeks burning red.
“Oh dear, I think we broke him,” she says with mock remorse. The bell chimes, the doors open, and she steps out to the hall, waving. “Good luck. Have fun on your date!”
“Oh we will. Thanks, sunshine.”
Red Hood laughs all the way up to the seventh floor.
Robin types a code into the keypad on the wall and the apartment door automatically swings open. Red Hood moves to enter but Robin holds him back saying, “You have to wait twelve seconds or the alarm will be tripped. Ten, eleven, twelve. Okay.” He drags Hood through the doorway, kicking the door shut behind them.
“Yup. If you don’t mind.”
They stumble to the bedroom and Robin heaves Red Hood onto the bed.
“Um. I need you to. Uh. Strip.”
“Sure thing.” Hood tries to sound playful but the effect is lost under raspy breaths and pained moans.
Tim rushes to gather everything he’ll need: disinfectant, a needle and stitching thread, and several packages of gauze and bandage wraps. Upon reentering the bedroom, Tim finds Red Hood minus the red hood. Minus everything, in fact, except for his boxer shorts, socks, and domino mask. Tim is struck by how very young this man appears to be. Even with a mask on, he obviously can’t be older than twenty, only a couple years older than Tim. The second point of interest is the scars. Tim has never seen so many scars on one person before. Some are new and some are old. Some are neat because the wound had been cared for, while others –too many- are rough and jagged from having healed under little to no attention. Tim recognizes most of the shapes and can name the weapon that inflicted them –small caliber versus large caliber gun, glass shard, whip, etc. Standard crime fighting scars. A few, however, he can’t place. He considers asking but Red Hood actually seems nervous at being displayed like this, so he tucks away his curiosity.
Robin removes his cape and lays it neatly on a desk. The gauntlets follow after as he trades tactical gloves for latex ones. Pulling a chair next to the bed where Red Hood is laying, Tim arranges his supplies on the bedside table.
“So do we need to be worried about being tracked down by whomever shot you?”
“Nah. I shook ‘em. Made a brilliant escape. Fucking daring. Like in Indiana Jones.” Hood sounds younger without the helmet.
Tim asks, “Bullets first?” and Hood nods his assent.
With a shiny new scalpel, he cuts the holes enough to give him access. He trades the scalpel for forceps and gently removes the two bullets, dropping them onto the table. “Okay. So the rest is just stitching, cleaning, and wrapping. But you surely are familiar with the process.”
The other man -boy, really- snorts. “Fuck yes I am.”
Tim proceeds to clean the bullet wounds and the long gash that runs from ankle to knee, as well as several minor lacerations.
“Gotta say, I’m surprised the Bat hasn’t come crashing in.” Tim thinks he sounds bitter, but doesn’t know why.
“Why would he? I didn’t report this so he’s under the assumption I’m on patrol.”
“He should know where you are. Keep track. Fuckin’ be there when you need help.”
Tim is slightly insulted. “I’m fine on my own. I don’t need help.”
That seems to set off something in Red Hood. He snaps his head over to look at Robin. “Really? What about Scarecrow? Batman should have fucking been there to back you up. And he should have been there to see you were too tired and hurt to be patrolling that night you fell. It’s his job to send you home. Instead you’re out by your damn lonesome, almost fucking getting yourself killed.” He’s seething by now and Tim is taken aback by his intensity. “You would have gone splat and Batman wouldn’t have known until too damn late.”
Pulling out the needle and thread, he gets to work on stitching the wounds closed. Tim wants to defend Bruce but Red Hood is right. He would have died. “That was my fault. I should have gone home sooner.”
“You are a workaholic and won’t quit until forced.” He spits out the next words like they taste rotten. “He should know that.”
“And how do you know that?”
“It’s not fucking rocket science. That shit is obvious.”
Tim is a little disappointed in himself for being obvious. “Why are you so angry at Batman?”
Hood stares up at the ceiling, staying silent for a long time. Robin continues stitching as tenderly as possible. When he finally speaks again, Hood’s voice is quiet but still full of animosity. “He made himself the god of Gotham. He decided it was his job, his rules. His laws. His way, and everyone else is wrong. Who made him the moral standard for an entire city?” Red Hood heaves an annoyed sigh. “Batman is the law maker and enforcer, the jury and judge and jailer. It’s too much power for someone so… unyielding. Inflexible. For someone who only sees his side of things and can’t consider other opinions. Refuses to admit there may be other ways of dealing with shit. And then there’s you. He expects too much from you but cares too little. You run yourself into the ground -literally- and he doesn’t do a damn thing to stop it.”
“Gotham needs Batman. And Batman needs Robin.”
“And what does Robin need? That matters, Babybird. You matter. As a person, you matter. You’re not just a tool, a weapon in Batman’s arsenal in his war on crime. He should care about you, not just your usefulness.”
Tim ties off the last stitch and moves on to wrapping and taping gauze over the injuries.
“So you think your way is better, then? Killing everyone without a second chance?”
“My way works. Those shits had second chances. And third and fourth. They all have been fucking up Gotham for years. They aren’t changing.”
“You’re pretty adamant about that.”
“Unyielding, even. Inflexible.”
“Shit. You’re good. But here’s the thing. I’m not actually wrong. I said my way works, which it does. Didn’t say it was right. Or that it will always be the answer.”
“So you would stop killing?”
“If someone asked me nicely.” Red Hood chuckles a bit. “They deserve to die. I’ll always feel that way. But I’m willing to consider alternatives. To adapt. I know I’m flawed as hell. By myself I can’t be the law or the judge. I can’t be the moral standard. That’s where you come in.”
Red Hood sits up, swaying slightly. He smirks. “Be my Robin.”
Tim finds himself in a weirdly domestic situation. After finishing caring for Red Hood’s injuries, he had made soup. Chicken noodle, of course. They had eaten silently, sitting at the table in the little apartment’s kitchen. Both were tired and content to leave their conversation for another time. Tim found a big t-shirt and sweatpants for Red Hood who put them on and immediately passed out in the bed.
Tim puts the leftover soup in the fridge and washes the dishes. After, he sneaks into the bedroom to retrieve a change of clothes for himself, carefully not waking Red Hood. He changes and sits down on the couch in the living room, wishing he could take off his mask. He turns on the TV and flips channels aimlessly, trying to distract himself. It doesn’t work. Hood’s question echoes in his mind, over and over. Be my Robin.
The offer is confoundingly appealing. It conjures a warm nervousness than Tim hasn’t felt since Bruce let him keep the suit. But it’s different from that. Bruce had relented and allowed Tim to be Robin. Red Hood was requesting Tim to be his Robin. Wanting. Tim has never felt wanted before.
He remembers what Batman said, I don’t care what his intentions are or how noble he thinks he is. Red Hood is a murderer. But Hood had said he might stop killing. If he finds a better alternative. Tim could give him alternatives. Tim could stop him and help him and help Gotham and help Batman and it would work. Everyone would be better off.
But even as he lists the ways this could be an improvement, he knows Batman would never approve. If he left and partnered with Red Hood, Tim would be… what? Shunned? Would Bruce turn his back on Tim? Would he hunt Tim? Would he continue to hunt Red Hood if Tim is able to stop him from killing? Batman is a territorial bastard. But Bruce is like a second father. Some times more of a parent than Tim’s own. And what would Batman do without Robin? Batman needs a Robin. He could find a new one. It’s not as if Tim is special. He’s easily replaceable. He’s not Dick and He isn’t Jason. He’s just Tim.
That thought brings up a wave of bewilderment as to why Red Hood wants Tim. The man seems to genuinely care for Robin. He’s protective, having saved his life twice already. And Robin has a suspicion that Hood has been watching him. How else would have been there to help? He’s trusting, letting Robin care for him when he’s so vulnerable. A lot of people trust Robin automatically, simply because he’s Robin, the Boy Wonder. But for someone who wants to avoid Batman, it’s strange.
He ponders what it be like to join Red Hood. It would probably be more of a partnership than a mentor/sidekick relationship. As much as Batman respects Robin, they will never be true equals. Tim has input and typically Bruce listens, but the older man still has final say. Red Hood had implied that Robin would be the moral standard. Tim intends to get clarification on that point, but it seems as though they would have an equality. Each with their own strengths and weaknesses. They would look out for each other. Red Hood had been upset that Batman hadn’t noticed Robin needing rest. So Robin could push and pull Hood in the proper direction and Hood could monitor Robin.
Red Hood’s apparent affinity to Robin sets off emotions in a way Tim can’t clearly identify.
The possible ramifications of this partnership trigger an internal conflict in a way that makes Tim want to roll up in a blanket and watch cartoons and be a child again, if only for an hour.
“Hmm?” Turning around on the couch, he sees Red Hood. Tim’s mind stutters a few moments in shock. Slowly it registers the fact Red Hood just said Tim. Not Robin or Babybird, but Tim. He knows my name. Also causing substantial astonishment is the man’s face. His actual face. He has taken off the mask. And Tim knows that face. “Jason?”
What the ever-loving fuck.
“You died.” Tim wishes he could come up with something better to say but hey, any words at all are impressive under the circumstances.
Red Hood –Jason Todd- sits on the other side of the couch from Tim. “Yup.”
Early morning sunlight shines through a small window, filling the apartment with a pale pink haze, making an already bizarre situation even more surreal. Tim has been awake for about twenty-nine hours at this point and he’s having some trouble processing.
“J-Jason, you died. I mean, what- how are you…” Tim flails his hands around as if words can be physically found in the air around him. They aren’t there, of course, and Tim settles for letting out a strangled, kicked-in-the-stomach sound.
Jason grins conspiratorially and gestures wide with his hands, palms up. “I’m Jason fucking Todd.”
Tim sighs and wants to smack Jason in the face. A little bit. Jason just laughs and says, “You can take off that fucking mask now.”
Tim does and Jason smiles. “It’s nice to officially meet you, Timothy Drake.”
“Yeah… you too. Nice. Shit, that’s an understatement.” Deciding he desperately needs coffee to handle any of this, Tim stands and walks to the kitchen. He plugs in a coffeemaker and pulls out the beans and soon the little machine is steaming, spewing out the lifeblood of any proper vigilante. Jason joins him in the kitchen and leans against the counter casually. As if this is a perfectly normal conversation.
“To answer your question, I don’t actually know what it was that resurrected me. I just… woke up. I was in a warehouse in Ethiopia and there was an explosion… and then six months later I woke up in a coffin. My coffin.” Jason’s mischievous demeanor darkens. “I tell you, Timmy, those things are not made for breaking out of. It was…” He shakes his sharply, pushing away the memory. “Anyway, I collapsed and was taken to a hospital. I was in a coma for about a year. And here’s where the story gets good, Timmy.”
Tim wants to point out that he hates to be called Timmy but now is not the time and he’s pretty sure Jason will continue to use the name regardless. Instead he pours two mugs of coffee and passes one to Jason. Tim drinks his black but Jason grabs the cream from the fridge and finds brown sugar in the cupboard. He prepares his coffee as he tells the story.
“Talia al Ghul found me. I had no memories, no awareness, nothing. For years she tried to help me. I healed physically and I could still fight, but mentally I was. Empty. So good ol’ Talia tossed me in the Lazarus Pit. Man, that was a trip. When I came out I was me again, mostly. But I was angry. The pit has a tendency to make people crazy. I like to call it pit-rage. Still get it sometimes. So anyway, I worked through the worst of the pit-rage and Talia decided to catch me up on what I’d missed, what with being dead and all. She told I’d been replaced. Showed me pictures of a new Robin.”
Pausing, Jason peers intently at Tim, who meets his eyes and returns the look calmly. Tim feels like he’s being searched, tested for something. Finally Jason asks, “Why did you become Robin?”
Like a reflex, Tim automatically answers, “Batman needs a Robin.” Jason doesn’t appear satisfied at that so he continues, “After you… died, Batman lost control. He got aggressive. Violent. He took out his pain and frustration on criminals. The only other time that had happened was when Dick left. But this was so much worse. It was difficult, awful to watch. He almost… a man almost died. A small time thief whom Batman beat nearly to death.”
“You said it was difficult to watch. You talk about it as if you were there.”
“…I was. I called the ambulance that saved the thief.”
“So you were following Batman? For how long?”
“Um. Years. I figured out Robin was Dick Grayson so Batman was obviously Bruce Wayne. I would follow them and take pictures. I was there the night you stole the tires of the Batmobile and he caught you and took you home. I watched your first fight as Robin. I went to your funeral. When Bruce lost himself I knew he needed Robin in order to be Batman. So I put on the suit. Your suit. And I became Robin. To save him.”
“…what the fuck. How the hell did B not notice you stalking for years? And Dick? And me! Wow. I’m so fucking disappointed in us as a group. I guess I should work on my observation skills. Shit.”
“Dick said the same thing. Minus the cuss words.”
“Of course, damn golden boy would never say such naughty things.”
“Jason, I’m sorry. For replacing you. For pretending to be you.”
“Fuck that, Babybird. Don’t you apologize for doing what needed to be done. And shit, I mean, I was dead. Not like you stole the suit from me.”
Tim looks into his coffee, seeing his distorted reflection. “Why do you call me Babybird? And why are you so… protective over me?”
“The first picture Talia showed me of you as Robin, you were so small. You looked like a little kid, I didn’t believe her when she said you were thirteen. My first thought was he’s just a baby. A little baby bird.” Jason refills his mug and then Tim’s as well.
“When I was Robin, Dickie wasn’t really around much. He and B were going through some shit and he had moved to Bludhaven. Bruce was used to Dick and I was nothing like Dick so B and I would fight a lot too. I think he was scared of me. Like he expected me to just fucking wake up one day and be a villain and start killing everyone or some shit. Which, from his perspective, is kind of what happened. So B was always watching me, but not in the right way. He only looked for my mistakes, what was wrong with me, what he needed to fix. He only saw me through the cowl, as Batman. What I needed was Bruce. I needed someone to sit with me after a bad dream or eat cookies with me after patrol. As much as he may have loved me, he saw me as a weapon, not a person. Not his son. Maybe if he hadn’t, I wouldn’t have…”
As he talked Jason’s eyes were distant. Now his attention shifts fully back to Tim. “Someone needs to be there for you. To protect, advise, worry over, eat cookies with. Dickie isn’t around and B doesn’t know how to keep you safe. And sane.”
“I don’t need him to eat cookies with me.” Yes, yes I do. “I keep him safe. And sane. That’s Robin’s job.”
“No, it isn’t, baby. That’s fucked up. You are, at the end of the day, a child. He is the adult.”
“But Batman needs Robin.”
“What do you want? Don’t think about what I want or Bruce wants. Not what Batman needs or even Gotham needs. What do you want? What do you need?”
Tim wakes up later that afternoon in his own bedroom. He showers and dresses in jeans and an old jacket that he had found at Bruce’s manor. It used to be Jason’s. Tim considers returning it but Jason has grown so much, it couldn’t possibly fit him.
Opening the front door of his brownstone apartment, Tim finds a small box wrapped in red paper and simple twine sitting on the welcome mat. He looks up and down the street but doesn’t see anyone who could have left it. Bat training kicks in, making him wary. Anything could be in the box. A bomb, poison, angry kittens. Then Tim spots a piece of paper peeking out from under the box. He picks up the note and reads, I know what you’re thinking, Babybird. It’s not a bomb. Promise. –J
Grinning, Tim carries the box back to his room and sets it on the desk. He cuts the twine, peels back the paper, and lifts the lid. Inside, he finds two pieces of equipment about the size of a dime and a quarter. The first one he recognizes immediately as a tracker. The second, larger one has an emitter and a red button and Tim realizes it’s a panic button. Looking closer, he sees it also has a receiver, which means it sends and picks up a signal. At the bottom of the box there’s another note. Just wanted to say thanks. Press the button and I’ll be there. I have one too. I’ll be pretty fuckin pissed if you don’t show up.
Tim sits at his desk staring in awe at the tiny electronics. This is new territory for him, but Tim is fairly certain this is a big deal. He hasn’t even agreed to being Red Hood’s partner, hasn’t given him anything yet, and the man is trusting him to an intimate degree. Jason is wearing a tracker and has given Tim the only device that can trace the signal. If he wanted, Tim could give it to Batman. And Jason is asking for that trust in return. For Tim to wear his tracker that only Jason can trace. Press the button and I’ll be there. I have one too. Red Hood is committing to come when Robin calls. And is expecting Robin to do the same.
Tim goes to his closet and pulls a case from the back. From inside he gets a photo album, filled with pictures of Batman and Robin. Jason, not Dick. They each have their own album. Tim flips through the pages on which Jason as Robin is flying and kicking and punching and smirking madly. He has that same devious smile now, years later, despite death and the pit. It’s a nerve-racking smile. It puts one on edge. It promises mischief and pain and joy and everything in the extreme. Tim has missed that smile. He’s missed Jason. He spent so much of his life watching Jason. Wanting to talk to him and have Jason smile at him. And now Jason is here and he wants Tim. Tim gets that warm nervousness again. He had loved Jason. He still does.
i'm not super happy with the transition there, like oh suddenly Tim has a crush but... whatever.
“Alfred, how do you know if you like someone?”
The Englishman sets a mug of hot chocolate on the desk in front of Tim. He raises an eyebrow slightly.
“I mean… like them. You know?” As much as Tim loves Alfred, he always feels like a child when talking to him. Like he’s thirteen again and the man sees right through his smooth mask.
“If you ask that, you like them.”
“I’m not sure Bruce would approve.”
“Master Bruce approves of nothing. Only Justice.”
Tim laughs into his hot chocolate.
“Master Timothy, you are a fine judge of character. I am sure that if you approve of this person, they are worthy of your respect and adoration.”
“Thank you, Alfred.”
The butler nods and sips his tea elegantly, as he does everything else.
“Did Bruce love Jason?”
“Master Jason was his son.”
“But Bruce thinks of Jason as his greatest failure. That sounds like Jason was a project or a job that Bruce failed to fix. Failed to get right. Like malfunctioning equipment. And the case.” Tim looks to the side of the cave at the glass case that holds Jason’s old uniform. “It reads, the good soldier. It doesn’t sound like a father who loved his son. It sounds like exactly that: a general who lost a soldier.”
Alfred’s reply is cut off by the harsh screeching tires of the Batmobile as it launches into the cave and slams to a stop. The door opens and Batman jumps out, nearly slamming it shut behind him. He stalks over the computer where Tim is sitting. Tim can see through the cowl that Bruce is acerbic and hostile and immediately worries that-
“Red Hood.” Batman growls.
Oh, no. “What happened?”
“He found the Joker and beat him with a crowbar. I arrived before he could kill him.”
Tim walks a fine line in his mind and decides to remain silent.
Alfred finally speaks. “The crowbar is a rather personal weapon to you, Master Bruce. What do you make of that choice? Particularly used on the Joker?”
“I don’t know, Alfred. And I’m tired of not knowing. I have nothing on this Red Hood. But the way he fights, the way he thinks… it’s familiar, almost. And then tonight, with the Joker…” Batman moves abruptly to the exit. “I need to check on some things.”
Robin knows he can’t use the communicator to contact Red Hood. Even if he found the right frequency, Batman would be able to listen in. It was lucky he hadn’t heard their conversation when Hood called asking for help. At the time, Tim had wondered how Red Hood knew which frequency to use, but now he knows it’s Jason, who clearly remembers all the Bat tricks. He could press the button Jason gave him but he doesn’t want Hood to freak out and bust in guns blazing.
So now he must find Red Hood the old fashioned way. With his eyes. Uhg. How pedestrian. Except not really because he’s swinging around roof tops.
Landing on a hotel roof in the heart of Red Hood’s territory, Robin waits, intentionally visible. It doesn’t take long for Hood to join him, touching down heavily.
The corner of Tim’s lips twitch up in his version of a smile. “How is your shoulder?”
Jason rolls the injured shoulder smoothly. “Dandy as candy. Not even slowing me down.”
“Yes. I could tell from the beating you gave the Joker. Nice to know those gunshot wounds haven’t impeded your swing.”
“Ah. That. Fucker had it coming. I mean, he killed me.”
“If Batman hadn’t shown up, would you have killed him?”
“But it’s wrong.”
“Who says? Batman? Every society in history has had capital punishment. And if anyone deserves to die for his sins, it’s the fucking Joker. Not just for killing me, but for everything. The hundreds of people he has killed or maimed or made deranged. And he’s never going to stop. The only reason he hasn’t been put down is because he can hide behind an insanity plea. But that’s bullshit and you know it. Everyone knows it. He’s not insane, he’s evil. He is poison. He knows what he’s doing. Knows he’s infecting humanity. And he likes it. Keeping him alive only causes pain. He’s going to break out again and he’s going to kill again. I can’t just let that happen. If you know a man is going to kill, don’t you have to stop him? B might not be able to do what’s necessary, but I am. He can’t live with having taken a life, but I can. Especially that life. I won’t lose any sleep over it. Hell, maybe I’ll finally get to sleep.
"Look, I’m going to kill the Joker. I won’t ask for your help. Won’t even ask for your approval. You’ve got to figure out your own morality. Your own code, not mine and not B’s. But tell me you understand why I have to do this. Tell me you won’t hate me after I do this. Tell me you could still… maybe be my Robin.”
Tim can see the tension flow out of Jason as he sighs in relief.
“I still don’t know how I feel about… all of this. But if you need me,” he reaches into a tiny pocket hidden under the R of his uniform and pulls out the button. “I will come.”
Robin tucks away the button and turns to leave. As he jumps off the roof he hears Red Hood utter, “Thank you.”
this is my second favorite chapter. if y'all were curious.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Red Hood climbs through Tim’s bedroom window at three a.m. “We need to talk.”
Tim sits up in his bed and turns on a lamp. “You remember the manor is less than a mile away from here? Showing up at my house as Red Hood might be a bit of a red flag to Bruce.”
“It’s better than showing up as Jason. I’m still supposed to be dead.”
“About that, why haven’t you told him you’re alive? Or Alfred or Dick? Why just me?”
Jason removes his helmet and places it on the desk. Waving a having a hand dismissively, he counters, “Not what I came by to talk about, Timmy.”
“Fine. Deflect. What do we need to talk about?”
“I’d love to discuss you joining me professionally. But, since you haven’t given me an answer yet, I’ll assume you haven’t decided. Which is fine. I can wait.”
“You don’t seem the patient type.”
“I’m really not. This is torture. So, to ease my suffering, let’s move on to the progression our relationship outside the professional realm.”
“Jason… are you asking me out?”
Tim flashes a cheery grin.
“That look right there is all Dickie. I know that smile. Fucking stop it, you’re freaking me out.”
The expression morphs into a knowing look complete with slightly raised eyebrow.
“And that’s Alfred. Fuck, baby, do you just copy other people?”
“I prefer the word emulate.”
“Oh, does it make you feel less creepy?”
“It makes me feel more respectful.”
Jason takes out a pack of cigarettes and a Zippo lighter from his jacket pocket.
“That’s bad for you.”
Putting flame to paper, Jason mumbles around the filter, “So is fighting crime. Hell, this life will kill me before the cigarettes get a chance.”
He exhales and smoke drifts lazily between them. “So copying –sorry, emulating- someone is a sign of respect?”
“But why not just be… you?”
I don’t know who I am. “My own expressions aren’t very effective. I’ve taken the best from Dick and Bruce and Alfred and even you. I use them as needed according to the situation. I do the same with fighting styles.”
“First, don’t you fucking dare use ‘me’ against me.” He emphasizes his demand by pointing the cigarette at Tim accusatorily. “That shit is rude. Second, that sounds like you think of expressions, basic tools of human interaction, as weapons.”
“Everything is a weapon, Jason. At least, it can be if used properly. Or improperly.”
“You’re kind of scary, Tim.”
“Thank you. I learned it from my mother.”
“She must be quite a woman. Does she personally rip apart her victims? Or does she just stare them into suicide?”
“Don’t be silly, Janet Drake would never ruin her nails.”
“Fuck. I think I’ll avoid meeting her.”
“That would probably be best.”
“So, Timothy Drake, how much of you is you and not the pieces of other people you’ve adopted into your personality?”
Not much. “You make me sound like Frankenstein’s monster.”
“This is serious shit, Timmy. We are downright soul searching here.”
I don’t know anymore. “Well, take me on a date and you’ll find out.”
“A date. Okay.”
“No crime fighting. No masks. Jason and Tim.”
“You got it, Babybird.”
I just realized, months later, that my timeline in this fic is all over the place. whatever, it's an au in a way anyway so... :)
Tim cringes at the use of his full name paired with the biting tone. “Bruce,” he replies mildly.
“I went to Jason’s grave.”
“Did you leave flowers? I like to leave daisies.” Tim wonders why he’s being flippant. He’s been developing an attitude lately. Perhaps it’s because he’s been around Jason so often. Maybe this is just him. Tim. Is this who I am?
“It is empty. But you knew that.”
“Yes,” he states simply.
Bruce’s eyes widen a fraction. “Red Hood.”
“Yes,” he confirms.
Any other man would be crying or screaming, but Bruce is almost unreadable. “Why?”
That lone word implies a slew of questions: why is he alive, why didn’t he come home, why is he so different, why didn’t you tell me?
Tim knows he doesn’t have a fully formed, logical reason why he didn’t tell Bruce. Not one that man will accept, anyway. He decides to answer honestly. “I’m sorry, but it’s not my place to tell you. Since he hasn’t come to you yet I assume he has his own reasons. I didn’t tell you because I knew you would hunt him down. And I don’t want that to happen.”
He takes advantage of the man’s stunned silence to withdraw.
can you tell I have a thing for short chapters?
The receiver of the panic button is flashing red. Tim freezes at the sight. Jason. He quickly traces Jason’s signal to a warehouse overlooking the polluted river.
Harsh wind whips his cape as Robin hurriedly approaches the warehouse. Peeking inside, he sees Red Hood, stripped of his helmet and weapons, strapped down on a table. Pacing around him leisurely is the Joker, waving his hands as he pontificates. Robin curses and taps the communicator in his ear. “Robin to Batman.”
“Come to warehouse fourteen. The Joker has captured Hood. He… he’s going to kill him.”
Batman doesn’t reply and the signal cuts out but Tim knows he’s coming.
Sneaking through the door and along the wall behind crates and boxes, Robin catches snippets of what Joker is saying every time his voice raises to that grating, maniacal pitch. As he nears, he spots Hood’s equipment scattered on the floor. His chest is rising and falling in a sharp, random beat. Tim can’t see exactly what injuries he’s already suffered but it must be bad. It would take a lot to take down Red Hood. Sliding out his staff, Robin prepares to attack.
“Hello, birdy!” the Joker sings, turning around to face Robin. “Please tell me you won’t ruin my fun.” He tilts his head toward Red Hood. “Jason and I have some catching up to do.”
Revulsion and malice shoot through Tim, riding a wave of adrenaline. He mentally reviews all the reports he’s read of interactions with the Joker. He knows this is the time the mad clown loves to chat. He wants to tell his stupid jokes and laugh at his opponent’s unease. He’s come to expect it, most likely. Hoping to surprise or anger him into faltering, Robin resolves to dive right in, swinging away with his staff. He and the Joker dodge and swing at each other, both landing hits in a painful dance. Finally, Tim jabs full force into the Joker’s throat and he drops to his knees, choking and gasping.
Robin rushes over to the table and unties the straps, helping Jason to slide off. Suddenly, something comes crashing down on his head and he is knocked to the ground. He curls up instinctively and rolls over, facing a staggering Jason and a dancing Joker. The clown is wielding a pipe and Tim assumes that’s what just smacked into his skull. Jason tries to punch out but the Joker grabs him by the shoulder and pulls him close.
Robin watches as a sickly white hand pulls out a large knife and plunges it to the hilt into Red Hood’s abdomen. That damn laughter pours out of the clown as blood pours out of Jason.
No, no, please not again. In Tim’s mind he’s standing at the edge of a cemetery, watching from afar as Bruce Wayne mourns his adoptive son. Dick is crying for his lost brother and Alfred puts a firm, comforting hand on the boy’s shoulder. After they leave, Tim kneels in front the headstone of Jason Peter Todd and weeps.
I can’t lose him again. Bruce can’t… In his mind, Tim tries to block out the sounds of Batman beating a man in an alley. He’s donning Jason’s suit for the first time, saying to himself, “Batman needs Robin. He needs him to remember what he used to be. Before his parents died.”
Tim’s eyes focus on one of Jason’s guns laying two feet away. Mustering up the last of his strength, he throws out his hand to wrap around the cold metal. He lifts it, a Herculean feat at this point, and aims it shakily. Jason crumples to the dirty floor, leaving a clear target. Tim hesitates until the Joker places his boot in Jason’s throat and cackles, “Now, Hoody, this time you will stay dead.”
Jason is making horrific noises, feet kicking out uselessly. Tim is slipping out of consciousness, fingers twitching against the weight in his sweaty hand. He pulls the trigger one, twice, again and again until the gun runs out of bullets. The Joker falls, landing on top of Jason. Tim wants to pull the body off but he can’t move. Distantly, he hears a door busting open and suddenly a dark figure is in front of Tim. He blinks up weakly. “Bru…”
“Robin, what have you done?”
I did what you couldn’t do. I saved Jason Todd.
Batman lifts Jason out of the Batmobile and onto a gurney. Alfred wordlessly begins helping Tim to care for the injuries. Bruce hadn’t spoken since they left the warehouse and Tim had only muttered comforts to Jason, who cursed incessantly. Tim notices that Bruce is avoiding looking at him. Instead the man stalks over to the computer and brings up the Joker’s file. A few click and key taps later and it is amended to read in large, red block letters, DECEASED.
Robin sees the word and feels none of the guilt and shame that Bruce clearly thinks he should be suffering.
“Red Hood, I want you out of Gotham. Immediately.”
Heaving himself up into sitting position, Jason scowls, “Fuckin’ make me, B. I’m not leaving Tim.”
“More importantly I want you away from Robin”
Tim steps in front of Jason. He is weak and dizzy but something snaps inside, releasing an energy. Passion and fury and confidence. Tim. Is this who I am? “That’s not your call Bruce.”
“Yes, it is.” Batman keeps his attention trained on Jason but speaks to Tim. “He is a negative presence. He is the enemy.”
“How can you call your son the enemy?”
“He is a criminal. His violent and reckless behavior is corrupting you. He is a murderer and has made you one too.” He turns to address Jason. “You turned him into a murderer. It’s your fault. You ran in without thinking, got in over your head, and the Joker got the better of you. Does that sound familiar? Except this time, it’s not your own life you’ve ruined, but Tim’s. You dragged him into the situation and forced his hand.”
Tim is shaking, clenching his hands tightly. “That is not fair! We are all criminals. We operate outside the law. He does it differently, not according to your all-mighty standards and now he’s cast in with the most wanted? I agree he needs reign it in, cut down on the bloodshed, but he is doing good.” Jason seems content to let Tim defend him and stays quiet. “And he didn’t make me kill. It’s not his fault, it’s the Joker’s.”
Turning his attention fully to Tim, Bruce pulls back his cowl and crosses his arms. “You don’t understand it now, but he is dangerous. You will be better without him.”
“Stop looking at me with that superiority and disappointment. I stand by what I did.”
“You do not regret killing?”
“It was either Jason, your son, or the Joker, the scum who took him away from you. Which would you have picked?”
“There’s always another way. You should have waited for me to come. You didn’t have t-”
“YES I DID! Dammit, Bruce, do you think I wanted to kill him? Do you think I would have if there was another way? Maybe you would have pulled some magic escape out of your ass because you’re the God dammed Batman, but I’m just Tim and it was either him or Jason. I couldn’t wait for you. I couldn’t depend on you coming in time to save him. You didn’t make it the last time. I’m not sorry for my decision. It was the right thing to do. Someone was going to die. I had to choose. Are you telling me you would have done nothing in my position? You would have let the Joker live and let Jason die? Again?”
“I can’t… Batman cannot cross that line.”
“But I will. Batman is a coward. You are a coward. When faced with an impossible situation you just shy away and do nothing. You think action would make you guilty of some terrible sin, but the truth is that the inaction is the far greater sin.”
Bruce looms over Tim with the presence that has made many a criminal cower in fear and Tim looks back, fearless. Behind them, Alfred has finished cleaning and wrapping Jason’s wounds and hands him a clean t-shirt. Reaching back, Tim takes hold of Jason’s arm and pulls him to the exit without another word or glance at Bruce. Jason leans on Tim, nodding thanks to Alfred.
As they leave, Jason gazes at Tim with something Tim has never seen directed at him before: pride. Tim breaks out Jason’s devious smile. “Let’s go get some cookies.”
“Thought I told you not to do that shit.”
A tentative knock sounds on the door, and Tim opens it to find Dick.
“Wow, you’re using the door instead of creeping through the window.”
“Well, I’m here as me. Not Nightwing. And I don’t creep.” The man pouts and that look should be out of place on a face that old –anyone older than eight- but it is completely natural.
“Yes, you do.” Tim grins a little bit to show he’s being playful. “Why are you here?”
Dick shifts nervously. “I wanted to- well, if he will let me. I need to see him.”
Behind him, Tim hears Jason get up off the couch. Dick apparently heard it as well because his eyes light up with hope and anticipation. Jason comes to the door and Tim steps to the side.
“Oh God,” Dick breathes, “Jay!”
Without hesitation, the older man rushes into Jason, hugging with all of his might. Tim actually starts to get concerned for Jason’s injuries but Jason doesn’t seem bothered. Instead he hugs back looking calm in the face but his knuckles go white from gripping his brother so tightly. Feeling somewhat like an intruder to their reunion, Tim goes to the kitchen and boils water for tea. When he comes back with mugs for everyone, Dick is still clinging to Jason muttering, “Little Wing.”
Jason pats his back patiently until he lets go, staying very close. They both take the tea offered by Tim. Jason pulls out a cigarette and lights it. Dick scrunches his nose like a delicate puppy and steps back, which Tim thinks was Jason’s intention.
“So,” Jason sighs, “Have you come to lecture me on the wickedness of my ways? Or perhaps rescue Timmy from my evil plots?”
Dick looks so open and honest and sad when he shakes his head that Tim believes him. “No, Jay. I just had to see you. I had to tell you I love you. You’re my little brother. And nothing could change that. And I had to say… I’m sorry. God, Jay, I’ve been waiting years to say I’m sorry. For not being there as much as I should have. For not helping things between you and Bruce. For not. Not saving you.” Tears collect and spill down his cheeks and he reaches out to hug Jason again regardless of the smoke.
His voice comes out gravely when Jason replies, “Thank you, Dick.”
“And Tim, I’m sorry for what happened, with the Joker. Sorry you had to...”
“It’s okay. I’m okay. I mean, I wish it didn’t have to happen, but I’m fine.”
Dick nods. “Do you mind if I stay with you guys? Hang out?”
“Um, we were actually on a… date.”
Dick’s eyes shoot wide and his mouth drops open. “Oh. O-okay. Well. Uh, I guess I should leave then… sorry for interrupting.” The typically graceful and charming man trips on his way out the door.
Tim can’t hold back laughing at his discomfort. This is the first time he’s ever witnessed Dick Grayson being awkward and embarrassed. He calls after him, “We’ll hang out later!” and receives, “Sure thing!” in response.
Shutting the door, Jason wraps an arm around Tim and leads him back to the couch. They resume the movie and sip their tea and munch on cookies and are content in a way neither has felt before.
this is my favorite chapter. basically an epilogue
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Stop staring at my ass.”
“No can do, Babybird. The new suit is fucking with my head. It’s doing things to me.”
“Well snap out of it. You may have been too distracted to notice, but we have a gang of thugs here to take care of.” Red Robin motions to the five men standing in a semi-circle around the two vigilantes. Said men are shifting uncomfortably, confused in the face Red Hood’s and Red Robin’s banter.
Hood shakes his head. “Sorry. Can’t.”
“Seriously? You’re just gonna watch as I take down all these guys by myself?”
“Fuck yes. It’ll be hot.”
“Fine, then. Next time you get shot I’ll just watch you bleed out.”
“Worth it.” Red Hood crosses his arms and nods toward the anxious gang members. “They look a bit twitchy. Ready to run. You should probably get started.”
On cue, two of them turn to run and Red Robin snaps his staff against their ankles, sending them crashing into the filth of a Gotham underpass.
“Nice.” Hood sighs appreciatively. “Watch out, this fella over here has a gun. And that guy has a knife. I suggest disarming the gun punk first.”
Tim pitches his voice higher and replies with mock zeal, “Golly, thanks, Mister Hood!” He throws a birdarang that catches the ‘gun punk’ in the hand, making him drop the weapon. Then he kicks the knife wielding thug in the thigh, dropping him to the ground.
Red Robin turns to the last man who scowls and curses and threatens the pair with a rusty shiv.
“What do you think, Hood?”
Jason barks a laugh and says, “Punch the fucker in the face.”
thank you for reading! hope you enjoyed it :)