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Fall Seven Times, Stand up Eight

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The first time Jason stepped into the manor, he was ten and thought that it was too good of a dream to come true. It was everything that he had read about in the torn softcover books he’d managed to find, but so much more at the same time. There was a huge driveway, a million different rooms, so many hallways that you could get lost easily, and everything inside looked like it cost more than anything Jason had ever seen in his entire ten year-old life.

 

It was amazing, to put it bluntly. He remembered gulping when Bruce led him inside, giving him a tour from bottom to top, starting from the Batcave. A large computer and sparring area caught his attention first, and then the glass suit displays. 

 

He stared in awe at the batsuits, then moved his gaze towards the Shadow suits. Multiple different ones were hung up on two walls, but two in the middle of each line stood out among the rest.

 

Shadow Version One.

 

Shadow Version Two.

 

He’d later learn that the first one was Damian’s and that version two was Drake’s.

 

There were only slight differences between the two. Both were in shades of gray and black, had a dark hood attached to the cape, two utility belts running diagonally across the shoulders, and metal plated gloves and boots.

 

Damian’s had two sheathes on his back for his katanas while Drake’s had two carriers for his nunchucks and bo staff. Drake’s also included a small splash of color by changing the dark green utility belt to a candy apple red, and using that same color along the seams of his entire suit.

 

Jason could only gape in awe and childlike wonder as he thought about how cool the two must be.

 

(Now, he wished he never met any of them, and that Bruce had just let him rot on the streets.)

 

The second day at the manor, he began his training. Bruce made him cram his studies, and he caught up to his grade level in three weeks. In two months, he was the same level as a highschool sophmore. 

 

Soon after, Bruce put him on the Shadow enhanced training schedule. He remembered the sweat, blood, and energy that he’d put into it, quickly absorbing everything he’d learned. Bruce had made him train fourteen hours a day for the first year. During that time, he’d learned senior level subjects, how to throw a batarang without flaw in both hands, survival techniques, strategies, both combat and non-combat, forensic science and investigation, endurance, stealth, information gathering, several martial arts styles, and lock picking. 

 

In the second year and third one, he was at a college sophomore level, he’d been taught how to drive, archery, business management, hacking to the level of getting into the White House with no problem whatsoever, disguise, gadget creation, strength, mental and interrogation resistance, medical science, toxin immunity, tracking, several languages, chemistry, and disarming a bomb.

 

The only time he’d get a break were on Fridays, when training was cut down from fourteen hours to nine hours. 

 

Looking back on it, it was a ridiculous number of things a ten year old had to learn within the span of three years, and a lot of good it did him. He was still beaten to near death when he was fourteen, then blown up in a warehouse in the middle of Ethiopia. 

 

At least he knew how to survive.

 

It was all he’d ever known.

 

It was a cycle.

 

Fall down then get back up and start again.

 


 

Jason blinked slowly at the dim lights around him. 

 

Where was he?

 

He moved his arm to rub his forehead, but froze when he felt smooth leather pressed to his unbroken wrist. 

 

His breathing sped up, and he could hear the rapid beat of a heart monitor in the background. Nausea built up in his throat, and something crawled through his skin like a parasite.

 

He could hear Bruce’s voice faintly. “He’s hyperventilating!”

 

He kept tugging at his wrist. Jason laughed hysterically when he saw a red liquid. 

 

Bruce was going to put him in Arkham. Because of course he was. It’s what he did to villains, and that’s all Jason was. 

 

He could already see Bruce’s disinterested face as his vision started fading.

 

No one cared about Jason Todd.

 


 

The second time he woke, a soft blanket was draped over him. The room was dark, lit only by a blue lava lamp. He kept his mouth shut, training kicking in to keep the groan inside where it belonged.

 

He didn’t open his eyes, but focused on faking his sleep and his other senses. 

 

He heard light puffs of breath, nearly nonexistent a foot or two away.

 

He could feel the warmth of the blankets against him.

 

He could smell Alfred’s detergent on his sheets a̶n̶d̶ ̶a̶l̶m̶o̶s̶t̶ ̶c̶r̶i̶e̶d̶.

 

It didn’t feel like there was anyone else in the room other than the person sleeping, so he carefully opened his eyes and peered to the right.

 

He blinked when he saw Bruce laying his head against the mattress next to his head.

 

What?

 

Hazy memories of the first time he woke up came back to him, and he tugged his wrist, impossibly relieved that there was no cuff on it.

 

What a stupid decision.

 

Whatever. It made it easier for him to escape, so better not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

 

He slid out of the bed, using all his training to avoid waking up the big bat. He stared at the window thoughtfully for half a second before dismissing the idea of escaping from there. If he opened it, Bruce would definitely feel the breeze and wake up. 

 

Instead, Jason pushed the handle of the door as he opened it cautiously.

 

No creaks. Good. He’d figured that the manor was bat friendly.

 

He took a look at his new surroundings. He remembered this hallway. His old room was only a few doors away. 

 

Just the thought of taking a peek sent his heart beating wildly, and his palms clammy. He wiped them against the oversized black hoodie that he just realized he was wearing. Jason flopped his arms around childishly, and the sleeves flopped with him. The bottom reached mid-thigh, so this had to be adult Jay’s. The gray sweatpants fit better though, so they were probably mini-Drake’s or the other kid’s.

 

Jason felt the fabric for trackers meticulously. He stared disbelievingly when he couldn’t find any.

 

He felt around his body for implanted trackers, but there was no bump or new scar.

 

Again, what a stupid decision.

 

He was the goddamn Red Hood. The most dangerous and powerful, by connections, position, and technique, ‘criminal’ in Gotham. They should’ve been more careful.

 

He folded his sleeves back and stepped towards the window that was a few feet to the left of the door. It was large enough that he could just duck down and get out.

 

If this Bruce was as paranoid as his dimension’s Bruce, then there had to be security cameras everywhere, and no blind spots on the entire manor ground. There were definitely motion sensors, and the gate was going to be locked too.

 

Alright then.

 

He needed a hostage. They wouldn’t open the gate unless one of their family members was under threat. And he had no device to hack into the system with, so hostage it was.

 

But first, he needed a weapon.

 

He began his silent trek down the hallway. If this manor was the same as the Wayne Manor in his dimension, then there would be a knife hidden behind the million dollar painting of abstract art for self defense.

 

Jason pushed it aside a little.

 

Bingo.

 

He tested the blade by pressing it softly on his finger, unsurprised when a dot of blood spilled. Tucking it away in his ridiculously huge hoodie pockets, and making sure it was hidden completely in the folds, he began thinking of who he wanted as his hostage.

 

Bruce, Grayson, and adult Jay were out. They were too big and skilled for him to take easily. 

 

Mini-Drake was out too since he didn’t want to deal with Drake.

 

Stephanie looked like an easy target, if he was an outsider. But he knew she fought just as fiercely as Drake.

 

He remembered his Bruce telling him that Cassandra was the most skilled of them. It wouldn’t be a good idea to challenge her.

 

Jason would never hurt or even pretend to hurt Alfred. He’d rather die.

 

That left either Duke or mini-Damian. 

 

Mini-Damian had at least ten years of League training under his belt, if he was with his mother for ten years in this universe too, along with Sh… Robin training.

 

Duke it was, then.

 

Hopefully he wasn’t as trained as the others.

 


 

Jason couldn’t believe his luck. 

 

Originally, he’d planned on acting nice with these bats to both see what they wanted and to gain their trust so he could get close enough to Duke to grab him, but to his surprise, once he’d made his way almost out of the East Wing, a head poked out of one of the last bedroom door.

 

Duke blinked at him before stepping out of his room.

 

“Hey,” Jason said awkwardly. He couldn’t remember the last time he had a conversation with someone his age.

 

Duke relaxed and gave him a smile. “Hi. Feeling better?”

 

He nodded.

 

It was the truth. The fire in his stomach was almost nonexistent, and his head had cleared.

 

Time to test his luck. “Can I have some water?” he rasped.

 

Duke nodded and motioned to follow him. 

 

The second he turned around, though, Jason acted. He lept quietly, drawing the knife expertly, and within half a second had the blade pressed against Duke’s throat.

 

“What are you doing?” the other boy asked with a hint of panic in his voice.

 

“Move without my instruction and I’ll slit your throat,” he warned, a growl from the Lazarus pit unintentionally slipping through. 

 

“Why are you doing this?” 

 

He stayed silent. He wasn’t going to be like the idiotic villains who gave away their plans stupidly and let the heroes save the day. Jason was a professional.

 

B̶u̶t̶ ̶h̶e̶ ̶w̶a̶s̶n̶'̶t̶ ̶a̶ ̶v̶i̶l̶l̶a̶i̶n̶.

 

Jason followed the sounds which led him to the living room. It was close to the door, thankfully.

 

“Take that, Timberlina!” he heard adult Jay yell.

 

“How the hell did you win?!”

 

“You snooze, you lose!”

 

Jason gritted his teeth at how lucky adult Jay was. He didn’t want to admit it, but he was jealous. Jealous that he didn’t have that. Jealous that he never would be able to have that.

 

He was unlovable. 

 

It had been proved time and time again.

 

“Guys?” Duke squeaked hesitantly at Jason’s nudge. “Help?”

 

They both turned to look and froze when they caught sight of the knife angled at Duke’s throat.

 

“What the hell are you doing, mini-me?” adult Jay snarled.

 

Jason almost flinched. Coming from him, he knew the Lazarus enhanced growl was scary. But from an adult, a man with nearly half a foot and a hundred or so pounds on him, it made him want to tuck himself into a shivering ball and cry. The vibrations from it could be felt around the room, and it dipped lower with the deeper voice adult Jay had. His eyes flashed neon green for a hot second, and Jason knew that currently, adult Jay was the apex vigilante in the room.

 

He wouldn’t give into the urge to cry.

 

Mini-Drake placed a calming hand on adult Jay’s shoulder. “What do you want?”

 

“Lower the Manor gate’s security. If not, I’ll kill him,” Jason threatened l̶i̶e̶d̶. 

 

Adult Jay took a deep breath.

 

Jason swiveled around slightly to glare at him warily.

 

“Will you release him if we do that?” Mini-Drake asked, intelligent eyes boring into him.

 

God, he always hated Mini-Drake’s eyes. They were the color of cavansite, burning blue fire whenever he pushed Jason down. When the light reflected on them, they shone like blue diamonds, breath-taking, but so hard that they could cut you with a single glance.

 

Jason nodded firmly. “And don’t follow me. If I see even a hint of someone trying, I’ll slit his throat.”

 

“Okay. We’ll let you go,” Adult Jay agreed. Mini-Drake glared at him.

 

“Ja—”

 

“Shut up, Timbers.”

 

Jason made them walk in front of him with their arms raised in the air. Their five minute walk down the Manor’s driveway was filled with nothing but silence.

 

A thought tickled his mind.

 

Where was everyone else?