Jason Todd has lived through more than his share of bad days. He’s also, notably, failed to live through one particularly bad day that may or may not come up in conversation an awful lot with him, but considering just how fucking traumatic the whole getting-beaten-to-the-brink-of-death-with-a-fucking-crowbar-and-then-blown-up-trying-to-save-his-birth-mother-who-sold-him-to-the-Joker thing was for him, he really feels that’s justified.
Regardless, Jason Todd has managed to live through quite a few other bad days, and so he’s come to recognize the warning signs. The way everything feels just slightly off, like you’re constantly misjudging how many stairs there are below your feet. That feeling you can’t shake, like you’ve forgotten something important.
The way Dick Grayson drops into the other chair of the café table you’re sitting at out of fucking nowhere, annoyingly perfect hair fluttering in the breeze, even though you absolutely did not hear him coming, which is unusual for you.
Okay, maybe that last one is specific to this moment only, but still. Jason’s having a bad day, and he can’t really imagine this’ll make it any better.
Don’t get him wrong, Jason doesn’t hate Dick. He used to, in somewhat of a misplaced-anger, Pit-madness kind of way, but it’s been quite a few years since he felt like he did then. No, the problem is really on the opposite side of the spectrum.
Jason likes Dick. He likes Dick way too much.
Some might even say that Jason is in desperate, pathetic, thinks-about-him-all-the-time-and-gets-emo-about-him-while-listening-to-sad-songs love with Dick.
It’s Jason. Jason says that.
Roy did, too, once, but then Jason punched him in the dick, and he stopped.
“Hiya, Jay,” Dick says cheerfully, leaning far over the table towards him. Jason responds by leaning further back in his chair. “How’s it going?”
“What are you doing here?” Jason asks instead of answering. They’re both in street clothes. They’re not on a case. And they didn’t agree to meet here. Jason is just indulging in a cappuccino outside his favorite local café, and here’s Dick, just…here. Yeah, sure, Jason and Dick have taken to hanging out pretty frequently these days, but still.
Dick shoots Jason a wry look, and then his blinding smile is back again. “I was passing by and saw you sitting here, thought I’d say hi. Hi.”
Jason tries to keep glaring, but Dick is looking at him with such a happy-puppy expression, he might as well have a wagging tail. It tugs at the corners of Jason’s mouth until he’s begrudgingly returning Dick’s smile.
“Hi,” he returns with resignation. Dick positively beams. Jason accepts the thing he cannot change, which is that he and Dick are apparently hanging out now, and jerks his head toward the door of the café. “You wanna get something and join me?”
“Sure,” Dick accepts eagerly.
He’s pushing his chair back to stand up and do just that, when a shadow passes over each of them, and an irritatingly familiar voice lets out a triumphant, “Aha!”
Jason glowers up at the person blocking his sun. “What is this,” he asks, “some sort of perverse ‘Jason Todd, this is your life’ day? What are you aha-ing about, Timothy?”
“Also, hi, Tim and Conner,” Dick adds unhelpfully.
Tim and Conner are still just standing over them. Tim has this crazed, victorious expression on his face, and Conner looks very much like he’s just here because he follows Tim into anything, under any circumstance.
“Hi, Dick and Jason,” Conner replies cheerily, and then forgets to flinch when Tim back-hands him in the left pec.
“I’m aha-ing,” Tim replies, “because we finally caught you two in the act!”
Jason glances over at Dick, hoping he might have any idea what Tim is talking about. But Dick just looks back at him with an expression mirroring the genuine befuddlement that Jason is experiencing.
Dick’s frown deepens at Jason’s clear echoing of his own confusion. He turns back to Tim and Conner. “The act of what?” he prods.
“Are you two on some kind of weird stalker date?” Jason jumps in.
And. Well, okay. That ends up being a very fun question to ask, because immediately, Conner flushes bright red all the way to his ears, and Tim starts spluttering.
Aha, Jason thinks to himself as a devilish grin breaks across his face, so Boy Wonder Number Three and The Clone Kid haven’t worked this out yet after all.
“Wh—no!” Tim blurts out once he manages to remember how to say words, apparently. “No, we’re not— You are!”
“We’re on a weird stalker date?” Dick answers Tim’s accusation, not even trying to hide the great deal of amusement in his voice. Jason likes him so much, holy shit.
“No!” Tim growls. Jason is taking so much joy in how flustered he is. “You two are on a date, full stop. We finally caught you!”
“We’re on a what now?” Jason squeaks in the manliest way possible, at the same moment Dick sharply asks, “What do you mean, ‘finally’?”
“I knew you guys have been hiding your relationship,” Tim keeps gloating, ignoring them both, “I just knew it, didn’t I, Conner?”
But before Conner can either confirm or deny this, and before Jason or Dick can jump in and set the record straight about how they are not in a relationship, and have never been in a relationship, and will absolutely never be in a relationship, something happens that confirms and vindicates all of Jason’s suspicions about today being a bad day.
In that moment, the Old Gods attack Gotham.
It happens between one split second and another. Suddenly, the entire area is plunged into shadow as the sun is blocked by this terrible, gargantuan shape. The street is filled with too many limbs and appendages, and some tremendous, cosmic being is rising from the sea, visible even from here, halfway across the island.
Tim and Conner have already shifted into fighting stances, and Jason and Dick are both on their feet, falling into battle mode as well, before they all, at the very same moment, realize the problem: not a single one of them is in costume.
“Fuck,” Jason spits over the roar of the entire city screaming all at once. “Shit. Tim, where’s the nearest micro cave?”
“Six blocks,” Tim shouts back, activating his wristwatch into a holographic version of Bruce’s gauntlet tech and quickly typing something into it.
“Too far,” Dick says decisively. “Conner, you got your costume on under there?”
“You know it,” Conner yells, already casting around for the nearest place he can duck out of sight and Superboy it up.
But Tim cuts in before he can move, stepping forward to grab hold of Conner’s wrist and stop him. “Conner’s not doing this alone while we suit up, Dick,” he says, putting his foot down.
Conner shakes his head at Tim. “I can—”
“You can super speed to the micro cave and get our gear,” Tim tells him firmly. He points to the tallest building nearby. “We’ll meet you on that rooftop. Got it?”
Conner gives Tim a little reassuring smile. “Already gone,” he promises, and then, in a whoosh of wind, he disappears.
Dick takes off in the other direction, knowing that Jason and Tim will follow him. They always fall in line behind Nightwing, Golden Boy, First of the Robins. It’s just what they do. Tim and Jason are both good leaders. They both have the knowledge and experience to take point. But honestly, why would they when Dick is there?
Dick could lead you into a death trap and make you feel like you had the power to get out of it. And you would. He would lead you right back out, and then tell you that it was just what you had in you all along.
If Dick Grayson is around, everyone falls in line behind him. If Dick Grayson is around, you start to think you can win.
Jason and Tim follow Dick into a nearby alley, shielded enough from the panicking masses that no one takes a second glance when three grown men take out their emergency grapplers and reverse-zip-line up twelve stories to the roof.
As soon as three pairs of feet hit the roof, another whoosh of wind blows around them, and a fully-costumed Superboy appears, hovering a few feet off the ground with three go-bags in his arms and hanging across his chest. He tosses the two in his arms to Jason and Dick respectively, and hands Tim’s over as he lands.
Dick immediately starts stripping, which means Jason immediately turns his back to him. He really cannot be looking at Dick Grayson’s insanely toned body yanking off his clothes to fit into a skin-tight bodysuit while Jason’s taking off his own pants. If he does, he will suddenly be having an Issue in said pants.
Yes, while giant monsters are attacking. Jason’s dick does not care about the Old Gods, but it sure cares an awful lot about Dick Grayson’s miles of golden skin.
So Jason focuses on getting into his kit. Combat pants, Zylon shirt, boots, shin guards, knee pads, thigh holsters, hooded vest, wrist wraps, domino mask, weapons, gloves. All on in a single practiced minute. Jason takes his red face mask out of the go-bag, the last thing in there, and turns around to a thankfully-clothed Nightwing, and Conner helping Tim with his domino.
Seriously, how do these two not think they’re dating?
“What’s the plan, Nightwing?” Jason asks Dick, who’s staring out at the city with a panicked expression his mask doesn’t cover.
“Fuck, I don’t even—” Dick mutters in response. “What are these things?”
Jason lets out his breath, then steps up to Dick’s side, laying what he hopes is a soothing hand on his shoulder. He scans the horizon, eyes locking immediately on that towering beast in the sea. It’s massive. Webbed arms, countless tentacles, these weird wings, and….
And god fucking damn it. It’s—
“Cthulhu,” Jason says out loud.
“Red, you got something in your throat?” Tim asks from Dick’s other side. Jason turns to glare at him.
“No,” he says incredulously. “Like…ka-thoo-loo? If you wanna say it wrong. Lovecraftian cosmic horror god?”
And he’s met with three blank stares.
“Okay, the dude was a vicious racist, but this is common zeitgeist shit, people.”
The stares remain blank. Jason blinks rapidly at them all.
“Are you fucking with me?” he demands. “Do none of you read?”
“Not fiction!” Tim protests.
Dick waves a hand. “Staying in flipping form takes time, okay?”
“Listen,” Conner says, “I’m an adult in all the ways that matter, but I’ve only actually existed for the past decade-ish. Not enough time to catch up on all the classics.”
Jason squints at him. “You’re super, and you live in Kansas,” he points out, “that’s not an excuse!”
“It doesn’t matter,” Dick cuts in before Conner can defend himself. “Hood, you know what this is, do you know how to beat it?”
“It’s not just Cthulhu, it’s a bunch of the Great Old Ones,” Jason tells him, recognizing more of them now that he’s got context. “And none of them are supposed to actually exist!”
“But you’ve read stories where they do,” Dick presses.
Jason huffs. “I mean—” he starts, then stops. “Yeah, I have.”
“And how did the people in those defeat Hlul-hloo or whatever?”
“They didn’t,” Jason says. “It just kinda went ‘it’s too early for this shit,’ and went back to sleep, I don’t know!”
“Okay, well we can’t do nothing,” Dick says, and Jason agrees. “So here’s the plan: Robin, do your genius thing and try to find anything you can about the Great Old Ones, especially stuff that’ll help us take them down. Red Hood, if you promise to take non-lethal shots only, I’m giving you permission to use live rounds.”
“Swear,” Jason says, grinning. Finally, some good news.
Dick nods to him, trusting him, and isn’t that a heady feeling?
“Superboy,” Dick continues, “do your super thing. Blast ‘em, freeze ‘em, laser ‘em, whatever works. You know the bat-code, but anything else you can do to make sure innocent people stay alive and unhurt, you do it.”
“And you?” Tim asks him.
Dick smirks. It would be rakish if Jason didn’t know him well enough to see the cracks.
“I’m gonna find out whether or not they like electricity,” he says, unsheathing his escrima sticks and letting them crackle.
And then, like they always will, they fight.
For one minute, it seems to be working. For just one minute, Jason shoots, and Conner burns, and Tim calculates, and Dick flies.
But it’s like clockwork. Like counting to sixty. One, two, three, they all launch off the roof in different directions. Twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six, the Great Old Ones seem to falter against their fight. Fifty-seven, fifty-eight, fifty-nine, the periphery of Jason’s vision begins to shimmer. The earth moves under his feet.
Four figures flicker out of time.