Jason liked to call it seeing green, like he was the Hulk or something, because he knew his eyes glowed whenever the Pit was particularly close to the surface, but he didn’t actually see green. Everything around him just focused, rage beating in clear, concordant harmony, every fiber of himself utterly dedicated to taking his targets and tearing them apart.
The warehouse was splattered in blood when Jason was done. Red and cloying and thick, and the helmet filtered out scents but Jason could imagine the copper undertone to fear and rage.
He didn’t know how many bodies littered the floor. He hadn’t been counting, and now they were in too many pieces. He’d only made sure that each of them was dead. Dead, and unable to hurt anyone ever again.
A small, broken, agonized whimper.
The Pit perked up—but this wasn’t another target. This was a too small form huddled on the ground, half-curled up, pants around their feet. Jason hadn’t gotten here in time to save them, but he’d at least gotten here in time to stop it.
The clear focus crystallized into determination and Jason shifted, drawing out of his crouch and sheathing his knife and gun. The Pit amplified emotions. For an alpha, like Ra’s al Ghul, it fed their drive for power and control. For an omega, like Jason, it fanned the flames of their vicious protectiveness.
Right now, there was a pup in trouble, and nothing else mattered.
Jason took the helmet off as he approached, footsteps quiet. “Hey,” he said, and the low voice caused another audible whimper of distress. “Shh, puppy, I’m not going to hurt you, I promise. No one’s going to hurt you.”
The pup twitched, like they’d tried and failed to curl up further, and Jason frowned. That wasn’t a good sign. You couldn’t trust the system in Gotham, not the cops or doctors, and it was a lesson every street kid learned young. There was Doc Leslie and her clinic, of course, but that was Bat territory, and Jason was avoiding any connection to Batman as he set up his final grand showdown.
With an injured pup in front of him, Jason didn’t care about his showdown. He didn’t care about anything other than keeping the kid safe.
“Here you go,” Jason shrugged out of his jacket and used it to carefully cover the pup’s body, “I’m not going to hurt you, puppy, I promise.”
There was a wavering exhale and—“‘M not a puppy,” came the thin, hoarse voice.
The kid couldn’t be older than sixteen, and it didn’t matter that he’d already presented omega, he was still a pup, and the rules Jason was in the process of laying down as the Red Hood made it very clear that no one touched pups.
Well. Those men would never touch anything ever again, Jason had made sure of that.
“You killed them,” came out sounding—wretched, and Jason bit down on the instinctive snarl.
“I did,” Jason said quietly, “I will kill anyone who hurts pups.” He was going to prove to Batman that he was better, that no child would ever get trapped in a continuous cycle of violence under his watch. “Do you have a name, kid?”
The next inhale sounded distinctly wet. “Tim,” the kid whispered, and the scent of misery was thick in the air.
“I’m the Red Hood, but you can just call me Hood,” Jason said, “Can I call you Timmy? Timbo? Timmers?” A huff that might’ve been a laugh. “No nickname? I can do that too.”
“Any—” a harsh breath, “Anything is fine.”
“I think you’re going to regret giving me that much power, but okay, Timbuktu,” Jason said, and that was a giggle this time. “Can you get up?”
Silence. Ragged breaths. The pup’s fingers curled, and opened again.
“Do you want some help?” Jason asked. An abrupt, fearful keen, and he responded with a low, soothing croon, “It’s okay, I won’t touch you if you don’t want me too, Tim, I promise.”
Some more gasping breaths before Tim spoke again, voice muted, “Head hurts.”
Jason ignored the spike of alarm with the ease of long practice, and shifted until he was sitting closer to Tim’s head. “Can I check?” he asked gently.
Another stretching second of silence, and a soft, accepting hum.
“Alright,” Jason kept his voice calm and even, “I’m going to put my hands on your shoulders now, okay? Just to help you sit up. Keep taking deep breaths, okay, and tell me if anything feels wrong.”
“Okay.” It sounded so defeated that Jason wanted to bring this group of rapists back to life just to murder them again, but slower this time.
Jason was careful to move slow and smooth, gripping Tim’s shoulders—Christ the kid was thin—and gently drew the kid upright. He snagged the jacket and tugged it to cover the kid more completely, before easing back to scan the kid.
He was shivering, arms clasped tightly around himself, and he’d definitely hit his head on something, his face was a mask of red below the dark hair. His skin was too pale and he was blinking too fast, but his blue eyes focused on Jason easily enough.
“Anything blurry? You feeling dizzy? Can you tell me how many fingers I’m holding up?”
“Three,” Tim answered promptly, “It’s not blurry, but—” he swallowed thickly, “I was really dizzy at the—the start and I couldn’t—fight—”
“Shh,” Jason soothed as the omega pup’s distress ticked up higher, “It’s not your fault.”
“They hit me,” the pup was almost hyperventilating, “With a brick—and then they—I tried—everything was moving too fast—”
Jason wanted to bundle him into a hug and never let go, or maybe introduce him to one of Dick’s octopus hugs, that had never failed to make him feel safe and loved and protected.
Wait, no. He was mad at Dick. Dick had failed. Jason shook the thought free and turned back to the pup.
“It’s not your fault,” Jason repeated, “And they will never hurt you again.” There was a thread of a growl in Jason’s words, but he couldn’t help it. His instincts were screaming at him to bundle the pup up in a nest where nothing could ever get at him, and the Pit wasn’t helping.
The pup still smelled miserable, ducking their head.
“Do you feel nauseous, Tim?” Jason asked, “And do you know where you are?”
“I don’t feel sick,” Tim said to the floor, “And I’m in Park Row.”
Well, there certainly weren’t many people that still called it that.
“Can you tell me what you were doing here, Timmy?” Jason asked quietly.
Tim froze up again. His voice was even softer as he jerked his head towards...a pile of broken glass and warped metal, “Taking photos.”
Jason made a sympathetic hum at the broken camera, and turned back to Tim. “Can I call someone to pick you up, Timbers?” he asked. That camera and those clothes looked a little too well-made to be street kid wear, and besides, no street kid would’ve called this place Park Row.
Tim went rigid in a way that didn’t signify anything good.
“Timmy?” Jason pressed, “Can I call your parents?”
Tim shook his head slowly, eyes distant, “They’re dead.”
“A guardian?” Jason asked. Tim ducked his head and didn’t answer. “Friends? Anywhere you’ll be safe?”
“Not like this,” Tim whispered softly, “No—no one.”
That made something in Jason’s heart crack. It was getting harder and harder to resist his instincts. “You can’t be alone on the streets, pup,” Jason said quietly, though he was having trouble coming up with a solution. There were vanishingly few people in this city that he trusted, and Jason couldn’t point him the way of the street kids and prostitutes because two glances, and anyone could tell that Tim wasn’t from around here.
“I’m fine,” Tim said, but Jason could tell he didn’t even believe it himself.
He understood the dilemma, though. The foster care system in this city was a hellhole, guardians were frequently abusive, and staying alone was often the safer option. Hell, Jason had fought tooth and nail at any attempt to snatch him, until…
Until he’d been given a home.
“Hey, Tim,” Jason smiled. The whole point was taking Batman’s playbook and making it better, after all. “How about you stay with me for a bit?”
Tim looked up at him, blue eyes gone wide, and hastily scrambled back, stumbling and shaking violently. “N—no,” the pup keened, “No, please—I don’t—please don’t—”
“I’m not going to touch you,” Jason said, raising his voice over the begging, “Shh, Tim, I’m not going to hurt you, I promise.” Tim was looking up at him with terrified, shining blue eyes, and Jason inwardly cursed before tugging at his scent blockers. “I’m an omega,” Jason said, dropping his voice into an omega croon, “I’m not going to hurt you, Timmy.” Tim stopped trying to scramble back. “You’ll be safe, I promise.”
Tim’s face scrunched up when Jason’s scent hit him, his expression flaring with surprise and faint traces of confusion. He sniffed again, and let Jason come closer, and didn’t flee when Jason extended a wrist, bloody glove tugged off.
“It’s not permanent, and you owe me nothing,” Jason said softly, “I just want to make sure you’re safe.” He could smell his own protective fury permeating the air—it had a bite, but Tim took a deep breath and swayed closer.
The pup cautiously extended his own wrist, and rubbed it against Jason’s before quickly withdrawing. Jason tried to tamp down on the pleased-satisfaction, but his inner omega was purring and demanding he rub his scent all over to claim the pup as his.
“Come on,” Jason offered an open palm, “Let’s get you somewhere safe. A bath, and some hot food, how does that sound?”
Tim squeezed his eyes shut and took a ragged breath before placing his hand in Jason’s.
Tim wondered if he’d stepped into an alternate reality. Or maybe he was dreaming, maybe this was one prolonged nightmare, and he’d wake up, heart pounding, and remember to check his surroundings the next time he was taking photos in the middle of the night. Maybe the sharp throbbing pain between his legs was just a vivid dream, and his pounding headache just a symptom of dehydration.
Maybe he hadn’t actually followed the Red Hood, a criminal, to his surprisingly homey apartment just because he smelled safe. Maybe Tim wasn’t being nudged to the bathroom with soft words and gentle croons, maybe he wasn’t actually burning from the inside out with the desire to throw himself in Hood’s arms and sob until everything cracked open and drained away.
It hurt. It hurt so much. It felt like he was mired in disbelief, it felt like he was stuck in quicksand, it felt like he was drowning in a kiddie pool.
The plan had been simple—Bruce was too stressed and Tim was almost sixteen, he could create a fake identity and live on his own instead of making Bruce take guardianship again. The plan had been simple, except that it left Tim alone, and now he was sitting on the edge of a bathtub as a man liberally splattered with blood explained how the shower worked.
“Shampoo and soap’s over there,” Hood said, pointing at the corner, “Feel free to use as much as you want. Towel’s on the rack, and I’ll get you clothes and be back in a second.” He backed out of the bathroom—for an omega, he was almost as big as Bruce—and instead of feeling relieved, Tim felt his throat closing up.
Blood. He remembered so much blood. And the screams as the Red Hood cut through the gang like they were blades of grass, like they weren’t people, like it was nothing. Like Tim hadn’t fought and struggled as much as he could against the dizziness, against the pain, as they held him down and took what they wanted.
And Hood was an omega. Tim hadn’t expected that, or the fierce, furious bite of protectiveness when Hood peeled off his scent blockers, or the way everything in him just relaxed. Safe, his mind had insisted stridently, even as Tim was rearranging the rumors of the drug lord with the news that Hood was a fiercely protective and territorial omega.
“Here you go,” Hood smiled at him—he looked young too, which Tim supposed was why he wore the helmet—and put the clothes on the rack. “Do you need anything else?”
Tim—didn’t know. His mind worked too fast, it always had, but right now it was half replaying the pain, half replaying those gruesome deaths, and things kept stuttering in and out, like a skipping record.
“Timmers?” Hood wavered, like he was going to back away, and something inside Tim twisted.
Hood stopped. “You want me to stay here?” Hood asked with faint bewilderment, “In the bathroom?”
Tim nodded silently. Hood was—was safe. And his heart was beating too fast, and he wanted—he wanted pack, but he didn’t have pack, and everything hurt and it was too much—
“Shh, Timmy, I’ll stay, it’s okay,” Hood said gently, and Tim realized he was crying again. He swiped at his eyes and only succeeded in smearing the blood. “It’s okay, puppy, I’m right here. Do you want some help?”
Tim wasn’t a child. He could take a shower by himself. He just—he didn’t know what to do.
He had to turn the shower on, he had to get his clothes off, he had to—to clean himself, he had to move—
“Okay,” Hood’s voice was quiet and soothing, and Tim felt callused fingers curl around his clenched fingers. “Let’s first put your SD card on the counter so it doesn’t get wet, okay?” Tim let Hood uncurl his fingers and tug the card out, the only thing salvageable from his expensive camera—something else he had to replace, and the Drake finances were a mess after his dad’s treatment, and his dad was dead and Tim had been too late and—“It’s right here, right on the counter,” Hood murmured, “It’s just so it doesn’t get wet.”
Tim knew that, but it didn’t help the jagged hole tearing inside of him.
“Now you need to get out of your clothes,” Hood said—and heavy hands settled on his waist, on his jeans, everything inside him screaming—
Omega. He could smell furious-upset-protective omega crooning at him, and it had been so long since he’d heard that, since before his mother died, and Tim couldn’t help but respond with the pup keens for pack, even though he knew his pack was dead and gone.
“I’m not going to touch you if you don’t want me to, Tim, I promise, you can tell me to stop or leave at any time,” came the low voice. There were no hands on his jeans now, and Tim huddled further in the corner and hiccupped. “You need to take your clothes off to take a shower, puppy.” He didn’t want to, he just wanted it all to stop. “Do you want to be clean?”
Tim—Tim did want to be clean, he wanted to scrub and scrub and scrub until he couldn’t even remember what they did to him, until he’d washed it all off and was whole again. He swallowed thickly, and unbuttoned his jeans with trembling fingers.
The shirt was the greater obstacle, taking it off meant that Tim was naked. Naked and shivering. Naked and shivering in a strange place, and only the fact that the entire bathroom smelled like safe-protect kept him from dissolving into tears.
“Into the tub,” Hood prompted gently, and Tim hobbled inside and drew the curtain closed.
His instincts screamed—he was alone again, all alone, so very alone, no—“You remember how the shower works?” Hood’s voice broke through the spiral, and Tim hiccupped on a sob.
He wasn’t alone. Hood was right outside, and Hood was safe, and Tim was safe. Even if Tim couldn’t see him. He was right outside.
Tim did remember how the shower worked, and he turned the dial and pulled it back and waited for the water to warm up. Hood was right outside. He was. Even if Tim could hear nothing over the water. “Can you—talk?” Tim croaked out.
There was a second of silence, long enough for his panic to kick into high gear, before Hood’s low drawl sounded, “Sure, Timmers, I can talk. Well, I can ramble. I’m not very good at being chatty on command, that was more D—uh, my—my older brother’s shtick, but I can, uh, tell a story?”
Tim switched the water to the showerhead, and the hot water cut through the numbness, along with Hood’s story about a ski trip with his older brother. He felt like he was moving on autopilot with the soap—Hood had the same brands that Alfred bought, and it made him want to cry all over again—washing the blood off his face, wincing as he cleaned out the wound hiding in his hair, and moving downwards.
Tim didn’t realize he was sobbing until there was a small break in Hood’s story, and his choked gasp filled the silence. Hood didn’t comment on it, just kept talking, explaining how his older brother tried to get a picture of himself mid-jump in order to impress his girlfriend, and fell—“Faceplanted,” Hood said gleefully, “Right on his dumb face, in the snow, and you can bet I got ten pictures of his ass sticking up and sent those to his girlfriend before digging him out.”—and the voice drained the panic out, and the fear, leaving nothing behind but misery and listlessness.
His training would’ve told him to stay on guard, but he was so tired, and it hurt, and he never again wanted to—to clean himself, to watch pink water swirling down the drain, to remember what they did to him—and the scent of protective fury surrounded him like a hug.
Tim knew it was wish-fulfillment, but some part of him wanted Robin so badly he could trick himself into believing he could smell Jason Todd’s fierce protect-safe-mine omega scent.
The pup was nearly pink by the time he got out, but Jason didn’t say anything. He knew the impact of a scaldingly hot shower, and Tim did look more settled as he pulled on Jason’s clothes.
“All clean?” Jason asked softly as Tim slipped the towel back on the rack. The pup nodded—now that his face was clean, his features looked faintly familiar...like Jason had seen them before, he just couldn’t pinpoint where.
Eh, it wasn’t important right now.
“Can I check your wound?” Jason kept his voice low and soothing, though his inner omega was going crazy at the smell of an injured and miserable pup, and desperately wanted to cover Tim in his own scent. The kid nodded again, and obediently tilted his head down so Jason could comb through his hair.
The wound was shallow, and it had already stopped bleeding. Jason dabbed some antiseptic on it, just to be safe, but it seemed to be fine. He only realized he’d been absently stroking Tim’s hair when the pup started purring.
“The bedroom’s in here,” Jason chivvied Tim out of the steamy bathroom—handing him the SD card and steering him away from his ruined clothes—to the bedroom and Jason’s cozy nest. “More nesting blankets and pillows are in that closet, feel free to use whatever you like.”
“But what about you?” Tim looked at him with wide eyes, like Jason was going to bolt out the window the moment his back was turned.
“I’ll be back, I’ll just take a quick shower.” He’d attempted to wipe off as much of the blood as he could when the pup was in the shower, but there was only so much he could do without a proper bath.
“Promise?” Jason realized that the kid’s ease was incredibly fragile, and the way that he curled in on himself in the too big sweatshirt was heartbreaking.
“Promise,” Jason forced the approximation of a smile on his face, and got Tim’s nod of acknowledgment before disappearing for the fastest shower he’d ever taken.
When he got back, dressed in another pair of comfy sweatpants and a T-shirt, he saw a mound of sobbing omega pup curled up in the center of the nest, leaking distress.
There was no holding back Pit-sharpened instincts, if Jason even wanted to try. He was on the bed in two seconds, curling around Tim—the pup’s breaths stuttered when Jason’s arms closed around him, and then keened when Jason’s scent hit him, wriggling closer to practically smother himself against Jason’s neck—and fierce, furious, vengeful omega protectiveness swirled out like they were sitting in the middle of a storm.
The scent was thick, almost suffocating, but Tim made no protest, and it just grew deeper and louder at the slide of wetness on Jason’s skin, tears pooling in the curve of his collarbone. The kid was inconsolable—Jason crooned softly to him, one arm wrapped tight as the other rubbed slow circles against his shoulders, and Tim kept crying.
It was torture, and yet Jason never wanted to let go.
Mine, the Pit proclaimed, mine mine MINE, and Jason let it fill him, let the claws of possessiveness bite deep as his scent enveloped the sobbing pup. No one would ever hurt this kid again, because Jason wouldn’t let them.
He was Jason’s pup now, all his, and Jason rubbed his cheek against Tim’s hair as the pup cried out all his fear and misery and helplessness. Jason would be the rock in the raging waves, the eye of the storm, the isle of safety, and he would tear any intruders to pieces.
“No one,” Jason growled, almost alpha-deep, “Will ever touch you again.” On that, Jason swore.
Tim cried harder, clinging to Jason so tightly that Jason was worried about the structural integrity of his shirt. Jason continued the low hums and soothing pressure, taking deep breaths to avoid being overwhelmed by the surge of Pit rage at the unending sobs.
After what felt like an eternity, the sobs petered off. They died to gasping breaths, and then hiccups, and finally tired sniffles, Tim drooping further and further against him. Jason adjusted them so they were both lying on their side, and wrangled a thick blanket free, shifting so that he was on the bottom and Tim was sprawled half on top of him.
“Shh, puppy,” Jason crooned softly, tucking the blanket in and raising a hand to stroke through the kid’s soft hair, “You can go to sleep. ‘M here to guard your dreams.” It was what his mother used to say, wrapped around Jason in their nest and running a hand through his curls, and Tim quieted, his breathing evening out.
Jason’s croon dropped to a purr, and soon his own eyelids were too heavy to lift. He kept his arms locked around his pup, and let the darkness drag him down.