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It had been just one singular photo, a sneaky reporter who’d caught him through a fucking window of all things, but the quality was undeniable and the content… well.


“Brucie, is your son still alive?”


“Brucie, was it all part of an elaborate compensation scheme?”

“Brucie, Brucie, when do we get to see him again? Will there be a Gala?”


There had been persistent reporters outside the manor gates for days after the photo, and in that time Jason had been stuck on house arrest. He didn’t want to risk going back out into Gotham and getting recognized not as Red Hood anymore but as Jason Todd-Wayne. So, house arrest was the only way because the press were scarier than a few mobsters or criminals thanks.


To make it worse, B just had to go and answer them, in his typical moronic public persona, that he hadn’t even known Jason was meant to be dead (ignoring the many, many nights the man had mourned,) and that he had just thought his son was away. (Yeah away with the worms and a cult of assassins, thanks Bruce.) But he’d never say no to a Gala, and so publicly the Gala was a ‘Welcome back to Gotham, Jason Todd-Wayne’ but Dick hadn’t fucking shut up the entire time that it was actually a ‘Welcome back to Life, Jason Todd-Wayne.’ Event.


“Dick for fucks sake, please, for the last time-”

“Aw c’mon Lil’ Wing, aren’t you excited to return to the Gotham Public Eye?” Dick teased, with wiggling eyebrows and a wide cheshire grin.


“Piss off. You know I still hate those fucking toffs. I’m going to go die again to escape ‘em, fuck you.” Jason snapped and turned to storm off.


“Nooooo, no dying allowed, Lil’ Wing!” Dick pouted dramatically. 


“Wait, who's dying?” Tim poked his head out of a door, already halfway into a suit that probably cost more than all of Jason’s safehouses combined. 


“Me!” Jason snarled angrily as Dick continued to laugh at his suffering like a little shit. “I hate this fucking family, it's a nightmare!” Jason screeched, and yes he was being petty and melodramatic but he had to show up at this Gala… A Gala that was happening at the same time as an important drug trade he’d planned on busting. And now he couldn’t because half of Gotham's elites expected him. So yeah, sue him, he was angry and he was more than entitled to be petty. 


“Love you too Jason!” Dick chimed.


“Feelings mutual!” Tim quipped smugly, earning a middle finger from Jason. “Now get dressed or you’ll be late!” Tim ordered, turning to head back into his room and finish getting ready.


“This fucking sucks!” Jason hissed loudly, kicked the nearest wall (grateful he still had his chunky Red Hood boots on otherwise he’d have broken some toes) and then turned to enter the guest room he’d claimed. His old room still existed but that place felt like a mausoleum so he’d taken up a guest room as his own. It’d only received some minimal changes, mostly just some books he’d snaffled from the library, a leather coat that almost always was slung onto the desk unless it was on his body. There were plenty of smaller unseen touches too, be it the knife he’d strapped under his mattress or the guns in the back of his closet. (He felt kind of terrible bringing them up into the manor but he couldn’t sleep without reassurance he wasn’t defenceless, even in the safety of the manor. The Pit hated it, feeling unarmed, weak, defenceless.


“Need help getting ready, Jay?” Dick asked from still out in the hallway. A beautiful black three piece suit had been laid out onto his bed, surely costing B a pretty penny.


“I know how to dress myself, Dickwad!” Jason snapped again and Dick huffed out another laugh.


“I’m sure I remember correctly you can’t tie a tie!” He sang in taunt and Jason rolled his eyes because that was still true (it was difficult okay?) but he wasn’t going to stoop low enough to ask Dick for help of all people.


“Piss off!” Jason yelled one final time and was relieved to hear Dick’s pitter pattering feet retreat down the hallway, accompanied by little giggles. Their eldest brother was a literal child.


It didn't take him long to get dressed into the fancy suit, hating the stifling, suffocating feeling to them (he hated suits.) The dark red tie he'd left slung around his neck. He knew exactly who to go to for help with it. Navigating the hallways without being seen wasn't too difficult, sure everyone was home and present for the event but they were all too busy getting themselves ready. Dick was probably going to be hours and show up fashionably late. So it proved easy enough in the end to sneak out and then quietly dip back into the room down from his. Instantly, as soon as he'd shut the door behind him there was a knife embedded in the wood beside his head. 


"Tt, what do you need, Todd?" Damian asked, already fully dressed and sat on the bed in what appeared to be a meditation pose. 


"Well I don't need that haircut anymore." Jason joked as he pulled the knife from the door, twisting it between fingers and then spinning it once before it was returned to Damian who was sporting an unimpressed glare.


"If you are here to give me the same lecture as Father-" Damian began, seems crossed, scowl on his features. 


"Hell no, I just need you to tie my tie." Jason admitted and Damian blinked in unmasked surprise before the cool mask of a scowl was back. 


"You still never learned Akhi?" 


"No. That's what I had you for, is it not, Habibi?" Jason teased as Damian sighed, stood and made quick work of securing the tie properly around Jason's neck. 


"Tt, I suppose it isn't an essential skill." Damian admitted but Jason knew anyone else in the family would have their intelligence insulted by the boy if they couldn't tie a tie. He liked being Damian's secret favourite, after all they had spent a couple of years together at the League, the two of them could fight together like they'd spent their entire lives training side by side. Not that the Batclan knew. They'd had no reason to disclose the information. 


 "Unless it's the only weapon in my arsenal?" Jason asked and earnt a click of Damian's tongue in response, a noise Jason had slowly had to figure out was how the child repressed any laughter. It still pissed him off that the League had enforced such a thing, that they'd made the boy feel as though laughter was a weakness. Still, Jason was relieved to know these little queues and to be able to read the Robin perfectly when the rest of the Bats had no idea anything was wrong. It meant he got to be there if Damian needed him but didn't think he needed to ask. (Another terrible League teaching that asking for help was a weakness.)


"Thanks for the assist." Jason mumbled once Damian was done and had stood back to sit on the bed. "Now what's this about a lecture? What did B say to you?" Jason asked, concerned. 


"I'm not allowed to bring my swords, knives or any other form of weaponry on my person to the event." Damian began reciting the lecture he'd been given with a frown. 


"Surely you could still sneak one in? I know you're an actual ninja when you want to be." Jason replied, one hand ruffling Damian's hair, earning an adorable pout which promised murder and suffering. 


"Akhi, get off, you'll mess it up!" Damian hissed, straightening his hair again. 


"Woops." Jason was not fooling anyone with his half hearted attempt to look sorry. 


"But no, Father expressly forbade it and promised that if he did find me to be in possession of anything, I'd be grounded for a month from any nightly activities." Damian scoffed and curled his lip. 


"Well… That sounds shitty. What if you need it, self defence and what not?" Jason retorted and made a point to add kick Bruce's ass to his ongoing list of things he needed to do at the Gala. "Tell you what, if you're that bothered about following his silly rule, I'll keep an eye out for you, Habibi, because B can't even try and stop me from bringing anything in." Because Jason already had two knives in his stuffy suit jacket and a gun tucked in the back of his waistband. 


"You will?" Damian asked and Jason had to resist the noise in his throat and how young Damian truly sounded with that question. 


"Always, Damian." Jason answered instantly, earning a rare small smile from the younger boy. 


"Now, shall we get going, sooner we get down there, sooner it'll be over with." Jason sighed and Damian nodded, both standing up to depart the room.


They bumped into Tim in the hallway who shot them a suspicious look but said nothing. 


"Dickwad gonna be another two hours getting all pretty?" Jason snarked and Tim rolled his eyes as he fell into step with the other two vigilantes. 


"'Course, heaven forbid Richie looks anything less than a wet dream." Tim answered and turned up his nose at the thought. "Ew forgot I ever used that term." He added and Jason let out a laugh. 


"I won't tell him, Lord knows he doesn't need his ego any bigger." 


"Grayson fixation on his personal appearance for these events truly borders the extreme." Damian joined in, Tim raised an eyebrow but nodded. 


"Yep. That." 


They then bumped into Duke a little further down the walkway who looked a little nervous, having only attended a few of these in his short duration in the Batclan. 


"You good Duke?" Jason asked, when the teenager appeared to look one moment away from collapsing. 


"Yeah uh.. Sorry, I'm not good with these events." Duke mumbled and Jason nodded sympathetically. 


"Me neither. I'm almost thankful I died and skipped out on them the past few years." Jason teased earning a scandalised gasp from further down the hall. 


"Little Wing no dying!" Because of course Dick had been listening the whole damn time. 


"Shut up Dick!" Jason yelled back and thankfully earning a little laugh from Duke. 


"If you want to hang out with me, you can, Duke, I don't mind, me and Steph were going to pact together and laugh at people in the corner." Tim offered because long gone were his days of pretending to be the perfect Drake heir and instead Steph had been a terrible influence on him. 


"Please, could I? " Duke sounded grateful and Jason was almost pleased, after all it was one less member of the family he had to worry about at the dumb event full of the shitty elites of the city. 


"Course, Steph will probably end up ditching me eventually to canoodle with Cass so…" Because yes, that was another development, Cass and Steph falling into a relationship. 


"Oh yeah, shit where's Cass?" Jason asked, only just stopping from jumping out of his skin when Cass appeared behind him from the shadows. 


"Here, Little Brother." Cass teased and Jason clanked his teeth together to keep from swearing. 


"I'm older." Was his petty response instead. 


"Nope." Cass popped her P and smiled. 


"I am!" Jason frowned especially when Tim shot him a pitying look. 


"There, there, it's okay."


"God I hate y'all." Jason sighed. 


"Love you too." Dick yelled because wow he was still listening. 


"Shut up Dick and hurry up. Jesus." Jason yelled back, mock anger in his tone. 


The five of them headed further, heading down into the masses gathered in the ballroom, Cass, Duke and Tim flickered away to head over to where Steph was waving dramatically, earning a few looks of disgust and distain from the elite at such… 'unbecoming' actions. Damian shot Jason one last look over his shoulder before schooling his features to a hard mask and heading over to Bruce, nose up and shoulders square. Jason could only watch sadly as Damian headed to their father, putting on an act no one his age should have to learn. Bruce looked tipsy already and gave Damian a big dramatic hug that had Damian tense and look pained to have to return. Jason made a point of slipping into the room and sticking to the walls. Sure, he was meant to be the main event of the Gala but Jason knew nobody there was actually present for him, they were only present to try and get into Bruce's wallet or to gossip and mix with the other stuck up elites of Gotham. 


Jason was quite content to blend in with the waiting staff, grabbing a tray from one of the staff and standing to the side holding it to mostly block his face while also keeping an eye on his siblings. Steph had roped Tim into throwing nuts at people and then pretending they had no idea what was happening when said individual turned around to find out who had thrown the food at them. Cass was filming the entire thing and Duke looked more relaxed which was good. 


"I don't think your disguise will work forever, Sir." One of the waiters quietly murmured, and Jason let out a huff. 


"I don't know what you're talking about." 


"It's all good, Sir, it wouldn't be the first time one of your siblings have attempted to blend in with us." Because of course Bruce always hired the same staff for these events. 


"Mh.." Jason hummed, grateful the man hadn't instantly outed him. 


"Just make sure you do rounds with that in a bit, we have a quota to fill, you can switch out to some of the nibbles in a bit and I'll turn a blind eye for an hour." 


"Thank you, you're a godsend." 


"I try, Sir." And with that the man was gone, two trays held in his hands, one with flutes of champagne and the other holding little prawn nibbles that people instantly grabbed when he passed, very few thanks sent his way because the rich had no manners apparently. 


Jason did as the man suggested, eventually, after some time had passed, he did a vague trip round, catching Tim's incredulous look and Cass taking pictures of him. Jason rolled his eyes but didn't break character, he was a ninja too, take that Damian


Dick finally stumbled in, the man was the embodiment of pretty, light makeup on his face that highlighted his features, in a beautiful pale blue suit and held every eye in the room before women were swarming him, eager to talk to Richie. Jason scoffed from behind the tray, eventually doing as the waiter had commanded and swapping out for some d'œuvre's which he seemed to speed through ridiculously fast before he was back to carrying flutes, a large bottle of champagne in the middle of the tray too. Was he meant to top peoples glasses up with it? Rich people's expectations baffled him.


It was all going mostly okay, Dick didn't seem too uncomfortable with the attention (but he revelled in it so whatever,) and Duke was still safe and under Tim, Cass and Steph's watchful eyes. Brucie was busy terribly flirting back with an older woman, Jason had lived with the man for years and even he really struggled to sense any discomfort or lie to the man's words and posture. He was a natural actor. 


When his gaze turned to seek out Damian though, it proved difficult to find the young boy.


Jason frowned and edged over to Tim and his gang.


“Pst, Timbo have you seen Damian recently?” He asked and Tim frowned, his eyes doing his own scan of the crowd and coming up empty like Jason.


“No, not for a while, maybe he ditched? He wouldn’t be the first.” Tim suggested. Jason shook his head.


“I doubt it, he seemed like he was going to stick around, something about Bruce saying he had to and appearances and shit.” Jason trailed and shrugged, “I don’t think he’d ditch, B threatened to cut his extracurriculars.” Jason spelt out. Tim furrowed his brow.


“What a bitch.” Tim hissed and Jason scoffed. It wasn’t often Tim swore but when he did Jason couldn’t help but be a little proud at how perfectly the baby bird mastered an utterly condescending tone.


“You got that right. Anyway thanks, I’m gonna keep looking.” Jason replied, having wasted enough time.


“Good Luck, ding me if you need backup.” Tim offered and Jason nodded before departing, still hiding behind the aloft tray. He swerved through the crowds and out of the ballroom, there were less people milling about. He spotted an elderly woman alone and decided asking was probably going to be more efficient, if also slightly painful.


“Excuse me, Ma’am, you haven’t spotted a young boy recently?” He asked, voice raised to imitate a Posh Bristol accent.


“The Wayne Heir?” She asked in return, picking off a flute from on the tray as she did.


“Yes, that’s the one.”

“I have, though it was about 15 minutes ago, he was heading out to the gardens with Mr Keller's eldest.” 


“Thank you so much, Ma’am.” Jason gave her a little bow and turned tail for the gardens, still carefully balancing the tray and the heavy bottle with ease. At least his Batraining worked for something, his balancing skills were great.


Once Jason reached the gardens, it was a little hard to spot the pair, he didn’t know much about the Keller family, only that he vaguely remembered they had three sons, all around Dick’s age or older, certainly all at least 24. What exactly did a man at such an age have in common with Damian, who was 10. (Despite his maturity, he was still a child.)


As Jason feared, he found the two in the garden, with Keller looming over Damian, the shorter backed up against a stone wall, one of the man's thick hands clasped around both of Damian’s dainty wrists held above Damian's head and the other hand dangerously high on Damian’s thigh.


Jason saw Green, long before he even made eye contact with Damian’s panicked expression, remembered that the youngest of the Batclan had reluctantly forgone any weaponry at Bruce’s demands-

The man let out a pained noise, there was blood and a scream and- everything blurred, Jason could only see Green and-


“Akhi. Akhi look at me.” Damian. He could see Damian. The boy was in his arms, awkwardly hoisted onto a hip. The man, Keller, was on the floor, the back of his head was a mess, blood staining his blonde hair making pained noises and hands flailing to clutch the wound. A woman must have heard the commotion because standing in the doorway to the manor stood a lady, glass dropped and smashed, gloved hand to her mouth. So that must have been the scream. 


Jason tried to focus. He’d moved so quickly, under the Green, smashed the bottle on his tray against the man's head and hoisted Damian into his arms. The crowd at the door grew, likely drawn in by the scream, a couple of braver men quickly coming over to aid Keller, one calling for an ambulance, another started shouting at Jason.


“What the hell do you think you’re doing, boy?” The last word spoken with so much malice Jason sneered.


“Fuck you.” Was his curt reply.


“How dare you! Don’t you know who I am!” And no, Jason had no clue.


“Nathaniel, please.” Bruce interrupted, having broken into the scene through the crowds, Dick, Duke and Tim on his heels and further in the gathering masses, Jason spotted Steph’s bright blonde hair, likely sticking with Cass.


Jason shot Bruce a glare, eyes bright and vivid Green, still heavily swimming in the pit, somehow one hand had grabbed onto one of his knifes and was now wielding it threateningly at anyone who got close, including ‘Nathanial’ who’d backed up as soon as the weapon was brandished.


“Akhi, I’m okay.” Damian soothed, one hand reaching timidly to curl into Jason’s hair, brushing the strands. Jason felt his breath still erratic and the Pit was screaming to hurt the downed man more, especially when his eyes caught the ugly red marks around Damian’s wrists. The first kick was satisfying, hitting the man in the ribs who was apparently now unconscious (or dead, but Jason didn’t care either way) because he made no sound at the boot, even as Jason heard a rib snap. The second kick never came because Dick, Duke and Tim had rushed over, Tim and Duke grabbing at him, the eldest taking Damian from his arms, earning a feral Pit induced snarl as he thrashed in his brother's hold.


“Jason, you need to calm down.” Dick urged, because the whole thing was happening under the eyes of Gotham's Elite, ‘Nathanial’ was still screaming at Brucie who was attempting to mediate the argument, ambulance crew were pushed through the crowd to aid Keller.


“Like Fuck I need ta’.” Jason hissed, “I need ta’ fuckin’ murder tha’ shit stain!” He continued, his Crime Alley accent shining through, earning a few turned up noses of disgust.


The event was cut short, Brucie declaring it over and making a point of ushering the crowds out who were reluctant to leave after such drama, the Keller son was carted off into an Ambulance and even Nathaniel (Jason learnt he was one of the other Keller sons,) was shooed out.


“What the hell was that about, Jason?” Dick bit out once they’d cleared everyone out, Jason was still glaring with Green eyes and had fought to get Damian back into his arms, the youngest complying with no arguments and curling up into Jason’s neck with a small smile at the reassuring comfort of Jason's hold.


“Tha’ fuckwad Keller touched Damian.” Jason snapped, teeth on display in a threat to Bruce who’d tried to edge closer and take Damian.


“So you smacked him with a bottle of champagne?” Bruce asked, tone tired and angry.


“Uh? Yeah? He wa’ one fuckin’ second away from gettin’ into Damian’s pants so of course I fuckin’ did, if I see tha’ bastard again I’ll fuckin’ kill ‘im.” Jason responded, earning twin flinches from Dick and Bruce, Tim looked down uncomfortably. Steph and Cass frowned and Duke cocked his head itching closer to Tim’s side.


What?” Dick whispered, eyes wide, having misinterpreted the first words Jason had spoken.


“You fuckin’ heard me, he had Damian against tha’ fuckin’ wall groping my Baby Bat, because someone didn’t allow him to carry a knife.” Jason shot Bruce such a glare that B recoiled in shock.


“I didn’t- I didn’t mean for that-”

“I don’ give two shits B, if I ain’ have got there when I did, who knows wha’ would ‘ave ‘appened!” Jason growled and Dick surged forward to try and pull Damian into a hug. Damian flinched and curled further into Jason making Dick pause.


“Habibi, baby, it’s jus’ Dickie, he won’ hurt ya’, I promise.” Jason soothed, one hand clasping Damian’s sore wrists, rubbing a reassuring thumb over the reddened skin.


“Promise, Akhi?”

“I swear, Habibi.” Jason replied instantly, heart breaking at how young Damian sounded.


“Okay.” Damian sniffed, obviously attempting not to cry as Jason handed him to Dick who instantly held the youngest to his chest. Damian wrapped his arms around Dick’s back and buried his face into the broad chest.


“Sorry Father. I didn’t want to cause a scene.” Damian mumbled into Dick’s chest, not noticing Jason glaring the the audience to shoo, Tim pulling the girls and Duke away to give them privacy. Bruce looked pained and regretful but Jason continued his disapproving stare at the man when the younger ears had gone.


“Dickie do ya’ think ya’ could take ‘im to his room, stay with ‘im till I get there?” Jason asked quietly. Dick frowned and then nodded.


“I’ll see you soon Habibi.” Jason promised when Damian flashed a pair of wide eyes at him.


Jason turned to Bruce as soon as the pair were gone.


“Fuck ya’ Bruce, next time you have a bright idea like that, you better watch your back because I’ll fucking knock the braincells back into that thick skull of yours.” Jason bit out and Bruce only gave a solemn nod.


“I am so sorry, Jason, I didn’t mean for any of this to happen or for Damian to feel as though he had to subject himself to anything like that under the guise of not making a scene- I-.” Bruce paused, “I know sorry won’t make anything better but I swear I’ll never make that mistake again!”


“Ya’ fuckin’ better not.” Jason gave one final warning, leaving a regretful, guilt ridden Bruce in the cave, heading up to find Damian curled in a blanket looking painfully young and so openly elated to see Jason enter. Dick gave a fond smile.


“Thanks for looking out for Dami, Jason.” Dick nodded and slipped past Jason, letting the brother move forward to sit on the bed and pull Damian into his arms, blanket and all.


“S’okay Habibi, I got ya’.” Jason murmured as Damian burrowed into his warmth.

“Thank you Akhi.”

“Don’ mention it. I’ll always have ya’ back.” Jason returned and was grateful to hear Damian’s breathing slow, his body relax and then the exhausted boy clearly drift nto a sleep, safe in Jason’s arms. Jason smiled against Damian’s head, kicked off his shoes and tugged the quilt over his cold toes, curling up into sleep alongside Damian, suit and all.


He’d always be there to look out for Damian.